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"TAOS DAWN"
SUSAN KEISER


A Face of Beauty

Vanessa Raney

By most accounts the mermaid is
a vixen of the sea: long tail that stops
below her belly, the breasts free
or hidden by bikini tops, almost
always with long hair
and a face of beauty.

But if we were designed like that
how could we stand the water
so cold the further down we go?
How might we swim if caught
in objects of the sea, much less
outpace those fish with sharper teeth?
As for my face, it's what lures
the smaller fish for me to eat,
the colors changing with the plants.

We make the mermaid more like us
but keep her chaste since no man
could penetrate her tail, then we
pretend she wants to have two legs
since, already, she has the milk
of motherhood – but what use
are breasts to fish? We've seen,
too, the rise of mermen but
while they swim I haven't seen
them kiss or fuck, this to keep
the mermaid more pristine.
More rarely still are stories
of the men who learn too late
that her beauty hides a darker
truth: man-eating monster
with fangs to rip the flesh.

I am a creature of the sea
whose rhythms carry me to depths
you cannot reach but, even if
you find me one day near
you'll never know it's me, as
you only seek a mirror to yourself.

Land Poor

Taylor Graham

She owns by mortgage five acres
of grit that once was rock, and rock
not yet ground down
to grit, and grass tough enough to push
through the cracks, dead
in summer, and winters of drought.
When it rains she jubilates
for green – not money to fix the fence
that rains tear out again,
but grass to feed her famine-sheep.
Then she wades waist-high in January flood
to clear the culverts lest they wash
the road away, what’s left of her
five acres an island
in a gradually subsiding sea.
Land she loves like her left arm.
She doubts the seasons will keep her,
but grind like weather
on mortgaged body against rock.
And now, without asking,
sun breaks cloud, glittering water-
diamonds everywhere,
creek-scour sand and leafless
branch. Even rock shines silver.

The Sheep

Sarah Henry

He followed
her down
the impossible
beaches
of a tropical island.
She folded
her wet blanket
and moved
to the mainland.
He, too, moved
to the mainland.
She wanted a farm
so he wanted a farm.
She said she wanted
a dog so he said
he wanted a dog.
She bought a Border
Collie to employ
while he grazed
in the field.

Vertemus and Pomone
(after Camille Claudel)

Rachel Fenton

Grafted together; we shared a love
of shining stone, though you got all the credit.

My portrait held your Balzac
to my imagined Ewelina,

a matrimonial fa├žade you soon pulled off.
Wan masked, I was asked to pick straw at your feet

and from it I wove your form.
Marvel my hand, about your neck,

a revolt against nature; a woman genius,

I give you, love, your head,
eternally embraced on a barren field of red.

In Guillermo's Gardens

Christi Kochifos Caceres




















Zorba the Greek

Martha Landman

Shrewd! Shrewd! Even clever
but do not call her weak
I say to Alexis Zorba

It's a fool who believes
a man’s hand on a woman’s breast
will let her give you all she’s got

a sentiment from an ageing man
fooled by the wildflower,
the love poem

such a man is slave to his idle brain
his passion bent like a willow
the tricks of women slide oily on his skin

forget the madness,
take my hands, I say to Zorba
teach me to dance

Deadly Corridors

Linda M. Crate

all the corridors
hold secrets
of criminals and saints
blessings and damning words,
and all my heavy tears
construed in the dark where i thought
no one would listen;
but the corridors are wicked little
eavesdroppers
ready to drop you like autumn does her
leaves but only more harshly
if someone pauses
at their opening to hear all your heart
poured into the night like a dying
star
falling heavily to the ground losing all
it's heavenly gauze—
they all stare with their judging eyes
whispering things about me
behind their hands
of how a young woman like me shouldn't be
crying so hard and how shallow they
must be to think the young
can't weather scars,
and heartache has been no stranger to me
i've been seared in pain but i still
stand no matter how many
tears fall;
all these corridors with their listening ears
don't know my journey and i hate them
for all their judgment and the way they follow
me around
always listening,
waiting for the moment they can weigh me
down to the ground like a ball and chain so everyone
can see my fall like an angry crescendo dying
into the basement where the spiders
would cross over my locks with whispers of webs
to catch all my tears the corridors remembered
and all the new ones that would fall;
i want to destroy these corridors
just wander in the snow and sky and sun
let the river sing me to sleep
where no spider cannot touch me without certain death.

