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Table of Contents
Letter from the Editor. Non-fiction Editor Olga Stein
Where We are Now
Putting together an issue that is critical of the new anti-abortion laws in the USA has been wrenching for us at WordCity. It has been exactly two years since the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and look where we find ourselves as women and as members of a society that sees so much of our present and future reflected in the politics and laws of our powerful neighbour, the United States. We are mourning the reversal of Roe v. Wade (decided in 1973) by the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling of June 24, 2022. Despite life-long efforts by activists and legal authorities like Justice Ginsburg, work that was meant to shift the social and political course of American society, the country is once again at a precipice.
Each of us has had her own personal demons to face down in regard to reproduction, pregnancy, the risks of pregnancy, and the consequences of bearing or not bearing children. For those of us who could truly choose because our bodies were able to manage pregnancies with only minor foreseeable risks — well, that choice still left a great deal out of our control. We were still dependent on good luck, biologically speaking; we were dependent on obstetricians’ availability and their willingness to acknowledge us as people for whom pregnancy, whether our first one or not, was exhausting or anxiety-provoking, or otherwise stressful in a myriad ways; we were dependent on those, such as partners or parents, to be there after the child’s birth, and there — emotionally and financially — for the years it would take to get past infancy, then early childhood, and, following that, the tricky years of adolescence (just imagine for even a moment the frightening prospect of not having someone stable and caring to count on); we were dependent on the good will, the empathy and understanding of our employers or any individual involved in our efforts to further our careers (how often is that faith in a new and not-so-new mother absent when it comes to hiring decisions!); we were dependent on our material circumstances working out for us so that we had the confidence that we would be able not just to feed and house a child (no easy feat given the rising costs of rent, utilities, and food), but also spare the child the indirect experience of terror to which each of us would we subject if for any number of easily imagined reasons (like illness, sudden disability, or job loss) we were unable to provide those essentials.
Miroslava Panayotova. A gallery of women’s moods
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Fiction. Edited by Sylvia Petter
This issue is devoted to “woman”.
“Nature’s Child” by Anjum Wasim Dar tells the tale of a mother’s love for her developmentally-disabled child.
“Someone I Used to Know” by Heather Rath confronts the complexities of following one’s needs wherever they might lead.
“Bulletin” by Michael Edwards is a tongue-in-cheek tale of aliens, one that perhaps becomes plausible in today’s world.
Finally, the title of Rachael Fenton’s “While Women Rage in Winter” to my mind says so much on the female migrant’s condition.
Anjum Wasim Dar
Tied to the armchair with a broad brown leather belt, his fists clenched, muttering, gasping unintelligibly under his breath, angry at something or somebody, an unhappy frown shadowing his brow, hair cropped short, feet bare and sharply white.
She recalled the child’s first image. Everyone called him Tari, he was always around the house, trying to walk along the wall, holding on to it for support. or sitting tied to the chair.
She never saw him run.
Maybe he could not. He never went to school either. She realized this, months, and years later. Then she heard someone say, “mentally retarded child, needs treatment. Small doses of the drug, Phenobarbitone.”
It was a disturbing evening when he fell flat on his face and hit the side of the bed. Sharp cut in the forehead let out a gush of dark red blood. She was terrified, she started crying at seeing him bleed. She felt his pain. Why did she feel so?
Someone I Used to Know
Bounding with pizzazz across the stage in a tight bikini (or was it a superb body paint job?), she shook her bountiful breasts, wiggled her tight ass. Leaned provocatively over the lusting males in the first row.
On assignment for a small-town weekly, (you’re a woman. Visit one of those sex shows. Interview one of their stars. Tell me how she got started. Why she’s doing it. Any business angle, too, but y’know, make it titillating), I watched, captivated. ‘Raquel’ strutted her stuff to a wild and crazy Calypso beat as multi-coloured strobe lights flashed around the club’s dim interior. The smell of fried foods: greasy hamburgers, sizzling potatoes in an oil-soaked wire basket intermingled with the stench of stale beer, created an aura of debauchery.
