By the Bayou – Valerie Westmark

poems

By the Bayou

You turned up the music until we became
porous and leaked into each other,
in your car, by the bayou.

It was all sound and heat,
one of those nights the earth breathes,
and skin is all you need; potent
heard again and again.

I’m sure you don’t know
that when that song plays now,
I pause. Not for sentimentality,
no, too small. But instead
for what it is like to feel
something so large and infinite
that I cannot touch it.

Valerie Westmark graduated from Samford University with a concentration in creative writing. She currently adores the work of Mary Oliver & Rainer Maria Rilke and often wonders if she has consumed too much hot tea. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and she is the current recipient of the 2016 Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper Award from the Door is A Jar Magazine.

Deferred – RaShell Smith-Spears

poems

Deferred

She wanted to be a mermaid when she grew up.
But there are no swimming pools
in the Foote Homes Projects Apartments
and besides
Black people can’t swim
her flaxen-haired teacher told her
which was better than the deluge of words
from her mother’s mouth
Girl, that’s just stupid!  You dumb
just like your daddy!
And when she thought about it
Ariel’s hair was like a flame
too hot to really touch
and she had never seen a black mermaid
so she damned up her dreams
of swimming
or even taking swimming lessons.
They sat stagnant,
muddied with mosquitoes and silt.
When she grew up she got a job
dancing
on a stage.
Her body rippled
like the waves in the water
she was now too frightened
to enter;
Her hips swerved and turned
like a river around immovable
land masses;
her bottom flopped effortlessly against the air
like a giant fin.
And when she wore her emerald
suit with the iridescent pasties,
sometimes she remembered
her flighty little girl dreams
then she dipped to the floor in an
earth-scrubbing split
and drowned herself in the music.

RaShell Smith-Spears is an associate professor at Jackson State University where she teaches literature and creative writing.  Her creative works have been published in several journals and anthologies, including Short Story, Black Magnolias, A Lime Jewel: An Anthology for Haiti, and Mississippi Noir.

A Mother’s Advice – Marina Sofia

poems

A Mother’s Advice

Who could love you?
She said:
You are perverse, you delight
in contradiction, raise your voice
too soon, too far
impatient, you won’t listen
to any sage advice
you want to make your own mistakes
no learning from my own.

You are hard work, she added.
I pretend it’s operetta-froth chorus,
whip my cream, point down the nozzle.
You should be grateful…
You should remember…
You must not expect…
She gave me all the ingredients
never taught me how to bake
each word sweeping away kitchen essentials
till there was nothing

mere square inch of mottled dishcloth.

Marina Sofia is a global nomad, reviewer and writer, who’s recently moved back to the UK after spending several years in the French Alps. She has published in online and print journals, and thinks poetry is the best procrastination when she should be working on her debut crime novel.

Letter from the Editor

letter from the editor

Happy spring everyone!

It’s that time of year again – time for us to take a break from posting so we can hunker down and get through all your beautiful submissions for the summer ebook edition. We will be back in May for more Dying Dahlia weekly goodness!

Though we won’t be posting in the month of April, we will still be accepting submissions for our online post as well as for the ebook. So keep submitting!

Also, we are looking for more art, so please spread the word! If you know a talented female artist, send her our way. We are looking to showcase as much art as possible, and we are still on the lookout for cover art for the ebook.

For guidelines, visit the GUIDELINES page to see how you can submit poems, flash fiction and art to Dying Dahlia.

We shall miss you all but stay tuned! We’ve got some great work coming at you shortly.

Much love,

Abbie Copeland
Editor

Hive Sisters – Devon Balwit

poems

Hive Sisters

So many of us, clamoring,
          mitosis gone scarily awry,

all eager to excel, careening
          toward podia, wrestling for

trophies, the swing of our medals
          raising blue bruises

between our breasts.  Trained
          to reach high, we are

forever reaching, hands straining
          upwards like saplings

from our desks, their hectic rustle
          annoying our teachers.

Even in sleep, our arms scrabble
          the headboard. But amongst us,

we do not compete. Like hive sisters,
          one’s success is that of all,

our grins genuine, each glistening
          with royal jelly.  We know

others find us insufferable, wishing
          to smack us down,

but we are too many.  We dance
          the joy of our success

to one another, each stomp and circle
          pointing to the next.

Our procession to and fro ribbons
          our DNA like a gift.

(after Cristina Troufa’s Trophy)

Devon Balwit is a teacher/poet from Portland, OR. She has two chapbooks: how the blessed travel (Maverick Duck Press) & Forms Most Marvelous (forthcoming with dancing girl press). Her work has found many homes, some of which are: The Inflectionist Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Stillwater Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Red Earth Review, Timberline Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry.

*Note: The poem was inspired by Cristina Troufa’s Trophy.  You can see Cristina’s art here.

