Wednesday, 22 February 2017

With today's peaceful poem filled with faith and hope, "Biorhythmic Resistance" by Jill Crainshaw, Writing In A Woman's Voice will take a sabbatical until March 26. (This includes a previously mentioned full moon celebration project, which will be postponed until April's full moon.)

Biorhythmic Resistance
by Jill Crainshaw

The waxwings visited today. They
know when at winter’s spring-ward edge
to harvest our backyard cedar’s frosted
blue berries. Sometimes the luck of
wildness calls my eyes skyward, and
I see them, masked urban foragers
warming naked Jack Frost trees with
ephemeral browned-butter flames.
And then they are gone. They brush
still-cold blue skies with tails dipped in
sunflower yellow, leaving no sign 
they were ever here at all. But as I
watch them fly away, an ancient promise
caresses my face. When an uninvited
stranger occupies our terrace, holds minds
hostage to chaotic rhythms, desperate
to rewire fragile dreams to his own 
narcissistic gravity, this is how we
resist. We synchronize our wings to
creation’s pace and breathe in and out
the spiraling balm of hope. And then we
live as people who remember, who
know in the marrow of our bones:
the waxwings will visit again.

* * * * *
Jill Crainshaw is a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She enjoys exploring how words give voice to unexpected ideas, insights and visions.


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Half of a Heart                                                                                               
by Emma Hines

For a tattoo artist, she didn’t have very many tattoos. Only one on the inside of her left wrist; the black outline of one half of a heart. They always asked where the other half was.
She loved it when they did that.
“You have the most beautiful green eyes,” a man crooned. She knew a pickup line when she heard one, and leaned towards him so he could better see the neckline of her dress; a little black thing she enjoyed wearing because it made her feel like she could kill someone. She liked his eyes, too; deep blue that would go nicely with hair that was dark, like hers.
“Why thank you,” she said.
This one will do nicely.
She invited him to sit with her, and pretended not to notice as he obviously looked her over. She knew she was beautiful, but it was a surreal beauty, a beauty that made people look twice because it was so unbelievable the eyes had to see it again to make sure it was standing before them in the form of a woman with eyes greener than the earth. At first it had annoyed her, but she’d found a way to make putting up with the catcalls worth her while. Honestly, it was hard to blame the ones that oogled, and she’d long since stopped minding when people stared because it made her hobby so much easier. She’d started frequenting bars and nightclubs because that was where all the pretty people went.
I can always be more beautiful.
“You know, I normally don’t like tattoos,” the man said, his eyes stopping at her wrist, “but for you I’ll make an exception.” She smiled at him flirtatiously, fluttering her dark lashes and letting her hair fall over one shoulder, glancing away to look just the right amount of mysterious and sultry.
Thank goodness I decided on long, thick hair.
"Who has the other half of the heart?" the man pressed, not very subtly asking if she was single. She pretended to remember a long-ago heartbreak and made her voice husky when she replied,
"Someone who abandoned me, a long time ago."
"I wouldn't abandon you," the man promised.
A few drinks later, she was ready to make sure he wouldn’t. Alcohol didn’t affect her like it did the rest of them, so she had to work her voice into a bubbly, overexcited pitch when she squealed,
“Wanna go to my place?” Of course, the man nodded; they always did. She hated taxis but she’d already pretended she was drunk so she was forced to call one and sit in the back and pretend she liked the man’s sloppy kisses.
No wonder I didn’t have to fight anyone to get this man.
She never liked having to steal someone away from another person; it was just such a pain, but she’d done it a couple times, for the right hair or smile. Stealing took a few days, and she preferred a one-night job where she got what she wanted with little to no effort at all. When she dragged him out of the taxi, she was glad she’d convinced him to leave before he’d had another drink. He was heavy and she couldn’t carry him without damaging her nails.
Her house was her tattoo shop, and the man stumbled inside to collapse on a chair. His eyes never wandered to the strange books on her shelves, or the candles all around, and he didn’t bother to glance down at the rug with a pentagram on it that was centered right underneath his chair. All he looked at was her, and when she came near, tugged her onto his lap.
“Wait, wait,” she told him breathlessly. “Before... I just... I need to know you won’t abandon me.” She held his gaze, those beautiful blue eyes, and watched her beauty work on him. The three shots of vodka in his system worked, too.
“Anything,” he swore.
“A tattoo,” she said, blurting it like she’d just come up with the idea spontaneously. “The other half of my heart.” The man hesitated and looked away, but she let one of the straps of her dress slide down, and that was all it took to convince him.
She’d already prepared the needle, and in no time the man was staring at his right wrist, testing how the ink looked when he twisted his hand. The man was starting to feel faint, she could tell.
Perfect.
She put their arms together and lined the tattoos up to make a complete heart, then traced around it with her finger, and visualized what she wanted from him.
Beautiful blue eyes.
The man started to scream, but that was why she’d set up her shop in the middle of nowhere. She timed it, and the thrashing lasted about twelve seconds.
Then the man was dead in her chair, and his eyes were gone.
She felt a pop, and she blinked as the world was gone for a brutal second before coming back in neat clarity.
She put the body where she kept the others, then checked herself in the mirror.
They do go nicely with my hair.
The next night, a man stopped her on her way to a new bar.
            “You have the most beautiful blue eyes,” he said. She smiled at him, and he grinned back. His teeth were whiter and straighter than hers, pearly and beautiful. How would they look framed by her red lips?
            “Why thank you,” she said.

