Showing posts with label bay area poet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bay area poet. Show all posts

Monday, October 10, 2022

The Sister from Below is Delighted to Invite You

 Naomi Ruth Lowinsky and the Deep River Poets

invite you to a reading of

Soul-Making in the Valley of the Shadow


Kent Butzine, Virginia Chen, Sheila deShields, Dossie Easton, Connie Hills, Raluca Ioanid, Daniela Kantorová, Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Clare Marcus, and Anita Sánchez

Sat. Oct. 22, 2022 


On Zoom

Cover Image: Kent Butzine

General Admission: $25

Esse in anima (Live in the soul)–C. G. Jung

How does one live in the soul during dangerous times? The ancient mode of mythopoesis is an imaginal practice which can confront shadow and give voice to soul. Since 2006 the Deep River Poetry Circle has provided a temenos for this process. After the trauma of the 2016 election, followed by the pandemic and the climate catastrophes that have followed, we in Deep River have engaged the Spirit of the Times as well as the Spirit of the Depths. It has become a sacred river we wash ourselves in, as the Hindus do in Ganga Ma—Mother Ganges—to cleanse our souls and heal our broken hearts. We gather at the river to follow the flow of our poems; they take us to surprising places, show us the unexpected—the Tree of Life around a bend in the river, its roots deep in the earth.

We gathered to create our anthology, Soul Making in the Valley of the Shadow, as a gift to the community.  We offer this reading to the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, in celebration of its passage from a beloved old home to a transformative new home, in memory of our Jungian ancestors, and as an expression of deep gratitude to the Extended Education Committee, who have given us support, visibility, and a way to gather for so many years, through so many changes.  

Please join us. The $25.00 admission fee will get you a copy of Soul Making. All proceeds will go to the Extended Education Program.

- No Continuing Education Credits are available for this event.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Muse of Free Women

“Lady Liberty”
by Theodore Bonev St. Martin

We Dissent:  There are few greater incursions on a body than forcing a woman to complete a pregnancy and give birth. For every woman, these experiences involve all manner of physical changes, medical treatments (including the possibility of a cesarian section), and medical risk. Just as one example, an American woman is 14 times more likely to die by carrying a pregnancy to term than by having an abortion…

Today’s decision strips women of agency…It forces her to carry out the State’s will, whatever the circumstances and whatever harm it will wreak on her and her family. In the Fourteenth amendments terms, it takes away her liberty. 

Dobbs v. Jackson Women Health Organization Dissent, by Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomajor.

Musing in the Desert by Jeremy Bishop

An Awful Bleakness of Being

The Muse of Free Women has gone on retreat. No one knows where or why. You say: “It’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the overturning of Roe v. Wade—that upsets Her.” True. But She left us much earlier, went off, it is said, to the desert, alone. Women have stopped celebrating Her, praying to Her, bringing Her offerings. Maybe She’s learning how to ride a camel over the Abyss. Maybe She’s praying for Our Mother the Earth, whose future looks bleak. Maybe She’s waiting for America’s psychotic episode to be over. Could the recent good news, about the Inflation Reduction Bill which addresses Climate Change, or the surprising vote for Women’s Freedom in Kansas, which rejected an attempt to overturn the existing constitutional right to abortion in Kansas, lure Her back to us? 

Like most women in America, I felt gut punched by the Supreme Court’s Ruling in Dobbs, ending a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. We knew it was coming but it continues to feel unreal that so many women will have to return to back-alley abortions or, for those who can afford it, trips to faraway places. Maureen Dowd, in her NYTimes Opinion Column, quoted the author Niall O’Dowd: “Now that the world has turned upside down, there will be charter flights from America to Ireland for abortions.” Remember, Ireland was virulently anti-abortion until 2018, when the Irish voted to legalize it, and to free women. Dowd wrote:

Ireland and the United States have traded places. Ireland leapt into modernity, rejecting religious reactionaries’ insistence on controlling women’s bodies. America lurched backward, ruled by religious reactionaries’ insistence on controlling women’s bodies.

Once, Ireland seemed obsessed with punishing women. Now it’s America. (July 17th, 2022)

An Awful Bleakness: “Magdalena”  by El Greco

An awful bleakness of being descended upon me in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. I have heard that word—bleak—from so many women, on media and in my life. Did you feel it? It’s as though our inner world has turned into a barren, dangerous landscape where women are shamed and punished just for being women—made to cover our hair and faces, not allowed to be part of the world of school, sports, work, politics, the arts. Have we been transported to Afghanistan, where, just a year ago, women’s rights and freedoms were torn away from them as the Americans left and the Taliban took over? Have the Taliban taken over America? 

The Patriarch: “Zeus” by Jacob Potma

In Thrall to the Patriarchy

I grew up in a Patriarchy. Always attuned to my mother’s feelings—though she never spoke of them to me—I felt her inner bleakness as she trudged around like a pack animal doing my father’s bidding—typing his manuscripts, tending to us children, doing all the housework and cooking, having no life of her own. Years later, after she left my father, my mother became one of the freest, most self-actualized women I knew in her generation. She made a rich life for herself, doing what she loved—working with young children, playing violin and viola in chamber groups and orchestras, giving music lessons. She traveled to Prague because there was a workshop on performing Bartók she wanted to take. She travelled to Florence, to visit me and Dan when we were there for a conference, and then went off to visit friends in Northern Europe, laughing at us when we worried about her plan to spend the night in the train station, which she did, and was just fine.

Mother Doing Her Thing

Mother died in 2018. I’m grateful that she did not live to see her granddaughters and great granddaughters lose their rights. The Patriarchy has spoken. It has cut women’s freedom out of the American constitution, handed it over to the states. It has enacted its misogynous cruelty over women’s bodies and souls as it has for thousands of years—stigmatizing and controlling women and girls as though our only function is to be vessels for new life. Our bodily autonomy, our right to make our own decisions about childbearing has been plundered in many states in American—the so called “land of the free.” Our freedom to travel to nearby states that allow abortion is in question. If a basic right we’ve had for close to fifty years can be torn out of the constitution by a virulent minority, if our dignity can be denied, our authority over ourselves ripped up like a contract that has been reneged on, how are we equal citizens?  Like Jews forced to wear the Yellow Star, we walk on dangerous ground, unsure what will set the powers that be against us.

