State Line

By Laura Read

On the way out to Hauser Lake,
we drive past two cops holding a shirtless boy

face down in the weeds,
past Curley’s, fifty motorcycles and a girl

in shorts and cowboy boots, her legs
wrapped around a boy’s waist. Past the state line

where we used to go to drink at Kelly’s
because it was legal in Idaho.

We ordered Derailers, pink drinks thick
with alcohol, the way this lake is laced

with fish. We can see them when we swim,
their thin skin and skeletons.

My son pulls them from the water, collects
them in the bucket where the fish don’t know

my son will throw them back. He is tall now,
his shadow long on the dock. We are as distant

and as close as the night he was born
and I lay in my hospital room without him

and heard a baby screaming and knew it was him.
The floors in that bar were wood

and sawdust and I danced on them
in my tight jeans and boots like I was someone else.

We stared at boys we didn’t know until they took us
out to the parking lot to smoke. We wanted

something to happen. I am watching my son
from the house. It is getting dark.

The osprey keep lifting off the lake
with fish in their mouths, and the lightning

is pushing up behind the clouds
so all we can see is the pressure of light,

not the sharp bolt,
the way a person tries to speak but can’t.
____________________________________________
Current Spokane Poet Laureate, Laura Read, is known for her Floating Bridge Prize winning chapbook, The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You. Read’s book, Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral, was the winner of the 2011 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. Laura teaches at Spokane Falls Community College. “State Line” previously published by New Madrid Poetry Journal.

A Stone Has Many Uses

By CJ Muchhala

If you are the mother, find a smooth
flat beach stone.  Demonstrate grip and toss.
Together with your child, count the skips.

The heavy sun turns soil to stone and stone to dust.

If you are the mother, choose pebbles small enough.
Swallow a few.  Bring the rest to your children.
Hunger remains, but their bellies are filled.

In centuries past, stones were a measure of weight.
Now they are the weight.

The child looks for stones of lustrous color,
character. Mother puts them on her dresser in a jam jar
filled with water. They glisten in moonlight.

A woman lies on a cot in the AIDS ward
in Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe.
If she could choose, she would choose
to be stoned.  A large stone, aimed with precision,
will damp her baby’s cry.

If you are the woman lying under a cot in the
overflowing AIDS ward in Lesotho,
Botswana, Namibia, South Africa,
you are like a wraith glimpsed in water.
Your children are watchful, still.

An aide gives each woman a stone to hold
before she dies.  This will be the children’s
inheritance: Mother’s stone enshrined
in Grandmother’s hut.

If you are the child, hear the gull cries.  Watch
your stone arc and fall.  Try to count the ripples.

_______________________________________________

CJ Muchhala‘s poetry and fiction have appeared in anthologies, art exhibits, print and on-line journals, on CD-ROM and audio CD. Her work has been nominated for the Best of Net award and twice for the Pushcart Prize, has been collected in the chapbook Traveling Without a Map, and was part of the art/poetry collaboration Threaded Metaphors IV: Text & Textiles which was on display at the 2013 Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival. Look for new poems in the anthologies Echolocations (Cowfeather Press), Soundings (Caravaggio Press), and Wisconsin Poets Calendar 2016. She lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin.

Another Brightness

By KC Trommer

She could always imagine the child
and now it hovers inside, betrays its surprise.
Since June, her body has shown outside
what she wanted to contain. Her body is a window
closed first by fear, then boredom, now suddenly opening—
It has her, all right. She marshals toward the day.

Better to be a different sort of woman, she thinks. One day
she might get there, embrace it all, resist nothing, hold the child.
But for now, it’s too sudden. They see it as an opening:
now the fix is in, now she will stop with the surprises.
They cannot wait to tamp her down, even as she opens the windows
that could ghost her away. She knows there is an outside

they want her to forget. The apartment collapses outside
in, the plates and cups leaning away from the light of day.
Give that girl something to hold on to as she leans out the window
to see the tops of trees, all the while feeling the child
coming. Her husband says nothing’s a surprise;
this was what they wanted. For him, it’s an opening,

but for her, it’s a door she can never shut. She marvels at the opening,
what it lets out. She wants what she thinks is outside
her, to trust herself and welcome the surprise—
Her head drags through the day,
and she cannot lift it, though she wants to say, “Here, child.”
to reassure it, herself. The blinds come down over the windows.

