Song of my battered soul

temi rose

I must lose this sadness
Take it deep in the woods
Make sure it has no bread
To crumble on the ground
It must not follow me home

I must lose the sorrow
This weight I carry in my thighs
In my heart - the song
That presses joy out and moves
Me towards ledges, bridges and razors

I must lose this sense of being
Unequal to the situation, incapable
Of living a good life
I must lose this sadness Come home alone in peace and tenderly
Caress the night and my solitude
I must lose this sorrow
Bathe myself in light and forgive myself

My trespasses as I have forgiven others who have trespassed against me

I will lose this sadness

From an ontology of everyday things to an epistemology of desire.




1304 Third Street

Catasauqua, Pa. 18032

women's poetry for a change

issue # 61 spring 2004

ISSBN 0888-9058

$5.OO/£ 3.50


rochelle hope mehr

I am suffocating on your good intentions
they cut off my air supply
what have you done?
nothing so awful
on the face of it
but I wear down so easily
when your hands grind me
to a fault

I know you mean well
but I can't change my face
my way of looking at the world
it may not please you
but it's mine
and I cling to it
I won't put on the blush
or cosmetically remove the scar

to appease you
leave me the bar
leave me this last semblance of my sanity
of my sanctity
let me retain
freedom so precious
my own measured thoughts
unfettered by exuberance


rochelle hope mehr

it seems as if you can't get anywhere
in this world
except by crowding out others
I can't grab opportunities
like balloons
and flit from job to job
from man to man
not if it means lording it over
friends and loved ones
those I've a loyalty to
better them than I
I can't crowd them out
let them capitalize
let the balloons explode
in their faces
leave me safely, quietly

the woman and the moon

margaret boles

the woman and the moon
they are opposite sides
of the same coin
both are kin to the tides
moon governs
while woman is controlled by the
living tides of life

can I call it poetry?

margaret boles

sometimes I feel
with the weight
of words
to be woven
into a mosaic
of sound and form
the pressure of this task
at times confuses
as this jagged jumble
erupts onto my page
and then I wonder
can I call it poetry?


temi rose

in the middle of the night
while we spend time dreaming
and you sit alight a star
and sing your darkness feeling
sad and all alone don't despair
silly one I am there and you are not alone

not right

margaret boles

I can not 'not write'
for writing helps me
to make sense of 'we'
for you do not
know where you end
where I begin and
we find

so hard to
accomplish for
it seems when

we are together 'I'
am wiped out

you are you
and I am me
and writing helps
me makes sense
of me and of

the ribbon of the day

kathryn paulsen

Each morning Angela tied her hair in the ribbon on the day. She didn't have just seven the way girls have panties. She had colors and patterns, some of them raveled at the ends, all of them bent at the spots where the knots came, none of them washed in months or years."I like you," Daddy used to say. "I like you with a ribbon in your hair." Yet he had never bought her one. She picked them herself. There were some so beautiful she hadn't dared wear them.

She liked to imagine herself in a dress of ribbons, all draped from one winding around the top of her bodice, blowing in the wind, exposing her thin flesh. But it would be expensive, so many ribbons. Sunday's was turquoise. It didn't match what she was wearing, but no matter. It was her mood. With a brilliant sky, as hot as hell, she flouted the clouds. She stroked and twirled her scanty pony tail and the rich, ridged grosgrain. That afternoon, she and Lela had had a fight over a toothbrush. Later they would wonder why. Later they would drop their eyes and apologize and put their heads together as if they were telling secrets and even kiss and let a tear or two paint pink lines on their cheeks. It was all show, purely for Daddy. Lela had a weak chin and was from Boston. Angela didn't like her.

Monday's was yellow. If the other girls condescended to criticize her, they might have said it brought out the sallowness of her complexion but she knew they wouldn't bother. She thought instead of velvet, toasty butter. It was nice to have enough of it to smear on whatever you wanted. Angela worried that the butter they got from the cow on their farm was too white. She worried, even though Daddy said it was the best butter.Angela's first chore of the day was to set the table for lunch. She used the metal tumblers they'd got from eight books of Green Stamps and she gave Daddy the gold one and herself the blue.

She couldn't give Daddy just any color; she'd never give him white or red or purple, and rarely brown or green. She couldn't tell you why, except that the white one had a permanent brown ring inside its joint from bad dishwashing. Except that something bad might happen, she couldn't tell you what. She wouldn't give herself those colors either; but sometimes, when she was feeling out of sorts, she'd give herself and another girl the same color, maybe the blue or orange. But no one else could ever have Daddy's color.

