Father’s Day, Clutch Two

Mandarin-father_and_chicks-by Jannes Pockele

Examining My Daughter’s Vagina by Joe Cottonwood

‘My ‘gina hurts,’ she says. She’s four. We’re camping.
No mothers, doctors. Nothing. Nobody.
A bat swoops low over the fern.
‘Leave it alone,’ I say.
‘Your body will fix it.’ (I pray.)
She brushes her teeth and spits into the fire.
‘It hurts,’ she says.
There are limits to my first aid training. A splint?
Tourniquet? Score it with a knife and suck out the blood?
I grasp my flashlight. ‘Let me see.’
She is standing. ‘Sit down.’ She sits.
‘Spread your legs.’
My hand shakes.
I’m no prude, you see
yet something down there frightens me.
In four years, in spite of diapers, baths,
shameless prancing nudity, I have somehow
never looked closely never dared
feared what I would
what I now see is a
lovely
little
vagina.
‘I don’t see anything wrong.
Except it’s dirty.’
I wash it. She squeals at the cold water.
But she’s cured.
So (I think) am I.

Previously published in the chapbook Son of a Poet.

 

At the Chemical Plant by Tamara Madison

Dad says he has a job for me,
drives me to school, my bike
in the back. In the afternoon
I ride through date groves
from Indio to Coachella.
In a small office in the corner
of the plant, my spot
is a desk where I type up orders
scrawled by salesmen
who can find surprising ways
to spell DeBonne and Vladimir.
It’s pleasant here; the grownups
crack jokes, play music,
when Dad is in the field.
When his pickup is spied
in the driveway, word goes out
and comes back in like a cold wind.
Backs straighten, conversation
freezes, souls shiver
as we get a read on his mood.
At quitting time we drive home,
Dad and I, a handful of words
between us, him singing along
to a country song, squinting
into the sun.

 

A Mother’s Lament by Wilda Morris

The men of my pueblo crossed the river
with only dreams in their pockets,
leaving false promises.
What do I tell my daughter
when she asks ¿Donde está mi papa?
How can I tie my son
to this place when he believes
his father left a trail of seeds
he can follow across mountains,
across the river, through deadly desert?
How can I make him understand
the seeds have been eaten by vultures
or sprouted into trees bearing bitter fruit?

First published in The Christian Citizen.

 

Childhood’s End by Don Krieger

” … you’ll be a Man, my son!”
– – If – – Rudyard Kipling

Promise me power or eternal life,
give me wealth, open your legs.
I am proof against all of it

thanks to my father,
who often recited If,
who turned to me

as we drove his weekly round
to collect twelve dollars
from women in cement block houses,

doors open, TVs flashing,
children playing on the sand floor
or coming to touch my pale skin in wonder —

he turned to me, a child of six,
as we rode in his rusted Hillman Minx and said:
You know, Don, I would never
be unfaithful to your mother.

 

1968 by Linda McCauley Freeman

Adam runs before the water
touches him. Peter, his twin,
pudgy and blond, sits squarely

on crushed shells, laughs
as waves roll over his belly.
Paul piles sand over our father,

erases all of him from the beach
except for his head, which he covers
with a bright blue towel.

As my sister and I walk by, timid
in our red bikinis, my father erupts,
roaring, his sand- and sun-blistered

arms flailing, pulling us in.
We tackle the great
monster man emerging.

 

Level by Donna Hilbert

Spirit level it’s called
this rectangular frame, vial
of liquid centered in the middle.
spirit center level
Not a yoga prop
but a mason’s tool
like the one my father used
Saturdays, Sundays, weekdays
after work laying brick
around our house in the valley
mastering geometry
turning oblong to curve.
Curve around orange tree
after tree, laden
with blossom then fruit.
My father lay brick on brick
with a cunning sure hand.
And I imagine his pleasure
as he checked this work
and found it true,
the one thing he could do
to make his world level
to make his world right,
one brick after brick at a time.

 

Father Rose by Jeff Burt

Palsied, father rose
without complaint
floating in the spoons of our hands
like a petal in a watery bowl
raised by love for a turn.

He could no longer speak
so we learned from his silence.

Lowland_nyala_father_and_daughters by Sheep81

Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor who has spent most of his days in the building trades — carpenter, plumber, electrician. Nights, he writes. His most recent book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast.

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.

