The Emigrant Mother By William Wordsworth

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Once in a lonely hamlet I sojourned
In which a Lady driven from France did dwell;
The big and lesser griefs with which she mourned,
In friendship she to me would often tell.
This Lady, dwelling upon British ground,
Where she was childless, daily would repair
To a poor neighbouring cottage; as I found,
For sake of a young Child whose home was there.

Once having seen her clasp with fond embrace
This Child, I chanted to myself a lay,
Endeavouring, in our English tongue, to trace
Such things as she unto the Babe might say:
And thus, from what I heard and knew, or guessed,
My song the workings of her heart expressed.

I

“Dear Babe, thou daughter of another,
One moment let me be thy mother!
An infant’s face and looks are thine,
And sure a mother’s heart is mine:
Thy own dear mother’s far away,
At labour in the harvest field:
Thy little sister is at play;
What warmth, what comfort would it yield
To my poor heart, if thou wouldst be
One little hour a child to me!

II

“Across the waters I am come,
And I have left a babe at home:
A long, long way of land and sea!
Come to me, I’m no enemy:
I am the same who at thy side
Sate yesterday, and made a nest
For thee, sweet Baby! thou hast tried,
Thou know’st the pillow of my breast;
Good, good art thou: alas! to me
Far more than I can be to thee.

III

“Here, little Darling, dost thou lie;
An infant thou, a mother I!
Mine wilt thou be, thou hast no fears;
Mine art thou, spite of these my tears.
Alas! before I left the spot,
My baby and its dwelling-place;
The nurse said to me, ‘Tears should not
Be shed upon an infant’s face,
It was unlucky’ no, no, no;
No truth is in them who say so!

IV

“My own dear Little-one will sigh,
Sweet Babe! and they will let him die.
‘He pines,’ they’ll say, ‘it is his doom,
And you may see his hour is come.’
Oh! had he but thy cheerful smiles,
Limbs stout as thine, and lips as gay,
Thy looks, thy cunning, and thy wiles,
And countenance like a summer’s day,
They would have hopes of him; and then
I should behold his face again!

V

“‘Tis gone, like dreams that we forget;
There was a smile or two, yet, yet
I can remember them, I see
The smiles, worth all the world to me.
Dear Baby! I must lay thee down;
Thou troublest me with strange alarms;
Smiles hast thou, bright ones of thy own;
I cannot keep thee in my arms;
For they confound me; where, where is
That last, that sweetest smile of his?

VI

“Oh! how I love thee! we will stay
Together here this one half day.
My sister’s child, who bears my name,
From France to sheltering England came;
She with her mother crossed the sea;
The babe and mother near me dwell:
Yet does my yearning heart to thee
Turn rather, though I love her well:
Rest, little Stranger, rest thee here!
Never was any child more dear!

VII

“I cannot help it; ill intent
I’ve none, my pretty Innocent!
I weep, I know they do thee wrong,
These tears, and my poor idle tongue.
Oh, what a kiss was that! my cheek
How cold it is! but thou art good;
Thine eyes are on me, they would speak,
I think, to help me if they could.
Blessings upon that soft, warm face,
My heart again is in its place!

VIII

“While thou art mine, my little Love,
This cannot be a sorrowful grove;
Contentment, hope, and mother’s glee,
I seem to find them all in thee:
Here’s grass to play with, here are flowers;
I’ll call thee by my darling’s name;
Thou hast, I think, a look of ours,
Thy features seem to me the same;
His little sister thou shalt be;
And, when once more my home I see,
I’ll tell him many tales of Thee.”

 

William Wordsworth, 1770-1850.

 

Painting, A peasant woman digging in front of her cottage, Vincent Van Gogh.

