Monday, August 29, 2016

Lori Horvitz

All the World's Oceans

My mother lost her independence on Independence Day, the day she married my father and moved from Brooklyn to southern Illinois, where my father worked as a traveling salesman, leaving my mother isolated, surrounded by corn and wheat fields. Nothing much to do but give birth, four in a row, bam bam bam and me, the fourth, the grand finale, before my father got fired for “being too honest,” before we all up and left, back to New York, to a landfill suburb, where I never saw a garlic clove, where pimentos grew in olives, where no one walked except a bald man in a trench coat, someone’s weird uncle, and we all pointed at him because he walked. “Look at that man walking,” we’d say. “He must be crazy.”

My mother loved to travel, to escape, and my father reluctantly accompanied her. He talked about my mother in third person: “The woman is wild, always clomping like a horse. She can’t sit still for a second.” He documented their trips with an eight-millimeter movie camera, and after their Italy trip he showed us footage of Pompeii, the bodies embalmed in plaster white. A volcano erupts and bam bam bam, they’re all dead. One witness on record said the dust “poured across the land like a flood…and shrouded the city in a darkness…like the black of closed and unlighted rooms,” and now it was a museum and I hadn’t thought, not until then, about how nature can be so exquisite, so useful, so loving, so cruel.

Sailors used landmarks such as glowing volcanoes to guide them—our first lighthouses, the traffic signs of the sea, our warning signals. The first lighthouse on record, Pharos Lighthouse, on the eastern point of Pharos Island in Egypt, used an open fire at the top as a source of light. Built about 280 BC, it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and hence, people who study lighthouses are called Pharologists. In Pompeii, a nearby column of smoke, “like an umbrella pine,” a clear warning sign of the impending explosion, triggered a response of curiosity rather than alarm, along with the many little earthquakes leading up to the big Vesuvius roar, and the volcanic explosion fifteen years prior was bad but reparable, so they repaired and repaired, hauled rocks and marble pillars for better days to come, but didn’t think about the ruins I’d be walking through over two thousand years later.

Fifteen years after seeing my parents’ Pompeii footage, I made my way to Pompeii and filmed plaster casts, a hand gripping a nearby foot, unfinished frescoes, petrified canines in corners, a group of women embalmed in a toga-draped, huddled embrace. That night, I returned to my Rome motel room and dreamt of black smoke spiraling from a burning car, a circle of Middle-Eastern boys chanting around it, precisely at the same time my mother died, sitting in the passenger seat of my father’s Nissan Sentra, but this was the 80s before the Internet and cell phones, and I knew nothing about the crash or death for two days, not until after my mother was buried, underground, not unless you count my dream and I do.

My super-8 film shot at Pompeii came back from the lab and I ripped the package open but only blackness filled each frame, “like the black of a closed and unlighted room,” exposed to too much light, or never exposed to any, I’ll never know. Blinded by the light or kept in the dark, not much difference. The Russian meaning of my grandfather’s last name is “blind man.” By the time my grandfather reached Canada from the Ukraine, his name transformed from blind man to Blank. Harry Blank. Blank slate. Fill in the blank. My mother met my father on a blind date. No lights could break through the fog.

When a beam of light isn’t visible from a lighthouse, when there’s too much moisture in the air, an automatic sensor activates a foghorn. The first foghorn, used in 1719, was in the form of a cannon. The Boston lighthouse keeper fired a cannon every hour in the thick of the fog and no one got much sleep, and since my mother’s death, I’ve suffered from insomnia, sometimes waking up every hour on the hour, even without the cannons.

I walked a lighthouse stairwell all the way to the top, and I heard a cannon’s boom, but neither prepared me for my first glimpse of the Pacific—hungry and wild and out of control. At sixteen, in no way versed in trees or stars or birdcalls, I cried, overwhelmed by the ocean’s cobalt waves, the craggy mountaintops, a cloud in the shape of a racing greyhound. I rode my bicycle towards those deep blues and purples and greens, tears running down my face, somewhere near Eureka, California, and later learned the word “Eureka” comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “I have found it,” and I did find it, more beauty than I could imagine.

