Monthly Archive for September, 2010

Missing an Umbilical and Cancer Sex

Poems by Timothy Black

Missing an Umbilical

I am under water, and my son
is underwater. His hair floats like snakes,
like a tombed medusa’s. The plunge in
erased air from every inch of him.
He tilts back, under the water, and he floats
with his belly to the bright sky. I think,
This is amazing. He looks just like an embryo.
I want to reach out and touch him,
feel his skin wrapped in water
to make sure he’s real and still mine.
His father could come at any time.
Could plunge his hand
beneath the surface and grab
for his hair, grab a handful of snakes.
My son pushes off the bottom
and breaks the surface before me.
I stay submerged,
imagining a world without him.

Cancer Sex

 On most nights we lay there
swaddled in doubt,
but not delusions.
The dark
would press in at us,
or float at the end of day
like a question mark.
On most
nights, need would still be counted
as need, met only with the clasp
of sweaty hands. I
with my penis
and she with vagina and clit
we would lie, trying to ignore
marriage’s only real mandate.
On other nights
we would cover up with quilts
and ignore the fueling
locomotive with its black,
thick smoke and iron
wanting to be released
from its sooty black birth.
I would kiss her then,
and she would kiss back-
becoming more than cancer,
at long last mindless and carnal.
At the end I would always
withdraw. Terrified
of pumping
sickness into
my barren wife.



Timothy Black’s first poetic novella, Connecticut Shade, is in its second printing through WSC Press. He teaches poetry at Wayne State College, and is a Cave Canem Fellow. He lives in Wakefield, Nebraska with his wife and two sons.

Timothy’s work has appeared in the anthologies The Logan House Anthology of 21st Century American Poetry, The Great American Roadshow, and Words Like Rain. He has been published in The Platte Valley Review and at, has poems forthcoming in Breadcrumb Scabs, Clean Sheets and Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine and has won an Academy of American Poets prize for his poem “Heavy Freight.”

Please check out what poetry editor Tania Pryputniewicz calls a “freakin’ awesome” interview with Timothy Black on She Writes.

Watching for Rhinos

nonfiction by Kimberly Schaye 

Samantha sits next to me in the tall grass, her tiny denim-clad legs outstretched, a dandelion poised at her puckered lips. “I will make a rhinoceros wish,” my two-year-old announces before she blows. Samantha believes there are rhinoceroses living in a drainpipe under the dirt road that runs past our flower farm. She already knows at least one basic rule of wishing: A puff on this silvery seed head could bring her animal friends into view. I have not tried to dissuade her from this belief. After all, I once wished for something just as fantastic, or so it seemed. I wished that I would have a child.

I always knew I wanted someday to be a mother, but after I got married I never gave much thought to how it would happen. I assumed that once my husband and I decided to throw away those birth control pills, natureand a few well-placed wisheswould take care of the rest.

My own mother was the one who taught me all about wishing and good luck. She knew all the rules. When I was little we searched for dandelions in Manhattan’s Riverside Park, upturned pennies on Broadway and stars over the New Jersey skyline, smog notwithstanding. Our faith in the efficacy of these rituals was absolute.
I tried them all in the first year my husband and I attempted to conceive, and even came up with a few of my own. Having left a big-city journalism career for a farmer’s life in the country, I often passed a particular field in my local travels that belonged to a sheep farm. As I counted down the days until I could take a pregnancy test, I would look out for lambs peeking out from behind large, fleecy ewes. If I saw a baby lamb, I took it as a sign of hope. No lambs meant try again next month. But after more than a year of trying, my husband and I agreed it was time to seek help of a more scientific kind. Continue reading ‘Watching for Rhinos’

