The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey, released by Recent Work Press in 2021.

Red hot sting

content warning for surgery and birth

I felt it all the way—
no pain, just the icky press and separate
as my flesh gave way—
all seven layers—to the
razor-sharp scalpel—
two minutes of cutting,
shaking and trying to breathe,
then the pushing and tugging
and there he was aloft under the light.
My soul reached up to hold him,
all slimed chalky white and bright, bright red.

But black fell down sickly stealing our first meeting,
steel wool filling my throat and ears.
Awakened by my body thrashing
and lashing itself
off the metal table, rebelling against the invasion—
rushed voices, golf stories giving way
to a strange spewing of ccs and pressures
and then I was sailing on a crashing sea,
shuddering uncontrollably,
floating under swimming lights
into an alien lab
planted with human heads strung with wires
atop rolling white waves, watched by small, round, winking eyes.

Embracing him later in a daze,
the red-hot horror of the aftermath mangled up in new love,
nestled next to me in the soft white clouds—
then the rip and scream
and I was the lady sawn in half at the circus,
but without the magic—
clasping the creeping rose at my middle,
a pale-faced aide leaving me holding my two halves together,
trying not to let escape the dark crimson slithering thing I feared might be my liver.
You’ve ruptured, said the nurse from Waterford
what felt like hours later,
letting it slip into a kidney dish—
the paradox lost somewhere in my state of mind.

A nurse from Waterford, turned reiki healer, later told me
I hadn’t let go—
that’s why I had failed,
in the way it happens—
the switchblade wounds of women’s tongues
stinging more than any surgeon’s knife,
salved over and over by my children’s laughter.
I saw on Facebook years after
that she had a son:
I wonder if she birthed him standing in a field,
then walked away into the sunset clutching her prize,
a cherry-bright stripe glistening on her forehead.

Originally from the west of Ireland and living in Sydney, Anne Casey is author of five poetry collections. A journalist and legal author for 30 years, her work is widely published internationally, ranking in The Irish Times‘ Most Read. Anne has won literary awards in Ireland, Australia, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and the USA, most recently American Writers Review 2021 and the Henry Lawson Prize 2022. She is the recipient of an Australian Government scholarship and a bursary for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney where she researches and teaches.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey, released by Recent Work Press in 2021.

Ingrain

content warning for violence against women

With a practiced twist, the man on tv
is prising open the fragile mouth,
probing tender flesh unable to resist,
orbs of sunlight string glistening water behind.
Inside the injured tissue, he leaves a small stone—
in time, it will grow a pearly cyst
to smooth over the rough intrusion.

In the jumble of a city flea market once,
I couldn’t resist
a string of aged pearls, their soft peach glow
alluring from velvet folds—
I realise now why
no matter how I would twist them,
they would find a way to choke.

How a man’s hand can close
over a small mouth, encircle a throat—
unable to resist, injured tissue accepts the stone.
I almost drowned once, refound how words
won’t form in the absence of air.
If I could form the words now,
I would tell you how you can drown on dry land.

Never take me to an oyster farm—
all those closed mouths
not forming words under water,
slowly growing over their own small stones.
There are places where a woman can be stoned for failing
to resist a man, her pulped flesh left
to ripen around the stones.

Originally from the west of Ireland and living in Sydney, Anne Casey is author of five poetry collections. A journalist and legal author for 30 years, her work is widely published internationally, ranking in The Irish Times‘ Most Read. Anne has won literary awards in Ireland, Australia, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and the USA, most recently American Writers Review 2021 and the Henry Lawson Prize 2022. She is the recipient of an Australian Government scholarship and a bursary for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney where she researches and teaches.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey, released by Recent Work Press in 2021.

Welcome to your Life Cruises self-guided tour [Official transcript]

click image to enlarge

Text:

Welcome to your Life Cruises self-guided tour [Official transcript]

For Gabrielle


Please ensure your personal headset is set to Channel 1 at all times.

