Saturday, 15 September 2018


Writing In A Woman's Voice is now on equinox break from September 16 through September 22, 2018. New voices will resume here on September 23, 2018. Happy equinox to everyone.


Marie and I
by Mary Ellen Gambutti

Sun rises over farm fields, and she piles up dark hair, ties a crisp apron over her work-dress. Born November 1, 1858, brown-eyed, sturdy and tall, Marie, daughter of a Greenville, South Carolina farmer and Civil War soldier and his second wife, Marie assumes care of her father’s home, and her siblings upon her mother’s death.
Marie marries neighbor, John Cox, a prominent farmer. With their own eleven children—among the brood, Frank, my grandfather—they raise Marie’s youngest siblings.
*
Until searching at forty, I knew nothing of my birth family. As a child, I shadowed my adoptive mother’s mother, my Nana, in her garden; was by her side at her Maytag wringer washer. When I turned eighteen, she gave me an oil lamp, wash board, and patchwork quilt—blessings toward the simple life she shared from her own rural upbringing; one I admired.
Long hair, jeans, granny dresses and sandals—my counter-culture costume. With my tribe, I emulated American life one-hundred-and-twenty-five years earlier. We found liberty close to earth, lit oil lamps, gardened, had babies by natural childbirth, nursed them on demand, hung diapers in the sun. Lived off-grid in an 1800’s farmhouse. Reality encroached and showed we were servile to rusticity.
*
Marie bakes bread and pies in her wood-fired oven, preserves home garden bounty—okra to beans, and peaches. John contributes wheat and corn. Her daughters ride with her to Simpsonville market in a horse-drawn wagon.
Washdays, boys haul well water to the galvanized tub on a wood fire in the yard. Marie and the older children scrub with washboard and hang laundry on lines. In winter, washing is done at the woodstove, hung to dry in the kitchen.
*
A photograph of Marie and John taken at one of their children’s weddings shows her standing tall, serene, looking straight at the camera. She wears a long, black wool suit, and white chemise; proud winter garb. She’s fair-skinned with a high forehead and cheekbones, like me, and like mine, her fingers are long. Her left hand rests tenderly on John’s right shoulder, as he sits beside her—partners in business and life.
Marie and John are laid to rest in Antioch Churchyard, Fork Shoals. One bright October Sunday, 1994, I connect with kin in the tiny brick church. My birth mother and I worship in one voice and spirit with Marie.

* * * * *
Mary Ellen Gambutti's work is published or forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, Remembered Arts Journal, Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, Thousand and One Stories, Halcyon Days, NatureWriting, PostCard Shorts, Memoir Magazine, Haibun Today, CarpeArte, Borrowed Solace, Winter Street Writers, Amethyst Review, StoryLand, mac(ro)mic, SoftCartel, Drabble, FewerThan500, BellaMused and Contemporary Haibun Online. Her book is Stroke Story, My Journey There and Back. She and her husband reside in Sarasota, FL. Ibisandhibiscusmelwrites.blogspot.com

Friday, 14 September 2018


Haibun
Hands of Love: A Tribute

by Mary Ellen Gambutti

       
Long before I was born, you gathered warm eggs on a Pennsylvania mountain farm. You worked for your widower grandfather, cooked for his farm-hands, gardened and scrubbed. You married Mike, a coal miner, and when the mines closed, you traveled with your two young children to New York City. Mike took work as a mechanic. You were a laundress and housemaid, cooked and cleaned for your own family. You washed mounds of laundry and hung it up to dry on the tar roof.  When you became my Nana, I shadowed you at your antique Maytag, careful around the wringer, dipping whites in bluing. You hung the clothes with wooden pins in the sun-filled garden.

Nana, it was you who showed me how to plant and prune, taught me perennials and annuals, gave me scissors to cut roses from your bountiful arbors. Your soft-leaved African Violets bloomed on windowsills. You rooted leaves in whiskey glasses, for you never imbibed.

You never wore work gloves, but white cotton gloves to church, wool gloves to shovel snow. No rings, except a plain gold band. Fingernails stained yellow from working soil. I cleaned them with great affection, eased out crusted residue. You pumped a splotch of Jergens and rubbed your palms together. I held out my hands and you massaged sweet cherry-almond lotion into mine.

Nana, your hands tamed the steering wheels of Model A, Nash Rambler, Ford Falcon. You hoisted brown paper bags filled with groceries. You coaxed my hair into braids. My hand in yours, we walked to the park. You bathed me in your pink tub, dusted me with powder - a fuzzy puff.

Love shone through your gentle acceptance of work. As you slipped away, I talked to you, held your fine, translucent hands, wrinkled, flaccid, silken. “You have worked so hard for ninety-eight years, Nana. Time for a well-deserved rest.”

arranging my pots -
a child gardening
by Nana's side


* * * * *

"Hands of Love: A Tribute" was first published in Haibun Today.

Mary Ellen's work is published or forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, Remembered Arts Journal, Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, Thousand and One Stories, Halcyon Days, NatureWriting, PostCard Shorts, Memoir Magazine, Haibun Today, CarpeArte, Borrowed Solace, Winter Street Writers, Amethyst Review, StoryLand, mac(ro)mic, SoftCartel, Drabble, FewerThan500, BellaMused and Contemporary Haibun Online. Her book is Stroke Story, My Journey There and Back. She and her husband reside in Sarasota, FL.



Thursday, 13 September 2018


Baby Sister

by Shannon Phillips


I can’t comfort you
in your hospital room,
your baby down the hall,
the new velvet of her
accessorized
with tubes and sensors.

