by Saad Ghosn

Images For A Better World: Gena GRUNENBERG, Visual Artist

Gena Grunenberg, a Cincinnati artist, initially studied graphic arts, switching later to fine arts. In addition to drawing and painting, she learned various techniques, including pottery, silkscreen, jewelry and stone setting… She uses them interchangeably in her artwork.

Central themes in Grunenberg’s work are the many forms of violence within the world, primarily domestic violence and the violence perpetrated against women and children. She believes that violence that starts at home, within the individual and within families, progresses, permeates society, spreads like a web, and eventually becomes the root of all violence; that it acts like a spiritual disease manifested in hatred, bigotry, disregard for others, rampant abuses by our capitalistic system, wars, global environmental destruction… She also feels that the historical perpetration and acceptance of violence throughout the ages has caused contemporary society to become ambivalent about it and to tolerate it indirectly and consume it as a commodity, if not unconsciously support it.

Grunenberg’s aim is to understand the causes of all violence and to address them in her artwork in order to create awareness, make a difference and render the world a better place.


• Every Woman, acrylic painting


In her painting ‘Every Woman’ Grunenberg represents the struggles of women through the generations. They are depicted as parents, as abused and oppressed, carrying their burden into their old age, but also healing thanks to their inner power and to the support they receive from each other.


• In Captivity, mixed media sculpture


In her sculpture ‘In Captivity’ Grunenberg raises the question of whether the represented captive woman intends to protect or kill her eggs? Sadly, in her situation both actions can be viewed as acts of love.

Ice Tree, acrylic painting


Grunenberg’s ‘Ice Tree’ painting addresses the plight of global warming and the insults large oil companies inflict on nature. Contrasting an oil can with a tiny sprig of life growing next to it, the work implies that a glimmer of hope may yet remain.

The Message, acrylic painting


Grunenberg’s painting, ‘The Message,’ is a commentary on environmental issues. In it a tree speaks to us as it waves pieces of itself in the wind; they are in the form of well known “notebook papers”.

Fear, mixed media sculpture


In her sculpture ‘Fear’ Grunenberg tries to depict a manifestation of the fear generally perpetuated by propaganda or used politically to control and manipulate society; also the prevalent sense of anxiety and fearful living conditions one increasingly experiences in violent modern times.

The Thinker, oil painting


‘The Thinker” is alone, isolated by his own thinking, unaware that, in reality, he is connected as one to all. Grunenberg meant it as a reminder to every individual to go beyond the apparent limitations and become the connecter, the transformer, the infuser of life.


• Words For A Better World: Mary Pierce BROSMER, Literary Artist

Mary Pierce Brosmer is a transformative educator and a whole systems thinker, founder of Women Writing for (a) Change which has affiliate sites in five cities. She is also the founder of Consulting for (a) Change, a service in which she brings the art of writing and the practices of community to the work of organizational well-being and social healing in business, political, medical and educational settings; also the co-founder of Inside/Outside: a Prison Arts Program.

Brosmer is also a published poet and author of Women Writing for (a) Change: A Guide for Creative Transformation (Notre Dame:  Sorin Press, 2009) of which organizational guru Margaret Wheatley writes: ‘this book is… .. an invitation for us to personally explore, through writing, the author’s belief in the power of language, truth-telling and stories as instruments of healing.’

Speaking of herself Brosmer says: “In my life and work I am pre-occupied–to the point of obsession—with creating patterns which connect and therefore heal. I am the opposite of a nihilist; I am an everthing-ist, an artist of the question: what is missing and how can we include it for the sake of the whole? In particular I have eyes to see, a voice to say, and hands to weave the missing feminine into culture. Born in 1948, only three years after the planet (and paradigm) shattering explosion of atomic weaponry, and only two years before Karl Jung detected the stirrings of the re-emerging feminine archetype in the Pope Pius XII’s proclamation of the doctrine of The Assumption of Mary into heaven, I came to listen and to say both the feminine and the silencing of the feminine, to be part of Her expression. Never against, always for, is my holy grail of art and of activism.”

Brosmer writes her poetry in organic free verse. She admires formal verse, but in her brain, form emerges, for the most part, from the meanings and motion of the content.

• “The poet doesn’t invent. He (sic) listens.” Jean Cocteau
Brosmer wrote the poem “Mama” six weeks after her mother died at age 65. Now 65 herself, she reads not only the personal as political in her early poem, but the personal as archetypal.


Working in her kitchen,
making spaghetti sauce
for the men out fishing,
I find the little wooden-handled
tool she used to cut the ravioli.

