Poem of the Week-The Ice Queen


Moon-white the Snowy Owl flies
swallowing December’s darkness like prey,
waiting for the sun,
being the one
instinctively driven
to hunt by day
scanning an Arctic tundra.
Through amber goblets
she spills lasered beams earthward
pearl talons in tandem impose closure,
marking an Athena victory
melding wisdom with vision
in a twice turned head,
ready to avenge a counter attack.
Flaunting she rises,
her conquest grasped in flight,
then swoops to a-light an Arctic rise.
Momentarily she sits, an alabaster statue
carved in ice.

Joyce Gregor
Pikes Peak Branch, CO

Winning Essay

The Man Who Showed Her How to Tie Her Shoelaces

by Ariel Smart
Santa Clara Branch, CA
1st Place, Non-Fiction 2014 NLAPW Biennial Letters Competition

     He had always been useful and inventive, his hands steady and capable. His demeanor appeared friendly, humorous, and warm with a lively youthfulness, the kind of trustworthy man you would like as a neighbor. His sharp blue eyes were conscious and purposeful, sure, hunter’s eyes she called them for they missed nothing. She could not imagine him weak and unsteady on his feet, depressed and confused into long silences. She had seen him striding up the heights of steep hills in Greece when she had hung back afraid. Then, losing sight of him, she changed her mind, knowing what she would miss were she not to pursue him. She realized the long climb after him was worth the plodding when she looked down at the valley below. What amazements she would have missed without him had she not confidence in his judgments. How exciting it had been catching up to him, touching his arms, proud in his manhood. She could not have envisioned during all those years any diminishment of his powers. She could not believe Gordon stumbling about the house on weak legs, shuffling himself into a chair, falling asleep. She could not imagine him stiff and limp, prostrate on the floor, huddled and crouched over. She saw him sit still, his head bent down towards his knees.
     “I have no libido,” he said, his voice breaking.
     And her heart broke for love of him.
     She imagined the last weak trembles of his steps, moving into the slanted shadows of the morning still in his night wear, a white tee shirt and jockey shorts. The night before he had removed his watch and his wedding ring, as he customarily did, and encircled it around the little silver statue of a male miniature Dachshund. She had found the figure on a sunny spring morning in a gift shop in Florence on April 14, exactly on his birthday. She could hardly wait to give it to him at lunch in a piazza in the shadow of the Duomo. He said it reminded him of Mickey, one of his dogs whom he called ‘my kin,’ a black and white mongrel Gordon had taken in as a stray.
     He shuffled about the bedroom with wretched, wobbly steps. Then he reached behind a shelf of shoes for the secret he had hidden in the back of his closet. He found what he was looking for, closely examined many times before. He took the revolver and lay down on the bedroom floor close by the side of the bed where he had tried and failed to sleep alone the night before. His wife was somewhere in Europe. He sighed deeply, then plunged the revolver midway in his throat, fired without fail and blasted his breathing life away.

     Sometime before he had taken this desperate act, he had printed out the words which described his deteriorating condition from the Wikipedia: Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, sometimes called chronic relapsing polyneuropathy; to destroy or remove the myelin sheath of a nerve fiber as through disease. As the condition progressed, so increased the drugs, massive doses of prednisone, drugs for sleeplessness, Prozac for depression, sleep disorder, and muscular atrophy in the legs, which persisted despite a treatment for Intravenous immunoglobulin. Another session was scheduled in six weeks.
     The muscles in his legs collapsed. His depression was profound. In a tremulous hand on a blank slip of paper advertising Alain Pinel, Realtor, he listed his anxieties to his doctor in preparation for his last visit:

(1) Prozac, no help
(2) Weak and shaky
(3) Sleep problem
(4) Sleep in chair
(5) Blood Pressure High, over 200
(6) Shaky on feet
(7) Thinking problems
(8) Wife to Europe

     Last on the list he asked about needles and insulin, his Grandma Emma Staley’s legacy to him of diabetes.
     “Emma Irene Staley was an orphan. Like me,” Gordon had told her. “‘The little orphan girl from Coalville,’ they called her. She was sent to live with a Mormon family when she was thirteen. They decided to marry her to that old buzzard twenty-five years older than she. Grandpa Abel Alleman.”
     “‘That old pervert,’ she insisted.
     “She’d say to Grandpa, ‘Daddy, there’s a dance at the church. I’d like to go dancing.’
     “‘I’m too tired, Beauty,’ his pet name for her. ‘I’ve got to get my rest. I’ve got to lie down.’”
     “Why didn’t she smother him with a pillow?”
     “She bore him fourteen children. The thirteenth was my father. He was the thirty-first child of Grandpa Abel’s three wives.”
     “I hear you, Arabel. The last years of her life, my brother told me, she spent most of the day in a rocking chair just inside the front door. Each morning she wrapped her legs in strips of white cloth to help control the swelling and pain of the diabetes. She could no longer do housecleaning and the grandchildren came over in the fall to wash and dry and beat the rugs and carpets and place fresh straw under them for warmth and do what she couldn’t do.”
     “How long did she live?”
     “Sixty years.” …

