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

 

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

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.

Today

The cold air surprised me,

in addition to the fact 

that I couldn’t remember if the word surprise 

is written with an s or with a z.

I also forgot that last week 

that I ordered chocolate 

for my grocery pickup order today,

discovered it in the bottom of the bag.

I rip through the simple cardboard,

the delicate foil, place an inch and a half 

of deep brown cacao with salt flakes 

on my tongue, rest it at the top 

of the mouth to smell the flavor. 

Decadent, my friend says, irresistible, I say.

The noises of my tongue fully engaged.

My taste buds, wrapped around memory,

around the heart of all we forget.

This chocolate smells like Easter as a child,

a holiday whose scent, to me, is not of grass 

or white patent leather shoes restricting 

the feet with white tights, not of Jesus dying 

or gone missing and reappearing, or the scent 

of a holiday ham, but of sugar. 

Chocolate in the shape of a rabbit,

rainbow colored flavors of beans, colorful 

plastic eggs stuffed with candy, waiting in the yard. 

They are unlike the roses that collect 

dust, as if the only way to have peace is to grow old.

Candy that waits to belong 

to someone’s mouth’s desire, in spring. 

But now, the autumn of the heart 

has brilliant colors, ones that do not know 

suffering, protect the self 

from the wind and storm they did not birth.

The many things we can ask the heart 

may be a surprise. A surprise with an s 

may be softer than one with a z,

but a z always seems to be 

a letter that is more fun.

Impulse

Katrina K Guarascio

when is the last time
you held sand
felt the fall
of each gradual
and wished for nothing
more than the warmth
your allowed to slip from hands

I am lingering deep
in a list of what
could have been and
relishing the simple
I have attained

I call them albas
morning songs
gibberish
they are nothing to anyone
but the melody
reminds me of a memory

yes time has passed me
forgotten my name
and kept
rolling through
like the weather
like the waves
like the pull of the moon
these things aren’t forever
despite how far they stretch

after all
there is no such thing as forever
merely here and merely now
even our breath is compulsory

do we continue the ritual
and fail
or do we learn and do we go on

where does the fall take us
if not to the next season

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/

Kate once told me

Katrina K Guarascio

every poem begins
as a suicide note.
And a
well rehearsed
death
is always
winkled inside my mind,
soaking there,
dripping stalagmites,
building blocks of
the subconscious.

Counting ticks
to the end;
the story
so close
to conclusion.

Loneliness,
like rock candy
crystallizing on
popsicle sticks,
attached to rib cage,
expands and compresses
with each
shallow breath.

I don’t have fear.

Sometimes the
only thing
that gets me through
is knowing
at any minute
I can stop it all.
I can rock and roll
out of this human suit
shed soft covering,
reveal bare bone,
and empty cavern.
The sliver of power
over my life;

it is everything and
it is nothing.

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