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Have a safe and healthy holiday season, everyone!
Click on the image to see it larger.
Have a safe and healthy holiday season, everyone!
This is what I look forward to every year:
watching A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life with you—
our bodies like crescent rolls on the couch each on opposite ends,
our heads resting on pillows borrowed from our beds,
our feet touching under a shared afghan.
This year something was different—
I reached for your hand
but you withdrew it,
and some part inside of me imploded
like a flower wilting in time lapsed photography.
Your hand from mine took with it
all of our traditions and all we have been to each other,
causing me to file us away into some dark corner of a closet
where I keep cards, photographs, report cards, graduation announcements,
all the evidence of your life.
I never wanted to put your love there,
retire it to some dark recess,
even if only for the time needed
for you to place your hand in mine again.
by D. Marie Fitzgerald
Palm Springs Branch, CA
Spirit, Peace and Joy 2nd edition is available. Take care of your last minute shopping with a click at our bookstore!
Please note: the deadline for members to submit poems for our literary press’s upcoming Poems of the Super Moon anthology is December 20, 2014.
Please send submissions to the Poetry Editor, Treanor Baring, at email@example.com with Moon Poem in your subject line. Be sure to include your byline and branch on the page with the poem. For complete submissions guidelines click here to visit our Publications page. Book orders will pay for the printing, so please think about ordering several as gifts. To pre-order, click here to visit our Bookstore.
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The 2nd printing of our stunning poetry anthology, Spirit, Peace and Joy is now available
Demand for this collection of uplifting poems was so high a second printing was ordered and has now been delivered to the Pen Arts building. Order now to fill this holiday season and the New Year with Spirit, Peace and Joy! We’re not Amazon, so we can’t promise a delivery schedule, but the administrative assistant to the NLAPW will rush this new printing out to you as fast as possible.
$10 plus shipping
Order now using our secure on line payment system:
OR send a check made out to NLAPW with your name and address and order total to:
Pen Women Press
Spirit, Joy and Peace Order
1300 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036-1973
Pre-order our next publication now–Poems of the Super Moon
Pre-order Poems of the Super Moon, the latest in the Pen Women Press’s collection of poetry by Pen Women. Our literary Press relies on sales to cover costs, so get your order in soon to help us get it to the printer.
In the aftermath of winter storms,
broken marriages, death, and a quest
for independence a group of women
various ages, hair colors etc. gathered before a fire
to roast marshmallow Easter candies called
Peeps. Creme brûlée on a fondue fork.
Good scouts that they were, creativity
& indoor fireplace saved dinner. A sudden rainstorm
soaked the plan to cook wieners over a bonfire
in the back yard. Every single woman lost a father
to heart disease when those fathers were fifty.
A strange, sad community.
But the elders, this tiny group of survivors,
delighted to shock younger, tales of sex,
older women & erotic experiences, LOL,
collect sex-toys, dream of lovers. One dreamer,
a poet. She read to them while embers, eyelids simmered
low. They slept with dogs, woke up, faced new
adventures. Next morning, poet noticed the fire.
Rekindled through night, ash-camouflaged coals.
Not unlike a metaphoric older woman; holds heat.
One candle continued to waver from mantelpiece after
they’d gone to bed, guarding all sleepers and travelers
through darkness with fragile
by Rachael Z. Ikins
Central New York Branch, NY
Note to NLAPW members: The deadline for submissions to the Pen Women Press Poems of the Super Moon anthology is now December 20, 2014. Poets will be officially notified of inclusion after the deadline. Address any enquiries and submissions to the Poetry Editor, Treanor Baring, at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Moon Poems. Be sure to include your name and branch (or MAL) on the page with the poem! For full submission guidelines, click here.
When I awaken in the night
full of longing and loneliness
thinking of him,
I close my eyes, pull the covers closer,
and return to the music of the forest.
Crossing all boundaries,
I find my way back
to the golden meadow,
the glowing embers of the campfire,
the smell of wood-smoke and pine.
And once again,
beneath a silver moon
and an eternity of stars,
I fall asleep in his arms.
Cape Canaveral Branch, FL
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On the plane
In a row by myself
I don’t have to talk
I don’t have to listen
Soothing hum of the motors
Air pressure so loud
It blocks out other voices
Look out the window
Why can’t troubles,
Heartache – hurt
Be as quiet as
by Bea Doone-Merena
Boca Raton Branch, FL
About this poem: This poem was written by Boca Branch art member Bea Doone-Merena at a recent poetry workshop conducted by Marlene Klotz, Boca Raton Branch Poetry Chair. Ms. Klotz describes the workshop:
Our workshop turned into a memorable experience.
Everyone got into the act, even the nurse who accompanied
a member who has trouble walking. I based our theme on
the inspirational poetry of Maya Angelou, with special
emphasis on her book, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”
Our ladies are not caged birds. We give ourselves the
freedom to be our own selves. At the same time I introduces
the women to the poetry and quotes by Angelou, I made sure
to throw in lots of humor. We had a noisy and happy afternoon.
Some of the poems were funny. Joni Sack made us all laugh.
As I explained, poetry begins with a thought, a feeling, well chosen words,
then best words in the best order.
Moon-white the Snowy Owl flies
swallowing December’s darkness like prey,
waiting for the sun,
being the one
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.
Pikes Peak Branch, CO
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.
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).
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.
Recent NLAPW President Elaine Waidelich’s Wall of Care, honoring those who donated to maintain our legacy.
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