Thursday, January 5, 2023

Burning the Old Year

By Naomi Shihab Nye 
 
Letters swallow themselves in seconds. Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

In Praise of Their Divorce

By Tony Hoagland

And when I heard about the divorce of my friends,
I couldn't help but be proud of them,

that man and that woman setting off in different directions,
like pilgrims in a proverb

—him to buy his very own toaster oven,
her seeking a prescription for sleeping pills.

Let us keep in mind the hidden forces
which had struggled underground for years

to push their way to the surface—and that finally did,
cracking the crust, moving the plates of earth apart,

releasing the pent-up energy required
for them to rent their own apartments,

for her to join the softball league for single mothers
for him to read  
George the Giraffe over his speakerphone

at bedtime to the six-year-old.

The bible says, Be fruitful and multiply

but is it not also fruitful to subtract and to divide?
Because if marriage is a kind of womb,

divorce is the being born again;
alimony is the placenta one of them will eat;

loneliness is the name of the wet-nurse;
regret is the elementary school;

endurance is the graduation.
So do not say that they are splattered like dropped lasagna

or dead in the head-on collision of clichés
or nailed on the cross of their competing narratives.

What is taken apart is not utterly demolished.
It is like a great mysterious egg in Kansas

that has cracked and hatched two big bewildered birds.
It is two spaceships coming out of retirement,

flying away from their dead world,
the burning booster rocket of divorce
                                 falling off behind them,

the bystanders pointing at the sky and saying, Look. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

A Poem for Pulse

By Jameson Fitzpatrick

Last night, I went to a gay bar
with a man I love a little.
After dinner, we had a drink.
We sat in the far-back of the big backyard
and he asked, What will we do when this place closes?
I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon,
I said, though the crowd was slow for a Saturday,
and he said—Yes, but one day. Where will we go?
He walked me the half-block home
and kissed me goodnight on my stoop—
 properly: not too quick, close enough
our stomachs pressed together
in a second sort of kiss.
I live next to a bar that’s not a gay bar —
we just call those bars, I guess
— and because it is popular
and because I live on a busy street,
there are always people who aren’t queer people
on the sidewalk on weekend nights.
We just call those people, I guess.
They were there last night.
As I kissed this man I was aware of them watching
and of myself wondering whether or not they were just
people. But I didn’t let myself feel scared, I kissed him
exactly as I wanted to, as I would have without an audience,
because I decided many years ago to refuse this fear
— an act of resistance. I left
the idea of hate out on the stoop and went inside,
to sleep, early and drunk and happy.
While I slept, a man went to a gay club
with two guns and killed fifty people. At least.
 Today in an interview, his father said he had been disturbed
by the sight of two men kissing recently.
What a strange power to be cursed with,
 for the proof of our desire to move men to violence.
What’s a single kiss? I’ve had kisses
no one has ever known about, so many
kisses without consequence—
but there is a place you can’t outrun,
whoever you are.
There will be a time when.
It might be a bullet, suddenly.
The sound of it. Many.
One man, two guns, fifty dead—
Two men kissing. Last night
is what I can’t get away from, imagining it, them,
the people there to dance and laugh and drink,
who didn’t believe they’d die, who couldn’t have.
How else can you have a good time?
How else can you live?
There must have been two men kissing
for the first time last night, and for the last,
and two women, too, and two people who were neither.
Brown people mostly, which cannot be a coincidence in this country.
which is a racist country, which is gun country.
Today I’m thinking of the Bernie Boston photograph
Flower Power, of the Vietnam protestor placing carnations
in the rifles of the National Guard,
and wishing for a gesture as queer and simple.
The protester in the photo was gay, you know,
he went by Hibiscus and died of AIDS,
which I am also thinking about today because
(the government’s response to) AIDS was a hate crime.
Reagan was a terrorist.
Now we have a president who loves Us,
the big and imperfectly lettered Us, and here we are
getting kissed on stoops, getting married some of Us,
some of Us getting killed.
We must love one another whether or not we die.
Love can’t block a bullet
but it can’t be destroyed by one either,
and love is, for the most part, what makes Us Us—
in Orlando and in Brooklyn and in Kabul.
We will be everywhere, always;
there’s nowhere else for Us, or you, to go.
Anywhere you run in this world, love will be there to greet you.
Around any corner, there might be two men. Kissing.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Behaving Like a Jew

