Poems by Martina Reisz Newberry


(from TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME: Poems by Martina Reisz Newberry.  Available from Unsolicited Press)

                   “There is trouble among the Oystermen of Terrebonne Parish.”
                                                     Abbeville Progress 11/06/1915

Up North, the water was so cruel,
it drenched me with an endless sadness
a bay there, so cold and gray beyond the breakers
that I never got over it and have carried its silver foam
in my throat all these years.  It formed dreams

at night that wounded and defaced my pillow
and put an end to rest.  Still, year after year,
I searched this place for a sign that God lives
even as I live.  I consulted alchemist and abolitionists,
wondered if they believed in each other.

It seems wrong to have to search for the blue
in water…easy to find in the veins, in bruises,
in the architect’s print.  Van Gogh’s rain-soaked
landscape is only in dreams and visions.
Caillebotte’s oysters are alive, though still.*

*See Gustave Caillebott’s Nature Morete Aux Hitres Oysters
and Vincent Van Gogh’s Landscape in the Rain.


(more below…)


(from NEVER COMPLETELY AWAKE: Poems by Martina Reisz Newberry.
Available from Deerbrook Editions)

It’s like seeing the video of
someone else’s vacation. It’s so
commonplace, still, you can’t look away.
The familiar images grip your
attention. This is not your vacation,
of course it isn’t, but you’ve been there—
that spot the camera sees: wet stone steps,
lush ivy on old walls, then a face,
half covered by shadow, lips forming
“I love you. Come find me.” You’ve been there
and that almost recognizable
face is one that lives on the soles of
your feet until it is dream time when
it rises to remind you that,
nearly always, when you awaken,
you are left with love’s entrails—steaming,
bubbling, there.



Poems by Martina Reisz Newberry.
From Deerbrook Editions)

My keyboard faces a window;
everywhere I can see is sky.
Sky, make me believe in beauty.
Sky, make me believe I am writing
poems rather than beating the shit
out of words that may have had just
an atom of meaning before
I began hacking away at them.

The man next door practices
his guitar—hot, electric, loud.
Here’s a thought: If either of us
got pushed over our balconies,
we might be saved by hanging on
to the sky. I love this building;
no one complains about anyone
else. In the next building, a man

creates a symphony of cans
and bottles emptying into
a recycle bin, a sound which
lets me believe that a little
heavenly guidance and a drink
with each other just might save us
in a way that politics and
diplomacy have not. Maybe,

if we all grew geraniums
near our African Woodbine,
or conquered pain by going rump
to belly with friends, known and un
known…maybe if we named our babies
*Melantha, Yonina, or Almasi,
then we could manage our worlds
without armor or fear. The sky

flows over my keyboard. It speaks
of chimera, of costs, of prayer.
The great nations will remain unmoved
by these words. Oh, I can write them:


but I can only imagine
that such words might arm us, stain us
with a sense of our own audacity.
Deliverance floods Hollywood
Boulevard, I hear it rush by.
Shroud me, Sky! I’m sitting here
In my earrings and my sweet scent
Waiting for peace and perfection.

*Melantha means “Little Dove”, Yonina means “Dark Flower, Almasi means “Brilliant Diamond.”





FEBRUARY 20, 2006

(from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, 

My birthday today—I am 62 years old and have swallowed
whole the words of my sisters’ lives. I have seen them
make their way toward unthinkable horizons, to their beginnings.

Today I am thinking over all my own humbug and my magic tricks,
none of which have tidied up the rubble in my life. How can
a heart remain whole when it remembers everything?

How long did it take for me to learn that love could draw
a knife across my throat as easily as hatred or fear could do it?
I don’t remember. It took a long time.

When did I finally know that not listening was a kind of death
or what it meant to be lied to? An acquaintance asked me,
What does it feel like to be in your sixties? What a question!

For a moment, my whole dumb life stuck in my throat like
an unchewed piece of red meat. I was overcome with a
clouded passion for all I don’t know—don’t care to know.

(Whisper to self: So, what does it feel like?

Like I am a veteran of the local color here.
Like I am looking for a freeway to take me around the side roads.
Like I have been ravaged by what might happen.

Like I am lewd, screwed, and tattooed.
Like I can’t figure out how to live outside the betrayal of my body.
Like I have learned to arrive on schedule like the trains in Italy finally did.

Like I no longer have to stomach the foul atmosphere of rage.
Like I no longer have to practice a look of scorn, confidence or cool
in the mirror to get it just right.

Like it will all turn out fine, with everyone learning something
from this experience; with the music rising up in the background
and each of us looking meaningfully into the camera.)

Today an apostolic rendering is all I will own up to. I might own up to
a five-year longing I once had for a dark-haired rock and roller with a head for
computers and hands for me. But, you don’t need to know all of that.

Your interest lies in the demise of those things, not their ability to
skirt the limits of the living. You want to know if I’ve pulled away
from being perfect, if there is any hope for you to do the same.

Ah, my finders, keepers, dreamers, weepers! The reflections of
our mothers stand behind all of us. They reneged on their promises
and will unstitch us on our way to heaven—birthday by birthday.



In the morning after the storm, I walked
to the place where the swans stoically
protected the lake’s dark water.

The masks they wore hid their
true selves. I could not see their
wickedness but I knew it was there.Lost Love

Royal White Mutes, Coscorabas,
Trumpeters and Bewicks—each of these
inclined to bite, to bloody an arm or ankle

with a hurtful kiss. I sat on a bench,
facing them and remembering…
trying to remember what beauty felt like,

what it was to be so lovely that
the eye’s sclera was graced with its intensity—
an almost violence, that sort of beauty;

a beauty that can be forgiven nearly
anything. Oh, I could not make
that memory fit myself though I tried.

Our maculate love was long past as was
the bud and blossom of my attraction.
We floated, dipped, flew only a little.

When we left the water, I saw you
working the grass, mouth slightly open
and ready to snap, body readying…

A shakedown, a preening, a low sound
as you intertwined your fingers with mine.





(available at the Bookstore, 
martinanewberry.com also from Deerbrook Editions)


Abandoned spirits crowd these streets.
They wander off to the destinations
they missed while alive. They cross lawns

and parking lots like stray thoughts.
They’ll not help you pick the winning numbers,
nor guide you to your life’s work.