Welcome to your self-guided tour of the State of Womanhood. This destination has been pre-selected for you on a randomised basis. You have opted for the no-frills version of this tour. Please be aware this means you will incur additional charges en route. We are not responsible for unforeseen costs or for personal losses damage injury or death incurred.*

Following a brief passage through the Strait of Infanthood, noted for its rosy sunrises and its perennial flamingo-tinted flora, we will be approaching our first drop-off point. This is non-optional. Significant additional expenditure applies. Please prepare to disembark for your overnight adventure at the Precipice of Girlhood. If you have not read our preparatory notes on local customs, here is a quick recap: You do not have an opinion. If you think you have an opinion, it will be summarily refuted. You will accept all forms of affection from random strangers, distant relatives, and ‘friends’ of all ages and persuasions (no matter how creepy or repugnant). You will refrain at all times from being loud, shrill or argumentative. (Conduct of this nature is restricted to the Moors of Shrew, which destination has been excluded from this tour for reasons relating to current litigation.) You are regarded as inferior in all matters related to logic, mathematics, spatial awareness and physical strength. You are encouraged to make significant purchases in the gateway giftshop. The last tender will depart at 7 am sharp. Please ensure you are on board.

The highlight of the next part of your cruise will be your visit to the Capital of Womanhood. On the left you will find the Plains of Empathy. Natives of this region are commonly found to be friendly. Caution should be applied further to the left where radical elements are known to inhabit the coastal fringes as well as heavily wooded hinterland areas.

Having navigated the Sound of Education (with its twenty-five per cent chance you have sustained sexual assault), you will now be versed in fending off unwanted physical interactions to a greater or lesser extent, while navigating obstacles deliberately placed in your path. We recommend you pause here briefly and take in the distant heights of the Cape of Corporataria. There you can expect two thirds pay for like or higher value work. Up to forty per cent of prior participants have experienced sexual harassment in this location. Beware low-slung glass overhead.

In the event that you opt for the side-trip to the Geyser Fields of Maternity, career parking is available at rear. Please be aware that terms and conditions may change without notice in your absence. A hefty surcharge is applied to all late returns. In the event of your non-return you may be required to pay [redacted] [redacted] [redacted]**

We have just received a tycoon warning. For your own safety, please follow all directions without question. Step out of the vehicle. Interlace your hands behind your head. Spread your legs and await further instructions [redacted] [redacted]**

We hope you have enjoyed your journey through the midlands of the State of Womanhood. Please gather up all of your resources as we will shortly arrive at the Mines of Menopause. No appropriate protective equipment is available at this time. Severe conditions are expected. We urge you to take every precaution as we navigate [Static… voice becomes inaudible].

*Travel Advisory – State of Womanhood: Violent and/or fatal assaults have been recorded in the case of one third of tour participants.
**Sections redacted due to ongoing litigation.


Originally from the west of Ireland and living in Sydney, Anne Casey is author of five poetry collections. A journalist and legal author for 30 years, her work is widely published internationally, ranking in The Irish Times‘ Most Read. Anne has won literary awards in Ireland, Australia, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and the USA, most recently American Writers Review 2021 and the Henry Lawson Prize 2022. She is the recipient of an Australian Government scholarship and a bursary for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney where she researches and teaches.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Portrait of a Woman Walking Home by Anne Casey, released by Recent Work Press in 2021.

How to survive an apocalypse

For Owen

Practice social        media        distancing.
	After every exposure, 
	thoroughly wash
	heart (for at least 20 seconds). 
Do not hoard 
statistics—they have a short shelf life
and offer questionable nourishment.

Wherever possible, dress 
inappropriately.
	Seek advice from trees.
Trust the judgment
of animals—
even the tiniest ones.

Practice free flight
in your head. 
	Become attracted to light.
Love immoderately.
If in doubt, dance.

Originally from the west of Ireland and living in Sydney, Anne Casey is author of five poetry collections. A journalist and legal author for 30 years, her work is widely published internationally, ranking in The Irish Times‘ Most Read. Anne has won literary awards in Ireland, Australia, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and the USA, most recently American Writers Review 2021 and the Henry Lawson Prize 2022. She is the recipient of an Australian Government scholarship and a bursary for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney where she researches and teaches.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.

How to Feel Small

If you’ll envision vibrant flowers of flowing
tentacles—sea anemones, predatory faunae—
	blooming on the seafloor,

if you’ll reckon the 4.5 billion years it’s taken
such a sensitive biosphere to evolve,
	you’ll feel small.

