Three Months After Giving Birth, The Body Loses Certain Hormones

by Beth Ann Fennelly

And my hair starts falling out.
Long, red hair on the sheets, clogging
every drain, woven through the forest
of my brush, baked into brownies,
every shirt a hair shirt, hair inexplicably
in the spider’s web, my husband’s books,
cinching my daughter’s wrist—

this shedding stops in a month, I read—just another
Thing They Never Told You About Childbirth,
like how I’ve gotten my first cavity,
like how sneezing squeezes out a drop of pee—

at least they told me to expect this body,
how it’s soft and soupy now, my flesh
hanging loose from my bones,
this, while the child’s skull is hardening,
her fontanelle fusing its portal
beneath her cap of magnificent hair.

Yes, she is growing up and I am dying down.
If I can hope for, say, another thirty years of dying
that old consolation can console.

Another thirty years seems far away,
and I’m feeling elegiac, comfortably elegiac,
watering these impatiens hanging from the porch,
baby on my hip. It’s foolish, perhaps false,
to view my life with this grandiloquence
but even the suddenly slowly dying need indulgences:

Child, I’ve loved many things, I’ve loved food heartily,
I’ve doubled the garlic in every recipe,
I’ve had the perfect peach and understood,
I’ve taken a night train and woken
in a new country, owning little,
I’ve hitchhiked and the man who stopped
sang me opera all the way home,
I’ve loved jokes, the ocean, anything with sequins,
the Mississippi juke joint and the man there
with a hook for a hand
who spun me gently on the dance floor.
That I’ve loved my work occurs to me now,
I’ve been fond of almost every student,
and the one time, moved by a poem,
I wept in class the way I’d always feared I would
the students did not laugh at me, at all.

I have loved most your father, my partner
in dying, though perhaps he doesn’t know he’s dying yet—

My hair knows
my hair, surfing westward on the breeze,
is saying goodbye to this world
to its bows and braids, its sequins and stroking fingers,
my hair, anticipating everything—

Who else knows?
The house finch,
building, in the basket of impatiens, her nest.
The eggs in her body are hardening, ripening,
ready for her to start dying—
the house finch, busily weaving
with strands of long, red hair.

____________________________________________

Beth Ann Fennelly directs the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, where she was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She’s won grants from the N.E.A., the MS Arts Commission, and United States Artists. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize and three times been included in The Best American Poetry Series.  Fennelly has published three full-length poetry books. Her first, Open House, won The 2001 Kenyon Review Prize, the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award, and was a Book Sense Top Ten Poetry Pick.  Her second book, Tender Hooks, and her third, Unmentionables, were published by W. W. Norton in 2004 and 2008. She has also published a book of nonfiction, Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother, in 2006, with Norton. Fennelly writes essays on travel, culture, and design for Country Living, Southern Living, AFAR, Garden & Gun, The Oxford American, and others.  Her most recent book is The Tilted World, a novel she co-authored with her husband, Tom Franklin, published by HarperCollins.  It was an Indie Next, Okra, and LibraryReads selection. They live in Oxford with their three children. “Three Months After Giving Birth, the Body Loses Certain Hormones” was first published in Tender Hooks in 2004.

[Tell me it’s April,

by Katie Ford

tell me you live into a little girl,
when I tip you back to lay you down
your breath remains and keeps remaining,
tell me the morning trucks delivered bread
to the market while we were sleeping,
that the newspaper is flung against our door,
tell me it woke us, it is Sunday, all we have to do is
reach outside, in it comes! and open it—]

___________________________________________

Katie Ford is the author of Deposition, Colosseum, and Blood Lyrics, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and the Rilke Prize. Colosseum was named among the “Best Books of 2008” by Publishers Weekly and the Virginia Quarterly Review and led to a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Larry Levis Prize. The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, and The American Poetry Review have published her poems, and her fourth book is forthcoming from Graywolf Press is 2017. Ford teaches at the University of California, Riverside. “Tell me it’s April” published in Blood Lyrics in 2014

Aside

by David Lloyd

My mother has set aside her legs.

Given up on fingers useless
as those of a ghost.

She doesn’t seek breadcrumbs dropped
in a woods leading to a forgotten house.

Time passes like an unfamiliar landscape
through a car window –
quickly, or slowly, or slowly
or quickly, or not at all.

In Late November

by David Lloyd

I walk along a road that reminds me
of another road twenty years ago.

The same ruts, parallel across a field.
Runoff through culverts, into ditches.

Bales of hay the farmer stacked
by a rusting barbed-wire fence as if time

had no say in the matter. Soon, snow will cover
these fields, smooth the clumps

of needles the larch trees shed,
mask the long grass by the road’s edge.

How pure and clear your illness,
like an ironed bed sheet, like a scrubbed floor,

like the last snowfall
before the rains, the mud, the evening light,

the great machines the farmers drive out from their barns
and onto these fields.

_____________________________________

David Lloyd is the author of nine books, including three poetry collections: Warriors (Salt Publishing, 2012), The Gospel According to Frank (New American Press, 2009), and The Everyday Apocalypse (Three Conditions Press, 2002). In 2000, he received the Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Memorial Award. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines including Crab Orchard Review, DoubleTake, and Planet. He directs the Creative Writing Program at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY.

