Monthly Archive for June, 2010

Bought a Pack of Cigarettes Today

a poem by Nicelle Davis

At this distance, street lamps are reduced to strands of Christmas

lights strung between windows

where televisions are erupting like fireworks from the eyeholes of

track homes. A lit cigarette reflects

as a birthday candle off the surface of my windshield. Fighter jets

pass as the slowest moving stars-their

engines low moans-loud as breath in my ear. A semi-truck passes

as a streak of light chasing flight. Beneath me, red

ants are carrying the body of a black ant to their underground city.

If  I didn’t know hunger, I would think they were leading a funeral

 

procession-if I didn’t know limitation-I would think the world

was in celebration of loss.  It is

 

cold. Tonight. Please. Let me clarify.

 

I’m in an empty lot-next to a suburban neighborhood-alone

leaving you-

that is-three vacancies placed next to a thousand homes. When

 

I say

 

“a” cigarette, I mean “mine.”       When I say “my”

windshield, I mean “the car’s.”

There is distinction in ownership.

 

Guilt belongs to me. You gave me HPV, but I took it willingly-

wanting to believe in the religious alchemy of becoming one

flesh-put on cancer like relief. Impossible. Love. For me. There are

places in the sky untouched by shine. And this is what I focus on.

But must search for these rare absences between structures made

for together. Looking for dark

 

I catch sight of a couple making love in an upstairs window. The wind

is a torrent; I am wet from its intangible hands on my thighs. We are

 

done with each other. I recognize. I drove this far out of town to hide

from our son that sometimes I choose cigarettes over tofu and sit-ups.

 

I understand my mother better at moments like these-know how she

could drag the body of a deer under her car for miles, because she had to

get away and needed all her available concentration to obey the directives

of traffic signals.

 

Stop. Go. Slow.

 

I imagine the naked man in the window is being given direction. I have

nowhere to go. Tonight is your turn with our family. Ours is a separate

matter. You tell me I’m leaving too fast. I say,

I can’t think right with the pain of my own teeth at my hands. I need to

 

stop eating cancer-

need to read books about spiders saving pigs to my son-

need to stop dragging a corpse every time I search for

a place to be. Quiet night. Birds

 

are sleeping in their twig cages built from the down of other birds. Harvested

from bones. Their chicks blanketed in another’s insulation. I long for

 

the friendship of morning, to see its red currents seeping through my closed

eyes. To see myself divide. To have my shadow self-

proportioned as a little girl with giant arms reaching for warmth. Again. I wish

 

to make comrades of variance. Light and shadow never stop touching. Again.

I flip a lucky. Spit the yoke of mucus. Wonder if this leaving will ever end.

 

 Nicelle Davis lives in Southern California with her son J.J. Her poems are forthcoming in, The New York Quarterly, PANK, Two Review, and others. She’d like to acknowledge her poetry family at the University of California, Riverside and Antelope Valley Community College. She runs a free online poetry workshop at: http://nicelledavis.wordpress.com/.
Check out Poetry Editor Tania Pryputniewicz’s interview with Nicelle Davis on She Writes as well as earlier work we ran by Nicelle, From What I Understand About Quilting on ectopic pregnancy.

 
 
 

 

Chemistry

 An essay by Jamie Odeneal

Quinn and I were tagging along on Norm’s work trip to San Diego when I found out I was pregnant for the second time. When Norm and I had tried for our first baby, I’d stopped taking the pill and conceived roughly two weeks later, resulting in our daughter, Quinn. The efficiency of our efforts the first time around greatly satisfied my inner control freak. This time, I wasn’t at all surprised to find that things had progressed along the exact same timeline. I had expected no different.

Because of the timing of my cycle, I’d including in my packing list for the trip a box of three sticks on which to pee. The first two mornings in San Diego produced disappointing results, but then on the third day, I finally spotted the faintest of pink lines in the test window. Squinting at the test in the bathroom of our hotel room, I called to Norm, “Good job, honey! You knocked me up again!”

Norm hurried into the bathroom with Quinn chasing after him. He strained to see the line while she grabbed at his legs repeating, “Pick up! Pick up!”

“I don’t know,” he sighed and laid the test on the counter before lifting Quinn up to our level. “That barely looks like a line to me. Maybe you should just test again when we get home.”  Even though the weak evidence didn’t convince Norm, I was thrilled. My pregnancy with Quinn also began with the faintest whisper of a line. I’d continued to test over the next few days, throwing god knows how much money at the First Response manufacturers. Each time the line grew darker, my belief that I was indeed carrying a baby, or at least a promising ball of cells, grew more certain.

That morning in our room at the Hyatt, I knew it was just a matter of days before the test showed an unmistakable positive result. Also, I had to think it was more than lingering air sickness that was causing the nausea I’d had since arrived in San Diego. Surely, a sibling for Quinn, and almost certainly the final addition to our family, was on his or her way.

