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).

Two Poems by Betsy Mars

Kavod HaMet*

I circle among my dead,
trying not to neglect anyone.
What can I say of those
I have never known?
Even my mother eludes me,
her mind ever hidden
in shadows. We all flee
when we imagine danger,
acquiring a taste
for what can be carried,
the weight of the unrisen.

*honoring the dead

*

Bearing Water

To wash dust from jagged leaves
I turn the hose on the hibiscus.
Shriveled flowers fall to dirt,
water drips into soil, roots
reach for a sip, when suddenly
a moth, its rusty wings heavy
with moisture, fanning the same water
into steam, flutters to the earth,
damned while new buds open.
Some feel my intentions as mercy,
others nearly drown.

*

Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. Her second anthology, Floored, is now available on Amazon. In 2020, her poem was selected as a winner in Alexandria Quarterly´s first line poetry contest series. In addition, she was a semi-finalist in the Jack Grapes poetry contest as well as the Poetry Super Highway annual contest. Her work has recently appeared in Sky Island Journal, Kissing Dynamite, Better Than Starbucks, and Gyroscope among others. She is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz (Arroyo Seco Press).