SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE HEART OF A WOMAN

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THE HEART OF A WOMAN
By Georgia Douglas Johnson

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Editor’s Note: No matter who you voted for in the primaries nor who you plan to vote for come November, there is no denying that this was an historic week in American history.

In this vein, I dedicate today’s poem–written by a black woman in a white age–to Michelle Obama, a black woman running the White House who reminded us this week that: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.” And I dedicate this poem to the fact that, for the first time in American history, a woman has been nominated by a major party to run for President of the United States of America.

Any (reasonable) reservations you (or I) may have about Hillary Clinton and our two-party system aside, this is a moment to pause and marvel, to appreciate what we have accomplished and to believe that this can–and should–be just the beginning of progressive progress. This is a moment to celebrate that the heart of a woman need not try “to forget it has dreamed of the stars,” for it need not break, break, break “on the sheltering bars.”

Georgia Douglas Johnson: A member of the Harlem Renaissance, Georgia Douglas Johnson wrote plays, a syndicated newspaper column, and four collections of poetry: The Heart of a Woman (1918), Bronze (1922), An Autumn Love Cycle (1928), and Share My World (1962). (Annotated biography courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.)

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: BLACK LIVES MATTER POETRY





“It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body. All you need to understand is that the officer carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy, and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be black.” ― Ta-Nehisi Coates



Editor’s Note: Every word I have attempted to write here has been wholly inadequate. I can only offer you poetry written by those who have lived an experience that I have only witnessed from the sidelines, in abject horror.


BLACK LIVES MATTER POETRY:

“Standing In Courage” by Jacinta V. White

“The All Black Penguin Speaks” by Roger Bonair-Agard

“Black Woman” by Georgia Douglas Johnson

#BlackPoetsSpeakOut

Black Lives Matter: A Roundup of Worthy Reads – The Poetry Foundaton

10 Artists of the Black Lives Matter Movement – Sojourners

Poets for Ferguson

Black Lives Matter – Renee Mitchell Speaks

‘Black Lives Matter’: A Poem by Nikkita Oliver

Anthony McPherson – “All Lives Matter: 1800s Edition”

Black Lives Matter/Freddie Gray Poem



SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TWO MERMAID POEMS


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Editor’s Note: In response to last week’s feature, Saturday Poetry Series favorites Erin Lyndal Martin and Elana Bell introduced me to two more fabulous mermaid poems. These poems have been swimming through my mind all week, and are too fantastic not to share. Get a taste here, then follow the links below to read each of these stunning poems in full.



from FABLE OF THE MERMAID AND THE DRUNKS
By Pablo Neruda, Translated by Paul Weinfield

But having come from the river, she understood nothing
She was a mermaid and was lost
Their insults flowed down her perfect, smooth flesh
Their filth enveloped her golden breasts
But not knowing tears, she did not weep tears


(Read the complete poem as translated by Paul Weinfield.)



from LATE SUNDAY MORNING
By Elana Bell

I kiss

the puckered lips, taste
ocean breath and remember

myself, slippery and long
under sun-slanted depths, swaying

to the whine of boats overhead.
I did not need you then, my scales

shining in their pristine sea.


(Read the entire poem in Winter Tangerine.)



Want to read more?
“Sunday Morning” in Winter Tangerine
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” as translated by Paul Weinfeild
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” in English and Spanish via Susan’s Place
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” on youtube, as read by Ethan Hawke



Today’s selections appear via Fair Use.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: GEORGE MOSES HORTON ON LIBERTY AND SLAVERY

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ON LIBERTY AND SLAVERY
By George Moses Horton

Alas! and am I born for this,
To wear this slavish chain?
Deprived of all created bliss,
Through hardship, toil, and pain!

How long have I in bondage lain,
And languished to be free!
Alas! and must I still complain–
Deprived of liberty.

Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief
This side the silent grave–
To soothe the pain–to quell the grief
And anguish of a slave?

Come, Liberty, thou cheerful sound,
Roll through my ravished ears!
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned,
And drive away my fears.

Say unto foul oppression, Cease:
Ye tyrants rage no more,
And let the joyful trump of peace,
Now bid the vassal soar.

