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Category Archive for 'Issue 16'

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

We are now accepting submissions for our eighteenth issue, due out in January, 2012. The theme for this issue is Wintering.

As always, thank you to all of our submitters.

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We are pleased to announce the publication of our sixteenth issue with our brand new audio feature.  You can listen to poets read their work and excerpts from the fiction and nonfiction writers. We think this is an excellent way to showcase our writers and their talent. As storytellers, sharing our voices is part of an oral tradition; no matter the form, listening to one another is an integral part of the literary experience.

You may have noticed our ad in the July/August ’11 Poets& Writers Magazine on page 72. If not, take a look. Before submitting, please review our guidelines page. Due to the high volume of submissions we receive, we will no longer be able to respond to submissions that do not follow the guidelines.

The seventeenth issue of damselfly press will be available October 15th, 2011. If you’d like to submit, please visit our guidelines section and send us your submission by September 15th, 2011. Thank you to all of our submitters.

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DOWN IN OUR HEARTS

At first we called it birds, awkward mating
in the crossbeams, my neighbor’s pigeons
trading their roof for ours. We imagined claws
and beaks in a clinch, each lost in the other’s
pearly breast, pleasured coo. Every night around
nine, their adoration so regular, we placed them
near the chimney, perhaps feathering a nest
with milkweed, or somewhere between soffit
and fascia, the crown of the house.

Though not greatly fond of pigeons,
we hated to end such romance, to realize
the water heater was simply giving out,
its labor magnified in the brass couplings.
We hated to think of this tired heart slowed
in midlife, striking less and less fire.

How telltale the noise of love, pecking night
after night at the body’s window, small echo
through the pipes, charge that raises the hair
on our arms. We count one-Mississippi,
two-Mississippi, steady as the timepiece
thumping gable to foundation,
down in our hearts to stay.

– Linda Parsons Marion is an editor at the University of Tennessee and author of three poetry collections, including Bound. She has served as poetry editor of Now & Then and has received literary fellowships from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Associated Writing Programs’ Intro Award. Marion’s work has appeared in journals such as The Georgia Review, Iowa Review, and Connecticut Review and in numerous anthologies.  She lives in Knoxville with her husband, poet Jeff Daniel Marion.

 

Last Day Writing at Obras

Listen to the Poem

Nearly midnight, and rain
      does what it wants,
sometimes pelting

the peach leaves at my window,
      sometimes pausing to mist.
Nearby someone beats steady

on a wash tub or a drum.
      These days, I am mostly water,
boiled in a pot, collected from a well. 

At night, I sleep
      with a cistern in my arms.

– Janice Fuller has published three poetry collections, including Séance (Iris Press), and is the winner of the 2008 Oscar Arnold Young Award (awarded by the Poetry Council of North Carolina for the poetry book of the year).  Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, including Magma, New Welsh Review, Cave Wall, and Asheville Poetry Review. Fuller is Writer-in-Residence at Catawba College.

 

So Much She’s Let Go

since the diagnosis – mammograms
and follow-ups – and if she waits
long enough, she might begin

again, one year already gone.
In her pocket a slip of paper
she took from church,

the Lenten meditation
You are Lucky   scrawled
in green ink. In the garden

she finds twine, a wooden
bird her son lost – how they tore
up the yard looking for it –

roots that reach longer
than the tines of her pitchfork
as she kneels, heaving

rat tails of dandelion. In the dirt
are fat worms, the severed
blade of a trowel missing since June

two years before, an anger
she opened after breakfast, the sting of it
still red, but scabbing over. Burrowing

into dirt, plunging her spade
into earth, splitting crowns, turning mounds
of soil still fertile beneath skeletal leaves,

under her hands, between
fingers, separating black clumps
from clay and tossing rocks,

she breathes,
shakes her head to release loam
from her hair, her shirt, removes

shoes, her clothes (down to jeans
and bra), removes the bra,
and digs in the dirt.

