ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Lawrence Berger
   Kevin Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Leah Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Zachary C. Bush
   Tony Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J. de Salvo
   J de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Dorsey
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Ron Dvorkin
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Amelie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   Matt Harris
   William Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Jessica Healy
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gary Justice
   Gene Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Bernard Kennedy
   Raud Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Hyatt Mason
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Robert John Miller
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Greggory Moore
   Carl Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Toti O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Kristena Prater
   Luke Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
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   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
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   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
   John Saunders
   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
   Iftekhar Sayeed
   Frances Schiavina
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   Peter Schwartz
   Ken Scott
   Sondra L. Scott
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   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   Sanjeev Sethi
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
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   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
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   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
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   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
   Carl Stillwell
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   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
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   John Duncan Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
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   Viola Weinberg
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   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   J.T. Whitehead
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   Claire Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Jessica Wilson
   Robert D. Wilson
   Amye Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
   Joseph Wistren
   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
   Abigail Wyatt
   John Yamrus
   MÌesser Yeniay
   Julie Yi
   Britney Young
   Gregory T. Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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Mira N. Mataric
April 2007
   

 

The Tunnel

"Mama, they are calling you -bella, those Italians at the corner!" My daughter turns to me here yes ablaze, cheeks flushed by excitement. She throws her arms around me.
As if seeing her for the first time, I notice her pearly skin, soft face framed by the cascades of blond, wavy hair, her delicate, budding breasts rustling like the aspen leaves. This is not a thirteen-year-old child, but
an awakening woman. Yet, she is my child whose purity and innocence I must protect from the call of the jungle. In Venice, for the first time with her as my partner, everything is more exciting and beautiful seen through
her eyes. I have been here before, and the crudity of men is nothing new. They don't even annoy me anymore.
"Baby, you think I am beautiful because I am your mother." How long will it be till a man crushes her innocence and romantic vision of love?
"Mom, I am not the only one who thinks you are beautiful. Dad does too," she tosses her wild hair emphatically. "At my school, they say you are the best looking mom." She looks at me as if begging.
Poor baby, she is right: I don't want to hear it, sick and tired of sneering, whistling and men's impertinent eyes, offensive when they think they are flattering.
"They say it to all women.." At thirty-nine, I know just how much it is all worth. But my pure, innocent child? Earlier in the day, I saw her blush all over when a middle-aged, heavily pomaded owner of a gift shop turned to her, not to me, in an attempt to sell us some jewelry. She cannot see through the male baseness and cheap sales strategies for which Venetians have been known for centuries. I bought her that necklace and a ring anyway. Her first jewelry. Till now she had to borrow mine. The pale pink coral rose-bud reminded me of her. The gift made us all happy: Maja, me, and the sleazy jeweler.
"Mama, how do you know men are lying? They looked sincere.": She goes on, persistent just like her father.
"That's something you will have to learn, for your own safety. Words are not the best way of communication. Sometimes people don't say what they think, or think what they say," I hasten my steps. "It is getting dark. We need to reach the hotel soon.Streets are not safe at night. Those men may be interested in my purse, not me."
"Oh, I never thought of that," Maja touches her new necklace.
She doesn't know my valuables are not in the purse. My father gave me a lesson in Greek history when I was a teenager. It was more than that, though. When other Ancient Greek women boasted with their adornment, Mother Grach pointed to her two sons: "These are my jewels."
Smiling to myself, I grab my daughter's soft hand in mine, and we run all the way to the hotel. The dampness is growing stronger, the salty air penetrating our summer clothes. A small shiver climbs up my spine.
Safely in our room, I lock and bar the door, then undress for a long, soothing shower. My tense, aching muscles start to relax. Drying myself, I am looking in the large, gold-framed mirror. I never quite liked my body. Once, off handedly, my husband remarked," Women would kill for a body like yours." Coming from a shy man, I considered it an odd statement. True, I have no problem keeping trim, no need to sacrifice the joy of eating. However, my looks brought me more annoyance with the men than anything else.
My mom was a real beauty in our family. Maja inherited her angelic blue eyes and curly blond hair. I got my dad's dark eyes and a mane of chestnut hair, a nose that would suit a man better than a woman. What do all those people find in me? Mom had legs and body like a Greek goddess. She was still attractive when she died of a heart attack at age 66. How did men treat her? When I was Maja's age, she counseled me obsessively "Don't ever trust men. All they want is sex. Hungry dogs," Her lips would turn into a thin line, face showing disgust. Ah, mom. Where is she now to help me prepare my angel for womanhood?
In the bedroom, Maja was asleep, TV loudly wasting energy on some sappy romance.
In the morning, we pack our suitcases to pick them up at noon, eat a quick breakfast and head toward Piazza San Marco to spend our last lira before we board the train for home.

