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LES FEMMES FOLLES & MOMAHA.COM READING ON MOTHERHOOD FEB. 24, 2013

At Star Deli Gallery Feb. 24, 2013, to close my (Sally Deskins’) exhibit “What Will Her Kids Think?” Les Femmes Folles partnered with momaha.com to present a reading on motherhood with ten women (also previewing the 2012 anthology available here). It was an inspiring evening of courageous sharing multiple points of view on one of the most diverse, controversial topics of our time: motherhood. Below is an excerpt from the evening with photos by g thompson higgins. Scroll down for bios on each writer.

MOTHER NUMBER ONE (excerpt)

by Marilyn June Coffey (above photo by g thompson higgins)

If I told you this

you would not believe me

but it is true:

Born at home

out of wedlock

(a fate stiff as death

before World War I)

I drew my first breath

beneath my grandma’s curse.

"Maria" my mama called me.

"My dear Maria"

but she could not shield me

from grandmother’s wrath.

 

If I told you this

you would not believe me

but it is true:

Mama gave me all she could

took me to her Church

had holy water placed

on my skin a name

placed on paper.  Maria.

Maria Jane Collins.

Nursed me for two crucial

weeks cradled me against

her youthful breasts let me

suck deep those life-saving

white juices.  Adamant.

Knowing most wet-nursed

babies die within days.

 

"Maria, my dear Maria"

my mama called me

but she could not turn

grandmother’s ire

could not bend that steely

insistence that there would be

no wedding no child reared.

She would have none of it.

Insisted

until my mama bent

weeping “Maria my dear

Maria” all the way

to the foundling home.

* “Mother Number One” is excerpted from Marilyn Coffey’s Delicate Footsteps, published by Omega Cottonwood Press. This poem is based on the story of Mary Baade, as reported in the North Platte [NE] Telegraph, Oct. 13, 1987, by Sharron Hollen and reprinted in Tears on Paper: Orphan Train History, compiled by Patricia J. Young and Frances E. Marks.

http://www.marilyncoffey.net


Caterpillars, witches

And the sound of “mama” out of anyone’s mouth.

 by Sally Deskins
(above photo by g thompson higgins)

Are we busy brewing, us women
Us mothers, scheming to trap the cute little disgusting ones.
Joyfully mad, knowing we will all reap
the spell’s effect.

Caterpillars creeping
Wanting, wanting, wanting!
We give, we witches love, you know.

Fatten those whiners up,
Cocoon them
as each begging “mama” endears, repulses,
Tires and reels you back.

Until we become.

 

Hysterectomy: Ode to My Uterus

 by Fran Higgins (above photo by g thompson higgins)

 

O pot that grew the sweetest flowers

it’s time to say goodbye.

From your depths three blossoms bloomed—

the apples of my eye.

Your fertile soil, it is no more,

your bounty grown and parted.

And yet at thoughts of losing you

I find myself downhearted.

Your usefulness has faded

and your flaws tend to annoy—

though precious while abundant

(for your harvest was my joy).

It’s bittersweet but for the best.

I have no need of you—

a cracked and empty vessel now—

and so I say, “adieu.”

On Making Dinner: A Food Writer’s Take on Newtown (excerpt)

By Summer Miller (above photo by g thompson higgins)

A few weeks ago, as I ended a month of not cooking much for my family or with any real intention, I stood in my kitchen with a change of heart. Flipping through old recipes, I decided to reinvest myself in the act of feeding them dinner.

I made pasta sauce on Wednesday, pasta dough on Thursday, and on Friday afternoon as my children slept peacefully in their beds I turned on the television, dusted my counter with flour and began to roll out the soft, delicate dough by hand.

With each movement of the rolling pin upward and out, the news of the Newtown school shooting filled the corners of my home with sadness. I pressed the dough thinner and thinner, turning it on its flour bed, then pressed it thinner still.

My heart is breaking for those families.

Each rotation brought another piece of information and I released another prayer for them. I listened and pressed then finally curled the homemade pasta dough into the shape of a cigar cutting one ribbon at a time with a well-worn silver pastry blade.

