Julia C. Alter
Almost laughter, dagger, slaughter. / Dough proofing in the womb like unspoken utterance / on uncertain tongue / aught to, doubt her, after // All that came before you disappears like the meaning of a word / after staring at it for too long // No morphemes to take you apart and put you back / together.
Michelle S. Ramadan
The Amazons raised their daughters warlike: / muscles sculpted marble, a singular breast // burnt at puberty for bow handling. / Of course, all women are raised for war.
What gnawed away was the suspicion that the worst in us / was preserved in pristine dormancy in these whole other beings. / We’d repeated the mistakes our progenitors had made before us, / unkept our avowals and squandered our numerous redemptions. / The cruel promise of procreation had seemed the summation of it all. / And yet, we’d often ask, from where came all the goodness in them?
I think of the word // prune, as in the necessary cutting / back, stack of limber limbs snipped // perhaps in their prime, in order / to ensure a bigger tree. That gloved // hand that holds the shears? That’s / me, and both of us bleed.
In time, I grunt. She wobbles. I worry about neck strength. / How we never needed it in our water prisons. We needed / mermaid fins. In the dark within our mothers.
Behind a sterile blue curtain, the doctor announces: / It’s a bloodless extravagance! // Bird-legged and bruised, I am propped on feather pillows, / a chorus of nurses humming along with a string quartet. / They feed me morsels of freshwater mollusks by hand / and when I try to speak, my mouth snaps shut.
Carolyn Harris Zukowski
I think: What has happened to my voice? / but nod and take my leave, my face / dyslexic. I’’ve betrayed him with my reticence / to boast his extra-curricular abilities– // how he identifies each fungus, fruit, or flower, / plays the piano by ear, draws near-perfect suits / of armor, and knows how to coax / a slow worm into his calm, unshaking hand.
Her red pajama pants with stars and penguins / sprawl on top of the heap. Some penguins wear / ear muffs. SLEEP TIGHT chases itself around / the waistband. What if sleep, size 6, chased // and caught itself. I’m trying to say it’s laundry / day. I’m trying to say on my basement floor / there always grows a hated hill of tangled clothes / worn by those I love most fiercely.
In the pantry, jars in a row— / rapadura, unbleached flour, / white rice seems / to squirm up the glass. // To my inner edges, / one child clings / tight. // On the counter, mortar and pestle— / halves of one, they split the seeds, / pull fragrant / oil from husk. // Her cells were mine, / not mine: / In me.
I’m gonna die in the sea / I’m gonna die in the sea // my four-year-old sang sweetly / as he pulled his pajamas on. // Hours earlier, beside me on the couch, / he’d scrutinized my profile / full human—lines, pores, acne scars. / In that instant, I held no secrets.
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