Hunting For Mr. Right by Melissa McCann

You swipe through a hundred men.

Eager. Desperate. Not you. Them.

It’s a turn off, but you do it anyways. You write the same thing over and over. A quick bite? You wait, teeth piercing through the skin of your lips. Many don’t answer. You intimidate. You’ve been told it more than once. But then a daring fellow responds. You set the time, the date, the place. They don’t need to do anything, but arrive. Some do, some don’t.

The initial meeting gives a slight stir in you, but they never look as handsome as their photos and their eyes don’t look at you like they used to.

It always ends the same way with you leaving in the still night. Full, but not feeling much of anything.

Then, another night, another swipe. It’s too easy. No thrill, no chase. No mystery in the demise.

Some nights you do it the old way. But it’s harder, less men looking at you. Too busy on their own devices, swiping, swiping, swiping. Always looking to devour more. Never appreciating what is in the flesh, right here and right now.

It used to go like this:

You go to a bar. You order some drink of no interest to you. Luckily, you always find something off the menu that will quell your real thirst.

Scanning the room, quick glances for all. Fluttering in the pit of your stomach, as you make lingering eye contact. His date returns to him and you avert your attention. It wasn’t meant to be.

When you think there isn’t anyone you want to taste, you see him. Stuttering, nervous energy. He was looking for something tonight, too. Just when he thinks that it is never coming, you catch him. He finds you intriguing. A few thoughtless laughs, an innuendo. You suppose it was a little too easy back then, too.

Soon you are out of there. A stinking bar alley is suitable enough for your intentions. Sinking into each other, you can feel him in the deepest of your veins. It’s fleeting. Day is quickly coming. You’ll never see him again.

Now, it’s like this. And you have to make do. Swipe left, swipe right. Your hand cramps and you are so empty.

But you match and you meet and you repeat. This time you order a blood red wine, no food. He doesn’t care either way. He’s easy, invites you back to his place. You don’t trust that. He has a roommate or a mother, so you decide to take a risk. You take him back to your place and this gives a new opportunity to excite you. For any kind of feeling, this is worth it, you tell yourself.

As you clean up the mess he leaves, you feel a little sentimental and you hate it. You never wanted to be like that. Right when you think you’ll never do it again, something happens.

A connection.

This one seems a little different. He’s invested. He sends more than one word or some cloyingly annoying cartoon face. You let your guard down. You wait for his messages. He wants to take his time with you and the chase exhilarates.

Your mind races as you build up the blocks of your past. You realize the thing that has been missing. The cycle needs to be broken. There could be two of you. Two would be better to fill endless nights with. You didn’t think you were capable of change or growth at your age.

You wait. You don’t want to spoil this. You keep up the Mr. One Nights, but you get them over with quickly, racing back to your potential Mr. Forever. Eternity has a new meaning.

But then he stops. A day goes by with no new message. And then another and another. You read over your mistakes. You feel like an idiot, a child. All these years later and you are still getting it wrong.

You meet up with a One Night Man and you take it all out on him. The whole night goes bad and you are such a mess that you fly home and vow to never leave again.

A ping erupts into the night. A beautiful sound from an electronic torture device. The fresh blood in your body warms. It is him.

He’s been so busy. He’s so sorry. He wants to meet. Can you forgive him? You don’t want to waste another second, as you already feel time slipping away. You fix your hair, change your clothes, wipe the dirt from your body.

And you go and you meet and it’s all on his terms now and you don’t even care. He’s just as he seems. He’s perfect. He’s it. The only one possible. You wish you could read minds, but it doesn’t work like that. You put away your old tricks and magic happens regardless. Two starved souls connected through digital space with the potential for something real.

It’s getting late. You grab his hand and lead him to special spot. A new place, untarnished, green and lush. A perfect place with vines digging deep into the earth. He’s trembling and you know what he wants. He has to want it as much as you do. You sink your teeth into his neck. You drink, so deeply and sweetly. He’s getting weak, but he holds on to you, so deeply and sweetly.

You let go only for a moment. But the moment is too long and before you can show him your true intention, before you can split your own chest open for him, show him why this is right, he grabs something, anything sharp, and he thrusts it into you.

Your heart turns to dust as the cruel sun rises, revealing your truth in the blinding light of day. You were never meant to see the sun. Eternity only exists in the darkness.

