Ode to Getting By
Whisper to me, February,
the true reason for your arrival.
Though stores fly your
white and red banners,
and my neighbor’s narcissus sprouts
yellow spikes and furls from below,
I hear only the raucous cries of black birds
who sport feathers of oil slick rainbows.
They march across lawns in a straight line,
a platoon scavenging for supplies.
Smelling like a road worker
who’s forgotten to wash
you are the month meant to tease us
with signs of life while we eat the last
of what’s left in the larder. Comfort food
meals of soup, chewy dark bread and beans
flavored with molasses and mustard.
“Sticks to your ribs” my dad would say to me,
in the getting-by months after Christmas
and before taxes. Mom would push her food
around her plate until my dad cleared his,
and she could light a cigarette. Her family
never hid in the basement from bill collectors,
or ate government issue cheese. She will stare
through the window pane until he finishes,
his chewing slow as he works to keep
his store-bought teeth in his mouth.
I will clear the table and wash.
Dad will dry while Mom gets
the checkbook to balance
the family’s accounts.
Kris Demien lives with multiple species in Portland, Oregon. Her work appears in VoiceCatcher, The Poeming Pigeon/Sports issue and at About Place Journal.
Amelia Díaz Ettinger
Just in Case, Por Si Acaso
My Children’s Children
with their American blue eyes, have never seen
the cocky rooster scratching the base of a guayaba tree
nor the seedy-pulp laden with fructose and worms
they will never know the many flavors
of a grapefruit ripened in the morning sun
or how the number of aguacates
can predict la tormenta, the storm
nor will they hear a sunrise serenada
from a love-sick novio with a rented guitar,
or the syncopated calls of parents when it’s time
for home, for rest, or the callers selling panapén
they won’t dream in the frog’s dream
or his dance in a sudden rainstorm
or how the month of mayo brings beauty to a face
or the power of La Rogativa
peor and worse
how they will never know that la iguana
twirls at the sight of red and yellow gumdrops
or the name of the Smooth-bill ani that smokes
and cusses a black streak of familiar malas palabras
while the familia plays dominos
deep into the night with Cuba Libres
whose Coke diminishes with each tab, but not the rum,
while vinyl blares rumbas and merengue,
and the vital beso,
the kiss, on the cheek every time we saw
each other, regardless of sex or preference
and how we called everyone primo just because
it was an habitual face, and that an excess
of la comida was made —por-si-acaso
and, of course, all the primos came bearing ghosts,
like Guanina, discarded tales of old skirmishes
no one remembers the Spanish war
and how delicately we greeted them
with offerings of alcholado and salts from our soil
or how we threw water at year’s end
with the same passion as reciting
el rosario, for the departed who sat on the pew
holding manos with the living
or el billete de la lotería that held la promesa
of a game that could turn fate
and steadfast land and river
so we could wake up again and again
under the canopy of a mosquito net
so much covered in the rusted tin
of passage and yet, like mangoes’gutli
sometimes discarded but sometimes allowed
Amelia Díaz Ettinger is a Latinx BIPOC poet and writer. Amelia’s poetry and short stories have been published in anthologies, literary magazines, and periodicals. She has an MS in Biology and MFA in creative writing. Her literary work is a marriage of science and her experience as an immigrant. Presently, she resides in Eastern Oregon.
You talk about not needing a man in your life, maybe for the rest of your life, that
comets and chocolates make fine substitutes; that poetry is elixir & dope & courier.
I heard the sirens downtown
on my morning walk & wondered why they selected such shrieking violence to let
us know that someone just fell off the roof while sweeping leaves & wet, slick moss,
flying into concrete sidewalk, shattering bones into bisque. Did he have a woman
in his life who nervously dialed 9-1-1
while he lay on curb with blood trickling from his nostrils? Did he know when he
lifted himself from his warm bed that such a thing could – would – happen to him
this morning? There’s always a lesson to be learned, leaves with their stories of trees,
anecdotes of the boastful oak next door, the maple who never stops talking, the pines
who stand erect like soldiers, peering into windows such as yours, sworn to silence
by resin and reason. The trees always know before we do. I imagine they strapped him
into a dirty gurney & rushed him to the ER for an initial check of vitals. Where’s the
origin of the blood? Is he conscious and does he know the date & his name? Can he
tell them exactly what happened? Are his pupils dilated? Is his wife there yet & did she
call the kids or will she wait until she has a diagnosis? And does she have a Dove bar
in her belongings? What will she do if her man doesn’t make it? Will she see shooting
stars when the surgeon tells her the bad news? And will chocolate ever taste the same?
Whether John Dorroh taught any high school science is still being discussed. However, he managed to show up every morning at 6:45 for a couple of decades with at least two lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in about 75 journals, including Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Os Pressan, Feral, Selcouth Station, and Pinyon. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.
– Ghazal for drought
The geese glide in low and slow, gray wings tipped, frantic
flutter to ground as the flood plain yawns dry, waiting for rain.
Great blue heron stalks trickle stream, mud thick, small fish
and frogs long ago devoured, but still she stalks, waiting for rain.
Forest fire smoke settles across valley floor, obscures and chokes,
sunlight wavers, air crackles with electric want, waiting for rain.
Oaks dump acorns early, and papery green leaves curl brown,
no golden hues, an attempt to survive, while waiting for rain.
Salmon gather in ocean bay, fat and eager for upstream journey
to spawn, but riverbeds are impassable, rock dry, waiting for rain.
When the first drops fall, the earth sighs and softens and swells
a little, greedy. We wake in early morning tangle, listening to rain.
Ann Farley, poet and caregiver, is happiest outdoors, preferably at the beach. Her poems have appeared in Timberline Review, Third Wednesday, Willawaw Journal, Verseweavers, KOSMOS, and others. Her first chapbook, Tell Her Yes, was published by The Poetry Box in April, 2022. She lives in Beaverton, OR. Visit her website here.
Welcome to my yard sale. Check out the bargains.
Head for the garage and the 1956 winged Chevy where I tried
to lose my virginity. Shotguns and shells (and the echo
of hushed threats) (husband #1). Half-used cans of spackle
and paint, corroded tools, dated remotes (husband #2).
Deadbolt locks line the card table, locks Mom insisted would keep out
rapists and others up to no good. Bobbipins and hairspray kept
my bouffant rock solid all week. Faded Mass cards, worn rosaries
kept us tethered to hope.
Browse through the racks: Grandma’s housedresses stained
with garlic and red sauce. Wedding gowns stained with Chianti
(the first) and Cabernet (the second). Mom’s gardening ensemble:
powder blue pedal pushers, matching silk blouse stained with dirt
and nicotine. Gray polyester pantsuits, stained with tears, worn
by the aunts at every grief-swollen, guilt-triggered funeral.
The ghost of Mom (still smoking) drops by. She begs me
to leave her alone, find new material. She is followed by a mirage
of aunts (Rosalie, Angelina, Catarina, Marie) rooting for bargains.
They cross themselves, moan about the old days and wonder (aloud)
why I’m still wasting my life writing poetry.
Irene Fick of Lewes, Delaware is the author of The Wild Side of the Window (Main Street Rag) and The Stories We Tell (Broadkill Press). Both chapbooks received first place awards from the National Federation of Press Women. Irene’s poems have been published in such journals as Poet Lore, Gargoyle, Blue Mountain Review and Delmarva Review.