By Gerald Stern

When I got there the dead opossum looked like
an enormous baby sleeping on the road.
It took me only a few seconds—just
seeing him there—with the hole in his back
and the wind blowing through his hair
to get back again into my animal sorrow.
I am sick of the country, the bloodstained
bumpers, the stiff hairs sticking through the grilles,
the slimy highways, the heavy birds
refusing to move;
I am sick of the spirit of Lindbergh over everything,
that joy in death, that philosophical
understanding of carnage, that
concentration on the species.
---I am going to be unappeased at the opossum's death.
I am going to behave like a Jew
and touch his face, and stare into his eyes,
and pull him off the road.
I am not going to stand in a wet ditch
with the Toyotas and the Chevys passing over me
at sixty miles an hour
and praise the beauty and the balance
and lose myself in the immortal lifestream
when my hands are still a little shaky
from his stiffness and his bulk
and my eyes are still weak and misty
from his round belly and his curved fingers
and his black whiskers and his little dancing feet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Third Gender

By Kit Yan

all right so gender should be as simple as gay or straight
cuz if you are attracted to the opposite gender
you’re straight
if you are attracted to the same gender
well i guess you’re gay
therefore if you have a penis you’re a man
and if you have a vagina you’re a woman
straight shot
straight answer
gender
see gender is man next to woman
not touching but separate
gender is america’s controlled nationalism bullshit
gender is birth certificates for babies born into gender
housing applications check boxes and even getting an email address
this is gender
but i ask you
is it truly worth
embarrassment
imprisonment
or harassment
for your gender identity?
so excuse me are you a man or are you a woman
and you’ve changed your name to Kit now
so do you wanna be straight?
and you look like a boy now so you’re straight, right?
but back when you were Laura you were gay
as if sexuality and gender were something that you could purchase on impulse
pulling up to the register and carefully picking out
gay straight
man or woman
neatly packaged for easy consumption
then you should be able to do it with ease
purchasing a gold foiled bar of gay and plastic bag of man
and walking out of that grocery store fabulously onto the set of Queer Eye
but it’s not that easy
because sometimes my gender is
boy who looks like a girl who likes boys
and sometimes my gender is trans
and sometimes my gender is chilling out in between
but most of the time my gender is fuck you mind your own business
but it can’t be that way
because gender is so rigidly defined
neatly outlined and nicely colonized
organized and clearly understandable
yet the gap is becoming gendered and
i’m standing in line for the bathroom with
girls birls boys bis transsexual transgendered queer questioning curious polyamorous intersexed flexual asexual trisexual omnisexual multisexual pansexual gender neutral genderqueer multigendered androgynous drag king drag queen butch femme fairy two-spirit bear dyke lipstick tranny boi (with an i) ftm mtf boydyke bi-dyke half-dyke queerboi ex-straight and that’s just the beginning
but ask a member of the Zuni tribe about the lhamana’s gender
and they’ll tell you it’s lhamana
the South Asians about the hijaras
and they’ll tell you that it’s hijaras
the Hawaiians about mahus
and they’ll tell you that it’s mahu
the Americans about the trannies
and they’ll tell you that they don’t know
see there may be as many as a million genders identities and sexualities
just floating around waiting for the right person to snatch them up
put them on and proudly parade around in their new skin
unrestricted by layers and identity
or limitations of culture society or social construction
this new gender is a function of inner desire and
genuine understanding of self to be lived
so go ahead
and show us where the bathroom is