The Patriarchy has determined that it owns our wombs. It is up to them and not to us what use we put them to. The Supreme Court has determined that my uterus belongs to the state I live in.  I am lucky to live in California, and to be past the age of childbearing. But what of my granddaughters? The Patriarchy has plans to make the abortion ban federal. What if a granddaughter should need an abortion, or have a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy that requires an abortion-like procedure to save her life? It was up to the state of Ohio to determine whether a ten-year-old girl, raped by a twenty–seven–year old man, could have an abortion in her home state. “Not in Ohio! Not even in cases of rape or incest!” the child and her parents were told. She had to be driven to nearby Indiana, where a gutsy doctor did the procedure. Sadly, that doctor has been harassed and threatened. Sadly, Indiana has changed its mind on abortion. Another child in that situation will need to be driven all the way to Illinois. Would her freedom to travel remain intact? Or would she and her doctor be at risk under the brutal law of the Patriarchy?

Don’t get me wrong, when I say Patriarchy I don’t mean men. The men in my life don’t buy into the hateful ideas promoted by the Supreme Court majority or the people in charge of states like Ohio, Texas and Florida. The men I know consider themselves feminists and value their inner feminine side. In my lifetime I have seen women’s rights and freedoms expanded exponentially. Most Americans, even Republicans, support women’s freedom to choose in childbearing as well as in work and in relationships. What we are seeing, I believe, is an enormous Patriarchal backlash, because some parts of America feel a loss of power and privilege, and because misogyny lives in both men and women’s unconscious. This, accompanied by extreme economic and class inequality, and racism, makes life a living hell for many poor people, especially women with children and women of color, for whom, having to bear an unwanted child can sink them deep into poverty. 

“Witches being Burned in Derenburg, 1555”

Akin to Slavery and to the Inquisition

It is the work of The Muse of Free Women to bring our fierceness and grief out of the woodwork. She comes to me in the form of furious ghosts. The witches of Salem are howling in me.  The witches who were burnt at the stake during hundreds of years of the Inquisition, which murdered women of power, women of wisdom, uncanny women who had visions, who knew the medicinal uses of herbs, who were midwives and performed abortions, are moaning and keening in my soul. Women who died too young having back-alley abortions before Roe became law, are weeping in my heart. They cry out:

We thought this was over, that this hatred of us, of our bodies, which are so powerful that no one can be born without coming through us, had ended. That a woman’s power to bear life would be honored. That her right to refuse a child was part of that honoring and basic common sense. What child wants a mother who wishes it had never been born? What child needs a mother whose own life and future is sacrificed in bearing one she is not ready to mother, or can’t afford to feed, clothe and love?

This is not a country that recognizes the essential work of mothering, or that healthy, loved, well–educated children are the backbone of our democracy. We don’t give new parents time off to bond with their babies and make the transition into being parents. We don’t support childcare and make it affordable; we don’t pay childcare workers a living wage; we don’t support early education and pay teachers decently. We don’t support single mothers so they don’t have to work multiple jobs and can be with their children. The unborn child that is so precious to the anti-choice people is on its own and so is its mother. I know there are well intentioned people who are setting up centers to support women who are bearing unwanted children. But from what I’ve heard none of these programs goes very far beyond early infancy. And none can deal with the wound to a woman’s sense of self, when her reality and truth are denied and she is compelled to do something as difficult as bearing a child against her will. Being forced to bear a child is like being forced into a marriage—a violation of the most essential human freedom. Both are akin to slavery. Jamelle Bouie puts it well in an opinion piece in the New York Times of July 17th, 2022:

When a state claims the right to limit your travel on account of your body—when it claims one of the most fundamental aspects of your personal liberty in order to take control of your reproductive health—then that state has rendered you little more than another form of property.

“A Slave Interrupts General Lee’s Breakfast”
during the Civil War

The Motherline

I became a mother very young, age 19, a decade before Roe v Wade freed women to live full lives. I was lucky because I was married, had a mother who loved being a mother, and had family support and resources. But I felt the disrespect for mothers acutely—the Patriarchal attitude that demeans and marginalizes women and mothers. Mothers were a joke in popular culture and blamed for most psychological issues in therapy. For me, having children young was a profound education in life. I learned child development from my children. They taught me the basics of psychology. When I decided to become a psychotherapist, I was infuriated that none of my experience as a mother was valued—none of it could be claimed in a resumé, or help me get into grad school.

Cover art by Sara Spaulding-Phillips
Cover of Fisher King Press Motherline

That fury led to my writing my first book, The Motherline. This year is the 30th anniversary of The Motherline’s publication in 1992. Thanks to my publisher, Fisher King Press, it is still available, and I still hear from women who value it for its alternative view of women’s lives. At the time I wrote it I saw women rejecting their mothers and “wandering like motherless daughters in the too bright light of Patriarchal consciousness.” I wrote that it is “our task to integrate our feminine and feminist selves. We must connect the historical self that was freed by feminism to live in the “real” world, with the feminine self that binds us to our mothers and grandmothers” (p. 32) and to the Deep Feminine. Thirty years later, I still consider this essential. For most women I know, valuing being a mother and wanting to make our own choices about childbearing, are totally interconnected. Here are some quotes from the Motherline that seem pertinent to our times:

The Great Mother, in all of her aspects, is especially fearful for women who identify with feminism and the women’s movement. Many of us broke free of the stranglehold that biology has on our destinies. Surpassing our mothers we charged into the world of achievement and mastery. We want to feel we are living conscious lives directed by muscular egos. The Motherline and matriarchal consciousness are at odds with these goals. The heroism of yin, which opens up the boundaries of the female body to take in seed, allowing new life to grow within it and be born out of it, is seen as a frightening swamp of passivity. Female flesh—fat, breasts, hips—become a fearful shadow…

We are left only with feelings of shame and inferiority for the blood, sweat, desire, and fury of our female experience.

Integrating feminism and the feminine requires bringing to consciousness the Motherline as it is expressed in the very texture of how women talk, the looping that ties together life–cycle experiences…the sacred nature of organic experience. This requires honoring the ebb and flow of a woman’s body…

A woman who can integrate her hunger for the world with carnal self–knowledge lives in relation to her body, as well as to her generation. She can attend to her life’s unfolding from the inner whispers of her dreams, to the interpersonal dialogue with kith and kin, to the collective currents that sweep her time. She knows who she is, where she comes from, where she is going, and what her place is among the living and the dead. (p. 36)

Free Women: “The Witches go to Market, 1876” by Alice Boyd

What Does it Mean to Be Free? 

“Free” is a fascinating word. It means the obvious—“not in bondage.” But its root can be traced back to Sanskrit “priyah,” meaning “love,” or “beloved,” German “Friede,” meaning “peace,” and to the Norse Goddess “Freya” alias “Frigg,” whom Robert Graves, in The White Goddess, associates with the Goddess of Love and Death.” 

