Aunt Amaryllis in the Dead of Winter
read by nicolette bethel
Before Detroit can shake its winter skirt
free of tire tracks, Aunt Amaryllis
jitterbugs under January's quarter moon
while juggling her loose change
usually kept safe
in her back pocket. Her bulbous rump
girdled in brown cotton and crinolines
for over sixty years -- all
that rich-veined flesh dormant
through spring, summer and fall
sprouts a fleck of green
inside the boxed night
where two husbands left her
alone and barren,
wondering what to be
or not to be, just her
tiny voice squeaks
as she pushes cash register keys
at Farmer Jack's for forty years
and bags bananas, soup cans,
skimmed milk for mothers cutting back
calories every day in denial
these mothers crave new bodies
not wanting an ounce more
while she hangs pounds of fat
on her bones -- over two hundred
into this fleshy, green stalk
of a woman, into Aunt Amaryllis
who unravels her layers of brown
and blooms four crimson heads:
One blushes the blood of birth.
One gulps the scarlet moon rising.
One ignites her curls of fire
while the other one winks
one red eye for Aunt Amaryllis
who struts her green-booted self
into this night of reckoning.
© Thom Brommerich
When I Speak Out
read by mary meriam
I shall uncross my blue veined legs,
unclench my hands
folded against my skirt of forget-me-nots.
Fingers lace like shoestrings;
I shall pick at my knots
until my fingernails fray
and white moons at the base rise up
toward the crest of a snow-capped mountain
where my toes tip my feet on end
as if I were the only Wall Street broker,
the clear-sighted woman above the crowd
my arms bare to my elbows, skin
exposed as I cradle international markets
with products and companies bought, sold
and rocked against my flesh.
As if these stocks, commodities and bonds
were more than mere paper pulp and ink,
more than glaciers
slipping into valleys, melting
into salty seas and carving out
where I shall stand erect
and drink my toast
to red cedars and blue spruce
that split night skies between themselves
just as I, nourished on brine,
shall grow taller than these trees
until my head pokes through cumulus clouds
and seeds the darkness
with words of rain.
Wicker Chair & Coreopsis
read by christine potter
My mother left this white wicker chair
to me who knew the intricacy of the weave,
the way each strand overlapped
and wrapped over and under itself
creating the pattern of us.
There in her private place I listened
when she hummed like the wind rustling leaves
in the plum tree. She whistled sparrows to the ground:
t-weet, t-weet, t-weet. She could make me hear
the rise and fall of butterfly wings in air.
Mother kept her sewing basket full of thread
on the white wicker table. All colors
moved through the eye of her needle: the deep blue
of a jay's wing feather, the red of her blazing roses
climbing the fence, the white of clouds shifting shape.
From pieces of fabric, she designed my clothes,
knowing what would fit, what would bring out
my coloring, what would move with me like skin
when I was ten and growing faster than grass.
She sewed me into myself, leaving seams to let out.
I watched her fingers move, the needle flash in
and out of cloth as she turned flat flowered cotton
into a full skirt buttoned at the waist. She was
a magician who taught me how to sit quietly and wait
for coreopsis buds to open into gold suns at our feet.
Every year the coreopsis bloom on the same day
and I place the white wicker chair and table just right.
Light weaves my mother's shape in that quiet space
and I hum along with mother's songs, hear leaves fall
as mother performs her magic tricks and all is an illusion.
"Aunt Amaryllis in the Dead of Winter" first appeared in The Carolina Quarterly. "When I Speak Out" first appeared in Potpourri. "Wicker Chair and Coreopsis" first appeared in Underground Window.
Carol Carpenter's poems and stories have appeared in numerous online and print publications, including: Connecticut Review, Snake Nation Review, Birmingham Arts Journal, Georgetown Review, Caveat Lector, Orbis, Arabesques Review, and various anthologies, the most recent are Not What I Expected (Paycock Press, 2007) and Wild Things (Outrider Press, 2008). Her work has been exhibited by art galleries and produced as podcasts (Connecticut Review and Bound Off). She received the Hart Crane Memorial Award, the Richard Eberhart Prize for Poetry, the Jean Siegel Pearson Poetry Award, Artists Among Us Award and others. Formerly a college writing instructor, journalist and trainer, she now writes full time in Livonia, Michigan.