DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FROM MY FORMER SELF

I lost everything:
the contours of the body I knew
the house
the identity of wife/mother
half of a couple
a name that began with Mrs.

Everything I thought I held dear
came apart, unhinged
from their places:
the photo albums
the arrangement of furniture
the banisters that connected
one floor to the next

the days defined by children’s routines
school buses in the morning
stories in the evening

When I walked out in the world
a ring bound my finger
declaring my status

but I am not bound
I am a fireball
shooting sparks

I am light and dark
rainbow and shadow
fuchsia and turquoise

dancer and explorer
vessel for languages
archaeologist of feelings

I declare freedom
unlock the gate to the world
fling the door open

mother and wanderer
mother and sky
mother and wild
mother and expanse
mother and let it all in

REDBUDS

Pandemic lockdown, April 2020

Misnamed
their buds are not truly red
but magenta

what draws us is not the bud
but the clusters of flowers
clinging to the branch

the range of colors
pink mauve lavender

we need to learn this
how to fully bloom
without leaving home

STORM

The day was marked by a fameflower at dawn
and a lightning storm at dusk.

As the sun rose, I went through warrior poses,
eyeing that flower as focal point—
petals closed, narrow, unwavering.
I said, let me hold on like that,
draw strength inward with singular gaze.

The day rocked and wavered.
By noon, the tempest rose,
rattling windowpanes,
the teen antics began,
drama after drama,
shrieking and silence,
lies mixing with truth,
the winds blowing east then west,
north, south, and skyward.

I put onions into a tortilla
and watched them soften,
let the notes of a song seep
into my subconscious.

Covid deaths spiked again,
fires raged in California.

I held still like the flower.

When evening came, lightning
lit up the sky, a grid
of electricity. Pink sizzled
at the horizon beneath blue clouds.
My hair whipped around my face.

I was electric,
dazzled by color.
The wind swirled for hours
and it never rained.

Then I settled into bed,
gripped the edges of my blanket and
whispered the name of my daughter,
her name, her name.

Branches clawing at my window.

Yvette Neisser is the author of Grip, winner of the 2011 Gival Press Poetry Award. Her translations from Spanish include South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri (Settlement House, 2011) and Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems by Luis Alberto Ambroggio (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009). Her poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, Virginia Quarterly Review, 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium, and Split This Rock’s The Quarry. She is the founder of the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT) and has taught writing at George Washington University and The Writer’s Center. By day, she works in international development.


Image by Acroterion, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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