International Women’s Day: Poems & Art
Poems and art to help us celebrate and consider International Women’s Day, 2019. Please click on the poets’ and artist’s names to see more of their work.
Whirlwind @ Lesbos
We met in Istanbul
where your face was a veil
and you beckoned a reckless gesture.
Cover your eyes, you hissed
when I dared look through
your robe at your breast buds.
You were twelve when we first kissed
wadded your gum under the desk
whistled at me, spit into the wind
earnestly began chewing my hair.
We ran away to Naples
during the long war while flames
licked our feet and charred our skin.
Hurry, you barked over your shoulder
I was already losing sight.
I wailed all night in Jerusalem
when you turned me hard
against the stone wall
pressing against my back
as your reached up inside me
grabbed my womb with your fist.
In winter, we rented a small cottage
in Copenhagen where winds blew
snow over our bed
we embraced and couldn’t let go
you were cold and needed comfort.
We undressed each other
maidens in the fifth century
and were discovered naked
your ringlets black and soft
on the silken pillow.
But then I missed the cab to the airport
slept right through the alarm
one morning in Cairo
and you were gone.
I was beheaded
with your name on my lips.
The baggage was clearly marked
but reached Paris by error.
I’m in New York
awaiting your email.
[Originally published in Amethyst (1992); included in Whirlwind @ Lesbos (Headmistress Press, 2016)]
Girls, Girls, Girls, & God
Or being a bit precious I mean semi-
precious, I mean burning
out of EZ Pawn
& please drive on the right
side of the road, anytime now–
confetti & polyester sweat sliding
gunning the bumps
the thunder (come on Jimbo!)
of jackhammer & I-15
rocket ship liftoff; Jimbo! spaghetti
bowl billboard & horizontal freefall
end of the world in all directions
a no woman’s land
the Wynn: Sweats & swells
[Previously published in Australian Multilingual Writing, issue 1, 2018 (Australia)]
Self-Portrait as Rosary Beads
Curled amid lint and loose change,
tucked in a jacket’s satin lining or crushed
with used gum in seams of blue denim
I’ve known pain clinics and airports, taxicabs
and stale schoolrooms where time is
a honeycomb in winter. I am olive wood,
carnelian, plastic, black onyx. Am rosebuds
pressed into fragrant spheres. Your heat,
is my musk; your worry, my fire. Pick
your mystery. If Tuesday: sorrowful, if Saturday:
glorious. I’ve held you in grocery lines,
picket lines, the hours between sleepless and
woken. Hold me. I am glass shattered, smoothed
by my mother’s nerves, pillowed beneath
her cheek. Counted, accountable, counting,
counted on. Crystallized, dangled on a string
or hung from a mirror in a river of traffic,
praying for green, for an end, for a mutiny
of rain. Litany of sorrows, of praise,
I’m a crown of roses, a crown of purple
thorns. I am faithful as breadcrumbs
on barbed wire. Lose me to birds or to night’s
starred thicket. Touch and be splintered,
sundered. Soothed, surrendered.
My scent on your fingertips.
for Natalia Molchanova “the Machine”
9 begins your count
down you go
not pushing your limits—
just a woman on holiday
relaxing with friends
lungs compress your heart
beat slows the Master
Switch turns on
your body, weighted,
embraced in water not
your natural environment
you are not designed
till you drop, no
swimming required before
you must return
to the surface
and catch that breath
the ocean denies
you claiming the world
records it gave you
year after year
after year only to make you
one of its own
Meeting Again, After Decades
“Will the bird rise flaming out of broken light?” ~ Karen An-hwei Lee
When your arms encircled my waist from behind,
I thought a bird had come to light on my shoulder—
and I could not speak immediately for feeling
how densely overgrown the floor of the forest had become,
how at odd times in the night a ringing begins
on the shore of one ear and echoes across to the other.
You walked across the barrier and met me at the gate,
and it took minutes for us to realize we were in tears.
Now, days after, I look around: everything the eye
picks out wants to be the color of a sunset, of clementines.
Imagine small words like fragments of bone:
ten of them strung together are called a mystery;
and I know I am unqualified, but sometimes
I dare to address the unknown in intimate terms.