Weekly Write: “rest here” by Zoe Canner

rest here

i always approach
the person in the

room who holds
the least power

and turn my
hands into a cup

and listen to them
& try to hear

and turn my head
at an angle and

turn my shoulders
down and my

sternum inward &
try to bow

and turn my nose
into a swamp & try
a silence

and turn my cheeks
into a great plain &
try to lift

and turn my
forehead into a

contemplative
landing pad for
hands & fingers

rest here

and turn my eyes
into still waters
and turn my mouth
into a brace
a carriage

i care
i care

 

Zoe Canner’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in SUSAN / The Journal, Naugatuck River Review, The Laurel Review, Arcturus of the Chicago Review of Books, Storm Cellar, Maudlin House, Occulum, Pouch, Indolent Books’ What Rough Beast, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

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Weekly Write: “John Muir Sprains his Ankle” by Scott Ferry

John Muir sprains his ankle

I landed oblong on that fawn-shaped round of granite
by the Yosemite Creek, just down the path from my cabin.
Thank God I did not injure myself 20 miles from here
down Bridalveil Creek. But I would have made it back,

by the grace of the elderberry, service berry, wild cherry
and would have had to thump deliberately through
the sage with a numb limb. Reading Emerson
doesn’t help directly with the pain, yet being able

to float upward, distinct from my frame
to list willowy in the black oak and afternoon
scent of incense-cedar, this can be useful.
When I write about light, I don’t know if I am understood,

nor believed. People can see the swollen club
of my naked ankle, people can understand agony,
seeing many thousands slaughtered by this
country tearing at itself, not civil at all. People

can steal, can be stolen from; can hold an infant,
can weep as their mother slides away. But most
cannot comprehend joy and glory to the degree
of breaking, straining the daily thought forms apart

until the capsule cracks. Saint Teresa and I
recline on these sheepskins, listening to God’s
blood run through the cabin floor and the ferns
reach to the light and twine together.

And when the peregrine swings down and sears
its vibrating laugh across the valley the glow
from inside of the white fir stretches into the
air around it and weaves with the glow of elk

of sequoia of raccoon until it bathes the entire
flight with tears. This is too uncomfortable, the weeping.
I have been attempting to describe it in words,
as the letters open like moths and drift

into this same glory, unseen.

Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a RN. In former lives he taught high school and practiced acupuncture. Recent work can be found in Chaleur, Cobalt, Bitter Oleander, and Cultural Weekly, among others. His collection “The only thing that makes sense is to grow” will be published by Moon Tide Press in early 2020. You can read more of his work at HTTPS://FERRYPOETRY.COM

Weekly Write: “Pretty in a Hard Way” by Michelle Brooks

Pretty in a Hard Way

The ground moves with snakes,
and the sky bleeds red streaks,
as if the night couldn’t leave
without a fight, and all your dreams
are tragedies where no one dies,
but everyone suffers. In your past
life when you woke up hungover, you’d
think, Anything is better than this.

You were a confection, a little
dead around the eyes, the kind
of woman people describe as
pretty in a hard way. And you
refuse to go gently into that good
night. And let’s face it. Not all
of them were good ones. You don’t
care. There is nothing you can do
about it now. Gather the pieces
as best you can even if they cut you.

Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). Her poetry collection, Flamethrower, will be published by Latte Press in 2019. A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.

Weekly Write: “you who climbs to the top of the world and begs forgiveness; or, HERCULES” by Maxine L. Peseke

you who climbs to the top of the world and begs forgiveness; or, HERCULES

you, who are not weatherproof:
do not let the cold creep in your soul.
do not let a once-warm heart beat icy;
do not breathe in so heavy these winds of change–
do not be swayed, do not tremble, do not fall.
these pits of hell await you

you, who are not fireproof:
do not ignite.
they will say you can be a phoenix and rise
and rise, but you are not made of flame.
you who are made of flesh and bone as brittle as firewood:
these are not your ashes to rise from.

you, who are neither Maker nor Myth;
you, who are not phoenix nor flame nor wind to carry it:
you are still Holy.
your bones so brittle echo with forests full of stories
your blood carries Glory–
do not spill it before your hallelujah is sung.

you, who are not lyric, but entire song:
do not play your veins like violin strings–
you are not moonlight sonata but romantic serenade,
an ode to your own body,
a waltz to the beat of your heart
beat; don’t beat yourself up, baby.

you, who are not child nor adult:
do not be the fool to believe
you will pass like ash knowing every lesson this universe can offer;
you, who know heartbreak–
there is more than your heartbreak
and there is still so much less.

you, who are not your heartbreak:
like all things, this shall pass;
like you, who are passing
through life like a whisper–
you are a shout. you are a cry. you are a smile and a laugh.
you, who are joy.

you, who are Creation;
you, who are Creator:
it is not God alone for whom choirs sing praise.
you who are made in the image of greatness:
you are Holy.
you are hallelujah neverending.

you, who are not immortal:
your last mortal breath
will still stir butterfly wings
on the other side of the world;
and your song, oh holy holy holy is the song
will be sung again by renewed choir.

you will live,
despite your weakness,
oh, Holy.

