Issue 105 — 

Sarah Browning (ArLiJo#105)
Joanna Howard (ArLiJo#105)
Katherine Smith (ArLiJo#105)


Sarah Browning Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 105.


Ballad of the Seven Days

For seven days she did this —
killed a man—
and on the eighth day
she rested
Put her feet on the railing
and drank sweet tea

Each man was locked in a shed
or in a barn on her father’s farm

the banker in the outhouse
you know he had to go

the minister with the sheep
and goats
she had a sense of humor
no one could deny it

Henry who milked
was in the shed,
the milking shed
the puling cows growing
heavy uddered, sleepy

Tony the Italian
who came round sometimes
to sell, his cast iron tinkling
in the distance, hoping
to sit with her a spell as the sun
crept away, hoping one day
she didn’t even know if he did hope
each visit the same, never closer
Tony was in the ice house
she could bring him out for a visit
a swing or see him there
whenever the dust put the aching
back in her eyes

the dust she had meant to clean
that busy week

Elliot and Joe, the brothers
were together in the woodshed
where they belonged
where they had always been
together the hatchets now
where they’d forced her mouth
before, their hands wide
with surprise, forgetting
their things, the history
of their things in the woodshed
There’s that humor all her own
once more

and Dad, Dad she’d laid out
in her own bed, it was one
he’d always claimed, his gray hands
happy now, frozen where they were
expecting the return of their childhood game
Sleepwalking Nightie, how it took off
on its own
when Dad visited
it walked a mile in the night

Yesterday Dad lay down
with the tiny nightie
between his legs. She’d asked
him to, closed his eyes dreaming
of her woman form, its new, mother size

Even the shot gun
was a woman


Copyright © 2017 by Sarah Browning.



We All Have Our Thing
      for Katy Richey

For Katy, it’s Womb, the squishy Earth
Mother inside us, warm and enveloping,

all the passive aggressive demands Womb
makes on women, on our aching poems,

how each month Womb punishes, pounds
with her Mama love against us, demanding

to come down and meet the guests, greet
the world in her Womb-Mama best red dress.

For me it’s Being, as in: I knew in the Depths
of my Being that . . . My Being apparently

has Depths, though no one’s located
the basement steps for me, led me past

earwigs and packed dirt, stacked kindling
and broken high chair tossed in the corner

to greet my Being. Perhaps my Being is
the only one lacking Depths, perhaps she’s

upstairs stretched on the couch, ogling
George Clooney’s wicked grin on TMZ.

Or maybe my Being’s hanging with Katy’s
Womb, trading dating tips, maybe they could

give a shit about their persnickety people,
Katy and Sarah, who can’t stand them.

Perhaps they’re writing their own poem,
The Womb Beings or In the Depths of

My Being, There Lives a Womb, a poem to
answer all poems, the poem school children

will memorize forever, not because they must,
but for its sheer power and gorgeous song,

the key it crafts to every rusty unyielding lock,
the door swung creaking but, at last, open.

All that fucking welcome.


Copyright © 2017 by Sarah Browning.




Body, Self, and All


What I loved of your
body: hard fingers

I took in my mouth,
would have kept

there forever if I
could: knuckles to

suck, nails to lick,
hair and its tickle,

fingers in the back
of the throat,

hand to mouth,
mouth to round belly,

long feet— the size
of you stretched

the length of me,
obliterating me. I

was in love with
disappearance,

how I slipped away
in our lovemaking,

my body left behind
in my stead, how

your hands drew
my map, inscribed

my key, how you
navigated my roads

and borders, forded
my many rivers,

wandered my thorny
woodlands. Until the

navigation of me
became routine,

all my byways
you thought you

knew, my paths
dusty, your hands

weary. I was a
lonely country then,

unpeopled and fenced.
My journey away had

not brought me back.
Body, self, and all—

I dropped off
the edge of that world,

the one I’d thought
was round.


Copyright © 2017 by Sarah Browning.




Day 7


After a week of no dialysis
my mother begins the true
work of dying. She twitches

and startles, mumbles. The sun
shines hard on the new snow.
Every few minutes

my mother shocks
awake, more electric than
in all the months of illness.

When I tell her the nurses
say it’s normal, it’s OK, my sister
takes me to the corridor—

Stop reminding our mother
that she is dying.
We do not know

what’s in our mother’s mind
and neither do the helpful
hospice pamphlets. We don’t

know what Balkan path
she might be hiking, what
war and boat and ocean

she might be crossing.
I fumbled our living, I know,
and now, too, her dying.

Except for this:
Today, at least, I do not leave.


Copyright © 2017 by Sarah Browning.



About the Author
Sarah Browning is the author of Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007). She is co-founder and Executive Director of Split This Rock and an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. She is the recipient of fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Adirondack Center for Writing. She has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and POETRY magazine. Browning co-hosts the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC

 

 


Joanna Howard Featured in ArLiJo in Issue 105.




Untitled

“Trauma Keeps Us Standing in the Same Place”
—Marilyn Kallet, Sept. 11, 2016

Ghosts keep floating from the screen
though the television has been turned off body
after body like laundry in the wind
Protoplasm writhing in suits from Barneys bleeding
through chef jackets outfits bought on sale
at Goodwill—souls blasted out of their
bodies no time to catch a spiritual drop down
mask to lead the way to the other side these ghosts
shot from crumbled and burning legs
torsos ripped away from shoulders
brains smashed to mud
These souls cling to the warm
electrons of last night’s news
and the hand that should have written this poem
hangs over a sheared slice of airplane
somewhere in Arlington


Unitilted first appeard in A Splendid Wake Poetry Pop-Up in June 2017.
Copyright © 2017 by Joanna Howard.