* * * * *

Emma Hines is a 17- year-old junior in high school, planning on pursuing a university degree that will support her goal of becoming a professional writer. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Donation

by Sarah Henry


I would like to donate
my body to science
with a flourish.
My long-awaited dissection
must be written off
to good will.

A medical student soon
learns that organs in a cadaver
don’t mirror each other
like two halves of a French
door opening in the salon
of a wealthy art collector.
Let me invite you inside
with pleasure, and hope
you won’t send regrets.
He who hesitates is lost.

Anatomy class is tough,
but not so bad as reading
pediatric electrocardiograms
with their many dark 
and murmuring hearts.

My driver’s license says,
An eye for an eye.
When my car collides with
a distracted station wagon,
a student will butterfly
my body, taking everything,
the uneven and misaligned,
all askew. His scalpel will
rob my grave.

* * * * *

Sarah Henry is a former student of Robert Hass and Louise Gluck at the University of Virginia. Today she lives near Pittsburgh, where her poems have appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Farther afield, Sarah's work has been published in the International Women's Day issue of the Camel Saloon, The Hollins Critic and six anthologies. CHEAP POP featured her humorous prose. Humor is very important to her.


Sunday, 19 February 2017

Creative Writing

by Sarah Henry


He said his grandfather
was personal secretary
to Pierre DuPont, even
though Pierre DuPont must
have had many hangers-on.
(His parents didn’t own
a brag gallery in their
den to prove it.)
He worked it in that
he was president of Student
Council in high school.
(A former classmate said
he had only been treasurer
of the Ski Club.)
By his own report,
his college girlfriend
hadn’t been as “rich”
as he was. (Was he rich?)
He broadcasted a completely
false and unsubstantiated
rumor about my making
a bodice-ripping attempt
to seduce him. (Look!
All of his women come running!)
Finally, he trailed over to Russia,
where he published a fish story,
a whopper, a whale of a tale.
Yes, this is about you.


* * * * *

Sarah Henry is a former student of Robert Hass and Louise Gluck at the University of Virginia. Today she lives near Pittsburgh, where her poems have appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Farther afield, Sarah's work has been published in the International Women's Day issue of the Camel Saloon, The Hollins Critic and six anthologies. CHEAP POP featured her humorous prose. Humor is very important to her.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

40 YEARS WITH AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER

by Brenda Havens



            Lou Mitchell’s was bustling, damn it.
            The hostess settled me at the counter, a bit away from the bustle.  I was here for fuel, not fellowship.  All these perky tourist families were quite annoying.
            I left a seat between myself and the next guy. 
Oh, he’s reading a book!  And I’m reading my Russell Banks!  We have something in common!  I wonder if he’s an English teacher. We could have a conversation about books.  I’d love that.  An affair would be nice.  Wow, how’d I transition to that idea so fast?  I wonder, too, if that skillet thing he ate was good.  Oh, well, I’ll just read.  It’s The Darling.  I’m pretty into it. Main character was in the Weatherman Underground, so I’m learning about that from the inside out, if Banks knows what he’s talking about. 
Oh, darn.  He’s packing his book away, so it’s too late to talk about it. He—taller than I thought-- strolled on out of the restaurant.
Oh, well.  I’ve got my book.