Baby’s Breath – D. Vaisius

flash fiction

Learning someone is like falling. Every moment changing, bringing you closer to something else. A cold, hard ground. But you weren’t the ground. I learned and fell but there was no end. No ground. And so I learned to fly. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. Maybe I’m getting there. Maybe we are so different I’ll never make it. But you will. I look at you and a gentle smile tugs at my insides. There won’t be any yelling this time, or sadness.

You have got my smile and I have a weird thing about your hair. We have fairy lights, candles and nightlights to break up the dark. We have the space we make together through our hands and bodies and voices. We are a knotted mess of pure, experiential love. It sounds like a beautiful secret. I kissed you on the nose. Now rain hits our roof. It’s February and rain is surrounding me. I stain my ears, hoping the sound will not fade away leaving me alone. At least the rain has come. If only for a moment.

I clasped and unclasped my hands anxiously all day. Searching for an anchor in the buzzing hail of nerves that seemed to inexhaustibly fill me. This old house makes bones ache. The silence of the scream in me seems to wrap quieting fingers about my throat and squish. I can hear birds outside. They are twittering away. It’s not quite a hopeful sound yet but it’s one I’ve not heard for a while. The roar of a backhoe as it rips another tree down cuts through. Perhaps that is why the birds seem subdued. I close my eyes and lean back in the rocking chair, breathe in time with you.

D. Vaisius was eight when she first started writing. Since then it has been a quiet, reflective journey through styles and experiences. Writing is probably the only things she doesn’t over think and as such is incredibly important to her happiness.

God as Woman – Shelby Lynn Lanaro

poems

God as Woman

Trust in God – she will provide.
– Emmeline Pankhurst

In kindergarten, I pictured
God for the first time
and He was a woman.

Not because I’m a woman,
and not because
I’m a feminist. Growing up

in church, we prayed
the “Our Father,”
and I still do.

But being raised by a single
mother, who brought me
to church every week,

who taught me
The Commandments
in Sunday School,

and, when I was older,
led my youth group
and confirmation classes,

of course I picture God
as a woman.

Shelby Lynn Lanaro is a graduate student in the MFA program at Southern Connecticut State University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature in 2014. Currently, Shelby is completing her thesis, which is a manuscript of her poems that focuses on various types of relationships. As a narrative poet, Shelby’s work is heavily based on life’s events and strong personalities.

Unearthing Ida – Rose M. Smith

poems

Unearthing Ida
Sinai Grace Hospital, June 2014

Trained hands remove the fabric scrim
slowly, by turns, by shifts, reveal
valley of hip, sloped crag of empty
womb, uncover flesh
the color of desert sand,
landscape eroded to rift and waver,
stark, creased, rippling
where muscle once shaped the dunes.
Help me turn her, the aide requests.
We roll forward pelvic cradle, rib,
outcrop of shoulder, blade, every ridge
a bone peeking through skin, a history

written in this shell once woman.
Ida holds her stroked right arm aloft
as we prop her weight
to let the bedsore breathe.
Morning nurse, blood pressure band,
reaches for the right.
Ida gargles words
behind her stroke-stolen tongue,
over and over, flailing.

Nurse croons an it’s alright song
at strange Ida noise,
pumps the cuff, assumes dementia.
She said use the left, we tell the nurse.
Surprise. Held breath. Apology.

 

Rose M. Smith‘s work has appeared in The Examined Life Journal, Mom Egg Review, pluck! Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture, Naugatuck River Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Main Street Rag, The Pedestal Magazine, A Narrow Fellow and other journals and anthologies. She is a Senior Editor with Pudding Magazine, is a Cave Canem fellow, and serves as a contest judge and coach with Ohio Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud program.

 

Why We Don’t Call – Rebekah Keaton

poems

Why We Don’t Call

This evening after a quick whiskey following the wake
of a colleague (one must shake off death—don’t let
it follow you home, our mother once hissed) you might
revisit the old haunts, sift through the rubble,
divide facts from memory, like glass from paper.

Where we grew up, folks blew open and rattled
against each other. Fights on the front stoops,
neighbors sometimes playing referee, and a little brother
found once kneeling on a back window’s shards of glass.
When you could, you left.  Took the Greyhound
to California, cushioned yourself in the warm lights
of a movie theater and a movie screen kiss, later
slumbered beneath the line drawings your daughter drew:
square house and triangle roof, which your wife framed.

But, this year, even there in the land of milk and honey,
ice blusters in. Harsh, and under the weather, the gutters loosen,
shingles begin to buckle. The industry of keeping a house,
is the same everywhere:

panes sliver palms, blood pulses warm, and the morning asks,
what good does softness do?

Rebekah Keaton’s poetry has appeared in various journals, including PoemMemoirStory, Common Ground Review, Rust + Moth, Blueline, and The Stonecoast Review. She earned her Ph.D. in English from Michigan State University and is associate professor of English at Niagara County Community College, just outside of Niagara Falls. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband and twin boys, lots of snow, and very active puppy.