Friday, 14 May 2021

How to explain death to a three-year-old

by Carolyn Martin


Hold the stethoscope to her ears.
Hear your brother’s baby heart?

When she nods an unsuspecting nod,
brush a kiss across her auburn hair.

Guide her hand to his chest. Feel the up
and down? She’ll learn the feeling fast.

Keep it physical: a ritual of sound,
of rise and fall. Do not talk of afterlife,

a better place, the angels who will fly
him home. Stay practical. Chart his life

in months and days. Enshrine his photos
on the walls. Ensure she won’t forget.

Then, when he dies in your bed
before the firs release the summer sun,

send your husband to invite her in.
She won’t need words to understand.

The stethoscope is mute.
Her hand will rest on still-warm skin.


* * * * *

"How to explain death to a three-year-old" was previously published in Verseweavers and is part of Carolyn Martin's poetry collection The Way a Woman Knows.

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 125 journals and anthologies throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her fifth collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments will be released in 2021. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation.


Thursday, 13 May 2021

Memories in Mother’s Bed

by Pat LaPointe


It’s nearly midnight. You are exhausted and hopeful sleep will come soon. You crawl into your mother’s bed where you have slept for several weeks. The sound of your father’s rhythmic snoring in the next room reminds you of your childhood. It evokes a peaceful feeling, knowing he’s OK.

As you begin to rest your head on the pillow, memories of the events of the past weeks flood your mind. Sleep will not come easily.

The phone call that changed your life nearly a month ago:

“Mom’s hurt. She’s in the hospital.”

The diagnosis: A fall, her head slamming into a dresser, caused bleeding on the brain. No telling how long it will take for the bleeding to stop.

Someone will have to stay with your Dad. His dementia is too severe to have him live alone. The siblings can’t/won’t stay with him. It was left up to you to take over.

Your days were filled with caring for him and as well as being at your mother’s side in the hospital.

You gave him his insulin. Made breakfast. Called a neighbor to stay with him. Raced to the hospital. Asked how Mom was doing. Very little progress each day.

Your mother could not eat. She had a feeding tube. She could not breathe on her own. A machine breathed for her. She could not/would not speak.

Then a surgery to ease the bleeding. Was only successful for a few days.

Then you glanced at your Mother as one side of her body began shaking hard enough to loosen some of the tubes and wires which kept her alive. You screamed for the nurses. Your Mother had a stroke.

A week passed. Another surgery. They removed part of her skull. You saw an indentation in the bandages wrapped around her head.

The bleeding lessened for the first time in several weeks. There was talk about what she would need when she left the hospital, maybe in a month or so.

You hoped Mom could hear when you told her the good news.

For the first time you felt so relaxed that you began to nod off in the chair next to your mother’s bed.

Almost immediately, loud, repetitive sounds were coming from the monitors. When her heart rate increased, her blood pressure dangerously decreased. Nurses came and demanded: “Go to the family room. The doctor will meet you there.”

You waited and waited.

You began to curse the damn clock with its loud ticking. It reminded you of every minute you were away from your mother’s side.

The doctor arrived. We’ve done all we can. We have tried for at least 30 minutes to get her to breathe on her own. It is likely she will have some brain damage and be on a ventilator for the rest of her life. It is up to you, you must decide. We can work on her a while longer until we get her set up with a respirator OR....It’s up to you.”

“Please keep working on her just until I get back to her room.” And for a few seconds you asked yourself “Am I killing my Mother?”

You reached your mother’s room and the doctors and nurses quickly left. The lines on the heart monitor read out were flattening. You told your mother you love her just as the monitor quit spiking and the lines went flat.

Now, three days later you again try to sleep, but remember that the funeral home needs some of mom’s IDs. You reach for your mom’s purse and begin to riffle through it. You laugh as a notebook and miniature dictionary fall out followed by no less than three rain bonnets all of which were essentials in your mom’s purse. Your mother had been overprotective of her weekly hair styling, often wearing two bonnets when it began to drizzle.

Suddenly you become very sleepy, return the items to the purse and drop it on the floor, a few feet from the bed.

You are just nestling down under the covers when you hear a crinkling noise. You turn on the light and see one of the bonnets lying alone on the floor, just inches from the bed.

You begin to laugh loudly. “OK, Mom, I got your message. But even if it rains, I’m not using those bonnets.” You place the single bonnet under your pillow.

The next morning all the visitors at the funeral home have one last chance to say goodbye to your mom before they leave for church. You are last in line and take the other two bonnets from your purse and place them in the casket.

“You never know, Mom, it might rain.”