     “You’re abandoning me, “ he said to Arabel when she told him she was going for a week to Cambridge. “This is High Noon.” He spoke tonelessly as a man half-asleep, his eyes emitting no light.
     She knew the movie and the theme, “Do not forsake me, oh my darling.” The song she associated with Frankie Laine. But why High Noon? He had always belittled his poor memory of movie plots.
     “You remember every movie you ever saw,” he told her many times. “The only one I ever remember is Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”
     She did not grasp his encoded message until it was too late. What he hinted at was a life and death showdown. “I’ll only be gone to Cambridge for a week, just a week,” she pleaded.
     Beneath Gordon’s words, close to his conscious self, lay the secret he willed unspoken. Many years before, the first time she went to Cambridge for a two-week summer study, his brother Vern said to her, “Don’t leave him.” Vern’s mouth was pursed, his brows furrowed.
     “But I love Cambridge.”
     Vern’s blue eyes crossed hers, angrily. “I know you love Cambridge, but I tell you don’t leave him.”
     Did he really know something from Gordon’s childhood that she didn’t know? The suspicious circumstances surrounding his father’s death by gunshot and then his mother’s congenital heart failure were certainly the source of Gordon’s feelings of abandonment. There lay the heart of his mystery. At ten years of age Gordon was left an orphan, shifted back and forth between poor relatives until he joined the Navy at seventeen. He took everything his older brother Vern said to heart. As a boy, no older than nine or ten, his brother bought what he called a “hunting” dog, a English pointer-springer mix he called “My dog.” Gordon loved him, and named him Hunter; they frolicked together around the barn between the tractors and used farm equipment. “Toys” Vern bought when he had time to be a Sunday farmer.
     One day Vern said solemnly, “Think I’ll head out with ‘my hunting dog’ and maybe get some grouse. There’s nothing like grouse, and I think I know a place we can get one, maybe two. I’ve seen them fly into the big woods a time or two, But I haven’t had much luck. They ain’t easy. I didn’t have ‘My Hunter’ here.” The dog was springing about ready to go anywhere, it seemed, and he jumped into Vern’s pick-up shortly after he had slobbered wet kisses all over Gordon’s face.
     Vern returned in the pick-up late. Alone. Gordon waited to see Hunter somewhere. Was he curled up asleep in the cab of the truck, he thought at first? Gordon was doubtful. Probably more than anxious. That Hunter was too peppy to have run out of steam.
     “Vern, where’s Hunter?
     “I say, where’s Hunter?”
     Vern didn’t answer. Not for a long time.
     “Did you bag any grouse? I don’t see that you have. Did Hunter run off?”
     “No, he didn’t run. You couldn’t get that dog to run off. I wish he had.” Gordon could see that his brother was getting flustered. “That dog was worthless. He might as well have been like Granddad. Old and worthless.”
     “What do you mean, Vern? Hunter is a pretty young puppy.
     “Well, I got angry. That damn dog wouldn’t hunt like I said. He fooled around chasing birds. Chasing fool birds everywhere. Paid no attention to me at all. Sniffed around all over. I got so angry I shot him plain in the head. Old, sick, worthless. You know.”

     Still, Arabel defied Vern time and time again. She went to Cambridge. Each time she promised Gordon, “This is the last time.” Each time she went, she broke her promise. Now that Vern was dead, five months before her Gordon died, she could hear Vern’s voice, “I tell you. Don’t leave him. What’d I tell you?” Vern’s eyes burned red like fire, angry as flames of fire.
     The last time she left for Cambridge Gordon was depressed, She did not know the depth of his despair. He must have had a plan for suicide, a desperate contract he had made with himself months ago, maybe even years ago. She had heard him say many times over the years, “I never want to be poor. I never want to be beholden.”
     In penury or in sickness, he would not go begging, helpless, and dependent on anyone ever again. He would be in charge until his last breath.

