Another Leaving

Davi Walder

for N

Like two speckled swans, our spattered
white cars tail each other. We travel

into the sun, daughter following mother,
mother following daughter, connected

by occasional honks, waves, smiles
and glances in the rear view mirror.

Truckers stare down on us, women half-
buried between boxes, blankets, computers,

the accumulate of almost twenty years.
Two shadows moving out of suburbs, climbing

hills and the Alleghenies, disappearing
into tunnels, heading across flat farm

and factory land before turning north.
You have come to study, learn, explore

the human condition. I have come
to explore Contac paper instructions,

sweep roaches out of cabinets, search
for hangers, make another bed for the first

and last time, and leave. We have gotten
good at this, plotting partings and new

geographies with such ease they would
seem like cruises or safaris if not

for scrubbing the last student out of
the tub, sweating boxes up fire escapes,

and the lies I will tell blinking my way
out. I take your car to the car wash–

one last token–return it again white,
reenter the dirty one, its load lighter,

shadow smaller, its driver squinting at
the familiar unfamiliar and the September

sun sinking in the rear view mirror.

Monsoon Reunion

By Davi Walder

For A, again

Forty-eight hours by plane, train, and tuk-tuk
to reach the last lap—a leaking long-tail
boat sputtering between rocks, squalls
and swells. It coughs us onto sand where
dark hands of island gypsies pull our salt-
crusted limbs from the Andaman Sea. The body,
searching for the damp scrap of a Sanskrit
address, tells the tale of transit. Swollen
feet, muscles taut from lines and lugging,
the ache of locked bowels and trapped
intestines. Lungs expel stale air and squalor;
a heart pounds loose from tight moorings.

More than a year of waiting. Calls crackling,
the sudden flood of the familiar trailing off
into night silence. Flimsy blue letters,
blurred photographs, hunting for the scent,
the touch of a daughter’s life. Now, the path
leads up from the foaming sea, up limestone
cliffs to coconut palms, a school, a hut cut
into the jungle. Yellow beaks, red-striped wings
dart between the green. Light and heat swallow
the air. `Continue 28 days after exposure. Avoid
sun,’ reads the doxycyline bottle. Glasses steam,
a hat wilts in the island’s glitter and glare.

Shaky legs carry me up the cliff path. Higher,
a shadow looms. Ridiculous, I whisper, warding
off gibbons, rats, elephants, untying the thread
of letters fingered like worry beads through long
seasons. White tinged clouds roll in from the sea.
I push my glasses high on my head, focusing on
the shape growing taller, tanner than memory.
A sudden breeze frees a figure from the web
of dreams. She is running, trailing orchids
and lotus blossoms. Jumping and laughing,
we bang into each other. Bones and flesh meld.
Crushed petals sweeten our scents. Claps of
thunder, falling drops. High above the sea,
we are wet cheeks and sheets of water, a mother
and daughter wrapped in the damp of each other,
the monsoon washing us in its warm cocoon.
What you learn during Hurricane Allison

When you finally pull over under an overpass,
breathe, and unlock your knuckles after hours
of gripping and hunching through blinding sheets
of water, in the sudden quiet of the car, you learn

how mean thunder sounds, how fierce lightening
is when it cracks open the sky’s black eye.
You learn to be thankful for headlights and wipers
that work, defrosters that defog, and humans

who huddle in hurricanes, for the comfort
of blinking blurs who pull off just behind you.
You learn hurricane hospitality, edging up
to share the little protection that an overpass

provides from nature’s furious cacophony.
You learn to be grateful that you are not driving
the huge red, white, and blue bus that sends
waves crashing against your door, thankful

you are not one of the seventy terrified captives
staring out of bus windows above you
who know they are being driven to certain death.
You learn that a storm sitting on top of you

holds all the cards, that all you can do is fold
‘em until it’s had its way with you. You learn
to be thankful for a cell phone’s tiny numbers
and dim light You learn the meaning of pure joy

when the silly tune jingles and your daughter’s
sweet voice chuckles from her rented truck
fifty miles behind, asking, `Howyadoin’, Mom?
It’s only drizzling here.’
Under an overpass

during Hurricane Allison, you learn again
how much you love your daughter and how
fervently you can pray that she will never
name her children after hurricanes.

Davi Walders‘ poetry and prose have appeared in more than 200 anthologies and journals, including The American Scholar, JAMA, Washington Woman, Seneca Review, Potomac Review, Travelers’ Tales, and elsewhere. Her collection on women’s resistance during WW II (WOMEN AGAINST TYRANNY) was published by Clemson University Press, 2011. She developed and directed the Vital Signs Writing Project at NIH in Bethesda, MD which was funded by The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry. Gifts, another collection of poetry, was commissioned by the Milton Murray Foundation for Philanthropy. She has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant, a Puffin Foundation Grant, a Maryland State Artist Grant in Poetry, a Luce Foundation Grant, and fellowships to Ragdale Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for her writing. Her work has been choreographed and performed in NYC and elsewhere, read by Garrison Keillor on Writer’s Almanac, and nominated for Pushcart Prizes. “Monsoon Reunion” was previously published by Ms. Magazine.

Child Who Would Not

By Nancy Dafoe

Shapeless sleeping,
I dreamed of you,
mourning when you were not born,
holding your hand while I named trees:
there’s African Baobab, Spanish Cedar,
European Ash, Japanese Maple, fiery red and gold,
the Maidenhair Tree, held sacred, with its cultivation of hope,
thin, Quaking Aspen, I point to, with its imploring arms
reaching upward, but it is the Kapok that interests you,
with its spreading roots guiding souls
of the dead; wait, I say, opening my throat
like the Australian Umbrella. If we could only
walk this world, I would point to the European
Black Elder with its connecting buds
like ganglia, but your interest lies
in the finely fissured
Tree of Heaven.

