I’m so excited to have two poems in Daughter’s inaugural issue. Daughter, a new literary magazine focusing on sharing the voices of women or female-identifying people, calls itself a lit mag for all women.
The poems included are “This isn’t a poem about motherhood” and “Recipe to reduce pain.”
“This isn’t a poem about motherhood” (pg. 22-23) is about pregnancy when you have chronic pain. “Recipe to reduce pain” (pg. 32-33) lists rituals of self-care, like taking a long, hot epsom salt bath.
“On that one-way trip to Mars” was reviewed in Beach Sloth. The reviewer writes, “the collection neatly focuses on the sadness that comes from planetary movements from hundreds of years away to the fragile nature of humanity. In a way, it celebrates how far humanity has come in trying to better understand its place in a vast space. The idea behind much of it is how fortunate humanity has been by its sheer existence.”
Beach Sloth understands the overarching vision I had for the book, which I’m so happy has actually been effective and came across for readers. Not only did I want to write a book about myself, my body, one human on Earth in this vast universe, but I also reflected on the fact that Earth is seemingly alone in this vast universe (at least, for now).
“Over the course of Marlena Chertock’s movement from across the solar system the elements of science and of life come into focus … [the poetry] lets the small period of time that defines a human life gain a universal approach,” Beach Sloth writes.
Some of my poems in this collection focus on other life-forms, aliens, finding the Earth after we’re long dead. “Gone will be languages, the aesthetics that defined society, and the way that distance within a single country becomes so small on a galactic scale,” the reviewer writes.
I have a few new poems in the Tiny Tim Literary Review, a journal dedicated to normalizing chronically ill/disability narratives and humanizing medical professionals. This is such a necessary journal, and I’m so glad to be seeing more like it in the past few years.
My poem Rikkud is about Israeli folk dancing with pain at summer camp. That’s where the above excerpt comes from. Rikkud was a magical evening where all of the campers and counselors at my summer camp gathered on the dimly lit, cracked basketball court, running and stepping in movements our ancestors might have made. It was a place I felt more Jewish than Hebrew school, than synagogue. Something about the actions connecting me to others, to the past.
I wrote tinnitus in a very different form than I normally write. I have tinnitus, and wanted to give it a more distancing/prescription sort of tone, while still having the poem be accessible to those who don’t constantly hear ringing in their ears.
A few of the other poems were previously published in The Deaf Poets Society and Noble/Gas Quarterly.
Ilana is just a typical seventh grade girl. She buys $1 lipsticks at the store with her friends and spends most of her day in school. She “was a little scared that she’d splutter and bubble on her way to becoming a woman,” but it doesn’t seem as dramatic as her older cousins have made it seem.
It was routine to bleed through all seven class periods for seven days. Until Paul told Ilana periods smelled.
Ilana has to face Paul’s comment, determine if she’s changing irreparably like tossing salt on a slug, or if she’s really able to stay the same while growing up. Read on in “Ilana and the science experiment” published in Crack the Spine.
Noble/Gas Quarterly published three of my poems today in their 203.4 issue. I’m honored to be included with so many other great writers.
“Application to NASA” is a retelling of my previous poem “On that one-way trip to Mars.” It’s my way of calling NASA out for its height restrictions, of blaming my bone disorder from keeping me from the stars (even though I didn’t actually major in a STEM field or take any path to flight school). These poems are my version of reckoning with the limitations my body and imperfect bones place on me.
“I am rotting log of wood” uses natural imagery from forests and trees as another way to understand my body. Trees are often seen as strong, immovable — but cut inside and you’ll see rings with more information. Tree rings show times of drought, temperature, moisture in the atmosphere, and growth the tree endured. I’ve always felt a connection and respect for trees. So I used an extended metaphor of a rotting log of wood as my cartilage-deficient body in a forest full of able-bodies.
“Harriet Tubman was disabled” tries to do justice to the amazing Harriet Tubman. Not only did she lead over 300 slaves to freedom, but she did so with a traumatic head injury. This is something we don’t learn when reading history books about her story. I actively work to keep disabled/chronic/invisible illness voices from being erased. This poem is one of my attempts.
Today, Calamus Journalpublished my poem “The martian comes to me” in their second issue.
I’m always honored when my poems are accepted for publication in new journals. When a literary journal is just starting up, it’s a magical time. There’s so much possibility, so much slush pile to read through, so much that could go wrong.
When an editor (really, a person who truly believes in literature/poetry/voices/sharing writing, really, just a person) decides to start up a lit mag, it’s no small feat. I’m always impressed by new lit mags starting up and thriving, trying to make themselves heard and create a strong space for good writing, or even failing. It’s an impressive accomplishment to create a lit mag — so thank you, Eric Cline and Trevor Richardson, for sharing your new literary magic with me.
This poem was a fun reflection on transportation, and what another lifeform might think of our messy traffic and the ways we get around.
🚄 It starts on a subway in Paris.
🚌 Moves to a bus in Chile.
🚢 Sinks into depths in a German submarine.
✈️ Takes off in an American airplane.
🚀 All for the martian to find the method of commuting that reminds her most of her spaceship. To find out more about transportation and herself.
I’m heading to Mars right now. I’ve left orbit. This amazing review from Bethany Mary has blasted me off the planet!
Bethany reviewed “On that one-way trip to Mars” in Vagabond City Lit, calling it warm and chilling, covering human emotion and the expanse of the solar system.
She gets the pain I was trying so hard to express somehow, some way.
Neck braces constrict like halos just a little too low. Spines curve so much it is hard to balance.
She is spot on in her assessment that my poems suggest “it is self-centered to believe that we are not sometimes alien.”
That can make being different, being born with skeletal dysplasia, having chronic pain easier to swallow, sometimes. To know that we’re probably not the only ones in this universe, our pain isn’t the only thing going on in the world, there are others beside ourselves.
Haven’t we learned already that we are not the center of the universe? This little poetry book reminds us of that.
Thank you for your beautiful, thoughtful review, Bethany. It means the world and Mars and all of the stars to me.
My poem “How to feel beautiful” was published today in The Deaf Poets Society. It’s a reflection on chronic pain.
This poem rejects the notion that we have to be pretty above all else. Beauty is a feeling. When you’re in constant pain, sometimes it’s hard to smile, get out of bed, go to work, deal with other people. But this is something those with chronic pain and disabled people do every single day.
Tell yourself you’re beautiful
so you start feeling it.
That is why the poem ends in space, outside the world. It ends in our blood and the stars. Because even with chronic pain, even if you are blind or deaf, even if you are an amputee, even if you are neurodivergent, even if you feel like all your spoons are full and spent, even then
your blood is still
made up of iron from ancient stars.