A Photograph by Long Nguyen.
Is this how the world wants to start the New Year?
Enough. This is not how we want to start the New Yesrs! End violence towards women.
A Poem by Donal Mahoney
First a rabbi spoke
then a minister
and then a priest.
Finally an imam.
They did their best
to soothe the mourners
at the memorial for
the children slaughtered
even though many
in the audience
had never been
close to tears.
to a woman
in the front row
who said she
wanted to remind
January 22, 2013,
is the 40th Anniversary
of Roe v. Wade,
and that her clinic
would be offering
for any woman
Two for one
for any lady
A Video by CHOIRx3·
A Short Story by Maryetta Ackenbom
Such a fine concert. Julia sat in her recliner, pushed it back and let the good feeling of the evening soak in. She needed to get up in a few minutes and get ready for bed, but she couldn’t let go of the evening, not yet.
Since she had given up her driver’s license a few years ago, when she turned 80, she depended on friends to take her to the musical events she loved so much. She couldn’t go often while Albert was alive. He demanded her full attention, all the time. Life had been hard with him. Even when he wasn’t drinking, he was demanding and abusive. But when he died, just after she had given up her driver’s license, she was free to do what she loved, if she could find friends willing to take her. She felt she was lucky to have the freedom, and the physical ability at her advanced age, to enjoy the cultural events in the city.
Now she had a steady ride every week to the symphony. It didn’t matter what was playing. She preferred the old classics, but anything would do. If it was a modern piece, with that awful cacophony, at least it was interesting. And she was with friends, which was another activity that she had been deprived of with Albert.
She looked around her large bedroom. It had been difficult to limit herself to one room when she turned over her house to her son, but it was necessary. Albert had not left her enough money to live on, and she had to make some arrangement with the house, her only valuable asset. Fortunately, John was looking for a place to live and loved the old house. He guaranteed her an allowance every month for the rest of her life, and he moved into the house with his wife and three teen-age children.
Even though Julia did not get along well with her daughter-in-law, she now had a decent life, better than the life she shared for so many years with Albert. The bedroom was comfortable and big enough to act as a sitting room. John had given her the use of the entire downstairs, but after a few months of running into family members busily leading their hectic lives, she stayed in her room most of the time. Her daughter-in-law’s cook took good care of her, bringing meals to her room.
Julia closed her eyes and remembered the concert, the strong chords of Beethoven, the sweet melody of Brahms. It was so pleasant. I am so content right now. What if I just let go?
Comfortable in her recliner, she did that. She let go of the life she had been holding onto so strongly. Now that her life was good, she could release it.
A Poem by Donal Mahoney
December 21, 2012
From shimmering oil
of ebony still
will come flailing of limbs
will come hacking
of hands now untied
tattooing no pattern
not even a maze
depriving gray walls
of their stone
will come spittle
wild churning rivers
agush from slack jaws
of blanching gray hounds
till one day at dawn
will come quiet
A Short Story by Jessica Leckrone
The first week after classes resumed, Macy and her friends were determined to go out and have a great time. She was nervous, though. She knew her ex would be out with his friends, as well. She had seen him twice around campus and neither one acknowledged the other. They hadn’t had the easiest relationship. Macy and her girlfriends got ready at her house that night, drinking and dancing while doing each other’s hair. She had finally forgotten all of her worries by the time they were ready to leave.
The club they went to was a hole in the wall type place, but in this college town, it was the only place to be on a Wednesday night. Macy liked to get there early, around nine o’clock, to make sure she didn’t have to wait in line and to ensure she had easy access to the bar before it got packed. To all of their surprise, there was a line a mile long just to get in. “This place isn’t good enough to wait in a line like this,” she told the rest of the girls. They decided that if they didn’t know anybody up front to cut in line, they would leave.
