CIRQUE A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim VO LUM E 5, N O. 1
A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim
Volume 5 No. 1
Winter Solstice 2013
ÂŠ 2013 by Sandra Kleven & Mike Burwell, Editors
Cover Photo Credit: Kate Worthington Inside Cover Photo Credit: Monica Oâ€™Keefe Design and composition: Paxson Woelber ISBN-13: 978-1494753795 ISBN-10: 1494753790 ISSN 2152-4610 (online) Published by
Clock Point Press Anchorage, Alaska www.cirquejournal.com All future rights to material published in Cirque are retained by the individual authors and artists. email@example.com
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From the Editors
This issue of Cirque is varied and ambitious with an overlay of darkness suitable for the deep of winter. Craig Smith, a retired Seattle Times sportswriter, publishes his first poem, “Pizza Dude.” Tom Sexton, Alaska’s former Poet Laureate, thinks again of those ancient Chinese poets. Tony Mares offers a group of poems, each referring to a member of the firing squad that executed the poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. He writes (p. 65), When I learned from recent discoveries who were the actual members of the firing squad, I was moved to write these poems. All the poems have Spanish versions, we published the first poem of the group, in both languages. More: Julius Rockwell recalls WWII. Jana Ariane Nelson tracks her father up the Alcan in the 1940s. Nathan Shafter brings a future world of cross-cultural Gamers. In 1967, a very young Gretchen Brink was the lone social worker for a remote part of Alaska, as big as Oregon. “Jimmy John’s Baby” tells the story of a Native family’s quest to adopt a child, before the protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Art: We learned of the Irish painter Josie Gray through a visit to poet, Tess Gallagher, in Port Angeles, WA where Gray has his American studio. In the West of Ireland the pair are neighbors, and, according to Gallagher, they are also collaborators, friends and the best of companions for 22 years. Internationally revered artist, Katherine Coons, has several pieces in the issue. We thank Kate Worthington for our cover. AWP: Late February, in Seattle, Cirque will share a Book Fair booth, at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference, with the UAA Creative Writing MFA program and with VP&D publishing house. On February 28, Cirque will present “Seattle to Saginaw: The Reach of Theodore Roethke,” a multimedia event held at ACT (See p. 40). We will host the “Friends of Theodore Roethke” from Saginaw, MI, as well as invited guests, David Wagoner, Tess Gallagher, and Joan Swift. Thanks: Cirque is supported by your donations. Thanks to all who have contributed. This issue was sponsored by Doug and Beth Pope, Jeff Fair (of Lazy Mountain, AK), Elaine Shea, Paul Winkel and Sherry Eckrich. As Michael Burwell and I finished compiling this issue, I worked in the hollow silence of a village clinic on remote Prince William Sound. In the dark of near midnight, the village seemed to sleep. I sat with spirits. Held in that region of oil spill, earthquake, and tsunami, embraced by beautiful, marked, Alaska; I was in the right place, doing something important.
Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim Sandra Kleven and Mike Burwell, Editors Paxson Woelber, Designer Published twice yearly on the Winter and Summer Solstices Anchorage, Alaska Kellie Doherty, Intern Erin Monahan, Intern
Poetry Editors Alexandra Ellen Appel Emily Kurn
Fiction Editors Gretchen Phelps Kellie Doherty
Nonfiction Editors Cynthia Sims Douglass Bourne
A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim Vol. 5 No. 1 Winter Solstice 2013 NONFICTION Jan Harper Haines Triumph and Tragedy 8 Jerry Dale McDonnell Mastodon Trails 10 Paul Haeder Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses, and Unpacking the Vietnam War 12 Kate Quick Money Trees 19 Chris Bruno Pursing 22 Erin Wilcox No Cover in Tucson 25 Tom Reed Moved by A Mountain 26 Debbie LaFleiche Legacy of a Recipe 28 Julius Rockwell Dancing 30 Gretchen Brinck Jimmy Johnâ€™s Baby 31 Jana Ariane Nelson End of the Alcan 35 Sean Ulman Nathan Shafer Hillary Walker Kristina Cranston
FICTION Tree Swallow 41 Pixel Fjords Screengrabs 42 Panther Poster 46 Burning Houses 46
POETRY Kirsten Anderson Ursus 47 Harvest 47 Alexandra Appel Water 48 Judith Arcana For My Son 48 Miriam Beck Brotherhood 49 Jennifer Bullis At Mt. Baker, October 49 Jack Campbell Fish Camp 50 Ansley Clark Hibernation 50 T. Clear Dusk 51 Michael Raudzis Dinkel Emailing Crazy Horse 51 Sherry Eckrich For a Dog in Mourning 52 Paul Fisher Black Moon, White Mountain 52 Leslie Fried Border Town 53 Lilikoi 53 Jo Going Saying Goodbye 54 Claudia Ferriz Green Returning to the (Inner) Mesa 54 Melissa S. Green Copper River 55 Jim Hanlen Bear Totem 55 You Standing There 55 Map for Hugo 56 Shane L. Harms Iron John on the Wagon 56 M. Harrell X Campers 57 b. Hutton koyuk poem 58 the quality of tears 58 Sarah Isto Yukon Flats 59 Brenda Jaeger Tremolo 59 Marc Janssen Philip, Seattle, 1921 59 Juleen Eun Sun Johnson Country Cat (Uncle Willie) 60 Tricia Knoll Witnesses 60 Bat Girls 60 Jerry Kraft Falling 61 Elizabeth Landrum Morning Fog 61 Julie LeMay The Anchorage Jail 62 Emma Rae Lierley Angry at the Task 62 Amalgam 63 Oliver Loftus I day dream of my father running 63
gary lundy you wonder as speech proceeds. 64 Tony Mares Introduction 65 A Man of Little Understanding 66 Hombre de Poco Entendimiento 66 A Clever Fellow 67 Churriana 67 In the Curved Light 68 It Doesn’t Matter, Fernando 68 Keeping Watch Over Lorca 69 Party Hack 69 The Corporal 70 David McElroy Chipa 70 Mary Mullen On the Kuskokwim River 71 Elizabeth Myhr Freeport, Bahamas 71 generation 72 morels 72 Jocelyn Paine Parting Gift: anatomy class meditations 72 Tim Pilgrim Anemone 73 Stick horses 73 Sean Prentiss Driving the West Late at Night, the Crew Asleep, Many Miles Left to Travel 74 The Trophy Room Bar [Prospect, Oregon] 74 Vivian Faith Prescott Amoeba 75 Waveform of Silence 75 Doug Pope Kennicott Crossing 76 Matthew Campbell Roberts Zen Rock Garden: A Roethke Memorial 78 Kelly Lynae Robinson Housesitter 78 Brenda Roper Witness 79 Ann Sihler In the Orchard 80 Cynthia Lee Sims Nothing, Good, Click 80 Judith Skillman Cicada 81 Tom Sexton To the Chinese Poets 82 Killing the Kenai Peninsula’s Wolves 82 Medieval Bestiary: The Wolf 82 Judith Skillman Tarnished 83 Craig Smith Pizza Dude 83 Joannie Stangeland Another Supper Finds Me Lost 83 How Long, How Far 84 Joan Swift Astronomy 84 Leaving Rio In The Rain 85 Joanne Townsend Hyacinths: Late March 85 Story 85 Ernest Turner The Forecast 86 Scott Walker If Heaven Were a City of All White Buildings 86 Sandra Wassilie Back to Tide Line 87 Visit from a Ten-Year Old Granddaughter 87 Michael Wasson Paradise 88 Mom’s First Night with the Body 88 Lexicon 88 Ava Williams Flying Home on a 737 (Two Haikus) 89 Nancy Wilbur Woods After the Reading 89 Clifton Bates
P L AY S Witnesses 90
REVIEWs Kersten Christianson A Review of The Hide of My Tongue: Ax L’óot’ Doogú by Vivian Faith Prescott 95 Ela Harrison A Review of Fleda Brown’s No Need of Sympathy 97 Lynn DeFilippo
INTERVIEW An Interview with Eva Saulitis 99
C O N T R I B U T O R S 103 h ow to sub m it to cirque
NONFICTION Jan Harper Haines
Triumph and Tragedy
At 20,320 feet, Denali is the tallest mountain in North America. In March 1913, three men and two boys, led by Archdeacon Hudson Stuck left Nenana with two dog teams intent on reaching the base of Denali. On June 7, 1913, twenty-one year Walter Harper, an Irish-Athabascan Indian, became the first man to reach Denali’s summit. This feat was not repeated for nearly two decades. In 1992 my husband and I visited the Evergreen cemetery in Juneau where my great uncle, Walter Harper and his bride, Frances, are buried. The markers are concrete, flat, broken and falling apart, as are many others, nearby. Walter was my mother’s uncle, a man she was enormously proud of. When I was a child, he was larger than life and seemed too famous to be real. That changed when I read his diary in Archdeacon Hudson Stuck’s account of that climb, ASCENT OF DENALI. In 1908, Walter was sixteen, six feet tall, and spoke only his mother’s Koyukon Athabascan language. In 1908 he met the English born priest, Hudson Stuck, known as the “Archdeacon of the Yukon.” Stuck had been ordained at a seminary in Tennessee after immigrating to America, and his missionary duties included visiting remote villages in central Alaska. Under Dr. Stuck’s tutelage, Walter learned to read and write in English and, over time, continued to study other subjects in preparation for university. When Stuck traveled to villages, Walter served as his interpreter. In the winter, he was Stuck’s dog handler and in the summer his boat engineer. In his 1914 book, The Ascent of Denali, Stuck described Walter as “adept in all wilderness arts. An axe, a rifle, a flaying knife, a skin needle with its sinew thread – he could construct a sled or a pair of snow-shoes… and could pitch camp with all the native comforts and amenities… his active intelligence was a good foundation to build upon and our desultory lessons in camp – reading aloud, writing from dictation, geography and history … were eagerly made the most of and his mental horizon broadened continually.”
Mount McKinley, or Denali – “The High One” to Alaska’s Natives— is breathtaking to behold, with its staggering snow-covered peaks, and Archdeacon Stuck, an amateur climber, was fascinated. He read everything he could about past expeditions to the summit, all of which had failed. Climbers had faced altitude sickness, avalanches, sudden shifts in the ice, widening crevasses, freezing winds, and blinding whiteouts. Nevertheless, Stuck began planning his own expedition. He recruited Walter, Robert Tatum, a postulant for holy orders; Harry Karstens, an experienced outdoorsman, and two Athabascan boys — John Fredson, fifteen and Esaias George, fourteen —who would remain with the sled dogs at base camp. In preparation for the climb, Stuck ordered supplies from Seattle. Most, however, arrived unusable or didn’t arrive at all. “The ice-axes were gold-painted toys with detachable heads and broomstick handles…the points splintered the first time they were used,” he wrote in Ascent of Denali. The regulation alpine boots were too small so Stuck attached leather soles and nails to rubbersoled shoepacks. The men alternated these with large size moccasins worn over five pairs of socks. Out of what remained of a tiny budget, he had silk tents made in Fairbanks. By March of 1913, the small group had cached one and a half tons of equipment in Kantishna, a village fifty miles from Denali. With fourteen dogs and two sleds, they made several trips transporting supplies to the base of the mountain. There were no maps, but they had a few photographs from a previous expedition. When they reached Muldrow Glacier near the base of Denali, however, they discovered an earthquake had left giant blocks of icy rubble over the once smooth ridge. It took them an exhausting three weeks to chop a three-mile staircase into the ice before they could advance. Walter documented the expedition in his diary: May 11. This morning when we got up, the sun was shining brightly…we had heavy packs on our backs and we toiled up the ridge gasping for breath… May 12. The clouds came up, hovering the whole
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9 June 8. We took a last glimpse of the north and south peaks of Mt. Denali and turned our faces toward the lowlands. June 9. This morning we were at the glacier camp in the season of winter and now we are at the base camp in the season of summer.
That fall, the archdeacon, with the support of Alaska’s Episcopal Church, enrolled Walter at Mount Hermon. Walter was the second of four boys sponsored at the school by Stuck and the Episcopal Church. In a letter to Dr. Henry Cutler, Mount Hermon’s headmaster, Stuck wrote, “The church’s goal is to groom these young men for later service to Alaska’s people.” Walter’s grades were mediocre at first, due in part to his lack of formal education and study skills. Cultural differences weighed heavily. As an Athabascan, Walter had been taught to avoid conflict and arguing. It was considered rude. Yet debate was part of his English class. In a letter to Hudson Stuck, Walter wrote, “My mark in English is so low because it is so hard for me to grasp it as quickly as the others, besides, I’m not a good debater. I dislike arguing and that is what our English course consists of this term.” By his third year, his marks had improved, but the archdeacon was discouraged by the curNorth Face, North Eastern Alaska Range Jennifer Andrulli riculum, which he felt didn’t relate to Walter’s deridge and the surrounding peaks. We were forced to leave sire to become a medical missionary. He decided to take the ridge and return to our camp down below on the Walter back to Alaska and work independently with him glacier. The steps we made going up were all filled in with to help prepare him for university. snow. Two years later, a typhoid epidemic struck Alaska May 14. The weather is still uncertain… and Walter with it. During his lengthy recovery at Fort Archdeacon gave me dictation lesson from one of Yukon’s Mission Hospital, he met a young nurse named Shakespeare’s small pocket edition(s). Frances Wells. Their relationship turned to romance and in May 17. …We heard an avalanche… it was rolling September 1918, Stuck officiated at their wedding. down the mountainside like a roaring of thunder…. A month later, on October 23rd, Walter and raising a cloud one thousand feet or more. Frances boarded the Princess Sophia in Skagway. The Sophia was the last ship leaving Alaska before freeze-up May 18. … Snowing heavily. We had morning service…Today is Trinity Sunday. It has been two months and she was crowded with 343 passengers and crew, plus and two days since we left Nenana. It is very tedious horses and dogs. For Walter and Frances, this was more than a honeymoon; Walter planned to fulfill his military staying in the tent all day waiting for the weather to clear. duty and pursue medical studies. June 7. Saturday. It was one o’clock when we got The only route out of Skagway south was through to the top. I was ahead all day and was the first ever to the Lynn Canal, a ninety-mile inlet with unpredictable set foot on Mt. Denali. We lost no time in setting up the little instrument tent and while the Archdeacon was weather and narrow shipping lanes. Red and black buoys reading the mercurial barometer I boiled the boiling marked Vanderbilt Reef in the center of the canal and were visible during the day. At night, they were invisible and point thermometer.
10 useless. That evening, the Sophia sailed off course into a blinding storm. Battling heavy rollers, she ran aground on Vanderbilt Reef with a grinding jolt that flung her crew about and knocked passengers from their beds. Over the next several hours, ten ships responded to her distress call, but the snowstorm, surging waters, and fifty mile per hour winds forced them back. The Sophia’s Captain Locke hoped that when the tide came in the Sophia would float free. Two days later, however, when the tide came in, the gale was still raging. Instead of floating free, the Sophia twisted on the rocky reef and shattered her hull. When her boiler burst, thousands of gallons of bunker oil spilled, congealing in the icy waters. Panicked passengers began leaping overboard, instantly weighed down by the wind blown oil particles. All ten lifeboats sank. Three sobering and eerie, black and white photographs of the Sophia in her final moments were taken from one of the ships unable to approach. The sole survivor was an English setter found two days later, terrified, half-starved and covered with oil at Auke Bay near Juneau. A saddened Archdeacon Stuck sent news of Walter’s death to Henry Cutler and the Mount Hermon School, “He was at once the strongest and the gentlest… the most capable and resourceful man I have known in Alaska. He has left behind him the light of a bright example.” Walter’s legacy was huge at a time when Alaska’s Natives were suffering from poverty, disease, and racial discrimination, not to mention lack of education and opportunity. His recognition also came when Natives were struggling to assimilate into white communities and transition from subsistence living to a cash economy. His fame made an otherwise humbled people proud. One of our own made it. Even white people are paying attention. Walter’s legacy to the Harper descendants is more personal. Walter’s sister, Margaret, said, “Walter had personality, scads of it. Everybody liked him…the girls were crazy about him.” My grandmother had been infatuated with Walter before she married his older brother, Sam. “So why didn’t she marry Walter?” I asked my mother, perplexed. Mom shrugged. “All the girls knew Archdeacon Stuck (Walter’s teacher), had plans for his education and they didn’t include marriage and kids.”
CIRQUE A few years ago, in Denali National Park, I had a glimpse of what my great uncle faced in 1913 when a pilot friend offered to fly me up the mountain in his Cessna 180. As the single-engine plane rose and then leveled off, a rugged wall of mountain filled the windows. It was purple and white and gray, icy and forbidding. I spun my head like an owl all the way left, then all the way right. We were flying at 125 mph, and yet we didn’t seem to be moving. This was a very small part of Denali, but what I saw all around me was beyond overwhelming. It was a universe. Epilogue: In June, 2013, the centennial of the first ascent, four male descendants of Hudson Stuck’s original climbing party mounted a Denali expedition, following the route of the first group. Guided by climbers from the Alaska Mountaineering School, they reached the summit on June 28.
Jerry Dale McDonnell
Skiing into the snow and wind-swept eternity of the Bering Sea at 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, my strength quickly reduces to routine. I soon fall into a kick and glide trance across the width of winter on a solid, adjourned Sea. Brantley Harbor and Port Clarence north of Nome are far distant set pieces in this landscape of ice ridges, wind-packed snow shaped by a willful wind that artfully imitates a permanent landscape. Only the occasional seal-hole interrupts the illusion of a desert bleached by sun. The Bering Sea’s boundary is noticeable only by skiffs imprisoned by drifting snow and small cliffs that one can visualize as land. Inland, snow coats the rolling hills with a sensual texture interrupted only by the white pointed heads of ice wedged polygons jutting up like alien creatures. It is not too difficult to believe one has left the earth and landed elsewhere. Distances are difficult to judge, one mile could be five . . . or ten. Perspectives of time become dim. Fantasies occur, broken by occasional realities. A fox on the shore watches as I pass. I change course with thoughts of communication. As I approach, the fox sits down like a person watching an event. As I near, it disappears into its tundra tunnel like a character from Alice in Wonderland. Peering into the hole I hope to see a small nose and ears
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 peeking back, but only my inclinations surface. What else is under this ice encased ground; the lost city of Atlantis drifted north with tectonic plates from equatorial regions? How many bones of the saber tooth tiger, the camels, the small horses, and other extinct species now lie hidden from time beneath this ice and frozen ground on what was once a grassy plain instead of the present Bering Strait? The skis move me in steady rhythmic inertia. Time halts. One could meet a mastodon and consider it to be the normal scheme of things. Industry wears a different garb in the wilderness of the north. Survival is the God. Survival is the economy. Industry means finding food, finding a place of warmth, finding shelter from the wind, finding other creatures that breathe and metabolize. A young boy from our Inupiat village of Teller was once with me on a day past when we approached a fox that looked at us with trepidation. “That fox would make nice hat,” he said. “I suppose so,” I said, having no reason to deny his culture. “That fox live close. Maybe someone could catch him,” the boy said as he turned back toward his home village a scant mile or so back. The fox, having learned well that most two-legged creatures have a predictable temperament about them, quickly ran toward its shelter. Powerless over the boy’s intentions, I continued on. I don’t know how far I will ski today. The kick and glide will determine my distance and my mind. A contented joy powers my legs, my lungs, my heart. The only sound is the glide of skis, and the below zero chill of wind against my face . . . occasionally the comment of a raven. The physical effort binds me to the moment, the place. There is no future, no past. There is only now. It is a grand knowledge . . . comforting. My vision attempts to comprehend the vastness of space and time. Twelve miles south of Teller, a huge, deserted ship, surrounded Ship at Teller
by ice, sits like a mirage. Once converted into a fish tender, it sits abandoned on a permanent cement foundation, the Bering Sea its captor. Standing next to the hull, it towers far above my head like a colossal ghost, its spirit cold, alien . . . now so useless. The monumental effort of construction and placement briefly comes to mind while I stand dwarfed under the hull looking hundreds of feet up to the railing and hundreds of feet from bow to stern. Viewed from a distance the ship takes on a more realistic image. It is a wart on the earth’s skin, a monument frozen in time as rust does its methodical task marking the ephemeral passing of humanity . . . much like the bones of extinct species. The village lost to my sight hours ago, I am alone on an ocean without a boat. It briefly occurs to me that Russia is very close. Again that feeling of how geographically high I am on the planet, like flying yet my feet are on the ground. If I were a mountain could I see the shape of something with color over the southern horizon? I am soon again lost in the kick and glide, my glide becomes longer, my kick smooth and effortless. The thoughts of miles being covered are forgotten: neither time nor miles exist any longer. I ski by the breathing hole where a seal’s nose has just disappeared as if I’m strolling in the neighborhood. My bones will soon enough join those of the other creatures whose spirits now carry me with them. I shall never have to ski alone.
Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses, and Unpacking the Vietnam War They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.
-Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
“What was the last best memory you have of your father?” There were eight of us, encircling him, when he asked me to recall that moment I knew my father to be at his most vulnerable point for me, his most unadorned human self. For Robert Bly, he was asking me when I first saw myself as strong (or stronger than) my old man. Bly was tired, the wild man in his Iron John wilted by age, still angular, white as snow full-head of hair, but taxed by the expressway of poet on call to shunt the drums of war, explain the smear of Abu Ghraib, and fight against the ideology of “war is peace” that was just getting whipped up like an unholy dust devil across his America. Fast forward thirty years. This time, my second brush with Bly, stuck in Spokane on a Saturday, after his poetry reading to a few hundred. Robert Bly needed a postreading tight one. He was tired, but it only took a few prods and two drinks to get him to actually remember me 21 years earlier. That was 1985. Juarez, Chihuahua. A big group of about ten hangers on mentally gyrating that overtly ga-ga-ing thing for the famous bard inside a restaurant. It was my fault, really, since I arranged the place, the crowd, and mescal spirits liberally passed around. I remember four young women – girls, really – from a private college who sang corridas with the 10-piece mariachi band. Bly was completely taken by their voices.
I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out! See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!” Again, Bly and me, this time 1,600 miles further north than the last time I shared rounds with him. He remembered Juarez, the reading in El Paso, and the Juarez band and that brotherhood and sisterhood of people who had arranged his appearance at the university. And Bly remembered me. He wasn’t going to give up his question: “No, really, this is an important one . . . for men to know when that point occurs in their relationships with a father.” After a couple of bourbons, Robert Bly seemed to be saying to me it was okay if I just carried on a one-on-one with him at this pub called Catacombs. He repeated how he liked my militancy. He had read the piece I just published in the weekly “not just announcing my reading, but taking it to a higher level of consciousness by putting the you into the narrative.” He also wanted to know what it was like to be the son of a military man who not once but twice went to Vietnam as a career officer. I pulled from his book, Iron John, widely read and widely disempowered by critics:
Let’s move back to April, 2006. Bly had just published The Insanity of Empire, and the tannin of Bush’s war was thick on his lips as he entranced the crowd at the community college and then challenged them to remember their own call to duty:
The older men in the American military establishment and government did betray the younger men in Vietnam, lying about the nature of the war, remaining in safe places themselves, after having asked the young men to be warriors and then in effect sending them out to be ordinary murderers.
Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?
“From the sound of it, your father was smart. Well read. College degrees. Yet he was in two wars. Korea. Then Vietnam. How does his military – his war experience — best inform you? Someone who in a mere few minutes
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 has illustrated to everyone around this table that he is more than just a man’s man, more than just a Renaissance man. An adventurer. Going it alone in Central America. Going to Vietnam ten years ago to experience something locked inside his father. It’s important to know that moment when you first realized your dad’s humanity . . . and knew his fear.”
Desert “I’m just going to eat rice . . . I need to get to one-forty. I’m tired of wrestling up so much, dad.” We were following the yellow bus, two of my buddies, Schwam (138 lbs.) and Molina (125 lbs.), were crashed in the back of the 1965 bug. I was driving on a learner’s permit. My old man seemed small next to me, skinny, his blonde hair receding dramatically in the past few months. He had dropped twenty pounds so he might make it easier on his banged up body for his second spin in Vietnam. Age 36. Already shot once. Airlifted out with a Huey co-pilot gravely wounded and the pilot zipped up in a KIA bag. He was proud of me, even in my youthful militancy. I was really tanned, brown. Angular. Muscular. He liked it that I had college on my mind even as a freshman. Proud I was wrestling varsity at 15 years old. “How’d you learn all that mechanical stuff?” he’d ask me while watching me retool, tune up and strip down my Bultaco and Husky motorcycles. “Funny how you never took to learning German, with your Tanta Emmy and Grandma Frieda around when you were a kid. Spanish! How’d you pick that up so quickly?” Then he’d launch in on West Point, on some Republican senator my mom knew who might send in some appointment recommendation for me to be accepted to the Academy. Here we were hitting 65 mph, entering some of my favorite places — Upper Sonoran Life Zone, then into the Transition Life Zone. Those Desert-Grassland and Desert Riparian zones. And I was hating every last image of war and Nixon and Kissinger I ever saw in print and on TV. He launched into why General Westmoreland was misunderstood, why Dick Nixon was even more misunderstood: “ . . . inherited a messed up war strategy
13 from President Johnson.” One loud fight after another recalled. Strange, really, how my old man, Chief Warrant Officer Four Marvin Haeder, ended up trying to convince me of something righteous about the military, or why the USA bombing, spraying, immolating and raping Vietnam was “the right policy.” I was obsessed with post-flashflood arroyos packed with javalina, entranced by the evenings of the a thousand tarantulas, completely taken by the dawns of one hundred zombie bufo alvaris – Sonoran Desert toads. My old man would be in some classroom or on some mountaintop messing around with radio towers, signal relays, his secret codes while I was into the wild, launching myself into a riot of reptiles, arachnids and mammals. While my old man showed me black and white photos of his signal corps outposts in Vietnam, images of these denuded jungle camps with eerily happy blacks, Latinos and an array of white men, I was already talking desert green toads, talking about monsoon bursts near Sedona when a thousand western narrowmouth toads appeared unbending from their 10-months suspended animation.
Snakes Wrestling for me was a way to be as good as any warrior, tin soldier. To stay in shape for three- and five-day hikes into vast expanses Indian Country, land anywhere close to a river or drainage. Like the ones we were near — the San Pedro River drainage that passes along the Pinal Creek en route to the Salado River. My old man talked about logistics, cryptographic mumbo-jumbo, Barry Goldwater while I waxed on and on about these ancient routes, in use from 1100 to 1450 AD. The pueblos on Pinal Creek were once cosmopolitan trade centers with exports of ground pigments, turquoise, beads, and ceramic bowls. Shells from the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. “Your grandfather was fleet champion twice. One hundred and ninety pounds. In the Kaiser’s navy, before he became a pilot. Halberstadt CL- IV’s he piloted. Biplanes. He would have been proud of you, though.” Here I was, making a run through Sonora Desert, Highway 77 – the back way to Globe-Miami from Tucson, from my high school parking lot. My two buddies out like logs, and
my father — three weeks from his second tour in Vietnam — bringing up my grandfather, the Iron Cross man, big WWI ace, émigré to Iowa in 1921. Failed farmer. Bread truck driver. Failed restaurant owner. The big man with mitts like Babe Ruth’s, his namesake, me, his pride and joy as he lumbered still a hard man in his last gasps with emphysema. I slowed to a stop as I watched a seven foot bull snake move slowly into a caliche-etched gully cut-bank. “Come on Paul,” my old man pleaded as he saw me scramble over prickly pear, over dried-out saguaro ribs, blasting my body and arms into a bunch of rocks. “Rattlers out here,” he said. “Come on, Paul, be careful.” Of course, he was wrong. There weren’t rattlesnakes moving around midday at the foot of Pinal Mountain. But the bull snake, hell, I just had to grab it, break up the monotony of the trip to our wrestling match, scare the crap out of Schwam and Molina in the back who were still nestled in with the camping gear my old man absconded from Fort Huachuca for our post-wrestling match bonding fishing trip on the west fork of White River in Apache country.
“Jesus, Paul. Stop.” I put the seven foot snake’s face into the car while my Big Red One Infantry regular army dad, with one tour in Korea as a 19 year old, one in Vietnam two years ago, one more about to be unleashed, complained like a whiny kid brother. “If you’re afraid of this, Chief, what the heck are you going to do with the three-step viper . . . the ground cobras?” I was a smart ass, know it all, to be sure, but I was stealth, quick to know the flora and fauna of Sonora, all of Arizona, and way into Mexico. Quick to speak Spanish with my Mexican friends. Always camping with older guys, some of whom were former Vietnam War draftees who taught me about motorcycles, endless tracks of desert roads to nowhere/everywhere, and about how rotten the war was. By the time I was 15, my father didn’t really know me. He was always gone, at schools for his cryptographic signal corps crap: Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Fort Gordon, Georgia. He had pressed uniforms, spitshine shoes, shiny pips and his array of ribbons all lined up via small wooden ruler. His son with the shoulder-length mop of hair, on the
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other hand, had his terrariums loaded with geckos, five species of scorpions, horned toads, red racer snakes, gopher snakes, California Kings, and any injured animal he’d run across.
Mexican fishers pulling in dorado, so-called game fish dolphin (not a mammal at all, but in the family of pompano dolphinfish ). Beautiful iridescent muscular big-headed jade fish. Second only in taste for turistas to the Guaymas jumbo shrimp.
Bad language It was a story of crossed DNA. My working mom gave me a long leash since I was an A student in school. Never sweating (overtly) me driving my sister’s 750 Honda at age 13. One spring break, I ended up with Navajo and Mexican friends outside of Chinle and then two weeks hiking Canyon de Chelly. At age 14. Learning what all middle school kids should learn – Arizona is not a white man’s invention.
These guys didn’t know what the hell the school was named for. Literally, “The Golden.” Golden city Spanish lust. Wacked out Conquistadors lancing the New World with germs, guns and steel. These unicorn stories of a land of extreme wealth, whose king had been covered with gold dust so many times that he was permanently gilded. A living, walking Midas. The Spaniards and Brits shoving forward with their expeditions into the Americas, sent by syphilitic kings and queens in search of El Dorado. In 1540 Francisco Vazquez de Coronado marched as far north as Kansas seeking the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. Even the esteemed Walter Raleigh launched an expedition for El Dorado in South America, spearheading the search for the miasma city up the Orinoco River in 1595.
Canyon de Chelly, a screwed up Spaniard’s mishearing of the Navajo, Tséyi, which means “inside the rock,” not canyon like white boys and girls are told. The very concept of language as a frame of self, the defining binder for culture — that inside the rock was deeper and more in tune with larger existential quandaries than the mere idea of “canyon” – floored me. Here I was, with my old man, maybe for the last time since he was going to the killing fields of his Vietnam, the war, not the country. He was waxing nostalgic about the Army, about European history, about the Vaterland , and his weird breaking into song, Das Lied der Deutschen, our family tours in France and Germany, while I cranked up Black Sabbath on the eight-track and watched for brown eagle shadows and the first signs of desert spring bloom. What a Mutt and Jeff routine – my blond and blue-eyed old man with aspirations for a son named after his war hero father going into the military vis-à-vis the Academy. This 5 foot nine 15-year-old brown hair and brown eyed recalcitrant son with the Afro who spoke Spanish, went out with Mexican girls, and preferred tamales and empanadas to Wiener schnitzel and strudel. I hated the Vietnam War. Hated the war lovers in my high school. It was 1972, I was 15, and way beyond my years politically compared to most of the guys wrestling with me and slogging through high school. Canyon del Oro High School. Gold Canyon. We were the Dorados. Crazy shit. Dorados. So many weekends diving in the Sea of Cortez. Watching
The Sonora was flattening out, desiccating, as the green carpeting of palo verdes thinned, the saguaros becoming spindly, and much more spread out than those pincushioning Oro Valley leading north toward Globe. The proverbial mining town, Globe, floating fetid iron particulates in the air. All American City with red, white and blue pendants on one side of Main Street, and MIA POW black flags on the other. “Support Our Troops . . . Bring them Home Safe” all over the place.
