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Shelby Graham

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Frances Hatfield

Said and Unsaid

You cannot say, I need you
so you say, I like your shoes

I cannot say, I see your gods have failed you
so I say, your eyes look so sad

You fold your arms, the sentence for my crimes is life
I lean in, let’s look at those chains

You look past me, eyes wide, I am alone
and the night is coming for me
my heart pounds
knowing what waits there
your breath stops to keep
the next door locked shut

but my left foot
is already in it

outside the trees
are restless with light

in the settling quiet
each filament of dust

delivers us
mote by mote

from the hour of undoing
into the hour of mercy

on what wings
we cannot say

(First published in Parabola.)

Shreveport Louisiana 1963

I was just messing around with my sister waiting for the pool to open 
it was summer it was hot Debra Jean busted in out of breath
I just saw a colored girl riding your bike down the street
my mother called Mr. Johnson the only daddy on our block
who stayed home all day he called the police they came in their paddy wagon
opened the door to the back said get in little girl let’s go get your bicycle I got in 
we took the bridge over the bayou and the road behind the Fill-A-Bill to colored town
a place I’d never been the streets were dirt ruts the houses cardboard and scrap
there was my bike in front of a hut with one wall leaning in
the policeman walked in like it was his house dragged a girl out by the arm
she was skinny she was shaking a high strange sound came from her throat
I thought she said mama but her mama wasn’t there
I was shaking too I wanted to say wait it’s ok she can have it 
I don’t need it anymore I’m sorry I’m sorry
but I did not
the guns at their hips their cool bored eyes said
it’s the law little girl and she broke it

And then, one day it is returned to you
as if by chance, on your way somewhere
on a February morning,
you stop the car because perfect arcs of glass
are sliding into foam, take off your shoes,
let cold sand, broken shells, charred
bits of wood announce the end of winter
to your feet, let the sun rinse your eyes
of salt and bitter snow, and then you see it
among the flotsam beached by the tide, strewn
with gull-picked sea life heaved up from the abyss
where it sank with the ship of your old life
and you recognize it at once
though now it resembles the world more than you,
mottled green and brown, pitted and fractured,
housing unseen beings countless as stars,
the flames that once seethed night and day
now cooled to seaweed, and you know
it will never belong entirely to you again
and that it never did
but still you pick it up,
cradle it in your hands,
say Thank You

The Invitation

In the house of shame
good news is worse than bad

Who set me wandering through my dreams
searching for relics of my wings?

Who lit the lamp and drew for me a bath
Scented with roses and myrrh?

That light will surely shatter me
when it finds me hiding in ashes

What do you mean, take off
the demon-riddled rags?

What then
could I wear?

(First published in Rudiments of Flight.)

Rough Guide to the Underworld

It’s not just for the dead, it’s not heaven or hell,
but if you’ve made it this far, you know that.
You notice at once how everything is almost
the opposite of what you expected.
The world you left is not left, there’s really no under or after:

Between the molecules of your life, in the interstitial seas
of its bursting forth and withering,
in each offbeat of your heart,
world upon world unfurls and vanishes,
moving to a clock whose tick lasts an aeon,
yet feels like an instant, where all that you are
or ever have been is reduced to the weight of a nickel.
Now you find you can walk through walls
you once knew simply as “myself,”
and now you remember you could always fly,
except now your body’s a vast school of small fish,
and you speak in an alphabet of light and motion

with the dream bodies of the living and the dead
who are never dead, who flit or grind or whisper
through us decade after decade,

and there on the floor, all you ditched
in this life to stay afloat, that just seemed too big,
too hard, only garbage, or worse,
revealed at this depth to be precious
and splendid beyond all telling. . .

and you realize: this is what your lovers glimpsed
that made them want to dive into you over and over,
gasping and crying out,
how many lifetimes we all spend trying to do this,
and you see now, too, why it never works for long,
atom by atom we float back up,
the rubies and diamonds, again just barnacles and rocks,

and now that you know what it costs to journey here
and even if you’d choose it again and again,
it becomes quite clear why the great god Pluto
cannot just ask a girl out for a date,
because who, on a spring day, knee-deep in green,
swaying in the perfume of narcissus and violets,
would willingly step into a marriage such as this,
who would pay a dowry of that nickel,
what girl on earth will say

(First published in Rudiments of Flight.)

Frances Hatfield’s poems have appeared in Parabola, Jung Journal, Psychological Perspectives, Numinous, Monterey Bay Anthology of Poetry, The Book of NowHer Texas: Poem, Image, Story and Song, and others.  Her first book of poems, Rudiments of Flight, won the 2013 Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, and was a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters poetry book prize.  Frances has a private practice in Jungian analysis, is an assistant editor of Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, and teaches in the extended education program at the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. 

Farnaz Fatemi
Frances Hatfield
Danusha Lameris
Ingrid Lariviere
Lisa Allen Ortiz

Featured Artist
Shelby Graham


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