Laura Sweeney, MS/MPA/MFA, facilitates Writers for Life in Iowa and Illinois. She represented the Iowa Arts Council at the First International Teaching Artist's Conference in Oslo, Norway. Her poems and prose appear in sixty plus journals and ten anthologies in the States, Canada, Britain, Indonesia, and China. Her recent awards include a scholarship to the Sewanee Writer's Conference.  In 2021, she received an Editor's Prize in Flash Discourse from Open: Journal of Arts & Letters; Poetry Society of Michigan's Barbara Sykes Memorial Humor Award; and two of her poems appear in the anthology Impact: Personal Portraits of Activism, winner of the American Book Fest Best Book Award, Current Events, 2021 .  She is a PhD candidate, English/Creative Writing, at Illinois State University. 

POEMS - choose an image & read a poem

Self-Portrait as a Knoxville Farmer’s Market Flâneuse

My friends from the Sundress residency wait while I let my dog Freya out of her tote, put her on the leash. We walk into the crowd and search for coffee. As we wind our way through, folks oooh and aaah, ask if Freya is a chihuahua. Someone tries to pet her but she moves closer as we stand in line to order our Mexican chili mocha iced lattes. I haven’t had caffeine all week. We split up, agree to meet in one hour. Maria lends me her watch, pink as Freya’s tongue while Freya sn

Self-Portrait as a Frontline Worker

in pandemic conditions. When she accepted her contract, after a gap year of self-quarantine, and back in the classroom, sans face masks. In the spring, things were turning around, the energy and activity, by May people out and about. Eating ice cream in Uptown Circle, dog watching. All summer she was movin’ & steppin’ & makin’ her way closer to home. Glad to be employed. But by the end of July, the Delta variant rampant, the scramble was back, to shut down the university, or stay open?

Ghazal: In the Liminal; On Becoming a Woman Writer; I am Toni Jo Henry

She stares at the pool of the Taj Mahal, her reflection in the liminal. She longs to drown in sun's silhouette, fade like the mosque in the liminal. She gazes at lotus flowers that float along, admires their persistence to push through muck into the liminal. She sighs from societal ideals and longs to retract into the liminal. She abhors the arrogance that all women long to live as a princess. An illusion she rejects in the liminal. She longs to flee her homeland, search for amnesty, name a bloo

Ocean of Heaven

Over rows and rows of cornfields, the June blue sky roils with road dust through my rolled down window as I drive north towards the Quad Cities, towards that sky I’ll do anything not to miss. And when I cross the Mississippi, towards the white clouds I’ve longed to see, I imagine the ghosts thwarted by the Big Muddy while I’m tonicked like the snow that made everything dormant and clean. And while I’m thankful for the icicles that decorated my patio this winter, thankful

At the Fountain

Under a canopy of trees by the courtyard’s pool we toss a tennis ball to my dachshund Freya. A squirrel scrambles down just low enough to make eye contact then scampers back. We watch her taunt and tease, pause and muse. Freya, frenzied and frantic to play, barks up the wrong tree. You tell me you’re going antiquing and when you return, one of us needs to move out. I pray on the rosary you gave me God please help. I open your bank statement. Did you share a popcorn? Hold her hand? Kiss each o

I Listen to the Soundtrack from A Star is Born

I Listen to the Soundtrack from A Star Is Born Not the latest release, which I watched four times in the theatre loving Lady Gaga unplugged and barefaced on stage, piano pounding voice crooning, loving it so much I watch the original and each remake─Janet Gaynor Judy Garland Barbra Streisand─each transcendent in her own way. I’m especially touched by Streisand’s version, when John Norman threads his fingers through hers, kisses her hand as they record Evergreen their iconic duet. But it’s th

Meditation on Silencing

Ladies and gentleman you are about to be mesmerized right before your eyes as we present this woman: Exhibit Number One, Angry Woman turned docile. Look and be astonished at this wonder. Watch and learn as the circus master tames and trains her. For your own viewing pleasure put a coin in, watch her wriggle and squirm, silent and mute. Place her in your cabinet full of curiosities more than strange– The Exotics, bearded or of ill repute. Let us show you her repertoire a

Psalm for the Fallen Women

For the French teacher who drank herself into oblivion; for the nurse who couldn’t go through the courts because she was a converted Muslim; for the doctor who fled to Britain when her husband impregnated a teen; for the client at the tax desk whose fiancé changed his mind; for all the women caricatured, reduced to one-size. I have bruises too, a smattering, and I know it doesn’t make sense, these women should be living down the street in homes with lovely gardens, ripe, green, tart,

