Me Call Plath Donâ€™t
Dedicated to Ruth, Ruby, Kathe, Lola, Michelle, Maggie, Lans, Hazel, Ellie, and Evelyn - the strongest, most inspirational women I know. A very special thank you to Father Luke. I love you. xxx Jen
Donâ€™t Call Me Plath
Twelve Outstanding Women of the Small Press
title picture: Braille Hope for Billy by Aleathia Drehmer www.LiteraryMary.com
Table of Contents Lynn Alexander Leah Angstman Louise Beech Julie Buffaloe-Yoder Aleathia Drehmer Betsy Lindberg Lans Nelson Domeka Parker Sana Rafiq Rebecca Schumejda Cheryl Townsend Jenifer Wills
8-11 12-15 16-21 22-25 26-29 30-33 34-37 38-41 42-47 48-51 52-55 56-59
Studio Barbie by Cheryl Townsend
Letter from the Editor I chose to do a project on women in the small press because I’ve noticed when people speak of small press writers, the first names that pop up usually belong to men. When women are featured, it’s often the same handful of women even though there are a lot of women out there who are writing well and never getting mentioned. I chose to title this project ‘Don’t Call Me Plath’ because, since I started writing and becoming active in the small press, I’ve noticed that women who write poetry are often compared to Sylvia Plath. If you are a woman and you write with a strong, clear, brave voice people often say, ‘Oh, well it’s reminiscent of Plath.’ No it’s not. In fact, it may be reminiscent of a million people, including men, but in reality it sounds like no one but that particular woman writing that particular poem at that particular time.
Men who write are compared to Bukowski,while women who write are compared to Plath. (and occasionally Bukowski, but ‘Don’t Call Me Bukowski’ just wouldn’t have worked as well in this context…) It’s not that it is bad to be compared to Plath, but that it shows that people aren’t really paying attention. I chose to use this project to pay attention to these women, whose work and lives deserve our attention. Some of them I know personally, some of them I know from other projects, and some were introduced to me through other women in this project. They are all excellent writers. I encourage you to take the time to see for yourself. But when you are done, please don’t say that they remind you of Plath. -Jenifer
Lynn Alexander I have worked for many years in the non-profit social service fields, in many capacities including: mental health, counseling, housing, resources, inpatient, case management, crisis intervention, public assistance, education, behavioral health, children’s services, outpatient services, assessment, and skills training. In graduate school, I studied policy, non profit management, public finance, labor relations, conflict resolution, class and gender, grants, marketing, and health policy. As part of my educational background, I also completed a Capstone in City government, and various internships in youth organizations and non-profits. Another part of my background that I think really shaped who I am was the experience of going to school in New York City- home of just about everything- including the United Nations and headquarters for many international organizations including human rights and aid programs. I was able to not only study with experts in areas of policy and research, but had the opportunity to take part in many projects and programs during my time there. I think that I came away with a very different way of looking at the world and my goals. The study of social issues and organizations not only broadened my awareness, but reaffirmed my commitment to try to combine “work” with making a difference. I also learned about the ways that poetry and the arts could play a role in our understanding of diverse issues. I am at a place where I recognize that there is a difference between one’s work and what we do to earn money and how we must trade our time for things we need. Ideally, this work overlaps. Sometimes it does for me, sometimes it does not. I am looking to be more consistent about that ratio, shifting my time and skills toward areas where I can make a difference. Other interests include human rights, independent media, peace and justice, community art and cultural events, organizing, politics, women’s issues, violence and victims’ rights, advocacy, and youth action.
How We Vanish Had they been happy? Jane was sure they hadbeen, in the beginning. She wasnâ€™t sure when things changed or how it started. She knew that somewhere in their years together things had simply vanished from them, from their lives, from their daily interactions. His lips left her neck, his hands left her body. They no longer pressed, no longer searched, they had found everything there was to find in the folds of her. One day the persistence was gone, his passion vanished- and he became settled. There are ways that people come to find peace with things that leave them, and he made that peace without a fight. In making that peace with all kinds of things over the years, he somehow became mechanical, he took to their movements with the same kind of regard that he gave his dinner or a shave, something about him vanished and when it left it was like he had forgotten he had ever been eager for her or for love. He didnâ€™t seem eager about anything, that vanished as well. He climbed onto his wife because he was supposed to, because he occasionally found himself needing to. But she knew he could live without it. She could live without it as well. It vanished for her soon after, and it never came back. He found himself loving her then because he was supposed to, but he could do without her. When all of her fears of loss vanished, she knew that she could live without him as well. Something happens to love, to people, to the general cause of living, in the mix of time. We find ourselves somehow stripped to some cluster of habitual essentials in the wake of it, products of time, reduced. Jane rarely thought about the early years, could barely recognize that early urgency, she felt miles away from passion and
was starting to feel distant from life, from her life. Had she given her life to him? She had, by all accounts of time. She had so many things that she no longer had today, she had those precious vanishing things, and she used to have a life and a course of her own that she could lay claim to, that claim was gone now. She had given him her one life, her one stint, and never before had she stood there rattled by the weight of that fact. It wasnâ€™t regret, as she was convinced that all love became a path to vanishing. It was a new respect, perhaps, for the shadows of that and for him, and how little thought she had given in their beginning... to the very idea of sharing life. They had taken their inventories, considered their findings; they found everything there was to find between them. There were secret things, distinctions, but soon they no longer mattered and they were no longer curious about them. Soon they would forget about even the lost things, the vanishing things, the love and the life and the possibilities and the very sense of life itself, and then they too would vanish, back to the dust of it all, to take to the wind, turning away from the earth and one another and then
even vanishing from the sight of themselves, to vanish in the scatter.
“Lynn Alexander is a young writer whose work I’ve taken an interest in recently. I find in it a certain magic and depth, even wisdom. The magic comes in her curious word choices, a kind of unconscious shock tactic that puts a new spin on familiar and often eroded meanings. She comes off like a bad ass chick you wouldn’t want to fuck with, and yet her idiosyncratic language seduces and intrigues: a big heart hides inside it, a high beam of heart light, a universe waiting to be born. She seduces you. You can’t help but fall in love with her. I feel honored to be her friend and colleague.” - Brent Powers (author of The Dog’s Tooth)
Dissolve by Lynn
Pieces of Me where are you? crawling, in my folds of brain? my chasing blood? what are you, when you present yourselfif, or when - I bleed? why are you explained there, expressed in such congestion? I’m crawling to the space of me, alone how is it that you bask there? I’m basted. licking liquids in the thick of it of “it”. of him? Is he in it? in me: my devil cloister belly bloating black and backward boiled, pickled middles baby brines
Contact Lynn Alexander: email@example.com www.lynn-alexander.com myspace.com/lynnalexander
leah angstman I was born in Lansing, Michigan, spending most of my youth in and around the East Lansing/MSU and Detroit areas. As I write this I am 28. Born with no conversationallevel hearing, and after fifteen sets of ear tubes and several botched surgeries, I have less than 40% of my hearing, mixed with a head condition that gives me seizures if you just look in my direction wrong. So I shot out of the womb kind of a wreck and wrecked myself a little more as I went along, carving my cornea with a piece of plastic to leave me mostly-blind in one eye, to boot. By high school, I was a punk rocker. I started a Lansingarea branch of Food Not Bombs, Anti-Racist Action, and student-oriented Amnesty International on my college campus, where I went to school for Musical Theater, and subsequently built a theater of my own, operating a theater company for many years with the theme of controversial societal-issues-oriented plays. In 1990, I started writing. A year later, I was well into creating zines with the press company I had created, Propaganda Press. Steadily going for years writing worldly articles of politics, boycotts, injustices, reviews... something would happen in 1997 to change my life forever: I would lose my best friend in a car accident ten days before my seventeeth birthday, resulting in the birth of my poetry. In 1998, my first chapbook, poem poorly written, the therapeutic outpouring of grief over my friendâ€™s death, was released from my press, and the rest, so they say, is history. This history takes us into my press, Propaganda Press, under the blanket of my arts co-op, Alternating Current Arts Co-op, which encompasses a publishing company, a record label, an online zine library archive, an online art gallery, a web comic archive, a D.I.Y. indie art project marketplace, and cheap custom promotional items for the struggling artist in all of us. The idea behind the co-op is to give exposure to artists of all kinds for dirt cheap. While my press publishes many different books by a huge variety of talent, it also publishes my own books. Seventeen of my poetry chapbooks have been printed from Propaganda Press All of Propaganda Pressâ€™ materials can be found at our (stillmajorly-developing) website: alt-current.com, and a smidge of my poetry can be found on my poetry blog at leahangstman.blogspot.com. Lined up for future projects are plans to print my screenplays from the past few years, finish up my website, and complete the writing (and eventually painting of each panel) of my next and biggest epic comic book, possibly just titled Jack.