I have used this blade to cut countless batches of vanilla bean marshmallows and scrape one cup of flour after the other into one form of dough or another all in the name of feeding my family.

As the afternoon wore on and I stacked little nests of freshly cut pop-ar-deli noodles on a cookie sheet, my eyes welled with tears and spilled over, my heart sank with sorrow then floated with gratitude that it was not my son’s preschool or my daughter’s daycare, that these children, my children, were still my responsibility.

Round and Round the Garden

 by Jessica Mogis (above photo by g thompson higgins)

Her stomach hurts

and I trace it

in small circles.

round and round the garden


My kachina doll,

rosy cheeked

and black eyes staring.

All the eggs she’ll ever have

were born within her.

My grandchildren sleep

in her belly like bulbs

waiting for spring.

like a teddy bear

I walk my fingers up her chest.

She watches them as if she were

scouting an impending storm.

She will turn one day,

twisting her thin torso.

She will open herself to a man.

one step, two step

My hand approaches her small chin,

and she pulls it in,

reducing herself.

Thousands of silver fish

moving like dust in sunlight

will course within her,

angling for a singular egg.

They are wind

to the resource of gold.

tickle you under there

I brush my fingers

along the soft skin of her neck

and she smiles,

then turns her body away.

Perhaps she is the last of us,

the smallest girl nested inside

the berth of women before.

The last pear to fall

from our maternal tree,

rosy cheeked, black eyes staring.

My doll,

my golden girl,

my tiny fruit

from within,

one of my two,

one of very few,

you are more than the basket

you carry stepping into this garden.

I Am

By Michelle Troxclair  (above photo by g thompson higgins)

I am the most powerful human being on the planet.

From my womb, I have grown the future.

I have shaped it with the tender touch of my hands,

and the sustenance from my breasts.

From which the future suckles and rests its head.

I have poured its foundation with my tongue.

The words from my mouth are as powerful as

bullets ripping from guns.

They can be as a hammer driving nails

building skyscrapers or as a wrecking ball

laying waste to concrete walls and souls.

I can push the future forward 

or mire it down in ditches of dung.

The strength of my stance and the content

of my character shall be reflected in

and emulated by the future I bore.

Dignity

Courage

Perseverance 

Honor

Respect

Responsibility

I impart through my very spirit.

For I know that when my head hangs—

so hangs the head of the future

I am

called mother

And I determine the future. 

Widen

by Trilety Wade (above photo by g thompson higgins)

“Will you tie me up with my unused fallopian tubes,” I asked of the man who bore a phantom birth scratch.

The cunt’s delicate infrastructure flexes and bends for childbearing, but it’s the heart that expands to bear motherhood.

Being a record keeper, I considered an inventory of mothers, and the old names of their new children. Harriet, Lydia, Henry, Eliza, Abram. All thunder cubs drinking the discharge of electric milk.

So many babies, like so many birds, and like a flock of robins, babies are hard to tell apart when in a group.

Children, and men, and women.

My halo cheeks bloomed rosemary blue when men compared me to their mothers, and then it occurred to me; men don’t fuck their mothers. I don’t regret not having children, but I do regret the lost opportunity of being a MILF.

So which is more of a curiosity to me? Marriage or motherhood? Would I rather wake up with child or with husband? Answers clamp and questions open. The bed of “rathers” is bleak, and I prefer the bed of “what I have is what I need.”

(excerpt) on Motherhood
by Felicia Webster (above photo by g thompson higgins)
Moma moma turn all around
Moma moma touch the ground
Moma moma ties my shoes
Moma moma read the news
Moma moma come upstairs
Moma moma lets say prayers
Moma moma turn off the light 
Moma moma say good night……. 
Good night
And pray and think and wonder and hope
And pray and think and wonder and hope 
that I can have a peaceful moment 
and they won’t get up. 

And I pray…..
And I pray …..

