Archive for June, 2010

Keeping a Besom by Tara Larkin

June 28, 2010 4 comments

The besom should always be hung 
thistle side up, surrounded by hollyhocks,
wormwood, artemisias and black iris:
to celebrate the sex joy of the thatch and rod,
the white harmonies between male and female,
as in the giving rain and the power of thunder.
Keep close your besom to dispel
an encounter with a black bear
not bound by wolf bane and trouble, even in a dream.

Besoms of foxglove, snake leather and hawthorn
can out fly a swarm of Ayahuasca bats and
most hail storms, provided there is moonlight.
The best besoms are powered
by Mars, tin and memory.
Familiars along for the ride cradled to the heartbeat
or lungs are said to obtain a bird’s hollow bones,
breath eaten by wind while imaging the altitude.
Sanctity above, forests below, rivers like scorpions.

As with a fire drake, a besom needs a
considered husbandry. Never dally
by a still green pond in which dwell
snapping turtles; these are the incarnations
of the Page of Cups who would steal
your besom by splintering your Earth soul,
his cold hard jaw you must then bind
with a blue silk cord. Beware of such
crude ponds. And blessed be.

Plum-Woman by Michelle McEwen

June 27, 2010 8 comments

Mama’s got a name made for trouble. That’s what the meat-man down at the store said. “Vyla,” he said, “now that’s a troublemaker’s name.” (He said troublemaker as if it was the same as a shoemaker). When he had finished up slicing mama’s ham he said, “How many hearts you done broke, Vyla?” Mama didn’t answer; she just said thank you for the ham, told me to come on, and walked off. I could have answered for her, though. Could have said “three” and named them, too— daddy, Jasper, and Clementine.

Now daddy had it coming. He let mama run all over him. When we had but one car in the garage, he always let mama have it to go wherever she needed to go. He’d take the bus or walk. “Vyla,” he’d say, “I got that car for you.” Knowing full well he bought the car for himself ’cause I was with him when he bought it. He had told the car-man to give him somethin’ in red. “I love red,” he told him and they went up and down the lot looking for the red that suited him— not wine-red, not blood-red, but cherry-red. He knew it when he saw it and that’s the car he bought. He drove that car but twice— once off the lot and once to take my mama to the hospital when she had this fever that wouldn’t go down. Fool, that’s what the people in the neighborhood called him— behind his back and to his face. Didn’t he know, they said, what all Vyla was doing around town in that car? Didn’t he know, they said, she had another fellow in the passenger seat most times? And sometimes they had even seen that fellow behind the wheel— driving daddy’s cherry-red car like it was his. But daddy would just say how town talk was just that— talk. But it wasn’t just talk. Once, when I was standing outside the candy store with a boyfriend of mine, I saw mama fly by in daddy’s car. Then a few minutes later, she flew by again with Jasper in the car. Jasper was the fellow the people in the neighborhood tried to tell daddy about. My boyfriend said, “Ain’t that your mama?” And all I did was nod. My boyfriend said, “But that ain’t your daddy in the car with her— that’s Jasper McGhee!” And he went on tellin’ me how Jasper was the football coach for the high school two towns over and how Jasper was gonna turn that team around. “So!” I said and something in my stomach made me spit out the gum I was chewing. “So,” my boyfriend said “if your mama’s messing around with Coach Jasper, your father don’t stand no kind of a chance!”

