Wendy Howe

To A Young Woman Poet In Russia (1917)

I refuse toŚlive. To swim on
the current of human spines.
                          Marina Tsvetaeva

Though you say you do not believe
you sleep in a church to stay warm,
lie on the pew like a dead woman
while stained glass martyrs
keep watch.

A choir of candles
hum their psalm of fire,
but you are unaware, dreaming of dark scenes
and dampness:

The black mountain
blocks out light
and the sea
with its linen strata of sails.

A cherry tree
sags with no fruit. The pail
at its feet collecting
spiders and dew.

And of course, those gates.

One leads into the pasture
where a lover's hands
(smelling of gunpowder)
clutch your shoulders. His voice
begging to come home.
Another, locks the entrance
to an orphanage. Inside
a child peels rust from iron bars
like crust from a slice of bread
while she hungers.

And the last,
guards The Madonna's fountain.
Her stone body
veiled in moss.
Her cool water brimming
with your reflection.

Thinking Of Jane Hirschfield In A Buddhist Abbey

Ah! Slender hush
who stands with her back
to the wind, hair thick and wavy
as watercress along the creek,

you have come here
to learn how nuns live,

and latch their spirits on
to the timeless length
of others. How traces
of hand and heart linger
on tools haunting those
who use them:

a white bowl
and heron's quill that sketched
a roof rising through clouds
seeking to be blessed,

a needle that hemmed silk
removed splinters,

and this bamboo gate
leading to a garden
where prayer is hummed

and desires sent adrift
like lanterns floating away
to a larger world
they must forget.

Details Of A Psalm

Sob of a small bird
in this Somali tree,
fall of wind
to breathless calm,
at this point, the woman
does not waste tears
but plies her fingers
to shaping foil
left from the food paste.

Star or flower
the crinkled art
will ornament
her son's grave,
a mound of dirt
ribbed by storms that stole
his soil turning
the sky's veil.
from pale gold to dust.


Behind the heart locked against itself ..
                                     Ingrid Jonker

A raindrop lingers
on barbwire. A tear fallen
on the veined wrist

of this woman
who has worn iron,

felt a moth
flex its wings

and tested
the warmth of milk
that would nourish her son.

Refrain Amidst Light, Stone and Water

Silence is the sin
says a beautiful woman
turning her head from the bridge, canal
rippling with shadows of lantern
and palm leaf.

Like the water
her Egyptian hair
shimmers darkly -- light
caught from street lamps
arching along a road
that reaches for The Square

* * * * *
Other lamps
shine on her son's face
glistening with sweat.

Even a camera's light
mounted on an old shoe
reveals his grimace

while a gash enflames
his upper arm, an unstitched
wound, and to some --
blood sentence of the martyr.

For hours, He spoke against
the lack of provisions
for everyday, opportunity
weightless as the river
that yields more silt than fish.

He felt hunger
hurled in loaves of stone
that broke skin or glass, the pressure
for change rising
with fist and flag

* * * * * *

Silence is my sin
cries a beautiful woman
as she kneels to touch
her son's flesh, her voice
falling on the plaza

like a soft rag
soaked in oil, an echo
others may ignite.

Two Sundays Before Christmas

Wind-shaken light
on the Venetian blind,
it appeared late
in the afternoon.

Trembling breath
of The Holy Ghost,
I felt absolved,
washboard cleansed.

And though, there was no proof,
I closed my eyes
and fell to rest

like a white gull drifting
into her ocean glide, wingspan
the soft openness.

  Copyright  ę 2013 Wendy Howe


Wendy Howe is an English teacher and freelance writer who lives in Southern California with her partner. She is haunted by her own interest in human nature, diverse landscapes and other invisible wonders of the world. Her writing often explores portrait studies of women in conflict, historical or modern. Over the years, she has been published in an assortment of journals both on-line and in print. Recently, her work has been showcased in three anthologies which feature a variety of women writers, Lilith, Postcards From Eve and Tipping The Sacred Cow.