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SPOTLIGHT: Shapes of Motherhood (Motherhood of Shapes) by Michelle Moloney King

Hello midnight.

Who so him. Who so Jim.
I saw them pounding leather
sofas around a campfire moonglobe.
Plastic spring water bottles
filling coffee cups
and curls of strong women
foreshadow that Voice.
“Who are you, kind ruffian?”
Tonight I’ll leave my phone
unlocked to notes
waking to the scribbled answer.
The toddler sleeps beside me
on soaked silken letter books.
Did you do this too? She waits
for the flicker. What’s with all
the people on the street with
big bags, have you noticed that?

Read me. On The Union, Dear Sirs…..

Re-gain

Truth to power the cartoonishness

of high art. Consummate of easy

employability. Walking the streets

of my mind most cul de sacs.

Real and fictional, we explore

history pinpointing when we

displeased the gods so as to

self-flagugate as all Marys do.

Little King, you left us banging

the hall’s door down.

Poets r Punks

It’s Good, Baby

The blue things

are holding the

granet, reach in

and swipe something

from its butter –

has broken. I’ll

fix that bit

too on Sunday

now that John

is gone to

soapy tears. Keep

your eye on

the weather, fella,

dang it all!

War-like dolls

dance only at

last chances, feet

not touching the surf, Little King.

Michelle Moloney King {she/her} fundraiser for Féileacáin Ireland, she is an experimental poet, visual poet, editor of Beir Bua Journal, Beir Bua Press and a Primary school teacher.2001 A mother and living with her family in Co. Tipperary, Ireland with a degree in computer science, post grad in education & is Master Hypnotherapist.Moloney King is interested in family life in flux, the plurality of time, and the surreal-absurdism of life.

Pushcart Nominee 2021. Visual Artists Ireland member.

Some of these poems have been first published in M58, 3AM Magazine, Mercurius, Asemics Magazine, Streetcake Magazine, The Babel Towers Notice Board, and Pamenar Press.

Website: MichelleMoloneyKing.com Press www.BeirBuaPress.com

Shapes of Motherhood: Motherhood of Shapes: King, Michelle Moloney, Buddha, Alien: 9798745895272: Amazon.com: Books

Shapes of Motherhood: Motherhood of Shapes: Amazon.co.uk: King, Michelle Moloney, Buddha, Alien: Books

SPOTLIGHT: an excerpt from Raising St. Elisabeth, a novella by Leah Holbrook Sackett

Kate Campbell opened her mouth and inhaled the sour smell of fermentation. It was like a kiss from her grandmother. Using a wooden spoon, she mixed sugar, water, oil, and flour with the starter from the Mother. Then she floured the worn wood grain of the kitchen table. Little clouds of flour settled on her rolled-up sleeves and disappeared into her ivory linen apron with the large pockets on the hips of the pleated skirt. Mrs. Campbell kneaded and pound the dough into a pliable texture. Her arms sinewed from years of bread making. Graying and red curls escaped from her bun, loose on the back of her head. Even now, in later years, her hair was too thick to bind down, too tangled to control. She worked in the full sunlight, filtered through the large window that took in a view of their apple orchard. With one fist knuckled into the dough, Mrs. Campbell used her free hand to brush back the strayed curls from her face and inadvertently floured her hair. She rested and gazed out over the tangled limbs of the apple trees, the crooked rows of verdant green under a bright sky of unadulterated blue. Then she covered the bowl with a towel, patted it lovingly, and left the dough to rise.



The white porcelain crockery that held the Mother was stored on a shelf in the cupboard. Here it was out of harms way but handy for weekly use. It was common, nondescript save for the pockmark on the container’s lip. It was scarred from a fall when she had kept the Mother out on the counter. She was chastised by guilt every time she looked at it. Kate had been distracted, consumed with envy over Mrs. Lovejoy’s apple pie. Mr. Campbell had said, “Why this is the best apple pie in Yakima County,” as he lifted a hefty forkful towards his mouth, gluttonous for another bite. She had turned rough and blind, armed with a rolling pin, and swept the heavy crockery off the counter. Thankfully, it had not broken into shards and damaged the Mother inside.



