Whether it has been subtle, or monumental, that moment tethering the afternoon and the evening has always held me in its breadth, sometimes for a moment and often times longer. There is such a contrast our eyes and mind can visit just by looking up and witnessing one side of the sky being swallowed by the mouth of darkness, and the other side alive with all of the colors and chaos of the day. Colors that evoke the best parts of ones childhood with a myriad of soft pinks and swirling blues that offer a taste in the back of the mouth of a day that is ending, or of another day that will replace this one.
The only other times in my life where that warm mixture of sorrow, lust, fear, hope and understanding have settled in me like an umami sifting through my ribcage and into my gut has been when I visit the works of some of my favorite female poets. Every line read is a reminder that it is okay to have a sadness in your strength, it’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to take a pause to think in a place of brevity between all the lives we as women lead. Poetry is my reminder to myself that every emotion we feel as women, and experiences we have, are worth taking note and resonating with in whatever form they take. We are unique, we are strong, we are resilient and we are sometimes sad and to find words that can pull all of that together is undeniably satisfying.
The female poets such as Anne Sexton, Maya Angelou, Edna St.Vincent Millay and Sylvia Plath paved a path for women writers by being the first generation of women who spoke loud and clear about their anger, sadness and disproval with politics, family or their place in the world. Poet, performer and screenwriter Fatimah Asghar is a contemporary voice using a blend of intellect, sarcasm, wit and strength in her stance to not only give a voice to communities that need theirs to be heard, but she is one of many contemporary poets paving a path for generations of female poets to come. Asghar is a Pakistani, Muslim American writer. She is a published author and co-creator of the Emmy-nominated web series Brown Girls.
Pluto Shits on the Universe
By Fatimah Asghar
Pulitzer prize winning German-American poet Lisel Mueller uses a balance of humor, wit and sadness to convey thought evoking prose in her work. ‘Moon Fishing’ is a piece that I have looked back to in varying moments of my life finding new meaning each time I turn to it. The touch of folklore, morale and inevitable loss in seeking what is often right in front of us leaves the reader with an unmistakeable familiarity in hope and watching things we never had fall away.
By Lisel Meuller
When the moon was full they came to the water.
some with pitchforks, some with rakes,
some with sieves and ladles,
and one with a silver cup.
And they fished til a traveler passed them and said,
to catch the moon you must let your women
spread their hair on the water --
even the wily moon will leap to that bobbing
net of shimmering threads,
gasp and flop till its silver scales
lie black and still at your feet."
And they fished with the hair of their women
till a traveler passed them and said,
do you think the moon is caught lightly,
with glitter and silk threads?
You must cut out your hearts and bait your hooks
with those dark animals;
what matter you lose your hearts to reel in your dream?"
And they fished with their tight, hot hearts
till a traveler passed them and said,
what good is the moon to a heartless man?
Put back your hearts and get on your knees
and drink as you never have,
until your throats are coated with silver
and your voices ring like bells."
And they fished with their lips and tongues
until the water was gone
and the moon had slipped away
in the soft, bottomless mud.
In this piece, Montes uses stream of consciousness to project a lesson to the reader. Through her use of language and prose she provides a story with context to her heritage, her family and ultimately her emotions. At glance, the language feels scattered but as the reader picks up on the idioms and patterns, an emotive voice shines through. This piece is something I like to read when my own life feels out of bounds or when connection feels lost. Montes was born in New York City, and now lives in Minneapolis. She is a senior editor at Triple Canopy, and author of The Somnambulist.
A Pain That is Not Private
by Lara Mimosa Montes
There is a time and place in the world for abstraction. When my mother left Puerto Rico for the first time, the year was 1968. Against my unknowing. We hesitate to say what intimacy is and whether or not we have it. I keep trying / to teach my students that / stream-of-consciousness is / this, not that / this / activity fails. We know it does because each of us leaves the room / feeling like barbed wire— snarling behind the barricade (because) at some point, we stopped feeling (like language could say). So we went without while some others embraced. Notice (after the emptiness) : a pain that is not private. In other words, focus not on the object, but rather, the light that bounces off of that object. Perforated. Estranged. Esa luz. Tómatela. Under that light° I felt my body try / to hold on (to the knot inside) your right hand; when did it become a fist? Remind me what it is again / what it is that you wish / to share (with others) >> when you’re on stage…
That light, this pain (what never translates).
In a review of her book Zero at the Bone, poet Ron Slate said of Stacie Cassarino’s work: “Often her speaker observes herself in memory, moving through a landscape, carrying a payload of uncertainty, testing validity of her emotions.” Cassarino has a way of validating those small thoughts that envelope the heart and mind, relating the seemingly mundane to the internal voice that we have, to feel.
Goldfish are Ordinary
by Stacie Cassarino
At the pet store on Court Street,
I search for the perfect fish.
The black moor, the blue damsel,
cichlids and neons. Something
to distract your sadness, something
you don’t need to love you back.
Maybe a goldfish, the flaring tail,
orange, red-capped, pearled body,
the darting translucence? Goldfish
are ordinary, the boy selling fish
says to me. I turn back to the tank,
all of this grace and brilliance,
such simplicity the self could fail
to see. In three months I’ll leave
this city. Today, a chill in the air,
you’re reading Beckett fifty blocks
away, I’m looking at the orphaned
bodies of fish, undulant and gold fervor.
Do you want to see aggression?
the boy asks, holding a purple beta fish
to the light while dropping handfuls
of minnows into the bowl. He says,
I know you’re a girl and all
but sometimes it’s good to see.
Outside, in the rain, we love
with our hands tied,
while things tear away at us.