My Mother Named Me America by Kathryn Collins

baby

My Mother Named Me America

without knowing that my coyote father
had been disappeared somewhere
in the wild whooping marshes of Socorro.
She could not know that his last gasping
thought was for the feel of her
long lashes
fluttering against his chest.

That was before I began
screaming with a hunger she couldn’t
to sate. My gummy voice was impossible
to understand,
just like the doctors
who hastened to clear her bed
for the next welfare case.

Later, when loss seeded her lungs
a wet whooping of her own
her native desert called to her between the shouts of
binners and sandwich-board men. Even
the cracked palms of the man who brought
blossoms
to the creek bank we called home
couldn’t hold her here.

If she had known, would she have stayed
at her uncle’s hacienda
until she couldn’t plead
no señor,
no, anymore. Would she have left
if she had known
her daughter’s voice would cry
those same words into the night?

At least here there was
a chance,
space to fill out her hopes.
Nowhere is perfect, but at least
here
my world is built with white words
and white violence.

 

 

Kathryn Collins’ essays and poetry have been published in CALYX, Flyaway Journal of Writing, The Rumpus, Months to Years, and Robo Book through Bank Heavy Press. She received her MA in Professional Fiction Writing from the University of Denver and currently works as a librarian. After a long period as an expat in Germany, Israel and Australia, she has returned home to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

#Immigration: Me, Too by Barbara Henning

pelezhomeless

—rheumatic fever—turns the skin—yellow—a heart, scarred——soon—my mother says—you will—take my place—I wear her old stockings—dye my hair henna—like hers—smoke cigarettes—wear red lipstick—her fringed leather jacket—at 18—at the sewing machine—my foot is hers—pressing the pedal—there’s a murmur—in your heart—the doctor says—but soon it will heal—in the afternoon—I birth a child—walk down the hallway—in her turquoise bathrobe—at the zoo—an old female orangutan—locks eyes—with a young woman—breastfeeding a baby—yes, she nods, me, too—at 37—my two children sound asleep—and all of a sudden—I wake up—surprised to be alive—what about—the others—I think—the motherless migrants—the refugees—the cumulative wound—rooms—that murmur—and whisper—remember me—take care of them—take care of you— (20 May 2017)

First published in The Journal of Poetics Research.

 

 

Barbara Henning is the author of several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015). Other recents include A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She has published three novels, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects and Black Lace, and she is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, Barbara lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University, as well as writers.com. http://barbarahenning.com

 

Painting Homeless by Fernand Pelez. 

Stress Positions by Risa Denenberg

531px-Vrksasana

In yoga, when limbs tremble and bend,
I rest in child’s pose and dwell on stress
positions pressed on prisoners. My slight
discomfort weighed against their agony.

In tree pose, I’m a tent post in a muddy
bivouac. I confine my limbs in eagle pose,
as limbless orphans concoct makeshift sports.
In crow pose, I think of stateless refugees

who occupy camps where small caged birds
are the preferred pets. Lying in corpse pose
I wonder how many graves are lost at sea.
My sadness useless as a prayer.

 

First published in slight faith, MoonPath Press.

 

 

Risa Denenberg lives on the Olympic peninsula in Washington state where she works as a nurse practitioner. She is a co-founder and editor at Headmistress Press, publisher of LBT poetry. She has published three chapbooks and three full length collections of poetry, including “Whirlwind @ Lesbos” (Headmistress Press, 2016) and “slight faith” (MoonPath Press, 2018).

 

Photograph by Judith.

#Immigration #GunViolence: On Air, On Land, At Sea by Barbara Henning

double_flat_g_by_frogstar_23-dbly1sf

—when surfing in 28 degree water—or stuck in traffic—for 63 hours a year—your brain freezes—your chin gets stiff—no angry mobs in Tehran—shouting “Death to America”— No McDonald’s in Tehran—instead, a homegrown Mash Donald——dreaming—of a woman with blonde hair—chin length—at a restaurant table—with a younger dejected bully—hey, don’t worry—she says looking down at him—I’ll let you see em later—he drops his head—a sad puppy—so sad—so horrible—when the phone rings—we all wake up—to headlines with his name—oh no—and they’re just not true—he says—everyone must love me—digital twitter talk—can’t be recaptured—and you can’t bury it—it’s out there—scattered in air, on land, at sea—North Africa to Europe—Seawatch reports—2400 migrants rescued—four children dead—
(26 Oct 2016)

First published in Posit: A Journal of Literature and Art.