They wander off to the destinations LA river
they missed while alive. Their tears are
traces of obsidian, nearly invisible at night

except for the glints they gather
from the stars.They emerge from the
trickle of water in the Los Angeles river,

whisper among themselves
in all the city’s languages. They are shadows
and eyes, blown hair, mindless hands.

See how they hunger for human attention, touch?
You can’t call them back. They were never
here. They cross the plaza near Union Station.

The broken tiles, bits of grass and old wood
speak of friends lost, years lost.
They smell the trains and buses.

The nighttime, says, “Go back,”
and they do They wander back,
turn away from the destinations

they missed while alive. The sun comes
up and their silhouettes are brushed,
lambent with time’s pearl grain.


She tried to sleep. Loneliness
covered her and,
when she closed her eyes,
all she could see was his mouth
coming toward her mouth,
then stopping just short
of the kiss she craved.
Through the curtain
of silence that was night,
there was a sound
like the knocking stick
of some monk outside
on the sidewalk.
So, she got up.
Out on the patio,
she weighed the night sky,
the clouded wink and flash
of smog-sticky stars Red-Lips
as if studying a soul
or the Talmud
or Sumerian tablets.
She was learning nothing,
she thought
Once again,
she told herself,
I’ve been thrown out
of The Garden;
(eighty-sixed) from
the best gig in town.
Ah well…
Back in bed,
she curled into sleep
and dreamed of red lipstick
she saw on a poster
in the subway,
and of age
slouching toward her
across a field somewhere.

(available at the Bookstore, 


Standing at a stoplight
I watch the old woman
piss in a doorway.
Her hair is dirty.many stoplights
Her clothes are dirty.
Her feet are cracked.
Someone passes,

drops a dollar bill
at the hem of her skirt
and moves on, whistling,
headphones firmly anchored
on his ears.
A block away,
the banner on the front
of the Methodist Church

It sports the rainbow symbol.
The air is heavy and
smells of gasoline.
I am standing at a stoplight
On Hollywood Boulevard.
I’ve ever known such happiness.


See your life as allegory, as discourse.
Though you are not right in your mind,
the innocence of your childhood is evident.

The rosy redness of the atom bomb was
not your fault. Pull your coat close
around you to keep out the chill of reason.

Keep gloves on at all times to resist
sanity’s frostbite. There is no earthly place
to receive you now. All that you fear

will come true. Marie LaVeau predicted it.
She stood at the edge of Bayou St. John,
sang, “As the nails of the dead

continue to grow, so will whatever love voodoo
you leave behind you.” Keep yourself clear
of sophistication. Keep clear of cool.

That shit will envelope your life—
your life as allegory, as discourse.
Do you know that anything easily discerned

can be easily destroyed? It’s true.
Walk your milk-white body
down to the end of the driveway.

Stare into the cloudless sunset
and you’ll soon greet the Four Horsemen,
come for the Rapture:
Data (palomino),
Fast Food (dark bay),
Global Warming (chestnut),
And Cacophony (pinto).

There will be revelations. There will be
distortions of revelations. But you—
you must continue to gather

the splinters of yourself and see
the end product: a life, your life,
as allegory, as discourse.

(available at the Bookstore, 


Intimidated by the glass,
I reach to touch a near-full moon
suspended on a near-black string.
It strays across tonight as I
have wandered across blank paper,
decorum over and done with.
The strange bones of my hands find their
own way (hasn’t always been so).
Outdoors, the moon lights up the dirt,MidFeb
hides behind clouds that start to spill
rain. The environment reeks of
failure and I, unmoved by its
intent, start to despise the rain.
I have stood in this place a long
time waiting for shame to produce
the wild, tender thoughts I’ve called up
in the past. Where is the book I’ve
not written? Where is the house and
the barn I saw when I slept then
wrote about when I woke? Where are
the lumbering animals that
will find their way back home and the
farm wife in her wrinkled jeans and
patterned apron? Maybe they’ve been
cast upward into God’s shadows.
I reach to touch a sky that has
filled my life with false promises.
The old olive tree looks so cold.
Soon it will be Spring: warm, blameless.


I’ve buried my dead and, still, they come back to me, breathing
their names in the dark. I try to hold on to them, hugging
their ghostly bodies to mine as I hold yours to mine. I beg
my sad ghosts, stay stay to give me time for amends. It is

their revenge to drift off before enough “I’m sorrys” can
leave my mouth. True, before forgiveness, there must be regret.
Kneel for one, stand for the other. If the sprits refuse,
I ask Our Lady of Sorrows. I reach far back behind

myself to the old ways. The Precious Blood and Mother winks
in gold from the cover of an old prayer book. I open
its pages, thin as moth wings, and sink into the comfort-Incantation
able aged words. There are many more contemporary

books of prayer, but they don’t list the stupendous grand prizes
won from praying as this one does.

Recitation of the Seven Offerings
300 days indulgence. Plenary indulgence once
a month under the usual conditions, if recited
daily—granted by Pope Leo XII, September 1827.

Say the prayers, close the book. Souls and dreams are the same things.
If I sleep finally, will I wake up as a different being,

pure of spirit, forgiven? I don’t think so. I think I’ll
awaken with my brain steeped in mystery (a weak tea),
and Fear, that ancient prime suspect, making a clearing through
the tall, dusty ragweed of my burned-out memory.

(from “Running Like A Woman With Her Hair on Fire,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

My father used to say: Not everyone casts a shadow.
I believed it was one of those things adults say; one of
those things only deciphered after you reach thirty and
are allowed to understand everything. You’ve heard
At 56, I’m still not sure what that means.
But shadows…shadows are different. Nobody talks about them.
Though they are faithful, staying with the guy that brought them,
shadows get little attention. This is also true of God.
God is different than he used to be. He notices less now.
Once, it was up to God whether or not you got a shadow,
or kept it once you had it. Now, it’s haphazard.