Wrestling to Touch the Universe This made my old man happy, as I wailed through diatribe after diatribe about the place where white men cut the earth and poisoned the waters. I kept repeating – “Not Globe . . . Bésh Baa Gowąh . . . place of metal. You think this place was discovered in 1875 when the lawless whites came out here? Really, pueblo tribes needed discovering to self-actualize?” The Clanton Brothers from OK Corral fame ended up here. The Apache Kid and Geronimo had ties to Globe. “Bésh Baa Gowąh, “ I repeated. My two wrestling chums in unison saying, “What the hell are you talking about?” I tried to tell these guys and my old man about the
16 700-year-old pueblo of the Salado culture. I wanted to ditch the wrestling match and find the old remains of one of the more advanced cultures in the Southwest. Besh Ba Gowah Pueblo near the confluence of Pinal Creek and Ice House Canyon Wash. “Man, Haeder, we have some tough dudes to wrestle,” Molina shouted. “You think I want to hear about this Indian stuff now?” I had heard about pushing hands from one of my older sister’s Vietnam War vet friends. Some guy named Damian who had resisted a second tour, went AWOL, and made it to the China border, somehow. Then three years later in Arizona of all places. He was a native of Vermont who spent three years on the lam in Nepal, Bhutan, India. It was Drew Pergonaski and I who drew two wrestlers from the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind. I had heard about that sort of wrestling challenge, and the ASSDB was on our schedule in a month. But that was going to be a two-day practice session orienting the entire team on wrestling the hearing and sight impaired. Today, in this two-bit town, it was going to be the most important five-minute tutorial of my grappler’s career given by the two wrestlers’ coach and one of the refs. I was wrestling up, too, some 35 pounds over my weight as this guy was in the 171-188 pound category. I can’t remember the fellow’s name, but he was blind, big, and had these eyes that looked like a Chuckwalla lizard’s, but clouded over like opals. “You’ll be touching all times. During your face-offs, no breaking away . . . always bodies touching. That’s the only difference. Everything else is touch, feel, weight distribution, and a slight twitch here and muscle flex there. These guys are really good at what they do, without seeing or hearing.” Drew drew a blind AND deaf fellow, and his instructions where the same, but the deaf part of the disability necessitated more touch by refs and it meant that Drew might hear the whistle first but the opponent might just continue through on a move. “Hey, Paul, just like judo classes, uh?” my old man said. Like all those judo matches on the army bases we were stationed at. No, pop, no. That was using the gi. All tangled
CIRQUE up in leg sweeps and constant yanking on the gi. This is way different, old man.
Mogollon Rim After a draw with the hulk of a blind freestyler, onward we went toward Fort Apache Indian Reservation, leaving Schwam and Molina behind with the high school team for the bus ride back. Drew was pinned in the third round, and I drew a tie, 6-6, with my first blind wrestler. It was like pushing a hundred pound sack of potatoes and three bags of cement, all bungeed together. I never would have pinned him, and he anticipated my moves since I had to stay grappled to him, tethered, hands to hands. I couldn’t even use some of my judo flips, because this big boy felt my every move before I even thought to use them. Rednecks in the crowd taunted Molina and Zavala, our two dark wrestlers. Calling them spicks, and this white boy — the son of purple heart recipient, bronze star, air medals for all that time in helicopters with the black box handcuffed to his wrist – jumped over the first row of seats and tried to head butt one big F-150 Ford ball cap Copenhagen chewer for the racists taunt. I felt my old man pulling me back, and he had the guts to tell the crowd to can it: “All these boys worked hard to get here and do not need to hear that crap.” Our Dorados won, 9-5. The racists in the crowd called us “rich faggots.” I was breathing in the ions from the Mogollon Rim, all that mixed conifer high desert Tonto National Forest flora binding with my corpuscles. Firs and ponderosa and pine rattlers and cougar, black bear, antelope and endless cascades of wildflowers. We were headed in that weirdly 1960s light greenpatina VW Beetle with Peter Gabriel and Genesis blaring on jerry-rigged four-inch speakers. Trusty Bug we had shipped from Germany to New York and then a drive out to our last family post, in Arizona. Sky Islands He looked vulnerable next to me — his balding head shiny with sweat, his blond hairs on his arms like current disturbed fan worms, and his big forehead showing all the signs of professorial greatness, not that of a hardheaded grunt packing a forty-five semi-automatic and M-16.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 It was our last time together before he shipped out to Vietnam, on a quest to find Apache trout — Oncorhynchus apache — along the west fork of the White River. Maybe it would be our last camping foray.
17 folded poncho, with his pole tilted over an eddy. He was reading the business section of the Arizona Republic, a newspaper about to become part of the fire starter. He also had a public administration textbook with him, for
Mogollon Rim is part of this massive floristic and faunal boundary – the species characteristic of the Rocky Mountains are on the top of the plateau, and species endemic to the Mexican Sierra Madre Occidental live on the slopes below and on these incredible Madrean sky islands –high, isolated mountain ranges further south. I never knew that eight years later I would end up as a newspaper reporter and hiker around one of those sky islands –pine-oak woodlands, a very specific pine-oak forest ecoregion. Chiricahua Mountains, where Geronimo hid out with his two dozen braves. I hiked all the major Madreans in the USA – these tropical and subtropical coniferous forests biomes: the Baboquivari, Whetstone, Chiricahua, Huachuca, Pinaleño, Santa Catalina, and Santa Rita mountain ranges.
The Things We Carry We had US Army issue pup tent shells, cookware, mummy bags, ponchos and other puke green stuff like a cot for my old man and parachute for a shade cover. I had my rice and tuna, and I cooked up cabbage and kielbasa for the Chief. The river was within twenty feet of our A-tent, the air was settling into a nice 40-degree cool, and stellar jays were jockeying for position on alpine branches as the occasional rogue crow bombarded them. Kissing cousins species-wise.
a correspondence class he was taking for work on yet another a master’s degree. He liked his coffee at all hours of the day and night, and I brought some green tea my older sister had left at the house before one of her jaunts to Alaska on her motorcycle. I made fire camp coffee and some hot water in the US Army issue pots. We drank from canteens. I never knew then that maybe my father’s reluctance in filling me in on war details was his professional soldier’s version of PTSD, not even named back in 1972. My old man humored me, though, and let me go on and on about my exploits in Mexico, diving in the Sea of Cortez. My exploits hiking backcountry here and there, he listened to intently. I hated the military, Germany, wars, and so I dove into the wonders of ecosystems, the ecology of my own mind.
My father collected snags and dry needles for kindling, and I quickly set to making a big fire. The Bug had been packed with gear, a small bundle of ironwood, hastily bagged canned food and meats. I had already dragged into our camp a downed ponderosa that was semiseasoned and got to making full ax swings at it.
I was a tough kid, always pushing the training way beyond what my peers would do. I’d go hiking with two gallons of water and nothing else. Miles deep into the Catalina Mountains. I’d come back scratched up, peeling skin, something like Steve McQueen in Papillion.
The speed and breathing and weight of the steady arcs felt good. My father was sitting near the river, on a
Maybe that isolation was my way of rebuffing America’s earth eating, water-polluting capitalism. I know it must
18 have congealed in the middle of juniper forest outside Payson at the bottom of Aravaipa Canyon. First we laughed at the incredible stars and moon keeping us lit up. Then the outlandish frogs and crickets totally Igor Stravinsky crazy. That white water patch on the White River was like a mini Niagara Falls. We laughed at my old man’s flatulence from all that red cabbage I had cooked up. At two in the morning, finally with a half hour of sleep under our belts, the pounding trees next to us woke us up. I moved like a special forces wannabe speed, and shone the light on two large elks rutting on the birch trees near camp. Then, an hour later, we were roused by six or seven white-tail deer tromping through our camp. Those were the days before the tipping points, before the lag time consequences of too many people, too many chain saws, too many second shadow homes and time-shares, too many paved roads, and way too many diseased grocery-store hunters wanting the thrill of blood sport. We laughed and laughed, joking how we’d have to get back to Tucson and do a day’s crash just to rest up from our supposedly restive fishing trip.
Paints I slept through the four a.m. rush hour of Indian paints crossing the White River into our camp. My old man wasn’t next to me in his “fart sack.” The dawn was bleeding peach and tangerine into the sky. I shined the US army gooseneck flashlight over at the flat near the cut-bank where we had been fishing. My old man was in his skivvies, and my flashlight covered his hairy body which was like a gossamer film. l illuminated the thick wet-looking scars on his shoulders where the Chinese carbine outside of Da Nang cut threw him, missing his heart by an inch. Three crisscrossed snail tracks. He looked strong but old at age 36. There he was, fullblood military man, history buff, someone I had little in common with, talking to two long-haired Whiteriver Apaches. Both had Winchester 30.30’s shoulder-strapped, and their horses – 10 maybe – were just lingering there, by my old man, taking gulps of water.
CIRQUE He was looking up at these young guys, who just nodded their heads when my old man gave them the double thumbs up. Cowboy hats, blue jeans, one had on a white t-shirt with AIM and an eagle printed on it, and the other was wearing USMC sweatshirt. They barely acknowledged me creaking out of the funny Army tent. My old man was encircled by these incredible horses. The air was just right. A frost left the world crystalline. I had that spotlight pointed at my old man. The glow of his blond hairs oddly simian, like something along the lines of Grendel out of Beowulf. I could hear him telling these fellows about some tidbit of history of the pinto. These palomino and buckskin PaintHorses were incredible soaking up a rest next to the Chief, my old man. I was amazed that this warrior, this technocratic warrior, knew something about Indian Country I did not: “Amazing, fellows, amazing. These horses go back to Arabia. They called them kanhwa. I think it means blotched. In India, the word is pulwahri, I think, something along the lines of a white horse that flowers with black spots. And, my son, here, well, he’d know something of the Spanish origin of the horse’s name. The word is pintado, painted it means, right?” he asked, smiling at me, saluting me as the sun was lifting pine green into shadows. These two Apache youth nodded, calmly eyeing my old man - this skivvy-wearing Grendel talking about these magnificent horses that came out of nowhere. Pawing the dirt and lapping up water. There, at the edge of the White River. It was our small last camp. Three weeks away from deployment to Indochina. A soon-to-be lost father, stuck in the Huey wake of a wet sky. He was a teacher, then. Small-framed, vulnerable, not the hard-edged bravado of Vietnam film lore. Not the ex-wrestler from Iowa. This guy, broken by divorce, and dedicated to some mythology about Country and Commander in Chief. He knew about those horses. I wonder how. I never asked. The last of the darkish sky lifted with another Apache dawn. The trout skimmed the surface looking for cadis flies.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
I cracked wood and stoked the embers. I was going to break my fast today and make my old man skillet potatoes and some good old Bratwurst and share with him. I had requisitioned a hearty German mustard from my mom’s pantry. A few apples would be sliced with the brats. Onions and tomatoes and chile peppers. Hot coffee. All that German stuff simmering in those US Army pots and pans in the middle of a strangulated Apache reservation. Bly was right. The moment the war lifted from my heart, I saw my old man. Just a guy waiting for daylight, waiting for fish. and waiting for the day he’d say goodbye to Arizona and say oh fuck to his war. Our war. The war in those Apaches’ blood. The war trapped in ArabianSpanish-English Paints. The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness. - Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Money Trees Sweat dripped from my temples into my ears and my eyes, over the tip of my nose and onto my sandals and toes. At one o’clock, before work, First National Bank’s thermometer read one hundred two degrees, Fahrenheit. My shoulders were sunburned; I could have sworn my bra straps were on fire. Sweat gathered at the tip of my braid and weighed down my scalp, making my head hurt. Loose pieces of hair were stuck to my forehead, my jaw, my neck. I had been working Lincoln, Nebraska’s streets for two hours. In another three, the sun would start fading, and one hour after that, the hard part of the day would be done. If it were a Wednesday, we’d go across the street after work to Lazlo’s Brewery and Pub for nachos and beer, or, in my twenty-year-old case, soda. On Fridays, we’d go for pizza – vegetarian only - up the street at Old Chicago. The nachos and pizza was always after ten pm, when all of the paper work was done and the money was in the safe. The other three work nights, I drove home and slept until I drove myself back to the office by noon the next day. I worked ten-hour days, sometimes twelve, five days a week. When there was a community event – a jazz festival or the Hay Market Heydays – we spent our weekends, clipboards in hand, interrupting conversations to gather postcard signatures and distribute fliers. I was a campaign manager for the Sierra Club. Following the instruction of my boss, Gail, I traced neighborhoods on maps for four of my co-workers and myself to follow, trying to determine how many houses might be on a street so that I didn’t assign too much territory, or too little. I was supposed to be practical about this drawing of neighborhoods—each person got three blocks, or eight, depending on the street sizes. Ideally, the five people in my car would all have areas sketched next to one another. Some of them might even pass each other on opposite sides of the street if I planned it out right. When three o’clock came, we split into several carloads, and I was in charge of my car. I explained the neighborhood to the other canvassers as we drove there: “wealthy, large houses,” “lower middle class,” “helpful to us in the past,” “Republican.” I dropped each person at the corner designated on his or her map, got out of the car each time, and offered individual suggestions for
20 approaching the day. “When they say they don’t have money, they really probably don’t today. Get postcard signatures.” Or, “This is a good neighborhood. These highlighted addresses are people who have supported us in the past. Make sure you ask for sixty dollars first, then fifty. Drop from there.” I gave them each private goals to meet: one hundred fifty dollars if they’d been working for a few days, two hundred if they were really good at the job, fifty if they were just starting. Everyone, except the beginner, was expected to get three new members. If it was a person’s first day, the two of us canvassed together. The new person would have spent the morning rehearsing her speech to another canvasser, who role-played an unsuspecting citizen answering his door. She would spend the second half of the day living out those roleplays with me standing behind her, but for the first three hours of the canvassing day, she stood behind me and listened, silently rehearsing the speech as I spoke it. It was about logging roads in our national forests. The listener might scoff, or else look shocked and appalled, or apathetic. Regardless, I kept going, varying the speech just a little, depending on how convincing I needed to be. We were asking to suspend road building in the remaining roadless national forests. “The best way you can help us in this effort is to become a member of the Sierra Club by donating sixty dollars.” Never mind that a membership actually cost thirty-five dollars. I needed to make my numbers and make a good impression on the trainee. And never mind that National Forests were created at least partially for use. At the inception of the Forest Service, the founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir, fought to have forests placed on the same tier of protection as National Parks, but the first chief of the division of forestry, Gifford Pinchot, wanted the forests to be used, and in 1905 he was politically more influential than Muir. When the Forest Service and the National Forests were created, the Use Book, named by Pinchot because forests were for use, was also created. This book described in one hundred forty two pages the purposes of federal forestland, which ranged from preserving a “perpetual supply of timber for home industries,” to “preventing destruction of forest cover which regulates the flow of streams.” The trees were to be used, but “the protection of forest resources still existing (was) a matter of urgent local and national importance.”
CIRQUE Seventy years later, I spent six hours every weekday pacing through neighborhoods for a legislative bill that asked the timber and mining industries to leave fifty eight million acres of the one hundred ninety one million acres of National Forests entirely undisturbed, so that future generations might enjoy the forests’ uniqueness. It sounds like a fair request, based on founding principles. Of course, when I was canvassing, I had never heard of Gifford Pinchot, and I didn’t know much about the politics of forestry beyond the key words, clear cut and deforestation. Ultimately, my blisters and sunburns and sweatstained shirts were all the result of my attempt to make a buck, for both the Sierra Club and myself. Everything revolved around money. Every canvasser had his or her monetary goal for the day, and when I managed to sign on a person to the Sierra Club, I cared more about the thirty-five bucks they’d deducted from my mandatory one hundred fifty than I did about supporting the campaign. I handed out earth-toned fliers filled with facts about the devastation industries left in forests, hoping to strengthen my argument, but the fliers themselves were part of the paper waste problem. I lured in more than one person by flashing a colorful copy of Sierra Magazine in front of them, saying that six issues came free with a membership. Never mind that it took paper to print those magazines and fliers, or that the paper was only forty percent recycled. I needed to make some money. Once, while canvassing, I persuaded a thirty something man with family members in Washington state’s timber industry to donate ten dollars to the campaign. He listened to my speech and asked me questions. “Any of these national forests in Washington?” “Well, yes, but — ” “This affect private land?” “No. Only the sections of National Forests that don’t have any ro—” He said I sounded genuine; he supported what I was doing. “When I was your age, I had a cause, too.” He slipped the ten-dollar bill into my sweaty palm. “Just don’t let my name get anywhere near that donation.” I reminded him that I didn’t know his name and said he didn’t have to write it down. I left and wondered what his cause could have been, why it was in the past tense, and why he gave me the ten dollars. Then I stopped to calculate how close his donation got me to my goal. On evenings when the thunder clouds gathered in the sky and the air smelled of wet soil, almost every
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 house I visited would give me money, even if only a few dollars. Towards the end of one night, when the thunderclouds were especially dark and lightning flashed on the horizon in every direction, a woman who answered my knock begged me to come inside. I explained that it was against our policies, and so she stalled with me under her porch. Her son had taken her car and her wallet, she apologized, but she knew there was money lying around the house, if I would only wait a moment for her to find it. She came back to the door minutes later with eight dollars, two of it in quarters, saying she wished it were more. Her son, she said, was about my age. We discovered, after a few questions, that he and I attended the same college. She asked when my ride was coming. I explained that I was the driver, and promised to quit a few minutes early to get to my car before the rain began. I visited two more homes on the way to my Volkswagen. The first man gave me twenty dollars, glanced at the sky, and wished me luck. The next woman told me I had interrupted E.R. and shouldn’t be outside in a tornado watch anyway. I watched her paisley pajamas through the screen door. The first dime sized raindrop hit my arm. I hurried back to my car and counted my money: one hundred seventy nine dollars. Not bad, considering the conservative demographics. I picked up the last of my canvassers just as it started to pour. The five of us had made over eight hundred dollars. We drove back to the office through hail and torrential rain and streetlights that weren’t working, and did our paperwork by candlelight. When I got home that night, I calculated how much of the hundred seventy nine dollars I had earned would show up in my next paycheck. I did this because early in the day, a woman had asked me if I was getting paid. “If you weren’t getting paid for this, I would donate,” she had told me. “I’m not donating to your pay check.” My calculator told me she would have been donating seventy percent of her money to my paycheck, had she decided to donate. Seventy percent. It was true that I had started to focus more on making my quota one hundred fifty dollars than on convincing people that it was a worthy cause, but I had still naively believed that the money was somehow going directly to the trees. I talked to Gail about this. “Gail, I have to quit. People are donating money to me, not to the campaign. It’s immoral. It’s lying.” My mom had been right—I should have gotten a “normal job,” a job without ethics. Instead, while drinking coffee and filling out a barista application, a poster stapled to the wall screamed at me to “WORK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!!!”
21 In huge, bold letters, it claimed that I could “MAKE $3,000...OR MORE!!!” I tore off a contact tag, called the next day, got hired that afternoon, and was promoted to campaign manager two weeks later. The idea of working for the environment had made something in me yawn awake. If I liked wild places, and wild places, of which there is a finite amount, were being logged and mined and developed, then the wild places that I liked would soon be gone, unless the second part of the equation changed. I had learned something in logic class, after all. I had to change the second part of that equation. By walking door to door. The more I thought about it, the more all reasoning crumbled. The job took my Mondays through Fridays, from noon to 11:00 pm, on average, and made me sweat gallons while doors were slammed in my face. Even if I had kept making over my quota every night, I would have been lucky to make fifteen hundred dollars, not three thousand, and only thirty percent of the money I collected would help anything but me. Most of that thirty percent probably only helped to pay Gail’s salary, and the salary of her boss, and his boss. It was not worth my time. I was not helping the environment with this job. I was only burning gas to drive to the neighborhoods every day and killing trees by handing out those stupid fliers. I was wasting my time and energy to deceive people into thinking their money might actually keep logging roads out of the National Forests, when, in reality, they were only helping me buy nachos and pizza, and gas to drive to more houses. I explained all of this to Gail. “You are the campaign, Katie,” she said in a shaking voice. She explained that going to the neighborhoods, telling people about the campaign, about the bill and congress and the Forest Service, was all of it. Money gives the Sierra Club one more name to put on a list that we take to our representatives and senators, who vote on the laws. It’s how people make their voices be heard. A whole long list of people willing to donate money to the campaign is even more convincing than the boxes full of signed postcards we mailed to the white house. Together, the signatures and donor lists speak volumes. Without us, there would be neither. She took a breath and told me I couldn’t quit unannounced like this—I couldn’t come in like I was ready to work and then turn my back on her, on everything. I couldn’t stand to see her cry. She worked every day of the week for twelve hours, sometimes more, only occasionally taking a Sunday off, or part of a Saturday. She had come to Nebraska for three months, set up the office and the
campaign, and hired all of the canvassers, who were leaving one by one. This was her life, and I was one in what used to be twenty, but had dwindled to twelve. “If you leave, other people will also leave. Just help us finish this campaign.” I agreed to work for another month, and thought about Gail. Her explanation for my paycheck made sense. She told me, sitting in her office, that she’d struggled over the same questions when she started canvassing, and that the money doesn’t make sense if you think about it rationally. But politics isn’t rational, and neither is money, and if we didn’t have the names and the donations, it would be that much easier for industry to go ahead with their plans unchecked. I believed her because, as far as I could tell, she was right. I trusted Gail, and the Sierra Club was a grassroots organization. But with seven hundred thousand members and only fifteen people on the board of directors, who really knew what happened at the round table, how they picked their campaigns and their lobbyists, or where that last fraction of my collected donations got spent?
Pursing You are caught in my net. You are gasping with your gills. The seine is not yet pursed but you are panicking at the turbulent thrashing of the school around you and at the explosive exhaust of a skiff struggling under the strain of a net it can barely pull. You break for the gap between the skiff and the seiner, but, POMP!—a bell-shaped aluminum plunger, no larger than an inverted coffee can, pops at the surface above you—POMP! POMP! POMP!—a deckhand at the bow is relentless with the long aluminum pole to which it is attached, sending air bubbles far below the surface of the water with each stroke. You spin around and dart for open water, for the limitless expanse of the Gulf whence you came—but a wall of mesh encircles you now—and, BAM!, a Sockeye, a big one, whose brilliant colors have not yet been dulled by the presence of fresh water around you, slams into your side. Stunned, you drift downward for a moment— your humpback the conning tower of the submarine you have become. You take some breaths in the icy, oxygenrich waters below and then dive deeper toward the safety of greater darkness until . . . the warning strip!—bright
orange, thick-meshed, emerges from the depths at the bottom of the seine, pulled upward and inward by the skiff. You spin around, and wriggle upwards, straight up in distress. You thrash your tail and leap into the air, an electrified shimmering of silver and olive, poised for a split-second against a picture-postcard background of the snow-capped Chugach mountain range. Downward you fall, to breathe, to think, to swim—downward! You are only yards from the fresh water stream you smell as home—just seconds away from the crystal clear, ice water tributary that once lead you gently to the salinity of the sea. You have traveled a thousand miles from the Pacific Ocean by instinct to charge the shallows of your birth, where you once all poured forth in a gelatinous multitude. You have returned to these waters to die, yes—but among fish, not among men! Among rocks, not among nets! You have become misshapen for the presence of fresh water around you, your body transforming itself as you submit to what has been preordained. The hump on your back has enlarged; your snout is now hooked—a kype; your coloring has darkened and there are stripes on your body like blood. The purity of the water which once prepared your body for greater life, now, after all these brine-bound years, prepares you for the struggles of struggles which leads unto death. You have become your father, and the father of your father as you approach the inevitability of your spawning. You will die for the sake of those to come. You are nearly four pounds now and fearsome with your new darker coloring and sharp teeth which extend outward from your lower jaw. On your back is the scraping of a seal which sought you near Kodiak, but you escaped him then and you are going to escape this now. You were born to return here. Born to breed just once, to spawn breathlessly where water percolates the gravel bed of your nursery, to come in a frantic spasm of creation and destruction above a shallow nest, a redd. You were spawned to roam the Pacific in search of home, and you have made your way here while millions of your brethren died. Massed now among hundreds of thousands where fresh water pollutes the salt, you know certainly that this is where you are from: this is your stream, this is your home. A lifetime of travel for you has ended. You are circling now, circling, witnessing the transfiguration of those who arrived before you— watching them . . . watching . . . waiting for that split-
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 second when called by their forebears they bid farewell to safety, bid farewell to the school and charge the mouth of the stream, their tails set on full-throttle thrash: upward they swim, upward, through the current that sent them to sea, upward over boulder, over branch, through shallows, and rapids and gravel. You see them go! You see them ascend! They do not quit! They struggle, wiggle, leap and fly! They are like no other fish in the sea; they evolve into mammal before your eyes—breathing in air and leaping upwards on land! The dead drift down beneath them: the rotted, the ruined, the spent. They who have already spawned return in pieces. Some still live—if the ability to lift a gill flap is life—but most remain in the shallows, far above the sea, rotting while their eggs incubate coolly beneath the eternal flow of the stream. You feel it happening to you—the transfiguration! You feel it in the strength of your fins, in the weight on your back, in the muscles leading to tail. You can do this thing! You can do it! Your time has come! Your ascension is at hand! The run-off from summer rains is nearly enough to make your way! You are a suicide bomber of sperm! But now this—the net! The lines below have tightened the seine into a purse. And the rings that once held the lines have now been pulled up on deck. The whining of the winch on the boat goes eerily silent. There is no more pursing to be done. There is no longer any means of escape. All within the net is caught. Waves lap gently against the boats. A gust of wind through the bay darkens the surface of the water with a million shadows of scalloped-edged waves. Against the shore a salmon leaps out of the water, an uncaught salmon: she wriggles rapidly back and forth into opposing crescents before falling back into the water with a splash. The seine is still now, the cork-line extending in a great circle beside the boat. It is a moment of transition on the seiner: the fishermen on deck don their raingear—for shortly, they will be deluged in saltwater, sea creatures, and jellyfish—and the skiff man comes around to the far side of the seiner to hook onto a bridle to begin pulling the larger boat away from the shore and out of danger of its own net. The seiner is one of four boats fishing at this hook-point—another is about to close its net, and two others are waiting their turn—they are all deep within a narrow inlet many miles from town. There is no sign
23 of civilization from the water: no piers, no docks, no homes, no transmission towers—just untouched forests rolling down to the water, a bit of strand for a brown bear to amble with her cubs and the mercurial Alaskan sky who rolls her cloud banks in from the interior when she is angry, and sweeps them from her sight when she is gay. There exist only the sounds of the water against the boat, a bald-eagle crying—they are as plentiful as pigeons here—and the thrum of diesel engines which no know rest. There is little to cause you to think you will die. You can still make a run for it if you wish—a run with the entire school, but only for a hundred feet where a wall of mesh extends downward into an undulating bowl of web. Whichever way you turn once you get to the far wall of the seine—to the left or to the right—you’ll run headlong into your brethren who, like you, now wish they had turned the other way. You spin around and circle back as something like an electric shock passes through the school—you realize en masse that you are trapped! Hysteria now enters the fish. Some thrash about the seine, killing themselves before it is time. Others gather quietly in the shallows of the net beside the boat thinking that as long as they yet breathe so shall they yet live. But then the hydraulics of the boat are engaged with a whine once more as the diesel engine deep within the boat gives life to the salmon-killing apparatus on board. The seine begins to move—imperceptibly at first, but slowly the cork-line bunched up at the side of the boat begins to rise from the water. It follows the tow-line upward to the power-block hanging high in the rigging, turning slowly at the end of the boom, pulling in corks one at a time like rosary beads pulled forward by the fingers of a praying hand. The web of the seine comes along with the cork-line, a seemingly unending sheet of elongated black squares of web emerging from the deep, each attempting to hold through surface tension a window of water in its skewed frame until the cascading effect of each minute burst from above causes the entire seine to periodically shake off its glossy sparkle revealing itself as little more than tightly-wound twine, knotted and dyed. At the bottom of the seine comes the green lead-line, heavy, like a garden hose filled with sand, along which are tied large brass rings for pursing. With a steadiness born of monotonous repetition, the skipper of the seiner piles the cork-line on the far side of the boat as it falls down from the power-
block—an, easy, almost care-free task, like straightening a sheet on a bed by picking up one end and snapping a billow up toward the other. Besides him the cook stands monk-like beneath a hooded, full-length forest green slicker, piling web in the middle as sea water rains down upon him—he is careful not to get his fingers caught in the web—and a third, whose task is the most arduous, the greenest among them, the deck-boy, arranges the leadline on the side of the boat nearest the seine. The men are pulling in the seine a few fathoms at a time, shrinking the pouch that’s still in the water, creating an ever smaller area for the fish to swim. You charge the cork-line with the fury of full-grown humpback—this will be your run! Your tail flagellates the water with enough strength to evade a bear. Your frantic rooster tail catches the attention even of the fishermen as you work your snout through the cork-line and the web. You struggle to increase this opening—it will give like a branch fallen across the stream!—but you struggle against the fisherman’s money-pouch, the strongest part of the seine woven with the thickest strands to endure the weight of ten thousand of your kind. You stop to breathe but find your gill flaps cannot fully extend, wedged in as you are to the web. You shake your head violently and then you feel it—the seine is beginning to rise. The web closes in on you as you rise— you rise!—at an angle far above the deck, six fathoms worth of net narrowing into a bundle which will pass through twelve-inch wide opening in the power-block—which even up close resembles a large black rubber yo-yo revolving silently at the end of the boom. You are being crushed half to death as you climb upwards and approach this large, motorized pulley. Fish were not meant to be brought on board this way, but you were unlucky enough to discover that they can. You push your gills open unnaturally wide in order to breathe but there is nothing up here but air. You look to shore and you see that you are now at the height where your spawning brethren are finally able to rest in waters quiet enough to release their milt. Your own is being squeezed out of you at this moment, absent the presence of eggs. You roll over the pulley of the powerblock and are now heading downward toward the deck of the boat as the seine spreads out
again to the men waiting to receive it. It releases you easily, allowing you to fall twenty times your body length into the depths of the wooden-ribbed hold, where you strike the cement ballast head first, bouncing off it in a macabre simulation of the joyful leaps for which your species is known. You spin end-over-end into the air finally coming to rest between the ribs of the hull, where shortly you will be buried beneath four thousand pounds of wriggling, thrashing, dying fish. Your gills open wide in search of water but you shall breathe no more. Neither shall you swim. While light yet shines through your eye and not just upon it, you attempt to focus upward at the figure on the deck, a creature more deadly than seal, shark or bear, your executioner, a fisherman: me. “Pursing” is part of a larger manuscript, “Sorrows of a Skiffman.”
F/V SU-AN, Prince William Sound, Alaska
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
No Cover in Tucson There is no cover in Tucson, no canopy. We travel an expanse of shrubs punctuated by saguaro cactus, anywhere from six to twelve feet tall. The sun is relentless, and quickly I realize I am not dressed for the desert. My short skirt, flip-flops, and tank top leave more pores exposed for the thirsty air to suck. Mike and I stop in a slice of shade. We have been hiking for about ten minutes in the midday October heat. “I wish I had a cotton blouse,” I say. “Something that would cover me but still breathe.” “I feel ok,” Mike says, and loans me his baseball hat. He is my fiancé, my lover of almost nine years and I am here visiting from Anchorage for a few short days. I am drinking all our water and my body feels confused at the sudden climate shift. No amount of liquid seems to quench my thirst. “Let’s turn around,” I say, “go get some Mexican food.” We walk back to the car and I duck into a wash to pee. My foot sinks into the dirt, which is finer than I expected, almost sand. Where I lose my water the earth is hard and parched. The urine soaks in quickly, once it finds a crack in the baked soil. La Herradura is a down-home rincón just past
25 I-10. When I ask the barista if we should order in front to eat in the back, she doesn’t understand. I switch to Spanish, and she smiles. “Sí,” she says. “Pedir aquí.” The back patio is shaded. An old man says something in Spanish I don’t quite catch, but it sounds beckoning and I have the feeling he wants us to sit with him. We take an empty table in the back. With our time winding down, we are beginning to cling selfishly to each other’s company. The food comes out and it is gorgeous—beans with real lard and palm-sized soft tacos for Mike. My burro is a little dry, but the verde sauce Brenda Roper and fresh tomato salsa moisten it. Then the barrista brings out the horchata, a full glass brimming with ice cubes. I take a sip. “Oh my God.” “Is it good?” Mike says. I ignore him and take another gulp. The white milky liquid is sweetened just enough. The grainy texture makes it taste somehow moister than water. “Ahh.” My eyes roll toward the canopy above. Mike looks impatient. “This is the best horchata I have ever had. Hands down.” “Maybe you were just really thirsty,” he says. When I ask a nearby patron if we could have a napkin from their napkin holder, the old skinny man in the corner orders the barrista: “Servilletas!” She brings us a napkin holder. When I’ve eaten my fill of burro, Mike goes inside to get a doggy bag. “How do you say box?” he asks. “Caja…Usted tiene una caja?” As soon as Mike is out of sight I hear the old man. “Bonita.” I turn. “Habla espanol?” “Yes.” “What’s he need? What’s he going for?” “A box.” “Una cajita!” he says to the dark-haired server. The old man is hard to understand. He mumbles, using Spanish slang. I am out of practice and used to a Castilian accent. But I tell the old man, Moises, how I am from California and living in Alaska. How I am here to visit
26 my man. “It is good when two people love each other,” he says, moving closer. “Understand?” The two teeth left in the side of his mouth are long and yellow. “Every human being should be treated with respect. All people.” “You have children?” I ask. “Seven,” he says. “Siete hijos.” “Well done,” I say. He grins and pulls his elbows toward his pelvis in a mock thrust. Moises shows me his papers that allow him to travel freely from the United States to Mexico. His address book folds out accordian-style and has a picture of Jesus on the front. The names and numbers of his children and nephews fill the inside. He explains—or at least, I think he does, if I am understanding correctly—how he would go to help any one of them if they called. Mike comes back with a box, and so does the barrista. “Two is better than one,” I say, still in Spanish. Moises laughs. “You are Mexican.” He points to his heart. “Right here. “Peleadora,” he calls after the waitress. Fighter. She laughs at him. I raise my fists. “Peleadora? Yo tambien.” When we leave I ask the peleadora to grab Moises from inside so I can say goodbye to him. He comes out all grins. When I open my arms for a hug he does not hesitate. Before I know it Moises has landed two sloppy kisses on my cheek, whispered “Chola” in my ear, and copped a feel. “Hey!” I say, pushing him off. He staggers back, but doesn’t seem to get it. “Con mucho respeto,” I growl, and storm off to the car, where Mike is waiting. I tell him what happened. “Please don’t do anything, Mikey. Don’t make a scene.” “Oh…I won’t,” he says. “I’d like to, though…But it would just make things worse.” I grab his hand and kiss it. “You’re a good man.” He smiles at me in that way that takes all the years off his face and makes him look like a delighted boy. I think how, soon, I will be missing those calm blue eyes, the warm touch of his skin. One more cold winter remains before we can be together. As we drive away from La Herradura with the windows down, I purse my lips and smack my tongue against the dry roof of my mouth. The memory of that horchata, cool and quenching, is so close I can almost taste it.
