Three Poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

In the Garden, Again

After breaking, after kneeling,
after raising my ripe fist, after
opening my palm, after
clenching it again, after running,
after hiding, after taking off
my masks, after stilling,
after shouting, after bargaining
with God, after crumpling
and cursing, after losing,
after song, after seeking,
after breath, after breath,
after breath,
I stand in the sunflowers
of early September
and watch as the bees weave
from one giant bloom to another,
and I, too, am sunflower,
tall-stemmed and face lifted,
shaped by the love of light
and the need for rain.
I stand here until some part of me
is again more woman than sunflower,
and she notices how,
for a few moments,
it was enough just to be alive.
Just to be alive, it was enough.

*

A New Kind of Conversation

It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
—Linda Gregg, “The Presence in Absence”

I have no phone receiver to connect me to the other side,
but every day I speak to my beloveds through candle flame.
Every night, I speak to them through the dark before sleep.
I speak to them in the car when I am alone.
I speak to them when I walk beneath stars,
when I walk in the woods, when I walk in the rain.
It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
It is possible to feel what cannot be seen,
to sense what cannot be heard,
to be held by what cannot be touched.
It is possible for love to grow after death.
If there is a secret language, it is, perhaps, openness.
The way air lets light move through.
The way a window invites in the scent of grass.
The way sand receives the ocean,
then, rearranged, lets it pass.

*

Mycelial

Now I understand how grief
is like a mushroom—
how it thrives in dark conditions.
How it springs directly
from what is dead.
Such a curious blossoming thing,
how it rises and unfurls
in spontaneous bourgeoning,
a kingdom all its own.

Like a mushroom,
most of grief is never seen.
It grows and expands beneath everything.
Sometimes it stays dormant for years.

Grief, like a mushroom,
can be almost unbearably beautiful,
even exotic, delicate, veiled,
can arrive in any shape and hue.
It pulls me closer in.

Like a mushroom, grief
asks me to travel to regions
of shadow and dim.
I’m astonished by what I find—
mystery, abundance, insight.
Like a mushroom, grief
can be wildly generative.
Not all growth takes place
in the light.

*

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form podcast on creative process, Secret Agents of Change (a surreptitious kindness cabal) and Soul Writers Circle. Her poetry has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, PBS News Hour, O Magazine, Rattle, American Life in Poetry and her daily poetry blog, A Hundred Falling Veils. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. Naked for Tea was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Award. One-word mantra: Adjust.

Three Poems by Meg Freer

Grief Has a Name

A full ten minutes at sunset, hundreds
of crows fly south over the woods.
Moments after the last one,
snow blows in from the north.

I follow sheep trails across the fields,
unwind details I have been avoiding,
mental terrain more suited
for moose than human.

Mom’s two birthday balloons cling
together in her dining room for a day,
before one migrates to the kitchen
and the other moves into her bedroom.

A day later, the bedroom balloon
floats into Dad’s study to stay
just above the books. Dad must be
directing this scene from beyond.

In my dream, he fades into view
in the doorway holding a basketball,
says nothing, watches while I read
on the sofa, then drifts away.

Grief wants me to call it by name,
knows all 360 joints in my body,
tapes their seams to keep itself
from floating into oblivion.

*

All the Sounds of Summer

As gently as he once held a fledgling blue jay,
he cradles his sister’s arm, traces each of the thin,
horizontal lines he never knew were there,
saddened by scars not yet faded to white.

All the sounds of summer vanish
as he enters into her night and wonders at the fluency
of hands that treat the body in such disparate ways.
How to fathom the plight of molecules gone awry?

Ever distressed at the sight of his own blood,
though he understands artery over vein, he can’t
understand pain that calls out for more pain and hopes
his sister will fly, as the fledgling he buried never did.

*

New Mother
        for Mary P. and Minnow

I offer to walk with her on the nearby trail,
get her out of the house for a while.
We greet Archie and Jughead, the goats
with curly horns, as we pass their pen.
I pick up a guinea hen feather to bring home.
She sets a brisk pace as we leave the farm.
It hasn’t hit her yet, this unexpected freedom.

She stops short, as if she’s seen an apparition.
A cow stares at us through the brush.
What are you doing way over here by the fence?
Shouldn’t you be over with the horses?
This moody cow moves around the horse pasture
every day, rarely spends time with the other cows,
sometimes goes off by herself to figure things out.

