Editor’s Note: Watch the don’t die press blog for some oldies but goodies from an earlier era of S/tick!
by Megan Harris
My mother is bone white and black
daughter born from cocaine breath
came out on the cusp of winter.
A wispy gasp and darkened heart
skin is paper stretched over bone
white sheet, dark pen, dark red.
Mother warns daughter to not love death
to not long to feel his dark eyes
fall upon her breasts.
Daughter is of winter locking,
a chest begging to be opened to light,
fill the lungs with dirt and breathe life.
Mother is bone white and black,
her burning head stares down
Daughter turns away again – frozen.
This excerpt by Katherine Davis will appear in S/tick’s upcoming Issue 4.3!
Against other women, I was made to stand naked as an
Anatomical model, while doctors lectured bunches of aspiring
Residents, all generalizations based on the study of the patriarchal.
Told repeatedly my feelings were impossible, I burrowed under
My skin, bathed in oxygenated blood, vital energy, constructed
An interior palace until I was old and learned and far away
Excerpt by Naomi Borkent. Read the rest in Issue 4.3 — coming soon!
Maybe you would’ve preferred
A woman with soft legs
That can’t stand up for themselves.
Not like mine, strong,
Able to kick, able to run.
Then I remember that they did not stand like trees
Enjoy merlin’s artwork and artwork by Elaine Woo and Carla Tree in Issue 4.3 — coming soon!
Excerpt by Colleen Donnelly — read more in Issue 4.3, coming soon!
Felicia momentarily pulled her glasses down, seeming to stare dutifully, sympathetically, peering into Ms. Levine’s heart. She made her voice waver just a tad, as she lowered her tone to utter the always terrifying edict, “You have cancer.” She could hear the whistle as Ms. Harding gulped back air. “Colorectal cancer. Stage III. I’m sorry to say the prognosis is not good.”
She watched Ms. Levine intently as she delivered the sentence. Ms. Levine seemed to shrink in the chair, head dropping, shoulders caving, as she tried to draw herself into a protective ball. Felicia held her hand out across the desk, Ms. Levine took it. Felicia squeezed and then gently stroked it – limited tactile contact indicating compassion. The desk was the court they’d play across. Sitting in adjacent chairs or together on a couch next to the fountain would invite soulful pats, perhaps a reaffirming hug or two that could complicate the negotiations. Collaboration was a necessary tightly-controlled, staged illusion.
Ms. Levine withdrew her hand, took a moment to compose and draw herself more upright once again and asked, “And what exactly are my options?”
Excerpt by Ann Tweedy
I feel sad for those erased—even the parts
erased–so that the story will stand up
like a building made of blocks
and not fall, so that it can be simple—right
outweighing wrong, good towering over
bad—and rise above the confusion that mires us.
Think of Anna Mae Aquash or Assia Weevil.
Anna Mae, an AIM activist, gunned down by AIM women and men during Wounded Knee
because she was so strong and true she looked impossible—
an informant because she was arrested and inexplicably released,
because a male FBI agent had infiltrated earlier
and gotten away with it. A group of AIM women drove her away
from the Pine Ridge house she was staying at.
10 days later—February—found by a rancher
with a bullet in her eye socket. You can watch the documentary about her lover—
A Good Day to Die—and never hear word of her. Or go to the museum
of AIM portraits in Minneapolis and not see her.
Fall 2019’s Issue 4.3 of S/tick is just around the corner! While waiting, please enjoy this excerpt of Linda M. Crate’s “women of today”:
you don’t have enough strength to silence us
we refuse to be quiet anymore—
once we remembered our voices
it was over for you,
and we will sing the song of sirens and banshees
invite every angry werewolf and vampire
over for dinner
watch as your glass ceilings are smashed to bits;
because we are the daughters of warriors
Put Your Hand in Mine
Signature Press (2019)
Review by Rachael Ikins
Elaine Woo’s journey from young childhood to gray hair is told with a close connection to the natural world, even as it succumbs to environmental degradation. She is a relentless observer who gives the reader unique perspectives on such homely natural things as a cat stalking a bird, crows gathering, or, most significantly to her, the waves washing “the hem” of the beach. Even quotidian clothing, crafted by nature and by humans, takes on purpose for the speaker, from worn denim to winter boots and an embroidered tunic.
Despite the speaker’s sustained solitude, it is the odd poem about people–her friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer, her mentor who lost the vision in one eye, her mother, her father–that define the collection with snapshot-like clarity. From poem to poem, the experience of reading is akin to looking through an old diary or photo album, though not always a happy one. It is through her relationships with people we see her grow from an impressionable girl into a woman who owns herself and her life. Her female characters, such as her mentor, prove brave independent women no matter what challenges them. Meanwhile, her relationships with women bolster her own self-examination and willingness to accept her own flaws as she works to strengthen her sense of self.
