A Focus on Fiction by Sylvia Petter

CrankySylvia

In the beginning was the story ….it´s always the story.

This fiction issue has long and shorter stories about persons who don´t necessarily fit the expected mould.

In Mitchell Toews’ “The Log Boom”, a father and son deliberate on how to inform émigré Dutch grandfather of his grandson´s coming out.

Gerald Shephard´s “The Silent Imagination” is a hallucinatory playlet accompanied by a corresponding image to help us focus.

Joshua Akemecha’s disconcerting story, “The Shaming of Oshia” transports us into another time and culture.

“Two Dead Poets” where A Poet Revisits Lorca’s Death, Madrid / Granada, July 1936, is by Roger Moore.

“Rasha´s Daughter” by Irena Karafilly is a timely reminder of our misconceptions.

Then there are stories about voting in Switzerland, which give me a certain Shirley Jackson feel. Having lived/worked in Switzerland during two plebiscites – 1974 The Schwarzenbach anti-immigration initiative – and the 2002 initiative for Switzerland to join the United Nations – I nearly missed the 50th anniversary of Swiss women having the right to vote which also had its stories presented in the form of a book aimed at inspiring young girls: 50 Amazing Swiss Women: True Stories You Should Know About (Bergli, 2021)

February 2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of women’s right to vote in Switzerland. This book celebrates the diverse accomplishments, struggles and strengths of Swiss women. One-page biographies give readers a glimpse into the lives of fifty Swiss women – both historical and contemporary – who inspire and intrigue. Each biography is paired with a unique, color illustration by Swiss illustrator Mireille Lachausse.

Here, Katie Hayoz, one of the authors, tells the story of how the book came about.

The book has been very well received in Switzerland, not least due to its publication in English, French, German, and the fact that each biography is paired with a unique, color illustration. Spies, activists, entrepreneurs, entertainers, politicians, athletes, midwives, mothers… Swiss women are daring, ingenious, and brave. Though the country is small, the heroines are vast!

However, due to my own ambivalent relationship with a country in which I had lived and for the most part worked for almost 30 years, I was curious about those women Katie mentions who had declined to offer their stories, and so was drawn to another multilingual book originally in English, Voting Day by Clare O´Dea which focussed on the plebiscite of 1950 when Swiss men refused Swiss women the right to vote.

A compelling story of four unforgettable characters whose paths are connected on this voting day by the fate of a ten-year-old foster child. Published independently in Switzerland, the novella is also available in German, French and Italian.

Frauenstimmrecht-CH-EN-web

And here again, something outside the narrative piqued my interest, namely an introductory quote by Iris von Roten who Clare O´Dea said inspired her to write Voting Day. When I asked Clare for more, she gave me the following piece of nonfiction:

“This time sixty years ago, Iris von Roten was putting the finishing touches to her life’s work, a 600-page cri de coeur on the woeful position of women in Swiss society. A journalist and lawyer, von Roten put years of research into her book, Frauen im Laufgitter: Offene Worte zur Stellung der Frau (Women in the Playpen: Plain Words About the Situation of Women). In ruthless and unsentimental terms, she examined subects like equality in the workplace (or lack thereof), civil rights, domestic drudgery, motherhood and sexuality. This is a work of fire and fury, the product of a free spirit who all around her saw women in chains. To give you a taste of von Roten’s style and themes, here is a short passage I translated from the opening chapter, “Female professional activity in a man’s world”.

“Every era has its favourite illusions, and one of the most cherished of our century is that of “the modern woman”, the professionally equal, independent and successful woman. The “woman of today” supposedly has extensive professional fields open to her; in contrast to her grandmother she is active in every job at every level. Even the most prestigious and highly-paid jobs are not out of reach of the capable woman. Where such positions are not yet occupied by women it is only because no woman has yet deigned to clamber up and take the place that the progressive man is hurrying to offer her. Just like a young man, the young woman can attain the job that corresponds to her talents, standing on her own two feet. To wait for a man, to marry so as to be provided for, this is unknown to today’s woman. She marries purely for love, when and whom she wishes, which allows her to complete the work of art – the combination of job, housework and motherhood – running the show and “mastering life with a laugh”. Beside the modern woman stands the progressive man, filled with admiring awe for the proud swan that the ugly duckling has become. He has long ago freed his mind of prejudices and slowly but surely clears the way for the equality of the sexes in the life of the family, the economy and the state. The reality, however, looks different in some places, and especially in Switzerland.”

You’ve got to love that sarcasm. I would like to see von Roten’s work gain wider recognition in the English-speaking world. Her radical book/manifesto is one of the leading feminist texts of the twentieth century and there is still a lot to learn from it.“

I discovered from my friendly Wikipedia that

Iris von Roten’s book Frauen im Laufgitter evoked a negative reaction from men and women alike. Men saw her as man-hating and mocked her; the women of Switzerland saw her as a radical, and blamed her for the losing vote on women’s suffrage. They believed in gradual change and saw her as far too extreme. von Rotens daughter, Hortenia, has been quoted explaining the rejection, saying: “Women do not like to recognize and do not gladly admit what a lousy situation they are in.”

After the negative reception of her book, von Roten left for Turkey to fulfill a childhood dream and not, as many believed, to run from the backlash. Once in Turkey, she thoroughly enjoyed herself and did as she pleased, being able to ignore Traditional Gender roles.

After her short stay in Turkey, von Roten returned to Switzerland and wrote a memoir of her Travels. It was rejected by publishers. Following her rejection, she chose to continue traveling.

Iris von Roten committed suicide on 11 September 1990 at the age of 73. She was quoted saying, “Just as a guest has to know when it’s time to depart, a person should rise from the table of life while there’s still time.”

This and a certain serendipity brings me to another story, one sent to WordCity as a thank you from Nightingale Jennings who appeared in our second issue, to show how stories can mean.

Nightingale says: “War is a terrible eye-opener. The screams fade to nothing over distance but the anxiety in them hits the sleeping heart. In the quiet of the night, dreams transform into nightmares and sleep deprivation becomes a way of life. Families cease to make contact. Questions emerge, are they dead or alive? How to find them is a secret initiative until the moment all hope dies out. That is when anger dissipates into fear and the hand that has been reaching out to help is finally accepted. Until that moment, the hand was no better than the enemy for it was not trusted. Now it is the only unexplored choice that is left. I learned this from a group of women who are sending supportive messages to one that is searching for her loved ones. The women have come together to find solace from a changing world. There is no escape from realities that had been considered left in the past. The future is anxious but the present holds space to explore the ultimate priority for the individual. Self expression is recognized as a source of individual growth and the pen is rolling between their fingers. The women who claimed weaknesses from not knowing how to construct a story to not knowing how to type have put their first paragraphs down in the language they feel most comfortable with. They are amazed to see it laid out against photographs in a rough magazine layout. They know they are WonderWomen. This is the first outcome of a WhatsApp led workshop. I didn’t lead it but I have contributed to the inspiration and pushed the concept. I wanted to share this with you and Darcie because you are part of my writer’s journey. Where this will go I have no idea. But it has come this far and is emotionally rewarding. I hope you enjoy the slides. Google translate may help if you have the time. https://sway.office.com/hD3rqzX8IhsGg2ya?ref=Link

When I asked if we might bring this in WordCity, Nightingale asked her Wonderwomen and came back with: “the ladies are delighted. … It’s been a great day for all of us. The link that I sent to you will update automatically. …Thank you so much again for your generous offer. It brings a dash of warmth and sunshine into many of our hearts.”

