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Category Archive for 'Issue 15'

The submission period for the sixteenth issue of damselfly press has closed. Look for the issue on July 15th, 2011.

As always, thank you to all of our submitters.

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Welcome to the new and improved damselfly press! Issue 15  kicks off our new website and commemorates another National Poetry Month. This issue features poems with stunning imagery and raw emotion. We’re  also pleased to feature a  unique nonfiction piece that intertwines body image and a mother/daughter relationship.

Our sixteenth issue will be available July 15th, 2011. If you’d like to submit, please visit our guidelines section and send us your submission by June 15th, 2011. Thank you to all of our submitters.

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Little Bomb

The heart thawing in a bath of tap water
makes the bowl greasy. It is not really a heart,
just two chicken thighs frozen together
into the shape of a clenched fist.
In the kitchen it sits, pink as a carnation.
I imagine it is my heart, taking a break
from me, from its job inside the ribcage,
working around last night’s jumbo prawns
in sugar sauce, heart like the world’s
smallest submarine engineer, hefting gears
weighted with epicurean living.
It thuds and pours blood down
to the ghostly regions of my feet
and hands, coastal towns it will never see.
Bless the heart— it always finds a job
to do. Soon I’ll make a marinade,
and pry the chicken thighs apart, trying
not to think how together they look
like a hand grenade sitting in the tub,
little chicken parts, without a chicken brain
or a chicken heart.

Cate Whetzel received her M.F.A. from Indiana University. Her poems and short fiction have recently appeared in The Louisville Review, Chiron Review, Salamander, Phoebe, and New South. She lives in Michigan with her husband and teaches at a private high school.

The Space A Body Takes

Maybe snow is falling
across the grey
of a small world.
Maybe you are tired—
have been shoveling
for hours, or splitting wood
and stacking it
against the close
white wall.
Your lower back aches
no matter which way
you lie, whimpers
like a small dog
kneading his intention
into the stiles of an old door—
he wants out, he wants in.
Your tongue is a sleeping cat,
a scarlet cushion—
your mouth,
and the bird in your chest
slows her flapping
between the locked twin cages,
her solo beating
like a tympani
in the knit, double cell.
She settles a moment,
for a moment, resigned—
the common and
singular nature,
her perch.

Jennifer Sperry Steinorth is a builder and designer for a small, green-building company in Michigan and the mother of two boys. A frequent contributor to Foreword Reviews and the vice-chair of Michigan Writers, Steinorth’s poems have appeared in The Southeastern Review Online, Mobius:  The Journal for Social Change, The Dunes Review, The Bear River Review, and Re: Union. Her first collection, Forking the Swift, was awarded publication in 2010.

Lament

My mother called me a fence-climber,
said I was born seeking more. I was
six the first time I ran away,

would have stayed gone
if it weren’t for the dark.
Yes, it’s true. I wanted

something else. Not the maple
and slip-covered furniture,
the linoleum kitchen odored with fish

and Pinesol. It wasn’t that I was Peter,
refusing to grow up. My affliction
was more like Alice’s curiosity

or Goldie’s wanderlust.
Lately, I’ve been homesick,
missing the open-window

scent of grass wafting through
the summer nights of my childhood
when I wanted a world

that would spread itself before me
with richness, not paper-thin
and impermanent

as Mother’s Marcal napkins. At seven,
my favorite word was leave-taking.
Just yesterday, I read the word nostalgia

comes from nostos—homecoming
and altos—pain. A wound
that never closes.

Gail Braune Comorat is a founding member of Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild. She leads middle school children in Free Writes at the local library. Her short stories and poetry have been published in Delaware Beach Life, Delaware Poetry Review, Apple Valley Review, Delmarva Review, and The Broadkill Review.

Vigil

I used to watch for day
to sneak like a thief
into the night,
creeping across the fields,
a lantern swung
or a flashlight beamed
by a resolute farmer
approaching,
sinking and floating
on an endless
sea of becoming,
a hermit-crab scuttling
par-ci, par-là
willy-nilly about his toes,
reconnoitering
a temporary home.

All was expectancy.
Even the wind stood still,
awaiting a signal
to recommence
its nervous turning.
Then it was beginning,
imperceptibly shifting
like blond and blonder sands
on the eastern shore,
blankets lapped about
my legs, waiting for waves
and more and more,
when my parents
would leave me alone
with only a single window
to know the dawn.

A lyric poet, critic, and translator, E. Louise Beach also creates libretti.  Her song cycle, Ophelia’s Flowers, will be performed this spring at the Festival for Women in Music at the Eastman School of Music.  Her Requiem for Persecuted Youth will be given at Dickinson College on May 1, 2011.

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Cartography

I made Mousy after my mother told me I’d be happier if I were thinner.  That fifth grade year I loved baking cookies and reading in my room.  I had grown soft in my cheeks and thick in my middle and my pants were too tight. I could’ve joined the track team or cultivated a taste for celery or saved up for aerobics shoes. I didn’t. Instead, I shut the door to my room and started sewing. I had purchased a pattern with my own money. It had more than a dozen small curved pieces to cut and shape into a potbellied mouse. Our town didn’t have a store that carried plush or satin or plastic eyes like the picture on the pattern envelope, so I made Mousy from scraps.   I sewed the mouse alone by hand and years later gave her to my daughter who has placed Mousy on the windowsill over my sewing machine.