The Goddess is a lovely, slender woman with a hooked nose, deathly pale face, lips as red as rowan–berries, startling blue eyes and long fair hair. She will suddenly transform herself into sow, mare, birch, vixen, she–ass, weasel, serpent owl, she–wolf, tigress, mermaid or loathsome hag… In ghost stories she often figures as “the white lady; and in ancient religions…as the “white goddess”…The test of a true poet’s vision, one might say, is the accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess…The reason why her hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine…is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust…whose embrace is death. (p. 21)

“Freya” by John Bauer

Barbara Walker, in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets has a long entry about Freya:

Great Goddess of northern Europe, leader of the “primal matriarchs”…”divine grandmothers…Freya was…the ruling ancestress…who ruled before the arrival of Odin…Myths say Odin learned everything he knew about magic and divine power from Freya.

The pagans said nothing could be lucky without Freya’s presence…

Freya represented sexual love, which is why her alternate name Frigg became a colloquialism for sexual intercourse.

Walker speaks of Freya’s “Kali–like function as Destroying Goddess, which she would assume when men and gods displeased her by forgetting her principles of right living, justice, honor and peace.” (p. 325) Is it any wonder that when the Patriarchal gods took over, they feared this powerful Muse of Free and Beloved women? In many of the myths, though Freya was married, she was strong willed, slept around, belonged to herself, knew more magic than any other god, wasn’t controlled by any male. It’s not hard to understand the hatred and fear that underlie the dying throes of a Patriarchal mentality that denies the mysteries, tries to gun down death, has forgotten how to live in the dark, in connection with the ancestors, in the vagaries of the moon, in harmony with the seasons and in service to the earth. 

Goddess Ambika Leads Eight Mother Goddesses
in Battle Against the Demon

Freya the Free, the Beloved, the Terrible

What, you wonder, do we do now? How so we get our Muse, our Beloved, out of the desert to free us? She’s scary. She’s uncanny. She makes no sense to the Patriarchal mind, which punishes us for Her powers. And yet She is in us, of us, and we need Her badly.

She’s been with me since I lived in India, as a young woman with young children. India is full of images of powerful Goddesses fighting demons.  The Goddess changed my life by helping me understand the cycles of birth and destruction and the distinction between personal, cultural and archetypal experience. 

“Goddess Kali” Calcutta Art Studio, 1883

She came to me as Kali, who gives birth and death in one fell swoop. As I was wrestling with writing The Motherline, I came to understand that Kali is essential to female psychology: 

Every woman has a Kali side, every mother has a secret devourer, a baby killer in her soul. When contemporary women write honestly out of their lived experience, they wrestle…with their Kali natures; they dare to name…their murderous impulses…(p. 195)

At a psychological level the abortion issue is about our capacity to confront Kali consciously. Those who would deny women the right to choose abortion seek to control Kali by forcing women to bear children. Kali will then take other forms: ruined lives, neglected and abused children, women maimed or killed in illegal, back–alley abortions. However those who support a woman’s right to choose abortion also need to face the truth that…abortion is not merely a medical procedure. It is the tearing from the womb of our own flesh and blood. It is a sacrifice of life, hopefully for life. (pp. 196-97)

To bear her children, her mother, her life in the presence of Kali…requires that a woman know her carnal self, bear her mother’s pain and limitations, face the bones of her ancestors and the bloody truth that she has no control over what she is born into, or what she gives birth to…; though we have our human responsibility, we are not in charge of destiny…Our personal mothers are not to blame for what is in the nature of human life. [Kali] links us to the blood and bones of our female knowledge, to our mother’s suffering as well as our own. She tells us that we are flesh and blood; that we give life and take life, nurture and destroy, suckle and poison; that these are in the very nature of existence, not the fault of women. She knows that it is in the very corruptibility of our flesh that our human souls bloom. She knows that we live in the great hands of history, which can tear our small lives to shreds. (pp. 206)

“Lilith as the Temptress” by Raphael,
between 1509 and 1511

Whether we call Her Kali or Freya, The White Goddess, the Muse of Free Women, or Lilith, we need to claim Her in our own souls in order to find our footing on female ground. I am reminded of a phrase used by the Jungian Analyst, Irene de Claremont Castillejo, in her 1967 book Knowing Woman, in which she called a woman’s ability to choose whether or not to bear a child “the Second Apple.”  The first apple is the one Eve tempted Adam to eat from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The Second Apple is the one every woman tastes when we make the choice to use contraception or to have an abortion. That is how Eve becomes Lilith—Adam’s uppity first wife who refused to lie beneath him and was sent into exile by the Red Sea—how she loses her innocence, faces her shadow, takes responsibility for her freedom. In Raphael’s version of the story, Lilith and the Serpent/Satan are the same. Tasting the Second Apple is always dangerous and essential. Women are eating Forbidden Fruit all over the country and handing it out to others. How do we support them?

Donate! Did you know there is an abortion clinic in Portland, Oregon called “Lilith”?  Those women in Oregon are calling her back from her exile. There are brave women and men all over the country opening abortion clinics in states that allow them. Send them money as your way of offering others the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which grows on female ground. Whole Woman’s Health, for example, was an abortion provider which, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, went all the way to the Supreme Court, taking on Texas’ Abortion law, which outlaws abortions after a fetal heart beat is detectable (usually 6 weeks) and authorizes the public to become bounty hunters and sue anyone who performs, aids or abets a post–heartbeat abortion. This law sent shock waves of terror into those who support women’s rights. Women usually don’t know they are pregnant by six weeks and certainly can’t arrange an abortion that quickly. Which means you can’t get an abortion in Texas. Whole Women’s Health is moving to New Mexico. Its Abortion Wayfarer Program helps free women to find the medical help they need.  

Vote! Your vote in the mid-term elections is essential. Vote for those who support Women’s Rights and Freedoms. Help get other women registered to vote by donating to Register Her.   