 

 

 

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Weekly Write: “Creative License” by Ramona Lee Pérez

Creative License

I was blessed to see the biopic movie on Chavela Vargas with a queer brown bilingual chica like me. Captivated from the opening scene when she grinned at the camera and declared, “My name is Chavela Vargas and don’t you forget it,” we sat together in the dark, falling head-over-heels for this Latina lesbian musical miracle. Think of her as the Prince of abuela’s generation, busting gender roles and breaking hearts throughout the Americas. After struggling to come out in my early forties, it was liberating to witness Chavela’s life unfurl on the big screen. Her unapologetic sexuality awoke decades of suppressed longing and inspired me to confess crushes on female friends, while her creative drive reignited childhood dreams of becoming a writer. Except for a frantic first affair that ended in disaster, my queer romantic life is temporarily on hold, but the authorial impulse grows stronger the more I accept my subterranean desire.

Remember the movie Frida, in which Salma Hayek does a sizzling tango with Ashley homophobic mid-century Mexico. She achieved overdue fame in Spain decades later and returned to Mexico to rest in state as a national treasure. Existentially, Chavela is older than time itself, has died a thousand times in a single incarnation, and was born eternal. She came of age in a society that only had room for women as virgins, mothers or whores, but Chavela was none of these. Instead, she was a musical shaman who drank and seduced women better than a macho. Every time she sang, she wrung each note for its last drop of blood, then passed the empty glass to her audience.

Rejoicing, despairing, and utterly turned on by this woman who sang like a bullfighter, dumped Frida Kahlo, and bedded Ava Gardner, we sat spellbound until the usher chased us out of the theater. When we finally left, quivering and lightheaded, we went straight to a bar for tapas, shots, and dissecting how much and how little has changed since the 1940s. As a film critic declared, Chavela is “Donald Trump’s ultimate nightmare – a Mexican lesbian diva who can wring your very soul.” What proof beyond the 2016 election do we need to confirm how revolutionary Chavela Vargas was, and how much work we have left to do?

Chavela adored women all her life and enjoyed deep friendships with famous men, but patriarchy savaged her. She enraptured crowds in a uniform of trousers, button-down shirts, men’s shoes, and characteristic poncho. After some initial success, she was blacklisted from Mexican concert halls and lost herself in tequila on the few cabaret stages that would still book her. Chavela did not sing in a major venue until her 80s, touring internationally and finally being invited to sing at Carnegie Hall and Mexico’s national theater, El Palacio de Bellas Artes.

While she finally found fame, she nearly lost herself along the way. Talent couldn’t save Chavela from homophobic hatred and gender policing, racism and poverty. Like her musical mentor José Alfredo Jiménez and other men of her era, she drowned her sorrows in tequila, blacking out on stage and descending to violence at home. She claimed that an indigenous shaman finally cured her of the alcoholism that destroyed her long-term relationship and nearly stole her voice, but Chavela would never entirely transcend isolation and heartbreak. She channeled naked emotion on stage, but always returned to an empty house, and ultimately died alone.

Witnessing such explosive desperation in close-up leaves me pondering, are overdue accolades poisoned by social stigma all that we have to offer our most talented artists and LGBTQIA+ women warriors? How many have succumbed to the despair that nearly broke Chavela Vargas? My best friend and longtime crush, Monika Lilia, was a prodigiously gifted artist whose career was curtailed by intersectional oppression and crushing domestic violence. A born iconoclast, Monika could have soared like Chavela. Instead, she committed suicide at age 43. Her sculpture, painting, song, and dance were inimitable, but her legacy has evaporated, disparaged by her family and confiscated by bill collectors. All I have left of Monika, a shooting star without enough longevity to achieve fame, are scattered emails and a list of disability documents scrawled on a paper napkin.

I am now two years older than my friend when she died, nearly half Chavela Vargas’ lifespan, and I remain inspired and bewildered by the cinematic homage to Chavela’s tumultuous life. I cannot help but wonder, how much time do I have left before my creative license finally expires? How long before yet another artistic life-clock stops ticking? In this post-Pulse, hurricane and volcano inscribed, mass-shooting, #MeToo reality show called Trump TV, we cannot afford any more untimely losses. Perhaps that is what Chavela’s story is meant to teach us, how to persevere in spite of outrageous odds. I am grateful to the filmmakers for documenting her epic dance with despair, 93 years of resisting annihilation and loving as many women as she could along the way. RIP Chavela Vargas. May your song never die.

 

A scholar, healer, and differently-abled queer Xicana mother, Ramona Lee Pérez teaches Latino history, food studies, and feminist anthropology. Her creative works are published in Hispanecdotes and Snapdragon, and by Silver Needle Press. Her latest writings focus on social and psychic healing. Follow her at https://wildwomanista.com/ and on Twitter @wild_womanista.

 

 

 

“Like”, “Share”, and comment on this poem to nominate it for the Annual Swimming with Elephants Publications 2019 Anthology.

Click here check out Parade: Swimming with Elephants Publications Anthology 2018 available for only $10.95.