My father had one, so did my favorite uncle. My motherJames Dean Car
and her sister each had one. Mother’s was long and thin
and preceded her down the hall at bedtime. Aunt Ersta’s
was round and mean. You never saw it coming. I am certain
I started out with one, then lost it somewhere and it has
remained lost, unless, of course, it was found by God and
reassigned—the way they reassigned James Dean’s shadow
after his horrible car accident. You remember…


((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, 

The new Jazz Age
reeks of dissatisfaction,
avoids aging,
fears death
gathers useless tools and useful friends,
invests on the margin,
plays golf,
contributes to the Red Cross,Jazz hands
drinks raspberry vodka,

toasts the Cossacks and the Beatles,
spills expensive perfume on the neighbor’s duvet,
mutilates bodies,
swirls Cabernet in a stemmed glass,
separates conjoined twins,
devours women,

exhales men,
is ravenous
and too full to notice.

((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, 

I’ve heard this time of day called “the gloaming.”
It nearly rhymes with “moaning.” The sky looks
like feta, smells like it. It is a time
of too many TV commercials and Hunger
too little spirit and painful, grumbling hunger.

In the window across the alley, I see my mother.
She stares back across the alley at me.
Incurable aloneness trembles at the corners of
her mouth. Her arms are wrapped around herself,
fingers touching her own shoulders.

“That,” I say out loud, “is what loneliness looks like.”
All my life, I have hated her for showing it to me.
Mother has taught me how the dead rise:
her own soul, soapy steam fogging
the window until I can no longer see her.

I go into a dream:
a room so dark, I can barely make my way
around it. In the blackness, I find a full-length
mirror and stand in front of it.
In that compacted darkness, I can see
myself, hands—like the ocean—glistening.

Much later, I look at the window across the alley.
A young Asian girl stands there eating ice cream
from a green bowl. Her hair,
dense and unbearably beautiful, does
not lift in any breeze. Her tongue
is a diamond in the obscurity of her mouth.

((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, 

This is a photograph of the man next door
weeding his lawn. You see how he smiles and
waves a gloved hand? We exchange waves and that’s all.
There is a box cutter stuck in his heart but
you won’t see it in this picture. There is no blood, docent
only sweat on his shirt.

This is a picture of my friend, R,
reading a Stephen King novel while lying
on the sofa at her mother’s house. You
can’t see the gag on her mouth—how it keeps her
from saying what should be said. The gag is red.
It looks like lipstick.

This is a photo of the painters who are
livening up the face of our building with
mud-colored paint. Our windows are covered in
paper. You can’t, I’m afraid, see the guns in
their hands; they look like paint sprayers.

This last one is a photograph of a field:
wild lavender and ragweed, wasted grasses
that are so dry and feathery, they have nearly
turned to dust. In the corner you can see a
bit of Silverleaf Nightshade. What you can’t see
are the two children. Their mouths are closed,
and their stomachs growl; their black eyes stare at
the sky. You can’t hear them asking where is God.
They look like small piles of clothing.
But that is why I am here with the pictures:
to point these things out to you.

(from Learning By Rote, deerbrookeditions.com)

I’ve learned that night sounds are the ones that
carry the signs and portents.

afraid-of-the-darkThe voices of the future come dancing out of the dark
like bits of ice from the sky.

The voices speak softly, remind us of our regrets,
hold out our wishes the way Eve did the apple,

pleading “Be brave with me, taste.” Night opens the ears, sings songs of our fathers and mothers walking behind us,

steering us to the confusion and risks and pleasures of this life. This is why we mustn’t fear the dark—

not as children, not at the last moment of our lives.
It is in the night that our indecencies fall away

and our prayers come up out of us without tangle
or torment. I write this to you now so you’ll know

not to fear—not ever to fear—the rippling cloth of night.
It belongs to you. It always has.


from Learning By Rote, deerbrookeditions.com

New York, 2011—Hana Lin, 26, fell from the balcony of apartment 2640 at 101 Warren St. and landed on an elevated, park-like common area on the fifth-floor roof of a Barnes & Noble, police said. No foul play is suspected. Investigators haven’t ruled out suicide
I gained weight on the way down,
maybe a thousand pounds.
They say you gain weight when you
fall from a high place.

I, who was careful about my figure
most of the time
Fall of Icaruscartwheeled past the 15th floor,
mourning my days

without chocolates or ice cream.
Oh, I made toasts with the best of them,
but it was with Lite Beer.
A slim figure

counts for something,
don’t you think?
The air was cool from the
open window, the view spectacular—

TriBeCa stretching out and around,
lit only for me.
Why should I not want to own those lights
and reach out to stuff them into my eyes

and mouth (as if they were
champagne truffles)
as I tipped over and over in the dark?
Like a one-ton piece of chalk,

I tumbled, watched as windows passed,
and wondered if I was in a dream,
would wake on the couch
when I came to the bottom.

But it was a bookstore roof
that stopped me,
not a couch or a friend shaking
my shoulder, laughing at my

beer-y breath.
I heard the rustling of pages
as my smudged mascara
and Exces de Rouge lipstick

found the 5th floor,
told myself
maybe someone
is writing about this.

(from “Running Like A Woman With Her Hair on Fire,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

The sliver of glass,
the sun so white, it thinks
itself a moon, this haze
Pentecostthat smells of a desert wind:
all these tell that
Fall is here.
They ask
“Are you ready for death?”
My mother said no,
said neither would I be.
I smiled at her. “O,” I said
“but you have not seen me
silent as stone, poised,
a tongue of fire over my head—
waiting for the Pentecost.”


(from “Running Like A Woman With Her Hair on Fire,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

After I had not seen you in a long time,
We met at that coffee place near the bait shop.
You said, “O you look so …I like your…”
I said, “I got them…you know that shoe store…”
You said, “My mom and dad sold their…”
The waitress said, “Who wants more coffee?”
In the glistening daytime, our hands fluttered,
we recalled that stretch of road in Fremont
where a big-bellied sheriff almost
gave you a ticket. You were respectful,
said “Yessir” to him, and, when we got away,
without trouble, told me you were scared of him.
I didn’t believe it at the time, don’t now.
I said, “I’m so glad you came.” A pause,
then you upended the day—paralyzed it:
“M”, you said, “what if all the bridges in
all the world suddenly fell into the water
below them on top of boats and ferries?