Bulletin: A Housewife In Scranton, Pennsylvania
A housewife in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has reported to local police that she was abducted in broad daylight last month by four-foot, gray-skinned humanoids from outer space.
After taking her onboard their spacecraft, the aliens communicated with the woman telepathically, she claims, explaining to her the following.
- On their planet, an epidemic is causing all the children to die before they reach puberty.
- The epidemic has been caused by a random genetic mutation beyond the ability of their scientists to control.
- Their race is dying out.
- The aliens therefore decided they should secretly visit the planet Earth to breed with its women.
- They chose to visit Earth because of the beauty, fertility, and lovingkindness of its women—in each category of which, Earth-women surpass all other females in this sector of the universe.
- By reproducing with Earth-women, they hope to create a new hybrid race—more intelligent, rational, and calm than the human; bigger, stronger, and healthier than the alien.
At that moment in the conversation, according to her, two of the creatures approached the woman and held her by one arm each. She remembers that they peered at her through enormous, glossy, jet-black eyes, which seemed “to look right through [her],” and that their touch felt dry, soft, and spongy, like that of a mushroom.
Despite the aliens’ repeated attempts to calm the woman by telepathy, she was frightened so badly that she fainted. When she woke, she was sitting upright in the driver’s seat of her Ford Escort automobile, which was parked in her driveway at home. She found this particular fact strange because, as she states, the aliens had originally taken her from her kitchen, where she had been standing over the sink, peeling a potato.
Rachel J Fenton
While Women Rage In Winter
I don’t want to occupy a place of importance. Knowing other people like to harbour their children’s swim gear safe from spray under the reef-like shelter of this plastic table, I leave one chair between me and it. In essence the seat’s already taken; there’s a small piece of putty or modelling clay, grey-white as a mushroom, moulded to the shape of the inside of a child’s hand, the curved drills of the fingers identifiable by their prints. I sit. The empty pairing now to my left hint at my isolation; I place the four books I’ve borrowed from the library here with my satchel farthest away. A small part of me thinks this shows confidence, an outward symbol of occupancy, and I can move them if I have to.
I’ve had this satchel since I was eleven. And the seats, blue moulded plastic, uncomfortable as they are and too small for my gangling frame, remind me of school. (What’s the weather like up there? peers used to shout). They amplify my aloneness to make me feel strangely small and conspicuous. It’s a peculiar meeting of oppositions. Except for one strip an inch long, thin as a baby’s eyelid, as soft as her earlobe my satchel is cracked, worn, like the soles of my feet. I should take better care of my feet but they’re at the far end of my ‘to do’ list, out of sight, far from mind. They aren’t as tired as those now padding into sight. Supported only by flat flip-flops, jandals they call them here, sun-greyed: an old woman with a small boy. He’s carrying a large holdall. I move my satchel. The woman sits. Thinking her charge might want to sit also, I pick up my books. The woman turns to me, says,
‘You don’t need to move your books, dear. Thank you.’ Her accent is neat, curt like birdsong, it’s specific yet impossible to locate. I say,
‘They’re only books; they haven’t earned their seat, the rest.’
Non-Fiction. Edited by Olga Stein
The Thunder of Galloping Horses
Sometimes a knocking at the door is just the wind. A look through the peephole will confirm this.
They argue about the blood test, the requisition on the fridge held up for the past six and a half weeks by a magnet that boldly yells ALASKA in multi-coloured all-caps.
“What’s the point,” she growls at him, “It’s not like I’d do anything about it.” She hops into the car and drives towards the lab at the local strip mall, the creased requisition on the seat beside her like an unwanted passenger.
