Living in the Woods with Mom, 1970 by Nicole Michaels

You are wearing an un-tucked white blouse over slacks and drinking jug wine.
Something on the stove not a curry – those came later – smells divine

and you are letting me help cut the root vegetables, steadying my hand
on the mascara-black handle of a knife while I stand on a stool.

The stool is painted to look like a mushroom, and I am barefooted
and on tip toe like a visitor from a damp kingdom of ferns and morels.

The day before, you were ironing in front of TV with a poor signal,
first the body, then the sleeves, careful not to singe the buttons.

Your dark hair was pulled up, pin curls made with spit and bobby pins
to hide your ears as if they were pointed and would give you away.

Your eyes were the color of moss in indirect light
and the thick charcoal of the times lined your lids, turning up at the corners.

Not everyone’s mom looked so mysterious doing the housework.
Not every house had a feral daughter, pockets filled with shade flowers

and gem stones. My scabbard caught in the door as I came in to wash up,
my leather armor smelling of fresh battle with dragons.

Only a silver pleat of antenna separated us while you picked up another shirt,
and maybe a little mist as you pressed down.

 

 

Nicole Michaels is a Marin County, CA native who makes her home in frontier Wyoming. She is a working poet with a degree in English from Stanford University where she studied under the late Diane Middlebrook and chose an emphasis in feminist studies. She spent some time in the American South as a journalist for small papers.

 

 

Photograph The Winter House at Forest Lodge by Beverkd.

#MeToo: Still Life with Road Kill by Tina Barry

Spooled across the dirt road, the bear,
dead. A melodious spent planet.
I smelled its hold-your-breath,
kick-to-the-gut of life
stopped short. Whirring atop
its flattened skull’s tire-track
tattoo, an unlucky wreath of flies.

I stood near the bear, hand
on chest. Not in some form
of prayer, but to press back
what had lain still.

I had a boyfriend who was struck by a car.
His death arrived like a gift.
I had wanted him to die.
His rage gobbled color,
blotted sound.

I thought of him afterward
with a kind of shorthand:
Our legs beaded with lake water
His aversion to birds,
then beans. How good food
tasted when he wasn’t there
to share it.

The bear was left on the road to rot.
It seemed undignified, the menace
reduced to a malingering mass.
Now I see the wisdom
in allowing its slow surrender.
Why bury what will never stay dead?

 

First published in Red Sky: Poetry on the Global epidemic of Violence Against Women, (Sable Books, 2016).

 

 

Tina Barry’s work has appeared in The American Poetry Journal, The Best Short Fictions 2016, The Peacock Journal, b(OINK), Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (2017), among other journals and anthologies. She has two Pushcart Prize and several Best of the Net nominations.

 

Photograph by Shizhao.

By the Chicken Coop Dust by Tracy Mitchell

A Response to Thunderstorm Coming by Tom Hennen

By the chicken coop dust
I feel it too.
My ankles become electric.

Frogs and crickets
cut fringes on the bottom of the night.

Clouds ripple
above the yard light
as though they are blankets
on a clothes line
strung
between nearing stars.

 

 

Tracy Mitchell is a newly retired native Minnesotan, recently relocated to the splendor of Colorado. His free verse writing is largely inspired by the vagaries of this frail and transitory life. Fair game subject matter includes nature, ourselves, and each other. His best work has been imagined by the campfire in a clearing somewhere near sleep. He is a contributing member of Poetry Society of Colorado, MyWritersCircle, Writers Among Us, Poetry Circle, and PigPen Poetry Forum. His work has appeared in Lake Region Review, and the poetry anthology As the Kettle Wolf-Whistled.

 

Painting detail of The Coming Storm by John Frederick Herring.

A Field of Prayer by Michael H. Brownstein

This is the word of my mistaking:
Hike with me through this field of prayer,
through mudflats and iron foot,
the eulogy deep and dried passion fruit,
the salt of columbine, a terrain of frenzy,
lacewing and the yellow mollies of spring,
milk and milk thistle, a porcelain of words.

Hike with me past the girth of oak,
the prayer tree of Cambodia, the blue iris,
purple passion, the field of glories
behind the back forty no one touches.
Share with me wild onion, mint,
dandelion leaves and acorn meat,
the edible leaves of the Acacia.

