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CIRQUE A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim VO LUM E 9, N O. 2


CIRQUE A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Volume 9 No. 2

Summer 2018

Anchorage, Alaska


Š 2018 by Sandra Kleven & Mike Burwell, Editors

Cover Photo Credit: Jack Broom, "Tiny Visitor" Table of Contents Photo Credit: Lucy Tyrrell, "Sycamore Bark" Design and composition: Paxson Woelber ISBN-13: 978-1726282734 ISBN-10: 1726282732 ISSN: 2152-4610 (online) Published by

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 www.michaelburwellpoet.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.


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 kasha@alaska.net www.kashilaw.com 205 East Beluga Soldotna, Alaska

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


CIRQUE PRESS is pleased to announce the publication of

E CHOLO CATIO N: POEM S By Kristin Berger From both the visible and invisible margins of life, from the Oregon forest to high desert, from lake to river, these poems seek to reconcile memory and loss with a world still very much alive and beating. In a time of diminishing truth and light, this book locates beauty and holds space for its returning. "If we have forgotten that poetry is a call sent out into the world to rediscover and name our hearts, minds, and bodies, Kristin Berger’s beautiful new book of poems reminds us of poetry’s good and necessary work. Berger’s Echolocation leads us into that work, honestly and elegantly inviting us to know our own lives and landscapes." - Annie Lighthart, author of Lantern and Iron String

Available at Amazon , or email: cirquejournal@gmail.com $15.00 - CIRQUE PRESS Sandra Kleven - Michael Burwell, Publishers

Kristin Berger is the author of the poetry collections Echolocation (Cirque Press, 2018), How Light Reaches Us (Aldrich Press, 2016), and a chapbook, For the Willing (Finishing Line Press, 2008), and co-editor of VoiceCatcher 6 (2011). Her long prose-poem, Changing Woman & Changing Man: A High Desert Myth, was a she hosts a summer poetry reading series at her neighborhood farmers market. More at www.kristinberger.me.


“…An impressive debut collection of poetry that deeply satisfies the ear and the mind… There is power in the understatement. Such masterful simplicity is never easy.” Gary Copeland Lilley, author of The Bushman’s Medicine Show Available at Amazon or email: cirquejournal@gmail.com $15.00 - CIRQUE PRESS Sandra Kleven & Michael Burwell, Publishers

Carey Taylor was born in Bandon, Oregon and has lived her entire life on the western edges of Oregon and Washington. Her work has appeared in regional, national and international publications and she was a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2015. She received a Master of Arts degree from Pacific Lutheran University and a Bachelor’s Degree from Linfield College.


Karla Linn Merrifield

PSYC Hes SCROll BECOME A VOYEUR OF THE MIND. New from The Poetry Box®

What poets and critics are saying about Psyche’s Scroll— Tour de force ~ Audacious ~ A lustrous map ~ The un-scrolling of the soul ~ A trickster may appear ~ A delicate salvation of words ~ Koan-like writing ~ As revelatory of the human soul as the cave paintings at Lascaux ~ Sacral intelligence within a revelatory construct,…grateful to keep this strong poet’s ‘wieldings’ company

Available online everywhere, and from the publisher: thepoetrybox.com/ bookstore/psyches-scroll. For signed copies, email klmerrifield@yahoo.com.


APPORTIONING THE LIGHT BY ALASKAN POET KAREN TSCHANNEN

Poems so compressed the page itself trembles. So brave, in dark places, the reader clutches the poet’s sure hand. Apportioning the Light shines. It shines. AVAILABLE AT AMAZON OR BY EMAIL:

cirquejournal@gmail.com, $16 - CIRQUE PRESS Sandra Kleven & Michael Burwell, CIRQUE Publishers

“A life lived to its fullest, a craft perfected so that it seems seamless, the highest compliment I can give to any writer. I read it from its beginning to its end without putting it down. Kudos to Cirque for publishing Apportioning the Light.”

– TOM SEXTON, ALASKA POET LAUREATE

Karen Tschannen has been published 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 was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. Her perceptive verse is notable for the care taken with language in both the sound of a phrase and the appearance on the page.


A community for Alaska’s writers and readers

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Jo i n us ! W e a r e m e mb e r - s u p p o r t e d. Michael Penn Juneau Empire

Become a member today at 49Writers.org/join


Garrya

Jack Broom


“Kristen Berger’s beautiful new book of poems, Echolocation, reminds us of poetry’s good and necessary work.” - Annie Lighthart, author of Lantern and Iron String “The Lure of Impermanence, by Carey Taylor, is an impressive debut collection of poetry that deeply satisfies the ear and the mind.” - Gary Copeland Lilley, author of The Bushman’s Medicine Show "Deserving of high praise, Karen Tschannen’s meticulously crafted collection Apportioning the Light gives us poems that move through a woman’s memories, joy, sorrow, loves and wisdom." - Joanne Townsend, Alaska Poet Laureate, 1988-1992

From the Editors The last stretch to finish Cirque #18 seemed endless. I write this note from an RV park in Washington State. We closed in on publication over the last ten plus days. Six of those days I was traveling from Alaska through the fires of Western Canada. At every stop, I pulled out the laptop to do my part in bringing this 150-page issue into print. Often frustrated at lack of Wi-Fi connection. But carrying on – Michael Burwell, Paxson Woelber and me. This road trip celebrates an issue still taking shape, one that will be visible on-line soon and following closely on that moment of profound upload, it will be in the hands of readers. In August of 2018, Cirque readings are set for Bothell, Portland, and Bellingham. Each community supports 20 to 30 Cirque contributors. These delightful visits never give enough time for connection and conversation. To improve on this, we may hold a writer’s retreat next spring on a ranch in Eastern Washington. During the months ahead, we will check the level of interest. Cirque Press – Early in 2018, we established Cirque Press to support the further publication of Cirque contributors. Many Cirque writers and poets have published widely but have had little chance to gather their work in book form. It is our mission to assist in this process. During the last six months, Cirque Press has published three collections by poets: Karen Tschannen, Carey Taylor, and Kristin Berger. A fourth book, by Clifton Bates, is nearing publication. I express some pride in the productivity of this small independent press – staffed largely with volunteers. We have produced quality publications from outstanding writers, and we will continue to do this in the months ahead. Query us if you have a project you would like us to consider at cirquejournal@gmail.com Support Cirque – Cirque is an independent journal supported entirely by writers and readers, through direct donations, subscriptions, and sales of individual copies. We 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 $3000. 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. AWP – Cirque will have a booth at AWP in Portland next March. Visit us there. Thanks to our many supporters who include Jerry McDonnell, Joseph Kashi, Barbara Hood, Diane Ray, Nancy Woods, Diane Corson, Bruce Parker and Tonja Woelber.

Sandra L Kleven ~ Michael Burwell

Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim Sandra Kleven and Mike Burwell, Editors Paxson Woelber, Lead Designer Emily Tallman, Ad Designer Published twice yearly, Summer and Winter Anchorage, Alaska


CIRQUE

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Volume 9 No. 2

POETRY Luther Allen deer hunter 19 Alexandra Ellen Appel Vision Cycle 19 John Baalke Interior Scene 20 Thomas Bacon A Massage in Tofino 20 Christianne Balk Moon Foal 21 Tara Ballard A History 22 Ray Ball Flying Fox 23 Gabrielle Barnett Getaway Weekend #17 (1985) 23 Judith Barrington The Dyke With No Name Thinks About Death 24 Amy Baskin Taking off Billy Collins’ Clothes 25 Thomas Begich An Arc 26 Marilyn Borell Smoking the Poem 26 Maggie Bursch Commercial 27 Jack Campbell Unmitigated Fear 28 Susan Chase-Foster I Will Send You A Caribou 28 Kersten Christianson Stjerne 29 Diane Corson The Smallness of Time 29 Steve Dieffenbacher Before Eros 30 Gretchen Diemer Notes From the Tour Guide: Seychelles Islands 31 Carol Douthat No Problem 32 Laura Falsetti Monterey 32 Jeff Fearnside Bright Tapestry 33 David Fewster Jesse Bernstein At The 2017 Cascadia Poetry Festival, Tacoma, WA 33 Leslie Fried Son I wish 34 Gabriela Halas Francis 34 Jim Hanlen Creek Breath 35 Beth Hartley Cuyaraq 35 Esther Altshul Helfgott Marriage 36 S.C. Hodde Sleight 36 Sarah Isto Common Name: Camp Robber 37 Rob Jacques Hangar on the Wharf 38 Juleen Johnson March Arrives As A Lion 39 Joe Kashi Deep Winter 39 Mickey Kenny Raised in Redoubt 40 J.I. Kleinberg Memory of Rain 41 John Kooistra Returning to Alaska 41 Elizabeth Landrum One Knee Down In the River 42 Yvonne Higgins Leach There Is Always The Moment When The Child Is Lost 43 Alex Leavens Madie DeGraw 44 Eric le Fatte Revolution 44 Rosemary Douglas Lombard John Tennent’s “Curlews”: The Mystery of the Bills 45 Peter Ludwin Linc’s 45 Jordan Luz shi-shi on da bachroom floor 46 Adam Mackie A Life with Wind 47 Carmen Maldonado Idle, believe me, is my brain 48 Terry Martin Treatment 52 Sean H. McDowell Between Two Rivers in Galway 52 David McElroy River Running 53 Karla Linn Merrifield Reinvention Iterations 53 Kevin Miller Everyone Looks Like Someone You Know 54 Cynthia Monroe Father 55 Rebecca D. Morse Fur Coat 56 Leonard Orr Amour Fou Late In Life 57 Carl “Papa” Palmer Celebrity Celibacy 57 Bruce Parker Fragmentation 58 K.M. Perry And per se And 58 Vivian Faith Prescott Vulnerability Assessment 59 Amy Crawford Purevsuren A Picnic of Honni Mahk - Sheep Meat 60 Tim Raphael Joshua Tree 61 Diane Ray A Woman’s Dream 62 Susan Rich Learning the World 63 Matthew Campbell Roberts The Big Hole 63


Timothy Roos Tracks 64 Janice D. Rubin Freight Train, Eugene to Portland 64 Scot Siegel Empathy 65 Eugenie Simpson Last Stop 65 Judith Skillman Gutturals 66 Kathleen Smith Montana Wedding 66 Jen Soriano The Vigil for Omelas 67 Cheryl Stadig If 68 Kathleen Stancik wildfire 68 Mary Ellen Talley High School Aviary 69 Joanne Townsend Portals 2012 70 Pepper Trail Fire Balloons 71 Tim Troll Winter 71 Karen Tschannen “Down, Thou Climbing Sorrow” 72 Karen Vande Bossche Dying in February 73 Emily Wall Seed 73 Michael Wanzenried Tug 74 Sandra Wassilie Disruptors 74 Ingrid Wendt The Knowing 75 Tim Whitsel A Valentine Revised 76 Richard Wiederker The Way Home 76 Paul Willis Poems by Flashlight 77 Nancy Woods a Performance Art 77

NONFICTION Tara L. Campbell The Void Left from Protecting the Environment 79 Monica Devine Mission of Motherhood 83 b. hutton blue paint. 87 Judith W. Lethin Dogidinh’ Lippity-Lippity Not Very Fast 88 Joseph Robertia Molochs Indeed 93 Todd Sformo Gray 95 Bill Sherwonit Finding a Community that Embraces Religion & Science— and Other Ways of Knowing 96 John McKay Sunday Mornings With Gary 102 Cynthia Steele Me Too 103 Richard Stokes Lessons 105

FICTION Clifton Bates Sean Brendan-Brown Matthew Caprioli Vic Cavalli Paul Haeder Mary Kunkel Teresa Sundmark Heidi Turner

A Dayspring 108 Quitting AA 110 The Hat You Save May Be Your Own 112 They Never Forgot Him 114 Bloody Sheets 115 Cowboys and Kittens 123 Not Buying It 124 Enough Water 125

P L AY S Sandra Hosking

Ask 131

F E ATU R E S Deb Stone Paulann Petersen: A Poet Laureate’s Wide Embrace

136

REVIEWS Vivian Faith Prescott A review of Apportioning the Light, by Karen A. Tschannen 137 Jessica Cherry A review of Human Being Songs: Northern Stories, by Jean Anderson 139 Cindy Mom A review of How Light Reaches Us, by Kristin Berger 141

C O N T R I B U T O R S 143 H O W T O S U B M I T T O C I R Q U E 154


Pink Petal in Ice

Brenda Roper


19

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

POETRY Luther Allen

deer hunter the deer, any deer testing with each step ears flared eyes flared aware of everything the way it chews breathes without sound still, a coiled spring sometimes just lyric shadow moving through trees appearing disappearing then bounding

this is how stillness moves. grace

i want that in my body i want to taste the entire earth in a leaf of serviceberry i want my heart to beat madly at the scent of coyote and understand that agreement

Rain

Luna Shiok

Alexandra Ellen Appel

Vision Cycle I am somewhat like Mother in this regard: I have a house filled with an assortment of scissors where they may have come from or for what intent may be no doubt an unanswered question

aware for this life


20

CIRQUE

John Baalke

Interior Scene Of bliss submerged beneath appearance —W. Stevens I paint by compass and curriculum: the burnished orange sunrise of some introspective seascape. Yellow-gold brushstrokes on waves and tortured shore. Raucous gulls hover above the calm tide pool, wings like gleaming seraphim. Barnacles and sea-stars cling to night-black basalt. A vacant lighthouse amid grassy dunes, and a man, ruddy, in a navy pea coat rowing a weathered dory toward a buoy, oars poised in mid-air. The dull keel breaks the stippled surface.

Fuca Pillar, Washington Coast

Timothy Roos

Thomas Bacon

A Massage in Tofino Without corners for webs or the secrets of shadows, the half-dome window wall wraps up and around the warm summer light as Thérèse’s strong fingers probe my faults of tendon, muscle and mind, releasing the dark pain I hold within.

Fire Behavior

Judith Skillman

Dressed only in sunshine, calm of time, I uncurl into the blue sky clarity of breath as a white butterfly flutters, a fair fantasia of fragile wings, a sleight of breeze as if illusion, flying free.


21

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Christianne Balk

Moon Foal The great heat I fall from stands still, steady, swaddling me. I scramble and reach, grasping air. Paw the pasture ruts, tangled in my legs, too long. Side bound, panting. The rock-held dirt chills, pushes me to stand, to find her breath looming as full as the raw, cream moon. A crack of sky breaks the evening, vibrates through my bones. The warmth I’ve come from cools. I stand alone, uncertain in the night. Its early spring. Beyond the fence, soft hum of whickers. Hocks and fetlocks stir. One hoof steps. Then the next. I inch towards gathered haunches, bodies sheltered by close bodies. How sharp the crushed grass smells. How sweet the herd—

Abert Lake

Moonchild

Robert Bharda

Steve Dieffenbacher


CIRQUE Tara Ballard

A History

Octopus to song, translate to dance, climb patiently these marble steps.

after Lynn Xu

III. Like grape vines above dry earth. Like the rope held in a sailor’s hands. Like long hair braided in water and almond blossoms turned to sun. Like before tangled in once before.

I. Morning rolls in, that tide engaging in feathered things. You turn your eyes to the expanse of acrylic, apricot to roseate, washed acrylic.

TRANSLATION Daughter,

TRANSLATION Perhaps you see clearly: This island was born synesthesia. Melody of taste. A perfume of ancient fishnets wakes and sleeps between sand grains near the harbor. In these sea-heavy nets, salt remembers a past season, a past season daffodils sense allaying upon the shore. II. New here, you press fingertips to incoming swells. Warm breeze you cannot quite define on your tongue. Wisdom rustles eucalyptus. Leaves sing memory per annum. You wade ashore, arms drift through yellow light. This is June.

We loved here long ago, your father and me, between black-and-white photographs left in the peeling pages of albums, rust-leather and myth-stained. Before curfew, he gathered for me pistachios and olive oil. He kissed my wrist. I hung his laundry on the line. We walked barefoot on coastal rocks, and, as we danced, your father’s hands they trembled. IV. Stare westward, sipping anise from a glass lined with honey. Peel the orange you drank yesterday. Chew grape seeds. TRANSLATION You understand how, in this sun-still village before Chania,

TRANSLATION In the decanter reflecting the day’s hour, turn and turn. An unclosed window hush welcomes to bed unwritten stanzas. White space waits for the octopus to translate sound of sea to open lips.

clear, clear water lapped at the bare feet of a woman before you. Lines compose themselves like your outstretched legs, swimming beside pomegranatedipped anemones. A mirror (above) below, how did you ever write without blue?


23

Vo l . 9 N o . 2 Gabrielle Barnett

Ray Ball

Getaway Weekend #17 (1985)

Flying Fox With the river grasses she weaves the flying fox. Strengthens the strands with clay from the river bank. Kissed by starlight and the gleam of the morning moon, the daubs of mud bring good luck to the creature and his beholder. The river, the fox, the luck whisper many things she cannot. She waits in silence for the crocodile, the scales to tip.

Braided

Monica O’Keefe

1. Hitched up Route 1 from the strawberry slums, through Big Sur, then east to Gilroy garlic, taking off north with blond Pete on a whim (Pete deep into Kerouac and Steinbeck, me reading Snyder, di Prima) after a sawdust summer, sweating overtime toiling behind the scenes in some minor league theater, scraping by on a dime (day-old danishes stretching per diem) building Camelot for a downgraded coke fiend, who fed his habit with caffeine (by the quad shot) ‘til Amadeus’ red velvet drapes, gilt lintels and high baroque cornices hit the road. And now us too bent on avoiding another slow Central Coast Sunday with nothing to do in the whole valley but breathe broccoli stench on long solitary rides past stray cows, live oak, eucalyptus and lonely oil rigs (out towards Sisquoc), or (where they said “careful, going a white chick alone”) playing the rough surf of Oso Flaco, or (passing through the MX testing zone) hauling pallets down for beach barbecue. 2. Walked for miles in the city of legend and longing, out to the Presidio to sit not in boxed cineplex but art deco independence screening the latest second run postmodern noir. Careening through Parisian netherworlds we kept psychic company with artists, whores, and a young petty thief dogged by bootleggers, cops and a human trafficking syndicate, murderous plot hung secretly on swapped signifiers: his pirate aria displaced by her expose - audio cassettes so hot they could dispatch you to an early grave. Leaving Diva veiled in night fog, we hoofed it straight to the cheap hostel on Turk, rising before dawn to hitch back to work.


24

CIRQUE

Judith Barrington

The Dyke With No Name Thinks About Death Back then she didn’t think about it at all— she couldn’t think about it: her parents were gone, but surely not dead. And what was dead anyway? There had been no blood, no illness— not a body or even a coffin to be seen, just two people drowned in the green grave then snatched back for burial in alien ground. She hadn’t witnessed their slow descent into the swells nor the shoveling of dry earth onto their waterlogged bodies, and yes, what was dead anyway, she might have said if she’d stopped to think, stopped to feel something. But the dyke with no name had no intention of stopping: she moved fast in her mother’s green car

Arugula Cross

Jack Broom

from friend to friend, party to party, bed to bed, perfecting her four-wheel drift on the S-bend out of Pyecombe where chestnuts fell on the road, rich mahogany,

the rumble of cars fading behind the sweet calls of sparrows and finches, the rumble of that permanent

shiny enough to reflect her face if only she had time to look...

not there somehow made explicit by the distant, repeated bark of a dog.

What if one morning in fall she had pulled off the S-bend and bumped down the lane by the pebbled Sussex wall?

Might she perhaps have opened the car door, picked up one of the plump chestnuts,

Then she might have known much sooner that dead simply meant not there—

tucked its smooth little buttock into her palm and known then what she could hold in this life

silent, never coming home to finish the barely-begun conversation.

and what she could not? Might she have said quietly to herself: not there? Might she even have cried?

Everything might have changed that day if she’d killed the motor and sat there,


25

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Amy Baskin

Taking off Billy Collins’ Clothes —an unadorned attempt at flattery

First, his red scarf easily lifted off his shoulders and laid on the back of his writing chair. And his eyeglasses, with a light forward pull off the bridge of his nose. Then the uniform of a teacher, a less complicated matter, his oxford pulled carefully over the downy remains of his hairs, so tiny and numbered that it takes forever before my hands stop tracing the border of his pate, like a miner wondering the best way to explore the wealth that lies under the surface.

What I can tell you is it was noisy on the street below that Saturday afternoon, with new lovers claiming the sidewalk table where we had just finished our wine. But I could plainly hear him inhale when I undid the tongue of his buckle, the very top of his khakis and I could hear him sigh when I finally removed his lanyard the way some readers sigh when they realize that you don’t have to play iambic bongos to realize that life is precious, that reason prevents us from keeping a gun in the house, that hope is the moon in the upper window and the shadow of his crooked pen on my page.

You will want to know that he was standing near an ashtray across the table from a painting of a fish, in the kitchen, eyes meeting mine, gaze for gaze, ignoring the cat and the bird at the window as he readily removed his corduroy jacket, then turtleneck, which sat, arms crossed, abandoned next to the immaculate armor of his desk. The perplexity of men’s undergarments in 21st century America is easily waved off, and I proceeded like a connoisseur of fine resale shops and consignment stores to admire the waistband of his y-fronts, pristine, with not a thread out of warp or weft and nary a sign of stain. Later, I wrote in a notebook it was like union with a wily god, but, of course, I will not tell you everything. the way he kept his eyes wide open, how he reached for his pen, how he infused each thrust with humor whenever we parried.

Fort Worden Window

Kathryn Schipper


26 Thomas Begich

An Arc “What are we to do?” She cried, Her hand drawing an arc In the air. “The world so wide, And we so small…” Her hand, Dropping to her side, Traced a pattern Of sadness And loss On her dress, Smoothing each crease, Creasing her brow. “How can one So small Ever hope to change A world?” And she exhaled, Her words Cascading Out and over Her lips to earth, And then to The vast ocean Where a breath Gave way To a ripple On the water. A ripple That grew To a wave That coursed For leagues, Joining others. Waves that drove A wind That whipped Around A hand In the air Drawing an arc.

Small Wave 6

Kathryn Schipper

Marilyn Borell

Smoking the Poem Plucking a metaphor from the net is the easy part. Next free its filets with surgical precision, offer entrails to river’s swift current. Back home, skillfully make line breaks, layer the strips in sweet and salty brine, flip Tupperware box midway through time. Freshen lines under running water. Allow to air dry. When tacky to the touch, arrange in stanzas on wire racks. Fill pan with hickory chips, slide onto electric coil, surrender verse to rising smoke.

Mark Muro


27

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Maggie Bursch

Commercial For many years fishing to me did not mean open water, it did not mean big waves, or lines or even a living fish. For the beginning of my life fishing meant a small cabin with a smooth wooden railing on my bed so I wouldn’t fall out. It meant mud-sand beaches and tundra that smelled like Christmas but tasted like caribou food. It meant buckets. buckets of freshwater and buckets of slop. buckets to put fish guts in and buckets you use in the middle of the night when there is a bear on the beach.

I have never done that, but we talk about silence and wide open spaces and I realize that to be a fisherman is not only to love the kill and the catch. It is to love the tributary, the grains of sand, the lake and the river that has given this fish life. He does not understand what it is I do but he to, hopes to teach his kids about Fishing.

Fishing meant nannies, a flow of creative women who let me play in the thick, deep mud. who protected me from mosquitoes and forgotten rusty tools, and let me watch my parents from the shore. Fishing meant trips to the natal lake at the end of the season, where huge schools of salmon spawned in water so clean we’d just drink it. --Now Fishing is a tangle in my heart. Fiberglass wraps my arteries, hydraulic hoses feed my capillaries and 150 fathoms of corklike lattice my lungs. I meet a man in the bar down south and he pauses at the word ‘commercial’ before the word ‘fisherman.’ To him, Fishing is the precision of tying a fly, the rhythm of casting and waiting, casting and waiting, in the crystal clear currents of an afternoon.

Mark Muro


28

CIRQUE

Jack Campbell

Unmitigated Fear

Some evenings when November shadows begin to shrink, I hike the back loop to observe movements of creatures passing along the muddy trail. Splayed devil’s club and yellow cottonwood leaves cover footfall of many travelers. Maybe I’ll spy a mouse’s soft parade of hieroglyphics, a marten’s furry pod prints, brown bear tracks that would not fit in a plate. Just before I hear them, several wolves have cut the trail. I carry no side-arm, no medieval pike. My only line of defense - a tenor shriek. Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood met Romeo. Later, his furry cousin ambushed a Chihuahua on Lemon Creek Trail. Seven years earlier, an hour and a half before sunset, on the outskirts of Chignik Lake, a pack took down a jogger. I begin to backtrack for the cabin. I realize fear is a vowel somewhere in the howl of a wolf. The pack moves with the wind.

Field Study

Janet C. Hickok

Susan Chase-Foster

I Will Send You A Caribou It’s a hot, mosquitoless afternoon and I’m hanging out at a picnic table above the Chena River trying to squeeze a poem out of my pen distracted by a crazy raven gargling prayers from the steeple of Immaculate Conception Church like a black Holy Ghost when a gaunt and scarce-toothed indigenous woman staggers up, says I am a hunter. I will send you a caribou. I thank her hand her a chilled bottle of yerba mate from my backpack. You don’t need this? I shake my head, smile. She shoots me a gummy grin starts to walk away turns back. Her eyes are black as Raven’s. I know your name. It’s in my iPhone. Thank you for helping people. I will send you a caribou. I write that down.

Wolf

Janet Clemens


29

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Kersten Christianson

Stjerne the word for star in Danish & Norwegian. My girl cups this heritage like a lapis lazuli palmstone; veins of cosmic clutter pattern her worldview. Archaic pantheons,  invented deities visit her from the smooth-printed page: Branching Out

Saint Luna of the cobalt sky; Saint Cedar of the windswept forest, of family and forage;   Saint Constellation of the stories walking  their way into dreams.

