August 2020

Gaia’s Lament: A Call to Awaken

Page 6

“Miss Lady” by Parthenia M. Hicks (Fiction)

I saw her first and she was mine, no matter what they said. She even talked to me and offered me a stick of Juicy Fruit, which I badly wanted, but politely declined, having been taught never to take anything from strangers. Everybody in town, especially all the men, seemed to know so much about her. People knew the exact time of day she’d arrived, where she was staying and even something about her daily habits and yet you couldn’t find even one person who had actually talked to her or would let on if they had. Everybody seemed to have an opinion about where she came from and what “her kind” was doing in a small town like Sumrit. I couldn’t quite figure out what “her kind” was, but Jalousey, my cousin on my Daddy’s side, who considered himself a real “lady’s man” (but never brought a girl to any family gathering, Mama was quick to point out) snickered about her being “A big tall, drink of water, and then some.” This was over a slug of Miller’s Highlife, followed by a disgusting wet belch that raised the white hairs on my arms and made me move back into the corner of the kitchen, up against Mama’s skirts. All my boy cousins and Uncles on Daddy’s side had a creepy edge to them that made me feel nasty and nervous. Mama told me to “give them a wide berth.” She didn’t have to tell me twice, but I did wonder sometimes how Daddy had been the only one to escape this affliction. 

About six weeks after Miss Lady came to town, I was awakened by sirens about 1:30 a.m. I know the time because Mama bought me my own clock for my birthday on April 29th. It had large round glow-in-the-dark numbers, so if I woke up unexpectedly, I always knew right away what time it was. Sometimes I would get up to pee and when I got back in bed, I would think I heard Mama crying and I’d strain to listen as hard as I could. Mama and Daddy argued late at night, especially after Daddy had been drinking and this caused a ball of fire to form in my stomach and a burning sensation at the back of my throat and the next time I had to pee, I was afraid to get up. 

If anybody had bothered to ask my opinion (fat chance!), I would have said Miss Lady was the tallest lady I had ever seen, but that wasn’t saying much since every time Aunt Sabelle came over, Carson asked me if she was a midget and she wasn’t even the shortest person in our family. Miss Lady had a nice way of walking, kind of slow, but with a swaying motion. When I walked beside her, her pocketbook gently tapped her hip to the rhythm of her step, and when she wasn’t looking, I could stare right into that shining black patent leather and imagine what I would look like had I been born the color of my best friend, Carson. Carson wasn’t as black as Miss Lady’s pocketbook, but in the summer, after we’d hidden out in a thunderstorm and splashed in enough mud puddles to have polio for the rest of our lives, he was every bit as shiny as Miss Lady’s purse. I knew right then that no matter what I did, no matter how much I sweat, I wasn’t ever going to shine like that.

Her dress was pale and soft, blue iris printed faintly on organdy. Too dressed up for church, Mama said, and way too dressed up for housework. To me, it seemed like a dress for a big occasion like a wedding. Miss Lady was beautiful enough to be the decoration on top of the wedding cake, like the ones I had seen in Effie’s bakery. I wondered if maybe she had come to Sumrit to get married.

She was looking for a hotel and I knew that all of the hotels in Sumrit were on Crawford Street, which was a street strictly forbidden to me. In Sumrit, insinuations were made about hotels, although I didn’t quite get the meaning at the time. I told Miss Lady that I could sure take her to the corner nearest the hotels, but I couldn’t actually go onto Crawford Street because I wasn’t allowed. Although I had never seen a lady all by herself asking for a hotel room, I began right then to question what I had been told. If Miss Lady needed a hotel room, how bad could they be? 

I had also hardly ever seen a lady wearing high heels. According to Mama, ladies wore respectable pumps—not high heels. And Miss Lady’s were my favorite color, plum, like the flowers on the tombstones at the Sumrit Public Cemetery where Carson and I hung out when we didn’t want to be found. Her lipstick matched her shoes perfectly, as though they had been made with the same ground-up fruit. When I looked at her, I could hardly wait until I was big enough to put colors on my lips. I imagined how my lips would signal people to my mood. Pink would mean I felt good, filled up, like the Baptist preacher said, “with the love of GAWD!” Red would mean I was feeling real smart, and making straight A’s in school to prove it. But what would purple mean? I had a feeling it would mean something a little scary and mysterious. Something that would make people think twice. I knew I would save purple for something special and maybe even wear it only once or twice in my whole life. This made me wonder what was going on in Miss Lady’s life.