That day, while Norm attended his conference, I rented a car and drove with Quinn up to Long Beach to visit my friend Madeline and her two kids. I hadn’t told her we were going to start “trying” and I was beyond anxious to spill the beans, to share with somebody what was going on in my uterus. Our drive on Route 5 took us through terrain as different from Virginia as any I’d seen, with its plunging valleys with little vegetation other than the occasional palm tree or patch of brush. The southern California landscape was unfamiliar to this east coast girl, but I felt a tingle of déjà vu when we passed exits for towns like La Jolla, Del Mar, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Beach, familiar to me from movies and television.

I passed the ninety-minute drive fantasizing about telling our families. I remembered well enough from the first time around that there were few things I’d enjoyed as much as telling people I was pregnant. How long would we wait?  Certainly longer than last time, which was practically before the test stick dried. Maybe we’d get Quinn a “future big sister” t-shirt she could sport the next time she saw her grandparents. I glanced at the rearview mirror occasionally to check on my little girl, the person who’d made a mother out of me, and wondered how having a sibling would affect her. She was slumbering in the rented car seat, blissfully oblivious as to how her life was about to change.

I was even more convinced of my condition each time I munched on the giant lemon poppy seed muffin I’d brought along on the ride. The muffin had looked so appealing at the hotel Starbucks that morning, but now it just tasted like buttered sawdust. When I tried washing it down with sips from my water bottle, it just seemed to expand the taste in my mouth rather than wash it away. This strange aversion to a seemingly benign food was definitely familiar.

When we pulled up at Madeline’s apartment building in Long Beach, I could barely wait to tell her the happy news. I decided that after I used the bathroom, which was becoming increasingly more necessary with every mile I drove, I would spend a few minutes exchanging polite pleasantries, taking a tour of her new place, remarking on the cuteness of her kids, making sure Quinn was comfortable and entertained in her new surroundings, and then I’d make my big announcement.

Madeline rushed out to meet us, and we hugged and made the appropriate comments about how wonderfully grown up and beautiful each other’s children were. Then we headed upstairs to her apartment, each of us with a toddler slung on our hips.

“Stay here with Madeline while Mommy goes potty, okay?” I said to Quinn when we were inside. Quinn toddled off towards Madeline’s little girl, Frankie Mae, and they went to work on the big box of Legos. 

There in the bathroom just a few seconds later, I discovered that I was unequivocally not pregnant. Staring at the unmistakable evidence, certainly more than mere spotting, I felt confused, a little dizzy, profoundly disappointed, and strangely, a little ashamed. I had let myself feel the excitement of another pregnancy, arrogantly assuming it was a done deal. The immediacy of our conception efforts the first time around had led me to smugly believe it would be just as easy the second time. Now I was dealing with the aftermath of what I supposed was a “chemical pregnancy”-essentially a very early miscarriage.

I needed to ask Madeline for some feminine product of some sort. I suppose I could have just lied and told her that Aunt Flo had made her appearance a bit earlier than expected, but I needed to tell her, to tell somebody, what had just happened. I sat paralyzed on her toilet listening to the animated sounds of Quinn and Frankie Mae playing in the living room.

A few minutes later, I came out of the bathroom and sunk to the floor next to Quinn and pulled her onto my lap.

“So,” I began telling Madeline, “I was pregnant for a couple of days, I think, but apparently that’s all over now.” I could feel my lips quivering, a sign that my body was betraying me for the second time that day. I am not a public crier, not even among friends.

Madeline, in her wonderful snarky way, responded with, “Oh Jesus, did you just have a miscarriage in my toilet?”  And then she went on to tell me that I didn’t want a September baby anyway because I’d be right on the borderline with school enrollment dates. Throughout our debriefing about what had just happened, she never got emotional about it with me, and I was grateful for that. What I needed was humor, not pity. I didn’t want to cry. In fact, I didn’t even feel like a chemical pregnancy, as opposed to a much later miscarriage, granted me the right to cry. I knew full well it could be a lot worse.

Madeline and I didn’t dwell on the subject for too long, and within thirty minutes, we’d moved on to talking about our kids, gossiping about people we knew, and criticizing other people’s parenting techniques-all of our favorite topics of conversation.

Quinn and I left Long beach just before sundown. Once Madeline and I had said our goodbyes, and I was back in the rental car, it occurred to me that I had spent large chunks of the day not even thinking about my brief pregnancy gone wrong. I don’t get to see Madeline that often, and we had too much to catch up on to linger over unpleasantness that, in the scheme of things, didn’t mean very much. But now that I was leaving Madeline’s humor and companionship behind, I felt blue again.

Quinn fell asleep just a few minutes after hitting the road, which was fine by me because I was in the mood to think and drive in silence. The sun set and we drove past those familiar-sounding towns again, this time in the reverse order:  Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano, Del Mar, La Jolla. The deep valleys of southern California felt even more disorienting in the dark, without the context of the surrounding landscape. All I could see was the ribbon of car lights plunging and climbing in front of me, and I fought the urge to slam on the breaks to keep from falling. I was also quite suddenly starving.