This concludes our very diverse fiction issue, which I think demonstrates the power of story. Enjoy and be moved!

(Sylvia Petter is WordCity Literary Journal’s Fiction Editor)

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Nathan D. Horowitz in Conversation with Jane Spokenword

nathan_horowitz

In this month’s podcast we introduce you to Nathan D. Horowitz. A writer, poet, devoted educator, translator and proof reader. He earned bachelor of arts degree in English from Oberlin College and a master of arts degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts.
He currently Lives in Baltimore, MD.

Nathan D. Horowitz in Conversation with Jane Spokenword

Nathan D. Horowitz. A writer, poet, devoted educator, translator and proof reader. He earned bachelor of arts degree in English from Oberlin College and a master of arts degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts. He taught English for some 26 years on three continents to 3000+ students from 57+ countries. He currently Lives in Baltimore, MD.
His ‘Ted Talk’ “Dreaming of Health” is available on https://www.ted.com/talks/nathan_d_horowitz_the_myth_of_the_stolen_eyeballs#t-2690
Four books of his translations from Spanish to English have been published. The first is The Yage Drinker, the autobiography of the last shaman-chief of the Ecuadorian Siekopai/Secoya Nation. The others are collections of short fiction by Ecuadorian writer Abdon Ubidia: City in Winter and Other Stories, Time: Philosophical and Scientific Fictions, and, hot off the e-press, Funventions: A Book of Fantasies and Utopias, available as an e-book on Amazon.
His works are about language, narrative, and cross cultural communication, which create connections among us humans, allowing us to share our experiences. This sharing is not an uncomplicated process, but it may save us one day.

You can visit your website to get to know him better at https://nathandhorowitz.com/ and on social media, his Videos including his Ted Talk can be seen on: Youtube, Vimeo, Bandcamp, Souncloud and My Radio Show.

Jane SpokenWord

Jane SpokenWord.interviews

Street poet Jane SpokenWord’s performances represent the spoken word as it is meant to be experienced, raw, uncensored and thought provoking. From solos, to slams, duos, trios, and bands, including a big band performance at The Whitney Museum with Avant-Garde Maestro Cecil Taylor which garnered All About Jazz’s Best of 2016. Other collaborations include: Min Tanaka, Miguel Algarin, Beat Poet John Sinclair, her son HipHop musician/producer, DJ Nastee, and her partner in all things, Albey onBass. Combining the elements of spoken word, music, sound and song “Like those of the Jazz poets, the Beats, The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron and others – she is usually accompanied by Albey onBass Balgochian’s moaning, groaning, rumbling contrabass – adding double the gut-punch to her words.” (Raoul daGama) To preserve the cultural heritage of wording to document life, and foster a broader collective community, she brings her poetry and spoken word to a diverse set of venues including museums, festivals, libraries, slam lounges, art galleries, clubs, busking street corners and living rooms everywhere. She has authored two books of poetry with art and music by co-author Albey onBass: Word Against the Machine and Tragically Hip. Publications include: TV Baby A collection of Lower East Side artists – OHWOW, Shadow of The Geode, Bonsia Press, Stars in the Fire and Palabras Luminosas – Rogue Scholars Express and We Are Beat in the National Beat Poetry Anthology.

A special thank you to Albey ‘onBass’ Balgochian for the sound engineering in the prelude and postlude of the audio. Albey’s performances range from the Bowery Poetry Club to the Whitney Museum of American Art, his résumé includes many distinguished artists including  Nuyorican Poet Miguel Algarin, Beat Poet John Sinclair, Darryl Jones (Miles Davis, Rolling Stones,) and the Cecil Taylor Trio & Big Band  (“Best of ’05, ’09, ’16” All About Jazz) https://albeybalgochian.com/

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WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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Letter from the Editor. July 2021

darcie friesen hossack

Welcome to WordCity Literary Journal’s July 2021 issue.

For this collection, while we accepted works that address many different themes, we also expanded on one that was brought forward by our fiction editor, Sylvia Petter. Sylvia noted that 2021 marks only 50 years since Women in Switzerland won the right to vote.

Fifty years.

With few exceptions, most of this journal’s editorial board were alive in the world by that time.

In Canada, where three of the nine of us live, women’s suffrage, depending on the province, is about 100 years old. A time that is still alive in our most senior citizens.

Certainly, much has changed since that time. Women have entered, have often broken down the doors of opportunities and institutions that were previously closed to us.

And yet, women, here in Canada, in Switzerland, all around the world, are still not equal.

Women are more likely to be affected by societal evils such as workplace, domestic and sexual harassment and violence.

Girls and women face barriers to health care, to autonomy over their own bodies, and to education, opportunities and income inequality, whether in careers previously regarded as men’s work, or in positions traditionally occupied by more women than men. And right now, women-led industries are under assault.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic circumnavigated the globe more than a year ago, women have found themselves on the front lines of the pandemic response.

They are the parent most likely to leave work and stay home with children who are necessarily receiving their education online. They are service workers in grocery stores and pharmacies. When restaurants have been open, they are the preponderance of servers. They are the housekeeping, food and laundry service staff that keep hospitals running. They also make up the majority of teachers and nurses.

Today, for example, when I required a Covid-19 test after coming down with a sore throat, cough and headache, the two technicians on staff to perform the swab were both women.

Women. On the front lines. Within coughing distance of me. As I lowered my mask and breathed Ahhh.

Here, you see, in the Canadian province of Alberta, our Conservative-led government dropped all but the merest of pandemic restrictions as of July 1st (Canada Day), in favour of the appearance that the virus is no longer among us. We have been all but instructed to have “the best summer ever.” Anything less is considered bad for business, and so even the simplest measure of mask wearing indoors has been done away with.

That is how I came to step through someone else’s cough or sneeze at the grocery store. Because about the only place I’ve been in the last seventeen months, and especially the last few days, is the grocery store.

Nevertheless, I am fortunate. Canadians are fortunate. Fortunate in the extreme. As a wealthy nation with purchasing power at the federal level, we have enough vaccine for our entire population, and around 75% of our eligible population (age 12+ to date) has received at least one of the two necessary doses needed for full immunization. 50% of us have been fully immunized, including myself. Therefore, even if I do have Covid, I might cough for a few more days, but I’m going to survive. I needn’t worry about anything other than having passed the virus along before I knew I was sick.

Also in Canada, we have a health care system that is paid for by our taxes, so that we incur no costs in hospital, where we are largely cared for by nurses, mostly women, putting themselves at physical and emotional risk to save lives every day. To hold our hands as the now-recklessly unvaccinated die of what is becoming, in this country, a preventable disease.

So what does this have to do with women’s suffrage in Switzerland or Canada or anywhere else in the world?

I’ve been thinking about this over the last two weeks, as I assembled this month’s journal, reading and laying out the text for page after page of poetry and prose,  finding the threads that speak to women’s experiences in the world.

Then, when Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenny, and his United Conservative Party, appointed a worryingly fundamentalist man to head up the Ministry of Culture and Status of Women (which were previously separate portfolios), and announced that they intend to cut the wages of nurses by 3%, it became clear.

Fifty years, 100 years since suffrage, women’s lives and women’s work remain as political, as politicized, as they have always been.

In this context, nurses, whose praises have been sung as nurturing angels of mercy through the pandemic, checking our oxygen levels while intubated, are now alternatively being cast as greedy and whorish for rebelling against lower wages. They’re being told to be grateful to have jobs at all. Politics are being played in the media, and “women’s work” is therefore devalued.

