Friday, March 9, 2012

Our First Tribute.

An honest and touching poem from our very own Jess, who happens to be one of the women I admire.

The Women I Admire
By Jessica Pherson

I admire the women
Who carry their young on their backs
Who bend over in fields all day
Whose skin cracks over sore knuckles

I admire the women
Who work three jobs for their family
And never complain
Who want to buy themselves a new pair of shoes
But save for food instead

I admire the women
Who stand up for their beliefs
And follow their dreams
Who bring light into this world
Often shrouded in darkness
Who get up everyday
With a smile on their face
Even when someone is out there waiting
To wipe it away

I admire the women
Who have touched my life,
Who have touched our lives,
Who have created the human race

I admire the woman
Who brought me into this world
Who is my shoulder to cry on
Who is always there when I need her
Who I see in the mirror each day

photo by Jessica Pherson

Jessica Pherson is one of the Founders of The Veillee and author of her own blog, Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby. She works from home part time for an eco-friendly jewelry company/retailer and is also a stay-at-home mom to Lily. She wrote this poem in honor of International Women's Day for all the women whose good works go unnoticed. 

Learn more about Jessica by checking out The Matchbox section of this blog!  

Women...and stuff.

Photo by Ego Technique*

Yesterday, International Women's Day, was unseasonably gorgeous here in New York. I walked through the park, without my coat.  I delighted in birdsong, and spotted a female squirrel running here and there, searching for the hoard she must have stashed during the frigid months. All I could think about was how appropriate the day's beauty was for a celebration of women and all that we bring to the world. And then I started thinking about the solar storm raging in the heavens...and how this warm weather reflects a distinct change in our climate...and how women in other parts of the world are still fighting for freedoms that many of us have enjoyed for nearly a century. Only a century. Which really isn't very long, is it? In the grand scheme of things...

SO, even though I'd love to have you guys to submit some wicked cool sci-fi stuff about solar flares and post-apocalyptic ghost cities, in reference to yesterday's anti-climactic solar storm, I think I'd rather ask you to send in tributes to the inspirational women in your life. If you had to choose one person for "Woman of the Year," who would it be? Post your answer in the comments section of this post, or send them to

We look forward to hearing your stories.

Write on,

* Ego Technique has nothing to do with The Veillee, and does not necessarily support anything we stand for. He, or she, or they, simply took a nice photo of a female figure, which can be viewed at the Brooklyn Museum.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Divine Redistribution

Hi everyone,

We have a new story for you! Catherine Pherson already shared some wonderful poetry with us, and now we get the pleasure of reading her fiction. The following short story is in line with our March theme (see description here), and addresses the economic inequality present in our society. In doing so, this tale also gives us a little dose of the poetic justice we all long for, but so rarely see. Read and take heart, friends!


By Catherine Pherson
Martha Lee Hobart had a million things on her mind, as usual.  As she turned the key in the final lock to secure the front door of her luxury Greenwich Village apartment, she mentally sped through the obstacle course of the day ahead. Lunch with her gossipy friends Gina and Janice came first. A glance at the jeweled face of her watch reassured her that she had plenty of time to get to the Rosa Mexicana restaurant on Columbus Avenue by 1:00.  After lunch, she would drive across town to her favorite salon, where she had a 3:30 appointment for cut and color.  She hoped her husband Don had remembered that they were going to Atlantic City this evening.  This thought reminded her that she should stop at her bank branch before heading uptown.  She preferred to take a set amount of cash to Atlantic City, and she would not allow herself to continue to gamble after that amount was gone.  She knew her own obsessive personality well enough to realize that she could get into deep trouble once she started down the slippery slope of gambling on credit.

Holding her full-length fox fur coat closed with her left hand and slinging her crocodile bag onto her shoulder with her right, Martha Lee clattered down the parquet hallway to the elevators.  Cooking odors wafted under the doors of neighboring apartments.  Some late riser’s bacon and coffee mingled incongruously with the rich scent of simmering curry.  As Martha Lee punched the down arrow to summon the elevator, the electronic strains of Beethoven’s 5th alerted her to an incoming call.  She reached into her bag, feeling for the handsome monogrammed leather case Don had given her, along with a new iPhone, at Christmas.   When she pulled the phone out and glanced at the glowing screen, she saw with dismay that the call was from her old college roommate Jessica.  Jessica had always been the crusading type, volunteering   to clean up polluted waterways, build homes for the needy and raise funds for various bleeding-heart causes.  In recent weeks, she had been pestering Martha Lee to purchase tickets to a charity ball to benefit a free health clinic in Harlem.  The phone went back into the crocodile bag, the call unanswered.