I left her at the corner of Crawford, but I lingered and watched her go up the porch steps, where she drew looks from the men sitting around talking and smoking. I hated how they looked at her, gave her that mean look that some men have for women, the kind of look my Mama had drilled me in, so I could recognize it right away and make other plans. I could tell those men didn’t understand Miss Lady. Didn’t get how refined she was. Course Mama didn’t get this part either, although I tried to tell her. She just did her usual thing and told me to stay away from things I was too young to understand. I didn’t dare tell her that after Miss Lady took a room at Martha Crespy’s Boarding House, I used to hang around the Sycamore tree by the Navy Yard entrance, hoping to catch her on her way to Bee-low’s for groceries. I knew she’d let me walk along with her and start talking to me just like I was a grownup and perfectly capable of engaging repartee. 

Once, I saw her coming out of the laundromat on High Street and I offered to help her carry her clean clothes to the corner of Crawford and High. She wouldn’t let me carry anything, but, as usual, she said she’d love to have my company. She made me feel real special, like I was her younger sister or somebody she had known for a long time. She was dressed up even for ordinary stuff like doing laundry. She had on toreador pants, tight and black, with a lacey white short-sleeved blouse and little flat ballet slippers. I could see the little vee-like place that her breasts made in the crevice of her blouse, just revealing enough to be pretty, but not at all nasty. Her hair was just below her ears and kind of flipped up on the ends. It was the shiniest and blondest hair I had ever seen. And she had pink dogwood earrings with little rhinestones right in the middle where the center of the flower would be. She looked just like a movie star. She took me into Ralee’s dimestore and bought me a cherry coke and let me look inside the pink plastic makeup bag in her purse. I knew I shouldn’t have gone with her, but by now I had decided that sometimes a girl just has to do a few things outside of her Mama’s wishes. When I admired Miss Lady’s purple lipstick, she took it out and carefully smoothed some over my lips. It came in its own little carrying case that snapped open and had a little mirror, just big enough to see your mouth so you wouldn’t make a mistake when you put the lipstick on.

Just as we got to the corner of Crawford, she reached down and kissed my cheek and told me I had the potential to go far and as I stood there embarrassed, but feeling good, she slipped the purple lipstick, carrying case and all, into my pocket. That was the last time I saw her. I didn’t even see the headlines in the Virginian Pilot the following week. Tidewater Newcomer Found Dead. Sumrit in Shock as Autopsy Reveals She a He. 

I never had one thought that those sirens had anything to do with Miss Lady. Now, I try really hard not to let bad thoughts in. Like, was it one of those men sitting on the steps of Miss Martha’s? Or, may God forgive me as Mama would say, was it one of Daddy’s creepy relatives? And what about that rumor that some already married man had fallen head over heels for Miss Lady and was courting her secretly? That the white azalea on her windowsill every Wednesday night was a signal to someone? What about that? I had a lot of questions that never got answered.

It’s funny though. Mama and Daddy don’t keep me awake arguing anymore. But I still can’t sleep some nights. I lay in bed with my purple lipstick on wondering who would want to hurt Miss Lady. Daddy doesn’t go out drinking on weeknights anymore, either. But sometimes I still hear Mama crying. Maybe the terrible thing that happened to Miss Lady scared them, too.