In the ancient streets of Venice, the sun is already high in the sky, gently kissing our faces and bare arms, water murmuring to its banks, rippled by the busy motor boats and slick, black gondolas. Noisy flocks of pigeons scurry around white iron tables in search of food. We are instantly grasped by the enchantment of the ancient odor of canals, aroma of freshly baked pizza, and vivacious music coming from all directions: "Volare o-oh, cantare o-o-o-oh." The symphony of the Renaissance architecture blending with the Mediterranean colors, sounds, and scents unite in a nondescript concoction enveloping us as it has countless tourists through the ages.
Italian men take good notice of us. Not only me. Maja is included too, thirteen-year-old Maja, who is just now noticing her gender (we are still carefully avoiding the word "sex"), blushing around the boys, self conscious about her long, skinny legs, little freckles on her otherwise peachy skin, and the lack of any noticeable rounding of her torso.
Here, in Venice, Italian boys are smiling at her, whistling their mating wolf calls. I cast a quick side-long glance at her. Her petal like skin is rosier than usual. Is it the sensuously caressing sun, or the call of the wild in the whistling? The shop owners with colorful Murano beads are falling over us, gesturing and using broken phrases of English, French, Serbian or any other language helping the sale. She is treated as an adult, una bella signorina, getting her first piece of real jewelry. I wonder how all this sexually charged attention affects my child so early in life. Here, on the streets of Venice, I cannot protect her anymore. Tired with all the pandemonium of noise, gaudy colors and overly luscious scents, I am eager to return to the safety and cleanliness of my home.
On the train, in a long, empty compartment, the two of us are the only passengers. A young Italian jumps in at the last moment and sits next to a window. He is dark and curly, his finely chiseled, bony face harsh, with the deeply sunken eyes of a hungry dog. There is something disquieting about him: the look of someone older than his age, grown in the streets, ravaged in gutters, a toy of old women, exploited so many times till he had lost the last bit of innocence in him. Now, his amber eyes, aged and tired, are piercing Maja's, lapping over her pre-pubescent body, crushing her, smearing and devouring. Appalled, I can hardly stand his impudent gaze soiling my child.
She is blushing, uneasily moving her eyes from the scenery out the window, to me, to her lap, to the tip of her sandals, to... to... to him, with a helpless, almost tortured look of a little mouse, frightened and repelled but nonetheless captivated, mesmerized by the snake's powerful gaze. The atmosphere is unbearably intense. I am looking sternly at the young man, aiming to discourage him. It does not seem to bother him at all. He is focused on my child.
Riding across the mountains, we pass through many tunnels. Thinking quickly, I am assessing the situation and what I need to do. The train is speeding, making pandemonic clatter, pierced sporadically by a shrill, screaming siren approaching the tunnels. The pitch dark swallows us. How long will it last? I count seconds, as if it may speed the ride. Then, the light comes unexpectedly, blindingly brilliant. I glance at the boy. His right hand is in his pocket. Before we can recover, another tunnel is engulfing us. Out of it, I am shocked: The young man has moved closer, sitting across the aisle from Maja, his gaze even more intense and palpable, the heat escalating. I am looking through the compartment, into the next. It is also seems empty. Strange. What kind of train is this? Where is it going? I know it is the wrong train. That's why it is empty. Obviously, it is going north into the mountains. I must stop the train and think. Where is the stop handle? And where is someone that I could ask? I don't want this dangerous man to know we are lost. He may not be normal. He does look wild. Why does he have his hand in the pocket? A weapon? A knife?
I take my daughter's hand in mine, interlocking our fingers. Our hands are much the same, feminine and slender, but only I know the strength in mine. The train is speeding, clattering, screaming. It rocks us back and forth, back and forth, in a crazy, unearthly frenzied rhythm leading to insanity. What will this man do when the tunnel falls upon us?

The dark devours us again. I embrace my child, covering her with my whole body, expecting something ravagingly evil to happen. Under my familiar touch, Maja relaxes. We do not speak, the noise of the train louder than ever. Not a word is uttered, as if by denying his existence, we erase him, obliterate him, extinguish him.
The light comes on again. The long tunnel suddenly ends. Exhausted, Maja and I are still embracing each other. My gaze carefully sneaks over to the young man, while the train slows down to a halt.
He is getting up. I am holding my gaze firmly upon him. He is moving, lazily, not looking particularly at anything, his hand still in his pocket.
What is he up to?
Without a glance, he passes us, leaving the train.
The ride is over.

Later, recovered and sure we are on the right train, eating chocolate and commenting on some moments of the trip, I carefully and obliquely mention the boy to find out how much harm he has done to my baby. Laughing in a low, new, seductive giggle, Maja nonchalantly says, "Sure I noticed him. A stud. I gave him an eye when he entered, and never took my eyes off until he left. Just to see how much I can do flirting. I wish he stayed longer.." And she stretches like a satisfied cat that ate the mouse after a long, seemingly hopeful game.
Speechless, I am licking my wounds, when she adds," And yes, Mom, you are right about men. Words are not the best way of communication" Giggling again, she crosses her childishly long legs, and-this time-I blush all over.

copyright 2006 Mira N. Mataric