Melissa McCann is a writer based in Detroit, MI. She has earned an MFA in creative writing from Lindenwood University. She currently works in education. She has also worked as a staff reader for E&GJ Little Press and judge for NYC Midnight writing competitions. Melissa’s short fiction and screenplays have placed in a number of writing contests, including the Historic Irvington Halloween Writing Competition, Made in Michigan Festival, and The Write Room Screenplay Competition. Her work has appeared in Gathering Storm Magazine , The Gateway Review, and Fearsome Critters: A Millennial Arts Journal. She has an unhealthy addiction to cats and ghosts.

Riley by Naomi Sheely

With just that first glance of the too familiar, hot pink walls and baby blue roof tiles, Riley Anderson was taken from the slightly chilly, well-lit aisles of Jack & Jill’s Pail of Playthings and transported somewhere she wished she never had to see again.

-*-*-*-

There had been a time when Riley had thought that Barbie’s Victorian Dream House was the epitome of femininity. Owning one of these two story beauties was all she could ever dream of. When she had opened one on her seventh birthday, she didn’t think that she could be any happier. Of course, she was wrong. Not that she knew that then, as she stared at its bright pink wall or it’s delicate baby blue roof. It would be several more days before she started to realize. It would start to sink in when she numbly noted how the soft glow of the night light spilled from behind it, illuminating its elegant balcony. The feeling of happiness that she had when she looked at it would start to fade as she saw what it looked like from across the room, snuggled deep into her bed with her little fingers gripping her blankets tight. With unfocused eyes wide open, the sounds of their fight somehow burned that moment, that image of her once beloved doll house into her mind.

There was something different about that night, though it almost sounded the same as all the other nights before. She was almost able to convince herself to close her eyes and snuggle deeper into her tear dampened pillow.

She should go to sleep, she knew. Mommy didn’t like it when she listened to them be loud. Everything would be better in the morning, anyway. Everything was always better in the morning–

CRASH!

Riley didn’t jump, scream, or sob. She had already learned how to cry without making a sound. Some nights it was almost a game for her to see how quiet she could be while they pushed the limits of how loud they were. Nights like tonight, though, she wanted to scream in a way that she could never actually do. She knew by now that if she reminded them that she was here, let them hear any trace of her, that it would only cause them to fight more. She couldn’t even breathe as she waited through the thick silence that followed.

She should go to sleep, she knew, but this wasn’t right. This was different and different was bad. Her parents were always loud. Night after night they were loud. For the first time her eyes moved away from Barbie’s cheerful home and landed on her bedroom door.

She shouldn’t get out of bed, she knew this. She would get punished if she was bad, but it was quiet.

It was quiet for a moment, for two, the silence stretched longer than her little lungs could hold that breath. There was an eternity of quiet moments, and she should go to sleep.

She wasn’t sleeping, though. She was opening the door quietly before even realizing that she was out of bed. Every step seemed loud as she padded barefoot down the hall.

Five, six, seven steps to pass the bathroom and bring her just outside their open door.

Unable to bring herself to step inside, she listened. It wasn’t so quiet anymore.

Her dad’s low, soothing voice rolled out of the room. She almost left then, turned, and went back to her bed. When she listened to his words, though, they didn’t match his tone. 

“I’ll take ya out back in the woods. Dig ya a shallow grave fit for a whore. I’ll tell them that ya up and ran off again. No one will look for ya.”

They wouldn’t, Riley knew. Her mom disappeared sometimes. Days would go by while she waited at the window. No one ever looked for her then.

One, two, three quiet steps into the room and her eyes locked on her mother’s hazel ones, but nothing made sense. She should help her; she knew that because her mother was laying on the ground. She should help her, she knew that as she saw his hands around her mother’s neck, as he continued to whisper how he would raise Riley to know her place. She couldn’t move. She could only stare at her mother, as her mother stared back at her. This moment felt big in a way she didn’t understand.

Her mother moved then, slowly, as if it was the hardest thing she had ever had to do. Her arm raised from her side until she was pointing past Riley, a silent command to go back to bed.

She should be asleep right now, she knew that, but she couldn’t leave. Then suddenly it was silent again. How could she have forgotten the threat in the room? With a quick, startled flick her eyes locked with a different pair. Somehow, they were cold, angry, and terrifyingly empty all at once.

He stood then. He was tall and she was very small.