Brenda Roper

Diane Corson

The Smallness of Time it is the Silent Snow, Secret Snow that I remember from long ago before the snows melted at night after the day had spread so thin as to become near-black not like a black anyone remembered since the neighborhood near-black, a sort of fake night with shining porch light glare and the secret snow had ceased to exist as if an afterthought with its melancholia of the smallness of time, the silentness that never comes until one is not ready, for time and snow to not be from Silent Snow, Secret Snow

Forest Moon

Lucy Tyrrell

by Conrad Aiken, 1934


30 Steve Dieffenbacher

Before Eros They are young and they are holding hands, she the red-haired flare, he the tall and awkward grace. They are not kissing hungrily, they are not embracing half-naked under a branch as if in a fresh cinema saluting spring’s ascent. They are walking unhurried beside a street, holding each other loose in a half-shy twine, looking not at each other or any passing car, but what they imagine ahead, together.

Pomodori

CIRQUE They do not know the Greeks put eros lowest in the arts of love, below philia’s bonds of friendship, below storge’s knotted kinships, below agape’s divine reach, whose pale possibility hovers over them as they grope forward as one. For now, they know only the mystery of what may come, the likely detours of multiple unfoldings, not smiling, not sad, her hair lustrous and flowing, his back bent with vague intents he cannot recognize or declare, until the memory of their soon-to-be history is the sure past they must bear so achingly among us.

Giovanna Gambardella


31

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Mountain in the River

Cheryl Stadig

Gretchen Diemer

Notes From the Tour Guide: Seychelles Islands

for M. T.

From Mahe to Praslin the ferry rose and fell, the sea calm you told me---for this time of day---early morning and the breeze still cool. A fishing boat painted magenta motored across our wake---out of sight and lost to us between the islands of Praslin and La Digue. Two fishermen vanished in these waters two weeks ago. No bodies---no battered boat washed up on shore. Only rumors---only the tongues of the mothers and wives the memories of hijacked fishermen---of coast guard rescue remnants of old stories. These stories from your mouth you tell me often you go out beyond the horizon. You were born here---you know these waters. The rumors. Pirates from Somalia spotted close to land-- I look out over the tundra. Miles of snow and ice. Stand of spruce trees. How far I travel to be a dark shape on the landscape. A hand reaches out from somewhere. Do not speak to me of loss. You fished into the dark hours. You knew the stars and watched the moon. How it navigated the night sky. Earth’s spin and the moon’s progress. Drops of water that become the sea. At sunset we sink into the sand. How many small boats rock the earth’s surface? How many bodies line the shore? Raw hands. Fish scales and blood. You always made it back.

I look out over the tundra. Miles of snow and ice. Stand of spruce trees. How far I travel to warm my hands on the flames of the wood stove to be a dark shape in the kitchen. Lost in steam from the kettle---smoke from the fire.


32

CIRQUE

Carol Douthat

No Problem Faced with challenge of Denali Rangers’ questions Prior to “the great one” A Russian climber memorized two words Do you have experience with Denali hazards? “No problem!” Are you prepared in case of Emergencies on the mountain? “No problem!” Do you have adequate food and shelter? “No problem!” He climbed and descended in Two days –a marvel Left before anyone knew his name Dozens have died Who were more fluent. “No Problem!”

Offering

Jim Thiele

Laura Falsetti

Monterey We go to the water to forgive ourselves for nights in July. I stand in the clear shallow watch sand bury my toes. I tell someone the story of a huge wave that crashed ashore one day: some were spared, others were dragged out to sea. Someone refuses to believe my story. We go to the water to convince the people we used to love. I intend to drive home but instead I loop around. This time I park in gravel. Picnic tables under pavilions. Everyone waiting here is packed for a getaway yet the suitcase belonging to the man beside me is filled with prescription bottles of Ambien. I’m not sure I remember how to get home. We go to the water to see if we remember how to pray. Houses line the water’s edge like soldiers attic windows exploding with poppies. We go to the water because we have abandoned our children. I must be in California.


33

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

David Fewster

Jeff Fearnside

Bright Tapestry On certain dark nights, moist, wind stirring, clouds a Japanese screen across the sky, the moon suddenly breaks through with a fierce phosphorescence, the landscape below revealed in shadows and silhouettes. Eyeshine, like a beam reflected off the tapetum lucidum of a nocturnal animal foraging in the darkness, startled by approach, frozen in luminous wonder. That must be how I look when you undress and crawl into bed, turn your bright contemplation on me.

Under the Sea

Giovanna Gambardella

Jesse Bernstein At The 2017 Cascadia Poetry Festival, Tacoma, WA Last night, I hosted a FREE screening of “I Am Secretly An Important Man.” 3 people showed up. (Facebook had informed me that 31 were “going” and 208 were “interested”— Thanks, Facebook!) Two of them were a nice couple, recently transplanted to Tacoma, who had actually BEEN to the legendary Big Black show in Georgetown. (“This IS music, asshole.”) The other guy was a battle-scarred veteran of the scene who had come all the way from Seattle to see the movie— when it was over, he told us that in the fall of ’91, he saw what must have been one of Bernstein’s last shows at the O.K. Hotel (an event, he informed us, that was just about as ill-attended as the one we were presently at.) Bernstein came on stage carrying 4 shopping bags, which he placed around him during the reading. When he was done, he spilled the contents all over the stage and walked off. The bags were filled with hundreds of pill bottles, all prescribed to Bernstein— psych meds for schizophrenia and God knows what else. The guy took one of the bottles, which he saved for years and then lost. The rest were swept up into the garbage.


34

CIRQUE

Gabriela Halas

Francis

Have a Bite

Joren Kleven

Leslie Fried

Son I wish Son I wish I could see you for you remind me of what it feels like to be empty and full at the same time. you have a knack for appearing to me in dreams of misplaced children or unnamed villages. each day I am without you, I am closer to myself and I’m happy. I know I will love your new girl. Son I wish I could see you fly out of that shitty town after twenty years. I never loved the new girl though I loved that you loved. run away with your pets and sacred guitar of the one-eyed jack glued on by Marty. abandon the struggle. there’s no shame in being alone.

Francis, I make bargains with you Ask for time in its reliable pursuit of me to slow Ask for some clue from the blow of infancy to whom I assume to be As though stored in my gut our familiar cast of solitude You who always said everything is better with two You spent my lifetime with folded hands in prayer Ringed with old gold Hands that fit into the neat dirt of your graveyard garden plot Small shouldered fawn-like sheen You and the others grieve The loss of all of us who left Who are still leaving I watched you work seeds until you bit that ready flesh I heard you laugh somewhere hidden in your throat When you thought I wasn’t looking you frowned Side-glanced at my reach with limbs sturdy and lean Built across an ocean you didn’t see me for years Now these cinder block hutches won’t hold me They throw long shadows on cultivated fields and the wild holy creek we bring our plastic jugs to fill Francis the sinking ponds of your cheeks still draw water Your hair so wispy with every brush stoke thinning And liver spots grow to summon thee I made a number of excuses to never come home for the holidays But you were dead anyway And no one said your name Or remembered your housecoat lean Against soviet counters that were far too short for me


35

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Jim Hanlen

Creek Breath The challenge of a poem is to tie the knot in the third line. Next is to get it up in a lasso and fling it around words like creek breath, those bull-sized clouds, running over the mountains.

Gamoun

Taylor Creek

Yuliya Helgesen-Thompson

Matt Witt

Beth Hartley

Cuyaraq

--in honor of Marie Smith Jones, Eyak 1918–2008

Darkness Swallows Lost - words Lost - ways Lost - self Where am I? Here in your heartbeat So much is lost. The drum is beating... Hollowness fills my soul Softly - thum thum, thum thum Heal me, help me! The drum is beating... Spirits of land and water - heal me My heartbeat - thum thum, thum thum Spirits of fire and air - heal me The drum is beating... Ancestors, loved ones - heal me Loudly - THUM THUM, THUM THUM I am here - speaking Here in my heartbeat - thum thum, thum thum I am here - dancing Here in my heartbeat - thum thum, thum thum I am here - living Here in my heartbeat - thum thum, thum thum Light Celebrates Found - Words Found - Ways Found - Self Here, in my heartbeat.


36

CIRQUE

Esther Altshul Helfgott

Marriage She has been taking him to doctors every day for a month and once this last week he hollered at her. He was tired too and was sorry afterwards. When they came home she went to bed and didn’t get up for hours. When she did, he was in the kitchen making dinner. He turned to look at her. She smiled and said: I’m better now. He put Mozart’s Divertimento 563 into the CD slot. They sat down together and ate dinner, but first he kissed her.

Filler Up

Kimberly Davis

Bullets

Jim Thiele

S.C. Hodde

Sleight I couldn’t tell which voice was mine singing. My body massive, rung with pews and stale air, diffuse as the choral echo. Then the call came down. I answered, flushed and thrust my burden toward the saving room again. She stopped me inside the door. “No, honey, haven’t you done this already?” breathless and wide eyed, sizing the growing queue at my back. Confused and dizzy, new light draining out of me, I passed through that back room. Folks crying and wailing, saying the same thing over and over: Jesus please please Jesus please help me. And like a needle pulled from my skull the fever broke. But the trick still burned red in my face.


37

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Sarah Isto

Common Name: Camp Robber Gray Jay, Perisoreus canadensis Mid-March: drifts glaze and crumble in the sun, birch sap rises into still-bleak twigs, and the gray jays on the porch rail are courting. He tucks his wings snug to his body, flexes his back-bending knees and springs, arcing over her head then back, right-left-right. She turns coquette, squats, fluffs her down and flutters wings in imitation of her once-nestling self. Then she turns to face him and opens wide her mouth. He delicately drops in the last scrap of pancake placed for them on the railing. She babies up to him again and begs for more, her open beak a deep diamond. He hops and dithers, then abruptly turns and flies straight at our window, thudding it with chest and beak, demanding another delicacy to impress his love. But I will not be drawn into their affair. Already yesterday, I watched the two of them swipe wisps of pink insulation from our log chinking and fly off into the old spruces that ridge our south-facing hill.

Individual

Charity Hommel


Rob Jacques

Hangar on the Wharf Lose touch with wonderment and you’re fucked. -- Amy Gerstler

There’s nothing nice about coming up through evening above the long and lead-colored Gastineau Channel, Douglas Island a darkening, teal-green wall of Sitka spruce on your left and Juneau’s sullen, sodden, dank glowing on your right. Much of this is due to mist. Much the result of flying too many hours listening alone to a seaplane engine’s matter-of-fact, incessant song. They say Will Rogers flew in here years ago, but you’re willing to bet that was in summer, he was famous, and he had important business or pleasure ahead of him. It wasn’t now, during the nine months of the year when snow can take you anytime, and if it won’t, rain will. Besides, war-pathed Juneau in the 1940s was a roaring camp of paranoia and patriot thrill. Old towns like this abide even on the cusp of night, especially on the cusp of night when, alone, you prowl in your increasingly forlorn search for what was once love, but which now has become merely an obsession. Old towns have nothing to give and only respond with a solemn bliss and sullen kisses to that which you bring them, you, on the verge of depression. Nothing drenches like a southeast Alaskan storm, blowing through you with a cold-water wind as you harken to soughing trees towering over where you have to walk, listen to the storm’s stern blow, and there’s no help for it: you will abide, too, like the old town remembering what it was like to be fresh, inspired, standing naked in front of hope.

Among old-timers waiting on the banks of Styx, old-timers indifferent to Chiron being late, old-timers who know a thing or two of what you’re feeling, are a few who laugh like tourists, their clothes new, their comments quick and glib, and they flaunt fake Alaskan things bought this afternoon at crass cruise-line-owned shops. Look out through the rain-streaked windows to seaplanes and fishing boats dripping in hours of the accumulating dark. Look out on your future that flows shallowly like Gastineau Channel toward the unredeeming ocean not as far off as tourists might think when they wile away time strolling in better days along Marine Park. There’s no help for it. This sluggish feeling of living independent, but alone. Living openly on the raw edges of what’s acceptable, but smothering what’s eating inside, seeds unsown. Go ahead and turn. Go upstairs to pretend at the pool tables that everything is lightness and there is no heat, no hurt, no slow burn. He’s young, clean-cut, and stops you cold. He’s at a small table with two little boys, a waitress doting on the kids, and you hear “Weekends with your dad: that must be nice.” You watch him awhile and weave the cloth of his story, this guy who’s dark and slender, and you feel a wife has made a dumb mistake

The rough wooden rails are soggy with spongy moss. The boardwalk is slick with algae, you unsteady to the point of slipping, sliding into a briny slime that already flecks your shoes and, given a chance in Alaskan dark, torrential expanse, would do more. You’re fretting and wet by the time you reach Marine Way, holster your gloom at the Hangar door.

letting this one go, a man with a loving nature, protective and tender. His flannel shirt is clean and pressed, his jeans clean, his boots new: he’s dressed for them, his boys, unknowingly for you, and you imagine joy in his company, sweating, working with him in rough outdoors, making a home for each other and his boys.

What cheers you here October through May is companionship of fishermen, pilots, politicians and beer. You throw off your soaked jacket to let your soaked shirt warm and begin to dry, nestle and nuzzle up to the crowded bar for stout, and get soaked in Brad Paisley’s country blues, Colin Bullock’s Canadian angst. You look about:

You are lost in irreverent reverie of this dream, fantasizing this family scene into endorphins that mask your existential thoughts up to now, but you’d never have the courage to speak, to begin, to give yourself to him, to pursue this wonderment sitting so close, and you watch him pause, then turn, then look at you.


39

Juleen Johnson

March Arrives As A Lion

After Plath

Can we all simply say, Sorry for what I have become? In a winded voice, crippled as old vinyl on Edison Amberola. Forget what it was like to be 22. I loved like an escalator Sharp with silver teeth

ready.

Zip the window down. Daddy I am through Through with everything that has to do with you Portrait of Gladys

A lonely pink umbrella. Go ahead it will not hurt. I am sleep.

Joe Kashi

Deep Winter On bleak winter days, beyond despair, transcendence beyond mists, clarity.

Brenda Jaeger


40

CIRQUE

Mickey Kenny

Raised in Redoubt The volcano’s halo was a mire of fire spirals piled on pyres of stray silica filling the air with sulfuric fog. This is the place I breathe today. A place where volcanoes lactate black ice onto streets where black nights get buried in urban snowbanks. I live in a place where muskrats are lurking beneath birds chirping in birch trees near persons working on city expansion. I live in a land embedded with chemical sedatives corroding the dirt where the flower petals and feathers live. I live with skeletons, day dreamers, pelicans, gray sea birds, fishing for fish guts off the Homer Spit, plus, blackberries in black bears eating buried salmon and salmonberries tearing plump pink pearls with sharp white teeth that juice then drips down ivory. And I breath in a place where the sky bleeds I mean the sky sings with snowflakes and the song will cover the whole place And I was born in space. I was born in space where the northern lights will swim naked in a thick oil of vacant night making snakes of bright sacred light. I live in a place of life and a place of hope a place of space and a place of ghosts a place of night and a place of glow a place where the moon is the midnight’s soul, which is nothing but the black canopy of a thousand blind crows.


41

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

John Kooistra

Returning to Alaska Cracks

J.I. Kleinberg

Memory of Rain

Jim Thiele

Six miles up. Full moon motionless over the wing. Each enclave in the blackness below glitters like dew in a spider web making it hard to pull back from the cool cheek of the window. When I glance down later there are no lights. Only the wing tip strobes shooting dimes off into the night and the moon’s reflection inching over the hammered metal of the ocean.


CIRQUE

Elizabeth Landrum

One Knee Down In the River Dust has claimed the frame of your picture. I blow it away, stroke the wood, sniff the glass. There, in your felt hat and blue waders, one knee down in the River called Hope, you gleam as you offer that trout to the camera. Dripping, slick and glistening, a fish exhausted, outsmarted in your last cast and struggle, lies cradled, fins between your fingers, moments before the release. Today I pretend we are together so I can ask you about those times we shouted Hi Ho Silver! before racing our bikes downhill, heedless of potholes, wind in our eyes. Did you ever let me win? And just how did we sneak out of that third story window, escaping to chase more shooting stars? Who were we then? You, my Clyde Barrow, my Lone Ranger. And who was I to you? I want to read you my poetry, listen to your edits, show you my home. I want to hear you sing again — every word of Alice’s Restaurant and Desolation Row like you did that night in Noni’s barn. But layers of time have turned your voice thin and gauzy, transcribed our stories in fading ink, exchanged image after image for air. I want to tell you about Dad’s dying, how he asked only for peace, quiet, water. Then permission to go. I want to know how it was for you, your last cast and struggle when you tried to climb the stairs, crumpled to your knees. When you insisted I bring you the crossword puzzle, your Sunday devotion, and you strained to stay with it, nodding, pen in hand, just before you were jerked from the stream. Sometimes in dreams we talk. Sometimes you are a river unfinished, a fly rod, a cobweb, a fly, a brown trout disguised in the silt. But this is not a dream of silence. It’s a shuffling of papers sealed in the ceiling. It’s a clawing at the hatch. Please smuggle me in before the ladder collapses.

Shattered

Jim Thiele


43

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Yvonne Higgins Leach

There Is Always The Moment When The Child Is Lost Others are such cowards they use airplanes to chase and kill wolves in packs.

I could hear the hum of my parent’s conversations through my bedroom floor boards.

The calm instructions as they prepared a meal. The occasional comment as they both read in the same room.

Besieged by the low engine roar and blast of gun fire

A serious subject conveyed deeper intonations and that’s when I went to the top of the stairwell.

the wolves bolt across the mountainside darting among trees that cannot save them.

In the hours and days that followed I wandered our woods, uncorded from the world, a trembling pressed inside me like ancient handprints.

We think we’re such a civilized society but we’re not. It’s deplorable.

In the doorway I asked: What are you talking about? The silence clotted thick with hesitation. They wanted my nine-year-old life to remain pure: sun-fed afternoons, hours with the dog

The shrill of a grief-song erupted and has been sounding ever since. Previously published in Tuck Magazine

catching frogs by the lakeside, painting rocks, building secret forts, smacking on a Popsicle on the front porch steps, and imagining new worlds in the ceiling of my bedroom. After I insisted, they explained that our state of Alaska passed a bill allowing bears and cubs and wolves and pups to be killed in their dens. I remembered one Saturday watching on TV a family of wolves tucked safely in their den of hollow logs and tree roots, even a boulder overhead kept them cool. And now in my mind a man slithers up and shoots them, a thousand dying whimpers, then blood and silence against the dirt wall. My father said: Holly

Nancy Woods


44

CIRQUE

Alex Leavens

Madie DeGraw The only scars are on the aspen tree. It happened before my time, but I can tell it like I was there—Madie DeGraw and the bear that took her in the middle of the night. She came into the wickiup, and pulled Madie out over two people, but no one heard a thing until the screams—one second she was warm, the next she was cold. But the bear never hurt her, just slipped off the sleeping bag and sniffed her, down there. But the bear couldn’t have her, stood on her hind legs and tore into the aspen tree when the young man came into the dark and rain in his underwear to scare it away. Some legends say that a bear who can’t have cubs will fall in love with a woman during her moon. That winter, a hunter shot an uncommonly large sow in those same hills. I’ve known mountain men who could string a few stories together and come up with a tall tale but I believe most of this one. I don’t know how long that old aspen tree will be there to hold up the only proof. After too long, who’ll be left to say that it had anything to do with love?

Yakima River October

Judith Skillman

Iterations

Sheary Clough Suiter

Eric le Fatte

Revolution In the Wenatchee Valley a farmer sat on his tractor and sang to his orchard. Thousands of blossoms took to the sky because the wind was singing too. In a moment it seemed that spring had taken the airwaves, renewal had become our commerce, and we were the voice of the land.


Peter Ludwin

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Linc’s Check the small boxes for corkies, spin-glows, jigheads, barrel swivels. And over here, bobbers, squid jigs, boogie bait. A sign in this small, bare-bones tackle shop admonishes: Don’t forget your worms and maggots. After 67 years the owners, Japanese with long memories of a relative packed off to Minidoka internment camp till war’s end, are closing its doors for good.

Shorebird

Janet Clemens

I imagine you, Father, rummaging through such arcane gear, as I used to see you pick through dry flies and wet that filled trays in a cork-lined box.

Rosemary Douglas Lombard

John Tennent’s “Curlews”: The Mystery of the Bills Three curlews stand in sopping mud and ebbing tide, their bills borne in the air, but none is raised with song. Are lifted bills the sign the birds are satisfied? To puzzle out their use, my mind has tried and tried— those built-in arches half their body size, so long— while the curlews stand in sopping mud and ebbing tide. Perhaps all curlews wait to watch the tide subside. Their oddly decurved bills, though thin, are hard and strong . . . Can lifted bills be signs the birds are satisfied? Is the mudflat home, the only place where they reside? Do bills strike out at a prey as if it were a gong? No, they simply stand in sopping mud and ebbing tide. If a curlew yawns, we see the answer is inside the bill. Agape, it makes a pointed, probing tong. Their lifted bills must be a sign the birds are satisfied. Bill form enables feeding, so I can now decide: If you guess long bills jabbed deep for worms, you’d not be wrong; held in air they show their appetite is satisfied. Three full curlews stand in mud and ebbing tide.

The singing reel, the spoon a-flutter in the current just before a strike meant many things: sport, passion, refuge. Your lone temple of intimacy. I pause before a map display to savor syllables of the former Indian world: Quillayute, Kalama, Wynooche, Willapa, Washougal, Skokomish, Hamma Hamma, Calawah. The lush, liquid vowels, the sheer abundance of sound so different from your terse tongue. Mounted above, two Chinook salmon over fifty pounds, one caught down in the bay. That would never happen now. Did you ever come here? If not, you should have. This place reeks of Old Seattle, that rough-edged town of bums and booze along Skid Row. And the Kalakala ferry, silver hull aimed for distant islands. More at home with fish than family, you wore the mantle of winter sleet. That’s why I’ve made this trip. Before the finality of padlocks, to feel you roam these aisles while rain pounds the roof, watch you test and flick a rod, a set hook the only prize you seek.


Jordan Luz

shi-shi on da bachroom floor wen i wuz 7 years old, i tink i wuz in da 2nd grade. oh wait . . . nevahmind, i wuz in da 2nd grade. dis wuz so long ago dat i almost fo’got em already. but i still remembah dis moment like it wuz yestahday cuz dis sumting i nevah gon fo’get. i wuz goin’ to pearl city elementary at da time and i wuz innocent az can be. i would follow all da rules, listen to wot my teacha said, would tattle on my classmates dat wouldn’t listen, da works bu. i wuz even rockin’ da bob hairstyle--which i’m pretty sure dat wuz common fo’ all filipino boyz back in da day. in fak, it might’ve been common all ova Hawai`i, try ask any guy wot kine haircut dey had wen dey was litto. betchu wuz da bob. anywayz, lunch recess jus wen finish ah n everyone wuz goin to da bachroom befo’ we all went back to class. at pearl city elementary, had dis big silver container lookin ting dat wuz basically da public urinal in da boyz bachroom. so erryone would be standin’ dere pissin n seeing each odda’s boto’s at the same time. we wuz all kidz back den so it neva even matter and i neva care so much either. so i wen make shi-shi and washed my hands--cuz i wuz one good boy ah--and den made my way back to class. had sum of my classmates runnin’ back to da classroom--idk y dey was doin dat cuz not like da classroom gon’ disappear ah? or maybe dey was just supah excited for learn--which i can agree wit, except da runnin back to class part. jus az my teacha wuz about to begin da lesson, one of da odda guys dat wuz in da bachroom too came wit his teacha to my class. he wuz in da same grade as me too and he wuz dis chubby japanese-hawaiian-mix plate lookin boy. all of a sudden, dis prick wen point his fingah at me and said, “das da guy dat made shi-shi on da floor” brah, u cannot even imagine da shocked and scared look on my face. i instantly denied but fo’ sum reason, wuz his word against mine. not once did i eva make shi-shi on da floor in da school’s bachroom. i jus wen go in straight panic mode cuz i neva like get in trouble. but guess wot? i did. i had fo’ go to the principal’s office--who wuz actually pretty nice, it wuz da vice principal dat wuz one to be reckoned wit. but how’z dis, da head principal wuzn’t da one to talk to me . . . it wuz da vice principal brah. all my worst nightmares came tru da moment she started fo’ talk to me. of course she nevah believe me so i jus started to cry sum more. wuz so fucked up cuz NO ONE wen believe me. not even my mom wen she picked me up afta sku. she said she got wun call from my teacha and the vice principal n dey wen

inform her of wot wen happen. all my mom did wuz bitch me out in da car, scolding me and tellin’ me to wait until we got home . . . i knew i wuz gon’ get some dirty lickens, it wuz jus a matter of wit wot weapon of choice. i ended up gettin smacked with the belt and i couldn’t stop crying. i remembah dat i kept on yelling, “i didn’t do it! i didn’t do it!” as she continued fo’ geev me lickens. it wuz no use. i just accepted my fate, even if i wuz completely innocent. i had detention fo’ a week--erry lunch time afta i ate, i had fo’ go to da vice principal’s office n sit dere for da duration of lunch recess. i remembah it bein’ so silent and she nevah even try fo’ talk story wit me. talk about bein’ wun bitch. flash forward to da 5th grade--by dis time, i had transferred to waikele elementary cuz i lived in waikele n dey just finished building dis new elementary sku. so of course made sense fo’ go here instead. dis school wuz supah nice cuz had new buildings, new computers, new erryting brah. even da classrooms were nice, clean and had a.c. so i nevah had fo’ be sweatin all da time--and if u know me, i alwayz sweat choke, like i can manoa falls kine. anywayz, in my class, dere wuz dis one guy dat looked supah familiar. wen i saw his face, i immediately knew dat i knew him from sumwhere . . . but where? az da sku year went on, i eventually made frenz wit him and i had decided to ask him wot elementary school he went to befo’ coming to waikele. he said pearl city. dun dun dun! so i asked him if he remembah’d my face but to no surprise, he said no. das wen i started fo’ recall da events of dat nightmarish day n how he wen accuse me of makin’ shi-shi on da boyz bachroom floor. “hooo, yeah i remembah dat day!” he said. den i told him dat it wuzn’t even me dat made shi-shi on da floor, not even once. guess wot he said. he wuz like, “oh yeah i realized afta dat it wuzn’t u but it wuz sumone else dat wen do dat. i know cuz i saw him latah in da day” brah . . . i wuz like wtf!? dis whole time he knew dat he accused da wrong person n nevah even tell his teacha dat he made a mistake in pointing me out. he instantly apologized tho and told me he wuz sorry. i wuzn’t dat mad cuz it wuz so many years ago and we wuz only kids--wot fo’ i gon hold a grudge? i jus said it wuz okay n we laughed about em after. i still cannot believe dat he knew he made a mistake but still followed through with accusing me tho. we eventually went to da same middo and high sku together so i would sumtimes bring it up erry now and den to make trouble to him. and to remind him dat he accused an innocent boy and caused him fo’ get dirty lickens from his maddah dat day. but at least we can laugh about em now. i neva goin’ stop reminding him of dat day. it’s pretty funny now dat i tink about em.


