Puttering Around a Haunted House

by Emily G. Bjustrom

Ghosts gather under the refrigerator
Behind the dresser
And on the coat closet floor

In the milky daylight
The ghosts hunt for memories
To dance with
-a 12th birthday party-
-that day at the beach-
-a girl alone, left on the front steps-

In the day it’s plain
The past stalks the present
In shadows and from the corners of eyes.

A cold home.
A woman unburdened.
But haunted still by the weight
Of a dirty faced child
A demanding desk
The heavy gaze of a girl waiting on the steps.

Lydia + The Cradle

Poet’s note:
Every October, there is a bittersweetness in the air. To quote L.M. Montgomery, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” October is the marking of my secondborn daughter’s birth, but it is also a marker of remembrance: as the month of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day (October 15th), I felt stirred to share two particular poems of mine. I am #oneinfour and will not be quiet about my experiences, both hopeful (as in Lydia) and mournful (as in The Cradle). I am glad to live in a world where there are Octobers, and where I am not alone.
Thank you for reading. — Maxine

Lydia

There is an empty pit in my womb
that cries out for the existence of you.
Hoping this is not a test, but truth instead
and even though we could never afford you
and ends are hard enough to connect;

I still feel you, in the deepest part of my womb,
feel your heart beating between mine,
crying out with that old, familiar song:
I love you, I love you, I love you;
Lydia.

You already had a name,
Daddy already saying “she” and “her”
as if he knew, and craving to hold you, just as I did.
Lydia, you already had a name.
Lydia, a place reserved in our hearts.
Lydia, never doubt you were wanted…

But Mommy and Daddy couldn’t afford you
and we never intended to be rid of you.
Though this empty pit in my womb is all for the best
and just so you know, in your non-existence;
I cried at the first sign that you were gone.
Mourning you in the same fashion mothers mourn miscarriages.

Because Lydia, we loved you before we even knew for sure.
Lydia, this empty womb waits for you.
Lydia, Lydia Lydia; our joy was in a waltz with fear
but we had such hope for you:
A dream for our little family, my little dear.

and Mommy’s been here before,
but there was never hope waiting
There was never solidity, never the want,
there was never you: our baby.
Lydia, wait for me until we’re ready.

The test is now negative,
guilt replacing you in my empty womb

But Lydia, I’ll wait for you.

The Cradle

This body was not carved correctly for a baby

That’s what I tell myself when you fell from my womb
cradle dropping bloodied chunks of my uterine lining
when I turned my stomach inside, outside, inside again
(I tried to hold you in)

While my tree linings swung cradle
from thin branch to thin branch
only to crash, to fall, cradle and all;
and I tried to hold you in,
tried to carve my failing womb into a cradle to house you

And she fell from the womb too soon
my womb, my body, unwilling to hold her in
while my mind was so desperate
to carve tree branches
into something sturdy

but my womb was made up of something brittle inside
and then tree branches snapped, then the cradle falls

And I wonder what my innards are carved from—
whole pieces of the child that was beginning to stain my underthings
Tree branches so brittle, this cradle might have been carved from bone
and I’d give up my ribcage just to hold you in
I’d give up my whole life just to know my body was carved correctly
to make a cradle for the baby I miscarried

I’d become a carpenter just to cut down that tree
before it falls, before cradle comes crashing down, baby and all
and this was all happening inside of me, so I wonder:
weren’t we carved from the same tree
wasn’t my body strong enough to carve a cradle rather than a casket

Weren’t you strong enough to sleep through it all;
Baby, sleep, don’t cry,
don’t fall.

© Maxine L. Peseke, 2015

Lydia is previously published in Swimming with Elephants Publications’ Catching Calliope Winter 2015 edition and The Cradle is previously published in Parade, Swimming with Elephants Publications’ 2018 anthology.

Maxine L. Peseke is a writer, mother, and sometimes freelance editor; she also works closely with Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC, as an organizational assistant. She is currently living in a small Northern Ontario town, transplanted from New Mexico respectively where she originally met each of Saturday’s Sirens as part of the Albuquerque poetry community.

Since the pandemic, she has rejoined the group for regular virtual meetings.

Great Divine Mother Isis

You have helped the dead enter the afterlife,

The dead, who have carried their 21 grams 

of soul, so much less than a pound, 

even less than a kilogram, the weight of our essence,

a summation of all we have been and seen,

the weight of us and the depth 

of how we have loved.