We leave the cow to her moping, resume walking,
then she stops, looks back down the trail.
Wait. Am I even supposed to leave the farm?
I have babies back there, you know.
I reassure her that it’s fine to take a break,
she nursed her puppies, she needs fresh air.
She catches a whiff of spring and trots off.

The robins and redwing blackbirds are singing,
the stream is flowing, the spring scents
keep enticing, we continue our walk.
A bit further and she stops again, looks back
the way we’ve come, looks up at me.
Are you sure I was supposed to leave?
My puppies might need me, you know.

I try to persuade her to keep walking,
but no luck. We turn back, the cow
is still at the fence, but she doesn’t notice,
she is so excited to return to her seven pups—
lick them all over, move them around
with her paws and nose so they all
get a turn to nurse—be a good mother.

*

Meg Freer grew up in Montana and now teaches piano in Kingston, Ontario, where she enjoys the outdoors year-round. Her prose, photos, and poems have won awards in North America and overseas and have been published in journals such as Ruminate, Juniper Poetry, Vallum Contemporary Poetry, Arc Poetry, Eastern Iowa Review, and Borrowed Solace.

Passover by Ann E. Michael

Passover

The first holiday without,
grief burns like anger.
Irritant. Tough fibers
scraping at skin raise a rash,
sore during celebration.
Empty ritual this year.
Empty place at the table–
bitter, bitter herbs.

*

Ann E. Michael’s upcoming chapbook is Strange Ladies, slated for publication in 2022 (Moonstone Poetry); she is the author of Water-Rites and six other chapbooks. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania and blogs at https://annemichael.blog.

Two Poems by Jennifer L Freed

Gravity

                  Grief
pulls you close.
You know it too well
to think you can live without it.
You’ve learned
it is a chair that will hold you
up and ask nothing
of you but to live
with it. And so you live

through this spring day, drifting
from bureau to bed,
table to desk, touching
the shirt, the pillow, the cup,
the book; looking
out the window,
your hand on the windowsill, the sun
on your hand. Here is the view
so changed from yesterday. Here

is the blue of the veins in your wrist.
You can do nothing
and are grateful
there is nothing you need to do.
You let yourself sink
into your chair, let
the chair
hold you.

*

Widowed

Some days, she chooses not
to eat.
She needs to let absence
fill her body, to move with it, know
that she can.

On the table, fresh strawberries, radiant
in their blue bowl.

Without meals, extra pockets of time
unfold. She turns toward
books, sketch pads, longer walks
with the dog. Hunger swells, fades, swells and fades
again.

By night, stomach growling, she feels surprisingly
strong. She looks forward
to morning, when, standing at the counter, she will inhale
the scent of toasting bread.

*

Jennifer L Freed lives in Massachusetts. Her poetry has appeared in Atlanta Review, Atticus Review, Rust + Moth, West Trestle Review, The Worcester Review, Zone 3, and other journals. Her poem sequence “Cerebral Hemorrhage” was awarded the 2020 Samuel Washington Allen Prize (New England Poetry Club). She is the author of a chapbook, These Hands Still Holding, a finalist in the 2013 New Women’s Voices chapbook contest, and of a full length collection, When Light Shifts (Kelsay, 2022), based on the aftermath of her mother’s stroke.

One Poem by Julia Caroline Knowlton

Self-Portrait with Loss of Appetite

 

The crux of it is, who does not want to glide

through space, light—to enter like a dancer,

exit like a gold autumn leaf, float away?

 

Winter hunger always roving in my mind.

Hidden brush strokes, silver on snow falling.

This angel bone haunting, an absence I must find.

 

*

 

Julia Caroline Knowlton is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. She has an MFA in poetry from Antioch University and a PhD in French Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill. The author of four books and an Academy of American Poets prize winner, she was named a GA Author of the Year for her 2018 chapbook, The Café of Unintelligible Desire (Alice Greene & Co.). Her second chapbook, Poem at the Edge of the World, will also be published by Alice Greene & Co. Julia regularly publishes in journals including One Art, Roanoke Review, and Boston Literary Review.