And he was right because when my daddy found out about Jasper, it was too late— mama was already round-&-radiant with Jasper’s child. Daddy had tried to put his foot down— had said, “Vyla, I’m sick of this foolishness.” And he buried the car keys in the backyard as if the car was the real problem. But mama just smiled and said, “You act like Jasper don’t own a car.” My father was through with her after that. He dug up the keys out the back yard and left. Before he left, he kissed me and told me to look after mama ’cause “she needs lookin’ after.” But I didn’t have to look after her on my own; Jasper moved in shortly after daddy left and he and mama were always off at the doctor’s office ’cause mama was always complainin’ about being so sick. “I can’t do nothing by lay up,” she’d say and point the finger at Jasper. She got sick of Jasper real quick, so he was with us but only for a little while. Mama got to the point where she couldn’t even stand the sight of his face. “Look at him,” she said to me once while Jasper was out in yard mowing the lawn, “don’t he gotta face like bruised fruit?” And she laughed. I wouldn’t have laughed like I did if it wasn’t the truth. She put Jasper out shortly after that and that boy who used to be my boyfriend said Coach Jasper wasn’t the same after my mama had got hold to him. No sooner had Jasper gone, mama’s roundness and radiance had gone too. “What I want with another you,” she told me while we ate breakfast and that was that. A few weeks later, I told mama how I missed her belly. Her eyes got real big and I almost thought she’d hit me, but she didn’t; she just hugged me and started crying— real tears, too! And mama hardly cried. She said that she had missed her belly, too. But that didn’t last long ’cause in no time, she was wiping her eyes and laughing, saying, “Supposin’ the baby had been a boy, huh?” And there were no more tears. She said, “And what I want with a boy taking after Jasper Mcgee with that bruised fruit skin of his!” I didn’t laugh this time; mama did and she kept on laughing, too, until her dinner got cold. But she was sad about the baby, I could tell— every day, she’d be on the phone with her friend Clementine talking low and gloomy-like. Once I overheard her on the kitchen phone talking to Clementine. She said, “Clem, you know, I have these dreams about what I done…” And in no time, Clementine would be sitting at our kitchen table rubbin’ mama’s back and listening. Sometimes, she’d come over to fix up mama’s hair.

“You can’t be sitting around the house like this, Vyla,” Clementine said to my mama one night.

“Why not,” mama said and Clementine would go on and on about how mama never used to let herself look like this— this unkempt, this slouched over.

“Ever since I’ve known you,” Clementine said, “you’d put on lipstick just to sit around the house— this ain’t you!” And she fixed mama up and dragged her out the house.

“You gon’ be alright here by yourself,” Clementine said to me and I nodded and said “Yes ma’am” like I was told to call her. Clementine didn’t look like a ma’am, though. She was a slim girl with slim fingers and slim, long, feet. She wasn’t bad looking, but she never had a man. Mama said it was because “Clem is real picky, you know?”

Well, when they got back the next morning (goin’ on somethin’ like six in the morning), mama was all better. They came in the house loud as morning roosters— waking me up. So I joined them in the kitchen. You should have seen mama showing me the moves she and Clementine did on the dance floor— they were hand and hand and leaning all over each other.

“So y’all went dancing,” I said, having nothing else to say.

“Mmm hmm,” mama said, “and can’t nobody dance like Clem!” At first I thought she had said him and I was going to say, “him who?” But she said Clem. I made a face and said:

“Mama, what y’all doin’ dancin’ together? I bet y’all looked funny.”

“Naw,” Clementine said, “we didn’t look funny. We were the best dancers out there.”

“Mmm hmm,” mama said and she grabbed Clementine by the waist and started dancing to the tune Clementine was humming. They were drunk, too, so I left them in the kitchen dancing while I, up for good, went to bathe. All throughout the day, though, Clementine and mama couldn’t stay away from each other and Clementine would be all up under mama like she was her man— tucking mama’s hair behind her ear and whispering in it. She started staying over nights. Sometimes, they’d go out dancing. Sometimes, they’d stay in and watch a late night movie in the living room. Then it got so Clementine was never leaving. She’d be here for breakfast, go to work, and come back for dinner and stay. We ain’t have but two bedrooms and Clementine wasn’t sleeping on the sofa downstairs. I don’t know what mama thought I thought, but I know woman-woman love when I see it. I just kept my mouth shut the whole time Clementine was with us. I made like I was too young to know what was goin’ on. I thought, this one day, Mama might sit me down and tell me what-all was goin’ on between her and Clementine. This one day, we were on the front porch while Clementine was at work, and mama sang a little ditty about her Clem being as sweet as Clementines (the fruit).