I come back again to Bristlecone Pine
in its barren landscape.
“Death sets a thing significant,” wrote Dickinson,
yet outside birth and death obliquely you remain
while I cradle incomprehension until it settles
sometime in the middle of the night;
I never heard your breath but felt you
breathing. Ascending sun
troubles a cooled earth,
and an exhalation
suggests leaving.
Connected by sighs,
a long, thin cord conjoining
us, the umbilical flowering vine of memory.
You recede into that inner dark, my dissident child,
reversing process: born into me.

Poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, and educator Nancy Avery Dafoe has published two books on writing: Breaking Open the Box and Writing Creatively. Her memoir An Iceberg in Paradise: A Passage through Alzheimer’s was just published by SUNY Press. Individual poems, essays, and stories have appeared in a number of literary publications. She is the mother of three children, Colette, Nicole, and Blaise, and three small grandsons, Truman, Enzo, and Owen. She lives with her husband Daniel and son in Central New York.

For Frances

By Sarah Gajkowski-Hill

such big fears for one so small!
with my arms outstretched, we’ll
fight off the terrors together

I promise I won’t let go,
even when the pavement rises up
and the shadows grow long

when the rain rips the tree branches
from their very sockets

you and I will be miles away
sucking strawberries and
squandering our hours

full of lullabies and lavender
before the moon rises

For Jude

By Sarah Gajkowski-Hill

your childhood glides past me
— balloon in hand,
a rush of summer afternoons and Saturday mornings,
horse rides, go-karts and sleepovers.

what can I give you to remember:
your one perfect smile drives me,

and let you know that I am pressure-coated in panic
whenever you stop yourself from
throwing your arms around my neck?

Sarah Gajkowski-Hill lives in Houston, where she is a self-identified Catholic poet. Gajkowski-Hill works as a writer at the University of Houston and is the mother to three children ranging in age from ten to fourteen. She has recently been published in Dappled Things, Josephine Quarterly and Amygdala.


By Molly Sutton Kiefer

When she says Please mama, hush, she is not asking
for quiet but song. She does not mean the sucking of boats
at shore or the falcon’s measured wing. She does not mean
feather or wet snow or moon as it rises. Not:
the casual greeting of strangers in sleepy hallways
or the lung’s last breath, the sound at the center of a storm
or the rest in a symphony. She does not mean
the quiet ease of blister, or the travel
of a blue bottle on the ocean. Not the surprise of
a sudden disappearance, the skiff of aurora borealis,
the ghost in the parlor, looking on. Not—the halo
of a sun dog or the holding of a secret. She does not mean
the rolling boil of water on the stove. The wishes you make
at the new year. Cusps and lisps. The steam let loose
from the bowl of winter soup; the space around stanzas.
She does not mean late night summer rain, the slick sound
of tires on pavement before the sun rises or autumn’s
leaves shuttering to the ground. And too, she
doesn’t know to cringe yet from my tone or shirk
from my breath in the morning. She insists,
Please, mama, sing a song. In this, she means—
my warble, that first lullaby, the one I gave her
when we spent nights in the living room and were full of offerings:
the croon of birds and spangle of diamond rings.

The hotel

By Molly Sutton Kiefer

begins with a scattering of seagulls, glowing white along the lake road,
quiet as crosses. Before bed, I slid around the whirlpool with my daughter,
who steeplechases in circles around my five-month moon; I am fat
as a rabbit, my arms twitching as she canters, plunges, my skidding
daughter chased by a sagging swim diaper. That night, I dream a dream
no parent wants, the kind we thank for ending. (Was there anything
to wake me? No fan’s maddening whir.) We are in Chicago, light drizzle,
cold enough for a skim of ice. She runs pell-mell, arms spread open
like a bat and flies into traffic, cars slowing, and just when I think her little
body is safe, one brusque car scuds, nudging her like a puck, the world
bursting at the corners. This is when I woke up: as you were carrying her
back in your arms, her mouth white with froth.

Molly Sutton Kiefer is the author of the full-length lyric essay Nestuary as well as three poetry chapbooks. She is editor-in-chief at Tinderbox Poetry Journal and publisher at Tinderbox Editions. She lives in Minnesota with her family.

The Willow Mother

By Annie Lighthart

This was who mothered me after so long,
after so much wanting,

whom I watched at all hours,
and learned.

Mother like water, everywhere and rooted, the one who heard
the baby’s cries all night, and my own
by the window.

My mother, I have said, has long yellow hair.

Even from a distance she knows me, foreign
and barely branched as I am.

Light Rain

By Annie Lighthart

Stern voices in the world say they know what matters most
but I find I don’t know anymore.

Once I’d have said it was love — it would have been so good,
so fine to say and I would have believed it was true.

But this morning the baby is screaming and my son bitterly complaining
while their father, besieged, tucks and buttons their clothes.

I take a spider outside in a glass
and kneel in almost invisible rain until it climbs
into the grass and is gone.

Now I see it has been tenderness all along. Now I am ready to fail,
to go back inside and begin it again.

Annie Lighthart started writing poetry after her first visit to an Oregon old-growth forest. Iron String, her first poetry collection, was published in 2013. Her poetry has been read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac and chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye to be placed in Ireland’s Galway University Hospitals as part of their Poems for Patience project. Annie has taught at Boston College, as a poet in the schools, and currently with Portland’s Mountain Writers. She lives in a small green corner of Oregon. “Light Rain” and “The Willow Mother” included in Iron String, published by Airlie Press, 2013.