Wilda Morris is President of Poets and Patrons of Chicago and Past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society. Her poems have found homes in numerous anthologies, webzines, and print publications, including Christian Science Monitor, The Alembic, Chaffin Journal and The Kerf. She has won awards for both formal and free verse, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her book, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant, was published by Rockford Writers’ Guild Press in 2008. Her poetry blog is found at wildamorris.blogspot.com.

Don Krieger is a biomedical researcher living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His poetry has appeared online at Tuck Magazine, Uppagus Magazine, VerseWrights, and others, in print in Hanging Loose, Neurology, and in English and Farsi in Persian Sugar in English Tea.

Linda McCauley Freeman has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies, including a Chinese translation of her work for an international journal. She recently won Grand Prize in Storiarts poetry contest honoring Maya Angelou, and her work was selected by the Arts Mid Hudson for inclusion in their Artists Respond to Poetry 2018 show. She was a three-time winner in the Talespinners Short Story contest judged by Michael Korda. She has an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College and is the former poet-in-residence of the Putnam Arts Council. She and her husband are professional swing dance instructors in the Hudson Valley, NY (www.got2lindy.com).

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, from Tebot Bach, 2018. She is a monthly contributor to the online journal, Verse-Virtual. Her work is widely anthologized, including Boomer Girls, A New Geography of Poets, Solace in So Many Words, The Widows’ Handbook, and most recently in The Poetry of Presence. She lives in Long Beach, California. More at http://www.donnahilbert.com

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife and a July abundance of plums. He has work in The Monarch Review, Spry, LitBreak, Wisconsin Review, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Poetry Prize.

Father’s Day, Clutch One

Emperor_Penguin_Parents_and_Chick Mtpaley

We Use Him by Tamara Madison

I stood by the bed
the day my father died,
holding his hand,
feeling the thin tremble
of his pulse
with my fingertips.

He was yellow,
breathing faintly
but he knew we were there
for his eyes flickered,
his head nodded,
he was waiting for us.
He seemed to look up
with his eyelids
and then fall, relieved,
into death’s cool hand.

Now we use him.
My son walks on his legs.
My sister throws his shadow
across the pool.
My brother wears
his burnished, bald crown.
His eyes regard me from the mirror,
and when I am especially angry
they flash like a switchblade,
foolish, but fierce,
and infinitely useful.

 

To My Daughter Who Was Never Born by Joe Cottonwood

I know you are a daughter because
we already had a boy, a girl, a boy.
It was a girl’s turn when two cells
in a womb chanced not to meet.

Now here’s a prom date waiting, corsage in hand,
at our door. Aren’t you ready yet? Our family,
never big on proms. Or dressing up.
Will you dance in blue jeans?

As parents, we made it hard.
You, only seven when your mom got cancer.
Not easy. I’m sorry for that.

In your fourteenth year, daughter,
we blew up. Yes, I came down hard on you.
Stealing a car is serious trouble.
But I promise not to dwell on that. Except to say
I secretly admire your gumption to steal
the candy of a billionaire’s spoiled brat,
to without lessons drive that Jag to San Diego
to free a dolphin who, it turned out, didn’t want
to leave his private tank where fish appeared
like magic twice a day precisely timed.
Some souls prefer order. Not you, not me, this family,
beyond the bedrock expectations: Get an education.
Be kind. Don’t steal cars to rescue dolphins.

Here, daughter, some fish.
Next year again I will lose you who I never had
as you burst from your tank swimming,
leaping the prow of this aging boat
with such grace, such hope,
your home the ageless sea.

 

Father Cigar by Chariklia Martalas

Wool waist coat
to keep away the whip of winter.
he inhales his Cuban.
His chair, his African home.
Caribbean tobacco leaves,
books of a different alphabet.
Greek letters on crisp paper
perfumed by smoke puffed into pages
as they turn.

Tranquility of old intellectuals
in a mad house. Ideas, cigars,
comfortable pondering in chairs.
Ash ribbons, pleasured wisps.

Mirage in smoke, memory in leaves.
I mentally photograph my father
with cigar, chair facing the grass.
Memory safe as upholstery.

 

Thin Fabric and an Empty Bowl by Wren Tuatha

I come to your country
in exile,
thin fabric and an empty bowl.
You come to my woods
in resignation,
bare trees and leaves into compost.
You wrap me against the leaving breezes
in long johns,
your old coat and trail hugging shoes.