I still want a big fat yellow or pink landline phone with the wide mouth and ear pieces. I will never go barefoot. I have a Spiderman collection that would make Stan Lee poop. I have an obsession with angels that have no eyeballs. I am completely enamored with penny presses where you can insert one boring old penny and grind, crank, and press it into an amazing imprinted souvenir collectible necessity... that I can add to my collection of...oh, about 30 now; send me one!! Send me all four that you can make at once!! I am seriously obsessed with all kinds of colorful, striped, rainbow, over the knee, up to the knee, or mid-calf socks. I am chewing my fingernails as I write this, despite my efforts to stop.
i stand in one spot and breathe for a moment smell of sewer clinging to nostrils the cityâ€™s parasite sucking small town bloodstream wonder how long this pot and pan set has been in the window of the tropical dimensions junk necessity shop a fine sprinkling of chernobyl ash dusting its handle vintaged from sunwear not retro styled fashionistas wonder how long it took this lamp post to get this rusted if this lottery ticket face down trampled beneath my hoof corner missing as a lost x on a treasure map might be the winner someoneâ€™s unlucky coin or terrible math skills forgot 13
“[...]angstman’s poetry is wonderfully honest, personal and so layered that one, two, even three reads later, I’m still plumbing its depths. From poems like, riding bareback, which is so sexually charged as to inflame feelings both erotic and embarrassing, as though in some moments you are a participant in the poem and others you are the voyeur, [...t]o poems like 1926, about her grandfather, which is a fantastic personal journey that gives such insight into angstman’s life and genealogy, the reader feels she has given out the very pieces of herself. [...] angstman has a clear talent for weaving together beautiful words. She paces her rhythms perfectly and creates poems like deep, glistening pools you stumble across in the middle of a lonely wood, unable to resist the urge to dive right in and see how deep you can go on a single breath. [...] Certainly, I cannot end this [...] without mention of the poem on poet justin.barrett, which is deservedly praiseworthy [...and] brilliant. I wish someone thought so highly of my poetry and, further, I wish I could craft such lines regarding ms. angstman’s work in particular. Just to try and do them justice. [...]” -Jeff Fleming (editor, Nibble Poetry Journal)
Bukowski Tavern by leah
seventy something percent of women have mismatched breasts perhaps some genes or parts switched around at birth and yet there are no bras mismatched dressed in discomfort with the dilemma of the d or the c flapping like a jaw inside d too roomy on the left chaffing against padding or squished into the c with right nipple perched across fabricâ€™s edge bunched to the inside appearing a cyclops breast fighting for air squirming to wink
Contact leah angstman: Alternating Current PO Box 398058 Cambridge MA 02139 USA firstname.lastname@example.org alt-current.com alt-current.blogspot.com
Louise Beech I must have been writing before I was ‘here’ because I love the idea of a Catholic virgin (my mother) conceiving a child (me) on Valentine’s Day while delivering soup to her first flu-stricken boyfriend in his sick-bed. They were mismatched – her outgoing and gregarious, him introverted and intense – with one uniting bond; death. Her father had died just before they met, his when he was three. Memories of early childhood are few but vivid. I smell my mother’s lap, her yellow dressing gown, as I soothed her tears. I feel the cold of the hallway where I stood in the dark, not knowing whether to try and stop my father hitting my mother with his belt, or go back to bed. I hear my father playing guitar in the ‘posh’ room where we weren’t allowed. They separated when I was eight, my mother no longer an ebullient young girl, my father cold, and then a distant figure who visited on and off until I was about fifteen, before disappearing, surfacing briefly in the prison where my mum taught years later. After the divorce, we lived in a succession of unsuitable places and my mum had a series of equally unsuitable boyfriends. I was nine when she attempted suicide; she’d have died had a tramp not found her in the warehouse she’d chosen as a coffin. That was when I started writing stories on paper. They always had happy endings. My mother came to get us from our grandmother’s after a year, but she was never the same. . As a teen and in young adulthood I rebelled; I was expelled from school, drank too much, slept around, got pregnant in college at nineteen, split with the father. I started writing again, in notebooks, without the happy endings. My husband, who I met at twenty-six, is great, a good father. Our daughter was born a year after we married and I started writing about my children - short articles, light pieces. In a brave moment I sent a handful to a newspaper editor, and when he called me in I dreamed of being offered some office junior-type position. He asked if I thought I could write something every week. So began my column – I still write it, seven years on. During the worst UK floods in history our house was destroyed. We moved into an ‘unsuitable’ place while it was rebuilt. My seven-year-old daughter was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. I gave up my job as a travel agent to care for her. It was the unhappiest month in my life, but while she was at school, I began writing fiction seriously. I wrote stories that were not light, not about my children, and they never seemed to end. I wish now to begin a second novel. I wish to one day have someone like the New Yorker seek me out for work. I wish that my father, wherever he is, might read my column or a story and be proud.
Learning to Breathe I’m home, he called, his belt buckle as polished as ocean stones, his tone an undercurrent more dangerous than the words… Bubbles carry Kate’s hurt to the surface. Some spiral, fast, swirling like tiny kites caught in a playful wind. Others zigzag through freezing water, lazy, burdened with the heaviest of pain. She hears them popping at the meniscus, sees her worries dissolve in a soapy haze and fly out through the cracks in the tiles. It is all there is. She is. The water is. The bubble is. Dad pulled the cloth from the dinner table and the plates and cups scattered, sending spaghetti to the floor, and he yelled, you shoulda put a bigger brick in front of the garage door you bitch, you shoulda known that little one wouldn’t hold it, I had to get out of the car, open it, in that rain and wind; and he paused for breath, and on his way to the door he turned to Kate and said, your mother’s a clown, are you listening to me, you never listen, just like your fucking mother… Under the water there are no words. There are no tears. The salt does not run down her face, onto her tongue, bitter and sarcastic. There is cold and echo and the syrupy feel of water caressing her throat. She opens her eyes again. Hair floats in front of her face, fanning out like a mermaid’s tail. Swim little fish, swim to the bottom of the bath, where the words don’t penetrate. She waves her hand in front of her eyes, mesmerised by the graceful slow motion of her fingers, by the tiny, fairy bubbles that fly away from the movement, by the changing light
Mum picked at the spaghetti on the floor but it slipped through her finger like eels and she hid her face and said, Eat your tea off the floor sweetheart, for me, and then go do your homework and get your bath before he comes back, but don’t lock the door, I hate it when you look the door, and it just annoys him, don’t annoy him, for me, for me… Kate should breathe. It hurts a little now, but not like the words. She should float back up, inhale again, but she is waiting to hear the sound. She’s held her breath before, for longer, much longer, until her lungs throbbed and her head ached, before she gave in and burst back into the other world. The other world is far away now. She can see the plastic fish on the side of the bath, a green one with emerald fins and tail that spits out water if you squeeze its tummy, and she considers that they have swapped places. The fish has been drowning on the bath side for years and so is she, in her home, in the classroom, in her heart. She waits for the sound. The click, click, click sound first captured Kate in bed, half asleep, half dreaming, protecting her ears from the bastard, bitch, whore words downstairs, good at the not hearing thing, at zoning out the external sounds, tuning in to the internal, to her heartbeat, her pounding eardrums, her blood, the oxygen, her self… She wants to hear the clicking; it is worth the pressure building in her lungs and throat and head. So she concentrates on the cracked wall tiles, on the undulating lines in the lime mosaic, clouded by the water and the ache. Her heart slows. Her blood flow slows. It is not enough; she has to breathe, she has to breathe, she has to breathe… continued...
Click, click, click was a frequency new, fast, high, intoxicating, following Kate into the bathroom where she ran water until it was cold and then dunked her head in the sink, following her into sleep where she swam with creatures that glowed silver and responded to their eerie burst-pulsed sounds in a voice all her own, there when she woke, like the breeze teasing the wind chimes outside the back door, there and then not there, in her mind, merging with the foghorn on the water, there and then not there, there and then not there, there and then not there… The clicking begins. It was always there. …there and then not there, there and then not there, soon she would not be there… There are no more bubbles. There is no more breath. There is no more pain. Homework done, Kate went back to the dining room where Dad stood over Mum, belt in hand, buckle flashing in fluorescent light, yelling, words that took an age to reach the air, words about defiance and slovenliness and antidepressants, and he raised his grey-sleeved arm again, in unison with her yellow fluffy one, his crashing down, hers pushing back, meeting in a mess of splattering red, and grey and yellow, and red, and words, and red… The clicking is closer. They are here. They have come. She knew they would. She never doubted it, even when she doubted it. The mosaic tiles have fallen apart and drift away into the sky. The emerald-tailed fish is smiling on the bath side. I hope you locked the door, he says. She did. They will be cross. None of it matters. The bath sides dissolve; there are rocks and weed and red sea urchins.