The rain of ash and pumice spewing from Mt. Vesuvius wasn’t lethal at first, and the eruption, which lasted twenty-four hours, wasn’t blinding at first, so those who fled immediately had a chance to survive, yet those who went back for possessions didn’t have a chance. Scientists believe the fourth Vesuvius surge caused most of the fatalities, when a blanket of scolding ashy air, over five hundred degrees Fahrenheit, covered Pompeii, instantly incinerating bodies, and afterward, a larger deposit of ash buried them, leaving perfect body casts, frozen in time, some clutching jewelry and money, hands curled around gold coins as if they could use them as collateral in their next life.

Harry Blank and his future wife, Becky, were amongst those who saw the warning signs in Russia and had a chance for a new life, when a systematic policy of discrimination towards Jews led to their mass exodus in the early twentieth century. They moved from the Ukraine cornfields to a Montreal boarding house to a Brooklyn tenement to a Brighton Beach high-rise. Grandma Becky gave birth to my mother, and soon after had a botched abortion, leaving her sterile, depressed. Her mother, my great grandmother, died of Novocain poisoning. No warning signs. Just a tooth that needed to be fixed. And bam. One day she sat down in the dentist’s chair and never got up.

I never understood the ocean’s fury, not as a child, and even as an adult, I could barely fathom how the Indian Ocean tsunami swallowed up entire towns, why foghorns didn’t sound, why so many were taken by surprise. Beforehand, cows and dogs and other animals fled to higher ground and most survived, probably sensed ground vibrations. If the ground beneath your feet starts to move, get out of there as fast as you can. If there’s a fire, stay low to the ground, but as a child, fires meant chasing after fire trucks on my banana-seat bicycle, and hurricanes meant sitting on a cot at the local armory, eating tuna sandwich triangles provided by the Red Cross and feeling disappointed when the meteorologist said it’s safe, the eye of the storm has passed, go home. 

My family moved from the Illinois cornfields to a split-level suburban house, a block from the Atlantic—our cross street: Bliss Place. Sometimes I found bliss: when I planted wheat seeds and watched them sprout; when my mother brought home three chickens from her kindergarten class and I claimed one for my own until I tried to kiss it and it poked me in the eye; when Yiddish chatter skimmed the surf at Brighton Beach and my Grandma Becky held my tiny torso up while I screamed and splashed and pretended to swim; and the day my mother gave me a seashell and I stroked its pearly orange inside and she told me to hold it up to my ear and I said why and she said you have to listen carefully and if you do you can hear the ocean and I pressed it against my ear and I said I can’t hear anything and she said, listen, really listen, and I pressed the shell even harder and by gosh, the ocean roared in that shell, the shell that barely fit over my ear—a child with the ocean, all the world’s oceans, in the palm of her hand. 
                                                          --First published in The Chattahoochee Review

Lori Horvitz’ short stories, poetry and personal essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies, including Epiphany, South Dakota Review, Southeast Review, and Hotel Amerika. Her book of memoir-essays, The Girls of Usually, published in 2015 by Truman State UP, won The 2015 USA Best Book Award for LGBT Nonfiction, and the 2016 Independent Book Award (IPPY) Gold Medal Winner in Autobiography/Memoir. Lori is Professor of English at UNC Asheville.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Lockie Hunter

The Curls of Giaconda Belli

I dream Giaconda Belli braids my mane;
weaves in flowers from the Malinche tree.
My hair a halo of word and orange flame.

Her world a vine-ripened poem, the forest frame,
We sit, baked into stones, far from the sea.
I dream Giaconda Belli braids my mane;

She tosses red curls for me to rename.
The Sphinx moth, Devil’s Viewpoint I see.
My illusion a halo of word and orange flame.

My turn. I begin to weave her name.
My fingers catch on morsels of words and bounty;
I dream Giaconda Belli braids my mane;

Fingers snag on nouns, trip on verbs aflame.
Her curls resist the brush, wedged on debris
Her hair a halo of word and orange flame.

magia, madre, pueblo, quiero reclaim.
Why would you try to separate them from me?
I dream Giaconda Belli braids my mane;
My hair a halo of word and orange flame.

Lockie Hunter
Lockie Hunter is a recipient of a 2013/2014 Regional Arts Project Grant for poetry. She holds an MFA in fiction from Emerson College in Boston and has taught creative writing at Warren Wilson College. Her words have appeared in publications including Hiram Poetry Review, Slipstream, Brevity, Nerve, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, The Baltimore Review, Main Street Rag, New Plains Review and Arts & Opinion and her satire has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Opium, The Morning News, University of Pennsylvania's Problem Child, and other venues. She serves as curator of the Juniper Bends Reading Series and Stories by the River, and as associate producer and host of the poetry radio program Wordplay on 103.3 FM in Asheville.