* * * * *

Pat LaPointe, editor of Changes in Life, a monthly online women’s newsletter, is contributing editor of the anthology, The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment. In addition, she conducts writing workshops for women — both online and onsite. Pat’s essays and short stories have been published widely. Currently, Pat is completing her first novel, forthcoming late 2021.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Finding a Photograph of an Execution in Time Magazine

by Gail Davern


Here in the jungle, after a rainfall,
the colors so vivid from trees and birds
that this little grove where the army
has chosen to stop is illuminated.
A photographer hiding, zeroes in from
200 feet on the one small prisoner
digging a hole with bare brown hands,
in brown pants and brown shirt.
When he’s finished, he lies down and crosses his arms.
Climbing in on top of him, the chosen soldier
plunges a knife into the prisoner’s throat.
A gun shot would bring the enemy.
After the first cut, another is inflicted
into the jugular then the abdomen.
With blood gushing into his coarse black hair,
the earth is kicked over him and the jungle
is put straight before the next rain washes away
the sins of the trespassers and before the film
is put in the mail to New York. The photo
appears in Time magazine as a write-up on execution.
The prisoner’s right leg rose a little off the ground.


* * * * *

Gail Davern was born in London, England. She emigrated to the U.S. where she completed her university undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her work has appeared in Aileron, Alura, CQ, Crosscurrents, and the Salal Review, among other literary magazines. She was recently name finalist for the International Literary Awards: Rita Dove Award, and her chapbook, From the Island at the End of Winter was published by Finishing Line Press. She teaches at Skagit Valley College in Washington state and lives on Whidbey Island.


Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Piano Lessons

by Gail Davern


They lasted until ten at night,
the continual counting
and striking of wrong notes.
My life at home was
a musical parade of students
my mother taught while I was
in the back of the house
doing homework and
preparing dinner, so she
wouldn’t have to leave her
chair by the piano.
“No, no. Play it again.”
I would cringe to hear,
wanting the right note to be struck.
Twilight ended and the lamp
would be turned on to cast
a honey glow over the keys.
When the student left,
there was a brief silence
until the next student came.
I fantasized that the silence
could go on forever and my mother,
after a long day of work, could rest,
but Brahms interrupted and the
music lulled me to sleep.


* * * * *

Gail Davern was born in London, England. She emigrated to the U.S. where she completed her university undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her work has appeared in Aileron, Alura, CQ, Crosscurrents, and the Salal Review, among other literary magazines. She was recently name finalist for the International Literary Awards: Rita Dove Award, and her chapbook, From the Island at the End of Winter was published by Finishing Line Press. She teaches at Skagit Valley College in Washington state and lives on Whidbey Island.


Monday, 10 May 2021

Memory of Mom 

by Lisa Reynolds


I'm sitting here, drinking coffee. 

Mom's cup is on the kitchen table beside me; her instant Maxwell House Coffee on the counter.

She loved that brand; black with two heaping scoops of sugar. 

Every morning, I would make her a cup the moment I heard her moving around.

She'd come down just as it started to cool, tell me it was perfect, then sit on an ottoman in front of the patio door and watch the birds. 

The Doves stay throughout the winter. The little Jerichos too, dashing about.

Mom would point and say, "They're at it again" and I'd look over and see black and white feathers on bare branches.

And today...

I'm sitting here, waiting to hear her but the only sound is the hum of the furnace as heat rises through the vents.

No Mom. Just me.

Feeling very sad.


* * * * *

Lisa Reynolds is a Canadian writer of poetry and short stories, living in a small community east of Toronto, Ontario. Her works are published in print and online.

"Memory of Mom" is a reflective poem written about her mom, Joan who passed away on February 21, 2021. 


Sunday, 9 May 2021

A Sonata For My Mother

by Dulce Maria Menendez


Because her mother died when she was five.
Because a child should not lose her mother at the age of five.
Because the nuns dressed her as baby Jesus.
Because she wasn't educated past the age of 13.
Because she had to stop going to school to work for her aunt's who beat her and made her wear shoes which were a size too small.
Because she had to give up ballet.
Because she was a lion with green cat yes and her tresses swept past her round
face in the breezes of Havana.
Because she met my father at a bus stop.
Because someone forgot to tell her he was psychofrenic.
Because she was happy for three months before she found out.
Because she left Cuba for US(A).
Because she held my hand as we walked the streets in Miami.
Because she stopped driving after almost killing us in an automobile accident shortly after arriving in Miami.
Because she almost broke her back hunched over a sewing machine.
Because she waited for my father to come home.
Because she waited for my father to come home again.
Because she waited for my father never to return.
Because she left my father.
Because she left my father again.
Because she returned to my father.
Because she loved my father more than me and my sister.
Because she called me hija.
Because she lost her mind.
Because she regained it after my father's death.
Because she wrote poems. 
Because she listened to Rubinstein play Chopin over and over again.
Because she never said a bad word.
Because my sister was her treasure.
Because I was a daddy's girl.
Because she was a work of art.
Because her name was Salome and she carried the beheading of all eternity upon her elegant shoulders as she turned her head to see you as if for the first time.

