Three Days

Katrina K Guarascio

allow body
release from
the weight
of the last
few months

insides crave
to be carved
free from that
which binds

feel skin
loosen
bone peak
through what
dares remain

tonight
the sunset
serves witness
to this request

not for rebirth
not for pledging anew
but as a break
to the pattern

three days
to take the
thickness of torso
grounding of muscle
and shake loose

allow healing
even if not complete
even if only to prepare
for the next wound

break unconscious acts
let body refresh

like creek
water on
sunny morning

like the sound
of screen door
slapping shut

Guarascio

Before you know

what hate really is
you must feel it in your bones;
hand-shaking anger that skips up collarbones;
hate plays on your chest like a xylophone
and lodges itself in your throat,
crushes the song from your vocal chords.

Hate is a knee on your trachea.

Did hate feel that suffocating to you?
That you had to choke the air out of another human?
Did hate send you out the door,
gun in hand,
to bring home a dead body
heavy on your shoulders?

Or was it fear?

Before you are acquainted with fear,
you must return to childhood,
when every shadow of a tree is a monster;
before the tree was the monster,
with the dead body of a black boy who ran away,
left hanging as a symbol for all the world to see.

All the world saw and held their breath;

When George Floyd died in the span of seven minutes,
on international news, I held my breath, too,
and wondered what, or how, I would tell my daughter.
My summer girl, who has already contemplated the meaning
of her black skin, when a boy at seven years old told her
“I don’t like you because you’re black.”

The magic left her. 

You don’t know what loss really is,
until you’re at a loss for words,
and have to talk the magic back into your girl
and remind her how much magic she truly has
and tell her: black is not ugly.

Leah, your black is so beautiful. 

An uprising ignites when my daughter asks about another black death on the news,
and tells me, at age nine,
“I don’t want to die because of the colour of my skin.”
Hate is the lump in my throat that I swallow back,
while anger curls in my fingertips
and splits my knuckles from the inside out.

Hate was the knee on George Floyd’s trachea. 

Hate was women at church looking at my daughter’s ultrasound picture
and whispering about her “black lips” and “black nose.”

Hate is more names than I bear to list,
more names than I could possibly list;
Hate is a list of names that could be a poem on their own. 

Hate stopped and frisked.
Hate put a racist president in the White House.
Hate pulled my daughter out of an airport line
and searched through her hair. 

Hate told my daughter she wasn’t beautiful,
but Leah, your black is so so beautiful. 

Before you know what hate really is,
you need to stop, look in the mirror,
and stare it in the face.
And when you see it,
put your hands up,
Don’t. Shoot. 

Or do. 

When you finally know the hate in you,
eradicate it. Abolish it. Emancipate it.
Carve it out of your bones,
Dislodge it from your throat,
keep screaming until there’s nothing left. 

With all the hate I am acquainted with,
I will keep screaming until there’s nothing left;
and when there’s nothing else left, I will say again:

Leah, your black is so beautiful.


© Maxine L. Peseke, June 19 2020

 

Guest Poet:

leahandmax
Maxine, and her eldest daughter Leah; Christmas 2019.

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 (and most recently) 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.

The Good Headlines

“A Tree Service Comes to the Rescue when a cat adopted during COVID gets stuck in a tree with a thunderstorm on the way”

I have been looking for a tree to climb, 

to see the storm, to be the first 

to feel the rain on my face. 

There is an instinct to ask the growth 

of earth to protect me from its rage.

.

“Surging Coronavirus Cases pushes Latin America to the Limit.”

We are so far away from each other,

–not far enough, even at 6 feet– 

too far to help. No one 

wants to see the tears of loved ones,

there are more coming. 

The words we spoke aloud 

about all that has been lost, 

about what we are unable to find, 

gone.

.

“A Newspaper Delivery Man has made 500 grocery runs for seniors during the Coronavirus Pandemic.”

I am alone in my house. 

Is there a guilt

for not doing more? 

Is there a guilt

for my own fear? 

Is there a guilt 

for the kindness of others? 

The spring has been especially windy here, 

the nights loud with sirens. 

Every shake of the trees in the open air 

closes my mouth, like maybe I should know 

what is happening, like maybe the leaves 

will say something, like, there is no emergency, 

that was a false siren, do not think the worst.

.

“A nine-year-old and her friends raised over $40,000 for black owned businesses by selling homemade bracelets.”

Small fingers weaving 

such a large sum of money

to help, understanding the weight 

of each thread. The creativity 

of a child, a simple bracelet, 

what we do with what we have, 

and all the time in the world

no time at all.

