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.


Monday, 13 September 2021

 

Connective Tissue

by Lorette C. Luzajic


It’s beautiful, really, my biology prof said, the collagen, the reticular fibres, the elasticity of it all, the patterns holding the adipose cells together. Like latticework, she told us. Beauty is not what I’m seeing now, in the Value Village lineup. Even with the six feet of separation, the old woman in front of me is like a cellulite scream, spilling out between fishnet diamonds and the armholes of a mesh tank shirt, hair bleached in bunches of orange and gray, with a vintage rhinestone barrette that says “HOT.” She has yellow sneakers in her cart and a pile of leopard print garments. You almost were that lady in front of us, once, my sister says after we’ve paid and have left earshot. I feel a rush of relief for the office slacks and tailored blazer in my bag, but it fades fast. Then it’s me wondering what happened to me, wondering where it all went wrong.


* * * * *

"Connective Tissue" is previously published in Lorette C. Luzajic's new book, Winter in June (Mixed Media Books, 2021).

Lorette C. Luzajic is a writer and artist in Toronto, Canada. Her prose poetry and small stories have been widely published, in The Citron Review, Unbroken, Cleaver Magazine, MacQueen's Quinterly, and more. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review. Her most recent book is Winter in June (Mixed Media Books, 2021).

 

Sunday, 12 September 2021

 

Abuelo
An Albuquerque Memory

by Nancy Harris McLelland


During my evening walks down Phoenix Avenue
I notice him sitting in a faded white lawn chair—
black work pants, dark shirt tightly buttoned,  
his neck lean as a sunflower stem.

Un abuelo moved into the city,
bearing heat and Albuquerque noise,
his profile simple as a sheep hook,
probably a pastor all his life.

I like to think he hears the tinkle 
of the bellwether, the bark of his dog,
the murmuring bleats of his herd,
the sound of wind in aspen trees.

Probably it’s his daughter who calls, Cena!
Two laughing children help him from his chair.
And then I remember my own grandfather
dying alone in a place called, “the old folks’ home.”


* * * * *

Nancy Harris McLelland received her MA in Literature from UNM in 1973. She remembers being in a graduate poetry writing class with Joy Harjo, as well as summers camped in the Nacimiento Mountains and winters in Albuquerque. She publishes poetry and memoir on her blog, WritingfromSpace:
www.writingfromspace.com. Accessible through her Facebook page Tuscarora Writers Retreats.



Saturday, 11 September 2021

Mandate

by Carolyn Martin


To those of you who will not die today:
walk through your home and bless the open doors,
the table set, the breadth of sun lounging
on the Persian rug. Catalog the small
contentments you have earned: eager words vying
for a poem, work you’ll never have to do
again, backyard squirrels that entertain.
Praise every squill, crocus, and bleeding heart
that dares subvert winter’s calendar.
Invite young mysteries in and seat them
between answers you have no questions for
and ponderables still unclassified.
It goes with saying: listen attentively.
Then tomorrow, if it arrives, repeat.


* * * * *

"Mandate" was first published in Yellow Arrow Journal and is part of Carolyn Martin's new poetry collection The Catalog of Small Contentments (The Poetry Box, August 2021).

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 135 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK and her fifth poetry collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments, was released by The Poetry Box in August 2021. Currently,
she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at www.carolynmartinpoet.com


Friday, 10 September 2021

A Crime of Passion

by Jane K. Kretschman


In Durban, South Africa, gangs of large women steal
clothes in small sizes. Using their heft to intimidate
staff, they stuff their bags with apparel too small for them.


What do Rubenesque rogues
do with skinny skirts, tops
no bigger than a washcloth,
dresses no wider than their
outstretched hands, too tight
for wide hips and big bellies?

Do they hide the garments
in the back of a closet, and—
after a few drinks—take them out
like letters from a lost lover?
Do these Brunhildas remember
before babies and menopause

how they could slip into a sheath
and strut their stuff?  The police
say greed motivates the thieves,
but that is not the case.
Like looters of a palace
after the deposed king flees, 

they take these symbols of power,
a taste of the good life seen in
department store windows. Maybe
they tear the clothes to rags, stealing
not to enjoy but to destroy.  At last
report, the women were still at large.


* * * * *

"A Crime of Passion" was previously published in Jane K. Kretschmann's chapbook, Imagining a Life, published by FootHills Publishing.

