Two Serious Ladies is a small online magazine to promote writing and art by women.

The magazine was created in 2012 by Lauren Spohrer, who regrets how slowly she responds to submissions.

It’s named for the 1943 short novel by Jane Bowles. The novel contains the line:

“I wanted to be a religious leader when I was young and now I just reside in my house and try not to be too unhappy.” 

 

"Poem with No End" by Lesley Yalen

September 11th wasn’t called that in the first hours and days when you first called your friends and mother and wondered what What did you say? You looked up, the sky offered no suggestions. The leaves were heavy not ready to fall. It’s not that this has never happened before it’s just that you’ve never gotten here on time. The sun was still in your eyes and there weren’t words and you couldn’t make out the gash a word would cover.

                                                ___

  June 6th is not called June 6th, it’s D-Day. I didn’t know what it was until recently, it’s not Pearl Harbor. Recently someone told me that, and explained what D-Day actually was, but then I forgot and had to look it up again just now. There is no consensus about what the “D” stands for, though it is generally understood that a top secret military event might begin at H-Hour, D-Day.

                                                ___

  What is happening right now. That’s what I want to get to but by the time I learn about it and think it over, language hardens over experience. This is happening right now to me. The radius I walk is quite small. I’m asking you to talk a little harder. My mom pronounces the famous names of certain men, like George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, and Adlai Stevenson, who distinguished themselves I simply will never know how.

                                               ___

  Is Pluto not a planet? And if not is it because we all adored it too much? My sense of tableau is not at all up to date In my heart there are still only 4 billion people and one of them is Michael Jackson. A modem dangles. I try to memorize a few current facts. I try to find out if the Iraq War has ended.

                                                ___

 

It’s easy to remember events named after people, like Sherman’s March to the Sea and Custer’s Last Stand.

You know, I have also marched to the sea, scorching crops and stealing livestock, I “stood upon the very ground whereon was fought the bloody battle of July 22d, and could see the copse of wood where McPherson fell” but no one who knows my name points a finger. That was the last time I visited Georgia.

                                                ___

  I heard about River Phoenix dying outside Johnny Depp’s nightclub in typing class and I misplaced a g That was the beginning of the fear of things sticking, things falling from my fingers into a wrong pause, and when I knew we could eat our own children should they fail to thrive like Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour all called back in birth order Then a star fell from Orion’s belt and everyone seemed to be looking at me and even or especially though I was innocent I felt like the iceberg the ship strikes in a love story.

                                                ___

  I had imagined something liquid that hardens later, but a turtle is actually born with its shell. Fish breathing, ice freezing, skin scabbing it’s easy to see double.

                                                ___

  I just had to look up D-Day again! The “largest amphibious invasion in world history.”

                                                ___

That I cannot remember certain historical facts may be the fault of the facts themselves. They may not be memorable, lacking the prosody of a one small step for man or I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country which I could never forget, it would be like forgetting Saturn has rings. This is happening right now. In countries both with and without names, with and without seats in the General Assembly, these regrets are happening. Nathan Hale is being hung. Washington is crossing the Delaware. Sometimes entire wars lack meter, like the War of 1812 we never learned about.

                                                ___

  I was a Caesarean timely rather than triumphant I accomplish my feats by anger not pluck It is extremely unlikely that Caesar himself was born by C-section since no woman would survive the procedure for another 1,500 or so years, and Caesar’s mother did survive—she herself has a small Wikipedia page. I know so little about anatomy, I have to look up my own parts. Apparently, there are several layers called meninges protecting the brain and spine. The outermost one is called the dura mater, the hard mother and it is between this membrane and the delicate vertebrae that the epidural space is found and the catheter inserted should a person suffering great pain choose to demonstrate the logic of relief.

                                                ___

  What is happening right now is—unnameable. It is the meeting place of the individual and the many, the common cold and the epidemic. It is epic. There is no name for this day except Memorial Day  when we publicly remember the war dead who reproach us for our many misnomers. No more dead than anything struck by a true and fast force. Privately, today, I pledge allegiance to the flag we flew on that one sparkling night in front of the art museum and to the republic within the republic for which it stands, to the temporary stations where we meet to plan our little arrests. Because each day is both a birthday and a deathday, both joyous and tragic, like a war bride carried over the ocean.

                                                ___

  There’s a lot of filmic detritus in your dreams of something smoke-filled, drab-green, and young— that’s it, that’s the war in history where sex first appears. Not all of it took place in or over the eponymous country, but you put on your headpiece and travel there in a beaded coach. You see your dad. He’s sitting in his place at the key-punch machine. He looks nerdy and nervous and so public in his cushy post.

                                                ___

  You stay for a while in your virtual Vietnam where they call it the American, the American War.

                                                ___

  Like so many things, the past is not comforting. It shouts its useful instructions too loud. There’s no sense in ignoring these messages but in the hospice of our brother they are unwelcome. We say Past leave us alone. And the past says, you are alone, that’s the whole point, and it speaks in a vernacular we don’t understand. While I used to take some delight in thinking of my forebears, in imagining myself related to something significant and old, it is relieving now to discover that no one is watching nor can they understand us, and we can’t understand them as we perform the cremation and think about our loved one almost gone.

                                                ___

  Southbound on the Major Deegan I always start to think of the twin towers falling both with and without sound both in and out of focus already dated. I have also watched the Challenger explode, the Bay Bridge collapse, Rodney King beaten, and the Columbine kids. I saw a giant wave sweep its monster paw across a coastal town, and miners’ families praying for redemption. I heard interviews with abducted children, children whose friends were killed in the hallways of their schools, barefoot children whose brothers are martyrs. I watched some of this before and some of it I watched now and once again, the bulk of it is available on the internet now.

                                                ___

  We are currently standing at ground zero. You can see where before and before meet in a messy seam, in a street sweeper’s coat. Whether life begins at conception or birth, does it really matter? We are all aborted. If you’re haunted in Hiroshima or busking in Bayside, does it matter? We are heirs to the Manhattan Project. And do be forewarned that life is not timid. You can go to Mount Sinai and watch it reset. You can’t resist. You long to float among improved air. Well. Ground zero longs for you. It wants you back at the weightless center. All your old friends are marching toward that horizon and also toward that one.

                                                ___

  We live in a very strange time only slightly less strange than before. Every shell on the beach comes from a sea creature every star in the sky the beak of a bird. Every blade of grass was once the hair of a dying man, it falls out and the doctors scatter it in the fields. I see a pattern in the way things go, in the deep sky objects stargazers love, in the abandoned turtle shells and the donated books and the plastic gum wrappers that will never decompose. No one has ever had it like this before.  

Lesley Yalen lives in Northampton, MA. Her poems have appeared in jubilat, Glitterpony, Invisible Ear, Octopus, notnostrums, Encyclopedia Vol. 2, H_NGM_N, and elsewhere. Her chapbook The Beginning In is available from minutes BOOKS.

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