.

“The river running through Zion National Park will be protected forever thanks to the Nature Conservancy.”

At least there is water. 

At least we still have that. 

Something sacred. 

To quench our thirst. 

The earth 

alive, 

even apart from us.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

After Reading Nye’s Poem, Kindness

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.”
~Naomi Shihab Nye

“And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.”
~Lin-Manuel Miranda

       for my daughter, Miranda

Before you know what love really is
You have to strip yourself
Of everything
Every feeling
Every article of clothing
Every sound
Taste
Smell

Get rid of it all

Every material thing
You ever felt
You have to get rid
Of what you thought love is/or was

You have to give birth
      (or hold a child
      or a butterfly
      or a miracle
      or faith
      or race your horse across an empty cornfield
      without bit or saddle)

Love is love unaware
Of anything
But everything
Like bravery
Like a caterpillar spreading her wings
Knowing she doesn’t yet have wings
You too, don’t need wings
Because you already know how to fly
As you grand jeté
Landing softly but with firmness
Only a mountain understands
A thousand years later
As the sun sets and kisses Earth goodnight

A mother rocks
Nurses
Coos
Her golden, littlest love to sleep

Before you know what love is
You have to empty your soul
Like a yogi
Empties breath
All the way out until lung is flat
And the heart muscle has to remember
How to pump
Because life is not without

Hope

It has to have hope
Else we drown
One
By
One
Until it is just Adam and Eve, again
Standing naked
But this time they don’t see
Because they’re blind
And maybe this time

We’ll get it right

We’ll all fall into an abyss
And swim, and swim

We’ll be familiar with the
Darkness
Because we never knew anything else
Like we are back inside the
Womb
From which we all came
A quiet blackness
Of warmth
Of love
Safe
Content
Alone

Before you know what love is
You have to empty your pockets all the way out

And still believe

You are whole
You are brave

© Gina Marselle
May 28, 2020

My Daughter at American Ballet Theatre, NYC | Summer 2017 | Photo by Gina Marselle

Plague Ship

Emily Bjustrom

Chafed and cherished
Burned and blessed
Irritated and honored

I feel like a sausage stuffed into a dress
I feel like no one is listening

when beauties can’t sleep it’s a tragedy,
when I can’t sleep it’s indigestion.

Why do empty parking lots
feel like ghost towns?

What makes one
lone streetlight more romantic than any other?
Burning through the night-

No one will ever
hold these memories
and love them.

No one will ever
curl exactly
like you do-

You are an abandoned
boat house
on a wide lazy river.

I climbed
the magnolia tree
even though I am
too fat and too old.

You are my plague
and we plague each other.

The days yawn and snap shut

joints shift
in and out of place.

What does it mean
when little chamomile flowers
grow next to the front porch?

What does it mean when the worst thing you can do to a stranger is kiss?

My body is a ouija board.
My body is a play pen.
My body is a plague ship.

I’m a river.
I’m a house.
I’m halfway there.

Children with milk
smooth faces
smoke and fuck
call me cunt
nobody listens.

Half in and half out
which foot will you use
to step in this mess?

My body creaks
yours does too.

People are the plague
and we plague each other.

Storm

Katrina K Guarascio

if the storm did come,
i fear my first
instinct would be
to walk to the apex
bold and frenzied

my streets have been
dry for too long
leaving me desperate
to stand in the rain

i would trade my sight
for the scent of distant
thunder

my taste for the prickle
of hair twirled
in every direction.

i have prayed
for destruction.

but what do i know?

my mother was never
ripped into the sky
by unruly clouds,
my house never blown
down despite the coyotes
that surround back door
i have never wakened
to shattered glass
underneath my morning feet.

why should i distress of the
wrath of weather when my
New Mexican sky is endless blue
my sun bright enough i see
only red in the darkness.

i want the storm,
the wind, the water,
i want to be ravaged by the
wrath of unkind gods.

i know this wish
may not be kind

threats of storms ravage
those who prefer to hold tight
to rock and earth
and toss bodies
like crumpled paper
hoping to cling
on to abandoned words.

i have not felt
that windfall, and
i do not seek to
inhabit the pain
of the others

but i can’t
help but to search the sky for
gathering clouds and sit pale in the
wind hoping for the sky to crack.

Photographer: Roberta Fotter

 

rooted

My toes are prone to nails ingrown;
I keep digging up my nailbeds,
like a gardener turns soil to help
flowers grow,

Though my feet were not made for flowers,
so maybe I’m made of more tree limbs;
but resounding cracks are telltale
sign of a forest falling

Because my roots never took to ground.

