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Category Archive for 'Issue 25'

As we prepared for our twenty-fifth issue, we noticed that we had received our largest amount of submissions to date. The poems, stories, and essays we read represent a diverse group of international women writers we are proud to showcase. The online writing community continues to thrive, and we are honored to be a part of it. As writers, we know how personal the decision is in choosing places to submit our work, so thank you for considering damselfly press.

The twenty-sixth issue of damselfly press will be available January 15th, 2014. If you’d like to submit, please first visit our guidelines section and send us your submission by December 15th, 2013.

As always, thank you to all of our readers and submitters.

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Last Photo with my Mother

It’s all there: the path through the Audubon Sanctuary,
me standing next to my mother, the light of late afternoon.
It is autumn and the path is full of yellow beech leaves.
We stand close together, her shoulder against my arm,
but we do not hold each other, just the slight leaning in.

How alike we are: neatly built, straight-spined, those long Irish cheeks.
And the genuine smiles. We, who often look hunted in photos,
are happy in golden October, the leaves deep on the path.
We both look directly into the camera, which is held by my beloved.
My mother once said to me, in quiet admiration, “She is so honest.
I can’t imagine her ever telling a lie.”

If I was as honest, I would say this photo does not tell the entire story.
But another part of me, equally honest, says, once again, it’s all there:
the path, the autumn woods, the warmth of her shoulder against my arm.

– Dawn Paul teaches writing at Montserrat College of Art. She is the author of two novels, The Country of Loneliness and Still River. Her poetry has been published most recently in the Naugatuck River Review and Redheaded Stepchild. She is also a frequent performer on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour.

Listen to the Poem
Self Pity and the Super Ego

On the other hand, there’s no going back,
nothing to return to, in fact, except
for your memory. We all know of your
tendencies, your seeming to recall just
what made you sad, not the blue sky above
without any cloud at all for contrast.
Like everyone else, you learned there were few
rhymes for ‘love.’ Instead of inventing a
new language, you blamed what we speak for not
having the right words. Look at that man, I
said. He is missing a leg from a war
you didn’t even watch, in a country
you couldn’t find on the map, stuck in your
own neighborhood of sorrow. I’ll show you
tragedy, I said, opening up that
box I have with the native ear inside,
a gift from my departing uncle, who
no longer remembered his mementoes
were mixed in with his awards or surely
would have removed the incriminating
details. How would you like to feel so soiled
cleansing by water or fire is hopeless,
so stained beneath the metaphorical
shirt you never remove no one sees you
naked, even when you are making love

– Sandra Kolankiewicz’s poems have appeared in Gargoyle, Monkeybicycle, Bluestem, Per Contra, Bellingham Review, Prick of the Spindle, Rhino, Cortland Review, and Digital Americana, among others.  Turning Inside Out (2010) is available from Black Lawrence Press.

Remember Lot’s Wife

I didn’t understand why god,
a roar of sand and fire, would pause
annihilation for her—

the woman who slowed down and turned
to look a little, for a second, just
the time it took to see her daughters,
her house in the distance, the planter pots
flush with fire, like begonias, her stoop
a tumble of stones and ragged space
reclaimed—to make the gazer salt.

Then my own life shifted, just enough
to know the fear of clinging hard
to someone’s hand, the breathlessness
of legs pumping, the dizziness of dusk
ahead and running, running, forward.

I read somewhere that humans can’t
close their eyes and judge how far
they move. The blind can judge, of course,
but not those who can see where
they’re headed. Without the where,
the distance grows. It stretches. It rolls
out like a long gray carpet, a road,
the blade of a narrow knife, a vein
stripped. It’s moving forward to

a stitch in the side, exhaustion, thirst
for water, for the cup to drink
from: the one with almond blossoms
in relief, bowl body, handle big
enough for three fingers; the one
the potter sold for a week’s shopping
money; the one chic coffee steamed

out of, the one guests gushed about
on bunco nights while looking forward
to a bell, nibblets, a bed
that dips just right, to dawn with things
to do, to the cup again a globe
of coffee, cream, the clay reminder
of promises in glossy paint

against the palms like fingers curved
to squeeze despite its painful warmth;
the one that comforts more than bones,
which tug ahead, ahead to night.