Super Woman

Joan McNerney

I wanna become superwoman
learn portuguese in sixty seconds
end pollution single-handedly
feed rice a roni to the planet
win awards left and right.

I wanna become super woman
paint the Taj Mahal red
knock down bureaucrats by the dozens
create creative pandemonium
flying off the edge of everything.

Shadows

Sherry Steiner


Shadows

Amy Soricelli


Anger Slowly She Moves

Michelle Villanueva

moans obscure these roots as before
and seedpods whirl their approval
bitter this wilderness crumbles
I see through rising mercury

his impatience dissolved wheat fields
scarlet was morning when he left
while smacking her gums keeps the time
she seeks him across spiteful dirt

the dingoes carry meat twos and threes
dust scattered as though seasoning
carefully they avoid the breeze
aware of her passing shadow

mother would oftentimes tell me
before the mountains called her home
skyward was the only refuge
when fury took shape as woman

tiny birds chirp warnings alight
she barely hears them through the haze
foreboding her rattled exhale
they heed the sound and clear her path

Her Seeming Agitation

Vanessa Raney

Woman with a hoe across her
chest (the part that dips, in
conversation with her
back) stops me, the
position of her
body leaning toward me though
her face is absent an expression, her
upper body reaching closer to my
tank top, asking me if I was cold, her
hand shifting on the longer part of
the tool she uses against her garden, her
demeanor hostile though she doesn't
mean it, history on the lines across her
skin, no makeup on and eyes that
haven't known so many strangers, her
austerity showing in the dust (of the
mountain I matched the rise on), her
family somewhere there, away from
modern need and recompense, her
seeming agitation a mask for the
concern she’s showing me, her
attention on a
foreigner unfamiliar with her
customs, that a woman covers when
it's winter (or was it spring?), like her.

Dandelions

Regina Solomond

I thought that
dandelions were flowers
until I was told differently.
And that’s my problem,
I believe everything you tell me.

You said a girl
is her reputation.
I learned to cross legs at ankles,
speak when spoken to,
apply light makeup, brush out tangles.

“An obedient
housewife is the best you
can be.” I played nice but never
dreamt of a baby
on my hip, a ring on my finger.

My nails dug crescent
moons into palms when men
called out, but you said to take it
as a compliment.
I tried but still felt violated.

Dandelions scatter seeds to the wind
blown from the lips of children.
I wished to bare my lion teeth.
I wished for weeds
to turn into flowers.

Woods in Winter, Fauquier County, VA

Bette Hileman

Fourteen Thousand and Fifty-two Steps

Sherry Steiner

the whole world over i have searched for you.
up hills and down dales in the marbled stations
train-less but for time fourteen thousand and fifty-two steps.
for you i have searched the whole world over
five rolling hills with honeysuckle clover.
stones in the water - footsteps frozen in time
the edge of darkness there is no reason or rhyme
bangled bracelets  - a hand on the shoulder - blossoming willows –
a heart on the moon sunrise bridges ~ morning statues rise high above –
forest green melodies ~ red sky waving on billowing clouds roll by
paris is tomorrow ~ satin rain~  river run
coral fragrances drift flowering doves fly windswept silence
coyotes  poetry  minstrels moan - Jupiter finds a way
shipping vessels weep ~ French lilacs glisten on the stone
the whole world over I have searched for you
up hills and down dales in the white marbled stations
train-less but for time fourteen  thousand and fifty-two steps
I have searched the whole world over
five rolling hills with honeysuckle clover
the whole world over I have searched for you.

NYC Walkers

Amy Soricelli


Changing the Locks

April Salzano

I called the locksmith the day after the night
I moved my purse and our sons into bed with me.
The night before your first of many trips
to drug rehab. Your voice clutched my throat
through the phone. I owe some people some money,
and if I don’t get it to them tonight, I might be in trouble.
That you were lying did not occur to me
for a year. A year of barely-made mortgage payments,
single parenting, diagnoses, autism for one son,
PTSD for the other. A year of clawing my way through,
jacked up on caffeine and loss. In that night
I only knew to lock the doors, curl my body
around our children and keep checking
the windows, parting the blinds in paranoia.

