Kraken

By: Mya Alexice

Barnard College, NY, USA

you come

from the root krake,

meaning an unnaturally

twisted creature.

I could never pinpoint where

you began and where you ended,

always a writhing thing—

spiral staircase, sea

serpent drawn on an old map

half body arched up, the other

hidden in green water;

curling, coiling around me.

 

when i try to latch onto you,

to grab you by your oily neck—

it’s like trying to catch smoke.

 

I see you— there— slithering out

of reach. Nothing but a wet

dream, a tentacled lover easing

back into the abyss.

were you only myth?

 

did i truly see you that night?

do i light a candle at my bedside

table, hoping you’ll catch its

glare from the window?

do i set a bowl of water on

the sill, a small sea for a

weary, travelling snake?

do i offer a companion,

a believer, above all a

witness to your lore?

Morning Steam | MRO

By: Madeline Olson

Mount Holyoke College, MA, USA

I have not yet learned the meaning of Māori yet,

 and i don’t think unknowing foolish anymore

        only a wise risk of lingering instead

 

            but i do say this     sometimes i harbor things in life

                                      such as the rain i let drain          in my mouth

                                      before clearing  grey                       swallow

                                      such as

                                        the morning                                 the

                                             kawakawa                          tea steam

                                         climbing the cup to dance up

                                                 into the air twisting

                                                          its fog tail

                                                             steamy

                                              languid

                                                         unbothered

i  mistake     this morning mug steam                         

for clouds over     Lake Wakatipu    could mistake it for         

the chalky air     over its  neighbors :  The Remarkables           

Cecil Peak  / Walter Peak / Ben Lomond / Queenstown Hill        

              so when i recognized       this fog in my tea steam i learned 

                          i am    not the only harborer               

          because when morning lull starts breaking

          it is te iti kahurangi, rising, unfettered

    the landscape   was bustling   we spoke    it informed me

    morning too   could be treasured  simply because it safeguards,

                                                                                               simply because it exists.

And so  the other day  i bought a $39 ticket to meet

these chalky    clouds    as i ascended the houses

started falling,

                         red

               yellow

                            brown like feathers

                            floating dissolving

                                                             compressed from sight

                                                             while gondolas scaled the mountain

                                                                shearing the treetops

                                                             one

                                                             two

                                                             three

green                                                                

brown                                                        

white                                                 

                                                                     red 

                                        yellow

                                                                          brown like feathers

there are no more houses left once i ascended the 790m peak

Look! Says my neighbor over the rail

Look! means to see how the clouds shepard

the wedged yellow and red houses, tucking

it only cries, you fool!

Look! means to see that maybe these clouds hang on their own time and

       these mountains, these mountains are backbones

seated around the lake, the water, one silent muscle

                      the soleus, the rectus, the tendons of nature’s body,

                                    tendons of time.

And even though the clouds are thirsting,

and it is so temperate in this creation,

it’s okay to worry, the clouds whisper

to confess,

                 i don’t know if this morning

                 steam comes from the clouds or

                 from my breath

 

but i do believe

in dwellings existing together.

Maybe believe in harmony too

and the wind,  is a steel pipe that whistles,

tunneling the ears              howling them clean

releasing echos that spool  upon

teardrop water                            

                  the coniferous trees, an army,

                  marching  in tempo alongside me   

                  to witness the clouds, saying 

                  this is our sacred whenua

                                       and that’s why the air feels

                                     so fresh up here.

You see, i am not the only harborer  the tea steam,

is not simply air sublimating      and this chalky hillside,

 

 this chalky hillside is the sanctuary

for the stranger beside me

Bubblegum

By: Bethany Velarde

Agnes Scott College, GA, USA

Letting you read my poetry is

 

8th grade hallway

 

Giving away the last piece

Unwrapped

 

Squished and fingerprinted

 

Letting it hit your tongue and dissolve

Chew and churn

 

Watching you

 

Smack your lips to my hurts

Pop my words

 

Bite marks in a thin sheet

Bubblegum

That Rule Was Begging To Be Broken

By: Olivia Handoko

Smith College, MA, USA

That rule was begging to be broken

Y’know the one about women?

Of conformity for cat calls and

Gift-wrapped shoulders and legs?

How about “no” to breastfeeding?

How about “whore” for “too revealing”?

I’m sick of these notions, they’re too unappealing.

I am a nonconformist of a woman

The one that daunts you in your wake.

Come at me with your “don’ts” for women–

I’ll show you my scars of everyday crusades.