Soar on the pinions of that dove
Which long has cooed for thee,
And breathed her notes from Afric’s grove,
The sound of Liberty.

Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize,
So often sought by blood–
We crave thy sacred sun to rise,
The gift of nature’s God!

Bid Slavery hide her haggard face,
And barbarism fly:
I scorn to see the sad disgrace
In which enslaved I lie.

Dear Liberty! upon thy breast,
I languish to respire;
And like the Swan upon her nest,
I’d to thy smiles retire.

Oh, blest asylum–heavenly balm!
Unto thy boughs I flee–
And in thy shades the storm shall calm,
With songs of Liberty!


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


George Moses Horton: (1798–1883) Born a slave on William Horton’s tobacco plantation, George Moses Horton taught himself to read. Around 1815 he began composing poems in his head, saying them aloud and “selling” them to an increasingly large crowd of buyers at the weekly Chapel Hill farmers market. Students at the nearby University of North Carolina bought his love poems and lent him books. As his fame spread, he gained the attention of Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz, a novelist and professor’s wife who transcribed his poetry and helped publish it in her hometown newspaper. With her assistance, Horton published his first collection of poetry, The Hope of Liberty (1829), becoming the first African American man to publish a book in the South—and one of the first to publicly protest his slavery in poetry. (Annotated biography of George Moses Horton courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.)

Editor’s Note: As Passover is coming up this week, I have been thinking about slavery and freedom. About histories of bondage and those who are still wandering in search of sustainable freedom today. As we remember our own slavery this Passover and celebrate our own redemption, may these words from another Moses help us to also remember the experiences of those who have likewise suffered, and to advocate for those who are wandering the world today in search of life and liberty.

Want to read more by and about George Moses Horton?
The Poetry Foundation
UNC Documenting the American South
Academy of American Poets

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE BOOK OF ESTHER BY STACEY ZISOOK ROBINSON

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By popular demand, in celebration of Purim we are re-featuring this stellar poem by Stacey Zisook Robinson, in conversation with your faithful editor at the crossroads of feminism and midrash.

By Stacey Zisook Robinson:


THE BOOK OF ESTHER

That blush on my cheek?
It’s paint,
And I have glittered my eyes
And robed myself in the finery
of silk and gossamer,
lapis and gold–
And whored myself for your salvation.

You asked for no thoughts.
You merely offered my body
to the king–
My life forfeit
If my beauty failed.

You asked for no ideas
And I gave you none,
Though I had a thousand,
And ten thousand more.

Diplomacy was played on the field of my body,
The battle won in the curve of my hip
And the satin of my skin,
Fevered dreams of lust
And redemption.

That blush on my cheeks?
It is the stain of victory
And of my shame.


Today’s poem was originally published on Stumbling Towards Meaning and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Stacey Zisook Robinson is a single mom. She sings whenever she can. She writes, even when she can’t. She worked in Corporate America for a long time. Now she works at her writing and looks for God and grace, meaning, connection, and a perfect cup of coffee, not necessarily in that order. Stacey has been published in the Summer 2013 issue of Lilith Magazine and in several anthologies including The Hope (Menachem Creditor, ed) and In Transit (BorderTown Press, Daniel MacFadyen, ed). Watch for her book, Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand, forthcoming from Hadasah Word Press. Stacey has recently launched a Poet in Residence program designed to work with both adults and kids in a Jewish setting to explore the connection between poetry and prayer as a way to build a bridge to a deepened Jewish identity and faith.

Editor’s Note: This week we celebrated Purim, a Jewish holiday that commemorates Queen Esther (5th c. B.C.E.) saving Persian Jews from genocide. Esther’s rise to power, however, was problematic. Her predecessor, Queen Vashti, was summoned to appear in her crown, ordered to display her beauty before the king and his nobles. The implication, according to many scholars, is that Queen Vashti was ordered to appear wearing only her crown. She refused, and it was suggested that she should be de-throned and replaced by a “worthier woman” so that “all wives [would] henceforth bow to the authority of their husbands, high and low alike” (Esther 1:19-20).

And there’s your daily dose of female oppression, Bible style.

"Vashti Refuses the King's Summons" by Edwin Long (1879). Public Domain image.
“Vashti Refuses the King’s Summons” by Edwin Long (1879). Public Domain image.














