Lullabies for my Mother, by Carla Chinski

Translated from the Spanish by Jack Rockwell

My mother isn’t dead but
she cares for her garden
as if she were going to abandon it.
The day the begonias
claim the water of her tears
and the willows cry
for the earth that begot them
it’ll all be over.
Now this garden
is only in her head:
my mother let her illness
advance, filling her skull
until her thoughts
were covered in weeds.
The gray matter,
with its twisted folds
is now food for plants.
She only thinks in the language
of the wild and the fading.
Watering or fertilizing a plant
can be done with dignity,
coming down to the height of the earth
from where she turned her back on me
to sing to the colored pebbles,
the song transformed
into a muffled cry of pain.
The doctor told her
that she should have already pruned
that garden full of useless bones.
But she was aware,
she knew where she was going,
the garden only offers an exit
to those who can distinguish
the sweetened birdcage
from the darkness
from their own nest.

My mother isn’t dead but
her shame has abandoned her.
I have to remind her to cover herself,
that she can’t do that here.
I remember the first time I saw her naked:
the nipples brown, menacing
like two bloodied bullets,
the stomach distended,
the little path of hair to the pubis
like a c-section scar.
My mother walks around the room like this
with no care and for no one,
her eyes do not await
any gaze.
But now there’s less skin
between her and the world
that once turned its back on her,
without leaving any mark.
So she dances, dances an old ballet
she learned at school
to show me that still
she understands something about the balance
that the years impart.
She moves within a place
where the brightest thing
adjoins with the dark:
that which is usually called sadness.

My mother isn’t dead but
now the folds of her brain
trace paths rarely travelled
that leave her in a new town
where she can’t ask or take control,
she doesn’t know how to speak,
it’s all the opposite
of what her resolve had been,
this black and conquering desire
that rests, a sleeping bird.
This place can be read
the same way that animals
know where they go
by the sense of the wind.
Now her mind has its own geography
without signs or fixed routes—
anonymous place, ghost town:
she is the plaza,
she is the church,
she is the precinct.
Also the statue of the hero
with windswept clothes of stone
and a paralyzed horse.
She waits for someone to pass by
and plant a flag
should she wake up all at once
and start to give names to the streets.
In the houses
wild jasmines spread
a perfume that floats and remains
although no one remembers
where it comes from.

Carla Chinski was born in Buenos Aires. She is a literary translator, researcher and Art History graduate from the University of Buenos Aires. Canciones de cuna para mi madre is her first book of poems.

Jack Rockwell is a writer and translator from Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in Wilder Voice and Agora Magazine.

Mi madre no está muerta pero
cuida su jardín
como si fuera a abandonarlo.
El día que las begonias
reclamen el agua de sus lágrimas
y que los sauces lloren
por la tierra que les dio origen
todo habrá terminado.
Ahora ese jardín
está solo en sus ideas:
mi madre dejó que su enfermedad
avanzara ocupando su cráneo
como una planta trepadora
hasta que sus pensamientos
se cubrieron de maleza.
La materia gris,
con esa aspereza retorcida,
es hoy alimento para sus plantas.
Solo piensa en el idioma
de lo salvaje y lo marchito.
Regar una planta o ponerle abono
puede hacerse con dignidad,
agacharse a la altura de la tierra
desde donde me daba la espalda
para cantarles a las piedritas de colores,
la canción se transformaba
en un grito de dolor acallado.
El médico le dijo
que debía haber podado antes
ese jardín lleno de huesos inútiles.
Pero ella era consciente,
sabía dónde se estaba metiendo,
el jardín solo ofrece una salida
a quienes saben distinguir
la pajarera con almíbar
de la oscuridad
del propio nido.

Mi madre no está muerta pero
la vergüenza la abandonó.
Tengo que recordarle que se tape,
que no se puede hacer esto acá.
Recuerdo la primera vez que la vi desnuda:
los pezones marrones, amenazantes
como dos balas ensangrentadas,
el estómago distendido,
el caminito de pelo hasta el pubis
como una cicatriz de cesárea.
Mi madre se pasea así por el cuarto
sin ningún problema y para nadie,
sus ojos no esperan
ninguna mirada.
Pero ahora hay menos piel
entre ella y el mundo
que una vez le dio la espalda,
sin dejar ninguna marca.
Por eso baila, baila un antiguo ballet
que aprendió en la escuela
para mostrarme que todavía
entiende algo sobre el equilibrio
que dan los años.
Se mueve en ese lugar
donde lo más luminoso
linda con la oscuridad:
eso que se suele llamar tristeza.