(C)Felicia Webster 2/24/13
Nursery rhyme concept taken from the “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear”

My Imaginary Cock Weeps for Sybil

 by Laura Madeline Wiseman (above photo by g thompson higgins)

My imaginary cock weeps for Sybil as Sally Field

crawls on knees. My cock sobs in Dancer in the Dark

as Bjork bludgeons a man to save her son’s sight.

My cock tears up as the Elephant man is beaten.

 

Nothing can stop my cock’s crying. No shoulder, no

arms that hug, no box of tissues, no credit reel, no

bowl of caramel popcorn, no cocktail, no jokes, no

shopping therapy, no workout, no yoga, no sex.

Nothing can block the chokes. Not plaster walls,

not thirteen floors, not ear plugs, not cornfields.

A hound bays five houses over. Blue jays siren.

Feral cats climb from gutters with ears turned out.

Teenagers practice drums. Neighbors start mowers.

Planes take off early. Jets dip below the sound barrier.

 

Australian scuba divers jump out of boats and descend

to an inhuman pressure. Rockets launch for space.

But I make cups of hot cocoa. I sit. I wrap a quilt

around my cock. It’s okay, I say, It’s not real.

Also appeared in Menacing Hedge, winter edition 2013.
First appeared in Los Angeles Review, No. 5, 2008.

___

Other readers included Cat Dixon and Danielle Herzog. Read their work at momaha.com’s overview here.

Bios of readers:

Marilyn June Coffey is a best-selling, national prize winning, internationally published author. Her “Pricksong” poem won a Pushcart Prize. Her novel MARCELLA broke new ground for writers. Her work has appeared in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, India, and Japan. http://marilynjcoffey.blogspot.com/

Sally Deskins
is an artist, art writer, consultant, art model, mother, wife and art enthusiast. She holds a BA in Art from UNL and MPA from UNO. Her writing has been published locally and nationally. Her art has been shown and published nationally. She is founding editor of LES FEMMES FOLLES. She has curated and produced many multi-media arts events. Her two LES FEMMES FOLLES anthologies of art, poetry and interview excerpts can be found on blurb.com.

Cat Dixon
teaches creative writing at the UNO. She is the secretary of The Backwaters Press. Her work has appeared in Sugar House Review, Midwest Quarterly Review, Coe Review, Eclectica among others. She has poems forthcoming in The Untidy Season Anthology.

Danielle Herzog
is a weekly blogger for Momaha.com, the Omaha World-Herald’s parenting site. You can read her blogs ever Wednesday and her advice blogs, titled “The Sassy Housewife,” every Saturday on the site. Danielle also maintains her personal blog Martinis and Minivans (www.martinisandminivans.com), a blog for anyone who has ever needed a martini after driving a minivan around all day. She has been a freelance writer for over seven years and received her B.A. in English from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and fifteen years later, she is now pursuing her M.A. in Counseling from the University of Nebraska in Omaha. She is a New Yorker now living the Midwest life as a somewhat sarcastic writer, mother and wife.

Fran Higgins
earned her BFA, graduate certificate in Advanced Writing, and a Masters in English from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her work has appeared in Plains Song Review, Celebrate, SlipTongue, NEBRASKAland magazine, and an upcoming anthology, The Untidy Season. She is working on a memoir…still.

Summer Miller
is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Every Day with Rachel Ray, Edible Omaha, AAA Living, The Reader and more websites than room to note. She lives with her husband and two children in Elkhorn, Ne., where she spends most of her time thinking and writing about food. On occasion such writings appear on her blog, www.scaldedmilk.com. As of late, she’s been traveling the forgotten Plains of Iowa and Nebraska writing her first book, which is, of course, all about food and those who love it.

Jessica Mogis,
mother of two. Daughter of one. Montessori teacher and writer. She wrote a book of poems called “Charity: Notes from the Do and Be Well” and had a poetic ‘tweet’ featured on NPR as part of their National Poetry Celebration in April 2012.