47

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Reve

Adam Mackie

A Life with Wind I cover my eyes to block out light or do I block it in? I always find myself peeking through to see myself; I see in all these senses what is written down. When receiving a word, a life with wind, time and time again, I see a bird catching no shadow.

Katherine Coons


48

CIRQUE

Carmen Maldonado

Idle, believe me, is my brain

IV.

I.

          dry

Idle, believe me, is my brain. Imagine everything being this dry— thoughts such as: what might be? Where sound? Its dwelling? A retreat, peacemind, the barren world birthing wonder. Sometimes love. Eyes do not see or talk grace. I, however— I am desire.

thoughts            without                                 fables

II.

I follow and though I am only an archive of some nature, hunting for I without you, you have me. Hear: am I an error? I have long known you, all through, I have taken you all in. You are a possible moment, ripe to break. This want, too much. Too little.

Now for the simples: need (check) matter (check) artlessness (check check) purpose - no, that is for the other list. Once assembled, grind to a pale dust. Be god. Blow from the bowl of your hands. In the beginning a word, human or divine— more perfect than melancholia, that destruction of silence. III. Tears, pardon this child. Its soul is as a house: plain, common. Some minor labor of art. Lay it down. Ponder the ear, elbow, cheek, hand, unexpectedly lively. See me, deep in the mystery of it. It troubles me to feel ancient. Call me Oblivion.

          full of                               eloquence And distraction it is a pleasure to have nothing at the end V.

VI. I propose chaos for the beginning, which can be removed a little afterwards and replaced with aphorisms: you are what you pretend to be, hell is other people, etc., any small or polite kiss of wisdom to the cheek of the heart.


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

IX.

VII. In which a village calls to mind a galaxy. Lean stars in the fine cloth of night, homespun early risers working the land tilling milky pearls— divinity, fortify and let the worms lie awake. Meaning extracted from fertile wounds. Nebulae of crows. Quiet orgasms and eggs and quiet orgasms into eggs. Shooting stars. Starchildren. Plink plink plink VIII.

Absorbed by the dark poring over (with little sleep) the enchantments and agonies that possessed reality, the strange notion came to roam or to be roamed— the usual danger lying forgotten in rust and given a new name: River. This to be mounted. This to be entered. This to be cleansed. If you can float in it, you can be born from it, no? X.          pondering     this                     must have been

a thousand                   countries                                  condensed

      nothing    like                        taking

     to                     stories

                   love       without fruit or      body—                            asunder,                           you may   fall,        vanquished admirably. XI.

Disconnect

Jim Thiele

Command me or dispose of me, so the story goes. In love with a thought or the design of a thought one morning before dawn I took the plains road squeezed the open plains road every drop until strange reflections wavered in the rear- and side-views: sagebrush Apollo stroking an ermine painted birds until I was sick with jealousy and wonder.


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CIRQUE

XII.

XV.

Now a heart grievous with indifference requests: banish beauty. Put an end to gossamer and all its makers— leave only the flies with their absurdities blink of a life shitmother and shitfather narrow buzz nothing remarkable really

Best to speak fairly. If you worship sleep or sleeplessness, under night take care of the flesh in this world. Time is a ribbon, there is no untying the knots. Proceed, hours, with your pressing, simple truth, seasons thin toward some falling, some stony moment. Away are green days. Come are white days. Coming our black days. Order twilight, today’s special, in order toward morning to stride. Whiteblack dawndark, etc., one always before the other.

XIII. Night falls hungry whole trees hand themselves over to it, a gentle doom of daughters— starguides people the black untelling sky but let’s stick around here, kick around a few stones, love under this Here, offer followers in the guise of moans (excuse me) (kiss kiss) this is very like fun XIV.        to halt        night           imagine      the moment              the           shining silver, not forgetting               all the            usual                          distance At this moment                                                collect    flight             dust                     voice I offer you eyes obscured                          manifest

XVI. The old ballad is grim and heavy, a record of beginnings and their natural continuations, a little godking saying to himself, “the beauty of this is now dead,” and rising only to sight, to be stained, slow length, the dead going strange, the patterns glowing, waiting, so careful. Rock and walk. Towards him. Prophecies in the lane, pleasantly humming. The light of a simple morning. XVII. The four quarters of the world are as follows: Elam, Meal, Male, and Pasadena. I found scissors and my blood shakes to make the cut, vulgar and charming though it may be, dropping to a grin. Ships are late. Sirens unappreciated. Dirty handsome deckhands. The will of currents. The lightness of fingers with bones out of breath, whispering over partitions. By morning I am still poised, blades dripping carefully into the hot street.


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 XVIII. Upon living— the condition might be great love or pulled necessity or wounds received or wounds cured or wonder and strange madness or endlessly repeated rituals or endlessly repeated rituals an edited and re-edited single line both prolix and tediously lacking, as such things tend to be.

Raven

XIX. Star-gold water rising— it is you who calls the water from the reeds down there from my long reeds very black beneath the mud slap-red water rising o my Zodiac friend you plucking the tides like a mandolin I waiting for a dissonant chord a crest and a crescendo liquid and aural that rises from within, holds me, I lying stunned with the dead floating slow through the mottled weeds, the river bearing no more but a swan which has fallen midwinter among the spirits here, her own clouded sorrows and muddied breast weighing her down, body chuckling across the surface, elegant neck puzzled. XX.            not knowing      the         object of        water                                            the                clear                            word        once more dropped                                     without    breaking

Janet Clemens

XXI. Sad hands cannot make wings or, if they do, only sad wings. Drop said drip said the great man to this. Staring is burning. Flying is burning. Everything is burning. The real pity is fear. The wind and I are poor bedfellows. Earth, earth, earth — only earth for me. XXII. If old lady Thames can be cleansed, why not you? I am a curator of once-filth. If time is an illusion, everything that was once-filthy is still-filthy; everything that was once-clean is still-clean; everyone that wants to go back is already there, and vice versa— hurry mouths! sing yourselves in darkened euphony— I am hooked on euphonics, you see, and you all work for me. XXIII. The story of day: the east still famous,  nothing better— and two paths with pine and birch  along them: o, which way? Strange things, both dead and blooming. The morning dressed in reason  and beauty and death. Reason does not allow easy enjoyment. To discover madness is an ancient tradition, a magic process. Reason cannot be this good.


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CIRQUE XXIV. Finding the usual remedy brings to mind the mountain, children forgotten, and miracles of suffering. What chance did feeble words ever have in such a place as this? Sweet love and sweet war spread over the world, sufficiently invincible. XXV.

Terry Martin

Treatment As darkness gathers we build modest shrines (ravens clothed in night words inked in lines) to praise what is left— husk, pod, bone, leaf;

            all  at once

the strangeness of dusk, the sweetness of grief.

                         the                              dread:              rather, there was                    gravity.

Sean H. McDowell

Between Two Rivers in Galway Water gushes from unseen places, crossing underneath the river bank between Friar’s River and the Corrib. It splatters against tumbled stones. Wind gusts toss tree leaves as if to shake free loose change. A sea gull kite tethered to a tapered rod soars above bankside apartments. It teeters on a table leg of updrafts, dips and climbs without letting go. Rain keeps most people inside this morning. My sole companions: blustery air and those who are not here. A lone swan on clear water drifts in to catch what it can.

Brown Leaf

Jack Broom


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

David McElroy

River Running Here comes water the rocks make— the chop, the chute, the tongue. Drag an oar, slew left and tuck into slack for the strap grabbers. Pump rubber hard with air, and your raft bangs through risk and rush, wave and eddy, the suck and heave of a stream breathing. Sweepers comb for what floats, meaning you, the boat, dog barking, bottle of scotch, bird book, and a shoe. High snow the wind makes holds for a moment the wolf track over the pass, bearberry and kinnikinnik’s little bells-for a moment the solitaire’s feather. Comes now the melt, the freeze, the crust, corn snow, slush, gurgle, the rivulet, and rill. The run that runs and runs. The whole collection, let come-the flow, the flume, the pull of jobs and artifacts of home, bad love badly gone, the house, the bones and bones, hammer of panic, phone, car crash, week in jail, blankets in a knot.

Valley Glow

Monica O’Keefe

Karla Linn Merrifield

Reinvention Iterations The witchy widow calls forth chickadee spirit. He appears—a bird of fragile wing, of feathered words drifting softly to Earth. ~ The nasty widow isn’t. Lacking camouflage of a chameleon, mine is now a fanged grin after grief’s quick puncture wound. ~ The virgin widow demurs in moist white panties. Curiosity lingers in loins’ confession to black lingerie desires. ~ The Dali widow drapes herself over time warped to a hidden stop lost heartbeat in ellipses… I am the drooping candle. ~

Let come the whole museum, this Smithsonian you own. Let displays the kitten makes purr and purr in a pile, in a pool, of blue socks.

The artful widow became a reptile in her mind, the five-lined skink of southern maritime woodlands and inland swamps, who is glossing over leaf litter, tonguing dew, slinking into sunny patches— in timeless lines inked in a Hiroshige woodblock print.

Let go the dig, the shoot, the film, the shelved, boxed, and hung. Let it run. Karla Linn Merrifield’s most recent poetry collection is Psyche’s Scroll, The Poetry Box, 2018. Cirque Press is soon to release her newest

We are grateful for this voice. Yes!

collection Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North.


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CIRQUE

Red Watering Can

Lucy Tyrrell

Kevin Miller

Everyone Looks Like Someone You Know You hate your face— there, it’s said, clean windows can be passed at an angle,

worn smooth from touch, the leathery fingers of your father-in-law as he gripped

call it a glance, dread’s best kept for bedtime, phobias of crawly things, and who

your forearm to teach you to hold the shotgun, the spot behind the springer’s ears

would understand that vat of applesauce you prayed to keep from your sleep,

as she lolls her head on your thigh. What arrives through the skin finds a slant of its own,

for the recurring dream is no dream if its terror— even silly terror says pay

as if around led to this, glass and skin akin to cousins close like sisters, the dead reappear

attention, do not drift. You think of kindly things, blanket satin, corduroy shirts

from the other side of the family, as if ricochet were the shortest distance between generations.


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

55

Cynthia Monroe

Father You dream an old man in a valley: ink pots, brushes, and snowy new paper he is afraid to touch There is a legend of an emperor whose calligraphy was so fine heaven listened to his brush Every stroke a prayer answered, every completed character a shelter for his people Then the emperor grew old, invaders came to the mountain passes and of all the scribes in the kingdom not one had the purity of the emperor’s hand On his deathbed the emperor instructed the people in making a secret ink no burnt oak gall, nor powdered kohl could match—to use for their finest prayers and tie them to the quick-growing shoots of mulberry trees which in their race for the sky would carry petitions to heaven Even as they built the funeral pyre and blackened their faces with ash, his people did as he said but the emperor must have forgotten: Armies march faster than racing trees The invaders poured over the passes burned the mulberry groves, beheaded the scribes The secret ink was lost until an old man who traces his line all the way back to the emperor has dreamt it and sits before a thirsty page, hands trembling the legend pounding in his veins They say it is only a story but he knows the valley hangs in the balance—his wife whose soul becomes more lost at each breath, his daughters mercurial as breeze-touched willows, the fat hands of their babies and each garden each gardener, each bee—his heart falters he is so frail You try not to wake you try to ignore the distant airplane, the refrigerator’s shudder your pulse treads the pillow as you reach for that valley wanting as day slices your eyelids—only to smooth the rough-skinned paper to put your hand on his


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CIRQUE

Rebecca D. Morse

Fur Coat I do not remember its softness cuddling my neck or the way I could bury my hands in the darkness of its sleeves. I do not remember its ruffed hood or the teeth of its metal zipper. I do not remember how keen my night vision was when wearing it, or how I could curl into a comfortable warm ball. I do not remember how it came about that I had such a wondrous coat, its brown and black stripes transforming me into a small stealth animal when I wore it.

I was spared a beating that day only because my father took the brunt of it. I wailed as a four year old would while Mom, clutching my little brother to her breast, lashed out at Dad who continued beating back the fire until it smoldered a dull gray at our warm feet. Nothing more than a pile of ash myself, my tears hissed on the dying embers while the smoke curled up to kiss the handle of Dad’s shovel.

I remember the warmest coat I ever owned consumed by fire. I remember it a pile of ash at my feet. I was careless. I was irresponsible. I was shamed stupid. All the pleasure and warmth the coat held vanished in an instant. Screeching to a halt at the out-of-control fire Mom flew from the car, snatching my brother and his carriage from the licking flames.

The Storm

Sheary Clough Suiter


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

57

Carl “Papa” Palmer

Celebrity Celibacy

Solstice Melt

Janet C. Hickok

Leonard Orr

Amour Fou Late In Life It comes back to me whenever the temperatures drop and snow is expected in the mountains: such quick disheveling the reward of long life experience. In the back of your oversize truck we were zipped up entirely in two thick sleeping bags. All the windows were fogged inside, snow-covered outside. It was so quiet, we could hear the snow falling. I hope you will recall the time we nested deeply in the bags, resting or even dozing, when we heard crunching snow next to the truck. We emerged like ice gods expecting to see a deer leaping, as happened from time to time. With my glasses tucked in my shoes, I could turn a deer into a moose. The snow and icy branches were festive, lit with blinking blue and red lights. There were police trucks all around us, bulky officers tapping the windows, throwing all the doors open. They expected to make a large arrest. They told us to get dressed and they checked our licenses and made us drive back to highway. I was delighted when you called out to them, “We’re just lovers!”

Her laptop sits upon my pillow, poems covering my side of our bed. Jazz escapes her earphones as I lean  in for a quick peck on my cheek.   Her eyes return to her writings  as I exit unmissed to the den.   This same scene, nine months of  nights, sleeping on the couch.   I hold myself to blame, begged her to come, read for open mike    and she loved it. Her first reading  wowed the audience, read again,    became a regular, joined poetry groups, found her voice,   was asked to be the featured reader,  wrote more, read more, published,    working on her second collection, poems covering my side of our bed.

Muses

Tami Phelps


58

K.M. Perry

And per se And

Bruce Parker

Fragmentation

...the one reason

you stay together, that stubborn desire

that gets left over when all the rest collapses.

--Stephen Dobyns, “The Party”

Desire is like an acorn shed by an oak in its last year of life, it begins as a seedling, stretches forth into its future as a source of shadow over everything, and the leftover desire after the oak collapses becomes the entitled birds, the cool shade of the past.

Agoraphobia

Robert Bharda

“God damn it, breathe!” & I took my first breath “Hold still or I will break your arm” & so I held still “Don’t tell anyone” & I remained silent “I never want to see your face” & I hid “Someday I will kill you” & I waited The Voice said, “Stay strong” & so I did sit ups The homeless said, “We are hungry” & I fed them “She was murdered” & I found her killer “I’m sorry another friend was murdered” & I cried again “God told me you have to marry me” & I agreed “I don’t want to be with you” & so I gave birth alone “Take care of my son” & I did “Don’t leave the house” & I planned my escape The Voice said, “Stay strong” & so I started biking “I will destroy your life” & I divorced him “I know she killed him” & I knew it could have been me “Rescue the human trafficking victims” & I did “My daughters need help” & so I took care of them “Go to the refugees” & I went “Be my bride” & I said yes “I have a daughter” & I inherited her “Because I love you” & we love “I will tell your story” & I will tell my story The Voice said, “Stay strong” & I continue &


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Sand Bar

Matt Witt

Vivian Faith Prescott

Vulnerability Assessment Throughout this document we use the term vulnerability to describe the potential response to climate change. --EcoAdapt

beneath my skin at a gauge height of 18 feet. And though I’ve reviewed my relationship

Let’s consider snow, ice, water, riparian vegetation, and fish species. For this river, with its sandtold

to the river and the landforms of my graveled driveway, and my tongue-n-groove sided cabin,

stories shaping the delta, engraves our island into a scrimshawed landscape. We’ve measured

it does nothing to ensure my adaptive capacity.— For so long I have avoided questioning

this shift from snow to rain, early spring ice and late snowpack, as the river ribbons

the adverse impacts of my wind-thrown self and my particular shallow rooting.


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CIRQUE

Amy Crawford Purevsuren

A Picnic of Honni Mahk - Sheep Meat The Mongolians drive off track, flattening windshield-high grass, and pull up to a grove of birches, where everyone from toddlers to elders cheerfully piles out. When two men open the car trunk, a sheep’s wild eyes accuse them as they lift her, inverted, through waist-high monkshood past children picking currants, women starting a fire, peeling potatoes. By the birches and clear stream, they set the sheep on her back and one holds her bound legs while the other kneels, quickly—surgically— slitting the pale belly. The knife enters softly, gently even, then his hand and forearm slip in, reaching into the ribcage like a veterinarian assisting a birth, eyes closed, fingers palpating. Even as I am transfixed by this art of killing— which is not slaughter, is not careless nor cruel nor machinated— my American side lurks, queasy. For a long instant, the sheep is quiet, only her eyes shifting nervously. But when the herder plucks her aorta, she screams and bucks the earth

and labors quickly towards death, her eyes thrashing in the sockets. The adults continue chattering, the children playing, while I hover on the periphery, thinking, This is why you came. Now roll up your sleeves. And my other side— the one I’m ashamed of—accuses: You actually prefer supermarkets and plastic-wrapped meat. The truth disturbs you. Together, the families disassemble the sheep and I finally kneel, elbow in with the women, spooning a red soupy mixture into the intestines, which will become sausage, flies bumping off my face like my other-self which hovers and refusing to depart, unlike the sheep, which seems to vanish piece by piece until only a few sinewy bits remain in the grass. Blood, tongue, brain, gums are consumed; ankle bones are saved and cleaned for play; the pelt will become a robe. The meat is baked in a stratus of hot rocks; the liver, wrapped in a shawl of fat, grills over the fire. And when the herder cuts out the eyes and gifts them to his youngest son, a token of his love, I toss the part of me from which I want to flee into the leaping flames.


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Tim Raphael

Joshua Tree I’m not up to the task of this desert. My most lyrical description of the sky? Blue. And the temperature? Hot. Names of the tiny birds and tinier flowers don’t stick with me. And I can’t seem to think in geologic time. I trip over words like Pleistocene and get lost in the ages, epochs and periods.

I’m alone and that’s lucky, because the yogic peace of this place would be seriously degraded if there was someone else here to hear me curse this sand – boot sucking sand fine as curry powder, meant to hamper, to humble. Sand that would have made John Wayne give up the pursuit and hand over his badge – but also sand that could provide a fine burial place for the new hi-tech camping gear on my back, gear that feels an awful lot like the old heavy stuff that left me hunched and weeping trailside at summer camp in Maine. Mountains don’t care.

The boulder to the west looks a bit like a head, was possibly named for someone important to mark this place by the first people here, then maybe renamed by the trappers and miners who pushed them out. Millennia of wind and rain have hollowed out two cockeyed eyes and carved a thinning pedestal of a neck. It could fall in the next five years or five thousand. I’m still walking and that’s something. I’ve been walking since seven in the morning, rising with the sun when it was still playful, before it became white hot and angry. And I’ll be walking for miles more, in and out of Lost Horse Valley in search of the water jugs I stashed behind a Joshua tree halfway through this four-day hike. When I get there, I’ll drink right past my stomach and into the arroyos of my limbs, down to the empty pool of my big toe.

Back in the land of pilsner and pillow-top mattresses, the photos I post will tell little lies like sirens calling out to you. You’ll see shale-stacked hillsides dotted with Mojave Asters under an azure sky and great sandstone gardens hiding Beavertail Cactus, tail tips blazing with magenta flowers at the peak of bloom. You’ll see mesa-filled panoramas straight out of the Old West, and you’ll say, damn, I wish I was there.

Fort Rock, Oregon

Steve Dieffenbacher


62

Diane Ray

A Woman’s Dream Come to Group! Arthur, the famous therapist said. Confidentiality? Oh, they won’t care. And so I watched the wiggle and squirm he called The Work, as couples made altars of themselves for him to climb. One husband spoke for both, words curling towards the therapist like sycophantic smoke, when his until-then silent wife stopped leaning and sprung to life suddenly pulling the ropes of self. You know how at the teasing edge you begin to remember? Oh-my-God, I had this dream: I was floating down these rapids pocked with jagged rocks with giant fingers grabbing out. A rock cried, Mother! A rock cried, Daughter! A rock cried, Wife! Mother! Daughter! Wife! Mother! Daughter! Wife! But I couldn’t let them snatch me, so I fought and sailed on.

Omutnitsa (Mistress of the Swamp)

Yuliya Helgesen-Thompson

You could feel the fierce unbreathing of all us women there, joined sub rosa in a silent Wow! interrupted by King Arthur, still believing he owned the Round Table: Oh, that reminds me of a painting I once saw in the National Gallery! But now we floated past the bombast, because we knew what she knew.


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Susan Rich

Learning the World I needed coins from a forgotten country for the flawed charms I invented, spellbound by copper and tin-stamped in languages I couldn’t understand. Pick-pocketed after my father’s travels; I’d trap each in a glass jar the shape of a bear and taste— lick the octagons and washboard edges of lives more mysterious than the liquor cabinet or sewing machine.

Reflection

Steve Dieffenbacher

What was the world? Where did it hide? If I unspooled its blue threads, used pastels to inscribe a miracle, painted the scent of flowers over my body, what would I learn? Once, I placed a blossom of chewing gum in a girl’s hair just to see how it might look: pink frosting in a blond forest. I was six and old enough to enjoy it. What power my palms held— flaked skin collecting along her scull’s follicles—foreign as coinage from Sri Lanka or Suriname. What if we are not forever? What if I were other?

The Golden Temple

Kimberly Davis

Matthew Campbell Roberts

The Big Hole Thoughts take me back to the Big Hole River, early twenties, road tripping with barely money for beer and fuel and how I rode out an electrical storm under cottonwoods in jean shorts, clutching a fly rod, and cursing my friend who drove to Deer Lodge to visit his brother in prison. It’s this way sometimes; you see parts of yourself disappear with each storm like the valley you said you’d return to someday, make a life and never look back. “Go on,” a voice calls. Nobody’s there, of course, no open sky, or sleeping in truck beds, or a tavern in Dillon where I danced with a woman in a dusty parking lot to a shitty country band. Even where stars guide moths to lost prairies, never seen again, you believed how there was always time. Say you’ll love this place and take your chances then row into night’s desert looking for a way to resurrect a new life.


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CIRQUE

Timothy Roos

Tracks Because snow held to ground I found bear tracks, round, smooth prints with padded toes that came from the field alongside our neighbor’s warning phone call of bear running. Because bear tracks carry soul’s spring of wild self-possession, I followed them down the deep ravine, up to a flat acre of bare alder and evergreens. Because the tracks belonged to a soul that did not want to be seen they held close under snowy boughs, made abrupt U-turn, sauntered toward the next narrow valley, steep’s safe calling.

Snow Hat

Matt Witt

Janice D. Rubin

Freight Train, Eugene to Portland

Tracks

Sheary Clough Suiter

It occurred to me during the Fall of 1982 riding a freight train from Eugene to Portland with my girlfriend Kate that anyone who was an English major at an American university had read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. We hide between two shabby freight cars, graffiti covering the doors, wait for our chance. The railroad engineer has just passed on his rounds. We climb the thin metal rungs of the train ladder, jump into the freight car, huddle together as the wagon lurches and jerks forward on up north toward Portland. In the afternoon the red and orange leaves blow across silver plated tracks. The scent of autumn smoke lingers in the brisk air, sun beams down from the powder blue sky. We hear the steady rhythm of railroad cars clicking over the tracks.


65

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Tenacity of Life

Scot Siegel

Empathy This week I fired an AR-15. We were at the police range. I work for the city and this was a team-building retreat. That gun is light and compact for a rifle, but the report is stern and soulless, cold as solitary confinement. It is easier to handle than you might think. It gives a little kick like a schoolyard bully whose jabs at your shoulder are a mild form of torture. That rifle can fire as fast as you wish. If your finger’s hungry, thirty rounds rip the target off a manikin in less than a minute. I am telling you this because I learned something about myself that day as my coworkers lined up behind me waiting their turns. I couldn’t fire fast enough. I wanted it to be over. The smell of sulfur lingered in my nostrils for days.

Matt Witt

Eugenie Simpson

Last Stop Lay me out on a flat cold tray blood, vapor, eggs, juice entirely spent all boxes ticked. Slit me open scalp to tail, fillet the beast, let the bright soul out‌ But look how it demurs, eyes cut back to its ruined friend lank on the metal table. All its long life, it has hankered to be free yet now it shakes its elegant length shifts, climbs back onto the steel and marries utterly the piteous human thing.


66

CIRQUE

Kathleen Smith

Montana Wedding

Mark Muro

Judith Skillman

Gutturals This woman with a feather caught at the back of her throat turns towards me and beckons, so I follow her into the back where darkness flourishes. My eyes adjust by degrees. as my grandmother rocks in a wicker chair her wedding cake hats on shelves filled with dust, her mothballed dresses hanging from a bent rod.

Last night the Northern Lights danced above the fire. Today we pick our way to the wedding: turn right on Pistol Lane, then right on Bear Creek Road. Left on Red Crow and Moose Hollow. Along the way pass a dozen deer, one black bear cub and a couple of wild turkeys. At Bear Creek, a pack of alpacas guards the volunteer fire house. At the bottom of Moose Hollow, a white wedding tent sits by the creek. Two clans join here today in a gaggle of grey headed survivors: Russia, France, and Viet Nam. Two wars, ten Master’s, six PhD’s, three Indian nations. Four strokes, five heart attacks. All happy to walk toward this wedding by the creek. The kids, strong and kind in their twenties, grew up here, were potty trained in teepees. They know land and love and leather work. A deer watches from poplars on the far bank. Crows circle spruce on the west hill. Sage smoke and laughter drift from our circle uphill to theirs. The creek, spring high, skips by singing.

