After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne Peel is now nurturing her own creative spirit. Retired from the classroom, she occasionally engages in Field Instructor work with various universities, supervising education interns in the classroom. Marianne has also taught classes in Social Coaching for autistic adults. Further, she has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She has also received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009).
Marianne was recently a finalist in the Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize at Michigan State University. She also won the Poetry Prize and the Genre Prize at Jelly Bucket Literary Magazine, receiving a Summer Residency Award at Eastern Kentucky University (2017). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016) as well as Anita Skeen’s Narrative Poetry Workshop at Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Further, Marianne received First Place Poetry Prize with ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere).
Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Literary Journal, EastLit Magazine, Remembered Arts Journal, Ophelia’s Mom, and Literary Orphans, among others. Most recently, she has poetry published in Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy after 50. Currently, Marianne is a flute playing vocalist, learning to play the ukulele, who is raising four daughters. She shares her life with her partner Scott, whom she met in Istanbul while studying in Turkey. She has a collection of poetry forthcoming in 2021 from Shadelandhouse Modern Press.
I have seen the shriveling of roses
petals falling into silent miniature heaps
detached from the center where they were first born.
I have seen the arrival of wisteria,
ascending poles and the trunks of trees,
wrapping themselves violet between lattice slats.
I have seen lemons
heavy laden and ripe
fall to the ground in clusters.
I have squeezed lemons
onto basmati rice at cafes
facing the port of Myteline.
with thumb and forefinger,
I want to pry open a single lemon.
Squeeze its insides into the lines of my palm,
let the cascading juice tell my fortune,
become my personal clairvoyant.
I want to make a laurel crown of fallen rose petals.
I want to bedeck my neck and my wrists
the small of my back, the space behind my knees,
my ankles and the breath between my toes
with wisteria so heavy
that I will be forever rooted
to this island, this Lesvos,
this place of morning blooming.
Lunch Break at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp
I find the bin with spanakopita,
ferreting out the one with crusted edges.
I wish I craved olives, so many jars.
I settle for pomegranate juice and a brick of feta.
These I bury in my backpack
and then hike to the loading dock for a sit.
There are no olive trees for shade here,
just the blisters of the full afternoon sun.
I take off my sandals,
feeling the scorch of the pavement.
My hands drip with olive oil
and flakes of phyllo dough.
Peacock anemones carpet the spring field.
Winged sea lavender blooms onto the rocky shore.
As I climb back up the hill,
I long for someone to kiss my pomegranate lips.
The Man and His Words
I wanted to hold the hand
of the man who wrote English words
on his palm,
words for me to translate and define
beyond simple definitions.
He wanted to know the layers of meaning
the underbelly of each word
the way the word is used
in casual and formal conversation.
He would wait for me at the entrance gate
of the Kara Tepe Refugee Camp.
We try to create a village here
where the refugees
are asylum seekers.
The man with words on his palm
always stopped me on the way to the Chai House
with hello or salam, a slight bending of his full torso.
One day he showed me curse on his palm.
I explained how this word can be
a bad spell you cast, a flinging of obscenities,
a way to describe a swear word.
Another day he revealed sophisticated on his palm
and I explained this adjective meaning
highly developed or filled with complexity
telling him a person could be a sophisticated dresser
experienced and worldly-wise, maybe even fancy
He nodded, adding like elegant
and I knew there were so many words
already learned, imbedded beneath the lines on the palm of his hand.
I wanted to hold the hand of the man
who wrote English words on his palm.
But the taboo of a woman touching a Muslim man.
But my Western womanness.
Some say we are loose, easily bedded,
we Western women.
Yesterday, I held this man’s foot in my hands
trying to fit him with a proper pair of shoes
for an interview.
Sandals, sneakers, clunky boots, loafers,
even a donated pair of burgundy wing tips.
Nothing fit. Nothing worked.
But I want to lay with this man in the dark,
hold his hand all night long
just soft and still, there, next to him.
Slowly, during the cradle of the night,
his words would bleed onto my own palm
backward and upside down,
of silent love-making.
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Poetry in this post: © Marianne Peel
Published with the permission of Marianne Peel