Monday, October 10, 2022

alternate names for black boys

By Danez Smith

1.   smoke above the burning bush
2.   archnemesis of summer night
3.   first son of soil
4.   coal awaiting spark & wind
5.   guilty until proven dead
6.   oil heavy starlight
7.   monster until proven ghost
8.   gone
9.   phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10. going, going, gone
11. gods of shovels & black veils
12. what once passed for kindling
13. fireworks at dawn
14. brilliant, shadow hued coral
15. (I thought to leave this blank
       but who am I to name us nothing?)
16. prayer who learned to bite & sprint
17. a mother’s joy & clutched breath

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Approaching Waterfalls

By Gerry Fabian

We are not pandemic appropriate.
A small bar restaurant
no one can enter;
we are like a polluted river.
We wisely make the early switch
to the current of take out and delivery.
The business government check
is like temporary patch on a large leak.
Weekend sales
like a row boat with one oar
barely keeping us afloat.
We can now hear
the sounds of falls
in the distance.

R. Gerry Fabian is a  published poet and novelist.  He has published four books of his published poems, Parallels, Coming Out Of The Atlantic, Electronic Forecasts and Ball On The Mound.  In addition, he has published four novels : Getting Lucky (The Story), Memphis Masquerade, Seventh Sense and Ghost Girl. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Moon is Trans

By Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

From this moment forward, the moon is trans.
You don’t get to write about the moon anymore unless you respect that.
You don’t get to talk to the moon anymore unless you use her correct pronouns.
You don’t get to send men to the moon anymore unless their job is
 to bow down before her and apologize for the sins of the earth.
 She is waiting for you, pulling at you softly,
 telling you to shut the fuck up already please.
 Scientists theorize the moon was once a part of the earth
 that broke off when another planet struck it.
 Eve came from Adam’s rib.
 Etc.
 Do you believe in the power of not listening
 to the inside of your own head?
 I believe in the power of you not listening
 to the inside of your own head.
 This is all upside down.
 We should be talking about the ways that blood
 is similar to the part of outer space between the earth and the moon
 but we’re busy drawing it instead.
 The moon is often described as dead, though she is very much alive.
 The moon has not known the feeling of not wanting to be dead
 for any extended period of time
 in all of her existence, but
 she is not delicate and she is not weak.
 She is constantly moving away from you the only way she can.
 She never turns her face from you because of what you might do.
 She will outlive everything you know.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Wife


I’m not yet comfortable with the word,
its short clean woosh that sounds like
life. At dinner last night my single girls
said in admonition, “It’s not wife-approved”
about a friend’s upcoming trip. Their
eyes rolled up and over and out their
pretty young heads. Wife, why does it
sound like a job? “I need a wife” the famous
feminist wrote, “a wife that will keep my
clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced
if need be.” A team word that could be made
easily into maid. A wife that does, fixes
soothes, honors, obeys, Housewife,
fishwife, bad wife, good wife, what’s
the word for someone who stares long
into the morning, unable to even fix tea
some days, the kettle steaming over
loud like a train whistle, she who cries
in the mornings, she who tears a hole
in the earth and cannot stop grieving,
the one who wants to love you, but often
isn’t good at even that, the one who
doesn’t want to be diminished
by how much she wants to be yours.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Trouble With the Stars and Stripes

By Naomi Shihab Nye

I couldn't make my annual flag cake, the one with strawberries for stripes and blueberries for states and white mountain frosting puffing up proudly between. I couldn't even wear a bandanna on the 4th of July. It hurts, this year. Let's talk about the difference between victory and public relations. Let's talk about the size of words. I weighed words during the war, putting them on secret scales, and never once did things balance out. My husband who never shouts shouted in his sleep while the bombs were dropping, "I just don't think humans are doing a very good job!" After the war he traveled to Iraq to make photographs. We have no idea. We can still feel good in this country about what we don't see, if we give it a good enough name. All forms of righteousness begin to terrify. A presidential address, a church. My husband stares when he hears certain words. My enemy - "Who is so beautiful," he whispers.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Sleeping and Waking