Suffragettes, 1917

Pray! Call Her into your life!  Do whatever you do to invoke the Muse or the Goddess. She shows up in unexpected places. She showed up as I was working on a poem about the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. She stands on top of the dome—beautiful, strong, a woman of color.  She is known as Freedom—a manifestation of Lady Liberty. Notice that Freedom wears feathers in her hair, and a beautiful blanket wrapped around her, Indian style. Her story holds some of the shadow truths we like to forget. She was created just before the Civil War, when the Capitol Dome was being rebuilt. Her creation was facilitated by a brilliant slave, Philip Reid, “who came up with the idea of using a pulley to move the statue, was then paid $1.25 a day by the federal government to ‘keep up fires under the moulds,’ according to the architects records.” His owner pocketed the money. But when the final cast of the Statue was raised in 1863, Reid was a free man. It took until 2014 for his contribution to be recognized in a ceremony on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Freedom,” by Thomas Crawford, 1863

Freedom leapt into my imagination and took over the end of my poem, “The Day They Roughed Up Lady Liberty.” I saw her surrounded by angry white men, ready to savage her. But she is an ancient Goddess, armed and fierce, as well as a midwife who knows: “The most dangerous time is transition”—in a woman’s labor, in our personal lives and in our collective lives. She knows that our country and our world are going through an enormous transition, due to climate change, drought, floods, fires, political extremes, economic inequality, racism, the backlash and power hunger of the Patriarchy—Putin’s War is a frightening example. “She Sings a Different Story,” knows different truths. Listen to Her. 

The Day They Roughed Up Lady Liberty
is still happening   on Instagram   You can’t stop watching   
Can’t stop   trying to make sense   of the senseless
Maybe you’re Black   and haunted
by your grandmother’s grandmother   born a slave
That whirlwind   of Confederate flags   agitates   her spirit
This Capitol was Built   by Slaves

Maybe you had a Cherokee grandmother  
grew up on stories    of the Trail of Tears
What’s up with that guy in face paint   bison horns
calls himself   Q Shaman
What kind of shaman is Q?

Here comes Trouble  

Maybe you’re a Junior   in High School   the Covid has trapped you at home     
You’d rather watch the Insurrection   of Jan 6th 2021     watch members 
of Congress   push furniture against the doors   as the mob snarls and shoves
than listen to your teacher drone on about    “The   Insurrection against King George”    
How will they teach this day   in fifty years?     Now there’s a question for the quiz
A Noose Hangs Over   the Capitol Dome

Maybe you’re undocumented   slipped across the border years ago
You work as a gardener     Stayed out of sight   during the terror years   
of the President of Hate    Since the election   you breathe   more freely   
but this riot on Instagram   is what happened   to your country     
Why you left     Where could you go   from here?

He weaponized Fear   Resentment

Maybe you’re an aging Jew   whose parents   may they rest in peace  
were refugees from the slaughter in Europe     This is their   American Nightmare
You too have seen it coming     But that rioter   in a “Camp Auschwitz”
hoodie   or the other one   emblazoned with the slogan 
“Six Million Jews Are Not Enough”     knock the holy wind   out of you

Tyranny   Like Hell   is Not Easily Conquered
Hear that sound of breaking glass?
That’s Kristallnacht!   That’s how it begins
The Big Lie     The Invasion of the Temple
They’re thundering up the stairs   breaking
and entering    chambers   sanctuaries   offices
shouting   N a n c y     W h e r e   a r e   y o u ? 

No!   No!   No!   No!   No!  No!  No!
They’re shaking the Capitol Dome   They’ve knocked down   our Lady 
of Liberty     Look!     She’s surrounded!     They poke her with flag poles
The man in the “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie shouts     That bitch
has feathers in her hair     Look how she drapes her blanket   Who 
does she think she is?     Pocahontas?     Who let her rise above us?

Here Comes Trouble

Where are you from?     Who created you?     
These angry white men   want to savage her     But she rises   
to her larger than life   ethnically ambiguous     full height     
She’s armed    with a sword   swings it in figure eights
with the slash of a warrior   with the grace of a dancer

Armed with a Lyre, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1842

She Sings    a Different Story

She’s armed with a lyre   strums it softly
as the dazed horde backs away   sits down
like kids at a campfire     She’s the storyteller
Once I was a Goddess   ran wild in the woods   me and my girls
knew the ways of the animals   the ways of women in labor

The Most Dangerous Time    is Transition 

In Ancient Rome   I was Libertas     I was worshipped   given burnt offerings  
for I’d freed the slaves   freed women   given the people a choice   a voice   a sword
In Old English   Old German   the word “free”   comes from the same root   as “love”
Old Man Trouble   stole my thunder     Forbade me     Denied me     Burnt me as a witch     
But I lived on   in the hearts of runaway slaves   the tribes on the Trail of Tears   the women at Seneca Falls
This Capitol was Built   by Slaves

I came to my creator   as the spirit of my grandmother’s grandmother   
born in her own mother’s wigwam     She saw what she saw    knew what she knew
tended the fire   had voice   had choice   in the life of her tribe
I came to my high position   at the top of your Capitol Dome
thanks to a slave   one Philip Reid   who fashioned a pulley   to lift me up

Then came   Big   Trouble
They called it the Civil War   but for Philip Reid   it was Freedom      
Now all of you fight over me     The prophesies of Q claim me  
Anti-Maskers claim me     The Bougaloo Bois claim me     The Proud Boys claim me    
Black Lives Matter claim me    Me Too claims me
So does United We Dream   and the Tribes at Standing Rock

She Sings    a Different Story

I tell you warring suitors     No one owns me
I’ve got my voice
I’ve got my choice
I’ve got my sword     We’ll need it
I see what I see   Know what I know

The Most Dangerous Time is Transition

May Freedom be your Goddess, your choice, your labor. May Freedom be our rebirth into love for our Mother, the Earth, and for all creatures—flora and fauna—including one other.

“Joy of Life: The Quintessential Maternity of Nature”
by Mrinal Kanty Das” 2016

 Special Offer:

A limited number of signed copies of the hardcover first edition of the Motherline, originally called Stories from the Motherline, is available for $20.00 each, which includes shipping. You can request a copy at

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Muse of Duende

The Sister from Below is delighted to announce the publication of 

Death and His Lorca 

The Muse of Duende 

I’m wandering in a shadowy part of town. It is dusk in my dream. I am lost. Can’t find my purse. I think I’m headed for a staircase when I hit a wall. I am told I’m in the Duende—which is the name of a trickster spirit or elf in the mythos of Southern Spain. The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca insisted that duende was essential for the arts. For Lorca duende includes “irrationality, earthiness, a heightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical” writes Christopher Maurer in the Preface to a lovely little book called In Search of Duende.

Flamenco Dancer

Lorca has been with me since college, when I was awe–struck by his Poet in New York. I was strangely at home in his nightmarish visions of that city ninety years ago—during the Great Depression. I shared his outrage about American materialism and industrialization and was spellbound by the prophetic tone of his poems, their musicality, and long Whitmanesque lines. As the firstborn in America child of a family that fled the Shoah I never felt at home in the death–denying, “positive–thinking” America of the fifties and early sixties. Eliot’s “Waste Land,” Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Lorca’s duende opened my path into poetry. I recognized this spirit in myself—in my own intense relationship with the dead, and my tender feelings of kinship with Lorca, who died tragically in 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. He was assassinated by Franco’s goons because of his leftist politics and because he was gay. He was 38. 

