Monday, 28 September 2020

Mourning Doves Make the Best Music

by Karen Friedland


Can I tell you how happy I an
with this humble little life?

With the paths I walk every day
with my dogs,
and the trees I know like lovers,
that bend in the wind.

Having finally learned
to fight nothing—

to let the whole world wash right through me,
and simply be suspended
in the still blue sky
of an ordinary day.


* * * * *

A nonprofit grant writer by day, Karen’s poems have been published in Nixes Mate Review, Writing in a Women’s Voice, the Lily Poetry ReviewVox Populi and others. Her book of poems, Places That Are Gone, was published in 2019 by Nixes Mate Books, and she has a chapbook forthcoming in late 2020 from
Červená Barva Press. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats and two dogs.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

 Having Built for Ourselves a House That Does Not Leak


                                                                                                by Karen Friedland


in the pouring rain is the main thing—

having cobbled together
a bittersweet, New England
kind of a life,

amidst leaning gravestones
and miniscule old houses
with teacup-sized yards.

Years pass,
and you learn to survive the seasons,
the bitter coldness.

But oh, the nearness of the ocean
and the blueness of northern skies.


* * * * *

A nonprofit grant writer by day, Karen’s poems have been published in Nixes Mate Review, Writing in a Women’s Voice, the Lily Poetry ReviewVox Populi and others. Her book of poems, Places That Are Gone, was published in 2019 by Nixes Mate Books, and she has a chapbook forthcoming in late 2020 from Cervena Barva Press. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats and two dogs.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

UNSUBSCRIBE

by Mary K O’Melveny


I spent time today
pushing and clicking
buttons and links.
All designed to
remove me
from commerce,
from conversations,
from cooking insights
and calico curtains.
From onslaughts,
opportunities
and outrages,
sordid tales
of dreams gone dim.

No one really
wanted me to leave.
Some begged me
to stick around.
Offered options.
Sought my opinion.
Were sorry to offend.
Wasn’t it a simple
misunderstanding?
Wouldn’t I consider
a brief reprieve?
There were causes
in need of rescue.
Consciences to be saved.

Suppose memory
worked this way.
We controlled what stayed
and what strayed away
from our grasp like unruly
children on a playground.
We were in charge of synapse,
neurotransmitters bent
to our will, molecules
waiting to bond with our
best moments, swim away
from mistakes and regrets.
We want veto power.
A second chance to get it right.


* * * * *

Mary K O’Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives with her wife in Washington DC and Woodstock, NY. Mary, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is author of A Woman of a Certain Age and MERGING STAR HYPOTHESES (Finishing Line Press 2018, 2020) and co-author of the anthology An Apple In Her Hand (Codhill Press 2019).

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Writing In A Woman's Voice is on equinox sabbatical until September 27, 2020. Happy equinox, Everyone!

Friday, 18 September 2020

VISITORS


by Mary K O'Melveny


A bird’s nest perches on top of a drainpipe
that snakes down from our rooftop toward the deck.
Our arrival after months away has disturbed the peace
of newly hatched chicks who did not know sounds
of opening doors, windows or FM radio news.
Human voices add a heaviness to their air.

Mother Nature has not been idle in our absence.
Tulips and violets, pear and cherry blossoms,
pale green ferns uncoil like modern jazz dancers.
An electricity fills the atmosphere as if
a summer storm was on its way. Each point
of light a promise of survival.

Today, dear friends stop by to say hello.
Masked up, distanced. What a joyous two hours.
A Baltimore Oriole serenades us all
from the top of the apple tree. A blaze
of orange amidst newly leafed branches.
Like us, cautious, yet eager to be seen.


* * * * *

Mary K O’Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives with her wife in Washington DC and Woodstock, NY. Mary, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is author of A Woman of a Certain Age and MERGING STAR HYPOTHESES (Finishing Line Press 2018, 2020) and co-author of the anthology An Apple In Her Hand (Codhill Press 2019).

Thursday, 17 September 2020

 

The Earthworm's Sacrifice: Motherhood, Mistakes, and Learning

by Julia Romano

 

When my dear Raffi plucks an earthworm from the soil, ecstatic with his find, I know it’s that grub’s death sentence. Gentle, Raffi, I’ll say. Wormies are our friends. I’ll remind him to hold his with tender hands, offer him a stick, or a bucket as substitute. But his grubby hands want to know what life feels like. They hold a pulsing, coiled worm in a loose clasp as he toddles, curious. Pulled by other exploration, he won’t notice that his hands have lost their gentleness. He won’t mean to hold too tight. He won’t mean to rub and squeeze until oh no mommy, wormie broken! Wormie need Bandaid!

And then, I’ll offer him my hand and say Here my love, give mommy the worm. We’ll dig a hole and put him back. Earth heals.

It’s my fault. I showed him that first worm. The ur-worm. Earthworms are signs that the soil is rich; they keep the soil healthy so that we can grow. I couldn’t wait to arm my babe with shovel, and knowledge that so much more lies beneath the surface. Dig, child of my heart, explore! And so he did. 

Each time it happens, I remind him that with all life we must be gentle, and attentive. That we must take care of the world around us. I’ll suggest that we leave that earthworm be. That sometimes, even when we really want something, it might not be the right thing to take it. That we can take a deep breath, and a feeling that is really uncomfortable, like a want unmet, will eventually pass.

Sometimes when Raffi joins me in my raking and sowing, he’ll ask for worms and I’ll tell him all the worms are sleeping today, my love. Some days I can’t stand to be complicit in the carnage.