I believe if you’ll read
of giant algae blooms and oil slicks
	visible from space,

of climate change and violent
silent conflicts, of capitalist globalization
and third-world slave labor,

one-third of the world’s people
impoverished, malnourished while
one-third of food produced worldwide

is never consumed, human subjectivity
as endangered (due to mass media’s
homogenization) as disappearing rare species,

it will indeed—if you have a heart—
cause you to grieve. But then, if you’ll
envision Arctic poppies unfolding

their crumpled petals in the frigid wind,
Gentoo penguins preening and carousing
	all for the sake of a mate,

I’ll bet you’ll decide heaven can wait—
this side of it though perilous too marvelous,
	mysterious, to voluntarily vacate.

Diana Woodcock’s fourth poetry collection, Facing Aridity, was published in 2021 as the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature finalist. Forthcoming in 2023 is Holy Sparks (2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award finalist). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into poetry’s role in the search for an environmental ethic.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.

Waiting for Rain at the Edge of the Arabian Desert

On one side,
Hurricane Florence
inflicting havoc;
		on the other,
		Typhoon Mangkhut,
		so far the year’s most
		powerful storm—wind gusts
		200 mph. Signal 10.
Emailed my friend in Macau,
asked if he’s alive. He replied,
First time ever, casinos closed—
how’s that for a wake-up call?

So many people still in denial—
skeptics and heretics,
those with too much to gain
by going on as if nothing’s changed.
	They have no time to behold
	nature’s splendor and terror,
	their ears closed to the music
	of the spheres, moan of autumn
	wind, silence in the crescent moon.
They would sooner rule
the world though it’s hotter
and more cruel than ever.

Florence on one side,
	Mangkhut on the other.
		On both, people died.

I am troubled by the century’s
piled-up disasters, tired and
afraid even as autumn’s coming on
in the Arabian Desert, bringing
hope for rain—not torrential
	like Florence and Mangkhut,
	but enough to awaken dormant seeds.

Comforted by the scents of
cinnamon and ginger, the sight
of Painted ladies catching fire
in their migratory flight,
I announce to myself all is right
with the world here and now
where I am—this one perfect solitary
	luminary moment all there is,
	all I have—so I’ll rejoice
	and be glad, it is enough
till my good luck runs out,
my time’s up. Already
I’m cleaning out the clutter,
learning to do without.

This poem is a temple
from which I am summoning
the divine. I have all the time
in the world to wait—or not, it’s running
		out, the clock ticking—

nowhere to go, safe
on my patio. But no,
	there is no escape.

Diana Woodcock’s fourth poetry collection, Facing Aridity, was published in 2021 as the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature finalist. Forthcoming in 2023 is Holy Sparks (2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award finalist). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into poetry’s role in the search for an environmental ethic.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.

Near the Arctic Circle

Day one, waiting to set sail,
the mind fixed on krill,
seals, Blue whales, and the thought
of Omega 3 pills offered for sale
at pharmacies and Amazon.com.

Krill oil supplement a detriment
to sea birds and mammals—to
the critically endangered Blue.
Foundation of the ocean’s food web,
small, shrimp-like crustaceans

in decline by eighty per cent,
on the frontlines of climate change,
melting sea ice finishing their habitat,
ocean acidification impairing these key
players in slowing global warming—

carbon dioxide transported by them
from surface to deep water.
The mind weighed down by facts,
then lifted this first day out,
west coast of Spitsbergen, by a long,

slender Fin whale—the captain killed
the engine. We all kept still,
silent, holding breaths and waiting
five, fifteen minutes for each                      breaching—
each tall blow twenty feet high.

Day two, I would see my first Blue.
But this first day out, it would be a Fin
that stole my heart away. Eyes no longer
glazed over by calendar and datebook,
I would look upon one Fin and realize

how seasons run. I would become
this first day out devoted to Fins, recalling
they were the ones to outrun whaling ships
early commercial fishing days till steam-
powered vessels and explosive harpoons

caught up with them.
Watching one Fin in that one
of a hundred places where mystery’s
source can still be sensed, I’d be brought
to my knees, as Rilke promised,

watching the ease of a Fin whale
causing the sea to rise and swell—
its compulsion to move through water,
my conscience taken along for the ride—
joy to rise out of me each time

its sickle-shaped dorsal fin would surface,
sun-dazzled, and I’d decide this Fin
holds within its being all the answers,
like a mandala, precisely designed,
then swept away.