“Random Crossing” by Parthenia M. Hicks (Poem)

In memory of Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill murdered in Medford, Oregon, December, 1995

we ride one last time
in our blue pickup truck
to the other side of Medford
slumped in last embrace
heart chakras open
bellies exposed
together on a steel bed
blanketed by a tarpaulin
winding sheet
not thick enough to
hold the heat we need

we are Stop signs and red lights
Seven-Elevens and Safeways
railroad tracks and covered bridges
we are last sighs
mingled with gasoline
fumes and carbon
we are unspoken words
rustling through Redwoods

we have slept three lonely nights
covered by the milky moon
our bodies emptying
blood like poinsettia leaves
pooling beneath us
as we journey toward bones
hand chiseled stone
in dust and ashes mourning
we are dead now

I rise to honor you in spectered wraith
stretch over you shield you
with the shadow of my body
close your eyes
with ghostly fingertips

pull the choking cotton
from your burning mouth
untie ropes from ankles from wrists
massage and hold your angry feet
warm your hands with bitter breath
steady your targeted head
cover your ears
protect you from the
four cracking silver missiles

in death I save you

“You Ask About Resistance And How We Can Keep Going I Say It Is” by Grace Cavalieri (Poem)

The tribe
of soaring strangers, the curious, the blooming—
Joseph Brodsky in a Labor Camp for writing the people’s language,
Adrienne Rich … “Take ourselves more seriously/
…a deeper listening cleansed of oratory, formulas…”
I thank them for the future—
The double narratives of Louise Gluck, spacious and small for
Memory not yet imagined of children separated at the border.
The real      the will      Rita’s “Thomas and Beulah” bringing to life
More than a muse could create.
You ask about resistance and how we can keep going, I say,
Blake’s revolutionary “meet on the coast/ glowing with blood…”
Words rinsed off from a corrupt court     Patricia Smith: “All my fists at once?”
Espada with “Music and Spanish rose before the bread…/Praise the bread…”
We praise the bread of those who are our tribe and where we are strong,
Even those on either side     Of the fence    where      language flies across
Like unchained birds.

“Untying The Wind” by Grace Cavalieri (Poem)

In the first light of sky
from the house by the pier
you went to help the pelicans

By the window near the
rooftop I watched you
take off fishing lines
tangled in their wings

In the dynasty of birds
a pelican is not the
most beautiful yet he flies

Now that you are gone
who will pull the fishing lines
from the pelican

In the first light of sky
you walked the dry pier
barefoot so as not to scare

They circled in fear
until finally one day they
stayed somewhere near
knowing not to hide

You held them close
to your chest and I remember
the rest as I watched from the
rooftop window

The mercy of those times
comes to me today
with pelicans loping to land
wounded and limping

You lifted
the cage of burning string
so you could free them

Now, who will untie the wind
fastened to the pelican

“Night Meditation” by Tom McKeown (Poem)

A bird flies backward or it is blown
into this deep night of wind,
night of sand, night of heavy moon.
I fly backwards into myself,
asking all the past to forgive me
for I can no longer go forward
without forgiveness. It is that easy, that difficult.
The wind etches the moon
into my face until I too begin to shine.

“Gabriela Mistral’s Stars” by Calder Lowe (Poem)

The ground beneath these feet
holds the weight of corrosive decay
spanning centuries. The lump
in this throat the unsung songs
of generations of swallows. This mouth gives
utterance to unexpressed longings of nomadic tribes
always circling that same precipice of extinction,
always tonguing the moist wounds of rejected saviors
in an attempt to slake their unquenchable thirst.

At nightfall, Mistral’s stars flutter from the heavens
and are blown towards the sea until fragments,
scorched by flames, turn into cinders as tiny
as black seeds, seeds that burrow into ash
and blossom into the Blessed Mother, cloaked in azure,
her head crowned with a diadem of morning glories
the color of aubergine, her obsidian eyes luminous
with tears spilling into a cratered moon.

“Gabriela Mistral’s Stars” first appeared in a 2014 online poetry blog sponsored by the National League of American Pen Women.

“Voices of Legion” by Paul Dunlap (Poem)

When the thunder and rain ceased with one word
he knew something was about to change for good.
He’d been napping in his cave between spells
trying to sleep while the voices were silent.