Kate had guarded this Mother from Ohio to Yakima County, Washington, just as her grandmother had carried it from Ireland to America in 1818. Her grandmother claimed this Mother was over a hundred years old. And that was when Kate herself was just a snub-nosed child back in 1845 peeking over the counter to get a whiff of the sourdough as it was worked into formation under the gnarled fingers of her grandmother.



Kate returned to the pantry and piled 10 small beets into her apron’s pockets when she heard wagon wheels fast approaching the house. It was not a good sound. It was urgent. Mr. Campbell never rode the team of horses like that; he was a calm, steady man. She hurried out of the front of the house to meet him.



“What is it, Michael?” she called out to Mr. Campbell.



Michael had left that morning to meet his tenant Henry Johnston and work on a blocked irrigation channel. Henry and Marie Johnston were tenants on the Campbell Orchard and farm. Henry was Michael’s, right-hand man. He was younger than Michael with more brawn. But Michael had years of experience, even if time was starting to rub the physicality off of Michael like a well-worn shoe. Henry was a little shorter than Michael, but twice the muscle, which was evident under the red cotton weave shirt that opened wide at the neck showing Henry’s bare chest. Only a few ladies visited Kate at the orchard, but all of them noticed when Henry walked by, which his wife Marie seemed to be blissfully ignorant. Her attention of late had turned to her unborn child.



On the outskirts of the newest section of the Orchard, Henry had been digging in a ditch trying to remove a tree root that was obstructing the water flow. With the final upheaval of the ax-battered root, a surge of water rushed through, sweeping Henry off his feet.



“He must have hit his head,” said Michael with his hands on his hips. Michael always stood in a wide stance, looking up into the sky with hands-on-hips when he tried to fight back a display of emotion.



“I just don’t understand where all that water come from,” he had said to a blank-faced Kate.



Henry was in the back of the wagon: glistening, waxen and cold. His red shirt hung heavy with water on his body. The Campbells made their way across a narrow road of grayish-brown soil. The road was deteriorated with ruts. The juts made the stiffening Henry bump and thud in the back of the wagon. They were rushing to tell a pregnant woman she was a widow. Kate started to lose the sense of urgency. She looked back on Henry grey-faced and mud-caked. She wondered at how quickly death claims a man. With their arrival at the Johnston homestead, just the next farm over, death brought a sense of responsibility. In a flurry, Kate entered the Johnston home. The bun loosened from the back of her head and her face flushed from the rough, fast-paced ride. Death brought a sense of impotence to the Campbells, a hardworking, purposeful people. They met this feeling with a sense of urgent duty. But as Kate stood in the empty, smoky front room of the house, she became momentarily disoriented.



“Henry! Here, I’m in here,” Mrs. Johnston called out in undisguised panic.
Kate bust into the bedroom adjacent to the front room, and froze taking in the sight of Marie Johnston with her legs and skirts hiked-up lying in the middle of her four-poster bed with the intricate wood carvings.



“Thank God, you’ve come,” Marie said, breaking into a sob.



Kate shrewdly swallowed her desperate news, tightened the bun on her head, and asked Marie when the pains had started. She had not expected to find Marie like this. Kate had never witnessed a birth nor given birth, but her sewing circles were rich with women’s war stories – the births of children and the scars they left behind. She tried to recall the facts she would need now. Her mind was frenetic, her movements staid. Marie reached her arms out to Mrs. Campbell like a child. Kate positioned Marie’s body, without resistance from Marie, in a state of repose and tucked her in with the bedclothes. Marie gave over to Kate’s direction and allowed her body to rest between erratic labor pains. The waves of pain in Marie’s back and pelvis subsided, leaving her bent and bulging like a skeletal shipwreck spewed onto a shore of sheets. Marie was exhausted. The crackle of the fire was hardly audible now. Smoke drifted lazily into the room, curling about the wood carved caryatids’ ankles. Marie watched the malodorous snakes of smoke wrap around the wooden echoes of her MotherMother. She buried her head in the feather pillow to block the stench of burnt stew from infiltrating her nostrils.