Her mother coughed and wheezed, rolling onto her side. Riley waited for her to stand, to fight, and protect her. If this was a normal night, her mother would have, but tonight was different and different was bad. She watched as her mother laid there, breathing but broken, right before she felt the pain from his big hand wrapping cruelly around her little arm.

-*-*-*-

“Mommy?” Riley heard not just the scared, twenty-year-old memory say, but a newer, voice echo as well.

As she blinked, she realized that though they were the same hazel shade, the eyes she was looking into weren’t her mother’s. They were instead set in a feminine and youth rounded mold of her husband’s face.

She followed along the motion of the small body to the shelf her daughter was pointing to. Where an exact replica of Barbie’s Victorian Dream House sat, no doubt a marketing attempt from the manufacturer to lure in nostalgic parents.

“Mommy? Can I have it, Mommy?” her little daughter’s brow furrowed, and she stomped her foot as annoyance leaked into her tone. Obviously, this wasn’t the first time she had voiced the question.

That’s when Riley felt a warmth, she hadn’t noticed, leaving the small of her back. She turned to catch the soft, understanding gaze of her husband as he stepped from her side. Then she watched, almost entranced as he plastered a large and familiar smile on his face before swooping in to pick their daughter up and throw her in the air.

She watched them play for several minutes, eventually chasing and tickling each other through the aisles of the discount toy store.

With her own childhood so fresh in her mind, she couldn’t help but notice how her daughter was never daunted by her husband’s height, she never flinched at his touch or drew into herself to avoid catching his attention. Instead, she smiled at him. She watched as her daughter, with confidence, teased him. Her daughter loved him with a kind of love that doesn’t know fear.

With the help of her therapist, and later her husband, Riley had spent years crawling out of the effects of her childhood trauma in the hopes that one day she would be strong enough to create a world where any of her future daughters would be fierce, not because they survived in a man’s world, but because they thrived in it.

Today, in these dirty aisles, surrounded by cheap toys, she realized that she succeeded.

Femininity isn’t found in a pink, two story dollhouse, but it’s created in finding, and helping others find, the confidence and strength to thrive in a world that would rather see you lying broken on the floor.

Naomi Sheely is a student at Hagerstown Community College who is working towards earning a dual major. She is also a wife, mother of three, and continuously exhausted. She is motivated by her childhood dream of becoming an author and terrified of the thought of anyone, ever, reading something she has written.

A Forced Smile by Brynn Lietuvnikas

When I was five years old, my doctor handed Mother a sheet of paper. She gazed at it, a hint of curiosity and possibility in her eyes. I looked from her to the doctor. His face was impossibly graver. “Am I dying?” I whispered. Mother handed me the paper while she searched in her purse for a pen to sign it. It was warm from the official hospital printer. It read: Defect, physical and mental changes may occur to this patient due to external persons’ unconscious desires. “Mom, what’s a–what’s a…” She waited. “…de-ff-ect?” I sounded it out.

         Years later, I walked through the kindergarten door and my hair turned greasy and brown. The other girls didn’t seem to notice, but I thought I saw the teacher’s eyebrows knit. My hair changed back to blonde when I got home, but every time I came to school, it would happen again. I asked Lissie from school about her curly locks on Tuesday. She had crowned herself queen of us girls, and a natural smile crossed her lips when I asked her about herself. “Isn’t my hair sooo pretty? It’s like gold! No one else’s hair is like mine.”

         I got my first grammar assignment in third-grade. My pencil pressed too hard in blocky lettering, and every time I had to erase, my frustration grew. I called loudly for my mother. My lips quickly intertwined into something unable to open. Mother and Father were busy talking in hushed, angered voices in the dining room, but I was beginning to cry and needed to interrupt them. I made guttural sounds with the back of my throat until Father finally came into the living room to see me. He asked what it was. My lips were able to part again so I could explain to him my problem. We stared at the workbook together for a while. He sighed and decided English wacks must have changed shit because he had no idea what a Direct Object was. My father told me that I was smart, that I had been the one taught the fancy new lingo, that I could figure it out on my own. He left, and I figured it out.

         My parents’ angered conversations got louder as school blurred into summer. I learned to head for the fields of hay outside whenever the name “Brenda” was mentioned. If I was there long after they said that name, Father or Mother would begin questioning me about loyalty. As they took turns looking at me, I could feel my face change. My father had a broad-set face, with strength if not beauty. When he looked at me, my nose would expand to match his. When Mother did, I could feel my eyes flicker to her blue-gray. By the time school started up again, it happened even when they weren’t fighting.