I did not fund your symbolic last high before the pain
of detox. I called Bill’s Smithing instead.
Bill the locksmith came straightaway with his name
sewn in an oval on his shirt. Bill.
Bill the locksmith changed my locks and tried to save me
in the kitchen. He leaned against the counter,
in the same place you used to lean to eat your dinner
right out of the skillet, the same place onto which you lifted me
and stood between my open legs. Bill the locksmith
held my hand when I finished writing the check
and said, “God bless you.” Bill meant those words.
Bill had been there. Bill held me
like a father holds someone else’s daughter.
“The Good Lord will guide and protect you,”
Bill said. Bill said the same words two months later
when he came to change the locks, and didn’t judge
when I said I had a relapse
and gave you the keys.
“God bless you,” Bill said.
That was the last time I laid eyes on Bill the locksmith.
I didn’t need new locks to keep you out. You did
that all by yourself.

The Man with the Broken Nose
(after Rodin)

Rachel Fenton

Look at you: in pieces and all because you lost
(the back of) your head. I’d like to finish you off,

knock your block off, bust your chops, kiln you
and parade your head through the rue on a stick.

2:03 AM

Emily Strauss

and what if we could add
a mere two minutes back
again, a tiny hiccup
no one would notice
except me in the silent
dark awakened suddenly

glancing at the clock—
what harm could it cause
to ratchet the night back
two ticks, close my eyes
open my eyes and nothing
would change but the tiny

gears, the clock's teeth
of rosewood or ivory
interlocked like Venus
and the moon one cold
December dawn on the sea.
I lie back waiting to live

my dream again, the end
part where he looked hard
at me and I repeated
“really?” and he nodded
imperceptibly, ready for
my taste, but I already

knew that would never
happen even with two more
minutes, even with the clock
frozen in mid-stroke—
I quaked at the thought
and his pale blue eyes.

On and Beyond

KJ Hannah Greenberg


Nobody

Claudia Rey

My name is nobody
no tengo historia
je vis nulle part.
She walks along the beach
in the Mexican morning
greeting the soft waves kissing her feet.
Hello, waves.
Wash me, make me new
erase my memories
give me a clean slate.
Welcome back, say the waves.
How nice to see you again.
How nice to be on her own
alone but not lonely
safe, quiet, happy
like Eve with no Adam.
There might a catch in this beauty
but at the moment she doesn’t care.

The Fare

by Wanda Morrow Clevenger

it took nine days
to wise up
sit in back
wear shades
fake read fake sleep
act like a fare

the driver suffered from
flap jaw: “how many cows
did we have – oh, look
another black dog –
it’s suppose to be
nice this weekend
for the Tin Dusters”

the back seat was cold
I was sad, stressed,
sick—my blood sugars
stalled in the 200s

“do you have calves
this time of year – how many
acres – what do you grow  –
hey, look, there’s a Tin Duster”

he’s bored
with the long drive
and sad fare
and he hums
under his breath
aimless notes

sometimes when
I fake sleep
or fake read or real read
he turns on country music
someone’s leaving someone
then Christian talk radio
someone’s crucifying someone
—I can hear my left eye
inciting mutiny

Between Friends

Marilyn Hammick

We are walking the Thames Path
between Windsor and Brunel’s Sounding Bridge
 - a stag beetle joins us for three inches,
newly hatched dragonflies cross
from one hedgerow to the other,

we are talking about a newish friend,
her cat, the discreet but obvious wig,
when you press me into promises about
how I must tell you when your house
becomes full of books and magazines and newspapers
when there’s only one way though each room.
When there are real piles, you explain,
that’s when you must tell me. Not just
a few weekend supplements kept for the crossword,
not just books to be read or for the charity shop.

You insist that I tell you, as we pass
wood pigeons, magpies, pheasants,
when there are real piles, piles
that will un-pile if the wall or stair rail
or a chair are not there to intervene.

We pause at Boveney Church, read about galletting,
courtesy of the Friends of Friendless Churches,
and, by this ancient chapel of ease,
I promise myself to remind you of when
we walked all day for several days
beside the windblown river,
smelt roses, honeysuckle, linseed,
heard the beat of a swan flying low
under the world’s widest, flattest brick arch,
saw slivers of flint piece the end-of-day light.

Color of a Woman

Rita Bhattacharjee

            Blood red
            cherry red
            vermilion red—
red is my chosen color tonight.
I choose red lest the world forgets
            I can speak out
            for my rights
            for my choices
            for myself.

