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BELONGING

this is how the mind works: it sees colors
sometimes not registering the thought.
the indigenous poet was constantly
asked where she was from, her aztec cheekbones
suggesting an unknown. you see the other
cannot walk around just being, the other
has to check a box or the one
won’t know itself, the one’s primacy will be
challenged. this is true even on the days
when i wander blissfully oblivious, thinking
only that i relish difference. overall,
washington, d.c. was a very brown place.
arriving from the pacific northwest, i noticed
brownness and was glad to be, briefly, awash
in it. lots of faces on the metro, on the street,
servers in cafés, hotel workers
had african roots, but the class divide
manifested only in my subconscious.
behind the hotel desk stood african-americans in dark suits;
near the counter, during the day, waited red-suited
porters whose accents suggested africa or the carribean,
but i never thought, here in this city, black people
serve me. until i got back late
after walking city streets, lost, in painful shoes,
my mind mush from twelve interviews
and asked the suit-clad black man standing by the counter
what time was check out. his flustered huh?, his troubled eyes
jarred my foggy-minded equation of dark skin and suits
with service. i flashed back to a friend’s
birthday party, a short apache woman
describing how white people in garages
ask her to park their cars, her personhood supplanted
by stature and color, and absorbed
with horror my belonging.

-Ann Tweedy’s poems have been published in journals and anthologies, including Gertrude, Rattle, Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly, and Knock. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her chapbook, Beleaguered Oases, is forthcoming from TcCreativePress. During the day she teaches and practices law.

Grief in the Morning

rises, like dough warmed in the oven

all night and filling the air
with the aroma of small live things.
Huge as a swollen water skin,

it needs attention: to be punched
down to a manageable size,
crammed back into the oven

before it again rises. I’m getting
a late start, resolve to leave
sorrow in the shower with the weeping

tile, but grief follows me out
of the house. This is my dowry,
my jeweled pack animal,

its broad and decorated feet
plodding behind me. We sway
and pick along a path.

I swish scarves. The ground
quivers with little bells.
At night I’ll lie down again

with grief, this knobby bedfellow—
all elbows and crowding the middle,
and so heavy, all night the bed

is a ditch I roll into.

-Teresa Scollon lives in the Great Lakes region. She taught as writer-in-residence and faculty at Interlochen Arts Academy in 2007 and 2008. Her work has appeared in The Dunes Review, Atlanta Review and Nimrod (forthcoming). She’s a frequent contributor and producer for Traverse City’s community radio program “Radio Anyway.”

TEMPERANCE

My spine tonight held the husk
of childhood, a bundle of chipped-off corn—
all those seeds I was born to sow.

But during the dance I drizzled them
along the floor. Some seeds were dew drops,
other seeds turned to dust.

Tell me, Sister, about the flaking,
why germination falters this way.

You’ve been in the dance before.
I’ve seen pictures of your whole head
busting into flower, your hands—

fluttering petals.

– Stephanie N. Johnson is a writer and teacher whose work has appeared in AGNI, Borderlands, BPJ, Poetry Daily, dislocate, and elsewhere. Stephanie holds a BA in English from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and an MFA in poetry from the University of Minnesota. She currently lives in northern Minnesota with her husband and daughters.

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