“Men’s work,” meanwhile (framed as the work of politicians), remains necessarily expensive.

As I see it, it’s time to stand with women. Whatever your gender, stand with women. With “women’s work,” with what these last seventeen months have shown to be the most necessary work on the planet. And then, if you are in a place where you are able to vote, remember women’s worth the next time you approach the ballot box.

Also, if it is within your ability, please consider nurses and other women-at-work, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. After all, doing all we can to avoid infecting others, to avoid dying on the watch of nurses who have already seen too much death, is another way to respect the critical roles and lives of women in our world.

 

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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50 Amazing Swiss Women. By Katie Hayoz

Englishcover_590x

February 2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of women’s right to vote in Switzerland. This book celebrates the diverse accomplishments, struggles and strengths of Swiss women. One-page biographies give readers a glimpse into the lives of fifty Swiss women – both historical and contemporary – who inspire and intrigue. Each biography is paired with a unique, color illustration by Swiss illustrator Mireille Lachausse. 

Katie writes:

I’ve lived in Switzerland for 25 years, yet it wasn’t until working on this book that I searched for Swiss heroines. For the first time ever, I realized how many important, influential, and yes, amazing Swiss women there are out there. History has been written in such a way that women are often left out, something we tend to accept as reality. Hopefully, this book will help to give a truer view of Swiss women’s impact on the country and the world.

Laurie Theurer first got the idea to write a book featuring some of the Swiss women she’d read about while researching her Swiss history book for children in 2019. She included a few of the women in Swisstory, but there were so many more she wanted to write about. Swiss women had done some fantastic things and Laurie wanted to share their stories to inspire kids and adults.

In August 2020, she approached Bergli Books, a small niche publisher based in Basel, Switzerland. The editor was excited about the project but asked Laurie to complete it in just three months. Why the short deadline? Bergli planned to release the book to coincide with the 50th anniversary of women’s right to vote on the national level in Switzerland on February 7, 2021. That meant the manuscript had to be ready in December!

There was no way Laurie could write 50 biographies in just three months on her own. So, she decided to ask writer friends for help. Together, the five of us (Laurie Theurer, Katie Hayoz, Anita Lehmann, Alnaaze Nathoo and Barbara Nigg) and our amazing illustrator Mireille Lachausse achieved the impossible – researching and interviewing 50 women and then writing, editing, and illustrating their stories during a pandemic in 90 days.

I’m embarrassed to say that I never imagined there were so many inspirational Swiss women. Yet I wasn’t the only one. Our co-author, Anita Lehmann, a writer and historian who grew up in Bern, said although she’d looked for stories about Swiss women as a kid, she could never find any. Discovering so many amazing Swiss women was a surprise for her, too.

Of course, we’re now more used to seeing collections of biographies of exceptional women for children and adults thanks to books like Rebel Girls. In hindsight though, I realize I hadn’t even wondered why I wasn’t hearing more stories of remarkable women in Switzerland. But once my eyes were open, I saw extraordinary Swiss women everywhere!

I think it’s important to highlight women’s achievements for that reason – we unknowingly get comfortable with the status quo. We read books with barely a mention of women playing a role in changing the world and might not question it because it’s what we’re used to hearing. That can then shape our beliefs of what women can and cannot do.

Changing the perception of what women CAN achieve – even when faced with ignorance, sexism, racism, and classism – by showcasing what they HAVE achieved is vital. Doing so has completely changed my understanding of the impact Swiss women have had on their culture, laws and history. It’s given me deeper insight into the country I live in.

And Switzerland has been shaped by Swiss women of ALL kinds. Those of us on the writing team have strong ties to Switzerland, either by being born here, or having lived here for the greater part of our lives. We know that to be “Swiss” can mean many things. So, we wanted our selection of the women in the book to reflect that multiplicity.

But still, choosing which women to highlight was tricky. Some of the decisions were made for us—a few women declined to be in the book, and we couldn’t find enough research on some of the historical women who would’ve been interesting. But, overall, it was extremely difficult to decide whose stories we would share.

In the end, I’m happy with our choices. The book is full of surprises. And it appeals to kids with all kinds of aspirations. We showcase different struggles, dreams, and achievements from array of Swiss women – past and present.

We include well-known women like Ruth Dreifuss or Emilie Gourd, but also tell the stories of lesser-known women who inspire us personally. Some were born in Switzerland, and some became Swiss later in life. The women are different from each other in lots of ways, and yet they have one vital thing in common: they persevered and believed in themselves, even when society imposed barriers or pushed back.

One of the most difficult challenges was making sure our stories did justice to the women. Distilling a rich, complex life into a one-page biography written for children meant we had to choose what to include and what to leave out. And we had no time to dawdle with such a tight deadline.

Working together, we spent a lot of time encouraging each other, sound-boarding the key points in each woman’s story, editing, and even jumping in to help write sections when someone got stuck. We had weekly meetings via Zoom and stayed in touch on What’s App and email. By collaborating in such a way, we managed to complete the book in record time as still be satisfied with the results.

I know all of us are proud of the book, but what has been the most inspiring is actually the response to it. We didn’t expect such an outpouring of enthusiasm. Although it’s a book primarily aimed at children, it seems to mean a great deal to adults, as well. Particularly women, who take the time to write to us to express their appreciation. Many have told us that this is exactly the type of inspirational book they would have liked when they were growing up in Switzerland. Laurie speaks for the whole team when she says, “It does my heart good to give them the heroines they have always longed for.

Katie Hayoz

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WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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July 2021 Call for Poetry and Non-Fiction

For the next issue of WordCity Literary Journal, while we will not be dedicating all of our space to a theme, we would like to invite poetry and non-fiction (our fiction portfolio is already full) that includes writing on women’s rights in the workplace, in high tech, medicine, research, etc. Writing by men and women on marriage as partnerships is also welcome, along with changing attitudes towards sexuality, marriage and gender of bread winners.

Submissions must include a short bio and author photo (jpeg). See our Submission Guidelines for further notes.

Please send non-fiction to Darcie Friesen Hossack dfh.editor.wordcity@gmail.com

and poetry to Clara Burghelea fay_witty@yahoo.com

WordCity Literary Journal. (M)othering

Table of Contents

Letters from the Editors:
Darcie Friesen Hossack
with guest editors Anne Sorbie and Heidi Grogan

darcie friesen hossack

Dear Readers,

This month is special for a number of reasons.

Spring has finally arrived in the Northern Rockies climate I call home. It is also the month of Mothering, or Mother’s Day, in certain parts of the world. And now, we at WordCity Literary Journal are also celebrating two more things: our new, dedicated website, and this month’s collaboration with the editors of (M)othering Anthology (Inanna Publications, Spring 2022), Anne Sorbie and Heidi Grogan.

“Wonder, wildness and kindness, beauty and grief inform the witty, the raw and the real in the work of 56 writers and artists who explore how mothering transforms and others us.

The (M)othering Anthology is a collection of writing and art that reflects the universality of our most human characteristic, one that applies to and identifies all of us.

The pages of this book embrace the work of Governor General’s Award winners, recipients of the Order of Canada, locally and internationally renowned visual artists; poet laureates, award winning journalists, translators, essayists, playwrights, and spoken word artists, who are not all or always mothers. They’ve won Alberta Book Awards and Pushcart Prizes, IPPY’s, and been recognized in Commonwealth, national, and regional magazine competitions.