Golden State Boy, 1925 by Marilyn Westfall

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In retrospect, the first photograph
taken of him, eighteen months old, dressed
in black woolens—leggings, sweater, hat—
posed upon a miniature chair

alone, exposed that he was trained to
listen. Eyes focused. Obedient.
Unsmiling. His feet, laced into boots,
dangled over acorns and oak leaves,

the pattern woven through the carpet
in the sparsely furnished parlor where
his shadow smudged the wall behind him
that winter day, the valley fog thick,

the farmhouse trickling with cold moisture.
Eldest child, he’d labor in orchards,
dig water trenches, treat rot and blight,
plant, prune, and harvest English walnuts,

inherit the family business
but envy his brother who broke bonds
to pilot skies like a peregrine.
His hands would blister, build calluses;

his fair face burn, brown like hulls, sprout with
moles and lesions. His portrait was saved
on linen cardstock, one lock attached
of his shorn corn silk hair, blond relic.

 

 

Marilyn Westfall lives in Lubbock and Alpine Texas, and has roots in Ohio and California. Most recently, her poems are published in San Pedro River Review; Weaving the Terrain (Dos Gatos Press); Enchantment of the Ordinary (Mutabilis Press); and are forthcoming in Evening Street Review.

Van Gogh Paints Without The Moon’s Permission by Anna Ruiz

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Suddenly the sky breaks open with poems.
Magnolia trees laden with Spanish moss
spread rumors.

Rays of sunlight leave lines I had forgotten
were mine. I am deep in the mystery
like a blossoming chestnut tree.

I am too young to be ancient. Spreading
words and black lace like a war widow,
too tired to go home.

 

 

Anna Ruiz: I am not a third person though this is my third incarnation as a poet. However, there have been 26,683 incarnations of Anna. They’re all connected to my living breath–the one I have accepted as mine.

 

Painting, Willows at Sunset, by Vincent Van Gogh. 

Three Poems by Dan Leach

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Teacher

For Achille Mbembe

Death drove down to Clemson in a Cadillac the color of cotton. She found me down
in the stacks. Pressed her clean bones into my back and whispered, What do you think
you’re you doing here? I returned to my book and muttered, Learning how to read.
Death found this hilarious. She said, This is neither the time nor the place for that.
Teach me, then, I said. To which Death said nothing. To which she took my hand in hers

and led me to her car. We drove down to the stadium and she said, Repeat after me.
Gee-oh-teen. I repeated. We drove past the classrooms and she said, Sound it out.
Gruh-gruh-grave. Yuh-yuh-yard. I sounded. We parked outside the Fort Hill Mansion.
She said, Try this one on your own. I said, History. Death sucked her teeth. Try again,
she said. House? I said. Death freed her hand and drove away, the night air rushing

cold and black through the windows, her disappointment on me like a song. I’m sorry,
I said, when she dropped me back at the library. She said, Enjoy your reading.
Wait, I said. Give me one more try. So she nodded to the book in my hand. That,
she asked. What’s the word for that? I had to look before speaking. Then I said, Killer.
This got a smile out of Death. She told me to get back in. Now you’re talking.

The Envelope

For Raymond Williams

It is a difficult thing to talk about. It might make you stutter, then stop,
then start again, before stuttering some more. It might make you feel

like a drunk falling headfirst into darkness while clutching for a wall.

It might make you feel a little like the jazz trumpeter standing alone
before a crowded room with no plan except leaning towards a sliver

of sound and smoke, except breathing and receiving what forms await.

You might get nervous or scared or both. It should be this way.

I remember losing my way in the woods of a mountain without a name,
losing myself to a dark so thick and dominant I raised my hand to my face

and could not see my skin. I remember waiting skinless for the sun.

I was scared. Still I think it should be this way.

It should be a difficult and dizzying thing: this clutching and receiving,
this walking together through the darkness, your hand in mine, waiting

for whatever light emerges to cut through the woods our new way.

such distance, such light

For Fred Moten

Here am I: surrounded
by strong walls
and good views
and much noise
resembling hope.
Here am I: enclosed.

And you out there:
beyond and beneath,
already and not yet,
can you tell me
what it is
you hear?