A search began for beautiful young virgins. Those who made the cut were subjected to twelve months of beauty treatments before the king would even deign to lay eyes on them. The hopefuls then appeared before the king, who did not see any of them ever again “unless he was particularly pleased by her” (Esther 2:12-14). King Xerxes liked Esther best of all the young virgins displayed before him, and crowned her queen in Vashti’s stead. Plot twist: the king did not know that Esther was Jewish, for she had deliberately kept that fact from him. In the end Esther was able to use her beauty to bend the king to her will, and when one of his henchmen sought to have all the Jews in the kingdom annihilated, Esther stood up for her people and they were spared.

While it is this end-result that is remembered and celebrated each year at Purim, it is Esther’s degrading rise to the throne—and what it cost her to to save her people—that is the subject of today’s poem.

To come to power, Esther had to take the rightful queen’s place and become the poster child for the idea that “all wives [should] bow to the authority of their husbands.” To catch the king’s eye she had to strip away her personhood until nothing was left but her physical beauty. “That blush on my cheek? / It’s paint, / And I have glittered my eyes / And robed myself in the finery / of silk and gossamer, / lapis and gold.” It was not her devotion to her people that allowed her to save them, but that she “whored [her]self for [their] salvation.” Nor did her people care who she was beneath her beauty, or whether she survived her attempt to save them: “You asked for no thoughts. / You merely offered my body / to the king– / My life forfeit / If my beauty failed.”

"Queen Esther" by Edwin Long (1878). Public Domain image.
“Queen Esther” by Edwin Long (1878). Public Domain image.
















Queen Esther was a pawn in men’s games, as women of history have too often been. “Diplomacy was played on the field of my body, / The battle won in the curve of my hip.” She used her beauty and her sexual allure because, as a woman of her time and place, they were the only instruments of power available to her. But if she were given a voice, she might speak of inner conflict. She might tell us what it feels like to lack the ability to either refuse or consent. Queen Esther was a hero, but what did it cost her to package and sell herself in the name of the greater good? “That blush on my cheeks? / It is the stain of victory / And of my shame.”

Today’s poem does what all great feminist biblical interpretation and midrashot do: it examines, deconstructs, and reconstructs androcentric assumptions, biases, and perspectives in biblical literature, placing women, gender, and sexuality at the center of reinterpretation.

In a time when the Bible is still being used to justify the oppression of women, we need much more of the important work Stacey Zisook Robinson is doing with “The Book of Esther.”

Want more from Stacey Zisook Robinson?
Stacey Zisook Robinson’s Blog
Stacey Zisook Robinson’s Official Website
Personal Essays and Opinion Pieces on iPinion
ReformJudaism.org

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KEETJE KUIPERS

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GETTING THE BABY TO SLEEP
By Keetje Kuipers


Sometimes the baby can’t reconcile
the self with the self: too hungry
to eat, too tired to sleep. I know

the feeling. O, America, on those nights
when you are too beautiful for me
to continue to forgive you any longer—

for allowing us to kill each other
with your graceless bullets, or exile
our neighbors across your fictitious

border, or argue over the ownership
of each young girl’s body as if its freedom
is a lie she must stop telling herself—

I go out into your radiant embrace.
The baby and I drive through your streets,
over the bridge and its light-chipped

waters, under a moon so big, so full
of itself that though I know it belongs
to the world, it can’t be anything but

American. I hang my arm out the window
and skim the air like touching skin.
I breathe you in, and the baby sleeps.


Today’s poem was originally published in
Blackbird and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Keetje Kuipers has been the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident, a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College. A recipient of the Pushcart Prize, her poems, essays, and fiction have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best American Poetry. Her first book of poetry, Beautiful in the Mouth, won the 2009 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and was published by BOA Editions. Her second collection, The Keys to the Jail, was published by BOA in 2014. Keetje is an Assistant Professor at Auburn University where she is Editor of Southern Humanities Review.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem absolutely blows me away. It is too powerful to contain, and yet it is perfectly wrought as if chiseled from marble. It is metaphor and life, politic and country, as near as a closely-held infant and as far as the moon. It is the American affliction: needless gun violence, our backs turned and hearts hardened against immigrants and refugees, our deep seated fear of women’s sexuality, freedom, independence. “O, America, on those nights… you are too beautiful for me / to continue to forgive you any longer.” Absolutely stunning. Heartbreaking. An outcry in the form of a quiet, contemplative drive, cruising America in an attempt to get the baby to sleep.