These writers and artists inhabit mothering as becoming.

Their work expresses and illuminates the kind of body, mind, and soul search that only the mothering myth can evoke.”

This issue of WordCity Literary Journal comes alongside the anthology, honouring its theme, its editors, publisher and its writers and poets.

From here, I’m going to give space to the voices of these two amazing women, themselves gifted poets and writers, and thank you all for joining us here to celebrate the diversity of ideas and experiences you’ll find as you read.

Sincerely,

Darcie Friesen Hossack, Managing Editor, WordCity Literary Journal

Welcome to the May issue of Word City Literary Journal!  

As the editors of the upcoming book, The (M)othering Anthology, (Inanna Publications, Spring 2022) we were thrilled to be asked by Darcie Friesen Hossack to consider collaborating with her and the WCLJ editorial team on the topic of mothering.

And! Together, our hopes of featuring poetry and prose and visual art from around the world, from as many perspectives as possible have been surpassed.

The issue encompasses a broad spectrum of the human experience as it relates to mothering or being mothered.

Thirty-six writers and artists have considered the act of mothering literally, figuratively, and metaphorically. Their work provokes thought about how mothering shapes and transforms our identity, how it makes and grows us. Each written and visual contribution shows us where mothering has taken its creator: to joy, to dark places, to ache, to freedom and its opposites, to confusion, to wonder, to grief, to hope.

The submissions are real, wild, and beautiful.  One after the other they are heartbreaking, devastating, and vulnerable. Together, the contributors’ work illuminates a variety of beliefs and backgrounds, genders, sexual orientation(s), identities, cultures and peoples, origins and birthplaces

These poems, fiction, non-fiction, visual art and book reviews demonstrate a universal collaboration, a coming together. And we, along with the editors of this journal have joined the contributors; all of us uniting in action, at a time when the people in our world need the compassion and understanding of each other.

The creative act is a political act, a call to action, one that supports those who are willing to stand in their truth. For in doing so, they carry out at the deepest of levels, the act of what we know and recognize as mothering. Conceiving and carrying. Birthing a bloody mess. Nurturing, protecting, giving, staying, letting go and holding on.

What follows, is exquisitely beautiful, funny, painful even disturbing. Our contributors inhabit mothering as becoming, as knowing, as expression, as trans-generational.

These individuals speak to the practise of what it means to create, to love, to be devastated, and to share truths about who they / we are. They stand in the belly of her/their/his/story.

They are where they come from, what they’ve experienced, what they’ve created.

Their work expresses and illuminates the kind of body, mind, and soul search that only the mothering myth can evoke. ~ Anne Sorbie and Heidi Grogan

Inanna Publications  on Facebook,  and Twitter and Instagram @InannaPub

Podcast by Jane SpokenWord

In this month’s podcast we introduce you to Trudy SilVER, and our (M)othering theme takes us to Yemen and a call for President Biden to end the blockade that is starving a generation of children.

An American jazz pianist, performer, composer, teacher in the NYC school system, poet, activist and peace/social justice worker. Whether she’s performing at benefits to raise social awareness, or demonstrating in solidarity, her commitment to personal liberties and fair privilege opportunities is unwavering.

TrudySilver

Trudy SilVer in Conversation with Jane Spokenword

An American peace/and social justice worker, jazz pianist, performer, composer, retired music teacher in NYC Public Schools, Ms. Trudy Silver was born and raised into a progressive, politically active family in New Britain CT, where she was exposed to labor and civil rights causes at an early age. 

Continue to more on Trudy SilVER and Jane Spokenword

Fiction. Edited by Sylvia Petter

Fiction Prelude – May issue

Our (M)othering pieces are long, short, and diverse. But they all have an important element : hope.

William Kotzwinkle, author of Swimmer in the Secret Sea says: “Irena Karafilly has written a beautiful and moving addition to the literature of loss and grief.”  She has indeed, yet “Still Life” also ends with an unexpected glimmer of hope.

Kelly Kaur´s story, “Mother”, about a recently widowed young mother of eight describes grief and ends in resolve, while Sheila Tucker´s “Image of Her” is testament to the loss that the absence of one´s mother can imply.

Mansour Noorbakhsh’s flash fiction piece, “Transplanted” is about a Persian nut tree finding a home.

My own account, “Matthew”, is one of my first web-published stories when webzines were born back in the early noughties. It is a story about how fathers, too, can mother well, and is based on my own experience with our daughter now in her thirties.

Irena Karafilly

author's pic 4

STILL LIFE

The obstetrician looked menacing. He looked like a shark, with his small eyes and wide mouth, and all those teeth when he opened his mouth to speak. He had given up trying to breathe life into her child, and was now leaning over her under the blinding lights. For a moment, nothing came out of his mouth but a puff of stale breath. And when at last he told her, muttering a word she didn’t understand, Lydia’s own lips felt stiff, as if numbed by novocaine. She had become aware of silence, abrupt and furtive, and a sudden scuttling through the haze surrounding the delivery table.

Dr. Minnaar had left the room, followed by his colleagues. Except for a very young nurse, the room was suddenly empty, like a deserted theater following a bomb threat. The nurse approached, and, her mouth twitching, asked whether she wished to hold her baby. Lydia was still grappling for coherence. Only a short while earlier, gazing at herself in the overhead mirror, she — a theatrical agent — had the feeling of participating in some odd stage production: elaborate costumes and scenery, herself at center stage, supine, obedient to the director, while a part of her kept struggling to wrest itself free of her possessive flesh.

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Kelly Kaur

Mother

Gurbir thrashed her torso in grief on the lime green sofa, the one covered in thick, shiny plastic to keep it permanently clean. Her muffled sobs added to the unlikely squeak of friction of her bright pink silk suit against the sticky plastic. She beat her forehead with both her palms. Her twenty-four heavy, shiny gold bangles, twelve on each arm, jangled. Unable to contain her emotions anymore, the sounds of anguish punctuated the humid afternoon air. Suddenly, Gurbir paused in mid-grief and stared at the messenger of bad news. Her brother tried to touch her shoulder, to encompass the grief, but it only made her start another bout of convulsion. “Dead?” she uttered, over and again. Gurcharan nodded. “Heart attack. Gone. Just like that.” A shard of pain shot through her own thirty-year-old heart. Her husband was forty. How could he die? Leave her with eight children? How to survive? Disjointed thoughts flooded her head. That’s all she knew. Ma. Mummy. Ma-ji. She only knew how to reproduce. Give birth. Nurture. Feed. Bathe. Cook. Comfort. Scold. Discipline. Love. Endless cycle of children since she was thirteen. A girl child was only taught to marry. Not to survive. She recoiled as she remembered women ancestors long ago who were expected to walk into their dead husband’s funeral pyre.

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Sheila E. Tucker

ST at QL

Image of her

I have this fleeting memory of her sitting on her bed, still and silent, as dawn’s soft sun fingered its way through the sheers. She was unaware that I stood in the doorway, for she was far away, staring out of the window and—what?—remembering him? planning an escape? asking herself why?

     This image of her is all I have left of my mother: her straight back, the shiny brown bob cut to the nape of her neck, straps of an olive satin nightdress hanging from her bony shoulders.

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Mansour Noorbakhsh

Transplanted

Agitated, my wife came to the bedroom and called me behind the curtain. “She came again”, my wife said. “She said it makes more gardening work for her. What gardening work might it cause for her?”