Jane K. Kretschmann lives in Piqua, Ohio, where she retired from the local community college. Her poetry has been published in print and online as well as broadcast on radio. Jane's current projects involve creating a readers' theatre script based on poems in her chapbook titled Lynching Alabama and writing a book for the New Testament, titled The Epistles of Lydia of Thyatira.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Apocrypha A Dancer

by Nina Heiser


long-legged poem     saunters in        at midnight
stampedes    through my dreams     raising dust
yeah        trust me      I know

what if      if only

claws of despair sink into soft flesh
cacti spines    desert thorns     she never
lacks for variety    sins stacked like a snack rack
convenience en route to purgatory
time came to fill her medicine bag with charms
against the future (shaken awake)
she listens to the darkness
green man appears    what a character
a steel-string guitar hanging from his neck
he has a gold tooth and hair fine as a newborn babe
she had always known he would come and sure
you betcha        she is peculiar
 
aimless    unhinged 

pretty little mad girl
playing with balance everywhere she goes
she’s tough lemme tell ya   she’s hot  she  sees right thru ya


* * * * *

Nina Heiser is a poet, writer and retired journalist currently living in central Florida and New York. Her work has appeared in Tuck Magazine; Cadence, the Florida State Poets Association Anthology; Vociferous Press anthology Screaming from the Silence; Embark Literary Journal; and Gargoyle Magazine. Her poetry and photographs have been featured in Pendemics Journal, and Of Poets & Poetry.


Wednesday, 8 September 2021

 

Ella In Her Garden  

by Elizabeth A. Havey

 
            Ella can feel numbness moving into her legs. She’s been sitting in the garden for about ten minutes, her feet tucked under her buttocks, her gloved hands probing with the iron weed digger. But her angle is wrong. She shifts, pulling her legs out from under her, the tingly sensation of flowing blood bringing back her legs, her feet.

The baby shifts, a slight wave of motion that is soon over. She studies the tiny elm tree still rooted among the coreopsis. Leaning another way, she continues to work with the digger, her mind plotting what she has to do next: repot the small begonia that lies on the ground, its clay container broken by running squirrels; deep-water the newly planted Spirea that could die in this drought.

            The planting is a game of distraction, and the hot sunlight, and the intense thrumming of the crickets and cicadas in the trees. But she loses the game at least once an hour, sometimes every twenty minutes. The amniocentesis results are due today. She has her portable phone on the picnic table. David will be calling her at lunch, talking about other things, waiting for her to break in, tell him, if she knows.

            The baby moves again. Ella throws the digger to the ground, works to stand with some effort, her movements slower, her body no longer lithe or elegant. She’ll have to have Steve, who mows the lawn, dislodge the elm with a pitchfork. But then she reconsiders, she can try it, being careful, watching her posture.

Months and months of her life have been taken over by a fierce desire to bear and deliver another healthy child, a child to ward off the fears of aging, of losing touch with growth in the world. She will do nothing to lose this child, and yet living is in match step with exposing oneself to loss. The doctor’s words: “No matter what the results, Ella, with the choice you have made, there’s nothing we can do. You realize that.”

            Yes, she does, over and over, hours and hours before she is sure she wants to get pregnant, to know the health of the fetus. But when she finally is pregnant, it is now, the moment far too close. The irony of testing.  

She’s carrying this baby around inside her and it’s moving now, and no matter what the words are at the other end of the phone, it will still be moving around inside her. If the doctor calls in two hours and says, “Ella, you are carrying a Downs Syndrome child,” the fetus won’t disappear, it won’t begin to shrink and slip away like a cloud losing moisture. The Downs Syndrome baby, the baby with neuro-tube defects, the anencephalic baby will still continue to grow inside of her. Grow.

            She walks toward the shed at the back of the yard, hunts in its mustiness for the pitchfork. The grass is brittle beneath her tennis shoes, the waves of air that touch her are like solid warm hands. She walks back dragging the pitchfork, taking her time, easy with herself. Though her body is full and blooming, years of exercise and walking are not foreign to her. She looks like a perfect balancing act, moving about her tasks as if every breath in the last few years has been stored up to get her to this point. Ella isn’t just pregnant. She is experiencing an amazing fulfillment of a wish. She is living out hours of planning and imagining and remembering. 