A Book of Life in Ten Parts

A poem by Alana I. Capria 

There was no blue mark and then there was one. I thought in order: douche,
hanger, poison, stairs. Get it out. I pushed a fingertip against my navel
to feel for the fetus. This solid mass was already absorbed into my skin.
It would take a fillet knife to separate the silver skin from my own. When
I bled brown blood in a hotel room while on vacation, I thought
miscarriage. I cried into the dirty shower curtains and tried to hold onto
my uterus.
I suffered nightly. My child had a demon’s body and no face. I watched it
bend backwards and give birth to plastic dolls that squeaked mama while
falling into cracks between old floorboards. The child grew a rabbit’s
face and kicked the back of my seat in the car while laughing. Aren’t you
happy we have her, I kept asking the driver but he choked through his
laryngitis. The baby grew scars and porcelain cheeks. It kept running
towards the sugar bowl I kept at one end of the closet. Stay away. I have
to leave you, I kept saying until dawn.
During the day, I kept hearing children’s voices. They came from closet
doors and the basement stairs. I stayed in one room, my hair in my face,
and my hands pressed against my mouth. I screamed at the stroke of every
hour. Something followed me when I turned my back. I heard the child say,
you were the best mother you could be.
The woman on television walked through a tunnel of aborted fetuses. They
were monstrous, red and yellow tones set against the throbbing pink that
should have been the female vaginal canal. When she came out and held the
child after walking through a cliff-side of hungry corpses, the girl
asked, Why did you let me go? In my ear, a disembodied voice asked the
same question. I would have hurt you, I whispered back .
I gave a metropolitan church my baby’s name so that someone else could
remember her. In return, they emailed me a word processed certificate of
inclusion in their Book of Life. Later, they sent me emails urging
attendance at various pro-life rallies. Then my grandmother’s church began
a group that begged divine intervention for every woman contemplating
abortion. Will they take care of the babies the mothers were forced into
having, I asked while ripping pages out of hymnals around the church. I
counted matches and considered burning crosses on their judging altars.
My grandmother said that children come into the world with a loaf of bread
under their arms. It was a Cuban saying. She wanted to have a reason to
add the great prefix to her title. She and my mother stared at the
ultrasound picture with me. It is still so small, my mother said. I did
not tell them I had already scheduled an appointment with the closest
clinic. They envisioned carrying around a curly-headed baby while I looked
into the mirror and saw my arms burdened with dirty diapers instead of
pens. My child’s bread was already stale.
The fiancé saw the baby first while I lay on the OBGYN’s table with a
paper gown spread over my breasts. The ultrasound screen flashed with
heartbeat. I poked my finger at it. The doctor kept smiling and I felt
badly telling her I was not planning on keeping it. She gave me the glossy
picture and I imagined sitting on the basement steps and drinking cups of
bleach. I’m crazy, I would have told the doctors in the hospital. I can’t
have a baby when I want to kill myself. I can’t go through with this if
it’s already met the poison.
Then I heard the heartbeat. I was alone. The doctor put the stethoscope to
my ears and I heard the frantic drumming from my uterus. I felt relieved.
I was afraid of carrying around a cadaver unknowingly. I simply wanted to
fall asleep full and wake up empty. When the brown blood came weeks later
after I finally said I was having the abortion, another doctor would not
let me hear for the heartbeat again. I could not beg while naked and cold.
My child knew the scars on my legs and wrists, the macabre thoughts
preoccupying my time, and the suddenness of a manic temper plaguing
daylight hours. Her loss would have been easier if the fiancé had been
there. He could not be and so I gave her a new life. In words, I devoted
myself to her without fear of hungry and soiled sobs. I read pregnancy
pamphlets and magazines to know what she was like. I would not have liked
her larger. I would not have cared once her nine-month self passed out of
I accepted an IV while tearing and fell asleep. I worried about the pain,
not the loss. I had never had anything stick my veins. My dreams were
pink. I tasted anesthesia in the back of my throat. I woke and thought of
water. I wrote a series of poems and hand-sewed the binding. The needle
pricked my fingers several times. My fiancé took me to the Hudson River
at midnight. We stared at the skyline until the book dropped from my hand.
The tide flipped through the pages. I imagined our daughter reading my
confessions and nodding her forgiveness. I would have hurt you, I told her
again and she believed me.

Alana I. Capria (born 1985) has an MFA in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She resides in Northern New Jersey with her fiancé and rabbits. Her chapbooks and links to other publications can be found at

Please check out poetry editor Tania Pryputniewicz’s interview with Alana, “Abbreviated Motherhood, Abortion as Form of Love, and Revision as Medicine with Alana I. Capria,” on She Writes.

Dreaming as the Summers Die

An essay by Terri Elders

“Still she haunts me”-Lewis Carroll

I figured something special might be happening that July morning in l948 when Mama appeared in the bedroom doorway, brandishing her boar-bristled hairbrush in one hand, my not-too-faded red plaid dress in the other.

“Skip the shorts and shirt today,” she said, handing me the dress. “Company’s coming for lunch.”

“Who?” I asked, puzzled. I couldn’t think of anybody important enough to wear my Sunday dress for, but I slipped into it, and stood quietly while Mama tugged the brush through my snarls.

I had just turned eleven. No longer in pigtails, I hadn’t yet mastered pin curls. So I wore my hair shoulder length and loose around my face, with bangs that forever needed trimming. Maybe I’d learn to set it with bobby pins before I started junior high that fall.

I waited for Mama to answer. “It’s Nana,” she finally said. “Nana, and maybe Jean.” I looked up sharply. Jean was my “real” mother, and I hadn’t seen her for years. I glanced across the bedroom at my older sister. Patti and I, just a year apart in age, had been adopted by our “real” father’s sister and her husband in l942, when we were five and six. Patti yawned, and then threw me a wink. Nearly a teen, she was more interested in boys than family gossip.

“Can I go over to Jimmy’s?” I asked, as Mama patted my bangs into place.

“Okay. I’ll send Patti over to get you when they get here. Just don’t get too dirty.”

Jimmy lived three doors down and was my best friend. The two of us would climb a towering maple tree to his roof where we would sit for hours, endlessly arguing. I favored the Brooklyn Dodgers and Doris Day. Jimmy loved the Giants and Peggy Lee. I liked Jack Benny, he Fred Allen. Though we rarely agreed, we relished our debates.

A few days earlier we had perched on the roof to watch the July 4 fireworks from the Los Angeles Coliseum. Some evenings we sat up there for hours with Jimmy’s telescope, searching for UFOs. We even argued about the merits of the planets. I favored Jupiter, he Mars.

I’d be glad to see Nana, Jean’s mother, who always wore sweet gardenia perfume and talked about how she conferred with spirits at her spiritualist church. But I barely remembered Jean. I knew my Daddy Al, of course, Mama’s brother, because he visited from time to time. Jean, though, was just a shadowy background figure, referred to in disapproving whispers. She drank, I’d heard. Or she had mental problems, whatever those might be.

She and Daddy Al had ma Continue reading ‘Dreaming as the Summers Die’

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