“You made that up?” I said

“Mmm hmm,” mama said, smiling. “I didn’t even know I was singin’ out loud.”

“You must be happy, then,” I said.

“Sorta,” mama said and closed her eyes. I left her on the porch— that ditty stuck in my head. Something about that ditty got under my skin, made me miss daddy and even miss Jasper. My old boyfriend stopped by one day and said, “Your mama messin’ with Clementine?” And I told him no. I said, “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.” He didn’t believe me, though. He just laughed and said that folks were talking and that Jasper McGhee was going crazy over the idea of being replaced by Clementine. “He don’t feel too good about that,” my old boyfriend said, looking back at me, as he walked down the street. I knew folks were talking about mama and Clementine— the same way they talked about Jasper drivin’ daddy’s car. But this was different; they had laughed a little at Jasper behind the wheel of daddy’s cherry-red car. They weren’t laughing now. They talked about mama and Clementine in the grocery store with frowns on their faces. Even the meat-man joined in on the talk, saying to this one woman: “I hear Clem got Vyla wearing a ring.” And that was no lie. Mama was wearing a ring— nothing fancy, just this gold band on her ring finger. Clementine brought it home one day and mama just put it on. Just like that. But I knew that ring would be the end of things. Mama don’t like being owned and, to me, that ring was Clementine trying to own mama. She said that’s what Jasper was trying to do when he slipped that baby in her. “He was trying to own me,” she had said. And so I told the meat-man, when my number had been called and it was my time to place my order, I said, “Nothing’s goin’ on between mama and Clementine.” And he laughed this laugh that told me he thought I was just a young’un who didn’t know woman-woman love when I saw it. But I only said what I said because I knew soon what was goin’ on between mama and Clementine would be over. ‘Cause I knew mama would get sick of Clementine the way, say, plum-people, who, trying somethin’ new, get sick of peaches after a while. And mama is a plum-woman— that is to say, if plum were men. And I was right because no sooner had that ring gone on, it came off. She wore it for about a month and then one morning she told Clementine she had dropped the ring down the sink. Clementine got down on her hands and knees and unscrewed the pipe and searched for the ring. She hollered for me to “get in here and help me look for this ring!” I said “Yes ma’am” and helped her.
“Ain’t no ring here,” she said and I knew then mama had probably tossed that ring in the trash somewhere.

“You see a ring anywhere?”

“No ma’am,” I said with the biggest smile on my face. They fought long and hard the rest of the day— Clementine accusing mama of lying about the ring and mama hollering that she did drop the ring down the sink.

“How can a ring just up and disappear, huh?” Clementine said and when she left the house, she was shaking with anger; her face wet with tears.

Mama’s cousin Lew came to stay with us after that and he brought his gun. He didn’t like what mama had said about how angry Clementine was when she had left and he felt like Clementine might could do somethin’. He told me to stay away from Clementine if I saw her in the street. Clementine didn’t bother us, though, but cousin Lew stayed just the same. I don’t know if Lew was really mama’s cousin or just somebody she called cousin, but he stayed with us and kept his gun on one of the pantry shelves. He called that gun “Clem” ’cause he said it was only to be used on Clementine. Something in his eyes told me he’d use it on her even if Clementine had just come over to pick up something she had forgot— like that bra she left hanging on the door knob on mama’s closet. And it’s a good thing Clementine never did show up for that bra; I don’t think Lew cared too much for what went on between Clementine and mama. I think, maybe, someone sent him up here to watch mama ’cause I heard mama and Lew talking one morning in the kitchen. Mama had said, “You don’t have to worry about me, Lew, I like my lovers thick-necked and wide-backed.” Lew laughed at this and as soon as mama was gone out the kitchen, Lew got on the kitchen phone and told somebody on the other line about how he had knocked that nonsense right out of mama.