Passport

by Cathie Sandstrom

A moment’s photo: your child-self
at twelve gathers for the plunge into
puberty, then adolescence and adulthood,
where we now know you’ll disappear.

Because I wanted you to be other than
the homeless man paramedics brought in
with pneumonia and liver failure, this passport,
issued at the embassy in London, is the I.D. I provide

to prove that you were no ordinary child. That I am
not the kind of mother this happens to.  Except.
The envelope from Parkview Community Hospital
arrives: a one-sentence letter wrapped

around your old identity. Opened,
you look out at me. I reread the stamps of entry,
the where-we’ve-been that got us here and I have
to tell you, dear one, I have no answers.

Not for you, or me, nor for your brother
who struggles to understand how he lost you;
how he’ll manage, the last one standing;
how he’ll have to bury his mother alone.

Although I wanted this back, its uselessness
baffles me, so I put it into the accordion file
marked Important Documents.
___________________________________________

Cathie Sandstrom’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, Runes, Lyric, Solo, Comstock Review, Cider Press Review, Malpais Review, ART/LIFE, Ekphrasis, New Plains Review among others. Anthologies include Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, Beyond the Lyric Moment, Vincent van Go-Gogh, Blue Arc West, and  So Luminous the Wildflowers, among others. Her poem “Broken” and an essay “Getting Broken” appear in Master Class: The Poetry Mystique by Suzanne Lummis.  A 2015 semifinalist for Perugia Press and a finalist in the Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange, her poem “You Again,” is in the artists’ book collections at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California.

the holy grammars of the body

by A. Non.

all those long years Lucy the Australopithecine | walking
long toes in the cool river’s mud
and my daughter in her polyester onesie
her toes curling toward her hand, as if to help
here I am here her right arm reaching over and
over and
there was probably a moment (before the words came)

that her thumb finally knew what to do and that reach |
it reached the toes
and she was off,

next time, the grey river stone
between her feet her quarry

and I wonder if she had been deaf, and none of us could sign
what would have been the next hunt, and the next,

and until the day, as an old woman, all the things her feet
would have taught the nimble-now of thumb?

But Lucy walked. Her children walked and eventually
we took hold of poetry;

and I want to know | oh I so want to know |
the way her arm circled her daughter’s shoulder
on that east-African day
was that the body’s I know you?
how many conceptual hunts between learning to grasp a river-side pebble
and learning to take comfort in the shoulder’s knowledge of love

_____________________________________________

For all we acknowledge that naming – of ourselves, of our children – remains an act of power and of longing, we know that most of the world that shapes us is nameless. This is not a tragedy, but a fact of identity shaped long before language. As a poet I use words to follow the traces left by that alinguistic umbilical still linking us all to the past. As a mother I try not to impose my particular meanings but rather show her the foot traces left by the billion nameless ancestors. It is my hope that she will leap to follow some small track she finds therein and claim for herself place, time and understanding. In this way, even though we will be nameless, we will have been woven into that placental which gestates the future.

The Silence

by Katherine Terban

Soon, the fractal pattern of an anarchic order will explode with the force of an            H-bomb.
The forsythia will be sunshine-made-stick,
and the sunshine itself resemble all the forsythia in the world melting
into a billion glaring rays.
But now, lying in the crook of my elbow, lighter than I remember…

Rocking him as if he could feel it.
Talking aloud as if he could hear me,
and take comfort in my voice.
Looking at him as if his eyelids would open,
and him, look back.
With eyes so alert and hungry
to embrace the supply-and-demand of living.

I felt grief tap me plainly, on the shoulder,
when I saw his book: Make Way for Ducklings;
“And when night falls they swim to the little island and go to sleep.”

I placed my son carefully on the blanket,
a soft green island in an ocean of carpet.
Picking up the bottom right corner, laying it,
as far as it would go up his small frame.
Picking up the left corner, laying it,
over his chest, tucking it under his right side.
Doing the same with the top right corner.

My arms again recognized his weight and shape.
Through the blanket, my lips knew
the firm consistency of his head.

I laid my son gently into the waiting medic’s arms.

She, who embraced my hurt with sorrow in her eyes.
She put him to her shoulder, as if to burp him,
one hand supporting his back and neck.
Then she turned, and walked toward the door.

Past the hope chest turned funerary box;
seasoned spruce almost clean of knots,
the color of an August tan.
A color he shall never know, enclosed
within the plush language
with which the industry upholsters its steel grip
on the business of dissolution.

At night, the yellow eyes of a beast
open within the darkness of my mind.
It whispers to me the facts of nightmare
as it paces around the furniture of my life.
Its claws clicking on the heartwood floor.

The unavoidable shadow of missing him folds me
into its immense bat-like wings. Taking me down,
hard enough for me to be unsure that I
could survive such an embrace, intact.

I was told later – by others
who had experience, “It will get better.”
I didn’t believe them, then.

When all I could remember was the stretch
of forearm, the effort of bicep it took to hold him.

