Fertile Soul

Mahnaz Badihian

 

I labor a new woman in me every day
I am not in my twenties
not even in my forties
But the art of multiplication is still in me
I am a growing new garden
new buds.
I feel life crawling on my shoulders
with the gods of fertility,
that will never let me stop being a woman

 

 

Mahnaz Badihian is a poet and translator whose work has been published into several languages worldwide, including Persian, Turkish, and Malayalam. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines including Exiled ink! and in Marin Poetry Center Anthology amongst others. She attended the Iowa Writer’s workshop with a focus on international poetry while practicing as a dentist in Iowa City.  Her publications include two volumes of poetry in Persian and a best-selling translation of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions into Persian.  Her most recent publication is a critically acclaimed book of original English language poetry, From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi. She has an awarding winning selection of poetry (XIV Premio Letterario Internazionale Trofeo Penna d’Autore, Tornio) translated into Italian by Cristina Contili and Pirooz Ebrahimi. 

Your Mother The Madwoman

Rae Rose

 

Bees crazy off nectar, darkest plums were turning black,
old ladies sat in their cars with the air on.

 

The woman dropped you off at the bottom of your hill
and you were plumper. They must have fed you well
in the child protection service. We were 12, I guess.

 

Your mother had just been shipped off
to an institution again. We walked to your house
so you could pick up some clothes
and found a pile of The National Geographic
in the driveway.  She had cut out pictures of women
and set the magazines on fire.
The women were in a pile, under a rock in the sun.

 

I think we laughed – but not at your dolls,
strewn across the house with their eyes cut out,
bleeding cotton up and down the hallway.

 

I watched your face as you looked around.
Too young to know any words to save anybody,
I wished it wasn’t your house.

 

Dolls who couldn’t see. Paper women under a rock.
Something about women – something about body –
what was she trying to silence?
We found a litter of puppies outside,
one of them was dead.

 

The others were healthy, so healthy.
How were they able to do it?
They survived somehow.
“Where should we take them?” you asked.
We understood we were on our own.

 

I buried the dead puppy with the paper women.
I don’t know why.
Something about women,
something about body,
trying to silence something
in the desert heat.

 

 

Rae Rose’s poetry and fiction have published in literary journals, including The Pedestal Magazine, Cicada, Earth’s Daughters, Today’s Alternative News, Contemporary World Literature: Journal for the Arts, The San Diego Poetry Annual and THEMA.

 

Bake Challah in Heels

Rae Rose

 

Martha Stewart would run for her life.
I twist dough into snakes, slam them on countertop.
Teacups rattle. I scream. All over the world,
Jewish women are braiding bread –
how do they do it so damn holy?
It wasn’t God I thought of when I punched this dough,
 but a man who tricked me, a man before that,
and the first man –  maybe I did think of God.
I punched someone’s dough face.

 

Out my window – a woman without a home
sleeps under a bridge. I punched whoever built this city,
invented these laws. How do holy women do it?
Pretty heads bowed over ovens, aprons dusted with sugar,
a sweet smile on every rosy face.
My kitchen? Hiroshima made of flour.
Egg shells litter counters as if I am a red-tailed hawk
stealing from nests, cracking eggs with beak —
can you create something holy if you are angry?
When God (supposedly) made the world, was He furious?
Is that why He made everything in the dark,
was He too scared to look?

 

I separate Challah, ripping out a piece of dough
like I am ripping out an eye –
that eye that saw his last trick,
that eye that saw me pull at my veins like cats cradle
and scrub my flesh with Brillo pads,
I am pulling out that eye – that stain –  that hurt –  from this braided body that is now so – so –

 

curvy. So female. 

 

I use my fingertips,
glaze Challah with egg whites.
It shimmers like moonlight hugging curves.
The heat will harden her, thicken her skin.
She will be able to take it. Take anything.
Pull down the moon– my moon –
– my light – my curves – my invention –
I am reinventing woman. My own recipe – no rib required.
I have created something holy in a world 
in which everything was already invented for me. Poorly.
This time I will change.
I look at the woman under the bridge.
Maybe this time, we’ll change everything.

 

 

 

Rae Rose’s poetry and fiction have published in literary journals, including The Pedestal Magazine, Cicada, Earth’s Daughters, Today’s Alternative News, CWLJA, The San Diego Poetry Annual and THEMA.

WHAT THE GYPSY SAID

Oriana Ivy

 

From abysses of her skirt she pulls
a pack of cards, draws five,
spreads them in a fan.
My boyfriend and I see only

 

destiny’s backside,
oily gray as the tail
of an old Warsaw pigeon.
In a pause between the worlds,

 

she ponders the first card –
slowly looks up
with stone-black eyes:
You are going on a great journey.