Moved by A Mountain People don’t normally stop to ask exactly why a dramatic mountain view is so inspiring. I mean, what is really going on? Is it as simple as the face value of the situation: “I find the view pleasing, and so I like to look at it”? Or is there something under the surface of our agreed-upon reality? Why do we even use the word “inspiring”? The word connotes stimulation to be creative as well as a sense of divine influence. It originates from the Latin inspirare, to breathe in. What do we take into our chest when beholding such a view? What are we urged to create? Who influences us? In recent years I traveled to Patagonia, where the shocking beauty of certain sublime granite spires brought me to aesthetic arrest and to the realization that everything is divine. I persistently asked why a mountain could send a man into a state of such profound, selfless awe, and concluded that it only made sense if such mountains are like avatars, pointing to the fundamental truth that all of Nature is divine. All that we see is the manifestation of one source—the hyper-intelligent creative Source of all universes. Now I’m wondering if each individual mountain teaches a different lesson through its size, shape, color. Does a mountain’s appearance make it an archetype, expressive of certain qualities? Somehow, it seems that such stunning aspects of nature reveal a connection between Nature and the human psyche. Maybe the lessons humans learn from mountains are already in the human, buried deep in the subconscious mind (or heart, or soul) and yearning to come to awareness. No doubt, the same mountain view will evoke something different in different people. Now, thirty-one years after I moved to be by this mountain, there must be close to a couple-hundred people who live with a view of The Throneroom. Surely they have not all responded to the view as I have. My neighbor, a well-educated retired fisherman who has lived here longer than I, says that it’s the sense of permanence that comforts him. When I asked how the view made him feel, he said, “No matter the events of my day, the ancient rock of The Throneroom stands fast, changing ever so slowly, over lifetimes. This is reassuring and calming, amidst the bedlam of life. The view is balm to the nerve endings.”
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 I was so drawn to the regal feature that I made an arduous trip there. Wise glacial travel is done in threesomes, so two partners and I ascended a more accessible glacier about fifteen miles away, and skied across the icefield to our Mecca. After two days of hard travel we camped on the outer flanks of The Throneroom, finding a level spot of ice up in a south-facing nook in the rock wall, at the top of a corn snow ski run down to the main body of the glacier. The next morning we toured the expansive royal chamber, climbed the snow-covered slope north of the peak, and skied down, leaving a trail of graceful telemark turns as proof of our pilgrimage. It was as much an act of veneration as it was a personal coup. My presence inside The Throneroom was a way of making intimate contact with it that only a handful of humans ever have. While most indigenous cultures of lands that include mountains have held tall peaks in high esteem, or even considered special mountains sacred, or the homes of gods, ascending to such places is a relatively new endeavor for humans. Prior to the end of the seventeenth century, high mountains brought terror and gloom to the human mind. It was the romantic feelings of the eighteenth and nineteenth century artists and thinkers that spread, changing the human view of mountains and allowing men to proclaim the rapture and sacredness of rugged high terrain, previously experienced as foreboding, and perilous. Today mountaineers are so numerous that annual sales of just ropes, harnesses and hardware (a fraction of the gear required for multi-day expeditions) amounts to 100 million dollars in the United States alone. I venture that all mountaineers are moved by their high country experience, even those who remain quiet, or struggle to find words which aptly express the influence that the summits have had upon their psyches. Does a mountain radiate its own message? Does it emit a specific catalyst that evokes certain qualities in us? Or do we who feel moved by mountains have deep memories of mountain images that similar mountains trigger? The quality I feel radiating from The Throneroom—what I feel in my chest when I breathe in the inspiration provided by that majestic earth sculpture, or by the spirit of it, is dignity. Nunataks are tall fins of rock, all that remain of what were once mountains separating glaciers. I interpret The Throneroom to be what is left of a mountain that divided two glaciers which merged below it. That mountain collected perennial ice at its peak, on the side facing me, which accumulated to form a hanging glacier
27 that then scoured the face of the mountain as the ice moved with gravity. After untold eons of grinding, the peak has been hollowed out like a tilted bowl, with the lower rim still below the ice, still being carved. Even now, between ice ages, a small hanging glacier is still working the headwall of this crescent-shaped nunatak. The word here that is key to my exploration is “remain.” These nunataks in my vista are what resists the intense erosional forces of wind and water (liquid and solid, and the transitions between the two) where the land mass extends into the Gulf of Alaska. Perennially buffeted, they keep standing as best they can. They persist. When geologists speak of rock being strong and resistant to erosion, they say it has integrity. They speak of “resistance” to the forces of erosion—that is, the forces of entropy. Entropy is the tendency of a material compound to move towards a state of disorganization and the isolation of its components—driving particles towards a lack of engagement with their surroundings. On a physical level, entropy is erosion, oxidation and dissolution. Biologically, it is death, decomposition and decay. But on a social level, entropy can be seen as the deterioration of society, from organization towards chaos. On a personal level, entropy takes us away from that organization of our thoughts, feelings and actions that develops through maturation and personal/spiritual progress; from a knowing of who we are and what we are here to do, and from living a life that demonstrates that knowing. That is, moving towards entropy takes us away from personal integrity, and towards confusion, ambivalence, and desultoriness. The nunataks remain organized as long as they can while the forces around them slowly work at reducing them to rock flour—minute, isolated particles. Integrity is resistance to entropy. If the nunatak was more reactive to its surroundings and to the attack of climatic events, it would lose its integrity and succumb to entropy; it would lose its uprightness, its stature, its honor, its dignity. Of course, it is in fact doing so, but on a scale of time that we humans cannot perceive. To us, The Throneroom appears to be permanent, and to the psyche, appearance is expression; it is what transmits emotion, the vehicle of inspiration. Entropy is polar to the qualities of self-mastery. “Self-mastery” is my best, most concise definition for what I mean by “dignity.” It is the expression of a masterful navigation through life on earth, especially through interactions with other humans. In a dictionary you may
find that dignity is the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect, indicating that dignity is decided upon by others, but, like Schopenhauer, I strongly sense that dignity expresses a freedom from concerns about the opinions of others. There is a self-knowledge that is not phased by such storms of sentiment. Another important aspect of dignity is that those who possess it teach effortlessly, by example. And so The Throneroom, in its constant resistance to being reduced, in its non-reactiveness, and in its maintenance of integrity and upright posture, demonstrates dignity to me. Its image enters my eyes and contacts an aspect of myself in the depths of my psyche that urges me towards self-mastery. I realize this only now, over thirty years after I moved here to live by this majestic mountain, but looking back on my life, I see the progression of a young man’s efforts to seek dignity. And while that striving continues, I have at least reached a point in my development, as if I’ve been climbing the numinous nunatak itself, from which I can see the path from a higher perspective, with a clearer view. Now, when I look at The Throneroom it reminds me to persist, and inspires me to develop a human kind of dignity. A condensed excerpt from Tom Reed’s book, Moved by a Mountain; Inspiration from an Alpine View in Alaska.
Legacy of a Recipe I take a food writing class and on the first day, in the first hour, we do an imagery exercise. We close our eyes and create the ideal kitchen. We imagine the layout, the number of ovens, the type of refrigerator, whether the pots are copper or cast iron, the lighting, the flooring, the width and depth of the sink. We form a complete kitchen in our mind’s eye. Then we imagine stocking the pantry, lining the shelves with spices and cookbooks, and filling the freezer. The only requirement is we must put a table in our kitchen. My table is long and handmade by a craftsman from the last century. Its wood is stained dark with small imperfections—dents, nicks, knots, grooves. Some are from the original planks and some are a result of its long history as a gathering place for meals and shared lives. Years of arms and bellies have rubbed the edges smooth and lightened the color. In the center of my table sits a lead crystal vase on a white doily I tatted years ago. The vase is filled with multi-colored flowers freshly cut from the garden I can see from the window above my imagined sink.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 With our eyes still shut, we are told to invite someone to our table. The person can be real or fictional. It is a food writing class so we have to consider what we would serve. We paint a fully fleshed-out scene. Who is the guest? What food or beverage would we offer? What place would we take at our table? What place would our guest take? What conversation would we have? We open our eyes and have 20 minutes to write. ***** I invite a woman I have never met, a woman who died before I ever knew her name. To my well-worn table, I invite my mother. ***** When I was 28 years old I got the call. It’s the call adoptees desperately long for and desperately fear. My birthfather wanted to meet me. It’s been 17 years since that phone call. The experience has been wonderful and hard, and ultimately it introduced me to myself in a way nothing else ever had before. I was born in the mid-60s, a time before the sexual revolution had made its way to small town middle America, when girls were still expected to be virgins on their wedding nights. So when it was discovered near the end of her sophomore year my birthmother was pregnant, she was sent away from her small Wyoming town. Linda went to the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers in Denver until I was born. Her own parents deemed her “marked” and refused to let her return home. They sent her to a boarding school in Utah for the next two years until she graduated high school in May 1968, and on the last day of August that year, she married my birthfather. They were married for five years and never once talked about the baby they gave up. I spent most of my life wanting a good mother relationship. I didn’t have one with my adoptive mother and always felt cheated. But at least I had something other people didn’t: a second chance. I fantasized I would have this perfect and fulfilling mother relationship one day when I met my birthmother. My second chance died when Linda died, 16 months before my birthfather found me. ***** I imagine myself making a cheese ball for the conversation at my table. I got the recipe, my mother’s, from a woman who is my age. Ann was in high school and living next door when Linda first befriended her. They filled needs in each other’s lives: Linda’s need to mother a
daughter and Ann’s need to be mothered. Over the years, Ann has shared with me the Linda she knew, including her memories of them cooking together. Linda loved it, particularly holiday cooking. While the cream cheese softens, I visualize shredding a mild Cheddar, feeling the up and down motion as I slide the block of cheese against the grater. Then I cream together the two cheeses and add green peppers. Using red and green peppers, I might tell Linda, would be a nice way to make the cheese ball look festive at Christmas. Or green peppers and pimento would have the same visual effect but a different texture. I gather the glob in my hands and form it into a ball, then roll it in chopped nuts. I use walnuts for this cheese ball, but think pistachios, pecans and maybe even peanuts would work well. I must remember to ask my mother what type of nuts she used. A cheese ball is lovely to look at, large and round. It is perfect—until someone takes the first bite. Then chunk by chunk it gets carved away until it looks like an abstract sculpture. If we ever make this recipe together, I will suggest we make individual bite-size balls. We could place each one on its own cracker and serve them on a
30 wooden cheese board in neat rows. But for our meeting, I follow her recipe precisely, hoping she will notice how I honor her. I place the softball-sized cheese ball on a plate and surround it with round crackers. I set the plate and a small spreading knife on the table between the two seats across from each other where we will sit. I go into my large, temperaturecontrolled imagined wine cellar. A conversation like this really could use a weighty thick wine like merlot, but I worry it will be too much. The density of the cheese ball requires a lighter wine, I should think. So I choose a soft pinot noir from a vineyard in Oregon. I open the wine and put it on the table along with two fat wine glasses. Finally I bring two appetizer plates and two white cloth napkins to the table. I sit down and invite my mother to take her place across from me. ***** I love handmade pottery. I stock my ideal kitchen with lots of pottery, much more than I have in real life. On any other day, I would have my garden flowers in one of my pottery vases. But today, I’m using a heavy lead crystal vase. Like the recipe, the vase was my mother’s. During her second marriage to a wealthy businessman, she collected sets of lead crystal. I have the mismatched pieces that survived. She divorced the businessman a decade before she died. Someone once told me hers was a rags to riches to rags story. What is left is a creamer pitcher, a footed bowl, an oval-shaped small bowl, a water pitcher and the vase I’m using for the flowers. There was also a large serving bowl, but I gave it to Ann because she thought of Linda as her mother too. In my imaginary kitchen, the crystal pieces sit on a window sill where the setting sun makes rainbows dance across the walls. ***** I pick up the bottle of wine and pour her glass. Then I pour my own. I give us a pour double what etiquette dictates. We are going to need it for this, our first ever conversation. I take a hard long swallow from my wine. “Linda,” I start. And stop. This is harder than I thought it would be. Even in my imagination, it is harder than I thought. My gaze drifts to the flowers and, instantly, I see us all those years ago. The soft blossoming flowers rest inside the solid vase. My flowers, her vase. Me, her. And for one moment, I can almost feel myself as part of her. I look back to see a face not unlike my own. Her brown eyes move from the flowers back to me and
CIRQUE she smiles in recognition. Recognition of the vase or the cheese ball or me, I can’t say which. “Mother,” I start again. I take a breath. I take another long swallow of the wine. She waits. There is only one way to begin: with the question I have carried inside of me since the day we separated. Even though I know the logical answer—I’ve heard it since I was small—it isn’t enough. That answer doesn’t speak to my heart, doesn’t speak to my infant self left at the welfare agency all those years ago. “Mommy,” I say. “Why did you give me away?”
Linda’s Cheese Ball 2 packages cream cheese, softened 1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese (or sharp or medium) ½ green pepper, diced Mix ingredients together. Form into a ball and roll in your favorite chopped nuts. Serve with crackers.
Dancing This story was written for my grandniece, Kirsten Rockwell, who requested, among other World War II experiences, an account of my dancing.
My best time for dancing was about 1943 in San Diego. Our ship was in the Navy Yard for a month and a half. Two friends had cars and about six of us would bring everyone to where we all went dancing. Before picking me up, they would pick up this particular woman. She was about my height, willowy and athletic, with dark eyes and light brown hair. She would not tell me her name; neither would she tell my friends. I surmised she was the wife of a pilot missing in action, so I did not press. A woman in that situation could not do much socially but she could dance with me.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 This was the time of the big bands, the Big Apple, and the birth of Swing. Our favorite step was the very simple but very vigorous shag. It was, bouncing on the left foot, two bounces, then, two bounces on the right, then, kicking out slightly on the left and kicking out slightly on the right once each. The beauty of it was that, with the right music, you could do about everything, normal that is: run, go forwards, back, sideways, slurp, shoulder toss, lift your partner with both hands, hold her up, and not miss a beat. Two athletic people doing this together for any length of time could get pretty good. I got off the ship every other evening and we sought each other out. Always the same drivers. But all good things come to an end, in this case, very reluctantly. Each of our group knew that we would never all be together again. On our last evening we went from our regular place to an afterhours place. When that closed we went to an after afterhours place. We finally wound up in the Palladium, which did not serve liquor, just dancing to Tommy Dorsey’s (or someone’s) big band. There were about two thousand dancers there, in that huge hall. So my partner said “Let’s go,” and we started in. The music of course was superb. We did it all. Near the end we broke. Two people doing this fast step appear to be floating. She floated around me, and I
floated around her maintaining eye contact. She reached up with one hand over her head. I reached up and took her hand. She twirled three times, skirt flaring. I stepped forward and grabbed her by the waist. We ran 20 feet. We stopped. She tilted back, arms outstretched, palms up, till her hair was touching the floor. Then I snapped her back over my shoulder, grabbed her by the hips with both hands and held her high, never missing a beat or loosing eye contact. I set her down. It was six AM. The music stopped. There we were in the center of a clear circle with a 40-foot radius. The officer’s whites look good for this. Her skirt was long and white. Everyone was clapping. We were embarrassed. It was time to leave, if I was to get back to my ship on time. I had to go to work, immediately. I was the Electrical Officer of a small aircraft carrier and I had my men overseeing each Navy Yard project to insure it was done satisfactorily. As I went down the list and assigned a man to check each item, I was greeted with a remarkably enthusiastic, “Yes Sir!!” After all was assigned, and only the Chief Petty Officer and I were left, I said “Chief, the men seemed so especially respectful, today?” He laughed and replied, “Oh sir, you should have seen yourself last night!” So another page in “Naval Leadership” needs to be written. All the poor electrical workmanship was caught and corrected before we left port the next day.
Jimmy John’s Baby Bundled in a parka, elbow-high mittens and sealskin mukluks, Caleb Montgomery leaned over my desk. “Jimmy John says you won’t give him and Mary a baby because they’re Eskimo.” How dare he accuse me so unjustly? This was 1969, the era of fighting for equal rights, and I was doing that for Jimmy John. White, inexperienced twenty-somethings in Bethel, Alaska’s Welfare Department, Montgomery and I were only dimly aware of each other’s responsibilities. Montgomery was a Community Advocate for Eskimo and Athabascan villages scattered 150 miles along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. I handled the region’s child Abrazo I
32 abuse and neglect cases, foster children, and adoptions— an overwhelming caseload in an area nicknamed “the Frontier” or “the armpit of Alaska.” Bethel and the villages lacked roads, plumbing or electricity and endured crude legal and social services. “You need both sides of the story,” I told Montgomery. “Sit down.” * A few months earlier, Jimmy John had traveled twenty miles by snowmobile to visit me. Tall for a Yup’ik Eskimo, his facial creases suggested he might be over 40. “I want baby boy,” he said. “They tell me, come here.” I was delighted. For once I might place a baby with his/her own race and heritage. Until then, only middle class white couples had asked to adopt children, mostly teachers from the Lower 48 who fell in love with Native Alaskan babies during their two year teaching stints in villages. But was it right to place Native babies with people who would raise them in urban America? Yet few white babies were available, while Eskimo, Athabascan and Tlinget children waited in crowded foster homes. “Here’s how the Welfare Department does adoptions,” I said. In his culture’s tradition, a woman or couple gave an unwanted baby to friends or relatives without secrecy or paperwork. My Department did things differently. “I’ll visit you and your wife, ask a lot of questions and take pictures. I’ll need reference letters. The Adoption Supervisor in Juneau will read my report and decide if you qualify to adopt.” “Why you do that?” Jimmy demanded. “You think we can’t take care of baby?” “Welfare has to be sure the child is safe.” I held up the outline of topics that Karen, the Adoption Supervisor, had sent me. It was difficult for me to ask its required questions about adoptive couples’ psyches and whether inability to bear children caused them marital problems, depression, rage, blaming or sexual dysfunction. Why would they confide such things to someone empowered to grant or deny them a baby? “My Council President will tell you we are good,” said Jimmy. “Great,” I said. “I’ll ask him for a letter.” Shifting irritably, Jimmy agreed I could also contact his priest and employer. When I scheduled the home visit, he said, “We have good house. Mary keep it nice. Pretty curtains.” I traveled there by mail plane. Jimmy’s village was very small, perhaps 300 population. Its houses were
CIRQUE single frame structures, some weathered to grey, others painted red, green or white. People used kerosene lanterns for light, oil or wood stoves for heat and cooking, and “honey buckets” for sewage. Residents let their fires go out at night, even in frigid winter. Women hauled 50 gallons of water a week from a spring to their water barrels. The day of my visit was cold and bright. Smoke rose from every stovepipe. Sun reflected from stained glass windows in an old church made of thick planks. Jimmy’s wife Mary spoke little English, so I had arranged for Martin, the village health aide, to translate. Since the only hospital and clinic were in Bethel, every village had an aide who communicated daily with a doctor by short wave radio. It was awkward to use village interpreters. Some judged the interviewees or gossiped about them. But I had no choice. As we entered Jimmy’s home, which was larger than the others, Jimmy pointed out its red and white checkered curtains, large main room and new-looking comforters on the two beds. Next to the mukluks, snowshoes and parkas on the wall were several rosaries, crosses and pictures of Jesus. I sat at the kitchen table whose plastic tablecloth matched the curtains. The décor suggested upward mobility. Most Eskimo homes were cozily cluttered. Mary sat opposite me, wearing a clean, traditional kuspuk—a cotton print, full length dress with long sleeves, hood, deep pockets and rick rack trimming. She was petite, with classic Eskimo features and full cheeks. I opened with a fairly neutral topic, their educations. Jimmy spent high school at a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school in Oregon. In summers he worked at his family’s fish camp, gathering salmon and other fish to dry as the staple of their winter diet. Mary had not gone to school. The oldest of a large family, she had been needed at home. Unlike most village men, Jimmy had a steady job with the General Store, which lent him status and income instead of the welfare funds that supplemented most villagers’ subsistence life styles. I struggled to segue into personal, emotional subjects that were difficult even without cultural and language barriers. Turning to Martin, I said, “I must ask Mary why she can’t have babies.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. She held up one finger after another, telling a story for each. Martin said,
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 “She have 13 babies. All in heaven now. They are Jimmy, Andrew, Agnes, Ruth . . . .” Now I noticed the names carved into small crosses on the wall. “I’m so sorry, Mary. I still need to ask if they died after birth or if you lost them early.” “Why you ask that?” demanded Jimmy. He and Martin muttered, then divulged that Mary never carried a baby past five months, but that she and Jimmy remembered and loved them all. Even in nuanced English, this would have been painful. Though I felt I was using a sledgehammer on their sensitivities, I forged ahead. “Can you love someone else’s baby? One that is not your flesh and blood?” As Martin frowned, Jimmy burst out, “We want the baby! We love him!” “OK,” I said. “I have to ask. Some people can’t love a baby that isn’t theirs and will mistreat it.” “How they can do that?” asked Martin. Shaking my head, I glanced at Karen’s outline. The next topic was Sexual Adjustment. I skipped to Discipline. “What will you do when the child doesn’t mind? Or breaks things or has tantrums?” “Tell him what’s right and teach him,” said Jimmy. “Maybe put him to bed if he is bad.” Mary added that the priest and Jesus would guide her. Of course they would not beat him! Jimmy took offense again when I brought that up. Jimmy John and I were not fond of each other. Hostile and a bit arrogant, he was quick to interpret my words as insults or prejudice. How could I blame him? I was a young, white, female social worker from an agency with a long history of abusing Native Alaskan people. My feelings toward him had no relationship to his qualifications for adoption. He had a paying job, rare in villages; they had a better than normal house; Mary’s religiosity would please the Juneau Supervisor; they were neat, clean, industrious and had good references. Having lost 13 babies that they loved as living souls in Heaven, they would adore an adopted baby and raise him well according to their customs. Yet language and cultural barriers made in-depth interviewing impossible. I could not make my written report longer than 1 ½ pages, even with padding. I mailed it to Juneau and waited nervously for Karen’s response. She and I had been at odds since she became Adoption Supervisor. She followed her ‘40’s-‘50’s generation’s adoption standards that emphasized room measurements, good income, social class, conventionality
33 and matching blue-eyed babies with blue-eyed parents. So it came as no surprise that my Mr. and Mrs. John report displeased her. What shocked me was the reason: “We can’t place a baby in a village! Everyone is poor in those places. They have substandard housing!” Since high school in the late 50’s, I had been an activist for civil liberties. In the War on Poverty, I had served as a VISTA volunteer in the deep South. I found different racial, cultural and socio-economic groups as fascinating and worthy of respect as mine. I did not see villages as mere bastions of poverty. Their people represented thousands of years of a cultural heritage rich in skills, customs and spiritual beliefs. By summer, my husband and I would live in an Eskimo village ourselves in order to experience the culture more intimately. “I can’t place an Eskimo baby with Eskimo parents?” I asked, polite but poised for battle. “If birth mothers kept them, they would be in villages with their own people. Does Welfare really let only white, well-off couples adopt?” I was putting her in a difficult position. Though she appeared to have little first-hand knowledge of Native cultures, she was aware of increasingly strong Native Alaskan and Lower 48 American Indian activists’ demands to keep children in their own tribes. The times they were a’changin’ while entrenched social agencies lagged behind. Karen played her strongest card: “How can I base a decision on your inadequate report?” In Juneau, she had roads, electricity, cars, plumbing, TV, telephones and English-speaking clients. Having never visited Bethel, much less a village, she had no concept of our realities. When my boss asked the State for a “snow machine,” Karen had responded, “Why can’t you shovel your own driveway?” Driveway? We had no roads. We needed a snowmobile for making winter home visits. A wonderful idea came to me. “Maybe you could come show me how to do the adoptive interview. You could see their village and house before you decide about the adoption.” * Middle-aged and trim in neat wool slacks, turtleneck sweater, parka and leather boots too dainty for our snow and tundra, Karen joined me on a 4-seat charter plane. When we stepped into the icy wind in Jimmy’s village, her shellacked, pouffed hair stood on end. “Jimmy works there.” I pointed out the General Store whose tin roof glinted in rosy winter light. Her eyes darted to the shack-like houses
34 scattered along the path. I studied her face, fearing that she perceived the houses, the path, the frozen river and the stark church as primitive, shabby, crude and no place for an adopted infant. Martin ran out of his house. “I am translator,” he told her. “Come this way.” Jimmy had turned up his oil stove for our visit. Sweltering on kitchen chairs, Karen and I faced him and Mary as I introduced her. “This is the adoption lady from Juneau. She will ask questions and help me finish our report.” Karen lifted her eyebrows. She had not grasped that I used simple speech to penetrate the language barrier. She opened with the same questions I had. “First we need to gather some information about your backgrounds and education. Where were you born, Mary? Here or someplace else?” Martin and Mary conferred. Martin said, “Here.” “What was your position in Minto Flats, Alaska your family? Older sibling, younger sibling, only girl . . . ?” “First girl,” said Martin. “Mary, you did not go to school? Is that why you don’t speak English?” Jimmy’s eyes narrowed. “She can’t adopt baby if she don’t know English?” The challenge took Karen aback. “It is one consideration, Mr. John. We look at many qualities.” “Our baby will learn Yup’ik and English. Like me.” “Of course, Mr. John.” She asked more about Mary’s childhood. “We already say all this,” said Martin, correctly. My report stated that Mary was the oldest of 17 children, with a sickly father and mother. Mary had been their Cinderella. “OK,” said Karen. “Um, well, Mr. John, tell me about when you were a boy. How many kids, what kind of work . . . ?” “12 kids. I fish, get wood for stove, hunt, skin animals. I go to boarding school. My family have good house, like this.” And so it went. Karen began using short phrases and skipped the sexual adjustment topic. She did glean
CIRQUE something I hadn’t. “They beat me bad in boarding school,” Jimmy confided. “I will never beat my boy.” Our pilot rushed in. “A blizzard’s coming,” he shouted. “We’ll get trapped if we don’t leave NOW.” Pulling on her parka, Karen sped out. She had fared no better than I in the interview and now faced another of my challenges: sudden, scary weather. “I’ll
write to you soon,” I told the Johns. Martin leaned close to Karen’s ear as they speedwalked to the plane. She had a surprise for me when the plane lifted off. “I was going to approve this adoption,” she said, “but Martin just told me Jimmy drinks.” * Weeks later, I reluctantly returned to Jimmy’s village. This interview would be painful. Jimmy’s village was “dry,” meaning zero alcohol tolerance. Did he sneak an occasional beer or go on the week-long, violent binges that made some villages infamous? I visited Martin first. “Thank you for telling us about Jimmy’s drinking,” I said, hiding my annoyance that he’d shared that with Karen, not me. “Does he get drunk?” “Some drunk. A little.” “He falls down?” “No.” “Does he yell at Mary or hit her?” The question shocked him. “No!” “What does he do?” “Laugh. Act funny. Dance around.”
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 I tried to visualize this. In my presence, Jimmy always hovered on anger. “He doesn’t throw things or shout or fight?” “Just sit in chair, laugh, go to sleep.” “Every week?” “Maybe couple times a year. New Year’s.” Why had Martin betrayed Jimmy by revealing the drinking in the first place? Jimmy’s boss, priest and council president had not mentioned it. I suspected Martin resented Jimmy’s status or had sucked up to Karen because she was my superior from Juneau. Next I visited Jimmy and Mary. When I brought up the drinking, his face did not change. “I drink sometimes. That mean I can’t get baby?” His responses matched Martin’s: he was a funny, infrequent drunk. Then, as the sun brightened the amazing church windows, I visited the priest, who confirmed what Jimmy and Martin told me. When I mailed Karen my update, I was glad she, not I, had to make the decision. Jimmy violated his village’s standards by going on an occasional toot, but he was harmless, and he drank more moderately than some white, middle class couples I knew. Karen would also struggle with his being in a village and the fact that he and Mary were comparatively old to adopt. Yet if she denied the adoption, she faced another problem. Jimmy would definitely fight back. A week later, the secretary dropped Karen’s letter on my desk. Mr. and Mrs. John were approved. * Every couple of weeks, Jimmy came to my office. “When you give me my son?” In his presence, I would phone Karen, who always snapped, “He has to wait his turn!” When I explained to Jimmy that couples all over Alaska were waiting, he tightened his eyes. “White people?” “Mostly, yes.” “They get babies first?” “No. Karen goes down the list.” This went on for three months before Jimmy told Community Advocate Caleb Montgomery that I only gave babies to white couples. * When I finished this story, Montgomery said, “Wow!” and seemed to see me for the first time. “I might talk to some people,” he went on. As a Community Advocate, he had contacts with
Native Rights activists in villages and Juneau. Some were pushing State and Federal governments for changes, including with adoptions and foster placements. Was it through coincidence or Montgomery’s contacts that, three weeks later, Karen notified me that a welfare worker was bringing Jimmy’s baby from an unnamed place in Alaska? By then the rivers had thawed, so Jimmy came for the baby in his outboard motor boat and joined me and Caleb at the Welfare Department. When a young, white social worker entered carrying a swaddled bundle, we all crowded around. Jimmy touched the baby boy’s perfect Eskimo face and thick black hair. For the first time since I met him, distrust and anger fell from Jimmy’s face. His expression tender, he took his son gently into his arms. “Thank you,” he said without meeting my eyes. “You’re welcome,” I answered, though I believed he credited Montgomery, not me, with the baby’s arrival. The two men left together. Montgomery drove Jimmy’s boat. Shoulders rounded, Jimmy sheltered his baby from wind and spray. Afterword: Jimmy and I were ahead of our time. In 1978, nine years after Jimmy John fought for his right to adopt a baby, the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) came into being. The ICWA stopped the systematic removal of 25%-35% of Native American children from their tribes and cultures that had gone on for over a hundred years. Simply stated, the 1978 Act granted tribes jurisdiction over children’s placements, enabling them to keep children in their own tribes and cultures whenever possible.
