End-Speech

Jack Marshall

 

In a darkness with nothing to see,
in a darkness with little to hear
but the dove softly cooing on the wires above
and running water somewhere near
lapping the soft summer air,
train-whistles trail their signature-sounds
in the distance, diffusing to the timbre of smoke
and the doves’ soft cooing on the wires above…

And I have lately been thinking of the aged
eagle, the darkling thrush, the fire-fangled bird, and hurt hawk, all
grown weary of the trash that passes, the trash
that exasperates and likely provoking the poems they wished
they’d never have to write. How, at the end, stripped
of promise, as the fruit falls asunder,
annihilation becomes plain-
spokenly bare
cadence, canceling all show and ornament, bare-
boned end-speech, devoid of any intentions on us,
only voiced conviction, baring what it knows.
Nothing complicated: just life and death.

 

 

Jack Marshall is one of America’s finest poets; we are honored to have him on our site. He has published 12 books of poetry (the most recent, The Steel Veil, 2008), and a memoir, From Baghdad to Brooklyn 2005; a book-length poem, TRACE (for which he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship), will appear in 2012. 

The New Life

Jack Marshall

 

First thing after I shower,
I brew a fresh pot of coffee, pour a cup
and take it out to the garden to sit
under the yellow-laden lemon tree
where yesterday at twilight I saw a hummingbird,
wings a blur, flit from globe to globe.
Since having moved into this house
far inland from the ocean we lived by
for over a decade, ocean whose smell brought us
home, whose salt smell was home,
I’ve seen bluejays, white doves, and hummers,
warblers and whistlers you won’t hear by the sea
which can be calamitous, as that drowned crew
of young Russian submariners only yesterday doomed
by their leaders callous indifference…
Old men sacrificing other peoples’ sons,
as if the sea didn’t have enough old bones
to gnaw on; it needed new young.
For us, though, lucky enough to be on land,
there’s nothing like a garden in bloom
and the sight of new birds to loosen
the ocean’s hold on us and start the new life.

 

 

Jack Marshall is one of America’s finest poets; we are honored to have him on our site. He has published 12 books of poetry (the most recent, The Steel Veil, 2008), and a memoir, From Baghdad to Brooklyn 2005; a book-length poem, TRACE (for which he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship), will appear in 2012. 

Sudanese Woman

Jack Marshall

 

Coarse, prematurely creased as animal hide,
skin blackened sun-baked flour, unrisen,
shrunken tight around her skeletal
bone base underneath; pooled eyes
filled with having seen dawn and sunset’s
blood-red on the dunes; with drinking
the water of the sand scavenged en route;
chalky palms lifting mush meal to her
fly-ridden mouth. Stripped of
children, husband, kin, and home’s
mud walls is party to slow dying, surely
as from the stones nearby, one day
a smiling statue will grow out of lies.
As if more arsenals needed emptying;
as if more generals needed to perfect
maneuvers, and not enough wedding parties
are thinned out. As if breath’s
witness must be kept vagabond, death-bound,
and, struck like flint, refused a spark.
For her, in wrapped in widowhood’s cloak,
in heat’s long tearing veil, all colors
are blended, bleached into corpse-clotted
waterholes. In whipping, flimsy fabric,
she stares out, one among countless
grains squatting on the bare gravel ground
of their lives. The freshness that time
had once laid in store, lays no more,
and a promise to satisfy, that could not then,
is farther away than the farthest
cry now.
  
 
 
 

 

 
 

please see authors bio in his additional works for CWPJ and on the Author’s page.

 

 

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.

MY GRANDFATHER CHANGES HIS LAST NAME

Kate Harding

 

At the Grand Canyon Red Rock Motel
he signs  the register.  The shiny Buick out front
my grandmother holding the picnic basket
boiled chicken, she glances at the paper,
the familiar handwriting, the blue ink.
“Mr. and Mrs. Taylor! Am I some floozie?
You have to write a different name? Taylor?”
She tells the clerk, “We are married forty years.”
Grandpa  says nothing, steps out for the valise.
Polished shoes, a tuft of thin blond hair
slicked back  under the Panama hat,
his purple shirt looks like an orchid
in the Arizona  heat.