Then they arrived. The man, light-robed and glowing,
the wakes of followers – lepers, gawkers,
media. The voices inside him noticed.
He rattled his chains, shouted, lunged at them

as they expected. They pointed; he rattled more,
held up his arms, the new cuts still dark and shining,
and opened his mouth to let the voices out.
The man made eye contact, and when the tongues

calmed for a moment, he called to that man,
but the followers just pointed. Listen to him.
He’s possessed. They say he’s always naked.
He cuts himself with stones.
They were right. He had

cut himself, let the jagged edge of stone
slide across his flesh, watch the blood
rise to the surface, hoping to feel pain, human.
He stood, danced wild circles around the disciples

then lunged at the feet of their Messiah.
When the man asked his name, he felt
the welling inside him like a wave of nausea –
the familiar chorus from within spoke:

We are legion. The people recoiled. His eyes rolled up.
The next thing he knew, he was on his knees
in the dirt, alone. In the distance the people
were chasing a herd of pigs that plunged

from a cliff. He stood up and felt the urge
to follow them or catch the pigs. He turned
to the man, the new voice that clattered within him
and said Take me with you. But he refused

and left, and the lepers, gawkers, and media
followed. He stood up, naked in the noon sun
fractured chains at his feet, trails of blood
and tears crusting on his skin. He closed his eyes

and heard no more voices. He knelt, picked up
a link of chain, a stone darkened with his blood,
felt their familiar shapes in his hand, and listened
to the silence, to the strange sound of his voice.

“Interior of Light” by Tom McKeown (Poem)

I stroke the bright air
and hear
blood squeaking on a jackal’s tongue
the roots of trees
singing to worms and water

I follow the ruts in the road
and have faith in the owl’s eye

At dawn
I find an angel
his great wings drawn back
kneeling in a muddy ditch

lifting a frightened lamb
in his fiery hands

 This poem was first published in Harper’s Magazine, 1976.


Universal Peace Logo created by Rafael Jesús González

“Aqui por vida” by Rafael Jesús González (Epilogue)

(Base de Fuerza Aérea de Vandenberg, enero 1983; primer bloqueo de la prueba del proyectil nuclear MX)

Aquí estoy —
llevo el jade de los ancianos —
es la vida, decían, y preciosa,
turquesa que he buscado
para darles filo a mis visiones,
y coral para cultivar el corazón,
madreperla para la pureza.

Me he puesto el poder que pude
para decirles que hay montañas
donde duermen las piedras —
       los halcones anidan allí
y liquen más viejo
de lo que el hielo es frío.

El mar es vasto y profundo
guardando secretos
más oscuros
de lo que las rocas son duras.

Aquí estoy para decirles
que la Tierra es hecha de cosas
tan suyas mismas
que hacen a los ángeles arrodillarse.
Caminamos entre ellas
y son ciertas como la lluvia es húmeda
y son frágiles como el pino es alto.

Nosotros también les pertenecemos;
cuentan con nuestro cantar,
los pasos de nuestro bailar,
los gritos de nuestros hijos, su risa.

Aquí estoy por la canción sin acabar,
el baile incompleto,
el sanar,
las terribles adujas del amor.
         Aquí estoy por vida
                  y no me iré.

“Here for Life” by Rafael Jesús González (Epilogue)

(Vandenberg Air Force Base, January 1983; first blockade of MX Missile testing)

I am here —
I wear the old-ones’ jade —
it’s life, they said & precious,
turquoise I’ve sought to hone my visions,
& coral to cultivate the heart,
mother of pearl for purity.

I have put on what power I could
to tell you there are mountains
where the stones sleep —
       hawks nest there
& lichens older than the ice is cold.

The sea is vast & deep
keeping secrets
darker than the rocks are hard.

I am here to tell you
the Earth is made of things
so much themselves
they make the angels kneel.
We walk among them
& they are certain as the rain is wet
& they are fragile as the pine is tall.

We, too, belong to them;
they count upon our singing,
the footfalls of our dance,
our children’s shouts, their laughter.

I am here for the unfinished song,
the uncompleted dance,
the healing,
the dreadful fakes of love.
         I am here for life
                & I will not go away.

Voices for Peace Anthology, Barbara Nestor Davis, Ed.; Rochester, N.Y. 1983. 