            I had the day in Chicago before my husband got off work. We would spend the night in the condo borrowed from Cousin Judy, and then head back home to Indiana in the morning.
             This time, he would be armed with Viagra, tested, discussed and blessed by his pecker-checker.  I felt anxious, but looked forward to the intimacy, the closeness of being touched and held during, before and after lovemaking.  A big, boundless orgasm wouldn’t hurt, either. 
However.  In the car on the way to our Steppenwolf matinee, I noticed his breath.  Again.  The halitosis he gets when he doesn’t use the hydra floss for a week.
Bastard.
           
           After the play, where I spent some mental energy hoping the guy next to me couldn’t smell my husband’s breath, we went to dinner at Marcello’s on North Avenue.  We chatted about the play, recalled some good times living in Evanston. I did have to ask him to smooth the duck fuzz at the top of his head, but I couldn’t smell his breath.
We called our sons, who were in the middle of the traditional Chicago May 1 move from one apartment to another. They agreed that some pizza & pasta would be helpful, so we ordered, and when finished eating, set the GPS for their new address:  24-something Leavitt, and drove over. Fun to see them and their new place.

“Sorry. I was defecating,” he shared, buckling back in. Oh.  Great.  My mind raced ahead of his next words.  Yes, it was true.  A bad bout of diarrhea.  Heeewww. 
That did it for me.  But what about him?  Hopefully, he feels too sick to think about sex.
            After his shower (so glad he realized the need), as I poured myself a bit of Cousin Judy’s white wine, my peripheral vision caught him in view through the just-opened bathroom door.  My ears caught the crinkle of plastic and foil in his hands, his voice, “Well, are we ready to try it?” 
Unbelieving, I looked at him, damp, hairy, gray chest hanging over wrapped towel.  I thought fast--decided to bring up the breath, since the bowels didn’t discourage him.  And, truly, how can we have decent foreplay with halitosis as a guest?  
We talked. Defensive at first, he agreed he had been thoughtless to focus so much on those projects that he ignored basic hygiene, and, no, he wouldn’t want to kiss me if I had monster breath.
He lay his head back and dozed on to sleep. I walked out to the balcony, taking in East Loop lights, like thousands of stars twinkling eternity, and hope, light and love. I sighed in tandem with a waning siren rushing south on Lake Shore. On a rooftop to the north, I saw partiers, young, buoyant. Awake.

I sighed again, then turned back inward. Oh, well, I’ve got my book.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Ancestors

by Ann Cooper


She glided through her life
looking like a centaur in drag,
bustle out behind, and one could only guess

how many legs and feet below,
keys at her waist,
wearing muslins, silks, sprigged calicos.

She stayed at home and learned to draw,
to sing, to sew, speak French,
bring calves’ foot jelly to the deserving poor.

Told to hide her body,
except for her white hands and face…and breasts,
exhibiting promise but knowing little of what that was.

She did not raise her children
or know her husband very well.
Did she ever say, “Look at me, at who I am?

“More than decoration,
more than symbol of family and wealth,
more than a breeder of a future without change?”

Did she long to be treated well,
at least as well
as favorite dog or horse?

Was this my ancestor?
Not likely, though perhaps
my mother’s and my aunt’s.


Mine lived in a shtetl
and worked with her family on farm, in shop,
gender disguised by wig and dress,

work discounted by mikva mentality
that made her at monthly intervals
unclean to even touch

yet still acceptable enough to toil and clean and cook and serve,
hearing every day the prayer of men
thanking God they were not like her.

A breeder of a future without change.

Who had time for rage and bitterness?
And to what avail,
since this was what God decreed, they said.

——

How have I emerged from these strait worlds,
a funnel of their impotence and rage,
yet hearing still the echoes of those myths of women’s place,

to find a way unwalled, uncharted,
still not peril-free,
but freer than the garden mazes of cultivated plants,

cut and pruned and tortured into shapes
plants were not meant to have…
or women either?


