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

Twilight Apache Plume

My tendrils reach to sun
even in twilight, the voice 
of each one comes to life, 
like a collective hum, 
a soprano praise to sky 
and to light even on the shortest day,
when everywhere the darkness 
opens wide, like the mouth of a cave.
In my stillness, I wade in, 
slowly, hide the sound
darkness struggles to let out. 
Even as I find myself between 
the teeth, in the swallow-throat 
of cavern into belly, the fluidity 
of darkness hung around my neck 
like jewelry, but more necessary, 
more imminent, like this cycle 
we are a part of without ever 
having signed up for it.
As soon as I have come to terms 
with the bitter taste of this song 
of darkness in my mouth,
light begins to emerge. 
I see it in the colors I become, 
hear my song at a higher pitch 
as I see the lips of the cave, 
exit through them again.
Tomorrow, I will remember and forget 
this and the next day too, 
when the sun comes. 
I will stand tall before it, 
and I will reach for it, reach.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

This poem was for a prompt our group wrote to in honor of the late Julie Brokken and as an ekphrastic piece to one of her photos “Twilight Apache Blume.”

Julie Brokken’s website is beautiful with her art. You can see this photo: “Twilight Apache Plume” at this link at the bottom of the page. It is the next to last photo. Here is the link:

http://www.juliebrokken.com/botanical-beings.html

 

Apache Plume

           ~ In memory of Julie Brokken (1959-2020)

Gina Marselle © January 2, 2021

The desert is a brutal abode
Drought-wise
Too hot during summer solstice
Too cold during winter solstice
Empty most moments
Sometimes only bees hear the echo of wing flap
So how does an apache plume awaken each morning
Stretching for the peaceful, cerulean expanse
Water-wise
Inspiring purple butterflies
Cooling quails
Well past twilight
Content to settle in the sandy, low desert
Flowering yellow-white petals
Whispering hope  

This poem is inspired by Julie Brokken’s photograph: Twilight Apache Plume. It is copyright material, and you may view the image on her website: http://www.juliebrokken.com/botanical-beings.html. Please scroll down about halfway to view the image. As well as the poem, I included a watercolor I did of the photograph. This poem and watercolor are in memory of New Mexico artist and poet Julie Brokken (1959-2020).

Apache Plume, watercolor by Gina Marselle

Heavenly Host

by Emily Bjustrom

My mother’s deft fingers churn angels out of cloth,
imperfect,
made in the image of little girls-

who’s brows furrow in concentration
as needles dip in and out
of the would-be flesh
of the heavenly host.

That year we pierced cranberries-
fresh and tart-
to string around our tree.
Their juice was pinkish blood-
the smell of which lingered for days.

A soft cloth angel.
The lone survivor
of a Christmas born
of my mother’s sweat.
Her work-
pulling up two wild girls
and a sweet baby boy
with thread and tinsel.

For her, this angel is a reminder
of the weightiness of being alone.

For me, it is a token of her strength-
the shield of a mother’s love.

The most special Christmas-
out of poverty and divorce
an army of angels.

today

Katrina K Guarascio

allow eyes to rest
press palms against
closed lids and exhale

hold breath

allow silence
release time

feel the bruises on
knees and the scab
on earlobe
trace the memory of memories
that have quicksanded
through cold hands

try to let the mind rest 
try to forgive

embrace only
the breath of now

a  bird sings and the sun
insists on the drag
the toward tomorrow

take time
to clean hands and
cross fingers
promise better in the
in the last moments
of today

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

Center of Gravity

Today, I am the dawn

looking for the sun to rise.

The stretch of my aging torso

like the light in the sky 

remembering itself anew, 

weight of my legs, the lifting 

of night, crack of my ankles, 

sound of an awaking earth into day, 

proof I am alive. I love 

stepping outside my house

into this winter air, cold as frost.

Half of my face masked 

for a virus that haunts me, 

masked to prevent the freezing 

of my lips, my lungs, to block 

the taste of winter dew. My breath, 

as routine as the coming new year. 

I pace my walk, feel ever grateful 

to gravity, for holding me 

tight to earth. 

Dried leaves shiver in the wind. 

