City of Sisters

It’s not known for its sentimentality.
This city
boos and beheads
faster than you can squeeze
mustard on a pretzel.

It’s strange to imagine
comfort under the armor
of steel and glass,
but it is real.

There is also steel in the smiles
of my sisters in arms,

as they say, “Yes, this is bad
but we will make it better.
Yes they aren’t listening,
but we can be louder.”

They scoff at admonitions
to be nice.
Nice? In this city?

Why be merely nice
when you can be ferocious in your kindness,
unapologetically baring your teeth
to protect those
with barely the strength to whimper?

Nice doesn’t go marching in the wintertime.
But Philadelphia ferocity
burns and ignites belief
to keep one warm in the middle of the storm.

The amazing Mimi Salazar and me at a Tuesdays With Toomey event
Photo taken by the equally amazing Kelly Vincent.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at A Dash of Sunny, Prompt Nights: Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad, and also in no small way, by the ladies over at Tuesdays With Toomey. Thank you for helping me believe in humanity again. This is also linked with the Tuesday Platform over at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads.

Tell Tale

I get nervous
as I see it drifting down my sleeve,
the tender tattered mess
I call my heart.

I call upon any artifice I can
in those moments,
when I fear all my dreaming and desires
are naked in an innocent display.

Every breath not filled with words
starts as perhaps, perhaps,
the most right and holy moment
to relieve myself of the burden,
and speaking
all the thoughts that gyre
underneath my flesh.

But moments pass,
and the sting of those wasted moments
is pitiless of the bruises already there
on my resigned heart
shoved hurriedly off my sleeve
and caged inside my ribs where it belongs.

Song Choice: If by Janet Jackson

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads prompt: Get Listed!, where we were required to use several words in our poem (I used tatter, artifice, holy, gyre, wasted, and pitiless). There was also a bit of inspiration from A Dash of Sunny's Edgar Allen Poe prompt last week. I had started something for that but I wasn't quite happy with the original direction I took. For some reason this week's Toad's prompt, plus memories of being a college girl with a crush on this sweet guy I knew (spoiler alert: we've been married 21 years now) perked up my original idea to play around with ideas around the phrase "tell-tale heart" and this was created. It is also linked to Poetry Pantry #339 over at Poets United. 

First Generation Ghost

If you don’t see it, you don’t have to think about it.
Don’t think. That might remind you
of the world existing just outside the borders
of the manufactured frame you’ve been given.
The multi-hued world people like me live in.

Of course we’re still there,
inside your balance adjusted frame.
Otherworldly ghosts moving inside your scenes,
turning the smaller gears you’ve eschewed -
the gears that keep a pulse of a nation smooth.

Though my first cries were made on this soil,
I was reminded my place was with the ghosts.
“Be quiet, so you don’t scare people
With your arcane Latin tongue.”

So many hoops to jump through
to fit the definition of a woman of substance
yet feeling more insubstantial as I go through every one
to occupy a solid space in the world.

I’m too tired to jump them.
I reject being silent. I will tell my own stories.
Let people squirm when I write
the stories in my blood and sign my name
in letters larger than John Hancock’s.

The world may be unready for more ghost stories,
but I'm ready to tell them.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: On Poetry, Writing & Metaphor - Dreaming With Stacie. Stacie asked us to look around our environment and create a poem about something see/ hear/ smell using an extended metaphor. The Hamilton mix tape (as well as the Hamilton soundtrack) is on heavy rotation in my home and the song Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) had just come up in my music shuffle. The line "America's ghost writers" is still one of the most brilliant things I've ever heard, especially in the context of the song. It's hard for me not to feel inspired every time I hear it. So I didn't fight it and created this poem. 


I was taught to shun the mists.
It hides things
too indecent to walk
under the full light of the sun.

So I stood in the sunshine
ignoring the burning,
explaining away pain
because this is what I was taught to do.

Until I decided to be a poor student,
let mists soothe the suffering in my skin.  
And instead of monsters in the mist,
I found you.

Silken mist curls around us both
cocooning us, as our fingertips linger
on beloved lips we wish to keep
from saying the word goodbye.

Though goodbye is only temporary
until we find our way through the mists again.
As I wait, caught between the misty days,

I think it is the sun who ought to be ashamed.

Kissing in the Rain – Anja Bührer

This poem was created using the picture prompt given at MindLoveMisery's Menagerie: Photo Challenge #148 . It's also linked on the Tuesday Platform over at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads

Leopard in a Cage

Paris, 1941

Etienne limped across the street, grateful for the bite of Paris’ winter wind gnawing on his bones. He could pass off his shivering to the weather, instead of the contents of his coat pocket if questioned by the approaching figures.  They always had questions. Luckily for Etienne, they never asked the right ones. Still, he gripped his pipe tighter.