“Marie, what’s been burning?”



“I was afraid the whole house would burn. I’d been cooking when the pains started. I came in here to lie down, just for a bit. But the pains grew worse. And I was all alone,” Marie cried.



“I’ll take care of everything,” Kate said, patting Marie on the hand. And she went in search of the smoldering fire.



After removing the cast iron pot from the stove, Kate dumped its charred contents in the front yard where Mr. Campbell waited with a tarp-covered wagon and a weary look. She gave a quick explanation and dispatched him to construct Henry’s coffin in the barn aside from the small three-room, wooden-framed house. Michael sawed planks of wood meant to be an addition to the growing family’s home. He sawed the timber, too green that it wept, and he labored inside the suffocating heat of the barn under a high noon sun. Cold, dead Henry was his companion.



Kate returned to the kitchen, filled a fresh pot with water, and put it on the stove. Then she returned to the bedroom to tend to Marie. Kate surveyed the room, over-furnished for such a small house. Marie had arrived in Yakima County like a haggard princess after a long journey. Kate had always been reserved and polite with Marie but stood in judgment of this silly, younger woman’s pack of luxury items that served her poorly here on the outskirts of society. The bed took up most of the space in the center of the room and dwarfed the rest of the pieces, which looked plain compared to it. Matching bedside tables, a small ladies’ chair finely upholstered in pink velvet, a dresser with mirror, and a cedar hope chest seemed to gather round the bed, and Marie like loyal subjects.
Marie whimpered and reached for Kate’s hand.



“The pains are worse. They started in my back like a dull ache, but now they grow sharp around me when they come. Please, help,” Marie said. Kate allowed Marie to squeeze her hand and watched the woman buckle under an invisible vice-grip of pain.



“Try to focus on something else,” Kate said with false authority. Marie turned her head and looked to the fine details of her hand-carved oak bed. “What are you looking at?” Kate asked.



“My Mother. That is the face of my Mother on each of the carved women. My father made this bed for me after she died.”



“It’s beautiful,” Kate said. And she compared the rest of the furniture’s simple carvings against the bed’s elaborately carved headboard and footboard with the four caryatid pilasters. The four wooden women certainly displayed craftsmanship of grace and detail under the canopy’s weight.
The day faded away, and the baby had not come yet. Michael continued constructing the coffin outback. Kate lit candles and kept water boiling. She took a seat on the cedar chest by the door to rest for a moment and thought about how she had come to break the news of Henry’s death; to do her duty and comfort Marie in her time of grief, but now found herself in the role of mid-wife to a widow. At least the early birth was delaying the message of Henry’s death, she thought while chewing on the inside of her cheek, an absent-minded habit. Rising from her seat on the hope chest, she selected linens to use during the birth while she phrased and re-phrased, in her mind, how to tell Marie about Henry.


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SPOTLIGHT: The Mountain Where Nothing Happens by Thomas Helm

1

Oak trees.
Clang of bell.
Butterflies
Sculpting light.
And forest everywhere,
A blue-smoked sea of green.

The Mountain hums with breeze.
With cliffs of gold and grey,
Their barest faces shining in the sinking sun.

And then the silver cup of moon
Whose cup is never big enough
For solitude.

Old tomes emerge.
Dogs barking in the mind.
Knowing them means
Knowing the ways of confusion.

Confusion, you spin such endless threads.
How can we love your work without misgiving?

2

The morning sleek with emptiness.
To rise and praise the day and sing
With eggs
And thistled suns and pale flowers.
The names are never learnt.
Why should they have a name?
Does affirmation need precision?

Crown shyness is
Two trees growing into one another.
Never completely merging,
They leave some space
For light to reach
The lower branches.

The pink flowers look like waterwheels.
The tortoiseshell cows are slowly moving boulders.
They swish their tails.

Behind those glassy eyes
The life-force gleams.
They chew their cuds.

The pain of walking twenty miles
Over wooded hills
Is mostly felt in
The back and legs.