Two Poems by Donna Hilbert

Rosemary

You are the rosemary I add to the soup:
how you pressed pungent bristles
between thumb and finger,
how you lay sprigs atop red potatoes
glistening in olive oil, salt,
house alive with the fragrance
of vegetables roasting
on any given day of the week.

1,095 days past your death, young one,
I sometimes escape the earthquake
of absence upon awakening,
but daily remembrance, I never escape:
today, it was rosemary, yesterday,
blue sea glass washed up at my feet.

*

dent de lion

Don’t call me weed,
but love instead my golden
head dressing swards of green.

The sunshine of my flowering gone,
then love me in my second crown
of silver tuft and drifting thread.

*

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach 2018. Other books include Transforming Matter, and Traveler in Paradise, both from PEARL Editions. Her new collection, Threnody, is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press in late 2021.

One Poem by Patricia Davis-Muffett

What to do with your grief
       for Dionne, June 2020

Butter. Sugar. Flour. Salt.
I am doing what I know.

Nineteen, I call my mother crying:
“I can’t make the pie crust work,”
“Come home,” she says. “We’ll fix it.”
The ice in the water,
the fork used to mix,
the way she floured the board.
It’s chemistry, yes–
but also this:
the things you pass
from hand to hand.

9/11. Child dropped at preschool.
Traffic grinds near the White House.
A plane overhead. The Pentagon burns.
The long trek home to reclaim our child.
We are told to stay in. I venture out.
Blueberries to make a pie.

My mother, so sick. Not hungry.
For a time, she is tempted by pies.
I bring them long after taste flees.

New baby. Death. Any crisis.
I do what my mother taught me.
Butter. Sugar. Flour. Salt.
I bring this to you–this work of my hands,
this piece of my day, this sweetness,
all I can offer.

Today, Minneapolis burns
And sparks catch fire in New York,
Atlanta, here in DC.
My friend’s voice says
what I know but can’t know:
“This is my fear every time they leave me.”
Three beautiful sons, brilliant, alive.
I have little to offer. I do what I know.

*

Patricia Davis-Muffett (she/her) holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota. She was a 2020 Julia Darling Poetry Prize finalist and received First Honorable Mention in the 2021 Joe Gouveia OuterMost Poetry Contest. Her work has appeared in Limestone, Coal City Review, Neologism, The Orchards, One Art, Pretty Owl Poetry, di-verse-city (anthology of the Austin International Poetry Festival), The Blue Nib and Amethyst Review, among others. She lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband and three children and makes her living in technology marketing.

Unwelcome by Ann E. Michael

Unwelcome

The caller
was
a stranger
soliciting
I don’t
know what
I told her
this
is not
a good time
my father
is dying
and
I hung up.
Now
as night
recedes
I find my
self awake
I think of
him
dying
and how
I was
unkind
to that young
woman
in a call
center
a stranger
I failed
to welcome
into
my heart.

*
Ann E. Michael lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, slightly west of where the Lehigh River meets the Delaware. Her most recent collection of poems is Barefoot Girls. Her next book, The Red Queen Hypothesis, will be published sometime in 2021. More info at www.annemichael.wordpress.com

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.

On the Day After You Left This World by Heather Swan

On the Day After You Left This World

I floated out to the island
of bird bones, where
their long gone songs
now whisper in the cattails,
looking for solitude, solace,
but found instead
three cranes waiting
who let me join them
there on the shore,
their heads tipping
toward me, toward the
sounds of geese from
across the lake, toward
the jet plane flying overhead.
Night fell and we stayed—
all of us—cranes, crickets,
cattails, me with my broken body
breathing, and in the graying light
the breeze stroked
the cool waters of the lake,
the water lapping the mud
until all of it
was not separate, all of it
became one breath.

*

Heather Swan is the author of a new collection of poems, A Kinship with Ash (Terrapin Books) and the nonfiction book, Where Honeybees Thrive: Stories from the Field (Penn State Press), winner of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in Aeon, Belt, Catapult, Minding Nature, ISLE, The Learned Pig, Edge Effects and is forthcoming in Terrain and Emergence. Her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, The Hopper, Phoebe, Cold Mountain Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Raleigh Review and several anthologies. She has been the recipient of the Martha Meyer Renk Fellowship in Poetry and the August Derleth Prize. She teaches writing and environmental literature at University of Wisconsin-Madison.