Poem of the Week–Black Feather

Black Feather

Not four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,
but rather thousands, falling from the sky
in Arkansas. Drum fish decomposing
in adjacent waterways. All gone.
And now her. A flash of a solar eclipse.
A glimmer of light extinguished.
Our niece who days before celebrated
a swarm of flies ringing the air with oscillating
haloes along the windswept dunes. Gone.

She has become our newest astronaut circling
earth with her baby brother from another family
incarnation, poisoned by Agent Orange
his dad inhaled in Nam. Two years of radiation
and chemo battering his frail body. Holes
in the ozone layer, holes in the heart as large
and gaping as the cavernous surface at Ground Zero.

Out there, sailing on updrafts of the spirit’s current,
she joins the throngs of all who have gone before
while the bones of those remaining, shrink, all
but disappear, as the spaces between cartilage
yield invisible nets that glisten in the sun,
ready to catch those departed with a wink,

a blink, a nod, a strand of kelp in the shape of a dragon,
makeshift necklaces of shells, ribbons of yellow, pink, red,
signaling fierce loss, fiercer love. Prayers wending
their way on upturned palms, incense, breath,
the wing of a fly, a filament of iridescent fish scale,
a solitary black feather.

by Calder Lowe
Modesto Branch, CA

Poem of the Week–Snowflakes

SNOWFLAKES

I liked the way it used to be
When snow was a surprise
And children laughed to see the flakes
That fell before their eyes.

But now we have a forecast tell
What time we’ll see the snow
They say how long the snow will last,
How strong the wind will blow

I really miss the excitement, though
Of faces, all aglow,
as children woke at morning light
To shout, Surprise, there’s snow!

Marilyn K. Walker
Palm Springs Branch, CA

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Poem of the Week–Grandbabies

Grandbabies

Single grandma 47, looks 60.
Malnourished so the kids don’t go
without what cereal, soda she buys with food
stamps. Working 3 jobs for the roof over their
heads. Little ones cram on either side and at her feet
to sleep. Twin bed too small.
She warms them. Feels their cold toes
melt against her nightgown.

School, two more days
this week. She works the cafeteria
Thursdays, Fridays, home when the bus comes.
Never meant to raise preschoolers
kindergartners, not at her age. Son/daughter
arrested or vanished, world of
fast talk or drugs or drinking. Every school night,

after they lean sharp chins into the sink, brush their baby-teeth,
after she tucks them in rows like puppies in her bed,
she washes their underpants, one per child
in cold water with Ivory in the bathroom sink.
Hangs them in front of the oven to dry. Some nights
they don’t dry. Even a child has pride.
Going to school with no underwear. She does the best

she can. Christmas just another season
of not-enough, money for gifts and heat, electric,
light for homework. They write their notes to Santa. Trust
her to mail them though she has no stamps.
After the big bus bustles them away for the day
she opens one letter. Feels like a thief.
Crayon on wrinkled paper: “Dere Santa pleez
bring me a underpants. So I got one for ever day. Love.”

by Rachael Ikins
Central New York Branch

Poem of the Week–Sisters Together


Sisters Forever

My sister Joan was the first one to
laugh and make wisecracks.
She drank too much.
Appearances are often deceiving.
Joan was not a social drinker.
She became an alcoholic
after her baby girl died of SID:
“sudden infant death.”
The doctors assured her that
she could not have prevented
such an unknown and
dreadful tragedy…
but I knew in my heart
she suffered from guilt.
Joan’s therapy consisted of
using liquor to escape
from her own inner demons.
Life has taught me a valuable
lesson about human weakness:
People who have a drinking
problem deserve compassion
and not contempt.
Joan’s life was a story
with an unresolved ending —
I always understood.