I am prone to uprooting myself–
there is an inherent urge to move
crawling under my skin,
limbs thirsty for solid ground;

My roots tangled up
somewhere between Chesapeake Bay
and the muddy Rio Grande;
over-watered in Georgia’s swamp lands.

And Northern Ontario’s long, harsh winters
see so much time for roots to freeze–
this ground is frozen-hard
long into spring.

But then maybe I was never a tree
never flowering dogwood, dancing in the breeze
or strong pinon pine, stretching to the sky,
nor wizened oak or mighty maple-tree.

The truth is I never identified
with constant perennial things.
I never thought of myself as
everlasting;

I always wished to be a bird
and my patterns of coming and going,
like migration, supported that:
I am notorious for leaving.

I am prone to preening:
prettying up like peacock,
but more like a rock dove:
hardy/hearty (but not much to look at).

Recently, I’ve preened so much
my feathers have begun to fall out
and fail my wish for flight

(though there are those that could fly,
and instead use their battered feet:
like a roadrunner in the desert light) 

But at least my tangled roots and faulty feathers
have proven to be
a fine nest  — built for two —

Daughters, who are still trying to spread their wings
like their mother would like to do;

Daughters, who plant flowers
with their every blessed step;

Daughters, who have taught me
that I was never meant to be a tree,
but maybe that’s where my home
was meant to be.

And I can have wings,
And still be steady.


© Maxine L. Peseke, April 2020
artwork by Katrina K Guarascio

 

Guest Poet:

Maxine L. Peseke is a writer, mother, and sometimes freelance editor. She is currently living in a small Northern Ontario town, transplanted from New Mexico respectively (and most recently) where she originally met each of Saturday’s Sirens as part of the Albuquerque poetry community.

 

I have always loved the tree outside my window

Now more than ever, I watch it,

in its stillness, I watch as it moves 

in the breeze. I have been outside 

to wrap my arms around it, 

as far as they will reach, 

to lie in the grass beside it, stare up 

at its height. If I could explain 

wisdom, surely it would be 

the lines in this tree’s bark.

This tree is unafraid to take space, 

it welcomes the birds 

with deep voice wisdom

that comes from staying in one place

year after year, observing 

the movement around it. 

This tree listens to the whisper 

of sparrows, the plans of hawks 

and ladybugs, its dug-in roots, planted.

The other trees know this one,

respect this one, it has stood 

over time, through seasons, 
open armed, branches extend out 

reaching to the world, to the universe,

to me, to us, some of its buds 

wait to pop, some already 

in full green, telling the others 

that now is the time, 

to not be afraid.

-Liza Wolff-Francis

LOTS OF LOVE OUT

LOTS OF LOVE OUT

Do you need strength in this moment?
Have you forgotten to love self?
To feel loving kindness?
Are you wandering from room to room?
Or sitting numb on your couch?
Are you cleaning the kitchen, again?
The bathroom, again?
Scrubbing boredom away.
Empty hours stack up—minutes turn into days.
Time is endless.
The only excitement is groceries being delivered
and finally, they had in stock a beautiful, organic tomato.

A prayer of thanks.

In the garden, your seeds just begin.
You pull weeds so seeds have room to grow.
The sun shines today.
The dog carries his ball in his mouth,
his tongue out the side panting.
The birds sing,
a Cooper Hawk flies from tree to tree
building nest.

It is the little things

that bring breath
and calm. Lilacs bloom.
You give some to your daughter
so she can place on her nightstand.
You make her blueberry banana muffins with crumble on top,
plain banana muffins for son.
After a shower and clean hair, the night settles.
Your prayers and wishes
for connection settle the soul.
It is not in others, but in self that prayers are answered

in the little things—

all tremendous blessings hidden in sweet
breaths. Inhale, exhale.
Big breaths in. Lots of love out—
sleep brings peace and tomorrow is a new day.

© Gina Marselle, 2020

Pair

Being is inside and out of any person.
Therefore, inside ourselves we find both reflection and external expression.
It is one’s duty to consider both in equal esteem.
Can one be both internal and external and live within the empirical world?
The empirical world is created though both experience and consideration.
To be is to consider and experience.

***

Halfway to absolution
My body is a tether to this house
Which is a second skin
This city, the third- crawling as it is

I am heavy twice
Once for the hands that slide into my dreams
Once for the hands that stop short of my waking skin