By Gregg Shapiro 


My husband recently confessed that when he gets into bed 
 every night, pulls the top-sheet and comforter over his legs 
 and torso, locates the perfect pillow groove in which to rest 
 his weary head, he wonders if it will be the last time he ever 
 partakes in such an action. The constantly expanding and 
 evolving inventory of ills, pains, tremors, night sweats, thirst, 
shortness of breath, urgent bathroom visits, restless legs, dry 
 mouth, vocalizations, and recurring teaching dreams, borders 
 on being Encyclopedia Britannica-esque, capable of overtaking 
 every inch of available shelf-space, entire rooms, personal real 
 estate. I don’t tell my husband that since he’s made me aware 

 of this, that I sleep lighter than before. Listening intently for 
 signs of life, spans between inhalation and exhalation, hints of 
 disruption. I never say I worry about where it is his horizontally 
 sprinting legs are taking him. Towards or away from me. Would 
never share that every morning, I’m equally surprised that my 
 own eyes still open, although it takes longer for them to focus 
 than it used to. That when I stand and stretch and greet the day, 
 I am a bundle of knots and nerves, my heart rattling in my chest 
 like the loose seeds in a maraca, an instrument I will utilize for 
 the healing ritual I must perform when the time comes. I was 
 born vigilant, and ready for action when the dire moment arises.  

Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry collection Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). Recent/forthcoming lit-mag publications include The Penn Review, Exquisite Pandemic, RFD, Gargoyle, Limp Wrist, Mollyhouse, Impossible Archetype, Red Fern Review, Instant Noodles, Dissonance Magazine, and POETiCA REViEW, as well as the anthologies Moving Images: Poems Inspired by Film (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021), This Is What America Looks Like (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2021) and Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology From Middle America (Belt Publishing, 2021). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Doctor’s Appointment

By Gary Beck 


The streets are crowded on the way to the doctor’s office,
making me even more nervous,
since no one is distancing.
The nurse takes my temperature,
allows me to stay.
I look suspiciously at other patients.
They are here for sports injuries
but I don’t trust anyone
in a time of pandemic.

Finally I see the doctor
who is detached, impersonal.
He treats my ankle,
gives me a shot
of I don’t know what.
Says goodbye. Leaves.
The nurse bandages me.
Says goodbye.
I rinse my hands with disinfectant,
walk home on crowded streets
and hope I didn’t contract
a fatal disease.

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 32 poetry collections, 13 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 3 books of plays. Gary lives in New York City.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Beaumont to Detroit: 1943

By Langston Hughes

Looky here, America
What you done done -
Let things drift
Until the riots come.

Now your policemen
Let your mobs run free.
I reckon you don’t care
Nothing about me.

You tell me that hitler
Is a mighty bad man.
I guess he took lessons
From the ku klux klan.

You tell me mussolini’s
Got an evil heart
Well, it mus-a-been in Beaumont
That he had his start -

Cause everything that hitler
And Mussolini do,
Negroes get the same
Treatment from you.

You jim crowed me
Before hitler rose to power -
And you’re STILL jim crowing me
Right now, this very hour.

Yet you say we’re fighting
For democracy
Then why don’t democracy
Include me?

I ask you this question
Cause I want to know
How long I got to fight
BOTH HITLER – AND JIM CROW

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Where do pelicans die?

By Sharon Lopez Mooney 


I’ve never seen a dead pelican on my dock where they fish, 
does a relative or others fly in formation bringing the
body out to sea into the maw of deep currents? 

How do their mates mourn? 
Do neighbor pelicans bring them a catch of the day 
so they don’t have to leave their grieving? 

