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.

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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.

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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.

Possibly My Two-Year-Old Knows More About Physics Than I Do

By Shana Youngdahl

The first of the poppies burst open the day
we arrived at my in-laws New Mexico home.

Each morning we count petals folding back pink,
coral, scarlet, all taller than you. I have no memory

of smallness, or the world blooming at eye-level.
The bees near my nose or hands dwarfed by flower.

In the house before the photographs of your father
and I you say, I have to be born before

I can be in that picture. You believe you could join us
in that pasture with the right word, or descend

into the photograph of your aunt as a girl
and play with her, hold her doll, slip

down the slide, as if you understand the theory that time
might bend, that it is the greatest illusion of our world.

And I want to say, no, we can never go back, could never be wedged
in another time, but standing there my hand in your curls, I know

you’re right. Now that you’re here, it is impossible that you never were.

___________________________________________________________

Shana Youngdahl is the author of the collection History, Advice and Other Half-Truths (Stephen F. Austin State University Press 2012) and three chapbooks, most recently Winter/Windows from Miel Books. She teaches writing at The University of Maine, Farmington and co-directs The Longfellow Young Writers’ Workshop. She has two daughters.

Identifying the Problem

By Marina Carreira

Where are my marbles?

Last time I looked, they were
under the sofa, by
a linty Binky and half drunk
bottle of sour milk. Or
under the bathroom sink,
between bleach and ammonia.
They could be frozen solid
in my sub-zero freezer,
ice glistening the tops
of their heads with fridge-winter.
I probably dropped them
and they rolled under
my bed, where cobwebs form
chandeliers above the dust
dancefloor of my bedroom.
Perhaps, they are on
the kitchen windowsill, next to
the disinfectant spray and statue
of Saint Philomena, protector
of children, and some say, the mad.
I’ve lost my marbles, it seems;
they are not in my underwear
drawer or backseat, not between
the pages of Ai, not
in the empty coffee can or pill bottle.
My cat’s eyes and agates,
gooseberries and puries,
my dragonflies and aggies,
these former furnishers of
dreams. Did I ever have them
to begin with? Has anyone

seen my marbles?

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Marina Carreira is a Luso-American writer from the Ironbound area of Newark, NJ. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University. Her work is featured in The Acentos Review, The Writing Disorder, Naugatuck River Review, Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora: An Anthology, Bluestockings Magazine, THE FEM, Rock&Sling, and Paterson Literary Review.

He Calls His Mother in Miami

By Freya Manfred

He calls his mother to listen to her labored breathing –
all that’s left of her, in her last bed.

The nurse holds the phone to her mouth
while he thinks of his life with her and without her.

He would prefer to be beside her now, but he has to work.
And where would she rather be?

She might wish to be in her son’s arms, gathered
and held closely, as she once held him.

Or she might choose to be cradled by the sea outside her window,
riding the sacred waves to shore.

Her harsh, short breath is her last gift to her son,
and she puts her whole self into it.

This is her last concern, before she leaves him
to his own dying.

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Freya Manfred’s sixth collection of poetry, Swimming With A Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle, won the 2009 Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Award for Poetry. Her eighth collection is Speak, Mother, Red Dragonfly Press, 2015. A longtime Midwesterner who has lived on both coasts, her award-winning poetry has appeared in over 100 reviews and magazines and over 50 anthologies. Her first memoir, Frederick Manfred: A Daughter Remembers, was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award and an Iowa Historical Society Award. Her new memoir is RAISING TWINS: A TRUE LIFE ADVENTURE from Nodin Press. Novelist Philip Roth says, “Freya Manfred always startles me by how close she gets to everything she sees.” Poet Robert Bly says, “What I like in (her) poems is that they are not floating around in the air or the intellect. The body takes them in. They are brave. The reader and the writer meet each other in the body.” See more of her work at www.freyamanfredwriter.com. “He Calls His Mother in Miami” was previously published in Speak, Mother.

Creation

by Jenny Molberg

My sister and I used to peel
the crusts off Wonder Bread,
roll the soft middles in our palms.
The sheets on our beds
were freckled with tiny flowers.
At night, they came alive:
bees, or daddy longlegs,
or little girls who looked like us.
As they flew around the room,
we caught a few. Held them
in our hands, named them:
“Debbie,” “Bebe,” “Lady Catherine.”
Later, one grew inside me.
It came too early—they showed me.
Like a tiny flower.
I wanted to name her.
To feel the weight of her,
to catch her hand as it grabbed
at a pink flower, to warn her
of all the world’s little dangers.
To watch her bite into a pillow
of bread with a ferocity
that I could say, with certainty,
was just like her mother’s.

Ode to Absence

by Jenny Molberg

The woman in the locker room mutters, kids…
and I almost say they’re not mine

for what seems like the thousandth time.
I am afraid she will think I have nothing.

Today, in Oklahoma, they unearth blackboards
untouched since 1917. The children learned to multiply

on a spoked wheel. Stars of David border
the chalked lessons, a rainbow of them.

I can almost see the small hands penciling
two triangles, each cradling its upside-down twin.

In some long-gone teacher’s apple-pie script,
a few sentences about the pilgrims, some drawings.

The shadows of bonnets crosshatched in chalk.
The king would not let them go to their own churches.

I put my ear to the past, and the pilgrim woman
whispers: You are lonesome. You are free.