Photo credit: Nikki Moon

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ann Bauleke

The Littlest Feminist

My mother Mary turned five years old on April 5, 1919, one month before Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote.

Ann Bauleke
She grew up the oldest girl, with seven brothers, on a Midwest farm, where, by 1919, the Great Depression had already begun. Thus, birthdays were celebrated with a homemade cake on a glass pedestal plate, but no gifts.

Until her fifth birthday. The sounds of the barnyard rode the wind into the house.
The birthday girl had only ever owned dresses made of flour sack prints. Never a coveted, store-bought frock. But you wouldn’t know it, the way she eased her fingers under the dress box lid. Serious as the line of bangs across her forehead, she lifted the lid, tossed it aside, and peeled back the folds of white tissue paper.

The light blue fabric matched her eyes and perfectly distinguished her raven hair. Where the rounds of white collar met, a dark blue scarf.

She took the dress by the shoulders, and held it high. Below the hemline, a ruffle of bloomers.

As if she’d grabbed a fist of thistles, she let the dress drop.

She jumped from the chair, turned on her heels, and walked off. “Pants,” she said, “are for boys.”


The morning after the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton as their candidate for President of the United States, I checked the New York Times “Style” section to see what the fashion experts had to say about Hillary’s celebratory pantsuit. “Why Hillary Wore White,” by Vanessa Friedman, connects white to the suffragettes pictured in all white—dresses, hats, gloves, and banners reading “Votes for Women.” Ann Bauleke is a writer living in Minneapolis.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Nickole Brown

Nickole Brown

This poem is a collage of answers I slowly pieced together to resolve the burning, sometimes embarrassing questions I had when I first started dating women later in life. It is arranged as a list of those answers, but I've intentionally left out the original questions to each one. My hope is that certain readers dealing with a similar transition will recognize what the different sections are answering and find comfort (if not a little humor and heartbreak) in resonating with each one. I'm looking forward to participating in the Queer Girls Literary Reading in Asheville later this month, and may share it there as well. It was originally published in Bloom Magazine.
Ten Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, Answered


The first time? I thought myself an infant, rooting the breast for dinner.  You too may feel the seamless press of your body to a mirror,

the smudge of your own skin a ridiculousness that need Windex, and quick.  Embarrassed, I asked to be taken home,

but in the car was the bright green of her dashboard lights burning
the clean color of go.


Years before. I even admitted it once to a woman that later sent me poems
about hummingbirds

dipping their beaks into feeders full of cocaine dissolved in sweet,
red water.


Finally came summer, my summer of plain clothing—unironed and cotton and bland—nothing afraid

to get dirty, nothing afraid to be slicked with mud, the forest coming off in a happy heap
on the tent floor.

It was the summer I allowed myself to be bitten enough that the welps rose but dissolved back by bedtime; it was the summer I finally said

come, mother mosquitoes, my reddest blood is ready for your young.


Stupid things, mostly.  That’s how I wasted most of my worry—dumb-ass questions that do not matter.  Who should open

the door?  Who to pay for dinner?  Who to lean in first with whose hands braced strong to the jawline? Who in the tie, who in the dress, and what about all this long, long hair? 


Consider this: a woman’s pH is between that of wine and bread. An imperfect leaven, the kind of crust that betrays the softness

inside.  Cooled to the heat of your mouth, its sweetness dipped in a dry red, the aftertaste of that one oyster you had

from the other coast.  You were slightly repulsed, but then the fisherman pulled it straight from his bucket for you, cut it free

with a small, curved knife.


You will miss it.  Not the man but the normal
the man brings. 


Unfortunately.  All the time.  In the grocery, a mother swung her arm to corral her daughter behind her, protecting her from us—the contagions behind. 

We were hurt, but we stayed in line; we waited our turn.  We smiled at the child peeking from behind the thick coat, and because it was a good day, we felt a little sorry for the mother.  In our basket was red tomatoes and yellow peppers, a riot of greens, the unbelievable brightness of

all we had chosen.


The strawberry is a fruit unshamed of its seeds.  Make no mistake how it is textured
as the tongue.


Thirty years old. 


Too late? Perhaps, but only when you think of evening, the song full and crickets volleying the trees,

the sound from one side then the other, a saturation that can carry the young
down the black river of who they think they should be. 