         Sixth-grade was when things got especially hard. Every period, we went to a different classroom with a different teacher. It felt like each teacher had different expectations. Some were OK with talking. Some got mad if you breathed too loud. Ms. Joice had just lost her daughter to a case of the measles. I didn’t want to think about what happened to my body when I went to her class. Because of these constant changes, the other students looked at me weird. Because of me, the school newsletter wrote a column about how to approach the subject of defective individuals when the talk came up with their children. The kids in my class still played with me during recess, though. The only game I didn’t play with them was the race game. Everyone wanted to be the fastest, so I was always last.

         My father bought a new house with Brenda. Custody issues were resolved in court, and I spent some months with him and some with Mother. In summers at Mother’s house, sometimes I would forget the sound of my own voice. Father took up a passion for art, so I didn’t talk to him much either. Brenda loved to talk, though. She said every child should be raised in California. She said all salads should be made her way. She said I should look over the weight loss programs in her magazines. She said a real woman could keep her man.

         Change was a part of life, a part of my life in particular. Once I started high school, it started to hurt more, though. On the way to Brenda and Father’s place, my insides were crushed and squeezed. They kept trying to get smaller. On the way to Mother’s, my skin would become smooth and hairless, everything would pop into place until I was her little girl. On the way to class, different pieces of me would twitch into various shapes. I felt like a puzzle with its pieces flipped upside down and forced together.

         It became a habit of mine to get ready in the dark. I memorized the squirt needed for the right amount of toothpaste, where the holes in my shirts were, and how to place a pad in the exact middle of my underwear. All without needing to feel for it. All without a chance of looking in the mirror.

         By the time I graduated high school, it felt like independence had come too late. Every part of me held a grudge against the other. The college catalog boasted of several programs and clubs, but I didn’t know what I was good at; I didn’t know what I liked. Instead, I moved out and took a gap year to build up work experience.         In front of me, the kitchen, living room, dining room, and bedroom of my new apartment were all smushed together into a single space. It was claustrophobic. It was cast in soft brown and dull blue–forgettable colors. But tears fell down my cheeks without consent. I was alone, truly and utterly. And that made me happy. My crying made it hard to breathe without gasping. I went into the bathroom–the only room that was separate–to blow my nose with some toilet paper. From years of practice, I averted my eyes from the mirror during the process. Something itched at me, though. I was miles away from my hometown, from my parents, Brenda, and all my old classmates. What if…? I looked up into the reflective surface in front of me; I gazed into the mirror. And there I was. I searched for something foreign in my features, for the creature that must have lurked inside of me, the one that rearranged my organs until they looked pretty from the outside. There was no such being. Heart thundering in my chest (I was breaking my rules!), I lifted the front of my shirt. Soon, I was standing naked. I was a girl. Just a normal person. Slightly underweight, with a nose some would call too long or narrow, but I was a person. Underneath my defect, what people wanted me to see and do, I was a person. “Who would have thought?” I whispered.

Brynn Lietuvnikas has written many stories, some of which have been published by Hedge Apple. This story, though laced with fantasy elements, strikes close to home. Her whole life, she has struggled with defining femininity and what its place is in her life. When she came across “The Divine Feminine” prompt, she decided to give the internal issue another shot at working itself out on the page. She is proud of the resulting piece, and she looks forward to seeing how her future self will continue to write on the matter.

Antares by Jaqueline Rose Gregory

my color is Red

says the star Antares

scorpio stings one thousand deaths

leaving a breathless body

to rot in the desert

her eyes see through you

her eyes fill your soul with fear

she holds her composure

this is really the true light in her

they think it’s dangerous

it’s her only protection

from the raging sea

the storm forms a swell,

that sucks the anger from within

when she opens her eyes

her star is shining

brighter than the sun

Antares looks over her

like a protector

with a shield

the battle is over

the sting subsides

her color is still Red

and the bitch within

can finally breathe

An Ode to my Period by Jaqueline Rose Gregory

Dear Uterus,

You crimson red bloody bitch. The color crimson is described as royalty, nobility, love and affection.  Painted on a wall could bring a noble, lovable feeling.  Painted in my panties at the most inopportune time only brings hate and disdain.  The only time I looked forward to seeing your bloody self was in my younger promiscuous years when I would pray for you instead of a child.  As a married adult trying to conceive was impossible.  No thanks to mental illness and being required to stay on medication were you able to stay in control and not give birth to a baby.  Yes, I could have gotten pregnant.  I did not want to be medicated and pregnant.  Sure, it was my choice to not get pregnant due to my mental illness and you did not make it easy.  You brought on a regularity for some time when I ingested the birth control pill to ultimately keep you from joining me at those most inconvenient times during dating and even working. 