 

I nearly faint. The city swirls
with solstice light; and in my
purse, barely obtained,
my American visa.

 

You will be rich, the Gypsy drones;
You will have three children . . .
She turns to my boyfriend, draws
another fan of cards:

 

Fear sits in your stomach.
His face turns completely white –
he’s terrified of the draft.
Behind us, huge heroic

 

statues of workers and peasants
lift hammers, sickles, march
into the future –
the Gypsy prehistoric,

 

scarf flowering red poppies.
You are thinking of a female head . . .
You will have two children . . .
He glowers – not with me. 

 


And you will be rich, she hastily
adds, her bronze narrow hand
plunging my bronze ten zlotys
down the forever of her skirt.

 

I’m seventeen. So this is fate.
Holding hands, he and I
walk the blossoming boulevards.
“A waste of money,” he says.

 

Pale golden bells of linden trees
hum with bees, a million voices
droning the same story –
one that begins, A Gypsy said . . .

 

 

Oriana Ivy was born in Poland and came to the United States when she was 17. Her poems, essays, book reviews, and translations from modern Polish poetry have been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry 1992, Nimrod, New Letters, The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Black Warrior, Wisconsin Review, Prairie Schooner, Spoon River Review, Southern Poetry Review, and many other journals and anthologies. A former journalist and community college instructor, she teaches poetry workshops. She lives in San Diego.

Gone Missing

Kristen Scott

 

And, what is happiness,

if not a fleeting moment

touch

rub

flush of cheek

brush across mouth

 

what is it,

if not a moment

that one two-minute

dance that lasts  lifetimes

 

a strong whispered, “I love you baby,”

soft moans in the darkness of bed

 

 

when does it go missing?

making your whole- wide- world

as you know it change,

so swift as a twirling leaf

dwindling, sinking, to ground

once devoted to limb and bud,

blown off

by unexpected winds, blasts,  gale forces

the head spinning, snaps    back     stops.

                feet come downhill    touching ground

stranded   in    everyday

 

a minute

 

splitting seconds of time

 

 

Kristen Scott has her MA in Literature from National University in La Jolla, California and will graduate with her MFA in Creative Writing in fall 2011. She has published in several anthologies, newspapers, and online journals. She resides in Princeton, NJ.

Of Looking Glasses

Kristen Scott

 

I would drink the drink of strychnine

to push the hurt of you out of my mind

 

I never knew that look before

I never knew   orange

blossoms departed from your eyes

 

oh, to look at me in such venomous

strikes  –

I never thought to see that through

the roses of mine

 

could Shakespeare have written

such a fantastical ending

to a wide-eyed passion?

 

ah, the glorious dying from love

the fables and witchery of wonder

secret potions, eyes of newt, and

fairy dust.

 

but, alas, our love wasn’t born through the

looking glass – I just never knew

 

until now.

 

 

Kristen Scott- see author’s bio in additional works and on author’s page.

HOLLYHOCKS

Kate Harding

 

Three days after my mother died,
her hollyhocks tumbled down
under their own weight. My father had
disappeared. I had eaten the last
of her meatloaf wrapped in wax paper.

She had waved me out of her kitchen.
“No need to learn to cook. You’ll be
a professor.” She ground her own meat,
the red strings wriggling like worms.

Though I only had my learner’s permit
I drove her old Plymouth to the store.

There were whole aisles in Safeway she
never went down. That first day I bought
Bird’s Eye frozen broccoli and macaroni
and cheese.

The mothers of my friends gossiped about me,
told their daughters, “Stay away from her.
Who knows what’s going on in that house?
Parties. Boys.”

There were no parties. No boys. Nights,
I was so lonesome I would call the Time
and a lady would say it is now three oh three.
I made JELLO and Swanson’s turkey dinners.

I asked the gym teacher, perky Miss Butler,
a woman whom a month before I would never
have talked to, about salads. Miss Butler coached

the  Sergeantnettes,  a girls’ marching drill team.
She told me she had polio as a child. I tucked
that away. People could survive all sorts of things.
She said, “Wash the lettuce first.”

I fried hamburger meat, flames jumping
wildly under the iron skillet. A month later,
my father reappeared, moved us to a dingy
apartment across town.

Nights, I would sit in my mother’s car.
in front of our old house. The new owner,
a gardener, staked my mother’s hollyhocks.
I couldn’t see the pale pink, ruby, and yellow
flowers in the dark. But I knew they were there.

 

 

Kate Harding is a Pushcart Prize nominee in both fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Contemporary World Literature: Journal for the Arts, Poetry International,  Perigee, Today’s Alternative News  and the San Diego Poetry Annual. New work will be forthcoming in The Hummingbird Review.