Jana Ariane Nelson
End of the Alcan “I packed one suit, two shirts and two ties,” Dad said to Mom the night before he left Portland. He had accepted a job with the Bureau of Land Management in Anchorage and needed to be presentable for work, but had little room in the old Plymouth for much of anything in addition to camping equipment, food, fishing gear and his beloved guns. He stood looking down at the items he’d placed in the car trunk, thinking he might need to rearrange them just one more time. The tent and sleeping bag were easily accessible, as were the somewhat scruffy
36 pots and pans that went along with his camp stove. Nonessential items were relegated to stacks of boxes on the back seat and floor of the car, including the small suitcase that held his suit and shirts, extra underwear, and winter sweaters. A pair of shoes and several boots were stuffed out of the way underneath the front seats. “I’ll ship up more clothing when you let me know what you need,” Mom offered. In an attempt to hide her acute anxiety over the long trip ahead of him, she tried to stay busy helping him organize the car. “Did you pack your extra insulin and test strips?” “Of course!” Dad said crossly. She’d already asked him this about fifty times. Then, realizing he was being snippy, he put his arms around her and laid his head gently on top of hers. Dad was average height, but still towered over her tiny frame by a good ten or eleven inches. “Don’t worry, honey, I’ll be fine. “It’s just so far away and I’ll worry about you.” “I know,” he said, giving her another squeeze before letting her go and looking back at the car, pretty much packed to the brim. “I forgot to put the emergency gas cans in the trunk,” Dad said, seeing them sitting on the side of the driveway. He returned to the car and moved his tent and sleeping bag to the back seat, next to the rifle and shotgun. His pistol was hidden under the driver’s seat, near an extra pair of shoes, but he could reach the revolver quickly, if needed. Mother stood on the lawn, arms crossed on her chest, a frown on her face while he placed the gas cans in the trunk beside the pots and pans, fishing gear and extra ammo. “I wonder whatever else he’s forgotten,” she said under her breath as he shut the trunk lid. To us kids, my twin brother, Jack, and me, the sound had a ring of finality to it. “I’ll send you a telegram when I get to Anchorage,” Dad said, slightly tipping his head to adjust the Panama hat that covered his shiny scalp. He planned to leave in the morning. It wasn’t like all the other times he’d gone off to hunt or fish somewhere. This trip would begin with a drive up Hwy. 99 to Seattle, then further into British Columbia to Prince Rupert. A ferry would take him to Haines, Alaska, where the car would be unloaded and he’d proceed to drive up the Alcan into the Territory of Alaska, with Anchorage his final destination. It was August of 1948 and the Alaska Highway, built by the military during the early years of WWII,
CIRQUE had just opened to public transportation. For the most part, the highway was a lonely, crooked, torturous and extremely rough drive of 1700 miles, give or take, on unpaved gravel roads, through British Columbia and the Yukon Territory into Alaska, ending at Delta Junction. Even though it was officially named the Alaska Highway in 1942, it continues to this day to be called by Alaskans “The Alcan,” since it connects Alaska to the continental United States through Canada, thus the “Alaska-Canada” highway. From Delta Junction Dad still had to continue another 350 miles south to Anchorage. Stops for gas were scarce and car and tire trouble more likely than not. Few accommodations were available, so he would need to camp along the way. Mother’s worries were compounded by Dad’s need for daily insulin injections. On the road it would mean boiling his needles in a pot on the small camp stove every morning. He’d done that numerous times before on hunting or fishing trips, but was usually accompanied by his brothers or other men, and rarely went alone, certainly never for such a long duration or into the wilds of the Yukon and Territorial Alaska. Dad came from the generation of men whose fathers moved west across the plains, looking for a better life for their wives and children. As a kid growing up in Idaho, he and his brothers were taught by their father to fish and hunt at an early age. I have pictures of Daddy holding a rifle while still a toddler and wearing a dress. Although this seems ridiculous to us now, it was considered normal wearing apparel for a diapered tot in 1914. What an adventure that trip must have been for Dad, and sadly I never asked him about it. By the time I reached adulthood that lonely drive he made to Anchorage was long forgotten. One thing is certain: the drive had to have been long and slow and exceedingly dusty, not to mention somewhat boring. Even in the 1950’s when our family drove the Alcan, grime consumed everything. Cars crept along at 25 or 35 mph on the rough gravel, throwing up billowing clouds of dust behind them. If you were unfortunate enough to be behind another vehicle, you kept your distance. Meeting a car coming from the other direction created an explosion of dust that could be seen for miles. Dust crept in through every possible crack of the window, or vent, or doorframe and everything inside was coated with a gritty brown film. Those were the good days. On bad days it rained.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 The dust settled, which was a good thing, but the more it rained, the bigger the pot holes became, and the more chances of puncturing a tire on some invisible shard. It was not uncommon for mud to splash as high as the passenger or front windows, making visibility an ordeal, and driving dangerous. Woe to those with lung problems! For the most part, the windows were kept permanently closed to avoid the dust, an occasional airborne rock, mud and multiple mosquito invasions. After a long day on the road, the inside oxygen content was undesirably low. Those poor souls prone to motion sickness had an especially tough time of it. These factors, plus the relative unavailability of showers, gas stations, groceries and sleeping quarters, made the Alcan altogether unfit for the faint of heart. Perhaps the trip north was fairly uneventful for Dad because Mother never mentioned otherwise in her journals, although it’s possible he never told her all his adventures. He managed to arrive in Anchorage before termination dust hit the Chugach and pitched his tent on the wooded hillside just off of 15th Avenue. That fall letters flowed between Portland and Anchorage on a regular basis. “Rentals are non-existent,” Dad wrote in one of the early ones. “I’ll have to find something we can buy.” “How will we ever manage?” Mom wondered out loud. With two small children, she had not been able to contribute to the family income for some years, and money was tight. But they were Great Depression survivors and she was hopeful they’d find something affordable. “Perhaps,” she said to me, “it will have a small yard, a picket fence and flowers like our rental in Portland, or maybe a bay window breakfast nook like the home we had in Berkeley.” A week or so later Dad wrote he had found something a mile and a half from downtown Anchorage. “It’s a small two bedroom home, and sits on three wooded lots,” he wrote. “It’s not a bad price, $4500 cash. With winter coming soon, this is our best bet. I’ll write Cress and ask if we can borrow the money from him.” $4500 was really low. Prices in Portland at the time were ten times more for a finished house. She wrote back. “That doesn’t seem like very much. What’s wrong with it?” “Nothing!” Dad insisted in the next letter. “It’s just not finished, but it’s a quarter of the cost we would pay for a new house here, and those are few and far between. We’ll be able to fix it up nicely. Don’t worry, it’s not a problem.”
“Not finished? Good Lord!” She exclaimed, raising her eyebrows in exasperation. Mom’s brother, Cress, was a self-sufficient bachelor and a foreman for Del Monte Peach Ranches, and readily agreed to loan them the money to buy the little house in Woodland Park, a small subdivision just south of Anchorage. As the weeks wore on, Mother’s skepticism regarding the condition of the house grew and she wondered if it had little more than plywood walls and a roof. She hoped she’d be wrong. Dad’s letters were filled with lists and lists of parts for her to purchase. Her days began by sending Jack and me to first grade, then riding the bus to Sears. The first day she ordered a kitchen sink, tub, toilet and commode. On the next trip, a floor furnace, electrical wiring, and plumbing fixtures. Whether it was nails and screws and paintbrushes, or other items Dad couldn’t find in Anchorage, she ordered them. She felt like she’d become a fixture at Sears - a professional buyer. Some of the items were shipped up immediately. Less crucial components joined household goods transported by the Alaska Steamship Company, their arrival delayed until the following February by the steamship strike. Dad was formally educated in Economics, and informally in hunting and fishing, but had little to no training in construction, laying water pipes, shoring up wells, plumbing, electrical wiring, roofing, laying floors, or insulating. Most of his co-workers had only handson experience as well. He learned from them; he read; he measured and asked a lot of questions. On weekday evenings and weekends, many of the fellows at work chipped in and helped each other out. If Anchorage had carpenters for hire in those
Don Griffith 1940’s
Jana Ariane Nelson
38 days, they were few and far between. With no rentals available, the only option became a do-it-yourself project. After a lengthy three months, on a dreary November day in Seattle, Mom, Jack and I boarded a Northwest Airlines DC4 prop plane for the 8 1/2 hour flight to Anchorage. It was raining when we arrived late in the afternoon, landing on the only commercial airline runway in Anchorage at Elmendorf AFB. Dad was there to meet us. “Hello, honey.” He pulled Mom gently to him, kissed her modestly, then hugged her tight to his chest. Jack and I ran to him and were pulled into his warm embrace. It was an emotional reunion, and eventually he said, “Let’s go inside where it’s a little warmer and out of the drizzle.” We followed him into the hanger and waited for our luggage. Dad was obviously overjoyed to have us all together again. “You’re too thin. You need some good home cooking,” Mom said, and he smiled. “Is it always so dark and drab here?” she inquired as Dad drove us through downtown Anchorage on the way home. “And dirty,” she added, peering out the passenger window. The street we were on - Dad said it was 4th Avenue - was not very long with mostly one or two story buildings on either side. It had a distinct resemblance to an old western movie set. “Wait till the sun comes out,” he replied. “The mountains are gorgeous.” Mom wasn’t so sure. Maybe the mountains were pretty, but everything she’d seen so far looked like it needed a good white washing. And there seemed to be a lot of bars! “Are all the roads this muddy and rough?” We had turned off of 4th Avenue and were driving by a small hospital. Dad pointed it out to Mother. “Just in case,” he said. A few houses dotted the bleak landscape, but dwindled as we continued to drive. “Pretty much,” Dad replied, answering her question. He glanced over at her briefly, smiling, relieved and happy to have his family with him. “You may not have noticed, but seven blocks are surfaced on 4th Avenue. Don’t worry, the word is that next spring, more roads will be improved.” “That would be nice,” Mom commented. Anchorage was much smaller, far more primitive and certainly not as exotic as she had led herself to believe. This was worse even than Dad’s brief descriptions had alluded to. She sighed, a small downturn forming at the corner of her mouth.
CIRQUE Dad described the route we were traveling. South on “L” Street to Romig Hill. Down the hill, around the curve and up the other side to Spenard Road, turn right on KFQD Road, left on Lois Drive. Before we knew it, we had arrived at our new home. I knew Mom was upset when she saw the house. She later wrote in her journal: “What a culture shock! The original shake house was put together with no architectural plans, with one end resting on the ground and the other up on cement blocks where the land sloped down a hillside.” “We’re home!” Dad proudly announced as he pulled into a makeshift parking area in front of a large tent that served as a storage area. Jack and I tumbled out of the car. He started exploring almost immediately, anxious to find our cat Perky, who had been shipped up several weeks prior. Mom stood next to the car for a moment, as if gathering her wits about her. Dad mistook her demeanor as appreciation. “This is such a wonderful country! I missed moose season this year,” he said, “and want to go hunting next fall. The fishing is unbelievable. I’ve already been several times,” he chatted away while pulling some of our suitcases out of the trunk. Mom followed him inside the house and looked around. It was a stark, uninviting 20’ by 30’ box divided into a large room that served as a living room, dining room and kitchen; two small bedrooms; and a partitioned off area for a bathroom. The flooring was rough boards, walls were not insulated or finished and there was no trim around the windows. The previous owners had left an old couch, rickety bookshelves, a table and benches and army bunk beds. An upright oil heater stood toward the back and middle of the main room. Mother had left her nice electric range in Portland for a camp type-cooking stove that had to be pumped up before it was lit. Cupboards consisted of wooden Blazo boxes. An outhouse stood on the downhill side of the house. “This will be fun when it’s 30 below,” Mom said, looking around for a chamber pot. She’d grown up on a farm in Idaho, with enough to eat and not much else, and both she and Dad had persevered through the Depression and the War. They’d survive this too. She let out a huge sigh. “Who knows, we might even learn to like it here,” she said to Dad, taking off her coat. He smiled at her and together they started to unpack.
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ed to say little else about Defiance Street besides: You must give this book a —Nathan Brown, Author of My Sideways Heart Oklahoma Poet Laureate
Defiance StreetPoems and other writing
is a novelist, historian, and awardwinning freelance journalist. He is the author of the novels Turn Again and The Devil’s Share. He lives in Alaska.
llection of poems, Defiance Street, Sandra Kleven soars, wildly creative, using ringmaster uses his whip: to move the beasts around the ring and into the light. the almost-invisible, rapidly-shifting world into place for her readers again, me sighted again, raw, as that first human must have been seeing the world fresh. a that the right words would help, writes Kleven (“Jaden is Calling”). She has n the promise in that. —Anne Caston Author of Flying Out With the Wounded
is an Alaska Native writer and awardwinning poet. Her work has appeared in 50 Poems for Alaska by Ten Poets, and Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment, among others. She lives in Rhode Island.
VP&D House, Inc. www.vpdhouse.com
11/14/13 4:15 PM
Farmen • Amore • McKay
Defiance Street: Poems Buffy McKay and other writing is VP&D House’s debut collection of dynamite poetry and prose by Alaskan writer, Sandra Kleven.
—Michael Burwell, Author of Cartography of Water and founding editor of the literary journal Cirque
Weathered Edge Three Alaskan Novellas by Kris Farmen, Martha Amore, Buffy McKay ISBN: 978-0-9850487-7-8 Retail price: $19.95 304 pages, softcover
Weathered Edge Three Alaskan Novellas
Martha Amore is an award-winning author and teaches writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University. She achieved her MFA in Fiction from the University of Alaska Anchorage.
ms and personal essays, Sandra Kleven’s Defiance Street is a wild ride of disthe fury of the 60s, Kleven finds a hunger for language and truth-telling that esonant poetry and prose speaking to feminism, sexuality, mothering, love, beck. Her language is direct, playful, surreal, and full of her own personal music. of age, her words turn to the pathos of aging, memory, the deepening of love, mortalities that stop and remake her, and her journeys to bush Alaska where its people with uncommon authenticity and candor. These poems are at once erable, powerful and quiet. This is poetry you will relish, prose you will cherish.
Defiance Street Poems and other writing by Sandra Kleven Weathered Edge ISBN: 978-0-9850487-8-5 About the Authors Retail price: $16.95 112 pages, softcover Kris Farmen
t after boys who looked like Jesus, d, contemplative, guys with that d look.
Defiance Street: Poems and other writing
n walks a path of beautiful grit and hard honesty that remains uncompromising n poems like “Lament for Scott” and “As She Waits for Word on Her Biopsy,” er thoughts on aging to the bone with confessions borne of a poet’s long . Kleven’s prose pieces are wall-to-wall poems. She speaks of the famous Blue of the birth of the second half of the 20th Century, and of Theodore Roethke ever did. Bottom line? When I read Sandra Kleven’s lines:
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Weathered Edge is the first of its kind, a collection of three unique novellas by three of Alaska’s finest up and coming writers. From shark attacks to high mountain fatalities and resigning to a life in service of a dying mother, Weathered Edge is a unique tapestry of writing, tied to the land in Alaska, and yet as timeless and broad reaching as the oceans themselves.
Kris Farmen • Martha Amore Buffy McKay
5/8/13 9:53 PM
Turn Again A Novel by Kris Farmen ISBN: 978-0-9850487-1-6 Retail price: $19.95 Also available for Kindle & Nook $9.99 400 pages, softcover In October of 1894, anthropologist Rebecca Ashford arrives in Kodiak, Alaska to interview a Russian prisoner with an American name and an Athabascan Indian past. Aleksandr Campbell has been sentenced to hang for a double murder, killings that took place in his homeland on the Kenai Peninsula—a little-known part of the territory where Russian is the common language and the handful of resident Americans are foreigners in a strange land. His tale, recorded in her notes as he waits for the gallows, spans years and miles of wilderness and clashing cultures. It is a story of young love and of old magic that is rapidly draining out of the country with the coming of the gold rush. It is a story of being Alaskan at a time when Alaska barely existed.
st before the summer solstice of 1989, nearly three hs after the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Billy Day walks up the path through the spruce aper birch forest to my house and knocks on the I’ve been out of the hospital for a few weeks. I’m g use to the crutches. I pull up off the couch, limp and open the door. Billy’s long blond hair, blue and freckles give way to a rock star smile. He gives hug and says, “I knew the mountains couldn’t kill
The List by James P. Sweeney ISBN: 978-1-57833-524.-7 Retail price: $14.95 104 pages, softcover
Alaska Expedition: Marine Life Solidarity by James P. Sweeney ISBN: 978-0-9850487-0-9 Retail price: $19.95 304 pages, softcover
“Dave, we could climb up there and spend the night at the base of the Elevator Shaft, then get up really early and try to climb the whole mountain in one push. We’ll take one pack and go for it just like Dan Beard. What do you think?” Dave’s headlight shines into the steam from the pan of noodles he’s boiling. He’s making some kind of pesto noodle dish. I take another nip off the whiskey and pass it to him. He takes it, and his head light shines in my eyes. “One snowflake and we’ll come down.” “One snowflake and we’ll come down.”
In this wild little book, Sweeney travels the length of his life and paints portraits of loss, and love along side climbing adventures in Alaska’s wilderness. Sweeney walks on the edge as he charms readers with humor and insight, be it on a road trip, climbing a frozen waterfall or scaling a mountain. This book full of sorrow, also carries with it a strong sense of hope. Angela Ramirez’s stark lino-prints complement the book’s style and feel.
— from Mars Cove The List
This is the much anticipated epic story of James Sweeney’s survival story in the Alaska Range. Through avalanches and crevasses, take a thrilling look at what it takes to self rescue in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet!
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9 7 8 0 9 8 5 0 4 8 7 0 9
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Best selling writer, Carolyn Meyer has re-released her young adult Hotline series in EBOOK ONLY format, available through B&N and Amazon. This compelling series is geared toward teens navigating the complexities of growing up, depression, suicide, running away and drugs. Carolyn masterfully writes in approachable, clear language that appeals to readers of all ages.
Carolyn Meyer Because of Lissa (Hotline #1) by Carolyn Meyer ISBN: 978-0-9850487-3-0 Retail price: $2.99 e-book only
The Problem with Sidney (Hotline #2) by Carolyn Meyer ISBN: 978-0-9850487-4-7 Retail price: $6.99 e-book only
Gillian’s Choice (Hotline #3) by Carolyn Meyer ISBN: 978-0-9850487-5-4 Retail price: $6.99 e-book only
The Two Faces of Adam (Hotline #4) by Carolyn Meyer ISBN: 978-0-9850487-6-1 Retail price: $6.99 e-book only
Meet us in Seattle
February 26 - March 1, 2014 @ Cirque’s AWP Bookfair Booth
With our literary partners:
UAA Creative Writing MFA Program
VP&D House publishers ~~~~~~~~~~~
Thursday and Friday (check our schedule for exact times)
Chris Byl, Dirt Work Donna Mack, Whispered Secrets, Whispered Prayers Eva Saulitis, Into Great Silence Kris Farmen, Martha Amore and Buffy McKay, Weathered Edge Sandra Kleven, Defiance Street
~~~~~~~~~~~ And then, this:
On Sunday, March 2nd, 5 pm , (after the dust has settled), join us for poetry and beer @ Roethke’s haunt — the famous, Blue Moon Tavern. Sign up at the door to read. Be a part of history.
A Major Cirque Event “Seattle to Saginaw: The Reach of Theodore Roethke” Friday night , February 28th, 7 pm @ ACT in the Seattle Convention Center A reading and performance with Cirque writers and poets, Saginaw’s “Friends of Theodore Roethke,” author of An American Poet, Jeff Vande Zande, invited guests, David Wagoner, Tess Gallagher, and Joan Swift. Plus: music ~ film ~ bar ~Donations at the door.~
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FICTION Sean Ulman
Stocky, broad sickle-wings stretch to tail tip; back and cap lapped purplely-opal gleam, aqua-er than violet green swallow’s sunny emerald helmet-nape-cape. And VGSW’s rump’s white-sided so its hinge has a sure stripe, whereas TRSW’s tails lack stripe & border whites. Swingers surfing prairie chaff seeds, chirping, inspecting & ingesting insects. Adult perched on lawn on sippy-straw shaft of snowy feather, double-claw-clutched, toe-punctured, relaxed test lift, flap-hopping a few feet up&over. De-perched, beaked feather twirling like a chocked pinwheel. Finding the halfway-point hitch, chomping, full-energy take-off. Up, dip, rise to nesting box built and installed 7 summers ago when professor approaching greenhouse-backed scene with seven students was a PHD student studying nesting success of suburban/city songbirds. Staged swallow sets feather on oval entrance’s lip, enters to arrange for feather fitting. Bitty breeze topples feather, floats to lawn like a faction of snowflakes. Emerged bird tilts its head – defeat and/or where’d it go? Re-perches on hollow stalk fringed by green blades. Re-beaks stem midway, climbs gradually. Wide sweeps build a bust-butt boost. Swallow sits in hole professor cut with a jig saw, proudly desperately fixing firmer beak-clamp. Rests for 3 min 18 sec. Sets about navigating fletched shoot into home, sidestepping, spinning, stunted by inch-high entrance. Professor considers predatory defense advantage vs. securing nest-material setbacks, believes in ancient decision concerning saw and bird’s ability to bend or finagle feather in. Rim pinches plume, bird all in house, quill cracked in half, snaps, gravity grounds. A student runs to get a camera. A student walks to pick up the feather. Held near face feels breeze brushing toothy edge. Alert bird perches.
Perky head bobs and twitches apprehensively comprehending student chatter – ‘you cannot do it for her no way; way too much intrusion’ & ‘yeah yeah, toss it, she’s watching…’ Releases feather high above head, swallow swallows ecstatic chirp, dives, snatches nest-trophy midspine, flaps so heavy a student lurches to cradle it nestward with his hand, but the swallow ascends, lands on box’s porch, rests 6 min 32 sec. Feeds feather in pin first, so teeth brush rim in correct current. As the bird lets go to nip under wings, and groom its flight feathers flat, the swan feather continues to steadily disappear inside. A second swallow parent pulling, pulling. Porched swallow centers its sense on scent. Feathered strands of feather in its bill. Finds the dependable memory of its normal summer site – sub arctic marsh. Where white feathers lined its tide-claimed cottonwood timber root cavity – gulls, pilfered semipalmated plover fluff-lined straw cup and two feathers from a giant honking white bird that smelled nothing like this one. The swallow determines that the northern swan artifact and this one, from somewhere south and strange that the offseason weather teamed with a stirring storm to steer it to, belong to two different swan species, but purposely drifts into the nostalgia of tangy marsh, bug abundance and everlasting light. Hops in to join its mate and the just-delivered bentin-half feather. The student returns with a Nikon 90 to photograph non-photographic aftermath – black hole in a nest box, students searching surrounding trees for blue bird’s mellow music.
Pixel Fjords Screengrabs The Cachemasters of Pixel Fjords Saving his breath for the next level, Sunshine digitally approaches a standardized inky-dank portal that will take him to Brick’s undiscovered server-world on the Pan-Arctic role-playing game, The Cachemasters of Pixel Fjords, which has recently been incorporated into the Cosmic Constant MRPG multiverse, as an alternative reality sub-program. Brixton Verde played Cachemasters as part of his high school curriculum in Alaskan Studies. There was a pedagogical movement in his early teens, wherein video games were employed to teach students about Alaskan culture and history. The object of The Cachemasters of Pixel Fjords was as horridly boring as the 64-bit graphics it sported – players went around a video game map of Alaska and the circumpolar north, collecting various items of importance from the different regions, going to villages, fish camps, islands and cities. It was an eagerly designed educational synthesis of sad graphics and the blandest aspect of video gaming, collecting things. Brick, just like Sunshine, had always liked the two-dimensional look of the old school video games his grandfather used to play, with their quaint abstract graphics and opaque simplicity. Pixel Fjords was a happy little piece of his high school experience, even though it looked like an insane hamster from the 1990s made it. Ultimately, the design of Pixel Fjords was a good way to educationally illustrate the different cultural items the peoples of Alaska traditionally used. Every player has a cache to be filled with various collected virtual items from around Alaska (as well as other locations in the Arctic). Chilkat blankets and cedar baskets in southeast, umiaqs and qaspeqs in the north, beaded gloves and snowshoes in southcentral, wooden shields and bentwood hats in the southwest. It was a real video game as education classic, the Dick and Jane of expanded media, with a nostalgic look reminding most middle-aged Alaskans of their old high school social studies classes taught with video games. Sunshine’s Pixel Fjords character, or cachemaster, as they are known, in the common gamers tongue, is
an odd-throwback of types as well. It is Harpo Marx rendered in a 64-bit Nintendo style reminiscent of the antique Super Mario Bros. He is playing in Super Marx Bros. Mode, a plug-in mode designed by one of Brick’s outlier cousins, the rather unfortunately monikered Muffin Mandala Verde. Sunshine has virtually adorned his large-nosed and bushy blonde haired Harpo avatar in a traditional 64-bit stylized Unungan/Sugpiaq style outfit called the Beringian Bros. It is completed with a bentwood visor sporting walrus whiskers over the top, seal gut parka and mukluks, which all crush together in the squat stylish rendering of this video game squirt. Beringian Harpo is armed with a wooden shield and an enchanted heat-seeking harpoon. Sunshine has also put a magical wood frog totem spirit from the previous level, inside his visor, which his character can pull out as a last minute insurance policy. Heandarat of Norway, Sunshine’s online friend, is playing Chico Marx, which he has outfitted as a Cyberian Shaman, which means long tangled hair decorated with tree branches made to look like antlers and various necklaces which contain the tongues of his spirit animals and a rounded pair of what could best be described as ghost overalls, which float in glitch paraphrases around his character, occasionally catching on fire, or burping the holophrastic utterances of the ancient arcade games and shooting keyboard keys from a neon KORG keytar, slung apoplectically over his right shoulder. Wherever Cyberian Shaman Chico walks, he leaves a trail of burning ectoplasm, which slowly dissipates into smoke in the form of luridly stereotypical musical notes. Amanda Pete, gently touching her new haircut that frames her face better, has agreed to join this online quest in Pixel Fjords, as a feather dancing Groucho Marx in a raven mask, with his distinguishable grease moustache a silly suggestion on the dark black beak of the mask of corvus corvus. His feather fan gently moves in beautiful solid pixelated motions as he dances around the virtual world, periodically pulling a cigar from behind the mask, and flicking the two-dimensional ashes, making an arcade blip blip sound. The feather fan in his right hand gives his character the power of flight, making a twinkling bell toll glee when employed. The only real tell that Amanda’s character is indeed Groucho is the trademark gait, where he is bent half way over and walking sideways, while staring knowingly through the fourth wall. The gait fits the raven motif, and Featherdancer Groucho is a glorious appointment to the
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 video game adventure squad. Two unknown players have joined Beringian Harpo, Cyberian Chico, and Featherdancer Groucho in their old school Pixel Fjords quest, as Nordic Zeppo and Black Metal Gummo. One dies early on, and the other meets a girl in the game, and switches to a private mode pretty quickly, so I am barely mentioning them. The multifarious players are currently in Tarpville, which was not one of the levels in the original educational version of the game. Tarpville was added several years later by a virtual reality hacker, who had begun to correct the perceived cultural inconsistencies in several video games. Homeless drunks and guntoting rednecks were inserted in several levels, as were well-meaning tourists, reality show film crews and college kids doing nature documentaries. Tarpville was made out of one of the old villages that used to exist on the Kenai Peninsula, but has since turned into a ghost town. All of the digital models used to make up the background of the level were covered over with tarps, digital snow allowed to accumulate over them as the years carried on without a look. The North Slope level took some major hits from the virtual reality hacking as well. The current version of the game has the entire North Slope under the watchful eye of a sleeping dragon with a gigantic evil action diesel generator who years ago sucked all of the oil from the ground and has threatened to catch fire to the icy sea if not appeased annually with a talent show cum human sacrifice. The dragon, called Hal, still has all of that oil in his fecund belly, which has driven him even more insane over the decades of greedy corporate solitude. Hal is said to be able to spit oil fireballs from all the orifices of his scaled and sulfurous body, which is covered with corporate fossil fuels logos like a schizophrenic NASCAR racer. Additionally, the North Slope level is plagued by a rogue army of amphibious tupilaqs made from the compromised bones of dead children. They attack entire villages where they torture the populace to death, leaving desperate hordes of newly undead tupilaqs amalgamated from the bones of the village ruins. The virtual reality hackers initially added simple new items to the meta-cache, such as bottles of vodka, machine guns, barrels of oil, ice pipes, and tubs of Crisco. Eventually they started rewriting entire levels and player modes. Player modes are where the strong distinction between shamans and witches or wizards is drawn in the sand of Pixel Fjords’ video game logic, and it is a binary one – shamans are good, witches and wizards are bad.
43 When Pixel Fjords was originally designed, all players’ avatars were the students themselves, whose avatars could be stylized any way they wished, and connected to the students’ academic account in the network, where it would be tracked for educational improvement and safety violations. In the hacked version of The Cachemasters of Pixel Fjords, that is now part of the Cosmic Constant MRPG multiverse, players can either be animal ancestors, shamans or ancient reluctant conscripts, a term taken from the Haida artist Bill Reid, when describing one of his characters in his famous sculpture Spirit of the Haida Gwaii. It is composed of several magical animal ancestors from the Haida pantheon including Mouse Woman, Raven, Bear Mother, Beaver as well as Good Bear and Bad Bear. They are all huddled on top of each other in a large sea canoe, with one anonymous human paddling, of whom Bill Reid referred to as the ‘ancient reluctant conscript’, the human whose job it is to do the living, surviving and procreating of the people. At the end of every level in the hacked game, is an evil witch or wizard who has denatured and destroyed the environment of the level. All of the bad guys defeated by players, were controlled using black magic and pseudoscience. All of the buildings or structures that get destroyed by the players reveal hidden natural items like fireweed springing from busted concrete or sand hill cranes nesting in old rusty army vessels leftover from WWII that rot preternaturally slow in the landscape. Every level that gets beat is a correcting of the environmental degradation and destruction by loggers, takers and miners. There is one level that restores an ancient salmon spawning ground, and one that is an enormous berry patch that goes on into infinity. There are bird sanctuaries held hostage by a demonic winged warlock who vomits curdled milk and carries a fiery sword, and an ice field under the scourge of a fat, lazy wizard riding a behemoth sectional sofa with a mind of its own, who throws searing magma junk food at every living thing he sees. One level sports a hideous cannibal witch who lives at the bottom of a lake and mutates every animal that drinks from it. These mutated animals become evil themselves and begin to exclusively eat their own kind. After the initial hacking, several other identity correction activists have taken a turn at the code of The Cachemasters of Pixel Fjords. While in high school, Muffin Mandala Verde hacked a new option beyond animal ancestor, shaman and ancient reluctant conscript – ‘pataphysician. It was a ridiculous and pointless hack,
44 gleaned from the insanity of his home life, inserting people from the mid-twentieth century who were connected to the College of ‘Pataphysics, an obscure art society dedicated to the teachings of the fin de siècle French author, Alfred Jarry, who coined the term ‘pataphysics in his Ubu Cycle. The roster of ‘pataphysicians one could be in the game included Alfred Jarry (on a bicycle), all five Marx Brothers, the Great Sandomir, Boris Vian, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Ferry, Eugene Ionesco, MC Escher and the two reptilian members of the college, Mata Mata and Lutembi. There was a secret mode inside of Jarry’s start screen, which allowed for sub-rosa game play as characters from his novels including Ubu Roi, Dr. Faustroll, Panmuphle, Bosse-de-Nage, Ceasar Antichrist, and Andre Marcueil. Currently, the three Marx Bros in full Pixel Fjords regalia traverse the treacherous Tarpville level. Amanda is private messaging Sunshine about going to a death metal wake this weekend. “Apun is playing at Potlatch Projects, she has a new side project she is working on,” Amanda let him know. Beringian Harpo takes off his bentwood visor and out jumps a wood frog totem inflating from a small pebblesized thing to a gargantuan croaker the size of a house, flicking its Tlingit graffito tongue at the sky, releasing slowing falling snow, covering all of the villains on the screen, turning them into carrot-nosed, sticksfor-arms, snow people, which are quite easily dispatched with a causal trounce. “Let’s get to that portal,” Sunshine says to all three of them, speaking into the microphone at his mouth; a sheen of potato chip grease on his lips, “the one with the sign that says, ‘No Butt Nuggets Allowed, Unless You Intend to Rock the Fuck Out!’” “I’m in,” he messaged to Amanda, who smiled all alone in her room as the three
CIRQUE of them virtually walked under the sign modeled and left by a 16 year old Brixton Verde and his exceptional cousin named Muffin Mandala, several years ago in the hacked educational video game called The Cachemasters of Pixel Fjords. The Tundra Lemming Tunnels Level 1024-bit twirling pieces of stale pilot bread float in the noosphere of the Tundra Lemming Tunnels level, as three of the video game Super Marx Bros outfitted in brand new magical skookum suits, purchased in an interim level, complete with miner-style headlamps, scurry in the darkness, squashing every 8-bit troglodyte gnome or inukin that forces breath from the digital Earth. The world around them is black but for the light emitted from their steel hard hats, which will occasionally reveal the incomprehensibly expansive maze of gigantic brightly colored translucent pet store hamster tunnels, which are the pipeworks and sewage system of the Tundra Lemming Tunnels. Escaping pockets of trapped methane gas
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 in the thawing ground insure dangerous travels for the Brotherhood of Marx, exploding and hissing from the frozen substrata. The sound of ice melting in the background gives a spectral drip of white noise and anxious static, when blended with the horror house slow jam native to this level, invokes that falling feeling of fresh sleep. Skookum Chico switches his assorted load screen to the muckamuck setting, annotated by the skookum footprint morphing into a puffin beak rattle in the select bar. A deep voice, loosely resembling a bear-belch says “moooook eeee MOOK AAaaghhh!” in an opportune voice over, like he just took a long drink of water. The words ‘Can You Dig It?’ in a Helvetica style 3D lettering appear above one of the colorful lemming tunnels, one that has a spherical connector on the portside. Skookum Harpo holds his face towards the letters, lighting them individually by headlamp, so the other players can read what is levitating there as well. “What’s it say?” “ ‘Can you dig it?’ Nice.” “Maybe that is what he meant by ‘rock the fuck out’?” Sunshine messaged the group, leaving a crumb trail of flickering letters that slowly fade out, “we need to find a smart shovel or at least a giant ice pick. We need to dig.” “Let’s try the Cyberingian Æther Mall from the PORP-console,” Amanda figured, speaking into her microphone, “we can order items from them. I know they have like digging equipment and mining supplies. I have some extra money in my Cosmic Constant account.” “I don’t know if one of the chaos shovels will work in Pixel Fjords, I don’t think they are backward compatible,” Heandarat said from somewhere in Norway, “maybe we can mod one?” A voice over in the Tundra Lemming Tunnels says, “Brother Groucho has left the game.” “Amanda has left the building. See you in the store Henny. Maybe we can mod it if she doesn’t get it there.” “Brother Harpo has left the game,” on the loud speaker. “Well fuck you guys, I am staying here and playing anyways. I friggin’ like playing all alone in the dark,” Heandarat was muttering to himself in Norwegian, as he pulls some tepid French fries from a half-day old bag of Canadian-style fast food, and crams them unceremoniously into his maw, “dirty skunks on a tightrope pissing on freedom.” The last bit does not
translate well into English, and mean about as much in Norwegian. ‘I can mod the fuck out of some shovels,’ Heandarat thought, ‘bet I could mod one up before they even got back…” As he was making his player jump up and run around, lighting up little pieces of sub-tundra tunnels, he remembers the snow shovel in his cache that comes with the ‘pataphysician player mode. Adroitly, he switched to his cachemaster board, and started gunning through his inventory, and there it was, Duchamp’s uncannily proud snow shovel, the unsung weapon of choice for ‘pataphysical cachemasters. Under the Cyberingian Land Bridge “Have you thought more about Apun’s show this weekend?” Amanda asked Sunshine over their video game headsets, which ported their facial expressions into the game as augmented virtuality. They were videovoice chatting, while their Pixel Fjords characters were browsing in the Cyberingian Æther Mall for shovels. The shovel section is actually quite extensive there and spans over several hundred aisles. In the Cosmic Constant MRPG, the Cyberingian Æther Mall works as a kind of alternative reality inside of the mixed reality system. To access it from any PORP inside of the game cluster, one has to layover augments, and that acts as sort of a key to open the door to the mall. It was originally a glitch in the system that became a very popular thing, so was kept in as a staple of the standard model and mixed bag game modules. The Æther Mall is where many of the developers in the game spend the bulk of their coding time, making gadgets or vehicles for sale. “I have never made a casserole before”— “I have a recipe for a potato casserole we can use!” “Cool.” “We use ooligan grease at our house instead of anchovies,” Amanda was wanting him to say something back right away, to let her know he was hanging on every word she was saying. He was squirming with glee, but it was not translating into a verbal expression that could transmit through the game console. “Sunshine?” Amanda tried. “How about that shovel with the Celtic spider stuff all over it? Looks seriously badass.” “Ugh, uh-huh,” she sighed.
