Persimmon Tree by Doeun (Jessica) Kim

Persimmon Tree

A grandmother sits on a layer of newspaper
beside piles of flattened cardboard boxes.
The cold coats the palm of her hands
like a thin glove, slowly numbing the crevices of her fingers.
Dry flakes of skin dress her wrinkled knuckles
as she remembers her grandson
who would crouch beneath a persimmon tree.
The bright orange hue of the fruit glowed
amongst the frail branches.
She taught him how to trace the bruises
and pick out the ones with the smoothest skin.
She’d wipe off shreds of soft persimmon flesh
that lingered on the corner of his mouth.
This story of bliss splinters
when the feeling of warmth curl around her body
is forgotten and the cadence of her breath weakens.
She wishes memories were like books,
remaining on shelves for one to open,
over and over again.

*

Doeun (Jessica) Kim is a South Korean currently studying in the Philippines. Her work has been recognised by Austin Poets International, Cathartic Youth and Isacoustic among others. During her free time, she enjoys doing contemporary dance.

Two poems by Carla Sarett

They Made Wars

We drank sweet Turkish coffee
and talked long into the night
of mothers who lost children in cities,
who locked them out of houses in thick rain,
who foresaw snow on a warm spring day,
how snow fell after their words.

By dawn, we forgot which stories
we had told and which we had forgotten
in the eagerness of our first revelations.

By starlight, we whispered our terrors:
Giant mothers outgrew houses.
They made wars without anyone noticing.

We never mentioned fathers.
Those pale and harried men.

*

no one says it

Deirdre’s sending
love w/ exclamation points
love! love! love!
John texts it (love)
no point wanting
a love letter she knows
that’s not the #love
they’re sending
& that song
love love love
all you need is
not the #love
she needs

*

Carla Sarett’s recent poem appear or are forthcoming in Blue Unicorn, The Virginia Normal, San Pedro River Review, The Remington Review, Sylvia, Words and Whispers and elsewhere. Her novella, The Looking Glass, will be published in October (Propertius); and A Closet Feminist, a full-length novel, will appear in 2022 (Unsolicited Press.) Carla lives in San Francisco.

Spelling Things Out by Elaine Sorrentino

Spelling Things Out

It was a liberating Scrabble game;
she loved me, this woman who was my mother
yet not my mother,

soothing her burdened heart with a sip of gimlet
she confesses I cannot believe my son
does not want his little piece of the sod,

and as she places the tiles for ABSOLVE
on the triple word score, for 45 points,
her surprising instructions set me free,

If you find someone
who makes you happier than my son,
go with him.

*

Elaine Sorrentino is Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA. Her work has been published in Minerva Rising, Willawaw Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Global Poemic, The Writers’ Magazine, Haiku Universe, Failed Haiku, and has won the monthly poetry challenge at wildamorris.blogspot.com.

Four Poems by Sandra Kohler

Having lost it…

When I tell my therapist about having lost it completely three days ago
when my husband gets angry at me because I’ve left a cabinet door open
and he bangs his head on it, says it’s something I’ve done before, I
tell her I don’t understand what set me off so completely, so that
I scream I can’t stand it, threaten to leave, to kill myself, outrageous
unforgivable behavior, and why, all because of his understandable
irritation at the end of a long siege of frustrations, stress, anxiety
in these awful pandemic days.

What was this about, I ask, and she asks me. “My mother,” I say. That
answer that we all come up with in the end, unless it’s “my father.” But
for me, it was her, not him. And somehow, I don’t know how, I have
reached, in these days, a kind of grim unrecognized decision: I reject
her definition of me, my life. I don’t want ever again to feel guilty or
unworthy or incompetent, I am done, finally, with apologizing for my
existence.

*

Recognition

I’m thinking this morning, as I often
do, of my wish that my husband and I
had known each other decades earlier,
ages before we met, middle-aged, with
years of living behind each of us. But
today for the first time I realize I’ve been
wrong, we do have that knowledge.