The four months I pushed my body to the max during my Army boot camp days was the only time you decided to go incognito.  No blood during physical fitness tests.  No blood during road marches.  No blood standing in platoon formation for what seemed like hours.  No blood during our drill practice to become soldiers.  I had no hate and disdain for you then.  Just appreciation that my body held me in high regards during the most physically, mentally and emotionally trying time of my existence. 

I tried to have you removed from my body ultimately to have you win out the battle.  Diabetes ran the show in December 2019 and seems to be running this ship now. 

The disdain and hate come from a place of you sticking around when I want you gone.  I wanted to have a baby.  I wanted to conceive a child and feel what it was like to carry a child to full term.  I wanted to feel life growing inside me.  Was it because of my promiscuous younger years that you kept a baby from me?  I don’t understand when I needed you most you would abandon me.  You have spoiled a fair amount of my panties it’s absurd.  I have spent an obscene amount of money on you to keep you from ruining my clothes.  You seep through the liners and soak my jeans.  I have scrubbed an enormous amount of work chairs due to your lack of flexibility.  After my last manic episode, I had from medication to become a mother I decided to stay off birth control and let you control me.  My husband had his vasectomy and so it’s final.  No child to call our own.  Now the second round to have you removed and you decide that you are here to stay. 

Well, fuck you, you crimson red bloody bitch.  I pray you shrivel up with the fibroid cysts you implanted in my body.  I’m stronger than you.  I have dealt with you for years.  If you aren’t going anywhere then bring it on.  I started walking 1 mile around our neighborhood twice a day to help me deal with the cramps you insist on antagonizing me with.  I consume more water on a daily basis to try to flush out the sugars lingering in my blood stream.  You may be here to stay.  Just know I won’t give up the fight.  I’m not going anywhere either.  So, if we are stuck to each other I will make up some ground rules. 

Ground rule #1 please control my hormones so I can give up being a bitch to my husband during this season of figuring out if you will come or go.  I thought I was through with you forever.  Since you’re not finished here, please help me cut him some slack.  He tries so hard and I allow my hormones to control me and I bitch at him for nothing. 

Ground rule #2 give the pill a chance again.  If you are going to show your bloody self just come during the time you are supposed to arrive.  Please don’t show up when I’m trying to work and can’t get to the bathroom. 

Ground rule #3 give me a chance to regulate my body again.  Walking is great, water is even better and I will do my best to incorporate meditation into my daily practice as that has taken a back seat.  I will give you a chance if you are patient with me.  Would you please give me your feedback? 

My Dearest Jaqueline,

I never intended to be such a bitch and bring up all this hostility in you.  I was and am here for a purpose and though you were unable to birth a child not due to me, only due to your mental illness I am still here to support you.  I have and always am a part of your inner self.  I thank you for acknowledging my existence and that you had a deep desire to rid of me.  My aim is not to bring harm, disdain or hate into your daily life.  My only goal is to keep regular and still produce hormones in your young active body. 

You are such a gift and you bless and touch all you come into contact with.  Please never feel inadequate because in your promiscuous years you prayed for me.  You did nothing wrong.  You are a brave, beautiful soul and the reason I’m a part of you is, Your Woman Strength.  Don’t ever feel embarrassed if I show up unannounced and confuse you with blood soaked jeans.  I’m not here to hurt you or keep you in fear from me.  I understand you want regularity from me.  That is a fair offer and I accept. 

Please keep that light in you shining.  Maybe something would have gone tragically wrong and your sugars being high are a way to protect you.  I don’t have the exact answer but I’m just as much a part of you as the light you bring forth every day.  So continue to shine on.  Continue to see me as your crimson red bloody bitch.  I’m not offended.  I hope you can someday see me as royalty, nobility, love and affection.  I will be here with you for a while and I will try my best to lay low and arrive every 21 days as instructed by your pill. 