            The cicadas hum. The phone doesn’t buzz. She works at the elm seedling with the pitchfork.

            “Mom…”

            The word flies at her. She stops, but then continues to reposition the pitchfork, “Mommm…”

            Sarah comes around the corner, her hair springing away from the right side of her head where she has tied it with a big pink ribbon that matches the pink tank top and shorts she is wearing. Her tanned legs are scratched and bruised, and Ella knows the source of each mark, for Sarah always comes and tells her in detail how the bike fell or why she hit the side of the pool.

Ella reaches out to touch the top of her daughter’s head, the two strangely silent with each other. Even before this pregnancy, Ella had crazy moments when she would look at the two young woman growing up in her house, see them as her own flesh and blood, yet slightly changed blueprints of herself.

She would reach out to touch them, make sure of their reality and from the hugs they gave her, her body would expand and become warm like the bodies of pregnant women. Her breasts would soften against Carrie’s chest, her abdomen would balloon out to hold Sarah’s tiny buttocks when she snuggled in Ella’s lap. The physicality of motherhood shouted at her. She needed that again, needed to make her body work again. She argued against this for a long time. Educated women do not succumb to thoughts of being “baby machines.” But Ella had succumbed.

            Sarah has sensed a distance in her mother all week. She doesn’t know what it’s about. She does know she can use it to her advantage.

            “I want to ride over to Lockwood’s and buy a pop.”

            “There’s some in the house, better yet, I have fruit juice.”

            “I’m kinda in the mood to ride my bike.”

            “Okay.”

            “Can I take a couple dollars? For a treat?”

            “Take what you need, but watch the sugar. You know how you get.”

            Sarah comes and puts her arms around her mother’s disappearing waist, buries her head in her chest—just for a moment. Then she flies away, across the brown lawn, waving and running in one liquid motion. She is the child who can cure even a drought, Ella thinks, going back to her pitchfork, glad she has given in to her daughter. And though Ella knows that her concentration is fragile and can be splintered into pieces at any moment, she hopes Sarah will come back to the garden when her excursion is over, share what she saw, who she met.

         

During the months when Ella was first trying to have another child, the relationship between all family was normal. Even excellent. Then after two months of trying, Ella was pregnant. She and David shared secret winks and hugs. But then Ella miscarried—and though she sometimes thinks about it now, it’s not as painful, this new pregnancy altering that sorrow, that pain, the hours of Ella being silent and wounded.

She drops the pitchfork, goes into the house for a glass of cold water. Waiting for the amnio results is better than what she has already been through. She is sure of this. She’s lived it, learned from it.

Because fear is a destructive force that can work against your joy and hope. From the beginning, after David agreed to have this third child, Ella feared the statistics would be against her. The doctor was firm, telling her to set fears aside. Statistics revealed that only one fetus, out of one hundred conceived by women over the age of forty, would come into the world with Downs Syndrome. Ella had 99 chances of having a healthy baby—plus, she already had delivered two healthy children. He also reminded her that anytime a woman conceives, there are chances that she could give birth to a child with some anomaly.

Then at six weeks Ella started bleeding. It was light, but fear consumed her. This was so similar to what happened when she miscarried.

She called her doctor. He prescribed more progesterone to help support the pregnancy. It worked and Ella began to relax, allow her own female power to take over. She has conceived this baby after the age of forty, and she has kept it safe within her, despite that first upset. She can and will do this.

Her fertility is a gift, a chance to bring life into the world once again, though modern medicine has played a part, Ella having blood tests, post-coital exams, and lists of questions answered by her doctor—Ella fighting for what she wants. And yes, she has walked down some dark passageways in her mind, but nothing will go wrong. Now she has set aside her fears. She will love this baby no matter the sex, the birthweight, the chromosomes. No matter any of it.

Back in the yard, refreshed by three large glasses of water which will drive her back in over time, Ella picks up the pitchfork, again works to loosen the elm sapling from her garden patch. If she is careful, and there are enough roots, she can replant it at the back fence.

And then, her phone rings. 