In the subterranean parking garage, while she waited for the attendant to bring up her Mercedes, Martha Lee’s elegantly manicured fingers tapped out a text message to Don, reminding him that she was planning to pick him up in front of his lower Manhattan office building at 5:00 sharp.  That man was always in a meeting or on a conference call, and an engagement with his wife could easily slip his mind if he was involved in discussing his byzantine business deals.  Just as she was hitting the SEND button, the youthful parking attendant brought up her car, slid out from behind the wheel of the gleaming vehicle and held the door for Martha Lee.  She checked the upholstery for any signs of dirt or debris before she inserted herself into the driver’s seat; you could never be sure what happened inside your car while it was parked in the garage.  Satisfied that the pristine interior had not been violated, she pushed the gear shift to DRIVE and pulled up onto the sidewalk on West 13th Street.  She didn’t notice an elderly couple, strolling arm in arm, who had to stagger back to avoid colliding with the emerging car.  Martha Lee briefly glanced to her left, checking for approaching traffic, and then pulled into the street.

It was a dull winter day, with weak sunlight barely penetrating a solid mass of gray cloud sky.  At the end of the block, Martha Lee turned left into the hurrying traffic on 7th Avenue.  She negotiated a few more turns to get to the Avenue of the Americas before pulling over to double park in front of the Citibank branch where she conducted most of her banking business.  She left the motor running, doors securely locked, and swept into the bank with her usual air of entitlement.  Bypassing the teller counters, Martha Lee moved to the rear of the lobby to request the assistance of a bank manager.  She asked for two thousand dollars in hundred dollar bills to be withdrawn from her checking account.  A few minutes later, she was tucking the envelope of cash into the coat pocket where her keys were already jingling.

As she emerged from the bank, a gust of chill wind sent the skirts of her fur coat billowing and generously dusted her face with urban filth.  Martha Lee felt the intensely irritating sting of a tiny foreign object imbedding itself under her eyelid.  While pulling her keys out to remotely unlock the Mercedes – thankfully, there was no ticket on its windshield – she tried to delicately dislodge the bit of trash without smirching her eye makeup.  At that very moment, the iPhone began to ring inside the crocodile bag.  Rubbing her eye, fishing for her phone and opening her car door simultaneously, Martha Lee failed to notice the bank envelope slipping out of her pocket and onto the pavement.  She jumped into her car, put her phone to her ear to greet Gina at the other end of the line, and pulled out into the traffic heading uptown.

As Martha Lee passed through the intersection at Avenue of the Americas and 14th Street, a petite figure emerged from the subway stairs onto the avenue, heading south.  Rosa Sanchez had as many thoughts swirling through her brain as the woman in the Mercedes.  Before she reached St. Vincent’s Hospital to begin her duties with the housekeeping staff, she needed to stop at a drug store to get a new baby thermometer, to replace the one that had failed to register any temperature when inserted in 8-month-old Juan’s bottom last night.  Rosa had known without the confirmation of the thermometer that the little boy was burning with fever, and she’d given him some Infant Tylenol to make him more comfortable.  He seemed better this morning, so Rosa’s sense of guilt had not been too acute when she had delivered Juan and his older sister Graciela to the facility on 103rd Street that provided affordable child care services for working mothers.

At the corner of 13th Street, Rosa encountered the noxious, filthy homeless man who regularly panhandled on the spot.  Some days, when she was feeling flush in the pockets, Rosa would drop a few coins into the man’s paper cup.  Today, conscious of looming expenses that were already beyond her means, Rosa handed the man the second of two buttered rolls she had purchased for her own breakfast.  She hoped some other kind person would provide him with a cup of coffee to wash down his roll and warm his bones.  She only fleetingly allowed herself to contemplate a world where she had enough cash to treat the poor old fellow to a sumptuous meal at a nice, warm diner.  If God had wanted her to be rich, she would have been born into a very different family.

Rosa’s family, far from providing her with a lap of luxury in which to wallow, was currently burning through her paychecks much faster than she could earn them.  The little ones always needed something – disposable diapers, doctor visits, new shoes.  Rosa’s husband Reynaldo was unable to work because of a knee injury he had suffered on his last construction job, so Rosa had to pay his doctor bills, too.  The biggest drain on her purse at the present was the fee for the nursing home where she’d had to place her mother Honoria.  Honoria‘s mind had become shrouded in a fog which her daughter could not penetrate.  The old lady didn’t recognize the apartment Rosa shared with her husband and children – she thought she was being held there against her will - and she would run out into the street searching for a familiar person to rescue her.  Reynaldo didn’t have the strength now to restrain his mother-in-law, and Rosa couldn’t stay home with her, so Honoria had been placed in a facility with 24-hour nursing care.  Rosa didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to keep her mother in the facility; she was already over a thousand dollars behind in the payments.  Rosa tried not to indulge in fruitless worry about this debt.  She had prayed to the blessed Virgin for aid, so the problem was out of her hands.