I’ve battled tirades of piercing tongues;

Of sharp fingers engraved into skins.

I’m supposed to be hidden beneath them

Because I walk like I’m a woman

Because I walk like a human being.

But I stomp these woman feet of mine

To tell you “That ain’t gonna be me,”

Nor will it be any woman in this world

‘Cause that rule was begging to be broken

When women marched for gender equality.

I Forget

By: Kate Bruncati

Smith College, MA, USA

The words are right there

Hanging in the strands of my gray hair

This problem is something I can’t bear

I just can’t reach them; this illness is unfair

Who’s that? I remember that face

Where am I? I remember this place

My memory is losing the race

As past knowledge dies with no trace

Who am I? What’s my name?

Why can’t I win this twisted game?

This disease is all to blame

It leaves me frustrated, burning like a flame

My brain is empty and no answers are coming out

I stomp my feet and start to pout

This is some sick memory drought

Wait, what was I thinking about?

I shake my head and pick up a photo

Who’s that pretty lady in it, though?

There’s no resemblance to show

But those eyes have a familiar glow

I ask the nurse who’s standing by the door

After showing it to her, her face grows red, more and more

Of course, I don’t know that I’ve seen her before

Or that she’s my sister Lenore

I drop the picture and walk away

Leaving behind a memento in such a careless way

For in that picture stood my daughter Kay

Smiling on her gracious wedding day

Where I’m From

By: Rhea Jain

The Baldwin School, PA, USA

I am from rough, crinkly pages,

from the thin layer of dust coating each cover

like a blanket of snow lain over rolling hills.

I am from all the different realms

these pages transport me to,

from the castles to the forests

to the wide open flower fields.

I am from the black and white at my fingertips,

from the language that plays from my heart.

I am from the warm, relaxed melodies,

from the bouncing, buzzing, beating ballads.

I’m from the place where it takes me,

from the feeling it gives me,

and from the state it leaves me in.

I am from the sun basking on my neck,

from the silver glow on the tips of the trees.

I’m from the endless green surrounding me,

the crunch of orange and red at my feet.

I am from the crisp breeze that rustles my hair,

from the waft of spice and cinnamon.

I’m from the feel of the delicacies,

warm and melting on my tongue.

I’m from the thought of my father,

constantly in my mind,

his honor and respectability

which I strive to see in myself.

I am from the childhood with my mother,

the lessons she has taught me.

From the path through life

she has dreamed for me and spun.

I am from the chocolate brown of my eyes,

and from the wonder underneath.

The eyes that see the magic in everything

around me.

The eyes that create a world only I am from.

A Blur in the Binary

By: Alex Fallon

Agnes Scott College, GA, USA

Yawning—Stretching—standing proud for the day.
Warm sunlight trickles through the window
as condensation fogs the mirror.

Stepping out, a cloud of steam follows like a wedding dress.
They dry their feet on the rough mat,
lean forward,
run the towel to catch the drips that journey down their spine.

Walking to the mirror,
they use the towel to free their face from the glass cage.
Squared jaw, thick brows, the lips of ancient gods.

Following the mirror down with their eyes,
the body is blurred.
It is there, standing—real in every regard.
But no details shine through.

Does today bring a chest of supple mounds,
the nourishment of mankind?
Or would the day be one of endless fields,
sharp angles, and broad lines?

The fog melted down their neck.
Would their voice reach the submarine signals deep beneath the ocean blue?
Or would it fly high with the delicate birds in the clear blue sky?

Bringing their hand up to run through wet hair—
would it flow long, a twirl of braids and intricate patterns?
Or would it be twisted tight into a strong knot under their hat?

Maybe neither.

Maybe today they would exist in the blur.
The blur that permeated the image they faced.
Maybe their hair would flow long and their nails would shine bright–
their chest flat as a frozen lake, their voice a force that could make mountains tremble.

Maybe today they would be neither.
Maybe today they would be both.
And maybe that would be OK.

First appeared in an edition of MR. MA’AM Literary Journal at Emory University.

Isis and Osiris

By: Sakina Alia

Bryn Mawr College, PA, USA

all the soldier wanted was a wife

but brideprice

too high without a pot to piss

ISIL (formerly known as ISIS—defamation of a GODDESS)

ISIL knows this

promise                         $$$

                brideprice

.if the soldier will fight.

