Poems from…


GLYPHS: Poems by Martina Reisz Newberry

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…because I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age the wrong skin…
the wrong need the wrong dream… June Jordan, “Poem About My Rights, 1980

My new cocktail of choice is Anisette and Anxiety on the rocks;
it constantly fuels and feeds me. While my moral fallibility

goes unpunished, I look for and look after any tender explosion
of thought. I am a calm woman, they say, given to long pauses

and quiet rages (if any rages at all). Women like me grow hoarse with
apologies. By my 90th birthday, I’ll not be able to vocalize

a single syllable. I want to please as much as I want to be pleased,
want to revere as much as I want to be revered. Sometimes I curse

like a sailor to show I am real; to show I can make my bones
with the best/least of them. Understand that all my apologies

don’t equal one bad deed, but I make them freely, often with very
little conscience to back them. I am bent by all my steam-rolled sins;

a flattened shadow, a cocker spaniel rather than the smart, sleek Doberman
I’ve always wanted to be. Come with me now, ladies of the evening,

ladies of the canyon, ladies of round-table knights. Let’s sing together
our apologetic apostasies, allow our faces to supplant the landscape.



for the tint
of rain-weathered skies, blue/gray clouds.
Doubtless, they’ll watch for you.
Make yourself ready for the rush

both will meet
and hand your observation to you
in wanton sheets of wet.
Dig your toes into the damp earth,

to be kissed
by gray weather, wind that whistles,
whips your hair, forbids you
to rest or sing or count your coins.

same questions,
their answers, worn and dragged under foot.
Rain voice says straighten up
and you will—you do as it says.

know that rain
with its discomforts and untimely
absurdities and such,
is all that’s left that will not lie



I ought to learn more about omens and portents.
There are those who live by them, in the center of them,
every decision designed in the light of dire actions.

There is so much to memorize if I desire immortality:
Never toast anyone with water
unless you want them to die;
never stick your chopsticks straight up
which looks like incense sticks at a funeral;
never whistle indoors
which summons death and demonic spirits;
never put your shoes on a table—
it symbolizes the death of a loved one;
never cut your nails at night—
it causes premature death as does
seeing a crow,
sleeping in a room with a fan running,
walking under a ladder,
or inviting an owl into your home
(well, an owl being there with or without an invitation).

We demand life, see it as our right and, still,
some wrap their existence in the sorcery
of signs and superstitions.

In the mysteries of flesh, the magic that is the body,
we entertain a terrible, insatiable hunger
to control and direct every envelopment, every emanation.

In the end, we claim to love and respect divine superintendence—
that very omnipresence which makes magic meaningless,
gift-wraps us, presents us to the unknown.



I’ve forgotten those times between
wakefulness and dozing and sleep.
I know something happened,
but I can’t recall what it was.
It’s like trying to recall where
I was just before I was born.

My friend tells me that this is the
reason I should never fear death.
She says, “You don’t know where you
were before you were born, so why
fret about where you’ll be after
you die?” This is wisdom I can

acknowledge, but from which I glean
no comfort and it is comfort
I want more than nearly any
thing. I want the great eyes of god to
turn my tears to opals and the
great tongue of god to tell me that

life and death are the same–that I
will keep loving and making love, and
walking and humming, and wanting
and holding, and will never lose
my appetite for joy or for
potato chips and onion dip and ice cream.

Between wakefulness and dozing
and sleeping, what is there to know?
Who do I serve awake/asleep?
Who do I honor when I doze?
And why is wakefulness the stain
on all this embalmed paradise?



There is no man or woman
in the moon,
but we become the moon
and end up appraising ourselves,
all reflections of ourselves,
in lakes and ponds and
on the surface of well water.

When we walk on the grass
on a June morning,
say in Vermont or Maine
or North Carolina
and the drops of the
previous night’s rain
lay large as an owl’s eyes

on the green blades,
we see ourselves and,
what we see there
(or anywhere for that matter)
wants more than anything
to be whole, fully understood,
fully desired.