Federico Garcia Lorca

Lorca is a poetic ancestor, a Virgil who guides me in and out of underworlds, a major influence whose work derives from music—the Deep Song of the Gypsy siguiriya. In Search of Duende includes Lorca’s essay, Deep Song, in which he writes that the siguiriya “begins with a terrible scream…It is the scream of dead generations, a poignant elegy for lost centuries, the pathetic evocation of love under other moons and other winds.” These gypsy songs have duende, Lorca writes—[they] “are the mystery, the roots fastened in the mire that we all know and all ignore, the mire that gives us the very substance of art.” Jung would recognize that mire as the prima materia of the alchemists. But for Lorca it is more embodied. He quotes “an old maestro of the guitar” who said: “The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of your feet.”

Alhambra Dome

Twelve years ago, when Dan suggested we travel to Southern Spain, I felt the duende climb up inside me, from the soles of my feet, insisting that we visit Granada—Lorca’s home. Granada is also the home of Manuel de Falla—one of Dan’s favorite Spanish composers. Dan and I had always wanted to see the fabled Alhambra— situated in Granada. The Alhambra, Lorca’s home, de Falla’s home, flamenco music and dance are etched in my memory and in a series of poems which poured through me during that pilgrimage. They are saturated in Lorca’s duende and later, as we travelled to Córdoba with its tragic history of the Jews, by the duende of our ancestors. 

Lorca makes a distinction between the Muse and duende. I don’t. My Muse comes to life when the duende appears, when the flamenco dancer raises her skirts and stamps her feet, when the gypsy singer screams, when death makes an unexpected appearance. She and the duende dance, sing, and poetry begins. As fate would have it, when we returned from that trip, the duende came home with us. We suffered a series of significant deaths among friends and family. And both Dan and I had serious health issues. The duende had escaped from its Spanish container and leaked into our whole lives and into my fifth collection of poems. 

According to Lorca, “the true fight is with the duende.” The duende, unlike the Muse, is a combatant, who “does not come at all unless he sees that death is possible. The duende must know beforehand that he can serenade death’s house.” Why is this so important? Because, Lorca explains: “The magical property of a poem is to remain possessed by duende that can baptize in dark water all who look at it, for with duende it is easier to love and understand.” It is the duende who insists I face my own mortality, that I let in the dead who knock on the windows of my heart, wanting to be remembered. it is duende which became the magnet for the poems in Death and His Lorca —a collection in which death takes many forms and the dead show up as spirit guides and companions. 

These poems were written before Trump was elected, before the pandemic hit, before mass death invaded our safe American world. I hope Death and His Lorca will bring you who read it to the confluence of the “dark waters” of duende—where life and death flow together—aspects of the same mystery. Here is the opening poem: 

Flamenco Dancer 

When her arms rise up like Gaudi’s spires 
and her hands unfurl like forest violets 
When the lamentation of the Moors    the Gypsies    the Jews 
makes an agony about her eyes   and her spine 
is a wild and supple snake   When she hitches up her skirts
and the stamping begins   in red shoes   She is riding 
the exiled horse of her hips   over the yellow land 
over dust that remembers   ashes of the burnt 
bones of the broken   The soles of her feet 
beat a drum   arousing the spirits   of her great 
great   great   great   grand   parents 

                                                    She rides and she rides 
                                                                    that exiled horse 
                                                                            over Lorca’s unmarked grave 

* * * * * *

August 24th Event Invitation:

Please join me on Zoom on August 24th from 7-8. I’ll be reading from Death and His Lorca as the featured reader in the Poetic License Fourth Tuesday Series. Check out the website at for more information.

Order Death and His Lorca from Amazon here.

To order from your favorite bookstore: ISBN: 9781421837024 (Distributed by Ingram)

To order a signed copy from me, send an email and I’ll send you the information.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Muse of Breath

The Sister from Below is pleased to announce the publication of

Dreaming Night Terrors

Political Poems
on the eve of the 2020 Election

Who will speak truth    to the Master    of Mendacity?
“The Spirit of Elijah Cummings Speaks”

Stuck in the cloistered terror of a pandemic, it’s hard to remember the brawling days before and after the 2016 election, the furies released by the Kavanaugh hearings, our stunned grief at the death of Elijah Cummings in October 2019. That seems lifetimes ago. Yet the 2020 election, perhaps the most consequential of our lives, is looming.

Dreaming Night Terrors, is a chapbook of political poems from the time before Covid 19, before the murder of George Floyd and the protests about police brutality and American racism. Written in outrage and sorrow, these poems are Naomi Ruth Lowinsky’s offering to the spirit of Elijah Cummings. He advised us to “speak truth to abuse.” He reminded us that our resilience comes from our constitution, which is based on the separation of powers. Were he alive today he would urge us to organize, raise money, write rants, vote, do everything it’s in us to do to remove the current administration, its chaos and corruption, its mendacity, cruelty and cult of personality. This is our moment, even as we shelter in place and gather on Zoom, to defend our democracy, honor Elijah, and reclaim our responsibilities to each other and to the earth.


The Muse of Breath

Like Emmet Till in the casket, the Floyd
image made clear no black person could be safe.
Carol Anderson
author of White Rage
NY Times Review, June 28th 2020

Emmet Till painting by Lisa Whittington

(Dreaming Night Terrors is dedicated to the spirit of my father, Edward Elias Lowinsky, whose politics were the hard-won truths of a refugee from the European slaughter of his people.)

Breath is Spirit
Father, your spirit takes over my reverie with ravenous cravings for news—of the pandemic, of the protests, of the tsunami of change that is sweeping away the world as we know it. You insist that I track the terrible stories, make something of them—poems, blogs, a chapbook. You keep disturbing my introverted sheltering in place, stirring my outrage. It’s been a half life since we talked. Come to think of it, have we ever really talked, ever really had a dialogue? You lectured. I listened. My responses were always carefully crafted not to incite your rage. My spirit hid out in your presence. Your spirit wandered off into the Beyond. I always think of Jung’s mother telling him that his father died in time for him to become himself. You did that for me, and I’m grateful. You haven’t been around me much in all those years. Why are you making such a ruckus now?