Kate ran from the circling sharks, slammed the bedroom door, turned the TV as loud as it would go, so that the presenter’s words drowned out the thrashing below, and learned about the individuals that communicate using a variety of clicks, whistles and other vocalizations, who use ultrasonic sounds for echolocation, whose membership in pods is not rigid, so interchange is common, who establish such strong bonds between each one other that they stay with the injured or ill; and she screamed when they thrashed in the nets, pushing against the mesh that tightened like a belt, clicking, thrashing, clicking, until the water filled with blood… There is movement. Kate reaches out. There are two, then three, and then more. They are the grey ones. They surround her, from each side, in front and behind. Noses nudge gently, an invitation, so she reaches over and touches the one on the right and then the one on the left. They are as smooth as the leather lounge sofa in that other place, wet and warm, and it feels familiar. Do you remember? She hears the question in the whirl of clicking and whistling and splashing. The water cascades deep blue, and she cannot see, but she might remember. Grabbing the belt from him, Mum shouted that the teacher was wrong; Kate should not be suspended from school for waving her hand, clicking, whistling, waving, shouting no, no, they communicate through the blowhole on top of the head, not the mouth, and they can see inside other animals, sensing a shark’s empty stomach and letting others know of the danger, sensing a beating heart, and pain, they sense the pain; Dad said that the other children laughed at their idiot child and the teacher told her to leave the classroom, and she did, clicking, as the children laughed; Kate smiled because only the red haired boy, who kissed her once and made her pores tingle, didn’t laugh, he shoved his desk mate, shouted at the others to stop, stop laughing, stop, laughing, stop…
She ran to the bathroom, switched on the cold tap and jumped into the tub with water that spat, frothing and filling, splashing and calling, remembering when Dad pulled her out by the arm, bruising her wrist, and she begged him to let her go, to leave the water be, but he yanked out the plug and the sea swirled down the drain, taking her tears, her hopes, leaving only ache, until he’d gone, belt undone; she only wanted to be safe… Now she is safe. She is changing, changing and remembering, and instead of arms and legs she has a dorsal fin and pectoral flippers, enabling her to swim faster, to keep up with the pod. Her body is sleek and grey, adorned with silvery dots. Though her sight has diminished she can hear the waves, the wind, the silent words. She has become one with the dolphins. She is a dolphin. She is home.
Dad kicks in the door and they are in the bathroom; Mum screams, Kate, for God’s sake, come back, come back, breathe, breathe… She is breathing. She is not breathing. She remembers how. And then, with a great inhale of new air, she dives down again. Mum calls, Kate, come to me, come back to me, click, click, click; Dad drops the belt and it falls, like a stone through water, onto the tiled floor… Kate swims and looks back and swims and looks back. I was never there, I was never there, click, click, click. Kate’s voice is gone. The words are gone. There is only the music of the ocean, wordless, melodic, soothing, and the dolphin song, and the nets sinking, empty, to the bottom of the sea.
Mum yells outside the bathroom door that they are killing her, that she and he are destroying her, that she no longer talks, only sits in her room, whistling, and reading about the dolphins, but Dad covers Mum’s mouth, takes the words, warns her that he will take them forever if she doesn’t stop, and slaps her and pushes her and closes the bedroom door and locks it, so that Kate won’t hear the screaming; and she doesn’t, she doesn’t, just the clicking, faster, faster, faster… She swims faster and faster. She breaks through surf, leaps in the air, flipping, turning, and dives back into the water where hundreds of fish scatter like sparks of rainbow. When the air within is gone she moves upward and blows with force, expelling the breath that has stagnated inside for ten years.
Louise’s hallmark as a columnist seems an innate ability to imbue “mundane” domestic events with intermittently deep and humorous reflection, presenting her children (a subject only the most able parent-raconteur should consider) as full-fledged humans on a collision course with adulthood, and adults (especially herself) in childhood redux. Her most unique gift as a writer being perhaps to allow readers to experience and love her characters as she does. In open fiction, unencumbered by deadlines and demographics, dark, sexual themes often accompany Louise’s ubiquitous sharp wit and seductive poetry. Like any great writer, she appears to draw unabashedly on her life, as though to claw away at it with her themes and prose until it yields not just meaning, but recompense. The abuses, mental and physical illnesses, material and personal losses prevalent in her fiction never wax melodramatic or self pitying, but somehow always manage to inspire and uplift. -Chris Miller
Taken by Louise at the Vatican,, during a surprise walkabout by the Pope.
Contact Louise Beech: email@example.com
Julie Buffaloe-Yoder I was born in the piedmont region of North Carolina but did most of my growing up in coastal Carolina. My grandfather sparked my first love of stories. He was a master storyteller and a great man. Growing up below the poverty line was not romantic. But I wouldn’t trade it for all the fancy houses in suburbia. I had rolling red clay hills, rivers and ocean, the thick black mud of salt marshes. Miles and miles of woods. Put me in an old, flat bottom skiff on warm salt water, and I feel like queen of the world. Working class people are often the focus of my stories or poems. People who are kicked around. Stepped on. Different. My family tree is loaded with unique characters who all have one thing in common—sense of humor. My husband and daughter inspire me every day. They have been there through good times and the times when it feels like the universe is pulling the rug out from under our feet. Oddly enough, I often produce my best poetry about the tough times. But maybe that’s not so odd after all. Of course, I have also been inspired by many fine poets. I think Kell Robertson is one of the greatest poets of all time. My work has been in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, The Panhandler, Pemmican, The Wilmington Review, A Carolina Literary Review, storySouth, Clapboard House (short story), Grain, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, Side of Grits, Poiesis #2, Shoots and Vine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Rusty Truck, and Ouroboros Review. I also have poems forthcoming in Big Hammer, Plain Spoke, and I Can’t Be Your Virgin and Your Mother, which is an all-woman edition and the brainchild of Shoots and Vines editor, Crystal Folz. I’ll also be in Crystal’s The Telling Time, which will be a poetic presentation of letters we write to one another via snail mail.
I’m excited to announce that Crystal Folz will be publishing a chapbook of my poetry this summer through Backpack Press. She will be using Chinese bookbinding techniques, and I’m very pleased to be presented by an editor of such high artistic integrity. Crystal is also an excellent writer and poet.
Big Barbie Has black plastic trash bags taped over the windows in her single wide trailer. Two hundred fifty pounds of triple D axle grease, Big Barbie’s got a tattoo of a dead cop on her ass, short white spike hair black boots, tunnels in her ears; she rides naked on her Harley in the middle of the night. Big Barbie knows pipes, transmissions, belts, better than any damn man. Works at Skeet’s Garage. She likes to play rough with pretty little dolls, pull off their heads and leave them laying in a dumpster behind Angel Mae’s Bar. She’s got the best acid in Chatham County. Don’t go to Big Barbie’s unless you’ve got cash. But once a month, when her pipes get all funky, she sits by her window and thinks about how her stepfather raped her. She thinks about the baby those bastards took away. She cuts her arm with a rusty razor. . Tweaks while she bleeds into black plastic space.
She cuts her arm with a rusty razor. Tweaks while she bleeds
Julie Buffaloe-Yoder not only brings her characters to life, she gives them the ability to linger in the pockets of memory, tossing out little bits of wisdom when you need it the most. She long ago made my list of top five poets. My apologies, dear Walt. Crystal Folz (Editor of Shoots and Vines)
Madeline Josh and Moon by Julie 24
Recipe For Poetic Genius Place words, still twitching, on a plastic cutting board. With a scaler, flick off all bits of dirt, grime, and funk. Hold the poem steady with one hand--cut off its head just below the gills. The voice will open, then close. Now slice along the bottom, beginning at the ass, until the soft belly falls open. Remove slick, glistening, sticky parts. Discard immediately. Wash away blood. Run the knife along the spine of the poem, dissecting it into two perfect halves. Sprinkle in allusions to obscure Italian poets from some century BC. Do not add spice. Cook on low heat until the meat is white and dry. Disinfect your cutting board, counter and hands. To Serve: Put on a pair of hundred dollar sandals. Go to open mike night at the local university banquet hall. Make sure youâ€™re up first. Top with a cheesy dramatic voice. Read for a long, long time. Be incredibly rude to the waitress. Serves one.
Contact Julie Buffaloe-Yoder: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.juliebuff.wordpress.com
Aleathia Drehmer I was born to a sixteen-year-old mother and father who had only recently returned from Viet Nam. I was born in Connecticut, but would make my way across the country and back several times before I started kindergarten. I was the perpetual new girl in town. I went to two different kindergartens, three schools for first grade and two for second grade.