I remember her, pressing
it fiercely into the yellow dough
defining neat squares
sealing the meat and cheese inside.

The richness always inside
threatening to explode
in the boiling broth.

I search the newly-remodeled
kitchen for some trace of her,
hating the vinyl wallpaper
over the old walls,
the formica food bar replacing
the oil-cloth covered table
where she rolled the pasta.

The only thing familiar
is this tool for crimping the edges.

I am hungry for the rich broth,
I want to be fed:
woman secrets
kitchen talk.

Instead, I am starved by silence,

the silence of her death
leaving me sole woman in family
of men: father, brothers, son
whom she fed
with the silence of her life:
crimped edges, neat squares,
hospital corners, pinched lips
holding things together.

Now it falls to me to hold things
together. She did it then so I
could be free—
or so we thought.

She hands me the tool with work-
reddened hands, her wedding band
worn thin.

Make the pasta, feed the men,
but above all, seal the edges,
hold it in.

• Brosmer came to listen and to say in words the dying of the patriarchal age: a cataclysm, a liberation, in slow, evolutionary inevitable motion. Her poem “Letter in Spring, 1998” is one of a series of letters to her personal, lost mother, but as well an expression of yearning for ‘Our Mother’ whom patriarchy attempted through witch burnings and “classical educations” to erase.

Letter in Spring, 1998
(or How you Did It)

“If we experienced the mother archetype–in the form of our own mother or mother figure–
as a positive force, we were in the mother realm of imagination, timelessness, and closeness to benevolent nature and instinct.” Crossing to Avalon, Jean Shinoda Bolen

Dear Mother,

1.Last night, I was startled by the sight
of a full moon spilling from a cloudbank,
a moon like none I remember seeing,
not the pale, disinterested disk of winter,
it was a pouring-light, lover’s-touch,
kitchen-lamp moon,

a white yolk, thick and glistening.

2.This morning I spilled from clouded sleep
into the memory that today you would have been eighty,
into new light on my old question:

how out of your un-mothered life
did you pour such love on me,
I swim in it still–
years after your death?

3.I think now you rose in the night, mother,
and stood over me, pouring kitchen-lamp
lover’s-touch light.

Deep in my girl’s sleep,
I did not see you there,
thick and glistening.

4.By morning you had slipped under the world again.

5.It was the zenith of the century, the golden fifties
backlit by bomb-burst, the blaze of heroes’ glory,
the sky was filled with father: My father, the holy
father, our father was in heaven, Our mothers
were everywhere exiled.

6.The sun is going down now, the millennium ending.
Daughters are awakening to see Our Mother who
is in heaven, full and glistening, Our Mother pouring
her lover’s-touch, kitchen-lamp love into a burned world.

• Writing poems has moved Brosmer through her adult life, from decade to decade. Practicing poetry as others might yoga or meditation, has both lengthened and deepened her capacity for doing what is next for her to do in the world. For example, she wrote a long series “Verses on Your Leaving” begun on the day her son became engaged to marry, and culminating in a poem for the wedding.
“For Joey, Called Stella in Utero” is from a series of poems she made of what she heard coming through during the months and years leading up to the births of her two grandsons.

For Joey, Called Stella in Utero

I.Some few weeks before
the night of shock and awe
a Disneyesque display launching
what is now five years of war in Iraq
I dreamed a crocodile infestation
reptiles multiplying in secret.

You were two months in utero then.
For reasons I disremember if I ever knew
your parents nicknamed you Stella.

In my dream I fight the reptiles
alongside women I love,
our fury fueled by knowing
crocs drown and devour children.

Our enemy-beasts live in schools–
especially the best schools
by day on the bottom floors
creeping upward toward classrooms,
by night creating lairs in corners.
Nothing we say changes the official
story of Exemplary Schools,
despite the now-obvious reptiles.

II.Stella, I wrote to you then
feeling the darkness gathering
around us, as our leaders infested
our dreams with what they
called intelligence and airways
bulged with WMD hysteria and
reasoned arguments for bringing
down an evil dictator, once our ally.

I said Stella, star in the gathering
darkness of war, why are you,
body gathering light–why are you
on your way here
and not to a mother
in Iraq, crocodile-ruled nation
the bloated reptile Hussein
feeding on women and children.

Yet in my dream crocodiles
infest our schools,
chew our soft children’s bodies to bones.

III.I imagined a series of poems for you
something like the six or seven I managed
for your brother, Max,
fierce, snap-eyed Max born half a year
before 9-11, month and date
weighted like a holy wafer
on the tongues of those elected
to console us on who we’ve become.

