Monday, 27 March 2017

High-Intensity Lamp

by Judy Swann


This is the point in my life where I want
a fancy, high-intensity lamp
and not because I need to know more about the world
(here’s where Plato starts to make sense)
but because we no longer have a public
used to getting its information in rhymed texts;
site-driven ad-choices, down to the actual
corner of a state, that’s what we have now.

If the point is not to be a better person
there is no point; and you don’t get to start
back where it wasn’t already a mess, living in
Notsobadistan with your lover and your son,
where the obscure, train-wail sound of the pheasant
meets the empty point of universality in
the Liberation News Service’s block print
book about stones on the second-hand rack.

An older girl skips a stone on the lake, where
a woman tenderly washes her lover’s hair,
where Baptists wash each others’ feet with
a different tenderness but the same abandonment
by God, and still the devotional literature consoles. It
weaves itself around you like bees at the end
of strawberry season, not interested in you, but the smell
of honeysuckle hedge, a whiff of motorcycle.

Throw away the husk and grasp the succulent
death-seed, no prudent warm blanket at hand.
Wrap ourselves as best we can in lignum
vitae, and draw the monitoring gaze of the blazing
world, no swans in ice, thank you. And nothing
for sale. We moved everything out into the bright
sunlight of the yard and cordoned off the plastic.
No captions, no links, no tags. It was good.
Oh my god I am so alone.

* * * * *


Judy Swann is a poet, essayist, editor, and bicycle commuter, whose work has been published in many venues both in print and online. Her book, We Are All Well: The Letters of Nora Hall has given her great joy. She loves. She lives in Ithaca, NY.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Today the tapestry of Writing In A Woman's Voice resumes (yay!) with Melodie Corrigall's story "Chariot of Fire."


CHARIOT OF FIRE

by Melodie Corrigall


Hurtling along the Trans Canada Highway into the dusk, perched upright in my orange Toyota, I’m a charioteer in my Chariot of Fire, blissfully ignorant of what may be around the bend.

I am potent.

Extra octane surges through my pulsating veins. Today, I challenge the Universe: hand to hand combat, best out of three.

Such is the result of a week of unbridled freedom on an otherwise encumbered female’s psyche.

By rights I am no longer encumbered. Friend husband was shucked off some years ago in a moment of lucidity; friend daughter waved off to adventures in Europe with a few extra dollars “in case.” But I am one of those mortals who carries the heartaches and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to on her shoulders.

I take in strays.

Not this week, though. This week I move with the freedom of the gods. Seven days to do exactly as I like. Things not necessarily useful, of no redeeming social value, of no value whatsoever except to my soul—that frail bird whose glorious multi‑coloured plumage is usually buried in the littered nest of expediency.

How I had anticipated these rare moments: away from work, away from family. I could sleep uninterrupted for hours, days, the entire week. Only the protests of my calcifying bones would finally lift me from the bed, I promised my hassled self as I flew around frantically clearing up the last few chores.

I could take the dictionary into the bathroom and sit there until my bottom became permanently etched with the toilet bowl ring, slowly reading from ‘aardvark’ to ‘zygote.’ No phones to ring, no one to disturb me for “just one minute.”

I could buy a violin and learn to play a concerto, or write a novel with three hundred and sixty‑eight undisciplined characters, none of whom appear more than once.

I would be alone, unencumbered, no schedules, no housework and no guilty “shoulds.” I could lie on the floor and contemplate the ceiling, stretch out on the damp grass and converse with the clouds until my bones, my muscles, or my boredom moved me. No alarm clocks to shatter my pristine time; all regulated by my own internal clock. Fantastic.

“Who will help me plant the seeds?”
“Not I said the pig.”
Yahoo!

The Fact is I did none of the above. One seldom does, but freedom is the “could have” and I had a wonderful time. (Sent no e-mails saying, “Wish you were here.”)

Why don’t we do this more often? I mused as I stared mesmerized at store windows, drifted through art galleries, read urgently into the night.

When inclined—dinner with someone else cooking and washing up and me just sipping my chilled German wine, and thinking about the cosmos or fresh blueberry pie.  Uninterrupted images unrelated to daily errands would drift through my brain: growing, expanding, and then floating off into the black velvet sky. Or if I choose something more dramatic, images would be retrieved and painted in luminous green stripes: my choice and my stripes.