Your uncle, my father,
is gone/crazy/homeless/missing/dead.
There’s no train of numbers on his forearm,
no Southern rope around his neck,
no chalk outline, no ransom call or suicide note.
But his place is just as vacant,
his absence incurable.

I hold out my bowl,
Oliver Twist.
Word soup: You look just like him.
We trade photographs
like baseball cards.
Into my bowl: The Missing Years.
When I offer my bowl to the waiting faces
my gratitude
spills out upon your feet.

 

Anyway by Tony Gloeggler

After we dropped dirt
on my father’s coffin
the long line of cars
drove back to the house.
We stood in circles,
took turns sitting
at the kitchen counter
and ate cold cuts.
My mother introduced me
to all her work friends
as her son, the poet.
One young woman knew
it wasn’t the time or place,
but always wondered why
people wrote poetry. I told her
I hoped to become rich
and famous, fall in and out
of love with multitudes of smart,
beautiful, fucked-up women.
She shook her head, said
maybe I should leave you alone

so you can go somewhere

and write. I didn’t follow
her, didn’t apologize for acting
like an asshole. I walked
upstairs, opened the door
to my old room, looked
for my bed and desk, my stacks
of albums. I wanted to blast
“Darkness on the Edge
of Town,” start writing
in a new notebook. I wanted
my father to pound his fist
on the door, yell turn

that goddamn shit down,
stick his head inside and ask
what are you doing anyway?
I wanted to hand him
my notebook, watch him
sit in his chair, turn on
the lamp and read, slowly,
his forefinger underlining
all the words, his lips
whispering every syllable.

First published in Rattle.

 

Friday Nights by Donna Hilbert

Friday nights, my father sat
in his green Naugahyde chair
smoking, drinking beer,
the red tip of his cigarette
tracing the pathway
from the ashtray to his lips.
My father sat in his chair
like a storm sits on the horizon,
gathering flash and clap
to slam across the prairie.
Friday nights, I flattened
thinner than a paper doll,
shrank smaller than a crayon,
knowing the tallest presence
takes the lightning.
If my father were a storm
building on the horizon,
if our house were on the prairie,
I could blow out the door,
down the concrete stairs
into the dark, damp cellar
to safety.

 

My Father Was Our Piano by Linda McCauley Freeman

He would sit in his great
armchair, the five of us pressing
his fingers, pushing
to be the one
to create a great
symphony—
the baritone thumb
the soprano pinkie.

 

Interlude by Ed Ahern

The small being sleeps on my chest.
My breathing sways plump arms.
He unable, me unwilling to rise and part.
We are never closer than this touching
that he will not remember
and I will not forget.
Unconcern nestled into gentle custody.
Neither knowing, or just now caring
about changes to come.

First published in Red Eft.

Black_Sea_fauna_Seahorse Florin DUMITRESCU

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.

Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor who has spent most of his days in the building trades — carpenter, plumber, electrician. Nights, he writes. His most recent book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast.

Chariklia Martalas is a Philosophy, Politics, English and History student at the University of Witswaterstrand in Johannesburg South Africa. Her passion lies in the intersection between Philosophy and Literature. She has been published in Odd Magazine.

Wren Tuatha (Califragile Editor). Wren’s poetry has appeared or is upcoming in The Cafe Review, Canary, Pirene’s Fountain, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Baltimore Review, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Poetry Pacific, and Bangalore Review.  Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Lawrence Butler, herd skeptical goats on a mountain in California.

Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of New York City. His work has appeared in Rattle, The Raleigh Review, Chiron Review, New Ohio Review, Mudfish and Cultural Weekly. His full length books include One Wish Left (Pavement Saw press 2002) and The Last Lie (NYQ Books/2010). Until The Last Light Leaves (NYQ Books 2015) was a finalist in the 2016 Binghamton University Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award and focuses on his connection to an ex-girlfriend’s autistic son and thirty-five years of managing group homes for mentally challenged men in Brooklyn.

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, from Tebot Bach, 2018. She is a monthly contributor to the online journal, Verse-Virtual. Her work is widely anthologized, including Boomer Girls, A New Geography of Poets, Solace in So Many Words, The Widows’ Handbook, and most recently in The Poetry of Presence. She lives in Long Beach, California. More at http://www.donnahilbert.com

Linda McCauley Freeman has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies, including a Chinese translation of her work for an international journal. She recently won Grand Prize in Storiarts poetry contest honoring Maya Angelou, and her work was selected by the Arts Mid Hudson for inclusion in their Artists Respond to Poetry 2018 show. She was a three-time winner in the Talespinners Short Story contest judged by Michael Korda. She has an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College and is the former poet-in-residence of the Putnam Arts Council. She and her husband are professional swing dance instructors in the Hudson Valley, NY (www.got2lindy.com).