So when there wasn't enough tumblers to go around without using two gold ones, Angela had to ask Terry to wash one. Terry didn't like that one bit. She asked what was wrong with the other gold one, and Angela had to say it wasn't clean. Terry gave it a quick rinse, and Angela said it still

here I am again

temi rose

I came here looking for something
I came here looking for something
I found more than I bargained for
I came here to shed my skin
I came here to begin
by ending something
what's it for?
accumulation of property
accumulation of experience
practice on the tight rope of existence
out from nothing
into emptiness
I came here looking for something
the city of light
longing longing
that's what I remember
my baggage: twenty three years of desire

wasn't clean. Terry said Angela was crazy; Angela said she'd wash the blankety-blank glass herself. Terry said why not use a glass-glass instead; there were plenty of those. Angela said she didn't think Daddy'd like it. And that settled that.

Tuesday she chose a pattern for change, though lately she'd preferred the pure true strength of colors, no fads. But this ribbon was sweet, a sweet striped powder pink and powder blue. "Ain't she sweet," she imagined Daddy singing to her, as he sang to one or another of them now and then, but less and less lately, "See her walkin' down the street. Now I ask you very confidentially." That afternoon came her weekly trip to town. She went with Bobbi and Dana, whom she didn't mind, except for the silly way Bobbi spelled her name and topped the I with a circle or even a heart, even sometimes with an arrow through it. How childish could you get? But Bobbi drove the truck and drove it well. And Daddy called her a sergeant, whereas Angela was only a PFC. Angela thought it was about time she got a license, if only Daddy could find the time to teach her how to drive.

In town they bought groceries, ate ice cream sundaes, and spent their allowances - Bobbi on movie magazines and stationary, Dana on two paperback mysteries and Angela on candy bars and ribbons, thin little ribbons she thought she'd wear two, three, four at once.

She was tempted by a black velvet one, but she didn't think she was ready for black velvet. On the way back Bobbi asked them what they'd wish for if they could have one wish. Bobbi would wish for one of those Mercedes with the diesel engines. Dana wished for trip to Paris, a whole year in Paris. "I don't know," said Angela when her turn came. "There's so much." Her mind was still on her ribbons. "Give me a minute and I'll think of something." But quickly they began talking about something else. Angela thought it was a good thing she hadn't told her wish, because if she had it wouldn't come true. And she thought there was a chance, just a chance but one worth keeping, that Daddy could see what wishes were in their hearts and grant them. She admired the brilliant sunset they were driving into even though it meant they were late for dinner.

Wednesday's was orange, a very old orange, turning brown at the tips but the rest of it still fine. Angela had never washed it or any of the others because she was afraid they'd fade or grow limp, even limper than they were for all the wearing. She never lent her ribbons, but then no one asked her anymore. Late in the day, Peggy Sue did a dance out front by the road, wiggling her hips a lot and swinging her arms. She was dressed like a harem girl, tied in lots of scarves, she had almost as many scarves as Angela had ribbons, and wearing bright red jewels on both hands and around her neck. She said they were rubies, and it didn't matter that they were made from taillights by kids at a farm down the road, because they looked like rubies. They twinkled and danced, better than Peggy Sue, Angela thought. Peggy Sue spent most of her time playing little 7 inch


barbara stacy

naked in the ocean of cold air
I plunge into warmer water
breaking the leafy shadows
into rings that swim with me
up and down this garden pool
here is peace and such silence
as if the world had knocked off
for an afternoon and left me
all the water on the planet
for my wetness - brooks and lakes
Nile and Pacific surging
between my legs and I become
an aquatic creature, finny
joyous as a thousand fish
shaking their tails
dancing in the dark.

bon voyage

rochelle hope mehr

he yells now
because the cancer has spread to his brain
he yells at me for trying to spoon-feed him tuna fish
says the pills make him ill
he knows I mean well
he'll get up tomorrow
he's having bad dreams
he has to sleep
put out the light

and I think we are all in some way
touched in the brain
none of us really well
all of us hovering on a plain
shitting in our underwear
fuming in not-so-quiet despair
not so gentle
nor so brave
as we fumble our way
past the Everyday

My Environment

temi rose

Once upon a time a long long time ago
there lived a princess with a heart of steel.
incomplete incense
failed for ever
notice nothing
stay in the place you started
wrap yourself in substance
enlarge your self

after effects of shock include
failed nervous system
weakness intervening in each interaction
fear mandates loss of control

too rigid
too stiff
too much pain
don't stop
don't think
don't wait
keep it up
don't let go
too hard
to know
to own
it all

records on her portable record player and dancing around it. When she did it outdoors, boys would watch her, getting randy as squirrel, Daddy said, but he didn't mind. Daddy used to spend more nights with Peggy Sue than with anyone else. Angela knew because she counted. Lately Daddy'd been favoring Debby most, but he still spent a lot more time with Peggy Sue than with Angela.