I’d be hand in hand with me, giggling together, exchanging sly winks, such a wonderful, witty, light-footed woman.  We could build things together: bridges, cathedrals, golden cities. We could write symphonies in E minor. We could start the revolution.

And flying down the highway heading home, I can still feel the power. Today I embrace you, glorious Vancouver. No housework here.
The wash of golden paint on the horizon fades; evening descends. Human lights prickle the dusky sky.

Maybe I’ll fix up the house. Transform the musty old place into what I want it to be. Peter’s tastes had been conservative. Compromises in lifestyle had painted us beige. But now, what can I do? Refinish the house in wood siding? Put on a verandah? I’ll paint it all by myself.

Around the corner, unto my street then horrors, there, in my spot, is Eric’s car. The kid is back.

The little bugger, I mutter as I heave my bulging suitcase out of the trunk, suck in my breath, pull up my shorts, and head for the ring.

As I hit the bottom step the front door explodes open. The kid, lanky, disheveled, lurches out, barring my way.

“Where’s dad?” he cries accusingly, inferring I have his father in a burlap sack in my car trunk.

“David’s on holiday,” I grunt struggling to push past the fleshy encumbrance into my house.

“You went together.”

“We spent two weeks together, the last week we went our separate ways.”

The kid smirks knowingly.

“Sometimes people like time alone,” I suggest.

This Eric does not believe. He always has at least seven others, all the same make and model as him, milling around intimately in his life. They move like a giant centipede to the movies, the pizza place, the basement, to drink, to eat, to smoke, and to do ‘whatever.’ They may even do ‘whatever’ collectively. They probably share the photos on-line.

The battle continues on the front stoop. I, bulky suitcase in hand, coat dragging over my arm, purse dangling from my weary shoulder, shove against Eric. He stares towards the empty car, expecting his father to materialize, which I wish he would. I’d give him back his son, wrapped even.

Never trust white wine and soft music.

The romance à deux with David became an uncomfortable ménage à trois until my daughter was shipped off to Europe. We no sooner had started to savour our moments alone when David’s son Eric landed on us. Whatever the reason—bad genes, bad parenting, or bad luck, David’s son Eric is a nebbish: unmotivated, uncaring, unconcerned, and out of it.

David ruefully agrees and we plot into the night how to relocate “the kid” to an adequate apartment some distance away with Sunday visiting privileges.

Eric is not keen. We haven’t offered a housekeeper in the new location and he is no cook. Being a soft touch I have so far not insisted. By fall, though, the gentleman caller has promised to set up camp somewhere other than our living room couch.

“Sit,” Eric snaps, wrenching my suitcase from my sweaty hand like an anxious porter.

I had anticipated soaking my tired muscles in a piping hot bath until they were lobster red, soothing music in the background, a cool glass of Riesling at hand. Instead I am ordered to seat myself in my own house by a disconnected young fellow who has, I suddenly note with horror, an anxious female appendage leering from behind his bony shoulder.

“Do you need a drink?” Eric challenges, stressing the word “need.”

“Will this take long?” They are too exuberant to be bearers of bad news.

“No, no,” they topple over one another to assure me.

We sit. They on the corners of their seats slightly forward glancing conspiratorially at one another. A wave of fatigue sweeps over me, my shoulders seize from the long drive, my eyes itch.

“Well?”

“We’re getting married,” Eric chokes out triumphantly.

“Oh?” I venture.

“As soon as possible,” the girl asserts defiantly.

I know the girl’s name. It’s Brenda. I’m just too nasty to use it.

“Oh,” I offer in a slightly higher register, knowing how furious David will be.

“This is a surprise.”

“Why should it be?” the girl snaps, “People in love marry.”

And diamonds are forever.
“What about Eric’s school year?”

“We’ll manage.”

On David’s money, I expect

“Mother has already booked the hall,” the girl cries triumphantly.

What can I say? My third ‘oh’ floats across the room, an orphaned bubble.

“When is it to be?”

“June 30.”

“We thought you’d be pleased,” the girl grumbles, “being a woman.”

Although a woman, I am not in the bridal business.

“Of course, but marriage is a serious business.”

So speaks the Victorian matron.

“We know. We see the breakups. We’ve learned from that.”