I returned to my lemon poppy seed muffin, now slightly stale on the seat next to me. I mindlessly nibbled at it, thinking about how I’d tell Norm what had happened when we got back to the hotel. I wondered if he’d be disappointed, or if, unlike me, he’d been able to temper his enthusiasm, waiting to see more convincing evidence. After a few bites I realized that, despite its slightly stale texture, the muffin tasted markedly better than it had that morning, more like an actual baked good instead of just buttered sawdust. It amazed me how quickly my body and my appetite were returning to normal. I wondered if my mind and heart would follow suit.

Quinn was starting to wake up by the time I spotted the lights of San Diego. In typical Quinn fashion, she launched into her spirited commentary on everything she saw the minute she regained consciousness.

“Lights! Cars! San-dee-go! Mommy drivin’!” she shouted in no particular order from the back seat. I listened to my beautiful, chatty, wonderfully precocious Quinn and felt ashamed of my disappointment. Looking at her, how could I have ventured into the realm of self-pity for even a moment? So this pregnancy had been a chemical one, some sort of chemical reaction gone wrong, a failed science experiment. I had not lost a child, but merely the hope of one, and not forever. We’d try again.

I considered how perfectly our first experiment had turned out. My daughter Quinn was the result of exactly the right chemistry, a biological miracle I could not take for granted. Even if I never had another successful pregnancy again, I couldn’t be ungrateful. When Quinn entered our lives, we became a family of three, a perfectly balanced equation. I almost couldn’t ask for more.

 I pulled off at the exit and headed downtown. I couldn’t wait to see Norm, but not to have him commiserate with me. My hour and a half of brooding was enough. Since we already had the car, maybe the three of us would drive into Old Town for some Mexican food. After the day’s events, I thought I’d treat myself to a large plateful of something spicy, some fiery dish that almost certainly would’ve given me heartburn the day before. I thought I might even order one of those giant margaritas roughly the size of my own head. I might even raise my glass, with both hands if necessary, and toast to our luck, to our family, to chemistry.

 

Jamie Odeneal, a mother of two, lives and writes in Arlington, Virginia. Her essays on pregnancy and motherhood have appeared in The Washington Post, Mothering, and Fit Pregnancy. She is currently working on her first young adult novel.

Stars and By a 25 Watt Bulb

Poems by Laurie Burks Klemme

Stars

        “Are you sure every who down in who-ville is working?

        Quick! Look through your town! Is there anyone shirking?”

          — Horton in  Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss

 Tall stalks of corn sway a threaded foot

to the darkness, and with or without the headlights

looking them over, a raccoon, opossum, a mouse

in the road survive another uncharted night…

 

and we are here, even the stars see it,

we are here, lights fallen out of the sky,

off to raise our young, our stories, and

the gods we’ll leave, having passed by briefly,

having been the small creatures behind

the round yellow eyes, having been,

for a moment, a big noise passing…

to be these bright exceptions

to the sky’s prevailing nature,

stars to define the sky’s

 

unoccupied space between lights. At the first

red flashing stoplight in town… her heart is so full

it could blow open as she asks if he believes, and he

explains the burden of words.

 

By a 25 Watt Bulb

Lately, my son knows the bunny from the bear,

Curious George, Big Bird and Ernie, the bright

world of chewable, washable rattles that live

along his crib. Even the bars’ shadows intrigue

his little fingers and he never tires of

the bears on beach balls that dance

above his head. And when he’s really

happy, he smiles broadly, coos and kicks

his feet. This morning, I woke up

so happy.    

 

And there is time still to teach him

about the other world, if he needs to know

flies crawl out the nostrils of other

little boys, that another baby boy on

the thin shoulder of his mother hasn’t grasped

a rattle, been lulled in the warm light of

a 25 watt bulb and a dark shade, gone to sleep

to the even creaking of a wicker rocker. Time

to imagine her heartbeat, that it probably          

sounds the same, keeping time like mine.                        

 

And there is still time to teach him   

to tell time, to make change, time zones,           

his own name, black and white, election

politics, voting your pocketbook, the virtue in

getting along, buying on sale, and deferring

to the experts. And then, the passion

of one Christ, his one cross, and what he’ll need

to know: grasshopper, lady bug, and fly.

 

Laurie Burks Klemme lives in Iowa City where she earned an MFA from the Iowa Wriers’ Workshop, has taught approximately 100 writing courses, written poems and essays while no one was looking, and spent the majority of her time raising twins alone. She wants it known that she is in no way sentimental about motherhood. It is simply the most challenging, exhausting, gut-wrenching, and important thing she has ever done. Now that her children are graduating from high school, and moving on, she is excited to be doing more of other things. After 15 years of research, writing, and plenty of avoidance, she is finishing a novel that explores the complexities of illegal immigration, family, and vocation.

3 Sculptures

by Sandy Frank

Sandy Frank talks about the process behind creating these sculptures at She Writes:

Writing as Prelude to Sculpture

Snake Woman

NEST

REBIRTH

 

Sandy Frank is a California artist with exhibitions around the Bay Area and permanent exhibits as far reaching as Puerto Rico and Grenada, Wisconsin. She was educated through numerous workshops in places as far ranging as the Scottsdale Artists’ School in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Marin Art School in Nicaso, California. In addition to sculpture, she also produces art through collage, painting, and drawing. She lives in Sebastopol, California.




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