Thursday's was red, but it didn't make her feel bloody. Or fiery either. To tell the truth, Angela had no imagination when it came to red, none at all. But that didn't mean she didn't like it as well as any of the others, better even. Thursday was her day to do the ironing, the job she hated most of all. She thought her turn had come too soon again, but Daddy didn't like complainers. The worst part of all was ironing things she knew belonged to Debby. If only she dared burn a hole in Debby's precious purple shirt. Of all the girls here, Debby was the one Angela hated worst. She hated the very name Debby, she would hate anyone else unfortunate enough to bear that name. Once Angela imagined, the way other people dream, that Daddy said to them, "Your names are all wrong, I'm going to rename you." And Lela became Gloria, Gloria became Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue became Lela, and Angela became Debby. She heard it like a stab in the heart. And she left for the kitchen, intending to stab herself.

Friday's was purple, but Angela hardly had time to choose. She rose just before four, when everyone was awakened by the screams of Gloria, whose baby was ready to be born. "He's coming out, he's coming out," she shrieked, but it was hours and hours til he finally did and she screamed all day. Daddy wasn't disturbed to hear her. "Sounds real healthy," he said, but he didn't come near her, not even into the room. He said it was woman's business. The only ones who stayed in the room were Jennifer, who was a nurse and finally delivered the baby in the afternoon, and Dana and Lela. Angela and the others fetched them food and things from time to time. Angela couldn't stand to look at Gloria who was white as a ghost and, Angela was sure, in danger of becoming one. Later, she wished she hadn't had to see the newborn still attached with its bloody rope to Gloria who just lay, still ghostly but quiet now, with her eyes shut. It made Angela want never to have a baby. Daddy always said he wanted her to have one, but he never could seem to find the time.

Saturday was white. Pure, colorless ribbon for a colorless day. The quietest day Angela could remember, everyone seemed busy elsewhere and chores were neglected or accomplished out of her sight. She wondered whether the others who were no doubt still attending on Gloria had moved her somewhere else. Gloria's room was the quietest place of all. Everyone but Gloria was at supper. But when Angela asked how Gloria was doing, girls just shrugged and shook their heads and said they didn't know, they hadn't seen her. Angela didn't like supper. Besides spaghetti, there were home


mary laine yarber

She rounds her coral lips and
whistles a robin's song
flushing blood and air from
lungs to make room for one last
breath and dives ivory-nude
but for fins waggling
into pale and somber water
a silent graceful arc sinking
past orange ball anemones
and purple tub sponge
her lungs compressing
under meters of green
she can't hover long in
the alluvial cave scooping
crusted mollusks into a
twined reed bag and must
soon flutter-kick back
toward a wet undulating sky

where she will discover
the one
in ten thousand
a lustrous ivory ovule
chaste beneath
its filmy

canned green beans, which she suspected of botulism. It particularly disturbed her that her portion was the only one taken from the new can. If just one girl had taken seconds from the new can, Angela might have been willing to run the risk but no one did. So she moved the beans around with her fork and pushed them to the sides of the plate. "Angela, you haven't touched your green beans," Daddy said. "I'm too full," Angela said, assuming she would merely be deprived of dessert. "It was too big a helping."

"But you didn't eat any, did you? No one's leaving this table til Angela eats her beans, every one of them." Angela sat silent for a whole ten minutes. Everyone else was silent too, not looking at her, she could tell, though her own eyes looked straight ahead, but exchanging with each other sneers meant for her. They seemed to her to be talking about her silently to each other saying how much they despised her. Even Daddy? Even Daddy. She thought she could stand it, but she couldn't. It was just too much. Finally she crammed all the green beans into her mouth and swallowed them at once. She could feel them go down into her esophagus in one large lump. "Good girl," Daddy said. "Want some pudding?" Angela shook her head and ran from the table, without asking leave, to the toilet, where she tried unsuccessfully to vomit. Hours later she did vomit, though suddenly, and over and over and over. She was sure she was dying for the few minutes that were all she later remembered of the time.

The next morning's was green. She hardly felt strong enough to put it in her own hair but Dana said that was just because she needed something to eat. Dana brought her breakfast in bed. She was wearing a coat and carrying a large battered suitcase. When Angela asked her where she was going, she said just away for a few days. Then Angela asked how many days had passed since she'd got sick. Dana said no days at all; it was just the next morning. "Sunday then?" asked Angela. Dana said yes, and left. Angela woke again at dusk, feeling much better, though still a little groggy, and got up. She put on the freshly laundered but unironed bathrobe that was lying at the foot of the bed. She knew she should really dress but they'd make allowances. How would they know she wasn't still sick? She wasn't sure herself yet. The house was very quiet. She didn't hear the dinner sounds; it should have been about the hour unless it was earlier or later and everyone was outside. But usually she could hear what was going on outside.