I am part of the breakups, as is David. What we have learned from that I am uncertain.

“We already have a list of over 100 guests,” the girl concludes.

Eric mooning in the background notes my skepticism and charges to his lady’s defense.

“It’s a good sized hall on Broadway.”

And how can you argue with a good-sized hall? 

“We were wondering,” the bride‑to‑be offers a thin want‑something smile, “just to give a hand if Eric could, well, stay on.”

“I told dad I’d leave,” the cowboy admits, “but it would cost a lot.”

“Let me think on it,” I recoil refusing to be bulldozed the first day back.

Slyly I suggest that I treat them to a celebration supper at a local restaurant, just the two of them. It will be more romantic.

“You sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Gee, okay.”

Push. Push. At the door, the bride turns back.

“Eric and I,” she says blushing coyly, “wondered if you could persuade David to tie the knot.”

My eyes narrow.

“Mommy thinks it would be awfully nice for the big day if you and David were legit.”

I couldn’t wait to meet mommy.

“She says it might be just the prod David needs.”

So much for wine and roses. Should I confess that the only way David will get me down the aisle is in a coffin? No, better skip the witticisms with this crowd.

“Ta,” the fiancée winks, abandoning me to gasp like a beached whale on my front stoop. Eric’s “ciao” echoes in the distance.

The empty house slowly ingests my defeated protoplasm, obliterating the orange flash of my Chariot of Fire.

In a last gasp I struggle to regain the life force, to recall the power. To fly again.

* * * * *

Melodie Corrigall is an eclectic Canadian writer whose stories have appeared in Litro UK, Foliate Art, Emerald Bolts, Earthen Journal, Still Crazy and The Write Place at the Write Time (www.melodiecorrigall.com).



Wednesday, 22 February 2017

With today's peaceful poem filled with faith and hope, "Biorhythmic Resistance" by Jill Crainshaw, Writing In A Woman's Voice will take a sabbatical until March 26. (This includes a previously mentioned full moon celebration project, which will be postponed until April's full moon.)

Biorhythmic Resistance
by Jill Crainshaw

The waxwings visited today. They
know when at winter’s spring-ward edge
to harvest our backyard cedar’s frosted
blue berries. Sometimes the luck of
wildness calls my eyes skyward, and
I see them, masked urban foragers
warming naked Jack Frost trees with
ephemeral browned-butter flames.
And then they are gone. They brush
still-cold blue skies with tails dipped in
sunflower yellow, leaving no sign 
they were ever here at all. But as I
watch them fly away, an ancient promise
caresses my face. When an uninvited
stranger occupies our terrace, holds minds
hostage to chaotic rhythms, desperate
to rewire fragile dreams to his own 
narcissistic gravity, this is how we
resist. We synchronize our wings to
creation’s pace and breathe in and out
the spiraling balm of hope. And then we
live as people who remember, who
know in the marrow of our bones:
the waxwings will visit again.

* * * * *
Jill Crainshaw is a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She enjoys exploring how words give voice to unexpected ideas, insights and visions.


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Half of a Heart                                                                                               
by Emma Hines