This reviewer found the format of some poems distracting as the poet sought to put her words into motion across the page. For example, the arrangement of one line on the left margin, skipping two lines, and then settling in the right margin, in actuality seemed unnecessary: the language in these poems is strong enough on its own to convey the heartbeat of the seasonal cycles riding on the waves of the ocean in which the poet finds steadfast peace when in pain. However, other readers may enjoy having this enigmatic canvas to interpret from.
In the end, “Put Your Hand in Mind” reads as a complicated tension between despair and hope as well as a call for women to hold hands across their differences. The Amazon Rain Forest is burning. Rafts of plastic pollute the speaker’s beloved ocean. By 2030, humans may use up all of the earth’s ability to replenish topsoil and, hence, food. Where does one find hope in the face of such realities? Woo turns repeatedly to the beauty of nature for her inspiration. It is this we poets must remember, and through our writings, speak out and call each other to accountability.
Just Two Girls
Clare Songbirds Publishing House (2017)
Review by Elaine Woo
New York state poet Rachael Ikins takes the reader on an uneasy but riveting ride through the terrain of nonbinary relationships and loss in her poetry collection, Just Two Girls.
The poem from which the book’s title is derived, “Just Two Girls: For Lizbeth,” unravels the secret tale of a young woman living in “Student housing. Quirky rich kids. / Eccentrics and ghetto’s edge.” She slips by in low key garb, “Sweat pants, sneaks and a canvas bag. / No make up. Nobody suspects.” That is, nobody suspects her chosen profession is call girl: “I dance on a bar in the near west end / over by the zoo. Blue collar working men / red-necks, those college boys. I flaunt a big feather fan.” Ikins is a mistress of artful surprise, which flaunts itself through her poetry collection.
The title poem ends with grateful acknowledgment of a female friendship that sustains the call girl through vaginal removal of a cancer, a procedure that won’t mar her youthful skin, evidently so valuable an asset in her profession. Sustaining friendships of the sort, all women need, no matter their vocation. Meanwhile, her dear friend “tries to behave as if we are just two girls.”
However, others judgmentally question what their relationship really consists of. In “At the Farm Stand: Grandma W. Talks about a Customer with her Daughter-in-Law,” we hear a snippet of cruel conversation between Grandma and daughter-in-law: “Say, what d’you think them gals do up there in Dottie’s old place? I heared they’s lezbeens. It ain’t right, two women together…Is it now?” This is the paranoia, fearmongering and misunderstanding that nonbinary people commonly face. Ikins captures the spirit of gossipy country folk with choice dialogue: “Ain’t right. ‘Course two men together’s worse…I don’t like even to t’imagine. Bad enough I seen them yearlin’ bulls ever’ spring humpin’ til one gets dumped on its butt.”
While the acts of bulls are overt, the poet notices even the smallest creature’s desire. In “Full moon/Slapping at Mosquitoes September 2,” she views the mosquito’s proboscis as “Tiny female’s lips prick, sort through freckles, stray blonde skin hairs—anesthesia, lust for blood, a way in.” Through the many comparisons that in this volume are made between people and animals or nature, the speaker reveals the bewitching of her infatuation with both her girls and guys.
The anthropomorphizing of even inanimate objects may speak to a notion of humans as the center of the universe that is somewhat limiting. Nevertheless, Ikins’ narrator deftly uses this technique to capture the pain of the loss of her lover in “Butternut Squash.” As the speaker walks down a grocery store aisle, she observes, “Squash undoes me…I want to choose the right tanned form, sweetest of orange flesh.” Laden with double meaning, this reminds the reader as much as her of her lost lover. Ultimately, they remain separated by death: “We divide our braided life into shaggy hanks of silvery hair.”
The ending line of “Treasures,” “I am ready to know,” left me with knowledge that the many varied voices of squash, mosquito, bull, and call girl all have a knowing, a female knowing, even if misunderstood by mainstream society. Much for women to celebrate!
S/tick is now seeking submissions of your fabulous feminist farrago for our next issue!
Review the submissions guidelines above, then send us your best feminist poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and artwork.
We hold an intersectional view of feminism, so if your work deals with oppressions or empowerment, we want to read it.
You can also read some of our past issues to pay tribute to a brilliant community of feminist artists and authors and to get a sense of what we’re looking for.