— but when it is clear he is living to die killing as he kisses suicide he is given a Yazidi “bride”

and another

and another

and another

and another

                                                                                      at what price

and Isis wept

and Isis worked

and Isis wept

and Isis worked

and Isis wept

the Yazidi fight

true brides

Isis brought the dead back to life                            

                                                                  “oh Allah she is your throne”

 

Artist Statement for Isis and Osiris

Born of earth and sky, the Egyptian goddess Isis shows us that strength does not preclude feeling: an essential reminder as women transition into selfhood. Isis is here invoked to reclaim a name that has been sullied, while also serving as a reminder that mourning is a profound part of the process of empowerment, as it is in numbness that we are truly lost. It was up to her to restore the world when everything was ripped to pieces, and this was not a process without profound pain, a pain she was not afraid to show. As for the Yazidi and Kurdish women fighting against ISIL, they are not just tasked with restoring destroyed worlds within and without; many are directly confronting violence as soldiers themselves. The poem “Isis and Osiris” expresses that when tradition is upheld over what is natural and loving, our humanity is more easily degraded and we become numb. When this happens, we must fight like the Yazidi and Kurdish women to reclaim our humanity, because in states of numbness, humans are reduced to bodies, figments, and payments. Women’s transition into selfhood requires a reflection on the violence we have suffered, strength from the past, as well as creative new visions for humanity, as the old, however inspiring, may still keep us in cycles of subservience and domination.
As an artist and scholar, sakina seeks to unite facts with truth so that women’s transition into selfhood can be both fortified and tender. sakina earned a B.A. in Philosophy and Creative Writing from Bryn Mawr College, an M.A. in Religion and Literature from Yale Divinity School’s Institute of Sacred Music, and has been selected as a Mellon Mays, Fulbright, and Yale-China Fellow. As an artist, her work has been featured at the Camra Screening Scholarship Media Festival at the University of Pennsylvania, National Sawdust in Brooklyn, the Yale Off Broadway Theater, Yale Edgewood Gallery, and the Self-Organized Performance Biennial on Art and Politics in Athens, Greece.

Movements of Life

By: Madeleine Olson
Mount Holyoke College, MA, USA

Now we are flowing

in between w a v e s of thin satin that dance in the sky,  

        soon floating

like a leaf that

    tumbles

                 in the breeze

landing to sink into the earth     

like baked clay                   

in the blazing sun                

                                        where pinwheels of rays            

        grow big enough to transform into a kaleidoscope of colors at night,

           spreading purple velvet over us thick enough to heat our bodies

so it sparks flames so scarlet

as to catch the eye of a bull

that charges with a racing heart

        that beats

to the march

of the drums

warning us about time

that slips

between

our toes,

washing back to the ocean that provides

the  w a v e s

                     to rock the boat

                that carries us through life,

                           lifted by the  w i n d s that toss

our  s o u l s  back into the sky.

The Sum of Her Parts

By: Charity Kerrigan

Mary Baldwin University, VA, USA

her eyes, gray pools still and smooth

for a second there is fear.

anger. pain. her memories

dance behind the glass betraying

her for a second I can almost see her scars

the shutters snap shut and she

is a steel statue that will never shatter

her voice, kind and always

laughing, a little too loud a little too

often a little too forced, with words

that get stuck in her throat she swallows

them like rough rocks and keeps her

secrets safe for another day

her skin, pale like winter with soft lines

and creases and freckles in clusters and splatters

and trails, she wears the stories that have changed

her smell is like perfume and powder and

coffee from the cup that is always in

her hands, smaller than mine with

knuckles a little too large “from cracking them,”

she said, “so stop cracking yours”

they aren’t beautiful but they don’t need to be

she’s built walls a million miles tall around

her heart, big enough to save the whole world

but too broken to save the ones who matter most

in a million moments and a million ways I am

her eyes her voice her skin her hands her heart

and that’s OK.

Turtle Women

By: Lydia Solodiuk

Mount Holyoke College, MA, USA

All of you have shells scarred
with the ravages of patriarchy
detailing old fights,
some of which you lost.
It was a world full of predators and struggle, so you learned
to live in your shells
Permanently.

Turtle women, you tell me to vomit my words onto the page
while you purse your closed lips.
Turtle women, you ask me to undress so you can fix me my broken body
while you stand there in your buttoned-up white coat and cashmere turtleneck.
Turtle women, you request my whole life story told in numbers and factoids
while you robotically type at your workstation.

You hide your true selves in the name of doing your duty.

In my parent’s living room, hidden in the pages of a dusty scrapbook,
there’s a picture of a bright-faced little girl staring
eye-to-eye with a turtle at the zoo,
separated by a piece of glass.