Once upon a time, my father wrote poetry. When I was ten years old he showed them to me and it changed my life. He was a quiet man about personal things and those poems peeled away layers I never imagined I would get to see. More than that, his poems showed me that I could transform my emotions and observations into words to share with other people, that I could document the history of my life and the lives around me. The poem was something new and fresh and exciting to my ten-year-old brain. It was release and capture and release again. Over the years my inspiration for writing has morphed and I think that can be said of most people as their experiences broaden. These days I draw inspiration from my daughter, nature, love, and people I meet. Art inspires me to write. The things I see as an emergency room nurse inspire me and the writing about it saves me from being hopeless. I have been given so many great opportunities in such a short time that it is amazing. I was a core member in the second wave of the Outsider Writers Collective. I had a bit of a dream come true when I was hired on at Zygote in my Coffee as a co-editor, because Brian Fugett was the first person to publish me. In the restructuring of Zygote last fall, I edited the book “The Beards” which is an anthology of writers who met up at the CT Beat Poetry Festival last June. I am currently editing another book for Zygote. This year, by great and wonderful chance, I met Lynn Alexander and we decided to strike out on our own and try to give small press something new to look at in writing and art. We started Full of Crow. I am the poetry editor for this adventure. As for publications, I began publishing in the fall of 2006 and have been lucky to be in over 60 online and print ventures. Rural Messengers Press had me as their first official mailer, which features my poems in various incarnations, an audio poem and my photography. Kendra Steiner Editions published my first small collection in a chap called “Thickets of Mayapple” (which will have a second edition through Full Crow Press) and will be publishing my second small collection of poems and photographs called “Circles” this June. I will have a 69 Flipbook out in the fall from Tainted Coffee Press of my manuscript called “Empty Spaces” and my book partner will be Dan Provost. I have several websites for all my own work and for the sites I edit at. (See contact info. -ed)
I am presently hard at work scouring the land for poetry. At Full of Crow, we are interested in showcasing women that know their voice and also male writers that haven’t been completely consumed by the siren of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. I am working on being the best mother, lover, girlfriend, nurse, writer, photographer that I can be. I just want to keep learning and writing and capturing the world in words.
How To Save a Life You tell me you love me under the spotlight of a small gooseneck reading lamp. I feel you crawl onto the crisp sheets, bed dipping under your weight as you settle in beside me and whisper my name. I roll over from my book feeling the heat from your skin burn me, the look on your face nearly as intense, and enough to make me hold my breath. I feel your heart beating furiously on my elbow as if some piece of your father’s ghost is trying to keep tempo with sticks worn smoother than marble. This is a tune he won’t quite catch. And you speak the words I wasn’t expecting to hear after such a short time together; my own heart rushing to the scene of the crime, wanting above all other things to be able to love you back, to see the light creep into your eyes whenever I enter the room, but I can’t be that close to the fire. I can’t put all of myself into your gentle arms when I am not worth more than a broken China doll. Tears roll down the square of thrown light on my cheek, my mouth betraying its orders, the guardian asleep at the gate, and I hear them fall into the air knowing you need to hear me say it, knowing at that moment my heart felt the whole of it burning into us both.
“Aleathia Drehmer’s writing is about living. It is full of the sharp edges and frosty lines that often border all of our life experiences. She has a keen feel for texture, in words and life, often times exposing the reader to tactile sensations through well honed and smooth words, rough, scratchy phrases, and often times cool, visceral meanings. Aleathia’s poems have a glassy heartbeat of their own as they tend to mirror facets of her own life. They run fingertips over love, loss, sadness, and reminiscence, and perhaps above all else, nature. The natural world and the nature of the human being are always present in the crisp sentiment she shares with the reader. A sense of wonderment at the size and complexity of it all is present, but at the same time a certain self-deprecating cynicism appears as well. The two combined make for an endearing and compelling read, one that quietly whispers to the reader, there is something here, something worth listening to, something honest. In her works one never feels that she is writing from anywhere except the self, life, and being. This is a refreshing and honest break from so much poetry that relies on the beauty of the imagination, but not the much needed grounding in a sometimes-ugly reality. In reading Aleathia’s poems, it is hard to feel alone. She is never on a pedestal and never speaking from an obscure and unattainable angle, rather, she is speaking from the ground on which she is standing. She manages to capture the essence of place and emotion in a subtle way that holds out a hand and says, here, take this and hold it for a while, feel it’s shape, grain, and quality, then go off and let it linger, because, her words almost always do.” -David E. Oprava
Gemini by Aleathia 28
Faces of Old Men Cultural smells threaten the air with temptations creating a hostile war zone in my gut as I run my fingers along spiked iron bars confiscated by rust beneath the surface, chipping away at the infrastructure. The tepid water sprayed from the green hose wets my arm, skin reaching and pulling towards petals imprisoned in spaces between rectangles, trapped in two-dimensional skirts of fabric tragically shapeless. The sound of tread from two wheels and four kissing the pavement, dissolves into beats of bass that push shoulders back and cock arms stiff in a show of cool. Leather faces, imparted with yellow smiles, gaps in the mouth letting the world enter of its own accord, letting tongues slip through as if made of ocean salt pushing through ragged coral, only to be wiped clean by the hands of age and sun. I am an illegal alien with a swelling in the core, taken by realities, unfolding inside myself, watching the transformation of the human condition in smiles and eyes.
Contact Aleathia Drehmer: www.myabdication.blogspot.com www.crobirdproductions.blogspot.com www.fullofcrow.com www.zygoteinmycoffee.com
Betsy Lindberg I was a normal little girl, happy go lucky. I am told I was a space cadet though, head in the clouds. I’m obsessed with freedom, will rebel easily and often to obtain it. I was a Daddy’s girl. He was strict, and I got it good. But, he read to me, taught me to dance (by standing on his feet). I remember those black, shiny shoes lifting my bare feet. And he’s a truck man. He’s the best. I’m also attached to my Grandma; she was full of spit and vinegar and started my love of dandelion wine. Plus my Nana, she taught me Jesus loves me, regardless of what a complete mess I am. And I’m always a mess. I’m heartbroken to have lost both of them. Right now, I’m a mama of two. I had my son when I was 17, the stereotypical teen mama. I’d say that was the major happening that had defined me. But, I’m trying to become more than one experience. Writing helps me dig deeper. Plus, I have a wonderful daughter with my husband. She creates the playful atmosphere around me. I’d always dabbled in poetry, diaries, forums ect. but I began truly investing into it when I hit an isolation period. Stagnation is awful, I became detached. My friend suggested reading some beats, like Jack K., and then later told me to try writing my craziness. It was good advice, because I was one dumb gal, now at least I know I am. Anyway, he altered my confidence. He believed in me, which made it easier to attempt writing to an audience. Only issue I have is, I’ve developed a ‘twin’, I suppose in my writing persona/character. She’s so unabashed, unpredictable, and takes control of my thoughts, heart, emotions. She’s a selfish, free-spirited dame. Inspiration comes from a lot of places. Inspiring people, like my teacher friend, then my other teacher friend Peter. I truly think he has a touch of magic in him. I like to say, the Catfish and the Magician. Where would my character be without their influences? The teenage rebellion years, drug influences, music influences, bar talks and booze, nature and my hippiness, my children, family, living as a band musician’s wife, my favorite authors inspire me: Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Bronte sisters, John Steinbeck, others too. Influential poets would be Richard Brautigan mostly and obviously, T.S. Elliot, Bukowski. I guess everything, and anyone can have a voice. I’m up for listening. I’m very new to this. What I truly have wanted is a book of my poetry. Cause I wanted to send it to certain special friends. I want them to know I saw them, my muses winking back. I know, I’m repeating like a broken record, smiles. I was a part of Doors 2, by Ambiance Artists, along with some intelligent, witty poets. Schooling, bah, I’m a failure. I finished HS with a baby on my lap, literally, he helped me complete classes my senior year. I’m currently working on fluent vocabulary, punctuation and spelling, editing sucks. Also, I’m attempting a book, but I’m easily distracted by lack of confidence. I’m gonna be signing up for fall classes too, try out journalism. Anyway, I just plan to keep writing, for my own sake of purging my internal craziness, and to let people know I do care, I really do.
She Listened to Janis Joplin Tunes The way her hair waved through the air. She had the sound of light bells at her feet; strap tanned from sandals. The girl, she ate dried bread out of busted bottom moccasins. She carried them, her feet touched earth. Then she saw misted rainbows, and mousy haired pied pipers fluting to the wind. Her other world was colored rosy, the glasses had circular rims. She wouldn’t trade them, even for moonstones, but elaborated that, “crystals can burn the hand. You’ve gotta wash ‘em meditatively or when meditating by a lit candle.” Candle wax dripping down the beer bottles lip and sides, pooled on the table. The way her hair knotted around trees when her arms wrapped about the body. She was a tree hugger. Curls held glass angels with orange tipped wings, embroidered floss below a dread lock. It tinkled like her feet. The boys passed the roaches to tuck secretly in her corduroy pouch dresses.
They were good to her, sometimes they’d strum out, “Bird Song”, something within her... The tears wet her eyes, as little girl blue’s rain drops. On cue, her body spun wildly in a dizzy motion, constantly spun. Her hands fluttered the wind above like bird wings. She knew the feel of balled up insides, to search the crowd on superstitions, a winked eye, a magical trick, as to not be left lonely. The way her hair twisted in knots when she felt sick, because they were only trees and couldn’t reach back. Opening purse ties, she’d sift through the little things to pull away with a fist full of fortunes, from San Fran’s cookies. To her they were foot prints. Bah! It’s a mad world.
What can I say about the poetess, Betsy, befitting a proper introduction? I haven’t ever met her in the flesh; never exchanged uncomfortable silences between coffee and cigarettes and to our lame advantage was never burdened by the gravity of corporeal exchange. Our friendship instead was firstly hung purely on words and as such a pure dialetics spun by poetry. We met under a full moon years ago betwixt two laptops on WritingForums.com. One can tell a heart of a poet right away by the first two stanzas noshed. Unlike some nouveau poets who more like mad sculptors chiseling away at their plastered pieces, she works them from the inside out like worming out of a chrysalis to fresher airs. There is often a secret dialogue embedded in her works, a certain Appalachian sultry voice lost in contemplation. She is in touch with her Doppelgänger, twin to be sure; and it is this, their discourse, between her and her sister that we are privy and blessed to partake their wakeful reunion. What makes her unique style is the lack of pretentiousness or presumed erudition. Always curiously learning, craning her head into this or that mysterious lair of words chasing after a cottony tale or climbing fearlessly on Jacob’s ladder. Willing to absorb it all, she expresses hurts and abuses willingly yet coquettishly to give us her all not to impress, but rather to surprise her audience tremulously wafting with her every word above the redolent crowd like Lady Day in a cocoon. She croons delightfully. I hope you enjoy her evolving works as much I have enjoying the opportunity to imbibe her effervescent spirit descending down my wizened tubes with this regurgitated introduction from this bellowing freak. Hazzah! -Peterphreak
Untitled by Betsy
Contact Betsy: email@example.com
Lans Nelson I was born in Michigan. When I was a kid I lived in a few different places: 1. East/Lansing Area, Michigan 2. Bruce Mines, Ontario 3. Felixstowe, England 4. Suburban Detroit, Michigan Numbers 1 and 4 involved 3 and something-like 10 moves, respectively. Sound confusing? It really was. But I think it added dimension to my life, and I use that now when I write. My habitual moving continues to this day, 2009. In my adulthood I started out in Michigan in Suburban Detroit, the East/Lansing Area, and Traverse City. From Detroit I took a train to Portland, Oregon and never looked back. I live here to this day, and am committed to remaining rooted here and traveling after I retire. But first I have to graduate from college and earn my retirement. My personal life has been no less complicated than my locales. I was married and divorced twice, had a daughter, bought, restored, and sold a home, went to cosmetology school, became self-employed, pursued a degree, fell in love, fell out of love, fell in love again… but all of these things have compelled me to write. After it’s all told, I’m pretty proud of my life and my hometowns. As a poet, my biggest inspiration is Faye Whiteraven. She’s a real outsider poet’s ‘outsider poet’. The quirkiness of her works “Corresponding Doubt” and “Excelente Too” had a really disjointed freshness that seemed to work for me, and really changed the course of my writing to a less formal style. Next to Faye in inspiration is, of course, Charles Bukowski. “Post Office” was a fortuitous purchase at a garage sale in Rochester Hills, Michigan, in 1989. I bought it, and a 1950s export-quality steel drum for five dollars. I later realized that the drum wasn’t tunable, and I sold it in a garage sale for forty dollars. I don’t know what happened to Post Office. I probably loaned it out and moved away before it was returned. In the past, I concentrated on writing poetry in more strictly metered styles. Sonnets were a favorite in the beginning. I liked to pair a spoken phrase which rolled right off the tongue, with strict iambic rules and dead-on rhyme. I hope(d) you didn’t realize you were reading iambic verse. Eventually I dropped the structure and kept the rhyme, and from there it wasn’t long before I dropped the rhyme as well. Following that, I dropped poetry entirely and began to write flash fiction, which I was done with nearly as soon as I had started. I still write poetry, and I think I’m going to stick with it. 34
Calm, Cool, Collected I take my heart out of the refrigerator, and observe it in its snap-n-seal baggie inside a Tupperware Heart-Stor container. I keep it cool now. Everything is usual now. Everything is usual now as I read self-help books in bed and I curse when I wake up at 3 am wearing glasses and I haven’t yet set the morning alarm. I have to set the morning alarm at 3 am. I read I am afflicted with several issues identical to those documented in one of my texts. The book does not say how to cope with feeling trivialized and validated at the same time, but I’m assured it’s usual. The refrigerator door light comes on when I check my heart’s condition; I think it stays on when I close the door, too. The bulb always burns out so quickly. From what I gather, that’s usual. I have never been called heartless before.
It is difficult for me to write this without getting personal. My job is to write about Lans’ writing. But it’s hard to write about her writing without writing about her as a person because so much of what she writes is a reflection of who she is. Maybe it’s best if I talk about why I asked Lans to be a part of this project. If ever there were anyone’s writing I would admit to being jealous of, it is hers. She writes in a way that is fragile and feminine, yet strong and precise. It shouldn’t even make sense, it shouldn’t work, but it does. Her writing is composed of all the places she’s been, all the people she has known, and all she has seen and experienced.. Hmm maybe best to describe it in comparison to her eclectic musical sense? Lans’ writing is a reflection of the music she listens to, loud, sometimes offensive, sometimes geeky, sometimes hip, sometimes quiet and sincere. I’m trying to think of if she ever listens to anything quiet and sincere for real. Sigh. Writing about Lans’ writing is difficult because you can’t pin down Lans’ writing. As a writer and a woman, she does as she pleases. And as everything else she does in life, she does it with style, grace and she does it well. I am proud to have her in this project and am even more proud to be able to call her my friend. -Jenifer Wills
Honest by Lans (the caption on her photbucket page beneath this reads ‘Will call, honest. Isn’t that what they always say?’) 36
Lichen, light against the rain paints the grey in neon grown on wet black branches, water stained where seeds of tree fort dreams are sown in cloud breaks on a hilltop tree. Witchesâ€™ Butter on Scotch Broom decorates a junco nest warm against an iris bloom, its blue of Van Gogh interest. Basalt in song again.
Contact Lans Nelson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Domeka Parker Memories of my childhood are puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit, like I was many children, having many childhoods all at once. I lived in various neighborhoods within the same city, with various adults. My parents took shifts, clocking in and out of parenthood. I was adaptable. I was gregarious. I was fiery. I was afloat… It is my quiet moments that I remember best, my creative alone moments wherein I created whole worlds of characters and stories that kept me company and took very good care of me. Those are the moments I would gladly re-live. My creativity was fostered by my family. It seemed they believed that my worst behaviors were balanced by my gifts. And then I was a teenager and my gifts were unclear. My bad behaviors took the lead and I roamed around in darkness, homelessness and all stages of anarchy, punk rock, hippie, writer… In abandon hotels under construction in downtown Portland, late nights with strangers and scabies and beer, I wrote in notebooks or on napkins, or walls. I reflected on myself through the things I wrote, desperate to find out who I was, desperate to feel valuable. In my desperation I found myself pregnant at eighteen, living in a way that conjures tears now, but mostly unaware of the dangers I was among. My daughter was my miracle, my golden ticket… I knew that even then. I changed quickly and willingly, I rediscovered my gifts, adding motherhood to the list. I began to read a lot, soaking in every delicious trick language, every drizzle of metaphors, and I wrote, mimicking my heroes but always with a distinctive voice and terrible spelling. After seven, when I’d put my daughter to bed, I pretended to be James Thurber or Spalding Grey, getting drunk was essential. My golden ticket flickered and glimmered and grew and so did I. I quit drinking, I married well, I returned to school. It wasn’t until then that anyone read my writing. And it wasn’t until I met Amy Lonetree, an exceptional professor now at U.C. Santa Cruse, that I felt my writing was in anyway unique. She and then various professors after her encouraged me to write, told me I had something, told me I was valuable. It was just yesterday I decided I wanted to be a writer and only today I decided to admit it. I am currently self-publishing a chapbook, Pardon These Tiny Wounds, a collection of my most self-loathing, grieving and reflective poetry,(interesting stuff), and teaching improvisational theater to adults, fostering spontaneous creativity, play and laughter in those who need it most. For location and times visit thejumpingoffplace.com. I am now the mother of three golden tickets, surrounded my chaos and sweetness, support and spit up, challenge and tiny voices saying “I love you”. Ten years from now I hope to be writing still with more vigor and belligerence and skill. I am so grateful for any opportunity to be read and to be useful in some way or the other. 38
Dropped Dropped A lone brassy ring, green from wear, a crust of ancient dirt sandwiched between tight metal A dove ornament or what might have been. Missing its head like I miss you. A red shoe string, broken at one end and burnt stiff at the other, crusted in char, black, melt A plastic heart, new and glistening hot red chubby hopefulness like I had. A coil of ribbon, a glass turtle, a miniature bottle, corked, holding a tiny letter reading S.O.S. I saved from a sea of concrete and shoed feet on Saturday An amber prescription bottle made out to a man with two first names, one small blue pill pattering like mouse feet in my pocket or childrenâ€™s feetthe ones we wonâ€™t have.
