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Planters at Dusk

Listen to the Poem

In rice fields, rows of inverted U-shaped shadows rise one by one, stretch arms, straighten backs, twist waists, first left, then right and left again, like graceful ballerinas.

Stiff from planting and patting rice saplings, the women look at the sky, now gray-blue. Chased by breeze, scarves of cotton candy clouds sweep sari palloos into balloons. They turn to each other, burst into chatter, the long day’s silence shattered.

Slowly, they walk to dryer land, wipe their feet, break out in twos and threes, set out for home, looking back ─ one long last look as shadows drown their day’s work.

Still, work’s not done. There’s rice to boil, lentils to spice, children to bathe, men to serve, and only when the pot is scraped, each warm ellipsoid grain eaten, dishes washed and beddings laid, will they stop and taste the starry night.

– Lalita Noronha is a widely published scientist, poet, writer, editor, and a two-time Pushcart nominee. Author of a short story collection, Where Monsoons Cry, and a poetry chapbook, Her Line Phyllo-thin, she has won the Maryland Literary fiction award twice, an Individual Artist Award, and other awards.

 

FORBEARANCE

When the morning is darkest
we are roused by the birds
in the plum tree. I pull him
from the bed, beg him accompany
me to watch the egrets wake
in the cypress from the mist-veiled
cliff. I want to teach him forbearance,
point to the flowers that have appeared
along the path to the cove—
new irises have broken through
the soil, having burst from winter
hiding. I picture him leaning over
a shallow pool at ebb tide to touch
a slimed blade of kelp, his earlier
stubbornness dispelled. I imagine
I would not feel victory. I’d have
been impassioned by the way he
delicately gathered a fingerling
in his palm to show me forgiveness.
He sees things for what they are,
and nothing more. I’d have given
my hands that he might recognize
humility standing beside the sea,
the enormity of it before him.

 

PULSE

Listen to the Poem

Eating blue mussels
from the perfect domes
of their shells, you twist
a slice of orange into
the foam of your beer.
We argue over the height
of the bridge above the
Noyo River. The water
is like concrete, you say.
I believe someone would
survive. As if I had yielded,
I sat silently regarding
a woman’s leap from
the Golden Gate, the
monstrous voice that
told her to jump. From
across the table, you
place your hand on mine.
I feel the wild coursing
of your pulse, the proof
of our lives in our hands.

– Bri Bruce is an editor, graphic designer, and publisher from Santa Cruz, California. With a bachelor’s degree in writing from UC Santa Cruz, her work has previously appeared in The Sun Magazine, The Soundings Review, and The Monterey Poetry Review, among others. Bruce is the award-winning author of The Weight of Snow.

 

My Name

means floating above water. It is the glint
of morning on the waves, its letters curved

fish hooks or sharp question marks.

It is not my grandmother’s name
and there is no story. At least it’s not

Anastasia with its billowing skirts of velvet.

I’m not princess of anything.
My name is blue ink, a sailor’s tattoo.

My name is a swallow crossing oceans.

It hugs the belly of a wooden ship, lashed
in place by thick ropes. It’s a name like Lilith

or Alice, a name like a rowboat dropped

from that ship. A new-territory name. My name
is a sweating bottle of champagne, smashed:

shards of glass meeting their reflections.

– Stacey Balkun received her MFA from Fresno State. Her work has appeared in Muzzle, THRUSH, Bodega, Weave, and others. She is a contributor for The California Journal of Women Writers. In 2013, she served as Artist-in-Residence at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She lives in New Orleans.

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