 

 

Barbara Henning is the author of several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015). Other recents include A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She has published three novels, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects and Black Lace, and she is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, Barbara lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University, as well as writers.com. http://barbarahenning.com

 

Painting Double Flat G by Jenn Zed. Used by Permission. 

#Immigration: Aunt Molly by Tamara Madison

Aunt Molly Tamara Madison

When cossacks torched the town,
one pulled Malka from her carriage,
moved to rip her apart until he recognized
the face of his neighbor in Malka’s mother;
he apologized, placed her in her mother’s
arms and scurried into the smoky night.
Her father had seen what was coming,
packed up his seven languages and sailed
to America. Soon the family joined him,
leaving behind the country that rejected them,
their culture, their faith. They left their land
of cypress and palm with its glittering
Black Sea, and landed in a larger world
of cypress and palm where sea was ocean,
the language an edifice to climb upon
and conquer; their religion expendable
at last, they were free in their new lives.
Now my grandfather could spread garlic
on his bread in peace, no one seemed to care
what their last name was and his sister Malka
was able to grow old and tell me, “Remember,
dear, the Bible was written by a bunch of men”
and no god came to strike her dead.

 

 

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, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and other publications. She is thrilled to have just retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school.

#Immigration: Ever-Shifting by Barbara Henning

wikimedia commons Barbara Henning Ever-Shifting

—on the F—a woman scrolls, swipes—and eats—bits of pastry—out of a brown bag—her round face—surrounded—by shoulder-length—greasy hair—behind me—a little boy to his friend—I’m scared of the president—that’s so sad—I say outloud—I’m not afraid—the woman beside me says—I voted for him—do you regret it now?—Nope—some Mexicans held up my friend—now because of him—just because of him—352 Mexicans—have been removed—from Staten Island—and I’m happy—gone—swiped—away—mothers, fathers, children—some get off—some get on—a young man—in a tee-shirt and running shorts—stares into his cell—a man with a black beard—gold colored shawl—switches the screen—hundreds of Muslim men bowing—over his shoulder—I try to catch the name—of the Imam—over his shoulder—the ever-shifting—wall between us—one after another—we take the escalator—up and out—at Broadway Lafayette—scrolling through—our options— (24 July 2017)

 

First published in Journal of Poetics Research.

 

 

Barbara Henning is the author of several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015). Other recents include A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She has published three novels, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects and Black Lace, and she is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, Barbara lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University, as well as writers.com. http://barbarahenning.com

#Immigration: Mother Tongue by Tricia Knoll

mother tongue tricia knoll photo byJoeLeMerou

He told me he speaks Eritrean,
my cab driver, as he gives advice
by cell to his new roommate,
arrived, in despair of finding work.

I hear a thick, slick muscle wad
clicking of a glick sound,
the phantom of a Spanish vowel roll,
some impatience and much caution.

Raindrops on my side window fork
like sycamore branches at the quarry,
my through-vision to a rundown
neighborhood of convenience stores and bars.

My father wanted me to learn
French, maybe Latin. Not German.
His parents fled the Prussian draft.
Learn, he said, a language without his shame

of run-together hooligans of a history,
thugs and ash. My memory twists
on words I overheard living with him
like wringing out sopping towels,

pinning them up to dry, the return
to utility a matter of dry time.
The driver listens to his cousin. We merge
onto a clogged freeway. He taps the wheel.

Some family words I’ve lost, a database
named forgotten. The tires
plash a puddle. My tongue pushes
my top front teeth.

My open mouth accepts tears
that branch like drizzle on this window.
There is a funeral
at the end of this.

 

 

Tricia Knoll is a poet just learning how to live in Vermont after moving from Oregon in June. Her poetry appears widely in journals and anthologies and has received 7 Pushcart nominations. Her most recent collection is How I Learned To Be White (Antrim House, 2018) Website: triciaknoll.com

 

Photograph by Joe LeMerou.