Royal Isis, with a throne upon your head,

I beg you now to turn people away

from the land of the dead,

to evaluate the recent population growth there,

keep the gates closed to new entries.

On earth, it is a new moon, 

the night sky is dark and we are overwhelmed 

with death, can’t suffer its antics, 

its bad jokes, its salty cold tea. 

The songs of the mountains reach to us,

but we cannot hear the lyrics or the melodies,

just a whine of the hollowing of trees. 

We try to hold the colors of the sky, 

but instead, end up balancing its weight 

on the edges of our 21 grams.

It’s the fear, Isis, 

that we are beginning to hold of each other.

It began with the fear of contagion,

turned to fear of breath, of touch,

of all that makes us dangerously, gloriously human.

When people come in their full party dresses,

their holey pajamas, their strained smiles,

their chests gasping for air, ask them 

to turn back. 

Then take a vacation for yourself.

Close the afterlife down for another time

when we’re more ready with carnations,

waiting to say a proper goodbye.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

Image by Darla Hueske:: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sierragoddess/

Thirst

Dedicated to those fighting fires.

Thirst sits heavy in my throat
Opaque smoke hangs
Confident in the New Mexican sky
Our ancient sky is now a holder of smoke
For all the fires burning to the west, Northwest
As the winds shift
The Southwest
Wraps the smoke into its four corners

I pray for rain to clear the atmosphere
I miss our blue sky
Miss seeing the Sandias
Then I feel guilt

I have no right to miss the sky
A family misses their child more
Their small son and his dog—the dog stayed with his boy
As the smoke stifled both
Found together, the pup curled in his lap
Reading the news article, I just can’t—
Tears for this lost. Tears for the raging fire
The angry fires that burn
Mother nature can be vicious in her descent

She may also be loving
We pray, I pray, on my knees for holy water,
For rain to fill the fiery sky
For a tsunami of water
To drench the burning lands, tress, homes

Loss of life is too much, we are already fighting a pandemic
And protests.And police brutality.Andunity.And.And.And—
It’s too much
I want to drown my thirst into moments of peace
Gulp tranquility, HOPE
Until my belly is full and I’m bloated
I want to breathe water
Inhale, exhale
I pray for a universe of water to drench
Destructive fires—gift each life a chance

Water is humble—
It is difficult to ask for help
With faith, prayer, I look up and within a blink
There is a portion of the New Mexico sky
Giving me hope that eventually
The smoke will settle, the fires will succumb
This thirst quenched with life-healing water

© Gina Marselle September 16, 2020

Note: This work was inspired by a call for poets to write on the theme of water. I recorded this poem and it was shared during the “Volume 27 of Wednesday Night Poetry Virtual Open Mic, Poetry Through the Pandemic.” Poet, Author, Teaching Artist, Photographer and Host of Wednesday Night Poetry, Kai Coggin, invited poets to share poems about water to bring on the rains to drench the fires raging the west and Northwest parts of the United States. “Wednesday Night Poetry is physically held each week at Kollective Coffee+Tea in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, but is now held virtually to poets all over the world!”

© Gina Marselle | Offering | 9.18.202

The hour that stretches–

into a day
looking forward to the end,
before the first bite of coffee
nips at my lips

I’d like to fall asleep before I’ve even woken.

into a week
wishing everybody could have
a Wednesday holiday,
just to offer midweek reprieve
between Monday blues
and Friday’s hopeful praise

I’d like to have a reason to wake up on Wednesdays again.

into a month
wondering when summer fades
into fall
and what will September bring
when July has already felt too long

I want to backtrack to November’s first snowfall.

into a year
I’ve seen thirty of them now,
and remember half as many:
prior to twelve is foggy
from sea of bad memories and trauma;
beyond twenty, I have recollected memories
and pushed more to the side,
and I’d prefer the next ten years
to be peaceful, and come in stride

But this hour pushes back, instead,
stretched
to infinity.

Sunset over Chapleau, Ontario.

© Maxine L. Peseke, July/August 2020

Guest Poet:

AC6B6C63-B90C-4491-BA7D-17BB570B6F73

Maxine L. Peseke is a writer, mother, and sometimes freelance editor; she also works closely with Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC, as an organizational assistant. She is currently living in a small Northern Ontario town, transplanted from New Mexico respectively where she originally met each of Saturday’s Sirens as part of the Albuquerque poetry community.

Since the pandemic, she has rejoined the group for regular virtual meetings.

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, longer.

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.

I miss the 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, but 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, the same sun, the same moon.