What if they all fell at the same time. Whatlattes
would matter then? Would anything matter?”

I thought of my glued-together life:
the contracts I made, the slitted eyes
of the office, my long skirts shuffling through
the halls and studios, my manicured
nails clicking on keys. What were all these
if not bridges? “So what if they did?” I said.
“There would be weeping and wailing and gnashing
of teeth and then, so what?” You nodded.

Silent, we relived the day’s meeting.
“This weather is getting old,” I said.
“I like you in blue,” you said. We looked over
at a young black man just coming in,
his hair in yard-long extensions, rings
on all fingers. And then it was time to go
and we were anxious to return to
what usually kept us from each other.
I drove away, seeing you in the mirror,
As you bent down to look at something
in the gravel of the parking lot.
The sun looked odd, like it was shining through
cheesecloth, and there was a bad taste in my mouth.
Nearly there, I stopped at the side of the road
and threw up. I wiped my lips with tissue,
then drove on over the bridge to home.

(from “What We Can’t Forgive,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

Adam’s torso, it is said, was made from earth
taken from Babylonia. That may be,
collateral-damages-15437730.jpgbut it’s all-fall-down time there now; it’s watch-out-
the-sky’s-on-fire time. The burquas are burning,
ogals and gutrahs are birds escaping flames,
escaping smoke and gunfire. Kaffiyeh fly
as well, but not far. Ezekiel’s fire would
be a tender release compared to this
vestibule of pain. I watch humankind’s coil
unravel. War turns us to confetti,
rain on a dismal parade. The proud Duranni Empire is ash
and shadow. Our restoration promises
reek of braised flesh and singed hair.
The Quran spells out equality. I think it means that all
sweet souls, gender aside, may die the same deaths.

(from “What We Can’t Forgive,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

Where were you when you heard the news?

I was at the grocery store buying tomatoes and wheat macaroni and reduced-fat shredded cheese. You see the implications here…

9_11 attacks.jpgI was near the pool, drinking a gin and tonic, waiting for the moon
to rise. When it didn’t, I went inside.

I was practicing with the Irrelevant Playhouse players.
We’re doing “Our Town.”

I was in bed with my husband’s mistress. She smells like cherry cough syrup. I love that smell.

I was walking the dog. I pissed all over myself when I heard the news. So did the dog.

I was doing the Elephant Mudra with my teacher, Yogi Brahma- Covered-With-Thistles. He’s very wise and the water is very salty.

I was fornicating with my soul’s darkest moments.

Where were you?
Where were you?
You see the implications…


(from “What We Can’t Forgive,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

First, there was a thousand years of famine,
then a moment of surplus. Death’s flawless
dreams waited for our silent coming. We

collateral damagebloomed—black Narcissus on a bruised and
desecrated desert. We set the clocks
for the earth to explode under us.

We ignored the signs, transfused the wounded
with tainted blood and gave medicines that
dissolved the bones of our brothers. We cut

open our sisters’ bodies and placed bitter
leaves in their wombs. We polished our own hearts
with aluminum salts borrowed from the

cellars of devils. We delivered fears
and fevers and the certainty of God’s
malicious ending. Where death lay sleeping,

we woke death up to sort our morals from
our memories. We, the conquerors of
cracked earth and merciless yellow sky, moved

on without apology and death stayed
behind, where we left it. All this, all this,
we cried, we did for Peace.

((from “Not Untrue & Not Unkind,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

I say the first story was yours, told as you stood in
the doorway; eyes sparking like a loose live wire.
The first story, an introduction, clapped its hands
and said “Pay attention!” Someone else was there,
I can’t recall who. We spoke of liquor and animals
you’d found at the shelter and ways of making food.

A story: some spirit, a ghost, drawing water
for a bath, where we read letters — pages and pages —
tellingstoriesuntil the paper was heavy and the ink
dripping off onto our wet laps. You read at
your table, I at my desk. “Come here,” you said,
“come to visit me.” So, of course, I came to visit.

My story about Moose-Turd Pie and yours about
Paris and mine about a girl dying, told
on the way to somewhere where we had Irish Coffee
and saw what I thought might be blood-campion
on the side of the road ( but, no one knew flowers
and couldn’t tell us for certain what they were).

A story: there was a stream under a bridge
with a million tiny fish. We stood and watched
them before buying a paper and reading the
news about the prettiest ladies in the world,
all the Misses Universe, in their bathing suits,
all the prettiest ladies, waiting for the prize.

A story: how a man with flowers sat on your
front stoop, waiting for you to come home; how he
cried when you told him he had to go away.
“Lucky you,” I said. “No,” you said, “you’ll only know
when it happens to you.” I laughed because I thought
it never would. It did though. Lucky me.

This story: about a woman we knew who was
so crazy she told us radio dramas
on the telephone and rang off screaming
“Someone’s at the door! He’s got a gun! I’ll call you later!”
Then she wouldn’t — maybe never again.
We blamed our own memories for her madness.

A story: Maynard Dixon’s painting of 7 men
in a line. The Wise Men. I have told you how I
follow them down to their river or their sand pit.
I follow close behind them, pointing out the scenery,
asking questions until finally I stop,
abandoned in place and squinting into the sun.

Maybe I will spend the rest of this time in the kitchen,
baking and cooking and soiling pot after pot
with what there is in the refrigerator.
Who knows? After the wind grows and dies and everything
else does a vanishing act, we sit where we sit
and caress what we are with careful hands.