Barely a fortnight after fertilization and the heart begins to form. By the fifth week the heart starts to beat and divides into chambers. At six weeks, blood flows inside the body. By ten weeks, when she’s lying on the mid-wife’s couch and the Doppler wand comes to a stop at her belly’s bottom right side, they hear their baby’s own heartbeat.
A knock at the door can be ignored for only so long. The wind can stand there for days.
Religious Revanchism in the USA and that Old Antipathy for Women
Anyone committed to educating about or protecting civil rights will see the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court on June 24 of this year as a severe reversal of decades’ worth of social progress. From the standpoint of legal scholars, it is an alarming trend among conservative members of the Supreme Court toward “new originalism.” They also explain that this particular — and until recently, idiosyncratic — approach to interpreting the Constitution was largely a response to civil rights gains made in the 1960s and 1970s. Originalism of this stripe is a means of pushing back against the changes that have been transforming American society since then. Moreover, as the overturning of Roe v. Wade so acutely demonstrates, the significance of this interpretative strategy is that it constitutes an attack on democracy or the founding “idea” of America, its promise of individual safety, prosperity, and liberty for all citizens.
A great deal in the way of focused scrutiny of the overturning of Roe v. Wade is called for, certainly. Numerous in-depth critiques on the resurgent alliance between the law and religion in the USA do exist, but outside of feminist writing there’s a paucity of attempts to suss the historical roots of the anti-abortion stance in constitutional literalism (or more appropriately, “fundamentalism”). It’s imperative, then, that we acknowledge these roots and pin down some of their salient features: American-Christian patriarchy and its indelible chauvinism. A few readers may be surprised to learn here that legal scholars point to Salem’s witch trials as vital lessons concerning procedural failures to protect basic rights.[i] Yet even these experts don’t do enough to lay bare the connections between American Christian conservatism, classical Christian theology (as it crystallized by the Middle Ages especially), and the ways that the appearance and behaviour of the “second sex” continue to be categorized or typecast. I arrive at something like a historical perspective on the reactionism underlying the bans on abortion below. However, I begin with an rundown — temporally narrower — of what the elimination of a 50-year precedent is and isn’t about at present.
First and foremost, the Supreme Court’s ruling isn’t about protecting the unborn child. If protecting children was a real concern, as countless researchers, journalists, and politicians in the US have argued, there would be far more effective legislation to limit access to firearms. More importantly, single mothers and working class families would automatically be eligible for a host of protections, including guaranteed housing. Health care would be universally available to children and parents of infants and school-aged children. There would also be legislated provisions shielding mothers from job loss or economic hardship. Broad forms of assistance for children and their parents would no doubt be an encumbrance on public funds, but wouldn’t it be only logical to offer such security (and shouldn’t all children born in the USA be instantly entitled to it?)—that is, if infants’ and children’s well-being were the real purpose of anti-abortion laws? Wouldn’t such measures make eminent sense, especially since a hefty percentage of people who experience unplanned pregnancies come from economically challenged communities, are minors, or have been subject to some form of abuse in their surrounding environments?
Don’t Ask Me Where I’m from during a Gynecological Exam
In general, don’t ask me where I’m from, all right? Don’t tell me about my accent and how it’s cute and interesting, or that it’s so cool I come from such and such a place and how you know another person from my country or a neighboring country, who is your sister-in-law’s nanny or cleaning woman or dentist. Control yourself. Keep your selfish curiosity about my origins and accent and where I’m from. I haven’t asked you about any of that because truly I don’t give a damn. And neither should you give a damn about where I’m from. Don’t ask just so you can establish your Americanness and my foreignness; just so you can feel good about being interested in other cultures; just so you can tell the next person with an accent that you met another person with an accent; or so you can tell your sister-in-law that you met someone else from the same country as her cleaning lady. Really now. Why would you need to know about my origins and my accent, unless you are a linguistic anthropologist studying accents in the English language, and you are working on some study about the sociopolitical or ethnographic importance of accents.