How many earthworms must sacrifice themselves to one boy’s learning?

I don’t remember my own earthworm slaughtering, though I’m sure it happened—I was a lover of the earth, too. My father would take me out in the garden, teach me how to root plants, aerate soil, water just enough. The same hands that shook threateningly in rage-full moments could be so gentle. I can feel how, with confident tenderness, he pulled a planting from the nursery’s plastic popsicle tray of seedlings. The trowel so toy-like in his grasp, so huge in mine. Create a hole, plug it in, pour dirt over, spread. Water. Hope. Repeat.

An early memory surfaces. Sidewalk puddles, just after rain. I squat in the way that only young children, or natives of another less sedentary land can squat; easily, seat low and heels flat, elastic limbs. From that low perch I watch a parade of earthworms who’ve for some magical reason arisen from their earthen realm. I feel as though I’ve been invited to something important. The air is wet and though the day is gray I breathe in green. I am brimming with wonder.  

I am sure I squeezed a worm or two to death. Not on purpose, of course. But that’s what happens when young hands meet new things.

Not just earthworms suffer. It seems to me that every kind of first relationship bears the burden of learning gentleness.

All of those lessons learned at the expense of other things—Are those sacrifices recorded in some cosmic tally? A hashmark for every little worm. On each Soul’s judgement day, does the ledger balance—what we’ve broken, compared to what we’ve learned? Maybe that inequity is what sends us spinning back into the next cycle of being.

Learning. Is there learning without breaking? A seed planted must break through its casing to become itself, again. A caterpillar morphs, but to do so must abandon itself completely to becoming caterpillar soup. A planet’s caretakers must be threatened with their own demise before beginning to understand the global implications of their personal consumption—and even then might not change course. A father who learned anger early can come to gentleness, but at the cost of relationship with his first borns. A woman might learn her strength, but only after coming close to falling apart.

I watch my two-and-a-third-year-old learn. He makes mistakes, plenty of them. He breaks more than he builds. I do not judge him. I love him unconditionally. I celebrate his process. I guide where I can and provide Bandaids where they’ll make a difference. But, mostly, I try to steel myself enough to stand back so that he may learn.

I see his mistakes as part of his process, just as I see the earthworm as part of all that lives, all that passes, all that becomes again. His transgressions I, of course, forgive. They become golden apples, teaching moments that I pluck and share and savor.  

But what of my mistakes? They are not so sweet.

I am new to motherhood. I am two-and-a-third-years-old. Sometimes I feel as though I’ll break under the weight of my own fear. Some days I am worn down and short tempered. Some days I crave something I cannot name and live in the shame of my own dissatisfaction. Some days I do not respond as quickly or as well as a better mother would; some days I am momentarily resentful of his insistent squawking. Some days I am twisted into knots by bills and husband and this incessant fear that I will fail. And then shame pulls me under, for isn’t that squawking golden boy the greatest thing I’ve ever done? Some days gratitude escapes me, and I live for hours in the dark corners of my mind.

If I make a mistake, Raffi is the earthworm I chance mishandling. This is the crux of my fear—what if my dear, perfect baby boy withers in the shadow of my fear, is harmed by my imperfections.

I plead to the Universe: let my Raffi survive my learning. 

And because I don’t really believe the Universe heeds individual prayers, I know I have to practice. Every time I’m pulled under this tsunami of feeling, I have to pull myself back to the lessons my own child’s learning process is teaching: that there is no such thing as a mistake, that it’s all part of the process, and that it’s all learning. If an experience teaches us to be more present, and more compassionate for ourselves and others, then nothing is wasted. The energy of the thing broken is transferred, transformed into the lesson learned.

I’d like to thank the earthworms for their sacrifice. I’ll say a prayer each time I spill dirt over a wounded one, guts spilling out where toddler hands pulled. May you become part of the earth, again. May you nourish the soil, and what grows. And may my body, someday, nourish your descendants.

 

* * * * *

A recent admission to the school of mothering multiples, Julia Romano does her best to keep her first, eldest babe held close as well, and wishes often that she had more arms. When not juggling twins, toddler, guilt, and joy, Julia works in private practice as a Certified Yoga Therapist and is on the faculty with the Maryland University of Integrative Health. Her daily work is to make the inner like the outer—resilient, easeful, and open-hearted.


Beseech

by Margaret Marcum 


Imagine the light
with the purity of the lily,
glowing pearl in the cadence of the moon

beams. I close my eyes ashamed.
My parents shake their heads,
bowing to read between the holy sheets: their only solace

knowing that the worst is past and gone.
The sprung girl got out of bed and slipped on her
knit beanie and duck rain boots

quickly, before Grandma would be
wondering where she was. She bends
down to smooth her skirt and skips out

the door, watering the flower beds,
not, seeing a man in a black suit that looms behind
fields of daisies and poppies,

alike. The cosmic warrior aims her
bow and arrow of stars across the dark
night sky. She releases the trigger, it

streaks into the abyss of our soul,
hyenas in hysterics,

a little girl, hands folded, beseeches: mercy.


* * * * *

Margaret Marcum is currently a graduate student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. She graduated with a B.A. (emphasis on poetry) from the University of Redlands, where she was a member of the Proudian Interdisciplinary Honors Program. Her literary interests include animal rights, healing the collective through personal narrative, vegan studies, and ecofeminism. Her poems previously appeared in Literary Veganism and Children, Churches, and Daddies.