Each of us still carries the young self
we were inside, bringing a childhood,
a parentage, family, first marriage, years
of living adult lives. Here and now, in
the present, we see, hear, feel aspects of
that life, that person in the other. Here
and now, in this relationship, we are
each all the selves we’ve ever been.

*

Vanishing

Climbing a steep hill of iced-over
snow in front of a public building,
library of some kind, I know I have
to extract one book from the depths
of the mound, it’s what I’m here for.
The rest has vanished. We vanish
and don’t. We are alive in the dreams
of others, or dead, dreams which may
be closer to nightmare than dream,
or not. We are strange familiar ghosts
becoming apparitions, visitations.

I lose a hearing aid, the key to my
house, an hour, a morning, a slip of
paper with the name of the nostrum
that could save me, a child’s first all-
accepting love, a friendship that was
never whole but whose fractures still
beckoned. I lose my sense of humor,
my sense of proportion, my way,
my whereabouts, my why.

Do I have anything left to say? Of
course. Do I know how to say it? Of
course not. It’s the not which gives me
the knot to unpick, whose threads can
be woven into patches, forming a
patchwork which can be sewn into
a fabric which will be a statement
of something I don’t know I know.

*

What Follows

After ten years of living here, I still
don’t know the weather, its patterns,
where it comes from. Or the domestic
weather: my daughter-in-law’s moods.

Talking to her about the garden, I get
what I’ve asked for and then don’t know
what to do with it. I can accept or reject
it. Whatever. What would whatever be?

There are grave limits not on what I
can want but on how much I can have.
The sky says anything can come along
and will, but not what or where. Our

roses are blossoming today as if there
is no tomorrow. If they’re right I should
be attending not to weather but whether:
what can I create from today’s offerings?

*

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word
Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of
Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including
The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many
others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be
part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast
Technology Center in Philadelphia.

Two Poems by Faith Paulsen

Mother-in-Law

Invited to call her Mom, silently I called her Umbrella in Sunshine
Flea-Market Wristwatch Three Phone Calls A Day
Flash Flood Warning.
Why take a chance?
The cat will suck the breath out of the baby.
Spare Room Hoarder of get-well cards and flashlights
bottles of sleeping pills. (They’re not habit-forming – I should know,
I’ve been taking them for years.)
She called me Broken Eggs Hamster in a Plastic Ball.
Half-hour Early/Ten Minutes Late
She called me Barefoot in Snow–
That name I kept.
Years after her death
I wake stunned
when others call me Worry and I respond Be Safe.
Please don’t do
anything stupid.
Call it Poetic Justice. Call me So soon?
I call myself, I Didn’t Know—

*

My Mother’s Pessary *

Was she buried with it, I wonder?
That pinky-ball that for years supported
the vault over my begetting? My fault,
we used to joke.
Large baby, traumatic birth,
long-awaited longed-for,
late, costly.

Decades later, I witnessed
the price paid in her halting gait,
weary eyes (blue green like mine)
seeking a bench so she could sit down.
This is not like you, Mom.

Then it was I who supported
undressed, lifted. Even though
I was by then several times a mother —
I did not know this secret toll
that there could be this
late-in-life weight in the pelvis
pregnancy of years
this falling through
her overstretched muscles
falter, fail, a curtain’s elasticity lost
turned inside-out like a sock.

Attended, midwife to my mother’s aging
counted her breaths
an inexorable roller coaster inverted
dangles on the verge of dive-drop,
ripening
her tummy measured to house this blushing little thing
that for the last years of her life plugged up the dam
and kept the sky from falling.

* A therapeutic pessary is a medical device most commonly used to treat prolapse of the uterus.