Ciara’s Cloud by Martha Williams

June 27, 2010 10 comments

“If he comes back here, I’ll-”

“We know, you said…”

“He’s a-”

“We know that too. You said.”

Ciara feels the movement grow within her like a balance that she dare not trust… because despite her parents’ fury, Frankie’s flight, and rancid words spewed from tight‑lipped mouths… her baby lives. Today, slumped in apathy, she does nothing more than drown herself in tea and wish for the clock to tick less loudly.

The familiar murmurs drift beneath her.

“If she doesn’t decide soon, it’ll be too late.”

“There’s nothing to decide.”

“There is. She’s our daughter.”

“She’s not my daughter. She did wrong, she has to live with it – but not under my roof.”

“No. No, love, she is our daughter…” The rustle of fabric, the adjustment of breath as fingers wrap around wrists and supplicant palms caress a chest. “We can hide this for her. Get rid of it and forget it. It can’t limit her life now.”

“It’s not her life to take.” There’s a pause, an inhalation. Perhaps he turns his palms up, trying to cup the lost words cascading from his thoughts. He loves her… but he can’t accept… and that’s not the answer…

“It is. Right now, it is.”


The slam of angry father, followed by her mother’s music: the clink of crockery chiming an uneven tempo broken by loud clanks that signal a battle’s end but a war only just begun.

Ciara stares at her feet until her eyes cloud and the day’s edges dim. She lets her mind drift as if by sliding into blurred existence, the clamours and needs that dwarf her might distil into something altogether more manageable.

The kitchen song is over and now the sitting room reverberates; the pianissimo hiss of a rug being straightened, the grunt of a sofa disturbed from its seat, the sigh of the duster.

Her mother had always set her sanity by empty filters, clean steps and timed eggs which as each child spewed forth meant escalating failure until thirty years of screaming had carved into her speech crevasses from which molten anger poured.

If you don’t… I don’t want to find… You mark my words, unless…

Unless, unless, unless… what?

Staccato wood under angry feet. The scent of polish, a squeak of a window and tendrils of cold air that reach with icy tongues to lick Ciara’s neck. But as Ciara breathes the breeze that once raged as an ocean gale, it is warmed and soothed and becomes her, soft and supine… bearing on its silent strength sweet dreams of white fleece passing under blue and the sun kissing her face while ivory gulls call, ‘keeeeeeeeeahhhh’ to speckled, flapping young.

And she wonders, even if her rug be crumpled and her steps filthy, beneath the storms of contempt and criticism could her child not float on clouds of calm? Even if chaotic, demanding and ill‑conceived… might her child not still be loved in aimless, rambling and glorious fashion? She thinks, this will be her daughter – then frowns and smiles together as she adjusts her mind: or her son.

Silence flows like summer air as Ciara rises to stand and smile. She will speak later.

For now, it is enough to know.

~ * ~

The Train Dream by Melissa McEwen

June 26, 2010 8 comments

The Train Dream

The train does not stop in Plumfield. It stops in Wyndsor and Heartford, but not in Plumfield. From Heartford it goes right into Wyndsor without stopping in Plumfield and Jonetta doesn’t understand why it just can’t stop in Plumfield.

When she is done with washing the dishes she sits by the window in the kitchen and listens out for the sound of the train as it makes its way into Wyndsor from Heartford. Jonetta often imagines that the train runs right behind her house. She has elaborate dreams at night about the conductor and in the dream she arranges with him to stop his train in the back of her house. She would be on the back porch, luggage and little Sarah at her feet, waiting — waiting to get on that train, after the cooking, cleaning and washing was done. She wouldn’t come back either. Even though she would miss Sofia and Jon and James Jr., and Sylvester; she’d even miss the big old dog Buster that could die any day now.