My wife was talking about a Persian Walnut tree that a friend brought us from Niagara Falls some years ago. Four or five years ago on a spring afternoon, a wet and rainy day, he came to our backyard, laughing happily. He was coming back from Niagara Falls with two tiny branches in his car.

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Sylvia Petter

CrankySylvia

Matthew

I didn’t know my son was born until the day after. I didn’t know if I’d even wake up. It was three days before I dared go up to his room. From the first day, Jack had gone to the room our baby shared with ten others like him in the intensive care section of the maternity ward, but I couldn’t do it straight away

‘It’s over 30 degrees,’ the nurse said. ‘We can take them out for a bit. It’s warmer in here than in the incubators.’

It was clammy in the August heat as I watched through the paned door. I didn’t know which baby was mine. I couldn’t hear any of them crying. But the one closest to where I was standing scrunched its closed eyes, stretched out its froglike legs and opened its tiny mouth in a soundless wail. My breasts wept.

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Non-Fiction. Edited by Olga Stein

Heidi Grogan

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Where is the M in (M)other?

My children’s birth mothers inform my “othering” every day.  As an adoptive mother, I am always and all the time looking for the (M) … under beds where mismatched socks wait to be found, in wet laundry gone stank because I forgot, in report cards needing to be signed. In kisses at night when they are asleep.

I find the (M) in pictures my husband takes of us, in their smiles when they shine, and I connect the smiles to a signing up for football or riding lessons. I find the (M) in choices, in what has been given / up. In their shining, I understand the significance of holding and offering choices, and I step into the (M)….

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Heather Birrell

Heather_Birrell_42A1057

Fairy Tale

The light was harsh and clear, and the sea was near, but desert plants
grew outside my window. At night, I played Scrabble with the other
residents, then copied the words we had placed on the board into
my notebook. Crowing roosters and circling, stray dogs woke me

every morning. For breakfast, I ate fresh, fatty yogurt from the milk
of the goats that lived on a nearby patch of scrubby land, sweetened
with honey from a local hive. It was like nothing I had ever tasted
before or have ever tasted since. Why am I telling you all this? Because

last night, and most nights when I wake to my own heart’s desolate
cries, I make myself a snack of plain yogurt with honey, swirling
the spoon fervently around the inner circumference of the bowl
while I worry for my children’s present and future.

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Nina Kossman

fbt

DOLL

            “Mama,” said Jemina. “Look, Mama.”

            “What is it, Baby?”

            “The doll, Mama.”

            “The doll? What happened to the doll? Ah, its head. You’ve broken off the doll’s head.”

            “Mama, I didn’t. It fell off by itself. I picked it up and it was like this already.”

            “It’s okay, Baby. I’m not blaming you.”

            “But you said that I…”

            “That was just a way of speaking, Baby. When I saw that the doll’s head was broken, I commented on it to myself. It doesn’t matter who broke it, or whether it just happened by itself.”

            “But Mama—”

            “What we have to think about, Baby, is how to fix it. Do you think we can fix it?”

Continue Reading Doll and Mother’s Love

Marion Collin

Marion Collin-1

A WEDDING AND A FUNERAL, TRUTH FOR CAM CANADA 

That day, October 7, 2018, was warm and sunny. It was Thanksgiving: turkey cooked, guests arriving, and we were dining a day early, on Sunday, instead of Monday. This made it easier for travel. Our adult daughter and family called to say they would arrive late. Little did we know that the reason for the delay would change our lives.

We served up the meal, gave thanks, and enjoyed the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing with our neighbours. Gary, our youngest son, joined us. Our oldest, Cameron, wasn’t at our dinner because he had flown on October 4 to attend the wedding of a friend with whom he had roomed at Montana Tech. We were about to eat the strawberry rhubarb pie with ice cream when daughter Julia arrived with her family.

“Cameron is missing in Montana!”

Julia received the distressing phone call just as she was about to head out. She wanted to tell us in person. Cameron had been missing since October 4.

The nightmare had begun.

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Teresa Callihoo

How to Mother a Woman

My daughter became a woman on a Thursday. I was just finishing my first semester teaching at a local college, busy giving last lectures and frantically marking student papers. Many of my students, overly vocal about their marks, were emailing me several times a day before their grades were finalized. Everything felt urgent.

For several years I had imagined this day. I thought that somehow, from my own inner resources, I would spearhead this transition. I envisioned an eclectic mix of red tent and tradition. I imagined friends and family offering their wisdom and perspective. I imagined women gathering. But when my daughter let me know it was time, my first thoughts were how inconvenient. I knew we were supposed to pause for ceremony for four days, and frankly, I didn’t have the time or inclination to do so.

Did I mention she became a woman during a pandemic?

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Olga Stein

OLGA STEIN89

Shtisel’s Heart

Shtisel is primarily about a quirky Orthodox family that resides in Geula, a Hasidic neighbourhood in Jerusalem. The series’ main focus, therefore, are familial relations—at times stressed and strained—between wives and husbands, parents and grown children. These may sound like conventional storylines, and some are. Still, the fine writing that made Season 3 possible must be given a great deal of credit for its brilliant treatment of love: here love is rendered as an objet d’art that is turned and turned until made visible from every angle. This is literally the case with the bereaved Akiva Shtisel. A brilliant painter who is devastated after the loss of his beloved wife, Akiva obsessively paints portraits of Libbi in various guises (as a bride, wife, mother to a newborn—always the beguiling subject of his enamoured eye). When an art dealer stages an exhibition for these portraits in his gallery we see all the portraits displayed—each a unique and stunning testament to Libbi’s multifaceted beauty and Akiva’s abiding love.

Numerous variations are spun on the central and animating theme of love’s figurative and literal connections to the heart. Some depict the effects of love’s absence. An anxious Shulem, the widowed patriarch of the Shtisel family, makes an emergency appointment for himself with a cardiologist, who tells him that he should have a girlfriend or a close companion at the very least because loneliness “is the number one cause of heart attacks.”

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Misty Hawes

Misty

Women Circle

                I sit in the viewing area, not really paying attention. I fidget on the uncomfortable benches. They are hard and backless, and I have other things to do. But my daughter, out on the floor, likes to see me when she glances over. So here I sit. As I watch her practice a tumbling pass, I overhear a conversation in the row in front of me. I try to tune it out. Try not to comprehend. “…tried to help…little girl…” It’s enough to turn my skin clammy and force my fingers to clamp around the edge of the bench — my knuckles white.

            I want to get up and walk away. Shout or sing to drown out the words. I can’t. I’m rooted. I cling to the bench, the only solid thing I can reach, desperately willing myself not to slide away on the wave of horror that rolls over me.

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Sandy Bezanson

Version 2

(M)othering on an empty stomach

I have recently become a supporter of Fake News.

Fake news, fake facts, fake time, days, seasons—I am now an ardent supporter of all of these and more. As I walk with my dear mother down the final path of her life, I will support anything that makes her travelling lighter and more meaningful.

Certain common realities no longer hold sway. What does it matter that it is “Tuesday” not Sunday; that she ate the last piece of carrot cake not I; or that she talked to Uncle Jack “only yesterday”—which would make him 129 years old? What does matter is that the 96-year-old skeletal frailty who is my mother can be comfortable, nourished, and know that she is well loved.