In the empty room she began to be afraid. It was empty not only of girls but of many small objects, Daddy's fur pillow and rug, figurines, needlework. The fruit bowl and the flower jug had been taken from the dining room table. Angela walked through the whole house, through every room, and found all clothes and personal belongings gone though most furniture remained. There was food in the kitchen though. Angela opened some store-bought beans and ate them cold. After that she picked up the telephone

I keep a piece of paper

margaret boles

I keep a piece of paper
with her handwriting on it
it's of no earthly use to me
but something stays my hand
were I to put it in the bin
her hand was so consistent
it's style, of her time
it's etched in memories
of long ago, before every
individual would have
had a phone, and so

she would write to me
I keep a piece of paper
with her handwriting on it
shopping list reminder note
I cannot throw it out

the bone of the hawk

rochelle hope mehr

I do better approaching objects obliquely
my directness warps me into tunnel vision
and I miss the crux of the issue

I misled you, but not intentionally
I was in the wrong path and bid you follow me
I was able to swerve when the storm clouds gathered
you were already past
and I could not draw you in

you told me to go away
as the veil of death compassed you

I saw the shroud
the headstone
the bone of the hawk

they lie together

eleanor koldofsky

they lie together side by side naked
warm moving freely for necessities
that the passage of time demands - a
tissue for sniffles reaching over each
other to adjust lights papers pencils
drinks leaving abruptly the opened
divan for tea or coffee or peeing or
champagne (the favorite) returning
running back speeding tippy-toe into
their room diving into the crumpled
disarray of bedclothing sheets
blankets comforter to find that warm
length of body to stretch against the

extended elegant arm the long well
padded thigh the bodies coming
together the always pleasure of the
contact glancing off each other and
returning in movements intimate and
possessive proving oneness a unit
talking of everything minds in free
flight soaring agreeing teasing as little
destruction as possible recalling early

years without the other wondering of
all wonders that they had met all the
previous years preparing them for this
however long it would last came up
frequently for review eyes melting into

each other's minds was sufficient

reply turning to one another and lips
brushing against cheek ear throat
mouth while hands seek stiffening
nipples dimpled buttocks muscled
backs strong arms thighs moving
smoothly freely form the swell of
honeycomb juices welling up to prime
the body for the gift the slackening of
the thirst for love in which they
indulged themselves the luxury of
time adding an element of desire that
they exercised in all ways that bodies
may meet and caress languorously
creating a fusion and exstasy that
they had never known the silence
small kisses sweet moans smiles of
ownership. one

receiver. The phone worked all right, but she didn't know who to call. The truck was gone, and all the bicycles but one with a flat tire. But it was too late to go anywhere anyhow. So Angela went back to her room, and it was there on her dresser where she should have seen it as soon as she got up, a note from Daddy. "Dearest sweetheart, baby Angela," it began, and said they had to leave suddenly for reasons that he would explain when he saw her. The rent and telephone were paid; if she wanted to order groceries from the store, they would be paid for too, an account had been opened for her. Someone had to stay, Daddy said. He couldn't force her to, but he asked her to. Daddy asked her to stay. She could but obey.

The ribbons would stay in their drawer til his return. He said he'd return but time passed. How much Angela didn't know, she did not keep track. She passed her time watching television, and walking around the grounds. She kept expecting a passerby to notice her but no one did. She did have some company. They'd left her the cow and some rabbits and chickens. It was lucky she liked eggs. She thought about tying a ribbon around the cow's bell, after Daddy came back.


rochelle hope mehr

one day
I'l write something
I'll put it away
take it out later
and throw it away
I won't hound editors
with words of distress
I'll rip up the paper
I'll sweep up the mess
I'll pack my bags
find a new address
and escape into


rochelle hope mehr

why does it bother me?
I shall have to read what the psychoanalysts say

if I resemble her physically, does that make me her clone?
my father, as he lay dying, called me by her name and I tried to feed him

does that make me a nurturing mom?
He died, after all, and I don't think he knew what hit him

could have been a wayward tree
could have been a bomb

why does if matter, this business of differentiation?
this matter of falling far from the tree