She ahems the feather into the air, begins again to tell the thick accent stiff with stories of countries, ghettos, settlements carved from earth to be returned to dirt. She hands me my birth certificate blemished with centuries of nomads, their fists clenched at their sides as they walk the long snake of exile across another borderland. I chew on their red toes, swallow hard, look around for the hollow reed growing its melody beside swift water.

Mellow Marsh

Tami Phelps


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Jen Soriano

The Vigil for Omelas A Cento in Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin

I heard this story. a playwright is elected president. he went looking for a road night falls. The rainbow people pass him so long a silence They pick up his tears. like salt on a dry ground I started sticking a piece of paper with the number grieving over names. here’s where the enemy killed the friend peculiar patchwork taken and broken Exile is also a soft word. soft hills above a purple sea the upward spiral song a wind sound, a shell murmur cracks the cups of twilight by the house wild oats and poppies come up pure gold imagination is the instrument I cannot describe it at all.

to flower in a dark country— terrible paradox. a dark government. circles of burning flames. a difference between the circle and the spiral: the circle is open. a surprise, a mystery I have no idea who we will be who are the people coming with torches, singing? not from above, but from below where human beings grow human souls because they are beautiful, because they are nourishing they keep walking singing in the morning experts in illumination, engineers of radiance I cannot describe it at all

Sources (all by Ursula K. Le Guin): A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be; The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas; A Left-Handed Commencement Address; Margaret Atwood: The Year of the Flood; A Response, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti; Some Assumptions About Fantasy; In the Third Year of the War; From the Tent on the Volcano; “Things Not Actually Present;” The Operating Instructions; The Vigil for Ben Linder; A Measure of Desolation; The Elders at the Falls; What it Was Like; Every Land; For Judith; This Stone; Intimations; Footnote; Freedom.

There is a room. There is a shadow. In the room a child is sitting. The day’s count of the dead, in the window. I beg you to see what it is we must save reflections, labyrinths, forking paths We need writers who can remember freedom We live capitalism, its power seems inescapable—so the divine right of kings from land to land the dry wind blows graves in the rock, cradles in the sand The bringing of light is no simple matter. hard times are coming all smiles have become archaic The offering of flowers is a work of Generations

Let It Glow

Brenda Roper


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CIRQUE

Cheryl Stadig

If You stood by the water’s edge in the dusk of dawn tall, cold, waiting for something to show on the tide, that undefinable, ephemeral something that carries us through year after year season to season hour to hour. You looked uncertain, as if maybe this time it wouldn’t appear wondering, wondering if just maybe hope doesn’t always spring eternal. One wave of the ebbing tide stretched to cover the toes of your boots. Your sideways glance meets my eyes as the wave retreats through well-worn beach gravel and does your sighing for you.

Before Water, for Eva Saulitis

Katie Craney

Kathleen Stancik

wildfire battalions of smoke attack my mother’s brain embers of memory cool to the touch the sky orange haze this acrid smell is not her own where are my pills? where are my pills? where are my pills? her questions torch the top of the ridge spark candles of ponderosa pine flames creep through the underbrush eat every fleck and seed in their way she cannot remember the mountain how it was before

Box Canyon

Brenda Jaeger


69

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Two Cranes

Monica O’Keefe

Mary Ellen Talley

High School Aviary What she-birds prop themselves up in my office? One girl with wheelchair, stoma valve and g-tube, relishes pizza or chocolate just as before her stroke. She tells of chew and spit without swallow and returning all that taste to a napkin. I fashion she used to be lilac-crowned parakeet. Another girl has parked her crutch near the door, her clues of tremor minimal today. I’d say she was loud proud woodpecker. Bystanders assume her flight will breach the aviary net swiftly, although today’s need for repeated introductions places her memory in forest floor detritus. Now these girls are elements of emu and ostrich, landed birds from perilous injuries. Plumage and names scatter across my brain: robin, wren, steller’s jay, black-capped pygmy tyrant, waxwing and chickadee. Neither girl was ever hummingbird. Both brace a perch on office chairs as when their younger selves dove into air that seldom knew enclosure. Just for today, two birds compare their injured wings before their introductions soar into inquiry and coincidence. I listen. They warble.


70

CIRQUE

Message

Jim Thiele

Joanne Townsend Water, rock, time. Portals 2012 Journeys by foot, mule, raft, horse.

--and I bind what I love to me, comforting chains and surroundings-let these things go and let me go with them --Robert Duncan

Invention and change: steamboat, train, car and plane. Still dreams do well to take us back, reverent

When I moved to New Mexico, the desert was a new portal, one I had no words for-yet I could have told you how Anchorage looks in December without consulting a page or photograph. Late morning rise of winter sun, Beyond dark floes and jagged blue ice Cook Inlet’s channel of open water and In the distance, slant angles of luminescence. I could tell you about the night sky, the aurora’s far shifting edges

the way one might approach an ancestral dwelling place where tundra, glacier, arctic terns live in memory

but not the opening and closing of days in my new home, how all seemed beyond me, that strangeness in June waking to a house already hot. The wonders of the Southwest John Wesley Powell thought could not “be adequately represented in symbols of speech, or by speech itself.” He advised patient observation, no rush to settle.

Wherever we are, the sky pulses. Not sure after six years if I have the words but I have the willingness--every poem a presence winding through the colors and canyons I’ve come to love.

Water, rock, time, lizard sunning on a wall. Before the journeys, there was incantation, prayer, chant. I might answer Powell: little threads and weavings, travelers talking into silence, gathering courage in spite of loss; every history has pre-history--

--for Suzanne


71

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Pepper Trail

Fire Balloons This was the Emperor’s plan – To free strange seeds, drifting On the high western wind From the burning cities of Japan Toward the tinderbox of Oregon There to burst, set America aflame Thousands were launched Hundreds reached these shores A few did, in fact, explode Enough for the Army to act Drafting a new force to fight The balloons, their fires

Sunset Pine

Cheryl Stadig

Tim Troll

Winter

The nation at war, who Was spared for this duty Both tedious and deadly To leap from the sky Into the trees, into the flames, Clinging to sails of silk?

Old man Macar almost froze the other day checking his blackfish traps

The men, the smokejumpers Were the disregarded, the unwanted Either the one or the other CO’s, conscientious objectors Refusing to kill, or the 555th Black soldiers, forbidden to fight

They found him near death welded to the river ice

And so, enflamed with the need To be of service, to be seen They did the only duty They were permitted to do In this forgotten battle They fell into America, burning

Ice Figure

Matt Witt


72

CIRQUE

Karen Tschannen

“Down, Thou Climbing Sorrow” --King Lear, II, iv, 57 NEWS BULLETIN: Noted Shakespearian actor, Laurence Lattimore, 40, died when the roof collapsed during a matinee performance of King Lear at the Old Curran Playhouse. The fate of the historic building, the object of recent controversy over mounting restoration estimates, is uncertain. Details and an exclusive interview with Sir Ethelbert Davies tonight at 10:00.

Ah, yes, I am distraught, and sore decry The loss of one so young, so very fine. No man who lost a son would grieve as I For this dear lad I willingly assign The highest praise of my profession. Gifted? Indeed, perhaps as few have been. This, you must allow, a singular confession By one who bears the grievous weight Of greatness day to day without respite. Verily, I taught him true, did not bemoan His small success—indeed took fair delight, As one who fashions art from stone And makes the world a gift of it. His would have been a worthy name, In good and seemly time to hear Applause for those great rolls I graced—bleak Dane, Macbeth at Dunsinane… But, only late as Lear, My greatest role would crown his days, Then no mere pretender to my throne. When hoary time leaves only strength to play My own last scene, ‘twould then be his alone.

Droplets

Jack Broom

Of course he was--like me in many ways— Mere mortal man and had one great offense: Aristotle’s classic “fatal flaw.” A young Achilles, He was arrogant, and in his arrogance Not suffer it, so well deserved, in me. But with my grievous loss, I must reconcile All that he was with Blind Necessity. Yes, it is just this, there’s no denial, ‘Twas overweening pride that proved his grief. God’s truth, all know we had in recent times Our differences. The trap pride weaves Knit scattered praise of audience Into a gilded crown of laurel leaves Before his time—before my final line. And in his vast unnecessary pride He would be Lear—insane! Smite flat the thick rotundity of my fame. (More fitting he should play the hag, Royal offspring, serpent’s tooth in drag.) The critics, to be kind—he was my protégé— Used such fine phrases, said but little: “His Lear ambitious, well achieved” And used their space to ridicule The sad repair of that old stage That bore the measured tread of kings And princes for a golden age, An age soon past—and in this passing Of prince, and soon now too this king, And in the cleaved-oak fall of scree And timbers on that mad-wrought face I find a tragic irony: A unity of action, time, and place. Aristotle would be pleased.


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Emily Wall

73

Seed Pomegranates are a luxury of time. To pinch out each seed, feel its plump body in the fingers, its quick crunch in the teeth. Its sweetness. It is a good food to take to a family whose child or mother is sick. They have nothing to do with their hands. Grandmother and I work with the pestle

A Sea of Color

Kimberly Davis

in the corner, with herbs we have picked with our own hands, high in the hills. Sometimes we

Karen Vande Bossche

Dying in February Dying in February was good timing. There were two old snow moons throwing their shadows in the dark glaring off ice in the road ruts bouncing off the stars that have most likely passed, themselves, a millennium ago so it was cold enough, dark enough to force heavy coats walking to and from the church. Handkerchiefs out for sorrow or the latest virus, who could tell and who really cared. But the ground hard, frozen, pickaxe resistant, refused to accept even the most interrable form of you, and I shivered deep under down, wondering what they would do until the ground thawed.

are able to make a difference, to slow a sickness. We come from a long line of women who know where to look. This evening I’m tired after a long vigil. I crack open the thick red shell, the body still a mystery to me. Tonight I need the stillness of the air I need this rich temple in my hands. Her most recent collection, Breaking into Air, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press.


74

CIRQUE

Michael Wanzenried

Tug The sky’s been on and off for weeks and everyone’ seasonally affected. Colors lost on the wrong side of the living surface have you driving to Portland on a Tuesday. For a woman you might say if someone cared to ask. The ocean draws you further west towards Astoria. Each road only feels deserted. Houselights smolder behind generations of moss. In a motel room, you wait all night for something to force its way through the outline of a door trapped in a skim of lath and plaster. Leaning into its tether, all tongue and noise, a pet goat calls in the morning. Far off patch of blue, the hull of a freighter following a tug through the changing maze of sand bars.

Ice Figure

Matt Witt

Sandra Wassilie

Disruptors How would we know the danger? The stale oil fumed its stink on the hot days we played and breathed what leaked out of the not tightly sealed drums stashed against stunted spruce among the muskeg pools standing water with rainbows. How would we know? At the end of the runway there in the wilderness disrupted by war defense an airstrip laced with oil to temper down the dust how would we know? And what did we know about war? We held battles won by whoever stood on top of the not so tightly sealed drums and breathed in the fresh breeze stirring the stunted spruce above the rainbow pools victor over the ravaged site. What did we know? In the middle of life disrupted by a lump in the breast close to the breath of a not so tightly sealed body the danger manifest what did we know?

Moss Door

Kathryn Schipper


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Saxifage Smiles

Monica O'Keefe

Ingrid Wendt

The Knowing Around the corner and down the hill, my father’s car plowed into the tail end of a train, who knows how he walked away from it, unhurt or how my mother, pregnant, waiting on the front porch steps to greet him after work, knew what she’d heard? (Oh how she ran!) And now I remember their fight a few days before, my mother pleading I want this baby, this baby, it’s yours, it is, my father shouting You tricked me once, how do I know? What did I know? I was nearly seven, cherries were bearing outside my bedroom where they’d had the fight. In the closet I’d covered my ears.

Life is Too Short to Watch Netflix Giovanna Gambardella

The car was totaled. The train went on its way. And I, ever ready to help, climbed my favorite tree, picked the ripest cherries to take to neighbors to sell for twenty-five cents a pint and gave three shiny new quarters to my mother for the new car I knew for sure we’d need.


76

CIRQUE

Tim Whitsel

A Valentine Revised She’s still a beacon for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home. -Ronald Reagan

Let your nay be nay let your skyscrapers fold the macaroon light let renowned boardwalks drown in rising seas

let your apples be las manzanas

Get your credit swap down in the Caymans get a second term D & C in Sweden get your Kalashnikov at a Lubbock gun show

get thee hence Satan

Bet your ganglia and bong sanctities bet your desert spa purges bet on white privilege to ignore

Drive With Headlights On At All Times

Monica O'Keefe

Richard Wiederker

bet your sweet ass

Set your sights on the kingdom of spin set minority children adrift in rank and file set boundaries on income disparity some other time re-set this shining city on a hill Set a tripwire on illegals Bet your nighttime drone assaults Get your carbon cap n’ trade easy in a three-day course Let the big quake come let your beacon get your freedom bet your hurtling through the darkness setting course to a crazed torch the haunted magnet for all who must come.

The Way Home Sometimes when I walk home on the road, mist sits in the hills, dividing their dark green from darker green. There’s the lake, then hills and mist and hills and sky-the white mist like a river floating sideways up the hills, spread out in billows, thinning into bits and scraps. It’s as if things had become clearer, more themselves. The gray sky lets in more light than I expect. It seems so close, piled up on the hills like a second lake. And someday I’ll go far away, not on a road, maybe deeper into green and white, and there won’t be windows, doorsills, paper, socks, or spoons.


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Nancy Woods

Performance Art Moon Rising, Deer Ridge, Olympic Mountains taken 12/3/17 during "Super Moon"

Timothy Roos

Rehearse Until every word Sounds spontaneous And each gesture Looks unplanned Practice Until you Act your true self And can stay in character Everyday

Paul Willis

Poems by Flashlight In the hotel meeting room, the power went out just ten minutes into the session. Carla had a cell phone but didn’t know how the flashlight feature worked.

Deliver your lines Hit your marks Hold The audience In the palm of your hand

Jäna, who was younger, did. Paul had a flashlight of the older kind in a far corner of his briefcase, but the batteries were weak with age.

Give the performance Of your life Then exit After Leaving everything on the stage

And Maxine and Mary Ann, who were closest to the emergency sign over the door, said that they could see well enough. So they traded sounds in the dark for a while, imagining the words on the page as rosy finches in the dusk, no longer singing but quiet again on cliffs and sedges by the water.

Green Door

Brenda Roper


78

CIRQUE

Market Day

Kimberly Davis


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

79

NONFICTION Tara L. Campbell

The Void Left from Protecting the Environment At the top of a hill in an unincorporated community called Skamania, my parents bought six acres of deep forested land to build their own home. The winding dirt road—Duncan Creek Road—switchbacked off a tiny two-lane highway, Washington State Route 14. As little kids, my brother Eric and I were thrilled when the long car ride along the highway finally reached the bottom of the hill. We’d press back in the seats with glee as the vehicle propelled us upwards, the warning signs of “Steep Grade” flashing by as we tore up the hill. The two-and-six-seven-tenths of a mile race to the top was a cross between Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and what we imagined a NASA space mission launch would be. Forty-five miles away from the Portland Metro area, our new home was far enough out that the road wasn’t yet paved, the electricity not yet run, and the phone line still coiled at the bottom of the hill because who runs a line up an old logging road? To my parents, this was a perfect site to start fresh on the cheap. I don’t remember much of the struggles that led my parents to move out into the middle of nowhere in the woods, but I’ll never forget the aching bite of glacier-cold water brought up from the creek to wash in that first summer. We trudged down and back up an old “cat” road—formed by a Caterpillar brand piece of equipment designed to clear the path for new roadways—with one- and five-gallon water containers; Eric and I barely managing the smaller containers at four and six years old. For my brother and I, there were no warm bubble baths or fluffy floor mats and towels. Instead, we learned quickly to bite back the shriek as our mother poured the ice-cold water we had collected over us to rinse. Poverty begets poverty. Even with my dad’s stable job at the paper mill twenty miles away, the impoverished lifestyle my parents grew up with carried over into my childhood. Every bit of the money that came in, my mother spent rather than saved. She had grown up dirt poor and was done with living frugal all the time, but Dad’s wages were modest and couldn’t keep up with the ignorant spending. So, while we had new vehicles and our cupboards overflowed with

packaged junk food, we bathed in creek water and read books by kerosene gas lamp light. *** Skamania County is at the midway point of the Cascade Mountain Range and makes up the majority of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The county is nestled between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. While Skamania County claims Mt. St. Helens—the volcano that rests uneasily—if Mt. Adams blew, the destructive forces wouldn’t care that it’s a half mile away from the county line. Spanning the county’s southern border, stretching beyond in both directions, is The Columbia River Gorge, an eighty-mile long canyon that reaches depths of 4,000 feet in some places. Vistas, hiking, and wind surfing draws people to the area from all over the world. The expansive fresh water beast running down the middle is The Columbia River, the dividing line that separates Washington from Oregon. The community of Skamania is nestled at The Columbia River’s edge, where lumber from the area was once neatly carried off on barges down and out to the rest of the world via the Pacific Ocean. *** The roar of a generator was eventually replaced by electricity. Water and phone lines were installed, and a newly paved road allowed a school bus to pick us up out front of home. As two little kids, free to run around the woods on our own—our mother could bellow like an enraged ox so “within hearing range” offered a wide berth for roaming—my brother and I had all sorts of amazing adventures. “Always on” electricity was no big deal to us since cold baths weren’t all that traumatic anymore, and living on the side of a mountain meant we received one, sometimes two, channels of television. Late ‘80s CBS and ABC program options were quite limited. The trade-off from the lack of standard amenities was growing a special reverence for a wild and dangerous nature. Not the serene, manicured parks that offer peace and tranquility to urban and suburban dwellers. The nature I quickly adapted to was alive and unpredictable, activating every one of my senses and alerting me to the


80 subtlest of changes. Every time my brother and I were about to “go play” we were reminded to watch our footing, don’t go near the whirlpools, and to be mindful of cougars and bears. We were rarely careful, in fact we thrived on bold and daring, but we learned to trust our senses. Late on a hot afternoon, back when 80 degrees was still considered sweltering and we lived in the ice-cold creek, Eric startled a garter snake that was sunbathing at one of our favorite spots. Despite yellow racing stripes down its black body, the snake was no match for the lightning-fast reflexes of a seven-year-old bent on capturing anything that moves. Eric held up his fist triumphantly, “Gotcha!” A moment later he yelped and the snake slithered away into one of the many crevices made by the heavy boulders and rocks that lined the creek. “He went this way!” Eric yelled back at me as he scrabbled across the rocks in search of his prize. I followed my brother who motioned for me to help him move a big boulder he was sure the snake was hiding behind. Together we pushed and pulled in unison, our small arms sinewy and taught, straining to overcome our obstacle. With each coordinated attempt, the oven-sized boulder loosened and gave just enough hope that our efforts would finally pay off. Eric climbed up the bank above the boulder and sat down to push with his legs. “Keep pulling, Tara!” His face was red from the exertion, his sandy-brown hair plastered down with sweat around the edges. I pulled as he pushed and finally the boulder tilted enough for gravity to take over. Smaller rocks skittered away as it tumbled down into the creek where it came to a stop with a loud splash. “Cool!” Eric said, his squeaky voice full of awe. I turned back from the boulder to where it had been and shrieked. Overcome with absolute terror, I leapt into the creek, tripping and falling over the slippery rock bed in my rush to get to the other side. A garter snake had indeed gone where my brother had said; in fact, hundreds of them had, and now they were all balled into a writhing, indistinguishable mass. Hell appeared to be spitting up right there next to my childhood playground. I later learned that this was simply a breeding ball, the chaotic orgy fest that garter snakes use for reproduction. The image of it still takes up a prominent chapter in my personal book of nightmares. *** Skamania is tiny. Even today, the Skamania Elementary School, a general store, and a volunteer fire

CIRQUE department are the only non-residential buildings and services the town has to offer. The elementary school has all of 77 students at last count, and that’s from kindergarten through eighth grade. In 1984, when I was a kindergartner at Skamania Elementary, there were only six of us. *** The property my parents bought was densely packed with, and surrounded by, old-growth forest. Trees that had not been touched and were considered ancient, the undergrowth thick and impassible. Western Red Cedar trees lined the northern side of the house, the side my bedroom window faced, and I spent every night looking for patterns and shapes within the draping boughs that tapped the glass. Along with the cedars, we had many Douglas Fir, one of the most recognizable trees in the Pacific Northwest. The squirrels loved to sit up high in one of the fir trees and chuck half-stripped fir cones at my dad every morning on his way to work, chittering and scolding him for trespassing. Waving fronds of Bigleaf Maple poked up amongst the ancients where they could, but it was a lone White Oak tree that Eric and I sought. We spent hours climbing up into the tree; the thick moss that blanketed it made a perfect place to sit and play. The tree of life was a living thing that I could see and touch, and I learned early on that this was something to protect. In 1986, the 99th U.S. Congress passed the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. I was too young to know what any of it meant but I felt the outcry and anger in the community, and I sensed the fear that permeated. I grew up hearing it called the “fucking Gorge Act” by all but a few. The act established minimum acreage requirements for building or logging, and abolished clearcutting entirely throughout The Columbia River Gorge. The then President Ronald Reagan had gone on a trip or vacation, witnessed the gorge firsthand, and immediately agreed that the region must be protected. Nearly every family in our community was supported by people working in the logging industry, and suddenly no one could cut a tree on any parcel of land that was less than forty acres. My Dad was one of the lucky ones whose expertise as a millwright was generalized enough to transfer to a nearby plastic fibers plant. Mass layoffs followed everyone else though, and soon after, the main lumber mill nearby in Stevenson, WA, shut down. Poverty in the midst of a gold mine. The deep forested environment was forever protected, but the forest industry that kept so many tiny towns afloat had collapsed, leaving nothing to replace the source of


81

Vo l . 9 N o . 2 income. Rugged, hardworking people who loved the land, the scenery, the wild, were left without any means to live. Rampant alcoholism, broken families, spiked suicide rates, and a surge of illegal activities to make use of untouchable land followed. Growing up amid poverty and conflict, poor guides for our decisions as teens, an entire generation was fueled by rebellion and resentment. As the logging industry collapsed throughout the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s, poverty rose and alternative rock in the region quickly adopted the utilitarian grunge look. The once shameful style soon became our only sense of pride and self. Mocked for my brown corduroy pants in third grade, I proudly sported a larger but nearly identical version six years later. The flannel shirts that our dads used to keep warm in the woods and the heavy work boots to protect their feet, we rocked those too. *** By the time my brother and I and our group of friends reached adolescence, the awesome beauty of the region was lost on us. We grew up standing atop Beacon Rock, a nearly 900-foot-tall giant volcanic rock made of basalt. The gorgeous view from any point on the trail up Beacon Rock is worth a moment to stop and reflect, and we hiked it countless times with friends whose interests were on anything but the scenery. Ten miles away, and hundreds of feet up, Beacon Rock is clearly visible from Cape Horn, a must-stop point along Highway 14 on the way to Skamania. We spent so much time traveling along that highway, hitchhiking or walking, that we forgot to lose our breath to the view. Instead, we were busy pushing and shoving, and frantically pulling each other back to safety from the wrong side of the guardrail; 1300+ feet from death, teenagers are inexplicably drawn to danger. Our infant and toddler years were buried in the ashes of Mt. St. Helens’ eruption, what’s a couple of nice views anyway? We took for granted the incredible forces of nature all around us because we too, like our parents, were consumed by the potent reality of extreme poverty. In the vacuum that the collapse of the logging industry left, all manner of illegal activities took place. We grew up minding the places Interior Sunset

we roamed, well aware that we could be shot on sight by a paranoid criminal. Many, many bodies were discovered, some dumped by Portland thugs, others from any number of violent acts involving locals. By the time I was thirteen, I was used to seeing teams of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents and the Skamania County Sheriff’s Department race past our house, vehicle after vehicle, disappearing into the woods on unnamed cat roads made for easement by land owners and trespassed by marijuana growers and methamphetamine makers. More than once an officer stood by, parked in our driveway awaiting orders to evacuate in case one of the many meth lab crackdowns went bad. The winds that blew through the beautiful gorge would carry the deadly chemical mix of an exploded lab for miles. Wandering the woods as a teenager was a lot different than when we were kids. Innocent adventuring and exploration became escaping and experimentation. Instead of uncovering what nature had to offer, we used it to hide away from the world. On a late spring night, several of us snuck out, walking miles to meet up in the deep woods. We each brought a bottle of alcohol swiped from our parents’ well-stocked liquor cabinets, some of us grabbing two. How could our parents tell when the bottles of booze ran deeper than the food stores in our pantries and cupboards? In the middle of a clearing, we built our bonfire from the endless supply of forest debris, no longer picked up by logging crews or consumed by controlled burns. The raging ball of flames kept well away from the tree line, amused us while we nervously gathered courage to drink

Janet Clemens


82 the stolen goods. Our entertainment was the same as our parents’ escapism. We were left to our own devices while the people we modeled were consumed by despair. The night wore on as the bottles were emptied; someone was sick and another crying while the rest of us goaded each other into stupid risks. To prove I was just fine, that the inordinate amount of alcohol had had no effect, I clamored atop the remains of a fallen tree that lay partially across a hiking path on one end, the other stretched out into open air. No sooner was I on the rotted log than I was off, blundering wildly over the side of the path that dropped thirty feet to the creek bed below. My saving grace was the cushion effect of dense brush and soft, untouched soil. Barring a bump or two and a few scratches, I walked away unscathed. The night carried on with increasingly dangerous acts, each teen determined to outdo the last. By dawn, we somehow all made it back home. No one noticed our absence, nor the cuts and bruises. For so many of us, a bleak adolescence led to a bleak outlook on what adulthood would be like. Offroading on powerline roads in “borrowed” vehicles and binge drinking and smoking seemed to make sense. It wasn’t too far off from what our parents did to cope. Some of us still couldn’t cope, though. A sixteen-year-old who was well-loved by our close-knit group of teens, committed suicide. The note simply stated that there wasn’t any point to it all, and he stuck the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The loss cut deep. If the upbeat, loveable guy who brightened every room he entered couldn’t see hope, what the hell were the rest of us to do? *** I left Skamania as soon as I could; the job opportunities were still abysmal by 1997. The rest of my family, though, they stayed, dealing with local minimum wage jobs or commuting upwards of an hour back and forth from the city. Years later, on a visit back home, I watched a childhood bully get hauled away in handcuffs for operating a marijuana grow field accessed by one of the anonymous cat roads that split off near my parents’ house. I had endured years of torment from him, the one kid who didn’t have it quite as bad as many of us, and yet all I could feel at that moment was a sense of loss. Poverty and hopelessness were a deeply pervasive sickness. No amount of education can overcome the feral mind of survival. When people are left without opportunities, and no recourse to support themselves, much less their families, the bigger view quickly narrows to the immediate and personal. If I can’t feed my kid today,

CIRQUE why the hell am I worried about what happens in fifty years? *** I imagine my brother or my dad walking into an HR preliminary interview. Large men, their heavy, muscular builds stuffed into too-tight button ups and pinch-toed shoes, trying to articulate why they’d be a “great fit!” for the desk jockey job that hundreds of other applicants are vying for. The idea is ridiculous— that ridiculousness having nothing to do with them but everything to do with a society that doesn’t understand, or respect, people who work with their hands. I’m as desk jockey as they get—tech industry professional, academiadriven writer—but I don’t understand the disconnect in our society that sneers at people who live, breathe, build, and do with a body that has evolved to move, not sit. Today, Eric works for a local metal fabrication company as the senior quality assurance inspector. The shining metal counters and cabinetry throughout the Portland International Airport are pieces that he has worked on personally, along with many of the massive metal signs and artwork throughout the country. Metal fabrication is tough, it takes many areas of expertise to produce work worth selling: welding of multiple types (materials, gases, and techniques), press operation, cutting and lathing, mechanical drafting, digital design, angles and measurements, inventory control, not to mention all the people management to ensure safety, quality, and efficiency metrics are met. All of these things are what Eric does every day. All of these things are what Eric does every day, with no sick time or paid time off for vacation, and he’s a single parent. Two years ago our dad died, and while Eric was able to take a few days off from work, the lost wages took a couple months for him to recover. People throughout the area are eager to get hired on at the company Eric works for because this is the best there is, at least for those who work with their hands. And most of those people are children of former lumber industry workers. Those of us who grew up in the majestic beauty of The Columbia River Gorge are thankful that the clear-cut swaths no longer mar our mountainsides, but too many are scarred. Permanent marks from the painful hopelessness that we grew up feeling is etched into our collective psyche. Our parents’ livelihoods were stripped away and nothing but poverty and despair was left to fill the void. 2nd place winner for nonfiction in the Willamette Writers Kay Snow writing contest.