You out there,
surrounded & surrounding,
do you see me
as I see you?

& how do I sound
from such distance?
& how do I look
in such light?

Just between you and me
how does this situation end?

Dan Leach has published poems and stories in The Greensboro Review, The New Madrid Review, and storySouth. He is currently an MFA candidate at Warren Wilson.

 

Art by Jenn Zed.

In 1998, you could practice your French in France by Natalie Campisi

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In 1998, you could practice French in France. The new and old words were still distanced by water and paper and games of telephone.

It was the year of the Euro. The year of Kosovo. The year of Sampras and the Yankees.

The bus wobbled on steel-belted cartoon wheels toward Montpellier from Paris. Not Marseilles where they steal your money at knifepoint. We had little money and no credit cards and no gold to sell in a pinch.

In 1998, you relied on maps and eyes and lips and eyes.

In 1998, old lives couldn’t be accessed through an app and unrequited loves could remain in amber, forever lithe and limitless, forever ​Lotte​ — not living in Haddonfield with four kids and a mortgage.

<<Je voudrais ​deux billets, s’il vous plaît?>>

With paper maps and paper money, we packed on the packed bus with skinny people who mumbled grunts and slip n’ slide words, a potion of sweet and mildew. The wheel was too big for the driver’s hands. The mirror too small to see.

The faded baby blue bus was peeling-paint old.
The windows were trimmed in white and had curved corners.

A man pressed against me. I sent this postcard of the man pressing against me to my older self, and I received it — perhaps in the middle of the night — and realized he had assaulted me. He had pressed his body against mine on purpose. It wasn’t just a packed train. Assault is a big word when time gets between action. Too big. But, memory remains. I hated it.

I send a postcard back to my 22-year old self: “Push him away. Disez: ​Arrêtez! Arrêtez!

But, no. It’s in amber now. The bus keeps moving.

 

 

Natalie Campisi is a journalist and fiction writer currently residing in Los Angeles. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in fiction and her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Auburn Literary Journal, and Writer Magazine. She was recently awarded a writing scholarship to the Chautauqua Institution in New York. Currently, Natalie‘s producing, directing and performing in a fully improvised play based on the work of Wes Anderson, which is running at ImproTheatre in Los Angeles.

 

 

Original photograph by Donald Emmerich.

 

Editors Wanted: Califragile Is Growing!

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We’re ready to take Califragile to the next level, improving our website with video and other interactive features, as well as expanding to include not just free verse poetry, but slam, hybrid, fiction, flash fiction, creative nonfiction and other forms. We will also bring our Arts-into-Action events to Chico and communities around the region.

We’re looking for editors, IT specialists, and fundraisers. All are volunteer positions. We’re especially interested in welcoming people of color, LGBTQ+, disabled and immigrant writer/editors. What do you want to contribute? To begin the conversation, send Wren Tuatha a letter of interest at califragilepoetry@gmail.com. Include the following, and anything else you’d like us to know:

• Previous editorial experience (not required)

• Genres you write in and publication highlights; Teaching experience, if applicable (not required)

• Your location and willingness/availability to travel to Butte County (not required but very helpful)

• Your first thoughts for new ways Califragile can be a relevant voice for climate change and social justice through the arts

Deadline for letters of interest: January 31, 2020

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Wren Tuatha and Califragile staff

Shimmer by Wren Tuatha

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Shimmer Sharon Shimmer.
Such sunsmile  on the water.
I, the shore,
I go  to cup her in my hands
and Shimmer She,
she ripples away.

 

First published in Thistle and Brilliant, Finishing Line Press.

 

 

Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review and others. She’s pursuing her MFA at Goddard College. Her chapbooks, Thistle and Brilliant and the forthcoming Skeptical Goats, are from Finishing Line Press. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Butler, herd rescue goats in the Camp Fire burn zone of California.

 

Original photograph by Nicolas M. Perrault.