They teach us young feminists to smash glass ceilings,
but not how to speak through the glass walls that separate
us from you beautiful turtle women

Someday I’d like to walk with you,
to truly know you and understand the scars that roughen your shells and toughen your hearts.
But now I’ll just observe from the other side of the glass,

in admiration of beauty
and fierceness.

Staff Post: “Solution” by Beth Derr

As the person with the honor of writing the first staff blog post, I thought I’d share this poem I wrote at the beginning of this school year, which I feel encapsulates the unique nature of the adventures of being a student at a women’s college.  Less than a hundred days away from my graduation, I’m appreciating my Smith experience more and more, and I’m so going to miss this women’s college environment.

Solution

Sweat-soaked and scalp-strained
from hot days and high buns,
we are drawn to the river,
after dinner, after dark.

The path is smooth; we need no flashlight
the moon is a crescent; it peers through the leaves.

Clothes shed, shoes kicked,
our toes sink into silt
we slip underwater,
icecold and sweet.

The river is smooth; there is no current
the moon is a voyeur; it makes our skin shine.

Skin cooled, clothes dripping
from our blissful solution,
we walk home without towels
Drips in the night.

The pavement is smooth; there are no potholes
the moon is a classmate; it laughs in the sky.

Post-Partum

By: Sophia Giattina

Smith College, Massachusetts USA

*Salmon fast during the entirety of the annual salmon run, never questioning their Darwinian instincts, nor their own mortality, as they rush to spawn on the graveled river beaches.

Steam coats my pebbled floor.
Naked
streaming river water,
your scent ripples off me,
drip
aaaaaaaadripping
aa                            down my creamy linens.

Slowly                 I run my hands along the dip you left in bed last night
and I remember what you taste like,
up your back spilling kisses, those
rosy tinges scaling down your upturned belly
like riptide. You are gorgeous. I

was gorging
before slow nursing, silver sips,
suckling your finger tips –

I will be
aa           the one to die
first.

Kept                      upstream, a piece of the churning,
a ritual burning
through flesh, teething
into curdled fat, unstrung muscle

Watch over
my milky skin, hung damply across bloated sand, those loose
baby sacs
aunburdened.

A Vision of Venus

By: Natalia Perkins

Smith College, Massachusetts USA

 

eyes with the twinkling

of a kindling-kind-of-evening– her palm

churning your embers–She

is the stem you rub

between your thumb

and finger to squeeze

that sweet serum from. She

will bloom and bloom again

weaving around stones, up

through the spaces between

your toes

in the barefooted months. She

is crushed clove

buds in the alcove

of a neck, and dried fruit:

so plump and ripe she slumped

to the earth, sipping sunbeams

like champagne. moonlight beckons

celestial shifts, the waves round

her ragged edges and roll away to reveal

The Woman, as natural and glowing

as a pearl, a miniature moon

for our dim world.

Dear Beautiful Strong Women

By Rakhshinda Shakir

Asian University for Women, Bangladesh

Dear beautiful strong women!
Just in case
No one has reminded you
In a short while
Of how beautiful you are,
Let me please
Describe you
Your beauty!

Did anyone ever
Tell you that
For beautiful things to happen
On this zigzag path of hindrances
In the so-called MEN’S world
You have to go through some
Unexpected behavior?
By now,
If you have decided
To stay strong,
I am deadly sure
You are well aware of
How, where, when and whom
You must fiercely face!

Humiliation, of course,
Is never gonna leave
Your beautiful mental sky
The agony is fathomable
But,
You gotta adapt to that
So-called hurt and heartbreak
And give no damn to
Those causing it.

Patience
Does not come with ease
But if you have come this far
I want to remind you:
Without your decisions,
We are never gonna be
Out of this men’s world.

Let me tell you
The word woman is
Not any different than
That of civilized!
You have to help me
Teach the men
How to be civilized.

You have to help me
Teach the men
That your honor does not lie
in some of your body parts
You have to help me teach the men
You are more than just what you wear
We have to keep being strong
And tell the men what is
strong is beautiful
as we women are.

So tell the men
This is no time
To remain quiet
But to transform the world
Into a better place to live
By teaching the men
Civilization.