     She telephoned him from Cambridge, outside St. John’s Library by the Bridge of Sighs. The punters were on the Cam River and the boaters screamed excitedly.
     “I feel shitty,” he said after she inquired.
     “I’ll be home soon.”
     “Are you still planning to go to Paris for three days.”
     “Yes. But I’ll be home afterwards.” Nothing was said.
     “Are you still there?”
     “Yes. I finished up the meatloaf.”
     She sighed. She had not given much thought to what he would eat or drink. In times past he had told her not to fix anything. He would go to his old standbys, Andale’s for Mexican, Harry’s Hofbrau, a Chinese cafe in their neighborhood.
     “Maybe we can go somewhere together again.”
     “Go? I can hardly make it to the garage to get in my car.”
     “I love you.”
     “And I love you.”

     Immediately, after their phone conversation, she borrowed a computer from the librarian at St. John’s and emailed Gordon. When she returned home, she found his answer to her on her computer:
To Arabel Alleman
Date: Friday, May 29, 2009, 9:38 AM
Lover girl. It was nice getting the email. I love you too and can’t wait to have you come home.
     He died Saturday, May 30th at 13: 46. She was in London.

     She hears him say over and over again, “You are abandoning me.” She is alive and conscious day after day. He cannot ever hear her, and he can never touch her. She knows he can no longer be full of despair and suffering but, for her, all is wormwood. It is unbearable for her to have to speak of the details of his suicide, though she can see his face blasted away, his body, white as a root, lying in a pool of blood in their bedroom. His aloneness. He had died all alone. He must have felt old, sick, and worthless. She is aware, angrily and bitterly and alone, until she feels out of her skin, that for him all is ended, “The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks/ That flesh is heir to!”
     She sees, too, if only in her mind’s eye, his handsome face, his clear blue eyes, his mischievous, playful, warm, animated self, engaged in jest or concentrating on solving a practical problem, measuring a circumference.

For more poetry, art and news from NLAPW, click here to order the Pen Woman Magazine. Our Fall 2015 edition is now available.

Art of the Week–the Pen Arts Building

From Treanor Baring, NLAPW Web Editor:

Today, our Art of the Week is a virtual tour of the most valuable asset and work of art in itself the NLAPW owns: The Pen Arts Building.

I have just returned from a working weekend at the Pen Arts building in Washington, DC, NLAPW’s historic headquarters, where I took these photos (except one).

The N street view of the Pen Arts Building, which occupies the corner of N and 17th in the historic Dupont Circle neighborhood.

The N street view of the Pen Arts Building, which occupies the corner of N and 17th in the historic Dupont Circle neighborhood.

Pen Women may stay in the building for a small donation, a fraction of the cost of any District of Columbia hotel. Non-members are welcome as well for a reasonable donation. See our brochure on our available guest rooms and donation rates by clicking here.

If you have not visited this treasure, an incredible legacy entrusted to our care, you must!

In 1950, Dorothy Betts Marvin, NLAPW President, bought the Pen Arts building and by 1956, she had raised enough money to pay off the mortgage, free and clear.
The Pen Arts is a permanent home for our priceless collection of art and books by women, as well as archives and historical documents.
As Darren Rodgers, NLAPW’s auditor has verified, ownership and upkeep of a building in the designated historic Dupont Circle district strengthens our IRS status as a 501c (3) organization. It also adds immensely to the prestige of belonging to an organization that takes its legacy seriously. Even if you cannot come to stay in the building in person, please consider a donation to our Commemorative Endowment Fund.

The Pen Arts salon, and the restored Steinway piano, our own concert hall

The Pen Arts salon, and the restored Steinway piano, our own concert hall


IMG_2673 - Version 2

Our Vinnie Ream room

Our Vinnie Ream room

Recent NLAPW President Elaine Waidelich’s Wall of Care, honoring those who donated to maintain our legacy.

The Wall of Care plaque in the foyer honoring donors

The Wall of Care plaque in the foyer honoring donors

The chandelier in the salon

The chandelier in the salon

The "servants' staircase", photo by Henry Baring

The “servants’ staircase”, photo by Henry Baring





Poem of the Week- Winter Rage & more


Orphaned at seventy-six
She knelt on the window seat
Lover of the stars
But frightened by the night;

Her mother, her best friend
Died in the fall
Father was a faded soldier memory
Killed in France;

The house, a gingerbread ghost
Of cornices and porches
Stood like a Victorian scrapbook
In the punk rock ruin of the city;

Lone curator of a private museum
She pressed herself between its pages
Like the nosegay
From her first cotillion;

Familiar objects conjured up
Their histories
As her life was auctioned off
Piece by piece;

The nursing home waited gravely
And the house would vanish
Into the greedy night;

For all the days
That could not come again
She smashed the stained glass windows
With her cane.

Linda Texter Hall
Diamond State Branch, DE

Editor’s correction: the deadline for submissions for The Light Between Us is January 1, 2015.
Click here for more info on submitting to our upcoming Pen Women Press publications.

Calls for Submissions

Our little and literary press is up and running: The Pen Women Press announces two new publications open to submissions from NLAPW members in good standing.

Poems of the Super Moon

Poems of the Super Moon, a volume of poetry by Pen Women, will be published by the Pen Women Press at the end of the year.
Deadline: December 8, 2014

Submission Guidelines

NLAPW Members: Please send your “Moon Poems” via email to pwpoems@aol.com for consideration with “Moon Poems” as your subject line. Include your name and branch/Member at Large status on the same page as the poem/s. Art, Music and Letters members are all welcome to submit.

Donations and Pre-orders will are needed to help cover the costs of the first printing. Please click here to pre-order.

The Light Between Us
True Stories of Healing through Creative Expression by Pen Women

DEADLINE: January 1, 2015

Submission Guidelines

NLAPW members are invited to submit work work for this publication.

Submit your true story of the impact of creative expression on a personal healing experience or the impact of a life experience on your artistic expression in 1200 words or less.
Use 12 point type and Times New Roman Font.
Submit your manuscript to: penwomenpress@nlapw.org with Light between Us in the subject line.
Include your name, address, phone number, email address and branch affiliation or Member-At-Large in the upper left hand corner of page 1.
Notifications of acceptance will be made by February 15 and publication is anticipated in April 2015.

Upcoming Webinar

Join Pen Women OnLine for a new live Webinar

Poetry In Schools

Students Soar Higher Through Poetry

Instructors: Virginia Campbell, Nancy Jurka, Joyce Gregor & Deborah Upton

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
7:00 p.m. EST
4:00 p.m. Pacific

Click here to visit our Pen Women OnLine page to register now using our secure payment system to participate in the live, interactive webinar.

The “Poetry in the Schools Project” has transformed both students and instructors alike in the Colorado Springs, CO area. This extraordinary instructional block is in its second year of encouraging 2nd graders to understand and create poetry.

This webinar brings together four of the program’s original creators to share the inspiring story of a dream turned into action. Watch these at-risk students’ creativity come alive through poetry and gain specific knowledge of the curriculum’s implementation and lesson plans. A must-see for all arts educators and supporters!

Art of the Week-Pumpkins & Poem-Saga of Lois Lane #1

Pumpkins Chella Gonsalves Modesto Branch, CA Oil en Pleine Aire

Chella Gonsalves
Modesto Branch, CA
Oil en Pleine Aire

Saga of Lois Lane #1

Never fall in love
With a wild roaming Superman.
Just call me Lois and be patient
While I write a story about this cosmic creature of a man.

He travels through constellations
That I watch fade with the rising sun.
I cry a billion tears
Missing my galaxy-driven, ever moving
All American Jedi on the run.

When again
Will he land on my porch and tell of his travels?
One year, two, maybe three?
Oh yeah, next summer
He said he would fly by here again
And I will be waiting on the porch, as I have been.

Despite my constant trying, year after year,
No matter my left brain’s song
And my heart meat spreading everywhere,
I can’t, I don’t, I won’t it appears
Erase him from my script
Delete him, find a new hero
Give a girl a princess ending
A carriage ride and then
Stop loving him,
My wild roaming, galaxy-driven, ever returning
Loveable, Jedi Superman.

We are not different;
Very much alike we are.
My travels require no movement.
I’ve already read where he travels to
And done what he is going to do.

Marilyn Lewis-Alim
Huntsville Branch

Fall 2014 Pen Woman magazine for sale! Click here to order.(scroll down-pumpkins on cover)

Art of the Week

Click on the image to see it larger:

West Marin Landscape Donna Solin Golden Gate-Marin  Branch, CA Oil

West Marin Landscape
Donna Solin
Golden Gate-Marin
Branch, CA

Poem of the Week-When I was Nine

When I was Nine

When I was nine,
my father taught me baseball.
Not how to take a stance
and grip the bat
or slide into second base…
but how to listen —
to close my eyes and visualize
the game.

And we would lie on the floor
near the hi-fi
in the dusk;
screen door open,
cushioned atop the loops
of the new, nylon wall-to-wall carpeting,
imagining every fast ball
from Sandy Koufax,
every base stolen
by Maury Wills —
almost tasting the peanuts
and feeling the metal seats,
listening to Vin Scully
making it seem real
play by play

side by side

just the two of us,


Nancy Haskett
Modesto Branch, CA

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Art of the Week–Concessions

Concessions Juanita Barrows Columbus Branch, GA Oil

Juanita Barrows
Columbus Branch, GA

Dance program at the Pen Arts Building this weekend–let your capital contacts know! Click here for more info.