And why does my mother listen to Chopin?
And why does the sonata bring her comfort?
And why is the sky blue? I asked her once.
Any why did she play Chopin to offer me an answer?
And why does my father leave us again and again? I asked her.
And why am I incarcerated in my own home so far away during this pandemic without my mother?
Listen.
Listen.
Listen. 
The sonata plays.
The phone rings.
It is someone from long ago who remembers my mother.
And why does my mother die on the day of the innocents?
Does Chopin have the answer?
I don't know other than at death as in the sonata
we play alone.

----

For Maria Salome Menendez Planes born October 22, 1932 and died April 1, 2020.


* * * * *

Dulce Maria Menendez publishes artists and poets.


Saturday, 8 May 2021

 

About this already

by Lorelei Bacht


You trip me, watch me fall 
Down the stairs, rumble tumble 
Of broken limbs and hair,
Knocked head, you blame 
Me for making such a fuss. 

You entertain other women,
Old bathwater, everyone gets 
A turn, I ask about the hair,
The smell of another, you say: 
Stop being so fussy.

You take scissors to the fabric
Of our relationship, our family,
The very fabric of reality,
Every morning is the morning
After, you say we've talked 

About this already.


* * * * *

"About this already" was first published in OpenDoor Magazine: https://www.opendoorpoetrymagazine.com

Lorelei Bacht is a European poet living in Asia with her family. Her recent poems have appeared and/or are forthcoming in OpenDoor Magazine, Litehouse, Visitant, Quail Bell, Wrongdoing, and SWWIM. She can be found on Instagram: @the.cheated.wife.writes and @lorelei.bacht.writer

Friday, 7 May 2021

 

Beach Fun

by Lorelei Bacht

 
Heavy rain. The sea,
Suddenly troubled, struggles
To read its own face.
 
What a drag! My heart
Broken beyond repair, when
I should “just relax.” 
 
Daddy watches them
Build sandcastles while I drown 
In my middle age. 
 
Bottom of the sea, 
Smooth black hand of cold water – 
Irresistible. 
 
I was lonely once. 
I was lonely twice, and then
I just stopped counting. 
 
Corals, dead white bones –
Soon, everything about me
Will cease to matter.
 
Murmur of the waves:
When I made you, you made me.
Walk out, and happen.
 
Reverse of the sky,
The sea welcomes everything,
Birth, death and the rest. 
 
Rolling hopes and hurts
Between its invisible
Fingers, it forgives.


* * * * *

"Beach Fun" was first published in Litehouse, a journal which promotes the work of exophonic writers (who write in a language other than their mother tongue): https://tothelitehouse.com

Lorelei Bacht is a European poet living in Asia with her family. Her recent poems have appeared and/or are forthcoming in OpenDoor Magazine, Litehouse, Visitant, Quail Bell, Wrongdoing, and SWWIM. She can be found on Instagram: @the.cheated.wife.writes and @lorelei.bacht.writ
er

Thursday, 6 May 2021

A Pocket Full of Questions

by Francesca Brenner


Do butterflies dream?
Do I dare hold a candle when it burns from both ends?
If salt is poured on a wound will it preserve the memory?
If I take my vitamins every day, I don’t have to eat, right?
Is the oldest organized crime group a murder of crows?
If you sleep too much do dreams come true?
Do dust bunnies hop in the dark?
Does a cup of water get mad if you put it in the microwave?
Why can’t we grow back another finger or arm?
If there were flying carpets they’d have seatbelts, right?
Why can’t we create a new primary color?
What is the point of a floating rib?
Why are feet so small when they have to hold up an entire body?
Do tide pools get jealous of oceans?
Do oceans get jealous of tide pools?
Do flowers speak to each other through color?
Do stalactites and stalagmites secretly want to swap definitions?
Does a crossword puzzle get mad if you don’t finish it?
How will I ever learn to fly if I don’t keep trying?


* * * * *

Francesca Brenner grew up in NYC’s Greenwich Village and on The Cape in Massachusetts. She currently lives in Los Angeles though her heart remains bicoastal. Her poetry has appeared in After the Pause, The Alembic, The Best of the Poetry Salon, Common Ground Review, Crack the Spine, Cutthroat, FRE&D, Halfway Down the Stairs, OxMag, Sanskrit, Slab, and Talking River. <ticklefish1@icloud.com>


Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Cinco

by Julia Fricke Robinson


more hungry than cautious
he crossed the wooden bridge to my porch
on the fifth of May
stalked the offered food, ate
with expeditious nibbles, one eye watching
me, frozen, appreciative, watching back

as he ate, wary, I noted his marks
a broken tail, a festered eye
his unique creamy beauty
one eye blue, one green
named him Cinco
silently begged him to stay

not unlike men I've loved
he resisted, indicated difficult logistics
the need to be satisfied without being trapped
domesticated without giving up freedom
to come and go at will to visit other
generous benefactors with comparable charity

each morning and each evening
he comes, proud and circumspect
rubs his young wildness against me
eats to satisfaction, and is gone again
his free spirit denies ownership
resists an easier way, and me