Marlene Klotz
Boca Raton Branch, FL

Poem of the Week–Bargaining with Karma

Bargaining with Karma

Dear Karma, you can have my Girl Scout badges
if I can take back shunning Ann Sanders next door

Giggles at Catcher in the Rye
for savoring Valley of the Dolls

I’ll give back almost anything except time with my dogs
for things I did in college (you know what I’m saying)

I could also give up working at Petite Shoppe
for asking a woman if she was pregnant when she wasn’t

The King & I revival on Broadway?—
not worth throwing up in the theatre lobby

Yes, I enjoyed Amanda’s dinner party once I got there
but not driving off with my peach pie on the car’s roof

Please take back that carat ring my husband gave me
and return his mother’s small gold necklace I lost

And here is whatever pleasure I had shopping
the day I picked up my daughter late on her birthday

Thanks for stuff that seemed dreadful but really wasn’t:
      seeing my parents drive away from Camp Fair Winds
      my first wedding cancelled after I got the dress
      two lay-offs from big, “important” jobs
      even my fall from a deck eight feet up

In fact, why mess with the dominoes—
their pockmarked, yet magnificent faces?

Karen Paul Holmes
Atlanta Branch, GA

First published in Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press 2014) by Karen Paul Holmes

Editor’s note: Flash Fiction Fall will resume at the beginning of next week, and the Poem of the Week will return to its regular Thursday spot! Keep connecting!

Poem of the Week–Doubt #28

Doubt No. 28:
Meditation in a Roundhouse

Cats struggle to stay clean, dogs circle
in perpetuity until one spot is known,
some certainty you and I may wonder
how they know this singular realm.
But that may have to be an end of it
until tomorrow’s train pulls in.

Linda Newman Woito
Iowa City, Iowa Branch

A reminder to all NLAPW members (you do not have to be a Letters member to participate): October is flash fiction month on the www.nlapw.org blog. Please send in your mini-masterpieces! For complete guidelines, click here.

Poem of the Week–Differences

Differences

Don’t divide the people, we insist…
There is a way, to peacefully coexist.
But still I see two sides concerning this.
What is power up to will they tell?

As mountain peaks await the sunset bell
and darkness captures either side of dawn
the sun appears alternatively gone;
night and day change sides and disappear
for us to follow, in our wake of fear.

Sophie Barnes
Connecticut Pioneer Branch, CT

Poem of the Week–Atlas


Atlas

The first one I actually saw was
In bronze standing in front of Rockefeller Center
The others are pictures in books – flat and one dimensional
Of course, they are all men
Brawny, muscle bound men
Usually holding the world on their backs or shoulders
Usually looking down, weary
Ready to be done with their burden
Ready to drop us
At any minute
But I believe
Atlas
Is a woman
Who stands tall and lithe
With balanced baskets of fruit or produce
kindling or water for her family
As she walks home from the marketplace, field or well
Proudly with grace
Eyes looking straight ahead as she takes each confident step
Into the future.
With the world truly on her head.

Susan Bassler Pickford
Member-at-large, ME

Call for submissions

For more writing submission call, including for nonmembers, click here.

October is flash fiction month on the www.nlapw.org website.

Like our Poem of the Week feature, I will post flash fiction –a short story of 100 words or fewer — by NLAPW members during the month of October 2015.

So let’s get writing, keeping it pithy, and submit one entry per Pen woman for consideration to

Pwpoems@aol.com

with your name and branch (or Member at large) info below your mini-masterpiece on a word file. New work is preferred!

To help me stay organized, please put flash fiction month as your email subject line.

–website content editor, Treanor Baring”

Poem of the Week–Joshua Tree

JOSHUA TREE REVISITED

Ageless rocks stand like desert monuments,
Trees with spiky arms reach toward the sky.
Roads snake into endless wilderness
Distant views bemuse the eye.

Sandy trails slice through unyielding brush
Where shy inhabitants slither, crawl and run,
Bold wildflowers in radiant colors
Lift their heads to the relentless sun.

Vast and wild, the park calls to adventurers
Who roar along its roads in fearless quest.
While those who come to look for sanctuary
Soon discover gifts of beauty, peace and rest.

Some say this place is where the spirits dwell
And who’s to know who has not felt its spell?

Dawn Huntley Spitz
Cape Cod Branch, MA

Poem of the Week–Mere Things, & Helen Holt service

Memorial Service for Helen Holt
Sat, August 15, 11am – 2pm
The National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20016

Mere Things

Mere things don’t matter,
or so we’d like to think;

but on the brink
of forgetting,

of letting
go,

some mere thing
turns us

to remembering.

by Cathmar Shaw Prange
Iowa City Branch, IA