For a tattoo artist, she didn’t have very many tattoos. Only one on the inside of her left wrist; the black outline of one half of a heart. They always asked where the other half was.
She loved it when they did that.
“You have the most beautiful green eyes,” a man crooned. She knew a pickup line when she heard one, and leaned towards him so he could better see the neckline of her dress; a little black thing she enjoyed wearing because it made her feel like she could kill someone. She liked his eyes, too; deep blue that would go nicely with hair that was dark, like hers.
“Why thank you,” she said.
This one will do nicely.
She invited him to sit with her, and pretended not to notice as he obviously looked her over. She knew she was beautiful, but it was a surreal beauty, a beauty that made people look twice because it was so unbelievable the eyes had to see it again to make sure it was standing before them in the form of a woman with eyes greener than the earth. At first it had annoyed her, but she’d found a way to make putting up with the catcalls worth her while. Honestly, it was hard to blame the ones that oogled, and she’d long since stopped minding when people stared because it made her hobby so much easier. She’d started frequenting bars and nightclubs because that was where all the pretty people went.
I can always be more beautiful.
“You know, I normally don’t like tattoos,” the man said, his eyes stopping at her wrist, “but for you I’ll make an exception.” She smiled at him flirtatiously, fluttering her dark lashes and letting her hair fall over one shoulder, glancing away to look just the right amount of mysterious and sultry.
Thank goodness I decided on long, thick hair.
"Who has the other half of the heart?" the man pressed, not very subtly asking if she was single. She pretended to remember a long-ago heartbreak and made her voice husky when she replied,
"Someone who abandoned me, a long time ago."
"I wouldn't abandon you," the man promised.
A few drinks later, she was ready to make sure he wouldn’t. Alcohol didn’t affect her like it did the rest of them, so she had to work her voice into a bubbly, overexcited pitch when she squealed,
“Wanna go to my place?” Of course, the man nodded; they always did. She hated taxis but she’d already pretended she was drunk so she was forced to call one and sit in the back and pretend she liked the man’s sloppy kisses.
No wonder I didn’t have to fight anyone to get this man.
She never liked having to steal someone away from another person; it was just such a pain, but she’d done it a couple times, for the right hair or smile. Stealing took a few days, and she preferred a one-night job where she got what she wanted with little to no effort at all. When she dragged him out of the taxi, she was glad she’d convinced him to leave before he’d had another drink. He was heavy and she couldn’t carry him without damaging her nails.
Her house was her tattoo shop, and the man stumbled inside to collapse on a chair. His eyes never wandered to the strange books on her shelves, or the candles all around, and he didn’t bother to glance down at the rug with a pentagram on it that was centered right underneath his chair. All he looked at was her, and when she came near, tugged her onto his lap.
“Wait, wait,” she told him breathlessly. “Before... I just... I need to know you won’t abandon me.” She held his gaze, those beautiful blue eyes, and watched her beauty work on him. The three shots of vodka in his system worked, too.
“Anything,” he swore.
“A tattoo,” she said, blurting it like she’d just come up with the idea spontaneously. “The other half of my heart.” The man hesitated and looked away, but she let one of the straps of her dress slide down, and that was all it took to convince him.
She’d already prepared the needle, and in no time the man was staring at his right wrist, testing how the ink looked when he twisted his hand. The man was starting to feel faint, she could tell.
Perfect.
She put their arms together and lined the tattoos up to make a complete heart, then traced around it with her finger, and visualized what she wanted from him.
Beautiful blue eyes.
The man started to scream, but that was why she’d set up her shop in the middle of nowhere. She timed it, and the thrashing lasted about twelve seconds.
Then the man was dead in her chair, and his eyes were gone.
She felt a pop, and she blinked as the world was gone for a brutal second before coming back in neat clarity.
She put the body where she kept the others, then checked herself in the mirror.
They do go nicely with my hair.
The next night, a man stopped her on her way to a new bar.
            “You have the most beautiful blue eyes,” he said. She smiled at him, and he grinned back. His teeth were whiter and straighter than hers, pearly and beautiful. How would they look framed by her red lips?
            “Why thank you,” she said.

* * * * *

Emma Hines is a 17- year-old junior in high school, planning on pursuing a university degree that will support her goal of becoming a professional writer. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Donation

by Sarah Henry


I would like to donate
my body to science
with a flourish.
My long-awaited dissection
must be written off
to good will.

A medical student soon
learns that organs in a cadaver
don’t mirror each other
like two halves of a French
door opening in the salon
of a wealthy art collector.
Let me invite you inside
with pleasure, and hope
you won’t send regrets.
He who hesitates is lost.

Anatomy class is tough,
but not so bad as reading
pediatric electrocardiograms
with their many dark 
and murmuring hearts.

My driver’s license says,
An eye for an eye.
When my car collides with
a distracted station wagon,
a student will butterfly
my body, taking everything,
the uneven and misaligned,
all askew. His scalpel will
rob my grave.

* * * * *

Sarah Henry is a former student of Robert Hass and Louise Gluck at the University of Virginia. Today she lives near Pittsburgh, where her poems have appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Farther afield, Sarah's work has been published in the International Women's Day issue of the Camel Saloon, The Hollins Critic and six anthologies. CHEAP POP featured her humorous prose. Humor is very important to her.