They warn me it’s
            a ploy
            a trap
to make a mannequin of me,
to make me vain, vacuous,
to take away from
my worth,
my esteem
my image.

I let the red glide on my lips regardless,
contouring them in phallic caresses—
the strokes painting a bow of
            love
            life
            creation.

My lips have
oozed blood
            birthed life
            swallowed pain
                        every day
                        every month
                        year after year—
I choose red lest the world forgets
            the spirit
            the agony
            the resilience
of the scarlet woman.

Signs and Messages

Laura Eppinger


Breathless Vision

Amy Soricelli

she swears she sees God dressed up in a tight raincoat hovering over the sand-swept platform;
she does think to herself what an odd place to drop leaves in a pile by the garbage can -
and wonders if this person - who looks like God - notices this odd place and maybe for a minute-
that fleeting kind of minute -
she can share some moment of silly harmless recognition with some stranger -
some God-like stranger -
and that this standing long hard on this platform with the rocks piercing her eyelashes like some nasty ghetto snow -
would make sense of things -
or at least not make things seem as terribly fucked up as they do sometimes when she shares the glass pine needle streets with
all the lost boys from high school who kept cats in cages and had grandmothers who never kept candy in jars
or were ready for you to come over -
but the kind who spent too much time with their hair in blue sections of dye or who whispered secrets
that had no meaning but for the hollow sound it makes as you roll it around in your mouth long after everyone has gone home and you're left with that mothball smell
and reminder that God does not wear raincoats or stand beside you watching the same sky without a word.

Grocery Cashier

by Joan McNerney

After punching in, she opens her
register, counts up bills and
unwrap rolls of coins. Her arms ache
from yesterday.  From pulling together
store items, piling them in bags.

Another day in this dismal place.
Dim lights and cool corridors.
No clock, no water fountain,
no public restroom. Aisles stocked
with cans, boxes, frozen foods.

Pushing carts full of packaged meat,
donuts, cases of beer...customers
creep up in line. Trance-like they
press forward with crinkled coupons,
handing out cash or swiping cards.

A camera is poised on her.
Registers are monitored and
the number of sales counted.
Making sure nothing slips by,
“The Man” is always watching.

Moonstruck

Lopa Banerjee

I am coiled around the shadow
Of this birth, yet again,
My soul, gaping, bewildered in blood,
Gushing, as it empties, collapses and settles.

Yet again, my body, a child of the pale, cold moon
Waits at the melting palette of the river,
Shivering, crumpled, drooping.
Yet again, the winter-killed world, gnawing, clenching,
Shrinks before my moonstruck form.

Did I creep closer, to shadows or sounds?
Did love trickle in, a heartbeat, a snowdrift,
Or a tiny stream? I float around,
An island in the palm of the night.

I watch the night in its dancing shadows,
Predators sneaking out in a wasteland of sin.
I am safe within the womb of the moon,
My eager feet scurry through,
I resurrect in the swathing river
Of baby faces, waxed in their milky warmth.

The river, zipped tight in its mighty blood drops.
Every night, beneath the asphalt sky,
I am cracked, sprouted, germinating in a makeshift life.
I am thigh-deep in love that crackles, burns
And am reborn, in the nocturnal rain.
I lie in the weightless bed of the night,
The world around in visceral nothingness.

Marching for Women's Suffrage
New York City, 1915


Black Out

Nikki Harlin

$5 pizza on the wall
melts like a clock

the time is now
a grease stain running

Do you like this mood?
It's my favorite t-shirt

the one they tried to fire
me in still in flames

though I don't feel like myself
crouched behind the charred couch

contagious and wild
coughing up the same 3 bar chords

again it's been the maltiest of nights
and it's hard to remember the stars

now that they've been kissed off.

The Way Ahead

Nancy Scott McBride

So here I am,
steering through the fog
in an aging GM sedan.
There’s a red tail light on the right,
and a yellow head lamp on the left,
gray in front of the windshield,
gray rolling away behind.