– Ronda Broatch is the author of Shedding Our Skins (Finishing Line Press, 2008) and Some Other Eden (2005). Nominated several times for the Pushcart, Ronda is the recipient of a 2007 Artist Trust GAP Grant and is currently assistant editor for Crab Creek Review.

 

Open

Listen to the Poem

On the clothesline, his shirts hang
open, outstretched.
I walk into their flimsy embrace.
The curtain is all shift and witness,
in the light of the window.
Emptiness
echoes. Footsteps inaudible
on the soft wall to wall.
There is nothing wrong
with want, only lack. Please
explain the in-between of open
and close, how to escape
the ache of a slammed door.
In the corner, a Kleenex
expands into an orchid,
but what I see is the open mouth
of the vase. 

– Amy Ash received her MFA from New Mexico State University where she served as Assistant Poetry Editor for Puerto del Sol.  Currently, she is working toward a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kansas.  Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in various journals, including Lake Effect, Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, Slipstream, and Harpur Palate.  Ash is a Pushcart nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize.

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Nos Vemos

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The woman sat across from me. Her long dark hair fell around her like a cloak. She looked at her feet. I took a deep breath, hopefully not revealing that I was as nervous as she was.

“¿Cómo puedo ayudarte?” I asked. She shook her head. “Por favor.” I said. “I need to know how to help you.” She shook her head again. I looked at the file in front of me. Check for bruises. My heart started to beat faster. “Necesito,” I began. Bruises? I didn’t know the word, I didn’t have my dictionary—I hit myself lightly on the arm, raised my eyebrows in her direction. I hit myself on the leg, on the other arm, anywhere that would get across what I needed from her. 

She pulled back her hair.

I turned away, heat blazing in my cheeks. I felt like I was watching her undress. Her hairline was a soiled cocktail napkin; purple and yellow bruises spilling under her skin. The bruises got bigger as they leaked towards her ear. I tried to look at her eyes, to make her understand that what she was doing was a brave thing, a good thing, a strong thing. Her eyes slid to the floor, tears dripping from them and running down her cheeks and chin. I handed her a tissue. When she looked up to take it, I saw that the tears were not from fear; they were not from anger. All I saw were floods and floods of shame. She crossed her arms over her abdomen and pulled her knees up to her chin, dropped her head to her chest. She was naked again, even though she hadn’t taken off her clothes.  I fought an urge to escape, reject and pretend. I trembled, weak in the face of such strength. She had come this far; I would not leave her alone.

I took another deep breath. Calm down, I said. This isn’t the first time.  Women come in for help all the time. Remember the one from last week? She came in; you did the interview.  She’s safe now; even the bruises around her eyes have faded.  This is just like that. You can do this. 

I ignored the woman’s screaming eyes. They kept looking to the door, voy a escapar, voy a escapar. My stomach twisted around my intestines. This time was different. This isn’t going to end well. I curled my fingers around the seat of the chair, clenched my teeth. I was ready; I was going to do whatever I could. Beneath my resolve, I wanted to give her an ice pack and run out the door, pretending that stuff like that never happened to people like her. Unfortunately, stuff like this happened a lot to people like her. I reconsidered the option of flying out the door.

I swallowed, tried not to look at her hairline, which was suddenly the only thing I could see. “Está bien,” I told her, even though that was the biggest lie I’d told that day. What had happened to her was far from bien. Try horrible, temoroso, terrible. Try that man is a cabrón.

“Necesito que salir,” she whispered. I looked at her, fading away against the upholstery of the chair, her hair drawn around her.

“Leave where? Where do you need to go? ¿A dónde?”

“Mi esposo.” She put her hand to her face like it was a telephone.

“You need to use the phone? To call your husband? To go back to him?”

I gestured towards the phone and then to the door, and then pointed at her. “Sí?”

She nodded. “Necesito que salir, necesito que regresar a él.”

The phrase pounded in my head. Regresar a él. Regresar a él. Go back to the man who hit you, who held a gun to your head, who called you worthless, who told you that he would kill you and no one would notice. Wrong, cabrón, I would notice. People would notice. You can’t get away with this.