Panther Poster I go to my doctor with pain in my belly. She puts things inside me. She takes things out. “Nothing serious,” she says. Her hand is on the softness inside my knee. “Only a yeast infection.” She gives me some cream. The pain stays and I go back and there is nothing and then I go back again and they spread jelly over my skin and look for things that grow. I flash darkly across the screen. The ultrasound machine whispers and scans for the swollen mystery, the thing that is me but also not-me.
My body is a container for peering into. My body is a body like all the other bodies. There is nothing that they cannot find.
Kristina Cranston “Your ovary is in the wrong place,” the doctor concludes. “What?” She is writing something down. I crinkle on the paper sheet. I am afraid if I move too much I will create a giant tear, that my bareness will be against the table. I pull my gown a little closer. “How can that be?” I imagine my ovaries moving around like planets. She asks me instead about my sexual partners. I shake my head. “No, not even oral.” I don’t tell her about meeting you. I don’t tell her about your motorcycle, which we left in her parking lot overnight. The light between my legs seems too warm.
Burning Houses My father burned our house down when I was eight. He doused it with gasoline and torched it, a revenge of sorts. Everything inside went up in fiery flame, a collection of antiques, our baby albums, my step-mother’s beaver fur coat with silk lining, and the old ghost that roamed the halls, keeping vigil, tormenting my father when he went too far. We stood off to the side, my sister, my step-brother and his mother, crying, huddled closely for comfort. My dad walked away, leaving us behind to pick up the pieces, his eyes half mad and him smelling of smoke and fumes and spent rage. My father burned our house down when I was eight.
We made love on the kitchen counter of someone else’s house. We made sweet potato fries, which left our fingers salted. I put mine in my mouth and looked at the sun on the pavement and wondered where you would be, once you moved away. There is something you always miss, even when you push inside. There is a panther on the ceiling. “You can get dressed now,” she says. “There isn’t anything there.” I look at the panther and then at the cotton swabs. “Just try to ignore the pain.” Brenda Roper
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POETRY Kirsten Anderson
Ursus Before when I thought of bear I thought of the cool odor of ambush—all that is not known, that will unbless on faults of sleep. And then it is there— in green brush, hissing presence. The fear thick in our veins at the clacking jaws before the forward crash the smack of careless sudden sound as it lumbers, a smear of tawn-brown in its rising, our legs in tangle knowing not run, never run. The logic to not fall into the gait we wish for we race for. I grip your hand— convinced in the gnash rush that if we don’t look back, it won’t happen. Jim Thiele
Then you tell me look back, look back— to look while it is so close, its backlurched haunches now in retreat as it slips again into bear-ness— ribs of bone-stretched hide that may or may not come back to prey on us.
Harvest Apples in a barrel wrapped in newsprint with the care of lost china their porcelain blush mealed and earth-eaten
He insists. Each one arranged and bundled, the limb-picked becoming ballast, their unmarred wax of skin secreted to the bottom untouched
we gather the ground fruit stones of fall and fallen, where the soil takes first seep in secret bruises of evening light beneath the rose rattled peel.
so that we eat each injured sauce apple through the slack of winter, reaching the last layers—the good, whole— in spring, when they too finally taste of earth.
is anyone satisfied, not here or there either if it were as simple as say for example a brook running with minnows except it is more like stagnant water brimming with mosquitoes you know, those annoying bugs
For My Son
...... after Grace Paley
I wanted to bring him a chalice a bowl a cup a crystal goblet of love or cool water I wanted to sit beside him as he rested after long days, after airports I wanted to commend admonish yes, of course oh, don’t do that that’s wonderful sure, why not? I wanted to say what I never got to ask my mother didn’t think to ask my father I wanted to tell him what he doesn’t think he needs to know I wanted to bring him a cup of cool water no explanations expectations Jim Thiele
I wanted to explain tiredness even emptiness is expected at the end of the day also expected are loss rejection sorrow and fear these will come and go
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
At Mt. Baker, October Over the placid tarn a gold rowan glows twice. When breezes ripple the water, its red berries shiver.
Spiral of Life
We walk to the edge of campus to study the hive, facing a current, frat boys flooding in-bound. Yellow buzz overhead lines our route, leads us to the humming apiary, a huddle of bee boxes under trees. There, we pull on canvas suits (borrowed carapaces) as beekeeper describes circles around the hive, his tin censer puffing smoke like gray forgetfulness, his human form cloaked. Orbiting sentries settle to rest. The gloved hand of the keeper opens the box, slips out a honeyed frame, presses its weight toward us. Sweetness rises, scent of fellowship. We visitors, veiled, lean close to breathe. Golden, intimate pulsing. Ocher abdomens lift into air. Tiny faces point down to the comb. Faraway bass drifts past this treble world, as a bee or two clambers over the backs of those at work below. What task calls them forward? What miniature obligation? To us, one bee is like another. Our simple eyes, our rudimentary senses! Crowd babble, male voices ride the breeze, now here, now gone. Absorbed, the bees jostle cozily. Individuals, colony, how do we draw a line? Chants and rhythmic stomping rise near the Union. Loudspeakers scream. The bees bow to each other courteously, quietly, wings folded. Gentle amber motion fills our view. Out of sight on the far-off quad, a seething mass gyrates and raises hands to a line of young men on a high stage. As a name is screamed, one steps to the edge, pauses, leaps. Muscled arms stop his fall, press him overhead, swim him over the crowd like a rock star, land him elated and bruised at mob’s edge. What difference that to us? We’re rapt. The insects bob, attending to nameless rituals of their hive. Across fields, the brothers chant and roar.
The rowan drops its first curled leaf into the water. Its purple stem a keel, its pinnate leaflets the burning ribs of a funeral longboat. *** Three mountain goats stick to the steep north face of Table Mountain. The adults sun and browse; the kid kicks and springs, cascading scree four hundred feet down to Iceberg Lake. As if to say, What joy in my legs. As if to say, Gravity is my playground. *** North-slope frost has browned the fine lace of ferns—stems orange now, fronds the many colors of heat. Above Arbuthnot Lake, maroon and crimson of mountain huckleberry, yellow sprays of common blueberry, and rowans orange-gold: all the colors of green growing gone. *** Red chipmunk stuffs his cheeks with the wooly seedfluff of fireweed. Warm nest, good winter, little brother.
Fish Camp Stretched nets sway off poles, the catch put up. Racks of whitefish hang to dry, their egg sacks bulge like miniature ears of corn. Wasps burrow into the split dog salmon. Birch leaves drift in the wind, light on the ground. Frost will soon cripple the swaying rose hips. Sky paints the next season nearer.
Secret Steelhead Stream
Fish Head Soup
Hibernation A drumming can really make you feel an inward capsize Iâ€™m not talking about a ritual Iâ€™m talking about a punishment and winter season for blue tarps
and humped sleeping wet of animals whenever someone pulls my hair I picture mountains to live here is to have your hands bound behind you throat open and head forced back in our childhood cabin I stare at what might sustain me spread across the table: one thousands jars of jam and a spoon outside my window your thinness has been pacing a worn path through the mud for weeks now I wake to your head bowed in its ceremony enshrined in that isolating kind of temple-like rainlight.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
Dusk My footsteps startle a hundred coots from the water’s edge; their wakes reflect waning sun. A moon rises, and one white feather ruffles up from the sand. No eagles harassed by crows, no milky-blue herons scooping minnows from shallows. Only a scratching of red-twigged dogwood, and ruined grasses. Sleeping Beauty Orange-Blue Version 2
Nothing before, and nothing after.
Michael Raudzis Dinkel
Emailing Crazy Horse I keep fish skins in my studio, stretched and dried. A sheefish, three pink salmon, a couple of rainbows, and pieces of kings. They are coups I have counted in the old battle between gill and lung. I think they might be useful. Like when I made a Dena´ina war club from caribou antler, rawhide, and chert, with a pink salmon skin handle. It looks ceremonial, but it is not harmless. It has been soaked in oil to make it heavy. I cannot take it on an airplane. The Dena´ina had these under their coats when they drove the Russians from the Kenai redoubt,
Soon they will perfect the three dimensional printer. Then I will email this club to a ghost on the Pine Ridge. Even though most of the fighting there is over, there is still a little in Whiteclay. In his white man’s ball cap and big, worn mackinaw he will think, “This is nice to have around.”
For a Dog in Mourning He left this morning, that boy you followed from room to room. You watched silently as he stuffed clothes uprooted from deep mounds into a canvas duffle. Papers, letters, bits of historyall tossed away. Posters torn from the ceiling, Marilyn with her dress blowing up, Sendak’s monsters, charcoal portrait of a chubbier boy drawn by a high school friend. He forgot the dried bouquet from some long-ago prom. Or maybe not. He didn’t say a long goodbye, leaped to slap a porch rafter on his way down the steps, departing further than your dog mind could imagine. When the door closed behind him, you lay down at the top of the stairs, forelegs hanging over, waiting.
Black Moon, White Mountain An eclipse like a coin dipped in oil dares me to drink from night’s full cup. The shadow I sip quickens my brain but darkens my tongue. Penumbra and umbra drip from my mouth. My campfire wakes to lap whatever wonder spills, but cratered Kulshan sleeps for now on snowy haunches hunkered down. A distant howling thins into sleepless strings of stars. Above me, threads of cedar smoke – sky’s untiring magic ropes – rise into the mystery and vanish like a prayer.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
Please, donâ€™t be like my first husband coming in late from the dock stinking of fish, he died leaping from the deck onto a pile of cement blocks missing the boat entirely. please, donâ€™t be like my second husband enchanting my guts with a sexual sauce and my brain with a bafflement of words, he died in a room on the coast through a hole in the floor mistaking the way out for the way in.
Border Town A sulky night no shoes no pack through a yard out back into the barn weak-kneed under rows of bats tight in the rafters,
bye-bye love you love you love you lilikoi glowing like the sun in this abandoned orchard wild golden plunder, you are born again and again crusty on the outside and hard but open, soft and succulent, dripping sweet into my mouth head, heart and limbs then let me go bye-bye love you love you love you.
I am making a run for it crossing over haunted by you forgetting me and your unsavory types: the envious the unpitying timber-faced hangers-on, crossing over into morning light marking the silvery remains of touch the places I know, the handiwork color and line hooks and hinges that grace this shrine but not the way in or out. Brenda Roper
Claudia Ferriz Green
Returning to the (Inner) Mesa So, Here we are... Well, here We are,” I say— Standing, hands on hips Looking out Across the sand; The great Horizon shimmers, Heat welding Sky To molten Land.
Saying Goodbye First frost, and marten tracks there on the morning step. The hills now are gold and shadow; the sky gathers swans and leaves. Gone are the endless days, dreams like sea tumbled stones in a rush basket. Only winter sun shall remain, a slit through the drawn curtain, lighting in the cracks in the floor the spilled glass beads.
I Recognize This thirsty landscape Strewn with rocks Too hot To hold; Burning sands blown By dry winds Carve Out lone Mesas, red and Gold. Evening Sky, so Heavy-laden With the Dying-blood Of fallen Star; Cool shadows cross Great, sculpted Cliffs— Soothing, Cooling now... The rocks Have cracks In them, and Hidden, Are the dusty weeds Stray rains come To water from Afar.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
Melissa S. Green
Copper River The beaver who swims up the creek at night, then turns, takes the current back to the river (as we hunker into the fire’s smoke, smudging our eyes, coughing, but warm), is not so cold as the back of my head when I pour the river into my hair. In this one place are three sounds of water: river’s rumble and rush through the canyon, creek’s tumble and splash to join it, this eddy calmly lapping at my feet. These voices sing always to these rocks, to this beach of rock flour, to the bleached bones of cottonwood, willow borne down on the river, borne down on the shoulder of its song to this canyon, slate-throated, echoing water. I kneel, bend to the river, fill the mess kit pot, bow my head, pour this water of fourteen glaciers, of more. It cuts my head as it carved the gorge and pours its echoing song into me before thaw claps my skull shut again. At night we sit in the campfire’s glow. A driftwood log walls our backs against wind. A dark shape moves on the creek: the beaver. Fat and fur, it is not cold but breasts the cold and takes it down to the river where yet it swims in me.
Bear Totem Maybe today the post shivers. Well, pull your hat down, we’re all shivering. See how busy the wind sniffs the grass. Now take a breath and take one for the bear. Nothing elaborate. Between you and the totem it all seems quite simple. Outside of us there is chaos. Faces on the post are looking for you.
You Standing There Chena River follows the rocks and trees with a notebook and pen. It murmurs over the rocks. It sifts gravel for sunlight. It’s hard to say when this thick hand of water, first stroked this valley, its fingers moving left to right. Who’s not to say the land found this water, tucking itself under a bend in the river’s arm? Comfortable in its skin, clear-eyed, you recognize the feeling, you, standing there, you seeing.
Map For Hugo Dick you can’t get here with apologies. I have rum ricotta and beer to chase your imagination. You would have said “Yes, way,” if I’d said imagination is faster than light. Remember Seaside. You sat in my Nissan, out of breath, minus a lung, whispering to the passenger seat sagging from exhaustion. I dropped you and your sandals off at a side street and now it’s time to visit here. Time and space are never late or too far, the science professor says. Time and space are two seasons on the Mobius weft of our gravelly earnest world. You can ski into spring or fly into Italy any time like you’ve written. Time is a peek between the pickets. Emily knew this. Have you seen her in the blue warp of eternity? Has she edited a new atlas of poems? Stop by. The walkway is clear. I await your report. I’ll leave the light on.
Shane L. Harms
Iron John on the Wagon Iron John is on the wagon after a retreat to California. The ibogaine was strong. The ayahuasca ate him alive. Now body building in BC, there is not enough protein to eat. The scabs on his face have washed away. He is clean like the lepers in the Book. Black needles do not pierce his dream-tissue. He holds the original rib. A mother in Minnesota rests like a kettle at the fire. She knows a son like seething wind that blows young sailors into sirens. This time must be cleaner, longer. On Facebook his hairless bulb-baked body projects ripples to the world: “I am competing this Saturday,” says the screen. The mother sees the man-cub finally turn to wolf-man. She knows the snow is building along the house, slouching seven feet high, almost past the windows. A radio is on. Garrison Keeler is talking now. Talking about Robert Bly now. Reading a Bly poem now. Outside a holy man went back down the hill as the mother posts a message on her son’s page. Electrons push her words to the abstract ether. Does he see it? Is he really there? She remembers finding him under a bridge in Minneapolis, his voice like the ore in Hibbing, and a face more scarred than the land -- bones like broken birch branches. A phone vibrates in his pocket, as Iron John watches the sea rush a BC shore in furrows of obsidian steel and long waves of Persian White. He does not feel it now. The black sheep’s wool covers his eyes. He finds Shiva’s slumber in Pacific storms. O what original violence out there, thrashing water and sea-foam. There it beats in an opium heart. Why does it come in old oil drum dregs combusting the family wagon back to Minnesota? A wave rolls up the sand. Iron John cannot tell if it is a trough or crest that finally closes, but feels another wave approach.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 VI
X Campers I
no, we are not the desensitized foot of St. Helen’s when she landed no we are just as sacred as movies II
I paid Saint Savie 69 credits – the equivalent of seven candy necklaces and one pink-pierced tongue VII Un-muted. Resized. (HD). VIII
the mountain looks like a big mountain my next click will be on “____________________”
The shopping cart is starting. [No, delete that]. Missing! Then found in his back yard. [Retracted].
a private plane smothered by dead leaves in black water
with miniature handcuffs that would barely arrest his fingers she neck-laced the shushed
if you were to put your finger tips into your wrist you’d just be a modified jumbled forest of pixels & ash
we, the desensitized hearts of St. Helen’s prefer image over eye landing over landed on with minimal fear
V no, we are the traumatized shape of the mountain the once topographical cone that tore her red agape two miles wide and two thousand feet deep Ruffian
stepping out on the deck one fresh of breathless at a time staring at the icy sky the wind whip chills into my marrow. or a calm night like tonight listening to the buzz and rattle of a snowmobile uphill laboring mosquito on its last flight or near. fox running clean and lean sure of foot and fleet a swift of shadow passing through the dawn. morning come and a figure on skis gliding down the hard-packed path stopping long enough to pet a dog. and disappear.
Tree Island in Ice
grease the wheels of public policy money and telling us global warming is a matter of opinion
ravens flying backwards in the sideways snows of nome. birds playing basketball. bears and hunters in the stars.
and glaciers melting forests flaming smoke motes clinging to the corners of my eyes making my lids heavy making me tired of waiting for the insurance coverage to kick in.
sun rising setting on the same horizon jupiter just a thumbnail from the moon. looking up at the nearest near planet. hearing the hum of the planet i’m on.
friend of mine tells me the other night he’s been finding himself crying lately joy or sadness doesn’t seem to matter
the quality of tears
tsunami scenes in the phillipines horror show bloodbath in the middle east burnt and bleeding children or some lady wins a pile of dough on a game show he’s tearing up he’s wondering lately if he’s losing his manly edge.
so my doctor tells me yesterday ‘it’s all about the quality of tears’. this dry eye thing i’ve been sporting for a year or so ever since last year’s summer of forests on fire worst i’ve ever seen since i’ve been here. and everyone in charge of the thing lining their political pockets with smog money oil money
i tell him no i don’t think so it’s like my doctor said it’s all about the quality of tears something about remaining human enough liquid enough to be affected to respond.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
Three of us and gear— all the plane can handle on this deep-sky, autumn day. Below, the Yukon flats, patched with orange aspen, russet bushes, the black of an old burn, and everywhere the glint of water. Shallow riverlets incise the barely-sloping land. Sinuous curves and oxbow sloughs entwine to glide toward the great river flowing over the horizon into the sea. Mesmerized by engine vibration, forehead braced on the plexiglas, I scan the passing mosaic for moose or beaver dams or pairs of floating swans. Then I see the shadow of our plane cutting due east, its straight business, pale gray, barely touching the tangled, fecund inefficiency of patterned land below.
In the distance, hear the tremolo— A series of tremolos on a lone guitar A muffled bird tremolo soft as a throat cough Aching tremolo of loves won and lost— The ringing tremolo where one must close the eyes and ears to its call
Philip, Seattle, 1921
Iron, still hot from the stove Warms the mattress as the four slide into bed. Wind and rain rap tar paper walls Of a converted porch bedroom. Feeling the heat soaking up through the mattress, the closeness of Ted or Felix, Breath streaming white into the night We shake until sheets and covers begin to accept us. I always felt safe here Between brothers. I always curled up and slept In the knowledge that we were together. Warmth out of more than necessity, More than affection, I always knew to the center of my bones They love me. I blanket for each and each a blanket for me.
Sometimes a tremolo drives to the verge of crazy Orfeo searches for Euridice O tremolo of tremolos, the pulse of three fingers the underlying thumb It is the night to end all nights, no breath between notes, one guitar seeking the moon in the still dark night Jim Thiele
Juleen Eun Sun Johnson
Country Cat (Uncle Willie) Sometimes I feel like a country cat, chasing crows in cotton fields, corn fields, and wheat fields. I have never lived in the country. Sometimes I feel like Hemingway’s Beloved cat Uncle Willie Struck by a truck in 1977. Crawling to my husband for love when in pain.
Bat Girls Girls fear bats snarling hair like knitting off its needles, fishing lines run amuck. There’s a tennis racket in the attic. Not me.
Witnesses No lament in the clang of the loose barn roof in the wind. No reproof in the distant barn light, yellow to the white of turning stars. No reminder moon up early. Just the froideur of stars among cedars on a hot summer night. The silent hens in a row on rugged perches saw the door closing.
Real she-bats flutter like fitted leather gloves on hot August nights wee brown mouse-eared winged hands jitter the branches skim the August moon gobble night moths above fireweed and phlox bouncing calls to the ink wind. Brown bat girls, secret your furry selves in caves and crevices following your fall flings. Retreat to bridges, my cozy bat-house, barns, you acrobats. Huddle up a maternity slumber party with bat-girl breasted masses, the one pup sisterhood. Hold sperm in torpor, spring shiver to warm awake, ripen to pregnancy. Keep a fearless hand in the timeless flutter glove you wave.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
Falling The city began to swirl and faces around me blurred. I held a pole waiting for my stop not far away. I fell to the floor of the bus, people surrounding “Are you all right? Shall we call 9-1-1 Can you stand up?” The old determination became my planetary core, surrounded by noxious gasses of confusion. The cold, dirty floor whispered in my ear, lift your head, stand up, this isn’t your stop, yet. But I had to get off, sit on the wood bench, alone, fresh air icing the sweat drenching my thin shirt. I thought of those people who wanted to help me, whoever I was, whatever was happening to me. It was no big deal, no heart attack or major crisis. A fever, then some rest and I was fine, but that moment lingers, the concerned faces, helping hands, soft voices. We think we are anonymous in the city, but we share a bus to somewhere and this frightening delirium.
Morning Fog Streaks of pink shoot through blue, and sing the morning in. In silence, we watch from the window of our loft, our feet entwined, soft in cotton and down, as the fog yawns low, blankets the straits, curls against the island’s prow. It is here that I am lost and found, the trusted tones of her breathing and mine, entrained by chance and practice. It is here that we are birthed under a cover of dream, each day new. And when time’s demands must draw us down, we”ll leave a trail of crumbs to return us to that space above the din where we discover ourselves again, emerging blind, in love with the unequalled eloquence of the unseen.
Emma Rae Lierley
Angry at the Task Amy Katz
The Anchorage Jail My son, young inmate, sprawls along the long table India ink blue tattoos accented by orange prison garb; chin juts forward looking for a fight jaw clenched denying or defying hard to tell which. So many scars up and down his arms and angry eyes hold, then hide so much pain.
We’ve spent hours out at the woodpile with the heavy maul to heat a few hungry rooms— our bedroom’s never warmed— cutting cords of firewood beneath the bowing cedar. We sucked our hope like a rock in the mouth our own thirsty saliva mistaken for water, swallowing a silent, unexplainable guilt like snatched handfuls of hoarded candies— the evidence of our theft left in our sweaty and small, vibrantly stained palms. We worked and this is how we learned what family was, what it was to mean for us to love, like splitting wood— the labor and order to things, the carefully parsed exertion, the necessary limit. Our father’s father built a stolen house and lived a bitter life, our grandmothers are scattered there among the rotting timber, buried on a hill above the Raging River, where it joins its waters to the Snoqualmie, at the sinking town below the Falls, but we, angry at the task of living each Sunday morning, know no one laying there.
We speak through battered black telephones, cords spiraled down with worn metal. We’re joined by shatterproof glass. He laughs, cries, swears he wants to change. Mothers trade in hope and time. The guard pats my shoulder, an unexpected kindness, but I find my way out the door alone across the long parking lot to my locked car. Brenda Roper
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
Amalgam Fire all along the ridge, the work is unambiguous. We all smell of burnt hair loneliness and manual labor. And itâ€™s said that salt water is so often the thing to cure: tears, sweat or the sea. But this work burns like wildfire in the backcountry of my heart and my ship crumpled under the gravity of its own weighted loss. Now the only thing my desire burns is a sweaty mark on the sheets where my ass rhythmically pushed as we tried to make love look us in the eye and still something tangible we could hold like an axe in one hand, a shovel in the other.
I day dream of my father running His strong legs carrying him Surely and swiftly over so many miles. As a child I biked along with him. As a young man I tried to keep pace, But I could not and soon stopped trying. Only now have I found my legs And only now have I begun to understand What my father must have felt as he ran.
The stress and woes of the world fading away To the Skrit Skrit Skrit Skrit Of shoes on Asphalt, Dirt, And Track The first few tight steps Melting And Blending Into the smooth easy strides of well worked legs That beat out the rhythm of his life. The body moving, leaning, Pumping hard into the last few yards Where the legs burn and the lungs pull hard. The mind set free through the physical exertion. I have glimpsed this now, And know why For nearly Fifty years he ran, And ran, And ran. Now that the cancer has ravaged his insides And stolen his strength and his stride, And his legs and his lungs Push and pull no more I stride on in his stead. So the Air and the Ground know That one man is still running. So the Earth does not grow lonely From his absence.
- For my father who died of cancer September 3, 2013.
you wonder as speech proceeds. can your father hear your words. the things you say about him. ghostly. a flicker in darkness. brightens. then dulls to black and white photographs. he might have been incapable of love. that passion filled with want. she remains nearby. a party of more. ignore the age difference. difficult. another form of lack. cling rather to procedures. to desire. mean absence. to want. what remains lacking. she cleans a table. stacks boxes. you look out the window. a promise of more spring snow. allusion. my lover finds in the everyday. routine. comfort. reads words meant to transpire. his beautiful dark heart opens. invites body. talk to me today. say what needs saying. an upright piano. you give her a beautiful ring. he finds a necklace studded in bright greens. blues. a diamond or two. like cut glass. commerce enjoys consent. in the tattoo you find fleeting memories. she enjoys your sex. just not enough. a sign of their time. overlook. i wear a dirty shirt. to visit becomes intoxicating. an old man falters. falls to the ground. a young childs fantasy elopes. try to pick the red thread up. hiding in the carpets woven secret. not to be out done. my lover presses his hips. against an unwilling accomplice. acrylic props undo temerity. invites entrance. low piano notes. yes. she scrambles up the side of a mountain. imagines inventing a solid power. resolute. dives populate the still evening air. you are missing. he feels the emptiness of afterwards. an unexpected guest cooks laughter. prepares dessert. sleep tickles your left arm. light folds over the night breeze. the writer sits. a ghost. page erasure. declare ones living. you cannot. to mouth his name. might suddenly. make appearance possible. can no one ever finally know. you wonder. speak the song aloud. might becomes a suffering moment. a movement under. gloss covers their lives. lies to wait patiently. my lover reaches through the figured canvas. searches for his lovers impossible gift. be willingly present. approach an end. another canvas to stretch. belong to. a word scrambles toward breath. you laugh too loudly. some say. as if longing the only reasonable season. beards grow like wild trees around her. listen. carefully. she hears a distant sound. as if voices rising pink. like an orange aglow. old monochrome photos. irrelevance. misremember. an important event. she enters. walks toward him. while you. heart flames their disguise.
Red Pond #2
Tony Mares When the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) broke out, one of the early victims was the renowned poet from Granada, Federico García Lorca (June 5,1898 — August 19, 1936). He was hated by elements of right- wing political parties because of his poetry attacking the Civil Guard police, his activism on behalf of art and education for everyone, and his homosexual orientation that was a taboo subject to many of the “macho” members of the Spanish right. He was tortured and executed by firing squad. Today he is considered a giant of Spanish literature and a poet of universal importance. When I learned from recent discoveries who were the actual members of the firing squad, I was moved to write these poems. I worked my way through the English and Spanish languages inside my head. Some of the poems were conceived in Spanish, others in English. Each poem refers either to a member of the firing squad or to the circumstances surrounding Lorca’s execution. Even though these are poems and not historical accounts, they are “true” in the sense that they refer to events I witnessed in modern Spain or to persons and situations that were “real” in the fullest sense of that term. These poems are part of a larger work, “Reflections in the Convex Mirror of Time: Remembering the Spanish Civil War.” I hope this selection, and the forthcoming collection, will help make us aware of how relevant these poems are in our world today. Ultimately, these poems are not about a civil war fought long ago in a far away country, but rather about the civil war waging inside ourselves and all around us in the world today. A special word of thanks goes out to Fernando Martín Pescador, Spanish educator and novelist, whose careful reading and suggestions for the book truly made it possible, and to Sandy Kleven for publishing the Lorca poems. Tony Mares September 15, 2013
The North American Academy of the Spanish Language (ANLE) will soon publish, in Spanish, a large selection of Tony Mares’s work as a poet, including the chapbook Río del Corazón.
A Man of Little Understanding You were drunk, always drunk, Antonio Benavides Benavides. You called Lorca “el cabezón,” and you shot him twice “in the big head,” to strut your stuff. Afterwards, did you look into the eyes of children? Innocent eyes like Lorca’s that stared at you? Was it painful to pass bookstores and see Lorca gazing at you from the windows? Ah, but it’s unlikely you read. Your buddies in the Guardia saw you as a drunk, a womanizer, “a man of little understanding,” they said. In Málaga you became a tour guide for visitors. With a little horse-drawn carriage you showed them the town. At night, you went to the brothel. All the while, a fallen angel kept watch over your lechery, over your drunkenness, over your sad little tourist business, but only at a distance. The angel kept away from your body. You produced no warmth, no heat, no love. A fallen angel needs fire, not a cold fish.
