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/

Guarascio Poetry

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

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

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