For my Mother, Who Was Never Really Raped by Kelli Allen

For my Mother, Who Was Never Really Raped

They held her down, face in the loose dirt near home plate, a few hours after
dusk, and took turns, first one boy, then the second, until she was sufficiently
split, and they spent, quickly as boys inherently are. She had bruises, of course,
and there was blood, and she remembers crying enough to create a mud paste
where she kept her cheek imprinted until certain she was alone. Alone
in a way new to her, apart even, from the heaviness between her legs
to the lead of her hair, matted, losing its soft wave to damp dust and growing dark.

She told me this story, with no variation in tone or length, from the time my own
first bleeding announced itself, to four days before my wedding. Offered as warning
of a man’s need/evil/hatred/desire/greed, any of the words most demonic,
and, for her, most base. There was nothing eloquent about my mother.

Believing stories carries us down the quickest waters into one pool after another
of calm , of stations resembling rest, sometimes clarity. Hers was the truest myth—
the kind wherein there is no happy resolution, just a lesson to move forward
or submit to slow burning, fading, erasure. Truth comes later, after the ever-after
has expired into crumbs, too stale to consume, too fine to walk over with soft feet.

As with all myth, my mother’s story, a woman’s story, held only a richly imagined
disaster. The betrayal was never in the telling, rather in the final admission
that her belief in this swirl of detail was vaporous, a landscape unseen, weirdly
desired, needed for her to feel whole, rooted. This is the gift given to her daughter:
Faith in what is repeated, recognition that branches break from weight we offer

by Kelli Allen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kelliallen1

Editor’s note: This poem tackles the complicated pain of inter-generational trauma (via internalized patriarchy) with a richly described narrative.

Florence by Rachel Marie Patterson

Florence

In Pennsylvania, the grass by the highway snaps
in the wind. Driving west, one exit from my childhood
home, where radio towers and pyramids of road
salt should be familiar, my mind goes blank.
This morning, my mother seemed better: scarlet
color in her face and neck, posture renewed.
She tied the strings at the back of her napkin-paper
gown and asked a nurse for breakfast. I drove
back to her house, elated, and took a shower.
Mom who gave us permanents in the bathtub,
who fed us scalding bulbs of garlic from the pan.
Mom in her perfectly-pressed suits, who decorated
her kitchen with seventy porcelain cows.
I was toweling off when she called, her voice so weak
it snapped. I’m afraid, she said over and over.
She was gone before I got back, the space
around her heart filled to bursting with blood.
Someday I will die, and my own daughter will not
be able to find her way home in the dark.

by Rachel Marie Patterson, first published in Rust + Moth

Editor’s note: This poem describes with exquisite detail the stunning loss of a parent and subsequent disorientation—always unexpected, even when expected.

Memorial Day Again and Again and Again, May 2022 by Tracy Rittmueller

Memorial Day Again and Again and Again, May 2022

—in recollection of “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d
by Walt Whitman and “I’m Explaining a Few Things” by Pablo Neruda

Four days ago another nineteen children died when
a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Say it. Say it again and again. And again. Welcome
another Memorial Day. We’ve been commemorating this country’s dead
soldiers ever since the U.S. Civil War—Decoration Day, they called it then—
and now Walt Whitman stands again here in this poem and there in that
lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green
in full euphoria against my neighbor’s white fence and the mallards
and herons, nighthawks, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, swallows
and mourning doves are euphoric spirits like all beings are spirits,
like we would like to be euphoric because it’s spring
but instead we mourn again
and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Again and again.
How many and what will it take and when when when will it stop—
the bloodshed
the shed blood, the blood. Look. Witness again and again.
And again—the blood of the children ran simply, like children’s blood.
And so this evening’s riot of feathered dinosaurs made of stardust
sailing and juking in six directions
across the delicious evening sky shall be my
lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul
sorrowing, weeping, lamenting, mourning, grieving and wailing
again. And again. And again.

by Tracy Rittmueller

Tracy on Facebook

Twitter: @TLRittmueller

Editor’s note: This powerful lament pieces together pain and grief and anger and tattoos them onto enjambment and repetition and stark truth with a skillful voice that reflects all our voices.

Voices of desert ghosts by Ginny Short

Voices of desert ghosts

It frets, it spins, it howls, it moans,
and as it calls, it slips, it stalls,
drops paper bits and dusty sand—
lost castoffs on my windowsills.

It fills up holes and covers dogs
barking anxious at the bleats
and creaks of swingsets in the dark,
and blankets lawns and garden seats.

It’s born, then dies, and then reborn,
and picking up anew with leaves
with flowers clutched in ghostly hands,
it dies and drops them and retrieves,

then madly whirls down alleyways
and skitters pebbles past the wall
where old folks sit and children play,
and strains of latin music call—

that on a calmer night might drift
from roof to roof through open doors—
tonight runs counterpoint and soft
to that discordant, windy score.

by Ginny Short

Editor’s Note: The personification of the wind in this poem creates a moving tableau of imagery via rhyme and repetition.