Michelle Troxclair
is a single mother of three. She holds a BFA in English and a Masters in Public Administration from UNO. The Cleansing (2007) features her renowned poetry written 1999- 2006. Her Spoken Word career began in 1999 with Felicia Webster, hosting Poetic Fusion 2001-2002. She worked in community development and human services until 2006 when she became Administrative Director at Love’s Jazz and Arts Center. She created Poetry in Motion, 2007-2010, and the LJAC Wordsmiths, a Spoken Word traveling troop. She has been invited to speak, narrate or perform at more than 20 events over the past 3 years. She conducts seminars and classes in Poetry and Spoken Word and developed curriculum for Love’s Jazz & Arts Center, the Nebraska Youth Correctional Facility and Lutheran Family Services. Her work is published in the anthology, The Empty Room (2010) from the Empty Room Project. In 2011, with Felicia Webster and at the behest of Brent Crampton of The House of LOOM, she began a monthly Spoken Word open mic, Verbal Gumbo. She is currently working on The Skeptic’s Guide to the Unorthodox Christian, a non- fiction book of her journey in Christianity and a prose poetry play entitled “Touch the Sky,” revealing the stories of women in the Bible from their perspective. She is also developing a not-for-profit organization that provides support for local artists in project development, funding, marketing, etc.

Trilety Wade’s
writings and art are inspired by the body’s contradictions.

Felicia Webster
is the mama of 1 amazing sun named Omni. She is a spoken word artist and performance poet in the spoken word troop The Wordsmiths. She is a community activist, teaching artist, inspirer and soon to be graduate with her Master’s in Ed. Currently she is the Arts & Ed Coordinator of the Omaha Kroc Center & the Creativite Arts instructor for Crieghton’s Upward Bound program. Known also as Withlove,Felicia, she is blessed to be the co-creative director and co- host of Omaha’s very own Verbal Gumbo spoken word open mic.

Laura Madeline Wiseman
has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012) and Unclose the Door (Gold Quoin Press, 2012). She is the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. http://www.lauramadelinewiseman.com/

The readers; photo by g thompson higgins

Mini-review of Women Write Resistance edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman

 

I was so thrilled and honored when Lincoln-based poet Laura Madeline Wiseman (who is also reading this Friday at Noyes Art Gallery in Lincoln; details below and here) asked me to read through the final draft of  Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013) for minor errors and the anthology did not let down, to say the least. The book is now available on amazon.com; below is my very short, understated review on a truly revolutionary work of art…

Poetry, like visual art, illuminates with the potential of societal change. Judy Chicago’s 2006 sculpture, “Snake Arm”—a raised a fist coiled by a golden snake—calls to mind fertility and connection while also questioning aggression and war. Her series, “The Holocaust Project” (1985-93) brought the darkened tragedy of the Holocaust’s violent “medical experiments” and sexual violation of women to attention. Faith Ringgold’s “The Flag is Bleeding #2,” (1973), a piece on violence against women, offers the American flag, a symbol for militarism and racial violence, and a stoic black mother who attempts to protect her children, while she, the children, and the flag bleed. These artistsdeal with violence and political issues head-on, garnering revolutionary enlightenment and societal change. Each of the diverse, enthralling poems in Wiseman’s Women Write Resistance is a work of art, revealing hope and cultural transformation. Exhilarating and groundbreaking, Women Write Resistance combines true heart-wrenching stories of gender abuse with revelatory “sassing” language demanding meaningful conversation on the universal issue and, hopefully, change.

~Sally Deskins, founding editor of Les Femmes Folles, journal of women in art

Read more about Women Write Resistance and Laura Madeline Wiseman at lauramadelinewiseman.com. Keep posted on Women Write Resistance at facebook.com/womenwriteresistancepoetsresistgenderviolence.

Hear Wiseman read her work alongside other writers who are women this Friday, March 1, 6pm. at Noyes Art Gallery, 119 S. 9th St. in Lincoln. Details here.

Wiseman was also a featured reader at LFF & momaha.com’s reading on motherhood to close my “What Will Her Kids Think?” exhibit at Star Deli Gallery February 24. You can see her reading her work on youtube!