In the hot motel room, they sit on twin beds.
Whir of the fan the only sound. She unpins
her long hair. “One of your practical jokes?”
My grandfather, the lawyer says,
“Taylor is now our legal name.”
She sighs, thinking about engraved flatware,
cloth napkins, tea towels, the Hs she sewed
on percale sheets and pillowcases.
“I’ve been Mrs. Herman since I was a girl.
What about your brothers and sister?
Who goes and changes his own family name?”
His jacket and tie still on, he sits stiffly.
She is already down to her pink corset.

”Meshugener,” she mutters.
She has never called him a name
directly before. Plenty, “Blitz Krieg,”
“the dictator” out of his hearing.
He opens the paper he bought in Kingman,
Senator Joe McCarthy with his wide forehead
and dark eyebrows glares at him in black and white.
She studies her husband as if he were a rare
eggshell brocade she has never seen before.
The bump on his head, a wound from a rock
thrown by a Jew-hating soldier in Russia years ago
shines in the dim motel light.

She thinks of the stories she heard, her husband
taught himself English  while driving a bus,
the book in his lap,  eye  on the road,
how proud he was to follow Teddy  Roosevelt
up San Juan hill, how he always stopped  to salute
the statue of the soldier at  the Veterans Cemetery.
He loves this country that gave him his freedom.

Sweat, which he calls perspiration dripping
down his neck he  sat bent all summer
over the McCarthy  hearings
as if he were sitting shive.

“Meshugener,” she whispers again.
“You think the fat Senator is after you.”
She frees a chicken leg from its wax paper
and hands it  to my grandfather,
his hat still on his lap.

 

 

                                            

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.
                                                                                                        

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.
 

Deadline

Eve Lyons

 

It is spring

everyone is breeding:

Two co-workers,

the hawks in a building

on Fresh Pond Highway,

the geese in the Chestnut Hill reservoir,

and Phoebe, the hummingbird in California

everyone’s watching on the internet.

It seems everyone is breeding

except me. 

When I was twelve

I played M.A.S.H.

tried to predict

the essential things in life:

Who I’d marry,

what kind of car I’d own,

what kind of house I’d live in,

where I’d live,

how many children I’d have.

I remember being so sure

I’d have kids

by the time I was twenty-eight,

I remember thinking twenty-eight

seemed so far away

so very old.

I’m nine years past

my expiration date

and counting.

 

 

Photo by J.L. WOODWARD

Eve Lyons is a poet, fiction writer, and playwright who is living in Boston, MA. She has published in Fireweed,  Labyrinth,  Concho River Review, Barbaric Yawp, Women’s Words,  Woven, Sapphic Ink, Texas Observer, Houston Literary Review, Word Riot, protestpoems, and two different anthologies.  

A Republic of Cats

Marge Piercy

 

Nobody rules.  They all
take turns.  I can never
tell who will chase who
playing war over the couch
 
and chairs, round and
round again until suddenly
they stop as if a whistle
blew in their heads.
 
Five of them, aged fifteen
to two.  Who will curl
together making one cushion
of patchwork fur?  Who
 
will painstakingly lick
a friend, washing for
an hour.  Who will growl
at their friend of last hour?
 
The one rule is where each
sleeps at night, their spot
in the bed and with whom.
It is written in bone.

 

 

Marge Piercy has published 18 poetry collections including Colors Passing Through Us, What Are Big Girls Made Of?, The Art of Blessing the Day, and most recently The Crooked Inheritance, all from Knopf.  She has written seventeen novels, most recently Sex Wars from Morrow/Harper Collins, who published her memoir, Sleeping with Cats.  Two of her earlier novels, Vida and Dance the Eagle to Sleep are being reprinted by PM Press in 2011. In March, Knopf published a second volume of Marge’s selected poems, The Hunger Moon.