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Monica Devine

Mission of Motherhood I do not know much about gods, but I think that the river is a strong brown god. -T.S. Eliot I used to carry my baby like that. Just like the young woman did, in the story Agnes told. I carried him in a pack on my back, an internal frame pack we used on camping trips to carry sleeping bags and gear. My husband fashioned it into a baby carrier by cutting holes in the nylon fabric where our little boy poked his chubby legs through. Riding high up off the ground my baby would hold onto the tubing at the top of the pack and push down with his feet at my hips. He made happy babble sounds and jumped up and down with joy when I caught a batch of fish in our dip net. Shouldering him was easy; I was young and lean, my arms and legs muscular and strong. He was never too heavy to carry, not like the 70 plus pounds of fish we hauled out of the canyon in army surplus packs. This is how I first heard the story from a stranger at the Mendeltna Creek Lodge, a roadhouse where I often stop for lunch on my way to our cabin in Tazlina. Agnes, I guessed in her late 60’s, sat at the bar eating a bowl of soup. She was of thin, wiry build, with long graying hair roped into a long braid that hung clear to her waist. Her voice was thick and gravely, like she had smoked away her years. She spoke of the two kids who recently drowned in the icy waters of Long Lake, when their mother lost control of her car on the steep snow-blown mountain road. “Deaths like that happen a lot out this way,” she said. “There were those two little kids who were caught in a sweeping fire that burned down their cabin one winter, when it hit close to 30 below.” Agnes leaned to one side on the bar stool, stretching out her back. She tore off a piece of bread and chewed slowly. Recalling children who have died over the years, she said, “…the little ones are those you don’t forget. They never had a chance, never got a proper hook on life.” And she began another story about a young woman dipnetting on the Copper River with her baby on her back. If you’re going to place a net in the river, first you need to watch the water to get familiar with its ways. Pay

83 attention to the current, the likely path the fish are taking, how much debris is in the water. You have to take in the condition of the bank and get an idea on water level, and you have to watch how the wind disturbs the surface so you know where to cleanly place your net down deep, way below the riffles. The Athasbacan Indian women of old knew these things instinctively. They fished the Copper River, and the Tazlina, Tonsina, Gulkana and Klutina Rivers (“na” in Athabascan means water or river). They knew where the good fish runs were. They knew how to skin and gut a salmon, how to prepare it for drying on racks in the sun and preserve the meat in their smoke houses. The women took their babies everywhere they went in all kinds of weather. While fishing or when gathering plants and berries, the women strapped their babies securely in cradles made from the strong branches of birch trees. “It was somewhere in the 1980’s, I think, when it happened,” Agnes said. I sensed a sadness bloom around her; a deep hurt that floated somewhere behind her eyes. She continued. The young woman pulled her baby’s arms through warm coat sleeves and covered her feet, tenderly, with wool socks, even though it was summertime. The end of June can be cold and windy in the canyon. The bugs didn’t bother her. A fresh breeze blew. She bundled her baby into her backpack and stepped out onto a huge rock that jutted into the swirling, fast water. She reached out over the rocks and eased her long pole, with its large round net fastened to the end, into the current. Comforted by the sound of moving water, she breathed in the sweet river smell and waited for the fish to swim into her net. Within minutes, she felt a bump in the net. Hand over hand, she pulled the pole towards her, feeling her shoulders burn with effort. Her baby clapped her hands, and made happy babble sounds, craning her neck to watch her mom pull in the fish. Before taking the fish out of the net, the woman bonked them over the head with her fish whopper to stun them, settle them down a bit. They flopped around her feet, straining against the net, their gills pumping in the cool dry air. With a few swift cuts she sliced the gills, flipped the fish over and bled them out. Then she slid the pole back into the water and waited. Her husband stood a little ways downriver, she and the baby always in his peripheral vision as he too worked his pole, dipping for fish.


84 Sometimes things happen with such swiftness you wonder if they really did happen at all. There’s a hazy line between one instance of reality and another; where one begins and where another ends is lost to you. She was screaming though he couldn’t hear her cries above the roar of the river, he could just see her arms flung out in front of her, her hands reaching towards the muddy water and then she fell to the ground, to the rocks she fell down and held onto them grounding herself as the shock, like lightening, struck roughshod through her body and she couldn’t move, couldn’t stay standing. Her screaming turned into deep, heavy sobs and it was only then he realized what had happened. Her backpack was empty. When she bent over to pull her pole in on another sweep of the eddy, their baby slid head first out of the pack, and splashed into the roaring hydraulics of the current, sucked down instantly by silt. He scanned downriver and saw no trace of their child, then scrambled over the rocks to reach his wife. Agnes put on her glasses and took a look at her bill. We’d been yakking for close to an hour. We said our goodbyes and parted ways. On the rest of my drive I thought of how many times I had cheated death, in a way, or maybe put others in harm’s way as unknowingly as the young woman in the story. I used to carry my baby that way. In a pack on my back. From O’Brien Creek Road we walked the old Copper River railroad grade, where a Fish & Game biologist once told us, travel at your own risk. The climb down to the river was rough, a steep bank with loose rocks, and there was always the possibility of bear encounters. Down we hiked to a rocky outcropping where the boiling river funnels between steep canyon walls. On the gravel bar my ankles grazed flowers growing riverside, magenta dwarf fireweed and Siberian aster. The wind in the canyon kept the bugs off, the sun rode up high in the sky. To find a good eddy site I threw a stick in to see where the water was flowing, opposite the main current. In those eddies where the water is slow, the fish gather to rest, taking a break from their frantic swim upriver to their natal spawning grounds. My net stayed open with the rush of the current and the fish swam in, easy as could be. Sometimes only one fish would come. Other times, on a good run, I could max out on my limit in half an hour.

CIRQUE Red salmon aren’t fighters, but we weren’t catching them for sport. We caught them for food, eschewing shrink-wrapped, farmed raised and processed foods offered in the supermarket aisles. I dragged the long-handled net in and out of the water, scooping for salmon, with a one-year old baby springing up and down on my back, giggling and clapping his hands in a game of patty-cake. I was joyful securing our own food, healthy food that was as much a part of our lives as breathing. I used to carry my baby like that, on my back. Memories flooded my mind as they often do on long drives, with nothing left to distract but mountains in the distance and river corridors that snake the winding road I was traveling. A favorite hiking area, along the historic Iditarod trail is a perfect place to ski when the snow is good. One wintry day, cold, but not too cold, around 22 degrees I bundled up my baby and we headed for the trailhead. I’ve always enjoyed Nordic skiing, where you rely on your own locomotion to track the woodland trails and frozen riverbeds. On skis, when rocks and bumpy roots are blanketed with snow, you can cover more miles and move much faster down the trail. The air was crisp after a fresh snowfall, and the snow loose and powdery with no crusty layers. I picked up my pace as the snow swooshed beneath my feet, and congratulated myself on aspiring to a substantial workout, while giving my baby a healthy day outdoors in the cold and sun. Though the day stretched out in front of me, I was well aware of the shifting conditions of light that time of year, when the sun leaves early, turning the day into twilight. My baby was fast asleep in my pack. Kick, glide. Kick, glide. How relaxing the physical ease my body felt in the cold, clean air. How soothing it was for my little boy, who sensed my smooth, effortless rhythm as he snuggled down into the pack for a nap. Two miles out, I thought, most appropriately: Remember, the time going out is equal to, or could be even greater than, the time going in. An important point always considered no matter the time of year. My baby’s asleep and happy. Keep moving, just another mile. It’s sunny and beautiful and so easy-going. A half mile more and I felt my baby’s lumpy body wiggle in the pack. He woke up with a distressing cry, sounds I’d never heard him make before; screeching sounds like he was in great pain. Immediately, I turned around and skied over my fresh tracks, bound for the


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Time in the Chapel

safety of the trailhead. The movement and rhythm of my body that so often soothed him, made no difference. His screaming cries escalated. What could be so wrong? I stopped, lifted him from the pack, and pressed my hand to his skin. His hands and feet, chest and ears were cold. Because he was quiet I’d assumed he was fine. I didn’t think about body temperature and how it drops when you sleep. I didn’t think the cold was affecting him, not hearing any fussy complaints. He was dressed properly, covered head to toe in a wool hat, snowsuit, mittens and sheepskin booties. I unzipped my coat and held him against me, while I hobbled down the trail, dragging my ski poles behind me. Pressing his body into mine, I carried him as I did in infancy, cuddled on my chest. We’d skied many times in that way when he was only a few months old. But now it made no difference; his crying grew more desperate. I considered removing clothes and touching skin to skin to elevate his temperature. But that seemed risky. Instead, I zipped him up inside my coat and hoped for the best. Warm tears rolled down my cheeks. I’d never before been unable to soothe the cries of my baby. Back home, a long soak in a warm bath brought him back to his old self, the happy babbling 13-month old baby for whom my love was as high and wide as the

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Brenda Roper

sun-soaked sky. But I had been tested in that sheltering wing of motherhood, guilty for not paying close enough attention, for dropping the ball on his safety by the seduction of the day. Another incident crossed my mind. The time he slipped into the water from the tube of a raft while we were lazily sunning on a lake. I was changing his diaper, and he started kicking and giggling and slipped off right under my hands. He floated on his back in the water, with a look of total calm on his face. No harm done. He was within easy reach. Still. I writhed in my seat, thinking of other incidents. Of so many times when we took our boys into the wild, trusting we’d be looked after if we just thought about the hazards ahead of time, paid close attention, dressed them for the weather. We didn’t make far-reaching changes in our way of life when they were born into ours. We simply blended them into our everyday experiences because that is the way we lived. If it is true that the education of a child begins in the womb and that a fetus learns through the actions of its mother, I hoped my children would never grow insular and be stymied by fear when they were older. Activities in the backcountry would prepare them for life, I thought. They would ski and climb mountains, hike and raft rivers. Hopefully our lifestyle would teach them to


86 adapt to life’s changing conditions with confidence and strength. Some locals say the woman who lost her baby to the river was an unlucky one; that luck only follows those who pay attention. The young woman was so focused on her fishing, she completely forgot about her baby. Others say she brought death to her door through her own disastrous actions. The fact that her child’s tomb was sealed in the dull gray waters of the river would never change. The loss of her baby would stick in her mind like burnt milk in a pot for the rest of her life. There is no greater punishment. And as sure and as clean as the curve of a mountain, she would question why in a million different ways until the day she dies. If I had just tied myself off with a short rope and anchored myself to a tree, maybe then I wouldn’t have leaned so far over the rock, taking chances. Maybe we shouldn’t have gone down into the canyon at all. Why didn’t we just drive to the bridge and dip net from the beach? We could have fished where the land is flat and where kids are running around skipping rocks in the Cloudbank river, and roasting hotdogs and marshmallows over driftwood fires. We didn’t need to fish the eddies. We could have caught just as many fish by sweeping the net in slow water, walking safely along the beach. Oh, why didn’t we? Why? It is said among the Native people that if you remove dirt and snow from your porch by sweeping it every day, your baby will learn to live a good clean life. If you never let your baby cry so hard she can’t catch her breath and flails her arms like a bird, you are a good mother. And after you carefully clean a fish, it is also said that you should return its bones to the river so it can be restored and continue on its path to the place where it was first birthed. If you point the salmon’s head upriver, it’s spirit is sure to find its way home. That poor baby’s soul would never find a home

CIRQUE and would roam the earth crying and it was the mother’s fault her baby’s spirit would stumble and trip over rocks, frightful and nervous of water, cast out for all eternity. I know the Copper River never gives up its dead; no matter what, the water always wins. Its murky current unmoors trees, wears down rock and roars between steep canyon walls. Scarring the land like it scarred so deeply, a young woman’s life. Her baby’s teeth and bones will cast downriver like fossil fish on smooth gray stones.

Judith Skillman

Memories of her will flow into ribbons of milky streams until mixing at the end with the swell of the sea. My heart aches for the woman who lost her baby to the river, though it happened so many years ago. Agnes never forgot about the little ones who died. As mothers, we don’t forget. Once on a mission of motherhood, we are always a mother to our own, and to all children, everywhere. I got the impression by the small flecks of sadness in her eyes, that perhaps Agnes wore the remembrance of all those children on her sleeve as a badge of honor. Maybe somewhere along the line she began to repeat their stories as penance to amend some unknowable actions taken when she, herself, lost a child. Maybe she too was another child’s loving, imperfect mother. I will never know.


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

b. hutton

blue paint. It is fully 51 years since the Summer of Love.

color portraits of the beatles suddenly colors never seen in my neighborhood and i’m dazed and gazing in my still grey bedroom in detroit only wistful knowing it’s all happening out there and it’s all happening now and i’m fourteen years old and i’m stuck in a bedroom in detroit but some day some way i’m gonna be out there and..

10 years and more since I wrote ‘blue paint’. I managed to survive the Nixon years, the Reagan years, the Bush’s one and two, and now there is Trump. I’m more intent than ever. I’m taking it back…

and i’m soaking in the bathtub and i’m reading a 16 year old underground comic book as i’ve just started teaching a cartoon class and thinking maybe i’d tune them into ‘tooning out a whole new wave of underground and then yesterday when the fourteen year old girl with the blue paint on her nose showed up and all on about her admiration for anime’ and wanting to learn to master the quick draw and getting lost in one of the books i couldn’t help but pack and sweet jeez we’re going to have fun and i’m back in the bathtub and i’m reading writings of old undergrounders and all on about the summer of love and how wide the world and how many getting it and the EXPLOSION of creative energy and everybody out there and ready with Inversion the juice it takes and i was still a fourteen year old in a bedroom in detroit not knowing much more than gazing wistful at a life magazine report about san francisco and some new spark of hope threatening to catch fire change the whole thing and young people protesting the war and simple not simplistic notions like you don’t treat people like that murder babies hang young black men rape women and you gotta call it what it is when you see it and no new newspeak is gonna make that nonsense right no bureaucratic momentum is gonna be allowed to stand no greedy corporate monster allowed to pillage and impoverish and we were going to take it all back and armed only with the weapons of humane and human possibility humor hopefully and this stunning blast of creative juice and even colors in contrast to the black and white world i’d grown up in black and white television black and white photographs black and white reports on san francisco in black and white life magazine then amazing electric vibrant

then martin luther king was shot and i heard it with my mom on the car radio and the way the grey closed in again and some great grey sadness like some heart of hope shot in the chest dying beginning to die young and all these underground cartoonists talking now in my bathtub about the summer of ‘68 and how the world shifted back to black and white and color where it still burst forth was taking the form of fiery violence blood red flow and muted jungle greens flickering neon monsters mutated by madison avenue for no higher purpose than to try to sell you something mister disco didn’t we get it didn’t we already know better by then and the flux and flow of it over the years and older and out there and in the world and having not forgotten and my own eras of optimism and pessimism and overwhelmed over time and again by the seeds i saw and the many times someone’s saying what i knew i didn’t know and what i saw i didn’t see and didn’t i see the writing on the wall and knowing better and not afraid to say what wall were you reading you thick brick-brained lazy luckless mindfuck and i watched the nuke the raghead Sheary Clough Suiter madness of the iran crisis days and i felt the knife in the heart of the reagan years and i went on again and hoped again i watched the fall of the berlin wall and i watched the cold war evaporate and i breathed a sigh of see old dead ideas are dying and leaders only go where you will follow... and then i watched the towers fall and I held my breath again gone grey again maybe he really was an evil genius handing it over to the worst of us so we could show our ass to the world again and we did again and i died inside and went on slowly slowly hoped again i saw millions upon millions out in the streets all over the world and knowing better and i met a fourteen year old girl with blue paint on her nose and i know what i know and i’m fifty years old and i don’t give a fuck and i’m taking it back i’m taking it back


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CIRQUE

Judith W. Lethin

Dogidinh’ LippityLippity Not Very Fast Prelude I’m remembering one of the dolls given to Native children to keep them still in the dark winter when the world lies locked in deep snow and ice. It’s a rag doll sewn from turned cloth, a term my grandmother used when a woman had only one dress and she’d turn it so the faded parts could somehow be hidden inside, or the worn parts could be put where they could rest. A capable woman was one who could turn a dress several times, and no one would be the wiser. My great-grandmother was that kind of woman. I’m remembering this doll because it had a fur ruff made of rabbit fur and white fox fur. I’m a cowgirl, really. I eat meat. I eat meat and I wear fur slippers, so what I’m about to tell you will seem strange. It was winter. Katherine wanted to walk to the bridge that crossed the slough to visit a place so filled with sorrow that few words passed between us. Mostly time to think. Mostly time to remember. As we approached the river I saw a fox, dressed in his turned coat of winter white. He didn’t run. He lay in the snow and his deep black eyes watched me. I stopped. I quietly reached out to Katherine and pointed to this watcher-one who seemed unafraid, who didn’t leap and run away as two old grandmothers passed by on the way to the bridge where Katherine’s grandson drowned with his cousin in spring time. I stepped closer. The snow was matted, and then I saw the fur of this old fox was matted. I say old because his eyes spoke such sorrow. I could just make out the cold steel of the trap in the matted snow. I found a stick. I knew enough about trapped animals, and trapped men for that matter, to know I could be bitten. Keeping the stick between the old fox and me I slowly moved towards him. This was not child’s play. This was life and death,

and God knows, Katherine and I had seen enough death. I watched him. Our eyes locked in some sort of cowboy, gunfighter standoff. A quick glance told me where the spring was, and I moved my stick unhurriedly there, then pressed the spring bit by bit until the jaws clicked open. He lay there watching me still. I didn’t understand, and then I saw his hind leg twisted and broken and a little bloodied. At last he got up, stiff and half frozen from his night of terror and began to limp off towards the river, lippity-lippity, not very fast. I wonder if great grandmother regretted leaving Missouri as she traversed the Oregon Trail by Conestoga wagon into the Idaho Territory in 1866. I wonder if Katherine played with a doll like this on a winter’s night in a tiny cabin somewhere near Swiftwater in western Alaska. I wonder if her daddy trapped the fox that made the ruff that kept her warm when the bitter winds blew over their frozen world. The old fox stopped at the brow of the river and cast one last, long look at the old grandmother who’d set him free, and then he turned and disappeared out of sight. *** In The Stillness “The doctor says I will just get weaker and weaker,” said Katherine as I settled onto the edge of the bed in the Government Hill apartment she shared with her daughter. “They give me morphine and say I can go home.” These were the words I dreaded hearing.

Tree Light, Rocky Peak, Olympic Mountains

Timothy Roos


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 Katherine had been nauseous and exhausted all winter, and had come to town for a checkup at the Native Hospital in April. Her decayed teeth and swollen gums had caused lumps in her throat. The lumps had become malignant. The cancer had spread down her esophagus into her stomach and liver. Nodding, I looked away. We’d shared so much; the news of her cancer was nearly unbearable. I looked back at Katherine and opened my arms for a hug. “Have you had a bath since you’ve been out of the hospital?” I asked. “No. I never had one in there neither.” “Would you like to have a nice hot soak in the tub before you go back to Shageluk?” “That’ll be good.” I found the cleaning supplies, and scrubbed the tub, then drew a warm bath. Katherine slipped out of her blue shirt and sweat pants. I steadied her arm as she stepped over the rim, and then I settled onto the toilet seat, hoping my presence helped her feel safe. Katherine was shy with her body. When she stayed with me in Anchorage she liked to sleep in her clothes on the sofa with lots of pillows, sitting nearly upright. In the village, the door to her cabin looked like it had been battered or chopped with an ax or a fist, and the doorknob was missing. The 2x4 jamb resembled a splintered leg with great patches of bone exposed. Katherine wrapped a heavy chain around the jamb and through a gaping hole in the adjoining plywood. She could pull the chain through the doorknob hole and lock it from the inside or outside when she was gone during the day or when she was home alone at night. At last, I took the washcloth and gently scrubbed her back and neck. After she dressed she climbed back onto the bed. “I’ll rest now,” she said. “Dogidinh.” I stood in the doorway a long time. Finally I said, “I love you, sister.” “Gee,” she said. “Just when we’re getting to know each other real good, this happens.” Katherine returned to Shageluk a few days later. Her daughter, Jeannie, and grandson, Patrick, went along to care for her. In the following weeks I found myself remembering things, like her kindness to the children and the young people in the village, or the time, four years earlier, when I’d sworn her to secrecy after I’d released the fox from the trap. How we’d walk to the bridge that crossed the slough where her grandson had drowned with his cousin. How we pressed our hands against the girders and leaned in, like we could push back time. How we prayed and prayed and then she took the small vial of

89 holy oil out of her pocket and made the sign of the cross on the cold steel. We didn’t speak—she grieving for her grandson, I grieving for my oldest sister, Pat, who had died three months earlier—we didn’t have to speak. We had lost things, and found things, together. Now, as I begin to reconstruct this story, a fragment of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye comes to me: “Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.” I see that’s what I’m doing, unwrapping the cloth from the bolt, measuring it, checking the color against all the other colors—yellows and blues and reds. Who was Katherine, who am I, how did our lives twine and make meaning? Katherine was my guide on my first trip to Shageluk. She rode out with the agent and was standing beside his truck when the plane rolled to a stop. Her modest words welcomed me, “You come?” I nodded yes. “How long you stay?” Three or four days, I answered. “Oh, that’s good.” After we dropped my duffle bag and guitar at the mission house, we stopped at the church. Katherine slumped into one of the blue folding chairs and let out a sigh so deep I turned and gazed into her face. I knew nothing of her personal history then. I only knew her eyes were filled with such sorrow, and she looked so tiny sitting there, that I instinctively stepped forward and asked, “Can I pray for you?” “Ya, that’s what I need.” I took a small vial of holy oil from my pocket and anointed her forehead and then nudged her hands over and anointed her palms. The deep furrows in her hands looked like a map of the territory, and for a moment, I felt like I was looking into the very depths of the earth. Her shoulders trembled. I reached with my thumb and slid her collar back and made the sign of the cross on each boney protrusion. When I’d finished I held the small vial out to her. She took it and looked at me expectantly. “Pray for the children,” I said. This scene would come to characterize our relationship: few words, heavy sighs, holy oil, and prayer. Katherine’s mother, Lena Phillips, was raised in the Anvik Mission after her parents died in one of the great flu epidemics early in the last century. She married Charlie Dementi when she was old enough, and they moved to Swiftwater. Katherine was born in Swiftwater in 1932. Lena moved the family to Shageluk after her husband died of tuberculosis in 1946. Katherine’s mother taught her to read and write and to weave baskets and trays from


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CIRQUE

spruce and willow roots. Katherine had worn her teeth to brown stubs cleaning the roots in the traditional way. “It was our job to gather wood when we were just little,” she had said one day as we hiked the narrow trail to visit Elizabeth. “Jimmy was too big, but Gilbert and Louise and me would go out before the sun come up, when the snow still had a thick crust on it. We were small so we wouldn’t break through. If we broke through we’d get stuck in the deep snow and there’d be no one to come for

