Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: How Girls Walk Through the Eye of a Needle by LaWanda Walters

I’ve grown to love the sonnet form over the last few years, a perfect pocket for holding those quarrels we have with ourselves (a definition of poetry offered by William Butler Yeats.) Here is a fine one by LaWanda Walters of North Avondale.

How Girls Walk Through the Eye of a Needle

The girls are getting slimmer now as if, perhaps,
to keep themselves from mothers’ fates.
They float in thin blouses above the fat plates,
their bodies forced like flowers into shape.
Not eating gives them a high window ledge
from which to contemplate life—an ascetic,
cloistered place. On the back pocket of jeans they like,
a tiny, red-inked Buddha smiles. “True Religion”
jeans are hard to get into, expensive and just
for the thinnest. I say, out loud, “it’s like binding feet,”
embarrassing my daughter. But I did think
of those rich-girl feet that could not walk right—
at night they’d unwind the binding and the stink
drove husbands wild. Girls turn to bone so love will last.
LaWanda Walters
—First published in Danse Macabre (Issue 79, May 2014)
—Reprinted in Light Is the Odalisque (Press 53, Silver Concho Poetry Series, 2016)

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

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Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Poems by Gwyneth Stewart and Scott Whitehurst

Here are two poems by Gwyneth Stewart and by Scott Whitehurst, both from Pleasant Ridge, about family, travel and home.
Blue Mountain Lake

It began in quiet summer pre-dawn,
the trip day-long before the interstate.
Lunch at the Peter Pan Diner–
milkshakes and burgers.

We counted up the Fulton Chain of Lakes
finally turned on to Route 28
eyes peeled for The Prospector gift shop,
our house right across from it.

Late afternoon we fell out of the car
ran down the shaded path to strip of sand,
cold navy Adirondack water, Blue Mountain
a pyramid of green beyond.

Two weeks filled with stair-step cousins.
We wore bathing suits from breakfast
to dinner, fretted through the long hour
after lunch when the water was forbidden us.

The great Grumman canoe could hold
five kids, took us to the island for picnics,
rode the wake of ancient mahogany
lake boats from the lodge.

Minnowbrook, the last great camp–
The caretaker took us there on his rounds.
Our voices, our feet too loud
in the high-ceilinged empty rooms.

Warned away from the woods with
stories of lost children, we went anyway,
just to feel pillowy moss and slick
old pine needles beneath bare feet.

We fished for sunnies under crimson
skies, the clouds lit like paper lanterns
long after sunset. We fell asleep and woke
to the scent of fresh water and sharp pine.

It lingered on clothes, hair, skin,
long after we returned home.

Gwyneth Stewart

***

All Night Diner

My brother comes to mind
when I come here late at night
Of him sitting in my living room
high from talking
from driving all day from Georgia
from the freedom of leaving our sister’s
confining house and habits

It is one in the morning
and I have been up since four
And he asks me,
Is there an all night diner?
It’s so great talking with you
I love these conversations we have
I wish you lived closer
I could stay up all night

I think hard for I am tiring fast
I think of the family restaurants
on my side of town
long since closed
and the franchises, too, that have
shuttered for the evening
I come up empty

My brother laughs,
Come on! This is Cincinnati!
It’s a city- there’s got to be
something open!
I tell him of how the city
rolls up the streets a little after ten,
that the traffic lights turn to blinking
fluttering like eyes closed in REM sleep

Honestly I cannot think of a place.

I long to stay up all night talking
as he wishes
but I cannot
for my twenty-four hours are almost done
He bids me goodnight then
and stays downstairs
Where he can watch tv and sleep on the couch

My brother comes to mind
when I come here late at night
Come visit me again, I think
I know a place now
where we can sit and talk
late or early

Come visit me
and we will talk ‘til three
and watch people eat three-ways
and grilled cheese sandwiches
like those priests over there
sharing their own Last Supper,
a brief respite during Holy Week-
and we’ll hear the laughter of carry-out customers
beat a counterpoint to Rockin’ Robin

Visit me and we will solve the Universe
We’ll figure out how string theory will someday unify
quantum mechanics and relativity
and think about how that string
might be a Mobius strip
and how many dimensions are there really
and what if God is one of those dimensions
and can we actually slow time
by being observers?

We’ll sit and talk and eat and feel satisfied
and slow time
Then we will go home and say,
I love these conversations we have.
I wish you lived closer.

Scott Whitehurst

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Election by Rhonda Pettit

Sometimes “all” that poetry can do is to ask the important questions, as does this meditation by Rhonda Pettit of Erlanger, Kentucky, whose book Riding the Wave Train will be out soon from Dos Madres Press.

 

Election

I.

There is something to say.
There is so much of something to say.
Are we the ones to say it?
Would a whisper do?

There is so much being said.
Having said, so much more to know,
then more to say. Who says?
Who knows? Who listens?
Would a whisper do?

From the quiet of screens and pages
from far away images of faces
from versions of ourselves
our updates, our lost ones,
from behind the grid’s
narrative-of-the-moment:

What are we selling, buying, hating?
(In what are we in love?)
What are we screaming
to our circle?

All is not said
in the game of hide-n-say.
How shall we be saying it?
Would a whisper do?

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!
Do the words fathom themselves?
Do they reach down to the word table
or run off the surface eroding?
Will they leave a claw in the trap
of yin and yang?
Still

and still the saying.
Haven’t we said it all?
Aren’t we ourselves a saying?
If more must be said,
would a whisper do?

II.