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Sally Krusing

SallyKrusing3

Let’s Pretend it never Happened

I know that I got pregnant in February, 1965. I recall the Knight of Nights dance—our high school prom. I wore a long home-made dress made of burgundy velvet, in the empire style. A pink ribbon encircled my body below the bodice, and a wrist corsage of red and pink carnations completed the ensemble. David wore a rented tuxedo.

            We attended Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida, and our mascot was The Knights of the Realm. Before the dance ended we snuck out to David’s car, a Nash Rambler with front seats that folded down flat. We had started dating at the beginning of our senior year, and had sex several times to satisfy our raging hormones. David always insisted on not wearing a condom; he called it a prophylactic and said it didn’t feel good. He promised to withdraw so there wouldn’t be a problem. I trusted him. Today I can’t believe we never discussed the risks of pregnancy or its consequences.

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Literary Spotlight with Sue Burge

Raine Geoghegan

KEEPING TRADITION ALIVE

This month I’m delighted to catch up with a fellow writer with Hedgehog Poetry Press, Raine Geoghan.  Raine is a fascinating writer from a rich tradition of storytellers and makars.  She is very conscious of her Romani heritage and in the current climate it feels more important than ever to keep all the roots which nourish us alive and voiced.

Raine, I notice that poems from both your collections, Apple Water: Povel Panni and They Lit Fires: Lenti Hatch O Yog, are going to be featured in an exhibition at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum in rural Norfolk (UK).  I always think of you as a poet who is very concerned with tradition and the countryside.  Could you tell us a little about the background of your collections and how your Romani background informs your work?

Thank you Sue, for inviting me to talk about my work. I am thrilled that three of my poems will be hung in an exhibition at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum. It really is satisfying to know that people will see and read them, that the poems will reach a wider audience. Let’s go back to 2017, after I finished the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. It was then that I began working with a mentor, the poet and tutor James Simpson. I mentioned one day that I was of Romany heritage and he asked me why I wasn’t writing about it. I told him that I had written a radio play many years ago but pushed it aside with the intention of returning to it one day. Well that didn’t happen, but I suddenly found that the time was right to set to work on writing about my Romany family.

I was born in South Wales, in the valleys, but my father died when I was nineteen months old and my mother, who was pregnant at the time, moved back to Hanworth in Middlesex. We lived with my Romany Grandparents in their council house. I remember it vividly, the colour, the music, the stories, the Romani jib (language), the wildness, all of it. The poems, prose and songs in my first pamphlet ‘Apple Water: Povel Panni’ are all based on my family who among other things picked fruit, vegetables and hops in both Herefordshire and Kent.

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Writing Advice with Sue Burge

Jenny Pagdin

This month I invited poet Jenny Pagdin to give advice to writers on how to protect their wellbeing when writing about trauma.  I was bowled over by Jenny’s words in this sensitive, generous and searingly honest article.

In the snow globe of trauma

When my son was newborn, I was hit between the eyes by a serious mental illness, postpartum psychosis, which broke my ties with reality just at the time of adjusting to new motherhood. This was eight years ago, and I have gone on to write both a pamphlet (Caldbeck), and the manuscript for a full collection (In the Snow Globe), about my experiences then and since.

While not a teacher or psychologist, I can share a few tips about writing trauma from my own experiences.

  • Self-care

My first advice would be to practice general self-care: watch that your internal monologue is gentle and compassionate, and meditate/run/nap/phone friends/do whatever you normally do to take care of yourself, and do it even more than usual. Especially if you have no time. Especially if you have small dependents.

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Book Reviews. Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy

Daughters of Smoke and Fire. Review by Patrick Woodcock

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  • The rage I’d kept bottled up inside of me boiled over, made me brave. I screamed at the guard who told me to fuck off. “International interventions will soon put a stop to your brutality!”

We can trace this rage to Leila’s relationship with her mother.  It is the most complex relationship in the novel.  Her “Mama” is an extremely complex woman trying to navigate an imploding marriage where her husband sleeps alone in the attic and drinks too much while working and caring for the children he is no longer capable of supporting. Given the unstable and repressive familial and cultural climate she is wading within, it is no surprise when she tells Leila:  Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning, pulled down by weights, (p.36)

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Prayers for Aisha Lulu. by Darcie Friesen Hossack

Rokiah - prednjica ZA TISAK

Prayers for Aisha Lulu

As I write, tensions and violence are once again escalating between Israel and Gaza. People are dying. Hatred is rising. And caught in the middle are the children.

This conflict, for all the years and decades of its existence, is the reason for Prayers for Aisha Lulu, an anthology of peace poems, dedicated to one young girl, and by extension, all of the children lost to mistrust of others, to hatred, to war.

And yet, in the words of Carin Makuz, one of my favourite bloggers, “This Is Not a Review.” Not exactly. It is also not a political essay or opinion piece.

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Visual Art. Selected by Anne Sorbie, Heidi Grogan

Shannon Mackinnon

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Continue to more art and information

Shahid Mirza

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Poetry. Edited by Clara Burghelea and Nancy Ndeke

Anne Sorbie

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is anne.jpeg

The Day After the Day of Mother Love


Your knife digs in 
to the bleat of cheese
I add to the morning bread

Soft as a prayer
revering love 
the day after the day 
of mother love

The ceramic jug 
you filled with milk
I use for water
and your name sings
on my daughter’s lips
when she sees it

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Sage Tyrtle

sage_tyrtle_photo

Swimming for Safety


pregnant, I watched this tv show on Wednesdays
in the opening credits this crying toddler would run
into his mother's arms like people swim for lifeboats

and I knew that would be us

but I am the crying toddler chasing after the cat
the cat who is you, who loathes hugs
who yowls when I hold you like a baby

sometimes when you are asleep I perch
gingerly petting your back, smelling your hair
reminding myself you like me, just not hugs

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Ileana Gherghina

Ileana Gherghina

Children know

Children know everything
They have eyes everywhere
On Jupiter,
On Mars,
On the Milky Way,
Back Home,
In the top of the tree,
In the back of my life,
In the hen house,
In the cell,
In my heart,
In my memories,
In the plum stone,
In your flesh,
In my smile,
In my hand,
In your sight.
But the language
We adults teach them
Can’t express
The vastness they know.
And we adults
Remain
Unlearned.

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Kate Rogers

KateRogers

Baba Yaga's Child

I

Baba Yaga gathers tiny corpses
of broken birds beneath her windows. 
She hangs eaves and pine limbs with home-made
bone wind chimes, strings bush lout bone-anchors, 
threads the basket rib cage of a pied biter,
weaves in cuckoo wings for lift. At the top
of the strand, hummingbird beaks, needles 
to stitch the breeze with nectar. Outside,
sweet mist meets my cheeks. On quiet days 
tiny clavicles, mandibles, femurs clatter.

My cup is a crow skull. 
Baba Yaga’s potion 
leaks from eye sockets
when I tip it to my lips. 
I run, caw, trill, warble, 
wail looney. Northern diver throws 
his voice across the lake, 
like a ventriloquist. Loon 
teases, echoes till the wolf 
and I reply.

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Monica Manolachi

Monica Manolachi

Bitter Cherries

It took her a month to buy a salt shaker.
One day she had a last eclair with her daughters in town. 
She left her soul at home on the hallstand
and slowly climbed the airstairs
to the country of sighing where immigrants go. 
A walking dead as she was, she had no tears. 
Her life had stopped. Lunches every other day.
She remained a mother on the phone only.
When cooking for others, she thought of her family.