Why do you assume it’s my call? You’re the one who pulls me out of the Beyond by breathing my spirit, obsessing about words and their roots, working for musicality in your language, seeking the humanism and creativity to which I gave my last breath—finding it even in the realm of politics. You speak of spirit, yours and mine. The word spirit comes from the latin “spirere,” to breath. You have come to a place in your life where you can breathe, fully, in the presence of my spirit. Perhaps my spirit has evolved to allow you the space to breathe.

I come to remind you it’s not enough to hide out from the virus. You need to speak out about the truths the virus reveals. How is it possible that America is still such a racist nation, that unarmed black people get killed for no good reason, that black and brown people die of Covid 19 so much more frequently than do white people? Didn’t we fight for racial justice in my lifetime? What happened to Martin Luther King’s long arc of the moral universe bending toward justice? Has it been twisted backwards?

Portrait of George Floyd by Eme Freethinker

Breath is Life
Father, your great grandchildren are out in the streets protesting. They’re wearing masks and chanting George’s Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe” as his life was crushed out of him by a policeman’s knee. Why? Because a cashier in a store thought he was passing a forged twenty dollar bill. His image is all over the world, including in Germany. He joins the list of names, tragic names that fill me with grief and shame: Eric Garner who died in a police chokehold, saying “I can’t breathe.” Why did the police stop him? On suspicion of selling individual cigarettes illegally. Breonna Taylor, a young Emergency Medical Technician, was shot eight times in her bed in the middle of the night. The police had bad information and no warrant. Ahmoud Arbery, a young man who liked to jog to clear his mind, was gunned down by two white men. His crime? Running while black. Walter Scott, stopped on some traffic technicality, was shot in the back running away. He was unarmed. Tamir Rice, a twelve year old boy, was playing with a toy gun. Shot by police. I could go on and on. All of these people would be alive today if they were not black. A sign seen at a recent protest: “Legalize Being Black!” How can this still be happening, in the America that saved you and our family?

Have you noticed all this commotion is about breath? Covid 19 is a respiratory disease. It attacks a person’s lungs. If you’re sick with Covid you can’t breathe. Racism is a disease of the collective breath. Air is something we all share. But racism stops the oppressed from breathing freely, from living their lives with joy and purpose. If you’re black or brown you’re constantly feeling under assault. George Floyd can’t breathe. Eric Garner can’t breathe. Black and brown people can’t breathe because they are always at risk. Their spirits are crushed by the burden of such hatred, such constant danger. What did I always tell you? Eternal Vigilance is the price of liberty. What happened to your vigilance?

When I saw you last, father, you were curled up like a fetus in that hospital bed. Reagan was on TV, well into his dog whistle assault on the multicultural America you fought for. You were too sick to rant against him. It’s been 35 years since the cancer devoured you, since the cancer of white supremacy devoured the civil rights and liberties we had so recently achieved. I kept thinking the backlash would be over soon, the Age of Aquarius would finally begin. Our liberal America would triumph. I wasn’t vigilant enough to get it—things kept getting worse. In the ‘90s, during the democratic presidency of Bill Clinton, welfare was undermined, and mass incarceration stole black men out of their families, destroying young lives and ripping up communities. So many young fathers were in jail for meaningless, made up offenses. You can imagine what this did to their women, their children, their breath, their spirit. I didn’t understand that racism in America is systemic, and that I, even with the best of intentions, am complicit with a system which privileges me over black and brown people. I didn’t comprehend the Phantom Narratives, to borrow my friend Sam Kimbles’ phrase, that had America and me, in their grip—the ghosts of the American civil war and the ghosts of the Shoah telling competing stories. I didn’t begin to see that we were witnessing a resurrection of the chain gang, of the plantation system with slaves, until recently. I’m ashamed that it took me so long.

It takes spirit to confront unwelcome truths.

A graphic account of America's love affair with prisons

Breath is a Song
Father, you were in my dream the other night. You were so young and tender, the age you were, 33, when you got your first job in America, teaching Musicology at Black Mountain College; the age you were when I was born. We are on a fast moving train, sitting at a table in the dining car. You are headed forwards, me backwards. I’m the age I was when I visited your deathbed. There is sweetness and ease between us. We are headed South, to North Carolina. I wake to remember my favorite story of you.

Photo of Father, Mother, my baby brother, Si, and me (1946)

I was a toddler. You were recently off the boat, finding sanctuary at a small liberal arts school in the South. Like most of your colleagues, you were a refugee Jew, escaped from the Shoah. I have fleeting memories of all those European musicians, painters, weavers, Bauhaus builders in world changing times speaking many languages in the cafeteria. We were a community spat out of the mouth of Europe’s monstrous hatred of the Jews, lucky to land here on the shores of Lake Eden. But this was the South. Jim Crow reigned, which outraged you. Looked to you like how Hitler treated the Jews. You invited Roland Hayes, an African American tenor, to sing at a desegregated concert. Hayes sang the European repertoire as well as spirituals. He had been received by the crowned heads of Europe, but given little attention in America. Mother told me that you and she were afraid the Ku Klux Klan would burn Black Mountain College down. That didn’t happen. Hayes gave his breath, his great spirit, to Schubert’s “Du Bist die Rüh” and to “Go Down Moses.” That was 1945. The war was still on. Your parents had died in the year of my birth. That must have been such an assault on your breath. How did you have the chutzpah to take on segregation?

I knew I just had to keep on breathing, keep on living my life. My mother died in a concentration camp in Holland. I didn’t know what had happened to my father, though later it appeared he was in a cattle car on the way to Auschwitz when the allies bombed the train. What a terrible irony, to think my father was killed by America. My spirit rose up in fury and told me to do something! So I desegregated Black Mountain College—the first school in the South to open its doors to black people of color. I did it with the Roland Hayes concert, and with a campaign to invite black students. It was my intention to help America honor its promise. I had so much faith in America. What happened? 

Black Mountain College faculty

Breath is Inspiration

We elected a black president in 2008, with a musical name—Barack Obama. He is brilliant, eloquent, elegant—a man with a strong moral compass. He has a beautiful, high spirited wife and two lovely daughters. It was inspiring to have such a loving, admirable black family in the White House for eight years. But racism was alive and well in America and Obama had a terrible time trying to govern. The Republicans blocked him at every turn. Obama is still deeply beloved. But the backlash was the election of the anti-Obama— a blatant racist, a master of mendacity, of chaos and corruption, a demagogue, a narcissist, the crazed center of a cult of personality. He follows the playbook for dictators. His self-serving and incompetent administration has made us the laughing stock of the world, and revealed the underbelly of American racism and inequality. He has not even attempted to lead the country out of the dreadful pandemic we’re stuck in. The body counts keep growing. The numbers of the sick keep growing. Other countries refuse to let Americans in. Not that we want to travel these days.