You are no longer
all she knows.

I can’t comfort you
because I don’t know if everything
will be okay. Even as a young child,
I knew okay was a gift, not a guarantee.

I haven’t forgotten my own
pregnancy; the untimely ultrasounds
—too early, I’m sorry, we found a cyst that could be…
—too late, He is breech. You’re due in a week?

I haven’t forgotten
my placenta hovering over
the birth canal, a fleshy barge
bearing signs warning of rupture, hemorrhage.

I can tell you that a healthy child now
does not erase the memory of our time
as stewards of the hall light,
as guardians of breath,
executors of presses
to the bottom of a brand new foot, seeking
that red bloom around our thumbs.

I hug your husband,
but I can’t hold you right now,
can’t come too near
lest you find out that I am afraid, too.
For what use is a big sister fallen
apart?


* * * * *

Shannon Phillips is a freelance editor and aspiring translator (Arabic-English) who earned her MFA in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach. She has two chapbooks: Body Parts with dancing girl press and My Favorite Mistake with Arroyo Seco Press. When she isn’t busy reading Nordic noir or letting her tea get cold, she can be found napping with her Russian Blue. She is also the founding editor of Picture Show Press.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018


Last Call

by Shannon Phillips


Before them—the remnants
of cucumber salad, rice, pita, and yogurt sauce.
There was no meat left. A car race loud
between red lights. Living is easier at night.
The hookah smoke—sweet melon—didn’t dance
like in movies, but she wanted to. Fixate.
He was beautiful; she didn’t think he knew.
She wanted to tell him.


* * * * *

Shannon Phillips is a freelance editor and aspiring translator (Arabic-English) who earned her MFA in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach. She has two chapbooks: Body Parts with dancing girl press and My Favorite Mistake with Arroyo Seco Press. When she isn’t busy reading Nordic noir or letting her tea get cold, she can be found napping with her Russian Blue. She is also the founding editor of Picture Show Press.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018


Lacunae

by Joan Leotta


I
My dear friend, Arlene,
called in March—
our monthly “catch-up” or
so I thought, until she rushed
past “hello” to shout,
"I lose words!" at me.
Could I restart with hello?
Startled, instead, I groped for
words of comfort that fell
into a silent world on her end,
until she finally hung up.
We tried continuing our calls.
Always now she speaks little
afraid to show what she
cannot recall.
Once, there were so many
words, hours on the phone,
even made-up words,
out own teen lexicography—
fifty years ago.
Through college, marriage,
husbands, words held us
close not matter the space
miles put between us.
Memories recounted,
new experience, better,
brighter for being shared.

II
In June, I heard the new
Spanish song, Despacito.
My mind stalled on the word
I wondered, Is that a new
word? One I never learned?
A South American dialect word?
After all, I lived in Madrid,
spoke Spanish at the
almost native speaker level.
theta and all. I looked it up:
slowly, the same, now and then.
Fifty years ago.

III
There it was, alongside despacio.
In use for centuries,
in Spain and all over.
An ordinary, everyday word—slowly.
I tried to imagine myself
speaking it in Madrid—
Mas despacio por favor—to a cab driver?
Camino muy despacio
cuando estoy cansada,
to a friend walking down
Gran Via after shopping at
El Corte Ingles?
I remember what I had for
dinner at Casa Botin to celebrate
my 21st birthday
(cuchinillo asado y alcachofas con jamon).
When did despacito fall out
of my Spanish language vocabulary.
Did it leave a hole when it fell away?
Is it now firmly lodged again
filling the slowly lacuna in my brain?

IV
Worst of all, I suspect
other such black holes
have opened in the
verbal expressions of my soul
and worse, more are forming.
More words, entire chunks
of memory will fall off
like slabs of glacier into
a sea of nothingness.
Will disappear.
My fear is that soon lacunae
will stretch wide and far
across the landscape of
my heart and mind,
creating a vast terra cognita
that will swallow me up.
If I have no words
who, how will I be?


* * * * *

Joan Leotta, www.joanleotta.wordpress.com, is an author and story performer. Her books include Giulia Goes to War, Letters from Korea, A Bowl of Rice, Secrets of the Heart, historical fiction in Legacy of Honor Series, Simply a Smilea collection of short stories, and WHOOSH!—a picture book.


Monday, 10 September 2018


No stone unturned.

by Oonah V Joslin


Turns out that paving stones
are not all made of stone.
Who knew?

There’s natural slate of course
and Indian sandstone
but the norm apparently
is man made composites
sort o’ concrete paving slabs
to curb maybe
my natural
female cravings.

And if I say 600 millimetre
yer man-o says 2 inches
and vice-versa
but men like inches better
they sound bigger.

And then when I get home
2 inch turns out to be
570 millimetres
which at a pinch will do but hey
who knew? So incrementally
the discrepancy
between us grew.

And big stones come
in packs
of different sizes
which cannot be split easily.
Perhaps the plastic acts as a kind of
strong nuclear force
that keeps them bound
so single-sized individual stones
can hardly be found it seems,
existing only
in the fantasy realm
of female dreams.


* * * * *

Oonah V Joslin is poetry editor at The Linnet’s Wings. She has won prizes for both poetry and micro-fiction. Her book Three Pounds of Cells ISBN: 13: 978-1535486491 is available online from Linnet’s Wings Press and you can see and hear Oonah read in this National Trust video. The first part of her novella A Genie in a Jam is serialised at Bewildering Stories, along with a large body of her work (see Bibliography). You can follow Oonah on Facebook or at Parallel Oonahverse https://oovj.wordpress.com/.