I was fortunate to meet Domeka in a poetry class we both took at Portland State not very long ago. At first, she intimidated me. She was outspoken in a way that usually irritates me and also quite beautiful. As term went by, though, I found her to be, more than anything else, irresistable. She’s the sort of woman you take a class with and just know when you’re sitting next to her that you’re going to end up having to hide your face behind your hand while you shake with laughter. And sometimes there’s just no hiding it. You’re just openly shaking with laughter. Domeka’s poetry is like a key. It unlocks the hidden rooms to a women who has seen a lot, but wears it well. Sometimes sexy, sometimes scary, sometimes shocking, her poems never fail to ilicit an emotional response in her reader, a lot like Domeka herself. -Jenifer Wills
Cannon Beach by Domeka
Of Things We Cannot See
There is earth in the air those nights, carried by a fog laying heavy across Alberta Street like a father’s belt. Streetlights muscle through, making contact just barely with asphalt, slick under the tire, so that when you don’t see her coming and she doesn’t see youAnd the two men in front of the bar lighting their conversation with flickers of orange, burning hotter on inhale, exchanging phone numbers, they don’t see the dog they’ll own together, or the polyps in Tom’s colonThe officer, first to arrive, doesn’t see his hair thinning or his belly fitting to bust like a overstuffed wallet at its seamsThe woman who called, with the infant swaddled to her back, doesn’t see the box her son keeps under his cot when he joins the army, filled with suicide notes, written and re-writtenHe is shrouded in a heaviness very much like the fog when he leavesThe tow truck is a lighthouse in weighted quiet, the air dropping sound like the inside of an airplane on descentand any shift transforms everything, every possibility written and re-written so that even those who see can make out only shapes.
Contact Domeka Parker: email@example.com
I often feel awkward when asked to talk about myself, mostly because it is easier to blend in and disappear amidst the unutterable depths of humanity, unless otherwise obligated and also my constant need for minimalism ties me down to an irrational mode of accountability and self-discipline. I have always believed in the economy of words, as each one represents a huge world within itself, so the more precise we are the better the clarity. I was born on December 13th 1985 in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Biologically speaking, my genes trace their lineage to India and Persia; culturally I have adapted to the diverse elements of my various surroundings. I am the second child and the only girl among three brothers. I have lived most of my life in the country of my birth, with the few exceptions of having travelled to India to visit my paternal grandparents. I began writing in 10th grade which was mostly poetry, and continued onwards to occasional non-fictional essays and a little stint in freelance journalism that did not last long. My father compiled my earliest works in a little book titled ‘The Silent Music’ which was published and released by Mr. L.K. Advani on February 20, 2003 in New Delhi, India. Two years later I had another collection ready but it was not published, technically speaking. The then prime minister of India, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee sent me a congratulatory letter of encouragement and support for my literary activities around the same time. I was also interviewed for Mary Pat Fisher’s book, Women in Religion where I recounted my multicultural experiences and my views of spirituality from a Sufi perspective. I should like to mention a few people here, without who’s implicit and blind trust in my amateurish attempts at writing none of this would have been possible. Mr. Anil Narendra and Mr. Ahsen Afif from the Daily Pratap. Mary Pat Fisher who lovingly befriended me and often sat through some incessantly long chatty conversations, humbly taking time out of her busy schedule and solitary meditations. Thank you for kicking me so soon, and kicking me well. I have learned to walk on my own. In June 2005 I moved to America with my family. I live in Massachusetts with my mom and my youngest brother who will be starting college this year. My oldest brother is married and has a four month old daughter. My second brother goes to college in upstate NY. I have a Masters in Education and I will be continuing with my doctoral degree in Educational Leadership later during this year. Work keeps my dad very busy, but he makes time to visit all of us often. Some of my favorite writers are Charles Dickens, George Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Charles Baudelaire, Andre Breton, Fredrich Nietzsche, Virginia Woolfe, Marcel Proust, Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Khalil Jibran, Arundathi Roy and Kushwant Singh. When I am not spending my time on Academics, I can be found editing and creating the monthly newsletter at LiteraryMary, a literary workshopping website dedicating to helping and promoting new writers.
The Green Leaf Underneath Your Window I have no conscience. I don’t think I can ever recall thinking twice before doing anything. Some days I don’t think at all. There have been major catastrophes because someone thought about something, and let the wild impudent beast move on its own. Why must I think when I can easily touch and feel with my heart? This is not a story, or a confession, but a simple statement one would make as if remarking upon a wayward stone in one’s path. Confessions arise out of a certain sense of guilt that begins to inch its way through the metaphysical mortar of your cerebrum and as it injects deep through past and future inferences of logical meanings, pausing midway to reexamine every particle of truth on its way, it eventually rings the doorbell of your attention. This is how the process works for most, however, when I first discovered that things did not bother me if they were beyond my realm of proximity, I did not care; much less spare a second glance at them.
Therefore, guilt was not my forté. I did not dwell upon what I could have done, should have, or would do in the future. Such questions were farfetched phenomena for one who was devoid of accountability. I was my own outlaw. We (myself and I) were a nation that governed on a principle of self-satisfaction, we set the highest standards for our sovereignty and expected them to be achieved. The rigor that went into bringing out the result was often productive and bitter-sweet. The slogging and self-discipline akin to a monkish attitude of existence, always looking at what was beyond but nevertheless comprehendible by means of an extraordinary visual modality, often led to an inchoate discontent - a sense of hunger, like passing through a street and not being able to locate a particular melody or the instrument producing it. Groping through the dark, always, scratching the surface. Dipping and inching backwards…the dance of the insensate.
It begins with the slightest things, unresolved questions, doubts that inflate from mere invisibility into gigantic balloons of hysterical anxiety, and soon you are at the point of no return. You’d rather not have anything to do with the untouchables; memories that seem like a dark house with no electricity or running water. Deserted on a sudden short notice, the baby’s nursery door left ajar...toys strewn across the hallway, an unopened can of sardines on the kitchen counter...wind blowing through the cracks in the window. You do not want to know what happened, and under no circumstance remain longer than necessary around such dismal vicinity.
I have often lived like hyphenated paragraphs, pausing to contemplate then change the tone and frequency of my prolonged hiccups of insanity, often zooming in and out of the lens of a hypochondriac fatigue, pretending to be in a certain assembly, already creating the frame for pictures not yet taken, but worms and creatures that are of the soil, who can survive in the most extreme temperatures upon the bits and scrapes that come their way, would hardly bother to follow through a functional pattern, let alone imitate any kind of conventional convergence of daily habituations. They are prone to surviving and fending off their needs on the temporal. Not that I had twelve crawling little feet on each side of my body, but the pattern of insignificance that quite congenially accompanied my everyday life oftentimes suited my inconsistency, or randomness if you may.
temperature the climate boasted, I would eventually adapt.
I was growing up, inch by inch, external appearances would not have done justice to the progress I had made or would often make inwardly. However as sad as it may seem, in a world that insures progress solely by the height, strength, muscle mass, or number of bank-notes you have accumulated through the years of your life, one may fall very short, or perhaps be the famous midget, inconsequential in the worldly sense yet unique for his special features. So I was most likely the midget in a village of giants. I enjoyed the view it afforded me, I rather saw some very interesting things which seemed to escape my fellow brethren, their sights seemingly pointed at other less-unique entities and objects. My eyes were strange. They seemed to have a mind of their own. If I ventured out on a walk in the neighborhood they would take a fancy to someone and follow them around inquisitively questioning their a-z’s.
She told me once, that as a girl, I was allowed the priceless freedom of either breaking or making my life. I thought to myself, aha! I am only so young as to start planning now what I should make of myself, if anything at all; since I enjoyed non-being so much, that I created an imaginal world of infinite possibility. A world where entrance was made probable after you had abandoned yourself before the threshold of the security check, and then upon gaining the entry-pass, you would acquire inconceivable riches out of earth’s loving bosom.
If we were created in the image of plants and trees, it would be a much easier task to categorize each other than to merely summarize our findings based on dress codes and mannerisms, which may or may not depict the truth in its entirety. However that not being the case, we were made to suffer the transfiguration of external facets that did not compliment the inner psyches of this fascinating yet contrarily predictable humankind. But what did I know? A die hard rebel who refused to dress like a girl, or play along with the social diarrhea of creating an acceptable identity, I was very much content with myself because I had implicit trust in my mother’s so-called identity-less genes and knew that no matter what
My mother was a woman (yes, you may laugh at this absurd announcement, but I cannot make do without proclaiming it at least once upon these rather somber pages of my monologue), she was a grand human being – one who had achieved the feat of existing as a wife, daughter, sister and mother, without having to compromise any of her beliefs, rather archaic and dreamy as they oftentimes seemed, one could not find a fault in her hypothesis that, if we all attempted to create our lives and were absolument in charge of our decisions, no wind should dare rock such a boat, even if it was made of straw and husk. Thus, began the story of my stubbornness. Should the jury find this woman guilty, I would not attempt objection.