Things You Shouldn't Touch

Texts that say, “Don’t stop by for unexpected visits.” His nightstand cleared of clutter except for a candle and a book of spells. A plate of chocolate-covered strawberries in the freezer. A rent release form found in his leather coat pocket. Clandestine chats with his lover via OkCupid. A draft of his weekly column trashing you and pining for her. An email from a fan complimenting him on his writing. An email to a “friend” he cheated with while you were in Europe. An email confessing a

Art Farm

I remember you on the Art Farm, in blue jeans and t-shirt, Tarot in your pocket. Touring town with you was like a corn beef sandwich and side of pickle chips, Lonski’s Deli, Saints Rest on Broad, McNally’s where I bought several bottles of San Pellegrino. We laughed on the terrace at the Phoenix Café, devoured flourless chocolate cake, jazz wafting from the park as we sipped red wine in the wildflowers. Still tipsy, we strolled Grinnell, then trekked north to pluck pears on t

Love Note to Say Goodbye

Yes, you were intense as incense, to my china shop, the red to my pepper, the miel to my chamo tea. But you wrote me off as a bohemian storm. Never mind that I was gibberish to your jarble, the spark to your spur, the spit to your fire. I don’t accept that I am not high literature. Though I want to be read like fine wine and womanhood. More a becoming than a whim, more a destiny than a decision. So, I will relinquish though I relished you, like the kite that drifted away at the Fest,

A Prayer for the Precariat & Five Research Analysts on the Verge of Precarity at the Social Behavior Institute

who resides in the academy, escapingcorporate life, reviving the dyingdialectic lost to the reality of mediocre tv; while minionsand mortgagers make away with murdershe struggles to commit a social science; displaced by recession-suppression-excessionretreats to the underground and scrawls “peace”on the whiteboards in adjunct hell; in the margins without easy answers she wonders howshe missed the neon glaring signs; swearingshe’s not a pathetic-ascetic-heretic but in this culture of division

The Last Thing I Saw Before My Accident

THE LAST THING I SAW BEFORE MY ACCIDENT The silver cross hanging from my rearview mirror, blessed by an Esquipulan priest with water from la Basilica, holy Milagroso Cristo Moreno – Patrono de Guatemala. Saved from the wreckage, Enterprise Rental mailed la cruz in a simple white envelope. In my Delta ’88 Oldsmobile, magnificent replica of my sturdy grandparent’s car, (the one I crashed in), a friend inquired about its significance. I told him my belief is la cruz protects

Woman (In the Woods)

Woman you have wild in you. And providence. Content in the humid coop of your heart to nosh pico de gallo & sliced mozz on French baguette. You see the turkey emerge from the green summer grass, though you do not hear running water only the whir of batteried fans. Instead of wait, you return to journey. Instead of stiffen, you bend like the palm tree. Instead of taking man as friend, you turn self-benevolent. You think of goats bleating in the field, or of clean wood cleft

Tell Me, What Were We Before

TELL ME, WHAT WERE WE BEFORE Antigua and Atitlan. A boat named Tanya. Bachata. Crepusculos. Draped textiles on my table. Esquipulas. Frida Kahlo. Guevara graffiti. Hispanics in Iowa. In Search for Peace: A Guatemalan Story. Ixtapa. Iguana soup. Jewelry tossed in the bushes. Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. A Labrador named Sancho. Lizards on the ceiling. Mayan ruins. Neruda’s poems. Obsidian. The Psych. Ward. A priest who prayed ‘patience’. Quotes on your notebooks. Quetzaltenango. Rigoberta Menc

Ways to Get from Here to There

Ways To Get From Here to There Austerity measures. Bestwestern and basic provisions—eggs coffee fruit bread milk oatmeal yogurt. Christmas season at Kohl’s. Cheryl the Christian in Jewelry who prayed over me. The dorms of St. Ambrose. The Dollar Store. EBT. ERP—Emergency Resident Project. FFilms.org. Good Neighbor gas vouchers and a Grace Church giftcard. A garage apt. HRB—answer phones dump garbage file papers vacuum floors scrub toilets level up. Ironweed. Jesse’s phone calls. Keeper’s Storag

To Nica, With Love

In the midst of the monsoon and the thousand year flood my Nica nostalgia rises. I remember Corn Island sailing from the Moskito Coast hammocking in the breeze orange pop in a plastic bag black beans and blue burns on my shins. Maybe that is why I like it here the rocking chairs on the porches the houses on stilts. In New Orleans you offered me a stick of Big Red gum, “Don’t lose the sweetness of your character,” you said. Then predicted I would never leave Bluefield
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