((from “Not Untrue & Not Unkind,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

She cooked for them in the evening: green peas
and squash, some kind of meat and hard rolls.
A ritual of hands and eyes and
movements. Outside, the dark held up
Shadow puppetsthe leaves of the camphor tree
like a silhouette artist about to begin cutting.
She thought of how much she wanted rain
and how much sweeter things would be if only
she could hear water dripping from the eaves.
In the kitchen, no one crowded around her.
The wine was the color of a river bed;
she thought of trout, of pebbles, everything
shining, everything wet. She watched her hands
setting the table. Something whispered,
“This is real. Quickly, save yourself!”


from “Running Like A Woman With Her Hair on Fire,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are,and the things which shall be hereafter. Revelation 1:19

I am not doing good work.
Each day, I recede a little further.
I see who I was—standing
on an ice floe (which used to be
the Island of Blue Flowers)—
I wave as I sail away.
“Goodbye!” I shout to myself.
“Bear witness,” I call out.
“Tell all who will listen
about the way it used to be.
icebergTell how the price becomes
dearer and dearer and how
all must run for high ground
because the waters rise
before you know it.”
Back on the ice floe,
the woman who was me, nods
and smiles. “I will,” she calls back.
“You can count on me.”

from “Running Like A Woman With Her Hair on Fire,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com)

I do not wish to be whole alone
knowing who I am but all by myself;
to say, “Is anyone here?” when I
anyone herecome home and know
that no one is. I can’t revise myself.
I mean, it is a fine thing to know
my own broken branches.
A fine thing. But not alone,
no please, not that. Current thinking
declares my passions null.
All vows are off it says.
You may be cold and cowardly,
but you, by God, know yourself.
Go grab the patent on that one.

from “Running Like A Woman With Her Hair on Fire,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, martinanewberry.com

Minds break almost
in the same way a heart does.
It just takes longer.
heartEven when a heart stops
expecting, stops waiting,
for sleep or peace or the
contrite word, the mind
does not. It stays alert,
on the job. It takes
the photographs, puts forth
the reasonable explanation:
Soon, the mind says, when
he has rested, when it is
cooler, when it is morning…
The heart has given up
by this time, has broken,
is shattered. But the mind turns
away from its own distraction.
It refuses to notice
the danger: the exposed root,
the shards of glass, the blown fuse.
when, at last, these things are irrefutable,
it breaks. Just like a heart—
almost exactly like a heart.


((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, 

I want you to squirm inside this poem.
I want you to know how black your passions can be.
The tingling you feel when you consider caressing the ass of your exceedingly beautiful brother or sister or both if you have both—
that tingling is supposed to be reserved for anyone BUT relatives.
JP0174Yet, there you sit, hoping to conceal that which will remain unsaid.

We’ve made a vocation of refusal:
. our darkest wishes for how to end loneliness stay hidden.
. the images of what we would do to be warm stay hidden.
. the sharp gray thorns that do not quench our sexual thirst stay hidden.
. the needle used between the toes to sate our appetites stays hidden
. our laughter breaks off like icicles from a tree branch, falls-falls-falls and
lands with no sound—even that cold silence is hidden.

I won’t point out war—how we live it, fuel it, make love to it.

The laws governing our trespasses are not clear.
We stand in shock at our blindness.
We stand in shock at our leanings toward desperation.
Underneath sleep, we move on all fours toward streets
gone red in the sunrise.

I am not explaining evil to you as I know it.
(Come in, sit and listen.)
I am introducing you to your own violence, you see.
There is nothing beyond that.
We’ve all bitten off more than we can chew.


((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, 

Scared? Me too.
This world: Conventional actors in makeup
filmed alongside performers in mascot costumes.
Scary stuff. Get used to it.
I say that as if getting rid of fear is easy.

lidsvilleNot so. I’ve tried multiple remedies.
I had my turn at eating disorders;
they didn’t do the trick.
Fear isn’t something you starve or vomit your way out of.
(Bent over the commode, you think you’ll hear angels,
but there’s only the choking and the burning—
hell coming up from the core of who you wish you were.)

Smoking did it for me once upon a time. I’d inhale English Ovals—
cigarettes softer than an April moon— and fear disappeared.
I’m not just flexing my emotional glutes here.
I am waiting in a pained perplexity for
The terror to disappear the way slave ships did.

I have cried for myself for my sisters and brothers
more times than I can count. Lip for lip,
bone for bone, skin for skin. I have embraced
them—indentations in the earth—alive with snakes,
alive with precious metals, alive with malice and delight.

Of course I’m scared. Awakened one September morning
by the sight of so many people leaping from windows,
that the sky seemed full of small, colored birds, Fear
breathed its flowered breath into my eyes, nudged
amazement aside, and made its own home in my mind.


((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, 

MezzanineWhat is there to sacrifice now?
An MP3 Player.
A computer game.
A bottle of wine.
A fat Polish Sausage cooked on the grill?

God must want something you are capable of giving up.
The flames in your eyes as you watch
a child’s polyester hajib melt into her skin is not enough.
The choke and sob of one citizen alone in the TomKat Theater
on Santa Monica Blvd on a Tuesday afternoon is not enough.

Give your curses to God; the stars can eat your hatred and shower it back down on you with a vengeance.
Your face turns the color of a sunset while you finish the sequence:
and the final exhalation.
Then the movie is over.

Your mother weeps in the mezzanine. She whispers “Splendor, splendor”
or something very like it. Her grief is fathomless.
You could sacrifice that—your mother’s failures and her tears.

Maybe you are not a believer.
Maybe you think no sacrifice is required.
The day you refuse to sacrifice, the sun will not rise,
the sea will quietly drain into sand and become desert,
the Eiffel Tower will melt into the city streets.

You must find the right offering. You must take it to the warm chemical tides of the Atlantic and deposit it there.
I know—this is a lonely responsibility, but everything depends on you.
It just does.


((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore  on this webpage, 

This is a photograph of the man next door
docentweeding his lawn. You see how he smiles and
waves a gloved hand? We exchange waves and that’s all.
There is a box cutter stuck in his heart but
you won’t see it in this picture. There is no blood,
only sweat on his shirt.

This is a picture of my friend, R,
reading a Stephen King novel while lying
on the sofa at her mother’s house. You
can’t see the gag on her mouth—how it keeps her
from saying what should be said. The gag is red.
It looks like lipstick.

This is a photo of the painters who are
livening up the face of our building with
mud-colored paint. Our windows are covered in
paper. You can’t, I’m afraid, see the guns in
their hands; they look like paint sprayers.

This last one is a photograph of a field:
wild lavender and ragweed, wasted grasses
that are so dry and feathery, they have nearly
turned to dust. In the corner you can see a
bit of Silverleaf Nightshade. What you can’t see
are the two children. Their mouths are closed,
and their stomachs growl; their black eyes stare at
the sky. You can’t hear them asking where is God.
They look like small piles of clothing.
But that is why I am here with the pictures:
to point these things out to you.