Rosa continued down the Avenue of the Americas, her attention divided between thoughts of family and the task of navigating through the crowd.  She was forced to step off the curb to get around a delivery truck that was blocking the walkway.  She continued walking in the street for a little way, until the stream of pedestrians thinned out enough for her to once again obtain the sidewalk.  As she was about to place her oxford-encased foot on the curb, she noticed a white envelope littering the street.  She picked it up with a gloved hand at the same moment her eyes located a trash receptacle on the next corner.  Rosa moved along considerately, trying not to jostle into other people who were sharing the sidewalk with her on this chilly winter day.  Snatches of ribald laughter mingled with irritated outbursts of profanity from some men working on an electrical connection.  Strains of popular music emanated from a radio on a nearby newsstand.  When she reached the corner and was about to toss the envelope into the waste bin, Rosa paused to contemplate the weight and thickness of her trash find.  Maybe she should check inside the envelope, just in case it contained something valuable that had been dropped accidentally.  She lifted the envelope flap to discover a short stack of currency.  To be precise, the envelope contained a stack of hundred dollar bills.

The crowds ceased to flow around her as Rosa’s mind carried her far away to a land of new possibilities.  With this windfall of cash, she could buy the homeless man many good meals.  She could get the best quality baby thermometer available for Juan.  Maybe she could even pay off her debt to the nursing home.  Then Rosa wondered about the person who had dropped the envelope of money.  Perhaps that person had debts to pay, hungry children and sick relatives, just as she did.  Would it be possible to return the cash to its rightful owner?  It was in an ordinary white bank envelope with no name or identifying information written upon it.  If she tried to turn it in (to whom?  the police? a bank?), would it ever find its way back into the hands that had dropped it?  Rosa thought not.  Besides, hadn’t she prayed to the Virgin Mother for relief?  This money – which she alone of all the passing throng had noticed and retrieved – must be the answer to that prayer.

Glancing up at the clock on a nearby storefront, Rosa realized that she was going to be late for her shift at the hospital if she didn’t fly.  She carefully placed the envelope in a pocket inside the battered, ancient hobo bag she carried everywhere, before continuing briskly down the avenue.  She would wait until after work to find a drug store where she could purchase the baby thermometer.  And then she would find a church where she could light a candle and pray.  Having sent so many prayers for money winging up to heaven, Rosa wondered fleetingly if the Virgin Mary was already waiting patiently to receive her prayers of gratitude.

Catherine Pherson was born in California and raised mainly in North Carolina. A theatrical actress by trade, she has performed in many shows, including Lettuce and Lovage, The Mousetrap, and Master Class. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Rob, and is mother to Jessica and Mallory and grandmother to Lily and April.  

Read more about Catherine Pherson on The Matchbox! 

Has this tale inspired you to want to take action and have your voice heard? Please send us your work today at 

Feedback is greatly appreciated and encouraged!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Portrait of the Heroine

To kick-off our "Champion Your Cause" theme for March, we have a little gem brought to you by our own Emerald Nash. Em wrote this story several years ago, but current events involving a certain technology giant inspired her to revive it. The tale paints a picture of the archetypal heroine overcoming obstacles laid before her by those wishing to keep her weak and contained --  a slave to progress (i.e. the Industrial Revolution). Allow yourself to be swept back in time and witness a young girl becoming a woman, taking control, and truly championing a cause --  in this case, her own freedom.

Enjoy, and be inspired!