“Eh, Etienne,” Klaus said, waving a swastika-banded arm at him. “Did you bring us what I asked for?”

“Oui, monsieur,” Etienne said. He handed him the food laden backpack that Klaus’ requested, along with the documents it was his job to deliver.

One of Klaus’s comrades scoffed as he took it. “A lame courier?”

“What do you expect? All the healthy men in Paris are working at the factories for us,” Klaus said, drawing laughter from his comrades. “Besides, Etienne has proven himself loyal, haven’t you?”

Etienne thought of Gustav in his Armée de l'Air uniform before answering, “Oui monsieur.”

“Here,” Klaus said, handing Etienne a small package. “Some tobacco for that pipe of yours, for loyal service.”

Etienne took it, thanking him before heading to his apartment a block away.

He had just reached the door, when Jeanette approached him. “Etienne, do you have chicory to spare?”

Etienne nodded, and spoke the code words. “Of course, as long as you don’t mind a bit of barley in it.”

She followed him in. As soon as the door was closed, Etienne pulled out his pipe, unscrewing it to reveal a hidden compartment and pulled out a small map, which Jeanette tucked into her thick socks. She took a small portion of chicory as well before she left.

Etienne hobbled to his bathroom mirror and stared. He’d have given anything to be the hero his brother was instead of this. He pulled out the tobacco Klaus gifted him and flushed it down the toilet. 

This flash fiction was inspired by the prompt given at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads: Inside the Ink. Magaly asked us to create a short story or poem based around a quote from the last book we had read. My book was Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit. This story really could be said to be inspired by all of chapter eleven, On the Indirectness of Direct Action. But if I had to choose a line that encapsulated that chapter for me, it would be, "I don't know if the Evergreen kids have become great activists or died in a car crash on their way home, but I know that for them I was a leopard prompting a word or two of the poem of their own lives, as Bob was for me." 

A couple of notes about France during World War II: As you might imagine, food rationing was pretty severe, with the German soldiers commandeering a lot of food for themselves.  It was not uncommon for French citizens to be forced into labor to suit German purposes. Instead of coffee, people made do with chicory blended with toasted barely. Oh and in case you were wondering if pipes with secret compartments were a real thing, they absolutely were.

Wherever Flickers Your Unreal

Wherever flickers your unreal
I shall lay in delight.
I will allow my limbs to rest,
nestled into the contours of you.

Lover, I am tired,
and your arms are a haven
for a weary warrior
caught up in the far too real
glass shard world
eager to cut tender hearts into confetti
to be thrown at the feet of monsters.

Let me pause, here, in your unreal.
Let me drink from your oasis.
Replenish me fully
with the gentle delirium of your kiss.
And when I rise to fight again,
it will be with the memory of your love inside me.

This poem was inspired by the prompt over at Dash of Sunny's Prompt Nights: Tomorrow When the Sun Will Rise, Who Knows What the Tide May Bring. I was so captivated by the poem she posted as inspiration (Song by Muriel Rukeyser) that I borrowed a line from it for the title. This being the anniversary of David Bowie's death also inspired my words a bit today. It's also linked to Imaginary Gardens With Real Toad's Tuesday Platform.


I could stare
into the public
shoulders squared, 

or I could be
laughing and enjoying myself
in the company of good friends.

I could be redefining
what it means to make a stand,
and how to be a hero.

I could be boldly me -
be heroic the way I want to.

If you want a plastic toy
go ‘round the corner to the dollar store.

Ever square of jaw,
its eyes will never blink.
And you need never be disturbed
by its joyous laughter.

Song Choice: Kryptonite by Three Doors Down

This poem was inspired by a prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens at Real Toads: Escape to the Past (picture prompt)

A Claw By Any Other Name

Drag a gasping fish onto dry land,
but don’t delude yourself,
that it can learn to prefer air
when it needs water to breathe.

Do you feel satisfied scrutinizing
with puritan eyes each claw and fang,
dismissing those which fail
to meet your standards of sharpness

instead of using the time
to value the strength of each
and understand how they are made
for a purpose beyond your view?

You must enjoy standing alone then.

I will respect claw and fin, talon and tendon
of those who howl in common cause
to ensure the world we all love
will have no shortage of protectors.

This poem is linked to the Tuesday Platform over at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads

Process Note: This poem was inspired by a conversation I was involved in, where a person claimed that unless someone protested in such a manner that risked death or imprisonment, then they may as well join the other side. Aside from being such a laughably black and white view of the world (and regular readers know how much I love that), it angered me. Would the speaker say the same thing to someone in a wheelchair who has concerns about their world? How about saying that to a single mother in sole support of her children? Are they going to step up and care for those children when their mother can't? Unless you know someone's story, don't judge their ability to be part of a cause.

Do the best you can, with whatever limits you have. I'm not going to judge you for "doing it wrong" but thank you for whatever you can contribute.