– Ana Garza G’z has an M. F. A. from California State University, Fresno. Forty-seven of her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, with one forthcoming in Word Gathering. She works as a community interpreter and translator in central California.

Listen to the Poem
the beauty of snails

is something worth thinking about as the billboard demanded of me, “Celebrate
Beauty Every Day” but they were just trying to sell new carpet and hardwood
floors and I am thinking about snails and how they build their shells in fluid spiral
and how some are huge creeping things and how others just tiny yellow dots in the
wrack line and I am also thinking of the mermaid’s purse I found, tiny black skates
already escaped to begin their celebrations and how they remind me of birds or
beech leaves or bubbled glass on old windows in old New Hampshire farm houses
or the warm blue waters of the Caribbean or the lines of a poem that doesn’t know
how to travel from despair to joy in a dignified and compassionate fashion or even
the notes of a saxophone wriggling free in some club or some high school band
room or maybe making a pass at that guy so obviously gay or maybe the elongated
tendrils of my cat’s whiskers flexing to every gulp of food or dead mouse or may
be even reminding me of the fluid paths of the snails tracing through the sand
as the tide hurries out, wandering from ripple to ripple, grain to grain, on their way
back to the ocean.

– Janet Barry is a musician and poet with works in numerous publications including Off-the-Coast, Cider Press Review, Canary, Adventus, Edge, and New Mirage Journal. She serves yearly as a judge for Poetry Out Loud and has received several Pushcart nominations. Janet holds degrees in organ performance and poetry.

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Listen to an Excerpt

High on the Divide

The men are descended from hard-rock miners, their lungs gone to granite, their hearts chunks of ore. “On the rocks,” they say when they order their bourbon. The bar is O’Sullivan’s. The city is Butte. They call me Angel of Mercy because they’re Catholic and can never remember my name, not when their eyes mist with memory. Not when they cry. You can cry at O’Sullivan’s. In a city where the Bulldogs are Double-A wrestling champs year after year and the jail fills on St. Patty’s by noon, there are still places where grown men can cry.

I refill their glasses and leave extra napkins, and they whisper, “You’re the Angel of Mercy. Sent by the Lord.” Sometimes, when it’s someone with a sense of humor—Dylan Downey or Old Man McClure—I say, “I was hired by Liam, and he’s not the Lord.”

“Yes, Angel, we know that. But who will tell Liam and break his old heart?”

“You can’t break his heart,” says another. “It’s stone.”

And they all fall to silence, labored breathing, alcoholic fumes I could light. Sometimes I imagine flicking a lighter and blasting another hole in this scarred mountain. New veins to explore, new work for this town.

The men, when they’re sober, say go back to school. “Girl, that’s the future. A college degree.”

And though none of their wives—first, second, or third—had degrees, they want more for me, this future whose fingers they can touch.

When they’re drunk, they say, “Angel. Don’t leave. Take us into the next world. Angel. Mercy.”

I’ve nowhere to go, so I stay their saint, serving up spirits, mopping those broken circles they leave under their drinks. Sometimes I imagine flicking that lighter and starting to smoke. My pink lungs will seize up, and I’ll cough when I need to inhale. Sometimes I touch my wrist to remember the pulse. Michael Rourke sobbed one night—a sound like choking—because he couldn’t find his pulse. He wept that he’d died and, since that one pope erased purgatory, he was surely in hell.

“So I’m a demon, am I, Mikey?”

“Mercy, no,” he said when he could breathe again. “I know I’m in hell because I can’t touch you. You’re miles away, up in the sky, holding Our Lord’s punctured hand.”

I clutched his thin wrist, pressed his finger to the groove below his thumb, and I counted with him. One, two, three, four. You’re not pounding on death’s door.

That night Liam couldn’t drive him, so I walked him home, counting his heartbeats aloud on the steep mountain streets. One, two, three, four, Mikey’s heart ain’t made of ore.

“Unless it’s gold,” he whispered, stumbling at the threshold of his small, dark house. I wavered there in the doorway, unsure. Tuck him in? But I wasn’t his mother, and I wasn’t a saint. I shut the door on his cave, sealing him in. Fool’s gold, I thought I heard him say, but the door was metal and warped and it could have been whose gold or too cold or so many things.

One night the cowboy comes in, and I feel for my pulse. Thumping, thumping for escape. I think of that lighter under the bar, this place sky high in a shower of flame, my blood rushing out of me, my heart set free. I crouch low to the bar, swish my hair in my face, and Danny Riordan says, “Angel, you okay?” And one by one, these men still on their bourbons but ready for Coke walk to me. Wobbly as toddlers. “Is she sick?” “Is she hiding?” “Is her heart broke?”

Silence. Then someone, not me, says, “An angel’s heart can’t break.”

And someone else, the cowboy, says, “No, it just flies away.”

No one here entertains strangers, so none of them like how he steps through their words. They grumble as if they are young men with strong hearts, strong lungs, strong fists.

No stranger to me, this cowboy. He’d held to my finger a circle so perfect that I fled all my dreams of riding over the plains into the setting sun. I came back to this place high on the Divide where whole generations believe the sun is lit on the end of a wick a mile underground.

The men cluster tight like they can save me. But they’re the ones drowning in bourbon and rum, in memory shafts they’ve cut with too little air.

“You could cry here,” I say. “You could pour out a bottle and, depending on which side of this mountain you chose, it might join the Pacific. Or head to the Gulf.”

The cowboy knows. He studies the men, how they clutch their drinks and stare. Later, he will say stony stares.

That night I think of gold. Golden rings, golden plains, his bare golden arms, those golden sunsets melting through our golden years.

I let the lighter decide. Flame on the first try means “yes.” And it lights like a tiny sun. I inhale this air soaked with bourbon and the sour breath of old men. Nothing explodes.

I flick the lighter again, and it glows in the dark bar. Circles of light on every man’s glass. Extinguished as soon as I raise my thumb.

I flick it again and again, but that night the lighter is constant. The cowboy waits just outside the glow.

So I leave these men descended from miners. Without mercy. I unlace my angel wings, reckless as I abandon what they know of copper, what they’ve taught me of gold. Broken rock, all that broken rock.

– Chauna Craig’s writing has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies including Prairie Schooner, CALYX, Crab Orchard Review, and Sudden Stories and has been cited in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Essays. She has received fellowships to Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook and teaches creative writing in western Pennsylvania.

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Applause
for Ammi

When my mother, Suraiya, was not quite two years old, she dipped her left fist into a pot of steaming chai. As a result, her left hand shriveled up. Suraiya’s father would look upon it anxiously—at the thumb that barely moved, and the four fingers curled inward, refusing to open up, straighten out, or hold on.

Still, Suraiya found a husband and moved with him from Pakistan to England.

Suraiya used her English words to get a job at the Lyons coffee-packing factory in Greenford. But under the forewoman’s stern eyes, her left fist remained closed to the world; the coffee poured onto the factory’s cement floor before she could lift the oncoming glass jars from the conveyor belt, smack them into place in the carton, and pass the carton on to the next woman to wrap in plastic. The waterfall of coffee grains rushing through her fingers taught Suraiya to make her right hand work twice as fast, and she kept the job.

When they returned to Pakistan, Suraiya started a preschool for neighborhood children. The preschoolers looked up as they sang and emulated her–row upon row of them clapping with one palm open against a balled fist.

They wondered. All those frumpy women who made it their business to comment publicly on Suraiya’s life: how she had discarded, donned, and rediscarded her burqa; walked out on her husband and three children; remarried, redivorced, and married again. How she desired, and acted upon desire, while they made do. Where, they wondered, had Suraiya learned to grab at life like that—or, as the Urdu expressions would have it: to loot with both hands, to make off with sweet, round laddoos in both fists?

– Samina Najmi is associate professor of English at California State University, Fresno. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in many publications, including The Rumpus, Pilgrimage, and The Progressive. Her essay, “Abdul,” won Map Literary’s 2012 nonfiction prize. Samina grew up in Pakistan and England, and now lives with her family in California.

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Due to the high volume of submissions, the twenty-fifth issue of damselfly press is now closed. Look for the issue October 15th, 2013.

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