Abecedarian for Abrazos

Abrazo is the word for hug in Spanish. Brazos is the word for arms. Carrying arms, calm arms, crazy arms wrapping around you. Daring to love you. Even just for a moment’s greeting. Fleeting and quick, or perhaps, at times, enduring. Grab you out of your own space and world, no, that’s not the type of hug I’m talking about. Hopeful, held, healing, those are the embraces I speak of. In this pandemic, I miss casual abrazos from acquaintances. Jolly. Kindhearted. Lovely, put you at ease, hugs. Make you feel like you know each other, trust each other, at least a little. Not awkward, a simple greeting. Or hugs of friends that might linger, like you’re holding onto something precious. Perhaps love, a caring, an importance. Quiet, unspoken, the work of brazos. Reaching arms, reaching for you, for me, reaching love, reaching. Sacrament, sacred. Trust. Under the sky we have all been hurt beneath, same sun, same moon. Volumes of possibility. Where we all feel closer, safer, stronger. Xerox copies of hugs seem like all I have. Yearn, I yearn for that closeness I never knew I would miss. Zero hugs from friends now, zero from acquaintances, zero is too few and yes, I miss them without having known I would have.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

Scent Memory

by Emily Bjustrom

Diving past the general mills factory
A sweet scent wafts into the car
It reaches deep past my guts and through my spine
into the backseat of my dad’s car.

In the driver’s seat he takes an exaggerated sniff says what do you think? I think coco puffs, No! Froot Loops.

There are places in my childhood I can touch without flinching

But here is something swollen and heavy

It’s the sense of safety
Sleepy but happy in the back of the car
Head against the window

I can’t reach it without the scent of baking cereal drifting in through the open window.

It floors me again and again.

I am weeping on the highway
For the child was
And the woman I am.

New Moon

I have been
in flux — a wild, wild mess
of uncertainty

inside storm-battered,
shuttered mind,
a house fire sparks; alight.

There has been nowhere
for the smoke to escape
but somehow this house
still stands.

Eyes tired, worn like
storm-battered shutters,
covering windows of a
tired soul.

I have been in this smoking house
too long.

There is a cold snap in the air outside,
but I still throw the windows open
to the new moon/no moon in the sky.

I count the stars,
name new constellations,
call them “HOPE”

And I leave the windows open at night;

I will repaint my shutters in the daylight.

© Maxine L. Peseke, September 2020

third eye // heart

“I am alive and well, I release what doesn’t belong to me…”

i wear my heart
like a third eye —
it rests on my forehead, sees the world
too close, too much, too all-at-once

and it belongs to breaking;
repeats a mantra to come back together again,
but still whispers a combatant confession:
i have seen/felt too much to release.

“I am alive and well, I am loved, supported, and in control…”

…and still– not.
head too controlled
by third eye heart;
heart too overwhelmed
by moving world

and belly: quakes in response
aches in response
to third eye and heart combined;

asks head: why are you wearing your heart like that?

heart whispers back: so i can see.
and head feels.
and belly quakes/aches/breaks.

a body in thirds, centred;
heart as third eye:
imbalance.

© Maxine L. Peseke, November 21, 2020

ask your heart–

ask your heart

I.

May I be happy?

May I be loved?

May I be worthy of that love?

May I be at peace?

May I be strong enough?

May I be okay alone?

II.

There is so much happening in the world and with all my roles–mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, neighbor, voter…I sometimes forget the role of SELF. The role self and all I need in order to have harmony. On empty, I can’t accomplish much.

III.

On empty,

I won’t get very far

if I am driving –my body– this vehicle, on empty

will putter, stall, stop. Getting nowhere. I’ll just be stuck here, stuck with these emotions, stuck with these fears, stuck on EMPTY.

IV.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

ask your heart

May I have energy?

She will say, yes. She looks out for you. Pumps life into you without any other reason than she loves you. Once-in-a-while, she’d like you to take a moment in gratitude. Place your hand on her, feel her strength and say, “Thank you.”

So Heart,

“Thank you. Thank you for beating all these years, for giving me life for all these years. Such a gift to see my daughter grow, to see my son grow, to see the sun rise and set 16,790 times–truly, that’s a miracle.

I am

grateful.”

Gina Marselle, 10/17/2020

Hermosa Beach, Cali | July 2019 | Gina Marselle

This August

Liza Wolff-Frances

the everyday things that once
excited me, Tres Leches cake,


salt on the edge of a margarita,
free pens from the credit union,


coconut paletas, no longer
hold interest.

I feel free of it all.
The sky is not falling,

there is nothing
I need right now,

but the demand
for me to pick a direction, settle


is like telling a story from
the shadow of a full plant,

working backward
beginning from a seed.

This August, there is a fragility

in the aftermath

of the seed’s planting,

that I do not care to see.