With my hat and mask, 

I am unrecognizable. 

There is an emptiness, 

an anonymity I didn’t ask for.

I have been walking again 

as if in a dream, having trouble 

sussing out reality. I reach out 

to what is frail and floating 

at the brittle base of night 

and what we least expect 

to appear in between greetings 

of hugs and handshakes, 

our shoulder-to-shoulder 

staff meetings, playground squeals,

the ding of elevators 

full of strangers chatting 

about the weather, time, 

new restaurants with green chile.

Even as the sun appears, 

its light in my eyes, interrupting 

what I want to be a dream, 

I am here drifting 

across the sky 

searching for gravity.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

Release What Doesn’t Belong

by Gina Marselle, November 2020

“Alive and well–

release what doesn’t belong,”

a mantra imagines.

I release this worry, heavy like a crow

sitting empty on a branch

near a river’s edge–

without flight.

This pandemic is like a broken wing

filling my head with fear,

allowing anxiety to bear her weight.

Weighing my heart down until breath is shallow

weak, panicky:

breathe in to the count of 4

hold for the count of 4

exhale for the count of 8

4-4-8

again.

My breath feels weak, without belief.

Prayers are empty. The sky has little light.

Inhale.

A corner of the blue sky smells like lilacs in autumn–

jealous my lungs gulp deep.

I try to center.

Palpating the naked earth between my toes,

as the wind arouses my hair.

I seed my toes into the earth’s belly

experiencing the enormity of time.

Earth has survived all the pandemics.

What can I learn from her?

I am silent. Listening.

I hear her enormous gulps of air,

she sighs a tremendous breath.

She utters in a voice as endless as time,

“You are alive and well–

release what doesn’t belong to you.”

I gulp her breath as my own,

kiss it deep into my center–

whisper out this mantra

until the crow heals and takes flight.

The branch snaps back with strength, the weight lifted

and without fear, worry

dances carefree in the quiet breeze

as the early morning light lifts higher into a dim sky.

Desperation

Katrina K Guarascio

is not merely a flash of color.
You can caress it, cradle it,

wrap it around your fist
like the links of a chain.
It pinches the skin,
cuts to the pink.

I am not one to chew lips
or graze nail tips, but
on nights like this
desperation crawls beneath surface,

lurks inside rough veins roped around arm,
treads under the soft tissue of neck,
I can see it pulse.

The salt of it can
not be denied,
the stink can not
go ignored.
I have been playing
fill in the blanks
with crossed eyes only
to come to the conclusion
that all of this,

ALL OF THIS

is for nothing.

Can’t you see that?

The hiss of heartbeat
is not generous enough
and with every scratch
the healing takes a little longer.
If the skin is already dead,
then the venom will recede.
Not even a scar remains.

The cut was never that deep.

I tended my own wounds
before you ever had
a chance to see them.
There was never any pain,
I just didn’t realize
how easily skin could split.

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga
stands on my street corner,
collecting autumn fog in her bag,
where she hides the moon;

She plays hide-and-seek with the crows
in the old graveyard across the street,
coaxes my storm-battered shutters
to open to the crisp fall air;

And the crows sing
a funeral dirge,
calling me back everyday;
I have always been attracted to melancholy. 

I have always played this same game
of hide-and-seek-again from fear,
from feelings,

But when Baba Yaga catches my eye,
I see a change
shining back.

Still, I wonder:
“Old crone, do you bring Death?”

She answers, “No, not I,”
though Death is there
at my doorstep
Everyday

When I open my window
to the street
where Baba Yaga
sits atop her gravestone throne.

And yet, 
this witch,
with her circling crows:
harbingers of bad omens,
brings Hope

but maybe not for today.

“Tomorrow,” she says,
“when I release the moon
from my bag
and fall’s fog becomes winter frost
and when spring blooms

Then you can name the stars Hope again.”

Baba Yaga
stands on my street corner
collecting autumn fog
in her bag

And I’m still waiting
for her to
give the moon back.

Protestant Burial Ground, Chapleau Ontario;
photograph by Maxine L. Peseke, 2020.

© Maxine L. Peseke, September 2020