A dear friend had to put her dog down recently, and in commiserating with her I found myself reflecting, not for the first time, about the inconsistency between our society’s attitude to the silent suffering of our pets and that we maintain towards the (not always silent) suffering of our human companions. Too often I’ve watched people I love endure treatments that don’t work until they are ultimately consigned to “palliative care” – which may be, in fact, neither palliative nor caring. For example, a nurse in one such facility explained that she had to ration morphine “because it is addictive,” despite the fact that the patient she refused to give it to was my dying 85-year-old mother, who had insufficient time left in which to become an addict.
Veterinarians advise us when it is time to say goodbye to our pets, confident that they can read their body language. They believe, and we usually agree, that it is truly compassionate to ease animals into a painless death rather than forcing them to carry on until whenever their bodies finally collapse. We hold them and comfort them and tell them we love them, and then we let them go. But doctors do not recommend this for our friends and relations. On the contrary, most physicians will encourage us to try whatever procedures are available to ward off the inevitable.
Grandmaster in Flash!
Michael Loveday in conversation with Sue Burge
This month I’m so pleased to be interviewing Michael Loveday, an expert in flash fiction and, in particular, the novella-in-flash. As a poet, I’ve often wondered if I could transition to prose, and Michael’s journey has given me inspiration and reassurance!
Michael, could you describe the moment when you first thought, “I’m a writer” or “I want to be a writer”? Was it a gradual revelation or a sudden epiphany?
I remember having to write a book review for a journal, about 10 years after I’d begun writing, and I wasn’t especially looking forward to it. I said to myself: I will sit down for one hour in a café with a pen and a blank page and complete the review within that time. I knuckled down to it, wrote the review in what I felt was a creative way, and left the café elated that I’d completed a kind of creative “assignment” under time pressure. I remember having the thought: “Yes, I’m a writer now!” Which is kind of amusing in hindsight. I’m not sure it was the greatest review, but the feeling within me was clear. And yet it arrived 10 years after I’d first started writing. So I guess it was a very slow, gradual onset that led to a belated awakening.
You started off as a poet, establishing the only magazine in the UK dedicated to the sonnet, 14 Magazine, which is still running under a different editor. What attracted you to poetry? Do you still write it? What aspects of poetry helped you to transition to the world of flash fiction and the novella-in-flash?
My first poem (as an adult, as opposed to the dabbling I’d done in English classes at school) was a response to a canal-side walk I’d undertaken with my father, at a time (back in 2001) when he’d just been through a health scare. I was going through my own health difficulties at the time and our walk really imprinted itself in my mind – both the emotions of the conversation and also the physical setting of the canal. I don’t really understand why I chose to write a poem about it, rather than a short story, or a piece of reflective writing – I wasn’t even reading poetry at the time. So that aspect of the impulse remains a mystery. Anyway, the poem happened, and I got hooked. It was a way of distracting and entertaining myself during my recovery, and then I just kept going.
Books and Reviews. Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy
Michèle Sarde. Translated from the French by Dana Chirila
Domnica Radulescu’s Dream in a Suitcase, an extraordinary story of our time, surfing on the geography of exile
Can a dream travel in a small suitcase and eventually become reality?
To answer this question, writer Domnica Radulescu puts on paper a gripping account of her life and her writing. In the 80s, the narrator left her native Romania with a small suitcase containing a few summer things, a first volume of short stories entitled “Yes but life”, and a legal visa for Italy. Later, she will fulfill her destiny as a refugee in America, then as a global citizen of a free country. This novel about exile and the kingdom, about nostalgia for the lost homeland and a fearful, hard-earned access to a new homeland, about loneliness and the sense of exclusion, ends with that form of resilience that is the writing of a book, then its publication—a universal homeland, a planetary homeland made of all the small belongings that constitute our countries of birth and adoption. Only art can unify in an identical nostalgia each of our individual lives that we must live to the full before the Great Departure.