Hombre de Poco Entendimiento Estabas borracho, siempre borracho, Antonio Benavides Benavides. Apodaste a Lorca como “el cabezón,” y le disparaste dos veces “en el cabezón,” para pavonearte. Después, ¿cómo podías mirar a un niño a los ojos? ¿Ojos inocentes como los de Lorca, que te clavaban la mirada? ¿Te daba pena pasar por delante de las librerías y ver a Lorca mirándote desde los escaparates? Ah, pero no creo que leyeras mucho. Tus compinches en la Guardia te veían como un ebrio, mujeriego, “hombre de poco entendimiento,” decían. En Málaga te convertiste en guía de turistas. Con un carro de caballos los llevabas a ver la ciudad. Las noches las pasabas en el burdel. Mientras tanto, un ángel caído velaba tu lujuria, tu embriaguez, tu triste negocio turístico, mas velaba de lejos. El ángel no se acercaba a tu cuerpo. No tenías calor, ni cariño, ni amor. Hasta un ángel caído necesita calor, y no una persona ya muerta.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
Another poor son of Andalucía, Salvador Baro Leyva, you worked the hot fields of Churriana until you leaped out of poverty and joined the army.
Three Blue Mountains
A Clever Fellow you are the one who got away clever fellow you escaped from history like a grain of sand in a dust storm you vanished in a convex mirror Antonio Hernández Martín your name somehow survives because you shot a poet because you shot Federico García Lorca
You killed and killed your way through ranks of communists, socialists and anarchists until you achieved your great reward: a firing squad in Granada where you killed more poor people and Federico García Lorca. If you had known him, he would have listened closely to your stories about Churriana. That was not to be. “Salvorillo,” as you were called, you were tall and thin. So your life, long, thin, cold, cold, as everyone said, played out finally in Churriana, where at least the sun was warm.
you were a good old boy you drank and played cards with the guys down at the Café Americano in Madrid on the Gran Vía you had lots of friends yet no one knows where you died when you died where you are buried no one knows who loved you only your name survives because you shot a poet because you shot Federico García Lorca
It Doesn’t Matter, Fernando Double Moon
In the Curved Light Quiet man, a good shot. You said the firing squad would drive you crazy. Yet you shot Lorca. It was your job. It was your duty as a good Catholic, Juan Jiménez Cascales, a good, obedient soldier. At least you didn’t like your job. Good shot, I hope you aimed well at Lorca, mercifully ending his suffering. Years later, retired from the army, you enjoyed target shooting. You won prizes for your marksmanship, for your honest aim that did no harm. When the tourists came to Granada to shop for Lorca mementos, did you look away when you passed a bookstore? Did you avoid those eyes, Lorca’s eyes, gazing with compassion at you from the book covers? I see you in the curved light of a convex mirror. You recede from this moment inside me to a vanishing point as far away as possible from war, from the bad times in Granada.
Serious, quiet, professional, it is good to know you were an expert shot. Good to know you fired your Mauser on target. Lorca sped away in an instant from vengeful relatives, from cretin politicians and generals, from his know-nothing torturers from the darkness, the frozen night that descended on Spain. All this is far back now in my mirror of time as I walk the streets of Granada. Fernando Correa Carrasco you deserve better than to kill the poor and the poets. You deserve better than to die in Málaga, to be anonymous in a charnel house. No family claims your bones. It doesn’t matter, Fernando. Lorca would understand.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1
Keeping Watch Over Lorca It is reasonable for a Civil Guard, Eduardo González Aurioles Díaz, to keep watch over Lorca while he awaits his execution. It is reasonable for a Fascist, Eduardo González Aurioles Díaz, to think about his distant relative, Lorca, as the hours slip away towards eternity. He cries. Eduardo González Aurioles Díaz cries as he keeps watch. At least he has the decency to cry. He tells a fellow guard how Lorca saved him from drowning as a child on a family outing. He cries all night long, convulsed, agitated, deeply unhappy. It is reasonable for him to be so unhappy. It is reasonable for Eduardo González Aurioles Díaz to stand guard over Lorca. They look into each other’s eyes and remember those long ago happier days of sun and sea. It is reasonable, of course. He can do nothing to save Lorca. Nothing to save the man who saved him. He cries. His tears turn crimson as dawn approaches. He hears the broken-down Buick take Lorca away in the dark. Soon, he knows, his fellow Fascists will drown Lorca in a bath of blood. It is reasonable, all reasonable. Oh lovely triumph of reason armed and in a black uniform!
Party hack. Mr. Big Shot for a while in your own mind, Ramón Ruiz Alonso. You loved to bully the anarchists, the socialists, the communists, anyone who could think, who disagreed with your view from under a rock. Lorca was your prize catch. You bragged how you arrested him. If you could have, you would have mounted his head in your den. You went too far. The Generalísimo was embarrassed by Lorca’s death, so you had to keep your mouth shut in order to survive in obscurity. You played follow the leader and when the Maximum Leader finally died, you fled the young democracy of Spain. Did you fear the wheel had turned and now it was your turn to suffer? You went to Las Vegas, more your style, like a dog off his chain. You gambled, won, lost, won, lost. Your life blinking on, off, on, off, like a neon sign on the sleazy side of town. You disappeared down an alley into the ugly backwaters of history, your sad bones shipped back to Spain.
Your mother bears eleven children but only five survive in Toledo’s Barrio of The Caves. Nearby, the owners of a tile factory offer jobs that pay the low wages barely able to sustain life. Mariano Ajenjo Moreno, you leave home, join the army. You train yourself to survive, to earn your daily bread, to accept your place in life. You learn to obey the priest, to obey the Civil Guard, to obey, to obey, to obey. Your become a stone mask, pitiless to the world. Obedience cements your mind and heart. Your fears, invisible to the world, haunt you night and day. You need money, a promotion. It pays to join the executioners. You are promoted to corporal. You are placed in command of the most famous firing squad in all Spanish history. But you don’t know that. Of Lorca, Federico García Lorca, you savor nothing of his poetry, his theater, his essays. You are aware the landowners, your officers, the party hacks like the cretin Ramón Ruiz Alonso, hate Lorca, It’s all you need to know. You can do nothing about being poor, you think, except survive, obey, and keep your little dirty job shooting people. Es tu deber, your duty. You who never wanted to hurt anyone, have become a cold reptile in order to survive. No one faults you, Mariano. Even a fallen angel weeps for you and the poor who devour themselves.
Chipa Rosaria’s hands hurt, but rolling the dough feels good. The low flames of her fingers flicker with body heat, melting cheese and lard into manioc flour sprinkled now and then with coriander. Manioc, someone dug up the big fat roots, shredded and soaked them to get the cyanide out— How many goiters, how much loss to learn this? Someone washed the death out. Someone dried and ground the flour behind the bus station above the creek. Traffic, sidewalk market, horns, lotto seller calling out your lucky day. The sun burns yellow on sweet peppers green and red. A bus pulls in, a bus pulls out. Rosaria rolls the dough and sometimes braids it like a rope, like the heavy sway of hair on a girl’s back roller skating away. But today it’s shaped as a donut, ball, or bun and baked on bricks half an hour at 250 C. Her daughter, this girl with long black hair, charming your hunger sings out “Chipa?” And you buy it, putting your trust in the street and the bread of life.
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On the Kuskokwim River in Kwethluk, after all the babies and men were fed, all the teenagers accounted for, when all of today’s work and tomorrow’s triumphs were hung on fish racks next to the black eels—us women crunched over snow-packed hummocks and stooped into Annie K’s steam bath. The white girl and the Yupik beauties draped clothes on the bench, crawled into the ember hot chamber. Annie K. sprinkled water on the rocks—then bowed low under the cloud of steam, eeeeeeeya! Jesus, Mary and Joseph! gulped the white girl. The Yupik beauties giggled, demonstrated how to bend yogi-like into Eskimo heat. An elder touched her blotched skin. Eeeeeeeya, you need to eat more seal oil.
—for Hart Crane
Along the shores where Crane’s body lies it does not matter, time, to the sea whose memory is so brief. His death after Voyages feels fresh tonight, across the face of her drenched clock with its hands of wave and palm. Last night, her same, undinal, belly. This morning, the rippling edges darken, drift, altered with white, turquoise, urchin green, spread out for Miami and Cuba
Yesterday, out in the groves where her lush shoulders sway I waded into that sun-wracked body, floating breast-high above brain and elkhorn, black-striped schoolmasters and tangs guarding his cloudy graveyard like a grove of lemon trees. And toward me she lifted green, reliquary hands white-boned, made from sun and shark, and rocked me like a corpse in her tepid arms until the impatient captain called me back, shoulders jelly-stung, and hauled me up— to squint and gasp and gaze back over her —and him—from this perishing deck of salt and wind.
along this dot of scrub palm littered with Americans who do not know his name, he who sought her continually in so many fresh, fragile eyes and arms, rain spelling disaster on the windowpane. Kate Worthington
generation under the island fir tree in the summer shade my baby son squats and musses the grass his hair blonde like the grass his small delicate palms slowly running along the earth those two living maps by which I once learned these places wild rabbits in the hedge dad’s old truck by the rotting hutch wheelbarrow shoved against an outcrop now they are his he points a small finger at my life quiet as the doe who’s appeared in the driveway she stares at us her black nose glistening and in two great bounds takes the hill and surprised as keats upon chapman’s homer he raises his astonished hands to her light
morels caps shriveled like scrota stems white as a dog’s belly my mother would bring her dull paring knife the one with the broken tip
Parting Gift: anatomy class meditations She wears a pink plastic ring on her thumb a trace of red polish on well-trimmed nails once she waved this elegant hand good-bye held it out to her dance partner took her meat from the butcher who said, Hello, Gorgeous, how are you today? Somewhere is her leg trimmed by a matching pink plastic ring is the head they call Lydia hers? her hand curls around her gift a hand that never worked hard now hard and wooden toasted by formaldehyde In this gallery of body parts she is still the most graceful Lydia, if it is she, would be pleased her flayed muscles are so admired it was important Thank you for the knowledge you deliver cupped within your curled-up hand
it left behind two spongy moons in the grass exactly blank the way the mind goes after the perfect cutting word the stubborn body can hold like the water hugging those rubbery wrinkled caps a little too much hope I’d stash those bottles of rain and pepper in my little coat pockets where they still leak a true and terrible cold
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Stick horses We rode together on wooden molding dad hadn’t nailed to the dining room wall — spirited knotty-pine appaloosas — eight-year-old team of do-gooders snaking through trails of flowerbed, garden, lawn. Leather shoelaces as reins, toy pistols strapped on, red bandanas around necks, we never got bucked off on patrol of weed-covered lots, bandits caught in thicket, jailed in shed just before we were sent
to bed. I cried all night when my pony became baseboard in the den.
Anemone Rich in meaning, permit me to spell her out for you — flower watered by tears, coming fully endowed into Greek, daughter of wind with a round, proud name. White, tinged blue, purple, red. Ah nem oh nee. Only by naming can I breathe any syllable, taste her beauty, hope, murmur — maybe take her home with me.
Driving the West Late at Night, the Crew Asleep, Many Miles Left to Travel The night is a soft blanket covering everything But road. The pavement broken Apart by our one lonely set of headlights & the few white stars Of deer’s eyes or maybe The lower raccoons foraging The sides of the road, looking for what, We don’t know. In this dead of night, we wonder What we are looking for —Knowing only it is more than just Mile marker 128, more than some lonely Dirt road along a river we don’t yet know, More than a trailhead where our van Will be the only Vehicle & our crew the only voices To hum through these cedars. Michael Kleven
The Trophy Room Bar [Prospect, Oregon] At the long wooden bar, surrounded by jobless loggers who wear beards Of weeks & aching eyes to match mine, the juke coos Patsy Cline. We crack another Rainer to get us through. Sitting beneath the marble eyes of dead deer, I dream of the darkest Edge where the Rogue churns in angry eddies. Whitecaps sluice & batter suicidally before traveling to wherever water runs. There is this world here, another world out there. Somewhere Under a blanket of stars my crew murmurs through tent walls, Goodnight. I am sick for home.
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Vivian Faith Prescott
Amoeba I sewed rank bars on your hat, your name above breast pocket. And with one dog tag woven in boot lace, another on neck chain, I wrapped my arms around you, aware of your cell body floating in cytoplasm, false-footed and spined, locomoting plasmasol through your center. They say when the amoeba is touched, it changes shape—a star with long pseudopods reaching to all directions. So I imagine the moment when you’ll finally arrive home after free-floating inside the weight
Ghost Palm Fronds
of heavy desert camos. Will I sense changes in the filaments of your cytoskeleton,
Waveform of Silence
feel familiar hips rising above me, finger hair-whorl patterns, trace formlines along your ribs when plasmagel transforms to plasmosol, moving side-to-side, as I shift your fluid self to solid shape again.
You came back from the dead with stories dangling from your dog tags. And each night you performed your ritual.—hung your dog tags on our bedroom doorknob then climbed into the bedcovers. And each morning after you showered and dressed, you put those stories on again, saying nothing. But you did speak of it, really. I heard it over and over again, that one story hung on the chain like prayer beads, clinking against the door each night with every breath, every rattle of wind and house, the story you whispered in your sleep about the soldier on duty in the guard tower—the only one you could not save. He shot himself in the head during his watch. And who was left to find him there? To check his pulse, to gaze into those wide-open green eyes, sense the formless heat that was rising just then above Kuwait? No. Not you. You were chasing cockroaches from the corner of the room where you slept, waiting for the ping on your computer notifying you that I was calling on video-chat, waiting for my face to appear, for the sound of my voice to frame the world of sand and cockroaches, the raw sewer at your feet, and the red mist on the guard tower’s walls.
CIRQUE Now, it’s August. We haven’t seen each other since July. We’re packing for a backpacking trip. I’m nervous. “The Chitistone Canyon is no weenie roast,” I say, concentrating on the camp stove’s igniter, “do we really know each other well enough?” “Doug Pope!” She moves right in front of me. Her brown eyes flash. “You promised me a trip into the Wrangells.” “You’re not backing out of it now.”
Kennicott Crossing Two friends set us up on a blind date. I was complaining about choices in women. “Beth’s tall and smart and really built,” Terry said. What grabbed me when she walked into a Ketchikan dock side café was the fur bomber jacket. “Mink?” I asked. “It’s muskrat,” she laughed, “I found it in a dumpster.” She pointed to a paint stain in the satin lining. A month later, we’re alone in a hot tub in a friend’s back yard. I stick my face underwater to kiss her breasts. “I have to go,” she said, grabbed a towel and jumped over the side. We stayed in contact, but I saw another woman in Juneau while she tried to break off with a boyfriend. “Let’s go to the Wrangell Mountains in August,” I said in the spring, “glaciers, mountains, rivers, big canyons.” “What about before then?” she asked. I tell her I’ll be there in July. But, in July I’m overcommitted with work and leave Ketchikan early. “You must have known,” Beth said.
Three days later we’re at the end of a long gravel road, looking at the main channel of a swollen Kennicott River. The wind is cold off the glacier tumbling out of dark clouds around Mount Blackburn and plowing into terminal moraine a mile upriver. A painted sign on the riverbank says “TRAM.” A platform of wooden planks hanging from two pulleys on a cable crossing the river, it’s the only way into McCarthy, an old mining town with an airstrip. The tram is big enough for two, but the cable stretches six hundred feet, sagging low in the middle above a charcoal colored train of breaking waves, before climbing up to the opposite bank. We climb on, straddle the wooden planks, pull up our packs, tie them to the tram, reach overhead, and start pulling on the cable. At first, we only inch ahead, out over the rocky bar, twenty feet below us, toward the water’s edge. The sag in the cable steepens. We pitch downhill toward the rapids. I feel a bump and hear Beth gasp. The tram bottoms out over the middle of the river, our feet dangling above waves crashing like cymbals.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 The far side, a steep bank with willows on top, looks like a rampart. We reach up and pull on the cable, then grab it again before the tram can backslide. Pull and grab. Pull and grab. We’re sweaty and breathing hard when we reach the bank. Two guys help us tie the tram to a big willow. We hold the tram while they get on with their packs, and start walking toward a second channel. Beth is quiet. Her face looks twisted. She looks down at her right hand. “My glove got caught in the pulley.” The glove is ripped, blood is oozing out. “There is a spring ahead,” I say. So we keep going. Away from the main channel, along an old railroad bed, across a smaller channel on a second tram, over a wooden footbridge, down a path bordered by willows and alder, until we’re kneeling at the edge of a shallow spring spilling out from moss covered rocks.
On the third day she asks if she can get clean. “There’s an outdoor shower behind the lodge,” I reply. It has plywood sides and a blue tarp for a door. Beth holds her hand in the air while I wash her back. She bends over and I wash her hair, pour water from a pitcher and work in the suds. When we walk back on a rocky path, she turns and says, “We just got here. I don’t want to go back.” The next day, we fly past mile high limestone cliffs to a landing strip at the entrance to Chitistone Canyon. Clouds are low, wind is gusting, rain hits the windshield. We shoulder our packs and lean into the wind, heading toward a line of spruce.
Beth pulls off her glove. Bone gleams in the fading light. Flesh is shredded from her index finger. Blue fibers from her glove stick out of the wound. She looks up, into my eyes. I dip my bandanna into the water, wipe her brow and neck. Then I pull out blue fibers, one by one, close the wound with butterflies, starting at the narrow end, carve a willow into a splint, and tape it in place.
By the time I look up, it’s raining. “I’m tired,” Beth says. We search in the dark for the McCarthy Lodge. I see yellow light from kerosene lamps and push through a screen door. The lodge is full, but the bartender goes outside and waves his flashlight toward an abandoned two-story hotel. We scan the first floor with our headlamps, climb a narrow stairway, and walk down the hallway. At the end, overlooking the street, is a room with an iron bed frame and metal springs. Beth sleeps on and off for the next two days.
Matthew Campbell Roberts
Zen Rock Garden: A Roethke Memorial Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, Washington
One looks so long at an object…that you become the object
and it becomes you;
it’s an extension of consciousness.
Rock sentinels rise from white sand like coastal haystacks. The raked lines around stones are clouds uplifting gray-granite peaks. The pool’s currents edge shoreward. I listen to this dry sea sing me into dream. I’m holding shore pines burning in the wind. There’s no mark of tragedy, no reckoning, only quietude. In this falling hour, finches fly in and out of gourd birdhouses. Death is not a lingering stranger here. A flowering-red currant feels no guilt as it leans toward the after-light. And the trumpeter swans see their reflections on the glassy surface of the moon. The Self flashes in the cottonwoods and the weeping cyclamen bows its head in the shifting shade. A song lifts from the pool’s white granules like rain feeding a bed of coals. The body becomes smoke stirring over buried stones. A varied thrush whistles from a heaven of twigs and burls. Who are you friend of the deep? Can you help me find my way? The incoming waves are calling now; and before long, I realize how it feels to reach into another life, reach into the late hours and let grief rise without regret.
Kelly Lynae Robinson
Housesitter Feed the pussycat Two or three times A day. If she shouts For two or three Hours, it is time. End her suspense. Piles of jewels on Heaps of straw hair in Dresser drawers stuffed with Sweatshirts sparkle. From The cracked closet, Pink folds of cotton knits Curl their forefingers. Touch with abandon. After, Tell me what it was like. And when you leave Items in the fridge, They wait there for you. So eat them. Please.
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You will hear thunder and remember me, And think: she wanted storms. The rim Of the sky will be the color of hard crimson, And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire. â€”Anna Akhmatova 1. Sometimes I imagine her wrapped in syntax of silk and drab diction all iambic pentameter on the stage of iron and washing. Her wings all undone at the center of lost and found or quietly threading a needle inside a jar of pearl and mismatched buttons her hair all long and labeled neatly. One potato two potato three potato four thousand souls and counting. Beaten down like pulp to putty an unformed figure paints a long tedious line snaking through a concrete landscape of wrongly imprisoned. A neighborhood unfastened from its roots precarious and unbalanced struggle to stand up strong upon the backs of democracyâ€”bend down to weep en mass. Braided together by faith of nameless proportion still counting. One potato, two. . .what else do they have?
2. Her pages of poetry smuggled in my pocket like CIA secrets. I dream of vocabulary on fire not easily diminished by water boarding or war on going, of words on fire without flame yet penetrating reason like loss and love. What do we know without being told what to know? Listen carefully. Pay attention. Read the books from the inside landscape. Across the slow queue of winter shuffle toward the dream and marry it. Forever. Put it inside your pocket like Anna did. Believe. 3. Take it viral, the call to: crucify the pharmaceutical evangelists. With winesong and stardust. Cheers to our cups runneth over, our radiant voices risen with the song of burgundy and lavender notes not anti depressing bruise-yellow remedies. Turn our eyes away from the thunder clapping of Blue Angel acrobatics terrifying big skies like a US bomb tango that is not a flavor of gelato melting above our dreadful civilized propaganda. Resurrect the sidewalks of community that bind us inside the button jar. May we discover an uncommon thread to weave these upturned palms together, a TED talk or YouTube and give them a hopeful voice. Give to us all. Hope.
Cynthia Lee Sims
In the Orchard
Nothing, Good, Click
On the way home from the hospital you want to pick Comice pears at the farm stand, so I drive us around to the back orchard, with its short, scraggly trees. Yellow leaves hang loose on the branches, and a few twigs reach feebly for the gentle gray sky. Almost before I stop the car you are out and headed down the rows, picking your way over clods with your shiny bronze cane, like the Queen Mother. I hurry behind, carrying our two white buckets. Somewhere nearby the river is meandering—I can feel it. “Here’s one. And here’s one,” you say, pulling at the full green fruit. I think about how we’ll let the pears ripen, then lean over the kitchen sink, bite into their buttery flesh, let the juice drip down our chins. The lower branches have been picked over, so I scramble up the trunk and pass pears down to you. Somehow I can’t shake the feeling that it’s really you in this tree, climbing high up into the branches, to fragile twigs even I can’t reach. You’ll take one last step into the soft clouds and leave me on the ground with a bucket of pears that I’ll carry back home, saying “Here, this is what we gathered, in the orchard.”
You couldn’t know that at age 70 he didn’t have anything left to live for. That an eviction notice was a death sentence That his sister’s suicide stung, and his best friend was gone. That his landlord was his only friend. That he’d never met some of his grandchildren or any of nine great-grand-children. You couldn’t know that a court hearing cocked a gun That his remains would be scrubbed up by a cleaning service before his daughters could view his belongings, some of which were still spattered with deep crimson. The cleaning service would use common words: Contaminated. Matter. Compromised. Never blood. You couldn’t know that he was already dead, his mind and body barely hanging on. A spinal tap led to meningitis, meds led to addiction. Diabetes had also leached on him, His nose, discolored, his skin, blotchy. I knew this eight years ago, when I last saw him in jail. But I knew little else, always, very little. Pieces of paper later he wrote his life philosophies on — Those would discolor in my purse later as I kept reading them. The 6’5” man had cowered, in an orange jumpsuit. His eyes, normally wide and prideful, were penitent, lowered. “We are all depressed in here,” he had said. “You all?” I asked. “Yes, in here, all of us.” The collective “we” of jail cell comrades. Never occurred to me: the forced socialization. No one had been allowed in his basement apartment. A broom handle imprinted the ceiling. Noise. He couldn’t tolerate it. Later, he walled me off. I thought it was personal. “Hi, Dad.” “What do you want?” “Nothing.” Then I heard: Click. I had told his wife about the others. What I knew: There was a danger in loving him, of getting too close. My fingers had once circled his pinky with a dangling plush animal he won for me from a fair—a spotted dog. I lay beside him and watched war movies, westerns, boxed now. There were only us two: my sister and I. The night before that day I’d slept more fitfully than ever. Moments crept back to me, snippets of fear without teeth. “You think you can wear the right hat to coffee with me?” It had stopped me decades ago. “What do you mean, Daddy.” “Act right. You think you got that hat?” My chest hurt. “Why do you do this? I don’t know, I don’t think so.” Tears, hot.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 My sister took the phone from me. Shook her head. I sobbed. “It’s just coffee.” She could not cry for days when he died. Her road with him, so different from my own. Every child, unique experiences. “Are you at 11:53 p.m. pecking at a keyboard, Daddy?” Not unless you’re in Purgatory, a park in Minnetonka, Minnesota. I took a self-portrait there. I’d had orange hair. It wasn’t a good color on me, either. Smallest park imaginable. On a roadside, plain. Dull. Fitting. There was nowhere left for him to go. She left him years ago. All the women of his life had left him. He had no more moments of sweeping women off their feet in him. He had no more hope that one might wear the right hat. All those people who he felt truly loved him went before him: His father, his brother, two sisters, his best friend. A brother and a sister’s suicides. Officer came to my work. “Do you want his gun?” “I mean not the one he used. There were two.” He stammered. “Obviously not that one. Anyways, the Medical Examiner has it. Part of the scene. The other one. He didn’t use.” “Yes. I want it all. Whatever. The stuff that’s there. Sure, a gun.” “He left a note.” “Of course.” Things had been getting worse for months. I had thought of calling him, finding him, saw this case. I’d looked him up, to see what’s going on in his life. Courtview. Eviction case. I saw it there. Knew it wouldn’t be good. Hopeless. Felt that. Kept hearing his voice, mine, his. “What do you want?” “Nothing.” “Good.” That click. Couldn’t leave that spot in my head. Stuck. I see him sitting there in that apartment with that gun, Roll of paper towels on his chest, one behind his head, waiting for them to come and make him leave, at 70. Finally: Nothing. Click. Eviction Date: 07/15/13 @ Noon Hazmat tape around the room, sectioned off.
When you were born the veined wings came. Such large eyes you said, and the answer
as certain dreams grew transparent— the strong back, arms ready to carry infant-others. When the time came the wretch had red eyes and leather skin. So much drama behind the set of any fairy tale—Midsummer Night’s Dream, Our Town. Afterward husks littered the ground like empty soda cans. When you were born the play contained a lecher, an ignorant mother, an absent father. Such big hands you said, and the answer came—all the better to break a girl. A hail of shells fell for the thread that ties one generation to the next: a knot that can be undone, a knot that won’t pose a problem to undo…. Embroidered blackness and the pimp in the tree, his white, drumlike plates singing, the thrum of abdomens filling
came—all the better to see through darkness.
the sky with mating calls. Then to lie
Translucent wings beat back your childhood
drunk on death and other shrouded visions.
To the Chinese Poets Old masters, I swore to leave you at peace, to not lean on you in my verse again, but it’s you I hear in the wind as we climb toward the summit of a mountain pass where we hope to find a place for the night. At the edge of the road, the frozen bodies of songbirds, migrants who never reached their destination. The buds on the trees are covered with ice. Tell me again of blossoms drifting down.
Killing the Kenai Peninsula’s Wolves Ripe huckleberries heavy on their stems by the side of the trail. I pick as I go. They’re cold on my tongue. Beyond them, ridge after ridge below peaks waiting for snow. I slow my pace. The air in my lungs is cold. What will I do if I met a wolf leaving its cover like the one I saw trailing a moose years ago? Will I talk to it like Saint Francis, call it brother? Miners almost killed them off with strychnine, now bureaucrats say that they must go. After deep snow, they’ll hunt them from the air. I think of Heaney’s poem about the last Irish wolf. It was shot by a Quaker centuries ago. Distant swans. Thin ice will form on ponds tonight.
Cirque Cliff Above
Medieval Bestiary: The Wolf If a wolf steps on a branch and it makes a noise, the wolf will chew its offending foot to a stub. If a wolf sees a man before the man sees the wolf, the man will lose his voice for a year. If you pluck the tuft of hair at the end of a wolf’s tail, you can use it as a love potion as long as the wolf is alive. If a wolf sees a woman who is about to give birth, the child when born will have long pointy teeth. If you see a wolf’s eyes shining like lamps at night, it might be the devil hunting and not a wolf at all.
Yet the inner harbor will not overflow its culverts. Shells dropped by birds of prey remain where they fell. The octopus no longer orange, mother of pearl crabs walking strictly. How to remember—when will the pool of amnesia release its incident? The question floats, unanswered. Rape exists only as a word, nothing comes before or after. Marshland without moon or sun, sand fleas jumping up pants legs, a single bee alone in its pursuit of one flower. A place to walk in circles, to starve, to stave off seasons that must die of their own accord. The word ugly—a summons for jury duty—sentencing the face, which was only a cracked plate after it had been taken off the body, caressed, held, broken, and replaced as if nothing happened to disturb the weather, the girl, the woman she became, or the children she would have later, in her dreamy waking.
Another Supper Finds Me Lost I gouge out the eyes of the oldest red potatoes— what grows below ground waits to bring its dirt to light. Carrots and half an onion replace pastels. Root names nourish my tongue. I hunger. How to eat all day— fill the pot with water, start the flame. My lover, the artist, arranges every plate, porcelain canvas sauced and garnished.
Pizza Dude You delivered a pizza to our house You were in your 40’s Obviously a sharp guy who had lost his professional job in the recession You took me by surprise You probably were delivering pizza so your kids Could play soccer and be like other kids I’m sorry I didn’t give you a $20 tip I hope you found a better job And never come back
My dinners more Grandma Moses, folk art in the kitchen, warm in the mouth and the deep empty I haven’t filled— the chalks in their box, maybe stashed under the bed, agreement scrapped by eyes and the brain that speaks to my fingers a different dialect, message stuttered. A child opens and closes his hands, lights turning off and on. His language—I want. Between the knife and board my vision’s tossed aside for bread. Steam swamps the window, the green beyond. Give me subtle flavors, shades of bay, the late sun’s dusty veil—a figure in the next room, the table set for two.
How Long, How Far What holds in the body—fast as a barnacle to the pilings where the ferry nudges the dock. We can measure the length of a boat in feet, as though walking the deck, map the path traveled in nautical miles, but the wind from any direction comes in knots, a rope of blowing, tangle in a storm. Some days, the distance between us looks ordinary, like a tree in the mist. Or it hurts as hard as the blue gap to the mountains, the sky as sharp as a knife, the sun unfeeling.
I’m asking for a yardstick to mark off the minutes. How to bring you closer. How to bring me home.
Our daughter wants a diamond ring pierced through the cusp of her navel. She talks on her cell phone with friends about possible pain, antiseptics, how many days of recovery, choosing a piercer. The jewel will gleam over her thong, shine in her belly button, light up her bikini like a marquee. While she sleeps it will nestle in her tummy fold, flake of a gem glinting where we once were moored.
Tonight I look toward the sea and above, in the sky, night’s slender girl drifts as if hypnotized toward conjunction with a star of the first magnitude. My moom, she used to call it, rising above the mountains. While I held her on the hood of the car so she saw better the only body that follows us, she was dreaming how she might place in the curve of herself such light.
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Leaving Rio In The Rain We stand on our separate decks as the lights of Rio blossom in a misty rain. I’m sipping vodka near the aqua of the pool. This is how our lives will be from now on. You are somewhere totally beyond my saving while a thousand glowing flights of illumination climb every hill around the harbor. I want to go with you. They reflect in the water where the ship leaves a scallop of wake as it leaves. And again, lights in the air where each shimmering drop is a kind of longing to make descent beautiful, to wrap whatever kills in tenderness.
Hyacinths: Late March I remind myself to buy hyacinths, then forget, remember again and this time I know why I want them— they fill a house with fragrance if you can find pots with buds just about to open, a warm room, and a day or two later the surprise of blossoms. Sweetness enough to make me forget the home others live in now, a chair that stays empty, his leather boots the soles unworn. At the edge of a highway, a cross marks death. Consider the study of colors, blue perhaps for constancy, white for newness, green for rebirth. Real life, hyacinths flourishing and still the senses wander— brevity, ghost poems, a season’s numbered days.
for Louise Gallop, 1922-2013, her memory
Now they seem so far away those moonless times of summer restless and frenetic neighbor calling to neighbor everyone slapping at mosquitoes the noise of power mowers @ 11 PM and the sun just drooping its way toward midnight We lived for the light or so we said and thought death something vague winter hidden still on the far page of a calendar not anything one would run to Between savor and salvage time was a coverlet and words tumbled Lately the wind is quiet just enough to ruffle a leaf or two and let the dust lie shapeless along roads that wait for poets to make something of them before the dark comes on and another heart is broken.