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had a hundred ninety poems and stories published so far, and three books. He works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of five review editors.

 

Penguin photograph by Mtpaley. Seahorse photograph by Florin DUMITRESCU. 

#GunViolence: Solving the Gun Issue by Tamara Madison

Let’s have a party
and bring all of our guns.

We’ll have contests
to see who can shoot the target

all the way from the living room
to the backyard fence.

We’ll bring our rifles and see
who can shoot the most living things.

We’ll take out our pistols and see
who can draw the fastest.

We’ll shoot at each other’s feet
and call it dancing.

We’ll shoot off our machine guns
and see who finishes their ammo first.

We’ll cover the house with the flag
and practice shooting the stars

Then we’ll turn the guns on each other
— to protect ourselves from the enemy —

and when none of us is left
we’ll declare our country great 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 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.

Mother’s Day Poems, Clutch One

Bougainvillea by Tamara Madison

She is brown like her shadow on hot ground
at high noon. Her hair, a dark bush, bounces
on top of her busy torso as she steps out — snap snap —
in rubber thongs in the pummeling sun
of a desert afternoon. Her arms are sinewy-thin,
muscular, she jokes, from beating children, and when
the baby sobs as Mommy leaves for wood shop class
or a meeting, she springs to the crib and shakes
the wailing child: “If you don’t stop that right now
I’ll beat you to a bloody pulp!” Her sunglasses flare out
toward her temples like the sly, outspoken fins on the powder-
blue Mercury that she steers with the same hand that holds
the Reader’s Digest while the other applies Bougainvillea
lipstick; a billowing fan of dust rises behind the speeding car
where the children rest on sticky vinyl seats, secure
in their mother’s love. Sometimes at night she fastens
rhinestones to her ears and poufs on pungent green perfume,
sets the cummerbund on Dad’s tuxedo so he looks
like a movie star with all the crop dust washed off him.
We watch them drive off toward a lurid sunset of blazing
orange and pink as night grows around the purple
shoulders of the mountains, and everything around us
smells of dirt and work and farm chemicals.

First published in The Belly Remembers by Pearl Editions

 

 

At Eighteen by Alexis Rhone Fancher

When I wanted to be seen
When I danced out to the edge
When I was so afraid to love

When I longed to be a Marilyn
When I slept my way to the top
When I opened my legs but not my heart

When I shouted at my mother over dinner:
“When I grow up I’ll be somebody,
not like you.”

When I took a lover twice my age
When I told him I wanted photos
wearing only my grandmother’s

ruby necklace
When he shot me, butt-naked on
my mother’s oriental rug

When I went home to flaunt the affair
When I fluttered a cache of the photos
onto her bed

When she walked to her closet and opened
the bottom drawer
When she handed me a large, blue envelop

When I looked at photos of my mother, naked,
her young face wicked, movie-star dreamy,
When I recognized the girl who wore only a ruby necklace

and looked like she had plans even bigger than mine

When she said, “I was only sixteen. He was forty.”

First published in Poets & Artists Magazine.

 

 

Infested Fruit By Ravitte Kentwortz

Mother had bitter orange
hair and breasts larger
than other moms in my boarding school.

She didn’t use them
to breastfeed. In her
kitchen, when I visited,

poppy seed rolls she rolled,
dropping condensed milk
into dough’s opened mouth.

Now in her seventies, she
bears on my table, heaving

to devour
peaches, a bushel
of wet peanuts.

Kale in the heat —
the ground lamb weeps.
Then sizzles.

Nana comes too. Time
her cellar filled with food
before the war, she says,

a good year for pears.
When grandfather was taken,
Nana hid. Torn

bags of grain
under her house. Halved frozen peaches
in the cellar.

When he returned, imagine
with what hunger
they had my mother — she says, time

she was tiny and blond, like
an infested fruit,

strapped
to his chest, mouth stuffed
with cloth.

Night
they packed her and rooted
for roots under brittle sugar.

Nana says, your mother
was held
by your father.