As in a fairy tale, the dream cooped up in the small suitcase that the young Romanian woman carries away from a country where she cannot live freely will lead the reader into a zigzag of adventures, on the roller coaster of the back-and-forth between her native country and her adoptive country, in a frantic odyssey whose Ulysses is a woman in search of an Ithaca constantly within reach, yet just beyond her grasp.
Woman Running in the Mountains; Yuko Tsushima (New York Review Books: 2022)
This novel, first published in 1980, begins with a section called simply, Midsummer. On the first page, the central character, Takiko Odawa, is woken by labour pains. She sets off alone and on foot from her parent’s house without waking them, to the hospital, where she gives birth to a baby boy.
We learn that her pregnancy is the result of a brief affair with a married man, and is a source of shame to her parents. Her mother has repeatedly suggested that she should have an abortion or give the baby up while her abusive father reacts with violence, regularly beating his daughter. There are telling details of the deprived neighbourhood in which she lives, and Takiko’s refusal to walk with her head down. Thus far, we appear to be in the territory of social realism, or naturalism. Tsushima has a lot to say about attitudes, customs and regulations concerning women and pregnancy in late twentieth century Japan, the socially and legally enforced prejudice against single parenthood.
However interesting this is, it is not all this novel has to offer. In her introduction, Lauren Groff says that the text offers the reader ‘astonishing, glittering moments of wonder’ while never forgetting the darker details of poverty and discrimination. She suggests that ‘the ferocious truth of this book’ is that out of the daily struggle with drudgery ‘greatness arises.’
Books Not for the Beach
This Is Not a Pity Memoir, Abi Morgan (HarperCollins 2022)
A Life in Light, Mary Pipher, (Bloomsbury 2022)
The Organist, Mark Abley (University If Regina Press 2019)
The Last Days of Roger Federer, Geoff Dyer (Canongate 2022)
They Have Bodies, Barney Allen (ed. Gregory Betts: University of Ottawa Press 2020)
This Time A Better Earth, Ted Allen (ed. Bart Vautour: University of Ottawa Press 2015)
The Abortion Caravan, Karin Wells (Second Story Press 2020)
The Freedom Convoy, Andrew Lawton (Sunderland House 2022)
Solace, Eva Kolacz (Black Moss Press 2021)
Apricots of Donbas, Lyuba Yakimchuk (Lost Horse Press 2021)
Books Not for the Beach
(Excerpt) The recent reversal on abortion rights by the US Supreme Court has returned the spotlight to civil rights issues we thought resolved decades ago. The tributaries to this resuscitated river of raging patriarchy are many, and deserve a deeper study that I can give here, but of interest to Canadian readers is the recent account by Karin Wells of 1970’s The Abortion Caravan, where a couple of vans and a car with approximately seventeen women, made their way across the country from Vancouver to Ottawa to alert the populace and then Liberal government lead by Pierre Trudeau to the plight of the many women dying from botched backstreet abortions and the dire necessity for the loosening of restrictions. Such were the times, an epoch still smarting from the fifties’ commie paranoia, that these women liberationists were seen as dangerous lefties by the RCMP and their progress carefully monitored for any eruptions of threatening radicalism. Don’t forget this is 1970, (about five months before the eruption of the October Crisis and the invocation of the War Measures Act), when long distance phone calls and the odd newspaper headline were the paltry means of news transfer as the women made their way through the prairie provinces and into Ontario, gathering more supporters along the way.
