Fall/Winter 2013

Claire Ortalda


Last night
we drove through the red ribs of Jonah?s whale
our car like a breath
taken into the tunnel
picked clean of its oxygen
and expelled into a city of black and light  

Today a strong and cold wind
The streets seem strange
full of obstacles
              The color of things is wrong

What trees there are
blackening the clouds with something inky
pulled from the asphalt
               made into their own blood 
and rained down
                on shoulder-brushing strangers
with their unhappy luggage  

We can’t live like this
A city without bridges will starve
We can’t walk like ghosts
                 through the exhaled breath
of each other’s desires
listening for our own death  

The soul will cry out sometime
She has to
She will chew the air
She will shriek with menses
She will dance
             legs apart
blood caught and clotting in her throat
until a mother’s lips
             whisper against the cheek of her child
the beast crawls back to the growling cave
and the tribe gathers
             once again
to spit fruit seed and chant-song


An English instructor, reporter, editor and produced playwright, with an M.A. and M.F.A. in the Novel from San Francisco State University, Claire Ortalda has been published in numerous literary journals. Her short story, ‘A Village Dog,’ was winner of the Georgia State University Fiction Prize. Her poem, ‘Iowa,’ was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a founding officer of the multicultural literary group PEN Oakland, an associate editor for Narrative Magazine, and the editor of The Other Side of the Closet (IBS Press) and Financial Sanity (Doubleday).



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