And then I laughed at myself. As if my saying anything to him would change anything he would do. As if I could do anything really, except play cleanup crew, except pick up the pieces. I felt like all the king’s men, when I really wanted to just tell Humpty to never climb the wall in the first place. 

The woman was using the phone. Talking in rapid Spanish to her husband. Sí sí, she kept mumbling. Sí, por supuesto.

She looked at me with eyebrows raised, hope in her dark eyes.

Funny, I thought. Qué cómica. She gets hope in her eyes when she thinks about going back to him, when she thinks about leaving here, the safe place where no one hits her.

“Él habla inglés. ¿Puedes darle a él las indicaciones?”

My throat felt like a coffee stirrer. I couldn’t get enough air.  She wanted me to talk to him? To talk to someone who abused his wife? Who hit her and kicked her and treated her like a dog? Why would I want to talk to someone like that?

A little voice inside of me whispered. Why wouldn’t you? Isn’t this the reason you joined the shelter? To have the chance to actually change something?  I wished I was back at school with my books, where abuse was a concept, and rape victims were ideas. They weren’t people, they were abstractions, statistics and stories that I would tell myself.  Like you tell yourself about the 24 car pileup on I-25 or the woman who thought she had a wart but really had brain cancer. As if thinking about the worst-case scenario would keep it from touching me. I had been building a wall around myself, and now this woman was asking me to knock it down.

I was sucking and sucking through the coffee stirrer and I couldn’t get enough air. The room began to spin. The woman’s face was on my left, then on my right, then on my left. I closed my eyes, waited until my feet were on solid ground again. I could do this.  I couldn’t get enough air to answer her, so I nodded and took the phone. He needed directions, so he could come get her. That’s all, that’s it. You’ll talk to him for maybe 30 seconds.

The black cord twisted around my wrist, the coils chafing my skin, cutting into it. I tried to untangle myself but I couldn’t.

“¿Hola?” I asked.

“Hello.” A deep voice answered. My throat was a wrung out towel that someone was still trying to squeeze dry. My lips and tongue buzzed, and I clenched my teeth shut to keep the bitter biting comments to myself. That last thing I wanted to do was to make this man angry. I didn’t want to make it any worse for the woman when she went back to him. I’d heard a story about a woman whose husband had threatened to scrape all her skin off with a knife and hide her body in a wall in the basement.

“You need directions?” I asked.

You need a jail sentence? You need a gun at your head? You need a kick in the ass?

“Yes. Directions.”

The words curled into my ear like smoke, and lingered. I could see him suddenly, kneeling down on the floor beside her after he had pushed her there, whispering things to her, cariñosamente. Cielito, amor, princesa, corazón. I could see them on the kitchen floor; her leg twisted like it was made out of rubber, not bone. Her shaking shoulders up against the cabinets under the sink, his muscled arms trying to hold her, her bloody face twisted as she buried it in his neck.  I could see her wanting to believe him, wanting him to be the man he promised he would be, wanting him.

I could see her leaning into the hand that had struck her, wishing that it was the touch she used to know. I could see her watch his face discreetly, trying to gauge when and where it would happen next. If his eyes blazed, then she could bet on another attack soon, and she would stay out of the bathroom. The tile was hard, the edge of the tub was solid. There were razors in there.

If his eyes were tearing, she knew she was going to be ok for a while. She would breathe again, she would begin the process of lying to herself again, she would pretend that he was just having a bad day, that he was really the man she had married on the beach at home in Veracruz, with his midnight hair and sparkling smile, his nunca voy a salir, and voy a amarte siempre. She had thought the promise that he would never leave her was romantic, that his promise to her to love her forever was sweet.  So she would pretend that things would get better.   I could see her brushing the crumbs from her shirt, wiping the blood from her lip, whispering, lo siento, amor. Es mi culpa, mi culpa.

Mi culpa. Yeah, right. Cabrón.

“Directions?” he asked again.

“Where are you coming from?”

What gives you the idea that you think that you can treat her like that? What did her eyes look like when you shoved her up against the counter, when she “tripped” and hit her head on the side of the tub? When you slapped her from the refrigerator to the stove to the cabinets? Was it like playing pinball? Did you enjoy it?

