Autism, echolalia

By Divya Ramesh

It is a ritual that he has,
ramming his fist
into his left cheek,
not out of choice,
it hurts him,

it is a ritual that I have,
ramming his fist
into my left palm,
intercepting him,
instead,

a cycle that we have,
a cycle that we cannot stop
—only slow down—

he wants stimulation,
and so his echolalia when
Pixar presents Inside Out,
“Pixar presents Inside Out,”
“Pixar presents Inside Out,”
he says,

just as the mother who sits
catawampus from him stares.

Were her daughter to hear
“catawampus”, she would
echo it, for pleasure,
for the way the consonants
collide on her tongue.

But that is normal,
not him. He is a wampus
for his echolalia, for his
autism, to some.

See him inside out.
See that he feels happy
and anxious and frustrated
just like your daughter
just like your son.

Don’t look at him.
See him.
He sees you.

Another life

By Divya Ramesh

Her ashes dissolve into the Ganges,
into the current and tributaries,
Sunlight glints on the water and speckles
it with alabaster, like blood plasma.

If rivers are the blood-veins of nature,
then what they carry is a pulse, a life.
A mother empties urns into the water.
Submerged too young, infant triplets, Stillborn.

Born still but now stirring, lent a heartbeat
and a voice in the water’s babble with
which to be riparian travelers
redeeming their second chance at living.

The water whelms that mother’s feet
and so carries her years of walked wisdom
into the current lives of her children.
and so carries her children’s lives to her.
______________________________________________
Divya Ramesh often uses her writing to don perspectives that she cannot wear through lived experience. She is currently a 22-year-old writer and undergraduate college student at the University of Pennsylvania who is not a mother in the prenatal vitamins, labor contractions, and decorate-the-nursery-a-neutral-yellow kind of way. However she knows those kinds of mothers, has that kind of mother, and loves those kinds of mothers. At the moment, Divya is a mother in the kindergarten teacher, camp counselor kind of way: reading bedtime stories, tying shoelaces, and breaking up fights on the playground. There are many kinds of mothers.

Along with All We Can Hold, Divya thanks Appalachian Heritage, The Evansville Review, and The Penn Review for publishing her work. Her goal in identifying as a writer is to give those who don’t identify as writers a voice to tell their stories. Divya currently resides in Philadelphia and New Jersey, splitting her time between the Schuylkill and Millstone rivers. When she’s not writing poetry, you can find her ruining a vanilla pudding recipe that she found off the internet. Feel free to reach her atdivyaramesh20@gmail.com.

Groundling

By Linda Flaherty Haltmaier

A killdeer, she calls out,
behind a door that stays closed 

more often these days,



It’s the bird with the striped neck

she told me about as she searched
for her phone and raced upstairs,



the one that built its nest in the field grass,

mother bird fretful and aflutter
as 
twelve-year-olds stomped and laughed


by nearby tomato plants—
father bird pacing, 

eyes darting from sneaker to ball cap 


as tween interlopers threatened.

When did the scales tip,
her knowing things that I don’t?


Behind doors that separate¬—
hushed one-way conversations
I can’t make out,

Laughter that withers
at the sound of my shoes.
My outstretched wing hovers 


over her still—
as my groundling stumbles
into the future,

phone in hand,

secrets to her chest,

and a shadow drafting close behind.

_____________________________________________________
Linda Flaherty Haltmaier is an award-winning poet and screenwriter. She is the winner of the Homebound Publications Poetry Prize for her full-length collection, Rolling up the Sky. Her debut chapbook, Catch and Release, was published by Finishing Line Press (2015). Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including Canopic Jar, Mad Swirl, Poeming Pigeon, and more. She was named a finalist for the Princemere Poetry Prize and completed a residency at the Noepe Center for the Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard. A Harvard graduate, Linda lives with her husband and daughter on Boston’s North Shore – and strolls the beach in search of treasure and inspiration

Crust Season

By Farah Marklevits

One of these days, you will
learn to eat the yeasty ends,

flakes of buttery shell, doughy
tops baked on and into what

someone warmed to bubbling.
Eat phyllo farthest from fillings,

even chips of bedrock, slivers
of legless tabletops of ice piled

at intersection of creek bank
and concrete arch, scraps of

stippled cold at sidewalk
margins. If you could learn

how to plump on a crumb.
Eat a shard and be warm.

Sing a crust song and feed
yourself and some huddle.

If when you are all dull edges,
hollowed to weightless close

to cracking, if when you think
you can’t hack hard enough,

you could grow ruddy on
delicate snow swept into

brick corners and hybrid snow
that will not cleave from curbs.