A body is
A suffering machine.
Every hiss of hunger, chill, and thirst,
And fear.

Satiation lasts a second.
The skybound wave must fall.
A voice of wanting things remains.
A voice that draws the life-force in
To things that crumble.
The pulse is hot with bleeding.


3

The Mountain’s psychological.
Climbing the slopes of fear and craving
Requires a discipline.

The summit leads to higher summits.
The work’s continual.

Life is not a question of doing but knowing.
Doing is just a tool for knowing.

Sometimes going up means going down.
Up and down: projections of the mind.
A fall can launch the rise of something great.
A rise can end with disappointment.
In all things, whether up or down,
Left or right,
We cannot avoid ourselves.

The heavy presence drinks the page.

If there are no destinations,
There are no false turns,
No slow or fast,
No right or wrong:
Only peace or conflict.

The moss-encircled eyes of beech
Have ivy on their brows.
Centuries old,
Their roots amaze beneath the soil.
Their slowness is a font of youth
Their hands are held by wind.
These beings creak, but never move.
Perhaps motion is just another
Burden to endure.

Their branches, swaying in the gale,
Wait for storms to pass.

Thoughts are quick but life is slow,
The universe infinitely so.

Why run when you can walk?
Why walk when you can crawl?
Why crawl when you can stop?

Even as you start to doubt
Renewal
The wind has blown the old world on.

One day a wormhole will devour the earth.
Deadliness will triumph.

As a young man, one labours in silence.
As an old man, one rests in silence.
As a dead man, one lives in silence.

Two white birds fly by
The rocky path
And sing among the unseen boughs,
The curling leaves,
The sniffling animals.
They fly where no-one flies.
Praise them, who live to sing,
Unfurling timeless wing
In shadows thick and green.

The hardest part of hiking’s not the cold
Or wet or never-ending Mountain but
The mind.

Loneliness is grief.
In the city, distractions everywhere,
One buries grief
In books and dreams.
In the Mountain,
Silence can be harsh.

Words, books, operas,
Works of art, philosophy:
A luscious forest
At the foot of a balding Mountain.
It’s pleasant roaming through this forest.
But when you climb,
You always climb alone.
Too many books will hold you back.
The paintings ruin in the snow.

Contrary to popular belief,
Austerity is not about renunciation
But satisfaction with less.

What is the cause of agitation?
Obsession with either a pleasing
Or a displeasing object.

Each of us possess a perfect centre,
Untouched by love, by hate, by time,
By earth, by joy, by sorrow.

Life improves when we
Perceive
This perfect centre
As ultimate reality.


4

A single drop can save a life.
Water is everywhere
And yet people are thirsty.

Birdsong in the morning.
Rumble of traffic behind the hill.
The hissing pot of tea.
The coals of last night’s fire.
Mind alert.

Solitude is both a luxury and a challenge,
An invitation to a Mountain climb.

The magic sound of water bursting through
The driest slope.
Hidden among the beech,
You share your life with everything.

When you stop, restlessness occurs.
You were so busy lusting after destinations,
The nothing’s overwhelming.

On this Mountain where nothing (and everything) happens,
The mantras of nothing (and everything)
Weave the everyday.
Movement is just the surface-play of emptiness.
Speech, a circling back to silence.

The bugs buzz round the stream.
Where silver rocks were thrown, many eons ago,
By reckless gods.
They landed here, serene.

Back pains don’t subside.
The Mountain takes the toll.

The steps to peace are never separate.
They flow together, bring you dreaming with them.

Tranquillity is putting on a jumper
When you’re cold.
Insight is building shelter.

Fear can happen unexpectedly.
Hearing the clang of bells near the tent.
What if the farmer’s driving his herd?
What if the farmer sees the tent?
What are the penalties for camping?
Will the world attempt to crush this happiness?
Is the farmer of a generous or pedantic disposition?
Will he turf me off this land?
Will he call the police?
Will they imprison me?
Perhaps he’ll fire his gun.
How much money do I need to pay them off?

So many questions spiral from the simple act
Of hearing cowbells in the darkness.
The cows themselves are harmless.

Night has come. The bells continue ringing.
Sometimes the best things happen when you stop.

White moths circle the tent.

There is no-one.

5

A foggy dawn.
Time spreading through the world
Like misted waves of light.

Old fears return.
Why are you here?
What are you doing with this life?
There’s only one.

The paths are complicated.
Why not turn back?
What if you missed something important?
But there’s no destination.
The river sings.
The clouds have gone.
Cerulean sky.

Preparing for disappointment is
The wrong approach.
Satisfaction with less
Precludes disappointment.
No café, no shop, no restaurant,
In the only village for miles.
It did not matter.

This path feels less like evolution than
Clarification,
Though maybe clarification
Is a form of evolution.

Dry slopes are hard to climb,
Without natural support for life.

Definition of despair:
An ancient forest where you
Intended to camp no longer exists:
Sadness and tire tracks everywhere.

Excitable natures precipitate disaster by themselves.

No-one, not even himself,
Could see the pied piper was mad.
His rules were passed
From dream to dream,
A socially acceptable form of blindness.

These flies in your eyes
Are more peaceful than
The secret abattoirs
That city folk have hidden from themselves.

SPOTLIGHT: Fall of the Medes by Wayne-Daniel Berard

an excerpt

Kerin just sat there with the knapsack open, sat in one of 50 identical green chairs with chrome tubes for arms that filled a good third of the Division of Human Services office for that county.

Kerin didn’t know what county; he’d lost track months before, months that had passed 1ike a school of green humpback whales swimming sadly but playfully off the orange-gray rocks of a New England coast. When they broke the surface of the sea, their backs would form long rows of wide chrome tubing, glinting under the fluorescent sun of their own Division of Sea-Mammal Services, as they themselves were victims of so much.

Would they beach themselves? Would a cannon-harpoon suddenly find them as they playfully, carelessly slipped out of the territorial limit, like a child who wanders into the street after their toy ball?

And would they find their car?

That’s what Kerin was there for, after all. The police told him that these people could help him find the Plymouth Horizon held abandoned eight months before in the breakdown lane of US Route 1.

And so, he waited.

He waited without dreaming, even though he had been waiting for a long time.

A skinny woman with glasses kept staring at him from her desk with a particularly dirty look on her face. It was the same look she wore whenever she saw that a dog had once more gotten into her rubbish and scattered it all over her front yard. It was that sort of skinny-old-woman-mad-at-unbagged-garbage look.

Kerin pretended not to notice, but he didn’t dream either, which wasn’t like him. Usually he dreamed even when he was busy; dreaming had always been his natural predisposition.

Not anymore. The dream about the green humpback whales breaking the surface of the water with their silver chrome backs was mine. Kerin himself just sat there with his knapsack, not dreaming a single dream.

He was thinking, though. He was thinking about a lot of things. Those things were all jumbled together, but they were very colorful, and looked like they had just that second stopped moving.

            What really bothered Kerin was how far away all those colorful, barely-arrested things seemed to him. When he tried to think, it was like gazing at a paper-thin Jackson Pollock canvas from behind.

But the painting did have a name.

It was called Arwen #1.

Whatever those bright, colorful, suddenly still and distant things were, together they had something to do with Arwen, and that gave them primacy in Kerin’s mind, even over dreaming, his first and greatest love.

They were together out there, Arwen and Nat.

All Kerin had to remember them by was Nat’s old knapsack. He had nothing of Arwen’s, at least he didn’t think so.

He wasn’t jealous, really. If he had been, the Jackson Pollock canvas in his mind would have turned around when he thought the word “jealous”; all the brightly colored things would have started moving again, and he would have immediately started dreaming.

Truth would have righted the whole picture.

But he wasn’t jealous. He knew that Nat barely recognized that Arwen or anybody else was there anymore, and wasn’t sure what Arwen really wanted, anyway.

Still they were together out there, and he was here, in the whale-watch lobby, waiting for his Horizon. Waiting to go home.

He hoped that Nat would be alright. He hoped that Arwen . . .

God, how had he ever gotten into this mess anyway!