Women’s Liberation groups were well established in many towns and cities by this point, but this seems to have been their first collective action and the growing pains of diverse competing agendas, with some looking to smash the stranglehold of patriarchy and others the complete overthrow of capitalism, now looks quaint and naïve. Now we might man the barricades while making plans for next weekend. Yet their bravery and determination in the face of a government satisfied with the previous year’s establishment of therapeutic abortion committees in hospitals to which women could appeal, only through their doctors of course, has to be admired. It should be noted that approximately 19 out of 20 requests were refused. And in the face of the US anti-Vietnam protests, huge after the shootings at Kent State, their own protest seemed somewhat insignificant, even to them in their fervour. But they followed through and wound up in Ottawa with hundreds joining their march to 24 Sussex Drive, where they spontaneously squatted on the lawn and eventually deposited the symbolic coffin, topped with those gruesome reminders of suction pumps, knitting needles and lysol, on the porch of the Prime Minister’s residence for the grand irreversible gesture. This was more or less repeated in the following days in Parliament, where, with fake id’s, ladylike clothing, white gloves and hidden chains they quietly occupied the public galleries and began to shout their slogans one by one, confusing security and bringing debate to a halt and humiliating headlines to the following days’ papers.
Their efforts, mostly self-funded and what you might call barebones, certainly brought public attention to their cause, although the laws were not modified for many years, those same years during which Henry Morgentaler repeatedly challenged the status quo with his independent clinics. With this book author Wells has served the cultural history of Canada well and with honour, reminding us of the long struggles until the repeal, under then new Charter of Rights in 1988, of the shaming and injury of women seeking to return control of their bodies from those male elites who assume they know better.
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Congratulations to Marthese Fenech on the Completion of her Knights of Malta Trilogy!
With her brave and capable women characters, Mar’s historical fiction, and Mar herself, embody the spirit and strength our September theme and we couldn’t be more proud to present not only a poem by Mar, previously featured in WCLJ’s very first issue, but this spread featuring all three books in The Knights of Malta trilogy. Congratulations to Marthese Fenech, our brilliant, fierce and unwavering friend who is also our beloved “fucking hurricane”!
Continue to poem, Knights of Malta and more about Marthese Fenech
Poetry. Edited by Clara Burghelea
You Never Wanted It Anyway 1. This evening drips languorous poison into my veins. You tilt the blue shade away from your pillow. My shadow leaps on all fours onto the wall, hangs upside down by its nails, sprints across the ceiling. Outside, the sky is burning, a mad woman in her twilit garden. 2. Sinking deep is almost too easy. It’s like dropping a coin in a well. It’s like watching it fall, listening for the plonk that never comes. Your mouth twists when you say them, those words you rarely mean. After the shower, I take pictures of footprints on the floor, a presence that takes no time to disappear. 3. Last fall we strung a see-through tarp between our cherry trees to catch the fruit. We caught the rain instead. The cherries lolled about like eyeballs inside the sagging paunch. And so, we lay under the pool of rain, stabbing its heavy belly to make it bleed, the water warm, already breeding flies, or something worse than flies, something without a name. Maybe we lost it then, what neither of us wanted. For it was lovely, that distorted sky, the two of us sufficient unto it. We laughed at moving shadows while the sun erased the remnants of what nearly was, or could have been, then wasn’t.
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Haiku his seed planted without consent
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Bitter Sweet (For my granny Mbuya Kwenda on her 92nd birthday) What a beautiful sight to behold You atop the giant mountain of time Looking back into time Aeon upon aeon Sucking in both happy and sad memories Remembering the bountiful harvests that made you an envied farmer Remembering too your people who fell by the wayside Your face turns ashen as you remember three from your own womb that you outlived
forbidden fruit A response to the terrorist attack against Salman Rushdie pick the forbidden fruit up even if modern slavery whether religious or materialist advertises a forever heaven and teaches to ignore a garden planted by a storm we all were from the mass graves though our graves have been separated by barbed wires, each mass grave on one side of that but still, we can sing, barbed wires never separate the songs
The Knight She shouldn’t be here? Are you referring to how she shouldn’t have survived being born so premature only to prematurely lose her mom at age 4 when she had to go live with her aunt where she was mentally, emotionally, verbally, physically and sexually abused by her uncle from 4 to 14, and not for lack of trying, failed to off herself twice? Are you alluding to how, at 14, she shocked the doctors and nurses by waking up in ICU after nearly succumbing to sepsis from the coat hanger she used to take her life into her own hands when her aunt and uncle deprived her of stopping her uncle’s seed from growing inside of her?