If you could turn to all that is
cold-stuck, wind-carved, and say

Mother. If I could teach you anything.

____________________________________________________
Farah Marklevits lives with her family in Iowa and commutes across a mighty river to teach in Illinois. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama, The Carolina Quarterly, LocusPoint, and Salt Hill.

Purging Mom’s Shoe Closet

By Julie Fowler

This is not to say I could begin to describe
everything about her shoes. At the moment
I cannot conjure up a single pair from her
closet during my childhood…
we were not allowed in that room,
and I was busy staring at the toes of my own.
Back then, she did not have the means to indulge
in owning a collection of any sort.
Simply the necessary and useful,
with the occasional splurge for party heels.
Now unused shoes line up on rungs
and keep time in boxes as a kind of reminder
of the gay times, the dancing days,
the giddy pleasure that accompanied
her love of a beautiful heel or a T-strapped
tap shoe – hoping for Ginger’s light-as-air
swirling grace. The ones I tried to purge
and give away in our shared effort to organize
and de-clutter. It wasn’t until later that I heard
her confide to Aunt Dottie: She’s throwing out
all my hopes and dreams.

______________________________________________________
Julie Fowler currently lives in Pennsylvania. She graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Business/Philosophy concentration. Her work (under the name Julie Stuckey) has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including Amoskeag, Blast Furnace, Broad River Review, Moonshot Magazine, Prairie Wolf Press Review, and Verdad.

Post-Avian

By Karen Skolfield

No mention of feathers. No mention
of hollow bones.

In this place, the birds have gone
and I am tending gardens built of fog.

The songs are the songs of children
resting on their migration.

There are many children: dun-colored,
unpreened, eternally nervous.

They build makeshift nests, mud-daubered,
poorly made, rarely a roof.

Where are the parents?
Why are all the skipping rocks untouched?

One girl tells me with the birds gone,
another species must fill in.

Now all the children henceforth play
the role of birds.

She looks up to see some already winging
south, so high I can’t make out the faces.

Only the glimmer of throats, the skinny
arms and legs cupping thermals.

She leaps into the air
then falls to earth again and again.

I watch her bloody both her knees.
I let her do this.
_________________________________________
Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press. She received the 2015 Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and the 2015 Arts & Humanities Award from New England Public Radio, and has received additional fellowships and awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Ucross Foundation, Split This Rock, Hedgebrook, and Vermont Studio Center. New poems appear in Crazyhorse, Guernica, Indiana Review, Pleiades, Slice, Washington Square Review, and others; she teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts. www.karenskolfield.com

Souvenir

By Elizabeth Johnston

Hungover at a kiosk in the Albuquerque airport, I root
through bins of dream catchers, rain sticks,
plastic tomahawks, cryogenic scorpions in
lollipops,

fish out a palm-sized pouch of four thumb-sized dolls–
dum-dum heads sewn to swaddled
cotton tubes. Worry dolls.

No matter they’re made in Guatemala.
They’re weightless in my carry-on. And cheap.

Home again, I slip into my daughter’s bed.
She is young. Her worries many.
Tell them, I say, and scatter the dolls like dice
across her lap.
Always the skeptic she raises an eyebrow.
But I cross my heart and hope to die.
I am her mother, so she believes.
Kisses each face, whispers her fears,
then slips them back inside
the way I’d like to slip her back inside
where once I kept her safe and always close.
I cinch it tight.

Such is the weight we balance—
our children’s faith,
our fear it is unfounded.

________________________________________________
Elizabeth Johnston teaches composition, literature, and gender studies. She also facilitates a writing workshop at the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. Her creative and scholarly works tend to focus on issues of gender and sexuality. She is particularly interested in reimagining the voices of women from canonical literature and myth, and bringing to light enduring fictions about female sexuality and identity.

Elizabeth’s work has been widely published. Her essay, “Tackle Box,” about growing up in a conservative, evangelical household, was one of three finalists for Lunch Ticket’s 2015 Diana Woods Memorial Prize. Her co-authored play, FourPlay, which raises questions about teenage sexuality and consent, received honorable mention in Cahoodaloodaling’s 2015 In-Cahoots contest, and her poetry and plays have been nominated for Pushcart and “Best of the Net” prizes. You can read her most recent poems in New Verse News, Teaching English at the Two Year College, Excursions, and The Write Place at the Write Time. She has also has work forthcoming in several anthologies, including Veils, Halos, and Shackles: An International Anthology of Women’s Oppression and Empowerment, Memoirs of the Feminine Divine, and The Chronicles of Eve. Elizabeth is a founding member of the writer’s group, Straw Mat Writers.