((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore on this webpage, 

It has made us all crazy:
a convenient futurewar after war until it is all we think about and
the only thing we do not
reveal to one another. Our insanity, brought on
and brought out by the damn death
strokes we want to forget. When we speak
on the phone, we are sure to
have music playing or the TV going so as to
mimic harmony. How did
I learn to hate war so when my entire life has been spent
listening to its statistics,
watching its consequences? I’ve been sold grits and Drano
and Halloween candy in the
midst of war’s hallucinations. I learned the role that “cool”
must play in putting one foot in front of the other,
planning a convenient future,
imagining a God who manages to ignore the
need for bravery. So far
I’ve felt no obligation to shoulder any blame in
these pissing contests, maybe
because I am a woman and have not known women to
love war as many men do.
Damn death and its saccharine
messages blurted out on billboards across this pained land!
Damn the way we’ve been asked
to wring laughter out of Korea’s tears, Viet Nam’s sweat,
Iraq’s blood. Yesterday at
the grocery store, a young woman and I exchanged comments
about a can of Irish
oatmeal. She says the can has the colors of a bullet.
She says her husband, in Baghdad,
sent a bullet home as a souvenir for the son he
may never see again.

O city of god! How many of us are there can dance
on the head of your pin? Feet
too large, hands too large, hearts too large to wrestle angels for
that space. This song rises from
a locked throat. I wear dark clothes so that you will not see the
stains of my patience bleeding out.
This is the singing of snakes in an unforgiving opera.


((from “Hunger,”
available at the Bookstore on this webpage, 

The last time we were together,
breakup.jpgwe sat in your car.
The bridge reflected a tired sun,
a tired atmosphere,
two scavenging gulls. The muscles
in my throat burned
and would not work properly.
I wanted to tell you about
the abandoned building
two blocks away; how it caved in
when the charge went off;
how the men in hard hats first waved
their arms, shouted and
pointed to the sidewalk, to the sky,
to the chain link fences and, finally,
to the doomed building
where it stood looking guilty
for taking up space.
It was a storefront tabernacle;
a hand-painted sign
I wanted to tell you these things,
instead, I whispered,
“Look! Gulls at 9’0clock,” and hoped
you would warm to me,
instruct me about the species,
their eating habits,
their mating practices. “They mate
for life,” you might say.
“Like us,” you might say. “Just like us.”
Buildings do not die.
They are purified by troubled times,
gutted, then torn down.


(from “After the Earthquake,”
available at the Bookstore, 

In that place that needed rest,
Evening ridethe woman was asleep and

the dog was asleep, the man
slept and the children and their

small, brown caged animals slept.
The dark rose around them like

black fog and the sounds, barely
heard, began. Into every

window, under every door,
the dark seeped in. In some of

the houses, lights came on and
in some of the houses there

were no lights, only shadows
that were darker than the dark
Wings could be heard like mumbled
dialogue stretching across

sky and land. Somewhere, far and
farther still, music rose and

fell, moved toward sanctity or
the certainty of drowning.


(from “After the Earthquake,”
available at the Bookstore, 

She recalls:

Her mouth, lost while searching for his;
ladyandloverthe remains of crackers, cheese and beer;
the racing hours between arriving and leaving;
the gleam of his long body—the impression of hers on his bed;
her breathing added to his;
his black hair long enough to catch in the waistband of his jeans,
long enough to live in her eyes
long enough to spread across her shoulders and breasts;
his thin hands, the way light passed through his open fingers;
her ladylike behavior, her understanding, her promise to him that there would be no
scenes, no protestations;
the maze of wondering—many years later—why?
And whyever not?


(from “After the Earthquake,”
available at the Bookstore, 

lunatic for god.jpgDoes God want us to behave like bats?
We use our wings only to get out
of the dark—we seek God in it.
We sweat out the endless day, remain
silent as death, ask no questions, seek
nothing, But in Night’s darkest black, we
batter our wings and scream “why?” and nourish
ourselves with the blood of lesser creatures.
The air moves constantly under us
as if earth did not exist. We know
it’s there of course, but we ignore it.
Its firmness is unnecessary.
We are looking for God—flying and
screaming to each other, bouncing our
voices off trees and rooftops and drainpipes.
“Where?” we shriek. “Have you found Him?” “Is there
hope?” God shakes his fist at us. “Go home!”
He rages at us, “Day is coming!”
“Go home to bed! Begin again tomorrow.”


(from Where It Goes, deerbrookeditions.com)

treewithdoorWhere does it go, all that living?
It was real when you lived it.
Then, it felt like parakeet pecks on your lips.
Then, tiny spots you could see when you
wiped your mouth on a white napkin.

The specks were proof of life.
The feathers in the cage were proof of nothing.
You ask everyone, where did it go?
They like to think you’re drunk again
so they can smile at the horror of your question.

It’s horrible to be human, huh, kiddo?
Horrible to know what you’ve done wrong
and to know that you can’t fix it.
Mad dogs don’t know these things, humans do.
Where does it go, all that living?

You close your eyes for a nap, open them,
and your passion has wilted like a
picked wildflower.
Tragic. Oh tragic. So, what now?
Your rhythms are poverty-stricken—

last grains of rice on a paper plate.
You’ve got death in your sneakers
and your ears ring with the sounds
of no one saying anything anymore.

That’s just the way it is.
The best you’re going to do
after dark tonight is decide
whether or not to feel,
whether or not to bleed.






(from Where It Goes, deerbrookeditions.com)

images (1)My Uncle Gib said maybe they were all touched in the head in New Jersey,
but in Cleveland nobody he knew believed a word of it.
WAR OF THE WORLDS was a joke, he said. They broadcast it
the night before Halloween for Chrissakes, so wasn’t that a clue?

His wife said she’d been a little scared. Uncle Gib laughed, hacked, cleared his throat.
“Well, hell kid, (he always called her ‘kid’), you were in Cincinnati.
They’ll believe any goddam thing in Cincinnati. Taft and 3.2% beer came
out of Cincinnati.” My dad had to speak up then.