And what are you doing, my daughter, to confront all this horror?

I am putting my poems to work for the election of a good man, a man who has a moral compass, a man who understands suffering and grief, Joe Biden. I hope the poems will inspire people to do whatever is in them to do—especially to vote to oust the worst president we’ve ever had.

Worse than Nixon? Worse than Reagan?

Much worse. I wrote a poem during the spring of 2016 which expresses how dangerous I understood him to be even before he was elected. At the time mother was far gone into her dementia. She had no idea what was happening in the world. But the child in me yearned for her protection.

What I Want To Tell My Mama

Only she’s gone     a slight rustle of reeds
at the edge of the pond    a paw print in the mud

Sometimes she takes my hand    like a curious
two year old    tracing my veins     touching my rings

Mutti     you’ve dived down below    your German
gutterals     found your own    Ur tongue
Crim crutz
Olam Bolam
If you were who you used to be    Mama
I’d tell you about that Scary Man

that Chaos Man    with Caterwauling Hair    who beats
his chest and threatens

to drive us back
into the Tohu Bohu

He’d build a Golden Wall    high as the Great Wall
of China    Impenetrable as Negative Space

A Magnificent Wall to keep the likes of us
Refugees and our Rabble children    out

of America      Mama    he’s a Huckster
a Big Hunk of Catastrophe

Flasher Man    Slash Her Man
Hair sprayed into Caesar’s Brass Helmet
Olam Bolam
Crimini Crutz
All the ghosts we keep in the closet
rush in shrieking
“It’s the Nazis
It’s the Fascists
It’s the Cossacks
It’s the Huns
It’s Joseph McCarthy as Hair Spray Man
come to eat our young     Run!”
He is the King of the Hoax     the Prince of Evasion
Makes sausage

of our worst fears
We eat it

What he eats
is cotton candy
Rim Ram
Crimini hachts
There’s a gargantuan Wall of Broken
Glass    between his lovers    and his haters

yet we are spell bound     Mama
How can I explain

He has hula dancer fingers
He curls them

unfurls them
We watch     mesmerized
“On Day One    Hour One
You’ll all be gone    Every last one of you
                                             Enemy Aliens!”
Crimini crumini
Olam Bolam
Mama    make him
be gone…

That’s quite a language your mother developed in her dotage. Makes me think of another word that comes from the Latin, “spirare”— inspiration. Sounds like your mother was casting powerful spells.

Yes, I’ve had the same intuition about it. Speaking of inspiration, your passion for the political in its deepest, widest, most humanistic form, has inspired me to publish this little book. I want you to know, father, that I’ve dedicated my chapbook to your spirit. 

Have you ever dedicated anything to me before?

No. But this train is moving swiftly. I’m nearing the age you were when you died. I want you to know that I am your daughter, that I feel your spirit moving in me. Your passion for life, for justice, and for song inspire me in these terrible times. I’m grateful.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Muse of Losing Mother

Mother in the surf with two of her sisters. She is in the middle

I lost my mother, Gretel Lowinsky, on January 11th 2018. She was 97 years old. Actually, I’ve been losing her for many years, to Alzheimer’s Disease, in an agonizing decline, which I have rendered into a series of poems. I visited her in her Chicago retirement home, and later in my brother and sister–in–law’s home in Indianapolis. They, bless them, provided her with sanctuary in her last years. Mother would sit in the living room, watching the parade of life around her, visited by the family dogs, by her grandchildren and their friends, tended by loving caregivers and by her son and daughter–in–law when they came back from their long days at work. She would forget where the bathroom was. She would tell me, often, that she didn’t know who she was, or where. The spacious home in Indianapolis would morph into her childhood home.

Mother in Indianapolis in 2012 with me,
her grandchildren Ari and Shoshana, and the dogs

My mother was a German Jew who fled Europe as a young woman with her family and found sanctuary in America. She was sturdy, hard working, good hearted, emotionally intelligent, and much beloved by those who knew her. She lived in Chicago for much of her life. She loved young children. For almost twenty years she worked for the Chicago Childcare Society, supporting bonding between preschoolers and their young, mostly African American mothers, teaching them about child development. She did home visits and, because she was so unassuming, humorous and kind, I imagine her visits were a welcome break for the families. She was also a fine violinist and violist. She took great pride in bringing “The Messiah” to black churches all over Chicago.

Mother with her grandson Daniel
Mother playing the viola

Elegy is a powerful muse, and one that helped me work with the excruciating experiences of losing mother, bit by bit. In the end, there was nothing left of her radiant spirit, her contagious laughter, her love of life. She was a huddled mass in a wheelchair. Where was my mother? Her mind was long gone, but her body plodded on. I prayed she would let go, and finally, she did.

Mother woke me in the wee hours of Jan. 11th, ripping her roots out of my heart. I can still feel the pain of that rip. And then she transformed herself into a cascade of memories, as though her spirit, freed of the tangled knots in her brain, took flight over her long, complex life and poured the riches of her being into my soul.

One memory is pivotal. Twenty years ago, Dan and I were in Florence, at an International Jungian conference. Dan had found a charming apartment for us to rent, overlooking the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. Mother came to stay with us there. In those years she travelled the world with enthusiasm and energy.

Our family had lived in Florence when I was a child of five. My father had a Guggenheim fellowship to do musicological research in the Bibliotheca. It was 1948, just after the war. Italy, like much of Europe, was devastated and impoverished. I remember that our apartment was always cold. I would sit on my hands to keep them warm. I remember eating dried bananas, because there was no fresh fruit. Mother had not been back in Florence for fifty years. This was a very different Florence, full of fresh fruits and vegetables, radiant with artwork and sacred spaces. Mother was delighted, full of stories. She showed us where the family had lived on the outskirts of the city. She spoke of Lydia, a friend or a nanny, who had grown attached to me and I to her. Lydia took me to church and had me baptized, because she didn’t want me to go to hell. When I proudly told my father about this, he hit the ceiling. But I have always felt deeply at home in Italian churches, especially in the Duomo of Florence.