The storm will pass. The forest will replenish.
Rivers will not run dry. Nor will they shrink.
Hike with me five years from now. Share
my bounty anytime. The eulogy premature,
prayer alive in flower and grass, blossom
and honey bee, a porcelain of words.
and a strength in who we really are.

 

 

Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

 

Photograph, Field of Thistle, by John Newcomb.

Red Velvet by Ankita Anand

My first view of the red velvet gilt-edged diary
Was of its opening page, of a declaration in my newly-wed aunt’s hand
On my uncle’s behalf
Saying he will never hit her again
Signed by my uncle, with love.

In the bottommost shelf of her almirah
I saw the book again today
When her teenaged daughter was rummaging for a favourite top.

Skipping several blank pages after the first one
I saw my aunt’s grocery lists
And miniscule digits secured in ovals
That showed how much she had managed to save.

 

 

First published in Muse India.

 

 

Ankita Anand’s writing has travelled through India, Pakistan, Singapore, Ireland, South Africa, Canada, the US and the UK. She also facilitates writing workshops. An archive of her publications can be found here: anandankita.blogspot.in

 

 

Photo a detail of the Book of Hours by the Master of Zweder van Culemborg, 18th Century.

when your mother convinces you to take in your homeless younger sister by Alexis Rhone Fancher

She will date your boyfriend.
She’ll do it better than you ever did.
She’ll have nothing but time.
He’ll start showing up when you leave,
train her to make him the perfect BLT,
(crusts off, avocado on the side),
encourage his cheating heart,
suck his dick so good he’ll think
he’s died and gone to Jesus.

Your sister will borrow your clothes,
and look better in them than you ever did.
Someone will see her with your boyfriend
at the Grove, agonize for days
before deciding not to tell you.
Meanwhile he’ll buy her that fedora you
admired in Nordstrom’s window, the last one
in your size.

When you complain, your mother
will tell you it’s about time you learned to share.

While you’re at work, your sister will tend your garden,
weed the daisies, coax your gardenias into bloom.
No matter how many times you remind her,
she will one day forget to lock the gate;
your cat and your lawn chairs will disappear.

Your mother will say it serves you right.

Your sister will move into your boyfriend’s
big house in Laurel Canyon. He will ignore her,
and she will make a half-hearted suicide attempt;
you’ll rescue her once again.

Your mother will wash her hands of the pair of you,
then get cancer and die.

Smell the white gardenias in the yard.
Cherish their heady perfume. Float them in a crystal bowl.
Forgive your sister as she has forgiven you.

 

First published in RAGAZINE, 2015

 

 

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Plume, Rattle, Diode, Rust & Moth, Nashville Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), and Enter Here (2017). A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly.
http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com

 

Detail of Rembrandt, The Sisters, Eleanore and Rosalba Peale.

#MeToo: Irish Twins (haibun) by Roberta Beary

attic rain
the backyard swing
off kilter

We share an attic room. In the corner is an old double bed that smells and sags on one side. My side. Late at night I hear my heart beat. Loud. So loud he will hear it. He will think my heart is calling him up the attic stairs. His footsteps are heavy. He smells of old spice and cherry tobacco. My eyes shut tight. I know he is there. I feel his weight. Never on my side. Always on the side she sleeps. When the bed-springs sing their sad song I fly away. Up to the ceiling. My sister is already there. Together we hold hands. Looking down we see our bodies. We are not moving. We are as still as the dead.

 

 

First published in Contemporary Haibun Online.

 

 

Roberta Beary identifies as gender-expansive, and writes to connect with the disenfranchised, to let them know they are not alone. She is the author of three books of poems: Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015), nothing left to say (King’s Road Press, 2009) and The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 2007, 5th ed. 2017) which was a finalist in the Poetry Society of America annual book awards. Beary is the editor of the haiku anthologies fresh paint (Red Moon Press, 2014), 7 (Jacar Press, 2013), dandelion clocks (Haiku Society of America, 2008) and fish in love (Haiku Society of America, 2006). Her work appears in Rattle, KYSO Flash, Beltway Quarterly Review and Haiku In English The First Hundred Years (Norton, 2013). Beary’s work has been nominated for Best of the Net and multiple Pushcart Prizes. She lives in County Mayo, Ireland.

 

 

Haibun (俳文, literally, haikai writings) is a prosimetric literary form originating in Japan, combining prose and haiku. –Wikipedia

 

Twin Sisters by Ruth Zarfati. White cement.