Following Peaches by Betsy Mars

Following Peaches
for my father

one step at a time, a man/following peaches, only one hand on the rail
-Ted Kooser, Under a Forty-Watt Bulb

That last morning in hospice
you requested fresh peaches
but they could only find canned.
You didn’t mind,
ate slowly, syrup running down your chin.

My mind drifted back decades
to the pool, its filter clogged with fuzz,
and maybe yours did, too:

we children dove for pennies,
got bored, searched the yard
for something more.

Who could find fault with children
diving for peaches on a summer morning
when the boughs were heavy
with fruit and nectar?

You scolded us while you cleaned and skimmed,
but I knew you really didn’t mind.

*

Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Poetry publications include Rise Up Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Sky Island, and Minyan. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the author of Alinea and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.

The Sirens by Betsy Mars

The Sirens

I am one with the sirens
singing down the avenues of the night,
taking water to whatever is on fire,
bringing breath to whatever threatens to expire.

I am one with wakefulness, vigilance,
one with the sea
and the rocks
against which I crash.

I am the rock, sometimes
the rockslide, sometimes
the sand— rock pounded
by my own hand,
sometimes I am the crash,
sometimes the victim.

*

Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Poetry publications include Rise Up Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Sky Island, and Minyan. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the author of Alinea and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.

Stable by Betsy Mars

Stable

Cinnamon glints like small fires
on the sleekness of the horse’s neck
in the late afternoon sunlight
as his head pulls right, straining
to be free of the bit,

to reach for grasses and the thistles
that line the trail, and I pull back –
a battle of wills – but he doesn’t know
what’s edible versus just green,
and it’s my job to guide

as the hills release their glow, and we are on the return
leg of the ride where the corral and good hay await,
and I’ll dismount, saddle sore but fully alive
to return to the schoolroom tomorrow,
with faith (mostly) that I’ll go home again.

*

Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Poetry publications include Rise Up Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Sky Island, and Minyan. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the author of Alinea and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.

Bitter Brunches by Betsy Mars

Bitter Brunches

All those Mother’s Day brunches begrudged
as we sat in our anger and self-righteousness,

judged your defects – not celebrating
for a moment in all our perfect holiness.

And now I bow my head, repent, often
alone on those Hallmark Sundays

when my children, too, resent
the unspoken demand

for elevation and forgiveness,
for flowers and kisses

which I secretly pray
might finally bear witness

so I can pretend for a day
that I had been a better mother.

*

Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Poetry publications include Rise Up Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Sky Island, and Minyan. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the author of Alinea and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.

Two Poems by Betsy Mars

The improperly squeezed-out sponge*

I am, a place for harboring
bacteria, cellulose thriving
with writhing mold spores—
in my pores, an abundance
of water. Left on the ledge
too long, I dry out, shrink
to half my usual size, still
full of potential, I wait
to be of use.

*From The Secret House by David Bodanis

*

Thirty Birds

There’s a brightness folded into every bird
but the bird doesn’t know it. – Melissa Studdard

And you, in your darkened hood, fold
in upon yourself, forget your underpinnings,
your bright insides, huddle in the wind.
Oblivious to drafting wings or the fish below
whose flash frenzies this fervent gathering,
your eyes locked on churning surf, scolded
by the feather-fanned air, the squawks that sing,
the waves that level, unfurl softly to the shore.

*

Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Poetry publications include Rise Up Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Sky Island, and Minyan. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the author of Alinea and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.

Two Poems by Betsy Mars

Cactus Embrace*

Your arms spread out like cactus
and I rush in, wanting
to learn the ways of holding
water, of not shriveling
under the withering gaze,
of thriving in sandy, shifting soil.

*after a line by Melissa Studdard from her poem “Inside the Beige Brick House, the Beige Rooms.”

*

Seasonal Bowl of Mixed Nuts

Always on my parents’ table,
and that’s how I came to know them:
by their shells, smooth shiny filberts,
the pocked teardrop of the almond,
the way the walnut broke into halves
under pressure of the rusty nutcracker,
revealed its meat, the lungs
cloven by the tough membrane.
The triangular Brazil nut and its sharp edges,
almost impenetrable exterior, such a fat nugget
if you could get through to it.

*

Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, photographer, publisher (Kingly Street Press), and currently an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. In 2021 she was nominated for the Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild.

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Clicked by Betsy Mars

Clicked
for Loki

I marveled over the feet
that needed no shoes,
the rough pads
with fur sprung
like golden grass
between them, the click
of slick shiny nails
as we walked
in our brief togetherness.

*

Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and occasionally acts as a publisher of anthologies, having founded Kingly Street Press in 2019. Her poetry has appeared in Sky Island, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Sheila-Na-Gig among others. Photos have been featured in RATTLE, Spank the Carp, and Praxis. Betsy is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-authored In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz (Arroyo Seco Press).

Two Poems by Betsy Mars

Hope is Also a Flower

I find it in the grove, yellow
flicker at the edge of my dark
perception. What matters
is the aperture, a tiny crack
in my cataract-clouded vision.

My filter captures dross, sapped
ground, equally traps gold, a slight
twist or refinement of the lens
then: mist rising,
a calla lily blooms again.

*

Deconstructing a Cat

A pile of paws: see how the nails retract,
out of the way for daily life,
the way they extend in fight or hunt,
thumb hooked – better to grab on.
The slinky spine, sharp shoulders high
and narrow to slice through grass,
deliver a sparrow. Haunches
muscular under such fine fur.

Eyes like glass: pupils slit in daylight,
full moons at night.

A tail built for balance,
whiskers flick at boundaries.
Nose a dainty triangle, nostrils twitch
at scent. Wrapped around my head
you chirp, clutch my heart with your kneading,
a tiny tiger in my ear softly breathing.

*

Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press which she founded in 2019. In 2020, her poem was selected as a winner in Alexandria Quarterly´s first line poetry contest series. Her poetry has recently appeared in Sky Island Journal, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Autumn Sky, as well as numerous anthologies and journals. She is a Best of the Net nominee and her photos have been featured in various journals. Betsy is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz (Arroyo Seco Press).