* * * * *

"Cinco" is part of a new memoir in progress, a follow-up to 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, 4 May 2021

 

I don’t

by Carrie Lynn Hawthorne
 

My engagement ring is back in the drawer, a lonely tan line the reminder that you are drinking again. It took me eight years to get the damn thing, and now it spends more time in the drawer than it does on my finger. I remember how your voice trembled at dinner; you’d never taken me to a restaurant that expensive before. I knew it was the night. We drove up the entire coast, the beach was too dark, bitter cold. We cruised through downtown L.A. looking for the perfect spot to stop for ice cream, but my stomach wasn’t right. We ended up back at City Hall, on a park bench. You knelt in the dirt, on your bad knee. Like we were in someone else’s memory.

“I want to marry you, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. Can I give you this, so we can go home, and go to bed?” You put the ring on my finger, and it seemed so dinky, not at all how it looked in the store. Like a fa├žade at a carnival, nothing real behind it, a rigged game. It’d be almost a year before you paid me back for it.

Now I’m washing the dishes with my bare finger, and you’re outside with your IPAs. At least you drink outside now, my sponsor insists it’s better for my sobriety. Our little boy sits in a camping chair beside you, drinking root beer, reading comic books. And we’ll go to bed in our separate rooms, the walls shuddering as you choke through your sleep apnea.

I’ll lie awake and think of that gorgeous dress my father bought me, stored at his house because it wouldn’t fit in any of our closets. I imagine my father walking me down the aisle of the antiquated church we picked, the one I paid for, the one you canceled. My father is turning eighty this year, and with a bad heart. I imagine burying my face into his chest during the father daughter dance, the pride in his face as he gives me away.


* * * * *

Carrie Lynn Hawthorne is a writer, mother, and yoga teacher from Pasadena, CA. She seeks spiritual purpose, being of service, and belly laughs. Her work will be featured in the Fall 2021 issue of Cultural Weekly.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Botany Lesson

by Lillian Necakov


The world asleep in the wolf moon’s arms
March already here, again at 5am
and I am not asleep thinking
about the woman who died
under Pennsylvania Avenue under a bridge
that was her own private heaven and
sometimes trickster

Angela at 5am walking gently off this earth
while the botanist talks to her trees
in the forest hospital
cooing to the balsam fir, sassafras, oak
you are a book not yet written
she whispers
p-i-k-o-w-a-h-t-i-k

robins at 5am stitching together a song
from snow-melt, pine needle, sapwood
against cold-morning skin
I am thinking about the zoologist’s
long arms catching every leaf falling
to pleat into a dead woman’s hair
underpass eulogy
the colour of apricot.


* * * * *

Lillian Necakov is the author of six books of poetry, numerous chapbooks, broadsides and leaflets. Her new book il virus is forthcoming from Anvil Press (A Feed Dog Book) in April 2021. In 2016, her chapbook The Lake Contains an Emergency Room was shortlisted for bpNichol chapbook award. During the 1980s she ran a micro press called “The Surrealist Poets Gardening Association” and sold her books on Toronto’s Yonge Street. She ran the Boneshaker Reading series from 2010-2020. She lives in Toronto and just might be working on a new book.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Transition

by Judy Clarence

 
Now that you've died, you are more alive
than anyone. I see you daily: memorials,
tributes, photos, poems not seen before,
the sly smile, the words
not read ‘til now.
You’re more alive than ever!
 
I only thought about you now and then;
a glimpse sometimes, here and there,
lines, images, reminders. Now
they’re everywhere, embedded in the cool air.
 
Your death. As when a dried-out, whitened
dandelion, still and ancient on its stalk,
is grabbed by an ambling child
who blows its seeds across the vast curve
of earth.


* * * * *

Judy Clarence, a retired academic librarian, currently lives with her daughter, grandchildren, three cats and two dogs in the Sierra, California foothills after many years in Berkeley. She plays violin (baroque and modern) in several orchestras and chamber groups, sang in two classical choruses in pre-COVID days, and writes poetry constantly. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Amarillo Bay, Shot Glass Journal and Allegro.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

 

Covid Spring Haiku

by Katherine West


First spring butterfly--
Last patch of winter snow
Takes flight


* * * * *

Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, where she writes poetry about the soul-importance of wilderness and performs it with her musician husband, Yaakov. She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone TrainScimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Lalitamba, Bombay Gin, and New Verse News, which nominated her poem And Then the Sky for a Pushcart Prize.