Sincerely,

Your crimson red bloody bitch,

Period

         Dear Uterus,

         I thought this conversation would go in a different direction.  On July 7, 2021 I had a pulmonary embolism that my body implanted in my lungs.  Emergency room doctors said it was because of the birth control pill.  How convenient for you.  I thought I would be able to handle you.  Being off birth control pills and starting on blood thinners made things a bit messy to say the least.  My gynecologist inserted an IUD and said I may be good for five possibly six years.  One month later you again antagonized my body with cramping that I never experienced in all my years.  While trying to go pee it felt like a plug came out and I hemorrhaged. 

I ended up back in the emergency room for bleeding.  They could not locate the IUD after extensive testing including x-rays and an ultrasound.  I contacted my OBGYN and the next day started on progesterone.  I came off the blood thinners in September.  An entirely different set of conditions occurred being on this great drug that dried me up for three months.  My sugars sky rocketed and my hormones being out of whack was another nightmare.   

When I returned from a weekend retreat in January, I realized I was done with the progesterone and stopped.  My gynecologist informed me I would start my period two days after coming off.  Three weeks later you entered as fiercely and as determined as my mind was to rid of you in the first place.  I don’t understand how we made these ground rules and conditions that were crystal clear which you agreed to stick to, and you decide to show your bloody self like I have never experienced.  You bitch.  I will say I was prepared this time.  Pads that felt like a diaper I wore with success.  You didn’t stain my sheets or seep through clothing.  You are a nuisance and I still want you gone. 

May 13th, I have a scheduled date to finally have you removed from my body.  Since being off the progesterone I am starting to feel like a woman again.  My hormones are regulated and my sugars are normal.  My libido is in check and I can make love to my husband without any oil to assist with lubrication.  I know you must be feeling confused, irritated and lost that I will rid you once and for all from my body.  Would you please give me your feedback once again?

My Dearest Jaqueline,

Please know that I love you and will forever remain a part of your being even though you are having me removed.  I know you feel sad that you never gave “birth” to a baby and felt that movement in your belly.  You don’t have to menstruate to give birth.  You are giving birth to new ideas.  You are giving birth to new relationships in your life.  You are giving birth to your education and you are giving birth to your love for learning.  You are also giving birth to yourself by honoring what you need and what you love. 

Your desire and passion are as beautiful and uplifting as if a new baby was coming out of you right now.  Know you are always loved by me.  I will never hate you.  I will never harm you and I will take those fibroid cysts along with me when I go.  Please know the love in you is a beautiful gift to so many.  Please also know it’s ok that I am leaving.  It makes you no less of a woman that I am gone.  Shine on beautiful soul.  Shine bright.

Sincerely,

Your crimson red bloody bitch,

Period

A Window In Time by Victoria Moo Briddell

Now we turn inward to the quiet mind,

oasis of green in a vast expanse,

blown into dunes by a warm desert wind,

each grain of sand in its own special dance.

From the face of the Earth the thin veil slips,

our protection for eons is no more.    

Some fear the imminent apocalypse,

Earth has been treated as a common whore.

Where is the reverence for our Mother

who has cared for us through millennia?

To whom should we turn? There is no other.

How to rid mankind of this mania?

Our chances for recovery seem slim,

yet, She fills our cup again to the brim.

Victoria Moo Briddell was born and grew up in South Africa before emigrating to the United States. After graduation from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, she taught English in Ecuador. She married Don Briddell in 1969 and together they travelled to India for further studies at the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy of Sivananda Ashram, graduating with a Yoga Acharya degree in 1971.