Sunday, 19 February 2017

Creative Writing

by Sarah Henry


He said his grandfather
was personal secretary
to Pierre DuPont, even
though Pierre DuPont must
have had many hangers-on.
(His parents didn’t own
a brag gallery in their
den to prove it.)
He worked it in that
he was president of Student
Council in high school.
(A former classmate said
he had only been treasurer
of the Ski Club.)
By his own report,
his college girlfriend
hadn’t been as “rich”
as he was. (Was he rich?)
He broadcasted a completely
false and unsubstantiated
rumor about my making
a bodice-ripping attempt
to seduce him. (Look!
All of his women come running!)
Finally, he trailed over to Russia,
where he published a fish story,
a whopper, a whale of a tale.
Yes, this is about you.


* * * * *

Sarah Henry is a former student of Robert Hass and Louise Gluck at the University of Virginia. Today she lives near Pittsburgh, where her poems have appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Farther afield, Sarah's work has been published in the International Women's Day issue of the Camel Saloon, The Hollins Critic and six anthologies. CHEAP POP featured her humorous prose. Humor is very important to her.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

40 YEARS WITH AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER

by Brenda Havens



            Lou Mitchell’s was bustling, damn it.
            The hostess settled me at the counter, a bit away from the bustle.  I was here for fuel, not fellowship.  All these perky tourist families were quite annoying.
            I left a seat between myself and the next guy. 
Oh, he’s reading a book!  And I’m reading my Russell Banks!  We have something in common!  I wonder if he’s an English teacher. We could have a conversation about books.  I’d love that.  An affair would be nice.  Wow, how’d I transition to that idea so fast?  I wonder, too, if that skillet thing he ate was good.  Oh, well, I’ll just read.  It’s The Darling.  I’m pretty into it. Main character was in the Weatherman Underground, so I’m learning about that from the inside out, if Banks knows what he’s talking about. 
Oh, darn.  He’s packing his book away, so it’s too late to talk about it. He—taller than I thought-- strolled on out of the restaurant.
Oh, well.  I’ve got my book.

            I had the day in Chicago before my husband got off work. We would spend the night in the condo borrowed from Cousin Judy, and then head back home to Indiana in the morning.
             This time, he would be armed with Viagra, tested, discussed and blessed by his pecker-checker.  I felt anxious, but looked forward to the intimacy, the closeness of being touched and held during, before and after lovemaking.  A big, boundless orgasm wouldn’t hurt, either. 
However.  In the car on the way to our Steppenwolf matinee, I noticed his breath.  Again.  The halitosis he gets when he doesn’t use the hydra floss for a week.
Bastard.
           
           After the play, where I spent some mental energy hoping the guy next to me couldn’t smell my husband’s breath, we went to dinner at Marcello’s on North Avenue.  We chatted about the play, recalled some good times living in Evanston. I did have to ask him to smooth the duck fuzz at the top of his head, but I couldn’t smell his breath.
We called our sons, who were in the middle of the traditional Chicago May 1 move from one apartment to another. They agreed that some pizza & pasta would be helpful, so we ordered, and when finished eating, set the GPS for their new address:  24-something Leavitt, and drove over. Fun to see them and their new place.

“Sorry. I was defecating,” he shared, buckling back in. Oh.  Great.  My mind raced ahead of his next words.  Yes, it was true.  A bad bout of diarrhea.  Heeewww. 
That did it for me.  But what about him?  Hopefully, he feels too sick to think about sex.
            After his shower (so glad he realized the need), as I poured myself a bit of Cousin Judy’s white wine, my peripheral vision caught him in view through the just-opened bathroom door.  My ears caught the crinkle of plastic and foil in his hands, his voice, “Well, are we ready to try it?” 
Unbelieving, I looked at him, damp, hairy, gray chest hanging over wrapped towel.  I thought fast--decided to bring up the breath, since the bowels didn’t discourage him.  And, truly, how can we have decent foreplay with halitosis as a guest?  
We talked. Defensive at first, he agreed he had been thoughtless to focus so much on those projects that he ignored basic hygiene, and, no, he wouldn’t want to kiss me if I had monster breath.
He lay his head back and dozed on to sleep. I walked out to the balcony, taking in East Loop lights, like thousands of stars twinkling eternity, and hope, light and love. I sighed in tandem with a waning siren rushing south on Lake Shore. On a rooftop to the north, I saw partiers, young, buoyant. Awake.

I sighed again, then turned back inward. Oh, well, I’ve got my book.