Want more from Keetje Kuipers?
www.keetjekuipers.com

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EMMA LAZARUS


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1492
By Emma Lazarus

Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate,
Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword,
The children of the prophets of the Lord,
Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate.
Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state,
The West refused them, and the East abhorred.
No anchorage the known world could afford,
Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.
Then smiling, thou unveil’dst, O two-faced year,
A virgin world where doors of sunset part,
Saying, “Ho, all who weary, enter here!
There falls each ancient barrier that the art
Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear
Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”


Today poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Emma Lazarus (1849 – 1887): A descendant of Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the United States from Portugal around the time of the American Revolution, Emma Lazarus was born in New York City on July 22, 1849. Before Lazarus, the only Jewish poets published in the United States were humor and hymnal writers. Her book Songs of a Semite was the first collection of poetry to explore Jewish-American identity while struggling with the problems of modern poetics. (Annotated biography courtesy of The Academy of American Poets.)


Editor’s Note: I wanted to share with you today a poem for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of newness, ushered in by sweet wishes of the year to come. But we spend the days that follow in contemplation of those regrets we have from the year past, in asking for forgiveness, and in letting go. When I came across today’s poem I thought of the Syrian refugees, of how the plight of exile has plagued my own people in the past, and how others are suffering from it today.

5776, the Jewish year that begins at sundown on Sunday September 13th, will be a “two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate” for countless Syrian refugees. That fate that my own people have suffered in the past is today their reality: “The West refused them, and the East abhorred. / No anchorage the known world could afford, / Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.”

Emma Lazarus is most famous for penning the words that appear at the base of the Statue of Liberty, wherein the “Mother of Exiles” declares, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” As we celebrate a new year, may the words of the Mother of Exiles find their way into the hearts and minds of ports and borders across Europe and throughout the world, “Saying, ‘Ho, all who weary, enter here!'”


Want to read more by and about Emma Lazarus?
The Academy of American Poets
Jewish Women’s Archive
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JAIMIE GUSMAN


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By Jaimie Gusman:


BABY

The baby carriage on top of the roof is too much. The husband says to his wife, it has to end here. Years before they were in love, the kind of love that was quiet but infectious. The kind of love that made their friends feel all the complexities of love with great jealousy and excitement. Now, the baby carriage is on the roof again, even though he brought it back inside just yesterday, after 13 hours of work at the shed. He was driving home when he saw it – navy blue with periwinkle-ruffled trim.

She sewed that trim herself. He remembered her pregnancy, her sewing. She made sure the detail was just right for their little boy. Her friends all said ooh and ahh and complimented her dedication and creativity. He remembers being proud of his wife, how that pride filled him, heated him up and up where the atmosphere was tempered by a soft breeze.

When they lost the blue baby she held him close. She sang him the lullabies she practiced late at night when she couldn’t sleep. She put him in the carriage and showed him off to the other mothers in the ward. And after even that, she did not want to let her blue baby go. Friends and family were worried. She sang lullabies all the time.

One day, her husband came home to a dozen watermelons swaddled in a bright cerulean celestial covered fabric. Our blue baby is safest at night. His wife put her head against the cloth of one melon. She looked bright. Sweet boy, she sang, dissolving into the fabric. And he thought that was enough, this tone, this textile. That she could be happy with this.



BIRDSONG

I hold my wedding dress tight,
the bottom, like tissue paper
prepped for plastering to a mannequin.
All the other brides, too,
hold white birds
against their thighs.

When we get to the altar,
the men pour forth.
They step up, one by one,
and point to a dress. A dress!
The man then opens his mouth,
and a bride crawls right inside it.

None of the brides are terrified,
but I can’t help but be disturbed.
These are swallowed women,
women that cling to rhinestones,
while layers of organza and silks
sway with an effortlessness numb.

When a man chooses me
I blush, but try not to.
He grabs my hand, lifting me
to the altar. I know what’s next,
I know I must get in position
and drop the dress so the train
makes a trail of feathers. I do.