Diana Woodcock’s fourth poetry collection, Facing Aridity, was published in 2021 as the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature finalist. Forthcoming in 2023 is Holy Sparks (2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award finalist). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into poetry’s role in the search for an environmental ethic.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Outside Longyearbyen, eight hundred
miles from the North Pole, scientists,
counting and envisioning the cost
of past and future disasters—even
Syria’s civil war—Aleppo’s seed bank
destroyed by bombing 2015—

have tucked into a mountainside,
ensured in permafrost, ample space
for four and a half billion critical
crop seeds worldwide. If the worst
should happen, this backup collection
will safeguard vegetation.

Or is it all mere speculation—
no place feasible but the hereafter.
But how to disentangle ourselves
from earthly (Arctic) time and space?
Standing in front of the entrance
to the doomsday seed vault—

something about it putting a halt
to doubt—I began envisioning
what the seeds are all about.
Was it too late to practice faith?
Dalal from Kuwait had brought
seeds from her desert home,

assuming she could contribute
them right there and then.
Tottering on the threshold
of before and after, I prayed
for faith as small as that biblical
mustard seed. Immerse myself,

I coaxed, in the hope of seeds,
that someday planted,
they can reverse the damage.
Feeling a thirst for roots,
recalling the burning bush—
how thorns and thistles are not

the earth’s original natural fruit—
I wished upon a seed deposited
just then in the scat of that snow
bunting warbling and hunting
insects beside the mountain stream
flowing past the global seed vault,

toward the sea, under the midnight sun.

Diana Woodcock’s fourth poetry collection, Facing Aridity, was published in 2021 as the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature finalist. Forthcoming in 2023 is Holy Sparks (2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award finalist). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into poetry’s role in the search for an environmental ethic.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.

Bearded Seal

Atop a chunk of drifting ice floe
on the shallow water shelf
lounged a lone, long-whiskered seal,

its ginger-brown face as calm
as could be, though if it were me,
I’d feel our ship seemed to drift

a bit too close for comfort.
Still, the seal didn’t budge,
busy about its molting, preferring

not to enter the water just then.
Its elegant array of long stiff whiskers
curling at the ends. Its small head

pointing downwind and towards the water,
hearing and smelling what may prowl behind it,
seeing what’s in front. Always on edge,

alert for a polar bear or killer whale attack.
What I would have given to have heard this one
vocalize to advertise its suitability—

to have heard its downward spiraling trill,
sweeps and ascents as it sang
underwater to attract a female.

But this very one our ship had cozied up to,
hauled out on an ice floe just then, late
June, flexing its square-shaped flippers

and its long claws every now and then,
seemed done with all courting and mating attempts
for another year. And by its calm demeanor,

indeed it did appear as nonchalant
as anyone these days can possibly be
about melting ice in the Barents Sea.

Diana Woodcock’s fourth poetry collection, Facing Aridity, was published in 2021 as the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature finalist. Forthcoming in 2023 is Holy Sparks (2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award finalist). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into poetry’s role in the search for an environmental ethic.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Omma, Sea of Joy and Other Astrological Signs by Bo Schwabacher


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Omma, Sea of Joy and Other Astrological Signs by Bo Schwabacher, released by Tinderbox Editions in 2021.

A Korean Birth Mother’s Name

As I know

all mothers must, this pain
becomes an even-handed story

told over gin, yolk,

and crushed rose,
wild abandonment—Sara, may I call you that?

you weren’t mindless.

We’re both
those

wild

flowers in Yeonggwang—it’s the part of the country

our people can’t find
because

cherry blossoms
are everywhere.

But I grow easily.

Bo Schwabacher is a South Korean adoptee. Born in South Korea, she was adopted at three months old and grew up in Illinois. Her poems have appeared in Cha, Radar, Tupelo Quarterly, Zone 3, and others. Omma, Sea of Joy and Other Astrological Signs, published by Tinderbox Editions, is her debut collection of poems. 

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.