Alone, the city alights over the trees, windows
framing the solitude where once for her opening
seemed the only way. Now she folds her arms, thinks of the child
that will fill them, tries to remember when outside
was fuller than what she found every day.
She bequeaths this love to the boy—a boy!—the surprise

of it. What does she know about boys? Surprise!
She dares him to wonder at how each window
frames another brightness, how each day
contains boxes within boxes, each opening
to reveal a new delight. She stands outside
him, now a protector and not a child,
the surprises ever opening
windows to the world outside
into which every day, you must go, child.
_____________________________________________

KC Trommer is the author of the chapbook The Hasp Tongue (dancing girl press, 2014). A graduate of the MFA program at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, KC has been the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poem “Fear Not, Mary” won the 2015 Fugue Poetry Prize and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has been awarded fellowships from the Table 4 Writers Foundation, the Center for Book Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and the Prague Summer Program. Her poems have appeared in Agni, The Antioch Review, Day One, Octopus, The Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry East, and a number of other journals. She lives in Jackson Heights, Queens with her son.

future crazy Japanese mother questions her bento-making

By Mika Yamamoto

before light, I wake up
to fill the boxes

I carve hotdogs into octopii
and apples into bears

I cut watermelon into hearts
and cheddar cheese to stars

I shape carrots into flowers
and white rice into pandas

all this into bento boxes
for my two young sons

does it compensate?
does it?

Japanese mother, Japanese mother
I whisper to myself

I feel the thread of craziness
that binds me to my mother

the past exhumed, I see her here
a paring knife in hand

her dull skin absorbing small morning
light—disheveled hair unsmoothed.

are dinosaur jellos and hand peeled grapes
apologies in advance?

I don’t think so.
No, I don’t think so.

____________________________________________
Mika Yamamoto lives in Michigan with her husband and four children. They have no pets or plants. However, there is rumor of illicit mouse tenants.

Loving the Body

By Bethany Reid

The baby wakes to her hands
as if they are not hers—such wonder

to reach to touch what she touches with—
O, body, mysteriously made,
how it sheds itself at every turning
leaving me behind, mourning infant, toddler,

first grader, while yet possessing
this latest incarnation, incantation, my girl

who comes to me, nubbins of breasts

under her nightgown, asking, “What is happening
to me?” And her mermaid look,
that glimmer of the teenager who will try
everything, the woman she will become.
“Breasts,” I tell her, trying to keep my voice light

and the stakes low. Losing.

__________________________________________________________

Bethany Reid is the author of Sparrow, winner of the 2012 Gell Poetry Prize, selected by Dorianne Laux.  Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Calyx, Pontoon, and Hayden’s Ferry. She blogs at http://awritersalchemy.wordpress.com/ and lives in Edmonds, Washington, with her husband and three daughters.

Nine Months

By Mary Volmer

I
I don’t know it yet
but I am no longer
the me I was without you.

II
Who knew the color of joy and dread was blue?

III
The truth is
you are making me sick.

IV
A nurse is pointing
to a penis on the screen.
There is a he in me.

V
It is May. Dear God, inside I feel
the miraculous dash of swallows.

VI
My hungers are yet
the fulcrum around
which each day coils.

VII
Be patient with old women
compelled to touch
a pregnant belly.
They are not touching you
but their own gravid memories.

VIII
Like your face
my feet
a mystery

IX
It’s false to say I knew you from the first;
I did not know myself before you came.

________________________________________________________

Mary Volmer is the author of two novels: Crown of Dust and Reliance, Illinois.  She earned an MFA at Saint Mary’s College (CA) and a masters’ degree from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where she was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.  She has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in magazines and journals such as the Farallon Review, Mutha Magazine and Women’s Basketball Magazine and featured on Stories on Stage (Sacramento).  She teaches at Saint Mary’s College and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. www.maryvolmer.com

Coraline.

By Sidney Taiko

My girl born breech and butter-haired, now aged an index, middle, and ring finger. Her, a gap-toothy, dimpled grin. Her, bright and suspicious – add mobility. Now peanut butter safety zone and vocabulary present – building and or invented. I never gave her the rubber nub so one less thing to take away. This little tempest, this riotous being. Her delicious curls bouncing, her long trail of outgrown cotton. We are godless, but she was breastfed then burped on her father’s bare chest. My daughter, we both own that birth. She was the startle to occupy my body, now her slight shoes are everywhere. Velcro – claiming, be otherwise, be wild. My and Mine the current words to spark her tongue. Her, currently claiming cartoon princesses. Disney, the lot of them. So now the neighbor-mom raising the genderless child cancels play dates, cites bad gender roles. I waver, ask my sparkling why she loves the princesses. With her little language, she explains. They have no mamas of their own, somebody has to.