When all I could feel in my chest was
the leaden weight of the milk
that had hardened there for lack of drinking.

__________________________________________________

Katherine Terban has been writing poetry for decades; however, she has only recently begun submitting actively for publication. Katherine lives in a house on top of a very steep hill, where she is micromanaged by her cats, and is adored by her dog. Her fish, however, always make faces at her mockingly whenever she sits in front of their tank for her morning tea and toast.

Departure

by Jamey Temple

Wondrous time—happy time—let us delay;
Till night is over, go not away.  – Arirang

We arrived too early—
could see Min-su’s foster mother
buttoning his crisp white coat,
straightening its lapel.
His hands, patting her cheeks.

She hummed the folk song Arirang
while we signed legal papers
on a teeming table
of blue vinyl travel bags
marked by child’s Korean surname
and final destination.

Before the taxi arrived
he bounced in her arms,
his course black hair lifting
and falling like a friendly bow.

Yet when placed into the Ergo,
that was strapped to my chest,
he arched away, his hand left
suspended in the air,
reaching

Her hands cupped her quivering mouth,
her shoulders narrowed as another
foster mother pressed
the small of my back,
steering us

away from the blanket of kimchi-tinged air,
from naps swaddled on her back, podaegi-style,
as she shuffled through open air markets,
the vibration of her footsteps
drumming Gwenchana:“It’s okay.”
________________________________________

Jamey Temple teaches writing courses at a small liberal arts college in Kentucky where she also acts as managing editor of its literary journal, Pensworth.  Her prose and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Kentucky Monthly, Repurposed Magazine, Still: The Journal, and The Quotable.

Sentinel

by Jeff Walt

When my mother fell asleep with lit cigarettes,
I was the watchman in a rocking chair at the end
of her bed—jumped awake at the slightest scratchy flick
of her Zippo. Still drunk, half-asleep, with nembutals
in her bloodstream, she managed to wake, fumble
the pill bottles and spill NyQuil on the night stand
until she found a pack of Winstons. After a few puffs
she’d pass out again, one arm flung off the bed,
the cigarette suspended between two fingers, the ash
lengthening, trembling, until it dropped to the carpet.
I’d watch it fall, mesmerized by the power and beauty
in that second the bright ash became a small, hypnotic
flame and I had to act quickly, had to stomp it out
or let it catch, and carry us away.

________________________________________________________________

Jeff Walt recently won the 2014 Red Hen Poetry Prize selected by William Trowbridge and the winning poem was published in the Los Angeles Review, 2015.  Kevin Prufer selected a poem as Runner Up in Fugue’s 2015 contest and will appear in the fall anniversary issue.  A poem was selected by Broadside Press for a professionally designed broadside collaboration that will be available for vectorizing in August 2016.  Jeff was born in 1967 and raised in rural Pennsylvania. His chapbook, Soot, was awarded co-winner of the Keystone Chapbook Prize and published in 2010 by Seven Kitchens Press. He’s been awarded writing residencies from The MacDowell Colony, The Djerassi Resident Artist Program, The Vermont Studio Center, and Kalani Eco-village on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Poems have appeared in journals such as Alligator Juniper,
The Sun, Connecticut Review, Inkwell, New Millennium Writings, The Good Men Project, Harpur Palate, Cream City Review, The Ledge, and Slipstream.  Several poems from Soot were selected and scored by composer David Sisco and performed at Carnegie Hall on November 14, 2014.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

by Maya Jewell Zeller

In the beginning, we drove
up and down Monroe Street,
past Milford’s Fish House and the county court
with its legal spires and the multitudinous
bail bonds stores where lovers and criminals
handle cash and we thought of you
in your dull bed of lights and cords,
your pricked heel and the wires where I,
your first organ, used to be.
I thought of tidewaters, of creek
colliding with ocean, the mess of life
that devoured itself there, gulls and shells
split open to reveal their soft contents
in that current where over three decades ago
my mother dipped her fingers, pressed them
to my forehead. There were no
complications.

In the beginning, I thought of salt.
Before the beginning, I spent
my nights in the hospital
pumping colostrum, occasionally sleeping
and waking to find the sweet yellow
dripping down my chest, none in the bottles,
and I was sickened to waste what you needed.
I woke your father and he syringed
what he could from the suction cups
and dripped it on cloths we sent up for the nurses
to place under your head and over your face
so you’d know me. So you’d know me!

On Monroe Street, the sky outside our windows
was always most lovely in the evenings,
pink like the inside of a body
we’ve never seen but have felt, growing and
shifting and pulsing. The clouds would open
for the light and the birds would press their dark
silhouettes into the rays and we would want to pull over
even on our journey to you, even against the possibility
you might open your eyes for us tonight.
We tried to take pictures from the car,
knowing none of them would turn out, and no one
would ever believe the beauty.

_______________________________________________________

Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of the poetry collections Rust Fish (Lost Horse and Yesterday, the Bees (Floating Bridge Press, 2015). Other poems and essays are published widely. Maya teaches writing and, with her husband, raises two children in Spokane. Learn more at mayajewellzeller.com