-- Jess

They Shall Not Win Today
by Emerald Nash
Mary was already up when the whistle sounded. Wrapped in a shawl, she stood as close to the fireplace as caution would allow. She had nothing to warm her belly; nothing to warm her soul. Even the sun neglected her at this hour, and the puny sparks of the fire were miserable in comparison. Those empty, early hours were always the worst. She thought the heaviness in her chest might crush her.
The second whistle blew, slicing through the silent countryside. Mary, seized by reflex, started to reach for her bonnet, but she caught herself and stood quite still.
“Not today,” she said.
Speaking aloud sometimes made her feel less alone. Other times it compounded her isolation: a single voice echoing against bare walls.
 She put the fire out, then wondered at herself for doing so. The place could burn to the ground for all she cared.
Once all preparations had been made, she opened the door to the frosty air and looked one last time around the single room hut. Her eyes settled for a moment on the makeshift cot which once supported her mother’s lifeless body. Mary could see her there, not dead from disease or childbirth or accident, but from her body’s absolute refusal to go on.
Mary’s mother had been beautiful once. She'd had milky skin and deep chestnut hair which contrasted Mary’s flaxen curls and ruddy complexion. And she glowed with an especially strong inner light. Until hardship wore it away, erasing the color from her cheeks; dousing the fire in her eyes.
     Mary turned and shut the door on those memories.
Breath rose in a white cloud before her; she wrapped the shawl tightly around her thin frame. It was dark, but to the east streaks of crimson were beginning to shoot forth from the horizon. She saw in the distance, ablaze with the first flames of morning, the looming smoke stacks of the factory.
Soon those monstrous funnels would spew streams of filthy air. Men, women, boys and girls, would all file into the building – bracing themselves for the long day of work. For once, she would not join them.
She continued to watch the silhouetted structure. The gates of Hell. Like an image straight from the pages of Dante.
She set out with her boots crunching against the frozen mud.
How often she had looked at the Roman road in the distance, with that ancient wall somewhere at the end of it. A wall built by Hadrian’s laborers, laborers just like herself. A wall built to stay the barbarians, those unwashed hordes of the north. Thinking of them always brought her strength. Even the mightiest forces of oppression had limitations. Perhaps if she turned wild enough — painted her face blue, matted her hair with lime, took to the woods — she could then beat back the legions that threatened her.
The road stretched out over hills and vales, she admired its perfect straightness, and thought of those savage northern folk;  no longer “savage,” no longer free, but part of the growing machine that was Britain, her country.
Today she would take that Roman road, but she was half afraid her body would betray her, turn back, and carry her to the inferno.
No. Not today. 
Before reaching the road, she encountered Mrs. Armstrong, plodding along toward the mill.
“Miss Mary, aren’t you headed to work?”
 “I’m going to the ships.”
 The bushes were now rippling with birdsong and the sky was ash-colored. 
 Mrs. Armstrong was still and silent, then nodded once and said, “Godspeed you, child.”
 Two hours down the road Mary stopped for a rest and craved her morning serving of watery, factory-provided,  porridge. She removed her boots, rubbed her sore feet, and sat. Perhaps she should turn back. The image of her mother’s lifeless face flashed before her. She rose and continued moving, the heaviness in her chest had returned.
 Mary reached her destination; the blood surged furiously through her veins, pounding in her ears. Her hands began to sweat. Her mouth went dry.
 Give me strength, she prayed. Give me courage.
 Aside from the factory, the ship was the largest thing she had ever seen. And there were so many people — everywhere. She felt paralyzed standing at the base of the gangplank. Finally, she spoke to a man in a uniform standing on the dock.
 “I beg your pardon, sir,” she nearly whispered, so low he did not hear. She repeated herself with more volume, “I beg your pardon.”
  The man turned and looked at her, “Yes?”
  “How do I get on the ship, sir?”
  At first he laughed at the question’s simplicity. Then, noticing her anxiety, he wrinkled his brow and said, “Over there,” and pointed to a small building further along the dock, “you can buy a ticket.”
   “Thank you, sir.”        
  She exchanged nearly all of her coins for the passage. Again she stood at the bottom of the plank. The wind swirled brutally about her and she stared at the choppy grey water, rough and ruthless. She had never seen so much water. It was endless. The sun was now fully up, casting a soft magical light on the world. The air smelled of salt and fish and coal and too many people. The sound of hooves on stone mingled with the screeching of gulls, the shouts of dock workers, and the cries of vendors.
  While Mary gazed, lost in her reverie, an old shawlie  worked her way through the motley crowd. She approached groups and individuals alike, offering up fortunes. Her requests for shillings and pennies were thinly masked as humble afterthoughts. But when she arrived at the place where Mary stood, her face changed – features arranging themselves into the countenance of a concerned mother. She seized Mary by the arm, not unkindly.
  “My dear,” she croaked. “Do you not see her?”
   Startled, Mary jerked to free her arm, but it would not be freed. She looked down at the shriveled crone.
   “I have no money.” She said.
   The woman ignored the comment. “You have devils on all sides. She is keeping them at bay.”
   Mary stared into the dark, wizened eyes. “I don’t know what you’re speaking of.”
   “There is a woman, yonder. Dark of hair she is. And watching you.”
   Mary spun and scanned the crowd wildly.
   The old woman continued. “You are safe. They shall be powerless against you. They shall not win today.” She patted Mary’s arm affectionately. “May God and all his angels keep you, child.” And with that she moved away.
   For a moment Mary stared at the spot where the old woman had been, and a tear slid down her cheek. She turned and looked at the swarm moving up the gangplank. Before she knew it, her boots were pounding out a hollow rhythm on the boards – one to echo her own heartbeat.  As she reached the top, she turned and looked one last time for a dark haired woman in the crowd, but could see nothing through the sea of shoulders. And so, with the old woman’s words ringing in her head, she allowed herself to be swept away. They shall not win today.

Emerald Nash is currently based in Brooklyn. She studied performing arts at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and received her B.A. in Literature and Screenwriting from The New School. Her current day job at The Explorers Club involves brandy-sipping adventurers, a plethora of dead animal trophies, and one really cool live cat named Lowell.  

Has this tale inspired you to want to take action and have your voice heard? Please send us your work today at 

Feedback is greatly appreciated and encouraged!