Think instead of morning.  Not the thin monotony of weak light, but that low, constant pleasuring of the air

that doesn’t try so hard but simply tips your ears
with light. 

Nickole Brown received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, studied literature at Oxford University, and was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. Her first collection, Sister, was published in 2007 by Red Hen Press, and Fanny Says came out from BOA Editions in 2015. She was an Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for four years until she gave up her beloved time in the classroom in hope of writing full time. Currently, she is the Editor for the Marie Alexander Series in Prose Poetry and is on faculty at the Writing Workshops in Greece and the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Murray State. She lives with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs, here in Asheville.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Nancy Dunlop


Gold Girlfriend is crust brushed with yolk.  Dough after baking.  Pliant in her muffin-muffled skin.  Yeasty and growing and thus quite living.  She a humble muffin rolling o'er the plains.  Near and far flung all at once.  If you don't bake her she will expand up and out and so she is both "bake me at once" and "don't fence me in."  She under steam.  She expansion.  Subtle aeration.  Breathing in a bowl of her own choosing.

Mustard Girlfriend changes hue to match her nerves.  Some days light pink mustard all bright and there on the sandwich in the salad outside on the picnic table linens.  Other days clouded over.   Emotions purpling through her face.  Full flower furling at evening.  Love in there deep set.  Not dislodged.  Eyes dimming brownward.  Inscrutable shutters. 

Pink Flax Girlfriend is named "being outside all the time."   Her hair is pale baby hair and see-through.  Sometimes yellow like hay straw.  Sometimes clear filament.  It tinkles like thin glass pieces tied on string clinka clinking in wind.  Pink Flax Girlfriend is really bunny.  She is Watership Down.  Her face is white with big pink pressing through.  Her eyes are shallow blue morning. 

Green Girlfriend has changed her color.  Before she was Grey Silver Girlfriend the color of city.  Now there's still silver but it's green brown silver.  Like deer fur changing color sometimes mossy sometimes tawny.  Always moving kicking up things.  Her coffee has just a little milk in it, twirling up from the bottom.  Green Girlfriend calls herself "Forest Green" but I don't think she's right.  No moss grows on her stepping stones.

Orange Girlfriend.  And indeed.  But not loud look-at-me orange.  More, an orange with a douse of red—to deepen—bring to substance.  Orange Girlfriend is not tiny or tight but of a piece and all filled in.  Though different than (strictly speaking) the pure sun, she might be certain sunsets over water when there is no wind and your boat relaxes.  A sun simply liking the cool stillness.  Not minding that this moment will end soon.  Orange Girlfriend is fire at rest.   

One Girlfriend is more sound than seen and so this hesitancy of color talk in regard to her.  This Girlfriend a series of swamp sounds.  After-heavy-rain-sounds.  Leaving-no-time-soon sounds.  How to say.  This woman puddly mud.  Webbed feet suctioning from mud—that type of plap of sound.  This thick wet more than brown.  She brown but more.  All colors having lost their boundaries in brown.  The slickest depth of green.  Something old here.  The age of old rain.  What might be moss or aging ferns but isn't.

One Girlfriend is not girl she's woman.  One woman would pull in and harden a moment when called girl inadvertently.  One Girlfriend who is this "woman-only" is buff.  Pearl.  With the slightest dust of pink.  A bisque cream all over.  But porcelain free of crackles.  A tall cream in scarves and fine shoes.  The name of her type of becoming is "buds of chives at point of opening."  The initial fraying—part bud, part sharded, part pink, part rose.  This woman at dusk.  In mist.  Through gauze.  Through increments of weather

Nancy Dunlop
This poem is part of a manuscript entitled, Rebuilding the Meteorite.  It was written at a time in my life when I was prolific in poetry, and therefore I was in close relationship with Language.  I was lexically limber, and words poured out fluidly.  This poem is close to synesthesia, sounds and images blending in my head in a glutinous manner.  I imagined my closest girl friends as vibrations, which turned into colors.  I remember each woman with affection and still see them as colors. 

Nancy Dunlop is a poet and essayist who resides in Upstate New York, where she has taught at the University at Albany.  A finalist in the AWP Intro Journal Awards, she has been published in print journals including The Little Magazine, Writing on the Edge, 13th Moon:  A Feminist Literary Magazine, Works and Days, and Nadir, as well as online publications such as Swank Writing, RI\FT and alterra.  Her work has also been heard on NPR.     