Volumes of possibility.

Where we all feel closer, safer, stronger.

Xerox copies of hugs seem like all I have right now.

Yearning, I swear, I yearn for that closeness.

Zero hugs from friends, zero from acquaintances, zero is too few and yes, I miss them without having known I would have.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

firefly

this is my heart:
a fluttering, wild,
untamed thing;
like a dog on a leash, restrained.

is this panic? or worry?

somewhere, a toddler spins in circles,
without worry to dangers of dizzy–

this is my anxiety’s heartbeat.

though there is some comfort
to this mindless spin
because dizzy is just something
i’ve always known

— until a mother’s caring, loving death grip
pulls the toddler back, and i wonder:

mother, where art thou? 

at the bottom of holy orange bottles?

Saint Lorazepam, i pray to you,
and sing quiet curses, too,
for catching me in the middle of dizzy fall

or controlling it, and slowing it down

mother’s too-protective hand

like a breeze guiding autumn’s slow-falling leaf
before the harsh reality;
i am crushed beneath boot on hard ground. 

my nerves crumble like that: too quick.

this is what’s left of me,
the mess of my anxiety: a crumpled leaf.

the remaining pieces slip
through my fingers like sand,
but there is something sticky in here
that Saint Lorazepam
won’t hold:

sap of the fallen panic sticks to me.

and i cannot wash it off with water.
i cannot let it go.

but maybe i don’t want to,
because anxiety is all i’ve ever known;

familiar stranger, cold summer,
winter’s hot sweat, terrible lover.

maybe Saint Lorazepam can’t save this organized mess.

maybe there’s just not enough spark–

somewhere, there is a firefly
caught in a jar:

another wild thing,
held in captivity

and the world gasps
in shock and awe
and disgust and glee

watch the firefly flicker out,
i named her after me.

and Saint Lorazepam,
cursed be, sets the firefly free

but without a light.

somewhere, a toddler spins so dizzy
and a mother looks away.

somewhere, a dog’s leash snaps.

somewhere, the candle to Saint Lorazepam

goes out.


© Maxine L. Peseke, July 2020

Guest Poet:

AC6B6C63-B90C-4491-BA7D-17BB570B6F73

Maxine L. Peseke is a writer, mother, and sometimes freelance editor; she also works closely with Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC, as an organizational assistant. She is currently living in a small Northern Ontario town, transplanted from New Mexico respectively where she originally met each of Saturday’s Sirens as part of the Albuquerque poetry community.

Since the pandemic, she has rejoined the group for regular virtual meetings.

 

When I was old

I thought about how when I was young

I thought I wouldn’t argue about politics 

or pay attention to people in power when I was old, 

that I would arrange Gerber daisies and lilies, 

watch crows through binoculars on Tuesdays, 

thought I would savor each morning I woke,

notice the scent of rain before water hit the ground,

When I was old, I kept busy rather than was busy

and there was a day I drove up to the top of a mountain,

pulled my chair out of my trunk, hung my sweater 

around my neck, a peach in my purse. I sat for hours 

eating that peach, watching the valley below 

as orange colored juice dripped

down my fingers, my wrists, my arms. 

The birds that flew by, were not with me in this world, 

but part of an unfolding landscape

I watched then from afar, 

when I was old.

–Liza Wolff-Francis

#sayhername

Breonna Taylor

In honor of Breonna Taylor’s memory, I dedicate this post to her and her family. My condolences to her friends and family. God bless and my sincere prayers that the world soon finds solace.

https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-matters-ep-2-say-her-name-breonna-taylor-a-conversation-with-tamika-mallory-and-taylor-family-attorney-lonita-baker/

Gina Marselle, July 11, 2020

Picket Fence Dream

Emily Bjustrom

Freedom is a freshly scrubbed bear trap,
new and waiting.
An ugly dream,
the kindest lie.

There are abandoned houses dotted coast to coast,
hand to hand across America.

Each one festers.
The homes they had been burn.

Rolling through the mountains,
on a backroad in New Mexico- A house!

Rough sawn boards
Slouch and wait
for me,
a defiant little light,
to replant the flower beds
in salted earth.

Wait for me to grow myself
like lavender.
Delicate fat limbs,
like the heavy heads of hollyhock.

I grow to haunt a house I cannot own.
I envy the seeds the future of their roots.

My body,
a graceful sore,
the most elegant plight,
to grow sons greater than their fathers.

A future not perched on a lie,
but cradled in its own graveyard.