Moth Cage

Robin Dawn Hudechek
                                     
She trapped the moths under a lilac tree
and scooped the lilacs in a jar.
At night she held the jar to a dusty lamp.
The light was fire against her palms
and a transparent vein in moth wings.
Anna loved her moths.
Their bodies were paper thin
and airborne like her mother’s winged eyes
when her mother smashed beer bottles
and glass trickled down the wall.
It was her mother who bandaged her chest and arms
and made her wear long sleeves.
One moth escaped.
Her mother swatted it in the kitchen
and wrapped the moth in tissue paper.
Anna made a twig cross and buried it under the lilac tree.
She removed her sweater
to let the sun stream on her bandages
and imagined rays like fingers
lifting them from her arms, her chest.
It was then her mother moved her bed to the basement
and Anna poked the first oxygen holes in the jar.
The lilac tree tapped her window.
A ghost of wings dusted the branches.
Anna opened the jar and watched moths
slam against the patch of blue sky.
One by one she lifted them
and pressed moths to the window pane
so the sky could illuminate their bodies
as she shredded the bandages
and fluttered the newborn wings
from her hands into the air.

Authors of the Equal Rights Amendment


Alice Paul


Crystal Eastman


State of Emergency

by Amy Soricelli

There is always a long line here.  Starting from the broken sky
its siren screams from the door/mountains of glass assembled in garbage bags.
She needs the cheese that looks like melted sun.  Large block in slick plastic
peels back like a layer of ice.
Her four boys tumble out of their skin/create a city from the bricks
she carries in her pocket to back off the grabby hands;
the subways carry the grabby hands tunnels deep into the frosty night air.
Overhead fans whir whir she hears them nudge her -no sleeping.
She pulls tight her needle fingernails/under her skin she feels them when the trains move.
She has nothing to giver/her mouth wide open like a cloud.
She travels - a nomad through those cars swaying her hips holding onto the slick
greasy pole for balance.
She sees someone drew a heart on the bricks/two loud names in red twirled up
fancy like licorice wheels.
The older boy points to the man who looks like Jesus Christ sleeping by the fire escape/his beard
capturing outside screams/dust landing in his hair like wishes.
The shuffle of feet one in front of the other/dagger eyes deep down into shameless pockets -
she fingers her last ring circling around her bony fingers like a vulture.
It twirls and twirls like the deep ballerina memory of someone else.
The boys flop onto chairs/sneaker toes folded underneath their bodies/sniffling back
the hours of missed school in pinwheel sounds from slamming doors; someones
upstairs fight with barking dogs/sounds of plates crashing.  No one is surprised - it feels
like home.
They settle into the sound like a coat and wait their turn.

The Other Muse

Nancy Gauquier

This is not about Pegasus,
but about a dark horse
born without wings,
& banished to an island lost
in the mists of Atlantis,
not a horse born to the sun
and bright soft clouds that
will never grow pregnant
with rain, but a horse born
in the sweat of your pain,
when you are too whipped
by work, by a world that
has a God but no Goddess,
a world that worships
its mountains of gold,
but never remembers the
nightmares of its buried soul.

When you are so sick & tired
& faith has leaked out of the holes
in your dream, that one in which
you are always treading water,
& thirsty for one sip of love,
she is surrounded by ravens
who caw & shriek &
fan her with their dark wings,
shielding her from the burn
of the sun.

Though you once longed for Pegasus
to take you up into his wings,
it is no longer Pegasus
you cry out for, but
an estranged dark horse
shrouded in the dust of Sisyphus.
If you are lying exhausted
under some dead indefinable tree
on an island lost, you may open
the soft eyes of the fog to believe
she has always been there,
like a dark wave,
waiting.

A Loving Trial

Vanessa Raney

In the village people grew up poor, with
some wanting more and finding it. If
college was nothing they could have, a
few still earned professional distinction – say, as
a chef for over 20 years – and made sure their
children had the opportunities their
parents had no money for (though they
never turned their backs on them, loving them for
what they taught them, sharing how
they woke up every day at 7a though they
had little food to eat – the reason their
pantries show a surplus now). These women, they
keep close at least one progeny since
expanded with a spouse, and two kids (the
norm in places like Croatia), living downstairs from
their grand/kids, dropping in and sharing meals, talking while,
sometimes, they ramble on about the differences, from the
ways that they were raised; yet still they take the
newer generations and show them how to cook, play with
them the way grand/mothers should, laughing at the sting,
their memories a loving trial when, today, they're orphans both.

Taos Tracks

Susan Keiser


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