Luckily they did. One of her friends snuck them in front before any of the bouncers could send them back to the end. As they were giggling and high fiving about their success, she got a strong tap on her shoulder. Macy glanced quickly over her left shoulder to see a girl standing there with her hand on her hip glaring at her. “Sorry, we’re just saying hi, we’ll move in–.”
The girl held up her hand and stopped Macy short before she could say anything else. “Yeah okay, just hurry up. We were here first.” She said it with as much venom as she could muster and rolled her eyes. Macy was taken aback by the audacity of this girl, but turned around and shrugged her shoulders. She wasn’t going to be Miss Nice Girl anymore. Macy gave the rest of the girls a look that made sure they knew her alcohol-induced brashness wasn’t going to be kept under wraps any longer. Macy’s roommate, Abby, was standing next to her throughout the entire encounter. She was the one person that would speak her mind if they even looked at her wrong. This girl had stepped on the wrong group of girl’s toes.
They had gotten closer to the front and Macy heard the girl behind her say, “Why the hell haven’t they moved yet?” She glanced back and her stomach dropped. It was her, Arin, Tim’s new girlfriend who couldn’t stand Macy at all. Oh, shit. She glanced at Abby and mouthed, “It’s. Her.” She gave her a look and shrugged her shoulders with an attitude they had all come to be wary of. That shrug told all of them, “I hope she does say something to any of us just so I can lay into her.”
Just then a second door opened right where they were standing. Yes! Now I’ll be in before the evil one. Abby darted to the opening in front of the girls and Macy quickly followed. All of a sudden, she felt something hit her gut with so much pressure she was propelled backwards. When Macy looked up, it was the bouncer’s arm.
“This is the cutoff.”
“But we’re together! I’m with her!” Macy sputtered out.
“Sorry, have to stop the line somewhere.”
Asshole. Arin looked at Macy with pure amusement at her recent rejection and ran inside as Abby stepped back out, but not before muttering, “Maybe next time, bitch,” Just loud enough for Macy to hear. Her cheeks flared. Abby sauntered back and waited in line with her once again. They both were reeling from the sudden high and then low of what had just happened.
It only took them ten more minutes to get inside and they ran straight to the bar to get their drinks. They both downed the first and grabbed a second before they scurried to the dance floor. Macy was determined to have a great night and see all of her friends she hadn’t seen in three long months. They were all dancing at the edge of the VIP area that was raised slightly higher than the rest of the dance floor. The floor was sticky with spilled drinks and everyone was packed in so tightly there wasn’t much room to dance. Everyone knew the only way to enjoy themselves here was to get drunk so that they didn’t realize how bad it actually was. Macy had been there sober before. It wasn’t fun. Abby leaned over and whispered, “Sam’s here.” Great…Sam was Tim’s old roommate and best friend. Macy knew then she wouldn’t be able to avoid him.
She stood there frozen in concern over what would happen if she saw him, and then realized it didn’t matter. Who cares what he thinks?
I’m over him. There is a reason we ended it last year. She looked at Abby, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Who cares? Let’s get another drink.”
Macy and Tim had been on the rocks for a few weeks. They’d fight and make up like a TV sitcom. One minute they were laughing and talking with friends, the next he’d yell at her to get in his car to go home. She couldn’t keep up with his mood swings and was done dealing with them. The night things ended, they had made eye contact with each other across the commons. He mouthed “Hey” like they hadn’t talked all week. Who does he think he is? He can’t just not talk to me and then act like everything is normal in front of everyone else. She looked down and noticed her hands shaking.
She decided to text him: Can we talk? This was weird.
Yeah. Come up after you’re done.
She looked at her friends and said, “Here goes nothing.”
When she entered his room, he was cleaning and packing to go home for the summer.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“I don’t know what we’re doing, I guess,” she responded warily.
“Well, Mace, I just feel like you’re trying to tie me down.”
She looked up quickly, shocked by this statement. “What? How? I don’t ask you what you’re doing. I don’t text you all day. I don’t care who you’re with or where you’re going. Explain to me how I am tying you down.”