*

Faith Paulsen’s work has appeared in Ghost City Press, Seaborne, and Book of Matches, as well as Thimble Literary Magazine, Evansville Review, Mantis, Psaltery and Lyre, and Terra Preta, among others. Her work also appears in the anthologies Is it Hot in Here or Is It Just Me? (Social Justice Anthologies) and 50/50: Poems & Translations by Womxn over 50 (QuillsEdge). She has been nominated for a Pushcart, and her chapbook A Color Called Harvest (Finishing Line Press) was published in 2016. A second chapbook, Cyanometer, is expected in 2021.

Family Food by Wendy Hoffman

Family Food

For fifty years now, I sprinkle the Hungarian sweet paprika onto the cooled sautéed onions and stir in bits of ice.

Mrs. Mathies, who helped my mother clean, had dictated this recipe. She bought her paprika at Paprika Weiss on the east side. It’s all in the spice.

The shop went out of business decades ago.

As newlyweds, my sister and I cooked this dish for our philosopher-husbands—a coincidence. Mother said they became philosophers because they couldn’t win arguments with their parents.

Sisters sharing recipes for beef, chicken, taste, divorce.

We baked from Grandma’s recipe for lemon cake. Mother called it Grandmomela cake.

Sisters sharing histories, genes.

No one else comes so close, like skin, and then it’s gone
like the only store that grinds and sells the authentic.

*

Wendy Hoffman has published three memoirs, Enslaved Queen, White Witch in a Black Robe and in 2020, A Brain of My Own. A German translation of Enslaved Queen is forthcoming. Her book of poetry, Forceps, was also published along with a co-authored book of essays, From the Trenches, written with Alison Miller.

Winter’s Toll by Melanie Figg

Winter’s Toll

The deer are starving.
Summer was too dry and snow came too soon
and too thick. They usually don’t come out
of the woods until February. It’s almost Christmas
and they’re in the trailer park by ten.

My mother died a week ago.
We cleaned out her refrigerator,
found two bins of apples
she had no energy to can
and left them for the deer.

After bar close I drive in slow: two doe and a fawn.
For a minute I feel lucky—to see animals so hungry
they’re at front doors eating
Christmas wreaths. One doe swings her head,
watches me park and go inside
my mother’s house. They keep walking,
looking for apples on the snow-covered lawns.

*

Melanie Figg’s debut poetry collection, Trace (New Rivers Press) was named one of the 100 Best Indie Books of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews. Melanie has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The McKnight and Jerome Foundations, the Maryland State Arts Council, and others. Her poems, personal essays, and book reviews can be found in dozens of literary journals including The Iowa Review, Nimrod, and The Rumpus. As a certified professional coach, Melanie teaches creative writing, offers women’s writing retreats, and works one-on-one with writers and others. http://www.melaniefigg.net

Two Poems by Mark Saba

Flowers in the Dark

The young man holding flowers
delivered our food in three boxes.
Loose potatoes and apples, lettuce

partially wrapped beside a box of butter,
berries, almonds, and Greek cheese.
He wasn’t sure which flowers we liked

so bought three: one, wrapped tulips
and two alstroemeria. Did we like
the purple or peach? He stood

in his buttoned rust jacket, a shadow
of the boy who graduated with my son
six years ago, now a generation

of wise old youth holding flowers
for their elders. Which one don’t you want
he asked. It will look nice

in my apartment. He stood there
six feet away in the dark
having delivered our groceries

holding a bouquet of flowers
that I’m not sure he really wanted
or knew what to do with

once back to his other world
the one without flowers
or any place to put them.

*

The Broken

My brother, my daughter, my father,
my wife. A cloudy eye, piece of leg
and vanishing arm.

An asymmetry in stride, an upbeat cheek
adjacent to uncertain lips.
The visitors come whole, hoping to embrace

the broken pieces of those they’d once known
but have been disassembled
as they try to reconstruct.

Outside, under searing light,
the rehab grounds remain dressed
in autumn finery: greens and golds

atop fiery trees, a harboring mountain,
glass-walled rooms that look out
and allow a looking in. My son,

my husband, my sister, my dear friend.
We hold the pieces of you
and let the pieces fall.

*

Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). Saba’s work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. His is also a painter, and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.