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Stems and other Poems by Martina Newberry

in Poetry by


On the window behind her,
the stems of palm trees were reflected.

She thought how they could scarcely
be called trunks. They were, in fact thick stems.

Pigeons gathered at her feet
(“rats with wings” her uncle said, “just rats”).

She had a vision of them
involving real field rats, garter snakes,

and owls. She had long since moved
beyond the reach of family, further

than all their words. She had moved
beyond her own premonitions of

what her life would be. She had
been out of sync with the flesh-colored

world of the living and now,
more familiar than she imagined,

came the quiver of knowing
and the narrowing silence beyond.


Write me a letter.
Start by describing
the sea at noontime.
Go on to tell me
about the seductive
bit of comforter
that ended up kissing
your ankles after
a dream-filled
night. Tell me what you
will have for lunch and
with whom you will share
a nap. Tell me about
your stomach pains
and about your ride
home last night when the
blue Mustang nearly
skidded into you
on the wet street. Tell
me about your favorite
dance track and which girls
are the best dancers
at your favored club.
Tell me if the green/
yellow tint to the sky
says that all may be lost
and if you think it
is a sign of whether
or not there will be
a tomorrow. Tell
me what brand of booze
you are shooting these days
and who took you home
last Saturday night.
Tell me if the divorce
still hurts and if you
wish you had children.
Tell me where you go
after you leave the
communion rail and
if the word “brunch” sounds
as needy and foolish
to you as it does
to me. Describe the
aleatory nature
of beguilement.
Write me this letter.
Everybody misses
somebody, right?


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?

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Newberry’s books are WHERE IT GOES (Deerbrook Editions), LEARNING BY ROTE (Deerbrook Editions), NOT UNTRUE & NOT UNKIND (Arabesques Press), RUNNING LIKE A WOMAN WITH HER HAIR ON FIRE (Red Hen Press), LIMA BEANS AND CITY CHICKEN: MEMORIES OF THE OPEN HEARTH (E.P. Dutton &Co). Her work has been anthologized and widely published in the U.S. and abroad. She lives in her beloved Los Angles with her husband, Brian, a photographer/web designer/audio media creative, and their fur-baby, Charlie.

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