So once that was done, she decided to let me be. I think I was not raised like any other children. Most of the times children can grow up on their own without any excess disciplining or brain-washing by adults because they cannot help but suffer from some form of mid-life or late-life crisis and consequentially tend to impinge on these delicate and angelic beings that cringe on being alive at all. Thus I grew up. I was not raised.
Due to some strange abnormality in my genes, I turned out a loud-mouthed, crude and blunt tomboy unappreciative of womanly company or tea-parties that irritated the sanity out of me, I bore it out all in silence, always awaiting the next escape with one of my uncles who would likely take me on a long drive down the highway or tell me endless bedtime stories or mock and imitate the eccentric elders in the family. My uncles were cool. I think I began loving men when I was a little person. I will not use the word ‘girl’ here, the term being sexist. I loved these men, they were my mother’s brothers, and there were many of them. It was a large family. My grandfather had died from a cardiac complication when my mother was eleven and she always recalled how gentle and loving he had been. My heart was pregnant with affection for these giant men. They towered with presents above me; they scooped me up in their arms and pretended to be airplanes while I sat on their shoulder, clutching their hair. It made my father afraid of the fact that I was abnormally loved. People grow up with infatuations and crushes, they await their lovers in the moonlight, hiding in balconies, or behind half-closed windows, in hopes for the love-letters which would offer a morsel of nourishment. I was a little person, devoid of conscience and I did not wait for anything. I do not know if it is healthy, to be able to read people’s minds. But I could do it. Was it a defense mechanism? I would hardly know. But yes, if you are a little person, with parents that came together from two different cultures and countries, who shared nothing but a signature on a paper that declared their life-long commitment, two people – who lived together and played their parts, you would think twice before speaking out your mind in front of them. Speaking a mind, that would probably never please either of the two, who despite their marital commitment were their own unchangeable selves, you would just not dare. But my mind was growing at an exceptional pace, and beginning to spill out of its narrow territory. Hence with the aid of my enlarged cerebral faculties, I, the little person progressed to a big person. There were two countries, two pairs of grandparents (well one and half maybe), two dress codes, two languages (make that three), the intermingling of culinary tastes (my tongue almost gave up on that one) and
last but not the least, the contrary and opposing forces of maintaining a non-existent equilibrium of who to please and in case of displeasure what to expect. It was around this time, that the divine benevolent creator entered my conscience, and I began my lifelong journey of seeking this so-called God. I stole a copy of the bible from my cousin sister in India, who happened to have it lying around her study desk, and attempted to read it. It seemed a lot of gibberish at first, but some elements sank in. I fell in love with the image of a Jesus like being, and hoped to find a non-judgmental self-sacrificing man like him so we would eventually marry and live together. Upon tiring with reading the New Testament I attempted to explore my own faith, and began learning the Qur’an. It seemed very fascinating to read about a non-existent entity, a creator praised to such heights that he did not even have a dwelling or progeny, surprisingly he was everywhere. This was a splendid addition to my imaginal theories and complimented my creative delusions. I happily decided to be a devout and blind God-lover, whatever the path may entail. However I never seemed to like the people of my own faith, who were oftentimes strange and repelled me towards irreverence. Upon achieving an increased level of inner-comprehension, I withdrew within leaving behind all protracted and external claims of religiosity and turned towards the study of Sufism. This was cool. I liked cool. I figured that should suffice my hungering heart. Soon I was a student of the spiritual sciences and a blasphemer by all external appearances. I still loved God, but now I was not looking out of a window, I was actually walking down that stupendous road. I was learning to come into being without any crutches. I was no one’s property; I did not belong to a family that tethered on occasional outbursts of insanity. I was the big person who had discovered how to be a little person again. And I knew with an inner certainty that there was a garden in every desert and a song behind each cry. c
How shall I descend from a quiet, profuse, plentiful atmosphere of the rarest kind of friendship to this rather unusual, requested description of my friend Sana Rafiq? It’s like I have known her for a thousand years of silence and solitude, along the perimeter of pure literary talent and on the sweeping shore of intimate, existential delight. Here’s a pure talent with no excessive traits of the often tedious pedagogic literature. She’s such an unceasing, virginal flow that courts her own fluid substance and heightened sensitivity. She inherits the very soul of Pablo Neruda’s enigmatic talent with its tingling sensation at its hot rim. In her, one can also see Emily Dickinson’s lone capacity for self-expression, in the domain where one is singled out by one’s own uniqueness and estranged by the culture of the mainstream. She reminds me of a lot of names, yet she is no one’s creative shadow nor distillation. She belongs to innate giftedness, and she wedges not between fabled parallelism and mere comparison. No genuine fire, or outburst, of creativity is ever repeated. Sana is Sana. Sometimes, she’s a quick, contagious burning of the yearning heart at the ancient roots of reality. In some cases, she’s a slow dawn or sunset at your window. She’s a wine of unusual variety that carries you to your own implacable, sensitive aspect. She has her own taste of mastery upon my soul, like that of a misty, silent night pierced by dancing, gleaming eyelids. Like the evening rain, her depth is filled with calm and mystery, and her innocent expression hides not the nature of pain and longing she often perceives in humanity. She can describe beauty’s open kisses and intimation. She can sublimely, and somewhat effortlessly, paint the archetypal tavern of the soul: the celestial sphere of reflection, the laughter of self-discovery, the pleading of the soul’s own ailment, the insistent noises of inquiry, the murmur of a single desire, the self-burning of candles, the secret sound of lunacy, the throbbing of the floor of loneliness, the self-drowning of various obscenities, the radiant curves of nakedness, and the colors of silence, if not what seems to be distant love. All this is somehow done beyond speech. It is simply the ability to climb to love’s own lips after gazing at your own bitten soul, seeking ecstasy as it timidly, surreptitiously seeks you. Beauty often has its own painful way of not visiting a truly creative person on a regular basis. We often complain to each other of the artistic vacuum of a particular moment, saying, “It is foolish of them to think a poet can write [real stuff] all the time, for his/her own creativity is not always palpable!” Knowing that the soul can sometimes get ‘clenched’ like this, we both know that what deeply matter as a background to an original work are rare, singular moments of expression and intimacy alone, instead of mere continuity. It is quality, rather than quantity. This alone is the parameter of greatness and talent, for which no work of art is ever extinguished nor forgotten. Indeed, surprise, with all the wholeness it encompasses, and not planning, and not even labor, has its own generous significance here. Beyond the twilight and receding songs, where beauty is most tangible in its all-encompassing mystery and sentimental expression, there is Sana, my friend, in my own world. It is where love is truly hand-in-hand with creativity, with each divulging the other. Dani
Sana as a child.
Above: Sana’s Father Below Left: A sample from Sana’s notebook.
Contact Sana Rafiq: firstname.lastname@example.org http://lostpoem.wordpress.com/
Rebecca Schumejda I received my MA in Poetics and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and my BA in English and Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz. My new collection Falling Forward was released from sunnyoutside press in February of 2009. In addition, sunnyoustide published my chapbook Dream Big, Work Harder in November of 2006 and her poem “Logic” on a postcard. Green Bean Press published my first chapbook The Tear Duct of The Storm in 2001. Most recently, my work has or will appear in The Blind Pen, Full of Crow, Lyric (Somerville News), Night Train, Rusty Truck, Outside Writers, Thieves Jargon, Words Dance and Zygote in my Coffee. I live in New York’s Hudson Valley with my amazing husband and daughter.