 

* * * * *

Elizabeth A. Havey achieved a BA in English, taught literature at the secondary level, worked as a freelancer for McDougal Littell Publishing, and as a proofreader for Meredith Books. In her forties, she earned her RN, working as a labor and delivery nurse, health educator and author of CEUs for nursing. Havey studied at the Iowa Writing Workshops at the University of Iowa. Her stories have appeared in little magazines and her collection, A MOTHER'S TIME CAPSULE. She blogs at 
http://boomerhighway.org, devoted to health and navigating the third act. She is a member of the Women's Fiction Writers Association. 

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

            Cell

            by Daisy Bassen


            It’s not the end of the world,
            She always says, removing herself
            From conversations like the sparrow
            Alights from the branch, conclusively.
            Except it must be, sometime, the end
            Of the world. It has been already, only ask
            The coelacanth, the survivor of thousands
            Who were the last. This place is littered
            With fossils and riverbeds run dry,
            Shipwrecks, chests of coins in currency
            That won’t buy a stick of gum,
            As if you could still buy it that way, stacked
            Like a Japanese sensu, slatted with ivory.
            It’s the end of the world every day,
            But who’d trouble herself to say anything?
            No one will listen or worse, they will,
            Cassandra all over again. Mockery, crude
            Dirty, and for what? Being true doesn’t make it
            The truth. The phone in her hand is a terror,
            A tether, it’s simple as a spoon.
            It’s the consequence of the sly devising
            That lets me watch my grandmother flickering
            As a young girl, kissing her mother good morning.
            She played the upright piano like the one in my house.
            A world that should begin to be beyond
            Remembering. The streets now are filled
            With people walking, their ears stuffed like olives,
            Listening, listening. Perhaps they will grow
            A third eyelid, like a lizard, to let them see
            What they hear. We’re not sure what comes next
            But it will. We won’t. My grandmother’s hands
            Played a scale, I recognize that; I know the interval
            Of the notes, how to sing it, how it climbs away.


* * * * *

Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, and PANK among other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 and 2020 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.



Monday, 6 September 2021

            Explaining to myself who you are

            by Daisy Bassen

            I didn’t love you, never once,
            Not your bright male beauty,
            Striking as the swan’s white throat
            Against the dark water of a lake,

            Not the eagerness of your desire
            That I have not known again.
            But these years later, measured
            In your children and mine, not ours,

            I am still angry that you left,
            That I was not the first to leave
            Like the singular swan wanting
            A true mate, another white cloud

            Hovering on the black skim
            Of the water’s painted glass, gliding
            Beneath an old bridge, in pursuit.
            You were resistible, but I was not.

            When you smile at me now, I think
            How much we’ve wasted, vastness,
            How I can’t remember even your first
            Terrifying kiss or its last companion.


* * * * *

Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, and PANK among other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 and 2020 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.


Sunday, 5 September 2021

 

Body Love

by Kelsey Bryan-Zwick


my body loves its soft silences
equally its loud exhales. My body loves
moaning against my chosen partner
as it rains, as it sun shines, as it hazes over                                       
my body loves its escapes
like the involved concentration
in growing new flowers
the lost way I feel for soil
the crumpling of dried leaves
and unwanted snails

the discernment this body allows—
to choose this to pluck a plant to its death
to allow the grasses and clover to grow
to burn and water

I was born under one sign
yet can play with that besides fire

I water the sunflower my partner planted
how tall there now
I dig at the old-weeds planted two generations ago
without thought for the future
gather stones and crystals to bring to our home
I blow out the candles year after year
proving to faraway planters
the care it takes to still be here

to care temporarily for my little blip in time
so I can pass this space on to the next
so I can say this spot is cared for
so I can condense into my own grain of stardust
passing through hourglass

do not miss my long hair
miss me


* * * * *

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick (she/they) is a queer, disabled, bilingual, poet and a columnist for Los Angeles Poet Society. Disabled with scoliosis at a young age, their poems often focus on trauma, shedding light on this isolating experience. They are a Lead Collaborating Fellow of The Poetry Lab and founded the micro-press BindYourOwnBooks. Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net nominated, Kelsey’s forthcoming microchapbook, Bone Water (Blanket Sea Press, September 2021) and their first full-length poetry collection, Here Go the Knives (Moon Tide Press, January 2022), focus on their decades surviving with scoliosis. On the gram @theexquisitepoet and online at www.kelseybryanzwick.wixsite.com/poetry.