Simon, Benjamin and Naomi in Florence, 1948

We traced the long walk she took to the hospital, alone, in labor with her third child. My father was too busy with his Medici Codex to accompany her. My brother Ben was born there. Mother told us she had slept on straw with the Romany women. She told us she feared for her newborn’s life. He had a hernia that needed repair. I wrote a poem about this:

Reverie in View of the Ponte Vecchio

Lavender chiffon lifts off my shoulders
light wind from the Arno cools
hot flashes

Mother in the front room
came in yesterday by train from Switzerland
summer rain

Such comfort in familiar voices
Mother and Dan discussing pregnancies
Cousins soon to be born
How beautiful the Jungfrau

Mother’s voice meanders down
a labyrinth—fifty years
since she was last here—
I was a child   She pregnant
with her third

It was just after   the war
the Germans had bombed all
the bridges   except
the Ponte Vecchio     Hitler was
fond of it

Mother walked on stones in labor
long way to the Ospedale
Santa Maria di Nuova–Careggi
slept in the straw with the Romany women
separated from her baby
by a sudden flock of white coats
his emergency surgery    She remembers
They kept him in a room with sick twins
First they turned green    then gray   then died
I thought my baby   was next

What is the kernel of this moment?
I want to crack it open    eat it
make it a part of my body forever
My brother   in his brick row house
in Toronto      surrounded
by history books    The old bridge
                                    dreaming of itself
                                    in green waters
Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

I have another memory of my mother in Florence. We were in a jewelry store. Everything was aglow. She bought me an amethyst necklace. I bought her amethyst earrings. My mother seldom indulged in such “girlie” pleasures. Finery was not her thing. “Too fancy” she would say. I treasure that necklace still. Earlier in the day we stood before the Lippi Madonna in Santo Spirito. Mother kept gazing at the beautiful young mother with the inward eyes, her haloed son leaning out of her lap to play with his cousin. She kept putting more money into the light machine.

At dinner in a rare confessional moment, she spoke of approaching her eightieth year. “I am mostly in harmony with myself,” she told us. “Not always. That would be boring.” I remember how beautiful she looked in her many colored Indonesian shawl, her amethysts glowing in the candlelight. Later we went to hear a concert of Gregorian chant. Our shadows loomed large on the wall of what had once been a church, was now a military recruiting center. I hold onto that jewel of a memory. She would have a few more good years, and then the terrible decline. Here are three poems inspired by the muse of losing mother.

Posthumous portrait of JFK

Root Canal

1. Security Line

We are pilgrims on our way to see Mother   among travelers
in flip flops    with bluetooths     carrying babies      We walk
in our radiant bodies    One of us is about to crack

a tooth     Only the babies can see    old light
from past lives     Only the babies can hear
the song lines     We are pilgrims passing through

the metal detector     We remove our shoes     remove
our coats and shawls     Some of us will be hand wanded
silver bracelets    seven quarters     three dimes provoke

the security gods     The Kennedy who just died
is speaking thirty years ago on TV     His assassinated
brothers still bleed into our lives

2. Retirement Living

In Mother’s eighty-eighth year she got scammed     Sweet talkers
from the islands poured delirium into her ears      drained her purse
A Great Lake swimmer lost face      A late Beethoven violin

bowed to the gods of security      We’ve come
to see her new place among the formerly eminent
Hyde Park intellectuals      We walk the round of her days      She

gets lost      forgets her song lines      wants to sort through
scores of Mozart Bartok Bach.   What goes where?    The Kennedy who died
is talking on TV     It’s his funeral     His widow pushes back her dark

hair     She’s known him on her belly     in her thighs     She knows
his secret smell     When is it my tooth cracks?
When does that big bully nerve take over?

3. Roots

Oma’s paintings dominate this place     She painted
herself painting all her ages      painted herself losing
her grip     She looked straight into her own mirrored eyes

and painted the edge of her nerve     We make a pilgrimage
to see her painting of German snow on roofs in 1931
The naked larches scrape the sky     Her sons are dead

Her sons are dead     Her sons are dead     Trees
save her     Trees leave     Trees bud     Trees flower
Trees know her secret smell     They cleanse her dreams

Trees grow by rivers     by canals    by lakes     They reflect
on themselves in oils     in watercolors     They burn orange
in the deep wood     They burn gold under water     Mother loses track

of the song lines of her Mother     Her brothers bleed
into brothers not yet born     Mother says we live
too far away     that we’ve been swallowed by the State of California

4. Going Home

I am losing my own grip     My finger prints fade     I forget
your name     All I know is the scream of a nerve     I’ve no idea
how the widow got into Mother’s TV     no idea

how an endodontist removes a dying nerve     no idea
how a plane leaves this earth     no idea
how I’ll live in the State of California
                                                               while Mother loses track of herself
                                                               (first published in Sierra Nevada Review)

When Trees Go Wild -painting by Emma Hoffman

Mother Approaches the Border

Mother is leaving us
slow step by slow
                          lingering step

She’s ascending the winter trees
                          without bud
                          without leaf

She looks back
                          a runaway child
                          without overcoat

Time is a broken necklace
She’s given up gathering
                          spilt beads

is a clanging
in the basement pipes

Tomorrow chugs down the track
blowing its horn      Where
                        are her sisters?

Who has the passports?
Must she cross
                         the border alone?

The lake’s in a bad
                         weather mood
Snowflakes lick her cheeks

Mother laughs at the ducks
how they dive into what
                         we can’t see

She has nowhere to go
                         but up
tending the business of sky

She has nowhere to go
                          but down
having settled
the questions
                          of dust
                          of ashes

She doesn’t belong to us anymore
She belongs to the naked trees
to the lake and its bad weather mood

to the ducks diving into what
                              we can’t see

                              (first published in Blue Lake Review)

Brown on Brown, painting by Emma Hoffman

Mother      Between Now and the Dark

Those Sisters with Scissors poke holes in you
Cut out tomorrow     Dismember yesterday
Entangle your yarn ‘til you don’t know who
                                          you are or where

You lose the bathroom or it loses you
as if you hadn’t just been there
I show you down my brother’s
                                          long corridor

past your mother’s final
self portrait     You wheel
your walker back to me   your daughter
                                          from California

            I see me on the potty chair
            you perched on the bathtub chanting
                                             “sass  sass  sass   spss”

You sit at table     Refuse your juice     Refuse
your tuna salad     I hear your voice in my childhood
“Eat a little drink a little”     “My voice?”  you marvel
                                       A sudden shift of light

Your gaze meets mine
“I wonder what you’ll write about me now?”
For this moment you know me    even here in Indiana

till the Shadow Sisters steal
your face from me     O I regret
the half a continent between us     I regret

I must leave you again     You point
out the window into late autumn
Red leaves flame on the backyard maple
                                        “Look how beautiful”

As if you hadn’t said that minutes ago
A sudden shift of light   and I too
can see the tree     As if

the Mother Daughter circle   still spins
As if those Scissor Sisters   aren’t forever

                                                               (first published in Stickman Review)

The Moirrae, from the Aeneid, Part I by Virgil