He said “I don’t know much about science fiction, but the Cincinnati Bearcats have
Oscar Robertson and he’s no slouch. 32.6 average in college.”
what my dad didn’t know about science fiction,
my uncle didn’t know about basketball.

I sat quiet and squinted through my thick glasses into a National Geographic Magazine.
Girls with lip plates and bare breasts stared into the camera lens.
Their hands looked skilled. Their white, clay-covered faces said they understood everything.
On the ride back home, my father talked about Orson Welles

and The Panic Broadcast. Dad said he didn’t know anyone in New Jersey,
but the whole War-of-the-Worlds idea seemed pretty dumb to him.
Behind my closed eyes, I saw the flash of white smiles. I hoped very hard
that the Mursi of Ethiopia never heard that broadcast.



winterAs for what you actually heard and saw
and said,
stay silent about these things.
They don’t matter now.
Blessed maturity introduced you
to the grave, to the unimportance
of loneliness and birthday cakes.
Age gifted you with a savage confidence
and a renewed posture.
If an outcast now, it is only
because your name is Lilith;
you leave your teethmarks on
the souls of the faithful..



holy womanThere are moments—and this could be one of them— in which we see our lives with fiery, naked eyes. I have had a vision of myself as a stunted
stem among ripened melons. Such an exhibit!
Risky vision, yes, and what of it could I ignore?
Pop in and out of my consciousness, will you?
Look deeper. I will stay with you until
we become holy and confident
and achingly beautiful.

I’m setting you up here, you’ve probably noticed that.
I want for us women, crones, goddesses and all
the courage to breathe, to smile/cook/fetch/
deliver/create/copulate for our corrugated selves
and for no others. Year after year, there is so little
we’ve been able to redeem. That’s not only true of us,
it’s everyone’s truest conclusion. We’ve been
blamed for it and accepted the “shame-on-yous”
with aplomb, but it’s time to leave all that behind.

I call you out here and now: take on everything
as if you were just born, as if
another 100 years has been granted to you.
Be the prophets and the pranksters!
See yourselves as transcended and transcendental.
Shout out your names in your mortal voices,
knowing that shouting those names is an immortal act

Come with me as I step away from
“a charmed poetic atmosphere. “*
The elitists who cemented romantic lyricism
don’t care much for women who are older
than their cellphones. But here we are
and here we will be. The waters rise.
We float and wave to those on shore.
We’ve packed our waterproof cases
and hope to land on safe ground.

We’ll change, yes? I’ll help you,
I will be present to you and for you.
We will take the icy, sweet waters we’re given,
and refuse to be diminished by taciturnity.
Don’t be afraid. Are you with me? Good. Good.
Our saboteurs have underestimated us.
We’ve not been poisoned by bread
and we’ve not been pardoned by angels.
*Carole Muske-Dukes


(from Learning By Rote, deerbrookeditions.com)

I got fire in my mind, I got higher in my walkin’ and I’m glowin’ in the dark~~~~
Bee Gees “Night Fever” Lyrics

The dark tongues of night’s dogs
lick at our ankles. We crave wine, endless talk,Night Fever

irony followed by uncertain laughter.
We find our place at the bar,

ask for Bloody Marys and fish tacos.
You flash white teeth in response

to the blonde woman who stares
at you as if your breasts were cupcakes.

How I love these times…
They are what has become of my shy silences.

I know what grief your eyes have seen.
You’ve eaten dahlias and carried old loves

in the small purse at your side.
Years of light and dark shiver behind us. We both wear

silver, mind our manners. You are my heart’s friend,
the ringing of a bell in this peculiar temple.


.WELCOME MATrobotswelcome

(from Learning By Rote, deerbrookeditions.com)

The light rain of your own name
is strange to you—a foreign documentation
of your self disappearing into a house
that was never really there.

And will you leave that house
and leave your name at its doorstep
as a warning to God to let you be?
Will you go down into the cellar

where jars of peaches and pickled eggs
sit in stasis waiting for you
to claim your history?
And will you run from that cellar

into the syllables of another life,
someone else’s life bigger than your own?
Will you listen all night to the strong wind
pummeling the trees, pounding out sentences

that you want to remember but won’t?
You see, your name will take them from you
and, sure as the delicate bones of a bird
grace the treetops, you will die to live again.


Indian students of a yoga college shows

(from Where It Goes, deerbrookeditions.com)

I read Gilbert’s poem
about a perfect
love letter, “trying”
he says “to win her back.”

There are lost loves and
lost friends, lost bosses
strewn in back of me,
Gretel’s path back home.

I am, it seems, one
poem or one poem’s end
away from despair.
The future bristles,

and I long to say
one thing in a poem
that would save our lives,
one thing that matters.

But, Gilbert’s poem: how does
it end, you wonder.
I hear him say “Badly.
The way these things do.”

The importance of this
has waned but it is
there in the bottomless
famine of loneliness.

So here: one poem’s end.
The future bristles,
our lives are not saved,
deliquescence wins.



(from Where It Goes, deerbrookeditions.com)

Sudden and swift and light/the ties gave…
Robert Frost

The last time I saw Marianne she was tossing back her hair, the heavy blonde shag that smelled of cigarettes and Pantene saying, “Friday we’ll be in New Orleans, slurping a Bloody Mary through a straw.” Marianne’s eyes did a handstand, a grown-up girl trick with her lashes which always made me laugh.

But no, that wasn’t really the last time. The last time I saw Marianne, she drove me to the bus stop. She had a headache and said, “I’m calling in sick Monday. I’m tired.” Marianne’s smile was twisty. She was unwell then, her face thinning, hands unsteady. I waved her off but she didn’t see me.

That wasn’t really the last time. The last time I saw Marianne was a Tuesday I think. Jacaranda ink was all over the campus sidewalks. We sat on a bench outside the much-publicized “Authentic Japanese Garden,” given to the university by a certain wealthy Kellogg family, tended to by Mexican gardeners. Anyway, we sat, she smoked. Her back hurt, she said, she thought her head might fall off. Only if you are lucky I said. (Sweet Baby Jesus! I didn’t mean it).