Elizabeth lives in Rochester, NY with her husband, two daughters, and a menagerie of unruly animals. When she’s not writing, grading, parenting or wife-ing, she is training for half-marathons, hiking in the Adirondacks, gardening, and dancing whenever the opportunity should arise.

Changeling

By Tori Cárdenas

I don’t put much stock into fairy tales and I sure as hell
know my own mother when I see her.
Or, I thought I did.

When she twists around on me again and again,
rolling crocodilian without sight, without reason,
so unlike her, driving splinters into my arms and back,
filling me with foxglove tea, while I push her closer
to the stove, in hopes the heat will expel that in which
such distrust has flourished, that which has made me fear
for my life like I did as a child.

Food and sleep seem threats.
The knot in my stomach grows with each black hair I add.
Chills, fever, pains—
I feel them, when I am not the one ill.

Captured and replaced by something with no knowledge
of this world or how it works, unaware of its cruelties,
unfamiliar with deceit.

This night past, I crept to her room in the night and her cover
I drew back—
when I unwrapped her, she was but a bundle of sticks.

To drive from her this curse, I must hold her over the fire.

__________________________________________________

Tori Cárdenas was born and raised in Taos, New Mexico. After graduating from the University of New Mexico, her work has been published in Conceptions Southwest, As/Us Journal, the Eunoia Review, and the Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art.

Frontier

By Christine Poreba

My son reaches for the light, wanting
to press the hot metal against his tongue.
I move us over to the shelves, where
he tears books down and tosses them
like wild branches needing to be cleared.

Soon, he clatters on hands and knees,
bellowing go go go, towards the gate
that closes just as he approaches;
then he bends his head and wails.

He’s an explorer with an endless want
and I’m the one who has to say you can’t.

I’m the one who stood helpless
when the neighbor’s dog jumped his fence
under my watch, blazed off until he was lost
and I didn’t know if the ground I covered
was closer or farther away.

It was, I’d read, the two-hundredth birthday
of the man who invented barbed wire—
Glidden parsing up the wild homesteads,
making boxes for the dogs who must have
howled in the new maze.

Now our dog, those dogs’ descendant,
follows balls in his fence, runs from one
corner to the other, like an airplane
on its route across the sky.

My husband, before he flies home tonight
as I fall asleep, types into his phone:
door / closing / now / I / love / you.

The space between the words is
the distance between two points,
where something starts or ends.

After I’ve left my son at school, his teachers
take him to the window to distract him
from my absence by looking at what’s just
beyond, which he doesn’t realize is the same
as where he just was

because where we are is always just beyond
where we were,

because once all of us saw land ahead
and thought only—and without words—go.
_________________________________________
Christine Poreba‘s poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Subtropics, The Southern Review, and The Sun Magazine. Her first book, Rough Knowledge, won the 2014 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and is now out from Anhinga Press. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband, John, and their son, Lewis.

Mother / Writer

By Eve Kodiak

Once, there
was a place I could go.
I could walk myself there
in any season, through woods
and high meadows.
At night, by candle flame,
I could spiral in . . .
and when I reached
that place, I was alone.

There, I invited
the guests: the odd
juxtaposition, the off-
rhyme, the disparate ideas
whose hands I joined
in holy matrimony. There
I chose the colors
and changed them, I played
the games and wrote
the rules. I came and went
at will.

Now, I carry
another with me. Child
of my heart, you sleep
with your arm thrown across
your mouth, and I am silenced
by your need. I dance
a physical dance. I sing
an earthen song.
O bright rhymes, flickering
on the waves like the eyelashes
of goddesses! O delicate seafoam
of perception, wait for me!
My breasts drip milk. I
am clay. I cannot
go there.
___________________________
Eve Kodiak (birth name, Deborah Polikoff) grew up to the sound of her mother’s typewriter. Winner of the Radcliffe Poetry Prize, she has published poetry in the Madison Review, Radcliffe Quarterly, Annapurna, Damselfly and been anthologized in Clarify and The Poet’s Guide to New Hampshire. Chosen as a consultant for the A Room of Her Own (AROHO) 2015 women writer’s retreat at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, Eve is currently finishing a book of sonnets, her journal of the year 2015. Mother of a twenty year-old son, she lives in New Hampshire with her husband, dog, cat, and many trees.