And This, This is Mother- An Original Poem by Margo McManus

And This, This is Mother

Margo McManus

 

Against all odds a mother’s hands are not
Always soft, are not meant to be.

I sat on my own mother’s lap and felt
The dense cauliflower bulges against my palms, my chest as she held me,
And when I was too big to share her throne I
Took the one beside her, felt the whiplash slash of power against my
Stomach every time she
Slammed the breaks, seatbelt searing into my neck.

Sometimes the jagged scar seam scrapes along my scalp like
A fishnet over old aquarium gravel, fingers swimming the
Whirlpool tresses with ease before
Gliding across my wrist to kiss the
Blooming bruises where she
Hauls me from every edge I need saving from, a tingling admonition.

In the clasp of our grasp, humid air builds against our
Chapped edges, chipped spaces,
And feels like the passing wisp of that savage storm –
The murderous mother who birthed a family’s second chance
Amidst the angry ruin.

November 13- Poem of the Week // Hand-Me-Downs: An Original Poem by Chloe Emerson

Hand-Me-Downs

Sad poetry has never sat quite right on my tongue;
Indignation has always squeezed too tightly around my chest,
Like a hand-me-down shirt that was not stretched
To the broad dimensions of my shoulders.
I do not easily fit into these feelings of fire and ire.
This anger, how it burns down my throat, like a wildfire,
And I cannot clutch my pen with flames scorching
Bones and muscles and nerves.
The smoke in my lungs choke every shred of who I am and
Who I could be and who I will be and who I want to be.

My passion has always glided rather than marched,
Trembled softly rather than quaked the earth.
But I guess thats the key to hand-me-downs:
They carry too much of someone else.
Like a sweater inherited from another body,
This anger too lays foreign on me.
But as I wear these hand-me-downs I can feel the
Sweater threads stretching and expanding,
The anger lightening and dispersing until
The fire has been extinguished and I can tremble on.

An Unnerving Grasp On My Shoulder

An Unnerving Grasp On My Shoulder

I had a meeting with a ghost.

It spoke in twisted tongues,

A creature that knew no trust.

It’s eyes followed me, yet yielded contact.

I couldn’t feel any warmth,

Nothing to hold me, to keep me safe.

Tone coarse, a dead, silent winter.

I reach my hand out, sweeping through cold mist.

There is a presence, to which I am blind.

 

The ghost embraces.

 

Nostalgic shivers race deep within roots.

A twist in my abdomen, I shake him off my mind.

He is not here anymore.

Madison Wakefield

November 6- Poem of The Week

A Woman Speaks
By Audre Lorde

Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.

I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
my sisters
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
mourning.

I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
promised
I am
woman
and not white.

 

Audre Lorde, “A Woman Speaks” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., www.nortonpoets.com.

The Forgotten Practice of Journaling- Rachel Elston

When I was younger, I absolutely hated journals. It seemed like every Christmas, birthday, or any other big occasion I would receive a journal from my family, which promptly ended up in a drawer with the others, never to be looked at or written in. I don’t know why I had this disdain for journals. Maybe it was because I resented the fact that my parents were trying to impose them on me, or maybe I just thought the idea of cataloging my thoughts every day was ridiculous. For most of my life I avoided journaling like the plague, until this past summer when I worked at a houseboat camp. There, the director gave us no option but to journal every week during a three hour block of time, and the idea absolutely repulsed me. Ironically, after the first hour of the first week of journaling I completely lost that negative mindset I had for all of those 18 years, and really began to love it. I looked forward to those three hour periods of time all week and came to understand and appreciate the benefits of releasing my random thoughts into a vast book of blank pages. Journaling this summer helped me get through particularly tough days, and there are three big reasons why I think journaling should be incorporated into everyone’s daily routines.

1. Journaling helps you relieve stress and connect with nature.

Nowadays, it feels like everything is moving at such a fast pace and is so technologically driven that there’s never really any time to unwind or do anything that doesn’t involve watching TV, playing on your phone, etc. I never realized how I immediately pick up my laptop or phone whenever I’m bored and I rarely take a break from it. The practice of journaling gave me an excuse to go outside and actually connect with nature, which I never do. Having the opportunity to take time out of the day to write and be outside relieves so much more stress than one would expect. Simply organizing your thoughts and taking time out of your hectic day is such a good way to relieve all the stresses in your life and refocus your mind.

2. Journaling is a good way to rest without actually sleeping.

This might sound a little counterintuitive because journaling is often seen as an activity that is supposed to engage your brain and make you think. But just the act of leisurely writing what comes to your mind or drawing is relaxing in and of itself because it helps organize a discombobulated mind. Without fail, I found that I always came back to reality more focused and awake than I was after taking time to journal. This just proved to me that we don’t have to take naps in order to relax and decompress, which is why more people should utilize the practice of journaling.