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Narayan Bhattarai

Narayan Bhattarai

My Mom’s Secret

My mom bears the chronicle of Nepali women 
in her rough hands hardened by time and 
in the wrinkles of her jittery countenance
She is a history never to be written
because nothing big happened in her life
When she had to get a toy to play with
she got a bridal veil and the in-law’s house 
where rules were made only for her.
There, she learned to listen and endure: 
Commands, slaps, humiliation, torture 
A good woman was a silent woman
A good woman begets lots of kids 
My mom was successful
 
My mom always nods her head in agreement 
because she has never disagreed in her life
She agreed to be bride when she was seven

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Dolly Dennis

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BALTIC BREAD – (for my mama)

autumn.
unraked lawns,
yarns of lilac twigs garnish gardens, now ignored.
a new school year. i comb neglected leaves, 
meditate, salivate, remember black bread and sour cream—
after class, a run to the bakery.
such a hunger for a six year old. i start to nibble, 
nosh like Alice down the rabbit hole, 
reach home, the heel of the bread gone. 
a scolding. no super supper tonight,
no sauerkraut, no Baltic bread.
just sour cream on nothing.
			∞
your last words to me from your hospital bed,
i love you, love you, love you.
a profusion, a confusion of phone dates followed—

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Rachel J. Fenton

Miscarriage

A German Shepherd has his head
and front paws in your hutch,
lifted off the lid
to climb in and almost had you.

I had woken from a dream; 
thought I’d heard someone
knocking the fence in.
Outside the bedroom window, 

the dog stares when I scream
‘Oh,’ as if I’ve discovered my baby
dead in my uterus. Gormless,
until I add, ‘Out, out, out,’

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Nancy Ndeke

ndeke800

WHEN OTHER ORDERS A MOTHER’S  HEART

The soil,dirty,darkly brown, often damp,
The liquid gold of wombic nurture and stature,
The goddess with nimble fingers and tender breasts,
Teaching lullabies in a preachers trembling tunes upon a fevered wake,
A father’s gift for a name after his father’s and further down the lineage, 
The place of worship in needs met and wants explained, 
What’s motherhood but divine soft shine of pain in beautiful gain,

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Mbizo Chirasha

a1mbizo-chirasha-diasporian

A Dedication To My (M)other

As I dangled on your struggle - hardened back

I carved poetry from your sweet lullabies

and grieving hymns

became a griot before teething

…

You remain my Goddess of all time

On the day of my birthing

the moon was torn into two halves

wind raged           a storm ensued

thunder clapped the red earth

lightning bolts cracked in synchrony with gunshots

The rat-a-tat of pelting raindrops

witnessed your labour

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Lynn Tait

LynnTaitsmallcrop

A Life of Envy           
in memory of Stephen 1983-2012

I would rather 
someone to call sister, brother, father
rather than my family tree rootless, without leaves;
a life-path with fewer side streets,
instead of twists and turns— 
crossroads leading to dead ends.
I would rather 
hear the hum and drawl—calling for Mom again, 

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Josephine LoRe

in.ception 

     Scientists have captured the flash of light
that sparks when a sperm meets an egg

I knew    

    I walked from the bed to the bathroom and knew 

                                       a life inside my life a spark

                                             within my spark a flash 

                         infinitesimal then the size of flaxseed 

                     waving blue in summer breeze hazelnut 

                                         in shatterproof shell apricot 

           fuzz-covered flesh yielding to touch grapefruit 

                                         sunshine bursting into scent 

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Mary Pecaut

Mary Pecaut-photo bw

Invitation to Mom

(After Mirna Stone)

If I can bring you back again
it would be on a day like this when the sky
opens wide to the water         
pelicans perch on fishing boats
and lego-like container ships navigate 
the Panama Canal

And I would bring you to my rooftop
and tell you THIS 
is what I love, this view, this horizon
you've never seen
this papaye sunrise
this breeze that nudges me
corrals the clouds

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Angela Costi (Aggeliki Kosti)

Angela-Costi-012 (1)

Mothers

A.
I can lose myself  
between bed and mirror
cot and door 
lamp and window
I can merge with the suckling at my chest
the train snoring at my side
the call of the lonely magpie,
still I drain into the miracle.

The dark, the shadows, the moon 
my mind 
his growing mind
evoke koonia bella, swing my baby hither, koonia bella
my voice quivers in rhythm with the window panes 
while they recall it’s raining, it’s snowing, God waters the statues
other nursery rhymes fight for the match, 
one lights the wick to melt the candle that fills the room
with the smell of my one dolly
I thought I had lost.
We used to play balamakia, let’s clap our hands, clap, clap, clap
daddy will come and bring us sweets, kooloorakia for our biscuit tin

Continue Reading

Andrea Holland

andrea holland

Mine
                                 -	For C.


There were times 	I left my tools at the top. 
There were times I pitched against the rock 
against my will     against you    sedimentary, fixed

to everything around me. 	Therein a song 
of the dark lit a little by shine off the walls. 
I thought I made you 		but you were there

all along; the body’s way 	of working itself
into the future. I thought tools were
enough to bring you out 	they were not.

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© This journal and its contents are subject to copyright

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Table of Contents. Mothering Issue. May 2021

Main Journal

Letters from the Editors: Darcie Friesen Hossack with guest editors Anne Sorbie and Heidi Grogan

Podcast. Produced by Jane Spokenword

Trudy SilVER

Fiction. Edited by Sylvia Petter

Still Life. By Irena Karafilly

Mother. By Kelly Kaur

Image of Her. By Sheila E. Tucker

Transplanted. By Mansour Noorbakhsh

Matthew. By Sylvia Petter

Non-Fiction. Edited by Olga Stein

WHERE IS THE (M) in Mother? By Heidi Grogan

Fairy Tale. By Heather Birrell

Doll. Mother’s Love. By Nina Kossman

A Wedding and a Funeral, Truth for cam Canada. by Marion Collin and Yvonne Trainer

How to Mother a Woman. By Teresa Callihoo

Shtisel’s Heart. By Olga Stein

Woman Circle. By Misty Hawes

(M)othering on an empty stomach. By Sandy Bezanson

Let’s Pretend it never Happened. By Sally Krusing

Literary Spotlight with Sue Burge

Raine Geoghegan

Writing Advice with Sue Burge

Jenny Pagdin

Book Reviews. Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy

Daughters of Smoke and Fire. Review by Patrick Woodcock

Prayers for Aisha Lulu. Review by Darcie Friesen Hossack

Visual Art. Selected by Anne Sorbie, Heidi Grogan

Hands. Vessel. By Shannon Mackinnon

4 images. By Shahid Mirza

 

Poetry. Edited by Clara Burghelea and Nancy Ndeke

The Day After the Day of Mother Love. By Anne Sorbie

Swimming for Safety. By Sage Tyrtle

3 poems. By Ileana Gherghina

Baba Yaga’s Child. By Kate Rogers

Bitter Cherries. By Monica Manolachi

My Mom’s Secret. By Narayan Bhattarai

Baltic Bread. By Dolly Dennis

2 Poems. By Rachel J. Fenton

2 Poems. By Nancy Ndeke

A Dedication To My (M)other. By Mbizo Chirasha

A Life of Envy. By Lynn Tait

in.ception. By Josephine LoRe

Invitation to Mom. By Mary Pecaut

Mothers. By Angela Costi (Aggeliki Kosti)

Mine. By Andrea Holland

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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Women Circle. Memoir by Misty Hawes

Misty

  

Women Circle

                I sit in the viewing area, not really paying attention. I fidget on the uncomfortable benches. They are hard and backless, and I have other things to do. But my daughter, out on the floor, likes to see me when she glances over. So here I sit. As I watch her practice a tumbling pass, I overhear a conversation in the row in front of me. I try to tune it out. Try not to comprehend. “…tried to help…little girl…” It’s enough to turn my skin clammy and force my fingers to clamp around the edge of the bench — my knuckles white.