     


Saturday, 4 September 2021

In my Nearly Nine Years Applying for Disability Recognition

by Kelsey Bryan-Zwick


The notices come at random.  Just another slip of paper
Determining my fate, or what my fate is worth
To all the lever pullers out there, all those gear grinders
Chewing their bitter lives, pointing their long fingers at me
Trying to pull through it all on less than 10,000 a year
In LA where all my doctors live. Their offices all top floor offices
Where I wait with my thumbs twirling, taking in the views
With the tears at the back of my eyes ready to spill
At the news. 

What pain, another day, and yet my bones are kinder
Than those that continue to deny me my meager portion
Just a sliver or slice I ask, and only from the richest pie on the planet
Grubby hands that are made to beg on top of caring for myself: more wound
Than body. After looking at all my naked diagnosis, every slice                            
And stitch, all they do is send me another survey
To ask, but how do you really feel?


* * * * *

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick (she/they) is a queer, disabled, bilingual, poet and a columnist for Los Angeles Poet Society. Disabled with scoliosis at a young age, their poems often focus on trauma, shedding light on this isolating experience. They are a Lead Collaborating Fellow of The Poetry Lab and founded the micro-press BindYourOwnBooks. Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net nominated, Kelsey’s forthcoming microchapbook, Bone Water (Blanket Sea Press, September 2021) and their first full-length poetry collection, Here Go the Knives (Moon Tide Press, January 2022), focus on their decades surviving with scoliosis. On the gram @theexquisitepoet and online at www.kelseybryanzwick.wixsite.com/poetry.


Friday, 3 September 2021

 

Chrysalis

by Tamara Madison


Newly freed from high school
my daughter spends her evenings
alone in the living room
with Grey’s Anatomy. Life
is so different now, classes
at odd times, friends scattered
like jacks. Opaque as ever,
a deep well, she rests on the sofa
in blue TV light. I can almost see
her wings developing, intricate,
folded like an origami moth
within her close cocoon.


* * * * *

Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, The Worcester Review, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac, and many other publications. A swimmer, dog lover and native of the southern California desert, she is thrilled to have recently retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school, and more thrilled still to be awaiting a second grandchild into the world.



Thursday, 2 September 2021

8th Grade Field Trip

by Tamara Madison


The sun never came out that day on Mount San Jacinto.
We drove up in buses to hike around in fog, our teachers
taking a break from teaching so we could run free.
Greg was a magnet for us. We didn’t know why,
but where he was, we needed to be. Tall, seeming older
than the rest — Adam’s apple, shadowed upper lip —
he must have known some things that we needed to learn.
We followed him down trails, behind boulders, everywhere
losing him to the scarves of fog that curled around tree trunks
and filled hollows. What was this ache I felt, this pleasant
lump in my throat, this poignant longing? It wasn’t the boy
exactly, or the fog, but somehow the fog and the boy together,
the fog and the boy and the mountain, the fog, the boy,
the mountain and the trees all dark and wet and shadowy
like the future drawing me in to its mysteries, the past
behind me a sunny path I would never walk again.


* * * * *

Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron ReviewThe Worcester Review, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac, and many other publications. A swimmer, dog lover and native of the southern California desert, she is thrilled to have recently retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school, and more thrilled still to be awaiting a second grandchild into the world.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Blessed Are the Inks of Alchemy

by Jeannie E. Roberts

—inspired by a painting of the number eight

 
Neither prime nor semiprime, though lucky, 
you shape the gateway to infinity. 
As if the Beatitudes buoy above the crown 
embed blessings in the soul star chakra 
where subtle energy unlocks the portal 
to grace, somewhere between blue 
and green, somewhere inside the grains 
of sand and sermon, enlightenment 
awakens the sleepy ways of humanity 
and optics reveal the kingdom, hold clarity 
in eights, in the inky alchemy of the artist’s vision.


* * * * *

"Blessed Are the Inks of Alchemy" appears in Jeannie E. Roberts' newest poetry collection, As If Labyrinth - Pandemic Inspired Poems.

Jeannie E. Roberts lives in Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings.
She's authored five poetry collections and two illustrated children's books. Her newest collection, As If Labyrinth - Pandemic Inspired Poems, was released in April 2021 from Kelsay Books. She’s a teacher, an editor of an online literary magazine, and is listed in Poets & Writers. She’s an animal lover, a nature enthusiast, and an equal rights advocate.