My daughter likes to bake cookies and lie in the hammock and paint with watercolors. She would much rather read than run. At eleven, she prances into the living room with her buttons straining open on her blouse and jeans stretched tight around her hips and thighs. Just last week we raided the closet for fresh hand-me-downs. They fit then. They don’t now. When I see my daughter’s belly pop over the top of her pants I silently wonder if she’s too fat to be happy.  My unspoken words shock me.

Through high school I romanced the family scale to get thin and stay that way. I secretly carried a pocket calorie counter and debated the ratio of alcohol to calories in regular and light beer. Was the lower calorie count worth the smaller buzz? I ran six miles every day. I rode my bike the thirty-mile round trip to school and back. I did push ups, pull ups and leg lifts. It worked, but instead of seeing the tightly curved profile I had created in the bathroom mirror, I saw a roundness that would never be right. Then I embraced a new discipline.

When my daughter was a baby, I meticulously mapped the curves of my body alone in my sewing room while she slept. As I looked at her perfect forehead and tiny nose and ears, I wanted to stop time and be with her forever; at the same time I wanted nothing more than to escape. I never guessed how badly she would make me want my solitude. With practiced stealth, I eased myself away from her crib and walked away. Crossing the floor I knew which boards creaked and which were silent as I crept to my sewing machine. I shut myself in the far bedroom and checked for the closed window so the wind wouldn’t rattle the door. Alone and half-dressed, I measured distances: hips, crotch depth and waist. Every day I sewed and ripped seams urgently until she woke up and I could be with her again.

My ability to imagine flat, two-dimensional fabric into three dimensions grew along with the knowledge of my body’s contours. I discovered a short rise and a tight circumference to the curve of my hips. I learned my well-muscled calves protrude like outcropped boulders and keep the back of my pants from falling straight down. I found that my shoulders measure an inch wider in the back than in the front, so without extra fabric across the back, my shirts gap at the neck. Those years of nap time solitude at my sewing machine added up to a carefully constructed mathematical model of my body. There is nothing ambiguous about how precise measuring, calculating and careful cutting can create a shell that perfectly matches my shape. I get a custom-tailored fit in anything I sew. The explicitness of my understanding brings me closer to myself. In surveying my curves I fell in love with what made my mother worry.

I love this body enough that it has rubbed off on my daughter. We stand naked in the bathroom. As her bath dries on her skin she grabs my waist and turns us both to the mirror. She says, “Mommy, you and me, our bodies are beautiful.” She is awkward and out of proportion as breasts rise from baby fat. Faint stretch marks etch her hips where they swell quickly. Two babies and gravity have drawn my breasts down, and everywhere my skin has lost its elasticity. Old stretch marks I’d never noticed before have become like channels of erosion in a sinking landscape. I have lost some of my perspective. My body keeps on changing and this new territory will elude me unless I map it. I need some time with my measuring tape and pattern paper. The twin acts of fitting and stitching will allow me to retrace the shape I’m in.

There’s more, however, to this journey than I can know at once. I live with Crohn’s disease, which when it flares hurts so much I stop eating to make the pain go away. This can start a slip into a valley of starvation, yet I love the feeling of fat falling away as much as I love the bit of belly in the good times. I step on the scale and along with the fear of sliding into uncontrollable illness, I feel elated that I have dropped five pounds in a week.

Then I want new pants. I want them to cut close to my hips since I’m smaller than usual. I have just finished measuring and begun the first calculations. My daughter breaks in. She only gets interested in me when I get interested in myself. And I still feel the contradiction of wanting to be with her and alone at the same time. What was going to be a me-fest threatens to become a dress and a jacket for her.

With only a little reluctance I welcome this intrusion, this interruption of my plan. A survey of my stash of fabric turns up a piece of bright salmon linen to pair with a black and pink tweed. She has chosen a well-drafted dress that will size down with ease. I’ve always imagined passing on my love and knowledge of sewing to her. I imagine we will take happy turns at the machine and she will hand stitch at my knee. This dress will bind us together.

At first our joint project is exciting. I find out in measuring her fifth grade curves that they are a close match to mine. My 37-inch bust is her 36, my 29 inch waist, her 28. Even her shoulders and the distance between her breasts and the distance between mine are in perfect proportion. I proceed with the biological elation that I have truly reproduced myself. She’s a little me.

Before we sew, we tissue fit. I adjust the pattern and pin it to her body as though it were the garment. This takes time and concentration. The first thing she does is get impatient. It comes with a long suffering sigh and arms lax between her legs and reluctant silent engagement in everything we do. She reduces her verbal responses to eye rolls and shrugs and grunts.

My elation quickly rolls downhill. I won’t be mirroring my solitary celebration of my own body with a celebration of hers. It will be hard work with a ragged emotional edge. Only once in a while do we go fifty-fifty: she at the machine, me at the iron and then the reverse again as I grope for a way to tend her curves by measuring and cutting and stitching. Hours later, her dress is done. I’m tired and she’s not happy with the results. She doesn’t even pretend for me. She retreats to her room to read a book.

I feel sad we didn’t become of one mind at my old Singer. Later, slick from the shower, I by-pass the bathroom scale. I wipe the mist from the same mirror in which my daughter admired our bodies. With my hands I map and remap this undulating ground I live in. Most of what I make doesn’t last as long as Mousy. Inches and pounds come and go. Solitary silent concentration and practice with tape and pattern remain. Again and again I will measure and map in an act of intimate geography.

J.F. Dean sews to be alone. She learned fitting when her part-time salary was too small to dress the part. She mothers two teenagers while growing flowers and vegetables near Puget Sound.

 

 

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