Sandi Leibowitz, author of THE BONE-COLLECTOR, EURYDICE SINGS, and GHOST-LIGHT, a quarantine journal in verse, lives in New York City with two ghost-dogs and the occasional dragon. Her speculative fiction and poetry has garnered second- and third-place Dwarf Stars, as well as nominations for the Elgin, Rhysling, Pushcart Prize, and Best of the Net awards. Her work appears in Spillwords, Sheila-Na-Gig, Trouvaille Review, Red Eft Review, Alien Buddha Press, Verse-Virtual, Newtown Literary, Frost Meadow Review, Corvid Queen, Uncanny, Liminality, and other magazines and anthologies.
Books After Jen Mawson’s Photograph of the Same Name
A window into emptiness. Floorboards rotten as an ogre’s teeth. Could any haunted house be more deserted than this derelict Victorian, waves of dead leaves washed onto its porch? Like corpses from a shipwreck, limbs akimbo, clothes immodestly askew, a heap of books gives testimony that someone lived here once who’s here no more. For who would leave their own books so untreasured? They may be textbooks or volumes of verse, scriptures or engineering manuals, who can tell? No librarian’s hand arranges them. No survivor stacked them neatly in a tower. Evidence of heartache, or violence, or leastways carelessness-- and negligence can be the cruelest thing of all-- speak in the unthumbed pages whose marginalia goes unread, insights no one sees, inscriptions —For Carla, On h r sixt enth bi th ay-- worn away by wind and mildew and indifference.
Thistles May 27, 2020
Because construction’s stalled, the scaffolding stays up around my building, the protective netting preventing the lawn from being mowed or weeded. So now we have a meadow.
Considering how many residents complain about the garden committee’s new additions, botanical largesse of English-style perennials instead of symmetrical borders of impatiens, I might be the meadow’s only fan.
How they must abhor the long grasses in gradients of amber, brown, and green, their varying, untidy lengths like the hair of a gathering of hippies, tassels nodding with the weight of seeds ready to sow more unmannerly progeny, taking the place of cropped, unanimous turf.
Shepherd’s purse or some other pink weed or wildflower takes central stage amidst a froth of clover white as cappuccino foam, lascivious come-on to the bees.
Up front, where any visitor can’t miss it, a solitary three-foot thistle grows and glowers. When it was shorter, I tried to tug it out with my bare hands, learning that even their stems come armed to the teeth. Now it bristles like a Doberman gone rogue, daring, “What you gonna do about it?” One of its flowers bursts into purple like an ad for Scottish tourism.
I root for it, prickles and all. New York disdains a sissy. You need audacity to ride out rough times like these.
Breath June 2, 2020
It’s almost visible now that we obsess, red molecules of disease and death suspended in the air, lingering on bags and doorknobs.
Your own breath sounds exaggerated through your mask, wettened by each exhalation. You strain to breathe through cotton.
Do you have trouble breathing? doctors ask, PSAs warn. That’s the symptom to worry about.
I can’t breathe, you’d think, as the disease destroyed your lungs
I can’t breathe, you’d panic before they induced the coma so you could endure the ventilator, the machine breathing for you
I can’t breathe George Floyd’s exhales those words with his last breath
he’s killed knee to his neck, as if it were a crime to breathe while being black
The righteous protest while MAGA agents loot, deface, and burn Police attack with tear gas, mow them down with cars Their rubber bullets destroy eyes, rip holes in skulls
I can’t breathe
the President deploys armed forces against our citizens National Guards stand at attention like imperial stormtroopers on the Lincoln Memorial
I can’t breathe
helicopters swoop low over D.C. crowds like hawks preying
instead of praying, Trump evicts peaceful protestors from a church to pose for the press like Hitler with a Bible
a little girl can’t breathe crying as her father pours milk down her face to lessen the sting of pepper spray
America’s diseased, and coronavirus isn’t the worst of it. Hate’s gone viral. Brutality’s gone viral. Greed’s gone viral. Selfishness has gone viral. Corruption has gone viral. But now so has outrage.
These fires can’t be dampened by suffocating them. There has been suffocation enough
Do you have trouble breathing?
How Jane Writes
At night, poems buoy up in her mind like downed trees in the river after storm and she annoy hims, reaching for her nest-side cache of bamboo pens and tablets of banana leaf. Tarzan grunts and rolls away, shielding the nearest ear with a protective hand.
She searches for a word that doesn’t rhyme exactly but sounds, and means but doesn’t quite say, that doesn’t stutter, stomp, but almosts. Sometimes she must hunt them, stealthy as Tarzan himself. Sometimes the prey eludes her. She curses. A chimp (no one they know) hoots a reminder that she’s disturbed the jungle peace.
As she squeezes the purple-black berries to fill the pen with ink, the color reminds her of his eyes. She smiles, tattoos him with silly graffiti, the ticklish pen waking him thoroughly and his lust, so they make love before, glistening with sweat in the fire’s light, he turns away again, and there’s the word waiting for her, or its long-lost cousin, so she writes the poem at last and a new one after it.
All of my angels are made of flesh, too heavy to risk flight. Instead they pour clouds of aloe on their rounded shoulders, pining for skin of cream
Angels should be lean as sky, not greedy for fat, wet plums they suck from purpled hands; they should not let the wind sift their feathers with a lover’s fingers or allow lute-strings’ silken sound to stroke their eager ears.
My angels fail to notice the thin-ankled girls of slender sin, my anemic devils, who cough and rattle loose their bones, their scarlet watered down to fog, too frail to raise a rumpus.