What happens inside the mouth?
Nothing! A dark wet corridor
leads to another dark wet corridor.
I find a cool bench and listen
to his echoing thoughts.
I love this man, I begin feeling
and then saying out loud.

Where are the others?
Where are the glistening waistlines
that so briskly walked down
aisles before me? History?
I search my own wet echoes.
Hello, is this thing on?



Today’s poems are from the chapbook Gertrude’s Attic (Vagabond Press, 2014, © Jaimie Gusman ), and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Jaimie Gusman’s work has appeared in The Feminist Wire, Moss Trill, Sonora Review, B O D Y, Trout, Mascara Review, Unshod Quills, LOCUSPOINT, Capitalism Nature Socialism, Hearing Voices, Hawaii Women’s Journal, Tinfish Press, Spork Press, Shampoo, Juked, Barnwood, DIAGRAM, and others. She is the 2015 Rita Dove Poetry Prize winner, and has three chapbooks: Gertrude’s Attic (Vagabond Press, 2014), The Anyjar (Highway 101 Press, 2011), and One Petal Row (Tinfish Press, 2011). She lives and works in Kaaawa, HI.

Editor’s Note: What I love about today’s poems is the stories they tell. The lives–both inner and outer–they reveal. Stories reminiscent of beloved favorites like “The Yellow Wallpaper,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” and “The Story of an Hour.” Brimming with social commentary and strong with the struggles we don’t always speak of, these are the stories that must be told. And how brave, moving, and enchanting they are when Jaimie Gusman tells them.

Want more from Jaimie Gusman?
Jaimie Gusman’s Official Blog
One Petal Row
Gertrude’s Attic
The Anyjar
Two Poems in The Feminist Wire

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MONOZYGOTIC | CODEPENDENT

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From MONOZYGOTIC | CODEPENDENT
By Stephanie Bryant Anderson:



LONELINESS CAME INSIDE MY HOME, UNPACKED ITS
THINGS

I sat on the floor
in a blue room choking

on emotions, confessing
sadness to the cake falling

down my throat, wondering
how I have come to hate winter

when it snows
such beautiful white flowers.

But—

it’s the way I’ve neatly folded the laundry
over and over.

It’s the way fear visits me twice,
and courage once.

It’s the way I move alone at night
from the couch to the door

to the curtains,
back to the couch.

It’s how you catch me dreaming
and step over my body.



LIKE THE BLACK HOLE CARTOGRAPHER WHO WENT
HUNTING FOR WALNUTS

When the door closed this time, she knew it
       would be different. She saw his eyes—
emotionless ticks that had grown into the plural

patterns of empty walnut shells. Someone once
       star-mapped Aries the Ram, and generously
gave him horns. I am strong as an Ox

he reminded her as she stood to leave. Reminded
       her that she was the Year of the Rabbit with closed
curtains.

Safety over risk, she recalled looking at the door,
       but her body lied, it could not carry her there.
You cry too easily— he said, after the first hit

into her eye-bone crunched, sounding the way
       the nutcracker sounded when breaking open
walnuts. He stood over her

using the same angle God used to look down from.
       But, here, for her,
there was no longer a down—



ANXIETY WHILE CROSSING THE TENNESSEE-ARKANSAS
BRIDGE

Last November my sister got married.
My heart cropped, carried

for months in my handkerchief. At night
it would cry out from extinction.

This amputation being no small ache, I left
Tennessee, my heartbeat slow.

Memphis with her strange spell
filled my piano-ribs

with a slow blues loaded
with heavy bees and suicide ghosts.

The road tasted like salt. I drove until
I couldn’t see the shape of us,

until my heart could again beat
on its own.