“The Publix on Spruce Street.” 

“Take Center, turn right on Palermo, left on Miami. Go straight until you see the parking lot behind the McDonalds. You can meet her there.”

“Gracias.” He paused. “¿Cómo está ella?”

My hand gripped the receiver. 1.  2. 3. 4. 5. Do not throw the phone against the wall. Do not throw the phone against the wall. I wanted to pretend that it wasn’t just his voice on the phone, but that there was a miniature version of his body in the black plastic curves. His mouth was the curve between the ear and the mouthpiece. His promises were the coils of the cord.  I wanted to imagine this and then slam the phone against the wall. Again and again and again. But she was already fragile. She didn’t need to see me flip out.

But ¿cómo está ella? Really? He wanted to know how she was doing? I thought about taking a picture of her and sending it to him. Maybe this time he wouldn’t see the woman who he thought did everything wrong, the woman who he thought understood nothing, the woman whom he thought was too stupid, too scared, too simple to leave him. Maybe this time he would see the hurt, the anger, the helplessness, the hopelessness, the rage and the strength like I did. The strength that took a quiet form, perhaps, but the strength that had come from somewhere inside her and had willed her fingers to pick up the phone and dial our number. Or maybe he would see the bruises at her hairline and regret what he had done.

I didn’t hold out much hope.

“Ella está bien.” I lied. I would not give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was actually shaking in the chair, that she was using her hair as a shield, that she looked like she’d been crying. I would not give him that satisfaction. Él no la merece.

“Gracias.” He repeated. “Nos vemos.” I actually hoped that I wouldn’t see him later, that I would never see him. The image of him in my mind was already etched there permanently. I would have to do nothing except close my eyes to conjure up his blazing eyes and his guilty hands.

The dial tone pounded dully in my ear. I turned to look at her. My head hurt, my heart hurt, my stomach hurt. It felt like there was a dead body on the floor between us, one that neither of us would look at. I was afraid it was a before and after picture, the before on the chair, the after on the floor.

“Gracias,” she whispered through her hair curtain. “Muchísmas gracias.” I nodded, sick to my stomach. She got up from the chair, her hand brushing my shoulder lightly as she left the room. “Nos vemos,” I whispered, “See you later”.  I realized that it was a hope and a lie, and useless.

– Allison Pinkerton recently graduated from Furman University with a degree in Sociology and Spanish. Through her studies, she realized a passion for social issues and the underserved. Recently, she decided to use fiction as a vehicle to bring those issues to the public. She attended the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop in 2011.

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On the Face

Listen to an Excerpt

I like my face. It’s been faithful to me. It’s there in the mirror every morning when I wake up, my friend, my confidant. We commiserate together over whatever obstacles we may have to overcome in the day ahead- over the state of the economy versus the state of our checkbook, over the number of tasks required versus the number of minutes in the day, over how much patience we will have to exert through the drama of teenage daughter angst and agony. My face empathizes with me, with my every mood, never betraying me by gloating when I have screwed up or laughing when I want to cry. We are a team, presenting a united front to the world through every triumph and every crisis. We’ve been together a long time.

Yes, my face has changed over the years, so much so that looking back at younger photographs of me is somewhat of a puzzle. What is it exactly that has changed in the face I see in the mirror? My eyes are the same, my smile, my nose, my chin, but it is still not exactly the same face as the one I see in those recorded moments of the past. It seems the years have added new details, not bad necessarily, just new, different.

According to a plethora of recent advertising my face is unacceptable. It has features that are undesirable and detrimental to my social success, at least by some standards. One ad states, “parentheses don’t belong on your face.” It promotes filling and erasing the naso-labial folds that lie on each side of the mouth with a synthetic, cosmetic facial filler. Hmmmm. I inspect my face a little closer. Yes. I have parentheses; right there, two slight, curved indentations running from my nose to my mouth. Right there on my face.