She lives in Maryland where she and her husband run Overboard Art, Inc. She teaches Yoga in the Frederick area and participates in two Maryland writing groups as well as several writing workshops each year. She published her first book, “Looking Out from Within” – Living Yoga with the Saints and Sages of India (available on Amazon) in December 2018. She also loves gardening, reading, meditation, walking with friends and spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Fire by Robin Witmer-Kline

I dance upon the darkness

My beauty burns the night

My life is birthed from embers

In blackness….I am light

I leap and dance each time I rise

From my sprite-hearted rest

Balletic movements, yellow eyes

My ornaments from fe’st

My frenzy show of fury

In truth, I create calm

I pray upward to heaven

And touch God with my palms

I’m flaming ambidextrous

With prism heated hues

I soar to highest pinnacle

From orange, to red, to blue

I rage with haunting elegance

Inferno breathes me higher

When born of earthly elements

I am God-given fire

Dr. Robin Witmer-Kline, Ph.D., LPC, C-PD is a full-time Psychology Faculty member at Hagerstown Community College.She also is a licensed clinical psychotherapist and Certified Personality Disorder clinician in the state of Pennsylvania with over 25 years clinical and teaching experience.Dr. Witmer-Kline earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Christian Psychology and combined her faith and her love of psychology and poetry for her dissertation in which she examined poetry therapy and faith’s effects on reminiscence, mood, cognition, and self-esteem in the elderly.She lives in Greencastle, Pennsylvania with her husband and family.

Thoughts Of Me by Robin Witmer-Kline

Once earth has pressed against my lips

And veiled my eyes sublime

Will face, or speech, or scented skin

Bring thoughts of me to mind

Will every there be thoughts of me,

That pause your steps awhile?

And search your mind, so thoroughly

To reconstruct my smile.

Dr. Robin Witmer-Kline, Ph.D., LPC, C-PD is a full-time Psychology Faculty member at Hagerstown Community College.She also is a licensed clinical psychotherapist and Certified Personality Disorder clinician in the state of Pennsylvania with over 25 years clinical and teaching experience.Dr. Witmer-Kline earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Christian Psychology and combined her faith and her love of psychology and poetry for her dissertation in which she examined poetry therapy and faith’s effects on reminiscence, mood, cognition, and self-esteem in the elderly.She lives in Greencastle, Pennsylvania with her husband and family.

Fifteen Things My Granddaughter Should Know About Makeup by Sandra Inskeep-Fox

My mother, known in the family as Grandmother Doris, was a beautiful woman; petite but well-proportioned, coal black hair and green eyes. She could smile and light one’s heart up for a day. She liked being pretty, I think, but she was too busy just surviving to improve much on what she was born with and she never trusted it as an asset to build her life around. It got her into more trouble than she bargained for earlier in her life though she never talked about that to anyone. For very special occasions which were few in number she had a stick of pancake makeup from Merle Norman’s and a tube of whatever lipstick her budget could afford, always red.  She kept these in the medicine cabinet on the top shelf. She couldn’t reach the top shelf without standing on the toilet but she didn’t need to makeup often so this was no problem.  She worked in a textile mill sewing blankets all day, the wool tore at her nails and dried out her cuticles,  So she also had a manicure kit and some hand cream, not strictly make-up, but she did add nail polish to the weekly routine, very expertly polishing around the moons of her nails as was the fashion then. All these accoutrements she kept on her dressing table. When the Avon Lady came by on Saturdays she’d invite her in and look at the catalog while they talked. All she ever ordered though was more red nail polish.

In those days the two ends of the spectrum of beauty were movie stars and women who had “let themselves go” after they got a wedding ring. The movie stars with their ruby red lips and lusciously long, curly hair looked like goddesses even in jungle scenes or riding down the dusty trails of the westerns. The women who were letting themselves go were beyond the pale…they were known to wander the streets in curlers, go to church with trousers under trench coats, answer the door in their slips.  Mom would say if I ever even thought of such a thing she’d make sure my life was not worth the living of it.

We didn’t have UTube. (Yes, I saw you checking it out to see the right way to put a finish on lipstick.) We had Seventeen Magazine with rather obtuse directions for applying lipstick but that was about as much as we learned from “reliable” sources. Those models used pink lipstick, the color of innocence and the only acceptable color for, well, seventeen year-olds. I didn’t get an allowance, but if I did any babysitting an hour’s worth could just buy a tube of Tangee lipstick. I couldn’t wear it to school though so, really, why bother. Once babysitting I found a copy of True Romance with an ad for mascara. I got the idea to try what I thought would be a substitute. I waited and when Mom was gone I lit a match from the kitchen stove, blew it out and applied its black over my lashes. Yum. I’ve never felt so gorgeous since…and I never had the nerve to try it with Mom around.