“I’m just not ready for all of this. I mean, I’m a freshman in college, and if I want to see the girl I met last night, I want to be able to do that.”
“Okay. This isn’t what I signed up for,” and with that, she walked out of his room and didn’t look back.
Abby and Macy were dancing and singing the words to each other when she looked up and everything seemed to stop. There he was, she thought. He stopped just a few feet in front of her. Their eyes locked and they both froze. Macy’s heart immediately started to pound. A million things ran through her head: Why is he here? What do I do? Do I ignore him? Do I say hi? Should I smile? Should I look away? She saw the same questions running through his mind. His face looked just as concerned as Macy’s felt. His lips twitched between a smile and a frown and back again. He was unsure of what to do as well. He finally chose a nervous smile that only traveled up the left side of his face. She decided to give him a tentative smile in return. He must have taken that as an invite to come over and say hi. The first thing he did was lean in for a hug. Surprising even herself, she hugged him back. It had been so long. She had forgotten the sweet and smoky smell that was Tim. She was dizzy with emotion. He had on that old Polo t-shirt he loved so much, which was no shock to her. While they stood there in that awkward embrace with so many old emotions running from him to her and back again, Macy looked up and saw Arin glaring from across the dance floor. He was going to be in trouble for sure.
He leaned back and smiled again at her, much more confidently this time, and said, “We’ll talk soon.”
It took only those thirty seconds to make Macy crumble and her heart to ache. She was back to square one again and she knew that she would never get rid of the feelings she once had for him. She watched him as he walked away and sighed. Abby looked at her with a knowing glance that said she read everything that had just happened. Macy shrugged it off and acted as if it was no big deal. We can be friends, can’t we? I can handle that, right?
A prayer after today’s school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, by
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
God, let me cry on Your shoulder.
Rock me like a colicky baby.
Promise me You won’t forget
each of Your perfect reflections
killed today. Promise me
You won’t let me forget, either.
I’m hollow, stricken like a bell.
Make of my emptiness a channel
for Your boundless compassion.
Soothe the children who witnessed
things no child should see,
the teachers who tried to protect them
but couldn’t, the parents
who are torn apart with grief,
who will never kiss their beloveds again.
Strengthen the hands and hearts
of Your servants tasked with caring
for those wounded in body and spirit.
Help us to find meaning
in the tiny lights we kindle tonight.
Help us to trust
that our reserves of hope
and healing are enough
to carry us through.
We are Your hands: put us to work.
Ignite in us the unquenchable yearning
to reshape our world
so that violence against children
never happens again, anywhere.
We are Your grieving heart.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
A short story by Brian Michael Barbeito
In the nights there was a sense of surrounding trouble, a trouble that had no name, but waited there and sometimes it seemed to whisper strange thoughts from the curtains and other times it waited in silence by the closets and corners. It never quite materialized, this vague and corrupt thing, and in a way this was worse than if it had. The boy had thoughts that raced and his heart was as if a propeller twirled in his chest. He had the feeling that something was wrong, and that he had been lost somewhere along a line, but he could not understand where or when or why. He felt placed in the world, the way a terrarium keeper might place a rock or watering dish or reptile into place. Something had happened, something cosmic, something to do with his origins, he did not know the specifics of, yet the results of this happening were these vague feelings and night terrors. Why was it so? Why. Why. Why. As his psyche struggled and the nights rolled out longer and longer, he would sweat and thirst, toss and turn, and try as he might for sleep, it was not forthcoming. Outside, but not twenty feet away, the angry wind banged the windows like waves against a tall ship in old pictures.
Some nights his mother would check in.
What is the matter? She inquired.
Not sure, but it feels as if there is something here.
There is nothing. Everything will be fine.
And, she cautioned, don’t forget to pray.