Mi madre no está muerta pero
ahora los pliegues de su cerebro
trazan caminos poco transitados
que la dejan en un pueblo nuevo
donde no puede controlar o pedir,
no sabe hablar,
es todo lo contrario
a lo que la voluntad de ella fue,
ese deseo negro y conquistador
que descansa hecho un pájaro dormido.
Se puede leer este lugar
del mismo modo que los animales
saben dónde van
por el sentido del viento.
Ahora su mente tiene una geografía propia
sin carteles ni rutas fijas—
lugar anónimo, pueblo fantasma:
ella es plaza,
ella es iglesia,
ella es comisaría.
También la estatua del prócer
con la tela de piedra al viento
y el caballo paralizado.
Espera que alguien pase
y clave su bandera
para que despierte de un salto
y empiece a darle nombres a las calles.
En las casas se extienden
los jazmines del país
cuyo perfume flota y queda
aunque nadie recuerde
de dónde viene.


Peter Burrows

Drystone Walling

Up past the farm, onto the high flat plain
where sheep spread thin and from tufts of moor grass
unseen birds sing in secret industry
I was startled to meet, through a break in the wall,
a ruddy-faced man flopped in a deckchair.
We nodded, but passing here, so often,
I couldn’t not ask about his line of work.
What he was doing, how long it took, and
how old were these walls? How old are the hills?,
he laughed. These have stood a hundred years.

Dismantled, at his feet, the flaked sandstone lay strewn,
shattered by the years’ contracting ice and heat.
A shallow trench recut. Then rising anew,
in the local style, stone upon stone. Found and used,
piled high: throughstones, topstones, rubble and flats,
his eye weighing, discarding, picking up
only once. It’s twice the work, see? A little
clap as the right piece settled; stone nestling stone
in active rest. Lengthening out just 5 metres
each day, where once assembled labourers,
farmers, and prisoners of war lined this land.

Now he doesn’t see anyone for days
mending wall, resetting past realms. He points high
across the valley. That’s Deerplay. Bullfield.
Bonfire Hill. Twentypenneth – my Dad taught me
up there.
His ashes are at the crossways.
He knew the history. Picking up thick gloves,
he says he’ll brush up after his hernia op.
His first winter off, then back in Spring. The walls
must hold tight until then. Gripping contours
over long miles, the lean, grey lines, define green slopes;
pens and plots enclosing the eye, holding
livestock and field names in their place; against
gravity, ice and shifting ground. Weather-worn,
each uniquely hand-placed stone stands as one,
endlessly. With this work, you’re never done.

Peter Burrows is a Librarian. His work has recently appeared in the Places of Poetry anthology and The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society and The Hedgehog Press Tree Poets Nature anthologies. His poem Tracey Lithgow was shortlisted for the Hedgehog Press 2019 Cupid’s Arrow Poetry Prize.  

peterburrowspoetry.wordpress.com   @Peter_Burrows74


Gus Peterson

Dead Spider

Little arachnoid planet
I find you at the end of your thread
hung like a birdcage
in the bathroom after a shower.
Little mountaineer, little climber,
there is already so much death.
Why belay ourselves?
The way back is granite hard.
I hoist you like a fish
to pale yellow vanity light.
Little jumper, did you leap
with good intention?
Always a ball of string
in your belly to slow the fall.
Did you starve half full?
If, at the end, I hugged
myself eight times,
I might too.

Gus Peterson lives in Maine, in the Northeast United States. Work has appeared online in Clear Poetry, Rattle, and New Verse News and in print recently with Sandy River Review. He serves as Treasurer for the Maine Poets Society, a non-profit group whose goal is to promote the art and practice of poetry for all Maine residents.

Poem, Poetry

Matthew Walsh


Sing me a sweet song
Little forest tree runner
Dance on my branches

Ring me a clear song
As you creep to the sunshine.
Sing me your treasure.

Plunder the bounty
From my deep folded linings
Cling to me tightly

Weave me a word-spell
With your beak sharp curve-needle
Thread me a love song.

Stitch me a sleep song
A white breasted lullaby
Soft in my dreaming

Wrap me in woodland
In brown leaves and deep beech mast.
Sing gold and glitter.

Matthew Walsh, doctor, runner, lover of words and music, nature and wild places.

Poem, Poetry

Thomas Piekarski

Spring Break

Nothing shows age
like a curse—veins
popped out, liver spots.

At times when it hails
ice crystalizes
on a blind man’s eyes.

Anatomy altered:
the cat clawed Meg,
a little love swipe.

Consequences loom,
so take action now
or drop the cause.

The ship manifest details
plentiful cargo to fulfil
every viable aspiration.

Communication falters,
but don’t get flippant,
for you have no gills.

Properly mated couples
treasure coexistence
despite inevitable death.

Gather tulips and dreams,
cash in on romance,
acquire gold by the ton.

Bending to touch toes
an ache may appear
then suddenly vanish.

The wind unleashed,
it’s a thrill to drift
for miles like an eagle.

Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Quarterly, Literature Today, Poetry Salzburg, South African Literary Journal, The Frogmore Papers, and many more. His books of poetry are Ballad of Billy the Kid, Monterey Bay Adventures, and Mercurial World.