Pointing Out the Obvious

“You have my bue jeans,” Mom said
While folding laundry downstairs
In the basement of my dreams.

Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Howard.


Playing My Card Right

“Double Down” Dad advise me—
And like my sainted father,
I’ married not once, but twice.


Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Howard.



Old Bard’s Headache


Take away the rush and clutter
frantic dancing in my head.
Take away my plotting parley—
proffer passage to my bed.
Take away what’s mattered most
in the evening when I’m gone:
Take away my sacred touchtones,
my whiskey, pipe, and song.

Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Howard.



About the Author
Joanna Howard is a local poet and college professor who coordinates A Splendid Wake, a volunteer-based group working with George Washington University to archive the history of poetry in the DC area. She has been published in a variety of magazines and was a 2016 finalist in Arlington’s Moving Words Program.
 

 



Katherine Smith Featured in ArLiJo Issue 105.



Before We Move On

No matter how bad it gets, I’ll remember
the bench overlooking the docked ferry,
two women eating oysters on shaved ice
from a paper plate on a bench, ripping hunks
of sourdough wheat bread with raisins and butter.
No matter how unjust the scales that balance the life
of a single eight-year girl twirling an umbrella in the rain
against statistics, no matter the injustice of numbers,
I’ll remember the simple facts of steamed buns
with soy sauce, of the little boy on his father’s shoulders
waiting for hot chicken at the market, the mother
holding bunches of parsnips in one hand,
her daughter’s hand in another on Powell.
When I see the power of destruction
I like to admire the Aronson building’s
olive fruit amid foliage that survived
a century of earthquake and fire,
to gaze at the glass plates, teal-blue,
of the Jewish museum, the hopeful scaffolding
of the Mexican Museum. When I’m empty,
I like to walk through the new plaza to Jessie Street,
to turn onto Stevenson Street and back to Market
past a coffee shop where a man with his belongings
and his mangy dog in a heap at his feet is eating
a sandwich, drinking hot coffee. We live for the moment
of happiness before we are told to move on.
At the world’s end I hope I’ll remember the bus driver
and his passenger, a woman in a camel pea-coat
talking about the best way to cook pinto beans,
where to find the best soul food in Oakland
before he let her out of the bus at 3rd street.



Copyright © 2018 by Katherine Smith.



Ode to Orange

A little orange goes a long way, like friendliness:
a bowl of tangerines on a blue cotton table cloth
a single egg yolk for breakfast, the ginger cat
on the road slipping under the beach house,
fruity shadows in the pleats of a peach silk gown

Too much is the color of golden retrievers,
football fans filling stadiums, certain poisons
staining the ground. The mind hungers for mangos,
not so much for used car salesmen or fake tans.
After nibbling winter’s white crop, orange gnaws

through spring’s acres of cloudy pink blossoms,
swallows the blinding light of midsummer.
The autumn animal burrows into turbinado and acorn squash,
streaks apples with flame, stains the not-quite passion of persimmon,
stops before the inside of pomegranate.

There’s no heartbreak in orange, only a ripening to rust.
The closer you get to winter the less seldom it’s seen,
traffic cones, ambulances, emergencies, iron,
the jack o’ lantern with its grin of friendliness
teenagers hurled onto the street, eyes split open, spilling seeds.


Copyright © 2018 by Katherine Smith.




Happiness


We walked into the school board building in the rain,
my father and I, the July before the eleventh year
of my schooling began. My father in
the tan jacket with the zipper he wore
for all bad weather, winter or summer

stood behind me. I begged
the school superintendent, a black man
in suit and tie with a polite frown
to let me take the city bus across town
to escape the high school where I was the Jewish girl

whose family didn’t belong to any temple,
whose brother chanted Hare Rama in the library,
who never joined Young Life to pray around the flag pole
and scatter to spread the Good News after lunch,
who ate alone in shop class surrounded by the smell of burning metal.

I was bad news. Let me go somewhere else.
The superintendent smiled. My father’s shoulders slumped.
You’re zoned for that high school. You’d have to prove
the new school has something your old school doesn’t.

I thought hard. I’ll join ROTC. The two men laughed.

My father took off his jacket. The superintendent
signed the transfer. For the next two years I took the city bus
across the town to a school where no one knew me. The day
I never had to go back to the world I’d always believed was true
was the first good day.



Copyright © 2018 by Katherine Smith.




Easter



You decided the year you planted
petunias and marigold in terra cotta pots
behind the iron grillwork
that if the burden of earth wasn’t
too much for the balcony
it wasn’t too much for you
heavy with child. Many years later,

in the neighbors’ yard, little girls
in peach-colored dresses search for eggs
from what they mistake for a clump
of daffodils, sprouted through the body of a dead squirrel.
The children scream, run to their parents.
But you are in late middle age, with no one to run to.

Your life is made of glitter, mica, fools’ gold.
On Good Friday, the student from Togo wore a cardboard
sign around her neck that said, Trust Jesus
in sparkly letters. She asked What do you live for?
You smiled, answered I live to teach you
to write paragraphs with topic sentences and vivid detail.
I live to teach you to make sense
. She chuckled,
forgetting for one blessed instant
to praise Jesus.


Copyright © 2018 by Katherine Smith.


About the Author
Katherine Smith’s poetry publications include appearances in Poetry, Cincinnati Review, Missouri Review, Ploughshares, Southern Review and many other journals. Her short fiction has appeared in Fiction International and Gargoyle. She has had two publications of poetry: Argument by Design (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2003) and Woman Alone on the Mountain (Iris Press, 2014).