Sara Cho Stailey, “From the Kestrel” / Ilyssa Goldsmith, Three Poems

“From the Kestrel,” Sara Cho Stailey, Woodblock Print, 2019

Two Cities of Contrast

Ilyssa Goldsmith
We don’t go as far as we used to– 
tracing the corners of the horizon–
in good timing

Our fingers weakened from this season’s
pruning–our lips dry–
hands rough and calloused 
unable to house our hearts

but to build words
and disassemble trees
leaving behind hewn roots
promising crossings
and avenues for another day

Big girl with ladybug eyes
is sad always
sensitive to scary sights

and our fingers are weak
from our weathered dreams
constantly pursuing fairy tales left to
scatter (flint) driftwood decay in

We are free (houseless)
homeless (plant a tree)
and give it a home
(asks a man on the side of the street)
The poetic irony makes me sad

(To ease those whose feet have not
walked on soft carpeted ground)
Bare glistening black back
(face covered) on city bench
(there is no park in this scene)
Heads nodding, voices hum 
(to say we share this story of weary)
and it has made us clear
(no running water in 100-degrees)
Arizona drought 
brown with a splash of green
(to ease the sensitive eye)
nature’s garnish in a concrete jungle

Two blocks down from poverty
lies economy
and I walk in pink shoes
clutching my journal to remind myself
I am free (momentarily) 
as the scene departs from me
holding hands rough and soft 
(calloused and warm)–two crystal souls
recalling memories of construction 
in the valley of the sun

Our fingers are weak
(weathered from these weary dreams)
as we traverse two cities of contrast
all in one night

If I Kept My Life in a Jar

Ilyssa Goldsmith
If I kept my life in a jar
	would it weigh me down
	    in the palm of my hand
		every morning a new occurrence 
        (home in the sea of 100-degrees)
a traveling caravan of uninsured dreams
at home (a homeless bearer of bad news)
this body no longer a home I can choose
(but chosen for me)

if a woman screams in a forest
(does she actually scream)
or do a horde of white men
decree her body autonomy

If I kept my life in a jar
would the glass be sterile 
and cool to the touch 
(would my contained life be a comfort to hold)
or with one weak hand might it shatter
creating whiplash 
(discarding tires and certainty on the open road)

If I kept my life in a jar
would it be easier to store those memories
of burdens and bruises 
(hidden behind barren dirt – 
because cultivation was only worth keeping –
the germination he’s been reaping)

Mother Earth was not worth the nurture but our
bodies were worth the detriment to bring to term
(all the terms these old white men have run)

If I kept my life in a jar
would you believe me
when I say this glass
contains the life you have stolen
from me.

Little I

Ilyssa Goldsmith
I’ve always been small.
Since before I was small, I was inevitably
As a child, my doctor told me I would 
reach 5 feet.
Spoiler: I never did.
I used to find solace in my smallness–
stoked it like a fire, toasting with 
marshmallows and cozy memories of
being picked up and cared for and held 
of being loved–
for smallness was my focal point of attention 
my brother called me little I and I found 
a consolidation in this form of identification–
it spoke of memories–golden–of being
lost and found–of being someone 
incredibly small and valuable.

But I did not always remain small
(even as I remained small)
Little body big soul, she said.
My stomach–an archaic myth not
formed by antonyms but tenderness
and complex multitudes
my identity encased in my body
(a willing subject).

I once prided myself on the size of my
wrist and contemplated how many fingers
I could wrap delicately over its lines.
How many he could wrap I considered a prize
until I lost it all unwillingly and she 
complimented me on my figure.
How lucky I was to be so small,
she said with an eager smile.
Small–the confines of my identity
marked by my size, a lowercase I,
a soft voice curved toward sunlight, a parched
flower–a potent promise cascading onto
those who seek but do not understand
the seasons these seeds starved for.
Hydration at the bottom of a shallow vase.
I’ve always been small,
but now when I look in the mirror
I envision a world where I am anything
but that.

Sara Cho Stailey is the owner and creator of Liminal Heart Studio. She dabbles in woodblock printing, oil painting, and watercolor.  Her handmade whimsical creations are inspired by nature and animals. Favorite subjects include anthropomorphic animals, rabbits, figures, and surreal landscapes.

IG: @liminalheart_

Ilyssa Goldsmith graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s in communication. She enjoys writing poetry, which sounds out the space where the muse, myth, and female desire reside. Ilyssa is passionate about exploring the nature of the repressed female psyche within her fiction and poetry. She believes language can be utilized as a tool for discovery, healing, and recovery. Ilyssa keeps a dog-eared copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass close to her bed and is known to recite her favorite lines to anyone who will listen on a daily basis. Goodbye (Hello) is her first poetry collection.

IG: @muse_of_idle_stars