Today’s poems are from Monozygotic | Codependent, published by The Blue Hour Press, copyright © 2015 by Stephanie Bryant Anderson, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



In Monozygotic | Codependent, Stephanie Bryant Anderson’s poems are concerned with splitting the self and uncovering the woman beneath the familial myths. Yet the essential paradox for Bryant Anderson: when the self has a twin—a ‘shadow,’ a ‘dark-haired mirror girl’—what then of the split? These poems ache; in the style of Southern gothic, these poems are ‘filled [with] piano ribs, a slow blues loaded with heavy bees and suicide ghosts.’ Bryant Anderson’s are poems of survival, built in fragile and beautiful shell casings, stanzas deceptively elegant and delicate, for what pinions each graceful couplet is a fierceness of spirit, a deep-seated desire for life, always life, even in the midst of pain and memory, ‘shaped as an open field plagued by black irises.’ I am broken and remade by these poems. —Jennifer Givhan, 2015 Winner National Endowment for the Arts fellowship


Stephanie Bryant Anderson is author of Monozygotic | Codependent (The Blue Hour Press 2015). Recent or forthcoming publications include Vinyl, burntdistrict, Rogue Agent and The Blueshift Journal. Besides poetry she enjoys kickboxing and math. Stephanie is founder of Red Paint Hill Publishing.


Editor’s Note: Monozygotic | Codependent opens with a quote from Sylvia Plath: “I do not know who I am, where I am going – and I am the one who has to decide the answers to these hideous questions.” And so Stephanie Bryant Anderson sets the stage for this brave, vulnerable collection. The journey the poet takes us on is deeply confessional, beginning in loneliness and ending in leaving, with panic, regret, abuse, anxiety, divorce, codependence, death, and God doggedly pursuing the I in-between. This is not the story of a light at the end of the tunnel; it is a story of survival. But there is so much beauty in the words, in their brutal honesty, in the intimacy of what is revealed, in the shared experience that arises when one speaks up about that which is too-seldom talked about. In this way, this book is Plathian, reflecting the intersection between lived suffering and staggering art.

Following the Plath quote, Monozygotic | Codependent welcomes us into its world with “Loneliness Came Inside My Home, Unpacked Its Things.” Here we sit on the floor. Here we are choking. Here we are eating our feelings. Here we are “wondering / how I have come to hate winter // when it snows / such beautiful white flowers.” A line so beautiful, it hurts to confront it. Like the idea of stepping over a woman dreaming.

From stepped over to stepped on, “Like the Black Hole Cartographer Who Went Hunting for Walnuts” takes us deep into the reality of a woman abused. She is not safe. She cannot leave. She is looked down on by man and God alike, only “here, for her, / there [is] no longer a down.”

In “Anxiety While Crossing the Tennessee-Arkansas Bridge” we encounter one of the major themes of the book: twin-ness. What it means to be a twin, to have been born into that level of codependence and to have to survive that conjunction into the individuality of adulthood. The result is a heart that must be “cropped, carried,” that has to learn to beat again on its own.


Want to see more from Stephanie Bryant Anderson?
Stephanie Bryant Anderson’s Website
Buy Monozygotic | Codependent from The Blue Hill Press
Follow Stephanie Bryant Anderson on Twitter

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MARIANNE KUNKEL

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By Marianne Kunkel:

A SLOTH FIRST HEARS ITS NAME

But why should it care? It munches
a cecropia leaf. It probes the air
with its blunt snout, detecting
a waft of sour coconut. It lumbers to a branch,
grabs hold with its claws, drops,
dangling upside down like a knapsack.
It doesn’t know to feel ashamed
that its name means lazy and sinful.
Like my little sister
after her abortion, when our father
changed her name from Molly to Molly.


Today’s poem originally appeared in Rattle and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Marianne Kunkel is the author of the chapbook The Laughing Game (Finishing Line Press), as well as many poems that have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Notre Dame Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. A former managing editor of Prairie Schooner, she is an assistant professor of creative writing and publishing at Missouri Western State University, where she edits the undergraduate literary journal The Mochila Review. Follow her on Twitter @mariannekunkel.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is awesome for a myriad of reasons. Because it is about sloths (sort of). Because it is about words, about labels, about judgment and ignorant bliss. Because it vibrant both with images and with sound. Because it houses epic proportions in eleven short lines. Because its advocacy relies on neither a soap box nor a sense of superiority. But what is most striking about today’s poem, perhaps, is its volta. The way it turns the world of the poem on its head. The way it leaves the reader staggering, contemplative, changed.

Want more from Marianne Kunkel?
Verse Daily
“To Pee or not to Pee,” Portland Review
“Keep Away,” Portland Review
Phoebe
Rattle