A Letter from East Germany to West Germany

By: Mariah Lewis

Agnes Scott College, Georgia, USA

When we were torn apart,
twins once conjoined,
a wall rose between us.
We spoke through messengers,
red telephones and cold warriors.
I’ve never been scared of what I’ve done before.
I’ve never been scared of what you’d do.
I lose thoughts to you every day.
We built this together, brick by brick.
We let our differences divide us,
and now lie in pieces,
in the middle of a staring contest
between nations, a test of wills.
If I destroy you, annihilate you,
I annihilate myself.
This has nothing to do with love.
This has everything to do with love.

For Fellowship

By: Marci Batchelor

Hollins University, Virginia, USA

You are back & side & make a be space
out of silent patches on other side & going toward
the going there doing silver mix between silver
& silver of tinker, toy, & fix. How can I really
know you man by your shell shape & teeth smile
walk face; little do you do to say hi to weather news
the flowers pretty nice, maybe some same maybe some
different, & maybe you’re some caring & maybe
you’re some busy & maybe you’re some shy,
& maybe you too see me go & too think maybe of me
go too go, but most likely no, most likely yes, probably
maybe though, most likely you see lots of round
& square things, God’s things: zinnias, snails, apples,
& charcoal colored sparrows. Real things: shovels
& hammers. Probably you know how it is to fly passenger
in a 747, ride a flat-tired bike, how it is to know sharp things,
tired things, how it is to drop sighs & do harm, & I see you
an older neighbor man who means nothing at all to me
yet who may mean an ocean of bubbly emerald to another.

Elegy for Brown-Skinned Kin

By: Dariana Guerrero

Smith College, Massachusetts, USA

Mama died sometime in June.

That was the first time I saw my father really cry.
It was like he was losing a part of himself,
the part that was made from a ribcage
and banished from the island.

I read my father
a poem by some white lady
because I thought it would
make the hurting echo
to pinprick or goosebump
or something finite like
the flesh of an apple.

Say Something

By: Bria Robinson

Agnes Scott College, Georgia, USA

So, another trip to Mississippi.

Let’s push past the flurry of award stares—   because I’m really…

an extension of my Momma’s long standing family fame

and standing in the frame of her shadow does not hide me from these vaguely familiar faces

Who just know I   owe them a hug

But

When nighttime hits

All these formalities fade fast

cause Mississippi nighttime frees up enough space in this increasingly small trailer

So I can saaaayy…

Something that I shouldn’t— something that shouldn’t come out my mouth

So “Kids go to bed!”

Cause adults want to save You from gettn’ popped in the mouth

Cause its Mississippi Nighttime

And I just remembered I’m in the

Backroom Bunkbed Social Hour

Me against 3

Me against three

I redeem my special Mississippi moment by staring out the window instead of…

Staring into the dark

for their faces

Cause Somebody, somebodies are going to say:

“Bria you know you wouldn’t look so bad if…

You didn’t look like a Cow”

Now I would’ve retaliated quickly to choke out the

Laughter

before it had a chance to overwhelm me but I was distracted by the unsettling sound

   Mhhmmmm

I’m not even fat… why would                          Mhmmmmmm

                                                        There it goes again

In a lighter tone

Is it my face?                                                    Mhhmmmmmmm… and again interrupting me

Maybe   well               Mhmmmmm

I’m…

Mhmmmmm

                                                         And I was the last to agree before we went to sleep

Black Friday

By: Beth Derr

Smith College, Massachusetts, USA

Grandmother. We, your oldest and youngest
granddaughters (two of twenty)
make our pilgrimage to your ashes
this rainy day after subdued Thanksgiving
to break our ten-year silence.

Forgive our wandering path toward you;
the roads in this cemetery caress the hills,
but you rest in a valley, we think.
We fan out and read the names of the dead
until my boots, wet with morning rain,
face your plain square headstone.

We clear the lichen from your name;
we set the record straight.
Your stone will be the most pristine,
most recently loved,
despite no flowers withering there –
we know you wouldn’t want them.

“How hard it was to live,” my cousin says
while scraping a twig against stone.
You lost the love of your life in a boxing match
married my grandfather within six months
then lost him to the Spanish flu.

Seventeen years and six children
four still here and stubborn as ever
two lost early and buried up the hill.
We cleaned their stone too, Grandmother.

We place two smooth acorns atop your shared grave
and clear the shards that the squirrels have left.
Did you live so nobly only to be a perch, Grandmother?
Outlasting your husband by forty years
governing children and property
Did his death set you free, or drown you?

We have cleaned your tomb, Grandmother.
We have taken our pictures
and though we never met
I feel you would be proud –
I wear a Smith hat, just like you.