The next week her cubicle was empty, her computer dark. I called her at home,
her sister answered the phone
something about brain and lung tumors
something about chemotherapy
something about pneumonia.
Then Marianne on the phone: “My hair will fall out.”
It’ll grow back I said.
And then a hospital
and she, comatose
and me holding her small available hand, the other tubed up
and me jabbering at her about getting well,
about Chinese food,
about a movie
about work

That wasn’t really the last time. The last time I saw Marianne, I was lying on the grass. The day wrinkled with heat. I heard a cough and sat up to see Marianne standing near me. Her lips were trembling, no smile. I popped with sweat and blinked my eyes. Sure as shit, she was there. I said Come on in for a drink, girlfriend? She shook her head. “Oh Martina,” she said, “this place is not New Orleans and I’ve quit drinking.” I miss you, I said. She shrugged. The day sat still around us. An emptiness growled its signature growl and she was gone.

And that was truly, really, the last time I saw Marianne.


approaching meccaA SHORT TREATISE

Just another sidewalk
stretching out in back of me
nothing to fear.

Just yesterday’s miles
with the air let out.
See how they collapse—

air mattresses of time,
journeys to be pumped up
until they reach

the prescribed firmness.
Nothing to instill terror
in yesterday’s sleeping,

waking, walking.
But, this is today and
who/what is up ahead?

I had a nightmare once
in which I recognized myself
as a young married woman,

a mannequin really, waiting
for someone to pick me up
and take me home.

It doesn’t sound like a nightmare
when I tell it, but I was scared
out of my damn mind.

Just another boulevard
up ahead there where the
sidewalk forks and winds

One fork leads to a shaded
place fraught with acacia trees.
The other is the road not taken.



Is this God?

The mandibles of a mantis work endlessly
on tiny globs of food.
There is war all around her she cannot sleep.
Land and sea don’t have to bid
for their share of blood as she does.

What blood she sees, she ignores
in favor of her meal.
Jaws silently grinding…
Her ruthless attention is focused
on the same dirty deeds we all live out.

Is this God

These constant tests and challenges
a school of lessons from which
we never graduate…

When from the beginning
we see and taste our endings
when love is only a street lamp

shining into the (boarded up) window
of an old grocery store
is this God?

The rot on the edges of a pond
in back of some house in Red Wing, Minnesota,
mosquitoes and dragonflies
and shiny black slime reflecting the sun,
who can tell if it’s God or a minion of God?

Pooled water her altar wine…first
the stations of the cross, then kisses in
the slanted wind then, snap! and she eats
and eats again. She is unmoving,
a fountain statue. We watch her. We weep.

Stippled, bruised, why try to doubt
our endings? Do we stop watching
in order to chew, to buy, to dream?

We rub our own tired jaws, stretch our
limbs to reach for what will satisfy.
Biting down hard, we begin.

Is this God?


UNTITLED GWAWDODYNSspiritquest_hi_res

Unsettling, sad as it may be
All rivers don’t run into the sea
They all wish they did or could or might do
Running never seems to work for me.



workersMaybe you have a lover with a low voice
who growls seductively in the dark and
caresses your hair with hands like
your slag-shoveling father’s.
Perhaps a video of desire plays
across your body in the shadow
of your own shame. That shame
is for the something untoward,
the thing you want to happen before
sleep takes you; before everything ends.

*Annealing is a heat or thermal treatment process by which a previously cold-rolled steel coil is made more suitable for forming and bending.




Hear that—that thumping inside your chest?
That is the triumph of blood over
tribulation. Get familiar. You’ll
hear it many times during your
haunted, long-gone life. You will open
the tin of each day, see your choices
laid and stacked before you like sardines
and there will be that thumping. You like
to think that the accouterments of
your past have earned you a future, but
that thumping tells you different. You like
to think that today’s good deeds ensure
tomorrow’s pleasure fields. If you listen,
that thumping will return you to what
is real. The earth turns, the murderers
are the murdered, angels stomp their feet,
spit desolation from their rouged lips.
Thump-thump thump-thump…there it is again—
the footfalls of your conscience echoing
in your chest. It would be wise to pay
attention while you can: the stars are
grains of spilled white rice, the streams you cross
are ribbons of icy vodka,
the owl—blind in one eye—watches you
search the streets for meaning, the sun cusses
the cloud that keeps chasing him, catches
then hides him while the earth shivers. Pay
attention while you can: thump-thump
thump-thump. Drift and fail. Drift and fail says
the soul of the cosmos. Drift. Fail.




The deity that rises in my dreams
has long, pale feet like mine and bitten nails,

is the overseer of all known things.
She has metal taps on her shoes, dances

Coraboree throughout the night. She smells
like opals and Ovaltine. I wake up,

superstitious, gathering my charms and
medallions close around me, counting and

naming friends, family. I can’t afford to lose anyone.
My larder is near empty as it is.

Sometimes I think of Robinson Jeffers;
he called these “the falling years.” Why do I

know what he means? Last night I dreamed that the
deity and I were squatting on the

ground, examining the dainty bones of
a small snake I found behind a falling-

down supermarket in Baker, CA.
The ontogeny of this dream is un

known to me. But, I am certain it has
to do with my sins. My sins: I waste so

much time staring into the center of
Nothing There. I should be dancing with the

deity but my children stole my dance
shoes. Look, between you and me and Jesus,

I wasn’t using them. I waste time by
seeking eternal life in various

self-help gurus’ open-all-night signs.
I waste time worrying about how not
to waste time, how not to age, how not to
weep. I accept everything—nothing. My

deity is like me, part Jew, part not,
tethered to the Church of Rome. Maybe I’ll

auction myself on Ebay. I clean up
pretty good, but I’m not handy. Still…

when I woke this morning I remembered
in an instant that I’m a woman of

a certain age who cleans up pretty good
but is not handy. My 6th grade teacher

told my parents everything anyone
ever needed to know about me:

“Martina’s social skills,” she said, “are
somewhat limited. She should work on this.”



The Innisfree Poetry Journal: Fall/2018
Illuminations Magazine: 6/2018
River Heron Review 8/18
North Of Oxford 6/15/18
Zingara Poetry Review  11/7/2018