There was a nightlight, and nightlights in the hallway, and though these lit up a few feet, it was not enough light to make the night worlds seem any less strange or threatening. In fact, the odd shadows these small lights cast around the floor and walls made peculiar phantom like shapes that seemed to live on their own. What was more, the boy had one year been visited by an actual spirit, the spirit of another boy who had become lost on the after death journey. These were all things outside of the boy, and on the inside there were more intense worlds. He heard a loud vibratory buzz in his ears almost all of the time and could hear people speaking to him, warning him of things. He could not make out what they were saying, and sometimes the voices sang songs, but they were lamented, sorrowful songs, such as a choir might let out if it were told to sing a song of remorse or pity. What were these noises? What. What. What. One thing that sometimes helped to assuage the fears and noises of the nights was the thought of a colorful bird, a bird that traveled through a tropical forest singing its own songs. The boy tried with utter simplicity to imagine this bird and the song it sang, and sometimes, though not always, this helped in some small way.
At times he would even talk to the bird and then to the unknown threat.
Are you ready bird? Yes, you say? All right then. Ghosts, if that is what you are, come as you may. I am ready and unafraid. Bird here is also ready and unafraid. I would like to see you. I would like to see you fight. Fight. Fight. Fight. I am here. And unafraid.
Through the years the image of the bird he had adopted in the mind’s eye remained a faithful ally. Like old friends, the boy and the bird together fought the vague fears of the nights. Eventually the boy grew and the old turbulence of those post-dusk hours was replaced by more realistic and orthodox concerns. Time itself had proven to be, if not a gracious host, at least reasonable and somewhat magnanimous in its true character. It had let those cosmic evening tides level out some and the way was now more swimmable.
Daylight is strong.
Breaks the webs of night.
Well in the day.
As for the bird, it was hardly remembered save for fleeting moments here or there. But when it was recalled, it was assigned the status of guardian angel or at the least a kind and dutiful guide.
A quote from the back of Poetry, December, 2012, by Adam Kirsch
The unadmitted reason why traditional readers are hostile to e-books is that we still hold the superstition that a book is like a soul, and that every soul should have a body.
Chicago, the South Side,
long before Barack Obama
those I’d love see live
anywhere they like
are those so black
they up long planks
in the heat of summer
so bright it pours
in a silver seiche
of bungalow basements
crashing in coal bins
of new masters
This is a poem based on fact, if memory serves, because only the blackest men delivered coal to the bungalows on the far south side of Chicago when I was in grammar school.
The time frame for this poem was roughly 1948 to 1952 in a neighborhood of white immigrants in Chicago. There was no overt racism toward the black man wheelbarrowing the coal into the coal-bin basement window. The coal truck would pull up and the white driver would dump a ton of coal and the black guy would be left to spend the day taking the coal, a barrow at a time, up a plank down the gangway to dump it into the window.
I used to watch these men when I was in grammar school. I couldn’t get over how hard they worked. The sweat was like a flood. They all wore a version of the so-called do-rag to absorb the sweat. But the one thing they seemed all to have in common was the degree of their blackness. I never saw a mulatto or octoroon doing that kind of work.
from Sing for the Climate’ de Flemish umbrella organisation of Flemish Ngo’s for development cooperation and CNCD, its Walloon counterpart.
A Poem by Melissa Carl
A freak, crocus-warm winter afternoon
pours its sun into scent on sheets.
On the lines, wooden pins creak
and clasp my towels.
An upsurge of air
my clothes awaken,
stir with the intimate knowledge
they have of my hair,
my skin. The snap of material
the sound of freedom.
I like that my shirts are sails,
that something of me
is on the wind.
Today is AIDS Awareness Day.
V-Day stands in solidarity today with the countless activists across the planet who are fighting HIV and AIDS. The spread of the disease, and its connections to the prevalence of sexual violence against women, cannot be denied.
Please take the time to check out these extraordinary V-Day partners doing work on HIV/AIDS:
Join us on February 14, 2013 as we rise to end all forms of violence against women and girls!