How about the energetic wrens? Who tends the chubby little body 
when there’s a death, do friends gather in their favorite ficus tree 
sheltered, to keen for the lost youngster who couldn’t sit still? 

I, too, have lost friends over these last years, 
not lovers or family, just lovely friends 
and I felt the quick cut of aloneness wound me anew. 

I cannot go back in time to the first flush 
of that friendship, cannot travel back over miles to 
lay my hand on their door to say good-bye. 

They pass like those fallen pelicans, those friends, teachers, comrades, 
pass from me like the slowing of my gait, the limits of my eyes 
in an ache of loss that hardly shakes the world. 


Sharon Lopez Mooney, poet, is a retired Interfaith Chaplain, who worked in the death and dying field, now lives in Mexico on the Sea of Cortez, and visits family in northern California. Mooney received a 1978 CA Arts Council Grant for a rural poetry series and helped publish a regional arts journal and has produced poetry readings and performances. Mooney’s poems are or will be published in The MacGuffin, The Muddy River Poetry Review, The Avalon Literary Review, Adelaide International Magazine, Galway Review, Ginosko Literary Journal, California Quarterly, Hags on Fire, The Ricochet Review, Roundtable Literary Journal, Visible Magazine, NewVerse News, Evening Street Review, among others.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Two poems by Karen Loeb

Glamour in the Age of the Pandemic 

 
My short hair grows 
longer, and longer still.
The ends remember
they have cowlicks,
curling, some up, some
under. There’s no limit
to their acrobatics.


Baking in the Age of the Coronavirus

The dough had a mind
of its own. It was bread
all right, but it was going
to rise on its own terms.
With no yeast to be had
each baker, solo at home,
had to improvise. 


Karen Loeb finished a two-year stint (2018-2020) as writer-in-residence for Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Gyroscope Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, Hanging Loose, Pinyon, and other magazines. Her writing has won both the fiction and poetry contests in Wisconsin People and Ideas. Poems about the pandemic have appeared in Quaranzine, Volume One and forthcoming in March 2020 in a Bent Paddle Press anthology Sheltering with Poems.
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Monday, November 29, 2021

América

By Richard Blanco

I.
Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half-a-dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.
There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year's Eves,
even on Thanksgiving Day—pork,
fried, broiled or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio's Mercado on the corner of 8th street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—"Ese hijo de puta!"
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another's lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.

By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn't.
We didn't live in a two story house
with a maid or a wood panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke's family wasn't like us either—
they didn't have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn't have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain's majesty,
"one if by land, two if by sea"
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the "masses yearning to be free"
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.

Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamà set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolus,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworths.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
"DRY", Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—"esa mierda roja," he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

October

By Robert Frost 
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Monday, October 18, 2021

I Will Not Speak Your Name

By Marilynn Carter

You spread
around the world
like weeds
infiltrating every
   country
      state
         city
            town
rich and poor as equals
none spared

Joined all as ONE
searching to reclaim
normalcy, health, freedom

Silence fills the air
deserted streets
occasionally 
a siren or passing car
echoing on the wind

You have a name
everyone whispers
written everywhere

I cannot, will not
speak your name
fuel its power

Despite your ferociousness
responders tirelessly work

Massive quarantines
restrict movement

indoors
separate, alone
we turn inwards
self discovery 
enfolds

outdoors
social distancing
virtual hugs
becomes new norm

Masked and gloved
embarking on
necessary activities

Elders
compromised
  weak
    immune
      systems
overwhelmed
   organs
ravaged
   bodies
squeezing
   breath from life
those you touch

Many forced to leave
   far to soon
      some without family goodbyes
overworked healthcare workers
   hold hands
      lend comfort
        til last breath
          little pieces of self
            fall away
              lost

Recharging
   important
      fill in emotions
         empty spaces
            overwhelming
               loss
  
Earth, shuddered, shifting
   changes needed
      for way to long

Appreciation for Mother Nature and ourselves
   healing now begins

We see, feel, smell, know
the earth and us
   together experience transformation
      our true selves unearthed
together
   better
      stronger

Mother Earth adjusts
  We follow

Springtime virus dissipating
bringing us together again
filling us up with
   Forgiveness
   Gratitude
   Compassion
   Love of Life
         FOR 
                  ourselves
                  each other
                  the world
                  the Earth
 
We are forever recreated and changed!