            I want to get up and walk away. Shout or sing to drown out the words. I can’t. I’m rooted. I cling to the bench, the only solid thing I can reach, desperately willing myself not to slide away on the wave of horror that rolls over me.

            “Oh Shit”

            I know I’ve said it out loud. I see my feet hit the floor running. The realization that has been waiting there in the back of my mind, kind of a floaty unrecognized thing, is suddenly very terribly real.

            I choke on air. My stomach churns. I gulp back the bile that burns at the back of my throat.

            I stand pressing both of my hands flat against the brick wall at the back of the gym.  It’s cold on my forehead, a solid and unmoving touchstone while my reality spins. 

            I force myself to breath in, breath out.

            I keep eyes tight shut because I know if I open them the floor will slip away in a dizzying slide.

            I know this conversation, this story. It was mine a few short months ago. The strangers’ whispered account of the accident they witnessed. I know this family — the unspoken names. Deep down in my gut I know without hearing — the way a heart knows.

            I straighten up. My fingernails dig into the palms of my hands.I speak to the coach, then turn and walk toward the knowledge of the pain.

            Along the way I stop to buy a teddy bear because I cannot arrive at this occasion with empty hands and my broken heart spilling out of me in jagged little pieces. Besides, it gives me something to hold on to. It is solid enough to stop my body from shaking when I wrap my arms around it, but not so solid it will break me if I fall into it.

            My heart knows even as my brain screams and begs and prays for it to be wrong. 

            “Please God let me be wrong. Please, Please…”

            The voice in my head gets fainter and fainter as I walk up the sidewalk. 

            The grief here is a physical presence. This is a house in mourning with its shades pulled down and its cars lining the block. Its silence settles dead weight on my shoulders and drags at my feet. My heart knows, and now my head knows that my heart is right. My hand hesitates, motionless in mid-air. I have to force myself to knock (I knock because a doorbell would be artificial and jarring and terrible). Knocking breaks the silence, but it is tolerable somehow because it is organic and authentic (this is a weird thing that I know about grief only because I have been there myself).

            I don’t recognize the woman who opens the door, but she is familiar in grief and in soul memory and in the scent of our childhood home. It is the scent of damp moss and hot cedar trees on the banks of a river in the place where we both grew up —childhood friends of the momma I have come to see.

            She has come, the way that women do, to circle the wounded, to help hold the pieces and memories and hearts when the owners of the hearts are too broken to do the holding themselves. It’s why I have come too, she knows.

            I hold out the teddy bear in a mute plea, unable to speak. “Oh,” she says. “I think maybe she’s waiting for you.”

            She is — my friend — waiting for me. I find her there at the top of the stairs, standing but almost not, holding on with all of her will. I know this holding on, and how sometimes it is all you can do. Sometimes it takes more than all you have. I wrap my arms around her. Somehow we will hold on together.

Misty Hawes is a British Columbian who currently resides in Calgary, Alberta. Earth is her element and her soul is most at home adventuring, barefoot, in moss covered forests. She is a fiercely okay mother of two – 24 and forever four.  A believer in angels, in fairies and magic, and in the power of women who circle.  A seeker of truth; she writes unsweetened honesty.  Triggers may happen.

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Where is the (M) in Mother? Memoir by Heidi Grogan

Photo by Julia Marsh

Where is the M in (M)other?

My children’s birth mothers inform my “othering” every day.  As an adoptive mother, I am always and all the time looking for the (M) … under beds where mismatched socks wait to be found, in wet laundry gone stank because I forgot, in report cards needing to be signed. In kisses at night when they are asleep.

I find the (M) in pictures my husband takes of us, in their smiles when they shine, and I connect the smiles to a signing up for football or riding lessons. I find the (M) in choices, in what has been given / up. In their shining, I understand the significance of holding and offering choices, and I step into the (M)….

My children’s birth mothers are beautiful. They are (M); I am ‘O’: other. But I bet if I asked them, they could tell stories about othering.

Their grief, their choice, defines and embodies what I know to be love. And so, because of their love, I cannot always find my feet. I stumble around, looking for the (M) I promised them I’d step into.

For most of my career, I have worked with women leaving the sex trade. “I did not give my child up,” one woman told me. “Lose the give up. Give. I gave my child.” I stumbled in reverence.

In my writing-work, I teach that we are transformed by the words we put on the page, even words conceived in grace and intention, words birthed in a bloody mess and cleaned up and offered as gifts to the world. Mothering is bloody and messy; to me mothering is being present to the risk inherent in creating, in the birthing moment. And staying regardless.

Who is mother? Does it matter?

My daughter’s birth mother swam in the mornings after my husband and I took her baby home, leaking breast milk into chlorine so no one would see her cry. My son’s birth mother and I pushed his carriage over snow ruts to a bookstore where the owner attended to us as if we were a couple, and the two of us loved her for that. These women gave and relinquished.

Relinquishing is an unexpected and devastating aspect of mothering. For both biological and adoptive mothers. For our children to shine we must relinquish. I glimpse the (M) in this experience: I have learned loving even when it is messy is a choice that changes everything. A costly, life-giving choice. Relinquishing and loving results in an othering that is entirely transformative.

I am still working it out: (M) othering.

I am lifted by my choices and those of my children’s birth mothers.

Heidi Grogan:

My writing and work meet at the intersection of trauma, social justice and spirituality. In 2022, The (M)othering Anthology will be published (Inanna Press). I have published in Room magazine, Weavings and the Boobs Anthology (Caitlin Press). My writing has been twice recognized as a finalist for the Brenda Strathern Award.   For 15 years, I taught creative writing to women exiting the sex trade. In other programs, I have attended to the link between literacy and literary fluency for adults healing from trauma. In support of emerging writers, I teach creative writing through Continuing Education at the University of Calgary.

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Image of her. A flash fiction by Sheila E. Tucker

ST at QL

Image of her

I have this fleeting memory of her sitting on her bed, still and silent, as dawn’s soft sun fingered its way through the sheers. She was unaware that I stood in the doorway, for she was far away, staring out of the window and—what?—remembering him? planning an escape? asking herself why?

     This image of her is all I have left of my mother: her straight back, the shiny brown bob cut to the nape of her neck, straps of an olive satin nightdress hanging from her bony shoulders.

     I quietly tiptoed downstairs, put on my shoes and headed to school. By the time I returned, the house was empty and so was her closet.

     I wonder even now, if she ever recalls that last morning in the house, if she sometimes thinks of me, if she is even still alive.

Sheila E. Tucker is editor-in-chief of an upcoming anthology for Toronto’s Heliconian Club for Women in the Arts and Letters. She’s a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and The Ontario Poetry Society. Previously, she was an editor and graphic designer for an international company. Born in England, the backdrop of her memoir Rag Dolls and Rage, Sheila travelled the world for 12 years, working casual jobs on an Israeli kibbutz, the Spanish coast, a Belgian town and the Greek capital, among other places. She thrived on adventure. Sheila now lives in Oakville with her husband. http://www.ragdollsandrage.com   www.facebook.com/OakvilleSheilaTucker

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