I'd like to be the apple that falls so far
and sounds nothing but dead air

layers underneath

margaret boles

when we were four and five
she brought us
to live in the country
now I know
she was running away in a sense
running from herself
and her own inadequacy
in the country it would be easier
to cover her tracks
to rewrite history
pretend to a past
that wasn't hers
a sophistication
she wasn't born with
but wore as a glove
so convincingly that
she convinced herself
that she'd lived
a different life


rochelle hope mehr

it's strange how the eye is drawn immediately across the room
as if nothing is gone
is it that the space has shrunk?
collapsed into itself?

before it held a bed
the bed held a man writhing in despair
the man's breath got stuck in his throat
his eyes fixated
what did he last view in that huge blue stare?
the man is gone
the bed is gone
the space is gone too
as if it were never there

the apricot tree

mary laine yarber

I cannot eat an apricot
without giggling just a wink

league of hearts

temi rose

league of hearts starts now
at the end of enchantment
at the loss of derangement
at the time of the honeysuckle

the league of hearts
was initiated in dark times
came to be in the time when women spoke beyond
their ability to comprehend
they held back from logic
worried that cold ratiocination would harm babies
they were right
logic does harm babies
the thing is
we grow up
and live longer
so age is now something to be reckoned with
just as infancy was once

the league of friends whose hearts I hold
in mine
will never vanish
not death or mutilation
not pain, humiliation or momentary grandeur
will release us from the tender mercy of love
known and unknown friends
abide here

sea longing

margaret boles

I'm going to sit and satisfy my sea longing
and gaze out over the waves
they're gentle today but more than lip-lapping
I'll count for the seventh, the largest wave
and smell the surf and spray
a lone gull here and a trio there
as they fly low over the sea
the evening sun catches the white feathers sparkle
and glint like rare jewels against the sky
I will tell the sea rare secrets
of things I barely know
of spirits who loved and loved her
long, long ago


mary laine yarber

I was only out for cough drips and dinner, a desperate errand through lashing snow. But ragged and achy. I have sloughed home to the wrong house, two stories of mustard clapboard and a mailbox with one name newly scratched away. Your kitchen spills saffron across twilight and snapping wind, nearly reaching the shadowed curb where I watch. I can't see the table of thick knotted oak but still know the cobalt stoneware you have laid at its far end, the last dish not crunched underfoot. I paw muck from my nose as you light candles of evergreen on a side board, swirl cinnamon into steaming cider, and gaze out a window at spiteful flakes that whorl wisps of asthma into my choked lungs. Chill pierces my coat as steam wafts from the pot where you stir chicken into chowder. My eyes, swollen and glazed, weakly follow licks of firelight on your sable hair and when your head lilts and shoulders sway I know the long climbing stretch of Chopin is about to make you weepy, though all I hear is the soft clank of a street light swinging against the tap of flakes. I long to thumb the tears that sear your cheeks no longer mottled and bruised, but you don't believe promises sworn on the unsure light of stars.

and our children

margaret boles

and our children
you cannot live their life for them
you cannot dream their dreams
for they live in the land of tomorrow
they dream tomorrow's dreams


eleanor koldofsky

once upon a time there was a beautiful
canvas. large, white, shimmering, aglow
with light; the brightest lightening white
the canvas was suspended in time, floating
and waiting. one day a painter searching
the world for just such a canvas came upon
it and with delicate and wonderful touching
and devising; with magnificent colors of
every hue; working devotedly, tenderly
covered the canvas in a majestic design
after resting and viewing and revelling in the
splendor the canvas now portrayed, the
artist once again in a marvelous display of
ingenuity drew magical colors over the
original pattern, causing the canvas to
undulate with exstasy and self pride, being
the recipient of such caressing strokes
one more time the artist retired to
contemplate this marriage of color and
canvas. desire to complete and satisfy the
loving canvas, now trembling with the
knowledge of its worth and beauty, charmed
the artist to cover slavishly and with even
further perception the entire canvas with all
of the brilliance of nature's colors - leaving
at the top right hand corner an untouched
circle. and from a circle of light left
untouched, over which no color could ever
be, the now magnificent canvas looked
down upon itself with pride and pleasure at
how beautiful it had become; never to return
to the paleness of its previous self. the
artist waved goodbye and blew a kiss which
floated up to the circle and caused it to

the end

love me today

eleanor koldofsky

love me today, not tonight
love me as I'm standing here
not when I lie
although, I am more vulnerable that way
i'm here now
the car is smashed
love me now

love me in the daylight
when all is hell
not the moonlight night
everything s'well

when the dinner is late
when your boss is having a crisis
nice is
love me today
don't love me for my sexy bits
have your eggs and soggy chips
with ketchup if you must
but love me in the daytime
and at night - carry on with lust