She used to dream of going on the train alone and leaving little Sarah behind, too, with the rest of them, but she always feels sad on the train, in her dream, without little Sarah. So now little Sarah is part of the dream. Little Sarah — the youngest — would not be able to fend for herself. Sofia is young, but grown, and she knows how to fight. Besides little Sarah is the one she loves the best. Little Sarah looks more like her. The others look like James Sr. — big heads, big mouths, and heavy feet.

Whenever Jonetta is in the kitchen, sitting on the cold radiator and dreaming, and the kids are off playing in the backyard, and it’s a little after five, James Sr. pulls up in the driveway and slams the car door when he gets out. He isn’t angry; that is just his way. The loud bang of the door shakes Jonetta out of her dream and she goes to the oven to fix James Sr.’s plate.

Jonetta eats standing up. The stove is her table. It isn’t because there is no room at the table to sit; it is because she hates watching James Sr. eat. She is glad that he eats with his wide back to her; she doesn’t have to see his face when he chugs down his Coke. She wonders if other men drink like that. She is sure that they don’t. She is certain that other men had more class than James Sr.

She sees men in the grocery store — they look clean and washed and wear fresh clothes. James Sr. wears stretched out tee shirts with holes under the arm. He owns more than ten sea green tee shirts and Jonetta cannot stand it. Why didn’t she get a man that liked to look good and smell good?

James Sr. never appears on the train with her in her dream. He would ruin it with his loud voice and his musty, shapeless green tee shirt, his dusty jeans and his worn-out shoes. He is so sloppy. And Jon, James Jr., Sylvester and Sofia are taking after him.

Every time Jonetta tells them to take a bath, they protest and James Sr. always says, “They are boys; they don’t need to bathe every day.”

And Jonetta complains, “They haven’t bathed in weeks!”

“They’re boys,” James Sr. shouts.

“Not Sofia … she’s no boy, but she might as well be one.”

“They’re kids,” James Sr. says.

And Jonetta would go upstairs to run the water for little Sarah. Little Sarah is too young to protest. She looks washed and shiny like an apple after her bath; Jonetta would hug her and smell her and wouldn’t ever put her down, but there is cooking to be done and cleaning, too.

If Jonetta could walk to Heartford or Wyndsor, she would, but it’s too far. She would drive, but she doesn’t have her license or her own car. She would take the cab, but she never has any money. She would take the bus, but how would she hold the luggage and little Sarah, too?

If only the train stopped in Plumfield— right behind her house.

Demeter & Persephone by Jodine Derena Butler

June 26, 2010 2 comments

Demeters world is falling apart
she enters the tomb
leaving behind every last bit of skin
and bone, naked and torn


her heart in jagged little pieces;
tears like condensed salted earth, ashen.
spirit as dark as Hades
her womb, a barren undergrowth of loss

 her voice, a howling banshee sevenfold

Persephone revisited in dreams
her escape futile, Hades whispers in her ear
she runs, never holding on nor looking back
dismembered dissociation awaits those who fail

and while cadaverous limbs are discarded
fertile appendages flail
her pieces crumble into dust
Demeter withdraws her love

only to find a serpent tongue
suckling at her breast
Demeter descends, and Persephone awaits
her chamber the great unclean

unashamedly devouring our lost souls
Demeter falls to her knees in despair
death is just a figment,
and life here is just a memory

she breathes in the rancid air,
the smell of a distant pyre
she kisses the hand that feeds her


there are only fools here in paradise.