Falling Forward is Rebecca’s new book available through sunnyoutside press
The Accountant The carpenter ants came in through the piping. She comes in through the kitchen window throws her apron on the table sits down in the chair crushing a new pack of cigarettes starts making piles of ones and fives. She allocates the piles—the beer pile— the pool game pile—the food pile—the rent pile, maybe— the ant trap dish soap pile—the nicotine caffeine sugar-free chewing gum pile. When she’s done she counts the ants on the kitchen floor the dishes in the sink her tips three more times. She doesn’t consider herself a pool player although she can hold the table. Considers herself a woman even though the sink is always full the bed is never made. She doesn’t want to believe she is a waitress, but takes orders and accepts tips left behind between crumbled napkins dirty dishes and spilled drinks. An ant carries a dead ant on its back for an inch or so— stops—puts it down and runs back for another corpse. She does a body count before using her key to crush the ant, then puts the key on a piece of string she ties into a necklace to ensure a proper entrance next time. *The Accountant originally appeared in Rattapallax
“Rebecca Schumejda’s poetry comes straight from the soul, tapping the intellect and engulfing the heart. In a small press scene often painfully crowded with Bukowski-thieves and pseudo-wit, Becky is a fresh female voice with a toughness balanced with an unmistakable compassion for the human experience. I’m proud to count myself among one of her avid fans, and even prouder to call her one of my friends.” -Nathan Graziano
Small Press Reading by Rebecca
Wedding Waltz For five weeks, every Tuesday night We took a class called Your First Dance in a crowded, dusty, desk-less classroom. Three mirrored walls closed in around us as we stumbled out of people’s way and waltzed into four corners. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. We were the couple most reprimanded with clichés: She shouldn’t be leading you, This is the happiest day of your lives; Smile and stand up straight; Someone didn’t do their homework. So on the sixth week we play hooky, sit on our back stoop drinking cheap beer and flicking bottle caps past our shadows. Later, when we run out of beer, I lead the way up the street the gas station for more, counting aloud as we trigger the timers of each street light we waltz by. *Wedding Waltz originally appeared in Falling Forward
Contact Rebecca Schumejda: email@example.com
Cheryl Townsend I grew up in Portage County, Ohio. Not really country, but assuredly not city. I was 3rd in six and the only girl. I was not spoiled. I was not pampered. I was that “red-headed stepchild” you’ve probably been threatened to be beaten like. I left home just before 18 for a too early marriage of too much abuse.. but at the time, it was status quo. 2 years later, I hit the roads humming and tasted everything life had to offer. I discovered my own method of abuse and doled it out freely. I wrote fervently of the men that filtered through my life and how I flowed through theirs. Between my journals and poetry, there is little justifying enigma in my definition. But my impetus was anti-stereotypical. I loathed being sneered at for being human.. but with a twat. The double-standard irked me, so I emphasized it emphatically in my poetry. I was the one calling the shots! I was the one being serviced! I was the one doing the fucking. I was a macho-feminist reclaiming the Goddess rites/rights. Inspired by the audacity of Anais Nin & Dorothy Parker, I reveled in the ease of men. And given my lack of feminine instruction growing up, I found camaraderie and, somewhat, mutual respect amongst the opposite sex. Garnering the moniker “Fuck Poet” by Bob Black in his book “Beneath The Underground,” I lavished in the kudos and attention from publishers and poetry reading attendees. Since my first publication in 1982 in Lee-Lee Schlegel’s “Up Against The Wall, Mother,” I’ve chalked up somewhere over 3,000 poems in print in 4-5 hundred zines, rags, anthologies, e-pubs and monolith collections. But like Diane di Prima with them boys of the “Beat Generation,” I doubt anyone will hold me in any esteem. In a laterally similar vein, after attending a talk at Kent State University by The Guerilla Girls, I founded W.A.R.M. (Women’s Art Recognition Movement) to promote women artists internationally. We have an annual fund raiser exhibit, giving all proceeds to women’s groups, and hold fort at http://warmart.ning.com/ - where we share and support. In the mid-later 80’s, I hosted 4 ongoing monthly reading series, had a poetry radio show and published my own magazine, Impetus. Impetus survived a little over 20 years before I had to shelve it for the bookstore I had just opened. Within the independent press driven walls, I also hosted readings, live music, workshops, model sessions and housed a small art gallery. I am now co-editing A Trunk of Delirium with Suzanne Savickas. We hope to have our premiere issue out before year’s end. I am personally working on a full-length collection of my poetry and/or photography and continue to write reviews for various publications of various publications. 52
If I Think About It the darkness will throw me face down in the muck and rape me until I shatter Lost shards buried in soon compacted clay The mirror is lying to me & my heart aches Darkness drops heavily like mudslides or simply death My feet don’t want to move & my front door won’t open The phone hasn’t rung in months There’s no need to plug it back in My car always pulls left & the headlights are always so bright It always feels like snow but I’m too tired to drive through In my head it feels like rain an all day could-over pout & I’m soggy & stink w/dampness but what’s worse is I don’t even care I want to blame this on something point my finger and name a cause but that’s just sugar coating & w/o my glasses I can’t see that far ahead People are always much nicer if they they’re saying goodbye so I’ll turn off the ignition & wait let the night play me a song I haven’t already heard & I’ll pretend again something matters w/my glasses .. everything seems clear
To describe Cheryl A Townsendâ€™s prolific writing in one paragraph is a daunting task. Her words cut like a knife to extract the truth orbiting around the periphery of universal themes. Cheryl writes with both passion and compassion, arousing sensation and empathy. As a humanist and a feminist poet, she writes, edits, publishes, performs, and reaches out to support other writers and artists. Cheryl creates her lifeâ€™s words to express her vast experience, never afraid to phrase what must be said. Like the definition of Impetuous (her former bookstore/ and Impetus, her former press), her poetry induces passion while engaging the reader to not merely read the page, but to leap into action. Suzanne Savickas
Him - Her by Cheryl
What’s the Use in writing I’ll always be unknown against the boys who have penned the same words in the same rows in the same rags as I no matter how many fuck shit cunt damn’s I write it won’t matter because I am a woman because I can’t participate in the circle jerks w/o a cock of my own but have assuredly and often been invited to jerk theirs 30 years and a few I’ve shared sheets of paper and cotton with the best and the worst and the freshly mused I’ve edited and I’ve nurtured – given first taken last – yet here prime and saged does anyone know does anyone care does anyone remember the taste of my poems
Contact Cheryl Townsend: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenifer Wills I hate writing bios. Usually I’m good for firing off a couple of smart ass attempts at humor and a mention that I have four children. I told myself I would make an effort at this, though.
So, who am I then? I was born on January 18, 1974. I’m a Capricorn. I’ve always been ridiculously proud of my star sign for some reason. Maybe because I’ve always felt that it suited me. These days maybe just because I’m extremely compatible with Scorpio. I am one of four children. I have an older brother named Shawn, an older sister named Michelle and an older brother named Patrick. I am the youngest. The household we grew up in was strange. We had no money, although I didn’t know that until I got to be older. My mother chased diet pills with insane amounts of Milwaukee’s Best and threw at least two pots of coffee on top of that per day. My father was a robot. I started getting in trouble at a young age, but I was always writing. I discovered Bukowski at around age 16 and became addicted to poetry. I spent my high school years drinking and doing hallucinogens but still somehow managed to graduate on the honor roll. I was married at nineteen and divorced about five months later. I dropped out of college and began a serious education in recreational drug use, took a job at a head shop and supplemented my income as a thief. By 22 I was pregnant. I had the baby and about three months later my mom, who I had finally grown close to, died of cancer. I retreated into myself, cleaned myself up and quit writing. I stayed home and took care of the children, eventually having three more, the last two being twins. I now have four really cool children. Ward is eleven, Carter is seven and Jack and Lola are three. I went back to school. I’m a full time student at Portland State where I am majoring in English with a writing minor. I’m on the dean’s list and will be receiving my bachelors in spring of 2010, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. After that I will hopefully start graduate school and after receiving an MFA and teaching certificate I will, indeed, teach. Besides that? Jenifer Wills waits with the man she loves for a perfect world.
Remember Not to Sniff Your Hands on the Playground, Though I’m trying to figure out what my hand smells like. There is a sort of sleeping like you’re dead. You fall asleep crumpled, a tissue that’s been asked to hold too much snot and wake up with your eyes crusted shut which is pleasing in the same strange way as asparagus pee. My hand smells like semen but I have not had contact with a cock in months. I’m trying to figure out what I ate for breakfast that might smell like semen. It’s amazing how you can scratch at the day. Can chip away the minutes like biting a piece of almond roca and then stopping to look at it. It’s amazing how a day keeps passing, you keep fake smiling, keep replying to questions, folding laundry, talking to mothers on the playground about play dates and unsatisfactory performances of first grade teachers while inside your chest your heart is being squished the same way you’ve heard breasts get squished when a woman has a mammogram, equally humiliating. It’s funny the disrespect of the world turning, the sun shining, the birds singing, the trees budding with new spring flowers when your heart is so fucking broken. Maybe it was the toaster waffle or the eggs?
Rereading Jenifer Wills, Iâ€™m finding depth in what I read, like poking my hand through a mirror, and touching a soft cheek where I expected to find cold, flat glass. Jenifer is who I would see in the mirror if I were a woman. I love Jenifer. It gives me great joy to be able to share her with you. -Okay, Father Luke
Jenifer as a girl.
What If What if the Most Important Poet ever is alive and stranded on an undiscovered island, skin leathered like roast chicken existing on fear and speared fish writing the Most Brilliant Poetry in history on a notebook of sand, punctuated by clams and erased forever daily, never to be read by anyone but her.
Contact Jenifer Wills: email@example.com http://jeniferwills.wordpress.com/