I like parentheses. I’m a writer; I use them all the time. They are useful, necessary. They clarify what is important. As I wear the parentheses on my face I am busy attending to the important things in my life—my family, my home, and my place in the world. But there is a small voice inside of me that occasionally tries to convince me that spending money to create a face that presents ‘a better me’ is okay, it’s not shallow, it’s not selfish, that I’ve worked hard and I deserve to pamper myself. But that small voice is quickly silenced by the voice of personal responsibility. I cannot in good conscience spend money on a temporary fix, on one that will inevitably be lost in the aging process anyway, because even though those parentheses may disappear for a time, the rest of me is still getting old. I can’t erase my work worn hands, the ones that have scrubbed floors, (sorry, it does have to be done occasionally) bathed babies, pulled weeds, washed dishes, and helped me earn a living. It’s not possible for me to shed the thinner more fragile skin that covers my entire body in exchange for the supple, resilient flesh of my youth, so why would I want a face that doesn’t match the rest of me? It would be like wearing an Hermes scarf with my most comfortable sweats.  

Parentheses have gained notoriety as one of the most popularly used emoticons; the left is a frown, the right is a smile. How appropriate to have a set of them on my face, framing my mouth that frowns and smiles. I have a great smile, a little crooked, but I want to keep it just as it is, that spontaneous movement of my face that accentuates my eyes with a fan of little crinkles and plumps my cheeks into soft, round apples, and deepens those parentheses into symbols of pure pleasure. There’s something unnatural about a smile that does not allow the face to move as it meant to.

According to one definition, parentheses are used to designate or amplify a word, phrase, or sentence inserted in a passage from which it is usually set off by punctuation. So. My facial parentheses are amplifying. I investigate a little more closely. Yes. They do amplify. They amplify all the experiences I have had throughout my life, the ones that have created who I am. This is where I agonized over my failed first marriage, this is when my oldest daughter gave birth to my first grandchild and I held him in my arms, this is the day I found that lump on my breast, and this is the night I fell in love with the man of my dreams. These parentheses are symbols that amplify a life of emotion, experience, and hopefully of wisdom gained.

In writing, parentheses are explanatory—they explain, make known, they give the reason for, show the logical development of. The parentheses on my face explain where I have been, that I am a person who has laughed and cried, raged in anger, and been overwhelmed by life’s gifts of joy. They show the logical development of my life. They explain me. I smooth the lines on my face with my fingers, trying to see what I would look like without them. Younger? Maybe. Better? I don’t know, but I like my face the way it is, parentheses and all, I’m used to it. It’s been faithful to me, so I will be faithful to it and stand by it and help it as much as I can to age with grace.

Parentheses also take note of those things which depart from the theme of discourse. I am taking exception to the persuasive efforts of the media and of the cosmetic procedure industry, to a society that disdains aging so much that they persistently attempt to persuade people to erase any signs of it, to hide the evidence.  I am setting myself apart, departing from all the foolish, inexperienced and shallow individuals that want me to forget that life is short and fleeting, that these parentheses are signs that I am a survivor; I have survived longer than many. I am departing from the theme of discourse that insists beauty lies only in an unlined face.

In the passage of time parentheses signify an interlude, a space that lies in between. That is where my face and I are now, in between. We are in between youth and old age, in between birthing children and children giving birth, in between growth and decay, in between the span of years that comprises what will be our whole life. My friend, my face, will be there,. If I am blessed with a long life, one day I hope to wake to see a face that resembles that of my grandmother’s, with not just parentheses but an intricate map of fine lines over crepe paper skin that will tell of where I have traveled, and who I have loved, (well, maybe not everyone I’ve loved), it will be a map to help point my grandchildren in the right direction, toward acceptance of themselves and others in spite of imperfections, and one that may begin to inform them of who they are and where they have come from, and  show them that there is no shame in wearing a face that is testament to a life fully lived.

– Colleen Card has spent her life surrounded by the cornfields of the Midwest, observing the decline of the small town and its values. She recently completed her MFA at Butler University in Indianapolis and lives with her husband, daughter, two Miniature Schnauzers and a cat in Carmel, Indiana.

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