I was nearly the magic age of seventeen before I noticed that all my friends and schoolmates were leaning toward the Goddess side of the equation. If they weren’t leaning that way they were being pushed by moms who had more time to worry about popularity and proms and stuff than mine did. I was self-conscious to the extreme, and rather abundantly proportioned myself. I didn’t dare try the movie star routine. Already the other mothers were tsk-tsking when they looked at me. Somehow I had to find a happy medium between goddess and god-awful.  I didn’t have any sisters or girl cousins or even any precocious friends I could learn from, I didn’t have the right questions anyway.  I did what I always did in every trying situation. I went to the library.  I learned all about lipsticks, rouge, moisturizers, Clearasil for zits, powders, eyebrow plucking, eye shadow, underarm shaving, ratting my hair, everything. Eventually I tried it all, moderately successful. I even taught Mom a thing or two along the way. Here’s what I learned about make-up:

1. It’s fun.

2. It costs money.        

3. The costs increase over time.

4. The time it takes takes longer every year.

5. If it takes longer than 10 minutes a day, its benefits reach a diminishing return on the first two items above.

6. There will be days that are not worth the make-up. Maybe more than you think.

7. If you are made up, you are made up. The mask that you wear may define the role you play, not who you are.

8. If you put the mask on early it will take longer to figure out who you are.

9. If you use make up regularly before long you may begin to believe you are ugly without it.

10.  When you wear makeup you will have to work twice as hard or be twice as smart to be seen as a serious person.  Not fair, but then that’s the way it is for women.

11.   You will never look perfectly good or perfectly beautiful.

12.  You will never look as good as you think you do, or for that matter as bad either.

13.  If you did look too good or too perfect you would only be a target, something to aim at, not for.

14.  The effects of makeup (other than on your own psyche) are extremely time-limited.15.  You are beautiful without it, too.

Sandra Inskeep-Fox is a poet, an independent scholar and co-owner of Dorley House books in Clear Spring, Maryland.  Sandra writes poetry, short stories, essays, and keeps voluminous journals. She has been published in the Chaffin Review, Facet, Cimarron Review, Commonweal Magazine, The Big Two-Hearted Review, the Aurorean, the Virginia Woolf Miscellany and others.  She won several contests, including the 1st annual Marquette Monthly Short Story contest, and received Honorable mention in the Best of Ohio writers contests in 2001, 2004 and 2005. She is currently working to complete a manuscript on the creative process of Virginia Woolf and a manuscript of her own Bloomsbury-inspired poetry.

Guilty, Mondays by Sandra Inskeep-Fox

I guess Methodist you could say,

struggling to remember more

than echoes of crowded church basements

& Jesus Loves Me & flannel-

board stories told by high-voiced pious cousins

and black-veiled made-up aunts

who always dusted their chairs before sitting down.

.

& Grandma’s—on Monday, the wash; Tuesday,

the ironing (two whole days attending to

maintenance of a meager cache of

linens and clothing, each piece handled

to last, mended when it seemed tempted

to fray away); Wednesdays, the baking, bread

and pies of whatever fruits were in season;

Thursdays, groceries, a trek to the Red & White; Fridays,

cleaning for whatever company might show; Saturdays

the odds & ends of tasks & maybe a trip to town;

and Sundays again

with the old ladies in the cold, damp suspicions

of basement rooms. Everyday there were other

things too, but set within an order…methodically,

& the men out there somewhere doing whatever

men do, and coming home on time for meals

and naps, and always seeing that the women

had a ride to and from church on Wednesdays

& Sundays & feeling saved themselves doing

their duties so regularly

.

& Mom in a factory, day in day out; life unorganized,

guilty Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, guilty

Thursday, Friday & Saturday, and especially guilty

Sunday & no man

to drive her to and from

.

So, yes, I guess you’d say Methodist.

At least that’s what I most

remember.

Sandra Inskeep-Fox is a poet, an independent scholar and co-owner of Dorley House books in Clear Spring, Maryland.  Sandra writes poetry, short stories, essays, and keeps voluminous journals. She has been published in the Chaffin Review, Facet, Cimarron Review, Commonweal Magazine, The Big Two-Hearted Review, the Aurorean, the Virginia Woolf Miscellany and others.  She won several contests, including the 1st annual Marquette Monthly Short Story contest, and received Honorable mention in the Best of Ohio writers contests in 2001, 2004 and 2005. She is currently working to complete a manuscript on the creative process of Virginia Woolf and a manuscript of her own Bloomsbury-inspired poetry.