My Three Suns by Michael J. Vaughn
Oil markers


Cynthia Benson’s short story collection, All Visions of Blind Love, was the winner for anthology at the 2016 San Francisco Book Festival, and her fiction has been published in a variety of literary publications over the years. Her short film Objet d’Art was part of the 2002 Sacramento Festival of Cinema, and her feature-length screenplay, About Face, was nominated for best screenplay at the 2012 Naperville International Film Festival.  She writes always in honor of our heroic human spirit.

Grace Cavalieri is Maryland’s tenth Poet Laureate.  She’s the author of 26 books and chapbooks of poetry and 20 short-form and full-length plays. What The Psychic Said is her new publication (Goss Publications, 2020.) The previous book of poems is Showboat, (Goss publications 2019,) about 25 years as a Navy wife. Her latest play, “Quilting The Sun,” was produced at the Theater for the New City, NYC in 2019. She founded and produces “the Poet and the Poem” for public radio, now from the Library of Congress, celebrating 43 years on-air in 2020.  

Jill Delaney is a 20-year-old junior honors student at St. John’s University in Staten Island, New York. She is a Communication Arts major with a track in Media Management and is minoring in Business Administration and English. The secretary of the Communication Arts Club on her campus, she is an involved and dedicated student with a passion for promoting environmental protection. After graduating, Ms. Delaney aspires to work for a major Hollywood film corporation.

Paul Dunlap is the Instructional Lead of English at Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA where he teaches AP Literature and Creative Writing, among other courses, and is the advisor of ROCK (Reach Out, Care, Know), a mental-health peer-helping group.  He has an MFA from San Jose State University.  His work has appeared in English Journal, Image, The Montserrat Review, among other journals and collections. 

Editor’s Note: Jean Emerson was a noted author who worked tirelessly on behalf of the Bay Area poetry community and nurtured countless individuals who would not be the dedicated writers they are were it not for her encouragement.  Sadly, she passed away in March of this year.

A widely published poet, she was the author of three books of poetry: Not Alone (Bell Bird Press), Cycles of the Moon Vine (The Bunny and the Crocodile Press), and Lessons from a Castle  (Edwin Mellon Press). She also wrote A Little Help From Your Friends (Forest Woods Media), a book for people interested in organizing writing groups. She was the Publisher/Editor of Jacaranda Press and hosted poetry open readings at bay area bookstores as well as conducted and sponsored writing workshops.

Rafael Jesús González taught Creative Writing & Literature, Laney College, Oakland where he founded the Mexican & Latin American Studies Dept., was Poet in residence at Oakland Museum of California and Oakland Public Library 1996. Thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English for his writing in 2003; in 2013 by Berkeley with a Lifetime Achievement Award; in 2017 named Berkeley’s first Poet Laureate.

Lara Gularte’s book of poetry, Kissing the Bee, was published by “The Bitter Oleander Press,” in 2018. Published in national and international journals, her poetry depicting her Azorean heritage is included in the The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. In 2017 Gularte traveled to Cuba with a delegation of American poets, presenting her poetry at the Festival Internacional de Poesia de la Habana. She is a member of the esteemed, “Escritores Del Nuevo Sol.” Gularte is a poetry instructor for the California Arts-in-Corrections program at Mule Creek prison. 

Parthenia M. Hicks, Poet Laureate Emerita, is the recipient of the Silicon Valley Arts Fellowship for Literature; the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Poetry Prize; the Villa Montalvo Biennial Poetry Prize and the Dragonfly Press Award, as well as several Pushcart nominations. She’s a professional editor specializing in fiction, poetry and spirituality, and a jewelry artist, specializing in jewelry portraits of writers, artists and spiritual leaders.

Phil Johnson’s poetry and fiction have appeared in little magazines and online in Big BridgeNew Orleans Anthology. His work is included in Veterans of WarVeterans of Peace (editor, Maxine Hong Kingston). Phil’s chapbook Walk Zone features his poems and photos. See his photographic show Zooming In in the Dragonfly Press January 2020 DNA ezine. 

New York City readings: Poetry Project at St. Mark’s, Zinc Bar Series, Coliseum Books, and Gathering of the Tribes.