Swan

Janet Clemens

us. Daddy would go out on his trapline and we would stay with mamma in our cabin and wait. Three families lived around Swiftwater. We never knew death until my daddy died. People don’t have accidents then.” “What did you do when your daddy died?” I had asked. “We moved down here to Shageluk. We live in a little cabin near the old village. Mamma would trade spruce root trays and baskets to the old storekeeper for food. I sold my first spruce root tray to that old man. He gave me a dollar for it.” Later we would stop at her cabin for tea and Pilot Bread. Katherine had a curious way of pulling her

hair back into a pencil-thin pony tail. Her hair was waxy and yellow and so thin you could see her flesh where the bobby pins worked to keep it out of her face. Combing it with her fingers, she tugged it into the rubber band and dropped the loose strands on the woodpile, to be burned up when she stoked the fire the next time. Sometimes, when Katherine didn’t know I was watching, she’d let her guard down. A haunting look— at first I thought it was loneliness—filled her eyes and pushed the corners of her mouth down, and her shoulders down. Sometimes a bitterness would creep into her voice when she talked about a bad man who may be trying to hurt her daughter, sometimes. That was as close as she’d come to talking about the violence caused by alcohol, but I knew even the elders were in danger of being raped when the bootleggers brought in a new supply. In the beginning I was just as culpable as Katherine. I didn’t want to talk about alcohol either, or openly notice the condition of her front door. I just wanted to listen to the birds sing and revel in the beauty of the tall summer grasses swaying in the breeze around her front steps. Manageable compartments. As a child I could gallop into the mountains and watch the sunrise, then stay lost in that memory whenever I wanted. Maybe poverty and abuse do that to children—allow us to create manageable compartments. Now, as I struggle to tell the truth, I recall, again and again, the images of that day walking with Katherine in the village of Shageluk, on the banks of the Innoko River, that winter’s day when we returned, once more, to the bridge over the slough where her grandson Leroy drowned with his cousin Clifford; again we prayed at that place, that steel trap of a place, where the last living connection Katherine had with the son who had killed himself years before, struggled in the bitter cold water, struggled in the panic-rising reality that he could not release himself, and he could not release his cousin, from that place. All they could do was cling to one another. And they did. I prayed for Katherine and her cancer all that summer. My chaplaincy training and other obligations kept me stuck in Anchorage. Our once weekly phone calls became infrequent. Katherine was getting weaker and weaker, and even talking on the phone became an effort. I’d sit with my pot of tea and remember all the deaths that Katherine and I had attended together, all the potlatches, all the stories, all the funeral sermons I’d preached over the past five years. Death is a mystery; she comes in her own time, and on her own terms. Why was waiting


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2 for death so intolerable? Was it the dread? Was it the powerlessness, or the unknown, or even the denial that it’s really happening? How many times can you say, “I love you?” How many times can you say “Good-bye?” Silence, in the final analysis, seemed the most fitting thing. Silence felt holy; it left room for sighing and tears and forgiveness. When I called Katherine in mid-July she didn’t want to speak to me. She was throwing up. I wondered if anyone was making tea for her, or if she could keep it down. Jeanette told me that Lucy, Katherine’s sister-inlaw, showed up every day to sit with her. Katherine and Lucy had married brothers. After Katherine adopted me, she started calling me “sister.” Lucy picked right up on it and started calling me “sister,” too. It made me smile then, but now, remembering, I feel a tremendous comfort. Katherine taught me to show up. I didn’t know the depths of my own buried grief then, but walking with her up and down the hills of Shageluk I would begin to give myself—in the silences we shared—to my own inner chaos. Mother Theresa of Calcutta says, “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.” I didn’t know where I belonged or to whom I belonged, but I felt safe with Katherine. She knew everyone. She knew their shame. She knew their sorrow. She knew their generosity, and she loved them. They were her people. They belonged to her and she belonged to them. Neat, manageable compartments. “Ngoxo chay nidhitlsenh. I made tea for you,” Katherine would say when I’d come into her cabin. My own grandmother had made tea for me when I was a child. My cut-off feelings were finally busting through the door jamb, wiggling out of the gaping holes, where I’d kept them hidden away.

that I am God.” I didn’t know how to be still. I talked a good line about stillness but I was always moving humming trembling biting sniffing burping blinking bowing my head lifting a shoulder sucking in air blowing it out loudly tensing muscles scolding them releasing swallowing swallowing swallowing knotting up letting go letting go letting go as if I could consciously release all the feelings I was holding holding holding on to—release them and simply be still. Maybe this wiggling, trembling, biting movement was simply aliveness. Perhaps stillness only truly comes at death. Yes, the quality of stillness at death is truly still. My sister Pat’s body was still, at last, after she died of brain cancer at Providence Hospital five years earlier. Yes, her still body seemed filled with a quality of peace, poised, both complete and yet ready for the next transition. I’m sorry I didn’t sit with her body, her still body, her poised, waiting for its new beginning body. Surely I would have learned a lot about stillness from her stillness. Her skin had an unearthly glow about it—probably a simple reason, like being hypo-oxygenated—but I didn’t want a simple answer, I wanted a song, or a poem, or a god-answer—her spirit is free and her shell of a body is also free and in that freeness there seems to be a transparency that fairly glows with the peace we call God. I wondered if Jesus looked like that when they

Caught in a trap, caught by the steel jaws of your own shadow, bones snap like dry twigs. You struggle, you scratch and bite then lay exhausted in the snow waiting in morose silence for death to swallow you up. Old women’s voices break the silence and ears prick, heart begins to race, dark eyes search the road for god knows who—friend or foe. In the moments between wondering and certainty life floods in and all the important events of your life are relived, all the trails not taken are examined, all the dreams remembered. Panic rises in the throat and robs you of any remaining volition. Caught in a trap all you can do is wait for two grandmothers to come over the rise and set you free. Feeling powerless over not being in Shageluk, I began meditating on Psalm 46, “Be still, then, and know

Fort Worden Window

Kathryn Schipper


92 laid him in the tomb. Probably not, he suffered a terrible death. James of Arimathea and the rich man, Nicodemus, were in a hurry, it was the Sabbath, perhaps they didn’t take the time to notice what Jesus’ skin looked like—I was in a hurry, too. I didn’t want to wait. I’d waited a lifetime. Now I see, I missed a chance to lean into the stillness with my sister. I could have taken her home. I could have sat with her stillness. Served tea with her stillness. Told stories about her in the stillness, and remembered her laughter, in the stillness. But I didn’t. I simply didn’t. Katherine and I, two grandmothers, returned together to that place, together to bear witness, together to cling to each other as the unholy sadness of that place visited us. We, too, experienced being caught in the steel jaws of that place, we too, could only hold on to each other for dear life in the god-awful shadow of that place, and afterward limp off—limp off with a backward glance as if to acknowledge that we were somehow grateful to be alive, I guess, somehow, limping as we were, broken, two old grandmothers. Finally the first week of August my calendar cleared and I got on a plane for Shageluk. I dropped my gear at the church and asked the agent to drive me to Katherine’s cabin. When I came in, Jeannie hugged me and asked if I would stay with her mom so she could go to the store. Gladly. I turned off the T.V. and settled into the chair beside the sofa where Katherine lay. “Ade’ my sister,” she whispered. “Gogidet,” I answered. The small chair confined my generous body and I shifted from hip to hip trying to relieve the pressure. Katherine lay still, her deep grey eyes fluttered, as she let the pain medicine take the edge off her suffering. I watched and waited, barely breathing as I felt the dread in me shift to sorrowing for my friend and adopted sister. “Katherine,” I began at last, “What would you like me to do?” “Just keep treating people the way you’re treating them,” she whispered. I started, then pushed up straighter in the chair and leaned in so I could place my ear closer to her lips in an attempt to catch her whispered words. I didn’t understand. I’d meant, what would you like me to do to ease your pain or your death, but the response I got was to just keep treating people the way you’re treating them. I was trying to treat people the way Katherine treated people. Somehow in that treating, in that

CIRQUE following, in that shadowing I must have got it right, must be loving people like she loved people, unconditionally, even though she knew all about them. Until I began traveling on the Yukon and Innoko Rivers I did not know I belonged in the middle of suffering. I did not know I would learn from Katherine and the elders a way of seeing, a way of being that could knit suffering and kindness into a continuous cloth of belonging. I did not know there was no Katherine and me, only us; no God and us, only God. We are not separate or disconnected or alone, ever. God invites us to love God, and to serve God, and to become God—on God’s terms. A stillness filled me at last, as the late afternoon sun pushed under the flowered curtain stitched from a piece of turned cloth that covered the window above the sofa where my adopted sister and friend lay quietly singing, “Ya-ya-hi-ya, ade’, Papa.”

Blue Bottle

Jim Thiele


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Joseph Robertia

Molochs Indeed

93 still striving to keep a close enough eye on the highway to dodge the more-than-occasional bounding kangaroo or stately emu, both standing the same intimidating height as a full-grown human. And, as we gained more distance behind than ahead, tiny reptilian marvels began to materialize before us, right in the roadway. Stonestill creatures, unseen and unknown by most travelers, animals adept at hiding in plain sight. “Ooooh, we’re in for a treat,” I jubilantly announced to my family as I swerved around the first one and stomped the brake. My overexcited and too-rapid deceleration sent up a cloud of loose sand and scree as we slid to a grating stop. Thorny devils, taxonomically known as Moloch horridus, were a traditional food source of the aborigines

Vermillion desert sand sprawled for hundreds of miles in every direction, only occasionally interrupted by dry, spindly, yet steadfast tussocks of spinifex grass. The Red Centre – perhaps the most aptly named place on the planet – is an unmercifully harsh arid heartland in Australia’s Northern Territory. A location incessantly bright, like a photographer’s overexposed print. Our compass was set for Uluru – a massive, 1,142feet high, 550-million-year-old sandstone monolith that is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and culturally sacred place to the local Pitjantjatjara Anangu aborigines. Each year, more than half-a-million visitors trek to witness this natural wonder change colors, savoring the shifts from a soft lavender and milky magenta at dawn, to a more rusty orange or fiery red hue when heated at midday, and then back again at dusk. However, as nature-nourished travelers, my wife, three-year-old daughter, and I sought to experience all this raw, rugged, and seemingly inhospitable region – known locally and colloquially as “The Outback” – had to offer besides the big rock and dangerous extremes of isolation and scorching sun. So starting in Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city, we crammed the back of our rental car with gallon jugs of “emergency” water and headed north on the Stuart Highway, anxious A Slow-Moving Moloch Attempts to Cross the Stuart Highway in Joseph Robertia Australia's Arid Interior to acquaint ourselves with whatever would come over the next 950 miles. for ages, but only first described by an outside scientist Many opt out of this wayward course, choosing in 1841 and both monikers are half-accurate at best. The instead to fly directly into the nearest city, Alice Springs, an word “devil” has obvious connotations, while for those oasis of sorts for more than 28,000 Aussies. “The Alice” as unfamiliar with John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost, “moloch” it’s known for short, boasts – as surreal as it is impressive – is a nod to the king of the fallen angels associated with a completely modern mall, an annual camel race, a yearly child sacrifice and covered in blood and the tears of beanie-hat festival, and it’s been outed as the lesbian parents. capital of Australia. In reality, few creatures are less malicious in their We came for the journey as much as the natural intent than molochs. These 6-inch-long, squat, destination though. For days we drove under a cloudless low-riding lizards are practically predisposed to passivity. sky indelibly saturated in blue, letting the rest of our life So innocuous as to be non-territorial with their own kind fall away like the miles behind us, allowing ourselves to despite the harsh landscape and limited resources of their be wholly consumed by the openness and emptiness, and home range. So placid they can only vaguely be described the rhythm of traversing through this ancient land. We as hunting for prey; electing instead to stealthily sit-andwondered at wedge-tailed eagles whirling overhead while


94 wait for their favored food: ants. A moloch can catch up to 5,000 per meal, but even this quotidian task is conducted charmingly with their tongue, not teeth. “Thorny,” on the other hand, is completely accurate, as is the “horridus” which translates to “rough” or “bristly” in Latin. Molochs are undeniably formidable looking due to a body-wide casing of thick, conical spikes believed to serve as a deterrent to getting gulped down by would-be predators. They even have one large spine jutting above each eye, more like the horns of a bull or similar mammal. In another defensive adaptation besides their spinose epidermis, these stout little lizards barely move, even as we crept to within inches. This is their way. Moloch’s almost never run from danger; instead they walk, often perambulating at an astonishingly slow pace, balancing with one foot elevated, and subtly shifting to-and-fro like dried vegetation rustling in the wind. A pantomime added to by the moloch’s overall rufous bodycolor, broken up by dark copper blotches plus irregularsized streaks and crossbars of gold and cream, further mimicking their natural surroundings. “Is it safe, Daddy?” asked my toddler, peaking around from behind me while clinging nervously to my shorts as we approached. We had apparently briefed her too well about lethal wildlife, which Australia has in spades. Rather than use words, I answered her by gently scooping up the moloch with both hands and holding him so my daughter could stand face-level with the rotund reptile. Her wide eyes and open mouth revealed complete enchantment with the creature, calmly hunching cadaverously still. “He’s likely more scared of us, than we are of him,” I said to her in a hushed tone, and as if on cue, the remarkable reptile displayed another defense mechanism and a second dramatic performance aimed at misdirecting danger. Behind the small blunt head of the moloch, they carry – like a napsack on their nape – another bulbous, “false” head. When frightened, they tuck their true head between their legs, to protect their noggin, exactly like the one in my palms. “Genius,” my wife said. “Cute,” my daughter added. Then I revealed to my family the moloch’s most mind-boggling knack: they’re ability to drink where liquid is deadly scarce due to the environment being so thoroughly sun-baked and completely bone-dry for much of the year.

CIRQUE “They soak up water, like… a sponge,” I said, searching for a simple term, knowing my daughter was years away from understanding the complexity of a concept like “hygroscopic” to explain the moisture harvesting principles deployed by molochs. This miraculous process occurs by molochs making the most of condensation dew that covers their bodies in the early morning, or, when they more actively dig through sand to get to a deeper dampness not discernible to humans. They then wiggle their bellies or kick the loose earth onto their legs and back. At the base of each spine, and running between them, are deep interconnecting grooves, not visible to the naked eye. Through simple capillary action, and even defying gravity to travel up their limbs, these channels move moisture directly to the lizard’s mouth, giving them all the hydration – some might even say salvation – they need to survive. “Here?” my daughter asked, squinting and pointing a petite digit at the animal’s miniscule hexagonal scales irregularly arranged between each larger fleshy thorn, earnestly trying to understand a system that until a few years ago also bewildered scientists. I nodded in support as much as affirmation. Not wanting to stress the moloch more than its hard-fought existence already does daily, I sought to keep our encounter brief, but felt compelled to pass him to my daughter’s tiny cupped hands, so that she could feel – for herself – his dry desiccated skin and the soft prickle of his body armor. She pet him by slowly running one finger down his back, carefully caressing each pointy tip and giggling at the slight tickle of his tiny claws as he held on to her as much as she to him. The texture of that moment I hoped was burning a lifelong memory, but I wanted to be sure. “Do you want to release him,” I asked, knowing what her answer would be. A smile as wide as the continent itself spread from the supreme satisfaction of being solely entrusted with this responsibility. She walked – with cautious, deliberate footfalls – a safe distance from the road, then lowered the reptile back down to the red sand. Seconds later, when he felt ready, the moloch made what for its species was a sprint, but in essence amounted to a comical scuttle away. His movements looked more like a mechanical wind-up toy than an escapee making a mad dash. We stayed crouching in our familial equivalent of a prayer circle, for what duration I couldn’t say. Time pooled. We were engrossed in the moment, oblivious to the searing heat, staring in reverence and awe, contemplating


95

Vo l . 9 N o . 2 and silently communing with a living piece of this all-toooverlooked place. Our connection was broken when we heard the deep-pitched growl of a tour bus approaching. We stood as it blasted by and waked us in diesel fumes. In its passing I noticed all the tourists facing forward, waiting to be told what to look at next, oblivious to the utterly mystifying along the way. Nature always surprises with unexpected wonder, but to be in on the secret takes eyesight for the subtle and a mindset for serendipity. Eventually, we returned to our rental car and got back under way, counting several more molochs on the route, ecstatic with each sighting as the first. We had traveled so far to see a single massive stone towering above the barren plains, and it was impressive to be sure. But we were equally moved by the magnificence of the miniscule, found ourselves captivated by this creature with a unique appearance, cleverness for misdirection, cast-iron constitution for eking out a living, and complete tolerance of a three-year-old’s tactile displays of affection. For weeks we talked about the shared experience. For months my daughter drew depictions of that day and made colorings in crayon. And now, years later, despite all we saw during our trip Down Under, when my youngest is asked about her favorite part of Australia, she honestly answers for all of us with one word: “Molochs.” Molochs indeed.

The Mystifying Moloch: Also Known as the Thorny Devil

Joseph Robertia

Todd Sformo

Gray I calculate water content of green, acrid stink bugs— wet mass, dry mass, and formula yield milligram of water per milligram of dry mass; I measure dragonfly temperature with a thermocouple thermometer pin-pricked into thorax— thoraces varying from stout plates of sulfur outlined in dolphin blue, others with thin transitions of blackened gold, and frail species’ watery gauze on blood; I record freezing events of thinner-than-wafer, tan-brown beetle larvae by the release of heat of crystallization—an exotherm on the computer screen, as exciting as the florescent ping in submarine movies. I measure. It is not the surety of number but the planting of roots of thought, establishing a beginning that can be, that will be, whittled up or down. I stalk measure; it is a cairn. Yet, I confess, I cannot say that I am utterly unsympathetic to trying to believe in a finality that will make us all happy or unacquainted with those medieval mystics like William of St-Thierry who devised a realm of spirit, intellect, and emotion to fit experience, as Ptolemy. When I cannot help myself, when some illogical twilight or mutational sound takes hold and mixes with redolent hue, I wander about these retrograde shifts and wonder about their fit in the observer’s need for measure. There’s a color that encompasses light-years to nanometers. It’s a value of gray that slips by easily but is structural, being the real color of fibrous proteins, metallics of all kinds, winds stretching out and sweeping vistas or an empty lot where the only vegetation is a prickly piece of disconnected dandelion leaf marred in cinder. This gray is pumice for the eye; it is the color of coincidence. From airplane window, when moon is muffled in thin cloud and snow on the ground is scrim, only salient things exist, deep riverbanks in bas-relief. I remember an irregular line I had written: would you tell you/while still without/like a mercury tide, eyes wading in kisses/how morning is fake, the leaves dirges. It is the color of the phrase “the condition of the possibility.” Snowshoeing to work on Middle Salt Lagoon (2 Feb 2012 7:28AM, -33, bit of wind, NNE at 13, wind-chill -57), all I can see comes from tin moonlight skidding over the tundra, ankle-deep snow-vapor slithering like dry ice down a stage, or as a friend once described it, “a little bit of heaven” wagging on by. It’s the aperture left open at


96 a stream where flow is hoary. Or that discomfited pale moment when a breach is spotted and water floods in long, thin columns at right angles to the way. But here, for me, the run-off is particles, flowing over the more solid of itself in a smoky, stretchy blaze. And although I can’t see it, I know that over the Chukchi the waxing moon is revealing a ripped up sea: frozen ocean of glued-down-icy-pickup-sticks, a rumpled field, with two-story boulders of petrified water, uplifted in wreckage; this sea is sculpture, white of the Greek’s (lost of color); the brokenness, a Romantic paean to ruin; elemental simplicity and fracture, the studied hewn of the Cycladic. This sea is still life in stray gray. Except when day arrives, some crevices will be in-filled with blue. It seems darker than yesterday; I can’t see the snow’s textures due to this writhing breeze, clouds around feet. My snowshoes make soundings as a finger rubbing Styrofoam. This gray I’ve found can be manufactured—on Sunday mornings—in a scanning electron microscopy (SEM) lab. Here, I’m encased in a blacked-out room, until the machine fixes objects in lunar shade. The SEM hazes the viewer, immediately 40,000 feet above the thing then pouncing into the abyssal until eyes adjust on the surface in seemingly normal screen-space that leads to normal, everyday scale, and yet at times you forget what you’re dealing with: pyramid blocks in Gaza are grains of salt, the leaded chain of a battleship’s anchor are links of a silver necklace, the ruins of a blasted city are manufacturing blebs on the tip of a hypodermic, grand canyons in the feet of lice. I have blown-up insect eyes that kids have taken to be the moon or a soccer ball. The SEM makes you big, bigger than Titans in mythology, complete giants that explore the cosmos. And it does so by reaching down into matter and casting it big. The phrase “writ large” is too small but expresses an inkling, imposing the tiny into an almighty, where photons are electrons that pave the way. In this room of revelation, I’ve seen the wringing out of tiny grooves produce the heart of color during the waking day, where the fate of gray oozes into a shimmering oil-bow on stark black cuticle that we joked was the Technicolor Dream Coat Beetle. I’ve seen terra firma ravel, disparities resolve into asperities into parities at a subsided level, where the menagerie, funny and spectacular, adumbrates, where a little drop of impregnable space bounds, buckles, cleaves, and a single overlooked hair is peer to custom and continent, where the tempered whole of appearance is handicapped, dusted, skinned.

CIRQUE

Bill Sherwonit

Finding a Community that Embraces Religion & Science—and Other Ways of Knowing I still vividly recall the day that Anchorage’s Unitarians forever won my heart. And mind. And maybe even my soul. It was the first Sunday in October, 2012, a day that members of the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship—otherwise known as the AUUF or simply “the fellowship”—gathered for their traditional Blessing of the Animals celebration. Though I had visited the fellowship a few times before, I’d always attended its 9 a.m. speaker’s forum, a secular gathering at which invited guests talk about all manner of worldly topics, for instance education, poverty, homelessness, gardening, travel, and yes, science. Given my own religious baggage—a fundamentalist Christian upbringing that I’d wholeheartedly embraced as a boy, then painfully rejected as a young adult—I studiously avoided the 11 a.m. worship service with its more spiritual leaning. Then, in late summer 2012, a member of the fellowship invited me to speak at a worship service. At first I resisted. But eventually I gave in, largely because I would be talking about something important to me: our species’ complicated relationship with other life forms, especially wild animals. Before participating in a worship service, I naturally wanted to experience one. And in stepping through the doors of the Unitarians’ church that October Sunday, I encountered a style of “worship” different than I’d ever known. Or even imagined. In the minutes leading up to, and then past, the scheduled 11 a.m. start, the building was filled with the barking of dogs and the shouts and loud laughter of children (and some adults). The atmosphere seemed more like that of a country fair or outdoor marketplace than a place of worship, more playfully chaotic than contemplative or reverent. I took that as a hopeful sign. The service, for me, was an emotional


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 rollercoaster. First I roared with delight, then later sobbed with grief. I felt amazed and then jubilant, my body shaking with laughter, when adults and kids joined in a rousing rendition of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” complete with several refrains of quacks, oinks, meows, moos, and clucks. I laughed again when a member read the service’s Story for All Ages, “The Creation of Pets.” Attributed to that well-known scribe, Anonymous, the story playfully— and in places, hilariously—explained why God created Dog and then Cat to be Adam’s companions. In a simple yet insightful narrative, the story captured each animal’s nature and place in human lives. Later in the service, people were invited to bring their companions for the ritual blessing, mostly dogs along with a cat or two, a rabbit, a bird, a turtle. That evoked more chuckles. And barks. But the mood shifted sharply when we came to the part of the service called “Memory Table for Lost Friends.” Even as the day’s worship associate invited us to come forward, light a candle, and “briefly speak in remembrance of a departed pet,” tears began to leak into my eyes and growing spasms of sadness rippled through my body. Only a few months earlier I’d lost my beloved mixed collie, Coya, to a rare form of cancer. Now memories of our final days together were unexpectedly being resurrected. I joined a long line, doing my best to hold back the tears. I seemed to be doing okay, until my turn came. I lit a candle, then turned and faced the congregation and tried to say Coya’s name, but the grief won out. I stood there, sobbing quietly, for several moments. Finally I whispered, “In memory of Coya” and returned to my seat, cheeks wet with tears, insides raw with sorrow. Never had I been so overcome with emotions— joy and grief—while attending a church service. Never had I been so moved, in both body and spirit. And never had I so freely expressed my feelings in such a setting. That speaks to the acceptance, the openness, I must have sensed from that community. But community of what? Worshipers? What I experienced didn’t feel like worship, in a traditional religious sense . Maybe “celebrants” comes closest to describing those Unitarians on that October day. People celebrating life and our human connection to other creatures, other beings. And maybe mystery, too. I didn’t contemplate all of this at the time. I simply knew, with my entire being, that I’d had a more amazing and uplifting experience than I ever would have guessed. And I’d be coming back.

