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/

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

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.

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.

 

Pantoum for our planet of crows

Crows gather in the Cottonwood tree,
blacker than night holds me.
Even the birds are our children here
if we see ourselves as becoming land and sky.

Blacker than night holds me,
shadows and dreams of sleep.
If we see ourselves as becoming land and sky,
we may never sleep again.

Shadows and dreams of sleep
that poke me awake with skeleton fingers.
We may never sleep again,
lost to the fascinatingly hateful chatter of crows

that poke me awake with skeleton fingers.
It’s not the death of our planet that scares me,
lost to the fascinatingly hateful chatter of crows,
it’s the death of us that rakes me awake.

It’s not the death of our planet that scares me,
night terrors of holding our children over the flames,
it’s the death of us that rakes me awake.
Crows invite death into today’s sun.

Even fighting, we may go down without sound.
Crows gather in the Cottonwood tree,
each day brings new air and chatter.
Even the birds are our children here.

Liza Wolff-Francis