________________________________________________________________

Sidney Taiko works and studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  She is the Editor-in-Chief of Storm Cellar Literary Journal.  Her work most recently appeared in The Comstock Review and Niche.  She was recently awarded an Ellen Hunnicut prize in fiction and a Thatcher H. Guild American Academy of Poets Award in poetry.

Before The Adoption

By Mary Ellen Talley

      “You can hear the music of the weak pipe
      and the little drum,
      And see them dancing around the bonfire.”
      T .S. Eliot “Four Quartets”

The placenta did not burst,
neither was it seasoned with cloves and nutmeg
and accolades of baby showers.
Music played a homeless melody
for eleven months of afterbirth
as she rocked her baby from street to shelter,
seldom discovering the cause of crying.

One narrow corridor of longing
she could not decipher
from her daily bread.
Her breasts shrank
and she was inaccessible,

shared her erroneous longing
with the tawny-haired infant she attempted mothering.
How would the poor woman know the child
would develop an allergy to impulse control
and sweet potatoes
just because they were given too soon
and she stayed too long?

Open the cuddly Gerber baby,
buy a quart of whole milk;
melt marshmallows atop the Thanksgiving casserole.
It is late. Many mothers sing a lullaby.
She will donate this baby to longing.

A child romps amid suspended toys and aromatic spices.
Listen, music glows from the weak pipe.

____________________________________________________

Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have most recently been published in Spillway, Typoetic.us, Kaleidoscope, Quiddity and the anthology Raising Lily Ledbetter – Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Her work has received a Pushcart nomination. Mary Ellen works with words and children as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in the Seattle Public Schools. She is an empty nester mother of two and grandmother of three. Poems in All We Can Hold were inspired by experiences both as a grandmother and as a volunteer at her parish weekend shelter for homeless women.

The Nanny’s Gift

Wendy Brown-Báez

The Star of David resembles a golden
heart, the letters chai
engraved in silver. The gentle conviviality
of the High Holy Days.

I hold Daniel on my lap, our photo is
taken with a flash, my shirt gleams
white against my darkened skin, my hair shining
and long like my grief. Daniel is too young

to know I am leaving him.
When I open the box, his mother says,
This is to bring you back to us.
She has another child growing, a girl,

she has considered an abortion
but she thinks of her baby in my
capable hands, caring for her
the way I care for Daniel.

My own sons are ten and eleven,
independent, riding bikes, speaking Hebrew
like one of the tribe, sneaking cigarettes, admiring
guns when friends take us to the army base.

It is too late for Eliana to have the abortion:
she is resigned but she will be happy,
I know this. Every morning I pick Daniel up
at 7:05 am sharp but we are a family

about to be broken. The day after
Yom Kippur I will fly back to the States.
Letters dwindle, photos curl into
boxes. One night I wear the Magen David and

when I get home it is missing. Is it an omen?
When I remove my dress, it is
there, clinging to my pantyhose.
My hopes rise again.

_________________________________________________________

Wendy Brown-Báez is a writer, teacher, performance poet and installation artist. Wendy’s poetry and prose has appeared in numerous literary journals, both in print and online such as Borderlands, The Litchfield Review, Lavanderia, Mizna, Minnetonka Review, Interfaithings, Moxie, and talkingwriting and anthologies such as The Chrysalis Reader, Wising Up Press, We-Moon datebooks, and The Heart of All that Is. Her poetry books are Ceremonies of the Spirit, transparencies of light and Elegy for Newtown. Wendy received McKnight and MN State Arts Board grant to teach writing workshops in non-profits and she is a member of the MN Prison Writing Workshop. www.wendybrownbaez.com

Ironing

By Iain Macdonald

Hour after hour, year upon year,
she stood in this corner, laboring to
transform a pile of laundry–trousers
blouses, even underwear–into a
sharp-edged stack with which to armor
her family against an uncertain world.

This I remember, back in her domain,
as I struggle to erase each packing
crease from a newly purchased shirt.
She’s gone these two years past, but I
still know what’s expected of her son
when he attends his father’s funeral.

________________________________________________________________

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Iain Macdonald currently lives in Arcata, California.  He has earned his bread and butter in various ways, from flower picker to factory hand, merchant marine officer to high school teacher.  His first two chapbooks Plotting the Course and Transit Report were published by March Street Press, while a third, The Wrecker’s Yard, was released in 2015 by Kattywompus Press.