In the bewitched aviary The sonnet according to Mr. Shakespeare Helots muse about moony Golden Fleece of the condor. Drudges think of the dreamy eternal dew of the hen. Philosophers ponder on winged fantasy of the crow. Kings ruminate on a picturesque gold of the jay. Priests contemplate the dreamed, soft, meek weird of the woodpecker. Masters daydream about nice, marvelous songs of the tern. Soothsayers dream of fulfilled gold of the yellowhammer. Knights philosophize about poetic dawn of the wren.
Damselflies What if we women all met in the Garden of Eden stretched our arms wide as branches stood together embracing our art with joy What if we flew down to the river to kneel
MEDITATION ON CAREENING If you are careening toward the darkness standing at the intersection of New Beginnings and Old Era Road, confused about how to recover from a rut remember bad shit happens but bitches who are bad bounce back. Walk the tidepool against the current. You do not have to be discreet reserved or level-headed. You do not have to be whimsical or calculated. Or thrash so hard you’d think your arms would be buff from paddling though you’re no closer to casting out into the sea. No. You only have to know there’s no safe harbor waiting. You only have to release your wild poet’s hair.
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Anjum Wasim Dar
Famished Femininity Lift the latch and you will find cracks in the door, scarred traces of hot tempered rackets- sad sorrowful echoes of screams, slaps and strikes, in the tender dwellings of famished femininity- whose chest is crammed with refrains of ugly curses profane, drafted with hatred mundane- beauty’s blend for care created for eternal company stays abused spared not why? who will cut the strings of human bondage lacerant tortured Suffering Silent Cry! What was ancient ignorant and abolished made eloquent and sacred Open the door and you will find famished femininity current in countless fetters slowly visibly tabescent- Why-
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control throw a net wait and see catch me trap me cage me i am more than meets the eye i flit i flutter i want to fly you know little of what you keep take a pause and look at me see the tears trickle down hear my heartbeat POUND POUND POUND i want out! you hear me shout i am not a thing to train but a person with a brain head lifted, i proclaim with thoughts with words with action do not snuff my spirit with ideals of perfection pass me the key so i may set myself free from lies from abuse from disguise i will stretch my wings soar to the sky you will see i am beautiful being free being me
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Halima Juma Adam
A ray of hope A sunshine at a cloudy day A light in the dark A drop of cold water On a hot-dry sunbathed skin At the heart of a sunny day In the middle of sandy desert Where everything feels cruel A hope in the misery A relief in the pain A breath in the suffocation A strength in the weakness That’s all one dreams When the days look blur The body feels numb The emotions feel blue The thoughts are harsh The voices speak hate And everything you touch Feels like its rejecting The mere sight of you A ray of hope Can be anything Anything you had given hope in And suddenly, you get surprised by it It can be an acceptance That you have long waited for It can be an arrival of someone Or something that seemed impossible It can be just a thought you had forgotten about A face in your mind that got lost In between the dark thoughts A ray of hope Is what we all need When darkness visits And seems to not be leaving Anytime soon
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D. R. James
Epigraph Poems are never completed— they are only abandoned. —Paul Valéry So as I begin this one— vowing as an experiment not to give in to the vice of revision, that sumo of manipulation I so try to apply to my life— I wonder where I’ll leave it. Will it be in some sun-warmed clearing, a rocky outcropping in an old pine forest? And will I have set out earlier this morning with getting there in mind? Or will it perhaps fall out of my pocket along a downtown sidewalk and blow a few feet until it lodges under a parked car, the puddle there and the dark intensifying the metaphor: a poem’s being abandoned? Thus bookended by country and city, both speculations in future tense, the claim neglects the unfolding— as if completion weren’t every word as it emerges, means and ends at once. The cone is not container of future tree. It is cone. Nor is an old cone empty.