Sunset Over the Willamette River
Juleen Eun Sun Johnson
If Heaven Were a City of All White Buildings
it is September and first snows have fallen on the Chugach they call the wind: wind that sings hauntingly of darkness hoarfrost: where hiding under boulders grass and the beards of anxious men the strong jaws of winter hardly has the river Styx witnessed mournful winter: a new language written in the snow the tracks of lean rabbits it is September the sun is out and were I still in Texas this would be late December but it is not and I watch the eagle spiral beyond the strange peaks smell garlic on my fingertips i tell myself poems are the numb fingertips of thought pressed lightly along your lover’s spine
—In memory of Rebecca
Hatcher’s Pass, AK
I. Under the cover of the minute hand of a great clock is an avalanche. And trapped underneath the snow? Time: Is it so unbelievable? A wise owl paints the silent moon with his song; obscured by the change from summer milk to winter milk, those clouds are the eyelids of the night. There have been darker days but none so soundly sleeping. If the raven is afoot he has not shown himself, but the tender shoots are missing and the coins on the eyes of the dead spent.
II. If heaven were a city of all white buildings and the trouble of remembering left to each soul upon arrival there would be no contrast between the endless snow and the houses of loved ones whose memories slowly vanish. In the twisted up fog that covers Becky’s face beside the window, all that falls to ground are moments lost by those on Earth not terribly worried about tomorrow. Kate Worthington
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Back to Tide Line When we talk long distance my granddaughter wants me to go back to Seward, a town poised on the rubble of mountains back to the beach of greywacke and quartz with enclaves of sand where we walk downwind in drizzle and fog. While I shiver under weatherproof fleece and a raven drops mussels on rocks she rescues bits of glass clear, brown, green her gaze steady on the ground not wanting to stop. Soon I look too. I find an oval of cobalt its edges rubbed smooth the eye of a mosaic winking in the gems and shells that she leaves on a plate in my living room and when I move away I give this treasure back to her safe-keeping till the day she knows to take it back to tide line with its accrual of sand where a raven hovers against the sun and spots a flash in the debris what is washed up by sea holds the spark in his beak a moment before letting it go.
Juleen Eun Sun Johnson
Visit from a Ten-Year Old Granddaughter Out of Alaska off the jet in a sundress ready for heat bikini swims the cuddle of water
but the Oakland pool… We cross California find an resort in the desert until a thirty-degree drop… Snow in Donner Pass chases us back to the Pacific surf … maybe another time. This sophisticate now hugged by leggings and dark-rimmed glasses combs back her hair then arranges Barbie’s… states she likes to think about her future: after college sell home-made ice cream considers flavors of cones… and buy a ranch in Arizona inquires whether horses mix well with cows.
Paradise I find my brother outside the loosened door. Inside him are small bones scattered near a river. There’s a reservation paradise in a thudded gunshot singing open the skull spraying the dawn-lit window of this broken home. When my brother watches his father’s neck glitch he leaves his body. He searches for an earth as long as his father’s body. So I help him gather bones: washed, sundried, and sundered
Risen Christ Over Ruth Glacier
this wood piled before a ceremony of burning.
Mom’s First Night with the Body Mom whimpers as a moth designs a map in the air without its wings.
Her song zigzags into a whisper
that can’t crawl into father’s burst skull.
Lexicon I mispronounce the word for where the blue haze of warmth looms and feel my body being forgotten. Then I empty my mouth and begin to sing of bonewhite affection and repeat feeling closer to the home that exiled me. Kate Worthington
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Flying Home on a 737 (Two Haikus) Unflagging, the babe Wailed with zeal, as if by some Secret baby code. The father shushed on In monotone Morse. It was Never deciphered.
Nancy Wilbur Woods
After the Reading The literary reading Took place in a hot, bright room Filled with wine, laughter And clapping Afterwards, she took a solitary walk Listened to crickets Rubbing poems In the cool, dark night
Come On In
P L AY S Clifton Bates
Characters KIM-BOY a Yup’ik Eskimo male in his early thirties SAMMY a Yup’ik Eskimo a few years older than Kim-boy TWO OTHER YUP’IK MALES friends of Sammy and Kim-boy NON-NATIVE HUSBAND AND WIFE a young teaching couple from Michigan (or Arkansas, or Oregon or Oklahoma, etc.) A NON-NATIVE POLICEMAN Synopsis The time is the present, and it is two in the morning in this Alaskan tundra town near the Bering Sea. It could be any traditional culture experiencing the effects of the global society reaching to all corners of the earth in the 20th and 21st century. This play just happens to concern a traditional culture in Alaska in the United States of America. A first-year teaching couple, new to western Alaska, are privy to four Yup’ik Eskimo males exhibiting their frustration and confusion with the drastic changes they have experienced over a very short time. They were witnesses to the old ways and now are caught in the changes. The teaching couple is witness to these men in transition. Setting The stage is divided in half. On the right is the inside of some rustic living quarters in a western Alaska tundra town near the Bering Sea. On the left is the outdoors where it is windy, very cold, and snow and ice are on the ground. Moonlight provides a soft circle of light outside the dwelling, and it illuminates the sparse interior as well. ACT I (As the curtain rises, a husband and wife are sleeping in the cabin. Voices can be heard approaching from the distance. Four men stagger from the darkness toward the circle of light. Four Yup’ik Eskimos in parkas waddle out of the night and come alongside the structure to get shelter from the wind. Two of them fall off to the side at the fringe of the lighted area. They sit in the snow and, periodically throughout the play, stand, fall, roll over, and move about. Obviously they are quite intoxicated. The other two men keep up a loud conversation. They stand with their arms on each other’s shoulders and talk into each other’s face. They begin to be heard in the middle of their conversation over the howling of the wind.)
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 KIM-BOY …champion dog musher you were Sammy. You had the best team all around here. You worked ‘em hard too. SAMMY You betcha I worked em hard. I won everyone cuz we was the fastest all around here. You best believe it Kim-boy. (Inside the trailer, the husband awakes and listens. He gets up and stands on the bed to look out at the commotion. He digs at the ice on the inside of the window in order to get clear a hole so he can see outside). WIFE (Alarmed, sits up and whispers.) What is it? HUSBAND (Whispers to her) Some drunks are out there. (He remains standing, listening, trying to see. The wife listens for a while then lies back down. She raises up every once in a while when the men outside get loud and the commotion increases.) KIM-BOY ...you won em all in the whole area... SAMMY Cuz I knew how to kick Kim-boy. I could kick just like my dad. (He attempts to demonstrate a movement to show how he could kick to help the sled that causes both men to lose balance and crash against the side of the house. The wife jerks up inside the cabin and is obviously fearful.) My dad, he knew how to kick. But he can’t kick no more. He’s too old now. He’s middle-aged or more, and he can’t kick no more. KIM-BOY You used to haul logs every day. You’d haul logs every day to make your dogs strong. That’s why you won em all. But you don’t haul logs any more. You know why? You know why you don’t haul logs any more Sammy? It’s because you drink too much. That’s why.
CIRQUE (He pauses and begins to speak in a quieter, more serious tone.) Let me come live with you Sammy, and we will win ‘em all again.
(Solemnly, after another pause) Give me the honor to live with you in your house, and we will haul logs... SAMMY No. No! (He gets angry, pushes Kim-boy and hits him on his neck and shoulders). You can’t come and stay with me. You can’t stay at my house. I got kids now! WIFE Maybe we should call the police. What are they doing? It is too cold. How can they stay there? Are they hurting each other? (The husband motions for her to be quiet then continues listening and trying to see what they are doing) KIM-BOY We could be like it was. Like it used to be. SAMMY (After a pause, in a more serious tone) You know Kim-boy, we been talkin ‘bout dog mushing ever since we started drinking tonight. KIM-BOY That’s because we’re goddamn dog mushers. We don’t talk about snow machines do we Sammy? We’re goddamn dog mushers...
SAMMY (Excitedly) I’m gonna get me some goddamn wolves to mate with my dogs. I’m
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 gonna get me some goddamn wolves from out on the tundra. Make strong dogs like my grandfather had. You best believe he was the best goddamn dog musher in all the villages around here... (He waves his arm in a wide circle). KIM-BOY You betcha Sammy. In the old days, my dad... my grandfather... (He pauses trying to think). When was it Sammy? When’d everything... when’d everything come? (They are quiet. A smile slowly emerges on their faces. Then they both laugh hard in bewilderment at the lost question. The laughter and exclamations subside quickly. Then in a dazed and half-hearted, far off voice, Kim-boy speaks) You best betcha Sammy, we’re goddamn dog mushers. SAMMY (Very loud) You’re damn right! (Very angrily, he shakes Kim-boy hard, and they both fall against the side of the house again. The wall of the shack shakes from the force of their bodies. The wife jerks up as Sammy yells). I can kick like my dad could kick, and I’ll get me some goddamn wolves, and I’ll win’em all around here... HUSBAND I guess I better call the police; they’re getting against the oil drum. (He gets off the bed, grabs a flashlight and sees to dial the phone. After he makes the call, the inside of the quarters is still and quiet except for the wind. The husband stands on the bed again and watches. The wife sits upright and listens. Outside Sammy and Kim-boy continue pushing and cursing each other. They stand, then fall, roll in the snow, wrestle and yell at each other,
CIRQUE but it isn’t clear what they are saying. In a few minutes some truck headlights reflect on the men, and they turn to look. It is the policeman). POLICEMAN (Off stage, his tired voice is heard) Come on men; go on home. It’s late. You’re making too much noise. Let’s go. KIM-BOY Come on Sammy. We got to go. That’s a policeman. (Sammy and Kim-boy move off and the other two men get up and stagger off along behind them. It is quiet except for the howling wind. The husband remains standing on the bed peering out at the stage that is vacant except for a very evident empty whiskey bottle. The wife settles back onto the pillow while the husband finishes jotting down notes of the men’s conversation.)
WIFE Are they gone? HUSBAND Almost.
Curtain falls as the wind howls. END
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REVIEWS Kersten Christianson
A Review of The Hide of My Tongue: Ax L’óot’ Doogú by Vivian Faith Prescott (Plain View Press, 2012)
There is a revitalization of the Tlingit language in Southeast Alaska. It is happening within families, in homes, in classrooms and immersion camps, at fish camp, in culture classes and programs, on university campuses, within social media venues, in celebrations, memorials, conferences and conventions. This regeneration of language is the wind in coastal communities. The sounds, words and rhythm of this language spoken by elders to children come in the crashing of waves, dancing of yellow cedar, and the movement of tide. Alaskan author Vivian Faith Prescott explores this linguistic and spirited landscape in her first collection of poetry, The Hide of My Tongue: Ax L’óot’ Doogú (Plain View Press, 2012) in ways poignant, painful, and hopeful. It is a familial and historical account of the loss and revitalization of the Tlingit language. Luckily the poet is not shy. In fact, she is direct and frank in her handling of a very raw topic. The words in these poems hold power and the various speakers, great courage. They explore language as a living entity and the outside factors that have worked to silence it.
They say I’m shy because I don’t say anything, don’t raise my hand, don’t interrupt, but I was told my words hold power, so if I start talking I might not stop, because the things I have to say are not a one-word answer. Words, if spoken, might shape themselves into killer whales made of yellow cedar, and mosquitoes rising from the ashes –
In these poems are the stories and spirit of those forcibly removed from family and home and placed in boarding schools detached from all things warm and familial. Here, there are no elders, aunties or uncles to pass on life lessons, support, or teach young people. The speaker in “Telling Bones” is told not to speak his language; that the world’s creation is rooted not in Raven as he has been taught, but in science and a religion that are not his. Punishment is swift and often severe, from the taste of soap to even untimely death without even then a chance to return home. In “The-Place-for-Hunting-SnowyOwls,” the young, male speaker “… traces the mountains with an owl feather / he keeps hidden in his Bible…” He plans to leave school, to return home on a solo journey. His friends remind him that he is on an island without direct passage home through the mountains. But in this same poem is a glimmer of hope as greater forces are at play. It is through dialogue and organization that the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) and Sisterhood (ANS) will form and fight to ensure civil rights of all Alaska Natives. This became the move beyond silence, or as expressed in “Disturbing the Tourists at Glacier Bay National Park Lingít Language Immersion Camp,”
Yes, we were being loud – loud enough for our grandparents to hear us across Icy Strait, atop Mount Fairweather.
Because really the pushback that created the ANB/ANS was in the spirit of all that had been silenced for
far too long. It became reclamation of culture, language, and home. As Vivian writes in “Tundatáan yák’w (little face of thought),”
Beneath the house post the earthquake sings, this soil spirit
All change begins in a place much deeper than anticipated. The exploration of language and culture continues through poems that illustrate relationships within home and community. In “Role Model,” a mother contemplates how to tell her daughter that the wellendowed Tlingit Barbie doll with culturally insensitive accessories will never serve as mentor for the young girl:
quotes from various elders and teachers whose unified dream was to keep speaking, teaching and learning the Tlingit language. In contrast, there are quotes from various documents and political figures outlining the plan to provide and mandate English language instruction to the detriment and near-eradication of the Tlingit language and its inherent cultural connections. These pages offer exploration of language through free verse, haiku, pantoum, and prose. These poems whisper of oral tradition; they drum a measured beat, documenting the injustices, battles, and ultimately the infinite hopes for and restoration of a language nearly lost. Vivian Faith Prescott has been actively involved in Tlingit language revitalization since 2000. Her daughter, Vivian Mork, is now a Tlingit language instructor. The author currently splits time between her home in Sitka and her fish camp/writer’s retreat in Wrangell. Vivian Faith Prescott has a Ph.D. in Cross Cultural Studies and an MFA from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She has received several awards for her writing, among them the Jason Wenger Award for Literary Excellence; a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee; a finalist for the 2008 and 2009 Joy Harjo Award from Cutthroat: a Journal of the Arts; and she received the Cortland Auser Award from the American Association of Ethnic Studies. As an avid writer vested in community, Vivian organizes and facilitates writers’ groups for women and teenagers. In Sitka, she started the Blue Canoe Writers’ Group in 2012.
My little girl is combing her dreams through your hair and dancing around our living room singing the Disney Pocahontas song. How am I supposed to tell her that she will never become a Tlingit Barbie doll?
There is the dialogue between speaker and an older woman in “Traveling in Circles at the Local Video Store” as they awkwardly bumble through an opportunity to connect with one another, but do not. Language unspoken can also speak volumes. The Hide of My Tongue is organized into nine sections. Woven in between and throughout each are Author Vivian Faith Prescott
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 Ela Harrison
A Review of Fleda Brown’s No Need of Sympathy (BOA Editions Ltd., 2013)
“People who talk about abstractions / are like jettrails that gradually disperse,” says Fleda Brown in her new collection. But elsewhere, “No ideas / but in things, but it’s the ideas that pay off.” In No Need of Sympathy (BOA Editions, 2013), through reflections on topics from the Big Bang to grandparenthood, from tent caterpillars to sign language interpreters, Brown continually shows how to live in ideas without receding into abstraction. These are poems that showcase the richness of words. They are full of eclectic and wide-ranging vocabulary, together with microscopically detailed attention to small words, as in the opening poem “For, Or, Nor.” On the other hand, the fallibility of words, how one word can evoke another or be mistaken for another, is a recurrent preoccupation. “For” sounds like “far.” “Chimmuck” is misread as “chipmunk.” “Hair’s breadth” can morph into “hare’s breath” and “(e)schew sounds like “It’s you,” / or “a shoe,” or “let’s chew.” Essentially, though, words are fallible not of themselves in the abstract, but when wielded by their human users and consumers. Brown exploits this slippage of words wielded by people as one of many devices to transport the locus of a poem from one scene or consideration to another quite different one, continually juxtaposing strikingly diverse objects and unifying them. So, “Hair’s Breadth” marvels at the tiny adjustments needed to make mechanisms like toilet flushes function correctly, “inexplicable as this life we live,” and the labileness of the phrase “hair’s breadth, or hare’s breath, or hair’s / breath” as used by human speakers transports the poem to questioning “what volume can a hare breathe…” Language, its fallible beauty and tensile strength, is celebrated everywhere in the collection, so that the
97 speaker in “Translation,” observing a sign language interpreter rendering a poem, wonders “if I will ever / be able to recover from language enough.” What “enough” signifies is left to the reader to interpret or be baffled by, but the presentation of language as something from which one needs to recover summarizes the helpless wonderment at language’s surfeit richness that is so emphasized throughout. Juxtaposition of the diverse pervades these poems in other ways than mediated by slippery words, with the result that the reader is constantly invited to view the world as if through a telescope constantly refocused and redirected. The bark and cambium of trees, invoked in relishing detail (xylem and phloem) encounters Cover Girl pink lipstick. Dying soldiers on the news share space with ducks crossing the road. The rose window at Notre Dame leads to the Hadron Collider and a sister’s brain tumor. What is greater than human (the Big Bang and its physics) is regularly averted to, as well as what is tinier (molecules, the subterranean decay that brings regeneration, the fifteenth decimal place). This is poetry that boldly sets the unlike, the different in order of magnitude, side by side and makes them like one another. However, none of these lessons in the unity of the universe is abstract. The poetry is anchored in humanity, and in specific people and categories of people. Brown continues her tradition of narrative and ekphrastic poems of family story, including a sequence of sonnets dedicated to each of her grandchildren— which, however, are in no way occasional poems; the nature of or anecdote about each grandchild is a springboard to another surprising juxtaposition or broader reflection on unity of disparate elements. Most of the third section is dedicated to a broad palette of current events— unsolved murders, child labor, relationship therapy on reality TV, dead soldiers. The people of poetry itself are invoked regularly throughout the collection. This is done both overtly and subtly. A red wheelbarrow and logs stacked for winter are presented in “Felled Tree” with the comment “a little Williams, a little Frost,” thus inviting the reader’s complicity, but also proclaiming what kind of reader is expected: one who will recognize the red wheelbarrow
one use of “I” in this poem; “poems” or “the poem” are and the stacked logs; one who will know who Williams and anthropomorphized. In contrast, in “Talk Radio,” a page Frost are. This reader might also be reminded of Kathleen of slender couplets anchored in the story of an actual Graber in the bold juxtapositions of current events or interview, the speaker confesses to the reader what she movies or literature with family story or reflection on the will not tell the boorish talk show host—her love for state of the world; or of Kay Ryan by some of the short, poems that crosses into the erotic. “I short-lined, free verse poems with an want to lick those words. // I would emphatic conclusion and the final two follow them up the dark stairs at lines rhymed. Chaucer and his pilgrims noon.” These two poems that almost get just over a tercet to themselves bookend the collection remind the in “Pilgrims,” Gilgamesh and Enkidu reader of the centrality of poetry itself appear in “The Purpose of Poetry,” to experience of the world and of the and Shakespeare, Homer, Milton, and ecstasy of a speaker who experiences Hopkins are all invoked in a poem the world through the lens of poetry. about “Roofers.” “Ribcage Heart” It is perhaps inevitable that sounds like nothing other than an poems which pull in such vast and expanded homage to W. S. Merwin’s diverse subject matter, and place side “Little Soul,” itself a translation of Author Fleda Brown by side the stuff of so many different a poem attributed to the Emperor spheres, and are so self-conscious in their use of language, Hadrian (The Shadow of Sirius, Copper Canyon 2009). will sometimes not carry the reader with them. Shingles Since the collection at large conveys preoccupation with slapping down like clown’s feet as “something out of “The Purpose of Poetry” (beyond the significant poem Shakespeare” is far-fetched (“Roofers”). The splendid so titled), and since the readership of poetry must be image “You look across the floor / littered with nouns and inextricably linked to its purpose and is such frequent verbs the way a mother / does at the end of the day” feels subject for discussion and concern among poetry’s unfulfilled by its rider “Nothing should go on / too long” practitioners, Brown’s characterization of the kind of (“Fourteen Lines”). In the arena of language use, why “at reader she has in mind is a bold and honest move. Phnom Penh” (my italics) (“Child Labor”)? One doesn’t say In the end, through the hugeness of its scope, “at New York.” Without italics or scare quotes on the first this collection seems at bottom to be about the poetry word, “Eschew sounds like “It’s you,” / or “a shoe,” or “let’s which itself invokes the vastness, and about the speaker chew”” can be read as a parenthetical admonition to who is the specific experiencer of everything presented. eschew noises like those enumerated, which is not what is Anything that occurs or can be discussed or imagined intended (“Michigan”). is subject for poetry. The poems themselves represent These are small cavils, however, and do little to great—and satisfying—formal diversity, with the form detract from enjoyment of this sparkling, instructive, always unobtrusive, in service to the poem rather than sympathetic collection. Although the poems anticipate pushing it around. There are many extended, longa reader immersed in the world of poetry, other readers lined, free verse poems. There are brief and slender too will be drawn in and included by the lively narration poems, poems in couplets; in tercets with end rhyme of of family story with the specificity of its people and the the final line in each; in rhymed quatrains; there is one treatment of current affairs that are of concern to anyone prose poem comprising a single, expansive sentence. living in this world, and most especially by the consistent Two strategically positioned poems are specifically and captivating voice of the speaker. This is someone about poetry: “The Purpose of Poetry,” which is the who sees so vividly and compassionately, who expresses second poem in the collection, and “Talk Radio,” the insights so clearly, who invokes the humorous and the antepenultimate poem. The former, six sections of longtragic, waste and abundance, life and death, sacred and lined free verse, juxtaposes poetry with representations profane. But most of all, this speaker feels, and feels deeply of violent crime, concerns about oil running out (“Oil about her subject matter, and feels through poetry. With is heavier than poems”), obsolete epics and defunct that basis, there can be no abstraction. The poetry is alive, TV shows, landfills. It depicts both the helplessness of and as such will speak to anyone who gives it a little of poetry in the face of these real-world problems and its his/her time. resilience and essentialness despite them. There is only
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INTERVIEW Lynn DeFilippo
An Interview with Eva Saulitis Eva Saulitis is a writer and a wildlife biologist, a poet and a researcher. She has lived in Homer since 1999 where she teaches writing at the Kachemak Bay branch of Kenai Peninsula College. She’s also on the faculty of the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. Eva is a beloved and highly sought after mentor and teacher with the University of Alaska Anchorage MFA program in Creative Writing. She supports her students with the patience of a field biologist, and has a gift for asking insightful questions that get to the heart of their writing. Eva has an M.S. in Marine Biology and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, both from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her essay collection, Leaving Resurrection, was published by Boreal Books/Red Hen Press in 2008 and was a finalist for the Tupelo Press Non-Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. She’s received fellowships from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and the Island Institute, to name just a few of her many literary accomplishments. She’s also published numerous scientific research papers. Her first book of poetry, Many Ways to Say It, was published in 2012 by Red Hen Press. Eva has studied the orca whales of Prince William Sound, Kenai Fjords, and the Aleutian Islands since 1987. Her most recent book, Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss Among Vanishing Orcas, was published in 2013 by Beacon Press. It begins with her arrival in Alaska fresh out of college, and details her years as a killer whale biologist from before the Exxon Valdez oil spill to the present. Into Great Silence explores her relationship to Prince William Sound and the pod of transient orcas she came to know through her research. During the five years of her most concentrated study on the Chugach transients, Eva spent her summers camped out in the Sound. There, from her base at Whale Camp, she and an assistant searched the waters of Prince William Sound aboard their research boat. Sometimes days and weeks passed with no sign of the orcas. When they did break the surface of the waters, the researchers motored as close as they dared to photograph, identify, observe, and record whale calls. Her original research is the only research of its kind on the Chugach Transients. These whales are now critically endangered, most certainly a consequence of the oil spill. She writes, “There will, perhaps in my lifetime, be a last one.” Into Great Silence tells their story alongside her own. LD: In the preface of Into Great Silence you state that this book is a memoir, a meditation, and it’s not meant to be a science book. Throughout the book, you question the role of science and your identity as a scientist. It strikes me as an important thread, this tension and questioning about science and the role of science. ES: Yeah, the thread started in Leaving Resurrection, and that’s where I was really grappling with those questions in a more fraught and unresolved way. One of the things that I feel, partly through writing the book, is less conflicted about that question. I felt so divided for a time and so inadequate to the task of science, that I created a division within myself, and felt I needed to choose one or the other. I was either a scientist or not a scientist and that being
a scientist meant I had to reject other parts of myself. At the end of the book, I come to a realization where, as writer Doug Chadwick says, science is an organized form of wonder. I could still claim the mantle of a scientist, still speak that language, and also coexist as a spiritual person, a writer and an artist. When I’m observing out in the field, I can slip in the lens of science to be as objective as I possibly can. It doesn’t mean I’ve betrayed my artistic or spiritual self. I think I love science now more than I did. What I don’t believe in is that it’s the only valid way of experiencing or understanding the world. And I think it took me a while to come to peace with that. LD: That’s one of the ideas you explore in this book, that knowing and understanding a place and the animals and
the humans that inhabit it requires more than science. Your research on the language of the Chugach transient orcas shows how specific it is to that place, their fidelity to it, and how intertwined they are with the peoples and the culture there.
ES: There’s still a debate between anthropologists and killer whale biologists about the use of the word culture when referring to animal populations, but there’s just no doubt about it. They pass on language. They pass on traditions.
ES: When we think of animals in terms of species, you lose all of that specificity. It’s when you actually look at the way a particular population of animals occupies a place over time, and if they do occupy a place over a long period of time, they also are connected to the people who live in that place, and they inhabit the people’s stories and the way they see the world. That’s really one of the first ways I described to myself what I was trying to do with the book, was to personalize an extinction. Not only to personalize in terms of myself, and how it is for one person to experience a coming extinction, but also what it means for a place to lose a population, to lose the animals that have lived there for thousands of years. What does it mean not to just the food webs, but also to the spirit of that place.
LD After witnessing a group of Chugach Transients kill a Dall’s porpoise, and this was a very dramatic moment for you, to see the brutality of this predatory behavior of your study animals, you write, “I headed back to camp, quieted, feeling I’d been privy to something inscrutable, the ritual of a foreign culture, observed without aid of interpreter or translator.” Did you write this book to be, at least in part, a translator of that world, before it completely slips away from us?
ES: Well, I hesitate to call myself a translator. I would say to bear witness, rather than be a translator. To bear witness to what I was given to see of them, which is such a small percentage of what they do with their lives. But it’s more than anybody else. It’s a snippet, but it’s what I’ve witnessed. Science is an act of translation, an attempt at trying I wanted people who read the to take what we see, to underbook to look around their habistand what it means. What is the tats and recognize the animals significance of what we’ve witthat live there in a specific way. Author Eva Saulitis nessed, or observed, or the data People say, I can’t believe the that we’ve gathered? So there is an act of translation moose are bothering your raspberries, that never hapinvolved, in the interpretation. But in the most accurate pens, they usually don’t eat raspberries. And I think about sense, I would call it a more of witness. Because I think it is the generations of moose that have grown up in my little impossible to translate a language and a lifeway that is so neighborhood, and they’re following their mothers, and completely out of our realm of experience. they’re munching on raspberries because that’s what they’ve learned. They’re passing that on. I want people How do we translate that? It’s exciting, because there’s to recognize our intimacy with animals, and see them as this whole sensation sometimes that science is answering part of our community, rather than separate from us, or all these questions and the world is becoming so much just here at our good graces because we allow them to be more knowable. I think it’s untrue. I think that the world here, but because they’re our neighbors. is so unknowable, especially the field biology research about acoustics. The progress of understanding there is LD: so tiny, so daunting. At this whale fest last spring in Maui, I I don’t think we’re used to in our Western mindsets of did a presentation related to this book and the Chugach thinking of animals possessing or creating culture. It’s transients. This guy who studied humpback whales his kind of anthropocentric.
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101 to, this is what I have to give. I’m a writer, and this is my language, and this is what I’m driven to do. In the bigger sense of what’s asked of me, it was to write this book. And to keep writing. LD: I noticed a sort of meta-narrator in this book, a very clear line you draw between your older self and your twentysomething year-old self that you’re writing about. ES: The memoirs that feel authentic to me have that presence. I can enjoy a memoir that tries to stay true to the story in the moment and have the reader immersed in the narrative without the distraction of time or the present day narrator. But for me the memoirs that engage with the whole question of memory and perspective, they have that sense that we’re being told a story. There is an agenda, and there are conflicts of interest, and the narrator is invested. The narrator is not objective. Time has passed. Memory is unreliable. Motivations are questionable, both in the past and in the present. I find that interesting.
entire career, and this is decades of his life he’s devoted to this, his basic take home message was that we don’t know anything. His whole talk was everything that was not known. So if you’re someone coming in to that field, it’s wide open in a certain sense. There’s so much to be learned. LD I’d like to ask you the question you raise repeatedly in the book, “What does this place need to heal? What is asked of us?” ES: Well as someone who’s part of that place, I know that writing the book was something I needed to heal. But then there’s also the question I’ve had all along, what do I give back to this place? What do I have to give, to this place that has given me so much, and that I’ve been so privileged to observe these animals and be in this place? I struggled with that question just like I struggled with the question of science. And you know it finally comes down
LD: It adds another layer. I got to the point in the book at the end of your second field season, and we know the next summer is the oil spill because you interject your metanarrator and tell us it’s coming and how hard it is for you to write it. I stopped there and took a breath, because I too felt I had to be ready to go there as the reader. ES: It was, to me, the meta-narrative of writing of the book, coming to the place where I had to force myself to write it. This imperative, this necessity that I had to come to terms with the fact that this is really happening. These animals are going to go away. And I can’t take it. I can’t deal with it. And I have to deal with it. I have to come to terms with it, or I’m being a coward. And so, that’s the upper level, meta-narrative, and I wanted that to be there. Because I felt like the whole point is how you come to terms with something like that. We’re facing a future in which that is going to be the reality. We’re going to be facing extinctions over and over again. We are. We don’t want to face it, but it’s happening right now. So that was important to me. It’s important to the story, as confrontation, forcing myself to tell the story. Otherwise I’m being a coward.
“Sometimes those years at whale camp, standing on top of the bluff, looking down at Knight Island Passage, I felt a kind of pressure against my skin and bones, concentrated in my chest. I wanted to open my eyes as wide as possible, to enlarge my sight to take it all in. I wanted to know everything about the Chugach transients. I wanted the edges that separated me from the Sound to disappear. Until I discovered another way, science was my tool. And science depended on that very separation I wished to erase.“
LD: So did you write it chronologically? ES: I did, that was the grind of writing the book. And the way I got around that, and one of the reasons I think it doesn’t feel chronological, is because I approached each chapter very separately in my mind as an essay, to give it a thematic element that went beyond chronology. The one thing that wasn’t chronological was I kept working on an ending of the book throughout the whole process. But the funny thing was, the actual ending that’s in the book was written at the end of the whole process. Unexpectedly I wrote it in Cordova when I went to see the skeleton of the whale. When I wrote that up, it was like, oh, this is it. I did not use the thousands of words I wrote previously. They were all just a part of the thinking process. The whole manuscript was twice as long when I finished it. LD: In the book you interject some of your journal entries. It gives us this very direct window to Eva the younger woman. What was that like, to go through those journals? And did you know beforehand that you wanted to use some journal entries? ES: It was difficult because there were so many. It’s a huge amount of writing, but a lot of it was completely unusable. You know, they’re true journals and diaries, they’re not field journals. I had to fight to not be distracted and bogged down reading them and getting into who I was then. But then I would find these moments where it was in the voice of my younger self, but she had broken out of her head,
CIRQUE her self-doubting and questioning, and was reaching for something beyond herself. I wanted anything I said in the moment about the animals, the oil spill, important events. It was like finding the first hand witness that I was, without all the filters. It felt important to me, the way you would seek out a witness and quote that person. LD: Where would you like to see this book shelved in the library or bookstore? Because everywhere I’ve looked for it, I’ve found it in the animal section, and I expected to find it in with the memoirs, or in the Alaska section. ES: I understand that, because I think it attracts people who care about animals, about nature and whales in particular. I would like to see it next to a book like The Snow Leopard, a place between the memoir and the animal section. Where the memoir aspect and the search for the animal, are equal in importance. The Snow Leopard is my highest aspiration. I love that book. I’ve read it more than once, and it taught me so much. It’s about a search for the snow leopard, and you get all of this biology, and you get all of this environmental aspect, but you also get the search. LD: What are you working on now? ES: I’m working on essays and memoir writing related to my experience with breast cancer. One of these essays was published in last spring’s Ecotone, and another is forthcoming in Orion in the spring. I’m also working on a poem sequence, which explores the human impulse toward prayer. I think of the poems in the sequence as anti-prayers. They take the form of a daybook, and each one is written in the dark of early morning, and ends when the sun breaks the horizon.
“I don’t want to leave my twenty-five year old self, standing naked on that log. I’ve drawn it out, that first summer, grown a forest around it, sketched in waves and current lines, added dabs of color… I never want to leave the Sound, but especially not now. Because, unlike the younger me, I know what happens next. I won’t be able to stop it.”
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CONTRIBUTORS Kirsten Anderson is an archaeologist, mother and poet living in Anchorage, Alaska. She received an MFA at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and her poems have previously appeared in Cirque. Jennifer Andrulli has a base camp in Anchorage, Alaska from which she explores the World. The journey continues. Alexandra Appel — I am a poet of place. My latest collection, WATER, reflects my life living by the Boise River contrasted with recent incarnations in Vermont and Alaska. Since the late 1960’s my work has appeared in many small literary journals beginning with Al Young’s Love, 1965. In the 1970’s I was an active and volatile member of the non-group of Northern California Russian River Poets, cavorting with Andre Codrescu, Jeffery Miller, Hunce Volker, Rich Taggert, Pat Nolan and Gail King and many others. Since those days I’ve moved around, living in beautiful and remote places. I’ve somehow managed to earn a PhD in the process.I am fortunate to have work included in Cirque: Vols. 1 - 4, 2009 - 2013 and Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment, University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, 2008. I have received a California Arts Council Grant for Poetry; I was a scholar at The Squaw Valley Writer’s Conference, Squaw Valley, California and a working scholar at The Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, Middlebury Vermont and a scholar at the Aspen Writer’s Workshop, Aspen, Colorado. I imagine I will write and read poetry until nothing remains. This is a good thing. Judith Arcana’s Judith Arcana’s most recent poetry collection is The Parachute Jump Effect (2012); one of her stories is now a zine (Keesha and Joanie and JANE, 2013). Earlier this year, a sandwich was named for her at Fleur de Lis, a really good bakery/cafe in Portland. Listen to Judith on SoundCloud; visit http://www.juditharcana.com of her work. Gabrielle Barnett is a regular contributor to Cirque. She is a founding member and artistic director of Venus Transit, with whom she experiments performing poetry mixed with other media. Clifton Bates has lived in Alaska since 1977. He was a teacher and school district administrator in rural Alaska until 2001. He was a professor with UAF until 2010. He co-authored with the Very Rev. Dr. Michael Oleksa Conflicting Landscapes, American Schooling and Alaska Natives. He has had a variety of plays, poetry, fiction, and education articles published. He wrote and produced with KYUK a half hour television show concerning the Kuskokwim area in the 1950’s. Currently he lives and writes in Chugiak, Alaska. Miriam Beck lives in Anchorage. She has just completed her MFA degree in creative writing from Oregon State University. Marilyn Borell earned her MFA degree in poetry from the University of Alaska Anchorage where she recently retired as Academic Coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences. Her poems have appeared in the Anchorage Daily News, the anthology North of Eden, and Cirque. Gretchen Brinck, MSW, was the only child welfare worker in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region 1968-1970. She has recently completed a collection of 17 creative nonfiction stories about that experience. For her Cirque stories “The Fox Boy” and “A Boy Who Would Go Deaf,” she received the Andy Hope Award in 2012 for portraying social justice issues affecting Native Alaskans. Ms. Brinck is also the author of The Boy Next Door, a true crime book published by Pinnacle in 1999. Now retired from
social work, she is at last free to devote herself to writing. Fleda Brown has eight previous collections of poems. Her work has twice appeared in The Best American Poetry and has won a Pushcart Prize, the Felix Pollak Prize, the Philip Levine Prize, the Great Lakes Colleges New Writer’s Award, and has twice been a finalist for the National Poetry Series. Her latest collection of essays, with Vermont poet laureate Sydney Lea, Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives, was published in 2013, exclusively on Kindle by Autumn House Books, Pittsburgh, PA. Her memoir, Dancing with Dvorak, was published in 2010 by the University of Nebraska Press. She has also coedited an anthology of Delaware writers and a collection of essays on D. H. Lawrence. She is professor emerita at the University of Delaware, and poet laureate of Delaware, 2001-2007. She now lives with her husband, Jerry Beasley, in Traverse City, Michigan, not far from their cottage on Intermediate Lake. She is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program in Tacoma, Washington. Chris Bruno was born in Seattle and fished for years out of Cordova for his step-grandfather, Lloyd B. White, whose father, Tom, was the first white man to discover oil in Alaska. There is a mountain named after him. His father is buried in Tacoma, his grandfather at Fort Lewis. “I am a Californian now but, like the salmon, will migrate home when it is my time.” Bruno’s Christmas novella, The Legend of Lilac Lane, can be found at www.chrisbruno.com Jennifer Bullis, originally from Reno, earned a PhD in English from University of California-Davis and taught college writing and literature in Bellingham, Washington, where she has lived for 17 years. Her poems appear in Cascadia Review, Conversations Across Borders, Clover, Natural Bridge, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Floating Bridge Review. Her chapbook, Impossible Lessons, was published in May by MoonPath Press. Jack Campbell’s poetry has appeared in Main Channel Voices, Ice-Floe, Inside Passages, Explorations, Tidal Echoes, Fish Alaska Magazine. His book of poetry, Four Fevers Musings of an Alaskan Bush Poet: A Collection was published in 2008. He is retired from the teaching profession, after working primarily in rural villages for the past twenty-five years. He resides in Excursion Inlet. Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, high school English-teaching Alaskan. While composing rough draft poetry, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry through UAA and co-editing the quarterly journal, Alaska Women Speak. She lives with partner Bruce, daughter Rie, yellow lab Odin and Newfie Freya, in Sitka, Alaska. Ansley Clark – Once a native of Gig Harbor, Washington and transplant to Portland, Oregon, I’m currently a first year MFA candidate and creative writing teacher at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I have poems forthcoming in Spork and can be found here: http://ansley-clark. tumblr.com/. Therese Clear Poet and mixed-media artist T. Clear is a Seattle native whose work has appeared in print for 30+ years. She is a founder of Floating Bridge Press, and works in the glass art field. Katherine Coons - Presently, Coons is an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska. The experience of completing artist-in-residency programs in New Delhi, India, and Kodiak Island, Alaska, lecturing in Kuala
104 Lumpur, Malaysia, and traveling widely throughout Southeast Asia and Europe has inspired her artwork. Coons received the prestigious Pollock-Krasner grant from New York. She was given a cash award for one of the best paintings in the show “The All Alaska Juried Exhibition” at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, juried by Elizabeth Brown, chief curator at Henry’s Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle. Important solo shows in the state of Alaska include the Bunnell Street Gallery, Alaska Pacific University at the Carl Gottstein Gallery, MTS Gallery, The International Gallery of Contemporary Art and The State Museum in Alaska, Juneau. Coons will be traveling to France to complete a three week residency and will have an exhibition of her works at the Porte Peinte Centre pour les Arts situated in Noyers sur Serein, France in May 2014. Also, she will be curating a drawing exhibition at Alaska Pacific University at the ConacoPhillips Grant Hall Building in August, 2014. Currently, she is showing around Anchorage with two large paintings at the IGCA and a few nature pieces at the drawing show at APU. Kristina Cranston in a 43 year Alaska Native writer/artist residing in Sitka, AK. She is a quarter Tlingit, and grew up in Mt. View, a unique and diverse neighborhood in Anchorage. She writes to balance out the truth and lies that have been told to her, and the truth and lies she has told. Kimberly Davis is an Alaska girl born and raised on a homestead in the Salcha Valley. She enjoys time spent with her children and grandchildren with whom she is always seeing life through fresh eyes. Kimberly is inspired in everyday life as a residential gardener who loves the outdoors, interior design, travel & photography and relaxing at the end of the day with friends and a delicious glass of wine.
CIRQUE Jo Going, now residing in a coastal Alaskan village, lived for many years in a wilderness homestead cabin in interior Alaska. Her writing is published in many journals and anthologies, often accompanied by her paintings. Her book of poems and paintings, “Wild Cranes”, which won the Library Fellows Award and was published by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is also held in the permanent Franklin Furnace collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. “Wild Cranes”, as well as her recently published book of poems and paintings, “Still and Again”, can be viewed at www.jogoing.net, Josie Gray has been living and painting in the NW of this Olympic Peninsula from 1994 until the present. He divides his time between Washington and the West of Ireland. He has shown his work on both coasts and in Ireland. He has 6 book covers to his credit including one each for Liliana Ursu, Alice Derry and Tess Gallagher. He is often on the covers of magazines such as The Artful Dodge and Pacific University’s Silk Road. One can see more of his work by contacting Tess Gallagher at email@example.com. His next show will be 44 paintings curated by Michael Paul Miller at the Pub Gallery at Peninsula College in Pt. Angeles, Wa. from Feb. 11 through March 13th. A film on Gray’s painting entitled “Scenes from the Ballindoon Cafe” will be shown on March 6 at 12:30 in “The Little Theatre”. Gray will then be present for the reception. After winning a poetry award in 7th grade, Claudia Green has found it to be her truest compass in life. Although she has an (unused) MA in French Literature, she is currently spending her time writing a book on bipolar disorder. She believes poetry and the bipolar universe were... well, made for each other.
Lynn DeFilippo is a writer and former school teacher living in Nome, Alaska. She recently completed an MFA in creative writing from UAA, and is spending the year traveling and writing, and hopefully, eating and gathering local foods.
Melissa S. Green lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where she is a publication specialist by day, a poet and writer by night. After a period as a reluctant political blogger, she has now returned to work on a novel, Mistress of Woodland. She can be found on her website, Henkimaa.com.
Michael Raudzis Dinkel is a writer, artist and wood carver who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. He studied art and creative writing at UAA and at St. John’s University in Collegeville Minnesota. His latest work, a mail art project titled The Shortened History of Alaska, can be viewed on Wordpress. He is currently working on a book examining his 30 year transition from rural Minnesota to the state of Alaska.
Paul Haeder – I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest 13 years — a decade in Spokane and then the rest of the time in Seattle and now Vancouver. I’ve been a bear newspaperman in Texas, Arizona, and Spokane. My works of fiction, non fiction and poetry have been published in William and Mary Review, Small Pound, House Organ and many others. I currently teach in Vancouver and Portland.
Sherry Eckrich is a budding, aging poet who resonates to the seasons and cycles of life. She lives in Eagle River and has had work published in various venues including Cirque, Inklings, UAA Student Showcase Journal, 50 Poems for Alaska, Braided Streams, and an art installation at the CenterPoint West building in Anchorage.
Shane Harms was born in Palmer, Alaska and grew up in Minnesota. He currently lives in Seattle and works as lead reporter for the Ballard News Tribune. His work has appeared in Northern Eclecta, Stone Hobo, Forty Ounce Bachelor, The Conium Review, Coast Mountain Culture Magazine, and Revolver.
Paul Fisher was born and raised in Seattle, has lived and worked in more parts of the country than he cares to think about, currently lives in Bellingham, WA and is the recipient of an Individual Artist’s Fellowship in Poetry from the Oregon Arts Commission. Paul’s first full-length book, Rumors of Shore, won the 2009 Blue Light Book Award, and was published in 2010. Some of his recent poems appear in venues such as, Cave Wall, The Centrifugal Eye, Crab Creek Review, Floating Bridge Review, Nimrod, The Washington State Geospatial Poetry Anthology, and are forthcoming in the anthology, River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century.
Jan Harper Haines is Alaska Native and the author of COLD RIVER SPIRITS, Whispers From A Family’s Forgotten Past. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies, FIRST ALASKANS MAGAZINE and WEST MARIN REVIEW. Her short stories have also appeared in growingupanchorage. com.
Leslie Fried moved from Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska in 2011 to be the curator of the Alaska Jewish Museum. She received a BA in Fine and Applied Arts from the University of Oregon, and holds a Masters in Library and Information Science as well as a Graduate Certificate in Museology from the University of Washington. Her work experience includes scenic painting for theater and film, designing exhibits and running a business specializing in murals and decorative finishes.
Jim Hanlen lives in Anchorage. M. Harrell lives in Portland, OR. His debut book of poetry DBL PNDLM will be available on his website: www.mikahado.com in 2013. Ela Harrison is a poet, writer, translator, and teacher. She is a thirdyear student in the Rainier Writing Workshop, PLU’s low-residency MFA program, and blogs at http://ulteriorharmony.org B. Hutton is a performer, playwright, former columnist for the ANCHORAGE PRESS, and former host of THE RADIO SHOW on KNBA, which showcased Alaskan writers. He has performed in a variety Anchorage venues and organized reading series and Spoken Word & Writing workshops since 1996.
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 Sarah Isto is a retired family doctor and non-fiction writer. Born in Fairbanks, she has lived for several decades in Juneau, but still spends March and September in the Kantishna Hills of Alaska’s Interior. Brenda Jaeger was born and raised in Alaska. Her poems have been published in The Salal Review, Calapooya Collage 16, Calyx, Lynx, The Written Arts, Northwest Magazine, and Whole Notes. Marc Janssen grew up in the State of Jefferson and has lived in Oregon since 1998. His work is scattered around the internet and in a print journals including: The Gold Man Review, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Bellowing Ark , Dead Flowers: a Poetry Rag, Four Ties Lit Review, and The Ottawa Arts Review, as well as the anthology Green is the Color of Winter. Poetry, work, education, soccer, kids, wife, church, drums, pretty boring really. Juleen Eun Sun Johnson was born in Seoul, South Korea. She was adopted and taken to Valdez, Alaska at the age of 3. Johnson moved to California in 2001 to attend Reedley College, which is located in the San Joaquin Valley. There she studied poetry rigorously. Johnson attended CSU, Monterey Bay, where she double majored in Humanities and Communication & Visual and Public Art. Johnson obtained her MFA in Visual Studies from Pacific Northwest College of Art. Johnson currently resides and creates in Portland, OR. Amy Katz is author of The Lizard Thieves, a book of transformational love poems. She is a communication teacher at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, a nature photographer and an intuitive guide and healer. She resides half the year in her primitive cabin in Eagle River, Alaska. Michael Kleven is active in the film production community in the Pacific Northwest. On larger narrative and documentary productions he specializes in location sound and cinematography. Through his production company, Kleven Creative Services, he enjoys capturing still images and producing video for corporate clients, arts groups and non profits. His favorite subjects are urban, rural and industrial environments and people. In the future he hopes to devote more of his attention towards writing and directing film. The photo(s) in this issue of Cirque were taken while scouting his upcoming film with the working title GI Joseph and Mary. Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet – who tends a native garden and occasionally farmsitting (adoring the hens) on an organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington. She has an avid interest in wildlife and habitat. Her poetry and haiku appear in many journals and several anthologies. “Bat Girls” will be coming out in her chapbook Urban Wild from Finishing Line Press late in 2014. Jerry Kraft is a playwright, poet and theatre journalist who lives in Port Angeles, Washington. He has published poetry in many journals in addition to two volumes, Rapids and You Dropped Your Bible and I Saw Your Thong: Poems from the Best of Craigslist. Debbie LaFleiche has her BA in English from New York University (NYU) and her MFA in Creative Writing from UAA. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Passages North, Under the Sun, Reunions Magazine, Aura Literary Arts Review, Spindrift, Owen Wister Review and other literary publications. She has lived in Anchorage for 20 years and has been the CFO of YWCA Alaska for the past 11. She is also a volunteer for the 49 Writers Writing Center. Elizabeth Landrum is a retired clinical psychologist, living on an island in the San Juans with her wife and two dogs. She recently rediscovered her love of poetry as a channel for introspection and observation. Her poems have appeared in Southern Womens Review, RiverLit, Grey Sparrow, Shark Reef, Touch. Julie Hungiville LeMay was born in Buffalo, New York and moved to
105 Alaska’s Matanuska Valley where she has lived since 1978. Her work has been published online and in a number of literary journals including Passager, Bluestem, Pilgrimage, Lummox, and Sugar Mule. She is currently an MFA candidate at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Emma Rae Lierley was born in a singlewide mobile home in Omak, Washington and raised in Seattle. She spent her young adulthood working on trail and wildland fire crews in the Pacific Northwest and currently lives in Oakland, California, where she writes and works in nonprofit communications. Oliver Loftus is a Land Surveyor with a BA in Philosophy from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His work has taken him to many remote places in the interior of Alaska which in turn has sparked his desire to see more of everything. His preferred method of travel is by foot. gary lundy’s work has appeared in a variety of magazines and journals including most recently: My Favorite Bullet, Cedilla, Indefinite Space, The Prague Revue, Assaracus, and Otoliths. gary’s fourth chapbook, when voices detach themselves, was published this fall by is a rose press. He lives in Missoula, Montana. Tony Mares has five books of poetry: The Unicorn Poem (West End Press, 1992); With the Eyes of a Raptor (Wings Press, 2004); Astonishing Light (University of New Mexico Press, 2010); Río Del Corazón (Voices of the American Land, 2010); and his translations of poems by the Spanish poet Ángel González, Casi Toda la Música y otros poemas/Almost All the Music and Other Poems (Wings Press, 2007). His poems appear in at least twenty two reviews and anthologies, four of them in 2013. Currently in NM, he has lived in AK with his daughter Vered Mares. Jerry Dale McDonnell is a writer, an actor and a retired wilderness and bear viewing guide and a retired Alaskan bush teacher. His published fiction, plays and poems portray the north and the west. Mastodon Trails was written the winter he spent in Teller, Alaska skiing the Bering Sea. David McElroy lives in Anchorage. He has been published previously in Cirque and in national journals. His book of poems is called Making It Simple. He works in the Arctic as a pilot and travels widely with his photographer wife, Edith. Katie Medred was born and raised in Alaska, but over the years she’s had the good fortune of calling Olympia, WA; Santa Fe, NM; Reno, NV and Portland, OR “home,” at one point or another. Medred currently resides in Anchorage where she writes and contributes photography for the online news magazine Alaska Dispatch and “Beat and Pulse, Alaska,” a music blog focused on the state’s budding indie music scene. Mary Mullen is a writer, teacher, mother and poet who was born in Anchorage and raised in Soldotna. She currently lives in Galway, Ireland. Zephyr, Mary’s first collection, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2010. She is working on a second poetry collection and a memoir. Elizabeth Myhr graduated from The Evergreen State College and holds her MFA in Poetry from Seattle Pacific University. She co-founded Calypso Editions. Myhr lives in Seattle with her family. Jana Ariane Nelson called Anchorage her home from 1948 through the mid 1980’s. She is retired and currently resides in Oregon where she lives with her husband and assorted furry children. She enjoys ballet, writing, genealogy, dollhouses, organic gardening, scrapbooking memoirs and being a pet mom. Jana’s desire to share stories of life in early Anchorage with her grandchildren led to her passion to createGrowingUpAnchorage.com, a website dedicated to preserving authentic tales of living in Anchorage during the 1940’s through the 1980’s. Since it’s inception, GrowingUpAnchorage has grown to include a number of other contrib-
106 uting writers and a wide variety of original stories. GrowingUpAnchorage is an official project participant in the Anchorage Centennial and continues to accept new contributors. Monica O’Keefe paints both distant vistas and close-up views of the natural world, using color and detail to illustrate her feelings about the outdoors around us. Getting outdoors is important to her artistic process, and it is while hiking that she comes up with many of her inspirations and concepts for paintings. She recently relocated to Anchorage, AK after a big road trip around the West. A pastel artist and writer, Jocelyn Paine has lived in Anchorage since 1978. If she isn’t in the studio, she’s dancing Argentine tango. Timothy Pilgrim is a Pacific Northwest poet and journalism professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He has published more than 170 poems. His work has been accepted by journals such as Seattle Review, Cirque, Windfall, The Curious Record and The Meadowland Review. He is included in Idaho’s poets: A Centennial Anthology (University of Idaho Press). Doug Pope grew up in Alaska and has been writing short stories and poems since high school in Fairbanks. More recently, his poems have appeared in 50 Poems for Alaska and Cirque. His stories, in collaboration with artist Angela Ramirez, have appeared in the Vol. 1, No. 2, and Vol. 2, No. 1 issues of Cirque. He lives in Hope with his wife Beth. Sean Prentiss is the co-editor of a forthcoming anthology on the craft of creative nonfiction, The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre. He teaches at Norwich University in central Vermont. Vivian Faith Prescott is a fifth generation Alaskan born and raised in Wrangell, Alaska. She lives in Sitka and part-time in Wrangell at her family’s fish camp. Vivian has an MFA from the University of Alaska Anchorage and holds a Ph.D. in Cross Cultural Studies. Her poetry has appeared in The North American Review, Drunken Boat, Yellow Medicine Review, Cirque and elsewhere. She’s a Pushcart Prize nominee and a recipient of the Jason Wenger Award for Literary Excellence. Vivian’s website is http://www.vivianfaithprescott.com/ and she blogs at http://planetalaska.blogspot.com/ Kate Quick lives in the woods a few miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, and teaches writing classes for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She’s a gardener, and, with her husband and kids, she’s dabbled in animal husbandry. She’s published essays in The Blue Lake Review and Cirque Journal. Angela Ramirez is an edgy artist and blogger who gets around winter and summer on her bicycle and publishes “Life in Spenard: One artist, one bike and a love of the human skull” at lifeinspenard.wordpress.com/ Tom Reed is a wilderness photographer and author who has worked as a surveyor in Alaska, a river guide in the Western US and Alaska, a sailor, carpenter, a martial artist, and currently provides hypnotherapy. Tom’s photographs are heavily influenced by his studies of traditional Japanese aesthetics. He is the author of the award-winning book, The Granite Avatars of Patagonia, as well as The Other Side, and Moved By A Mountain which was recently featured in Alaska Magazine. A condensed excerpt from his new book Moved By A Mountain; Inspiration from an Alpine View in Alaska, appears in this issue. In it Reed explores the connection between a dramatic alpine vista and the human psyche. You can see his work at www.tomreed.com. Matthew Campbell Roberts is on hiatus from teaching English composition and is most likely fly fishing Northwest waters and drinking the best IPA he can find.
CIRQUE Kelly Lynae Robinson rides her bike to work in Boise, Idaho. Her poetry recently appeared in issue #7 of Cirque. Dr. Julius Rockwell Jr. is a 95-year old New Englander and an alumnus of Phillips Andover, University of Michigan, a Naval Academy, U. of Cal., Berkeley, and the University of Washington. He has worked as a naval Officer at Sea, as a salmon researcher in Alaska, electronic R&D in Seattle, oceanographic instrumentation in DC, the Pipeline Construction, taught at APU, organized cave exploration in Alaska, served on the Board of the Anchorage Waterways Council, and is currently writing poetry, plays and his life’s stories. Julius is a Fellow in the National Speleological Society and the Marine Technology Society. He has 36 publications including several patents. Julius has had two previous items published in Cirque, “The Sexual behavior of the male Red Salmon” and “The Fudge Theory”, both of which were performed as plays. Brenda Roper spent over 20 years in Alaska before moving too many miles from the ocean. She is a visual artist and occasional poet who mostly earns her keep running errands for other people and walking dogs large and small. Her work can be found in Cirque, Calyx and Merida: In Other Words. She is represented by Kristin Johnson Fine Art of Santa Fe. www.brendaroper.com Eva Saulitis’ most recent book is Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss Among Vanishing Orcas. Her poetry collection Many Ways to Say It was published by Red Hen Press in 2012. Her poems, reviews and essays have appeared in numerous magazines, including Orion, Crazyhorse, and Ecotone. She teaches in the UAA Low-Residency MFA program. Tom Sexton’s latest book is Bridge Street at Dusk, Loom Press, 2012. He was Alaska’s poet laureate from 1995 until 2000. Nathan Shafer is a speculative media artist, digital storyteller and educator from Alaska. He received his MFA from Rutgers in 2008. Since then he has founded the Institute for Speculative Media, which develops new media curriculum and large-scale mixed reality art projects in the Arctic Regions. He lives in Anchorage. Ann Sihler is a committed Northwesterner. She grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and for the last 20 years has lived in Portland, where she works as a contract writer and editor. Her essays and poetry have appeared in The American Journal of Nursing, Out of Line, Nervy Girl!, The Portland Alliance, and Assorted Nuts and Chews: Short Writings to Feed the Funny Bone. Cynthia Lee Sims has an MA in Literature with a published thesis on Jewish/English WW I poetry and the various related journals of the time. Her BA is in Journalism, and she served as editor of UAA’s True North Magazine as well as editor of the Northern Light Magazine. As an adjunct instructor for several years, she assisted with editing and layout for Understory, UAA’s creative arts journal before joining Cirque as an associate editor. Her passion is poetry, and her poetry has most recently appeared in Cirque and F Zine, but her prose pieces have appeared in online journals and winning pieces were twice published through the UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest and through Duke University Press and Voice—a national periodical concerning domestic violence. She lives in Anchorage with her daughter, Shania, and her dogs, Jessie and Carter, and she works at Lowes. Judith Skillman’s latest book is Broken Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry (Lummox Press). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Midwest Quarterly Review, FIELD, Seneca Review, The Iowa Review, others. Visit www.judithskillman.com Craig Smith is a retired Seattle Times sportswriter whose career included a 15-month stint at The Fairbanks News-Miner during the pipeline boom
Vo l . 5 N o . 1 of the mid-1970s. He grew up in Kenmore, WA, outside Seattle and was editor of the University of Washington Daily. After spending a year in the domestic Peace Corps (Volunteers in Service to America - VISTA), he began his career in journalism at The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia. He and his wife, Julie, have two adults sons and are on the fourth springer spaniel of their 44-year marriage. Craig has bragged to complete strangers about winning the golf long-drive contest at the 50th reunion of the Bothell High School class of 1963. Cheryl Stadig lived in Alaska over 18 years where her varied history included: tending store in Teller, training in Anchorage, dispatching police/fire/EMS in Southeast Alaska, and finding inspiration for her writing everywhere along the way. Her poems and essays have appeared in several issues of the Ketchikan Writers Guild’s Inside Passages and one of her poems was recently selected for inclusion in the 7th Annual Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards Competition Collection. She’s very happy to have her work included in Cirque. Joannie Stangeland’s book Into the Rumored Spring was published by Ravenna Press. She’s also the author of two chapbooks. In addition to Cirque, her poems have appeared in Floating Bridge Review, San Pedro River Review, Pirene’s Fountain, and other journals. Joan Swift is the author of four full-length books of poetry and two chapbooks, as well as a small book on the early history of the City of Edmonds, Washington where she lives. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, she has a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Washington where she studied in Theodore Roethke’s last class. She is the recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, a writing grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and a Writer’s Award from the Washington State Arts Commission. Two of her books of poetry, The Dark Path of Our Names, and The Tiger Iris, were honored with Washington State Governor’s Awards. Other honors include the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Ann Stanford Award from the Southern California Anthology, a King County Publications Grant, and a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Yale Review, The American Poetry Review, Field, Poetry Northwest, and dozens of others, including more than two dozen anthologies. Jim Thiele worked as a photographer for a biological text book company for several years, before moving to Alaska in 1974. He has worked for The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the University of Alaska as a biologist, but now is a financial advisor in private practice. His photographs have been seen in several publications, including Alaska Magazine and Alaska Geographic. He lives in Anchorage with his wife Susan. Taking photos forces him to stop and really see the world. Joanne Townsend is a former Alaska Poet Laureate; she lived in Anchorage for 35 years and moved to New Mexico 8 years ago for health reasons. Older and she hopes wiser, she still writes, publishes, edits, and promotes poetry. Ernest Turner is a current UAA graduate student in English. When not in class or writing, he may be found somewhere in the mountains. Sean Ulman is re-writing a long novel about Seward. Born and raised in Alaska, Hillary Walker earned a degree in English and astrophysics from Williams College. Currently she lives in Anchorage and works in public relations. Her short fiction has appeared in PANK, trans lit mag, and P.Q. Leer. She really likes sleeping in and mixing prints when she gets dressed.
107 Scott Walker teaches English and Creative Writing in Greensboro, NC. When time, circumstance, and inspiration align, he writes plays and poetry. He earned his MFA at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. A Graduate of Appalachian State University, his poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Convergence Review, Big River Poetry, The Orange Room Review, and Cold Mountain Review. After living over 50 years in Alaska in rapine, lacustrine, and coastal areas, Sandra Wassilie currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she writes poetry that explores the flow of memory through place, materiality, and history. In 2012, she received her MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and in 2013 completed a residency at Vermont Studio Center. Her work won the Ann Fields Poetry Prize in 2011 and has appeared in a number of publications including Driftwood (Kenai Peninsula College), Transfer, sPARKLE & bLINK, Writing Without Walls, and is upcoming in California Quarterly. Michael Wasson is from the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. He earned a BA from Lewis-Clark State College and is currently an MFA candidate at Oregon State University. His work is published or forthcoming in Weave Magazine, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, The Volta, and elsewhere. Erin Wilcox is a writer, poet, musician, and editor. Her creative work has been featured recently in Praxis: Gender and Cultural Critiques, Short and Twisted, Spiral Orb, Soundzine, Stoneboat, Cold Flashes: Literary Snapshots of Alaska, Veil: Journal of Darker Musings, and in radio broadcasts in Alaska and Arizona. She is the nonfiction editor for Drunken Boat: An Online Journal of Art and Literature, former copyeditor for Alaska Quarterly Review, owner of Wilcox Editing Services, and a staff editor at The Editorial Department. She writes for various trade and scholarly publications, including Copyediting and Text: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses. Find out more at wilcoxediting.com and wilcoxwrites.com. Ava Williams writes poetry and comics in Eagle River, Alaska. A recent graduate from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, she is content to be home before going on to pursue an MFA. Ava considers herself to be a so-so Alaskan, though she did recently go on a long hiking trip where she fell into a river, which is sort of rugged. Nancy Wilbur Woods was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. She now lives in Portland, Oregon, where she works as the editor of a community newspaper and teaches creative writing. firstname.lastname@example.org, nancy-woods.com Paxson Woelber has been the designer for Cirque since its inaugural issue. He is an award-winning creative animator, has written for the Alaska Dispatch, and his photography has been featured on dozens of websites, including LinkedIn and the humor site Cracked.com. In 2013 he jointly won the Scott Fischer Memorial Grant from the American Alpine Club, for creating media that promotes the well-being of mountain environments. His commercial design clients include the Governor and Lt. Governor of Alaska, Popular Photography magazine, Body Renew, and a group of high-end Napa, CA wineries. He currently divides his time between Chicago, IL, and Alaska. Kate Worthington spent seventeen years in Alaska and still hides out at her cabin near Talkeetna when she can. She studies law in New Mexico. Avraham Zorea is a painter, writer, adventure cyclist and year round bicycle commuter living in Anchorage, Alaska. He works as a criminal defense attorney, but keeps an art studio instead of a regular law office downtown. He wrote fiction for fifteen years and started painting ten years ago. He has three novels available on Amazon.com. You can contact him on Facebook.
HOW TO SUBMIT TO CIRQUE Cirque, published in Anchorage, Alaska, is a regional journal created to share the best writing in the region with the rest of the world. Cirque submissions are not restricted toa “regional” theme or setting. Cirque invites emerging and established writers living in the North Pacific Rim— Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Yukon Territory, Alberta, British Columbia and Chukotka—to submit short stories, poems, creative nonfiction, translations, plays, reviews of first books, interviews, photographs, and artwork for Cirque’s Summer Solstice 2014 Issue. Issue #10—Summer Solstice 2014 Submission Deadline: March 21, 2014
Submission Guidelines: •
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Eligibility: you were born in, or are currently residing in, or have previously lived for a period of not less than 5 years in the aforementioned North Pacific Rim region. Poems: 4 poems MAX Fiction, Nonfiction, Plays: 12 pages MAX Artwork and Photography: 10 images MAX accepted in JPEG or TIFF format, sent as email attachments. Please send images in the highest resolution possible; images will likely be between 2 and 10mb each. If you do not submit full-size photo files at time of submission, we will respond with an email reminder. No undersized images or thumbnails will be eligible for publication. Bio: 1-3 sentences MAX. Contact Info: Make sure to keep your contact email current and be sure that it is one that you check regularly. If your contact information changes, make sure to inform us at Cirque. To ensure that replies from Cirque bypass your spam filter and go to your inbox, add Cirque to your address book. Electronic Submissions Only Attach a Word document to your email (preferred) or embed submission text within the body of the email (not preferred); use 12pt font in a common, easy to read typeface (Times, Arial, etc.) Subject Line of your email should read: “Poetry Submission,”“Fiction Submission,” “Play Submission,” or “Non-fiction submission”. Replies average two to three months, and we don’t mind you checking with us about your submissions.
Please Send Submissions to: email@example.com
Photo: Jennifer Andrulli, There is Gold in These Hills
A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim VO LUM E 5, N O. 1