Poems & Essays

20 Nov

Tale of the Chicken

General/Column No Response

My children’s lives are neatly cut in two:
English at home, Japanese at school.
They never comment on it, in either language.
I, on the other hand, feel ripped in half, raggedly.

One day my sons tell me a story they heard
in school, about a chicken who set itself on fire.
I gasp. “No, no,” they say, “the chicken
is supposed to be on fire.” “A barbecue?” I guess.

They squirm and giggle. “No, the chicken flies
out of the flames with bright new feathers and a tail
longer than a peacock’s, better than before.”
“A phoenix!” I exclaim, and everyone grin, nods,

our family is whole again. Then I make a mistake.
“Phoenix is also a city in my country,” I say.
The children look at each other sideways, skeptical,
change the subject. No amount of prompting

will return them to the chicken. Small mementos
of my childhood I offer to my sons as bright feathers
for a nest. Instead they build a pyre and light it.
From necessary flames, radiant and alien, my sons rise.

 

Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Whiteout (University of Alaska Press, 2017), Mendeleev’s Mandala (2015) and The Insomniac’s Weather Report (2014). Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, Motionpoems, and on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. She has had work in Threepenny Review, Beloit Poetry Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

 

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20 Nov

Judo Match

General/Column No Response

My sons are almost evenly matched:
one bigger and stronger, the other more agile.
The older throws the younger and I
don’t know whether to cheer or to flinch.
Then both are down on the mat, sliding along
each other’s torsos like tectonic plates. They lock
and struggle in silence like the sun and the moon
in eclipse. They scramble at each other’s centers
like bees on a hive. My husband, whose body
they were not sieved from, thinks wrestling is good
for our boys. Sensei, observing my face, advises,
Watch the ocean pound the sand, then retreat,
sand still firm, ocean still roiling.
But the shoreline has shifted, I object.
Sensei smiles. You are, he says, the shoreline, and bows.

 

 

Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Whiteout (University of Alaska Press, 2017), Mendeleev’s Mandala (2015) and The Insomniac’s Weather Report (2014). Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, Motionpoems, and on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. She has had work in Threepenny Review, Beloit Poetry Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

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20 Nov

Motherhood: Autism

General/Column No Response

Autist, owl-child
winged son, meant to soar
the moonless night

I feed you knowledge that you swallow whole,
disgorge the indigestible—
feathers, bones, the very sinews
falling fruitless to the earth beneath
our nesting place.

Threatened, you attack
wings writhing
talons etching flesh

or worse, you flee,
claim refuge in
riven rock or
secret boughs where
a caul of feathers is
obscurity.

Yet there is wonder
in the power of your passions
and your sovereign solitude.

Owls, grounded,
are prey to pumas, serpents,
taunting boys.
Full-fledged, now
you must take the sky
or die.

But I, earthbound mother,
how can I teach you that
which I will never understand?

 

 

Bonnie Pike is the mom of nine children, all of them adults; two of them are still at home, and always will be. She wrote the “Senior Mama” column for a few years over at Literary Mama. She has had work published elsewhere as well, in both literary journals and commercial magazines, and has received a Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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20 Nov

Inquiry

General/Column No Response

The three year old full of questions
asks his grandmother with dementia,

Why do all the people here have white hair?
Can I sit in your wheelchair?
Is this orange juice in your pouch?

Which question would you like me to answer first?

I forgot, Grandma.
Me, too.

 

Carl “Papa” Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway VA now lives in University Place WA. He has a Seattle Metro contest winning poem on the wall of a bus riding the streets in Emerald City. Carl, president of The Tacoma Writers Club is a Pushcart Prize and Micro Award nominee.

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