3. Journaling helps decision making and reveals unique insight.

Circling back to my first point, taking time out of your day to be with your thoughts helps the process of making decisions and gaining insights on certain subjects. This sounds obvious when I put it in words, but we’re so busy in our daily lives we rarely have time to actually ponder our thoughts. We can’t draw the same conclusions as we can when we stop and consider different perspectives and ideas. Some of my greatest revelations about certain things I was struggling with came to me during that three hour period of writing.

Journaling has so many benefits that we fail to realize, like helping us maintain mental clarity and calming all our hectic thoughts we have throughout our busy days. It’s time to bring back the art of journaling, and embrace this effective way of relieving stress in our lives.

October 30- Poem of the Week

The Raven
By Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Productivity Apps and Websites

Focusing can be hard sometimes, especially if it’s a project that you really don’t want to be working on. There are lots of productivity apps and websites out there, but many of them require purchases (and I personally don’t have the money to spend on productivity apps). Still, I’ve been able to find several ways to help me focus when I desperately need to- hopefully these ways will help you, too!

1. FocusWriter
When you open FocusWriter, you can’t access anything but the app. There are ways to trick it (but I won’t tell you how). There is a section that you can scroll over at the bottom that shows word count, the percentage of your daily goal (that can be edited), and a clock that you can use to set timers and alarms to keep track of when you need to stop working. If you mouse over the left side you can click on an arrow to search through your writing- mousing over the right side shows the scrollbar. Scrolling over the top of the screen, you get a bunch of the standard files and setting tabs- although very slimmed down and condensed. It is a very barebones approach that eliminates most the nonessentials, but it’s not that helpful when you need to use the internet to find and cite sources. There are a lot of different themes, and it’s highly customizable and pretty, and can be helpful when you just need to write!

2. Cold Turkey- Blocker and Writing
The Blocker lets you block websites you choose to the exact time (within 5 minutes) to block. If you attempt to open these websites it won’t load. It comes with a premade list of common timewasting websites that you can edit to fit your specifications. There is a paid version that supposedly lets you refine it further, both time wise and website wise, as well as allows you to block applications, but the free version works just fine.
The writing app has no extra features. All you can do is write- you can’t even save until it unblocks you. You can either set it to block you for a certain amount of time or a certain amount of words (or not at all, but that kind of defeats the purpose) and as far as I can tell there is NO WAY to exit the application. This is a hardcore “I need to study and write” application. All you can do is write- in the free version at least. The pro version seems to have a few additional features.

3. FocusNow
FocusNow is a free iPhone app that uses growing a plant as motivation to keep you from using the other apps on your phone. The premise is simple- you set a timer and while the app is open and the timer is running, the plant grows. If you leave or close the app the plant is killed. This may not work for everyone, but I find it helps me keep from checking my social media for the millionth time in five minutes- I really don’t want to kill those plants. Unfortunately, I don’t know if this app is available for Android phones.

4. Podcasts
This may just be me, but I personally love listening to something while I work. It’s very peaceful and relaxing to me. If it’s silent I tend to let my mind wander- and this gives me an outlet. There’s a podcast out there for everyone- give a few a try! (If you ever want suggestions, I have plenty- I’ll happily help!)

5. Noisli
If you don’t like podcasts, or if having someone speaking will distract you but you still need some noise to focus, Noisli is a nice, simple website to make and listen to background music- mostly nature themed, and highly customizable.

October 23- Poem of the Week

Mowing by Ada Limón

 

The man across the street is mowing 40 acres on a small lawn mower. It’s so small, it must take him days, so I imagine that he likes it. He must. He goes around each tree carefully. He has 10,000 trees; it’s a tree farm, so there are so many trees. One circle here. One circle there. My dog and I’ve been watching. The light’s escaping the sky, and there’s this place I like to stand, it’s before the rise, so I’m invisible. I’m standing there, and I’ve got the dog, and the man is mowing in his circles. So many circles. There are no birds or anything, or none that I can see. I imagine what it must be like to stay hidden, disappear in the dusky nothing and stay still in the night. It’s not sadness, though it may sound like it. I’m thinking about people and trees and how I wish I could be silent more, be more tree than anything else, less clumsy and loud, less crow, more cool white pine,
and how it’s hard not to always want something else, not just to let the savage grass grow.

“Mowing” by Ada Limón, from Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ada Limón.

A Fairytale for the Modern Girl- A Poem By Taylor Summey

(Once upon a time…)

This city is
made of
all of the sins
my mother
warned me about.

(Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?)

Maybe the frost
in the air
makes me
want to disregard
all of these things.

(He’ll huff and he’ll puff and he’ll follow you home.)

The danger
of the city,
stretching out
before me
like the edge
before a
chasm,
almost slips
my mind.

(Those who live in straw houses should keep a low profile.)

Almost.

(And wolves, of course, always travel in packs.)

I don’t remember
the last time
I walked at night
without
keys gripped between
fingers,
body tensed to
bolt,
lungs prepared to
scream.  

(Why are girls always the prey and never the predator?)

(Whatever happened to the she-wolf?)