* * * * *


Ann Cooper has been writing poems on and off for more than thirty years. She discovered he woman's voice very early, as a little girl, as she observed the many ways that women were treated differently from men—by both women and men: lowered expectations and narrowed horizons, for example, along with all the rest.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

THE THINGS INSIDE US
by Fred Skolnik

Pamela Smith woke up early. She generally didn't look at herself in the mirror in the morning but when she did she didn't like what she saw. She had never been attractive and now she was haggard. That hadn't mattered in the first flush of conjugal bliss and shouldn't have mattered now when she was middle aged and no one looked at her that way anymore, but nonetheless it depressed her somewhat. Her husband was still asleep, a lump. She brushed her teeth and washed her face and stared at the bottle of sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet with many wordless thoughts flashing through her mind. Then she went downstairs and had her coffee. She felt listless, out of sorts. After a while her husband came down, already dressed. He kissed her cheek and had his coffee too and after looking at the paper dragged his golf clubs out of the hall closet and said, "I'm gonna run."
   "Have a good time," Pamela said.
   "I always do."
   "Will you be back for lunch?"
   "I always am."
   He smiled. This was his sense of humor. After the late lunch he would watch the football game and Pamela would do some housework. She heard the car start up and looked out the window and saw him turning into the street and didn't know if she was glad or not to have the house to herself for a while. She went back upstairs and thought about getting dressed but decided not to because there was no point in getting dressed if she wasn't going out and it was Sunday after all and no one was expected. She made the bed and straightened out the bedroom. Then she went into the bathroom again and cleaned the sink and toilet. Downstairs the house was fairly dark so she opened all the curtains and a few windows as well and glanced at the lawn. Soon the first winter weeds would be coming up, their seeds buried in the ground all summer long. She glanced at the newspaper too. Nothing there interested her. As time went on she was becoming less and less interested in things and didn't have anything like golf or football to keep her occupied. She was becoming less and less interested in the children too now that they were grown. At first she had tried to control their lives but soon enough she had realized that there was no point to it and they would have to make their own mistakes and find their own way and she wasn't going to get too excited about their ups and downs. Not having the burden of her children's lives weighing down on her had been a great relief and she liked to say that not worrying about them anymore had added ten years to her life. They of course worried about her but she insisted that she was just fine and enjoying life like anyone else her age.
   Pamela wasn't hungry. She didn't have much of an appetite these days. She looked through some magazines and turned on the TV and then it was noon and she took out the leftover chicken and made some chicken salad. When her husband got back the table was already set. She got out the Diet Pepsi and watched him eat. He didn't have too much to say, other than that he had run into Donald Foster and his new wife.
   "What does she look like?" Pamela said.
   "About twenty."
   Pamela nodded. "I figured as much."
   Her husband wiped his mouth and said, "I'm gonna watch the game," and got up and went to the den with the newspaper. At halftime he'd come out to get some snacks so she put the snacks on the table and did the dishes and straightened out the kitchen. She thought about getting dressed again but decided not to. She went out back and did a load of laundry and swept up a little and checked the house plants. She scratched her ear and felt a short, stiff hair deep inside which proved too tiny to pinch out with her fingernails so she got some tweezers and tried to remove it but couldn't get a grip and found this very annoying and worked at it for a quarter of an hour without success and had to leave it where it was. Now her ear felt raw. Clearly there were things you couldn't get at, like parasites or an itch in the wrong place, and would have to live with.
   After the football game her husband spent an hour looking for some golf magazine and she helped him turn the house upside down. Then they had a light supper and watched some TV. One of the kids called and they chatted for a while. It was chilly in the evening so she put on a sweater and watched some more TV. One of the commercials reminded her that they were running out of toilet paper so she got up and made a note on her shopping list. She asked her husband if he wanted coffee or anything but he said no, he was fine, so she came back and sat down in the chair she always sat in when they watched TV together. At eleven o'clock her husband turned off the TV and said, "Let's go to bed." After they got into bed he signaled to her that he wanted to have sex, but she couldn't get into it so she lay there like a zombie until he finished. Then she went to wash and heard him snoring. She opened the medicine cabinet and took out the sleeping pills. The bottle was almost full. She poured half the pills into the palm of her hand and looked at them. Then she counted them and for no real reason rounded off the number. The glass was in a glass holder with their toothbrushes. She filled it and took a sip, holding the pills in her other hand. Then she looked at herself in the mirror, without thinking, without anything in her mind at all. After a while she poured the pills back into the bottle and went back to bed, blinking very hard in the dark room. She had come very close to ending her life without really knowing why or even wanting to.            

* * * * *

Fred Skolnik is the author of 4 novels: The Other Shore (Aqueous Books, 2011) and Death (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015) under his own name and Rafi’s World and The Links in the Chain (both in 2014) under his Fred Russell pen name. His stories and essays have appeared in around 200 journals, including TriQuarterly, The MacGuffin, Los Angeles Review, Prism Review, Gargoyle, Literary House Review, Words & Images, Third Coast, Polluto, Underground Voices, Palooka and The Recusant