I thought of buntings too
caps and baby shawls
some soft project my hands
could make sense of
but time,
that haughty croc
seemed to suddenly, evilly
lunge for my life.

What good, I wondered
would a poem do in a bomb shelter,
I could not wrap you in it,
nor might your Iraqi mother
if you were a star
appearing in her night,
darkness which even we
opposed to the madness
could not have foreseen.

• Years ago Brosmer discovered as epigraph to a chapter in a long-forgotten book words by systems thinker and cyberneticist, Gregory Bateson: ‘The pattern that connects is the pattern that corrects.’ In her life and work Brosmer is pre-occupied–to the point of obsession—with connection.

Close-ups in late Spring

1. May morning

It isn’t until I can no longer
think, remember
even imagine, (write, dream–or feel,
for that matter )
that I remove myself
from the ordinary scenes of my life,
flattened by over-exposure, to
so much scenery, two-dimensional backdrops
against which someone who used to be me
acts her part.

Miles and days away
I find myself
in a new scene
who knows how high
above a green valley
on a sandstone arch.

As best I can,
I have banished words–
my default way of knowing—
to breathing in,
breathing out,
to Presence
into which a bird enters.

He, Pure Red,
my mother’s lipstick-in-the-1950s Red,
says nothing either
song, his default way,
silenced for now
he simply is
on a
frail tendril of hemlock,
opposite my rocky perch.

My pure presence to the bird
dissolves him to scarlet shimmer,
essence of tanager,
before, without so much as a plan,
he drops into the empty sky
and I drop into the emptiness
which alone will heal.

2. A Walk in Already June

This morning I am heir to treasures
of presence denied the over-privileged
as we motor by:

white squirrel spiraling
an ancient beech on its way
toward the canopy,
bunches of fawn fur emerging
from under a car as Groundhog
in the Walgreen’s parking lot,
and a starling still as stuffed–
though who would stuff a starling
so profligate and humble the species?

I stand over the bird
curious but polite ,
watching for movement,
seeing none
even as my own stillness deepens.

At the tiniest nudge from my walking stick
the starling opens its beak
yellow instinct
with hunger,
an eye–
black currant,
unstrung pearl —
swivels my direction.

Language, native to my species,
slides through my presence to the starling:
stoic, vulnerable, abandoned, nestling.

Rescue fantasies
(my addiction)
flood my grooved-with-habit
brain, until the learned response
kicks in. Rush-less.

I stay in the moment of
the starling’s simple presence
a wonder dropped from the fragile weave of things.

3. On an errand

At the handwash carwash
new to my neighborhood
trying to understand how the $10.00
posted price
has become
a $100 detailing job
in the owner, Anthony’s imagination,

I am startled by the panicked arrival
of a man: you two from this neighborhood?
measured: yes from me
Anthony: no comment

I’m from out of town, Aberdeen,
can you tell me how to get
to children’s hospital from here
my daughter’s dying and I have to
get there before she goes.

In my own panic I flounder,
cannot literally think
how to get the man from here to there.

Anthony: no comment.

I say, I’ll drive you there,
unable to stand that
it might be true, a child to die
her father stranded,
me with the privilege of a working car
a job from which I will not be fired if I am late,
my child alive and well,

when we are interrupted by the stranger’s
pocket ringing.

The scene has deepened
enough to drama that even
Anthony startles aware.

When Aberdeen man
answers I see the thick blue
scar wrist to forearm on his left
home-needled blue tattoos on his right.

He walks off a bit to talk
and returns: she’s gone.
His upper body convulses
his violent-shaking, dry-eyed shock
galvanizes Anthony and Mary into

Hey, man, you can’t drive like that–
this lady’ll drive you
and I’ll follow behind with your car
we’ll get you to Children’s.

No, no, no, thank you, thank you
but I , I just no, just get me back on the road
I’ve gotta do this myself, get there myself.

Now I’m in a panic of Anthony’s forcing
our help on Aberdeen man who is pushing back
near violence that he’s ok to go on alone,
has to be alone, has to do this alone.

I say to Anthony, let the man do what he wants
and it flows from there to my remembering:
Follow Montgomery ; it will become
Gilbert, then runs into Martin Luther King
right on King then a next right on Burnet.

Thank you, you people been nice to me
Aberdeen man stammers.

He pulls out
into traffic
leaving Anthony,
beside Mary

negotiating the intricacies of
car wash vs. detailing.


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