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jessica Jacobs

In the Canyon II (Fear/Breaking)

[Abiquiu, NM; June 2, present day]

Sun lavas over the cliff lip into my first full canyon day while I watch from the marsh of residual night.

When put in touch with the priest who’d lived here for each of the last three Octobers, I’d written to ask how much food to bring, what other supplies.        
She’d replied with two questions:

What is your experience with solitude?

How are you girding yourself for this time?

At a sound like a Cessna, I turn to see only a hummingbird.

Pressure builds in my chest.

I’ve felt this before,
but only when confined—
in a cave’s crawl-length, in a crowded tent. But here,
nothing but space,
               but air—for me, for a month, alone.

Knowing the root of anxiety is anxere, to be without breath,
I inhale. I try. But breath
is a strangler fig, a ribcage tourniquet. My hands and feet grow honeycombed, carbonated. The dog barks at something only he can see. I ache for a return to bed, for the child’s comfort of sheets overhead—If I can’t see this day, it can’t see me.

Rifling books at random, I find:
God, at Creation, poured light into vessels. Unable to contain it, they shattered and fell.

Tikkun olam: Jews gather these shards to repair the world.

But there was a second shattering, a second type of repair:

Tikkun hanefesh, repair of the soul.

Inherent in brokenness
is breaking open—the ability to hold more than when whole.

How much will I hold when this is over?
--First appeared in Cave Wall

While working on Pelvis with Distance, which is an autobiography-in-poems of the artist Georgia O'Keeffe, I spent a lot of time in the high desert of New Mexico, reading through O'Keeffe's archives and hiking and camping in many of her favorite places to paint. Once that research was complete, I found a primitive cabin way out in the desert in Abiquiu, in a small private canyon where my nearest neighbors were a five mile hike away. There was no electricity, no internet, and no phone, and in a month of that deep solitude I was able to write a poem a day and complete my book. It was simultaneously one of the most terrifying and most wonderful things I've ever experienced. This poem is part of a sequence that grew out of that time.

Jessica Jacobs is the author of Pelvis with Distance (White Pine Press), winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry, an Over the Rainbow selection by the American Library Association, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and Julie Suk Award. Her chapbook In Whatever Light Left to Us is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press. An avid long-distance runner, Jessica has worked as a rock climbing instructor, bartender, editor, and professorand now serves as faculty at Writing Workshops in Greece. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown. More of her poems, fiction, and essays can be found at

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Emily Hansen

Patrick:  A Portrait

He said he knew women,
understood what they wanted.

He was quiet, an artist.
He wanted to teach children.

On the third night of college, one a.m.,
He took handfuls of my grey dress.

His dark hair matted in curls against his forehead;
this is what you want, he said.

He touched my spine, his fingers on bone
like the striking of a match.

He pressed me against the concrete,
cold and white. I could not breathe.

After he finished, I reached for
my shift, my underwear.

He wrenched them from my hand
He threw an afghan, with pink tulips

and sunflowers across my body
and walked away.

Later that year, with hundreds of women
he marched to take back the night.

I wondered how his hair
looked, beaten by wind, how many girls
touched his hand, thanked him.

He said he knew women,
understood what they wanted.

The Earth Was Still for Her

Hands clasped around an arching womb,
flesh strong and taut against prickly fingers
seeping cactus oil, she is the desert
waiting for waters to leech from stretched skies.

With each moan the landscape shudders and is still.
Her breath is her child’s compass. The desert
knows a universe in its feldspar, in the quaking quartz
and mica that shine on her arms, the stone of her flesh.

The pygmy owl perches and the gila woodpecker
sop up the fetid air in sandstone feathers,
they crown her with a violent flourish of wing.

The air does not move as she reaches for this new
creature, the limp shadow, bloody in
her arms.  And another love becomes the crust of the earth,
welling and dense with our children.

I wait for new paint, new canvas
to stretch my body and douse me in fiery liquid.
I am the landscape, the ebb and flow of earth.

Emily Hansen grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and collects old cigar boxes. “The Earth was Still for Her” discusses the idea of cycles.  As a painter and a writer, she combines these ideas to create poetry that is vivid and painting-like in its close up perspectives. This poem attempts to tie the earth with the body and discusses loss as a part of the human experience. 

Emily’s poems have appeared in WNC Woman, The Appalachian Anthology, and Aberration Labyrinth.  She has also published an historical research article in a mini-magazine through a project for West Asheville, funded by New Belgium Brewery.