Rubbernecking by Coleman Glenn

Rubbernecking

Beyond the median, a crumpled frame,
Police lights, acrid smoke. So now it’s clear
Why two miles back the interstate became
A shuffling carpet queued for a premiere.
I try to keep my gaze ahead; with luck,
Delays like this will soon be obsolete,
When cruise control ensures each car and truck
Can keep its steady progress down the street,
Immune to horror’s all-too-human hold
On those who cannot help but slow and see;
Creating distance, comforting and cold,
From the appalling possibility
That vehicles on both sides of the line
Contain, in fragile flesh, lives just like mine.

by Coleman Glenn

Twitter: @colemanglenn

Editor’s Note: This sonnet captures the moment of realization where mortality and curiosity mingle together uncomfortably.

From the archives – Madison Square Tableau — Joseph Harker

Madison Square Tableau
—(a helix sestina)

And here’s Fifth Avenue on a Friday: hollow,
rings like a church bell of bone. Pumps-and-skirt ladies
weaving with Japanese tourists and boys with stains
on their knees, the drifter calling out, Please, please,
with a cup full of quarters and dreams. Who can tell
one face from another? There isn’t any sun

ringing the towers with light. This tourist, with his son
on his shoulders, lifts his camera, a long hollow
one. He snaps the Flatiron, heads for Gershwin Hotel,
with hipster trainees past his feet, here to lay these
weavings on a quilt and shout, Art For Sale. Their pleas
and craftwork move no one. Passing taxis leave stains

on the sidewalk. The day wears on, trades disdains
with disappointments, the slow fathomless waltz un-
ending, and always the drifter’s calls of Please, please,
weave in the crowd. Nobody stops to say hello.
One drops a dime: fixed-gaze woman, Midtown lady,
ring on her finger. Art For Sale. One could foretell

with certainty her path: recon, business intel,
weaving through the land of Silk and Money. What stains
ring the soul of such a proper face? The lady’s
one of those who crowns herself with the midday sun
and thinks nothing of the moon. Polishes her halo
on her sleeve. Stalks away. She has no time for pleas,

weaving as quickly as that. Art for Sale. Please, please.
One boy passes, pink mohawk, post-punk (you can tell),
on Broadway. Snags some fags: ten bucks and a hallo,
and peels back the cellophane. He’s got nicotine stains
ringing in his teeth: but knows how to catch the sun
with his hands, knows how to reach up, pull down, lay the

one next to the other, quiets the hipster ladies
and shakes the gold Indian-head box. He whispers please
with a lover’s deepness. Cellophane glints with sun
rings, sun pools, sun eddies, breaks the sky: go and tell
on the mountains, hills, penthouse floors, here the cloud stains
weaving the Earth were bleached away. For a hollow

minute, the ladies paused on the pavement, and sun
knew city, stained its weaves against that hallow face,
ringed with one forever light. Tell it true. Please. Please.

by Joseph Harker

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 22, July 2011

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Patient by Melanie Bettinelli

Patient

Be patient as the pines are patient
perching on the headland, staring over the sea
at the white sails.

The birds fly away,
the boats sail away,
the waves draw away and away and away
leaving the pines behind.

They lift their silent arms
and sigh.

by Melanie Bettinelli

Painting: Pines by the Sea, 1912 by Bertha Boynton Lum

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic poem personifies the emotional impact of the painting with skillful repetition and spare lines.

After the Storm by Stephen Bunch

After the Storm

Silence.

Then dark stains bloom on the wallpaper
around the windows.
Through the clouded pane of the kitchen door
a changed world—
water running down the alley,
hailstones collected in low places,
garden mud beaten to a froth,
poppies tossed like salad greens,
fruited tops of tomato plants
broken, bent
to the wind’s geometry.
Battered onions fill the air with their sighs.

Silence.

And now, tonight,
after the storm,
rising from the heavy grass,
the first fireflies of summer.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: The space and imagery in this poem drive home both the destructive power of a storm, and the sweet, quiet aftermath.

Inhabiting an Ant by Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Inhabiting an Ant
—after Ross Gay

The hunger of it,
the grip, even when
it is upside down.
The smallness,
the finding of an opening
in a box of sugar, that endless sweetness
and in this way I feel fine
when it slips unhit into darkness
between the counter and stove,
and in this way we survive
side by side my hand silenced
as I watch another find its way
up the steep wall
of the smooth ceramic sink,
climb with an ease
I wanted in Patagonia,
my backpack snug
against my body,
my poles a part of my arms
scaling rocky inclines,
moving in unimaginable beauty
so far from this kitchen,
in unbroken land
skirting turquoise lakes
under clouds collecting
like a partition above.
Wind everywhere.

by Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Intstagram: @sarahdickensonsnyder

Editor’s Note: The opening line of this poem immediately pulls the reader into a journey of epic proportions where every moment leads one step higher, until the final line rewards the reader with everything.

Life Goals by Kim Ports Parsons

Life Goals

To see, the way a coneflower sees
a carpenter bee, vibrating with hunger
and need. To need, the way a stone requires
rain, wind, time, and gravity’s pull.
To pull, the way a birch pulls from its core
without practice or instruction, bends to
grass with grace, forgiving the wind’s trespasses.
To forgive and hold firm, as the goldfinch
on the thin, swaying stalk of millet in March.
To shine as this same finch when summer comes,
flashing sun on broken glass, loop of golden air.
To hear, the way the mole hears, through every hair,
the next shining moment of the underground day,
a lighthouse made of sound, life at the root.

by Kim Ports Parsons

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kim.parsons.522/

Editor’s Note: This poem’s clear imagery welcomes the reader into optimism while the title hints of how difficult such an intention can be.