Lita Kurth, MFA. Her works, “Pivot,” (CNF) and “Gardener’s Delight” (fiction, Dragonfly Press DNA) were nominated for Pushcart Prizes. “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes,” (CNF) won the 2014 Diana Woods Memorial Award (Lunchticket). “Are We Not Ladies,” (CNF) nominated by Watershed Review for Best of the Net, 2017. In 2013, she co-founded San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum and has been a featured reader at numerous venues.

Calder Lowe is an award winning editor, widely published author, Ragdale Foundation alumna and former college English instructor. Her publications include, Holding the Light in Your Arms, Jacaranda Press, 2010, The Call: An Anthology of Women’s Writing, Dragonfly Press, 2010, and The Light on His Feet, Dragonfly Press, 2014. She has won the Annual Writer’s Digest First Prize Award in its Nonrhyming Poetry category as well as prizes from the New England, the Great Midwest, the Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Book Festivals.

Kathie Isaac-Luke’s poetry appears in numerous journals and anthologies. Her poetry collection, Chrysalides, was published in 2010 by Dragonfly Press. She was formerly a program coordinator for Poetry Center San Jose, where she edited the journal, caesura. She currently lives in Sonora, California, and reviews plays for The Union Democrat newspaper.

Tom McKeown has published in the Atlantic Monthly, Commonweal, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Nation, The Harvard Advocate, North American Review, Saturday Review, and the Yale Review. He has authored seven books and eight chapbooks, and had a song cycle of his poems performed at Carnegie Hall and The Library of Congress. Tom lives with his wife, Patti, in Wisconsin, where he continues to write, paint and create hand-built pottery. 

Antony Oldknow, b. Peterborough, UK, 1939 (US Citizen 1995), retiring 2012, after 25 years’ service at Eastern New Mexico University. His writings have been featured in Antaeus, Fiddlehead, Ghosts & Scholars, Nation, Poetry, and Radio France. His latest book, Dragonfly’s Dr. Upex and the Great God Ing, appeared in 2016 to excellent reviews in North America and Europe. His new poetry collection, Into the Arms of my Last Year’s Winter, is scheduled from Scopcræft, August 2020.

Robert S. Pesich is editor and publisher at Swan Scythe Press, president of Poetry Center San José, executive director of San José Poetry Festival, and coordinator for Well-RED Reading Series. Author of Burned Kilim (Dragonfly Press, 2001), his latest chapbook of poetry is Model Organism (Five Oaks Press, 2017). He works as a research associate and lab manager for Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research and for Stanford University, Department of Infectious Diseases. 

B.L.P. Simmons was born in St. Lucia, W.I., studied in London, lived in California, and Central America.  Writes in English, Spanish.  Work appeared in BAPC #14, American Poetry JournalPoui: Cave Hill Literary AnnualSand Hill Reviewriverbabble 13, 23, 26, 33; Cuts from the BarbershopThe Call: An Anthology of Women’s Writing.  Featured at Northern California, Costa Rica, and via Zoom poetry gatherings.  Two chapbooks: My Body Forgot SnowEn Otro Idioma and a CD, Selected Poems.

Mary Lou Taylor is a poet, editor, reviewer, and teacher. Her books include The Fringes of Hollywood (2002) — sold out— and Bringing Home the Moon (2015) Aldrich  Press. Her poetry is in The Newport Review, The Montserrat Review, Caesura, Reed, Red Wheelbarrow and The Call. She judges poetry competitions, is a Pen Woman, and as an artist-in-residence at Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga, CA, produced her new book, In the Beginning, containing 14 stencil prints from David Park’s Genesis Suite, with 14 of her own companion poems.

Michael J. Vaughn is the author of 23 novels, all of them available at Vaughn lives in San Jose and works in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where most of the action in Climies takes place. His painting, “My Three Suns” was created with oil markers.

Roberta Young, a third generation Californian of Chinese heritage is a fine art printmaker whose style is influenced by Chinese, Japanese, and Western cultures. The color and spatial quality in her markmaking invites the viewer to interpret freely or to venture into Roberta’s “other” realities — midnight dreams, fleeting memories, and sensory perceptions. She has exhibited at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose State University, the WORKS Gallery and also facilitated children’s art classes and taught at Monotype Marathons.