97 A reasonable person might wonder what my experience of the AUUF’s Animal Blessing Sunday has to do with the relationship and interplay of science and religion (as the title of this essay suggests). In a roundabout way, everything. That service, combined with what I’d previously observed at a handful of the fellowship’s forums, gave me strong and convincing evidence that I’d finally—finally!— found a community of people who wholeheartedly and open-mindedly embraced many ways of knowing the world and celebrating our species’ place in it. And they could be both profoundly respectful and delightfully playful in doing so. Several years after that memorable Blessing of the Animals experience, I still have a lot to learn about the “faith community” known as Unitarian Universalists (UUs or Unitarians for short). But I’ve become familiar with their seven guiding principles and many UU beliefs, some of which seem especially pertinent to this discussion. Consider Principle 4: “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Or this statement of belief, which expands on Principle 4: “We believe in the never-ending search for Truth. If the mind and heart are truly free and open, the revelations that appear to the human spirit are infinitely numerous, eternally fruitful, and wondrously exciting.” Though it doesn’t specifically mention science, here’s a UU belief that to me clearly asserts the compatibility of science and religion and, more generally, all of the possible ways of knowing: “We believe in the unity of experience. There is no fundamental conflict between faith and knowledge, religion and the world, the sacred and the secular, since they all have their source in the same reality.” * * * Perhaps such UU principles and beliefs resonate so deeply with me because of my own complicated—one might even say “mixed up”—path. It began in Connecticut with my childhood immersion in the black-and-white, heaven-and-hell, Bible-is-the-literal-truth Christian teachings of a Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation. But what started as a straight-and-narrow path began to take some unexpected twists and turns in my teens and twenties. First I would discover the wonders of science, especially the earth sciences. Then, while attending a liberal-arts college, I ran into—and was bowled over by— all sorts of beliefs I had never encountered. Teased and


98

Passage

baited by agnostics and one particularly bothersome (yet likeable) atheist, I prayed fervently for guidance. Wracked by doubt, I pleaded for some sign of God’s presence, but none came that I could tell. Spread across years, that crisis would put me on a different, less rigid, path. But what finally led me to reject Christianity as I knew it wasn’t an inability to bridge science and my fundamentalist beliefs, but my unwillingness to believe in a God who would damn people for all eternity simply because they were born into the “wrong” faith, the wrong culture. Only later would I come to truly comprehend there are different, less literal, ways to interpret the Bible and the wonder of creation. Eventually my wanderings brought me to Alaska, first as a geologist and then, years later, reincarnated as a sports writer. After a decade at an Anchorage newspaper, I found my mid- and late-life calling as a freelance author and nature writer. Along the way I also rediscovered my passion for wild nature, which had been an essential

CIRQUE childhood refuge; and I found myself drawn to Earth-centered belief systems. Though I shy away from labels, it’s fair to say I nowadays imagine myself to be something of a pantheistic pagan: one who finds and celebrates the divine as it is manifested in the many forms of nature, or creation, if you will. Not religious, but spiritual. My meandering journey, along with an inclination to wonder, doubt, and analyze, has at various stages of my life caused me substantial anxiety, confusion, and guilt, even nightmares. But over the past quarter-century or so, thanks in large part to what might be called “inner work,” I’ve grown more at peace with both my changed direction and the entirety of my passage. Still I’ve continued to ponder the nature of science and religion—especially Christianity, given my own roots and the widespread practice of identifying our country as a “Christian nation”—and the role that each plays in our culture. Here I’ll share some observations pulled from years of thinking and writing about such matters, including reflections set down in personal journals and essays. Given my liberal, green persuasion, Jim Thiele it’s probably no surprise that many of my friends tend to be pagan, scientific, secular humanist, or mystical sorts (or some combination thereof). Yet as much as we like to believe ourselves progressive and enlightened, we can be as self-righteous and strongly opinionated as the most strident of evangelicals who inhabit the largely red and Christian state of Alaska. So I’ve grown used to conversations in which true believers of the Bible as the literal word of God are decried as ignorant or foolish or delusional or simply stuck in outdated beliefs. Creationism, for example. While I frequently join in the conversational fray, I (unlike most of my friends and colleagues) have no trouble at all understanding the religiously adamant view that the Earth, its myriad life forms, and the rest of All That Is, were formed in less than a week’s time by that miracle worker, God. Or that the Earth is some 5,000 to 6,000 years old. Because that’s what was engrained in me as a boy, while being raised a devout Lutheran in the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s what I came to understand and believe, with all my heart and mind and soul.


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 A 6,000-year-old Earth and week-long creation seemed no stranger to me than Jesus Christ’s dual role as God and man, or the existence of the Triune God, a threein-one package that includes a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. All were mysteries beyond comprehension, as were the flood and Noah’s species-saving ark, Methuselah’s 969-year-old life, Jonah’s passage in the belly of a whale, Mary’s virgin birth, and Christ’s many miracles, most notably his resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven. Though beyond human understanding, in my world each was an absolute truth that came from the Bible; the same Word of God that taught there is but one way to paradise, spelled out in the Scriptures (No matter that Christ died for all of us and our sins, you had to believe in the Triune God to earn a ticket to heaven.). What’s especially impressive about my upbringing and utter belief in the Bible, as interpreted for me by pastors and teachers and parents—and, in a way, the scariest aspect of it—is how these beliefs remained a large and sometimes haunting presence long after I’d become a doubter and, ultimately, a heathen. Even into my mid-thirties, despite being schooled for years in the sciences and later trained in journalism, I would sometimes awaken sweaty and tight chested in the middle of the night, shaken by shockingly real nightmares of being damned to hell for eternity. Equally powerful, if not as terrifying, is the way that Christianity’s creation story has stayed with me. Long before I was introduced to Charles Darwin and science’s theory of evolution, my belief in the Biblical creation was tested, in a way, by an early passion for dinosaurs. Such creatures were not mentioned in the Bible, that I could tell, yet I fully accepted their existence. I suspect some wise adult explained to me (as certain Biblical experts do today) that the Scripture’s dragons, behemoths, and leviathans were the very dinosaurs I played with as toys. In Biblical times, they were simply given different names. Why they didn’t survive, along with other creatures, was less clear. But much about the Bible and our miracle of a world “surpasseth understanding.” After my eighth-grade graduation from Zion Lutheran School, I went to a public high school. There my love for rock and mineral collecting joined with the passionate teaching of a ninth-grade earth sciences teacher, Miss Anderson, to set me on a path that would eventually lead to a masters degree in geosciences and a short-lived career as a geologist. So for most of my 68 years I’ve understood and accepted the “fact” that our universe is billions of years old; that many geological

99 processes occur over eons; and that humans and other contemporary life forms have evolved from a complicated process spread across billions of years. Strangely enough, I don’t recall any early instruction about Darwin, though it seems his entry into my life would have shaken things up considerably. In fact I didn’t truly comprehend the groundbreaking—and creation-challenging—nature of his theory “on the origin of species” until years after my formal education ended. Maybe I just couldn’t work out the differences of my early and deeply engrained belief system with my later schooling in the sciences, so I kept the two worldviews as far apart as possible: one in the head, the other in the heart and gut. Over time, I have also come to understand—and believe—that we humans, along with the rest of nature, are a work in progress. We’re not the final act in the show, the “chosen ones” uniquely made in the image of God, as respected adults had drilled into me for nearly two decades. We humans aren’t at the center of it all, though even now, in our modern, industrialized, and increasingly high-tech world we continue to behave as if it’s “all about us.” And yet . . . some part of my psyche still holds onto the notion that the Earth and its inhabitants might really have been created in a week’s time, some 6,000 years ago, a “fact” that was a primary truth of my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. So while I intellectually understand that the Earth and universe are vastly older than what I was once religiously taught, a part of me still occasionally wonders: is it so? For most of my adult years, I was too embarrassed to reveal such fundamental(ist) doubts, even to those people I knew most intimately. But growing older, and I hope wiser, I’ve come to understand a couple things that put my uncertainties in better perspective. First, it appears that all humans—or at least the ones I’ve come to know—are a squirming mass of contradictions; second, our earliest experiences are often the most important in determining how we comprehend and interact with the world. It should be no surprise that some core beliefs have stuck around, in one fashion or another. For years I simply denied or hid my creationbased doubts, believing them a weakness. But in a curious way, I’ve come to see my religious roots as something of a gift. Here in Alaska, I seem to be among the minority of liberal, green, Earth-friendly people who truly understand what it means to see the world in a black-and-white, good-and-evil, right-and-wrong, my-way-is-the-one-


100 true-way manner. This is part of who I am, who I’ll always be. So why not use it as a bridge to greater understanding? I know it seems impossible at times; but I’ve also seen room for hope in my own life, my own family. My evangelistic brother has gone as far right as I’ve gone left, but we’ve learned to listen to each other, while sharing stories, beliefs, and feelings in a way that wasn’t possible when we were younger. In learning to accept my conflicted self and opposing viewpoints, I’ve come to consider the origin question in another way. Which, really, is the greater miracle: God’s creation of the Earth and its inhabitants in six days? Or a process that in some still unknown—and perhaps unknowable—way sparked the beginnings of life and then, astoundingly, evolved into millions of life forms over the course of billions of years? Try to imagine the slow evolutionary changes that led to bacteria, trilobites, ferns, dinosaurs, dragonflies, redwoods, apples, grizzlies, slime molds, chickadees, and people, and the many different forms the Earth has taken in its five billion or so years. Or reflect upon the first moments of the “big bang,” and questions about what existed before that, and notions of an expanding universe (Expanding into what?). Or what about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life forms and multiple universes? To meditate on any of that is to move into the realm of the mysterious and miraculous. There’s something else this creationism-vs.evolution debate stirs up for me. As both fallen Christian and ex-geologist, I’m struck by the way our culture sometimes puts too much faith in science. For many in our high-tech, information-based culture, science has become a new religion, the one true way of understanding our world and origins. Until recently, the scientific community ignored and sometimes denigrated indigenous knowing as merely anecdotal, though such “traditional ecological knowledge,” as it’s become popularly known today, is based on field-tested evidence and facts, often gathered across many generations. Happily, that bias is changing. But I still notice some of my science-oriented friends rolling their eyes at other ways of looking at the world, especially if they have a mystical element. Reflecting upon my life and evolution from fundamentalist Christian to earth-oriented scientist, skeptical journalist, and then nature essayist, part of what I see is movement toward a place where exploring questions is more important than having all the answers.

CIRQUE Maybe it’s the ability to see that gradual transformation, in combination with my increased awareness of aging, which leads to this observation: the older I get, the more room I see for different ways of exploring and “knowing” the world. One of my favorites these days is mysticism, the ancient and widely spread spiritual tradition that emphasizes the necessity of personal experience, intuition, and the pursuit of inner knowing in order to achieve a deeper awareness of—and communion with— some higher power, spiritual truth, divinity, or sense that a “oneness” both underlies and connects everything (The latter not so different from what science tells us.). Mysticism took subtle root in my life during the late eighties and early nineties, a time when I was finally ready to re-embrace spirituality, but in a much different form than fundamentalism. Its seeds were planted partly through ideas expressed in Eastern spiritual traditions, for instance Buddhism and Sufism. But they were also spread through the interviews that Bill Moyers conducted with Joseph Campbell in their much-heralded “The Power of Myth” series, and later by the men’s mythopoetic movement, through the stories of Robert Bly, Michael Meade, and others. And what joyful surprise I felt upon discovering, in my fifth decade, that Christianity had its own mystical branch, expressed in the ideas of Meister Eckhart, Hildegarde of Bingen, Thomas Merton, and others, including contemporary theologian Matthew Fox, the author of Original Blessing and other works that present a different way of interpreting the Bible and what it means to behave in a Christ-like way. That discovery came too late to save me from becoming a pagan. But imagine my delight in learning that Christianity’s mystical tradition says what I’ve intuitively “known” all along, including the sense of oneness that connects everything. And the belief that if any part of creation is sacred, all of it is. Amen to that. If more of us believed such things, and celebrated all of creation, I’m convinced it wouldn’t matter so much to people whether the Earth is 5,000 years old or five billion. It wouldn’t matter so much whether people were created by God, in His image, or evolved from other life forms. From where I stand, the Earth and all its inhabitants, past and present, have reflected a creative force—some might call it spirit—that transcends our greatest minds. Though he too ultimately rejected and moved beyond Christianity, I suspect that Charles Darwin, like me and untold others, including many


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 scientists, understood life to be a miracle that “surpasseth understanding.” One more memory before I return to the Unitarians. In the late 1980s I had the good fortune to attend a public talk given by a visiting Tibetan Buddhist monk, followed by a more intimate gathering afterward. Though most of that night’s events have become blurred by time, one thing stands out clearly. In addressing the smaller group, the monk matter-of-factly reminded us, “There are many paths to the same destination.” That single, simple sentence struck a deep and resounding chord for at least a couple reasons. First, the monk’s words made intuitive sense to me— they rang true—while confirming a spiritual belief, or understanding, that had begun to take shape somewhere inside me. Second, given my own religious background, it amazed me that a highly respected religious figure would suggest his way is not the only way to truth, enlightenment, or salvation. In contradicting the black-and-white, one-trueway thinking that has dominated our culture for as long as I can remember—and that once dominated my life— the Buddhist monk gave me renewed reason to hope. He also nudged me farther along the path I’ve followed through middle age and now into my “elder” years, a path that led me to the AUUF. * * * Despite lingering unease at being in a church, even at my first Unitarian forum—years before the animal blessing experience—I think I sensed at some deep level that I might have finally found my people, my “tribe.” More than a decade and many gatherings later—a mix of forums, worship services, and social events—I’m more certain of that than ever. Though I’m an introvert who cherishes solitude and occasionally becomes a recluse, in my sixties I’ve felt a growing desire for community. For many years I had belonged to assorted groups (writing group, book group, men’s group, park and wildlife advocacy groups to name a few), but I have wanted something more, something socially, emotionally, and spiritually nourishing. The AUUF has given me that. The Anchorage fellowship likes to describe itself as “a welcoming community” and it has certainly welcomed and embraced me, though for several years I chose to remain on its fringes. Staying on the margins has long been a behavior of mine, one learned early in life, but that’s gradually changed as I’ve gotten older,

101 felt more accepted, and, most importantly, become more at ease with my imperfect self (That tendency is perhaps reflected in my choice, so far, to be a “friend of the fellowship,” not yet ready to become a full-fledged member). One measure of my deepening connection to the AUUF: there’s something about the community— meaning both the place and the people—that seems to open up my heart when I enter the church’s sanctuary. What an amazing change this is, one might even say a miracle, to eagerly anticipate taking my place amid the gathered crowd of good-hearted and hungry-minded people. And then, during the service, to move into a place of centered peacefulness. I now better understand the idea of church as sanctuary. For much of my life it was an unsettling place to be. I wasn’t sure I belonged. Now I know I do belong— along with an assortment of Christians, Buddhists, earthcentered pagans, agnostics, humanists, atheists, and who knows what else. And somehow it works. Not perfectly, of course. Most of the humanist sorts prefer the forum while those of a more religious—or spiritual—bent attend the worship service. But there’s considerable overlap. Among the AUUF’s many groups is one called the freethinkers, which meets weekly to discuss all manner of topics. This is a staunchly humanist and largely atheist circle of UUs, who pride themselves on a reasoned understanding of the world, informed and nurtured by the sciences and humanities. Some, like me, are fallen or “recovering” Christians; and several, that I can tell, find little if anything to like or value about religions generally. And yet when pressed, many members of that freethinking bunch admit to having spiritual beliefs, though not all would label them so. As a self-professed pagan pantheist who’s been an off-and-on attendee, I can vouch that they freely welcome just about anyone into their midst. I suppose that’s partly because a variety of opinions—and yes, beliefs—helps to enliven their meetings. That’s one of the things I’ve come to most appreciate about Anchorage’s Unitarians. They’re hardly perfect, but in my experience they do indeed welcome lively, thoughtful, and respectful discussions among people of diverse backgrounds, creeds, and world views. It’s something of a miracle, really, for a person raised to believe there’s only one true, righteous way of being in the world, all other ways not only being wrong, but damnable. And it’s a hopeful thing, in a culture where intolerance and disrespect of other viewpoints—scientific, religious, or otherwise—so often seems to rule the day.


John McKay

Sunday Mornings With Gary My mother would have conjured Gary Cooper sitting straight in the saddle, as she listened to him, the preacher, talking about his days in Red Lodge, about his friends Ben and Phyllis, in a poem so rich in detail, so evocative, so poignant, I think, how could he have gotten so much into one poem, even such an epic, and it comes back to me, it was a homily, but in the voice of a poet, a voice that transforms and transports. He speaks of fresh grief, relayed by email from one who knew him well in the years of the Montana ministry, those days of racing horses back to the barn, and evening card games, raising children, serving on the school board. Deb has died, before her mother, Phyl, though some years after Ben, Gary’s partner in fishing Rock Creek for rainbows, and hunting deer and elk, pheasants and ducks, spruce hens and jackrabbits.

I rest my 4.10 at the wooden post on the other side, near dad’s 12-gauge, before negotiating a barbed wire fence. Watching my frosty breath, I feel the pleasant weight of extra 4.10 shells in my pocket, loaded with buckshot— pellets you would try your best to locate and remove before the squirrel parts, breaded with flour and pepper, hit the frying pan full of boiling Crisco. Not 4.10 slugs, like the one Billy Vermeer, deer hunting in the woods near his house, put through two of his toes, as he rested the muzzle of his shotgun on his right foot distractedly, and accidentally pulled the trigger while contemplating the low draft number he had just been assigned by lottery. And with the sound of that gunshot, I am back in the sanctuary in Airport Heights, as Gary explains the alchemy of grief. How, sooner or later, grief gives way to gratitude, as rips in the fabric of close connections are healed through the power of memories and deep thanksgiving for what has come before. Week by week, we build a living tradition, conjured from graves and analects, from unflinching history, from eloquent silence.

Listening, I am transported to the fields behind my great-Aunt Irene’s, hunting with dad and grandpa Archie, decades after he had left the family farm in eighth grade to work in the glare and heat of molten iron at the Saginaw Foundry. He was a heavy metal guy before his grandkids.

I eavesdrop as Gary pulls back the curtain on Confucius preparing for bed, quizzing himself: Have I been true to myself today? Have I been helpful to others today? Have I stood by my word today? As the philosopher expects this of his leaders, can he expect less of himself?

My first hunting license is proudly displayed as required by the State of Michigan, protected from rain and snow by a clear plastic sleeve safety-pinned to the back of a red and black plaid mackinaw jacket.

We sit transfixed in our chairs as Gary washes our feet with Alan Payton’s story of the Afrikaner judge who at the invitation of Reverend Isaiah Buti, slips into the Holy Church of Zion at Bochebala on Maundy Thursday, and not only bathes but tenderly kisses with privileged white lips the tired feet of his elderly servant, Martha Fortuin.

Mom has taken three chickens out of the freezer, which we will have for Sunday dinner if the hunters are skunked, or tomorrow if we return triumphant with a few rabbits and squirrels. These were the cancer-free days of remission, when dad was still producing babies, but not malignant cells from his lymph nodes.

The ocean of life breaks over this singular rock, the power of the moon gives way to its steadfastness. The inherent worth and dignity of one man can be contagious. We are grateful for his voice. Yes!


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Cynthia Steele

Me Too This story is my response to the “Me Too” (or “#MeToo”) viral movement of October 2017, used on social media to demonstrate the prevalence of sexual assault / harassment, especially in the workplace. “Me Too” coincided with public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others in the entertainment industry. But the movement started in 2006 when social activist Tarana Burke used the phrase on Myspace as part of a campaign to promote “empowerment through empathy” among women of color who have experienced sexual abuse, particularly within underprivileged communities. Burke said she was inspired after being unable to respond to a 13-year-old girl who confided to her that she had been sexually assaulted. Burke later wished she had simply told the girl, “me too.” I spent much of my childhood staring from the ceiling down, swimming through the air, making circles, gazing anywhere—but. Meanwhile, my mother, who was too high, too disengaged to be able to parent, laughed in the distance like a movie star with long copper hair, and people filtered in and out of our house whether she was there or not.

a nunchaku Okinawan martial arts weapon (num-chuks, I called them) off a guy. He smirked when I bought it, “Here ya go, kid.” Tossed it my way. The two blunt sticks parting, I caught one of the sticks that connected by a short chain, the other hit my shin. I showed nothing, feeling the first of many welts I would inflict upon myself in hopes that no one else would be able to. Wanting to be tough, wanting to be a boy, to be strong and muscular and able to take on people instead of crumble, I prayed. Lights faded from outside when our generator turned off and lights faded inside with the continued glow of the stove heat. At this time, I prayed that I would become tough and all that that entails for the strength of men—but more so—to experience as a result my responses as an emotionless machine. That is the prayer that made me question God because the tears never stopped slipping into my ears at night. I lay there, wishing I could not cry, and I looked at Raja Indian block print tapestries hanging like Buddha’s headquarters, creating thin, air permeable walls through which I could feel heat. Through them he could see the outline of our bodies as we dressed for bed, which

When it was just my sister and I, or just me, we were just bodies in that house. That house where sheets of acid were sold, where we were—in essence—shattered like a chandelier falling repeatedly from on high. We blonde, we pretty, we wished we weren’t too often. We reached this point: we cannot any longer refuse the touches of people we did not invite into our world. These grownups who were not welcome but who were there, generically, to buy weed, to have a beer, to relax in our tiny, one room cabin in Wasilla. The dictate: If no one’s home, let them wait. Behind this cabin were fields of rolling land with an old army bunker where I went with my puppy to escape, to be apart from this life that hardened me like the 7-pound lead man my mother kept that someone had made that dripped with gloppy, hardened metal. An amorphous shape. I ran full-bore over hills around trees, sometimes taking the brunt of a branch but not caring if I had marks; I already had marks, wounds. My fists had tiny fragments of bone where I had punched the log cabin walls. I bought Water Lilies

Kimberly Davis


104 we learned to do beneath the covers, but we knew the jumbled ruffle of blankets made our activity of changing all too clear. Through them, we could see him. One room focused his sights in on us. It grew cold most nights, so cold the three beds of us on the one side of the cabin were buried beneath blankets. The wood stove stood in the middle of the room, past moans from their bed. Hours later, when warmth came to the quiet air, a sense of urgency hit me, I who barely slept, would awaken. No one else did. The warmth, they would say, was comforting, but not for me. My bed was next to my mother and him, my sister farther away. House growing warmer, not bitter chill—I could feel it. I shot bolt upright. Coals, I thought, so I got up, fully clothed, as I decided eventually I must stay, to walk across the uneven, creaking floor, to open the front of the barrel of lava coals, hottest now because the wood’s energy was spent. It’s dying, I know. The heat spells death knells for fire, so I reach for a nearby log. With 11-year-old smallish, squared off hands, boyish, I hoist the log up and try to swiftly toss it in, large log through small hole. These same hands with my sister, chopped the wood after she ran the chain saw and cut it, sled hauling it back. And me, deft with the ax. But this time, my hand catches the lip of the woodstove, and, without thinking, I wipe the tickle off my skin, but it is my skin that wipes off. I feel, in the dark, the sting from the absent skin layers. I would have a scar until into my 20s when it would disappear with other things we almost forget. I stay by the fire, silently winging another log in and wait, through a small crack sound, making sure I work quiet, yet work well. “No sense doing anything half assed,” Mama would say.

CIRQUE to be unable to shake the thoughts. I awakened in ditches after drinking myself into a stupor at 12 and 13, unable to walk home where I didn’t want to go, anyway. Instead, I would awaken with leaves surrounding my hair—one with this freedom, without people, without thought. Sometimes, with strangers awakening me. Annoyed at first, I grew to notice that it was pleasant; they were caring, although I was not, anymore, by 12. Told a school counselor about my home life; she said to focus on things I can change, like quitting smoking. So, I did. I rarely went home now, running away countless times. Under a mattress with springs piercing into my ribs and legs. My friend, Don Ferguson, sat on me, squishing me into the wires as his mother allowed an officer of the law to enter and question him. The words Don said, “Nope. I haven’t seen her,” were the kindest words. I did not care the bruises as long as I did not have to go home, but the police persisted and would find and bring me back to my mother. In this house, I said nothing, just felt hot tears slide down my face. Heard my mother’s pet name “ingrate.” Felt her slap, and floated up to the ceiling again. Perhaps because of my early life experiences, much later, when I was sexually harassed in the workplace, I froze. Years after the harassment at work, I didn’t wonder if I should’ve done something; I knew I should have, but I didn’t. I was paralyzed. Perhaps the abuser knows this. So, when, years later, men and women come forward and declare their pain, I understand. And I applaud them. #metoo #wishihad

I felt essentially alone as the stove filled, always ever watchful, alert to any creaking sounds, like the footsteps that should not come, that must not come near me. My body, my eyes, remain so today, watchful, unable to have my back to the door, unable to not know who came into the room just now, or even who almost did. Sharp breath intake, and for years I saw him in the faces of those at stop lights in work trucks. My stepfather who should have perished in the fire I built but did not. At 11, I had already been used, raped, and so I began, after a while, Mark Muro


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Night at the Plaza

Richard Stokes

Lessons In 1961 I started draining some of the prejudice I had absorbed over my twenty two years of growing up in rural middle Georgia. Consider me a bathtub filling with prejudice as poisons flowed in, filling fastest during my early formative years, but continuing into adulthood. In 1961, Ralph McGill more than any one person, pulled the plug and allowed the poison to begin draining away. He pulled the plug with what I considered a courageous editorial in the Atlanta Constitution. The editorial came a day or so after what McGill called “Atlanta’s successful desegregation day,” when three black students integrated an Atlanta High School—over seven years after the Supreme Court ruled segregation in the schools was unconstitutional (Brown versus Board of Education). McGill wrote, “. . . the

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Cheryl Stadig

future . . . will not be in focus, so long as the Southern senators and congressmen, the governors and businessmen refuse to understand what has happened to them—and what is to transpire.” McGill claimed, “. . . the magnificent thing about Atlanta’s successful desegregation day was . . . there was a will to obey the law . . . genuine relief in having done with shabby, untrue deceptions and cheap rationalizations . . . There was no mob, no disorder, no violence. This was because it was done by a confident people, weary of prejudice, proud of their city, and of their civilization . . . Many Southerners, especially those in rural areas, literally do not understand that the Negro is a citizen of the United States . . . no more and no less. He is, therefore, entitled to be treated, in all public aspects of life, just as are all other citizens . . . For a long time it has been possible to treat him as if he were not a citizen. A better, stronger South will grow out of the new situation.” This editorial seemed so radical that I felt physically uncomfortable reading it in a coffee shop in downtown Atlanta. Such discomfort was not ridiculous. I would learn later that an earlier editorial resulted


106 in McGill’s mailbox being shot up, garbage dumped on his lawn and one shot through a window that lodged in the back of a chair, the latter while the McGills were out. I had graduated from Emory University the previous spring and had entered a work-study program at Georgia Tech that I hoped would lead to acceptance into Tech’s graduate school. In addition to the black students entering the high school, blacks were to integrate (peacefully) Georgia Tech within days. As a backdrop to these positive changes, a polarizing mayoral race was in progress between Ivan Allen, a moderate, and Lester Mattox, an arch segregationist. Mattox had garnered national attention when he threatened blacks with an ax handle when they attempted to integrate his restaurant. While Mattox’s views would be rejected by Atlanta’s voters, he would later be elected as governor of the state. I accepted a job at the Atlanta Children’s Home to supplement my salary at Tech. The job offered room and board, but required little. I basically had to sleep at the home and perform minor errands on weekends. The children in the home had usually been placed there by the courts because their parents were ill, in jail or otherwise deemed unfit. I was told that occasionally parents might come to demand their children. My job was to supply a security presence in such events. Such intrusions were rare enough that I was offered no training in how to deal with them. Fortunately, I was never tested. It did not surprise me to find that the home only accepted white children. The superintendent was white as were the two live-in nurses. Three or four black women worked as cooks and aides. This was what I considered as “normal.” But the home was situated in a part of Atlanta that had become predominantly Afro-American. This fact was driven home as soon as my car broke down. For the weeks I awaited shipment of repair parts I was forced to ride the city bus back and forth to work and classes. One bus took me from near the Home to downtown Atlanta where I transferred to a second bus which delivered me to the Tech campus. During the weeks I took the busses, I was the only white on the bus leg back and forth between the Home and downtown. I had never experienced being in the minority. Soon after I started bussing, I noticed most houses in one neighborhood seemed to sport “for sale” signs overnight—a veritable thicket of signs. When I mentioned this at work, someone explained that it was probably “block busting,” a phenomenon when white homeowners try to sell after a black family is able to buy a house in their neighborhood. I had grown up in the era before Rosa Parks when

CIRQUE blacks sat in the back of the bus. I had even been on a bus one day when a white man chose to sit in the back of the bus. The bus driver yelled back that the man was not allowed to do that. When the man complained there were no other seats available and he would not move, the driver stopped the bus and physically and unceremoniously threw the man off the bus. The man wore a white suit, and I noticed blood when he picked himself up from the street. I was shocked with the speed and violence of the event, but like everyone else I sat in my seat and did nothing. Taking the bus back and forth to Tech, I was determined to act as normal as possible. If there was a seat available, I took it. If I had a seatmate I nodded or spoke. If I was first to sit on the bench seat designed for two, I slipped nearer the window to make the empty seat more welcoming. Sometimes the bus would be standing room only except for the empty seat next to me and still nobody would sit there. I was exceedingly uncomfortable. Sometimes a person would sit by me, but would give me most of the seat. The most uncomfortable moment came in a bus when I sat down by a black lady, and she promptly got up and stood in the aisle. Sixty years later I’m comfortable my tub is not receiving the poisonous flow. I can only hope the damn thing has nearly drained.