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God I found you dying of thirst in the woods. You would not have a draught of water. Only Thick sips of gore, the gore of kids & birds Or human gore would slake your thirst. So, coldly, I tore into my brother's brain & scooped A chunk of flesh & pulped it on your lips & yelled around your savage body, groped My women, kept you in our bushy cribs & lulled you into sleep. You grew in sleep, You shed the fur upon your body, then Ascended to the sky, from there to peep At us with angels round you, star, moon, sun… You disappeared. But I wait in the dust. Your name coruscates while I die of thirst.
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bereft in that photograph you are standing on nonno’s knees pyjamaed feet his hands encircling you steadying you the first boy in the family after three daughters three granddaughters the first boy he was sixty-two
DESPITE EVERYTHING For Gloria Steinem Despite everything we keep going backward, believe always that we’re further ahead than we are. We forget that if the sun hits it just right, even the robin casts a shadow. The story exceeds us, embitters and enslaves, ennobles and enables, and the darkness knows no borders. Hope is a form of planning, you say. Don’t agonize. Organize. Despite everything we’ll keep going.
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Under my blouse The child I’m holding in my arms is not mine and will never be. Her head leans against my chest; her stare is fixed; she’s falling asleep. Her hand touches my hair; her little fingers mingle with mine. Minutes ago, we laughed together; under the rhythm of rain, we danced. In an instant she moves–searching for something under my blouse. I’m not her mother and I’ll never be, I swallow my tears; I don’t want to cry.
I Rise I rise above every sickness, I dwell in the realm of good health. I rise above every stagnation, I dwell in the realm of progress. I rise above every hatred, I dwell in the realm of love. I rise above every anger, I dwell in the realm of happiness. I rise above mediocrity, I dwell in the realm of excellence.
Leave of Absence Born with the weight of a younger brother on his head, dad traversed an ocean after his brother. Piccolo sus piccolo jos -the map is made for us. Bear witness to the geographic degradations, the erosions in valleys and the quieting of rivers, deltas and estuaries. All or some traces of immigrant trauma remains floats in my head, with neurons that fire away blatantly to kill my vision and increase the delusions that can kill me. From father to son to daughter, the manic-depression took hold streaming cascades of messages from the inflamed brain, the over soaked brain, the underwater brain, to me. I put an end to it. The shaman had to see me in Orlando on his property. I tell father that I am visiting a Christian friend and he buys him expensive chocolates and drives me to the airport. Assimilation of the immigrant is the burden of the children. Ones who face it, take on the lifting of the burden and pushing the brother off their shoulders, so they have a chance at walking a straight line in life. Yet nothing is as straight and arrow. The spine curves inward at the base, from an accident at the age of 10. Broken coccyx, and people have been trying to kill me since I was born. I love the language of the enemy, I speak it well. I am immersed in transactional speech from early teenagehood. I buy my vowels and roll them inside my mouth to bide my time, I pronounce the truth in the burden that buries daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, alike. Just like neighbors pronounced our names, Pacurar, to the secret police behind closed doors. Dad wanted a better life for us. Forgive me for my lack of eloquence, they shot the dictator on national TV in the 80s. Did you see it? No trial, no burial. They unearthed the tortured and we recognized among them neighbors and friends. The sun rose again at the shore of a different kind of torture and we tried to surf on our raft. Dad, never let go of his anger and his betrayed body now fights. Injections of raise his white blood cell count and others for his red blood cells. People have been trying to kill him since he was born. I am not inside the story, never could imagined a better leave of absence than my own. The draught comes with thirst, infinite thirst. The earth thirsts for the blue skies to darken, to precipitate into cloud formations.
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Fine Art images by Miroslava Panayotova
The Women, past and present, of WordCity Literary Journal