© 2009 Jodine Derena Butler. All Rights Reserved

Mothers by Jodine Derena Butler

June 26, 2010 7 comments

Who says there is a God?
wishful thinking created by man
to control the masses; no
Mothers in sight – save Mary
but look
look what happened to her our Lady?
Mary Magdalene
will rise again, known by all her names
we will see them come, and recognise
fire, earth, sea and sky; Ishtar

we shelter in the rivers and forests
we gather all the sticks and stones
Mary emerald as the forest green
will ride with Rhiannons guiding moon
her shoes of moss and lichen
her cloak of rainbow silk: transformed
her eye’s like Innana shedding tears
as sisters mourn and do
all that’s dark and been before, will shadow us no more
she has awakened in terrible wrath and has unleashed a whore

Kali destroys and  makes anew
Pele knows which heart is true
Abundantia  makes it very clear
there are no more second chances here
Gaia,  Papatuanuku and Ostara, forging ahead new life
Innana, Dana and Isis surrounding them with light
Athena and Mother Mary have much to undo and teach
Aphrodite, Ostara, Nemetona and Ixchel
Mothers of divine healing heart
all these Mothers will guide us through without the slightest flinch

She is all Mother and we recognise her full
we run with open arms, no fear
she restores our wayward souls with care
she cradles our broken hearts to weep
and peace will be reborn again
where war has gone before with man
our raging rivers will forge and cut
ravage and avenge; our rivers
will shed tears of pain
new paths lest we forget

calling all our wonderous women
our voices banshee wail
we will hear them in our hearts full throb
and never fear again
here comes Persephone from the dark
the first to see the light,
Demeter fills an earthen jug that overflows with tears
she gently wipes her daughters feet to cleanse away her fears
and without Mothers no seed will grow
and so they must obey

but men are men, God or not
and evil still prevails
our Mothers cast all seeing eyes
and none shall let them pass
Zeus may watch with Ranginui
for both have known this day
Hades left enraged behind
his plans for her subdued
for she is with the Mothers now
a war he cannot  rule

Persephone is free at last
Who says there is a God?
for Goddess rule this world or ours
Papatuanuku birthing fruit
my Maiden showing me the truth wary as she treads
my Mother prays the safest journey our Mothers forged ahead
my oldest Crone will rest her bones on her dying day
and sisters will be reborn again and again
woven waxed and waned

© Copyright 2010.  Jodine Derena Butler.  All Rights Reserved

On Sobriety by Tara Larkin

June 21, 2010 4 comments

On Sobriety

It is good to be sober. I felt so much shame drunk! I feel much less shame at any given time now. I am still sorting out if I felt more shame for my drinking, or I believed I was shameful before I started drinking, or I drank to fulfill what I believed I deserved to feel.
It was a secret ,my drinking, or so I wished to believe. I only drank at home. I only drank beer. Towards the end, I drank 6 to 10 beers a day. Sometimes I’d drink wine. One Thanksgiving, I stood up from my father -in- laws table and fell over. I had on a short skirt. I ripped my hosiery. I felt embarrassed. And ashamed.
Shame and embarrassment are not the same. Embarrassment lasts just a short time. A gaff ,a slip of the tongue, a misstep, these we all do, and these things can cause embarrassment. We can feel embarrassment for others, too, as when somewhat farts loudly in Pilates class. I felt embarrassed once when I told a patient I had to give him an injection under his foreskin, rather than saying an injection under the skin of his forearm. He was drunk. Thank heaven, I was not.
I did drink and drive. I did drink and drive with my children in the car. I never got a DUI. I was always afraid I would. I would have deserved it . I am ashamed of such behavior. Drinking affected my ability to parent.
One evening I was drunk and I blurted out to my teenage son and daughter that I had had two abortions. I gave them the details. I think I wanted their forgiveness. It doesn’t work that way.
I would scream at my husband when I was drunk. I screamed at my sister. She called the cops. I started crying. The cops came. They knew me because the neighbors had called the cops on me for screaming before. My sister hasn’t spoken to me since 2004, when the cops came to my house for the last time.
Soon after sobering up, my writing changed. There was a clarity to it, a confidence that was not present when  I drank.
“You’re serious about this!”, my family said.
“Yes.” I replied, as I wrote furiously: Seriously.
It’s not so much that ,in my sobriety, I write seriously. It’s now, that six years  after my last drink , I am writing well.