You loved your mama
through her piercing sorrows
those manic joys, those ill-considered choices
those spun-on dreams of finding love
in deceitful cold hearts wed to despicable hot hands.

All this while
your own sweet soul was pure
your generous warmth
held mama close
loving her, cherishing her.

Bliss should have been her mantra
for you were so innocent and kind
you loved her so, regardless.

Mama knows that now
sees that now
feels it now
every day
she cannot undo what was done
she cannot envelop
the boy you were then
into her grateful arms
to hold you for an eternity.

Had she only done more…

All she can do
is love you now
and yet
your love still pours forth
your colorful recollection of those gray-stock days
tinged with fondness, good cheer and gratitude.

Mama cannot comprehend
how she came to deserve
the stellar son you were then,
the fine young man you are today.

Hate crowds out love
Don’t feed that snarling flame.

Perfume the air of your souls
      with the fragrance of kinship.

Our lives are limited
      in breadth and scope and want.

Seek a higher yearning.
We still have time.

Yielding — to what?
Body shooting up flares left and right.
(My psyche, too).

I remain unsettled.
Eager to do so little.
Marching toward nothing           and caring not a wit…

Must. Break. Free.

Tethered gods in steely disarray
chicken feathers, bloodied and spare, bear witness
to savage foxes, wily and sleek
unearthed talismans of anguished fear
raised up amid the twilight of the heavens
seers of stars
while Orion speaks softly
to those who bravely heed his words.

tangled twisted sheets
unchecked forward momentum
       glowing red numbers
       on a small black box
eyes tightly clenched
against the quiet of the night
images intrude
noisily unbidden
like a black & white western
a steam locomotive
approaches the platform
its piercing whistle
and billowing smoke
herald the arrival
of endless passengers
embarking
on an already crowded
sleep-weary consciousness

I’m thrilled to announce the first publication of one of my poems, Black Picket Fence, which appears in Persephone’s Daughters, Issue Five, Fall 2018. Their About page describes the online publication as ‘a lit magazine dedicated to empowering women who have experienced various forms of abuse and degradation.’

In writing Black Picket Fence, my goal was to revisit an episode from my early twenties, a stark memory of good intentions gone — nowhere — and the shame I experienced when faced with my sheer inability to comprehend how to react when confronted with the damaging effects of domestic violence. Now that I’m older, I recognize how very young I was and how unprepared I was – how unprepared most people might have been – in my situation. I don’t know what happened to this family. This memory has remained, a sad, shameful memory, over the years. I wish I’d done more. I wish I’d known then what to do. The truth is, I felt overwhelmed and powerless and I am so very sorry for my helplessness during this family’s time of need.

Here is the link to Black Picket Fence.

Thank you.

Julie Allyn Johnson

Who was I then?
I don’t think
I’ll ever really know
or understand
the what
or why
or how could I?

This I know: They will never grasp the sadness
and loss
and regret
I feel in my bones
every. single. day.

Wasted years, wasted youth.

Ah, but mine is not a unique story to tell
but it is just that – mine
and no one can convince me otherwise,
much as I wish it simply were not so.

For us…

Though isolated and alone,
six daughters created
their own adventures:

Dredge ditches to explore
logs to climb, hop and traverse
quirky clubs to govern
silliness to be had
pools to swim
bikes to ride.

But they also witnessed dysfunction.
Drinking and arguments
self-centered behavior
loneliness
betrayal
isolation
occasions of violence.
The demeaning of selves.

Their young minds
could not possibly understand
the hardships of their stewards.
They saw only the injustices
perpetuated against them.
A hard thing to shake off – that.
Necessary, though. They see that now:
A duty requiring constant vigilance.

They carried with them the lessons
taught perhaps by design,
others via despair.

A mother who failed to hold and nurture her children
though her love be true.
Other pressing needs consumed her,
mindless of the continuum she unleashed
in tandem with the cold hardness
of what life had dealt her.

She did what she could.

Their human hearts
craved the joyful contentment
of family love and acceptance.

Straw hats and
matching dresses at Easter.
Season pool passes.
Colorful quilts – dozens of them.
Dr. Seuss delivered each month.
Pink cupcakes with candy hearts:
kindergarten visits.

Pillars of the Earth.

She did what she could.

Undermining her own desires
time and again
always alone, uphill battles
against the bottle, work and everyone else,
always others.

When, then, for you?

With the mellowing of age, true pleasures found.
Booze finally lost its allure.
Some tea, mummy? his gentle refrain.
Shared toast with jam on winter mornings,
watching the birds and those clever squirrels.
Travels together, a great bonding.
Gratitudes, delayed and bittersweet
but heartfelt nonetheless.

Disappointments and hurts: not quite ever undone.
Hearts nearly broken at times continue to pump
their life-giving nourishments.
We are human, after all.
And so, there IS love.