Starting from scratch
grunt     vowel      syllable
sprout up the ancient trees of language
people hung on a word
zero one zero one
towering babble of gods

It is too much   //   not enough

What is right?
What is left worth saying?
Don’t we all come down to breath:
the dawn re-dawning?
We feel it around us
We feel it within us
Blood singing the joy
or drumming to the sorrow of bones.
What the words? How shall the voice?
Would a whisper do?

Two lips
close to a body, an ear,
the breath of words heard and felt –
sweet, pungent, or stale the breezes.
The body knows

The living inside us listens.

Still the saying, still the question:
Would a whisper do?

Rhonda Pettit

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Poems by Nancy K. Jentsch and Jen Davis

Today’s offering is two poems by two northern Kentucky poets, Nancy K. Jentsch of Camp Springs, whose book Authorized Visitors will be out soon from Cherry Grove Collections, and Jen Davis of Villa Hills. I admire them for how each natural image offered is both utterly itself, and more…

Untamed Sweetness

Black raspberries ripen wild at creek’s edge
my eyes close, lips tingle
to memories of brimming backyard bushes.

These untended berry-gems hide tiny
behind stickers beyond reach.
I bend the canes to mine the ready flesh

lest deer or songbirds steal
the pear-fed coyote plunder.
At days end, red-lipped,

I leave a fruit or two of untamed sweetness
like words that stray from verses
and still are pearls.

Nancy K. Jentsch
Published in Route 7 Review. Vol. IV (2016): 47.

 

Two Trees

Two trees stand together
in an otherwise naked field,
branches linked like
young lovers’ fingers,
roots twisted into a
labyrinth of nourishment and survival.

When high winds sweep across their grasses,
spiraling and conspiring with rain and lightning,
the West Tree leans east and the East Tree
pulls in a breath.
Their tangled foundation gives them leverage
as saturated soil gives and takes.

Jen Davis
Originally published online by Peacock Journal in December 2016.

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Two Poems of Witness by Kamal Kimball and by Patrick Venturella

I’ve been thinking a lot about “Poetry as Witness” as I prepare to lead a workshop on the subject for The Hive on April 29. Here are two very different poems of witness, one by Kamal E. Kimball of Northside and the other by Patrick Venturella of Hyde Park.

This is one of those scenes a less brave person might turn her eyes from. I am grateful that this brave poet did not.

Busted

The bird contorts his oil silk neck,
strains against the black stain
of the man’s gloves as he’s pulled
from a tinted backseat. He fights
twists his wings, carried to the lip
of the January pond, his body
flopped to the cold bank.

He lifts himself on paper legs
shakes off the choke, and launches
his soft, waxy down into the water.
The man slinks back to the Lexus
collar up against my stare,
and rumbles off without a word.

The lone goose, out of season,
puffs his feathers, ruffles
like a worried king. His beak
is broken, chipped open. A thin
strip of wet pink dribbles

from his jawless mouth.

Kamal E. Kimball

Come hear Kamal read tonight along with other members of my From Draft to Craft Poetry Class, 7pm at Joseph Beth/Crestview Hills.

****

There is a wrenching tenderness in this poem by Patrick Venturella who, like several of our Poetry Month poets, is a member of the Greater Cincinnati Writers League which offers a monthly critique workshop for its members.

Sickness

your body is a bolt of sheer fabric
shot from a crossbow     unwinding

so thin it’s hard to understand
how to hold you     gentle

like a handful of raspberries     tight
like an arm on an icy sidewalk

at night television light seeps from your cracked
door     I can’t shut it but I want to

I want to brick you in and hang a young
picture on the tomb I’m     ready     please

die tonight so we can stop bending our lips
like question marks around the word love
Patrick Venturella

This poem previously appeared online in Rust+Moth.

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: January 1, 2016 by Elese Monet

Today’s poem from Elese Monet of Over the Rhine gives us a morning of sweet blessings, after an evening of, perhaps, sweet excess. Elese will be reading along with Chase Public’s Scott Holzman at Cincinnati State’s Poetry Month Reading Series on Wednesday, April 19 at noon, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College ATLC Auditorium (ATLC 211).

 

January 1, 2016

 

my brain throbs against the cusp of my throat

you hand me water

       you hold my ears

and press

    your lips against the center of my brow

our reflections spoon

           in the black blades of the ceiling fan

we are stars again

                   marked in constellations

straddling time

yesterday’s champagne flutes

wondering of withdrawal

   from the backs of our eyelids.

 

Elese Monet

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

 

 

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Three Poems by Erica Minton Reid, Terry Focht and Debbie Westheimer

Hearts get a bad rap in poetry! Here are three very different poems, by Erica Minton Reid of Northside, by Terry Focht of Burlington, Kentucky and by Debbie Westheimer of Batavia that give the heart the respect it deserves.
Mouse

Imagine a mouse clinging
to the pendulum of a grand-
father clock. This is my thick-
beating heart, this is its heavy
arc. I have all the sharp love
of a warm towel. I keep time
loosely.
Do not worry
about what the mouse might
represent. He is a crusty
anxiety, he is one hundred lives
I will not lead. He is the hot little
heft of memory, a handful
of moments. He won’t be pried.
Lord knows I’ve tried.

Erica Minton Reid

Old Heart

Listen to me
Old heart
I hear your declaration

Always with me

Pulsating
Vital
Sanctioning
Me to be

I hear your secrets
Old heart
Keeper of first loves
Excitement of new adventure

I feel your pain
Old heart
Guardian of heartaches
Deep in dark corners

I hear your voice
Old heart
Quietly beating
Effortlessly

Reminding me
You are there

I inhale your rhythm
Old heart

Cadence of my life

Be with me
Until the end
Old friend

Terry Focht

Unintended Consequence

Husband survives
heart attack
an aphrodisiac

Debbie Westheimer

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine