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CIRQUE A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim VO LUM E 8 , N O. 2


CIRQUE A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Volume 8 No. 2

Summer 2017

Anchorage, Alaska


© 2017 by Sandra Kleven & Mike Burwell, Editors

Cover Photo Credit: “Under the Tundra” by Tami Phelps. Cold wax medium and oil pigment with vintage brass ship portal latches attached. Table of Contents Photo Credit: Jill Johnson, Bird Point Mud Flats Design and composition: Paxson Woelber ISBN-13: 978-1548401566 ISBN-10: 1548401560 ISSN: 2152-4610 (online) Published by

CIRQUE Press Anchorage, Alaska www.cirquejournal.com All future rights to material published in Cirque are retained by the individual authors and artists. cirquejournal@gmail.com


EDITING RESEARCH PROOFREADING --Will edit/proofread your poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and technical writing. --25 years’ experience as (1) a technical editor and writer; (2) teaching college level creative workshops, and grammar, composition and literature courses; (3) perfecting online newspaper database searches, and (4) founder and co-editor of Cirque. --Generally, I charge $35.00 an hour with shorter jobs at $2.00 per page, but these rates change based on the amount and depth of edit needed. --Send a few sample pages, an estimate of document length, and your deadline, and I will quote you a rate based on the amount of editing I think you need: mhbpoet@gmail.com

MIKE BURWELL recently retired to Taos after 30 years in Alaska writing environmental impact statements for the Feds, doing maritime and shipwreck research, and teaching poetry at the University of Alaska Anchorage. A chapbook of his poems North and West was published by Heaven Bone Press in 1989 and his full-length poetry collection Cartography of Water was published by North Shore Press in 2007. He founded the literary journal Cirque in 2009.


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Joseph L. Kashi Attorney at Law ~ Accidents and personal injury claims ~ Business sales and purchases ~ Commercial and business law ~ Real property litigation 907 – 398 – 0480 kashi@alaska.net www.kashilaw.com 205 East Beluga Soldotna, Alaska

Joseph Kashi’s photographic art can be seen in this issue of Cirque.


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Alaska’s newest indie bookstore is coming to Spenard!

The Writer’s Block Bookstore Café Opening Fall 2017

We are excited to announce the construction of Alaska’s newest independent bookstore, located in the heart of Spenard. The Writer’s Block Bookstore & Cafe will proudly support local authors, publishers, artists and musicians in a beautiful new building. Come and enjoy a fine selection of classic and local literature, new books, great music, and a variety of local art. Relax in a comfortable, friendly setting with a fine wine, cold beer or excellent coffee. Experience international cuisine, and discover something wonderful! 152°

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In October of 1894, the 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 far to the north 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.

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Done in poems and personal essays, Sandra Kleven’s Defiance Street is a wild ride of discovery. Inside the fury of the 60s, Kleven finds a hunger for language and truth-telling that bursts out in resonant poetry and prose speaking to feminism, sexuality, mothering, love, betrayal, loss, luck. Her language is direct, playful, surreal, and full of her own personal music. As she comes of age, her words turn to the pathos of aging, memory, the deepening of love, the inevitable mortalities that stop and remake her, and her journeys to bush Alaska where she speaks of its people with uncommon authenticity and candor. These poems are at once wise and vulnerable, powerful and quiet. This is poetry you will relish, prose you will cherish.

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In her new collection of poems, Defiance Street, Sandra Kleven soars, wildly creative, using language as a ringmaster uses his whip: to move the beasts around the ring and into the light.

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Kathleen W. Tarr

She went after boys who looked like Jesus, sandaled, contemplative, guys with that crucified look.

She marshals the almost-invisible, DEPARTURE DATE rapidly-shifting world into place for her readers again, and we become sighted again, raw, as that first human must have been seeing the world fresh.

“Pack your bags. Kris Farmen is one of Alaska’s finest writers and Blue Thomas Merton’s 1968 journey to Alaska, Ticket is one helluva an exciting ride through the wilds of Alaska in 1948. a personal story about No spiritual No one captures historic Alaska like Farmen. one. Blue seeking Ticket soars with characters you’re rooting for and bad guys you’ll dread. Hold on, this is one flight you won’t soon forget.” —Don Rearden author of The Raven’s Gift and Permafrost Heart

VP&D House, Inc. Anchorage, Alaska www.vpdhouse.com

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I knew I’d need to say little else about Defiance Street besides: You must give this book a chance. —Nathan Brown, Author of My Sideways Heart Oklahoma Poet Laureate

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“The Cult's song Wild Hearted Son reminds me of Kris Farmen. One of the wild men of Alaskan writing, he never fails to kick up a fuss on the page. Get it. Ride it. Love it.” —Luis Urrea Author of The Devil’s Highway

Turn Again is a spellbinding masterpiece. A Produced“Kris By:Farmen’s powerful epic with unforgettable characters, rich Alaskan history andCompany culture, and an authentic glimpse at a time when humanity was The Alaska Map forsaken in the name of progress. Farmen has crafted a haunting tale of mythical transformation and lost love. There is much to be Kenai Alaska learned from this modern parable.” —Don Rearden MMXII

Sandra Kleven walks a path of beautiful grit and hard honesty that remains uncompromising throughout. In poems like “Lament for Scott” and “As She Waits for Word on Her Biopsy,” she gnaws her thoughts on aging to the bone with confessions borne of a poet’s long consideration. Kleven’s prose pieces are wall-to-wall poems. She speaks of the famous Blue Moon tavern, of the birth of the second half of the 20th Century, and of Theodore Roethke better than he ever did. Bottom line? When I read Sandra Kleven’s lines:

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nicorn Airlines Flight 739 with no pilot, no crew, and no passengers lands at Anchorage International Airport. As the authorities are wondering what happened, a ransom demand is made for the passengers: $25 million in diamonds. Chief of Detectives for the Sandersonville, North Carolina, Police Department, Captain Heinz Noonan, is visiting his in-laws in Anchorage when he is called onto the case. He has 36 hours to determine how crew and passengers disappeared off Unicorn Airlines Flight 739 before the $25 million in diamonds is paid to the extortionists. But can he solve what appears to be an impossible crime, free the hostages, arrest the perpetrators, and resolve The Matter of the Deserted Airliner before the ransom is paid?

teve Levi: Master Of The Impossible Crime, an Alaskan historian, writer, and 40-year resident of Anchorage, has authored more than 80 books. His nonfiction books on Alaska history include Boom or Bust in the Alaska Gold Fields: an historical forensic investigation into the sinking of Alaska’s ghost ship, the Clara Nevada and Walrus With A Gold Tooth: Crime in Anchorage, Steve Levi, Master Of The Impossible Crime, is a charter Alaska—the Pioneer Way—Unmember of Author Masterminds. You can order your copy of The Matter of the Disappearing Airliner, and his other books, organized! He also researched and by going to Author Masterminds http://bit.ly/2ri3Riy, Amazon, wrote a history of Alaska’s bush Barnes and Noble, or anywhere good books are sold. pilot heritage, Cowboys of the Sky. Levi’s books, both fiction and nonfiction, are readable, understandable, and educational. The Matter of the Deserted Airliner, a novel set in America’s last frontier city of Anchorage, Alaska, is second in the impossible crimes series solved by Chief of Detectives Heinz Noonan. www.publicationconsultants.com


I remember when Cirque was born in Alaska’s literary community—a twinkle in Mike Burwell’s eyes. Cirque has since cascaded into a journal for the Pacific NW and for the past six years has been co-edited with Sandra Kleven. Two poets and editors of unconventional depth, wisdom, and passion for what they do to introduce high-quality creative works to their readers under a serious design aesthetic of art and beauty. As editors, I commend them for reaching beyond the precious and lofty. They have brought a labor of love to Cirque widening the literary circle and touching hearts and minds with every issue. - Kathleen Witkowska Tarr, March 14, 2017


From the Editors This issue marks eight years since Michael Burwell created Cirque Literary Journal. His motivation in 2009 was simple—to give writers from Alaska and the Northwest more venues for publishing. Now we're creating more options for writers. We are launching Cirque Press which will focus on publishing poetry collections from some of the outstanding poets published in Cirque. First out will be Karen Tschannen's Apportioning the Light in fall of 2017. We have yet to set the parameters of the press. But we are delighted to begin with the work of a long-time Alaska poet with a substantial body of work. Alaska poet Derek Burleson’s recent passing stunned us all. He was only fifty-three, and the many he mentored through the University of Alaska Anchorage Creative Writing Program will miss his joyousness and his total commitment to the craft. Steve Rubenstein’s tribute appears in this issue. Poet Joan Swift, student of Theodore Roethke, who was interviewed by Carey Taylor for the previous issue of Cirque, died in March at age ninety. Carey writes: "I am surprised how much I miss her, considering we only met over three years about seven times. In Seattle a full house gathered and celebrated her work and life. Tess Gallagher shared stories that were both moving and delivered in a way only a great poet can, which gave me an even better sense of her amazing life as both a poet and friend to Tess. Tess also read poems from Joan's new book The Body that Follows Us, published by Cave Moon Press, of which part of the proceeds will go to The Joan Swift Memorial Award for Women Over Seventy which will be administered by Poetry Northwest.” This year's winner of the Andy Hope Literary Award is Christy Everett, of Seward, Alaska, for her story "Why Not Mine." The Andy Hope Literary Award recognizes an outstanding piece of prose or poetry by a writer who has published in Cirque during the previous year. Andrew, "Andy" Hope III, Xaastanch; Néech Deiw, and of the Sik’nax.ádi, X’aan Hít, was a political activist and a writer of prose and poetry. In 2008, at the age of 58, Andy died after a brief battle with cancer. This year's winner was selected by Andy Hope's son, Ishmael Hope, also a poet. The award, which includes a $100 gift, will be presented to Christy Everett at the Anchorage launch of this issue. The Andy Hope Literary Award is the brainchild of two Alaskan poets, Vivian Faith Prescott and her daughter Vivian Mork, who practice the art of mentoring with Alaskan artists and writers. Cirque is an independent journal supported entirely by writers and readers, through direct donations, subscriptions, and sales of individual copies. We also offer full-page, full-color, ads for the best price anywhere - just $100. We run a tight ship with many volunteers and a print-on-demand model. We can get out an issue for less than $2000. We appreciate the generosity of all those involved with Cirque. When we meet funding goals, we can focus all our energy on producing this beautiful journal. Thanks so much. Special thanks to Joseph Kashi and Barbara Hood for sustained support.

- Sandra L Kleven ~ Michael Burwell Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim Sandra Kleven and Mike Burwell, Editors Paxson Woelber, Designer Kellie Doherty, Assistant to the Editors Published twice yearly, Summer and Winter Anchorage, Alaska

Poetry Editors Cynthia Steele Monica Devine

Fiction Editors Gretchen Phelps Jerry McDonnell

Drama Editor Jerry McDonnell

Nonfiction Editor Sherry Eckrich


CIRQUE

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim Volume 8 No. 2

FICTION Dave Barrett Kerry Feldman Rebecca Goodrich Eric Johnson Simon Langham Lucy Mihajlich Hillary Walker

I, Adam Porter 17 Take My Yacht, Please 18 Aphasia, Or, Plan B 23 The Old Man 24 Alice’s Champagne Palace 28 Black Day 31 Other Women 32

P L AY Sandra Hosking

Drenched 35

NONFICTION Tele Aadsen How We Will Weather This 39 Christy Everett Why Not Mine 41 Asha Falcon Pollen Storm 43 Linda Ketchum In the Footsteps of Harry Lime 44 Tim Lydon Crosscut Saw 48 Carol Prentice Family Portraits 52 Tanyo Ravicz Hippy Rig 54 Cynthia Steele Technicolor Yawn 57 James Sweeney Father’s Day 58 Georgia Tiffany My Mother Danced with Lawrence Welk 59

POETRY Luther Allen Sumas Mountain, Washington 65 Alexandra Appel # 86 from Anchorage City Poems, December 2012 66 Devon Balwit They Fuck You Up, Your Mum and Dad 66 Scott Banks Phone call 67 Carol Barrett The Tempering 68 Angiogram 69 Sally Biggar Earth Medicine 69 Karen Vande Bossche Only Now 70 Stephen Brown Dogs and Magpies 70 Mark Burke The Eclipse 71 Doug Capra Tomb Reader 71 Kersten Christianson The Superstition Remains 72 Linda Conroy Solace of Small Things 72 Michael Daley Ars Poetica 73 Scott Davidson The Space Between Houses 74 Steve Dieffenbacher Whitebark Pines 74 Victoria Doerper Widows Walking: A Tritina 75 Lauren Ebright hemlock 75 Gene Ervine Mother’s Kindling 76 Matthew Ryan Evans Fish Lake at Top of the World 76 Cassandra Farrin Dirge for Pronghorns Poisoned in the Harsh Winter 77 Paul Fisher Drome 77 Toni Hanner All Across Idaho 78 Eric Heyne Fish the dead water hard 78 B. Hutton I miss the raised eyebrows of my midwestern youth 79 Sarah Isto Private Dialect 80 Marc Janssen Statement of Purpose 80 Jill Johnson Cranes 1: Alaska Range 81 Susan Johnson Womanchild 82 Marion Avrilyn Jones Wedding Anniversary Wish 83 Elizabeth Landrum Teachable Moment 83 Tricia Knoll “For a Perfect Catch, Fishmongers Go for the Halibut” 84 Sigrun Susan Lane The House of Rain 84


Eric le Fatte High Tide in Umatilla County 85 Alex Leavens Dutchman Peak 85 Linda Lucky Yard Sale Find 86 Peter Ludwin Girlfriend 86 Michael Magee Diagnosis 87 Adam Mackie The Cussedness of Service’s Yukon 87 David McElroy Jaundice 88 Ron McFarland After the Conference on Ecocriticism 89 Maria McLeod The Father: Hammer and Nails 89 DC McKenzie Tinfoil—a doctrine of disobedience 90 Lea Merritt Pickle Juice 91 Kevin Miller Scarecrow Crucifix 91 John Morgan Sabina Spielrein, A Life 92 Mark Muro timbuktu 93 Justine Pechuzal Dipnet 94 Vivian Faith Prescott Caul 95 Diane Ray Van Gogh Poppies 96 Matthew Campbell Roberts After Reading a Poem by Robert Sund 96 Janette Lyn Rosebrook American Mantra 97 Steven Schneider Trepidation 97 Fred Rosenblum Doing Sets Outside of Tenakee Springs 98 Tim Sherry Daughter Driving Home to Mother 99 Judith Skillman Lifeboat 99 Richard Stokes Addressed to My Dearest Chickadee 100 Ben Swimm Volcanic Hazards in the Pacific Northwest 100 Mary Ellen Talley At the Mouth of the River 101 Caitlin Thomson Portrait 101 Joanne Townsend Notebook: August 18, 2016 102 Pepper Trail Darwin at the Last 103 Karen Tschannen Denotation-Connotation 104 Lucy Tyrrell Nookomis Giizhik 105 Margo Waring Camino 106 Alan Weltzien Pouring Mother 106 Justin Wetch Growing Up 107 Tim Whitsel Great Basin 108 Tonja Woelber Alaska Veneries 108 Paul Winkel Sand Rock Hill 109 Nancy Woods Relaxed Radical 110

F E ATU R E S Sandra L. Kleven Joanne Townsend

Harpoon: A Journal of the ‘70s that Helped Shape Alaska Literature 111 Harpoon: Looking Back 116

INTERVIEW Emily Mount

Wild Voices: Learning to Listen, an Interview with Hank Lentfer

117

F E ATU R E Steve Rubenstein

A Tribute to Derick Burleson 123

REVIEWS Paul Haeder The Matter of the Deserted Airliner, by Steve Levi 125 Sean Ulman Mark Making, by David McElroy 127 Mike Burwell The Magic of Mariachi, by Steven and Reefka Schneider 130

C O N T R I B U T O R S 132 H O W T O S U B M I T T O C I R Q U E 142


Ice on the Pond Jack Broom


Vo l . 8 N o . 2

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FICTION Dave Barrett

I, Adam Porter Chapter Four of Gone Alaska

It was near noon and the crisp, sea-refrigerated air had evaporated from the Cove. The sun was hot, straight up, hovering above the inland ridge of mountains. I was on the rear deck of a trawler, down to my T-shirt. In my sweaty sunburnt hands was an electric drill, plugged into a portable generator on deck. Wiggling the drill bit back into its groove, I rammed it home through three inches of steel bar. I’d been cutting on this steel bar for the last hour. The fishermen I found on the docks this morning were of a different spirit than the ones at the Ivory Inn. Like school children released onto a playground at recess, they jumped and hollered and cursed and laughed while performing their tasks. The floating dock beside each trawler was piled high with odds and ends from their cabins’ interiors: tin pots and pans, last year’s dirty dishes, blood-stiff dish towels, water warped rolls of toilet paper, coffee tins filled with rusted nuts and bolts and screws. Alongside these more domestic items, spread out in neat orderly rows, laid new spools of nylon fishing lines; rubber snubbers; different lengths of gaffs line out like sawedoff baseball bats; steel clothespins; black nylon stopper balls, flashers—and, of course, lures. Lures as shiny as new coins off the mint; detailed with day-glo florescent paints; with gaudy feathers and tassels and jewelry; even one custom jobber with a pornographic photo of a woman on it; anything and everything that might conceivably lure the eyes of those fabled sixty-pound Kings all were after. Descending upon the docks fresh after breakfast, I felt as though I’d been spliced into a frame of old World War II newsreel footage. The fishermen moved in double-time around me. They’d paid me as much mind as they did the village dogs sniffing about (the dogs yelping and cowering as they were booted out of the path of a frenzied fisherman). All attention was drawn to the tasks at hand. There were poles to patch! Ropes to splice! Even above, along the boardwalk, non-

fishing village folk had been drawn outside the doors of their shops to behold the activity below. It soon became evident—after I’d been jolted a few times by a stiff shoulder or elbow—that the only way I was going to keep out of the icy harbor waters (that I was already so well acquainted with) was to join in with the seemingly frantic dance of these men as they bobbed and leaped from boat to dock and boat again. More than once, as I’d tentatively approached skippers or trawlers to inquire about work, I’d been issued a command before I’d even a chance to blurt out my reason for being there: “Just don’t stand there with your thumb up your ass, boy! Toss me that line! Swing that dolly round here and help me with this crate! Quick! Turn off that faucet before we flood the forecastle! Goddang it, son! Move!” And when I’d finally get around to announcing my reason for being there: “Gosh damn, son. Damn it, I’m sorry. I figured…” And down the line I’d go… running through the same routine on the next trawler. Now that I’d finished the drill job, the skipper of this particular trawler I’d been working on magically resurfaced. I could smell the whiskey on his jowly face as he re-boarded. Motioning me aside, he wet the side of his thumb on his tongue and inspected the hole in the steel bar with it. “Virgin, eh?” he said, smiling as he tasted the metal shavings. “We do our best,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. Earlier, this skipper had hinted that there might be an opening aboard. As a matter of fact, he had restated, after taking a second look at me and praising me for my size and my youth—there was a damn good chance I could get on. Of course, first he’d have to check around town for his regular puller. In the meantime, there was this little drilling…


18 “Got some bad news,” he continued, taking a nip off the strip of beef jerky he’d been gnawing on. “Looks like my man finally came in after all.” He offered me a nip of jerky. I politely declined. “Yep. Found the bum at Clancy’s just now.” Clancy’s! I thought, as I gathered my things on deck. My backpack felt as though its contents had been replaced with nuts and bolts. The drilling had corrugated the muscles of my upper back, shoulders and arms into what felt like one great anvil. “Clancy’s!” I thought again, this time aloud as I jumped down to the dock, my legs shaking beneath me. Sure! Why not? This was the best lead I’d had all day. And it was just in this state, as I trudged back towards the boardwalk and the village, that I, Adam Porter, caught sight of Philip Swanson and his salmon trawler, the Western World.

Homecoming

CIRQUE

Kerry Feldman

Take My Yacht, Please

I watched the little blue tetras chase each other in the aquarium. The receptionist finally said he'd see me. At a hundred and fifty an hour, I hope so; I wanted to tell her. Instead, I said the tetras looked overfed. She said Doctor Morris fed the fish; none died of overfeeding. Why did I need to antagonize everyone? I headed up the carpeted stairs. Even the calm of the waiting area annoyed me. I hated to show up at Neptune's, hated the Pico reed on my lip, the sound of blues coming from my sax. When you're too blue for the blues, you're fucked. The blonde I'd gotten involved with fried my brain. I knew why. I feared she'd show up at Neptune's Dive, perfumed and gorgeous. And afraid she

Vivian Faith Prescott


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 wouldn't. My hand about to grab the doorknob, Doc Morris stepped out of his office like a jack-in-the-box. Like the clown that popped out of the hand-cranked tin box my folks gave me when I was three, which I lost when we buried my mom and moved. It unnerved me to have the Doc pop out of his office like that, no cranking on my part allowed. I glanced around, any surveillance cameras? Like those in a 7-11 with a sari-wrapped woman behind the counter, a red dot between her eyes? Third eyes everywhere these days. No one trusting anybody. At the end of the hall, in the corner of the ceiling, I spotted a camera. So, Doc Morris is a control freak, wants to know if some nut comes gunning for him. Now I knew more about him than he did about me. He’s my height, tanned, balding, graying around his dome like the old gulls that dropped bird shit on my boat house. I wanted in his office fast so no one would see me, think I was crazy. "I'm Doctor Morris," he says, shaking my hand once, then letting go like he feared I might think he was gay. Or maybe he thinks I'm gay? Shrinks aren't afraid of things like that, are they? They've been analyzed and aren’t nut cases themselves. "Willy," I say. Somehow this means we now know each other. I'm supposed to spill my guts to a stranger. I look around his office to get a feel for the guy. He motions to a stuffed chair, sits across from me in a swivel chair, in front of his oak desk. There's an aquarium behind him and a huge photograph of a sailboat, a yacht, above the fish tank. A large MacIntosh screen on his desk. I wonder what Freud's office looked like. No pictures of Doc Morris’s kids or wife. His office furniture is egg white, like almost everything in the room. The guy has bucks. I calculated in the waiting area that shrinks could earn a thousand a day at his rate and only have to see six nut cases a day, five days a week. Twenty grand a month. I could own my own nightclub with dough like that. "How can I help you, Willy?" Felt like I was going to confession. I'd confess my sins, get a rosary for penance. If they still did confessions. My mom always took me to confession. After her death, I stopped going. "I'm seeing a woman, a married lady, little older than me, and she won't let me go." Might as well get it out. Hide nothing. I'd been banging some rich old guy's wife. I wanted to set the story

19 for him, explain I never knew she was married. That I was innocent. At first, anyway. The Doc lived here, knew that bored ladies filled Newport Beach, married to rich old guys who never spent much time with them. Maybe something like Doc Morris's yacht. Take her out for a cruise now and then, feel good knowing she's secured at the marina, waiting to be boarded when he had time. Accessorize the hell out of her. Like the kept-ladies who hadn't heard that the life they were drawn to had ended. I avoided married women. My ethics and sense of self-preservation. "Willy," he tells me, "I'm a psychiatrist, not a counselor. I work with people who have emotional disorders, brain dysfunctions, traumatic experiences." He says he doubts I need him, at his price, for my "situation." Though he's sure it's troubling me a lot. A gentle let-down. "I can't sleep or eat, Doc. My brain's down," I plead. "If she makes a scene, brings in her husband, gets me fired where I play music...." He shows some interest. "You play music?" We talk and I learn he likes Big Mama Thornton, Eddy Cleanhead Vinson, Lloyd Glen. He never gets out to clubs, too busy. Those folks he knew about were blues players few white guys ever heard of. I'm impressed. He even knew Gatemouth Brown. Every wanna-be cool white guy in America heard of Miles Davis, or Muddy Waters. Doc Morris wins me over when he talks about Big Boy Crudup. All this interesting chitchat cost me twenty bucks. I took the conversation back to me. "She came in a few months ago to listen to music, she said. Bought me a drink, waited till our set ended for the night. Gorgeous. Not pushy. Sophisticated. An older lady but in great shape. Like the lady in Someone To Watch Over Me. You see that movie? Well, like that lady. Velvet voice." Morris tries to sit still. His plump fingers playing rub-a-dub on his knee. I guess he wants a paranoid schizophrenic to work on. I'm asking a Jaguar engineer to fix a Yugo. He needs someone to write a prescription for, take a pill, not jump off a building. I read in Rolling Stone that shrinks don't talk to clients about wanting to screw their mothers anymore. No, they say your brain is like a Honda factory with a bunch of robotic parts, only it's a gland. Like a pancreas or something. All I knew was my brain ached. No pill would solve a neuro-receptor problem in my gland. Maybe, I thought as I had read that article, shrinks missed something. Something they'd blocked out about their own mothers. I said, "She reminds me of my mother." His fingers stopped drumming. Maybe I hit


20 something from his graduate student days long ago, some ancient Freudian lecture the medical establishment now told him was garbage. It's easier to collect insurance payments if you prescribe pills for neuro-receptors. I only knew I was fucked up, my vision starting to blur. When fantastic sex is part of what's making you feel bad, you're fucked up. "Your mother?" he said. "She was sophisticated, too," I tell him. "And bored. She loved to hear me practice my sax as a kid, though. I didn't bore her. But, Doc, my mother drowned herself when I was fourteen." Well, there it was. I never talked about that to anyone. I tried to concentrate on what Morris said, but behind him, in his fish tank, I saw a beta floating on top of the water. Must have died sometime between when I entered and now. I said, "There's a dead fish in your tank." He turned to the tank. No concern showing like I thought there should be. His tanned face, expressionless as a suede jacket. He went to the tank, lifted the lid. "You're right. Guess I overfed her, or she got the Ick." He scooped the beta with a net, wrapped her in a blue tissue from a kleenex box next to the tank. Dropped her in a wastepaper basket under his desk. “Sorry for the interruption,” he said. I now feel uncomfortable with him. I thought of my dad's indifference when they found my mother's body on the beach. Death made me sad; any dying made me sad. I try never to see death. "Sorry," he said again, returning to the chair across from me. "When you were fourteen...?” I told him I didn't want to talk about when I was fourteen. I wanted to talk about me now, at thirty-three, and Helen. "Helen?" That was the name she gave me, I told him, but maybe it's not her real name. She didn't want me to know anything real about her. Keep it fantasy, for good sex. She was forty, I learned by accident. She wanted no way for me to call her, track her down outside Neptune's Dive and my bed, do something crazy like call her at her home and get her husband, mess up her life. She only wanted to be my Helen-Of-Troy, she said. Feel my music between her legs, fuck my brains out. That's how she put it, too. And that's what she did. She liked to talk dirty and talk about art and her feelings and listen to me play, just for her. She needed more, she said. More what? Space, she said. Once, crying, she said, "More of me, Will."

CIRQUE Morris said the obvious. Why didn't I call her bluff about making trouble and stop seeing her? I saw his point. Maybe I overfed her. "I love her, Doc," I confessed. The old snake. Love. Font of all the blues. I avoided it till now, never wanting to love anyone again, I told him. "Again?" “After, you know, my mom.” And in that answer I cleared up a mystery about myself. I realized I never wanted to be close to any woman again. Or anyone. I felt closer to this Morris guy in the thirty minutes we'd eaten up than to anyone I knew. But I realized it wasn't because I hated my mother for killing herself. It was because I never wanted to feel such a loss again. A rejection I never understood. "I hate my mother," I said. "And I love her." I felt tears come. Morris said, "So, you weren't looking for love with this … Helen?" No, I tell him, feeling a panic. My words tumbled out, like notes from Cleanhead Vinson's cut about being chased by some lady's husband. My words bumping into each other. "...and she never told me she was married at first... just lonely...and me, too...would I play for her alone some time...marvelous body and so warm and sexy...dreams of her at night...so elegant...I didn't deserve her...a moonlight swim and making love to her in the water, and then we became friends, laughing...and my music got smoother and raunchy and she told me she was married when I asked her to move in, after she hooked me on her body and kindness and she knew I needed her...and she said she couldn't leave him, not now, and why?...because I'm not

The Heart

Charity Hommel


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 ready to, she said, he's too old and boring...never talked to her but she liked his money and O, god, could she make love...then one day she said maybe she loved me and I learned her blond hair was a wig and that she needed money to feel safe and he owned a yacht and she loved Cancun vacations and she'd wreck my life if I tried to leave her because now she needed me to make her life perfect...." I broke down, spilled it all to Morris. His face changed, blood left his fat cheeks. He turned turnip red, beginning at his neck, moving up his face. Like maybe he’s having a heart attack. “You okay?” I said. He took a breath, nodded he was okay. I stood, got a tissue from the Kleenex box next to his fish tank to blow my nose, wipe my eyes. He said, quite perturbed, "CANCUN?" "Doc, stop repeating everything I say like we're playing some free association game." I blew my nose, felt sorry about my outburst. He only tried to help me, after all. "I'm sorry," I said. I felt my head about to explode and now I was attacking him for no reason. Get a grip, Willy. I glanced at the photograph of his yacht above the fish tank. "Nice boat," I said, calmer, sitting down. “Yeah, thanks.” He became quiet. When finally he spoke, I heard lead in his voice. "Mr. Blake" (I noticed the formality as he read from my intake form), "we seem trapped in our fish tank, don't we?" I said, "Well, yeah, maybe, if you want to get philosophical." The image of Dustin Hoffman through a fish tank came to mind, with the keys at the bottom thrown by Mrs. Robinson. Morris was a very smart guy. "You and me, we're like Neptune, at the bottom of the sea," he said. I told him I played at Neptune's, is all I knew about myth stuff. "You don't get it, do you, Mr. Blake. Willy?" "Get what?" "Well, I do," he tells me, drums his fat fingers on his desk. "I am King Neptune and my kingdom is mine." "Great. But you're not making any sense, Doc.” "I can't be your psychiatrist, Willy." "Why?" "Oh, professional ethics, let's say." I pleaded, telling him he's cleared up a huge problem, about my mother and fearing love and we're

21 only half way through the session. "Just the tip of the iceberg, Will," he says. "You think I'm nuts, Doc? That I need pills?" "No," he says, "I think you need to get the hell out of town, if you know what's good for you." I said that sounded more like Clint Eastwood than a psychiatrist. Maybe it was, he went on. But he'd talk to me straight now, like a friend. Some problems were just too... (he searched for a word)...Big to handle, he tells me. I could move to L.A. where studio bands pay a lot more than what I earned at Neptune's, he goes on. Or to San Francisco. Or to Chicago. I noticed the cities were farther and farther from Newport Beach. "Or to Bumfuck Egypt!" I tell him, getting pissed off. Running away wouldn't solve anything. I'd just take my problem with me, between my ears. And, besides, I was broke, I told him. I leaned forward, elbows on my knees, rubbing my hands together like a neurotic, trapped, housewife. Love makes you nuts. Maybe my mother discovered that, too. Then Morris stunned me. "Maybe I could help out on that. Say, five thousand?" "Five grand? You'd give me five grand so I would leave, get started somewhere else?" Psychiatrists were more concerned about a patient than in any Woody Allen movie. "Or ten," he said, squeezed his knuckles, popped his knuckles too loud for my taste. "No," I said, irritated. "I solve my own problems." "Willy," he said, "some problems are beyond us. We have to let go." Then he sounded threatening. "Sometimes our problems sink us. Kill us." I pulled out a Winston though there was a No Smoking, Please sign on the wall. I lit up. He said smoking wasn't allowed in his office. I put it out on the bottom of my shoe. Without thinking I lit another one. He said nothing, bummed a Winston from me, tore off the filtered end. He pulled a lighter from his desk drawer and an expensive blown-glass ashtray. He blew smoke rings. "What do you want, Willy? Really, really want?" he said. “You want to get laid, the best fucking you ever had. Or, to live well, at least stay alive?” "I don't know, for Christ’s sake. That's why I'm here. All you're doing is confusing me." "Trust me. You've got to trust somebody, right?


22 If not your psychiatrist, then who? Twenty. My last offer. Take it or leave it. If you know what's good for you...and Helen... you'll take it." The cigarette helped me think. Maybe he could write it off on his taxes. But I couldn't take his boat. On the other hand, maybe he tried to get my unconscious kicked into gear like he did with the question about why I couldn't love again. I decided to go along, what with a hundred and fifty bucks an hour I shelled out. "Well, Doc, if you're trying to get me to consider an offer I can’t refuse, to leave Newport..." "Yes, Blake. That's what I want you to consider. For your mental health." “If I was to leave...” I thought real hard, trying to heal myself, “Well,” I said, “It'd be nice to have,” my eyes shot behind him to the photograph, “a yacht.” I laughed, feeling a bit loony. He blinked once, hard, squashed his Winston in the ash tray, walked to the photograph of his lovely yacht, lifted the framed picture off the nail, brought the photograph to me. "I'll sign the transfer papers on her tomorrow, and throw in five thousand. Take her, please. I never got to ride her as much as I wanted but I loved her. I really did. Just got too busy. Have a good life, Willy, someplace else. And, your fifty minutes are up." Morris had tears in his eyes. I put an arm around him, took the photograph in a daze. In pencil, at the bottom of the mat around the photograph, I read, "HelenOf-Troy, Cancun." Morris ushered me out of his office, telling me to meet him tomorrow at his bank and not tell Helen what was up so she couldn't foul it up. I didn't know what to say. So I said, "You feed your fish too much, Morris." He said, “Yeah, I’ll have to work on that.” He shut the door. I heard him stumble against his swivel chair, or kick it. Anyway, he swore like hell. I wondered who his shrink was. Next day I met him at his bank, not knowing if this was part of an acting-out therapy technique or what. He got the boat ownership papers from his safety deposit box, signed the boat over to me. Morris seemed like the dad I never had, so I wanted him to see Helen's picture. As the paper signover was being notarized, I took a photo of Helen from my wallet to show to Morris. I confessed that I couldn't

CIRQUE keep all this from Helen. That she decided when I told her maybe it was for real that I was getting a yacht that she would leave her husband. She said she would sail around the world with me, till the money ran out. See if we really liked each other. Morris' face lost color. Maybe I destroyed his therapy plan for me? "That's not the deal we made, Blake!" he yelled, grabbed the picture of my Helen. His mouth sagged, looking at my Helen, like a dog's mouth when sprawled in hot sun. "That's not Helen." I assured him it was Helen, without her wig. I wondered what he thought she was supposed to look like. Prettier? Older? I didn't know what upset him so. "In fact," I told him, "she's on her way to meet us. Wants to thank you for helping us. She thinks you're one unbelievable guy." I saw Helen in the bank lobby. She wore jeans, a heavenly tight T-shirt and didn't look forty. I ran to her, hugged her, handed her the deed to the boat. Helen tucked it in her purse. Morris looked devastated. "I thought…" Morris said. God only knows what Morris thought. Helen hugged Morris, thanked him for helping her realize she had to live honestly, that love was more important to her than anything else. That taking a risk, as Morris did by giving his yacht to me, was what life was about. Risking it all, for love. Helen divorced her husband without asking for an arm and a leg. He’d been getting a little on the side himself, it turned out. Helen (which was her real name after all) and I sailed around the world. When we got back to Newport, I sold Morris’ yacht, used the money as a down payment on Neptune's Dive. One night Doc Morris showed up with his wife at our club. He looked ten years younger. After introducing me to his lovely wife, also named Helen, he thanked me for helping him learn more about himself in fifty minutes and one yacht than he'd learned in six years of analysis. Well, what's a buddy for? He and his wife held hands, cooed like lovebirds. The four of us sail in Morris' new sailboat. My Helen manages our club as half-owner and we got married. I send all of my musician friends to Morris for therapy. Male bonding, I tell my buddies, nothing like it.


23

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Rebecca Goodrich

Aphasia, Or, Plan B

“MCS,” said the doctor. I wanted to rip his throat out. A diagnosis that rendered no healing. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. “Sensitive” the wrong word, the wrong thing to say after evaluating the formaldehyde from the houseboat, the Los Angeles smog, five months of carbon monoxide that had done a Patty Hearst on my brain’s speech centers. “Don’t worry too much—you got your executive function back. Something not everyone can say.” He didn’t know about the teenage schizophrenia, the healed blood-vein scars. The sixteen years of stuttering. All of which I overcame. But what about the years my children lost when their mother was fumbling, stumbling, poisoned. What about those years, and how they confirmed my daughter’s opinion of me. How could I overcome that? Why can’t I talk right? I wanted to scream. But no words came out through my tongue, my mouth. “Just avoid perfume and other chemicals. You’re in better shape than lots of people with 21st Century Disease.” He patted my shoulder in a comradely fashion. I was tired of being better than lots of people. I wanted to be better than me. I nodded. Dumbly, idiotically. I left.

A parked car. That was good. Safer for everybody. I looked out over the bay, aiming for a Zen-like mode of contemplation, trying to smooth out the contractions of my muscles. Water, sky, water. Blue, gray. Blue, gray. And turquoise and teal and green. And the clouds. Many, many clouds. No, no, no. I couldn’t be alone with myself. Up the road, one of the first of the town’s many seasonal festivities. Walking, yes, walking would be good. Hot dogs and reindeer sausage stands. Scarves and salmon and hats. Dulcimer players I hurried past. Pottery. Uh oh. Artwork. Acrylics and oils. I slowed down. I couldn’t help myself. By the time I got to the painter’s tent I was moving as slowly as a stone. Her back was turned to me, to all of us. Her shoulders were serene. She was painting, painting. But it didn’t look like paint. It looked like her brush was singing colors onto the paper. Sometimes she paused. And with her I watched the watercolor move sometimes on its own through the pores of the paper, without further encouragement. She turned to me and smiled. I was, already. Then she moved the beautifully colored paper to the side, where some others were drying. Another beautiful sheet of empty whiteness came to rest on the table. My hand, all by itself, briefly reached out to it. She swished the brush in the glass, cleaning it. She swabbed it over some newsprint. And then she handed the brush to me.

On the way home a radio station offered twangy bluegrass by folksong singers who exaggerated a livin’in-the-holler Kaintucky accent. I was envious of even that off-key thing. Three days of chlorine exposure had made it impossible to re-attain the lyric soprano that had once leapt through my throat and chest, resonating. I punched buttons and flipped things: am fm am. There. Something without words. A wild, yet disciplined, athletic surfing beat. There I was, jumping over each wave, achieving, each time, being alive and a little farther from the beach. Oh and then the musical bridge, the smooth or not so smooth being carried by a huge roller in a time that stretched out forever in a perfect combination of water, sand, and sun, until you had to remember you, indeed, had feet. I couldn’t play a note to save my life. I slammed the radio off. Then I turned off the car. Evidently I’d driven onto the shoulder while I was surfing that memory. Comes the Rain

Tami Phelps


24

CIRQUE

Eric Johnson

The Old Man

In the evening, after Alexei had finished writing for the day and the supper dishes had been cleared away, he would read his poetry. The townspeople would bring firewood or offer to do chores in exchange for the sound of his words. On this winter night five young men sat on the floor waiting for the white haired man to begin. Alexei sat on a short stool in front of the fireplace and prepared to read by the yellow light. The rest of the room was dark, except where the polished pine reflected the light from the fireplace. As Alexei opened his book, a knock sounded on the door, and before he could answer, his friend Dimitri burst into the room, brushing the snow from his shoulders. “To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit from the president of the National Writer’s Academy?” “I have come to warn you.” “Take off your coat and tell us the bad news.” “There’s no time for that, I must not be found here.” He pointed to the men seated on the floor. “You shouldn’t be here either.” Three of the men stood up. “Why is tonight so special?” Alexei asked. “I can only tell you that you should be ready.” With a look of understanding, Alexei said, “Thank you but we have always been ready.” Dimitri said goodbye and good luck and hurried out into the cold night followed by the three men. Alexei’s wife, Sonya came into the room and sat down. “It has finally come,” was all she said. Alexei began to read his poems to the two remaining men. Except for his words the only other sound was the ticking of the clock. Between each poem he would look up at Sonya. They had discussed this night before. They had rehearsed in in their minds so many times that now it seemed a dream. It grew late and the remaining men went home. Alexei and Sonya were preparing for bed when they heard heavy boots on the porch. Alexei went in the front room and stood in the dim glow of the embers. He had expected this meeting much earlier in his life. The door flew open without a knock and a beam from a flashlight stabbed into the room. “Alexei Kerensky,” a voice boomed out of the darkness. “You are under arrest.”

The flashlight moved into the room. Alexei could barely see the officer behind its glare. He recognized the Captain of the local garrison, with three other officers behind him. “What are the charges?” The Captain ignored his question. Alexei shrugged his heavy shoulders and put on his coat and hat as though he was going out to bring in an armload of firewood. As they escorted him out the door, he turned around to look into the dark bedroom for one last glimpse of Sonya’s face. But it was hidden as they had agreed. There was to be no sign of parting sorrow, but Alexei could feel the pangs of loneliness welling up against his will. Alexei sat between two guards in the back of the open truck bed. He looked across the bed at the other officer and thought it unusual that they hadn’t sent enlisted men. No one stirred to see the hunched figure of the old man between upright soldiers. It was too late for anyone to watch this dark parade in the snow. By the time the truck passed through the gates of the compound, Alexei had fallen asleep. He awoke as the lurch of the stopping truck rolled him against the guard next to him. They marched him to his cell and slammed the door without saying a word. In the darkened room, Alexei felt around until his hands found the cot. He crawled under the thin wool blanket and went back to sleep. The next morning he was wakened by the sound of prisoners shuffling to the mess hall. He patiently waited for the guard to open the cell door so that he could join them. Finally after the sounds of the prisoners had gone, he heard keys rattling in the door, which opened to the Captain carrying a breakfast tray. “Sorry to inconvenience you but you must remain in your cell. We wouldn’t want the other prisoners to see your breakfast.” Alexei looked at the tray as the Captain set it on the table-- a full course meal. “When you have finished we will meet in my office.” The Captain left to let Alexei eat alone. As he ate, he looked around the room which seemed larger than what he thought a cell should be. Being a corner room, it had two windows which filled it with sunlight, making it light and airy. After he finished eating, he felt pleasantly content for a captive. Later the Captain knocked on the door and Alexei followed him down the hall. The office was in


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 another building connected to the cell block by a corridor that was also brightly lit by the sunlight pouring through its many windows. Alexsei noticed he saw no guards anywhere. The hallway answered their footsteps with disconcerting echoes. After entering the office, the Captain seated Alexei in an overstuffed chair positioned in front of a large oak desk. The walls were paneled and a large fireplace stood at the end of the room. The Captain sat behind the desk with his hands clasped in front of him. “Did you enjoy your breakfast?” Alexei nodded and noted the Captain’s youthfulness. As the Captain continued to speak, Alexei thought it had been many years since he had been as fit and trim. “I’ve enjoyed your poetry. All the cadets back at the academy read it. But let’s get to the reason we invited you here. You have been asked to sign a loyalty oath to the party. After we have concluded this business, you will be allowed to go home. No one has seen you, so it is as though you were never here.” The Captain rose from his chair and pushed a paper across the desk to Alexei and offered him a pen. Alexei took the paper and read: “As I am an old man and my life’s work is complete, I, Alexei Kerensky, resolve to lay down my pen and to cease my readings. As recompense for my loyalty to my country and the party, I accept a pension and will move to a government retirement home.” “Now that’s not so bad,” the Captain said. Alexei looked directly into the eyes of the Captain, “I cannot sign this.” “But you won’t have to work?” “My work is my life. If I cannot work I might as well not go on living.” “Surely you know what they will do to you?” He quickly quit speaking as he realized the concern he had showed for the old poet. He plopped back in his chair and deflated himself with a sigh. Alexei only laughed. The Captain turned sideways in is chair and dejectedly watched the flames in the fireplace. After thinking for a while he swung around and faced Alexei, “You are not making this easy for me.” The Captain began to wring his hands slowly. “Why can’t you sign and help us both out?” He stood up and pushed his hand back through his hair, “They told me that if I didn’t persuade you to sign the oath, I could forget about promotions. My classmates will pass me over.” “May I go back to my cell now?” The Captain laughed, “Now the man is his own

25 jailer too.” Over the next weeks, the Captain had Alexei march into his office many times, but Alexsei would not sign. He was not allowed to leave his cell. His food was served through a small opening at the bottom of the door so that he saw no one. The only voices he heard were those of the guards giving orders to the other prisoners. While Alexei waited, he continued to compose poetry. His mind had become so used to creation that he could not turn it off. The Captain had squashed any possibility of obtaining paper, so he had to content himself with storing his lines in his head. The next day the door opened and Alexsei was surprised to find his friend Dimitri standing there. In his joy, he hugged him manfully. “How did you get in here?” “They sent me.” Alexei stepped back and eyed Dimitri suspiciously. Should he be careful? After all, his friend was a part of the system, but Dimitri had warned him the night of the arrest. “Since we are friends, they thought I could talk some sense into you.” “You know I won’t submit.” “I know that, but they don’t. But I have to warn you, they are sending a colonel down to interrogate you.” “I am prepared for the worst.” “I’m not worried about you, it’s what may happen to Sonya.” “She knows she will probably suffer more than I.” “And that you are still being stubborn?” Alexei changed the subject, “You are lucky. Your work fits within the system.” “Yes I am safe, but at times I wish that I could do what you have done, but enough of that, I have to ask you one more time to sign before I leave.” “I will not sign.” “Good luck, old man.” Two days later, the Captain came for Alexsei. Alexsei followed him without saying a word. The windows along the corridor had been shuttered so that the hallway was dimly lit by the cracks. Yellow lines of light crossed their path on the floor as they passed each window. The office was ablaze with lights. Alexei blinked his eyes as he saw a tall spare man rising from the chair behind the desk. He assumed this was the Colonel. “Please sit down Mister Kerensky,” the Colonel said holding out his arm. The Captain sat Alexei in the stuffed chair and moved and stood behind the Colonel.


26 “Let me begin by telling you I am pleased to meet you. I followed your work since I was a boy, and I hope we can be friends when this is over.” Alexei nodded in acknowledgement of the apparent compliment, thinking to himself: if he knows my work, why must he interrogate me? “The Captain tells me we have a little misunderstanding here. It seems that you have mistakenly decided not to sign your loyalty oath.” He pointed to the paper lying on the desk in front of him, “Is this true?” “I have decided not to sign.” “Good, we agree on something. That’s a start.” Hiding The Colonel came from behind the desk and leaned against the front of it. “I don’t understand why, with the feelings expressed in your poetry, you won’t sign a patriotic oath to country and people.” “That oath is not to my country or its people.” “It is to the party and that is the same thing.” Alexei was silent. The Colonel looked at him and chuckled, “What! A poet without words?” Silence speaks safely, Alexei thought to himself. He had a lifetime perfecting his words so that they would not provoke the party; he was not going to begin now. “This silence of yours puts your poetry in a new light,” the Colonel mused half to himself. He walked back behind the desk and sat down taking a cigar from the Captain’s humidor. He lit it thinking for a while, and filling the small room with smoke. “Tell me, how does a man of your intellect believe that he alone can make a difference? What makes you so important?” the Colonel said swinging one leg up on the desk. “I am only me.” “What do you mean: you are only you?” The Colonel gestured grandly, “Why are you such a great poet?” “I am really nobody. Apparently my work, which is not me, makes me seem great.” “Ah, I see. The individual doesn’t matter after all.” “Only to oneself. But without the individual there would be no poetry.” “But you just said you are nobody and it would seem that a nobody doesn’t matter, therefore what

CIRQUE

Lucy Tyrrell

difference does it make whether you sign or not.” “To sign would repudiate my existence.” “Even if it means the loss of that existence.” Alexei noticed that the Colonel’s voice was beginning to lose some of its friendliness. “My death will not erase what I have written.” The Colonel sat and stared at Alexei, trying to see where he could carry the conversation from there. He gave up and then stood up, throwing his cigar into the fireplace. “I ask you one final time, will you sign or are you ready to suffer the consequences?” he said leaning over the desk on his knuckles. “I am ready.” “As you have said, you are nobody and so that is what the party now considers you.” He pulled another sheet of paper from the desk drawer and thrust it in Alexei’s face. Alexei took the page from the Colonel’s hand and read: “I, Alexei Kerensky, openly and freely confess to being an enemy of my country and its people. My works have been devoted to the subversion of the principles of my government. In confession of my crimes, I repudiate all that I have written and ask forgiveness….” Before he finished reading it, he tore the paper up and threw it in the Colonel’s face. It was all he could do to force himself to sit back down and say nothing. “I hope you can remember what you have just read because you will be given time to contemplate your new decision. It might interest you to know that we have your wife in custody here in the prison.” With that he


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 called two prison guards to escort Alexei back to his cell. As they locked him in, Alexei found the windows shuttered and the room shrunk to just bigger than the bed. At dinner time the guards took him to the mess hall with the other prisoners. He recognized many of them from his poetry readings. Alexei went to sleep that night thinking about the Colonel’s last words. Sonya had told him not to worry. From the night of the arrest he was to forget about her and she would forget him. His work was more important than both of them, she had said. How easy it had been to agree back then, but now he couldn’t put her out of his mind. He kept thinking that he had only to remain true to himself, while she had to deny herself completely to affirm his work. The next day, Dimitri visited Alexei again. They both sat on the bed. “I bring bad news. The Academy has voted to denounce you and your works publicly.” “It was expected.” “Besides that, the Congress has made it against the law to read your poems and the libraries are burning your books in the streets.” Alexei winced when he heard the words. He had expected something like this too, but vivid pictures of his words going up in flames burned in his brain. “They said your poems had been re-evaluated and found to have no literary value. I regret I could say nothing without endangering my position.” “I understand.” With that, Dimitri rose to leave, “Good bye friend.” That night two guards came to fetch Alexei again. He counted the lightbulbs along the hallway. The twelfth was burned out leaving a black hole. This time they did not stop at the office but continued down the hallway another eight lightbulbs. He was escorted into a long smoky walled room. The only furniture was two chairs and a long table placed cross ways with the room. The guards seated him in a wooden, straight-backed chair in front of the table, and stood behind him. The only light was from two candles set at either end of the table. A telephone sat half way between the candles. The flickering candlelight set off the face of the seated colonel against the darkness behind him. “Have you decided to sign?” “The answer is the same.” The colonel picked up the phone, “You can begin now.”

27 Alexei could hear the screams coming out of the darkness behind the Colonel. They were muffled as if from another room. Alexei recognized Sonya’s voice. Her cries cut through him like the tip of a poisoned pen. The Colonel laughed at the surprise on Alexei’s face. Alexei was surprised at himself. They had talked many times about what could be expected. After he remembered Sonya’s words he gained an outward calm, but his insides were still aflame. It had been so easy when they had discussed this back at home. The Colonel smirked, “I have to tell you that there are eight young men in there with her who have not been with wives for three months and they know their duty.” Alexei flinched. He wished he could take the blows and violations in Sonya’s place. He only had to listen to her hideous shrieks. The Colonel forced Alexei to listen to her cries for what seemed like an hour before he grinned, “I can understand you forgetting your love of your mother country, but I can’t see how a man could listen to his wife’s agony while having the power to stop it. I do say you are almost as ruthless as I am.” At this Alexei laughed, “I am your mirror? I only hope that what you see in my actions shows you to yourself.” The ringing of the phone interrupted Alexei. “That will be all,” the Colonel said setting down the receiver. “She is unconscious.” The next morning Dimitri visited Alexei again, “I persuaded them to let me come one last time.” Dimitri did not bother to sit. “Tomorrow they will take you before Congress for you to read your confession.” “You know I will never read it.” “Then they will read it for you. They do not care which. I don’t know how to tell you this,” Dimitri paused, “but Sonya’s dead, she never regained consciousness.” Alexei turned away from Dimitri. The release of his repressed emotion shook his body as it ran down his cheeks. He wiped his eyes with his fists and turned back to Dimitri. He felt a thin hot pain in his chest. He looked into Dimitri’s face with wonder and surprise that turned to understanding as he slumped against him. “Now they have no hold over you, old man,” Dimitri said softy as he laid Alexei on the bed and covered his body with the blanket. They buried Alexei and Sonya in an unmarked grave so the people wouldn’t find it, but no one knows where the tombstone came from that appeared there one day.


28

CIRQUE

Simon Langham

Alice’s Champagne Palace

I waited at my table while the greasy fries got limp and the garlic seasoning turned rancid in my mouth. Waited while the only waitress preferred to wait on full tables for bigger tips and ignored my thirst. The lone guy at the next table wasn’t getting her attention either. This saloon was a contradiction, beginning with its name, Alice’s Champagne Palace. Built like a barn not a palace, the three chandeliers over the bar were tucked up out of view, as if embarrassed by the walls of corrugated metal siding and rough milled spruce. On the stage a show was about to begin. The crowd sat at the cabaret tables between the bar and the stage, their backs to the bar, to the only person seated there, that woman who matched the bar’s woodwork, dark, hard, uninviting. She could be pretty if she smiled and straightened up. I looked for the potential in strangers. I watched the disinterest of the woman at the bar; her body sloped against it like an eroded hillside, her long hair sweeping the drink napkin. The redheaded bartender’s smile beamed at her, like the light of the chandeliers beamed at the liquor bottles against the mirror. I wasn’t artsy, but I tried to see the beauty in every day stuff. My fries needed a beer. I got to the bar as the woman fished a photo out of her satchel. The photo, bar candle and her drink made a little shrine like I’d seen on my big vacation to Mexico. Without raising her head she spoke to the room, rattling the lousy acoustics. “Las Vegas,” she tilted her head as if she were cradling something on her left shoulder. “Excuse me?” I said, reaching the bar. “Don’t ever go there,” she said it to the room. “It takes everything you’ve got. Leaves you with nothing.” “I’ve been once. Lost twenty dollars.” I wanted her to be talking to me. “Nothing to do but leave.” “I don’t gamble.” I motioned to the bartender, someone new I hadn’t seen before. “Billy,” called the woman. “Man wants a drink.” “Here for the show? This is a fun show. I’ve seen it once already but I laughed so hard, I had to come back.”

“I’ll never go back to Vegas. That city took it all.” “This is a good place to recover. I’m Tomato Tom.” I offered my hand but she didn’t notice. I even sat on the stool next to her and waited for her to ask the inevitable question, Why Tomato Tom? Was glad when she didn’t ask. When I didn’t have to say it wasn’t because I grew tomatoes or because of my red hair, but because anytime I felt self-conscious I turned red. I looked down, hoped it wouldn’t happen right now, but I felt my ears getting hot. There was the photo on the bar so I had something to look at, but just then she cupped her hand over the photo. “Tommy,” she said. “No, everyone calls me Tomato Tom.” “Tommy,” she said it like she was testing it out, “is my name.” She finally raised her head and looked at me. I could tell what she was seeing. Another prematurely balding guy in his thirties, who had a complexion too ruddy for this latitude. I didn’t know how to make up for that first look I got from women. “Tocayo! That’s Spanish for someone who has the same name as you. Mi tocayo,” I said and offered my hand again. “Where are we going with this?” “Nowhere. This is a friendly bar, a friendly village, people here are friendly.” I turned towards the end of the bar. “Bartender?” “B-i-l-l-y, that’s his name.” Her over enunciating made me feel unintelligent. I corrected my impulse to look at my feet by looking into the mirror over the bar. Between the bottles her eyes were on me. Her hand placed the photo face down. “What can I get you, buddy?” Billy beamed. “Give him a bitter.” “Are you buying it, sweetheart?” “No, she’s not buying. I’ll try the bitter.” “One bitter for a fellow redhead. Her emotion of choice these days. She’d get bitters for the whole room if I let her.” I laughed at Billy’s joke, not because it was funny, because he took the time to make one. “You don’t have to let me, if I wanted to I would.” she said to Billy’s back. And then to me, “I’ve seen the show once and watched the audience five times. I remember your laugh. It’s loud and annoying, like someone who won’t quit knocking on your door.” I didn’t know how to respond. Most people liked my laugh. If they didn’t they never mentioned it to my face. I’d seen hostile women before. Hadn’t I spent hours in laundromats observing all kinds of women while they


Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Sunrise Fence Eastern Oregon

fought for an empty dryer? I felt challenged by her, by the mystery of the photo she was hiding now. Was she telling the truth about hearing my laugh, about her name? I played the Puzzler every week on public radio, listened to enough Terri Gross on Fresh Air to know how to conduct an interview. I studied the back of the photo for a clue on where to begin. Davidov on our fifth birthday, the back of the photo read in blurred cursive. I studied her while she stirred her drink, something pale orange with a chili pepper sunk on the bottom in a dizzy spin. She filled her black dress in all the right places, stockings and heels

29 even. She dressed over the top for this town on any occasion. Her right leg crossed over her left and she let the back of her shoe slip off her heel. She swung circles with her foot but managed to keep her toes inside the shoe. I’d seen other women do the same move but in a jerky, nervous way, not like Tommy’s smooth circles. Finally I noticed the tattoo on her right ankle, the initials D and S in brush script. The initials related to the name on the back of the photo. Tommy flipped her heel back into her shoe. “How long have you been in town, Tommy?” It felt funny to call her by the name my mother called me, but Teri Gross always used the name of whoever she was interviewing way more times than was necessary. “The season, Mr. Tomato.” “Tourist season? How long did you live in Las Vegas?” “A season. A Phil Harmonic season.” “You just stumbled in on us?” “Safe port. Right Billy?” How did she know Billy was listening? What kind of season did she mean? Philharmonic translated from the Greek, meaning loving harmony. There were a lot of great words like that. We thought they meant one thing and they really meant a lot more. Jill Johnson Whatever she meant it must have been good. She turned her head and her hair flowed over her shoulder. Made me think of those shampoo commercials where the women’s hair kind of undulates like kelp. “No more questions, Mr. Tomato?” “Sure.” I was surprised she wanted me to continue. “So is that a Russian fellow’s initials on your ankle?” I asked. She raised her eyebrows and I felt I was on the right track. After all I’d learned to recognize clues from all those paperback mysteries I read and stacked on top of the toilet tank. “Half Russian,” she smirked. “Davidov, like on the back of the photo. Did you


30 bring him with you?” “The other half, the S is Italian. He was taken from me. In Las Vegas.” She started again with the chili, spinning it in the bottom of her drink as if she could make it rise to the top. “In Spanish, vega means fertile lowland. I never understood how that became the name for a desert town in the middle of nowhere,” I said to the bottom of her V neckline even though I tried not to. “The grand duping.” She uncrossed her leg and the tattoo on the inside of her ankle melded to her other leg. Every move she made was deliberate, like a fly fisherman’s. “I was so in love with all of it. Even the fountains in Las Vegas do love making to the music.” Now I was confused. I had decided Davidov was a child, had constructed her story from the writing on the back of the photo. A dealer for one of the casinos, she had moved there from small town America. Her marriage failed and the wild rebound after her divorce caused her to lose custody of her son. She came back to Billy, an old boyfriend who still had a soft spot for her and would put up with her. She continued and the fingers of her left hand arched rigid above the bar, her fingertips pressed into the woodwork. “But my unbridled dark qualities went against Davidov. You have to coax. The more you attack, the less the return.” She carefully slipped the photo into the satchel and in doing so revealed a bundle of papers. A bent corner contained musical notes. Now I had it! She was a singer, a lounge lizard in Vegas. “Do you sing?” “Only in the shower, which is where you should contain your laugh.” And then she laughed at the meanness of her joke. “I’m sorry, Mr. Tomato, but this is when people are most like themselves, when they are in love with things that vanish.” She stroked the back of the satchel where she had put the photo. “And I am mean.” “Another bitter, buddy?” Billy slid into the conversation. “I haven’t vanished so I guess she’s not still in love with me.” “I’m married anyway. Was. To Yo-Yo Ma. Was.” She laughed again, too loudly, alone with her lie. It was time for the direct question; time to pull a Terri Gross. “So you had a half Russian five year old, a half Italian lover, a Chinese husband, and all that’s left is a satchel full of music?” “You figure out my story Mr. Tomato, and I’ll use

CIRQUE this ticket to Vegas, to keep my opportunity-of-a-lifetime appointment.” She tapped her satchel where the actual ticket must have been. She tilted her head and did that cradling motion with her shoulder again. “Another night, same puzzle, my love?” Billy said as he placed a shot glass of something next to her drink. “I’ll take another bitter, Billy.” I mouthed as the house lights dimmed and went over all I knew about her, including this last thing, an opportunity of her lifetime. She ignored the shot glass. ‘Safe port,’ she called it. She didn’t know this place was more like a dry dock, boats stuck here for years. “You’ll never get it, buddy. No one has yet. This town may be a good place to recover but it doesn’t have the cure, not for her, not for anybody.” Billy placed my drink on a fresh napkin. “She won’t be able to leave me this time. Will you sweetheart.” He put his hand over hers and stopped the motion that spun the drink. The band started and the actors snuck onto the set in the dark. If Davidov wasn’t a lover or a child, who was it? Tommy stood up from her stool, put the satchel over her shoulder and turned to me. Her height surprised me. How could I let her leave without having the answer to her puzzle? The phone on stage was ringing. In a moment the stage lights would come up. What had she said? When they are in love with things that vanish. She had softened her hard look. Looked beautiful. Still with all the potential of a stranger, like I knew she could when I first noticed her at the bar. Maybe my failure made things easier for her. She didn’t understand how badly I needed to help her, how I didn’t want to be just some guy and his radio, every Sunday morning, playing the puzzler game with Will Shortz and a nation of strangers. If Davidov wasn’t a who, it was a what...Maybe a musical instrument...If she didn’t sing but had sheet music...But discovering the what wasn’t the solution to put her life back on track. The phone from the stage stopped ringing. “Hello, no one’s here, Leave a message,” said the actor into the phone. A message, a lesson, an important idea. I was Tommy’s messenger. I clutched my hand to her satchel, to say the thing, to leave the message she could decipher later, a puzzle for her to solve. She obviously liked puzzles. “What you’ve lost, the thing you loved, will feed your work, will make it even better.”


31

Vo l . 8 N o . 2 And here I had to take a guess, because solving the hardest puzzles required trusting your instincts. “A chance to reach a new place where you haven’t been. And where you won’t admit, you really wish to go. Because staying means…” I didn’t know what it meant for her, only how the desire to move on has immobilized me, kept me here in this museum of a town for fifteen years. Her eyes on mine narrowed, “Because staying means...What?” “Means falling in love a bit every weekend with things that will vanish.” Message delivered. She looked up to her reflection in the mirror, her face between the bottles. And her reflection smiled. Like the smile I did as a kid when I got caught in my own game. She smiled at me. “Get on the plane, Tommy.” She reached into her satchel for the photo and a pen. Placing the photo face down on the bar she watched Billy, his back to her at the tap, wrote something I couldn’t see with her left hand dragging across the writing. But it was two words judging by the lift of her pen, then turned the photo over. I realized what she had lost. She kissed the top of my head, her thick hair trailed across my face. Left Alice’s right through the audience and the play’s opening lines. The photo. It was her, maybe ten years ago, in a long black dress, with a cello, its neck cradled on her left shoulder. Her right hand was raised, her palm and fingers spread. Davidov was her cello. The photo of their fifth year together. The Italian S stood for Stradivarius. If he made violins he must have made cellos. It was stolen in Las-Billy’s hand grabbed the photo from me. “I’ll give this back to her. She’ll need it again, to play her game tomorrow with another guy just like you.” “She won’t be here. She’ll be back in Las Vegas.” “No she won’t.” Billy beamed, swept up my mug and ringed napkin. I placed a twenty on the bar, returned to my empty table and cold fries. When I looked back, Billy was reading what she wrote. His smile drooped and he poured the contents of her shot glass onto the photo. Two words. She must have written, good bye. Within a couple minutes, the single guy at the next table, older than me, led the audience in a knocking belly laugh from his seat. I wasn’t going to enjoy the show like I had the first time.

Lucy Mihajlich

Black Day

When the apocalypse started, I went to IKEA. I knew the world was going to end as soon as I landed in Denver, but I caught my connecting flight anyway. I didn’t want to spend my final hours on an airplane, but I also didn’t want to die in Colorado. I landed in PDX and walked down to Cascade Station, keeping an eye out for somewhere to witness the end of the world. My options were: Supercuts, Jersey Mike’s, Jamba Juice, Leatherman, Banana Republic, WOW Burger, and IKEA. I would have taken the easy way out, but Supercuts had a line. I passed Leatherman as I approach IKEA, dragging my rolling suitcase behind me. Leatherman had all sorts of tools that could be useful in the coming apocalypse, but IKEA had the VÖRDA meat cleaver, black ($16.99). They also had those little meatballs, and I was a bit peckish. I started to second-guess myself as soon as I saw the crowds. I wasn’t the only one who’d thought of hiding out at IKEA. It was defensible, comfortable, and well stocked. Not just with weapons. Småland had free diapers that could be used as bandages. There were textiles if we had to resort to making our own clothes. There was food, both perishable and frozen. Those little meatballs. Fortunately, IKEA was also large enough to hold a crowd, although I anticipated fights over the fake bedrooms before someone established order. Maybe if I established order, I could get a bed. I had a bad back. I didn’t see many old people. That was noble of them, sacrificing resources so the youth could survive. There were young parents with children, couples, and college students. One of them bumped into me, and I thought I saw one of the ten plagues, but it turned out that was just acne. They were all lined up neatly outside the store. Someone else must have already established order. What a shame. I got in line behind a pregnant woman. She ignored me, straining to hear something an IKEA employee was shouting at the crowd. I missed the announcement, but I heard the woman’s muttered response. “Only half?”


32

CIRQUE

She couldn’t be talking about survivors. The apocalypse had barely started. Maybe she was talking about how many they could take. “Surely they can do better than that?” I engaged her in polite conversation. Anarchy and cannibalism would surely appear in the coming months, but we had to maintain our humanity for as long as possible. “I know. With all that stock? Have you seen the size of their self-serve area?” “I think they have the Ark of the Covenant in there somewhere,” I said, “but I’m sure we can clear it out if we need the room. My name’s Peter, by the way.” “Monica,” she said. “Funny. Have you heard if there are any TV units left?” “You’re already thinking about looting?” Anarchy was breaking out before my eyes. “The deals aren’t that good.” Monica gestured vaguely at the crowd. “It barely seems worth it.” “Don’t say that,” I urged her. “It’s always worth fighting for.” “Not literally, I hope.” Monica rubbed her bulging stomach. Poor child, born into this world. If it was so lucky. “How long have you been here?” I asked. “Only about a half an hour. It’s not that bad.” “Monica,” I said, “People have died.” “Yeah, but only at, like, Wal-Mart.” She shrugged. “If they shop at Wal-Mart, they’re kind of asking for it. I hear someone got trampled in Jersey.” “It’s in Jersey?” That was the entire length of the United States. How could it have traveled so fast? “It’s… all over America.” “Oh, god.” Monica looked alarmed. “Don’t cry.” She was right. I had to be strong for the women and children.

Hillary Walker

Other Women

Asana after asana, I struggled. You’re not supposed to watch each other. You’re not supposed to stare. Her toenails were painted lilac, though, and they spread over her yoga mat as if oozing into mud. Her legs rooted down right into the earth, the way they always tell you to, the way mine never can. I was a traveler. I was passing through. The teacher was talking about harnessing our breath together with motion. I was looking at the lines on the palm of my hands, trying not to believe the fortune teller down the street. He isn’t right for you is all she had said. She shooed me away with feigned impatience. Out, out. You already knew that. You have known all along. She didn’t look like she had learned her gift through smudging and sweats but on the streets of Brooklyn from a mother who yelled too much. She lit a cigarette as I stood, mute but hesitant to go, and then she leaned back, foot against my chair, her lush and expansive body seeming to spread even further. We were warriors until I was sure my legs would give. I wondered if he had watered my plants back home. It took me a while to notice the tears. I’m not sure when they started. At one point, in child’s pose, the space between her shoulder blades lifted and fell like a dying sparrow still in flight. On my own mat, my face should have been earth turned, soaked in half-light, concealed in the cave of my arms. We were eggs waiting to hatch, low and still and supplicant. I was looking. Crow pose. Eagle arms. Even crying, even with one leg perpendicular in the air, one toe finger-hooked, she never faltered. I could’ve been bowled over by my own breath. I wondered how she never gasped, never shook, never touched the tears threading down her throat.

Water Shadows

Steve Dieffenbacher

As a child, I rifled through my mother’s drawers, read


33

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Woman with UFO Eyes

her old letters, tried on her clothes. I watched people in coffee shops, the way their hands touched under the table or didn’t, the way they added their sugar. I listened in on planes and buses and subways, words spoken and words held back. Finally, our bodies were against the floor, ribs reconfigured, legs stretched, every swath of thin rubber its own sanctuary. When I first began gardening, I overwatered because love meant always giving everything I had. I remember the dark soil in my hands and my despair when nothing germinated.

William Wikstrom

eyed, sinewy. I tried to imagine their bodies together. It wasn’t jealousy but bewilderment about how anyone makes sense of their life. Become a lily pad floating on water. Become a dissolving cloud. Have faith, my mother had said. The bones of her face were damp like mountain ridges after storms. When my fingers brushed against her hand, I wasn’t sure what to do. It was an accident.

Fate had never been a reliable option. Everyone said I would know when the time came, but I didn’t. When I met my husband, I knew nothing. There were no signs.

Then mine closed and held on tight. Her palm was warm and dry and small. I wanted to know everything but all I got was the pounding of my own heart.

The room was pressed with stillness. The teacher sang words in another language and something shifted in my belly like a sinking ship. My hands draped away from my body. My shoulder blades married the earth.

I had broken the covenant of being strangers. Through corpse pose, I held the hand of the woman who cried through class.

I found photos of his lover who came before me. Gray-

I stayed, through the terror. I waited for what would come.


34

CIRQUE

Linen Giovanna Gambardella


35

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

P L AY Sandra Hosking

Drenched A Ten-Minute Play SETTING:

A park during a rainstorm.

AT RISE:

Rain. Lara and Chet rush in laughing. They are soaking wet from head to toe and carrying inside-out umbrellas. A picnic shelter is nearby.

LARA: Stop, stop, stop. CHET: It’s only a few more feet, come on. LARA: What’s the point? (She drops the umbrella and stands in the rain, face to the sky.) CHET: What are you doing? LARA: Submitting to the elements. CHET: You’re crazy. A few more seconds and shelter. LARA: We’re already soaked to the bone. What more can it do to us? (Lightning flashes.) CHET: You might want to think about deferring your submission. Lightning happens. LARA: Shit happens. CHET: Shit only happens to fools who stand in the middle of rainstorms. LARA: Not true. Shit doesn’t care who you are. CHET: Are you coming or not? LARA: Look at you, you’re drenched. CHET: So are you. LARA: That umbrella did you absolutely no good. CHET: I know. LARA: When I was a little girl, my mother gave me an umbrella, clear plastic with pink trim. I used to open it up and set it on the ground upside down. When it rained, I imagined climbing into it and floating away. CHET: To where? LARA: Wherever. Up to the mountains, down to the ocean, space. CHET: How could you float to space in an umbrella? LARA: The imagination doesn’t judge, Chet. You’d know that if you had one.

CHET: That’s a nice story, but let’s get inside. I’m so wet my feet are slipping inside my shoes. LARA: (moving closer to him) Look at you. Hair flat. Coat dripping. Pants muddy. Raindrops on your face, on the end of your nose. (He pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and wipes his face.) LARA: Don’t bother. It will just get wet again. Stop. Let me. (She takes the handkerchief and gently pats his face and moves the hair out of his eyes.) CHET: Please LARA: How do I look? There’s not a part of me that’s dry. Not my ears, my thighs, my— CHET: All the more reason. LARA: Oh come on. Haven’t you ever just stood in the rain and felt the drops on your tongue? Come on. Give it a try. Tastes like chicken. (Lightning and thunder.) CHET: (he moves to the shelter) There’s a higher percentage of people getting struck by lightning in this county than anywhere in the state. So please. LARA: I love it when you quote statistics to me. CHET: Look at me. In out of the rain. It’s totally safe under here. I’ll be dry in no time while you’ll still be drenched. You could come under here, with me. LARA: I think I’ll take my chances out here. It’s safer. CHET: What could be safer than this shelter? We’ve got a table, a place to sit, a barbecue. LARA: What good is a barbecue with no charcoal, no lighter fluid, no food? CHET: I’m under here. LARA: That’s supposed to make me feel safe?


36 CHET: I’m drying out already. LARA: I don’t like that feeling. The feeling of drying out is almost worse than being wet. Cold water drips from the end of your hair down your back. Your clothes stick to you, jeans become stiff. Your skin becomes cold, clammy, like a dead person. And then you start to shiver, uncontrollably. Teeth chattering, shaking, the whole bit. And then I start to wonder if I’ll ever be warm again, if that deep cold is the last thing I’m ever going to feel. CHET: People caught in snowstorms keep warm by lying together. Like those people in that plane wreck. LARA: Didn’t they eat each other? CHET: I promise not to eat you if you come here. LARA: Pardon me if I don’t believe you. CHET: It’s actually quite soothing under here with the sound of the rain on the roof. LARA: That’s one of my favorite sounds. CHET: A steady beat, not too strong. LARA: Describe it to me. CHET: A cocoon of sound, wrapping itself around me. The rhythm calming, making me want to close my eyes and sleep. Whatever dangers lurk outside will never find their way in. Peaceful, safe. (she steps under the shelter, leaving the umbrella. he holds her.) You are saturated. LARA: Is that a come on? CHET: Drenched. LARA: You feel warm. CHET: I am warm, was, until you stepped in. (letting her go) Look at this. Your wet is all over me. LARA: Sorry. CHET: (embracing her again) It passes, you know. LARA: What does? CHET: That cold, clammy feeling. When you start to dry out, you may shiver for a bit, but it passes. If you could just wait it out. LARA: My fingers and toes are burning. CHET: That’s just your body banishing the chill. LARA: Maybe I don’t want it to pass, Chet. CHET: That’s ridiculous. LARA: (pushing away from him) You’re ridiculous. Pushing it away. What’s wrong with wanting to feel it? Wanting the wetness to completely take you over right down to the bone marrow so there’s no excuse? CHET: No excuse for what? You’re talking about the rain. People get pneumonia. LARA: A wives tale. And we’re not talking about the rain,

CIRQUE Chet. At least I’m not. CHET: Wait. What? LARA: It’s so easy for you to forget, isn’t it? You’re one of those people who runs through the rain, from the car to the house, so fast you don’t let it stick. You don’t absorb what’s really happening to you. Well, I’m an absorber, Chet. I’m not afraid to soak it all in. CHET: Okay, okay. You’re an absorber. LARA: Get out! (she pushes him out of the shelter and into the rain.) CHET: You crazy? I’ll catch my death out here. LARA: Shut up and listen. CHET: I’m listening, I’m listening. LARA: Close your eyes and feel it, Chet. Do it! CHET: This is insane. Let me in. LARA: Not until you do it. (He tries to pass her and return to the shelter, but she holds him at bay with his umbrella.) CHET: Be careful, you could hurt someone with that thing. LARA: Only you. CHET: Especially me. Come on, put it down. (He lunges. She counters with the umbrella, stabbing him.) CHET: Ow! LARA: Turn around! (he does.) Put up your arms. CHET: But— LARA: Do it! (she moves out of the shelter.) Now, close your eyes and raise your chin. Feel the rain hitting your face. What does it feel like? CHET: Rain. LARA: Keep your eyes closed. Now what do you feel? CHET: Cold. Dozens of needles poking my skin. LARA: Breathe. (she drops the umbrella and embraces him from behind.) And now? CHET: It doesn’t hurt anymore. LARA: The pain has passed. CHET: What happens now? LARA: Let go. Let it cover every part of you, every hidden place. CHET: It won’t change anything. LARA: It will change everything. CHET: (turning to her) No, it won’t. Nothing has changed. It’s all the same. We’re just very, very wet. LARA: I used to believe that raindrops were tears. CHET: A cliché. LARA: But later I learned the truth. It’s the sweat of angels.


37

Vo l . 8 N o . 2 CHET: Gross. LARA: They overwork themselves watching over us. They are at a loss. The things we do to each other. Trying to keep us safe. But it’s useless, you see. I want to tell them, stop. Stop trying. There’s really no need. There’s nothing we could’ve done. CHET: There was. LARA: No, there wasn’t. Stop trying. Close your eyes. CHET: I DON’T WANT TO! LARA: Trust me, Chet, trust me. Close your eyes. Feel. Let it all wash away. It’s very freeing. CHET: I used to imagine too. LARA: what? CHET: My umbrella was a sword. I would spend hours fighting dragons and black nights and monsters. I always won. LARA: I would do that too … when I wasn’t using my umbrella as a boat. CHET: If only life were like that. If we could only beat the dragons we fight. LARA: I realized that a long time ago. CHET: And we can’t escape them by floating down the river, Lara. LARA: Why can’t we? CHET: I miss her too. (The rain comes harder.) LARA: Why can’t we now? CHET: Maddie— LARA: I can’t hear you. (Lightning and thunder) LARA: It’s too loud. (She grabs both umbrellas and sets them up upside down.) CHET: Stop, just stop. LARA: These are perfect conditions. Come on. CHET: What are you trying to prove? LARA: Nothing, nothing. Get in. (She pushes him into his umbrella.) CHET: We’re not children anymore, Lara. (She climbs into her umbrella.) The Falling Sky

LARA: Paddle. Quickly! CHET: Ridiculous. LARA: You need to work fast. It’s coming. CHET: What’s coming? LARA: The flood. Can’t you hear it? (The sound of rushing water.) LARA: HURRY. (She paddles furiously. After a moment, he follows suit.) CHET: I can’t believe I’m doing this. It’s not too late— LARA: God dammit, Chet. PADDLE! (They paddle.) LARA: It’s working, it’s working. CHET: Oh my god. LARA: I feel it, I feel it. CHET: I’m moving. I’m actually moving. LARA: Don’t stop. Whatever you do, don’t stop! CHET: I won’t. I won’t ever stop. But where are we going, Lara? Where are we going? (Lights fade. Rain. Blackout)

Sheary Clough Suiter


38

CIRQUE

Saltier Series Purple Knight Janet C Hickok


Vo l . 8 N o . 2

NONFICTION Tele Aadsen

How We Will Weather This

August: The Mayday wakes me. The radio volume is low, but it reaches me - a man, his voice an octave shy of hysteria, reaching down to the fo’c’sle, yanking me from the bunk, pulling me upstairs. “There’s a boat one mile off Cape Addington taking on water! It’s a yellow-and-black troller, wood, two people on board. He’s got three or four pumps going in the engine room and a guy bailing in the fish hold.” “Roger, Captain, can you spell Cape Addington?” “A – D – D – it’s on Noyes Island!” His engine screams in the background. “He’s gonna need another pump. I can see four anchor lights from here, I know somebody’s got a pump they can give us!” We’re anchored in the next bay down from Addington. Us, and a fleet of fellow trollers. I slide into the pilot seat. Rain streaks the windows. I don’t turn the lights on. There’s nothing to see except the solid red glow of the VHF. I pin my gaze on that glow, willing it to pulse with another transmission, and think about the vessel description. Fishermen often know boats better than we know the people attached to them. All season we slide past each other on the tack, observing, assessing. Judging. Sometimes not knowing the person aboard as anything more than a miniature figure in neon raingear. Our boats represent us by proxy – our boats, and our voices on the radio. Identities are impressions, forged by boat maintenance, tack behavior, and radio conduct. Only one boat matches this description. It’s been the bane of the fleet all season, most recently two days ago, when another fisherman got on Sixteen to call out the yellow-and-black troller that had turned right on top of him. It was a mild scold, more a “what’s up with that” rebuke. The response was an explosive diatribe hot and rank, fouling the airwaves. Our knives froze midgutting as we stared at the deck speakers, stunned at the instant escalation. The initial caller was taken aback, too. “Whatever, man. You troll like a dumbass. And put a fuckin’ name on your boat, too.” The young man shot

39 more venom back, refusing to cede the last word. Fishermen always say that we’re there for each other. That if you’re in trouble, it doesn’t matter who you are, what our differences are on land. That on the water, we’re family. I want to believe that’s true. We could be alone here, if not for low-slung constellations of neighboring anchor lights, stars winking in and out of view as boats slowly twirl on their tethers, darkness broken only by the red glow of radio silence. I want to reach for the mic, tell the man someone is listening, someone is out here. But my transmission would be nothing more than interference; we don’t have the spare pump he needs. I want to believe that’s the reason for the rest of the family’s silence, too. So I just sit in the dark and stare at the radio, arms wrapped around my knees pulled into my chest. The position a marine safety instructor taught, one that will preserve your body heat in the water. One that might help keep you alive. The radio snaps to attention with the Coast Guard’s call for an update. “I’m almost to him, should be there in another five minutes! I’m gonna raft up to him and see what we can do.” The Coast Guard asks for further description of the boat in trouble. The screaming engine threatens to drown the man’s wretched reply. “It’s my son.” September: The weather hits in the night. We’ve spent the run south pushing to stay one step ahead of this gale, believing we could beat it across Queen Charlotte Sound, only to have it pounce on the midnight shift, midway between the point of no return and the safety of Cape Caution. Caught in the convulsions, Joel and I go very still. Him at the helm, me alongside, both of us pinch-lipped and vigilant, hyper-alert. We don’t speak, just watch for what’s ahead. Waiting. The autopilot fights to hold its course. Glass jars chatter in the galley. I stormproof the cabin as best I can. Bear the Boat Cat looks uneasy, sitting stiffly beneath the table. I tell Joel I’m going to make sure her safe space below our bunk is clear. I have a bad feeling she’s going to need it. The fo’c’sle is a disaster. Cabinets flung open, books thrown from the shelf. Margaret Atwood, Ariel Gore, and Neil Gaiman sprawl across the bunk in a disheveled threesome. I’m shoving everything back into place – some place, any place they might hope to stay until the weather comes down – when the world falls out


40

CIRQUE

from under me. so – a resounding smack that, no matter how often I hear “Oh, fuck,” Joel barks. The engine drops to it and assure myself it’s just water, it’s just water, always an idle. The Nerka pitches starboard, an abrupt lurch makes me jump. Reflexively, I conduct a mental tour of followed by a crash. Not one crash, but the staggered our safety gear. percussion of many heavy things making sudden, artless I think back to June, when the Nerka first headed impact. Flying up the stairs, I brake hard. All five drawers out to the Fairweather Grounds. It was so easy to trust have launched from the pilot seat, hurled across the cabin the ocean when tucking into that cheerful blue, taking at in brutal disarray. The space beneath the table is a ruin of face value the snake-oil promises of a calm day. So easy wrenches, hooks, and knives. to imagine myself unafraid on the water. That was a lie. “Bear! Fuck, where’s Bear?” Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it’s not so much that I’m afraid Gingerly excavating the debris, I release my on the water as I’m afraid of the instant when everything breath. No crushed cat. I find her under our bunk, eyes like changes – the moment you don’t see coming, when you marbles. She must have zipped down, suddenly feel yourself falling from a whisker ahead of the attack. I stroke shitty into very, very bad. The moment her rigid body and murmur apologies. you realize you’re in trouble is the When we trade wheel moment too late; there’s no turning watches, Joel isn’t in the fo’c’sle five back or avoiding what now is. There’s minutes before returning with a scowl. only the question of how you will “There’s no way I can sleep down there, respond, and if your response will the way we’re bucking. I’m just going make a difference. to rest up here.” He’s too tall for the daybunk but climbs into it anyway, Today: bracing socked feet against the back of I’ve been back on land for five my seat. months. I’m still hugging my knees to Bear slinks up the stairs, too. my chest, staring at a solid red glow, With a wary glance at the replaced waiting for someone to break the drawers, she flattens herself again radio silence. I’m still clenching the Portal Giovanna Gambardella under the table, appearing at once wheel, watching green water shatter boneless and tense. The anchor dips, against the windows, praying they’ll the guts of a wave shattering against sixteenth-of-anhold, bracing for the next hit. The landscape has changed. inch window panes. I stand in a useless effort to see over It shifts and tumbles, every day newly precarious. I review the lunging bow, a voice inside urging me to copy the cat, our safety gear, sometimes wondering if it’s time to grab to absorb the shock of each landing. My fingers clench the go-bag. Wondering, if so, where there is to go. the console. There’s no getting off this ride. There’s only The yellow-and-black troller made it through that getting through. August night. Family came through, other boats stepping Someday, from some safe space on the far side up to share spare pumps. And Joel, Bear, and I made it of fear, would I reduce this storm in classic fisherman’s through our night, too; the weather broke with dawn, understatement, head tilting to shoulder in minimalistic washing us stunned and clean into a new day. Thinking shrug? We took some green water. Would I gaslight myself? back to those nights and others, times my heart lodged Time does that; time, and our future self’s need to hardest in my throat, I realize it’s less a matter of going, whitewash past danger. more about getting through. Fishing gives us everything Darkness fuels fear. In a world reduced to we need to do this. Resolve. Vigilance. Endurance. Hope. black night, white foam, green water, you can’t assess Solidarity. Love. conditions as a whole, can’t brace yourself for anything So I’ll be here, standing by the radio, hands beyond the next toothy wave. For everything I can’t steady on the wheel. I’ll keep going, trusting that even see, there is sound. The river running down the roof. when I feel alone charging into dark, storm-tossed nights, dawn will come. Trusting you’re out here with me – and Erratic one-two, one-two notes like a canary, a cabinet you, and you, and you – and you’ll do the same. In this popping open with each up-surge, closing as we slam way, together, we will weather this. back down. The violence of water hitting the hull just


41

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Christy Everett

Why Not Mine Chosen as recipient of the 2017 Andy Hope Literary Award.

I stand here at the mouth of the Kenai River, hands clasped around my pole, with nothing but an empty net and a hope for a fish to find it. I wait alongside thousands of other Alaska residents for a sockeye salmon to swim into my net. Not the net inches from mine. Not the net at the front of the line. But mine. I want to be the chosen one. I silently talk to the fish. Please, please find my net. I’m good, please, I mean, I’m not that good, I’m humble, please… I talk to the people around me, as diverse as they come, an eclectic group of ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds, all wearing the same uniform, waders or hip boots, Gortex and fleece, all of us united by Alaska and the salmon that call our great state home. We can each harvest 35 sockeye, during a three week run in July, more if we have a family, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of skill or technical equipment, just a willingness to stand in 50 degree water, with a five foot net attached to a ten foot pole. And the patience to wait, sometimes for hours, days even, for a fish to hit— but when it does, oh, the adrenaline surge as you yank, flip, and drag that net to shore, hoping it emerges on the beach with a tenpound sockeye thrashing within the frame.

maybe it couldn’t happen to them. But it could happen to anyone. Chance. Luck. The fish that swims past a thousand nets, and gets caught in mine. I lick the salt from my lips, remnants of waves far bigger than me, waves that crest and break when I can’t escape. I can’t feel my fingers, my arms ache, my bladder’s as full as my stomach’s empty, but I stand chest high in the fiftydegree water for hours, waiting for that first salmon, for the rush of a fish swimming full tilt into the net I hold. What if we didn’t have to wait? In the emergency room that night? The night my water broke four full months too soon. Nick and I alone in a room waiting to be seen. This can’t be happening, it’s not time. Please stay in, please, not now. Not us. Please… When a nurse finally checked me, she saw my baby’s foot, and couldn’t hear his heart, and that’s when everything moved too quickly. I remember my husband’s eyes as they wheeled me away for an emergency c-section. The fear in me practically bouncing my legs off the gurney. I wanted nothing more than to rewind: Back to my bed, Nick asleep by my side, baby boy safe inside—rewind. I woke in a surgery recovery room, with an unfamiliar doctor by my side: “Where’s my baby?” I asked. She told me he was in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. He’s alive.

And not an empty net. When a fellow dipnetter loses a fish at the shoreline, and we all watch the silver-scaled salmon skitter back into the sea, I feel the guy’s pain. I’ve been there before. Haven’t we all lost something we wanted, arrived emptyhanded, heart shattered, when we expected to be full? When tragedy calls my name I tend to deny or blame or try to rewind time like Superman saving Lois Lane. When it happens to others I question their decisions, or label them, as a smokescreen to keep me safe. Like the way people often give me false praise for raising a child with special needs. God must have chosen you to be his Mom. You are so good, so strong, so brave… Because if there is something special about me, then

“Is he Ok?” Her dark brown eyes looked into mine and she said: “He’s alive—but I can’t tell you he’s going to survive.” It wasn’t till I saw Nick’s face that I realized alive didn’t mean ok. Our son Elias, our first child, arrived with an Apgar score of zero. No movement. No heartbeat. No breath. At five minutes, still zero. Our one pound baby died— and the doctors and nurses brought him back to life. I couldn’t even hold him for the first two weeks. So I planted my feet by his side, my hands on his isolette, I stood there, and I waited. We spent 94 days in that NICU, and despite dire predictions, Elias survived.


42 Seven years later, he holds himself upright with the help of forearm crutches, which he uses to poke a salmon carcass on the beach. “Mom, how do I un-dead the fish?” How do I go back in time? How do I get a second try? What if we didn’t have to wait so long? What if my cervix hadn’t opened? What if I’d been more cautious? What if… I look back at my son on the beach and say, “Oh Bud, you can’t.” “When I’m bigger, I can go out there. I can fish too.”

CIRQUE didn’t care if it was a boy or girl, as long as it was healthy, you can take him back. I plant my feet in the sand, hold tight to my net, stand in the water, and wait. The woman next to me catches a salmon and I can’t help but wonder, out of the thousands of nets waiting, why hers? I mean is it fate or timing or equipment or skill? I think it’s chaos theory. I think everything doesn’t happen for a reason. It’s random and luck and just being in the right place at the right time. We can look to our skills or our tools as factors in our bounty, but we can’t isolate the cause.

“Yes, yes you can.” And I mean it. I know we’ll find a way for Elias to dipnet too someday though, I must say, I love my time in the water without my kids. I love the physical work of holding the net against the tides, the beauty of the light on the ocean, the volcanoes in the distance, the simplicity of my role: hold the pole. Harvest fish. So different from parenthood. People often say to me: “I don’t know how you do it?!” What they mean is how I parent a child with so many needs. Elias’s short list includes visual impairment, cerebral palsy, and autism. I don’t know how you do it? What is the alternative? To not? Sorry god, we said we

Just as I can’t claim there’s something special about me for parenting a childlike Elias, a child with an injured brain and miles between stones. I parent Elias by following his needs, winging it, and I’m always wondering if I’m doing it right. The strength comes from loving him, not from some innate goodness in my soul. I am not a chosen one, just randomly selected. A salmon hits, and I yank and flip my net with everything I got. Please stay in, please… When I finally land the large sockeye, I do a little dance around my net. Thank you, thank you. I lay my hands on the silver scales and study this first fish of the season longer than normal after waiting so long. Thank you, I tell the salmon with each strike, thank you. I raise my fish high above my head, as both an offering and a prayer, for my loved ones who watch from our camp above. “Yay Mom,” I hear Elias say, as he claps his hands together, the way that he does, in his standing ovation of one.

Following the Grease Trail

Vivian Faith Prescott

I bow to my boy— then I turn back towards the water, pick up my pole, and wield my giant net like a direct line between family and sea, luck and will, sustenance and soul; and as I face the oncoming waves, I think, One more, just one more.


43

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Asha Falcon

Pollen Storm

Last spring, in the midst of a week-long pollen storm, a woman disappeared while hiking alone in the mountains above my hometown. Her car was found at the trailhead, coated in pollen. The same pollen covered my windowsills in a fine yellow dust. Clouds of it drifted from the spruce trees as helicopters hovered beside the mountain, searching for her. This week I have returned finally to hike in the mountain gorge along a trail I have always loved but avoided for years. I bring my cell phone even though I am on a simple planked trail less than two miles from downtown. I rarely hike alone anymore because to walk too far makes me lonesome, and also because I am afraid. That spring, I could not stop thinking of her. I wondered if she had fallen into one of the mineshafts that thread the mountain. I heard rumors of foul play, of suicide. Brown bears, just out of hibernation, roamed the hillsides. A co-worker told me, “I hope it was quick.” We stood in the parking lot of the clinic and watched the helicopters climbing the mountainside like bees. I remember the snap of their blades, the salty tasting air and uncommon heat that settled in for days. I stopped hiking the trail I loved because of a man who hosted a going away party for a friend of mine. I remember that I hesitated on the porch before I knocked, uneasy. Then the door swung open and he greeted me with such pleasure that I went in. But I drank too much and later that night he lay me across the bed like a new game. My friend saw me there but went home without waking me. “I thought he would take care of you,” she said. I dragged my finger along the windowsill, thinking how the pollen gets in, works its way into the cracks like salt. I walked in a kind of dream, thinking about the woman, taking the pollen into my body. I imagined her covered with it, where she lay. Friends and family described her as petite, yet uncommonly strong; an experienced hiker and outdoorswoman. If anyone could survive, it would be her. They continued to search after the seventh day. They would not come back without her. They posted her photo on message boards and in store windows. A woman with

Dreaming of You

Yuliya Helgesen-Thompson

intelligent eyes, standing in herself with grace. Please, if you have seen her. A note slipped into the door of her car, coated in its film of pollen: where are you. After the party I stopped hiking the trail I loved because in order to get there, I had to pass the man’s house. As if he sensed my arrival, he always appeared. He blocked my path on the sidewalk, cut in front of me in line at the supermarket. When he was hired at the place I worked, I quit my job. From my apartment I could see the road to the trail I loved. I stood in the window and watched the mountain. A decade later he finally moved away, and what was lost was returned to me. After nearly two weeks they still had not found her. The weather cooled and brought a stretch of rain. If she was out there, she would not last. I walked to work under the shadow of the mountain where she was lost, and I spoke to her. I told her I hoped she would be found. I told her she wasn’t alone. Rain coated my skin as I walked. Tendrils of fog spooled out from the crevasses.


44

CIRQUE

Linda Ketchum

In the Footsteps of Harry Lime

Before ever visiting Vienna, I had long associated the city with Habsburg imperial splendor, Strauss waltzes, the golden art of Klimt, and—in stark contrast to this glittering heritage—Carol Reed’s 1949 film noir, The Third Man. The moment in childhood when I came across the 78 recording of “The Third Man Theme” in my parents’ collection was the moment I realized that an exciting world of instrumental music existed beyond the familiar drone of the bagpipes. I had never heard anything like this jangling zither performance by Anton Karas; the joyful tune with its jaunty hook made me want to dance, so I would play it repeatedly, taking care not to scratch the record with the sharp tip of the gramophone needle. As for the movie itself, I cannot remember when or where I first saw it; on television, perhaps, or at the Edinburgh University film society. All I know is that I loved it immediately, and my recent immersion into the world of Harry Lime has confirmed its status as an all-time favorite. Last fall I rented a small apartment in Vienna for five weeks so I could explore the city at my own pace, and a close friend from university days joined me for my first weekend there. As soon as we spotted the poster, there was no question about it: we had to attend the Sunday matinee of The Third Man at the Burg Kino, a cinema specializing in English-language movies where it plays several times a week. When the box office attendant handed over the tickets, he also presented each of us with a ‘passport’—a booklet that offered a discount on admission to three other Third Man attractions packaged as “The Third Man Tour.” Inside, a stamp verified we had seen the movie. I resolved straight away to acquire the full set; in the process of learning more about the film, perhaps I would understand the reason for its profound appeal. The story behind the creation of a work of art—a painting, a novel, a piece of music, a film— has always fascinated me, so the quirky industry catering to Third Man fandom was a welcome discovery. You could visit the Third Man Museum, a private collection “without sponsors and without subsidies, but a 100% idealistic!” that opens only on Saturdays and houses a staggering inventory of memorabilia. You could take the walking

tour “In the Footsteps of the Third Man” to some of the central film locations. You could even go on a Third Man Kanal tour, descending the same spiral staircase into the sewers used by Lime to flee his pursuers in the thrilling climax to the film. But it all began with the movie. On a storytelling level alone, The Third Man excels. Graham Greene’s compelling screenplay brings to life a tale of conspiracy, murder, and betrayal, interwoven with a complicated portrait of friendship and an unsentimental depiction of unrequited love. The setting, political context, and cinematography elevate the movie to the status of a classic; the expressionist black-andwhite images filmed amidst the rubble of postwar Vienna haunt the filmgoer long after leaving the cinema. Lastly, Reed’s impeccable casting has ensured the enduring popularity of the film, widely acknowledged as one of the greatest movies ever made. Each character in this story reflects different facets of our complex human behavior, and the film forces us to think about the choices we ourselves might make in a time of great adversity. The blundering Holly Martins, a naive and idealistic writer of pulp westerns who believes in happy endings, is played by the uncharismatic Joseph Cotten, an actor from the stable of producer David Selznick. Martins has come to Vienna at the invitation of his old friend Harry Lime, lured by the promise of a job and a place to stay, but he arrives just in time to attend Harry’s funeral. Details of the ‘accident’ do not add up—the porter insists he saw ‘a third man’ help to move the body—and Martins makes it his mission to uncover the truth about Harry. The truth turns out to be that he is a penicillin racketeer, a dealer in death who has faked his own demise to avoid accountability for his callous trade. In the end, Cotten delivers a plausible portrayal of a man deceived by the larger-than-life friend in whose shadow he has always lived. The rest of the actors were hand-picked by Reed. In his role of the dogged Major Calloway, Lime’s nemesis, the urbane Trevor Howard manages to look debonair in a duffle coat. Bernard Lee—future boss of James Bond—gives us a solid performance as Calloway’s straightforward sergeant. The beautiful Alida Valli plays tragic Anna Schmidt, who lives with forged papers and the constant fear of deportation by the Russians. She carries off the part with such dignity and grace that we can forgive her stubborn loyalty to Lime, her enigmatic lover, and understand her rejection of Martins. Even minor characters are memorable, especially Lime’s grandfatherly doorman and Anna’s querulous


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 landlady, who is perpetually swathed in a quilt and complaining about police invasion of her grandiose, bombdamaged building. Paul Hörbiger and Hedwig Bleibtrau were beloved Austrian actors, and Reed was right to forgo subtitles for their dialogue, so we too can experience Martins’ struggle to make sense of what is happening. And then there is Harry. By the time the elusive Harry Lime appears, the film is more than half-way through and he has receded to the back of our minds, just as he recedes into the darkened doorway that conceals him, until an overhead light snaps on and Martins rushes to confront him. In that brief moment, before Lime disappears into the night without a word, the spot lit face of Orson Welles expresses the fleeting emotions of arrogance, bravado, calculation, and even charm—Lime’s defining characteristics. Welles made the perfect choice for this key role, but he was considered box office poison in Hollywood at the time and Reed had to fight Selznick to hire him. Then the actor, who spends just a few minutes on screen, would only commit to a week of filming. Welles had no hand in the writing or direction of the movie, other than improvising Lime’s famous ‘cuckoo clock’ speech that attempts to justify his evil deeds, but was not above letting people think otherwise. For me and many others, Vienna is the real star of the story. Shooting took place on location in raw, dreary conditions at the end of 1948, and Reed worked roundthe-clock with three film crews. Vienna was still divided into four occupation zones—British, American, French, and Russian—with an international zone in the center. While its inhabitants grappled with deprivation and displacement, Vienna hummed as a hub for espionage, and a black market flourished there. Reed’s great accomplishment was to present the city as a powerful metaphor for Europe in a period of physical devastation and moral disintegration, when life for many people meant a daily struggle to survive. Australian cinematographer Robert Krasker skillfully captured the off-kilter mood of the times in his oblique-angled shots of the action (after seeing the film, William Wyler sent Carol Reed a spirit level as a joke). We see close-ups of shifty, stubbled racketeers; a distant corpse floating in the Danube among shards of ice; backlit colonnades and deserted squares; and the menacing shadows of pursuers and pursued looming against city walls. Low street shots at night highlight glistening cobbles that further heighten the aura of suspense (Reed

45 had the streets hosed down to reflect the light). The cinematography has also preserved for us precious images of somber city scenes, such as scaffolding on the roofless Stefansdom and cherubic statues adorning classical ruins—reminders of Vienna’s former glory at a moment when the city had reached its lowest ebb in recent history. Anyone who can get excited about visiting a sewer must be a die-hard Third Man fan. I arrived early at the meeting point in the Girardipark, a small island of green surrounded by relentless traffic that was tucked into a corner of Karlsplatz. A gigantic red sewer grille— the logo of the tour—signaled that this was the right place. The entrance to the sewer system was normally locked down and chained off but now the triangular shutters stood open, like the unfolded petals of a metallic flower, and the circular opening to the stairwell beckoned us. Our group donned white helmets with black headlamps, listened dutifully to the safety briefing, then filed down the narrow stone steps that corkscrewed into the subterranean world. Within minutes we found ourselves in the cavernous main tunnel used to such spectacular effect in the film. To add atmosphere to the occasion, scenes from the movie were projected onto the arched wall, including the climactic chase that took place where we were standing. While it was difficult to ignore the pervasive odor of treated human waste, it disappointed me to learn that Welles had refused to film in the sewers for fear of disease. Close-ups were completed in the sweeter air of Shepperton Studios and a body double used on location in the longer shots. The rats gave Reed trouble too; neither the feral nor the laboratory rats would behave as scripted. Our guide asked us if we remembered the poignant scene where the wounded Lime—the human rat—crawls up to the street level sewer grille, and his desperate fingers emerge above ground in a futile grasp for freedom (fingers that really belonged to Carol Reed). We murmured in agreement. “Impossible!” he proclaimed, letting us inspect an actual grille so we could verify for ourselves that it was much too thick for fingers to reach through. Even though the artifice behind this scene had been revealed, I later discovered it still moved me. I found the Third Man Museum in the unassuming Pressgasse, close to the Naschmarkt. It consisted of a series of small rooms located on the ground floor of the apartment building where its mastermind, Gerhard Strassgschwandtner, lived. When the film was


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Mardi Gras

released, the Viennese gave it a lukewarm reception, having little desire to dwell on such a dark and difficult period in their history. Although not of that generation, Strassgschwandtner grew up knowing that the subject of the occupation was taboo. This did not, however, repress his still-boyish enthusiasm for the movie, and he had lovingly—some would save obsessively—created an exhaustive Third Man exhibition in an extraordinary homage to the film. More than 400 cover versions of the charttopping “Third Man Theme” were displayed in a closetsized room, and you could listen to many of these recordings. Of course, nothing (especially the Hawaiian guitar that conjured up blue lagoons) compared to the original. The zither that local wine tavern musician Karas played for the soundtrack recording was the proud centerpiece of this section, and the visitor could also linger over dozens of movie posters and every collectible imaginable, including an original script donated by Trevor Howard’s estate after the actor’s death. The rooms were not interconnected, opening only onto the street, so the attendant had to escort me to

CIRQUE

Joe Kashi

each one in turn. This was the most unorthodox museum I had ever visited, but also one of the most enthralling. In the basement, you could pore over an extensive display of photographs, artefacts, and documents from the post-World War II, pre-Cold War era. One moving exhibit was a video interview with a retired American pilot who flew bombing raids over the city when barely out of his youth; ironically, the museum building itself had suffered war damage. This particular part of the collection drove home the oppression of living in an occupied society, an experience that those of us raised in peacetime can scarcely imagine. I stayed on after closing for the zither concert of soundtrack music by Cornelia Mayer, who performed “The Third Man Theme” using the original Karas fingering technique. Scenes from the film flashed through my head as she filled the improvised concert space in the basement with the melody that had caused a sensation in Britain, where the record sold half a million copies in three months. Somehow, I managed to refrain from dancing. As film critic Roger Ebert asked, when writing about The Third Man for his list of Great Movies, “Has there ever been


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 a film where the music more perfectly suited the action?” The rendezvous for the walking tour was the Stadtpark U-Bahn station, and our guide turned out to be historian Brigitte Timmermann, author of The Third Man’s Vienna: Celebrating a Film Classic. Her enthusiasm for the subject matched Strassgschwandtner’s, and her encyclopedic knowledge impressed me. As we strolled through the resurrected city streets, Timmerman doled out nuggets of information about the background and behind-the-scenes compromises of the film. We learned that Greene, in writing the screenplay, very likely drew on his own experiences working for MI6 during the war, when he served in Vienna under Kim Philby, the “Third Man” of British espionage who eventually defected to the Soviet Union—and whose first name happened to be Harold. While this knowledge added veracity to the story, it startled me to learn that a plot I had once thought far-fetched was largely based on reality. Martins was not the only innocent to arrive in Vienna. Although Martins gives 15 Stiftgasse as Lime’s address, the exterior of his apartment was the imposing Palais Fries in Josefsplatz (now a private club), close to the Hofburg. You can still stay at the Hotel Sacher, which the British did use as their headquarters and would have been a haunt of Greene’s, but it is a less affordable option today. You can also enjoy Kaffee und Kuchen at the Mozart Café, but the scene with ‘Baron’ Kurtz was shot farther out in the street to accommodate all the equipment. The doorway where Lime stands for his reveal was at 8 Schreyvogelgasse, a steep street in a picturesque corner of the Altstadt. What we see in close-up, however, was created at Shepperton Studios. The cobbled square where Lime disappears after running from Martins was the beautiful Am Hof. But the kiosk concealing the nonexistent sewer entrance was a prop. A two-hour walking tour could not possibly include the iconic Riesenrad—the Prater’s Big Wheel— or the cemetery, so I made a pilgrimage to each of these locations. A friend and I detoured through the amusement park at nightfall on the way to somewhere else; standing below the Riesenrad, it appeared unchanged since that pivotal meeting between Martins and Lime in the gondola. But the surrounding attractions were unmistakably twenty-first century, and if Harry Lime had materialized between them, he would have looked sadly out of place. I visited the cemetery on November first—All Saints Day, a national holiday. Flower stalls at the gates

47 were selling brightly colored wreaths and bouquets to the visitors coming to pay their respects. Despite walking up and down several avenues, it was impossible to decide which one featured in the classic closing scene after Lime’s real funeral—that very long shot where Anna walks towards us and past Martins without even acknowledging his presence. One of the few disagreements between Greene and Reed was over the ending. Reed refused to conclude the story on an artificially happy note, and in time Greene acknowledged, “…he has been proved triumphantly right.” I had completed “The Third Man Tour” and it was time to return to the Burg Kino. Would the process of disillusion to which I had submitted spoil my enjoyment of the film? Not at all; my affection for its imperfect characters had actually deepened, and I noticed that repeated viewings were revealing more nuances of personality and plot. As for the tweaking of location sets, the sense of place in Vienna was so strong that it was easy to overlook this minor fakery. For the first time, I understood that an important part of the film’s appeal lay in its proximity to my own history. The war had disrupted the lives of my parents, who met in its aftermath (they might even have seen The Third Man on a date). I was born in Scotland just a few years after the movie’s release, when food rationing was still in force, and grew up in the invisible shadow of war without knowing how lucky I had been to be spared the experience. We may have been on the winning side, but in my family in the 1950s the subject was equally taboo. Like the rest of Europe, Vienna rose from the ruins—largely thanks to American aid. Austria declared itself a neutral country in 1955, the year it regained independence, and the external scars of war slowly disappeared. Vienna now ranked consistently as the city with the best quality of life in the world. The European Union had united this historically fractious continent and forged a new European identity. Three months before my Vienna sojourn, Britain had opted to leave the EU. Since then, a newly elected, undiplomatic president has brought chaos to America, Scotland’s leader has announced a second independence referendum, and Britain’s prime minister has called a snap election. We have entered an era of unpredictability and, for the first time in my life, I feel uneasy about our common future. Following in the footsteps of Harry Lime has been a chilling reminder of the risks of a divided Europe and a discordant world.


48

CIRQUE

Tim Lydon

Crosscut Saw

I am cutting firewood near my home in northwest Montana when my old chainsaw, plagued by various ailments, finally sputters and dies. In suddenly quiet woods, I inhale its last cough of hydrocarbons and consider the pile of logs at my feet. It’s far short of our winter heating needs. Overhead, golden cottonwoods rattle a warning: I’ll soon run out of time to gather this year’s firewood. The next day I buy a new saw, which comes complete with a burly plastic carrying case. No doubt it’s sexy, its powerful bar protruding from the engine housing, its plastics gleaming. But there’s more to a chainsaw, nags my conscience. Its carburetor is manufactured in China, then shipped across the ocean. The oil and gas I’ll feed it each year, while trivial in gallons, depend on a web of drills, chemicals, pipelines, and refineries. Across the globe, they fuel war and turn the planet’s carbon cycle inside out, pushing the climate toward chaos. And what of the saw’s future? Ultimately, its plastics are destined for a landfill, where they’ll leach petrochemicals for decades. It all seems an extravagant cost for a little firewood. Years earlier, as a Forest Service wilderness ranger in Colorado, I learned to use a two-person crosscut saw. I loved the smell of fresh-cut logs unmarred by gassy smoke and the swish of the metal blade through heartwood. The short reach of that unmistakable sound made the woods feel like they went on forever. It was surprisingly efficient, too. I begin wondering if I can cut our firewood by crosscut. The woodstove only heats part of the house, requiring under two cords annually. Yet, already two weeks past the first frost, this might not be the best time to experiment with outdated technology. I hop on the Internet and quickly find scores of used crosscuts for around sixty dollars apiece. They’re in Maine, Oregon, Michigan, idled around the country since chainsaws became common in the 1950s. A little impulsively, I buy a two-person felling saw with a sixfoot blade and a shorter one-person bucking saw with a D-shaped hickory handle. Waiting for the tools to arrive, I’m eager to put them to work and somewhat confident I can cut enough wood before winter. Nevertheless, I decide to hang onto the chainsaw as back-up, then hopefully return it

for a refund. But I don’t yet realize how much I’ll enjoy cutting by hand. In the months ahead, the exercise and satisfaction easily offset the labor. But more than that, working without a motor heightens my awareness of the world around me, throwing open new doors of perception on the place where I live. It makes the saws an unexpectedly good bargain. I carry the two-person saw into the woods one chilly October afternoon. At a fallen Douglas fir about fourteen inches across, I axe away a swath of furrowed bark, then plant the saw’s teeth into wood scarred by meandering beetles. With short strokes I easily open a kerf, or cut. Moving back a few steps, I apply more of the six-foot blade. Soon I’m rocking back and forth, the steel blade sinking into the tree. I recall the freedom of my ranger days in Colorado, hiking mountain trails with a crosscut over my shoulder, its teeth sheathed in a splayed section of fire hose. But within minutes the saw binds. I push, and its thin blade bends ahead of me. I pull, and it jolts to a stop. Now embedded in the log, the teeth are too dull to cut any further. I realize the saw is useless until I find someone trained in the archaic art of crosscut sharpening. Holding onto the chainsaw suddenly seems like a good idea. But before I relent to its temptation, I want to try the shorter crosscut on some of the smaller logs littering our patch of woods. The forest surrounding our home is one of North America’s finest. Here on the west side of the Northern Rockies, a trick of weather and geography creates a unique mingling of Pacific Northwest rain forest with the drier forests of the inland Rocky Mountains. The resulting diversity includes western red cedars and western hemlocks, more unusual denizens of the coast, and the ponderosas and lodgepoles more common in the Rockies. White pine, larch, grand fir, aspen, and others are here, too. Some attain magnificent size, another anomaly for the Rockies. It’s evidenced by the huge stumps in our woods, the remains of big cedars and firs that must have harkened Washington’s coastal rain forest, before a logging outfit cleared the land in the 1940s. Today, smaller second-growth surrounds the house, but it’s an unhealthy forest. Like millions of acres across the West, including many national forest lands, it’s starved of fire. Before the birth of the U.S. Forest Service in the early twentieth century, frequent, low-intensity fires shaped these woods. Creeping along the ground, sometimes for weeks, they consumed litter and thinned


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Vo l . 8 N o . 2 young growth, often leaving mature trees unharmed. The fires flushed nutrients into the soil, prompting a surge of forbs that fed bears, elk, and others. The regularity of small fires decreased the frequency of big ones, the kind that roar through canopies, leap canyons, and torch millions of trees. But the Forest Service ended all that. A pivotal event was the Big Blow-up of 1910, an August firestorm that scorched three million acres in the Northern Rockies. With flames swirling hundreds of feet high—fueling winds that could pull a man from his saddle—it wipedout forests and towns and routed the rangers sent to fight it. It forever scarred the young Forest Service, created only five years earlier by Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt. Fixated on fire suppression for the next century, the agency attempted to banish the “dragon” from the nation’s commercially valuable forests. Today’s legacy is millions of acres of overcrowded woods susceptible to the whims of a changing climate, including the catastrophic fires and massive beetle outbreaks we see today. Informed by the latest science, modern foresters urge landowners dwelling near national forests to thin their woods, restoring forest health and reducing fuel for the inevitable fires. For many of us, it means tons of firewood. I find a couple of small firs lying atop each other. I axe away their desiccated limbs, then begin cutting their thin ends with my shorter saw, steadying them with a gloved hand. Although this saw also needs a tune, I soon amass two wheelbarrow loads of firewood, which I cart to the woodshed and stack. During the next hour I fall into a comfortable rhythm. The exercise feels good and I regain confidence about supplying this year’s firewood by hand. But slowly, the true reward of cutting by hand becomes apparent. As I work, I’m aware of chickadees chitting from birch trees and a flicker somewhere up the hill. With my eyes focused on the logs I am cutting, the bird songs describe the rolling geography around me. Then there is a loud clatter. Stopping midstroke, I turn to see a squall of yellow leaves fly from the topmost branches of a tall cottonwood. The stiff leaves clap against each other as they spiral downward, weighty stems at the lead. When another breeze sweeps the treetop, releasing hundreds more leaves, I suddenly appreciate that the sound of autumn leaves has risen above the shallow noise of my crosscut. Without a motor, I am more aware of the land.

Moon Birch

Tami Phelps

The gusts strengthen as I work. Thousands of leaves from cottonwoods, aspens and birches sail through the air with the distinctive clatter of a Rocky Mountain autumn. Leaves become stranded in fir trees, adorning their green boughs with orange, yellow, and gold ornaments. This is no ordinary fall day. It isn’t the strength of the breeze, but the readiness of the leaves to fly. With that, the day’s minor weather disturbance pushes the landscape across a threshold between autumn and winter. By tomorrow morning, the trees will look different, their generally emptied figures portending the frozen earth and short days ahead. I imagine the scene unfolding across the Northern Rockies. North into British Columbia and west into Idaho, the same breezes cast millions of leaves into the air. Along canyons, hillsides and valley floors, they flutter downward like our region’s answer to a tickertape parade, littering thoroughfares like the Clark Fork, Clearwater and Flathead Rivers, and all their wild rumbling tributaries. Across untold miles, they settle into fir trees and mat the forest floor from the most remote river bend in the SelwayBitterroot to the long lakeshores of Glacier National Park. And across a thousand rural properties like mine, where people eke out all kinds of lives dwarfed by mountains. Just as the leaves glance off my shoulder, I know they also land miles away, on a grizzly bear grubbing through a meadow for late-season tubers or a pack of wolves napping among conifers. As if by confirmation, I notice a young deer staring at me from across the yard, chewing on cottonwood leaves that were unavailable an hour ago, food delivered on a breeze. I resume cutting, but am distracted by every event—a nuthatch pecking a winter roost in a rotten snag, a splash of sunlight across the forest floor, which conjures


50 ghostly wisps of steam from a moist log. Later, when I hang the saws in the woodshed, I regard them anew. This was a beautiful autumn afternoon—a key moment in the shift between seasons—and I was engaged in it like none I could remember. I owed the experience to these old saws, which slowed and quieted my work. With half a cord of wood cut, I return the chainsaw in early November, committing to the crosscuts. From scrap lumber I build a sawbuck, a wooden stand that cradles logs at hip height. Now, instead of bending over fallen trees, where I tangle my blade in brush, I simply buck logs into lengths I can heave onto the sawbuck; then quickly reduce them to firewood while standing. Next, I call Fred, who lives fifteen miles away and sharpens crosscuts for the trail crews in the nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness. Fred is retired, and sharpening provides a little income and keeps him connected to stewardship of local lands. His shop is his garage, where the radio plays tinny country music and his cat named Cat slinks along the workbench, among files, hammers and tooth gauges. Fred, his flannel shirt tucked into jeans, buffs my rusty saws and sharpens them to perfection. Sharpening a crosscut demands precision. Each tooth—and a six-footer might have sixty—must be filed to lethal sharpness and kept consistent with the others, ensuring equal glide in both directions. Just as important is the set of the teeth. Each is bent slightly outward, one to the right, the next to the left. It enables the saw to open a kerf barely wider than the blade, eliminating drag. A good sharpener was vital to the muddy timber camps of the nineteenth century, keeping the trees falling and the bosses happy as an outfit chewed its way up valleys of virgin timber. After the arrival of chainsaws, sharpening might have become a lost art if it weren’t for the Forest Service’s response to the 1964 Wilderness Act, which prohibits motors in federal wilderness areas. While other agencies ignored the law’s implications for trail maintenance, Forest Service crews adopted crosscuts for work in wilderness. The approach spread, and today there are many like Fred, earning a wage sharpening the saws that keep popular wilderness trails open, from the Chiricahuas of Arizona to Mount Rainier and even back east to New Hampshire’s Pemigewasset Wilderness. The Wilderness Act, passed to preserve solitude and natural conditions on our public lands, incidentally assured a future for the crosscut saw. With sharp saws, cutting takes on new pleasure. I fly through the logs, each stroke emitting a gentle

CIRQUE fountain of spirally shavings that spray against my jeans and settle around my boots. My kerfs are spacious and the blade seems to float through the wood. And my saws sing, with a coarse, two-tone music. Through November, I cut for an hour after work a couple times each week, then maybe a longer shift on weekends. When my arms get tired, I load the wheelbarrow with logs and haul them to the shed to split and stack. As I work, the land readies itself for winter. The tall grasses in the meadow crumple under the weight of frost, and silvery ice crystals glaze the edges of fallen leaves. Snow flirts with the mountaintops, whitening them for a few days, then retreating when temperatures rise. When my wife, Barbara, helps, she nearly doubles my speed. One day we fell a seventy-foot snag near the house and buck it into firewood in an hour, chatting over the swish of the blade. As we work, we learn the delicate give-and-take of successful sawing. It’s a physical negotiation that is awkward at first, but settles into a natural rhythm. The sounds of the land still rise above my cutting. During afternoons in mid-November, the earth hardening beneath my boots, rifles occasionally boom from nearby hills and I know someone is about to begin the careful work of dressing a deer or elk. Working into the cold dusk, coyotes yip and howl in the distance, gossiping as the neighborhood dogs bark like crazy from their pens and porches. A freight train’s horn blasts to the south, reminding me of the greater landscape. I know the train is lugging a mile-long load of coal past fields and farmhouses, having just wound downward from the Continental Divide. Tomorrow it will be in Vancouver, unloading Wyoming coal onto ships bound for China. In the third week of November, with patches of snow now lingering in the shadows, the larch needles come down. The larch is a rare deciduous conifer whose needles shine golden yellow late each autumn. The change peaks after the aspens and others have shed their leaves, a brilliant encore of fall color. Shortly before the arrival of the first real snow, the needles fade rusty orange and lose their grip. I’m lucky to be cutting on the breezy afternoon when it happens. The needles flurry downward, leaving a dusting of orange on the driveway and the forest floor. Through late November, the valley’s weather vacillates between snow, rain, and a freezing fog that turns the trees gossamer. Snow buries the mountaintops, while the sun becomes an occasional smudge in the clouds, low on the horizon. It’s like this most of the winter, as a timeless river of cloud flows inland from the Pacific Northwest.


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 Cutting one afternoon, I glimpse the red crest of a pileated woodpecker across the woods. Propped against its black tail, it hammers a chiseled beak into one of the thick stumps from the logging era, wood maybe six centuries old. I’ve seen the bird here before, arriving afternoons to work the big stumps. I realize the bird and I know this neighborhood differently. I define it by rectangular property lines, ski trails, the road to town. But the woodpecker knows it by individual stumps and snags. Driven from its roost each morning by hunger, it flies between familiar food sources. The big dead pine at my neighbor’s place, the siding of my house, a charred cedar two miles away that burned in 1910. They are the landmarks on the woodpecker’s internal map. Working through copious deadfall on the forest floor, I become familiar with the location of the best wood, the dry logs that will quickly ignite in our stove. I know where the green logs are, too, the ones I’ll let season another year. And the rotten logs, which I’ll leave to nourish the soil and shelter wildlife. Regular snow will arrive any day, turning all this a uniform white, so I map it in my mind as I work. In the process, my perception of the land evolves. The property lines recede behind a richer awareness of the forest: the good firewood, a wonderfully crooked young cedar, the narrow paths that lead to deer beds tucked beneath firs. These become relevant landmarks, and I begin seeing the land more like the woodpecker than the surveyor. By early December I have enough wood. I enjoy a John Henry kind of moment, having beaten the arrival of winter with my old handsaws. My logs are stacked neatly in the shed, and I’ve never looked on a woodpile with greater satisfaction. Nevertheless, I keep cutting a couple times each week, partly for insurance, partly to continue thinning the forest. Until the big snows arrive, I more or less cut what we burn, keeping the woodpile steady. The snow is still patchy after the first week of December. It’s late again this year and the snow-ready earth looks bored. The tall grasses in the meadow lay flat, and a few withered leaves dangle from barren birch trees. The sun is so low and the sky so thick with cloud that even midday doesn’t seem fully light. We finally get a couple good snows in midDecember, then the clouds blow away one night and the temperature plummets to twenty below. The next day the high is zero. After a ski tour, I go back outside to cut wood, not because we’re behind, but because winter is finally

51 here and I want to enjoy it. Cold snow squeaks beneath my boots as I cross the tracks of fox, deer and a snowshoe hare. As I begin cutting, my nose hairs freeze and my breath turns to white rime on my collar. With my hands aching from cold, I cut with long strokes, rocking back and forth to generate heat. Sawdust sprays from either end of the kerf, turning the snow blond. Over the steady song of my saw, trees pop as the cold expands their water to ice. It echoes through the forest every few minutes, loud as a pistol. I am warm after a few logs. After eight, I carry them to the woodshed, tromping through a foot of snow. I dump them in a pile and begin splitting, each producing four good pieces, maybe a third of what we burn on an average night. Cutting by hand makes us frugal with our fires, only lighting them when necessary and carefully maximizing their heat. It reflects our heightened awareness of energy’s cost, a price we’ve paid with labor. We have no such relationship with our gas stove. Like the coal that powers our lights, the gas is invisible, fracked from unknown landscapes by the hands of strangers, leaving poisoned aquifers beneath neighborhoods we’ll never visit. Disconnected from these costs, we spend the cheap energy like loose change. Stacking the logs on the woodpile, I envision them warming us a night at a time through the months ahead. Maybe we’ll read by the fire one night while this log burns, or this one may dry laundry hanging above the stove. It works the other way, too. The next evening when I throw a birch log on the fire, I recall the way a rare buck cautiously stepped across the yard the day I cut it. In this way, our firewood takes on a richness similar to wild food. Like the berries we put away last summer, the logs are enlivened with memory, connecting us to the land we inhabit. On winter solstice I cut a few last logs near the driveway, the snow in the woods now too deep for walking. In the following weeks, the days are short and cold with steady snowfall. The world becomes pillowed in snow, from the ground to the treetops. My sawbuck is half-buried beside the woodshed, and my saws hang idle. This is deep winter in the Northern Rockies, when sun is rare and snow insulates our lives. I’m done cutting for the year, but I’ll never look at the forest the same. It’s gained new texture in my mind. And sometimes when I look out the window, I catch myself thinking ahead to next autumn, when I hope to be back among the chickadees and woodpeckers and the steady song of my crosscut saws.


52

CIRQUE

Carol Prentice

Family Portraits

My father has this thing about portraits. Professionally done photographs. The kind a wealthy family might hang in their library or a politician might mount in an office. But, here’s the thing, our family is neither wealthy nor famous. That fact doesn’t deter my father. It’s as if the photograph itself can bestow the status of wealth or fame, rather than merely reflect it. Maybe he thinks the perfect photograph will convince someone. One year, just before Christmas, Dad kept calling me, asking if a large package had arrived. “You’ll never guess,” he said, “not in a million years! But don’t ruin the surprise. Wait until Christmas.” At the time, my husband and I lived in a third floor railroad style flat in San Francisco, back in the 1980s, when bohemian types could still afford to live in the City by the Bay. We had a bit of flea market furniture. But mostly, we relied on wooden planks resting on cinder blocks. This set-up made a handy bookshelf, bureau, and even bedside table — the pauper’s version of modular IKEA shelving. Our singular store-bought piece of furniture was a foam couch that folded out to a notquite-double sized pad. This served as the guest bed, for houseguests of our generation. For older friends or family, we sacrificed our bedroom and slept on this foam mat, like camping in the living room. Sure enough, a package arrived at our door a few days before Christmas. A package measuring four feet by three feet, and six inches deep. Nowadays, a flat screen TV might come to mind but it was decades too early. My mother-in-law was spending Christmas with us that year (meaning my husband and I were living room camping). She was particularly intrigued by this parcel, and impressed by the trouble my father had apparently taken. A mirror? A stained glass window? Christmas morning arrived. The wait was finally over! Box cutter in hand, my husband carefully sliced along the seams revealing a crate structure filled with straw packing material. We gently pulled back mounds of the stuff in search of what could warrant such layers of protection. There it was. A two by three foot portrait of, you guessed, my father. The three of us stared at the image.

The Thin Man

Toby Widdicombe

My mother-in-law finally broke the silence. “Goodness,” she offered, “How about that?” For my part, I was just grateful we weren’t in the same room with the photograph’s subject. Our collective nonplussed response could remain a secret. It was a full body portrait, Dad in a blue tweed sports jacket and tie, with navy slacks. Set in an outdoor studio, he was framed by autumn foliage, standing erect with one arm resting on a replica of a rustic fence post. His face held a benevolent smile, as if wishing his subjects well. The portrait belonged in Lord Grantham’s Downton Abbey library. But, instead, had landed in the servant’s quarters. “The Senator,” as we dubbed the piece, was finally installed in our apartment’s narrow hallway. Years later, I got a call from my dad, eager to share some news. He had just attended his Rotary Club’s annual auction. “You’ll never guess what I bought!” he nearly shouted into the phone. “Now this is something special.” I really couldn’t imagine. Was it a repeat of the doomed inflatable river raft? Or another guided fishing trip in northern British Columbia? “A session with the best photographer in town...”


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 Second term Senator here we come! “… With the whole family!” He wanted a portrait of the eleven of us — his three children, our partners and, of course, the three grandchildren, along with the patriarch and his new wife. My mother had passed away a couple years earlier and Dad, at age 77, had fallen head over heels and remarried. We were still adjusting, but he, apparently, was ready to capture this new family configuration and preserve it for eternity. “I want us to be coordinated,” he instructed. “Everyone will wear autumn colors and blue jeans. No black.” No black was pretty much a deal breaker for my own family. With my kids, at 17 and 14, the choice was pretty much all black, with lots of holes or all black with fewer holes. Maybe a Nirvana or Ramones t-shirt, which clearly didn’t fit “the theme.” The clothing restriction wasn’t the only barrier. While all seven other subjects lived in the same town, our family of four lived a thousand miles away. One thousand and ten miles. I had to explain to Dad that my husband, as a teacher, couldn’t take time away from the classroom for a family photo op. Whew! I thought we had escaped. And then came the kicker. The photographer had convinced my dad that any absent family members could be blended seamlessly into the picture. My dad didn’t quite understand how this worked. Since it was before the advent of Photoshop, neither did we. Under the unrelenting pressure of my father’s expectations, my daughter and I reluctantly represented our family for the event, tying it in with college visits. Therefore, nine of us assembled on the appointed day. My daughter wore a mauve thrift store sweater sporting a couple of hardly detectible moth holes. And there I was, with a disastrous haircut, sweating and flushed in an itchy gold sweater, purchased especially for the occasion. We all wore our version of Dad’s instructions. But somehow, I don’t think it was the effect he was after. Unironed shirts, ill-fitting jeans, scuffed shoes. Motivations — intentional or inadvertent — were irrelevant at this point. As my daughter declared on the drive to the photographer’s studio, “Resistance is futile.” Dad was impeccable, of course, in a light blue cashmere sweater and kakis (Hey! What about the jeans? And since when is light blue a fall color?). He looked us over, pausing briefly at the holes in my daughter’s sweater. I handed the photographer the photos of my husband and son in their jeans with respective brown

53 and tan sweaters. The photographer clicked away, moved us this way and that. Apparently, the sitting didn’t produce whatever image my father was looking for. No one, except my dad, ever saw the results of that unpleasant morning. And they aren’t hanging on a wall somewhere. Anywhere. Ever. I asked him about it once. He just shook his head and held up his hand as if to say, “Stop.” Good, I remember thinking, Maybe that’ll put an end to that. So why is it, I ask myself, that when the glossy brochures advertising high school senior portraits arrived in our mailbox the very next year, didn’t I immediately toss them in the trash? How is it that I left them out on the kitchen counter, hoping my daughter would be intrigued and even interested in having her senior picture taken by a professional photographer? Senior year is fraught with expectations from prom to college applications to this, the senior portrait. And I fell for it. My daughter was opposed from the start and didn’t hesitate to say so. “Why would you pay someone a ton of money to take a picture of me in clothes I would never actually wear?” Still, I persevered. I knew it wouldn’t work before we even entered the photographer’s studio. But I persisted, disregarding 18 years of parenting experience. So there we were. The photographer, my daughter, and me. Every wall was covered with pictures of seniors past. All I saw were blondes with perfect skin in black dresses, pearl necklaces tastefully secured around lovely long necks. Young men in navy V-necks and khakis held basketballs with lettermen jackets slung over their shoulders. I didn’t see a single image that even vaguely reflected my daughter’s thrift store look. More to the point, neither did she. I didn’t give up. I reminded myself, this was just a fact-finding mission. The actual portrait appointment wasn’t until next week. “What do you have in mind?” the photographer inquired unsure whether to direct his question to me, the contrite mother, or to my recalcitrant daughter, arms crossed over her chest. I picked up one of the sample binders and cleared my throat. “This one’s nice, honey. She’s not dressed up or anything. Or how about this one? She has a pierced nose, too. Dad and I don’t even mind if your tattoo shows.” “I don’t want to do this, Mom. I told you that. This


54 isn’t something I want to do.” The photographer, it seems, had seen this before. “How about I let you two look through these books and get some ideas. Just ring the bell when you’re ready,” he said as he escaped through some curtains into the back room. Polite behavior exited with the photographer. I hissed at my daughter, “You are embarrassing me. You are acting like a two-year-old.” “I don’t want to be here,” she repeated. “I told you that from the start. I’ll just have one of my friends take my picture and it will be fine.” She headed for the door. I marched after her. “Your father and I are asking this one small favor. Is that too much? You don’t have to pay for it. You don’t have to like it. You just have to go along.” I continued as we got into the car, “We are just asking you to do this one little thing for us. Is that so much?” “It might seem little to you,” she said firmly, “But it’s not little for me.” Gripping the wheel, we rode in silence. I passed the turnoff to our house and kept driving. She was the first to speak. “What about when you and Dad got married? You said Grandma and Grandpa wanted you to do all this stuff you didn’t want to do. They didn’t like the invitation you guys made yourselves and they wanted you to wear fancy clothes. But you said it wasn’t ‘who you were.’ You said they needed to respect that. What’s so different about this?” I glanced over at my daughter, defiant and resolute. I thought about my dad insisting we travel a long distance for a professional photography sitting and wear his selected clothing theme. I thought about his desire to have a perfect image of his new family displayed in his home. Yet, somehow, I had convinced myself what I wanted was different. What I wanted was to capture my daughter, as she was this senior year. She struck me as nearly perfect, with her henna-dyed hair, secondhand clothes, and nose ring. The firm set of her jaw that demonstrated strength and the trust in her eyes that revealed she was still undamaged by the world. This was the daughter I wanted to capture and hold forever. At the same time, I knew it couldn’t happen. What I wanted couldn’t be captured in a photographer’s lens. I pulled over and turned off the engine. I faced her — this strong, stubborn, lovely, young woman — and took a long look, knowing this was my senior portrait.

CIRQUE

Tanyo Ravicz

Hippy Rig from A Kodiak Miscellany

When Bea Hagen, of Fairbanks and Manley Hot Springs, let us take her old Hoover Electric Washing Machine on the ferry boat to Kodiak Island, she was entrusting to us a cherished memento of her past. It was her gift to us as we embarked for our homestead on the Kupreanof Peninsula. Bea and her husband Al had used this machine years earlier at their placer gold mine on Cooney Creek in interior Alaska, and in giving it to us, Bea smiled nostalgically on her own endeavor as she smiled prospectively on ours. In its day the Hoover Model 0512 was a beauty: a yard high, a couple of feet wide, sixteen inches deep, a compact, top-loading, twin-tub washer-wringer that would stash under a tarp and plug into a generator when you wanted to wash your clothes. If you were game enough to own an electric generator, you were game enough for the Hoover 0512, and if you were such a stick-in-the-mud back-to-the-lander that you scorned all machinery, God bless you, you could take your stick out of the mud and beat your clothes clean on the riverbank. In our case, there was nothing in the Hoover that a couple of small-is-beautiful homesteaders with a six-year-old and an eighteen-month-old objected to. We were grateful to Bea, who valued her time in the bush as a highlight of her youth and who even today applied the experience as a touchstone in her daily life. And so the well-traveled hippy rig ended up with us at the northern tip of Kodiak Island. Unfortunately, the hippy rig had aged over the decades and wasn’t in the finest fettle. Alaska’s climate is hard on plastics and rubbers. The machine’s agitator still worked, driving the wash tub, but as soon as winter arrived, around November first, the spin belt broke, meaning that the spin basket wouldn’t turn and the water wouldn’t get wrung out of the laundry. The clothes just sat there, a sodden mass in the basket. We squeezed the water out by hand (Martina might quibble with the pronoun “we”) and hung the clothes to dry inside the cabin. In Kodiak’s wet atmosphere, the wash would never have dried outside in November, and even inside, the laundry, strung on a sagging line from one corner of the cabin to the other,


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 was musty and slow to dry. An extra spin belt for the antique Hoover was not something I had thought to bring to Cottonwood. I had generally been meticulous in my planning. I had brought many spare parts, knowing there are no hardware stores in the bush. I had considered food, water, transportation, communication, even education. But laundry was not something I had numbered among life’s essentials, and until Bea suggested that we take the Hoover, I frankly hadn’t given a thought to how we would wash our clothes or whether we would wash them at all. Clean clothes? Who cares! Your wife cares, dummy. Over the coming weeks I learned just how much she cared. When we started out in life together, Martina and I were content to drop a few coins at the laundromat and to hold hands or eat chop suey while we waited for the clothes to wash and tumble. Now this! For the first time in my life I understood that fresh clean laundry was a good thing. Not just a valueneutral concept, it was desirable. It could make a woman happy. Its absence could undo a marriage. Never mind the why of it, she cares! She cares that the cloth against her skin is not wretchedly filthy and foul-smelling! Get used to it! It’s not that she objected in so many words to hand-washing in freezing water for the sake of her beloved children heap after heap of urine-stained linen and muddy denim. But with the other challenges that occupied us at Cottonwood — wintry weather, troublesome brown bears — the chore of laundry added to her doubts about the value of how she, a professional woman, had chosen to spend her time. Fortunately we had packed disposable diapers, and Martina quit using the washables while I worked to restore the hippy rig to health. I rapped on its brown metal housing. I knelt and peered at the surviving shred of a wiring diagram. There was a timing motor just under the control panel and a corroded wash motor. The washer belt was bubbly and brittle. The spin belt, as I say, was broken. My thoughts and emotions were in conflict as I stood back and looked at the Model 0512 sitting humbly under its spruce tree. What a marvel! I felt a surge of affection for it, admiring its simplicity and ingenuity. It was brilliant. The Hoover engineers hadn’t sat around designing the perfect washing machine for hippies — Why would you invent a washing machine for people who didn’t wash? No, in tenement houses and tumbledown farmhouses and suburban bungalows across the USA, people — graduates of the tub and washboard —

55 customers of the Sears catalog — had depended on machines like this. This was their step up in the world. Indoor plumbing, women’s lib, the spread of hygiene, labor-saving inventiveness — in its cultural genes this appliance carried the aspirations and strivings of an older America. How far washing machines had evolved since then was a measure of our national prosperity. These various insights cheered me, but I felt mildly dejected by the fallen condition of the hippy rig. Rodents had chewed its yellow wire insulation. I thought of the young Bea Hagen using the Hoover at her gold mine on Cooney Creek north of Manley. “We were covered with mud after sluicing gray bedrock every day,” Bea recalled. “Our clothes were permeated with silt. I used the Hoover outside with cold silty gray water splashing everywhere and it never let me down.” Of the many young people who streamed north to Alaska in the 1960s and 1970s, Bea was one who had washed up in Alaska for good. Today she was a green thumb, a pet lover, a wife and attorney. In some ways you never stop being a hippy, but in other ways, in ways that might at one time have baffled or shocked you, you become like other people. Stuff like clean laundry matters. I walked around the old hippy rig and squeezed its shoulder, preferring to focus on the good times. In some ways you never stop being a hippy, but the props and stage machinery of hippiedom were no more. In mid-November our daughter Miranda needed some teeth pulled, and her mother chartered an air taxi into Kodiak. Here was the hippy rig’s chance to spin again. I gave Martina the broken spin belt, advising her, “We need a twenty-six-inch belt to drive the wringer. They’ll help you match it at the shop. But listen, this machine has seen better days. If anyone in town carries propane dryers, I hear they’re expensive, but if you really want one...” Three days later a seaplane lands at Cottonwood, and Martina and the kids smilingly descend. Among the goods they have brought from town is a fifteen-dollar electric dryer exhumed from the Salvation Army thrift shop. Under Martina’s observant eye I help the pilot to wrestle this white elephant onto our beach. From the beach I winch it up the bluff and four-wheel it uphill to our clearing. Martina imagines the Salvation Army dryer to be a diamond in the rough, so I keep silent about it, but it’s more than cumbersome, it’s a damned hideous monstrosity, totally out of keeping with my vision of the homestead, and I throw a tarp over it so I won’t have to look at it.


56

CIRQUE

In a small town like Kodiak, finding a replacement spin belt for the obsolete Model 0512 turned out to be a fool’s errand. Of the two belts which Martina picked up in town, neither fit snugly enough to drive the spin basket. The only thing that moved was a rusty bolt that broke off in my hand. Still, the Hoover’s agitator worked, and Martina was determined to wash some clothes. In filling the wash tub from a tote of standing water, we made the mistake of not removing all of the surface ice from the tote, and this ice was then turned into crushed ice by the action of the agitator, with the result that Martina had one of her famous “Why did I go to law school?” soliloquies as she picked ice chips out of her panties prior to wringing them. After all the hand-wringing came the moment of truth. I untarped her fifteen-dollar Salvation Army dryer, front-loaded it with an armful of wet laundry, and shoved the door shut. As soon as I plugged the dryer into our purring electric generator, the generator went into convulsions. I swear that dryer sucked more watts than Houston, Texas. The generator sputtered and nearly perished getting enough juice to the dryer. For forty-five minutes Martina kept a cheerful eye on her diamond in the rough while the laundry bumped around inside it. In her mind she was already pressing the warm fluffy cloth to her cheek. After forty-five minutes, I reached into the cavernous dryer and felt a mass of laundry as wet and stone cold as it had been to start with. “Did you happen to test this thing before you bought it?” I asked her. We hung the wet clothes on the sagging indoors clothesline and went back to ducking our heads. Next time I was in town I bought some O-rings at Alaska Hydraulic to try as spin belts for the Hoover, Wishing We Had Windshield Wipers

and in the coming months I experimented with rope belts and wire belts, but the hippy rig continued in bits and pieces to fall apart, and by the springtime we had given up on it. Not given up morally, of course. Morally the hippy rig remained a wondrous device, a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang of the imagination, a time machine, an amphibious breakthrough in the technology of the human home. In May it got warm enough to hang our laundry outside again. We had done as little clothes-washing as tolerable over the winter, and our dirtiest garments we cleaned the easy way by dropping them in the burn barrel and setting fire to them. I rolled the Salvation Army dryer into the four-wheeler’s trailer and delivered it to the out-of-the-way homestead dump known as the Diaper Burying Ground. To this day the hippy rig occupies a place of honor at Cottonwood, a wise and owlish presence in the spruce grove behind our cabin. I recently gave it a whirl for old time’s sake and am happy to report that the agitator still works fine.

Kimberly Davis


Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Cynthia Steele

Technicolor Yawn

Have a technicolor yawn, bare guts to the world, revisit breakfast, vomit victuals, drive a porcelain bus, “better going down than coming up,” greet your guts. I know what it feels like to barf ice cream, cool and creamy. I didn’t let it stay down inside of me. I know the foods to avoid because they’re un-retch-able. I ran every day until I almost puked (ok, sometimes I did puke). I was a model, size 0, 1, or 3. I shopped the 5-7-9 1980’s junior clothing store priding itself in size shaming. I knew the pain of hitting size 7 and the thought of a whalelike body. I know the five month bloated abdomen of a woman who has just binged on chips and milkshakes and cookies and whatever. I’ve looked over my shoulder, pivoted, tossed the fur coat over the other shoulder, turned. Designer clothing. Many runways. My face on commercials between The Tonight Show and the nightly news. TV does not add pounds. It’s surreal. But, I never needed a screen to tell me I was fat. I’ve worn pants and skirts and corsets I could not breathe in. I’ve pulled over to the side of the road and got out because my clothing was strangling me. An air bubble, like a knife in my side in a too-tight dress. My weight has gone up and down 50 pounds many times and 100 pounds a couple. Now, it’s down 125 pounds, and I’m no longer in the 5-7-9 category. I’m in the 10’s. People said to me recently, “You never weighed 100 pounds more than you do now.” Hmmm. OK. I show them a photo. Yes, I have. The point: “So what?” Why does anyone care? I care for one reason: I’m a recovering bulimic. Even in recovery, size still matters. My goal: to not throw up one day at a time. No matter how fat or thin or horrendously medium my body is, I don’t want to reach a finger back, tracing it slowly way beyond the uvula to the deep bumps, less responsive through overuse. I don’t want to hurk up a cookie. I just ate three that I made with white and milk chocolate and a few handfuls of oats and walnuts. They were delicious. Followed by rice milk. Joy. Then the thought comes. No lunch. I ate a piece of bacon for breakfast. One. A few eggs. Some seed bread. These are my daily thoughts. What for dinner? Popcorn. With butter? Maybe. Does everyone’s mind think like this? I don’t know what it is like to Just. Eat. Food.

57 I am not gaining or losing. I’m stable. I’ll pound a few low sodium V8s. I’ll take two meds to void liquid and food because my system no longer works right: too many laxatives and too much throwing up for too many years. It holds on to everything for a week or two until I’m toxic. And, I’m not alone. A woman told me about watching TV with her husband, chewing food and spitting it into a cup, like chewing tobacco. Never swallowing. Made sense. To me. To her. I’ll go to the gym once this week, not every day. I fear obsessively working out. I’ll take Lilly to a puppy class. I’ll teach and learn from and care for my husband. I’ll decorate my life. But, I won’t throw up my food. No matter how tempting it may be. No matter if no one is looking. My body has been tiny, which I could not see, and it’s been huge. To me, it was all the same. I know what it is to have four chins. It sucks. If that’s you, I know. I get it. No one wakes up and says, “You know, rolls and rolls of fat under my chin might be kind of neat.” No one. No one wakes up and says, “Great, I have no waist, just lumps in the middle all the way around.” But, it happens. For me, I quit beating myself up, quit throwing up, and my blood pressure shot up and cholesterol went sky high. I almost died. While sitting in a chair in my living room, heart exploded one night in agony. A monster reached in, grabbed my heart, and ripped it out. I stayed the night in the hospital, and since then, doctors found significant cardiac damage. Normal for bulimics. Since then, arrhythmia, high and low blood pressure, a weak pulse. I’ve read that throwing up is a violent event. The sheer force of it can even cause blood vessels in the eyes to rupture. I ran as far as I could, and I’d listen to my stomach rumble, feeling good. I’d run daily. Six miles, eleven. At 11:30 p.m. I would congratulate myself. I couldn’t run when anyone would see me. I hated me. My body. My skin. The way my stomach was not flat enough, ever. Since then, I’ve had a few surgeries. My breasts have been lifted, reshaped. More confidence? No. I promptly gained 75 pounds. My stomach fat’s been frozen, but I gained 20 pounds immediately, so you couldn’t tell. Why? Why not lose weight and look amazing? Maybe it’s an inside job. Maybe I would never have felt “good” until I was thin enough to be poking through a coffin. It was just one more reminder that I wasn’t perfect. The demons more at my door than ever. Growing up, the people raising me said unkind things. They were young and harsh. I’m 50. You grow up.


58

CIRQUE

Hopefully, you recover. When very young people have children, they goof it up. Hell, we do the best we can. The only thing our children want to hear is that everything is alright, and that they are absolutely perfect. The mark isn’t that high. But, there’s no book. And, we’re selfish beings. The best we can hope for is not to rub our little insecurities off on our children, but we do. And we make amends when it happens. We forgive. I pray my daughter doesn’t puke. So I make choices, like eating three cookies while they are still warm. And not wearing corsets though I’ve bought three over the past five years. And I’ll go to workout classes, and I’ll see me in the mirror and think, “I look alright.” I’ll take a selfie with my daughter. Then, after the frenetic Insanity class, I’ll launch into Zumba, which I don’t like, but I’ll finish. And I’ll try to forget words like “thunder thighs” and “Bertha Butt” and how I yarked up spaghetti, which is, by far, the worst food, just after pizza, that a bulimic can eat. Sometimes, the noodles come out through the nose holes, and it’s almost like a laryngoscopy, which I’ve had when I had blood in my system from peptic ulcers from the acid of purging. I try to forget, but I also remember that I was not alone. Someone was also yarking it up, but I didn’t know it. One day, I saw her fingernails, shriveled and brown, and my heart ached for the signs, thinning hair. I had a feeling. I put it together. She said, “Yeah.” But I tread lightly. Her eyes averted. We were together often, but we didn’t talk about it. Like so many things in that house. There are things no one says, like “So, still puking up your lunch?” It’s not something there’s even a language for. The shame is huge. No one wants to be another person’s trigger for food: the love object, the unrequited lover, the enemy.

James Sweeney

Father’s Day

My father always answered the phone. No matter where I was in the world or what condition I was in he’d be sitting at the long table in the dining room and answer the phone. “Hi Jim, how are you?” He’d ask, but he never had much else to say, nor asked any questions, and I could never tell him what was really up with me. Our family moved to Chico in 1967, when he was hired as the Enloe Hospital administrator, and once we settled on #2 Sunland Drive, even after the divorce, my father never moved and 343-2312 was the family number. Chico was good to my family, and my father was good to Chico. He visited every baby born at Enloe. He was a fair boss and knew his employees by name. Enloe never refused a patient for financial reasons during his tenure. Health care for everyone was his signature. When I’d visit home and have to show my ID, more than often I’d be asked if I was Jim Sweeney’s son and told a story about some act of kindness from my father. I left home forty-two years ago when I was eighteen and except for some visits never returned. My father’s phone was my connection to home. I called him at least once a month; ask about my brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews and the weather. We’d talk sports. He was mad and not rooting for the San Francisco 49ers anymore because they didn’t disciplined a defensive tackle that had abused a woman. He also thought UC Berkeley’s coach wasn’t doing a good job, but he loved Aaron Rogers because he was from Chico and went to Cal and next to the big long table he kept his cheese head, and he died a Packers fan. I didn’t call my father when Robin and I separated. I couldn’t tell him over the phone. He loved her. I couldn’t call him when my dog Alute died. I knew I’d fall apart and cry. I couldn’t cry on the phone to my father. He actually called me, and I could feel the worry, and he told me he knew I loved Alute. My father never had much to say to me even before I left home. He was serious with his children; Irish to the core and the oldest son was the whipping post, though

After the Burn

Brad Gooch


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Vo l . 8 N o . 2 I wouldn’t call him abusive, and he wasn’t that great with my brothers and sisters except for a soft spot for the two oldest girls, Colleen and Jeneen. My father was not a simple man. He’d surprise me every so often with his support. Once, I must have been twenty six, bicycle racing in Ashland, Oregon with no money to eat or to get back home to Ketchum, Idaho and there was he was for six stages and twenty-eight thousand feet of mountain climbing. We stayed in a motel and ate in restaurants, and my father followed the race in his car. He handed me water bottles and carried my extra wheels in case I got a flat. Another time, after my fall, eight-day epic and rescue on Mount Johnson, he appeared at Providence Hospital in Anchorage. He’d left work and everything in Chico to support me. He told me repeatedly, the whole week he was in Alaska, “You’re really lucky.” I always called home on Christmas Eve. The whole frigging Sweeney clan was there; somewhere between thirty and forty people. A tremendous roar flowed through the phone. I’d speak to a few of my people, but there was never much communication because of the noise. My father was always last on the phone, and I’d wish him a Merry Christmas and tell him I loved him. My father’s phone was disconnected before I got home for the funeral, and we recently sold his home. There will be no more swimming pool parties and no more Christmas Eves. Come Sunday, Father’s Day, I’m going to ride my bike way up into the mountains and then I’ll probably get drunk. I’m not calling my father. I won’t be able be to tell him I love him or wait anymore for him to say he loves me.

Georgia Tiffany

My Mother Danced with Lawrence Welk I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could

--George Eliot always have plenty of music.

My mother’s younger sister in stocking feet, two fingers hooked into the inner heels of shoes dangling from one hand, the other hand easing open the screen door, eased it closed and escaped into shadow. My mother lay on the bed staring at a ceiling bright with starlight and longed to risk that two mile walk to Pickerel Lake. She imagined the gathering community of Polish Catholic strangers she had been warned to avoid. Polacks, her daddy called them. And though she never dared be anything but the good girl, Mother would not betray her sister’s Saturday night escapes across the barren hills by moonlight to that forbidden barn where old men unbuttoned their pressed shirts to the breast, leaned against the moon-soaked wood, smoked Lucky Strikes, tapped their booted feet, and watched the young, her sister among them, polka until the barn floor could not stop throbbing. Listening to cottonwoods and what she might have thought she could hear, my mother must have pictured the boy who escorted her sister back across the wheat fields, ducking under one fence, over the next--kicking one leg, easing the other--until they arrived at the border between land and desire, the grand yielding fall of a full summer moon. She must have imagined her own handsewn cotton dress frosted with starlight and the sweet smell of being young, being a woman in love with the one night of a South Dakota week belonging to bodies and music. We’ve just returned from a symphony matinee, removed our shoes and settled into her den. She sits in her recliner retelling the story. “Polacks, my daddy called them,” she says. “But oh, how they could dance.” “Yes, Mom, you’ve told me.” I can smell the cottonwoods filled with moonlight and my mother’s longing.

Portage Valley

Dale Slaughter


60

CIRQUE

“I danced with Lawrence Welk, you know.”

aisle to the same seat she’s reserved for decades.

“Yes, Mom, I know. It must have been wonderful.” Once again I’m envisioning with her that magical South Dakota night in the Grange hall when Welk, launching his career on WNAX radio, traveling from one small town to another sometime between 1927 and 1937, danced with my mother the dance she would dance the rest of her life.

“I do like . . . Schuuu. . b . . bert,” she says.

“Wunnerful, wunnerful,” she says. “I was just a kid.” She works at recalling the specifics. “Eleven or twelve.” Her fingers fidget with the afghan I’ve draped over her lap. “Good music,” she says. “Not like that . . .” She’s trying to catch the name, but it’s slipping away. “Like a fish,” she says. “I can feel my brain letting go.” Her knuckles crack and loosen. And then the fish, lithe and subtle, flails into air. “Shostakofish.” She shakes her head with disgust. “Why can’t I remember names anymore?” “That’s a hard one, Mom.” She is not mollified. But not even the stroke could make her forget her distaste for Shostakovich. Perhaps it was all those hours of washing dishes, folding laundry, scrubbing floors while she listened to me struggle with passages of his second piano concerto that ruined Shostakovich for her forever. Perhaps it’s deeper than that. “I think it was Prokofiev not Shostakovich they played today, Mom,” I suggest, carefully, so as not to damage her slowly returning self-confidence. She waves her hand across her face, as if to brush away an annoying insect. “They’re all the same.” She pauses to gather up the complications. “Wild men,” she finally manages to articulate. “Can’t tell the wrong notes from the right ones. Can’t . . . make a melody to save their souls. Can’t keep the . . . beat.” After a lifetime of supporting the Spokane symphony, she still grits her teeth at Bartok, Bloch, Holst, actually hates Schoenberg. I give her credit. She has tried. No matter what the program, she’s loyally attended the concerts, arranged rides for herself, and for the last ten years entered through the back door of the opera house to avoid a more difficult journey with her walker through the main glass doors, up the elevator, and down the long

“You like Schumann, too, and Beethoven and . . .” “Music that taps my feet, music I can hum.” “Yes,” I say, knowing full well that the music she prefers, like a Bing Crosby movie, concludes with a happy ending, or at least an ending that resolves by settling harmonically back into its tonic home. “You played Beethoven,” she says, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. “You could have played with the symphony.” After all these years, she still dreams of my really “making it,” of proudly inviting her friends to the reception after the concert to greet the soloist. In her dream, among the black tuxes, black bows, black gowns, I would be the one at the piano wearing pink chiffon. She pauses again, looks down at her hand, twists the ring on her finger. “Keith gave me this . . . chime, you know.” “Yes, I know, Mom. It’s beautiful.” “I like Mozart,” she says, pronouncing the z like a buzz. She folds her hands in her lap. “And Lawrence Welk,” she adds. “May you always . . . walk in sunshine,” she sings, bending the tune a bit, perhaps not to break it. “Remember? The Lennon Sisters?” I don’t need to remember. Because Mother watches the reruns loyally, my visits to her often include America’s angelic quartet. With their perfect, lacquered hair, perfect white teeth, perfect always smiles, Welk’s “Sweethearts of Song” reappear and reappear. “May you always . . .” “Keith could dance like Lawrence Welk. Everyone says so.” Propped with pillows in her reclining chair, the walker close by, her elevated stocking feet tap the air to some inner beat that only she can hear. “Even the polka.” ***** “He’s had another stroke,” my mother gasped into the phone. Keith. My stepfather. The love of her life. For ten years after his first one, she had cared for him at home. One useless arm and a crippled leg, he could still walk with a cane, read the newspaper to her, play cards,


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Vo l . 8 N o . 2 surprise her with gifts ordered from catalogs. But this time. This time. She cannot tell the story. She does not want to walk through that door. She wants to say, “It’s just a bad dream.” The door is partly ajar when I arrive at intensive care. Tubes dangle from a metal arm. An alien lung inhales, exhales. Erect in the stiff wooden chair, she does not move. The body in the bed does not move. Only the busy hands and white voices. His lips tremble, but he cannot speak. The flesh of his throat shivers but he cannot swallow. One hand rests on his chest. The fingers stir when he breathes.

the bills. He makes soft gurgling noises. She wipes the spittle from his mouth. She knits. A body arrives in the room on a gurney to occupy the second bed. She learns a name. During the night, the body disappears. Another arrives to take its place. Mozart is playing on the radio. “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” “A little night music,” Mother says. The visiting minister puts a communion wafer in her mouth and the silver goblet in her hand. “Don’t ever let this happen to me,” she whispers. “Please don’t ever let this happen to me.” *****

“He’s breathing,” my mother says. Then she weeps. “He’s breathing.” Every day, seven days a week, for the next two and a half years, from nine in the morning until six at night, my mother sits in this room with him. She learns the drill. She pays the bills. She knits afghans for grandchildren, for yet unborn grandchildren. She talks to him. He blinks his eyes. She pays the bills. She addresses Halloween cards. Thanksgiving cards. She listens to music on the radio. Every night, seven nights a week, she drives home to their half-empty bed. During the night, Keith’s watch disappears. During the night the feeding tube escapes from his belly. During the night, his hand is crushed in the bed rail. “So sorry,” they say. She watches his feeding tube reinserted. She places his hand in hers. She sits with him through the night. He blinks his eyes. She pays the bills. There are charges for diapers he has not used, charges for medicine she brings from home, charges for food he’s unable to eat. “So sorry,” they say. “A mistake,” the director says. They replace the wooden chair with an armchair. She has fractured her ankle, but she does not know, because the x-ray did not show it, so the doctor does not know. She props her pain on a wooden stool and listens to Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique.” “I was a good dancer,” she muses. Keith blinks his eyes. Every day, seven days a week, for the two-and-a-half years until his death my mother hopes for a different story. She reads the news. She reads to him. She addresses Christmas cards. Easter cards. Birthday cards. She pays

On August 30, the same date as Keith’s first stroke twentyone years earlier, I received the call. Sitting in her favorite chair at my sister’s, looking across Mason Lake toward the Olympic Mountains, perhaps recalling fondly how, as a young girl, she swam across Enemy Swim in South Dakota, my mother suffered her stroke. At that moment, did she think, “Who is the enemy?” At that moment, did she think at all? Being a doctor, my sister’s husband recognized the symptoms and within minutes she was in an ambulance. Did she hear the sirens screaming toward the hospital in the small western Washington town of Shelton? Did she recognize the enemy? Did she thank her God for the sirens, or curse Him? On my drive to Shelton, I wondered who was holding my mother’s hand, who was inserting tubes, who attaching wires, who sitting erect in the stiff wooden chair beside her bed. Can she speak? Can she eat? Which limbs refuse to move? As I passed car after car, driver after driver not headed toward a hospital, one thought possessed me. If I had not watched Keith and my mother endure what they endured, I would not have had the courage to acknowledge thinking it. Please take this burden from her. Please let her die. ***** Even as we sit here in her house talking about “Shostakofish,” and Mozart and Lawrence Welk, anger still accompanies me down those whispering, florescent halls.


62

Sail Away

She’s propped up, as I imagined she would be, her eyes wild with fright. With both hands, I take her hand, grasp it, wish her safe in other hands, hands she can trust, hands that hold her while she dances. She’s angry, too. She can squeeze my fingers. And does. Her lips purse, pull back and a sound escapes. “B . . .” White uniforms and serious faces everywhere. Mirrors. Tubes. “B-b . . .” she tries again, her eyes frantic with the need to communicate. I remember Keith’s eyes. She does not blink. Please don’t let this happen to me. Her hand tightens. I’m trying to understand. The air is hot. Efficient nurses float in and out of our space like lovely summer insects. One takes her blood pressure. “Do you think she’d like some music,” another asks, turning on

CIRQUE

Sheary Clough Suiter

the radio. It’s a Big Band sound. Mother likes Big Band music—Benny Goodman. Glenn Miller—but she doesn’t react to it now. “B—b—” my mother scowls. She’s angry with me, it seems, because I don’t understand. I look for something in the room that starts with a b, some clue. “Lights too Bright?” I ask. “Bed? Your bed?” She struggles to move her head, then the “b-b . . .” again. “Bob,” I say, the name of my sister’s husband. Her brow wrinkles. As I point to different spaces in the room, different objects, I wonder if she does not mean b at all. Maybe p. Maybe d. To each suggestion she locks her tongue


Vo l . 8 N o . 2

63

behind her upper teeth, but it’s no use. The n gets stuck. The no she cannot say. Only meekly can she shake her head No. Back and forth. No. No. What does she want? What does she need? I point to her purse. At last she nods her head up and down. “Brush,” I say, thinking of her lifelong obsession for every hair in its place. But when I open her purse and take out the brush, she rolls her head from one side to the other, squints her eyes. NO!!! Lipstick. Earrings. Pen. Billfold. Her eyes widen. “Money?” Yes, she nods. “It’s Ok,” I reassure her. “Your money is here.” Outside the window, leaf by leaf a light wind rearranges touch, leaf by leaf by touch, the stroke of wonder, the stroke of a lover, stroke of a summer gone wrong. “No,” she says. At least I think I hear her actually say it. And for no particular reason I can identify, I suddenly get it. “Bills?” Her entire body relaxes, sinks deeply into some The Bridge to Somewhere Matt Witt mysteriously peaceful space. Bills. It’s the first of the month. My mother is afraid the bills won’t get paid. those brutal South Dakota blizzards, frozen livestock, the At the foot of her bed something wiggles under the disappearance of roads, windows, entire houses under sheet, then wiggles again, rippling the linen. Her foot. snow. One. Then the other. “We forever have a white Christmas in South Dakota,” ***** she reminds me and for the first time tells me that real candles lit the big tree in the Grange hall, that same hall My mother has made a miraculous recovery. Initially where she danced with Lawrence Welk. “Real candles,” paralyzed on her right side, she can move everything now she emphasizes. almost as well as she did before the stroke. Right arm. Right hand. The therapists have expressed amazement “I didn’t know that,” I say, and she smiles. that “a woman her age . . .” Speech has returned slowly, but progressively. Sometimes she calls the refrigerator “Lots of things you don’t know.” She smiles again. the “box,” and a table the “restaurant.” She’s accepted the fact that she can no longer drive. We watch a Welk rerun on television, and a tribute to Bing Crosby. Peacefully propped in the recliner, she hums And so we sit talking about “Shostokofish,” and Mozart. along with the music, her fingers tapping the chair arms. And we’re making plans for Christmas. She will sign Her back aches constantly, and her body sometimes her own shaky but recognizable name to her Christmas disgusts her in the middle of the night. But her feet keep cards, lick the envelopes and the stamps. We will drive dancing. down to my home in Moscow, Idaho for the holiday and every ten or twelve miles she’ll exclaim, “Just look at the An altered portion of this essay appeared as snow.” It makes patterns on the Palouse hills, sticks to the prose poem “South Dakota Saturday Night” old pines and willows that mark the location of an early in Midwest Review homestead here and there, and I wonder if she’s recalling


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Bulldozer. Nome, Alaska Jill Johnson

CIRQUE


Vo l . 8 N o . 2

65

POETRY Luther Allen

Sumas Mountain, Washington

I live on ten acres of the mountain. Cloud Mountain. Sumas Mountain. Names we have attached to something that is an entity only in our minds. I’ve never found the place, exactly, where the mountain starts or stops. The edges are blurry, connected, evanescent. Thirty miles inland from the Salish Sea. Ten miles south from Canada. An almost perfect square on paper: 650’ x 650’ laid on a wrinkled green and angled plane. At the 600 ft. contour line, the first bump of continent for the cloud/ water/wind messengers of the Pacific on their pilgrimage to the Atlantic, and the losses to the uplift of the mountain are sometimes heavy, turbulent. Not much more than thirty miles west of the spine of the Cascades, the raw and ragged thrust of the slow violent and subducted marriage of the North American and Juan de Fuca tectonic plates. Blanketed with glacial till, erratics carried from the north, from the mile-thick glacier, now melted ghost. Thirty years from the last clearcut. Never replanted, now a swarm of weed trees – alder, maple, cottonwood – and misshapen cedar and doug fir, tops blown out, many conjoined at the trunk, nurse stumps, but a few stunning, shooting straight up into the grey heavens. Some hemlock, one yew I’ve never found. One sequoia I planted that has grown maybe three inches in five years, starved without that real California sun. And a few dogwoods and wild cherries, flurries of white gasp in the spring. And the water, o, the water, seeping through all. A creek on each of the borders, veins that sing and giggle three seasons, then run dry in the bright and blessed blue of summer. And below: the flood plain of the Nooksack nursing berry farms and pesticide plumes, tits-for-brains milk cows and pretentious subdivisions that make the dairy farms smell good. Of course I own these ten acres only on paper; in actuality I am barely a caretaker, custodian. I glean a pittance of the salmonberry and thimbleberry which run rampant and tangled with their shrub cousins in each patch of sun; I barely keep the rogue blackberries from overtaking the trails, road and house. And I usually never find the source of the mystery chirps and hoots and trills leaking from the dark forest. But I do understand the swooping joy of the swallows and the knowing of empty sky when they are gone. I can’t even begin to keep up with the slugs, nor minister to more than a few of the grotesque leaves of the big-leaf maple in the fall. And I remain mystified about the survival of the blacktail and coyote and cougar during the endless cold rain and sopping long nights of winter. The black bears, I am sure, winter sleep down at the casino, waking occasionally to gorge on greasy fried chicken and craft beer. I will not live long enough to know this place. No one could. I want to think in three hundred years it will be all fir and cedar, trunks six feet across. A plot of majestic maybe surrounded by urban sprawl, houses stacked on houses, people stacked on people, gazing in disbelief, awe at this ten acres of grace with the crumbled and moss-covered concrete foundation of my former house. Or perhaps surrounded by a quiet and calm sea of other giant stately trees, no human fabrication, artifact, artifice in sight. A sky without contrails. Elk drifting through cathedral shade and lighted mist. Wolves. Grizzly. Cloud. Mountain. I wish I could leave it there. But this place might become just the tall browning sequoia, surrounded by its own calm sea of chaparral, maybe sagebrush, juniper. Almost unimaginable. Almost.


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CIRQUE

Devon Balwit

They Fuck You Up, Your Mum and Dad Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can, Mare and Foal

Nard Claar

Alexandra Appel

# 86 from Anchorage City Poems, December 2012 there are many things I do nothing about: Mother, in a bedsit flowing with guilt broken dreams no redemption, unloved so she believed how thin truth becomes exaggerated from a galaxy of treasures some might call memory some, lies Mikkidog lays his head on her boney lap, her bony hand strokes the bandit V the dark fur between his eyes love I shout

And don’t have any kids yourself.

--Philip Larkin

A child visiting from college means you are dragged into a small room and interrogated under a bright light until you cry. Why do you kill to live, she asks with a slap, eating flesh that harrows both earth and soul? Why do you let everything go to hell—(smack!) yard, floor, walls, sockets, paint—everything falling into ruin as if you were already dead? Why didn’t you find work worthy of your gifts, and if not, at least remunerative? Why do you so value the mind that all else shrinks, even kindness? Why this, why the other—the slaps coming in hard sequence, no chance for you to concoct plausible fictions, the bare bulb casting a light that makes you look exhumed. Every once in a while, like the most well-trained of operatives, your interrogator pauses for a cigarette, saying “I love you, mommy,” laying a head on your shoulder before roughing you up more. It doesn’t even end when they leave; you feel yourself boxed and brought back to the dorm to be pulled out in boozy, late night round-robins about whose folks were the most fucked up. Even were you given a fair hearing, what would you say apart from reciting Philip Larkin’s This Be the Verse (thank you, Philip), parenting like entertaining house guests, for a short time, you can keep it together, but eventually, they will stumble upon you mid-shit, door open, or hear you lose it to the sound of breaking plates? When they finally release you, returning your small sack of belongings, you step outside, shaking, and actually miss your cell, you now so diminished that each shadow hunches you, the child returning the gift of casual cruelty.


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Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Among Madrone

Judith Skillman

Scott Banks

Phone call

I was baking a loaf of buttermilk bread. The telephone rang. The woman recited her name, someone my wife had worked with long ago. I didn’t remember her until later that evening. She said it would be the strangest phone call I’d ever gotten. She had been working at her house when she thought of me all of a sudden. It was strange she said. Then at church she had seen someone who looked like me. It was as if God was telling me something, she said. I decided to take a chance and embarrass myself. I think God was telling me to tell you to make peace with your family. That was odd, I said, because I was having no problem with my family. She replied, I don’t know, but he was telling me to tell you that. I thanked her for calling. It must have taken some guts. She told me to give her best to my wife and the kids and she hung up. I told my wife and she asked me if I thought I was going to die. It had not occurred to me to think about the call in that context. Yes, I’m going to die, but, God willing, not anytime soon. It sounds like a great beginning of a mystery novel. I’ll remember her in the forward.

Among Madrone

Robert Bharda


68

CIRQUE iv.

Carol Barrett Two Poems

The Tempering i.

Evening, he laments the day’s small losses, robins in his voice, trilliums in the damp woods. Winter, he dispenses antique remedies, apothecary jars and quaint urinals. The moon’s an ember in the sky, and the elms are nearly blue with waiting.

A three-year-old hefts a log onto the blaze, kneels on the hearth in pitchy jeans. Small hands toughen on the bark of fir, poke coals, caving logs till they shudder with sparks. On the lake, mallards startle. Hatchet in hand children learn the art of splitting kindling, crisp wedges falling, sweet swordfern at their feet. Dust of triumph.

ii. v. He comes for the crackle and spit of pine, smells smoke drifting toward the kitchen window, open a crack. On the wall: Old doctors never die. They just lose their patience. His legacy: beakers of urine, of sacred semen, tinged red as coals.

The woods glow, twigs buried in a mulch of ochre needles. Soon we will feed even his bones to flame.

iii. High in the hills, the other side of the river, tools, all kinds. Among the saws and scythes he brandishes a file, good one, long and rough, no rust. Held by his patient, one he’d tried to save, and failed. He pays for the tool, cupping the widow’s glad hand. That night he lights a fire, aged maple, and apple stored in the tool shed. It smolders till dawn.

Morbid Curiosity

Vivian Faith Prescott


69

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Angiogram

I fly home over an agony of clouds, the hour too late for dreams. The air thins like your dallying blood seeping through the quartile chambers, the sound like instruments warming up: gurgles, ripples, blurps, throbs, now and then a rush of fibrillating notes, or the flat toned oboe, insistent, synchronizing string and digit, valve and emboucher, sublime catalyst for an expectant, rounded hush. Directly beneath the plane, some other jet stream is dissipating its thick desire in the expanse of chill. Its winged eyes flash their silver lead, thread through miles of imminent future, a quandary of capillaries. I imagine this moving guide a life like my own, its wake a vein I watch, transfixed, unable to fathom who will land first, that bulbous tip shift down into a disappearing town, or carry on, expelling its muted trail long after I descend from this tipped urn, its lights answering the blue flicker of lanes a continent away, another language rehearsing its smooth roll down some sleepy, welcome glade. I wonder if you will let me take your fear to my lips, swallow it down, quick like the dye soaking the wick of your heart, let my fingertips settle like rain on your body’s warm sheet, run into little pools in your palms, the oval hollow in your ribs that fills in the deep basin you encumber those rare winter nights when fever walks its hot paws across your temple, your chest a heave of hair and heart and lung.

Secrets II

Pam Butcher

Sally Biggar

Earth Medicine

she never intended to become a spice trader or master Navaho sand painting, but somewhere in Utah she couldn’t resist the urge, she began to collect the colors of the desert coral pink peppercorns from the dunes near Zion turmeric from the base of the Waterpocket Fold paprika from Island in the Sky mesa cayenne from the canyon floor at Canyon de Chelly cinnamon from the buttes at Monument Valley when winter comes, when it rains and rains and will not stop, when she’s weary of wearing a misty shroud, bored with a landscape saturated with green, she roasts her spice-colored sands sifts her hands through the silky warmth, becomes a sidewinder basking in a dazzle of desert heat

The World As We Know It

Matt Witt


70

CIRQUE

Stephen Brown

Dogs and Magpies The Claws of January

Cheryl Stadig

Karen Vande Bossche

Only Now I thought there was only now. Lois Lowry, The Giver

Asphalt sparkles with ice crystals, reflecting the Wolf Moon through bare stick alder. Howling wind tears hood from head, snaps at my back, and I hesitate. Was there always this impatient night, this craving, cold and condensed. Frost claws the toes of my fur lined boots. How can this old moon, waiting to crest in snow now wear your face?

I’m staring at a bad painting. I attempted this particular canvas. Painting takes focus. Colors become with patience, time, many strokes. And when achieved, precision of placement is the next challenge. Good thing I’m not painting today, just shaping sloppy words.

The magpies are taunting the dogs again. Black feathers stark in the scape of snow, sitting in the branches staring down at my dogs howling up at them. I sit book in hand, looking for inspiration but all I can think is it’s cold, January in Montana. I go out to retrieve some firewood and tell the hounds to forget about it. Creating is all the same. I sit cross-legged. The fire won’t start. I flick the lighter’s wheel, sparks, flame jump at paper, but smoke upon cedar. Curls of white ribbon depart the wood burning stove’s mouth, wisps extending to dissolve. Trail, my coonhound, noses me. He doesn’t understand what I am doing. What am I doing? He’s seen me do this before, but he still doesn’t get why. My throat is scratched out here. There’s a lot of sky and the snow steals the sounds. I’ve got a lot to say but not much to say it to. Just my pups and those magpies.

Thunderstorm

Nancy Canyon


71

Mark Burke

The Eclipse

When our spinning ball blocked the sunlight from the moon and cast a veil across its glowing marble, we talked about the year to come. In the parchment light, just below where the firs bordered our lawn, two deer stood staring at the crawl of cars. They’d come for the sweet grass sprouted by the fall rains, climbed up from the ravine, that dark solace below the ridge of pastel houses still possessed by wildness. For a time they watched us through the night sifted car lights and turned back to graze. I wanted to lead them away from the cars, the caravan of moaning engines but it would scare them into the traffic. I couldn’t answer you and I watched them as they stared at the cars, the headlights threading through the dark and thought that I’d let it be, that whatever happened would become what it should because we’d found our way here, because I asked you to dance when you seemed so full of tenderness, because your eyes said yes, oh yes.

Beach Grass

Jim Thiele

Doug Capra

Tomb Reader

When I die, I choose an old New England burial ground with slate head and footstones, not an antiseptic cemetery. Give me inscriptions on sunken slanting stones casting late afternoon and moon shadows at wanderers who think they rise above death. Let my epitaph remind complacent passersby that this is where they’ll end up no matter who they are or what they do. Mix a few “thy’s” and “thou’s” among the words. Let the stone speak, like a tongue lapping up earth and air and all it has left behind. Carve three crossed bones above a grinning skull or perhaps a handsome winged cherub smiling, with one hand pointing heavenward, the other outward toward you, tomb reader, so full of rain, sun, wind -- atmospheric life, sauntering through grave yards amid moss and lichen-coated slate, the ancient stones who loudly speak to those who read, or not.

Footprints Frozen in Time

Lea Merritt


72

CIRQUE

Kersten Christianson

The Superstition Mountains My long-dead grandmother came to me in a dream. A traveler in this world,

she took my hand and led me along a weaver’s needle path into the eye of a rocky range. A petulant child, the wind kicked at the dust of the desert trail longtraveled by black bear. At the crown, the artist, his bonfire. With sly grin, he hurled his art: sunshine children, gaunt fox, Know Your Crosses

Janet C Hickok

winged and haloed women, tired horse, leaping pony, flowers and stars, mother and child.

Linda Conroy

His creations fed the maw of oiled flames, carried the acrylic hues of amber,

Solace of Small Things

of titian, of amethyst to charred skies. My grandmother’s hand, her touch, the flicker of a candle.

Continental Divide between Rancheria and Teslin, Get There From Here series

Nicole Bauberger

I touched the brush to the pan of paint, the tiny square of cadmium red, the smear of blood, and set the sponge aside to let it drip, the thickness of Payne’s gray sliding from the lip of my oldest mixing tray. A tear trickles to the dust of forest green where sparrow, still the kindest bird, pecks, as though the drops of white on white are a canvas it might carry to a periwinkle sky— while I care only for the choice of brush stroke in the light of evening’s corner here beside the door where you last left and set your boots beyond where I might reach to pull you back into this painting of our life.


Michael Daley

Ars Poetica I should quit being an old man who sings these crazy songs, aim for non-attachment.    –Du Fu

1. I sketch the light in the husk of a bee, but gray bits of eraser cling to my carpenter’s pencil. When I draw, I learn a new language— in fog, clumping in an oxcart uphill. A little wind swings the feeder pendulum true, a hummingbird jolts my eye to conceive a straight line. The good rain keeps the beat, a hat brim stashes the echoes off a splashed boot or a mucky cuff, a feathery twinge allows a hope my hip won’t quit, etched cliff trickle and creek overflow onto stones. I stop to sketch, but snow melt pours over my grave continuous as a twirl of the wrist. 2. My pencil wrinkled a line of encouragement across a dancer’s forehead, but her crowd shouldered me off the curb. I drew a sky in sheets of tin pulled back, wind battered the dogwood slippers and sidewalk ballerinas smashed the devil’s dishes. I want to shade in the sough that lifts the boughs at rush hour. We inch along the girders whose sway bridges an inland sea, a howler topples a semi— I’m putting in the little wings below my ribcage hanging midair above mortgage, taxes, scribbled shopping lists. Above my own breath—one second then sparks behind wind and I’m back in rush hour. 3. I draw a clutter for clematis, white mercy shed—white flame, white smoke, also, a wing too stubborn to quit. Dawn’s no miracle, but ordinary time throws a litter of cloud inked petals wheel to stars. This rain, brushed in streaks sideways, sudden wash of weeds and pavement, hurls past bright azure islands with the smirk of a boy in my old schoolyard flipping pebbles at his elegant sisters who pelted him with snowballs till he couldn’t stand. This rain is like that. You can’t escape, everything will be just fine, beloved puppy.

4. I leave a pebble in the corner, drop a sprig of eucalyptus. My ancestor, bred of “wicked stealthy guile” sneaked a skiff out the harbor under half a crooked moon not nearly so broken as this. Yellow rope-threads heaved on deck in a loose curl stripe his portrait—under curlicue crown he lashed a wind so tight it couldn’t scroll away, and twisted out of every lock. 5. That pencil tip of the hummingbird is enviable, a mind is its feather, to soar is meaning. His ruby feeder takes a beating from the rain. My face to starlight a rock worn on the sheen of white bone. He lifts this sugar through cracked stems, the steady drip of clockwork compromises despair, restores a memory I’ve got to live through— a fish hook to spool over the rapids, alone— how many brushed up against, faithless, numberless, rush on on dirt paths, in subways, on stairwells, windy pavements, craggy trail, who lost, each a miniscule of statistic, so many, and each of whom—cherished, teased or reviled by hundreds, family or the once-loved— at death recalled sorrow beyond repair. Gone now, gone, gone for all time—not for the muses of elegy, history, both the hidden and the distorted, cries its bell over Warsaw again, over maimed kids in Texas, ripped up in Aleppo. Over the countdown— “one Mississippi,” icebergs rise in the tunnels of Manhattan. History, the warm-up band for the bone parade. I chant hollow psalms to fresh parchment before pen touches: “Unnamed Unacknowledged Hope, let me threadbare, helpless in tendrils, coil up moist earth, bind me wrist and ankle to a rock, the tide’s rising.” 6. Becalmed all March, then breeze wags burst seed, twigs out of reach, bark twined in deep grooves, stubble far, tipped to the sun, pinches cobalt from the sky. The cat in the wind craves bird throat, “rolls upon prank,” slinks in the kitchen door ajar. Nodded off in the woodpile, but stayed alert— as wouldn’t we all, if only. If only I owned a tray full of colors, all worldly goods aglitter in a tin pail, but I chose singing for my madness, leered across a creek-ripped rain field, hoary pelican scrimmed her masterpiece of muck, everywhere flamed toothy aster, horns and debonair promenades seared my trust, my naive idiocy. So, deranged by this salt poetry, I camped here in rain light.


74

CIRQUE

Scott Davidson

The Space Between Houses

Steady as June erasing itself blue as the heart of a house being emptied Say the sky completely smears the wind assumes a body. How can we claim to know where we are? Last night I saw something gray, inexhaustible rise at dusk from our new back yard. Later in the kitchen I sang along to the Thompson Twins, danced the way I dance alone and felt I knew this place from before. Maybe I should be sleeping more but I feel like each new task could shred our veil of resolve. How many loads could be left by now? How may boxes, how many trips down these pointlessly difficult stairs? How long till we sit and watch our street revealed smell what rises hold what blooms until the overcast breaks above and we sink like weather into home?

Horizon Series Light Play

Janet C Hickok

Steve Dieffenbacher

Whitebark Pines

I thought they could endure anything, bowing easily under clifftop blasts, secure within themselves to a passive resistance along ridgelines while others broke. In summer, I’d hike easily past them, mimic their twists on each switchback, learning the power of giving way. Now their tips rot from blister-rust and beetles gnaw their spirits. Born with a bark of iron, late kings of the treeline, they die where time once stopped. Today, birds who built lives around their seeds migrate to higher peaks, and I who waited out storms safe beside them, watch their long-formed wisdom wither.


75

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Victoria Doerper

Widows Walking: A Tritina

I trail behind two widows walking by the sea. As they talk of lost husbands in the bright sunshine, Grief trots along beside them licking at their hands. One walks as if bowed down, with clasped hands Behind her. The other swings her arms, face to the sea. Grief is distracted, chasing shadows in the sunshine. The women stop for a moment, watch a gull sailing the sunshine. On this spring day, they shade their eyes with cupped hands. Grief yips and wriggles for attention, splashes in and out of the sea. Sea and sunshine overtake grief. The widows take each other’s hands.

Michael Kleven

Turbulence

Charity Hommel

Lauren Ebright

hemlock

i waited and waited and waited dishwater blonde, cold to the bone psalm 40 all over my face but you didn’t arrive. or you wouldn’t arrive or maybe in the time since before i forgot what kind of car you drive. i walked myself home. back to the room with no open window no crack in the dusk colored walls in which a truth might escape, drifting on the breeze of your judgement, swirling until you are ready to inhale it. our grace is retroactive. our system past its prime it backlogs now, kindly like a grandparent, all those sins i was sinning. all those words i was speaking and meanings i was not meaning. i can see the hemlocks from here shade tolerant in their acidic soil. i’ve never liked the sun. i’d rather it rain, listening to the drops and trickles and pounding of a force that cannot be stopped. a force, i cannot Ruin.


CIRQUE

Gene Ervine

Mother’s Kindling She remembers the harmony of the two-man crosscut, the smell of the cedar and ferns, when shake blocks cracked and fell from those ancient cedar slabs in the sunlit woods. And she remembers the sound of the maul strikes sharp on the steel wedges, that harsh quick bell, the sizzle of splitting wood the tan water welling out. The vine maple club rose and fell, rose and fell, striking the froe splitting taper shakes. She’d flip the block, And strike the froe. Slowly the roof grew. Fifty four years later, butts rotted, she splits those shakes again––Kindling. Warmed by that work, split, snapped and stacked. Knowing a different kind of ache now, after those blows of hope and home. . . She moves on remembering when her froe and cedar sang. Above the flaming newspaper her kindling starts and crackles.

Brooks Range

Dale Slaughter

Matthew Ryan Evans

Fish Lake at Top of the World We gathered on the dock for a photo op before a hike out to the hot springs at White Swan.

On cue a moose dipped a sharpened hoof in the frigid lake at the far end where a full-needled fir lay submerged like a drowned shadow of the deadfall we fished from and kept entering and swam with confidence we could not have expected and pushed a powerful bow wave so earnest it was the only disturbance antlers passing like a split mast or still wings through the cool air breath coming untroubled a rich column of cleaved steam from a perfect furnace. Its heart was the size of a child. Before it reached the far shore the top of a tall balsam exploded in the form of an actual eagle which beat wings wide as a driveway just once to find its prehistoric glide right to left at a predatory angle and stood frozen on the surface outstretched and suspended long enough to taunt us to flaunt a fish more beautiful and complete than any we had ever seen which it surfed for a moment and carried away. It was obvious all three had discussed this and agreed

Northern White Cedar Bark

Lucy Tyrrell

they’re leaving, let’s change them.


77

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Cassandra Farrin

Dirge for Pronghorns Poisoned in the Harsh Winter

Like the grave prows of Norsemen cutting the sea to Valhalla, like the prows black and curled and caught in the wind, caught out-flung and glazed and held aloft by the freezing rain, fifty strong the black-browed pronghorns set out across the white hills, fifty strong the far-runners crossed the unbroken swells and pitched through snow as through sea froth left to freeze where it spilled—and bedded on an ice dam. And crows intoned on the locusts, black feathers smothered black on the honey locusts The Crow Knows

Dun as a young man’s skin in the spring, dun as a young man on the cusp of spring, fifty-strong flanks fell with the breath, fifty-strong winter coats cool as the pale round shield of morning—but the bellows of white noon will not breathe for these. And crows intoned on the locusts, black feathers smothered black on the honey locusts, thorns stripped, boughs cracked to the green quick

Paul Fisher

Drome

God moves in a long ‘o’.

See how the slender hooves thrust softly now. See how the throats draw close like buds around a bright poison, around yew needles bright as new pine tips in spring. See the festal shrub just there on the bank. See it and know the quick felling, know it was cruel and almost as quick as drowning. See the black horns topple, fifty strong. See them all topple, fifty strong.

Matt Witt

--Dylan Thomas

Sound the gong older than stars. Hear the drumroll of engines revving. Awaken your slumbering ears. Inhale the echoes of beaten bronze bells. Enlighten your ignorant throat. Be the hair-shirted monk in a crimson-clad dream. Let bone, grotto, obo, orange resound through your ten trillion cells. Let dawn leak birdsong between shutter slats. Let breezes pass you unwritten notes. Rise for a stroll through temples of sun where brilliant staccatos of jackdaws and jays instruct your stammering tongue.

Raven in Snow. Kodiak, Alaska

Patrick Dixon


78

CIRQUE

Toni Hanner

All Across Idaho

turtles were crying, fires broke out in the piazzas, and black egrets ghosted through the night as though clouds of wasps had never existed.

Honu

Eric Heyne

All across Idaho the telephones rang and bouffant women looked toward Oregon and the sea with such longing as though pines were never enough consolation.

Autumn Woods

Jim Thiele

Fish the dead water hard

Robert Bharda

the guide told us as we drifted by. Easy for him to say. He knows this river way too well, floating it forty-six days straight mostly in the heavy Yakutat rain rather than these rare blue skies. We’re awed by his skill with the oars, how he bobs and weaves through log jams, backing quietly into the deep, narrow holes between them. Meanwhile we drive down the shy silvers with loud clanking and clattering of oars and loose gear as if our driftboat were a tin pan we bang on to scare off a moose. Of course the salmon skedaddle. We know he means well, wants us to get fish and not just spend this long day on the Situk with seals and otters and eagles and kingfishers everywhere, but his advice is all I take home from this trip: fish the dead water hard.


79

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

B. Hutton

I miss the raised eyebrows of my midwestern youth I miss the raised eyebrows of my midwestern youth when it seemed my elders could see a conman coming. aluminum siding salesmen and used car dealers, quacks and scammers and holier than thou’s.

and when he bragged about groping women i closed my eyes and gritted my teeth and i forgot about the rapes of my daughters and myself. and i told myself i do it for the unborn babies.

get rich quickers. buy now, pay laters. a fool and his money. a bargain too good to be true. a politician talking out the other side of his mouth my dad, who used to say “i vote for the man, not the party.”

and i never trusted the press any way. and the experts and the liberals never really understood. and where do the fact checkers get their facts? and who can say what is true anymore?

what you’d get when you sent in the cereal boxtops “well, you know,” my mom would tell me “those toys are bigger in the picture. those sea monkeys will not be what you think they are.”

and i’ll make a pretzel of my logic because they all lie don’t they? and i miss the time when there were no others to speak of in our lives. and i miss the time when we all knew the same things.”

“you can’t believe everything you see on the tv set. the pope. he doesn’t know what it takes to plan a family.” how many times did she trudge me back to Sears Roebuck to return the shoes that fell apart within the week?

and I miss the raised eyebrows of my midwestern youth. and i miss the time when we all could see a conman coming. and i miss the time when we all rolled our eyes together. and everything seemed so much simpler.

when did it change? was it always this way? was I only too young once upon a time to see it? when did skepticism become cynicism become unquestioning fear of the other? was it the god con that sowed the seeds of an unbelievable suspension of disbelief? a willing gullibility born of promises broken “and they all lie don’t they?” “and i’ll pick and choose what i believe about her. and i like this one because she’s spunky. and she looks like me and she talks like me and i see myself. and any port in the storm, any new promise will do. Grotto and i like this one because he’s not the same old same old and he promised jobs and the wall is just a symbol. and i’ll pick and choose what i believe about him. and how could i be a racist when i’ve been so kind to the poor unfortunates?

Nancy Canyon


80

CIRQUE

Sarah Isto

Private Dialect The private dialect of bodies that long have slept together spooning east without waking, spooning west in silence. Backbones, their lumps and grooves turn to fit each other. The aroma of a sweat neither mine nor yours alone. The taste of our blended salts. Murmurs, whispers, half-words, grammar of thinning skin and softening muscle. When you or I slide beneath the moss, both our bodies will go mute— our language untended, lost. But now in this homely hour twilight silvers our room. Soon the great round, haloed moon will rise.

Moon Over Tres Orejas

Reefka

Marc Janssen

Statement of Purpose

Never really knocked out. Just standing and smiling for another picture. Standing and grinning and grinning. Let’s pretend this is life and in the illusion find its small true core. This is not a poem about beauty. Everything has already been said about beauty.

Carpe noctem, my love.

In a frumpy purple sweatshirt, among your little friends on the team, it does not matter that your hair has escaped its clip in the back and wisps around your temples, or that your shoes are crusted with mud or even that your clumsy movements are forced when you throw the ball or catch it. Because the sun shines on you. This is not a poem about you. Not a finding of truth. Sometimes I listen to you sleeping invisible under a pile of blankets and sheets: a ball, and wonder what happens as you grow taller, shouting your anger in a sputtering sort of way. Yell and read and slip into drifty reveries. This is not a poem about love. This is a statement of purpose.

Pillow Dragons

Robin Hiersche


81

Matt Main

Jill Johnson

Cranes 1: Alaska Range In August when the young woman I was followed another woman who was kneeling on the frosted flanks of Stony Dome chapped fingers finding the gem red of lingon berries, turned sweet by a week of cold. The talk was spare, of breads and jam of jars of red to join the blue she said we were picking more than berries and nodded for us both. Then across the morning stillness came gurgling cooing cries so high we could not at first find them and flopped on our backs in the tundra eyes plumbing the deepness of sky.

There! Cranes! By the circling thousands Tiny dust motes rising on morning miles they spiral climbed higher than the Alaska Range to reach the winds that would carry them east and south. We imagined winging over the Yukon, Calgary, Montana, sailing down the Great Plains singing all the way to Texas trusting each other to know the way The way I trusted my friends leading me into the deepness of that first northern winter where I learned that if the jar was opened carefully it released not only berries but red stained wildly calling cranes.


82

CIRQUE

Susan Johnson

Womanchild

My mother snapped a dampened dress from the laundry bag, sculpted the sleeves around the curve of the padded ironing board, pressed each cuff with steamy precision, and listened to my fourth-grade stories as I stretched my full body across the wooden floor, chin propped in palms, eyes on every glide of the hot iron.

We would speak as mother, daughter, woman, watch cardinals congregate at her feeder, sun mirror itself on river, recall the ironing board and stories we’d lost.

She was my star in our motherdaughter stories:

Morning warble of welcome, mountain bluebird calls from pine just outside my door. I pray her name, settle like a child on a wooden bench. We unlatch forgiveness. I tell her all my stories again.

Rooting herself on the front stoop, baseball bat in hand, peeping Tom prowling our neighborhood. Racing through stop lights, pressing police, one hand on the steering wheel, one on my bloody eye ripped ragged from an errant swing.

But since we did not have that ending, I have another:

But then, there was that first kiss—Freddie Williams, eighth-grade voltage at the front door after school. I would change that story: Not Not Not

damnit to blue hell get in the house. just like the squirrels in broad daylight. banished to school days with the nuns.

My mother would just unlatch the door, whisper a welcome, shelter me, narrate the holiness of touch, escape the shame seeded in one kiss. I would dampen my fiery years of defense, hidden in the anger of Holden Caulfield, desperate in the dreams of Woodstock, lonely with friends who could not know me, lonely for her. I would change the ending: It would be the two of us and the curve of her kitchen table, my baby asleep for a morning nap, breakfast dishes stacked in the drying rack, formica counters cleared, coffee strong— black like she taught me.

Eternity

Yuliya Helgesen-Thompson


83

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Marion Avrilyn Jones

Wedding Anniversary Wish

--after “Prayer 4” by Eva Saulitis

Twenty-five years past the day we fled down the path laughing at my Sorel boots and wedding dress, while in your hand, a certificate sealed the deal of our union. My conservative parents blinked at the godless vows we took, sent up hushed prayers for our salvation. Since then, sky never empty, house holding all we’re worth. A Third Abstract With Heart

Now I sit at the kitchen table, reading cards for friends— reading futures, reading lives and their salvations, my parents all over again. The sky speaks, too, hesitant sun pushing through clouds, clouds dissipating to feathers. Beloved, what shall I want? To be swept up in your story, rewritten into freedom, into new life? I have lived that gospel, door swinging open and shut with invisible hinges, chickadee at the feeder, cat trapped at the window of a snug house. That we hold our own, that we hold each other tight and lightly.

Robin Hiersche

Elizabeth Landrum

Teachable Moment From my own small town history I knew where they had been, and where they had not. It’s cities like this, cafes like this that seem foreign to them --unpronounceable items on the menu, and women like us in our tattered jeans and tailored shirts.

All evening during dinner, my hand resting on your thigh, I didn’t notice them watching, didn’t see the whispering until it was loud enough to hear Did you see them? Do you think...? And in that instant, I knew we were a teachable moment, the ones who didn’t look like they expected, an image they would keep. You moved my hand so gently I hardly sensed it, but still I could give you a certain look and familiar smile that said everything, and not just to us. Crosswind Lake Cabin

Dale Slaughter


84

CIRQUE

Tricia Knoll

“For a Perfect Catch, Fishmongers Go for the Halibut”

--New York Times headline, September 4, 2016

New guys at Pike Street Fish Market learn to catch fish tossed one to another. Learn by doing. Hands apart as for a baby, a football. What market men call free-form fun for Seattle’s tourists needs to be gentle, no damage done to money fish. King salmon, prince of this market which holds world peace as its motto. Then halibut, flat flung Frisbee fish that shoppers cheer. Last summer I caught my first fish – a 75-pound halibut. A brown Alaskan monster that sucked up my pink salmon bait on a three-barbed hook and grappled every ounce of old lady in me. The skippers promised I could sit and fish and drink hot chocolate. Until the fight began. I cranked and cranked up halibut. By any measure, the crew said, way too big to keep, at least twenty-four inches over the regulation limit, oldie of ancient waters. Certainly a female full of eggs, mud-brown ugly with silver sheen of underside. My helper struggled to pull out the hook, let go and me rooting for this fish that migrates clockwise. I am old. Females with decades and eggs inside. First words to my mind are not sustainable yield, bycatch or the Baranov catch equation. More free release. Flee into this dark sea. Let us old ones fly.

Sea Stacks in Fog

Matt Witt

Sigrun Susan Lane

The House of Rain

Here in the house of rain the windows have wept for days, a constant streaming. Doors have swollen shut, moss has greened their frames. Our eyes turn inward to their own occupations. There is only the staccato drumming of the storm, as the world goes about its business. Temperatures rise, mass migrations. Somewhere deserts blister and burn. We listen for arpeggios the rain plays on the roof, the way it pounds on the walls, The way wind trembles the trees to shake and whisper. We wait for dawn, light slim as a snail’s track— that silver. Before the fog. It sweats the music out of us.

Illumination

Charity Hommel


85

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Eric le Fatte

High Tide in Umatilla County A farmer in Hermiston listens to wheat shudder and hears the sea. He watches mare’s tails wisp into mackerel skies and pictures how swells curl and break. He knows a high tide is coming when the lyrics of meadowlarks teeter like weathervanes. His joints say by midnight there will be buckets of thunder and oceans of rain. The barn door will creak like a schooner’s mast and he’ll snore like a sailor till the tide goes out.

Winter Wheat

Nancy Canyon

Alex Leavens

Dutchman Peak

Tiny Tarn

Pam Butcher

The curiosity on his face could have been mistaken for affection—the way he looked at me from under his roundtoy ears, brown silk fur down to the ground and sunlight in pieces all around him. I had seen his tracks over and over, the soft mold of his prints, scars of his claws in the mud. In the deep snow he walked in my tracks as a matter of ease, and I left superstition alone and walked in his. He wasn’t on the far side of Dutchman Peak, in the sun and spring grass where I see all my bears. Feet still tender, he stayed close to the den, there on the north side where he tore into every stump and downed log. He might be happy enough out of the sun, happy enough to root for bees and grubs and eat and eat all day long like we want and want, but we’re still unhappy. We met in the evening, when color was left to my imagination, when meadows blushed back at the sun, the spruces light blue, and he was brown as a chestnut.


86

Peter Ludwin

CIRQUE

Girlfriend

She places in the car, along with the viola for the quintet rehearsal, a chain saw. She will need it to cut limbs trimmed from a windfall by the creek where her mother lives. Her brother, never dreaming she would one day earn a living from her instrument, howled when their father coughed up the money to buy it. In her back yard three cedar rounds inscribed by beetles with a loping cuneiform network of trails, a script as yet undeciphered but evoking bardic runes, paleo-Indian hieroglyphs, await her hand.

Old Log

I treasure wood, stone and words, she says, thinking it might have been better to be a carpenter than a teacher tied all day to kids and rules and bureaucrats who never seem to hear, or if they do, merely turn and shrug. Better to listen to the silent grain she knows lies just below the bark she chisels and strips. To probe what the beetles have written, the poem that defies linguist and scientist alike and reveals, only when she peels the last band away, her own laminate face.

Jim Thiele

Linda Lucky

Yard Sale Find

A bright red dress With rows upon rows Of shimmering hanging silk threads Tempts the eye From its hanger on the tree Only five dollars to replace the one I gave away Just like it Years ago.

Curls

Jim Thiele


87

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Adam Mackie

The Cussedness of Service’s Yukon

Mark Muro

Michael Magee

Diagnosis

He stunned me spelling words like cussedest, marveling over the land’s majesty. So fine a schema, so fine a story, he told a narrative in perfect rhyme. So noble was his pursuit of glory and the stillness found in his quiet mime. It’s the mime in the poem that scares me most; it’s invisible, but you can see it. The white face that can criticize privilege is the white face that can choose not to speak. I see glitter on Service’s Yukon, gold sprinkled over his experience.

She wants to go home with me. Outside her window a statue of St. Francis, raccoons, fox, squirrels flowering dogwood, purple azalea, Mt. Fuji White flowering apple, pear, Asian Maple and an ess-shaped walkway with little concrete benches. Here, everything is calm. She wants to go home with me smiling from her pillow, the crested hair perfect, skin much younger than 83. A card of a painted bunting is at her bedside, there—the light coming in from the courtyard garden through the blinds and her-- what else can I make of her but art? She wants to go home with me. We’re watching the 5 o’clock news with its usual litany of shootings. A clarinet plays a slow dixieland drag wafting from some other room-the saddest dirge I’ve ever heard. I want my tears to be like dogwood papery and soft as the kleenex she always uses. A writer’s tears.

Madrones and Pine

Steve Dieffenbacher


88

CIRQUE

David McElroy

Jaundice

Blame it on Mexico and ceviche at the beach bar where my wife and her friend, tanned and toned, two women in big hats sharing stories, sit laughing over watered down margaritas. Blame it on hepatitis. It’s not hepatitis. Three weeks later a doctor in white comes, and she’s careful to say it just so, “There is a mass.” And my wife’s face crumples. Complex procedure called Whipple. Big cut, suction, cautery knife. Fat white sausages of fingers grope for hours and hours in her belly, those big southern doctor hands. Four or more hands in latex, fat white sausages of fingers, working the tangles of ducts, pancreas, and guts in gore--so many knots to tie. Then days of tubes, screens beeping, numbers. But chipped ice to suck, blankets, neck rub, foot rub, shampoo— something about the nurse’s hands is small comfort before the agon of eight months chemo. Long live nurse Margarite, the closest thing to God in ICU.

Heading Back Home

Blame it on Monsanto for sowing farms with dragon’s teeth to poison the weeds that sooner or later, bit by bit, bite by bite, poison all that lives. Blame it on agribiz. Blame it on fate, the kind ancient Greeks got so mad about, the jealous gods harrumphing among the boulders, cigarette butts, and broken bottles of Olympus. Hope and platitudes vie against statistics and love is not enough, our Greek chorus chants. Off to the side the dancers droop their hands gracefully finning slowly as though treading water, as though sleeping sharks-who never get cancer-are waiting for dark to feed.

Katherine Bleth


89

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Ron McFarland

After the Conference on Ecocriticism Only for a moment did the ecocritic confuse snowflakes for flower petals. She had partaken deep the night before, starting about an hour after her paper, frankly too much merlot and far too much of David’s twenty year-old single-malt scotch.

Natural Viagra

Now fully awake, she stared out the hotel window at the wind-whipped flakes in their Brownian motion, thinking molecular, so no, not apple blossoms after all. How to make all this great nature poetry gain traction, she would grab that metaphor, with all the fracking young men of Wyoming?

Bad Window

Jim Thiele

Giovanna Gambardella

Maria McLeod

The Father: Hammer and Nails

The paint-speckled skin. The tired, unshaven, uncombed, unkempt whole of him. Sawdust in his hair, the taste of it in his mouth, bitter, hard to swallow, all these years: hammer and nails, boards and pipes, bricks and tiles, miles and miles of counter top and caulk. In the dim, in the light, he surveys the hovel, once another’s home. He takes down walls, carries out rotted wood, worn wiring. Echo of a woman at the stove, the distant din of a television, shadow husband at the top of the stairs. He imagines where he’ll frame out windows, add a door. Ghost voices in an abandoned house. He’s late for dinner, again, time to pack up his tools, head home, meet his kids’ expectant faces, the hard look of his wife. Just a little longer. He measures his next day’s work, makes his way onto the dilapidated porch, faded color he’ll need to scrape off, recoat. Make it new; make it right.


90

CIRQUE

DC McKenzie

Tinfoil—

a doctrine of disobedience

When you heave me to the ground Chain my arms behind my back to teach me who is boss I am one who remembers the lesson What did you think we could ever forget? We, who stand before your fist—riot that we might remain Free There is a creature crouching inside festering fuming hooves to haunch furious and raw from the filthy lies

Fleeing, she caught a teargas canister on the back of her head and it opened—how could you ever think we would forget? You were laughing before the shooting You stand stricken now—between us her choked-off scream still ricochets You cannot hide behind a riot shield No black mask no corrupt law passed can undo the sight of Her red hands seeking the wound—nothing will hide the evidence You must know why

We are fighting back? Why we are taking the streets despite the cages That you will lock us in? I would rather live one day marching free on a forbidden street than live a lifetime in a police state I saw you, riotcop. Through a pall of painsmoke your face had gone sick: gone fishbelly-grey gone maggot-yellow Behind the gas mask behind the shiny badge I saw you—thinking that this time teargas might have been a mistake

A pitiful, ugly spawn of my heart—it flowers into a brutal blossom as I see you, astride a human, whipping that nightstick down It is as if I am chewing on a mouthful of tinfoil What will happen when we have had enough is enough Of petty cop gods? Gangster pedagogues puffed up princes of the billyclub Keeping People In or Out

Kimberly Davis


91

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Lea Merritt

Kevin Miller

Pickle Juice

Scarecrow Crucifix

Sigmund, I’ve got a paranoia problem Of public In which I have to perform. I wouldn’t want them to see the real me. So I furtively broadcast my entire life on a loudspeaker for all to hear, A distraction from the quivering bunny in the corner.

The raccoons took two of Lisa’s chickens. Tamping termites on these rotted boards I consider the karmic impact. My wife says I have no understanding of karma, another uncomfortable position for my inflexible self. What we did to dogfish, wrong, seagulls,

Small groups, I cannot do. Too intense. They know you too quickly. Even while you scream in protest Their prying eyes remove The tight lid to your pickle jar Taking out one knobby Gherkin after another.

squirrels, wrong. Ditching Mike B. Picking the apples from Soebeck’s tree and hanging

They feel it, They slime it. With their dirty, unwashed fingers, They nibble and taste it. They discuss the bouquet of your pickle juice.

wrongs worth the slight. I consider raccoons. A pellet gun purchase will require a visit

No, Small groups I just can’t do. They take it upon themselves To judge you. Whereas, in public Despite my paranoia I can show them what I want to— A neatly packaged Quick-impression-only In a vacuum-sealed plastic bag.

Years ago, before someone poisoned our dog, I borrowed a pellet gun to scare crows.

And then it’s gone Lost in a crowd From more judgment Than can be made in a snapshot— The blink of an eye.

of Himalayan blackberries where we bury my mistake. Old dogs new tricks, lost dogs and awkward tics.

the cores with string, wrong. Opening the gate for Herman’s yapping dog to escape, the same. Going to confession and praying for forgiveness hoping to commit this sin again and often, some

to Walmart or a Sportsman’s Warehouse whose women’s tees bear NRA slogans in lacy script.

Wrong. City boy with no-gun-know-how believes when told, this will keep crows from your garden. My shot to scare kills. The murder descends a cloud of umbrellas barely open and aimed at my dog and me. Bad Decision’s cousin Bad Luck covers our sky, follows us to Haub’s pasture

A week too late, a neighbor tells me chickadees love termites. They have borrowed their daughter’s retriever to keep the night critters from their patch.


92

CIRQUE

John Morgan

But then my family found a match and drummed me home. I married a believer in the book, a dour man. We had two daughters and I probed their infants’ ways. But when I passed my findings on another man took credit once again.

Sabina Spielrein, A Life

b. Rostov on Don, 1885

My father was a brutal man though kind who, angry, thumped me on my bare behind and swore he loved me. So I learned that love means pain. And later when my monthly blood began, I dreamed of ravishings by clawed and wingéd monsters born from men.

The end was brutal—please don’t avert your eyes. A German SS unit bused us to the woods outside of Rostov, stripped us, lined us up beside a ditch. My daughters too. That death is one of mankind’s basic drives, I’d pointed out to Freud. Hence war’s bright thrill. Our bones are mingled there. You can’t tell which from which.

A little sister’s death undid my mind. That’s when the blows of lightning struck and thundered in my head. My feet on fire couldn’t touch the ground. In bed for fortnights at a time, I screamed my fury at the maid, my mother, brothers, father, doctors. I was not culpable for what I said. They sent me to Geneva to get cured. My healer was a charming man named Jung. He let me have my say. Within two months I’d talked the pains away. We sailed the lake and held each other’s hand. He found a private spot to paddle me. I called our sacred passion “poetry.” Seeking his art, I read his teacher’s books and analyzed my dreams. Jung took my insights, mixed them with his own, and published them. And then he broke my heart. A hawk with eyes that frame and magnify the sedge’s tiny seeds, he hovers over the Alpine meadow of my dream. His curling talons suddenly extend. He snakes his neck around, then dives and rends the tangled longings in my breast. I wrote to Freud, his master, to complain. He said to let it go. I traveled to Vienna, joined the inner band. My thoughts were duly noted with my name. Ah, those were the years of honey and sweet dust, of operas, pastries, paintings, droll parades.

Invite

Nard Claar


93

Mark Muro

timbuktu

this is the place of camels and canoes where the seeds of be-bop are traded for a missionary’s head and strings of killer bees are smuggled like gems here the sun’s bent breath bruises the earth and sears my lips making a dark meal of milk-fed smiles here a mummy bleeds dust and mumbles something sulfuric turning a flock of crow to smoke here grass eats meat and dogs become sand chewing the last mouthful of hope from a human ditch here the rippling horizon muffles a boom and a buzzard sharpens his beak on a bone here a bush doctor playing godfather to madness and mud spits termites into a tourist trap giving directions to comatose pilgrims selling poison postcards and genuine dung figurines here tiny fish glitter on the wind and credit cards are used to scrape the hair off jackals here the air fills with thorns and a caravan of gnats head for the coast here I am smoking a rope packed up high on a camel’s hump with coffee beans, cassettes and myrrh and a guide book to malaria and here the sky crumbles jamming the projector halfway up river a white square of sail hanging on the dark slide of memory

Dancer

Robin Hiersche


94

CIRQUE

Justine Pechuzal

Dipnet

Were pictures and poems like fish:

we would thump its head with all our might then unhook gills from the line and ask for forgiveness later.

quick, strong, and stubborn; timed by tides, harvested by net; driven to procreate; how many books I would have written.

Were pictures and poems like fish:

Were pictures and poems like fish:

once procured, then dissected; slash the gills and slit the stomach slice the knife through flesh everything and nothing precious.

scale shined bodies thrust into latticed twine making green and pink scarred diamond shapes; how many paintings I would have made.

Were pictures and poems like fish:

Were pictures and poems like fish:

a feast at the last; one more way to stay alive; the gift that keeps on giving; I would be full and satisfied.

how hard we would work, to harvest those few of thousands that pass unscathed, not a second to lose or line to regret. Were pictures and poems like fish: how long we would stand with thick current round thighs, pole extended and hope attendant, swatting rejection like flies from the face. Were pictures and poems like fish: a hit, a catch, at last, how crazy we would jerk our arms yank that net and stride to shore never second-guessing. Were pictures and poems like fish:

Low Tide

Jim Thiele


95

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Vivian Faith Prescott

Caul

I grabbed her around the neck with my hands and said, ‘I’d like to kill you!’ —my mother, from her memoir Caught in a Cult

My mother’s memoir—a thin and transparent universe. Yet, reading it for the first time, I wanted to leap into its

white spaces

and watch Mother nudge the nape of Maggie’s neck, while Ernie sucked and Joe danced around them in bell-bottoms and beads,

Mother’s toes

swinging his sword overhead.

I wanted to witness alien communication—the portals of light glowing within their chests as their Father god spoke to them. And on page 72—I was suddenly there at age two when Mother reached her hands around my throat I’d like to kill you... The spirit of murder entered my life, she wrote, as my life slipped away blotting pages,

like ink

words

the embryo forever

separating

with a delicate purple membrane.


96

CIRQUE

Diane Ray

Van Gogh Poppies I grew up at the Met* Before his canvases, Anointing me With reach and swirl Of possibility-Sky/almond tree Mark Muro

Whorl and reveal, His genius Rewiring me.

Matthew Campbell Roberts

Now cycling from St. Remy Past quiet fields Of centuries

After Reading a Poem by Robert Sund

The eyes he altered Now command me: See, really see

On a fall morning, I dreamt I saw him in a shack boiling water for tea and reading Zen poems as maple leaves twirled in the wind descending to Disappearing Lake.

Red Birthed on A seed-blown wind. * Met: The Metropolitan

I roamed inside his hut and tapped walls as restless mice rustled in their bays. I felt ashamed that I was there— a stranger waiting for a ghost to return to an abandoned home.

Museum of Art, NY

Walking high grass to tideline, where all silences live, I tried to recall what I wanted to ask him, but what was it? I sat there for hours with sun and sky reaching beyond fields.

Independence Mine

Dale Slaughter

When tide crept up the bank, I launched a skiff, pushing off with an oar not sure where I was going. The eel grass waved me through a maze of channels— and a life of words on the breeze.


97

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Janette Lyn Rosebrook

American Mantra The proprietress holds her head in her hands, meditates on the generic pill dissolving into her Mickey mug.

She lived a long time beside this god forsaken highway, selling castaway goods, seconds. She waited a long time for a winner, pulling levers in a smoky haze. Her odds were long. Roulette mandalas on twenty-four hour spin. Read the signs. They chant empty mantras by the side of the road: Gas Food Lodging. Salty Kisses

Jim Thiele

Steven Schneider

Trepidation

You wake to the sound of water Running in the acequia. Early morning in Arroyo Seco. You walk upstairs to the loft and lie down Beside your wife who has slept restlessly. You put your arms around her to comfort her. You do not know yet what the day will hold. There is little wind, but will it kick up? The sky clear, but by noon darken. Rain Forest Moss

Jack Broom

You tell her to set aside her fears And accept what life may bring. You embrace each other gently before the magpies arrive.


98

CIRQUE

Fred Rosenblum

Doing Sets Outside of Tenakee Springs I never made it to the fires of interior Alaska in 1970. Instead, I hired on as a deckhand for a Native-owned, purse seiner in Sitka.

The sole white man aboard I turned my head to hide my laughter amid the rubber tongue toothless slaver of the Native seiners - articulations utterly awash in a swamp of hyper-salivation, and further waxed by the wads of the chaw they chewed. Their mother tongue already molested by the fur trade invaders, and missionaries who, imported the fricative and the alveolar of Cyrillic sound – a compound of Orthodox Russian, and the rattling croak from the throat of a raven – deliberations as to where the humpbacks might blow next, a mountainous wet of geyser-like spewing off the face of the jellyfish sea. Our nascent crew of native sons and long hairs, their dark arms etched with a tribal gradient of tattoos – symbols from the discerning to the diminished, ubiquitous displays of blue black wing span spirits inked totemic on the appendages of both young and old Tlingits (I wish I could remember their Christian names) - those who’d place their bets as to whether the shattering breach of some mythical ivory giant might bring ruin, devour our entire fleet doing sets like krill in a cove outside of Tenakee. Across that windswept span of bay, bald eagles appeared to claim exclusive rights to the tops of trees - a myriad of white crops dotting the Sitka spruce, and a hemlock sweep of panhandle coastline. Its quintessential vision kissed on a gray slate bias of July mist. An erstwhile distant cannery vanished in the inverted grip of this somber clime, where sheer cliffs had hovered before creosote quays, that had likewise passed from our sight, along with an anchored offshore tender – Its crew of Japanese, hurled a detritus of Pinks on the bight … and into the screeching din of herring gulls, sharing a wealth of bycatch with a host of pelagic nomads, on the wail of the wind and the same current, that carried the smoldering scent of charred ruins - a trapper’s cabin remote and sheltered in a quiet cove, an abandoned pot belly stove matching the shade of a lone black bear … salvaging in the solace of ribs on the tide. Our skipper slurred and listed – pendulous upon his teetering perch, failed to conceal the frequent pulls he took from a Wódka bottle, all too obvious in the marsupial green sac of a sea suit reeling … with hubris and a Remington. His besotted blood-shot eyeball, vertiginous in the crosshairs but nonetheless trained on a harbor seal tampering amid the fathoms of salmon distended seine … Blustery blasted windy drenching …Cold in the downpour skiff … I sat idling in the rain. Shivering rubber-hooded, bumping-up against the bobbing, wind-felled corpse of an evergreen, dreaming out there on the briny of my paltry share of the take, choking on the vapors from the gasoline … Just inside the break, a black tail (a doe methinks) half-galloped frantic – a reflex to our underbelly’s seeping escapement. Its obscene, swirling sheen perverted the wake, washing over the conspicuous tic on her pristine hide - headhigh on the choppy and just astride the buoyant, encrusted façade of our nodding scow. The vessel’s shedding, flaking dedication in Gothic font appeared painted on the port of her weathered prow. But unlike the name of our seafaring vessel and the Christian names that have escaped my failing mind, respectively drubbed with salinity, and the steel wool of passing time, I haven’t been able to dispense with the squealing strain, from the deck of our power block hoisting, the bloated monster sets brimming with a frenzy of fins and gills constrained. The ocean spilling with profusion as they rose from those cold Alaskan depths, where there were sea nettle crowns for the Kings and Reds, energized in a marinade of yellow kelp and glacial silt – a translucent hysteria of glasseyed heads, immersed and very much alive, save for the flux of the cadaverous fish … that were nothing more than a milky lilt along for a ride … on the rich scent of the ocean and the sediments of the naked earth. Its unrivaled redolence, a seasonal metaphor for cash ensnared … in the stubborn mesh of a seiner’s purse.


99

Tim Sherry

Daughter Driving Home to Mother Out in the desert, Hanford no longer waited. The tanks, buried in the hurry of the war, had leaked the secret kept from the wives while the husbands flirted the science into full romance; and now the dashboard spoke of water reckless underground.

She couldn’t imagine the depth or what test would tell the harm. But she knew about contamination, unspoken in conversation with her mother at the stove, when fathers kept secrets and mothers, knowing them, kept the house anyway. A 3x5 box was her mother’s place to keep quiet, and all the town knew not to ask for her recipes after the blue ribbons for her pies and preserves at the fair—though none could guess she sometimes got it wrong with her peaches, and secretly dumped them out on the compost. The map helped with the big bend of the Columbia through Richland when nothing else in the winter desert gave place to the day. The smell on the wind was December, and she had to get to Idaho where mother needed daughter after father was the talk of the town. Yesterday, their shouting match of fifty years ended in police and a reporter at the door in Lewiston where they had retired. Now rumors of his secrets, waiting to surface in tomorrow’s Tribune, demanded that contamination be spoken. Stopped for gas outside Pasco, she thought she smelled someone’s cooking, and she remembered her parents’ words in all those nights down the hall, their red eyes in the morning bent over breakfasts that smelled of weak coffee and despair. Crossing the Snake, she prayed the words shouted at her last night in Seattle would stay buried—and not leech into conversation while she helped her mother through the next days and weeks of meals from recipes she herself had learned by heart.

Sunset Homer, Alaska

Kat Anderson

Judith Skillman

Lifeboat

...the sea whose crescent blade cuts off

the dynasty of absurd griefs...

--Rene Char, “The Shark and the Gull”

Tonight I saw the three ghosts— Leah and Israel and Jake sitting together on the hard benches of the Chetzemoka, raising their glasses as they used to do, laughing, talking, and interrupting one another. Leah said, “One can always hope.” Israel said nothing. Jake’s glass shook as he said “L’chaim.” On board the Chetzemoka, bleached hull, faded, rusted scrap of a boat useless as Leah’s lungs these three pilgrims fast in their places. They trust in the certainty of rescue, old Jews, eternal optimists. Israel’s round bald head bobs up and down like a buoy. For whatever misfortune landed them here on the seats of the Chetzemoka they blame no one.


CIRQUE

Richard Stokes

Addressed to My Dearest Chickadee A letter Dad wrote Mom in nineteen forty two tells her of flushing rattlesnakes while clearing land to build a military landing strip in Florida, writes he misses her and three-year old me, apologizes for not sending home more of his eighty-five dollar paycheck, laments gas rationing rules out his Christmas visit, pens a suggestive line that reminds me they were lovers as well as parents. He writes of the lot on which they hope to build so as to move from grandma’s house, and I can remember being in a car with Mom, seeing Dad as he stood in front of an upturned stump with dark circles under the arms of his khaki shirt, remember the oft-repeated story of the day yellow jackets swarmed his ankles, and how he, who I would never see move quickly, jumped about and flailed his ankles with his straw hat. Flora

I wonder if our move to a new town in forty five was a substitute for building that dream or a bitter consolation. Seventy years later the answer matters little, but how I long to ask, knowing now no one else even knows the question.

Jennifer Andrulli

Ben Swimm

Volcanic Hazards in the Pacific Northwest My parents saw the ash cloud from the highway and wondered from a hundred miles away if the sheriff had managed to convince the old man to come down off Spirit Lake. Hard to decide if this is what he meant when he said that he could speak with her: the bedrock moaning underneath him, a roaring cloud of rock and steam, wailing away with four million other yards of muck. They stopped the car to scoop some ashes in a paper bag and later stored them dormant on the bookshelf. As a child I thought they were a person’s. Still, I cannot decide how much like love this is: bursting into dust together. Finally sharing a vessel.

Reflective Ice Shaping in Water Glass

Lea Merritt


101

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Caitlin Thomson

Portrait

Wild one, of the grains, of the willows by the river, of the brown waves of hair, of the coffee mugs

Redolent

Sheary Clough Suiter

Mary Ellen Talley

At the Mouth of the River Where on the map is your voice hiding? It is a pinprick somewhere in Seattle’s Mexico. I cannot say anything with language that sifts silence. No one has heard you talk in the classroom, but you follow me to a small anteroom, with tabla y sillas. Here is comfort. I follow the contour of lip pressure easing until sound springs in the small space. Words jump in the escuela debajo de mi silla, where lluvia trickles on the roof of your palate and you smell of today’s peaches. Melocotones is such a pretty word. They hang from branches in the preschool kitchen. Pulp hugs the stone seed. You eat the soft fruit in the lunch bowl with only a head nod, but words enter this small room, where we sit at a long table with a book you have chosen about a playground. Words swerve when you follow my lips, say Inglés. I still don’t know if or when las palabras will cavalcade in you like a downpour that meows and barks, spins circles and slides from the high ladder at the park. Counting and colors translate fast. You count in English, one, two, nine. We count birds, one, two, three, four. See the green tree, you call it red, I look for verde. You say sky blue, but when we walk back to class, silence returns. Adios echoes and you wave me bye. Gestures talk, though your throat feels dry as the creek bed, waiting for rivers.

and white stained jeans, I try to keep your fingers still with words, with the tenderness of breakfast. But you are more than my tenderness, more than your own. There are muffins in your future, a hammock, but also a basement full of mice. I do not recognize all of you in any of these words, but one small part, calls to me, Homer’s sirens. When we met, I felt the terrifying pull of home, the windows flew shut.

Homer Beach Runoff

Joe Kashi


102

CIRQUE

Flight

Jack Broom

Joanne Townsend

Notebook: August 18, 2016 In that fresh breeze of morning out in the sunshine are you taking notice how the house sparrows cheep as they always have and blooms of lantana spread their gold? Notice also how cascading roses beg attention and perhaps in the cemeteries under new velvet moss old ghosts quiet down.

Think on last night, that nagging full moon. the one the Cree named moon when the young ducks fly. You were on the patio looking up--torn between promise and sadness-a skip in your heartbeat the catch in your breath-Out in the sunshine in that fresh breeze of morning-Twenty years and your errant child has not come home.


103

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Pepper Trail

Darwin at the Last

Even at home on the chalk paths of Down I can feel the sea, the salt-soaked deck Moving beneath me, these recent days And can scarcely believe that my hat Stays on my old round head, such is the gale That seems against me, pushing me back Toward the Fuegian shore Of this I say nothing to Emma, or To the many visitors who come now to sit Carefully watching, as if expecting Some miracle, or perhaps hoping that I will gape and caper like a monkey And so I work among the garden plants Take my notes, keep up my quiet work

The harsh black shores of the Galapagos Rising beyond bright-edged breaking waves And my hand upon the sun-warmed wall Seemed to rest upon a giant tortoise shell I know that few days are left to me And no last book weighs me down Soon it will be time to tear the vines These tendrils of my later years That tied me here so long at home Time again to be a bird at sea Blown onward, again unknown

Observation; observation and memory Have been my gift, my life; now my curse There are things I would forget: The face of little Anne, pale in her coffin The face of Jemmy Button, poor fellow As we left him there at the rag-end of the world Among strangers, his savage brothers But I never learned forgetting, and so To rid myself of all that I remembered I wrote and wrote, and wrote and wrote Scratching lines far longer, I believe Than all the miles of my voyage round the world And found, in the writing and the rewriting A stronger and stronger truth “There is grandeur in this view of life� That is what I wrote, and do believe My consolation in these shortened days For the cries and rumbles from distant pulpits All that bother that Huxley loves so well For the tedium of the daily post, the six editions For all the fatigues of a sick old man This morning, as I too quickly stood From watching the humble bees at work In my lightened head I saw again

Kaffir Lily in Fading Light

Jack Broom


104

CIRQUE

Karen Tschannen

Denotation-Connotation Do not forget that a poem, even if it is composed in the language game of giving information, is not used in the language game of giving information. --Wittgenstein

She writes on the blackboard: Bridge Album Bread Choose one, she says. Define. Give some usage. Expand beyond bare dictionary sense. We have ten minutes for this exercise. Bridge, I write. Bridge: That which connects. That which is suspended or arches over water or road, such as an elevated pedestrian way. Here, I must note, the steep wooden bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden can hardly be called pedestrian (though in Mother’s album I find one b&w photo of lovers on its high arch together with three children in red coats, suspended there between terror and glee spilling bread to fat calico carp swimming under it and over it and under it forever).

Bridge to Somewhere

Bridge, I write. Bridge: That which supports burdens between two points, or that which binds or joins two sides, as in bridging the gap. This brings me to Bridge: a dental appliance used to fill gaps--so that Mother, hands loose in her lap, will smile up at my camera. The bridge, that just last Friday lay abandoned in a glass by a bare unburdened bed in a hospital in the City by the Bay of Bridges— Martinez Bridge, Carquinez Bridge, San Mateo Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge near Bay City Bar & Grill where Charles-the-Waiter, formally correct and balding, serves me a salad generous with fat legs of crab brought in under a golden bridge in heavy fog just that morning by Portuguese fishermen in a high-prowed boat painted blue. This meal includes all the warm bread I can eat and is an extravagance I need for reasons I cannot explain. Karen Tschannen’s poetry collection Apportioning the Light is forthcoming from Cirque Press: Cirque’s first venture into book publishing

Toby Widdicombe


105

Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Lucy Tyrrell

Nookomis Giizhik

A grove of trees stands in the snow, wearing woven bark, gray in strips and furrows. Slender branches descend from massive trunks, arc and rise like fingers reaching skyward. Broad bases, spattered with snow, buttress these northern white cedars in the swampy soils. I walk near these deeply-present ancient ones. They offer boughs of contemplation, boughs of tranquility. I pause to read a sign along this trail— this trail at Frog Bay. Here in the woods, it feels as if a Red Cliff ancestor interprets, In Anishinaabe culture, white cedars are honored by the name nookomis giizhik (my grandmother’s cedar). My tongue stumbles on the Ojibwe words to name the power of these trees. I walk on, my pale-skin cheeks blushing in the cold, bundled layers brushing near these trunks. As my boots crunch across snow, over small, fallen branchlets of flattened scale-like needles, green or faded reddish-brown returning to the Earth— cedar corsages scattered on the snow— I think about my own grandmother. In May, she would be one hundred twenty-seven. She wore navy dresses, a tissue in the brassiere where her breast had been taken, hatpin holding pillbox on her silver hair. Arms raised in arcs to greet her grandchildren, fingers holding rotary phone, egg cup, a box of Luden’s cherry cough drops. She wore black pumps, low-heeled and sturdy, and took the trolley to buy sticky buns wrapped in white paper and tied with string. She wore a corsage for her 75th birthday or maybe it was for Easter.

Michael Kleven

Did she—of English heritage—ever travel far enough from her Philadelphia home to walk in woods and stand beneath nookomis giizhik? I never knew my grandfather, but he was a tree man. His epitaph reads, “One who loved a tree.” As landscape gardener for Fairmount Park, he traveled in search of trees for an urban scene. He likely tended northern white cedars, arborvitae, tree of life— ones planted and cataloged in the horticultural gardens— and watched their shadows grow. As I walk beneath these cedar boughs, I want to ask these bark-clad columns, these stalwart columns of softest gray, I want to ask them, are you also my grandmother’s cedars? I think they were not hers. As much as I might long for it, I think she could not claim them as her own. I think she never walked in woods the way I do. Yet—in Fairmount Park, along a path of brick or in a planted grove— I wonder whether he ever took her hand, and walked beneath cedars. With the scent of lilacs near, did he stoop to pick up flattened green branchlets and offer her a wild corsage?


106

CIRQUE

Margo Waring

Camino

Chance was all it was. I lived in that town by the river. A crowd came. I left with them. They call me “pilgrim” but I can’t remember why I walk. I know only those cold nights on hard ground, shelter in that square church with the tall wooden doors. (What was its namesake saint?) I remember that old woman lying in the snow with a smile on her face. What was it about but sore feet and chilblains? How will I know I have arrived?

Floral Water

Geri Mathewson

Alan Weltzien

Pouring Mother

As my brother speaks I work the clip up the heavy plastic bag that contains gray grit and flecks of bone. I face the stern of the borrowed boat, next to my wife, which our younger son rows. Hands link two boats a gentle drift offshore, the other holding my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and cousin who toss the clipped flowerlets of white and pink mums and offer story and comment that capture my mother. My face clenches and eyes pour behind sunglasses as my finger breaks open the bag and I pour Lorraine, a steady sifting stream, into the bay where, seventeen years and four days later, she finally rejoins Father. The eulogies of others, some tearful, offset my sobbing silence. I flash in and out of our private ceremony, wracked by the gap between tongue and heart, my reputation as wordsmith again vanished. In the stretching silence I mutter “Let’s go” and after we beach and tie the boats I breast stroke out in the gathering tide and almost meet the random constellation of mums

St. Sergius, Chuathbaluk

Dale Slaughter

that bob gently towards me in my basin of tears where, as Whitman knew, we rock endlessly in our beginning and end and beyond, from salt to salt.


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Justin Wetch

Growing Up

I remember when hands were for comforting Before they started going up skirts I remember when lips were for compliments Before we kissed until being alone didn’t hurt. Hugs turned to sex Smiles turned to texts Candy to cigarettes Schoolyard races to lottery bets Mountain Dew to mary jane Hyper kids pronounced insane ‘Cool kids’ to twitter fame Asphalt scrapes to mental pain Snow angels to angel dust Show and tell to nudes and lust Growing up is being so rushed Hopes and dreams quickly crushed.

This is what they call growing up in our generation You can probably understand my trepidation Of age and its relentless acceleration It’s a prison with no hope for liberation. We can’t spend life chasing new sensations Or working behind a desk for some corporation We have to work for happiness and toleration Because fixing society is our obligation. Growing up in a world we didn’t ask for Growing up with a low ceiling and no floor Growing up when dreaming means declaring war Maybe if we don’t grow up we can learn to live more.

Oh, but that’s the way it goes Growing up means growing old We change, seasons change, Leaves turn to gold Call it nostalgia, call it something else I just wish for a time less... complicated Call it depression, call it needing help Life’s a game and I’m… disenchanted. Life got hard Shackled to a plastic card Always on your guard Self-worth on report cards We’re psychologically scarred Disgusted with who we are. Growing up means living less Screwing over means success Crumbling under all the stress; Expensive outfits just to impress Another lost soul in a dress. Let’s get real, let me confess I’d rather die than live with regret. Josh Kleven


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CIRQUE

Tim Whitsel

Great Basin To catch the sunrise you must hold like a rock jack then flatten to paper for the sumi of strung geese. To catch the light you must speak grass and learn the memes of denim

Aspen Golden Shower

Reefka

and fresh snow. To catch the cloud you must murmur with a trio of aspen and smirk at heroics of fungi. To catch the wind you must furl like amber in whisky, glitter with hail between your collar and your nape. To catch the night you must cock ears like a quintet of does. You must enter without breaking like a vole.

Tonja Woelber

Alaska Veneries I. there on the rooftop, an unkindness of ravens glares at my shrunken figure against a chalky backdrop of concrete and trash who said nature was benign? indifference would be better than this convocation of familiars cloaked in black, onyx eyes dredging my soul for evidence of unspeakable crimes.

II. through the sweltering afternoon, ankles cool through waders, hands sweating the rod, a sixties song unspooling in his head, he is certain that upstream a hover of stubborn trout waits for the evening hatch to break their summer somnolence and rise.


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Paul Winkel

Sand Rock Hill Our bikes took us everywhere in North St. Louis. Me, and my brothers, Billy and Bobby. To sand rock hill, where we pushed our rides up a steep cobbled side road to the top A jumble of giant sandstone blocks strewn across a bank. We bounded from boulder to sandy boulder to the woods at the bottom and never fell. We raced our bikes down that steep road. The rules were simple. You didn’t pedal after starting downhill. Whoever went the farthest, won. We rolled down the cobbles, screaming, our eyes squinted against the breeze, wind roaring in our ears. The handlebars shaking so fiercely our hands were numb

to go that last inch, before falling over in laughter. One day, three boys appeared, older than us. They kicked our bikes over and laughed They sent me to the bottom of the bank for target practice. I walked back and forth, looking straight ahead as sandy stones fell around me and my brothers watched. A rock hit my head. I staggered, put my hand over the spot, but kept on walking. The boys laughed and ran away. We rode home, and never went back to sand rock hill. Bill died in Vietnam. Bob moved to California, I came to Alaska. Sometimes I dream Of when we knew if we just held tight, and jumped at the right time, we could go on, forever‌

To the cross street at the bottom, going too fast to make the turn, jumping the granite curb on the far side. Dodging behind the trees that lined the shaded road, then dropping back down to the long, smooth, flat pavement. Coasting as far as possible, teetering as the bikes slowed, trying to stay upright, Walking on Colors

Kimberly Davis


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Nancy Woods

Relaxed Radical

Go beyond resistance To relaxed radical No need for fancy protests in the streets Simply stand in your driveway And discuss books With your foreign-born neighbor While cooking dinner Joke around With your son’s transgender friend On your way to the post office Nod “good morning” To whomever is crossing the street Refuse To do anything Outside the ordinary Be Who you are Every day of the week Stay high, wide and open Provide safety and humor Exhibit respect We’re all in this together There is no Us, them Throw a party Hope everyone comes Diversity is closer than you think

Matt Main


Vo l . 8 N o . 2

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F E AT U R E S

Harpoon: A Journal of the ‘70s that Helped Shape Alaska Literature Sandra L. Kleven, Cirque

Harpoon was a literary journal published in Anchorage from 1979 and 1981. Edited by Steven Levi and Joanne Townsend, it was published quarterly at a time when cutting and pasting involved scissors and tape and every piece submitted was re-typed by the editors. Here I interview Steven Levi, one of the founders (See commentary from Joanne Townsend that follows the interview.). Sandra Kleven: Tell me about your early life and how you ended up in Alaska? Steven Levi: I am always looking for “different,” and I got the chance to come to Alaska in 1976 and teach at a junior college and work my way up to the university. A college was looking for someone to teach on remote military bases in Alaska, and I took the offer. It would give me a year of teaching experience – which would look good on my resume – and let me pay some of my bills. I taught on two Coast Guard bases – Port Clarence and Cape Sarichef – and two Air Force sites – Fort Yukon and Tatalina. The program ended, and I did not want to go to Southern California and be unemployed again, so I took a chance and got an apartment in Anchorage. Four decades later, I’m still here. SK: When did you first identify as a writer? Were you already writing four decades ago when you decided to settle in Anchorage? What were your early directions regarding the written word? SL: I have always been a reader because there was always something “new” to discover. I was well ahead of my classmates in elementary school when it came to reading – not so much with mathematics and science – and I wanted to be a writer from a young age because I got tired of seeing the same story being retold in all the young adult books. I’d start out reading a book, and the moment I figured out where things were going, I’d stop. Television and movies were the same. I did not know the

term generic then but I understood the concept. It was the same story told over and over again, and it bored me. The big exception was Sherlock Holmes. Doyle stories were short and I was kept fooled until the very end. That was my kind of writing! I started writing in high school, mostly poetry, and bad poetry at that, and then moved to history. My MA thesis was my first book, and I put together a book of narrative poetry on the history of San Francisco – which went nowhere. When I came to Alaska, I was still writing scholarly history – which I still do, but as books – and shifted my emphasis from California history and lore to the Alaska Gold Rush. It was more rewarding because so little has been done on the Alaska Gold Rush. Most people think that the Klondike Gold Rush IS the Alaska Gold Rush. I was still heavily involved with poetry, and when I decided to stay in Anchorage, I looked for poets and found four – all there were then – Ann Chandonnet, Joanne Townsend, Ruben Gaines, and Tom Sexton. Sexton never came to our poetry readings, so I lost touch with him early on. Gaines was a phenomenal poet AND historian I learned a lot from him. Chandonnet was heavily involved in family poetry, and I had no family. Townsend and I started Harpoon because we were tired of seeing the only journal in Alaska, Permafrost, doing nothing but “moose and goose in the spruce” poetry. SK: So about what year are we talking about that you and Joanne Townsend begin to talk about Harpoon? Once you and Joanne decided to do it, how did you seek contributions? And can you briefly explain the difference between the Klondike and Alaska Gold Rush (es)? I may be among the ignorant, but not for long. SL: Harpoon ran between 1979 and 1981. We talked about doing a magazine for about a year before we started. We started by contacting Alaskans poets – about a dozen or so we knew about – and we contacted journals where we had been published. At that time it as not hard to get poets to submit, but then, like now, 90 percent of the


112 poems were not acceptable. But dividing the good from bad took A LOT OF TIME and that was eventually what killed Harpoon. We just could not keep spending 20 hours a week apiece to read other people’s poetry. On the Gold Rush - The Klondike Rush, made famous by Jack London and Robert Service, took place in about 100 square miles around Dawson in the Yukon Territory of Canada. It lasted about 14 months. The Alaska Gold Rush started in Juneau in 1880 and ended with the Second World War, and covered a territory 1/5 the size of the Lower 48. I did the first composite book on the Alaska Gold Rush, Boom to Bust in the Alaska Gold Fields, which you can find in a library. SK: So Alaska’s Gold Rush is bigger, better, and lasted much longer. As an editor, myself, I can relate to the time involved in preparing each issue. But back in 1979, you were not just pre-internet and pre-digital, but you must have been using a typewriter to prepare for print. Can you describe all the logistics of getting out an issue after the 20 plus hours a week spent reading and selecting the pieces you would publish? SL: We started out typing the magazine on our two portable typewriters and putting it together by hand. This meant re-typing each poem. We would put an of 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper in what is today called landscape mode and then type one poem on one end of the sheet and another on the other end. Then we’d flip the sheet over and do the same on the other side. We didn’t know what we were doing and we were constantly making pagination mistakes. It also took a lot of time to photocopy the pages – back and front and in those days duplexing was unknown – and then stack them properly and staple them. We used Kinko’s and spent four l-o-n-g evenings there to get the first year’s journals out, We were lucky because soon after we started the journal, I got a job as editor of a small tourist publication Alaska Host, so I had access to a PMT machine. That meant we could put artwork in the journal. And I stayed late at the print shop and did the typesetting. PMT production and typesetting is a lost art today. In those days, you produced a strip of print of then pasted it with wax onto the sheets of paper that would become pages. Then the pages were fed through a PMT scanner. [PMT stands for Photomechanical Transfer.] The collection of PMTs then went to a printer. That only lasted about a year but by then we were both working so we could put a little bit of

CIRQUE money into the journal. We figured it was worth the cost because the time we were putting into the journal was simply staggering. SK: Roughly, how many submissions were you receiving and what did you do to solicit? SL: When we started, I sent a letter to every living Pulitzer Prize poet and asked for a submission. I sent a letter to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and he sent a poem. I think we got three out of this effort. I was stunned that Ferlinghetti answered my letter. He was, and is, my favorite poet. His book A Coney Island of the Mind is one of the few books I have kept over the years, and I still have it. Even more important, he is ageless. We were VERY grateful he honored us. We received hundreds of poems a month, three or four hundred. As I remember, I went through them first because they came to my Post Office Box. I would hand Joanne two piles, those I like and those I didn’t. SK: Other than that outreach to acclaimed poets, how did you solicit? How did poets know you existed? Did you get any news coverage? The effort you describe is staggering -- so laborious to be typing, cutting, pasting, and placing waxed illustrations on pages, then printing, collating, and stapling. The investment of time, effort, and money goes beyond what we do to publish Cirque. To be clear, we put in hundreds of hours on each issue, but it is phenomenally easier now beginning with the fact that we don’t have to retype anything. Today, communication with contributors is essentially instant and an interview like this can be done in a snappy back and forth over a week or so? What Alaska names of note did you publish during the run of Harpoon? SL: Alaskan poets I remember were Eleanor Limmer, Ann Chandonnet, Ruben Gaines, Tyler Henshaw, The woman who wrote the poem on shoes who went to the Middle East (Kennedy?), Shelia Nickerson, John Haines, Margaret Mielke, John Morgan, Jean Anderson, Pat Austin, Gary Holthaus, Kay Deeter and Greg Edblom. How many of them are still in Alaska – much less alive – I do not know. We also published the Dauenhauers and Reuben Gaines. SK: I can update on several from your list. Since 2009, Cirque has published both you and Joanne Townsend, John Morgan, Ann Chandonnet, Sheila Nickerson (featured her as a former laureate), and Jean Anderson.


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Harpoon cover, Summer and Fall 1981

John Haines as you know died a few years ago. We published an interview Jo Going did with Haines in 2010. But to have published in Cirque, seven poets from your random list – forty years later – shows and incredible continuity in AK lit and the continued creative work of these poets. SL: Joanne and I had about 40 years of experience being published in poetry journals so we had no trouble getting in touch with other journals. And, at that time, there was a Small Press Review that announced journals looking for poetry. We had no trouble getting poems. At that time there were hundreds of journals out there and a lot of people were building their credentials. We got one article in the Journal of Commerce, once, but I don’t remember if we had any other publicity. I remember that we had enough money for Harpoon, but it was a mix of subscriptions and cash we put into the magazine. SK: This morning I printed and read the one pdf you have

scanned from a past issue of Harpoon. I see now that it is the final copy and that it contains your editorial farewell titled “From the Grave.” You lament the state of creative writing or, more than lamentation, you are appalled if not disgusted at the level of material you’ve been forced to read. That’s an amazing note for an editor’s farewell, but what also strikes me as very interesting is the portion that continues on the facing page. You, in a sense, eviscerate the Political left, the Right and the Center with specifics that could apply to this political moment. As we used to say, it’s kind of mind blowing. Let me quote the last graph, Mediocrity comes from the center, oozing from television sets and crushed beer cans, the crescendo of ten million TV sets groaning from overweight posteriors, the flushing of toilets during commercials. Here live the weekend joggers with martini love handles, spider plants in the living room, Warhol on the dining room walls and dust on the bookshelves. Here is the dynamic coalition of


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CIRQUE

Steven Levi

steam bath Saturdays and Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, where committees make dungeons of paper and intelligence is a disease, festering in the idle fingertips hovering over typewriter keys. You must be proud of that rousing articulate rant. To your first point, relating to a deplorable quality level in creative writing, what changes do you see in 35 years? That is a long time...and a great position from which to make an observation. SL: In terms of what is being published, not much changed until about ten years ago. Prior to that point, the literary, commercial and academic writing “industry” was NOT based on quality but on what WOULD SELL. All of these industries had a mainstream and if you wanted

to see your work in print you could not veer far from that mainstream. And the pillars of that industry were few and feudal. If you wanted to get a mystery book in print, it had to have a murder, and to make money, you had to have an agent who sold your work to one of no more than a dozen BIG publishers. And the publishers had an iron grip on the market because they were the entré to the only sales outlets: local bookstores. And every city had a dozen bookstores. Today, courtesy of the Internet, there is a market for a vast spectrum of books. My impossible crime series was started two decades ago but none of the BIG publishers wanted anything but murders. Today, I have a publisher who sees impossible crime as a sales possibility. It IS a sales possibility because I am reaching readers over the Internet at no dollar cost (There is still the time cost.). I spend about two hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, Buffer, Linked In and sending emails to magazine and newspaper editors. Yes, mediocrity comes from the middle. That is because it has been the “middle” or “mainstream” of the writing industry that gave you the best chance of making money. So the writers who were “in it for the money” stuck to the main stream. Writers such as myself are looking to break molds, and we are willing to spend a lot of time coming up with something new. My writing mantra is “if you do not have something unique, you have nothing at all.” I’ve been doing it that way for 40 years. Will I be successful as a writer? If someone somewhere is reading one of my books in a century, yes, I will have been successful. SK: Your strong feeling expressed in 1981 was that 85 percent of what you waded through was tripe. Let me quote more “From the Grave.” And whether the writer is an English professor or a beginning poet, the grammar is often so bad the poem is unreadable, the insight is so shallow the entire work is surface or the thought is so scrambled in big words that it is gibberish. Here you are writing in 1981, and you are talking about submissions that are coming from Alaska and beyond. And a huge number you are plowing through for each quarterly issue. So the situation is not unlike ours at Cirque. What are your thoughts on the literary quality of what’s being produced today?


115

Vo l . 8 N o . 2 SL: The older you get the more you realize that 90 percent of everything is wasted effort. At work, 90 percent of what I do has no meaning. But 10 percent does. If I write a thousand poems, only 100 will stand the test of time. So, I have to expect 90 percent of the poems being sent in, read at readings or posted on the Internet to be gibberish. The job of the editor is to separate quality from garbage. My job as a writer is to be unbelievably better than everyone else in the same field. I do that by being different, approaching a traditional problem (a robbery) from a different angle (an impossible crime). When it comes to literature, the traditional outlets are gone. I can’t wander into my local bookstore and “look around.” Now I use the Internet, but I can rarely sample read. I get asked to give my name, credit card number, etc. Worse, there is no clearing house, so to speak, to guide me to poetry journals. I have to find them by accident. I avoid academic publications and concentrate on what used to be called small presses. The problem is that many of them are self-serving and you are not getting a spread of poets, just a lot of poems from one poet and few others thrown in to make it look like it’s a quality publication. There is a lot of good literature out there but it is buried, and you have to look for it. BUT there is a lot of trash to wade through to find the good poems. There will always be good poems and good poets – finding them is the journey. SK: You are using social media to an amazing degree. I often find those of our generation are on the other side of a digital gap. I’ve had to teach friends how to select, cut, and paste. How did you get the skills, and what prompted you to go that direction? SL: If you want to market your work – poems, books, journals – you have to do something beyond word of mouth. That takes money or time. I have yet to find that money spent on advertising books is worth the money spent. But social media works because there are people looking for me. By that, I mean there are readers looking for “good books.” That’s why Amazon has been so successful. At the very least, you can go to a specific category of books and find what you are seeking. With social media I lure readers to my Facebook page and then do a soft sell. Even more important, the readers will buy from Publication Consultants, and I make a larger percentage when the readers buy from MY publisher and not through Amazon. If you will look at my Facebook page and read the blogs on my web page you will see I

cater to thinking people. These are the people who will buy the kind of books I write. It is going to be a long haul but I am doing better now than a decade ago. A decade ago I had 60 books on my computer. Today I have 80 books on Amazon and I sell about a ten a month. Every book I sell anywhere advertises the others. Social medial costs me time, not money. And I do not believe that money spent on book tours returns the author much in royalties. SK: So part of what was happening with Harpoon was that those who were not doing the work, who could not possibly have the endurance to do the work, were shooting flares at those who were doing it? Is that part of why you and Joanne gave it up? SL: As far as being treated badly, EVERYONE in the literary world is treated badly. And everyone is jealous of everyone else’s success. It’s easy to say “I was treated badly.” My response is “so what?” Besides, do I really want to hobnob with the kind of literary people who think my writing is substandard? After all, of all the people we published, Joanne and I are still writing and getting published. For the others, they will become immortal but only after Harpoon goes online. SK: As you look back on Harpoon, what do you see as the legacy? SL: Whenever you write a poem, it becomes immortal. When someone reads your words – whether they like your poem or not – its seed invades their psyche. Sometimes it dies in the desert of their mind. Other times that seed grows and matures with other thoughts, concepts, educational tidbit and life experiences. Rarely can we credit those seeds. For three years Harpoon sowed seeds which may or may not have a phenomenal impact on Alaska and the world. Were we successful? It will be easy to tell. In 2117, if someone is thinking about one poem that was published in Harpoon, we will have succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. As for Joanne Townsend and I, the editors of Harpoon, the answer is simpler: at least we tried. Paul Haeder’s review of Steven Levi’s latest novel appears later in this issue. Follow this link to Levi’s blog: http://www.stevelevibooks.com/blog/


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CIRQUE

Joanne Townsend

Harpoon: Looking Back Ah, Harpoon....Let me begin with Anchorage in 1975. There was no complete satellite system. Six PM TV news was delivered from Seattle by plane. We saw it about eleven PM; that is, if the cabdriver charged with delivery didn’t stop for a beer on the way from the airport to the TV station. Engineers were borrowed from tech companies to put in the new system from Talkeetna to Seward. One of those was Jim Gove, who was also a poet. Jim became my good friend and mentor. When he left Alaska in 1978 to go back to his employer, he asked me to run the poetry readings he had been in charge of with Steve Levi, whom I had never met. As Steve described, he came to my house; he was young, ambitious, and a go-getter who wanted to publish a poetry journal. I went along and we worked together on soliciting poems from writers and planning. The first issue in 1979 was Rock Shadow paid for entirely out of our pockets. Later subscriptions and sales would help. One year we had a hundred dollar grant from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines.

exciting. Jim Gove had published a poem of mine, “For Ann Sexton, Poet” in his journal, Minotaur, and through that I got to know many established California writers who submitted to the journal. However, what I remember most are the fine Alaskan writers whose poems I got to print. Many became lifelong friends. Margaret Mielke, Alaska’s first poet laureate, was until her death, a firm supporter of what we were trying to do.

Steve Dieffenbacher

Anchorage, at this time, was full of oil pipeline news and people. Tall Texans with shiny boots and wide hats were beginning to arrive in downtown, buying gold nugget jewelry and whatever they fancied. People were flooding in from outside, hoping for jobs on the North Slope. Poetry was not so important but many of us cared that the Alaska we loved would survive the influx, and our wilderness and the natural world were the things on which many writers focused.

I had a key to Steve’s house; he worked full time, and I was able to go over when my son was in school and type and type as Steve has described. We would have been rich if we had invested in white-out first; later we had a magical typewriter on which one could correct errors.

About Harpoon and my job as joint publisher/co-editor, there are two things I regret. Steve was responsible for finding artists to do the illustrations. In our first issue a rather scraggly, cartoonish sketch was placed next to a poem by Richard Eberhardt about his grandmother. Eberhardt was one of the fine poets who emerged after World War II, and he had kindly responded to Steve’s request for a poem. He was angry about the sketch, felt it demeaned his poem, and let us know. I should have caught that but didn’t. The other is that we received a one sentence poem from a Southeast Alaska poet whose work we had liked and admired. I rejected the poem and had the temerity to write, “This is not a poem.” He cancelled his subscription and never submitted again. Years later I look back and know a poem is what we make it: a leaf, a raindrop, few words or many. An essence.

For each of us, the work was tiring, exhausting, and

Ah, Harpoon...

My idea for Harpoon was having a journal that local and outside writers could submit to-- and for it to be a showcase for the best poetry we could print. I designed two back sections, Poetry Is and Editors Choice. In these areas we published reviews and writing news, excerpts from recent books, and perhaps a poem or two of our own.


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INTERVIEW Emily Mount

Wild Voices: Learning to Listen An Interview with Hank Lentfer

What motivates a man to wake up at 3 A.M. to stick a microphone in the bushes and record songbirds? Why tramp across mud and ice to capture the howl of a wolf? In a remote corner of Alaska, Hank Lentfer is recording the natural sounds of Glacier Bay National Park. Award-winning author, environmental activist, and devoted father, Lentfer takes to the wilderness to stalk the sounds of his back yard. Mount: How did you get interested in natural sounds? Lentfer: I’ve spent my entire life in the one of the quietest, most acoustically rich spots on the planet, but didn’t really start listening until just a few years ago. I had a chance to do some trips with my good friend Nels [Richard Nelson] in Glacier Bay when he was recording radio programs on glaciers, mountain goats, and bears. When he wasn’t working, I got to listen through his headphones and have a taste of what he was so excited about, what was making him so joyous. I thought I was familiar with Glacier Bay, but hearing the voices of my home ground amplified by a microphone, I realized in all my years of living here I’d been immersed in an incredible concert without paying attention. Mount: So you came to rediscover the land you thought you knew? Lentfer: That was a piece of it. But it was really just waking up to something I was deaf to. It’s like having lousy eyesight for decades and not knowing it. You get by, you learn to appreciate the world, then somebody hands you a pair of glasses and suddenly everything comes into focus for the first time. That’s what it’s been like opening my ears to the sounds of my home. Mount: What specific experience opened your ears? Lentfer: I was with Nels during a rare sunny stretch of weather in September. We’d boated to the face of a tidewater glacier in an iceberg-clogged inlet. It was a spectacular day. We had the whole park to ourselves. Nels climbed into a kayak to get closer to the glacier to record his program. I hung out in the skiff waiting. When he was done, he was paddling his way back through the ice and hollered, “This is the best fucking day of my life!” He was beaming, completely ecstatic. He’d said the same thing, with equal sincerity, the day before as we climbed off a mountain after an

afternoon in the middle of some mountain goats. But what struck me up there in the ice was that it wasn’t the best day of my life. And why not? It didn’t get any prettier than this, it didn’t get any wilder, there’s no more privileged place to be on the planet, so why was this not the best day of my life? What did this guy have going on? I wanted to drink what he was drinking. And if part of his cocktail was keenly listening to the world, then I was ready to order up as big a pitcher of the stuff as I could get. Mount: Since that time, what’s the most profound sound you’ve heard? Lentfer: The trumpet of a humpback whale. Mount: What does that sound like? Lentfer: It sounds like the world’s biggest and most exquisitely played horn. Just a single note powered by those massive lungs. It’s unbelievably loud and pure. It may well be the largest sound made by any critter on the planet. Mount: Tell me more about that experience. Lentfer: I had my daughter and a couple good friends on my boat. We came into thirty whales within a mile of us just feeding like crazy. Tree-sized plumes of breath were shooting up all around us. This evening, in addition to their explosive breaths, there was one animal emitting this gigantic tonal sound that echoed and echoed across the water. To hear such a rare and lovely sound is a great piece of good fortune. But to hear it in perfect recording conditions – that is over-the-top lucky! When it was over, when those whales swam into the next inlet, we stared at each other in stunned happiness. Mount: How do sounds like that impact you? Lentfer: As much as anything else I’ve ever experienced, they completely pin me in the moment. I’m there,


118 listening in through the microphone to the whale, the wolf, the thrush, the glacier – and there’s no other thought in my mind. It’s amazing the ability of just one sound to pull me completely into the present. It’s a giddy feeling to be fully in one place, even for just a few seconds. Mount: So how are experiences like this being translated into your recording project? Lentfer: Our Glacier Bay recording gig started with Nels. He realized Glacier Bay is probably the most acoustically rich place in all of Alaska. And if it’s the most acoustically diverse and rich place in Alaska, it’s got to be in the running for the most diverse and rich place on the continent. You have all the ocean sounds – marine mammals and birds – alongside an incredible variety of terrestrial habitats. In addition to the barren moonscape near the glaciers and the spruce forests in the lower bay, Glacier Bay is home to the biggest alder patch in southeast Alaska. If you’re a bug, all that productivity of a fast growing plant is a good place to be. If you’re a bird, all those bugs make for a fertile place to raise your chicks. Ecological and acoustic diversity go hand in hand. Mount: What else are you listening to out there? Lentfer: We’re always opportunistically looking for mammals making noise, but they’re not that talkative. We got some brown bears eating barnacles. Nels this year got what is probably the single best recording of a wolf ever recorded. It’s an unbelievable recording. Mount: Awesome! What’s it doing? Lentfer: It’s just laying down in the grass about fifty feet from him howling. He’s so close it’s like having a microphone up to this animal’s lips. There’s a little savannah sparrow and a Wilson’s warbler singing alongside the wolf. It’s a stunning recording. We woke up at three or four that morning. We’d just split up. He paddled one way, I paddled the other. While I was sitting in the bushes giving blood to the mosquitoes and recording warblers, Nels was a mile away on a beach recording this wolf. Mount: Walk me through a day out there recording. Lentfer: We typically roll out of the tent around 3 A.M.. Mornings are definitely the best time – not only are the birds really singing, but the winds are often calm and the boats and jets are less active. Even in Glacier Bay, the sound of combusting carbon shuts our work day down by eight or nine in the morning. Mount: Wow, when can you start up again? Lentfer: There’ll be windows throughout the day when

CIRQUE we might grab a little bit of sound, but wind shuts us down, rain shuts us down, engine noise shuts us down. Human noise is the biggest problem facing anyone recording natural sounds. Even in Glacier Bay, where the number of boats are limited, there are still plenty of them and they’re loud. Running water is also a surprising problem. We pretty quickly learned that running water was going to keep us from getting really focused, clear recordings. So we just started looking at the topo map and setting up our gear in flat places. Turns out I live in the quietest spot in the region – this flat river delta right where the town of Gustavus is, just outside the park. There are cars and other noises, but if you wake up before the town the background noise level is in the basement it’s so quiet. Even before I got into recording, I’d come home from traveling through all the airports and freeways and noise associated with moving through cities and just relish and sink and relax into the quiet of this place. And ever more so now. I was down in Sitka last month going for a walk with Nels. It’s a small town, maybe 8,000 people. We walked a road with cars going by about every twenty seconds, passing right off our elbow, and after spending as much as we have listening, it actually felt like being physically hit to have that level of noise come rushing past our ears. For both of us, it felt like a physical assault. Mount: It’s like going into a dance club and having a disco ball and strobe lights. Lentfer: Yeah, and the DJ in that dance club has made his peace with that level of noise. His brain has accommodated it even to the point of relishing it because it’s familiar. And part of what is making our culture increasingly deaf is the need to accommodate the ever-rising levels of noise that we create. You can’t go through your days feeling assaulted by a passing car. So after a while you don’t hear it anymore. Mount: Coming up here from the Lower 48 last week, I feel deafened by the silence, my ears ringing because there’s nothing noisy. Lentfer: People will notice that and respond immediately when they get here. They tend to sleep really well, they tend to relax, and maybe that’s because we’re tensed against the constancy of motion and consistency of noise. But then there’s the deeper response the longer you’re here.


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 Mount: How so? Lentfer: I think you can acoustically come out of your shell and listen to the smallest of sounds. In this very meadow we recorded a vole chewing on ryegrass seeds. You can hear dragonflies nipping the wings off a mosquito. One of my favorite sounds is a rubycrowned kinglet snapping at insects in the air. It’ll fly off a branch to grab a bug I can’t even see and that little beak will go, “Snip snip! Snip snip!” It often takes several snaps before it nails the bug. That beak is the size of a pencil lead. It’s these finer sounds that get revealed in a quiet place and help settle the senses. Mount: And you’re hoping to share these experiences with others through your recordings? Lentfer: This recording project is really just as simple as waking myself and others up to the beauty of this never-ending concert that’s going on all the time around us. It’s like going to the most exquisite performance you’ve ever heard in a great theater and noticing there’s a bunch of people asleep. You can’t help but want to bump ‘em with your elbow and say, “Hey! You don’t want to miss this!” It’s as simple as that. Our recordings are also used by the national park’s ranger naturalists who talk to people visiting on cruise ships. Those folks have a good visual experience but they can’t hear any of it. They’re rendered deaf by the low rumble of the ship underneath their feet. I think these sounds can enhance people’s connection to the place. The recordings will also live at Cornell University for research, say to compare the sound of a hermit thrush from Glacier Bay to the sound of a hermit thrush from someplace else. [Robin chirping] Mount: What do you think that guy’s saying? Lentfer: I was trying to decide whether that guy had just been out of the egg for a few weeks or if he’s been out of the egg for a couple years. [Listening] Mount: Are you concerned at some point your subjects are going to become endangered or extinct and your recordings might be all that’s left? Lentfer: More immediate than outright extinction for the critters we’re recording are just changes. For example, Nels lived for years with Athabascan people who decades ago were remarking to him how much the song of the robin had changed. They were culturally attuned enough to that bird that in the span of an individual’s life they were sensing changes. I suspect if we could send a microphone 500 years back and

119 record a robin here in this meadow, it would sound very different than the robin we’re hearing today. Mount: Has listening to such a fine degree changed your perspectives? Lentfer: Oh sure. For example, I’ve paid attention to birds over the years, but not until I started recording did I actually learn to identify the birds by sound. It’s a really special way to connect. I think at the heart of any spiritual experience is an awareness of the world bigger than ourselves. Listening is just one of the ways to induce that experience. Mount: You’ve spent a huge amount of time listening to wild soundscapes – how do you define natural sound? Lentfer: An intact soundscape is one in which everything is acoustically present. You can hear the full diversity of voices in the place. And it’s quiet. What I mean by quiet is not the absence of sound, but the presence of all the sounds – nothing drowned out by an overabundance of human noise. [Listening] While we’re sitting here talking in this meadow, there’s a bush plane that just dominates everything as it’s flying over, to the point we can’t hear the wind in the trees. As that plane fades away we can just begin to hear the wind, the chirp of a junco, and the sound of my child reading to the neighbor boy in the hammock across the meadow. That’s certainly a pretty and natural sound, having those two kids enraptured in their stories. They’re all part of this soundscape. Mount: So you’re not excluding people from a natural soundscape? Lentfer: I don’t exclude the voice of humans by any means. The sound of human singing or laughter is as gorgeous a voice as any critter around. But we also tend to make a lot of noise with our cars and planes and leaf blowers, which makes it hard to hear the full complement of voices in a place. It’s not that humans don’t have a place in the choir, it’s just that we so often tend to dominate. You can’t have one member of the band turning his amp up louder than everyone else. Mount: Balance is off? Lentfer: The balance is definitely off. If the animals could name humans, we’d be “The Noisy Ones” without a doubt. Collectively we are the loudest thing going. We’ve put sound everywhere. The sound of combusting carbon is as ubiquitous as the sound of wind. Mount: Would you call that kind of human sound natural? Lentfer: We’re getting into philosophy now. Is it possible to have the planet produce an unnatural sound?


120 Mount: You’re not out there recording boats. Lentfer: No, I’m not. I’m trying to record the sounds that we’re not listening to. And I don’t find a lot of beauty in the sound of combusting carbon. It’s usually a monotonous drone, so I tend to avoid it. Mount: Does it matter if a place is full of human sound instead of nonhuman sound? Lentfer: Yeah, for sure. You can’t appreciate what’s not there. There’s a price we pay as we accommodate a rising volume of noise. We turn ourselves off. We’ve got five senses in which to orient ourselves in the world, and to lose one of them is pretty disorienting. The richness of any culture, the true wealth of any place, is found within the diversity of voices. To drown out any person’s or any critter’s voice diminishes a place. Mount: Why do you think it’s important for us to listen to those nonhuman sounds? Lentfer: Foremost it’s just gorgeous and tunes you to a place – which tends to make you really happy. Mount: [Laughs] That’s pretty simple. Lentfer: Yeah. As more and more of us live in humancreated environments, we need tangible ways to remember the diversity of life we’re sharing the planet with. Mount: And sound is one of those ways? Lentfer: Sound is a powerful way. It’s akin to the power of scent. I think we’ve all had the experience of getting a noseful of something we haven’t smelled since we were six and being dropped right back into childhood. Mount: And it takes a pretty potent sound to grab our ears? Lentfer: Humans are visual creatures. We’re not like canines following our noses. And we’re not like deer listening with giant ears. It takes a potent sound to grab our attention – something like a flock of sandhill cranes. Those birds can cut through distant freeway din and people take notice. Mount: Do you think it’s healthy that we have adapted to a noisier world? Lentfer: I think humans are unbelievably resilient. I’ve never been to Bangkok, but I’ve heard it’s pretty damn congested and noisy and I am sure it would be a hard place for me to live. But I hope and trust there are people there living rich and meaningful lives. But there’s also going to be a bunch of people in that place that are cut off from some of their senses. Mount: What do you think happens to us when we are constantly bombarded by human noise?

CIRQUE Lentfer: It’s like perfume overwhelming our sense of smell. Every day you have to put a little more on to be able to smell. Ironically, the stronger the scent or the louder the noise, the less we can smell or hear. So we tuck our earbuds in a little tighter and turn the volume up a little more and hear less and less of the world around us. Mount: Is there any place today that is not impacted by human noise? Lentfer: It’s all a matter of degree. In much of Alaska, you can go several hours without hearing a humancreated sound. But even in the Arctic there are a lot of jets that fly over the pole. We’re spilling sound from 30,000 feet and it flows a long way. Did you hear that? [Scuffling noise] Mount: Yeah, what was it? Lentfer: Think it was a vole. [Listening] Mount: A moment ago you mentioned orienting ourselves in the world using our five senses. Why is it important to have all of our senses fully functional? Lentfer: One of my favorite writers, Scott Russell Sanders, wrote, “If we restore our senses, they in turn will replenish us.” Our only chance of fully understanding our place in the flow of life is to open our senses to the abundance of sights and sounds, tastes, smells, and sensations flowing our way every second of every day. Focusing on the immediacy of the senses makes for a delightful, engaging daily life. When any of our senses go unused we distance ourselves from the world. Mount: How so? Lentfer: When we don’t use our senses, just like an unused muscle they tend to atrophy. Thinking about our senses as rivers, they fill with sediment without a steady current to keep them clean. Close listening is the best and most fun way to clean the channel of hearing. Mount: What’s clogging up our hearing channel? Lentfer: Neglect and self-protection. We live in such a noisy world it’s too painful to have our sense of hearing open wide. It takes a quiet place to have it be a pleasant thing to clean the channel of our hearing. It’s important having these quiet places, whether it’s a city park in Seattle or a national park up here in Alaska. Mount: If someone goes out into a quiet place, how do they practice deep listening? Lentfer: You can start by paying attention to the birds chirping in the nearest park in whatever town you’re in. Just be aware. Just listen. Just begin to pay attention: when do they make noise, when are they


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 quiet, who are they? What might they be saying? It just takes the power of your intention to focus your ears. Mount: If people go out there and start listening, do you think listening can change our actions as a culture? Lentfer: Deepening our listening will certainly deepen our appreciation for the beautiful diversity of voices that surround us. I like to think that when we recognize something as beautiful, we tend to cherish it and strive to have it persist. We can quickly come to recognize the humanity of strangers by listening to their stories. We can likewise nurture a kinship with other creatures by listening to their voices. Mount: Our culture often sees nature as separate from the human world. Is it wrong to see nature as separate from us? Lentfer: Thinking that we’re somehow separate from nature feeds the fallacy that our actions can be separated from the ecosystems we’re living in. Mount: What’s an example? Lentfer: Believing we can pour all this carbon out of our tailpipes and as long as our national park boundaries stay intact we’re somehow ok. In a spiritual context, believing we are separate from nature slides a pretty sturdy deadbolt on a door I don’t think we want to shut. Mount: What happens if we shut it? Lentfer: We live in a house of mirrors. All we can see is ourselves. Mount: All we can hear is ourselves, too. Lentfer: Fortunately we make pretty damn fine company [laughs], but it’s not as rich and diverse as finding ways to swing that door open to the larger-than-human world. Mount: For many years you worked as an activist to protect that larger-than-human world. What made you step away from environmental activism to environmental appreciation? Lentfer: I’m not sure there’s any difference between appreciating the beauties and gifts of the world around us and working to protect it. One feeds the other. It’s true that I am no longer on the road or putting on fancy shoes to walk the halls of congress. But I am looking for ways to share my passion for wild beauties that have survived the industrial revolution. The folks that are doing the hard activism work need to be reminded that not all is lost, that there are still vast, vital landscapes. To be an activist, to look the greed of our politics

121 and our culture in the face is a necessary but very hard act made all the harder if we don’t take the time to remind ourselves what the true wealth is. The acoustic richness of an intact landscape is a small part of the true wealth of the continent that remains. That’s the contribution of recording. It’s still activism, it’s just got a different tone and flavor. Mount: Do you think perceiving wealth in natural sound can help slow the losses? Lentfer: On a small scale, yes. Tuning ourselves to the beauties around us is always a great idea. Focusing on what remains is a great antidote for the sadness of what’s been lost. On a big scale, I’m not so sure. Pit the power of greed against the power of listening, and it feels like Exxon has the upper hand. But given that, the power of wonder and joy in the face of it all becomes even more important to cultivate and share. Mount: What do you think it does to people when they spend time in wild places like this? Lentfer: It makes them childish and happy. Every time I’ve made a trip into wild country I’ve felt myself and my companions become more playful, quick to grin, hungry to laugh. If I had to pick one sound that embodied the experience of living here, it would be laughter. Mount: One of the creatures you’re really connected to here is the sandhill crane. You even called your book Faith of Cranes, and traveled the country to follow their migration. How did you become so interested in these birds? Lentfer: I wasn’t clued into cranes before I moved to Gustavus and had the dumb good luck to build a home right under their flyway. I certainly didn’t choose this spot because the cranes were here. Mount: How did you find out you were building under their flyway? Lentfer: I was literally nailing the boards on the roof and these birds flew over. I’m sure I knew what they were, but I’d never paused or had the opportunity to listen to them at close range. I just stood there, teetering on the roof, gawking. It’s going to be a rare person that can have a crane pass nearby and keep doing whatever it was they were doing. Even in a culture such as ours which is largely a deaf one, we still hear cranes. Like so many other people, I stopped and listened and didn’t go back to pounding nails until they were long gone. Then twenty minutes later another flock came, next day there were more, and every year since. The first bird in spring sends my whole family spilling out of


122 the house to watch and listen to them pass. At first it’s that really loud prehistoric croaking that grabs your attention, but with anything you pay attention to, you naturally want to learn more. Mount: In Faith of Cranes you talk about how your daughter opened your eyes to the beauty of the world. How would you say she’s opened your ears to listening to the world? Lentfer: One of the many gifts of fatherhood has been giving myself permission to be more joyful, because it became obvious what was best for my daughter was to have a joyful father. I’m not sure on my own I would have given myself permission to be that joyful. My movement towards listening closely just because it’s fun – that’s an offshoot of a gift from my kid. Kids obviously start out so wondrous. Listening is a manifestation of wonder. Linnea’s definitely helped rekindle that sense of wonder that I started walking away from when I was five. Mount: She’s made you into a kid again? Lentfer: Yeah. She’s twelve now, so she’s getting more and more concerned about the state of the world while I’m getting more childish. In some ways, it’s like we’re swapping places. Mount: That’s got to be challenging to watch. Lentfer: It is. I don’t envy her the terrain she has to negotiate when she comes to learn more and more about the losses that have happened and are coming at an ever faster pace. Mount: How do you raise a child today given the state of the world? Lentfer: My daughter, given the house she’s grown up in, has heard more about planetary concerns than any twelve-year-old should ever have to wrap her head around. So I try to share with her what I love and minimize what it is I’m afraid of. Mount: What are you afraid of? Lentfer: The loss of things I’ve come to cherish. Mount: Such as? Lentfer: The chance to hear a wolf when I step out of my house in the morning. The depth of quiet and breadth of wildness required for that howling wolf is a tenuous thing at this stage of industrial conquest. Nurturing my child’s love of wild things while knowing she’ll have to navigate a lot of loss is a hard thing. It’s like watching your kid grow up to fall in love with somebody and you know their sweetie has cancer. It’s not that you would wish them not to fall in love, but just to know that they’re getting set up for

CIRQUE some heartbreak and caretaking which is not what they initially signed up for. Mount: How has listening in wild places made you feel about our future? Lentfer: Calculating carbon, tracking birth rates, documenting diminishing sea ice – it all adds up to an avalanche of bad news. But, at the same time, I have an ever-growing faith and optimism in the human spirit to rise up in the face of strife and stress, engage in generous and kind and fantastic acts of love. Preparing my daughter for a changing future is really fertilizing the space in which we might find it in ourselves to respond with great love to stressful situations. My faith is rooted in the belief that there is never a shortage of tender and generous and lovefilled acts to engage in. I’m utterly convinced of that. And if that’s really true, and our work is simply to cultivate that capacity in ourselves, then what is there really to be afraid of?

Turquoise Scenic Glacier

Cynthia Steele


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F E AT U R E Steve Rubenstein

A Tribute to Derick Burleson It begins with a glisten metamorphosis at the core of the language the river speaks to itself all winter a stronger angle of April sun gray loess on the snow the river eating ice from below until comes release in a surge of broken ice and floods the ice dams cause. What was frozen breaks free and the river braids new braids and tendrils to the sea and so becomes again the sea drifting new icebergs toward an old center levitated in air’s heat transubstantiated to cloud. --from “Melt”

essayist, researcher and Derick’s colleague, his friend. The Toyota is still on the road but only barely. It has not been able to make the once annual 700 mile trip from Derick’s home up north in Two Rivers down to Homer for over a year.

So begins Melt, Derick Burleson’s third book of poetry. This was the one that rushed out of him with the urgency of a river suddenly freed from the lingering grip of winter made manifest in a late spring ice dam. When the dam broke apart the book length poem poured out intent on helping him reconcile one very intimate and immediate loss in his own life and one seemingly very imminent one in all of ours. I first heard Melt in manuscript form read aloud from the tailgate of Derick’s life-battered Toyota pickup truck on the windy beach of the Homer Spit. It was raw and turbulent and he was still swimming hard, reaching for anything but shore being carried downstream by a current beyond his control but not willing to haul out just yet. He craved that swell and surge that brought him poems at least as much as he enjoyed the safety of dry land. That was in the summer of 2010. Derick was on sabbatical from his job as professor of creative writing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Derick had followed a rather familiar path to those who came from further south to eventually make Alaska home. His own early days were spent on a tractor in Oklahoma in a small town where, as one of his students recalled at his memorial celebration, “it felt as queer to write poetry as it is to be queer, let alone like to read books.” But Derick loved books and he loved writing. So too, he loved teaching writing. That love would eventually carry him to Houston then Montana and eventually up to Alaska. He arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska pulled by the lure of the north with its mystical northern lights and, perhaps just as alluring to him, this country’s large wild salmon and halibut. If he was not writing, Derick was most often fishing or planning to go fishing. He also came north pushed by the quiet grief of the dissolution of his marriage down in Texas. Urged onward by anguish, he found peace and inspiration and a place he would declare home.

Flip the pages now quickly to the end of the story, and summer has been left behind. In its stead is an overcast and somewhat blustery day in Palmer, Alaska. It is 2016, late December at the tail end of a year whose beginning up here was marked by the passing of Eva Saulitis, poet,

I got a call that morning from a friend up in Fairbanks, a friend of mine and a friend of Derick. Facebook had told her that Derick had passed away. Word of his death had made the supersonic trip from Fairbanks down to California and then back up to Fairbanks before it ricocheted down to me in Palmer. The whole virtual trip took less than an hour. She was trying to confirm if it was actually true. Facebook is fast with both rumors and truths. It took three times as long to confirm the sad news. We had almost made it out of 2016, a year that ushered many creative voices onward, without one more loss. But, not quite.

The making of a place called home was central to Derick’s life and his writing. He gravitated toward people and places that became a part of him and that forged his own identity from which his work could not easily be separated. He made his living from writing and teaching writing. In the long and darker days of winter he also


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CIRQUE journey, from the farm boy who feels too much and writes only secretively at first to his goal of becoming a recognized poet, teacher of writing, father and always, still a fisherman not once removed from the rivers around him. Derick’s students heard him recount when reading the Oklahoma poems how poetry helped him survive his younger years and find direction for the rest. Heard him tell the story of how poems recited from memory helped him and a busload of westerners make it through the night as they struggled to make it out of Rwanda. But, it was his third book, Melt, that truly showed Derick’s more fearful and vulnerable self and stands as an example of poetry holding him up in difficult times. Derick Burleson

painted. His paintings like his poems reflected intense and almost obsessive observation of the land directly around him and the people closest to him. Both were the focus of his many works. But, his art did not so much chronicle his life as shape it. Derick crafted and published four books of poetry, the last one titled, Use. Each framed a period in his life dominated by either the single-minded pursuit of a goal or alternately the pursuit of him by a life experience determined to teach him something new. Singular pursuit or doggedly pursued, each experience was intensely observed with only a minor and tempered effort at achieving a writer’s reflective distance. His first, Ejo: Poems, Rwanda, which paints a portrait of his life teaching at the National University there and eventually, reluctantly fleeing the genocide in 1994, was awarded the Felix Pollack Prize in Poetry. His mentor, Edward Hirsch said of Ejo, “[this] wonderfully daring and unified collection of poems about Rwanda is so empathic, so bracing and forthright, so richly humane…we come away from its testament radically deepened, shaken, enlivened, and changed.”

In public readings Derick seemed to connect effortlessly with those who came to listen. His heart was big and quick connection with his students and listeners came easily to him. His writing was carefully formed and constructed with a deep understanding of the craft and its forms. Yet Melt, was raw lament that he molded just enough to please its publisher. Throughout its pages, Derick lets us in to see for ourselves how he struggled with the many inevitable losses that accompany a life in which one allows oneself to love and love deeply. For him this meant love for the people who filled his life, for the place he dared to stay put in and call home despite the challenges that created for building an academic career and, not lastly, for how, as he said on many occasions, for how he loved poetry itself.

Then in Never Night, Derick takes us on a journey, his Artwork by Derick Burleson


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REVIEWS Review by Paul Haeder

The Matter of the Deserted Airliner, by Steve Levi The Heart and Soul of a Detective Novel Set in Alaska: hard-boiled characters, history asides and the Great North Publication Consultants, Anchorage, AK, 2017 The who-done-it or AKA the detective-police-crime book is a special category that is voraciously eaten up – read – by a select group of readers. Walking through the steps of solving a crime seems to be an American literary tradition that never stales in the eyes of the aficionado. For Alaska writer Steve Levi, a big plane with 89 hostages – disappears early in the story – and a crime- solving mishmash of protagonists set in Anchorage seem to be the perfect combination to set down a trail of clues so the reader stays enthralled all the way to the very end of his new book, The Matter of the Deserted Airliner.

factual occurrences that have defined Alaska as a unique place to live and work. Six years ago, Levi, interviewed by History Press West, gave this answer to their question about the one thing he loved or hated about living in Alaska. Levi, who has a love of researching the unusual and unique in Alaska’s early and present day history, replied: “Alaska is the land of promise. That’s because there are so few people you can actually find unique subjects for books. In California, there are thousands of researchers better than me looking for unique subjects. In Alaska, there are a dozen.”

His goal is to develop “one-of-akind” novels around realistic but The story sets off with the hyper-unusual circumstances. powerful third person omniscient He did that in his first novel, The narrator opening up his closet of Phantom Greyhound, about bank characters that sets the stage for robbers with a dozen hostages this modern crime story when and $10 million in cash in a Unicorn Flight 739 from SEATAC Greyhound bus that vanishes off Steve Levi lands at the Anchorage airport the Golden Gate Bridge. “This is with no crew or passengers. not science fiction. The detective is called in to figure out how they This look at Levi’s latest fiction will not be a spoiler alert managed to vanish into thin air and where the bus, bank rift review. What we will see is how Levi crafts a very robbers, hostages, and money are.” simple and conversational milieu and cast of characters around a straightforward crime – sort of – to push the So in Deserted Airliner, Levi introduces us to a hardreader to sit back and follow the clipped dialogue and bitten cop, Heinz Noonan, an affable captain from the unlikely cast of cops and criminals go through to the very Sandersonville PD (North Carolina) who happens to be last chapter to unravel a crime. visiting his in-laws in Alaska when the crime takes place. This fellow is known as the “Bearded Holmes” (as in In many ways, Levi is an archeologist of narratives and Sherlock), and early we see Noonan’s magnetic pull to the


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Land of the Midnight Sun when in the summer the sun rises at 1 am and sets at 4 am. Levi’s narrator spikes the 77-chapter novel with all sorts of Alaska-isms and notable factoids. Right from the getgo, we see how the visiting North Carolina cop enjoys the pedestrian town called Anchorage: After all, he had to put up with his four sistersin-law and their families along with a gaggle of collaterals who wasted his time demanding he talk of old cases, new theories or prognostication of where criminal forensics was going in the next millennium… However, there was a very big upside. The in-laws all lived in Anchorage which is a l-o-n-g way from Sandersonville, North Carolina. Alaska is a long way from anywhere. It is also a long way from anywhere so crowded you feel as though you were living on an anthill. It had just enough cabs you can always find one, few enough people

The author is liberal with his Alaska and Anchorage history, so the Encyclopedia Britannica buff will enjoy the straightforward crime novel with all the compelling history asides. A town of 300,000, Anchorage is a tourist haven for those three summer months, with more than a million people coming through the Anchorage Airport. My hat is tipped to Levi for pursuing what he’s been passionate about going on 40 years in Alaska. In his own words, he has as a deep abiding interest in telling stories and teaching storytelling. Here what it says about him in the Alaska Writers’ Directory: A 40-year resident of Anchorage, he has written 80 books. His nonfiction books on Alaska history include Boom to Bust in the Alaska Gold Fields, an historical forensic investigation into the sinking of Alaska’s ghost ship, the Clara Nevada, as well as a history of Alaska’s bush pilot heritage, Cowboys of The Sky. He is also dedicated to making history interesting to young readers. His Making History


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Vo l . 8 N o . 2 Interesting to Students series on Kindle is a collection of eight books specifically written to teach middle and high school students what they are supposed to be learning in their history classes… The historian Levi really comes through the patina of crime fiction in Chapter 7 where the narrator describes the geology and oceanography of Anchorage, Knik Arm, and the Chugach Mountains: “When the salt water was plowing up from the Pacific Ocean it enters Cook Inlet, the wide mouth spreads and flattens the incoming tide. Then, like honey being poured on a table, it layers as it moves.” So, while the reader is moving along with the narrator and this cast of characters and antagonists, he or she gets a taste of the setting for this story – all the way back to 1778 with Captain James Cook when he was searching for the fabled Northwest Passage and wound up in an inlet that he named Turnagain Arm. The plot is pretty basic, with some twists and turns, techniques of a seasoned crime drama writer to keep the reader flipping pages. We have an ultralight and helicopter chase over Anchorage, and we have daring motorcyclist scenes. Through the story, the old Chief of Police from North Carolina is shepherding Ayanna into becoming a crack-shot crime investigator. In the last chapter Levi whets the readers’ appetite for another story, a sequel, with Gerry the news reporter and the diamond thief (extortionist) chatting away on cell phones about another caper in the offing. Levi gets what readers want in this style and masters the formula for this range of fiction. He anticipates the need for readers of books like his to get bang for the storytelling buck. The Matter of the Deserted Airliner is a fast-paced, dialogue-heavy, descriptive journey for the reader who wants to cut to the chase and who demands zero literary layering. Maybe the epigram spoken by Detective Heinz Noonan at the beginning of Levi’s latest novel defines the book and Levi’s writing acumen: “Just because something is obvious does not make it true.”. I understand the longing for simple dialogue, unimpeded narration, and black and white characters, thrown into a plot with all manner of twists and turns. For anyone looking for a Land of the Midnight Sun summer read, try Levi’s new book.

Ashland Creek

Geri Mathewson

Review by Sean Ulman

Mark Making, by David McElroy

Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, KY, 2016 David McElroy’s new poetry collection, Mark Making begins on a plane just “short of a good gravel runway in the arctic.” The personal collection takes readers up, through turbulence, to new views, and back down, “grounded and found.” McElroy, a poet whose own stories ride up kettles of polished language and soar, is also a professional pilot. I found myself recalling relaxing times on planes, perhaps to approach McElroy’s routine sky-eye point of view. Mark Making lies between long flight and puddle jump. Definitely scenic, a lot of arctic. It’s four sections, 31 poems. The poet parcels spare word portraits, but pages fill with sentences and lyrics of compact image and sound. About to takeoff in the opening poem, he’s asked, “What’s your story? And throughout the collection he gets a ways in telling us. He has poems close about his family. His son riding “inside my coat, sleeping or peeking out, round raccoon, so newly human”; his father, recalled aging on his Wisconsin farm, “your cramped hands between your legs, warmed by the softness of your brown leathery balls.” Most poems are first person point of view. The “I” seems to be mostly McElroy. I’ve always been curious about nonfiction vs. fiction in poetry. What’s more


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common, appropriate? This collection made some clever contributions to my ongoing ponderings. When McElroy depicts a nadir life moment in the poem “-10,” I wonder which dejected individual he pictures in the bed, in no hurry to start the day, stuck wishing… Are we hearing McElroy the poet, or McElroy the man? Or any man? Or every man? Myself?: Winter in the bed. … Dawn comes unstuck like a tool drawer. … Coming from sleep, that surgery. … I wish one (lover) were here. … I wish I were important. There’s a lot of logical longing in Mark Making… for bright things we’ve experienced and likely won’t again. David McElroy

…Firecrew women don’t strip clean and swim this time. No summer midnight light, and none flings arcs of diamonds from her hair. For the fun of testing mannequin debunkings of the sweet-n-sour absolute – we all only get one life. McElroy’s poems know this, but they get leverage by hedging the edge of such a truth. The old addling riddle of how to step into another’s shoes. In the poem “Balkan Cleansing” “Our brother?” made taciturn only says, “I never quit. Never. I am the river in the cedars.” “For Kevin” gets at thinking as another, and it touches on another big theme of the book: even as our moods sink to their lowest low, we can dream of ascending above our loftiest highs. I get that lonely sometimes. Technically I know just how good your good dreams are – perhaps your rocket wracking through space, an older woman taking you in… … believe in magic…

I think flying on a plane carries chances to separate from ourselves, to contemplatively drift further from our lives on the ground as we travel at cruising altitude. Lately I’m lucking into some serene moments on flights – a new novel slipping out of my hand as I drift to sleep, the peacefulness of so many sleepers around me, windows on silver clouds cloaking snow-sugared mountain spurs, a breakthrough idea for a new novel. Such moments cause me to feel in no hurry for the flight to end. Reading Mark Making felt like that. Language, new images, highs-n-lows, pride, doubt, women, beauty, wildlife… I wanted to stay up in the exotic escape of these poems’ skies. Composers appear regularly in Mark Making, providing symphonic jolts. Cops approach vehicles, but spice their roles as rigid rule-keepers with sporty leniency. Thrushes sing. Women spike loitering libidos. Things get fixed by poetic tools. Bring ladders, bring hammers, music and milk, box of blue vowels, pail of green fern. Bring crocus and thrush. Bring soap. Kiss your language in, and nail the daylight down.


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The book beckons and slakes language lovers. Being exposed to new words: “swarf, kerf, pizzicato, cymbalon, vivaporous…” will improve my Scrabble game. I enjoy being bathed and lulled with words, then (Wham!) whacked with an unexpected word or phrase. Next door in air rich with chickens nothing’s louder than the Bach darkly perky. Engaged head down, ideas kick black water hard while sunroom curtains puff chintz in a cool chartreuse. By Mark Making’s final section (also titled “Mark Making”), McElroy has already made his mark (on the collection). But this is where I thought he stylistically hit his mark. Like: {on your [mark}(s) the spot]. The first three sections weave links that mix and match; the third feels most whole, consistent, keen. Again the poet dreams of denting the ultimate, this time in the title track. Write big, you say, big as the whole road. The light on the mountains washes in on mist splashing spruce, and somewhere a thrush is making the capes and ranges echo bluer and bluer. With the rub of a pen-tip to page, or punch of keyboard pounds, McElroy lifts the listener to some aesthetic arenas on plane with sky-spaces that prop planes ply. One of my favorite poems, “Troubleshooter,“ featured a futuristic handyman, who I can easily imagine stepping out on a flying plane’s wing to make repairs. I’m your man. My eyes are clear, my hands are clean… I check the technicalities of peace: handle, lever, chain, flapper valve It was a hoot seeing this unconventional plumber pitch for jobs on the page, appraising (and praising) the range of his prowess – fastened nuts & bolts to fast/flashy philosophy.

I fix all this… …I beef up quality control, hold meetings, retrain, and retool. Instead of milling, the water knife with garnet dust, through pinhole and high pressure, cuts dull steel bright. No burl, no swarf. For toughest jobs there’s roots and moon, spells at midnight. For loss, we’ve naught but time’s tool. The listener can hear the clacks and clinks of quippy equipment, see neon gnaw on metal. The final stanza stands as a savvy cadenza. I follow the horns and fluid hammers out along the riff to the final note where the beat in the heart breaks in a bath of gritty beauty. What machining is that? What liquid cuts like that, cuts and cleans, cures with a perfect kerf? Its relevance to repairs paired well with a preluding poem (5th of 31), “Toolkit,” which opens:


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A dictionary, pen n pad, and an open arty appetite could all serve as guiding radar gadgets, but readers need not bring a single thing when they settle into their first (or fifth) read of Mark Making. All parts are

included in this sovereign collection. As I stretch out of its trance and return to full upright and locked position, I imagine the book as a pouch of phonic gems stitched into a parachute, an open-bar beverage cart too narrow to ever bump an elbow, a spanning sky spun inverted so chrome clouds clumped in a curve conjure nevershadowed crystal coastline.

Review by Mike Burwell

The Magic of Mariachi, by Steven and Reefka Schneider WingsPress, San Antonio, TX, 2016

With the ongoing and official government assault on America’s southern borderlands, Steven and Reefka Schneider’s book The Magic of Mariachi / La Magia del Mariachi forges a necessary corrective to this mean-spirited rhetoric. It is a stunning ekphrastic

Waiting to Play

Reefka Schneider

Reefka

collaboration that merges Reefka Schneider’s dazzling portraits of borderland mariachi musicians with Steven’s poignant and pointed responses to these images. Their collaborative work has appeared before in the pages of Cirque; in fact, Steve’s poem “The Long Camino” along with Reefka’s full page image of the same name premiered in the Winter Solstice 2014 issue (Vol. 6, No. 1) and presaged the book’s publication by WingsPress in 2016. The Magic of Mariachi could also be called the bookend to their ongoing work blending visual image and poetry about southern borderland culture. Their first collaboration, Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives, featured


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131 You cannot tell from the way I am dressed In my green traje de charro, An orange sash around my waist… How I have lived in the shadows for so many years, Trapped between two countries, Between two lenguas, Between the Río that divides And the checkpoint that halts… These poems depict younger mariachi musicians discovering their paths to freedom through the medium of music and older musicians yearning for past glories and friendships made from the songs that bound them together in the vital culture of mariachi music. And always we see here in the art and in the poems a musical culture affirming self-determination with each note played, each lyric word sung. In his poems, Schneider captures this same rarefied and lyrical world. The poem “Watching la Guítarronera” embodies this best: We dedicated ourselves in Jalisco To the playing of music in our youth Dreaming to become star-struck mariachis With the vastness of the world in our hands, At your fingertips your blue guitarrón, In mine the vihuela each moonlit night.

Steven Schneider

drawings and writings about people living and working along the U.S. / Mexico border. Both books are bilingual and The Magic of Mariachi features translations by Edna Ochoa. The Magic of Mariachi features two-dozen of Reefka’s luminous paintings—each of a musician—paired with one of Steven’s poems and an Ochoa translation into Spanish. Reefka’s images suggest intense feeling and Steven extends this emotional resonance and takes us even deeper into these felt dimensions by taking on the narrators’ stories that sometimes reflect on border history, sometimes on the simple excitement of performance, but always deepening each musician’s struggle for personal freedom in the face of cultural oppression. In “Waiting to Play” the female narrator relates:

Other favorite poems in the collection--where Schneider experiments feely with a number of poetic forms such as the haiku, villanelle, sestina, and triolet—are “Lost in la Música,” “Armonía in Green and Yellow, “ “Mariachi Juveníl, “ and the poem we published in Cirque “The Long Camino.” The Magic of Mariachi is just that—magical. Here art and poetry enlighten us about music, forging a rich synesthetic feast that will delight and astonish you.


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CONTRIBUTORS Tele Aadsen began her Alaskan commercial fishing career at the age of seven, when she sold her first catch for the price of an ice cream cone at Sitka’s Dip-N-Sip. Thirty-two seasons later, she has crewed for halibut, black cod, albacore, and shrimp, yet salmon trolling remains her true love. She spends summers in Southeast Alaska aboard the F/V Nerka (with partner Joel and Chief Morale Officer Bear the Boat Cat), and winters in Washington, where she self-markets their catch and revises a memoir. Her name is pronounced “Tell-ah,” and you can find her work at www.teleaadsen. com. Luther Allen writes poems and designs buildings from Sumas Mountain, Washington. He facilitates SpeakEasy, a community poetry reading series in Bellingham. He is co-editor of Noisy Water, a poetry anthology featuring 101 local poets. His collection of poems, The View from Lummi Island, can be found at http://othermindpress.wordpress.com Kat Anderson is a poet, muralist, and multi-media artist. Although born in Seattle, Kat was drawn to venture to Alaska every few years, finally relocating to her Northern Home in 2009. A member of Blue Canoe Writers, she and her son, Silas, split their time between Homer, Alaska and the Sonoran Desert. Jennifer Andrulli, Artist, healer, helper and world friend. Enjoying the journey of life. Sharing my visions. Holding space for transformation and transitions to the possible human. Anchorage, AK. Alexandra Ellen Appel, formally of Anchorage, now lives, teaches and writes in Boise Idaho. Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon. She has a chapbook, Forms Most Marvelous, forthcoming from dancing girl press (summer 2017). Her recent poems can be found in: Oyez, The Cincinnati Review, Red Paint Hill, The Ekphrastic Review, Noble Gas Quarterly, Timberline Review, Trailhead Magazine, Vector, and Permafrost. Scott Banks is an Anchorage writer living in the foothills of the Chugach Range. His poetry and photography have been published in previous issues of Cirque, and in Stoneboat and 49 Writers online. His poem, I Wore Cowboy Boots to Work Today was runner up in the Harold McCracken Endowment Poetry Contest. His nonfiction has been published in American Heritage, Gray’s Sporting Journal, The Drake, Fish Alaska, We Alaskans and Alaska Magazine, among others. He has an MFA from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Carol Barrett holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing. She coordinates the Creative Writing Certificate Program at Union Institute & University. Her books include Calling in the Bones, which won the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press. Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies including JAMA, Poetry International, Nimrod, Poetry Northwest, and The Women’s Review of Books. A former NEA Fellow in Poetry, she lives in Bend, OR.

lery in Medicine Hat, Alberta July and August 2017. You can also find her work at Art House Carcross, in Carcross, Yukon. Bauberger has lived in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, for 14 years now in a house made of steel, with her partner Dean Eyre, and her stepdaughter Ariel. Find out more at www.nicolebauberger.com Originally from New York City, Robert Bharda has resided in the Northwest U.S. where for the last 35 years he has specialized in vintage photographica as a profession, everything from salt prints to polaroids. His illustrations/artwork have appeared in numerous publications, both in the U.S. and abroad, and are current on covers of Naugatuck River Review, Blue Five NoteBook, and within recently published Cirque and Rio Grande Review. His portfolios of images have been featured in Cahoodahoodaling, Blue Five, Superstition, AADUNA, Serving House Journal, The Adirondack Review and are forthcoming in The Critical Pass and Santa Clara Review. Also a writer, his poetry, fiction and critical reviews have been published in The North American Review, Northwest Review, Shenandoah, Quarterly West, Willow Springs, ACM, Cutbank, Fine Madness, Kansas Quarterly, Yellow Silk, Poets On, Conclave and many others, including anthologies. Sally Biggar moved to the Olympic Peninsula 25 years ago from her native state of Maine. The first thing she does every morning is check to see if Mt. Rainier is out. She began writing poetry in 2010, rather late in her life. A member of the Port Townsend renku group, she enjoys the challenge and unpredictable nature of collaborative linked verse, and feels a delightful afternoon composing a renku with friends brings a joyful balance to the solitary life of a writer. Her solo work can be found in bottle rockets, A Hundred Gourds, Ribbons, Moonbathing, Daily Haiku and tinywords. Katherine “Pinky” Bleth was born in Stockton, California and lives with her husband in Seward, Alaska. She moved to Alaska in 1985 and lived in Barrow for twelve years. She worked as a medical billing/coder for over forty years until she retired in 2014. She now enjoys fulfilling her passion for creating jewelry, cooking, and photography. She published her first cookbook in the winter of 2012, called Recipes from Seward, Alaska. She also wrote the recipes for the Seward Journal newspaper from 2013 to 2015. As an amateur photographer, she focuses on the gorgeous landscape and wildlife of Seward. Karen Vande Bossche is a poet and short story writer who teaches middle school in Bellingham, Washington. She was born in Illinois, raised in California, and is currently settled in the Pacific Northwest. Her publications are included in such journals as River Poets Anthology, Crack the Spine, Sweet Tree Review, Cirque and many others. Karen has been writing for over half a century and believes she has at least another half century worth of poems and stories to share.

