Awake at 3:45am

Katrina Kaye

Here is Sleep,
stretched on my right side,
exuding warmth and calm
so close to my chilled skin.

He is distant despite the proximity
promised by the hands of clock and
length of lingering darkness.

The lights from the street and
solitary passing car slip between
slightly parted blinds into long stripes
across far white wall,
chasing shadows to restful corners;
their claws receded.
No longer do they unfold
toward me in the lonely dim.

In spite of the vow of peaceful nightfall,
I am awake with stale breath held in chest,
deconstructing a nightmare into
a coiled grey sweater left on floor.
The simplest of terrors paralyze,
leaving me vulnerable prey to the night.

It is impossible to be lucid
in the muck of these early hours,
when the tiny tragedies of  
the ever turning world imprint dreams,
causing Sleep to lack the relief
he once promised.

Indifferent to my mistrust,
Sleep breathes, soft and rhythmic,
a silentious invitation to join him,
the only sound breaking the night.

Triage

There is a ghost that claws
beneath my skin–
it grips at my lungs until I
forget to breathe,
and holds onto my heart ’til
there is no beat;

there is a ghost that crawls
through every inner room,
puts red tags on all of my things;
tells me I am failing,
falling,
crashing,
as I try to triage every little thing.

But that laundry basket is green
maybe black:
stationary
unmoving
it’s not going anywhere
and I can wear clothes out of a basket
for another week.

Last night’s dinner dishes
are yellow tagged:
they can wait until today’s dinner
is cooking.

Child’s plea to play:
red
red
red like love
like life-blood
like you can put the chores away,
red like you can soak in this moment and this day.

Red like your life depends on it
Yellow like the chimney needs to be cleaned
Green like the laundry basket

Tag it black:
if it is unmoving,
if it can wait another day,
if it never mattered anyway.

© Maxine L. Peseke, October 2020

And now I

Katrina Kaye

steal a moment
under the clutter of
ceiling fan loose
at its screws
and the breeze
from open window
advertising a night
more temperate
than the day
more quiet and
peaceful than the
rumble of mind

I have chosen to settle

I loved nights
like this when I was younger
when I spent little
time indoors and allowed
myself the freedom
and recklessness
I thought was the
promise of life
I am glad I lived it then

nights like this

making out in a car
with the first boy I
fell in love with

walking with blissful
intoxication
through a city street

driving under the stars
just outside the city
limits where the light finally rests

dancing in the dark
as I walked downtown
with someone I barely
knew but trusted completely

I wish I remembered more

I wish I hadn’t spent
so much time looking
toward the next moment
and enjoyed the one in which I swam

I didn’t take it all for granted

how many times
have I had the privilege of
lying with eyes puddled closed
feeling content with what
I have lived
believing there was nothing more
life could gift me

it continues its kindness

and although I am sometimes
clouded with doubt, I too
recognize the love
the ability
the beauty
the full gift of life

I am not one to use the word ‘blessed’
and the word ‘luck’ trivializes the sensation
I am gifted in this life and despite pain,
disappointment, failure, and setback
I have so much

I fill with gratitude
with feelings of having more
than I deserve
what more can I ask
what more is there to attain
these words are a two headed serpent
and cannot translate the race of language or
the fullness of thought clouding my mind

I will not use this moment
to make any grand resolutions
but I will allow the freedom
of heart and mind to find my peace

I am grateful for this moment
with sleeping dog at my side and
mewing cat on the shoulder of couch
the loud crank of the ceiling fan
the breeze of the night through open window  
it does not tempt me to places I have once been

It merely reminds me
of a life I too often lived unexamined

 

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

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

today

Katrina Kaye

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

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

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.

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