Her teeth cut teeth in his flesh.
She did not tell
of my roots,

that strapped her in so many veins,
taking her food. My father still
stands there —

as she batters her
belly with me in her
right hand, blue

blue stains of shriek,
stuffed blue, on
strawberry lips.

 

 

Mother by Mary McCarthy

I dreamed her wicked
with shining eyes
and long fingernails
that poked and pinched
an unexpected ambush
in a dark room
the sudden flash of teeth
erupting
from what was not
a smile-
another nightmare
with too many wrong turns
to take me anywhere new
She couldn’t really afford
long nails
with so much work to do
no time for any such
foolishness
for rage or spite
or the simple need
of a woman starving
out of sight
hidden behind
her many children
feeding them
feeding them
keeping nothing
for her own hunger

 

 

I Love You, Catherine, but I Don’t Like You by Catherine Zickgraf

Mother,
your words sounded fair at the time—
but they hung like ghosts in the air,
like Dad’s work shirts filed headless
on the basement line.

I’d watch for larks out the window at lunch
after buttoning all those shoulders onto hangers
in the breezeless dark.

 

 

Fallout by Carolyn McAuliffe

Fuchsia blooms flirt from thorny clusters of cacti to passersby, taproots plunge valley-deep chapped with thirst below the still, open road. The jointed cane cholla boasts petals in shocks of crimson, creamy white, and yellow like the billowy collars of a circus clown. Saguaros stand tall, fixed amongst the creosote, agave and shade of the nurse-mother mesquite. In communion and praise the elders bear their naked ribs and reach toward the open, sleepy sky.

I see you tug at the stretch of belt across your swollen midsection. I see your mind click and check and click again. So tired. Too many fitful nights tangled in damp sheets, pillows tucked between your thighs and wedged at the small of your back. You defend and you resist. You shift from supine to prone, roll left and right, while I dig my bony knees so hard from the inside out. Stretch and reach and push. I see you carry the weight of me for miles.

He flicks a cigarette butt out the window while a mournful tale of promises broken plays on the radio. You smile like a schoolgirl and imagine him singing it to you. You shake your head and watch him tap his fingers to the drum beat on the dashboard. You feel a kick and now you’re glad you had that second slice of pie at the diner 20 miles back. I see you peel back the flaky crust layer by layer, until the prongs of your tinny fork sink into the brown-sugared apple insides.

A sliver of light rips the sky wide open. A thunderclap sounds. A million tiny pieces of glass rain down on you, and him and her. You hold close the ink-eyed beasts circling from above. You embrace the barbed pads of the prickly-pear, ripping the fleshy skin until the juices erupt into a deep swell of grace. I split your belly in two and I am forcibly plucked from your core. Wings flap wildly as frayed feathers fall from the half-light sky.

With the tip of your finger you trace the fallout. Below your navel a thick, raised pinch of skin trails south. I see a razorback formed by the dry sweeps of wind, scorpions, and serpents of the sand. Did we quench our mouths on the well-spring? I see you push back the dry brush and brambles. On arid dust you choke with palms raised to the sky. You whisper, Lorraine. A pretty name, Mama. Very pretty.

 

8Mother_and_Child_II_by Graham Crumb

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.

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Verse Daily, Plume, Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, Diode, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. She’s the author of four poetry collections, including State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here, (2017), and Junkie Wife, (2018). Her photos are published worldwide, including River Styx, and the covers of Witness, Heyday, The Chiron Review, and Nerve Cowboy. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives in Los Angeles. www.alexisrhonefancher.com

Ravitte Kentwortz is an immigrant to the US. She studies philosophy in Colorado. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Posit, Portland Review, Caliban, MARY and others.

Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had work published in many print and online journals, including Gnarled Oak, Praxis, Third Wednesday, The Ekhprastic Review and Earth’s Daughters. Her electronic chapbook Things I Was Told Not to Think About is available as a free download from Praxis Magazine.

Catherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry in Madrid, San Juan and three dozen other cities. But she’s differently-abled now—walking with a cane and flying in her sleep—so her main jobs are to hang out with her family and write more poetry. Watch/read her at caththegreat.blogspot.com and run/jump while you are able.

Carolyn McAuliffe resides in Southern California with her husband Mike and son Michael. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. Carolyn’s work has appeared in a Wising-Up Press Anthology and The Motherhood Muse.

 

 

Lion mother photograph by David Dennis. Human mother photograph by Graham Crumb.