Dave Barrett lives and writes out of Missoula, Montana. His fiction has appeared most recently in Prole, the Potomac Review and Midwestern Gothic. He teaches writing at the University of Montana and is at work on a new novel.

Jack Broom - I am a Seattle native and a journalism graduate of Western Washington University. I worked for three years at The Wenatchee World, and then went to The Seattle Times, where I recently retired after 39 years as a reporter and editor. I am an amateur photographer and a member of the Puget Sound Camera Club.

Nicole Bauberger has been making innovative exhibitions since 1993. Her series of 220 one foot square oil paintings created at the roadside every 50 km spans Canada from East to West to North. You can see Get There From Here, the resulting touring exhibition, at the Esplanade Gal-

Stephen Brown - I am twenty-four year old graduate of Colorado State University, where I received my B.A. in English. At Colorado State I won first place prize in the Nonfiction category of the 2014 Creative Writing Scholarship Competition and had poetry published in the student liter-


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Vo l . 8 N o . 2 ary magazine, The Greyrock Review. I currently reside in Red Lodge, MT, where I am studying and writing on its wilderness with my puppy apprentice, Screefield. Mark Burke - My work has been published or is forthcoming in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Southern Humanities Review, Sugar House Review and other publications. Mike Burwell’s poems have appeared in Abiko Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, Ice-Floe, Pacific Review, Poems & Plays, and a number of anthologies, including Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment, 2008. His poetry collection Cartography of Water was published by NorthShore Press in 2007, and in 2009 he founded the literary journal Cirque. Pam Butcher is a lifelong Alaskan, born in Anchorage and living, working, and raising her family there. Her photos have been previously published in Cirque and have won local awards. Nature and natural settings inspire her to shoot photos, create fiber art, draw, and paint. As an avid reader, words also set the stage for creative works, including typographic creations. Sharing space in Cirque with creative writers is an honor and a pleasure.

ard Hugo at the University of Montana and left for his first Poets-in-the Schools residency on the day Hugo died. He’s received a Pushcart Prize nomination for poetry and a GE Young Writers Award nomination for literary essay. His poems have appeared in The Potomac Review, Poets/ Painters/Composers, Blue Unicorn, Shadow Road Quarterly, CutBank, Cirque, and the Permanent Press anthology Crossing the River: Poets of the Western United States. After spending most of two decades in Seattle, he lives with his wife in Missoula. Kimberly Davis is Alaskan born & raised. As a local residential gardener, Kim is inspired by the beautiful flora that surrounds her summer days. She has a great love of travel, photography & getting outdoors on adventures especially with her grandchildren. Poet/photographer Steve Dieffenbacher’s work has appeared in the last two issues of Cirque. His full-length book of poems, The Sky Is a Bird of Sorrow, was published by Wordcraft of Oregon in 2012. The collection won a ForeWord Reviews 2013 Bronze Award for poetry. A poem in the book, “Night Singer, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico,” was named a 2013 Spur Award poetry finalist by the Western Writers of America. He has

Nancy Canyon was born in Portland, OR; then moved to Spokane, WA where she lived until the 80s. She currently lives in Bellingham, WA where she paints daily in her Fairhaven Artist Studio. She has been painting and writing since childhood, loving to capture a sense of place. Her paintings are published on-line, in print journals, and as book covers. She shows paintings in Bellingham, Edmonds, Seattle, Spokane, and more. More about Nancy at http://canyonwriter.blogspot.com and www.nancycanyon.com Doug Capra has written poetry, plays, essays, history, and biography. He lives in Seward, and is the author of The Spaces Between: Stories from the Kenai Mountains to the Kenai Fjords. Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon Territory, she resides in Sitka, Alaska with her husband and photographer Bruce Christianson, and daughter Rie. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) through the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2016. Kersten’s recent work has appeared in Cirque, Tidal Echoes, and Sheila-Na-Gig. Her poetry collection Something Yet to Be Named by Aldrich Press along with a chapbook titled What Caught Raven’s Eye by Petroglyph Press are forthcoming in 2017. Kersten co-edits the quarterly journal Alaska Women Speak. She blogs at www.kerstenchristianson.com The North West is the best of the world. Nard Claar has spent many years exploring the North West taking in the view by vehicle, walking, biking, and kayak. Love came to him in Alaska. The roots of mystery and magic are deep in the stone and earth and water of this natural world. He brings back the sense of place by way of poems, art, and photography. Visit his site: NARDCLAAR.COM Linda Conroy lives in Bellingham, Washington and believes that poetry serves to honor the complexity and simplicity of human nature. In the process of writing it, we discover the unexpected in ourselves and others, the ordinary, and the unique. Michael Daley has published four collections of poetry: The Straits, To Curve, Moonlight in the Redemptive Forest, and Of a Feather; several chapbooks, a book of essays (Way Out There) and a translation of Italian poems (Alter Mundus by Lucia Gazzino). His poems, essays and stories have been published widely in journals and anthologies. He lives near Deception Pass in Washington state. Scott Davidson grew up in Great Falls, Montana. He studied with Rich-

Painting

Kat Anderson


134 won awards in Oregon for spot news photography, sports photography, portrait photography, and the photo essay in his years as a photojournalist. He lives in Medford, Oregon. Patrick Dixon is a writer and photographer retired from careers in teaching and commercial fishing. Raised in Indiana, he grew up in Alaska and moved to Olympia, Washington in 1998. Published in Cirque, Oregon Coast, The Journal of Family Life, Oberon, and Smithsonian, he is poetry editor for National Fisherman magazine and their quarterly, North Pacific Focus. He is a member of the FisherPoets organizing committee. He is the editor of The Fisherpoets Anthology: Anchored in Deep Water. His chapbook Arc of Visibility won the 2015 Alabama State Poetry Morris Memorial competition. Victoria Doerper is a Bellingham writer of memoir, non-fiction, and poetry. Her poetry appears in Sue C. Boynton 2013 Winning Poems; Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington; Clover: A Literary Rag; and Cirque. Her prose appears in Orion Magazine and in the Red Wheelbarrow Writers Anthology Memory into Memoir. She is currently writing a memoir about her husband’s garden. Lauren Ebright is an emerging poet living in Seattle, Washington. Her work can most recently be seen online at Dime Show Review. Gene Ervine has been writing poems since being encouraged by two high school teachers in the previous millennium. He likes Alaska and feels that he is a citizen of its land and seascapes and people. He wants to reflect that landscape and Alaskan experience in his poems. He lives in Anchorage. My name is Matthew Ryan Evans. I was born in Oliver, BC, a small town in the South Okanagan. I grew up in rural Alberta after a short stretch in the Northwest Territories. Today, I live and write in Edmonton, Alberta, where I work for a commercial bank, doing corporate finance and investor relations. My poems are meditations on the interplay between dreams and the natural world. They are typically impressionistic, occasionally narrative; sometimes cryptic. Or in other words, they are imitations of the way memory works in the mind. Christy Everett lives is Seward Alaska, at the end of the road, where the pavement turns to gravel and leads to the Tonsina Trail, a footpath along Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Mountains. A slam poet, essayist, mother,

CIRQUE storyteller, and blogger, she writes about her life at: followingelias.com Asha Falcon was born in Boston and grew up in Southwest Alaska. She is a graduate of The California College of Arts and Ohio State University. A Pushcart nominee, Falcon’s poems, essays, and stories have appeared in Iron Horse Review, Calyx, Ellipsis, Arcadia, and elsewhere. “Pollen Storm” was first published in Arcadia in 2016. Cassandra Farrin lives in Emmett, Idaho and is the editor of Polebridge Press. Her poem “On the Origin of the World” is forthcoming in Gender Violence, Rape Culture, and Religion (Palgrave Macmillan), and her essays on Buddhism and Christianity regularly appear in Progressive Christianity’s “Transformation Now” series. Kerry Feldman - After retiring from the anthropology department of the University of Alaska Anchorage, after four decades, I have time for my youthful passion—creative writing. This story comes from a leave I took to the USC School of Cinema and Film in Los Angeles and scenes I wrote for a screenplay class. Fascinating setting—southern California—with an assortment of one-of-a-kind characters like in, say, Alaska. Art teacher and Greenpeace activist in a former life, Paul Fisher studied at the University of Washington and earned an MFA from New England College. His first book, Rumors of Shore, won the 2009 Blue Light Book Award. His second, An Exaltation of Tongues, is forthcoming from MoonPath Press. Paul’s poems have appeared in journals including The Antioch Review, Cave Wall, Cirque, Cutthroat, Crab Creek Review, Nimrod, Switchedon Gutenberg, and the best-selling anthology, River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century. Paul lives in Seattle with his wife, two bossy cats, and a five-pound poodle. Giovanna Gambardella is an architect born and raised in Italy and living in Alaska since 2001. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Genoa, School of Architecture. She had the opportunity to live, work, and study in Italy, Spain, Micronesia, and the US. She loves to travel and so developed an interest in photography. In the US, she designed multiple building types, including libraries, museums, schools, medical office buildings, and multi-family residences. She approaches design with creativity and patience, always keeping the users in mind. Design contributions in Alaska include projects in Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Wasilla, the Kenai Peninsula, and Alaska interiors. Brad Gooch lives in Portland, Oregon. He studied painting at the University of Wisconsin, earning a B.S. in fine art in 1979. Having first seen the West on hitch-hiking trips, he moved to Portland in 1979. After many years as a graphic designer for a large electric utility, he has returned primarily to painting. He paints places where he hikes and travels that hold meaning for him. In 2017 he had paintings in juried shows in Attleboro Arts Museum, Attleboro, MA; Umpqua Valley Arts Association, Roseburg, Oregon; and Au Naturel, Astoria, Oregon. Rebecca Goodrich was raised by an inventor, an English major, and a cat. In 1994 she jettisoned the glitter of California to build a houseboat in Dutch Harbor. Goodrich has a little book, exclusively on Smashwords.com: Emergency Rations: How One Young Tail Gunner Survived World War Two. Previously a bookstore clerk, book buyer, magazine freelancer,

Opening to New Life

Jennifer Andrulli


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Vo l . 8 N o . 2 journalist for The Dutch Harbor Fisherman, and stringer for KDLG, she has won awards for haiku, essay, poetry, book review column (F Magazine), and radio commentary (AK Show). Goodrich is a consulting editor in Anchorage, Alaska, and currently at work on her Dutch Harbor memoir. Paul Haeder lives and writes in Vancouver, WA and works in Portland as a homeless advocate for a large non-profit. He’s been a dive master in the Sea of Cortes and Cozumel; newspaper journalist in Bisbee and a dozen other places; an adult skills instructor in prisons and on military bases; college professor of composition, literature, creative writing; and a career coach for adults living with developmental disabilities. He’s got a book coming out with Tayen Lane Publishers, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber. Toni Hanner has made her home in Oregon since 1977. Her books are The Ravelling Braid (Tebot Bach, 2012) and Gertrude (Traprock, 2012). She is married to the poet Michael Hanner, who, luckily, also lives in Oregon. Yuliya Helgesen-Thompson was born in Russia and raised in Germany. She got her MFA and moved to Alaska in 1997. “Routine has never been a statement for my painting or my life. I begin each piece with a sculptural idea. After the surface is sculpted and dried, I fuse color into the three-dimensional component. I use contemporary and modern painting styles mixed with traditional ancient techniques. Visually, I want my paintings to speak musically through the crafting of shapes, color, surface, and space. Yuliya’s art work can be seen locally at Downtown Gallery and at Yuliya’s Art@ Facebook, Splashnpaint@Facebook Eric Heyne has taught in the English Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for thirty years. He has published a score of poems as well as essays on northern and other American literature and theories of the fiction/nonfiction distinction. Janet C Hickok is a long time artist whose abstract-expressionistic paintings are layered with texture and medium. She thinks of her work as historical tapestries, concealing as much as they reveal, weaving together vigorous marks and fields of color. Elements intertwine; colors become saturated or atmospheric, speak in an undertone or shout loudly. A maze of marks and texture are applied, the artwork is distressed, scraped back, rediscovered, and reconsidered. Traces of previous layers remain visible, allowing colors to interact in ways that could not have been anticipated, and become the map for each viewer to explore on their own. Robin Hiersche - Born in the first the echo of the boom, I grew up observing the world around me. A few true teachers and international travel showed me that taking the cultural filters off my organs of perception supported and streamlined the learning process.  Observation became perception.  The emptiness I perceive takes the form of poetry.  My time is spent either in the center of great accumulations of people or in remote forests, farm, or in movement.  I am overeducated, overtrained, overqualified, and underachieving.  My niece asked me how I make a living.  I quoted a song she didn’t know:  “Preach a little gospel, sell another bottle of Dr. Good’s.”

Rent A Boat

Jack Broom

15-minute play festival in New York, Buffalo Laboratory Theatre, Chicago’s Gorilla Tango, and more. A champion of new works, she is founder of Play-Makers Spokane and formerly a resident playwright at Stage Left Theatre and Spokane Civic Theatre. A member of the Dramatists Guild of America, she holds an M.F.A. in theatre from the University of Idaho and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University. B. Hutton is a writer and performer. He’s produced open mic’s, readings, art shows, columns, and a radio series which featured Alaskan writers presenting their work. He has co-edited two anthologies, North of Eden and Our Tears Made The Rain. OTMTR featured the work of “at risk youth.” He has worked with youth as a mental health professional for more than 30 years and has offered workshops in poetry, mime, improv, cartooning, puppetry, spoken word, and performance art since the development of his Creative Expression Workshop in 1984. Sarah Isto lives in Juneau but makes twice-yearly pilgrimages to Interior Alaska, where she was born. She is author of two non-fiction Alaska books. Her poetry has been published in Windfall, Gold Man Review, Tidal Echoes, Perfume River Poetry Review, and The Timberline. She is in mourning for the last three years of failed winter weather in Juneau. Since 1989, Marc Janssen has worked as an ad man, a pitch man, and a salesman. Climbed the corporate ladder and fallen off it. Currently he is employed as a bureaucrat for the State of Oregon. He writes when he can, which is most days. You can find his work haphazardly scattered around the Internet and in printed journals and anthologies such as Off the Coast, Cirque Journal, The Ottawa Arts Review, and Manifest West. Eric G. Johnson was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and raised in Anchorage. He is a retired Geotechnical Engineer. He is currently working on a novella and also writes short stories and poetry. He has a short memoir published in Anchorage Remembers, and has a poem accepted for the anthology Leaving My Shadow: A Tribute to Anna Akhmatova. Jill Johnson splits her time between Alaska and Eastern Oregon. Feels lucky.

Charity Hommel is an accomplished Alaskan Landscape Photographer and Graphic Designer with a passion for Macrophotography, and an interest in Astrophotography. She focuses her love for nature and simple lifestyle to reflect one of the most beautiful and unique places on Earth... Southeast Alaska. Every image she captures combines perseverance, patience, and dedication to showcase the Alaskan Landscape in ways unseen before. Charity strives to evoke emotion, excite senses, and satisfy souls through her imagery, art, and design.

Susan Johnson - I write in Roslyn, Washington, my home of thirty-nine years. We are a mountain town, once a coal-mining town, once a logging town, and now a town finding an identity as a thriving artists’, recreational, and small business community. I met my husband here, raised our family here, taught here, hike the trails here, contribute as a resident, and am grateful to be a part of a vibrant writing community.

Sandra Hosking’s plays have been performed across the U.S. and internationally, including the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, the American Globe’s

Joe Kashi is a litigation lawyer in Soldotna, Alaska. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from MIT in 1973 and his J.D. degree from Georgetown Law School in 1976. While pursuing other studies at MIT, he also “casu-

Marion Avrilyn Jones lives and writes in Fairbanks, Alaska.


136 ally” studied fine art photography with noted American photographer and Aperture Magazine founder Minor White. Since 2007, he has mounted more than a dozen solo fine art photo exhibits at university galleries and regional art centers in Alaska. Various works have been accorded Honorable Mention awards in the annual statewide Rarified Light fine art photography competitions in 2007, 2011, and 2016. Linda Ketchum completed her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Originally from Scotland, she spent 30 years in Alaska before taking off to travel, slowly, in Europe. Prior to embarking on this nomadic existence, she served as executive director of 49 Writers. Linda also has work forthcoming in Elsewhere: A Journal of Place. Josh Kleven finds the lucky shot with great consistency. He lives in Palmer with his wife and sons. Michael Kleven is a production sound mixer and filmmaker based in Seattle, Washington. He produces videos and documentaries through Heartstone Studios. His freelance services company is Kleven Creative. Born in the Pacific Northwest, Kleven has always grappled with the relationship between the land and its people. As rapid growth transforms the region, he looks for aspects that remain constant. The tug and pull of these opposing forces is reflected in his photography. Poet and essayist Sandra Kleven has published work in AQR, Oklahoma Review, Topic, Praxilla, Stoneboat, F-zine and the UAP anthology, Cold Flashes. She was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and her writing has won notice in the UAA Creative Writing and F’Air Words contests. In 2015, she was named to the Northshore School District, Wall of Honor as an outstanding graduate. Kleven has authored four books, most recently Defiance Street: Poems and Other Writing (VP&D Publishing House). Sandra Kleven is the editor of Cirque, with founder Michael Burwell. She works as a clinical supervisor for a Native corporation. Tricia Knoll is an Oregon eco-poet with love for place. Her recent collection Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press) highlights 25-years of change in a small town of Manzanita on the Oregon coast. Broadfork Farm, poems about farmsitting on an organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington is coming out summer 2017 from The Poetry Box. Elizabeth Landrum is a retired psychologist living on an island in the Salish Sea where she enjoys the quiet and beautiful surroundings to inspire her writing. Her work has appeared in several publications, including Cirque, Grey Sparrow, Shark Reef, Soundings Review, and Southern Women’s Review. Sigrun Susan Lane - My poems have appeared in a number of regional and national publications including Arnazella, Albatross, Blue Collar Review, Cascade, Chrysanthemum, Crab Creek Review, Hubbub, Floating Bridge Press Vols. # 4, 5, 6, 7, The Mom Egg, Malahat Review, the Poeming Pigeon, Pontoon, Raven Chronicles, Sing Heavenly Muse, and Still Crazy. I have received awards for poetry from the Seattle and the King County Arts Commissions and recently published a book of poetry, Little Bones, from Goldfish Press. Simon Langham is a writer/clown. Her poems and fiction have appeared in South Dakota Review, Cirque and are forthcoming in Stoneboat; her plays have been performed throughout Alaska. Currently a student in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia, Homer, Alaska is home, a yurt on the hillside. Eric le Fatte - I was educated at MIT and Northeastern University in biology and English, and worked as the Returns King at Eastern Mountain Sports, but currently teach, hike, and write in the Portland, Oregon area. I have published poems in Rune, The Mountain Gazette, Windfall, The Clack-

CIRQUE amas Literary Review, The Raven Chronicles, The Poeming Pigeon, Verseweavers, Perceptions, and Cirque; and was awarded the Oregon Poetry Association’s 2015 New Poet’s Award. Alex Leavens is a native Oregonian currently living in Portland, Oregon and has spent much of his life working and teaching in the outdoors. He has worked as a naturalist for the Portland Audubon Society, backcountry ranger in the Olympic National Park, and primitive survival instructor in Southern Utah. Alex holds a B.A. in English Literature from Portland State University. Steven C. Levi is an Alaskan historian and writer. He has lived in Alaska for more than four decades and has more than 80 books in print and on Kindle. His nonfiction books on Alaska history include Boom to Bust in the Alaska Gold Fields, an historical forensic investigation into the sinking of Alaska’s ghost ship, the Clara Nevada, as well as a history of Alaska’s bush pilot heritage, Cowboys of the Sky. His most recent fiction work is The Matter of the Deserted Airliner, an impossible crime in which a 737 lands in Anchorage with no pilot, crew, or passengers—and extortionists demand $25 million for the return of the hostages. My name is Linda Lucky but many call me Lucky. I am a retired art teacher from NY. I am known for making Paper mache dogs and other critters. I am a monologue writer and performer. Have appeared at Out North in “Under 30” and twice at the PAC in the Discovery Theater for Arctic Entries. I am a member of the International Gallery of Contemporary Art. Have been a Docent Volunteer at the Anchorage Museum since January 2003. I came for a year in September 2002. Now working on my 15th! Peter Ludwin is the recipient of a Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust and the 2016 winner of the Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award from The Comstock Review. His latest book is Gone to Gold Mountain from MoonPath Press. For many years he has been a participant in the San Miguel Poetry Week in Mexico, where he has studied under such noted poets as Mark Doty, Tony Hoagland, Joseph Stroud, and Robert Wrigley. A world traveler, he also enjoys playing his 1968 Martin D-18 guitar. He works for the Parks Department in Kent, Washington. Tim Lydon has worked in federal wilderness in the West and Alaska for much of the last 25 years. He is the author of Passage to Alaska and his writing has appeared in High Country News, Adventure Journal, Canoe and Kayak, and elsewhere. Adam Mackie was born in Anchorage, Alaska. He currently teaches English Language Arts at West Anchorage High School. Mackie has received multiple honorable mentions for his formal poetry, and contributed a poetic reader’s note to Ruminate Magazine and poems to BlazeVOX. Mackie also has written articles in Alaska Business Monthly, The Anchorage Press, the Alaska Humanity Forum’s Forum Magazine, and various other publications. Additionally, Mackie published a dictionary titled A New Literacies Dictionary: Primer for the Twenty-first Century Learner and co-edited Ethics in Higher Education: A Reader for Writers. Michael Magee’s work appears in Atlas.com, Pennine Ink, (Great Britain), and Staxtes Greek Literary Journal. His book Cinders of My Better Angels was published by MoonPath Press, and his chapbooks include Ireland’s Eye and A Trip to Jerusalem. His play “Shank’s Mare” was made into a movie and “A Night In Reading Gaol with Oscar Wilde” was produced in England. After living in London and Nottingham, England, San Francisco, and Seattle, he now lives in Tacoma, Washington. These poems are dedicated to his wife, Jean. Matthew Shinobu Main is currently working toward a graduate degree in English at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Raised in Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon, his camera is always at the ready,


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prepared to capture the experience of living. Most comfortable off to the side, he can usually be found in hard to reach places (the woods), journal in hand, amassing notes toward a theory. Geri Mathewson - While spending 3 months in a hospital bed after a car accident in high school, I came to appreciate the visual images we see every day. My best day in that hospital was when a kind janitor offered to move my bed to the end of the hall next to a large plate glass window. This may have constituted my initial love for a lifetime of photography. I am now semi-retired and living in Ashland, Oregon. Photography remains my meditation and my connection with, and understanding of, the world and the people around me. David McElroy lives in Anchorage and recently retired as a commercial pilot in the Arctic. He has been published in national journals including Cirque and has a new book of poems called Mark Making and a previous one called Making It Simple. He is a recipient of grants from the National Council on the Arts and the state of Alaska Council on the Arts and Humanities. He has given readings at the New School of Social Research in New Into the Blue York and the universities of Alaska, Western Washington, Montana, and Arizona. He is married to photographer Edith Barrowclough, and their son is Brandon McElroy. In various combinations the extended family travels Alaska and the world extensively. Ron McFarland teaches literature & creative writing at the University of Idaho. His most recent books are a collection of poems, Subtle Thieves (2012); a critical study, Appropriating Hemingway: Using Him as a Literary Character (2015); and a biography, Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars (2016). His stories have recently appeared in Coe Review and Badlands Literary Review. His essays have appeared recently in Able Muse and Broad River Review. A forthcoming essay on his 23 years of playing soccer at UI will be published later this year in The Idaho Magazine. On a moonless February night in 1968, poet DC McKenzie was born in a downtown hospital in Anchorage, Alaska. A third generation Alaskan, from an early age he loved words but was unsuited to academia. DC instead carved out a nomadic life, gathering joyous, bizarre, and tragic experiences, which often find reflection in his work. Returning to Alaska in 2006, he changed focus from spoken word to publishing his work. Since then he has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, as well as being published in multiple issues of Cirque, F Magazine, and online. In 2011, DC was awarded First Place in Poetry by F Magazine’s Statewide Writing Competition and Second Place in Poetry for 2012.   Maria McLeod writes poetry, fiction, monologues, and plays—three of which have been performed on stage. Honors include three Pushcart Prize nominations and the Indiana Review Poetry Prize. Originally from the Detroit area, she resides in Bellingham, Washington, where she teaches journalism and public relations at Western Washington University. Lea Rain Merritt is a poet, activist, artist, photographer, and performance artist who was born and raised in Alaska. She has a bachelor degree in psychology. In her spare time, she likes to go hiking, biking, running, swimming, and traveling. She enjoys entertainment, leisure, dancing, and celebration. She also loves singing, crafts, slam poetry, and

Janet C Hickok theater. She explores culinary arts and spirituality. Included in performance arts are Vaudeville, cabaret, comedy, and circus arts. Included in favorite music are singer-songwriter, indigenous folk, electronica, rock, old-time bluegrass, rap, classical, and opera. She likes to assist herself and others with creative expression. Lucy Rose Mihajlich - I have been published in Pathos, Dream People, RAIN, and Bitch Magazine. My first novel Interface came out this Thanksgiving. Kevin Miller lives in Tacoma, Washington. Recent poems have appeared in Raven Chronicles, Terrain.org, and Clover. In addition to Cirque, John Morgan’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, APR, The Paris Review, and many other journals. He’s published six books of poetry, most recently Archives of the Air from Salmon Poetry, as well as a collection of essays. He and his wife Nancy live in Fairbanks, and also spend part of the year in Bellingham, WA. Emily Mount is a naturalist and photography instructor for Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic and former national park ranger at ten parks across the west. In 2008, her path led her to Glacier Bay National Park, where she fell in love with Alaska’s wild places and the community of Gustavus. When she is not traveling the world by ship, she works as a freelance environmental writer, photographer, and silk painter. Mark Muro is a poet, playwright and performer who lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska.. Justine Pechuzal is an artist, writer, and educator living in Seward, Alaska. Her words and imagery carve a landscape of emotion that questions the relationship between place and identity. Her essay “Dual Citizenship” was the 2016 Grand Prize winner in the University of Alaska and Alaska Dispatch News annual creative writing contest. You can also find her work in Adventure Kayak Magazine, and her poetry represented in Caine’s Head State Park. Visit www.justinepechuzal.com for more information. Tami Phelps is a fine art mixed media artist and photographer who has


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CIRQUE

called Anchorage, Alaska home since 1970. Her passion for art led her to create work in several mediums, including cold wax, resin, and hand-tinted photography, sometimes in combination with each other. Her art has exhibited in Alaska, Colorado, and Washington, and is included in the permanent collection of the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. www.tamiphelps.com Carol Prentice is a third generation Washingtonian and has lived happily in Juneau, Alaska for the past 20 years. She had a monthly column in the Juneau Empire for two years called “Caught in the Middle” about the catches of professional life and raising children, in addition to several travel essays about living in France. She has also been published twice in Tidal Echoes, the literary journal of the University of Alaska Southeast. She is a member of 49 Writers, a literary organization supporting Alaskan writers. Vivian Faith Prescott is a fifth generation Alaskan, born and raised in Wrangell, Alaska. She currently lives in Wrangell at her family’s fishcamp. She has an MFA from the University of Alaska and a Ph.D. in Cross Cultural Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Vivian is a recipient of a Rasmuson Fellowship and the Jason Wenger Award for Literary Excellence. Her short stories have appeared in Tidal Echoes, Cirque, and Cold Flashes: Literary Snapshots of Alaska and elsewhere. Her short story cycle, The Dead Go to Seattle, is forthcoming from Boreal Books in the fall of 2017. Tanyo Ravicz received title to his Kodiak Island homestead, Cottonwood, in 2001. His book-length account of his life in Kodiak takes the form of short chapters like “Hippy Rig.” He lives in California now and often returns to Kodiak Island. Among his other books are Ring of Fire and Alaskans: Stories. Diane Ray is a native New Yorker, a transplant thriving in Seattle for the past twenty-five years A clinical psychologist and former modern dancer, she has published in various journals, most recently in Voices Israel Anthology 2017. She is honored to have a poem in the last four editions of Cirque. Matthew Campbell Roberts teaches English composition at Pierce College. His poems and other work appear in Cirque Journal, StringTown, Clackamus Review, The Adirondack Review, The Cortland Review, Whatcom Places 2, The Kennesaw Review, Windfall, Jeopardy, The Methow Naturalist, SmartishPace, and other literary journals and anthologies. He currently lives in south Puget Sound region where he fly fishes for sea-run cutthroat. When not teaching, he divides his time between Port Townsend and the Methow Valley. He can be contacted at mattcamroberts@gmail. com Janette Lyn Rosebrook is a lifetime resident of the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Bellingham, Washington. She is enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia and is involved in regional events of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Fred Rosenblum is a poet living in San Diego with his wife of 44 years. He served with the 1st Marines in 1968/’69 Vietnam, fueling most of what has appeared in numerous publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. Fred’s collections include: Hollow Tin Jingles, Main Street Rag Publishing Company (2014), and forthcoming, Vietnumb, Fomite Press (summer 2017). Fred earned a baccalaureate degree from of the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1980 and had the honor of studying under the later-to-be-named poet laureate, Tom Sexton. Steve Rubinstein lives in Palmer Alaska and shares space with his two kids, a slightly insecure young dog, an Icelandic horse, a donkey, two rab-

Raven on the Rooftop

Robin Hiersche

bits, three chickens, and (until they are sold) four pigs. He is the Program Director for Alaska Pacific University’s Graduate Program in Outdoor & Environmental Education. Reefka Schneider is one of the foremost artists of “la frontera,” the binational region of the Rio Grande Valley. She is the co-creator of the highly acclaimed traveling exhibit Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives / Fronteras: dibujando las vidas fronterizas, published as a book by Wings Press in 2010. Drawings from Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives were featured in the book Writing Towards Hope: The Literature of Human Rights in Latin America (Yale University Press), the Afro-Hispanic Review (Vanderbilt University Press), The Texas Observer, and The Hispanic Outlook. She is also the artist and co-creator of the exhibit The Magic of Mariachi / La Magia del Mariachi, published as a book by Wings Press in 2016. The painting “The Long Camino” from The Magic of Mariachi was featured in Cirque: A Journal of the Arts (Vol. 6, No. 1). Reefka has had numerous solo exhibitions in Texas and New Mexico. She has lectured on the creative process at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico, at the SMU-inTaos summer lecture series, and at the Harwood Museum in Taos. Awards for her art include the prestigious Octavia Arneson Award, International Art Show, Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, Brownsville, Texas, in 2008; in 2007 she received First Place awards for drawing in the RioFest, Harlingen, Texas, and the International Art Show, Brownsville Museum of Fine Art. You can see Reefka’s artwork at www.reefka.com Steven P. Schneider is Professor of Creative Writing and Literatures and Cultural Studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. With his artist wife Reefka, he co-created the books and traveling exhibits Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives / Fronteras: dibujando las vidas fronterizas and The Magic of Mariachi / La Magia del Mariachi, which serve as rich cultural and educational resources (see www.poetry-art.com). He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Unexpected Guests, and Prairie Air Show. His scholarly books on contemporary American poetry include A.R. Ammons and the Poetics of Widening Scope and a recent collection of edited essays entitled The Contemporary Narrative Poem. He is the re-


Vo l . 8 N o . 2 cipient of five National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grants and a Fellowship from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, NM. Tim Sherry, a longtime public school teacher and administrator, lives in Tacoma, Washington. Besides recent publication in Cirque, his work has appeared in Floating Bridge Review, Rattle, Crab Creek Review, Raven Chronicles, and Broad River Review, among others. He has been a Pushcart nominee, had his work recognized in contests, and was a 2010 Artsmith Artist resident on Orcas Island. His first full-length collection, One of Seven Billion, was published by Moonpath Press in 2014. Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, Zyzzyva, FIELD, and elsewhere. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. Skillman has done collaborative translations from French, Portuguese, and Macedonian. Visit www.judithskillman.com Dale Slaughter - I am a semiretired archaeologist and photographer living in Anchorage. I am primarily interested in landscapes which I photograph in both color and black and white although I much prefer to work with black and white film. In recent years, my black and white work has been done with large format cameras using 4 x 5 in. film. My images are computer generated from scanned negatives. Computer manipulation is limited to tonal adjustments and enhancing image sharpness. I do not digitally remove elements from an image or produce composite images using elements from more than one source. Cheryl Stadig has enjoyed living in a variety of Alaska locales including Teller, Anchorage, Ketchikan, and Prince of Wales Island. She grew up in Maine, meandering through the woods, fields, and waterways, expanded those adventures in Alaska, and continues them in New Hampshire. Her work has appeared in Inside Passages, Cirque, and other publications. Horses, weather, and exploring provide more than sufficient inspiration for her photos and writing projects. Cynthia Steele, MA English, writes poetry and nonfiction and has been an assistant editor for Cirque for the past few years, helping in various ways for Cirque and Poetry Parlay presentations, often taking photos. Nature and familial experiences provide her with a source of inspiration and/or joy, and she has published both. Also, as a participant at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, she serves as a reader and has been in monologue workshops. She enjoys the space of other characters and stories. An award-winning photographer and published writer, she lives in Anchorage with her six dogs, husband, and teenaged daughter. A 46 year Juneau resident, Richard Stokes retired after 23 years from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. He now works seasonally as a naturalist guide for Gastineau Guiding in Juneau. He writes often about nature which he loves and aging which he is doing. Sheary Clough Suiter grew up in Eugene, Oregon; then lived in Alaska for 35 years before her recent transition to Colorado. Her encaustic fine art is represented in Anchorage, Alaska by Stephan Fine Art, in Camas, Washington by the Attic Gallery, and in Old Colorado City by 45 Degree Gallery. When she’s not on the back-roads of America traveling and painting with her artist partner Nard Claar, Suiter teaches at Bemis School of Art and works from her studio in Colorado Springs. Online at www.backdoordesigns.com James Sweeney lives in a small cabin in the woods outside of Hope, Alaska. He’s working as a carpenter on a timber frame house. Politically he is green and rides his bike most everywhere. He has two books: The List and A Thousand Prayers: Alaska Expedition Marine Life Solidarity. Jim is a long-time contributor to Cirque.

139 Ben Swimm is a first-year MFA candidate at Oregon State University. He co-owns a vegetable farm in Palmer, AK. His work has previously appeared in Hamilton Stone Review, JMWW and Clapboard House, and is forthcoming in Salamander. Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have most recently been published in Typoetic.us and Kaleidoscope as well as in recent anthologies, The Doll Collection, All We Can Hold poems of motherhood and Raising Lilly Ledbetter Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Her poetry has received a Pushcart Nomination. A nearly lifelong Washington resident, she was raised on the East side in Spokane and has spent her working life on the West side in Seattle. 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, Alaska Geographic, and Cirque. He lives in Anchorage with his wife Susan. Taking photos forces him to stop and really see the world. Caitlin Thomson has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and she resides in Bellingham, Washington. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals including: Tar River Poetry Review, The Adroit Journal, and Killer Verse. Territory Prayer, her third chapbook was published by Maverick Duck Press. Georgia Tiffany, a native of Spokane, Washington, holds graduate degrees from Indiana University and the University of Idaho. Recipient of grants from the Washington Commission for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various anthologies and magazines including Willow Springs, Poets of the American West, Expose, Chautauqua Literary Review, Lost Coast Review, Hubbub, and Threepenny Review. Her chapbook, Cut from the Score, was published by Night Owl Press. She now lives in Moscow, Idaho. Joanne Townsend is now co-editor of poetry for Sin Fronteras: Writers Without Borders, a New Mexico journal published yearly. She lived in Anchorage, Alaska from 1970 to 1995, and it was her honor to serve as Alaska State Poet Laureate officially from 1988-1992 and unofficially at the request of the Alaska State Council for two more years until the appointment of Tom Sexton. Pepper Trail - My poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Bird’s Thumb, Pedestal, as well as in prior issues of Cirque, and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Awards. My collection, Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems, was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. I live in Ashland, Oregon where I work as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Karen A. Tschannen - Some of her words have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ice-Floe, PNW Poets and Artists Calendar(s), North of Eden (Loose Affiliation Press), The Sky’s Own Light (Minotaur Press), Crosscurrents North, Cirque, and other publications. Tschannen’s poetry collection, Apportioning the Light, is forthcoming, Fall, 2017, from Cirque Press. Lucy Tyrrell’s interests in nature and wild landscapes, outdoor pursuits (mushing, hiking, canoeing), and travel are what inspire her writing and art. She cherishes the 16 years she spent in Alaska, but recently moved with eight huskies back to the Lower 48. For her new chapter of life near Bayfield, Wisconsin, she traded a big mountain (Denali) for a big lake (Lake Superior). Sean Ulman, a Seward novelist, is the editor of Seward Unleashed, Vol 2. His chapbook, Radland (Deadly Chaps) was nominated for a Pushcart. His other reviews have been featured in Pank and elimae. 


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Hillary Walker - Born and raised in Alaska, my work has appeared in PANK, trans lit mag, Cirque and other publications. Margo Waring has lived in Alaska for nearly 50 years. She completed a doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in English Literature and taught there and at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Margo’s poetry has appeared in Cirque, Tidal Echoes, Alaska Women Speak and other publications. She always thanks her writers’ group for their support and enthusiasm.

Nancy Woods, born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, now lives in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of Under the Influence of Tall Trees: Humorous Tales from a Pacific Northwest Writer and Hooked on Antifreeze: True Tales About Loving and Leaving Alaska. Both books are available at amazon.com. Woods’ poem “Remembering Harding Lake,” published in Cirque (Vol. 1, No.1), won the Andy Hope Literary Award. www.nancy-woods.com

O. Alan Weltzien, longtime English professor at the University of Montana Western, has published dozens of articles and nine books including a memoir, A Father and an Island (2008), and three books of poetry, most recently Rembrandt in the Stairwell (2016). Justin Wetch is an artist, poet, photographer, musician, pretentious egomaniac, and messy-haired fool from Palmer, Alaska. He published his first book at the age of 19 while a freshman at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He enjoys artistic endeavors and connecting with people. Justin grew up in Palmer, Alaska where he discovered a love of the arts by appreciating the beauty of Alaska through photography. Justin ultimately hopes to create films. Tim Whitsel - I have lived on the Pacific Coast most of my adult life. For the last twenty-five years the Mohawk Valley east of Springfield, Oregon has been my home. My first full-length collection of poems, WISH MEAL, was published in October 2016. Toby Widdicombe was educated in England and the United States. He has been a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage for nearly a quarter of a century and a teacher for forty years. He writes poetry, nonfiction, children’s fiction—and academic argument and analysis of all sorts. William H. Wikstrom works out of Wikstom Gallery near Wallingford in Seattle, WA. His own work includes painting, sculpture, poetry, set design, and video production. Born in 1952, in Seattle, WA, he is the son of Robert C. and brother to the artist Brom Wikstrom. WW has done art all his life and has done all kinds of art. First published in Yellow Dog Funnies in ‘68, WW has also done two covers for the Journal of Naturopathic Medicine. Paul Winkel is a semi-retired engineer who has lived in Alaska 34 years and loved every minute. His work has previously appeared in Cirque and in the anthologies 50 Poems For Alaska and Braided Streams. He is a member of 10 Poets and longtime supporter of Cirque and Poetry Parley. Matt Witt is a writer and photographer in Talent, Oregon who has hiked and backpacked all over the Pacific Northwest. His photography and blog may be seen at MattWittPhotography.com. He has been Artist in Residence at Crater Lake National Park, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and PLAYA at Summer Lake, Oregon. Tonja Woelber lives in Anchorage, Alaska and enjoys the mountains in all weathers. She is a member of Ten Poets, a collaborative writing group, and appreciates Asian and nature-themed poetry.

Earth Matters

Sheary Clough Suiter


Vo l . 8 N o . 2

Milky Way and Tree Patrick Dixon

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HOW TO SUBMIT TO C IRQUE 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 to a “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 Winter 2017 Issue.

Issue #17—Winter 2017 Submission Deadline: September 21, 2017 SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: • 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 (double-spaced) 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 undersize images or thumbnails will be eligible for publication. • Bio: 100 words 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,” “Nonfiction submission”, etc. • Replies average two to three months, and we don’t mind you checking with us about your submissions. Please send submissions to:

Correspondence email is:

cirque.submits@gmail.com

cirquejournal@gmail.com

Photo Credit: Lea Merritt, Ecdysis


A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim VO LUM E 8 , N O. 2

CIRQUE

$22

Cirque, Vol. 8 No. 2  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Cirque, Vol. 8 No. 2  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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