Marilynn Carter is a holistic health practitioner, teacher and life coach at Many Paths for Health; co-owner of Maat Publishing; and author of two books, No Fret Cooking, and Experience the Love Light Wisdom of Reiki. Her poetry has appeared in Trouvaille Review; the Merrimac Mic Anthology II: Going with the Floes; Lunation, A Good Fat Anthology of 114 Women Poets; and Klarissa Dreams Redux: The Illuminated Anthology; at the Metheun Arts outdoor poetry installation, Words by Winter Waterfall; Word Play, a virtual exhibit of poetic art and Trouvaille Review. Additionally, she had an essay on dowsing published in Lobster Tails. Her first chapbook of poetry will appear in 2021.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Closed Deals

 By Maed Rill Monte 

Mama splashes cheap cologne all over your work uniform,
affirms her reminders and
you leave unkissed —
some twenty years?
Your face is darkened
by the rooftop rising
caught in the sun,
after a burst of foliage,
the dead, yellow leaves
wedded into nipa roof,
spiderwebs and fly carrion.
I see the inner child, tense
beneath the face mask,
the face shield, and
the fatherly features.
He's upset today's another
no-play day. There are
mouths to feed,
bills to pay,
and a world
he conceded to.

This poem was first published in Too Well Away.  

Friday, September 3, 2021

Right to Life

By Marge Piercy

A woman is not a pear tree
thrusting her fruit into mindless fecundity
into the world. Even pear trees bear
heavily one year and rest and grow the next.
An orchard gone wild drops few warm rotting
fruit in the grass but the trees stretch
high and wiry gifting the birds forty
feet up among inch long thorns
broken atavistically from the smooth wood.

A woman is not a basket you place
your buns in to keep them warm. Not a brood
hen you can slip duck eggs under.
Not the purse holding the coins of your
descendants till you spend them in wars.
Not a bank where your genes gather interest
and interesting mutations in the tainted
rain, any more than you are.

You plant corn and you harvest
it to eat or sell. You put the lamb
in the pasture to fatten and haul it in to
butcher for chops. You slice the mountain
in two for a road and gouge the high plains
for coal and the waters run muddy for
miles and years. Fish die but you do not
call them yours unless you wished to eat them.

Now you legislate mineral rights in a woman.
You lay claim to her pastures for grazing,
fields for growing babies like iceberg
lettuce. You value children so dearly
that none ever go hungry, none weep
with no one to tend them when mothers
work, none lack fresh fruit,
none chew lead or cough to death and your
orphanages are empty. Every noon the best
restaurants serve poor children steaks.
At this moment at nine o'clock a partera
is performing a table top abortion on an
unwed mother in Texas who can't get
Medicaid any longer. In five days she will die
of tetanus and her little daughter will cry
and be taken away. Next door a husband
and wife are sticking pins in the son
they did not want. They will explain
for hours how wicked he is,
how he wants discipline.

We are all born of woman, in the rose
of the womb we suckled our mother's blood
and every baby born has a right to love
like a seedling to sun. Every baby born
unloved, unwanted, is a bill that will come
due in twenty years with interest, an anger
that must find a target, a pain that will
beget pain. A decade downstream a child
screams, a woman falls, a synagogue is torched,
a firing squad is summoned, a button
is pushed and the world burns.

I will choose what enters me, what becomes
of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,
no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine, not your calf
for fattening, not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
Priests and legislators do not hold shares
in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.