I Know You’re There
I hear the whoosh-whir of the oxygen tank,
the occasional click. Who knew breathing
would be so full of noise?
I hear the flutter and roll of your eyes
shut to the light for days now, but I see you
seeing where you’re going.
I hear the unsteady drumming of your heart,
the slip-slide of blood hushing in your veins.
I hear the mewling of your memories
slinking off into shadows.
I hear the tip-toe of your fears. How I wish
I could send them waltzing away.
I hear the sigh that slips from your lips,
your want for a drop of moisture – not a drink,
swallowing is an action of the past.
I hear your skin slacken like satin
on white cotton sheets.
I hear the wolf howls of your past
calling you home, the coyote cries and yips,
the long song of lament.
I hear the soft thud of you letting go,
the feathery shush of your leaving.
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, will be published by The Poetry Box in April, 2022. She lives in Beaverton, OR. Visit www.annfarleypoetry.com
Dressed for Success
When she went back to work
mom wore complicated clothes:
layers starting from flesh up,
hose, girdle, brassiere, all white,
to keep her trim for the weekday
nine-to-five. Hose affixed
to yellow garters on thighs
high above her knee, next the girdle
crashing down her hips, across
belly and pelvis, a hard-ribbed
dam to protect whatever soft
parts could not be shown.
She demonstrated how to put on
the bra, folding from the waist
dropping her breasts just so
in two big lacy cups. Finally,
the form-fit nylon slip rained
cascade white over under things,
smoothed creases, erased edges.
That’s when mom stopped, lit
her Pell Mell, tissued her forehead,
moist in Fresno’s morning heat.
The neat navy gabardine skirt,
écru blouse finished the rest.
In spring or fall, a sweater;
in winter, a coat. For many years,
I watched her dress, watched
how she placed the world upon
her shoulders, one foundation
after another, to fortify herself
again and again, to tackle, maybe
win in the masculine world.
Jannie M. Dresser is a San Francisco Bay Area poet with deep roots in the San Joaquin Valley. Her book is “Workers’ Compensation: Poems of Labor & the Working Life.” She lives in Crockett, California.
Coming Home to the Feral Body
Know how to tuck up small
in dark places—when to move
fast and quiet.
Breathe slow through your fingers
and let it out easy through your nose,
not moving the tiniest dust ball.
Slide your body, flat-nosed against
the baseboard so it doesn’t hurt
as much if the broom finds you.
Wait motionless until they’re busy,
like a sparrow watching a cat.
Flatten your frame like a snake
on a branch if you make it to
the neighbor’s tree.
Light as a squirrel—leap—
trust the branch to catch you.
Notice how your fingers
match the shape of the latch
when you pinch it open;
how the hinge doesn’t
squawk when you push the gate
outward and dash down the alley.
Ten ounces of ermine fluff, you stood
on the flat of my hand when we first met—
your deep-sea eyes at my wrist, your cork-screwed
tail at my finger-tips. “Tough little kit,”
your breeder said, “part-Siamese, mutant—
we thought of you.” Match made, we share space
covered in white fur, combat with rodents,
warm wraps on the couch. Daily, we embrace—
quick bumps only a fellow like you gives—
nose to nose with briefest whisker flick.
Some nights you come home bloody. You’ve lost teeth
—so have I, but, unlike me, you’re as sleek
as when we met. What the neighbors think
is none of our business. We’re happy.
Other girls, prettier, younger than me,
come around, asking, “Is that one yours?”
“Yes,” I say, smiling as you strut through my door.
Kris Demien lives with multiple species in Portland, Oregon. Her work appears in VoiceCatcher, The Poeming Pigeon/Sports issue and at: https://aboutplacejournal.org/issues/when-we-are-lost-how-we-are-found/creatures-and-water/kris-demien/
–a reverse abecedarian
zinnias, Mama says, are her favorite flowers;
yesterday her most beloved was
Xerochrysum, the paper daisy or strawflower,
which Mama knew the scientific name for because her aunt,
Verlee, was an amateur horticulturist,
unusually expert at pinching leaves and stems
to root in her greenhouse —
and suddenly Mama most prefers
Scabiosa, or pincushion flower, but no — Salvia, she says,
red spikes, vibrant and thrilling, as she recalls rare
quiet moments in Verlee’s many gardens, among
peonies and lady’s mantle in the spring border, while her other aunt,
Orene, sat in the shade sipping iced tea,
nodding as Mama headed to the vegetable garden to set out
marigolds between the rows of tomato seedlings;
late in the day, the listing of flowers falls away, light fades,
keening begins, the sundowning that closes the morning glory’s bloom,
jabbering nonsense that blossoms into rage —
help her remember
iris, the purple bearded lovelies she planted behind her beauty shop,
hope she will recall how they rebloomed as perfect as before,
give her the courage to —
forget-me-not! she is back if only briefly,
eager to remind me that the most special flowers,
daylilies, are for daughters or maybe mothers, she isn’t sure but she smiles,
calls up one more favorite —
then by flowers, our daily therapy is done
because she has remembered from zinnia, a symbol of enduring, to
anemone, fragile flower of such short life
Daun Daemon grew up in Hudson, NC, and spent much of her childhood quietly listening to the women in her mother’s home beauty shop. Oh, the stories she can tell! Many of those stories have made their way into her fiction and her poetry. For more than 20 years, she has taught scientific communication at North Carolina State University and lives in Raleigh with her husband and four cats.
I Shut My Eyes
There is a darkness,
like a blindfold, or a curtain of fog—
all colors muted to dull sheen.
And the quiet, no humans,
no mechanical thunk or squeal,
no grinding gears,
only a bustle of wind—an insect drone.
Ravens cough from splayed treetops.
I wait for a shipwreck. My sisters rehearse
a shanty for the soon to be departed.
No one ever tells me, “Hey,
I was looking all over for you.”
Gargoyle-like I crouch on my precipice,
the crag between safety and oblivion—
life as it could be and death.
That space is shrinking just now.
I wonder if the fine hairs between
your shoulder blades would rise
if I put one finger to your cheek.
You’ll need to find a way to stay alive
with certain death hunkered beside you.
Dale Champlin, an Oregon poet with an MFA in fine art, has poems published by The Opiate, San Pedro River Review, Triggerfish, Pif, Timberline, and elsewhere. She is the editor of /pãn| dé | mïk/ 2020: An Anthology of Pandemic Poems from the Oregon Poetry Association. Dale has two poetry collections, The Barbie Diaries, and Callie Comes of Age, with Cirque Press in 2021. She is currently writing a collection of Medusa poems.