poetry, poets, Strong Women

When Lemons Make Poetry

The last roses until spring-alvaradofrazier.com
The last roses until spring-alvaradofrazier.com

This morning I have bunches of pale yellow roses that are the last of the season from a bush I just pruned-a month late.

My rosebush was transplanted, to my backyard fifteen years ago, from someone who tore up their garden to put in kid friendly landscaping.

I also have a dwarf lemon tree.

Which made me think of that platitude, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That cliché sucks-big time.

Lemons = Lemonade


This phrase makes a euphemism for disappointment, a sorrow, or a hurt seem so cheerily remedied. 

Life doesn’t give you lemonade.  

Life gives you lemons. You give you lemonade. 


The last lemons from my tree-alvaradofrazier.com
The last lemons from my tree-alvaradofrazier.com

Making the lemonade is not an easy process. There is a knife involved. Cutting, twisting, squeezing, and getting a sting from the lemon juice that found the microscopic cut on the side of your fingernail.

After that, you strain the pulp and seeds and pour the result into a pitcher. You’re still not done. Some people don’t want to go through these steps. You have to stick with it, be strong. 

You have to stay with the process, feel the pain, deal with the sting, the squeezing, the separating, look for the honey, the sugar, something to sweeten the tart acidic taste.

It’s a series of steps, it’s not a Lemon=Lemonade instant drink.

And when you stick with it, you have fantastic lemonade which you garnish, with berries or mint. 

I was mulling over all this when I came upon an email from a friend, Michelle Wing.

Michelle is the inaugural featured writer of a new website, Off The Margins, dedicated to women writers.

Her artist statement captivated me. Her poetry, this one in particular, blew me away.

Body on the Wall

They send me a slip of paper
Anger Management – Certificate of Completion
And his name.
As if.

As if twelve weeks of one-hour sessions,
of talking about his feelings,
of tips on counting to ten,
could make him into a new man –

could undo the damage.

I know too well he can con anyone:
Police. Lawyers. Landlords.

And this piece of paper is the last slap
I am ever going to feel.

I walk to my closet, and get my dancing dress,
the little black one that twirls when I move,
that reminds me of freedom and the time before.

Do you want to know what he is like?
I’ll need some tools.

Scissors to slash the hemline.
Blades to rip open sleeves.

A lighter to torch the fluttering strips.
Dirty boots to grind out the flames.

Then a razor, to nick my forearm
so I can smear blood across his name
and pin that piece of paper to my ruined dress.

I bandage my arm, find a hanger –

It is my body on the wall, bruised and battered,
and nobody, nobody, can say they don’t see.


After reading, my lips formed the word “Wow,” my head nodded. I thought of the lemons in my past.

Lemons didn’t only make lemonade, they made poetry.


Go and visit off the margins. Read more excerpts from Michelle’s new book of poetry, “Body On The Wall. It debuts May 15, 2014.

poetry, Strong Women

Chyrstos Poetry

Fugitive Colors by Chrystos
Fugitive Colors by Chrystos

My waking hours have been filled with poetry and tissues this last week.

The cold germs found their way past the daily vitamin C I take and turned me into a sneezing, coughing, dry mouthed mess. Thank goodness for the poetry.

Last week, two poets presented an opportunity which I took because I love poetry and I dabble (very lightly) in composing poems myself.

The first poet needed beta readers for an upcoming chapbook, so I read seventy plus pages of melodious words and did some critiquing (as a reader, not a poet).

The second poet, Michelle Wing, an AROHO sister, poet, and Facebook friend (who’s own poetry collection “Body on the Wall” will come out in Spring 2014) posted an interesting game on FB. Anyone who ‘liked’ a poem that she posted would be assigned a poet. In turn, the ‘liker’ would choose a poem by that poet and post it on their FB page.

Michelle assigned me to read poems by Chyrstos, a Menominee rights activist for Turtle Mountain Band of Chipewa, Norma Jean Croy, and Leonard Peltier. Her poems are in numerous anthologies and she has five poetry books published. Many of her poems speak about the living traditions of her people, the edgy rhythms of urban life, and violence.  

These two poems resonated:

The Man Who Couldn’t Live Without Me

I’m sitting at the bus stop holding a pillowcase of dirty laundry

when he informs me passionately,

Baby, you’re my only

real reason for being,

If you love that other bastard

I’ll kill him

Baby I need you

Sunshine ain’t nothing

if you aren’t mine

Laughing I thought he made about

as much sense

as any woman who has said such stuff to me

Pretty efficient to obsess about a complete stranger

since the truth

arrives much faster and less painfully

When her bus comes-she leaves you

No ego loss there

As my J Church rolled up I said,

Bye, bye my one true love

Laughed with myself and every lover

I’d promised to kiss forever

cause I know now the only person I can’t

live without

is me

Not Vanishing

In the scars of my knees you can see
children torn from their families
bludgeoned into government schools
You can see through the pins in my bones
that we are prisoners of a long war
My knee is so badly wounded no one will look at it
The pus of the past oozes from every pore
This infection has gone on for at least 300 years
Our sacred beliefs have been made into pencils
names of cities gas stations
My knee is wounded so badly that I limp constantly
Anger is my crutch I hold myself upright with it
My knee is wounded
How I Am Still Walking

If you love poems that interweave personal stories with edgy narrative, social justice themes, and poems exploring the Native American experience, check out Chyrstos poetry.