Roger’s Sculpture

Cheryl Stadig


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Mark Muro


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CIRQUE

FICTION Clifton Bates

A Dayspring The beginning of a new era or order of things.

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Kim-boy awoke, made coffee and something to eat, and then he readied himself to go check his net under the ice that was a ways upriver from Qavik. Out his door he entered a stark, dawn sky full of grays. The land was shades of gray and white with yellow-tan grasses and reddish scrub bushes and willows showing through the snow in places. Clumps of motionless spruce trees appeared as dark, charcoal-green silhouettes. He also had a small trap line he planned to check that was across the island off the village and then across the slough on the other side in an area of willows and spruce near what was a small swampy pond in the summer. He walked a good deal each day out from this Yup’ik Eskimo village of Qavik that was not far from the Bering Sea. Kim-boy visited his best friend, Sammy, and his family at times. Sammy came to his house for coffee some mornings. Once in a while, a teenager or young adult cousin would come in and sit on the kitchen floor with his back against the wall and visit. But they shared no conversation, and after a while, the boy or young man would quietly stand up and go on his way. Other than that, Kim-boy was a solitary soul spending his evenings reading the books he borrowed from the school library and then heading out the next day to check his net and his traps on bleak days when dawn and dusk met sometime in the afternoon. The week before he had rounded a bend on a small slough and passed a thicket of willows. There he came face-to-face with the healthiest and largest male wolf he had ever seen. Kim-boy didn’t know that wolves grew that big. It was a huge, elegant, all black animal, and they both froze and looked at each other in the eye. Kim-boy had never seen such eerie, deep, golden-yellow eyes. Its thick, bushy tail hung straight down almost to the ground. They were less than fifteen yards apart, and the splendid creature showed no fear or aggression or interest in running away. They held eye contact and then he slowly turned and casually loped off, curiously looking over his shoulder every once in a while at Kim-boy. “Good to meet you. If only you could talk,” Kim-

boy called out after him. The animal climbed up a bank in the distance, stopped at the crest, turned and faced Kim-boy, stood quite still and leisurely watched the man for a while before disappearing into a stand of spruce trees. The black wolf impressed Kim-boy, and he wished he had someone with whom he could have shared the encounter. He often pondered memories of his mother and father and his brother, Cutty, as he went about gathering the fish or game he used to survive, as well as give to some others in the village who were not able to hunt or fish in the winter. They greatly appreciated the fresh food he brought to them. He had closely watched his father when he was growing up, and he learned to be a proficient hunter, fisherman, and trapper. The only time he remembered his father ever speaking at length was when he explained what he called “The Rules”: what to do if you fell out of a boat or broke through the ice and went into the river; how to keep from freezing to death if lost out on the tundra; what to do about frostbite and other such things. Besides telling Kimboy about The Rules, his father would also tell him stories that would show him how not to get hurt, like the one about the boy who almost lost his fingers to that big pike. He remembered his dad telling him about that time he was with some other villagers ice fishing. A really big pike some woman caught. It was maybe almost threefeet long his father guessed. She brought it up, and it was twisting around on the ice. Some kid came over to look, and he reached down to unhook the yarn and the hook from its mouth and that pike snapped so fast, like an alligator or a crocodile his dad explained. He said it almost took that boy’s hand off. Its sharp teeth clacked together, and it had his glove clamped tight in his mouth. It took two men with an ice pick to pry open its jaws and get that kid’s glove back. His dad said that since then he watched out for pike, and he advised his son to do so also. These things his father told him remained clear in his memory. And Kim-boy wanted to keep his fingers. On this gray and white day in December Kim-boy left his house and started on his route to his net; then on to his traps. He trudged down the riverbank and was about to cross the river when an unexpected sight greeted him. Appearing before him in the gray and white picture was a woman he didn’t recognize ice fishing in front of the village all by herself. Her soft red parka was a cheerful thing for Kim-boy to see, and he approached her with curiosity. Next to her on the river ice were a thermos, a few pike, and an ice


Vo l . 9 N o . 2

109 sleepless night for Kim-boy because he looked forward to being with Sophie.

There she was standing by the riverbank that next morning, and the man and the woman walked and quietly talked as they headed across and up the river. The gray had moved away during the night, and now it was a windless, crisp, blue and white day designed just for them. She surprised him after a bit by handing him some dried salmon strips she brought in her parka pocket. The fish was from the Yukon River and full of good-tasting oils. She had prepared it the previous summer at her family’s fish camp. When they got to his net, she didn’t just stand there and watch. She started right in helping him. They worked, and it went smoothly, and they often laughed together. They were rewarded with a few white fish and several pike that he placed in a gunny sack and set by the Crosswind Sheary Clough Suiter riverbank to pick up on their way back. They hiked on to his trap line. There he checked his sets pick. She gave a lovely smile to Kim-boy from a face framed by the base of some trees and under the overhang amidst by a beautiful wolf and wolverine ruff, and they talked. the roots at the edge of the summer swampy area. This Her name was Sophie, and she was Yup’ik from special day provided one large, male mink that was in a village on the lower Yukon River. She was here visiting excellent condition. her sister who was the cook at the school. Her sister’s Sophie surprised him once again when walking husband was from Qavik, and here they had made their back to the village. She took out of her other pocket a home. Sophie thought she would catch some fish while small sack of ptarmigan jerky she shared with Kim-boy. It her sister was at work. was delicious, too, and he was very happy. She had made After talking together for a while, one thing Kimthis also and brought some from her home to her sister boy learned was that she was not married. He had not who especially liked her ptarmigan jerky. It was the best spoken with an attractive, unattached woman for quite a Kim-boy had ever had. They went to his house and had long time. Sophie was very pretty he thought, and he felt tea, and Sophie skinned the mink for him and got it ready nervousness and a kind of excitement at the same time. for when the fur buyer came to Oly’s village store. This was unexpected for Kim-boy, and he was not sure It was a wonderful day for Kim-boy. There had just what to do. But she was so nice, he became relaxed been that distant, feeble, brass December sun in the sky, and comfortable with her in no time. He told her about his but with Sophie it had been a shiny, golden day. It was a recent meeting with the black wolf, and he was pleased winter dayspring on the Kuskokwim for them. Now when that she was interested. Kim-boy looked at her there was, for the first time in a very She poured some hot tea from her thermos into long time, a true twinkle in his eye that had nothing to do its top, and they passed it back and forth to each other as with his scars that always gave his face a wry, amused they chatted away as he knelt next to her while she sat on expression no matter how sad he was. the ice and, somewhat half-heartedly, continued fishing. After a pleasant hour talking together about many things, they agreed that the next day she would Clifton Bates’ collection of prose, poetry, and art, Like Painted Kites walk with him to check his net and traps. It was a long, & Collected Works, is forthcoming from Cirque Press.


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CIRQUE

Sean Brendan-Brown

Quitting AA

hidden in my toolbox and if that sucker even gets a whiff it rats you out to the cops and then it’s back to rehab or jail, depending on whatever deferred prosecution deal was cut by your shitty lawyer. Fuck. What would Charlie Sheen do? I lit a joint to calm my nerves, a stale roach, actually; pot’s legal now in Washington State and I gotta admit it kind of kills the thrill of lighting up. It’s like those hipster douches you see puffing their mandarin orange mist electronic cigarettes; now they smoke marijuana too, out of thousand dollar Dale Chihuly glass pipes and it’s not only not cool anymore but all the pot’s starting to taste the same, and have the same mediocre high. Corporate pot. Fuck! I called my boss to give him the news. I’m a roofer, and Dave’s a contractor, a journeyman both in plumbing and electricity, and a steward in both unions, the IBEW and United Association, and he’s probably as rich as Charlie Sheen though he loves bitching how much the economy has hurt his business and why he can’t pay us more though he drives a Beamer and I drive a Ford and he and his wife are always flying to Cabo or the Bahamas or Hawaii or Vegas; whereas Betty and I feel lucky to get a Best Western weekend at Ocean fucking Shores. “Pete, you’re the best man I’ve ever had,” he yelled in my ear (Dave always yells). “Pete, if you weren’t such a goddamn rummy I’d have made you my partner. As it is, you pull another stunt like last week I’ll fire you so fast your head will spin.” Dave actually talks like that: head will spin, rummy, faster than a New York minute, busier than a one legged ballerina (or one legged man in an ass kicking contest, or one armed paper hanger, or a two peckered billy goat), queerer than a three dollar bill, etc. You’d

I credit Charlie Sheen with helping me quit AA; I mean he had the balls to go on TV and call them a cult, and if a guy with piles of cash, a mansion in Hollywood, and hot skanky broads—prostitutes and porn stars— falling all over him has the cojones to quit, well so do I. Platoon’s still my favorite movie. First I went to my own mansion to tell the porn star I live with the news. Actually I don’t live in a mansion, just a two bedroom rancher, and my wife Betty is not a porn star though I think she’s very pretty. She’s put on a few pounds and dyes her hair and uses heavy makeup because of acne scars but she has a perfect blade-thin nose and ice-blue eyes, and I’ve never met a more decent, kind, and loving person. Betty was a bartender, the bar manager actually, at a waterfront nightclub but she quit to help me stay sober and went back to being a secretary though she makes far less money and the hours are rigid, straight nine-to-five which she hates. She loves the nightlife but gave that up for me. All she said when I gave her the news was “Oh Pete, oh Pete.” She said she was going to her sister’s until I really figured it out. I followed her out to the garage and shouted “So you really want me to belong to a cult, huh?” She said nothing as she lifted the garage door. The Lift-Master’s busted and I haven’t gotten around to fixing or replacing it so you gotta lift and drop the door by hand. She roared off in what was once her pride and joy, a red 2010 Camaro SS Coupe; roared because the muffler on the right side of the twin exhaust is torn away where I went over a curb drunk. The fiberglass rear bumper cover is broken and partially torn away too, something else I must have hit while drinking. We still owe twenty grand at sixteen percent interest on the fucking thing and in its present condition it Kelley Blue Books for ten. I got into my truck to follow her, but nothing doing: after my third DUI they installed an Intoxalock brand ignition interlock device which I and my fellow drunks simply call a blow pipe. It’s horribly conspicuous, and in public you look and sound like a total asshole blowing into it and I think that’s as much the point as catching you drunk: embarrassing you, humiliating you, and reminding you that not only are you a loser and a total fuckup but that the State owns your ass. Well, I had a pint of vodka for breakfast I’d Bouncers at Henry's

Sami Lynn Boylan


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 think he’s a hundred years old, not fifty-three. He’s a total asshole, and I should be my own contractor because I’m the best roofer around. I’m so good I don’t actually roof anymore, unless it’s something really important you can’t trust the methheads Dave employs as casual crew: installing skylights or ventilating fans or replacing rotten plywood or trim or properly flashing around the skylights, vent pipes and chimneys; that work I climb up and do myself, but a fucking monkey can nail down shingles, especially once you’ve trained that monkey to properly handle the WEN 61782 Pneumatic Magnesium Coil Roofing Nailer and most of these men Dave hires, morally, spiritually and intellectually, are barely above monkeys. My job is to go from job site to job site keeping Dave’s meth-heads in line, and making Dave as much money as possible while keeping costs down and the customers happy. I wasn’t always a roofer—I was a bad kid, and I got a chance to go to Job Corps, and they taught me machining, which I did for five years but it’s so fucking horrible and bleak and factory, I learned roofing just to be back with the sun and sky, though I’m still proud I’m a machinist just like I’m proud I’m a Marine Reserve Staff Sergeant. No goofing off while machining: hands and fingers are torn off in a second; there’s a reason there’s a dress code in a machine shop—forbidding that fucking “gangsta” & “wigga” style of clothing isn’t racist or insensitive, it’s common fucking sense: loose, baggy garments, bandanas and gloves are fodder for lathe chucks which snag them and yank whatever is in them to the razor sharp tool and the crushing chuck jaw. You also get chaff—metal shavings and splinters—like shrapnel in the eyes if you don’t wear safety glasses; some of those new kids we got from parole or the tech schools or vocational rehab programs or Job Corps couldn’t even read a fucking tape measure or do simple math; no fucking way I’m letting them near a lathe; one of those idiots even got hurt sweeping the floor! Tripped and hit his head, busted it wide open. Name was Randal. Ten stitches and he put in for Worker’s Comp. I’d been there five years with ten times that fucking amount of sutures without ever getting or wanting Worker’s fucking Comp. Christ. Turned out he was wearing size 13 steel toe boots but his feet are only size 9. I said “Randal, why the fuck you wearing boots four sizes too big? And he said “Kuz it koo bro.” That’s what’s cool to those morons, stomping about in big fucking clown shoes that trip you up. What the fuck do you do with someone like that? What good will they ever be?

111 Yeah, and whatever the fuck good will I ever be? Angry drunk, crazy veteran. The last week Dave mentioned I’d been drinking heavy, yeah I admit I was because his meth-heads were driving me crazy, and I actually went a little crazy. The job site in question was a truly gorgeous custom tri-level, and the couple building it for their retirement nest were actually very nice. Some rich people can be total assholes, like Dave, but this couple was very nice, and they already had a great big house near the Boston Harbor marina and when I went there to get a check for half down on the roofing job, they treated me to Starbucks and since the old dude could probably smell the liquor on me, he offered me the expensive single malt scotch he was drinking, Bunnahabhain, but I noticed Jim Beam in their home bar, which was as big and well-stocked as my favorite dives, the Boulevard Tavern & Frank’s, and I’ll drink Beam all day if you got it and actually did have three or four or five while he nursed his one ancient scotch. I always do a good job but when people are so nice to me I do an even better job, so I went to the site and discovered that Dave’s meth-heads had fucked everything up; not only was it the wrong kind of shingle but the wrong color. I had ordered the IKO Cambridge 30 AR in cedar both impact resistant and algae resistant and found these morons nailing down a cheap gray asphalt. So I climbed up and started kicking everything off the roof, even the nail guns. A rubber boot, as it’s called, used to seal the base of ventilation pipes, sailed down and hit this biker dude (shaved skull, handle bar mustaches, tattoos, wallet attached to chrome chain, etc.) square in the face and he started up a ladder after me. I let him get halfway up before kicking the ladder down and now he pretends his back is injured and he can’t work and is suing Dave. So you may ask why drink and go to AA at all? Well, I have to: it’s a condition of my deferred prosecution and rehab; and it’s embarrassing as fuck too, just like the ignition interlock, because you’re actually looked down on by the regular AA members, especially if you make the mistake of attending a group which is run by club members who pay yearly dues; they really lord it over you. I mean dropping your fucking report card in the basket—that’s what us DUI drunks call the sign-in sheet we have to return to our counselor at rehab to prove we’re attending AA at least three times a week. So thank you, Charlie Sheen, for helping me see the light, and now that my probation is over, having the guts to quit AA. But just so you know, dude, my next DUI it’s state prison, not county. Mandatory.


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CIRQUE

Matthew Caprioli

The Hat You Save May Be Your Own Beverly McGrew was a kind woman of 53. Born and raised in the Yorkville area of Manhattan, Beverly McGrew had, after a brief year or two of prostitution and dreams of Broadway stardom, snapped, spent her entire professional career as an administrative assistant at The New School for Social Research. She was, in fact, walking there now.

girl--Tiffany--walked as if her butt flaps were stitched to two puppet handles wielded by God. Beverley McGrew wondered, at times, if these 20 year-olds all secretly wore torso braces to shift their butts closer to the sky. This had to be it. That, or evolution simply favored women who could mimic the posture of a mandrill. That, or she was old, simply old, and had forgotten she had striked similar poses at the age of 23.

But sadly--just then--a gust of February cold broadsided down 73rd Street, causing great impaction to Beverly McGrew’s usual rate of advancement, and for this very reason her gaze declined along the gutter.

No. The morals of Beverly McGrew were stalwart; she would shift her butt for no man. Her fanny was sculpted enough. And she was happy to be mostly single now. She examined the books.

Fortunately, as Zephrus inhaled his ratty old lungs once more, Beverley McGrew spotted a modest school of books in a shoebox but two steps behind her. She turned her back to the impending gales and considered how the universe was kind, indeed.

The books were all by Deepak Chopra. Beverly McGrew grew disappointed by this.

The shoebox was yellow and sat compliantly beneath a skinny, city-approved tree. “Free!” was printed hotdogstyle onto a clean sheet of computer paper. The paper had been ripped in half, leaving the impression of a jaw cleaved from its face. The paper had then been flattened severely against the box then stretched painfully to each corner, and stapled with a quick violence.

While bending her sideways head to read up the title-“What Are You Hungry For?”--Beverly McGrew noticed a hat in the middle of the sidewalk.

She smiled. Beverly McGrew crouched to get a load of the books. They had been finely arranged and gazed up at her like adoring chicklets. Her black coat hitched up more than she preferred, but not enough to trigger dislike. The truth was that Beverly McGrew had been a loyal devotee to StairMaster since reading that Patrick Bateman spent 20 minutes a day warming up on such a machine. She began his same routine soon as she finished American Psycho and had never stopped. Consequently, Beverly McGrew had the derriere of the 20 year-olds she saw each day perking around the office, flaring out their bums, competing amongst themselves for the minority of straight men at The New School. One

“Keep an open mind,” she mutely chided herself. She stretched a hand forward.

“Now who would do that,” Beverly McGrew said, softly. She walked, without reluctance, toward the hat. Along these determined tracks, the peripheral vision of Beverly McGrew sensed a tall woman waiting for the light to change. There wasn’t a hat on her head, and Beverly McGrew felt the stirrings of Pilgrimage: the hat’s proprietress was none other than the woman before her standing statue-still. The woman’s head was lacking a hat. As if fielding a grounder, Beverly McGrew picked the hat up, and spoke. “Excuse me Ma’am.” The woman did not turn around. Beverly McGrew took two more steps toward the proprietress.


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

“Ma’am,” she repeated. “Ma’am,” she asked.

If she were truly good, wouldn’t she have turned these questions long before? The black woman smiled. She removed the right earmuff, a rusty maroon color.

“Ma’am,” she said louder. Beverly McGrew reached out to tap the shoulder of the other woman. The other woman turned around at a relaxed pace and Beverly McGrew fully realized then that the woman was black. She knew this from afar, of course, but now she was considering this fact. As she uncaked the lipstick of her mouth to speak again and proffer the black hat, a spidery awkwardness crawled around her nape.

“Sorry,” the black woman said to Beverly McGrew. “I couldn’t hear you. Trying these new headphones out.” The black woman tapped once on the headphone shaped like an earmuff resting on the skull behind her ear. Should Beverly McGrew have assumed that the woman’s hat had fallen? Did some silent part of her believe that black people tended to lose their personal property? “Did you drop your hat?” Beverly McGrew asked. “Ah, no. I didn’t.”The black woman smiled. “Thanks though.”

The grandmother of Beverly McGrew had called black people colored. Beverly McGrew would never would do that, even if she grew up in the 1930s. Even as a young girl Beverly McGrew was sensitive to the harm that came from naming.

Was Beverly McGrew just another brick in the oppressive wall she intended to hate, ordering and exploiting the world with her bias? What did it say about her character when she knew black women’s hair was different, yet treated it the same as her own?

The private, practical philosophy of Beverly McGrew was to call seriously pigmented people black until told otherwise. She believed this was least patronizing. But upon request, she shifted, like a river reed in the Nile’s wind, to “African-American.”

When the black woman glanced at Beverley McGrew’s head, Beverley realized that her own head had become hatless. The black woman tilted her head to the black hat gripped in Beverly’s fist, then back up to look into the face of Beverly McGrew.

The hat was a black knitted hat, the shade of skid marks, with the same wide spacing between stitches. It must have been a gift from a friend--a mentally challenged one or a knitting amateur, and Beverly admired the woman for wearing such an ugly hat for the sake of friendship.

“You may need to wash your hands,” the black woman said, before replotting the earmuff on her right ear. “You don’t know where that hat has been.”

Briefly, Beverly McGrew puzzled over the fact that the woman was black and so was the hat; she wondered how the woman’s skin affected her millinery choices. She had never thought of this before. What did it say about her character that she had never thought about this before? By considering this, was she checking her privilege? Mark Muro


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CIRQUE

Vic Cavalli

They Never Forgot Him That’s ridiculous. What? Nobody is that ugly. All I know is the drummer said he looked like his face had caught on fire and someone put it out with a logging chain.

respected the dude, man. Jimi would have said “groovy” at the sight of them. Her hair was in beautiful permed curls; she was in a custom self-tailored unbelievable pink suit—the fabric was ethereal, white frilled blouse, golden rose pendant, soft pink pearl necklace, cream stockings and semi-high-heeled shoes. Yeah, and the dude was in an olive-green Italian silk dress suit, silk tie pierced with the authentic personally found in a crystalline Yukon river when he was twenty-one gold nugget soldered stick pin, fresh white shirt, brown polished dress shoes and a beige Bogart-style hat. Steve Miller would call him a gangster of love, but he looked like a classy saint to me, man, gentle with rough hands and a wedding ring. They looked classic, man.

How can your face catch on fire at a concert? The first-aid guy recorded it, man; it’s true.

I’m serious, had Jimi seen them he would have recognized the respect, maybe even gone to Mass with them.

Was he drunk?

I don’t get the Mass part, man.

The guy with the chain?

Russ had never invited his parents to attend a rock concert with him before, but Hendrix was different. This was an alien landing; it was historical, and so he bought them a pair of tickets about one third of the coliseum away from his seats with his friends. As the crowd settled in and found their cells, the rusty-coloured roof girders of the Pacific Coliseum domed and colossalbike-wheel-spoked above them and into the concrete behind their heads. They were shielded and ready. The stage crews hammered and arranged seemingly endless configurations of electronic hardware as first Eire Apparent, then Soft Machine, and then The Vanilla Fudge mounted the stage, roared awhile and then dissolved into silence. As they set up Jimi’s equipment—a series of double-stack Marshalls in a half-circle—Russ and his band mates braced themselves. As the sound check finished up, their guitarist Austin leaned over and said into Russ’ ear: “It’s gonna happen, man. It’s gonna happen.” Then the Experience appeared and the crowd exploded. The entire stage was sizzling with calm huge white spot lights: no colours, smoke, or gimmicks. Redding’s big hair looked beyond hip; Mitchell got comfortable at the core of his gold kit—gold drums and cymbals everywhere encircling him; and Jimi plugged in his white Stratocaster and flicked the on switch. The massive hum of his Marshalls sent a crunching vibration through the steel

No. The drummer. Of course, he was a drummer. I don’t know if he’s still drumming. That’s nuts. Not all drummers are drunks, man. Think of Mitch Mitchell. Yeah. Remember the coliseum night? September 7, 1967. Still got the ticket, there on the wall. Actually, I guess Susan’s got it. I don’t know where she is now, but I hope she’s all right. It’s probably still glued inside the cover of our Axis album. Mitch could drum, man, smokin’ over that metallic-gold kit centre stage in the white spotlights—no light show, just reality clearly there, man. Remember? It’s bolted to my forehead. Remember that couple, man. Serious parents. That was distinct. How often do you see a man and wife dressed in Sunday church clothes at a Hendrix concert? They


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2 girders of the cathedral-like dome above them. Over one of his amps was draped a large American flag. Jimi was dressed completely in white and wore sandals. Amidst the hysteria of the packed coliseum he approached the microphone and said, “Hello Canada.” The crowd was screaming the names of loved songs as Jimi said, “I’ll get around to all of the Mickey Mouse stuff later, but first I’m goin’ to play some blues.” And with that Jimi pulled back from the mic and the Experience kicked into “Red House.” For Jimi the blues was the real deal. He said it was easier to play, but much harder to get the feeling right. About one third into Hendrix’s set, Russ’ parents respectfully left the building. They were absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer volume and intensity of his playing. The Fudge had played extremely loud but seemed almost unplugged in comparison to Hendrix. They apologized to Russ the next day, but it was no problem. They had gone, and they had seen him. When Hendrix died not long after that night, Russ’ family sincerely mourned. They never forgot him. The old priest shut off the lights after benediction, and the candle they lit burned in the empty church.

Her Lake Como Dreams

Paul Haeder

Bloody Sheets

He wants to be like the Vietnamese, like the Hmong – small, swift, invisible inside the rain forest. He is tall, white, big boned, clumsy, yet he is respected for stamina, for his quick learning, his dialogues with different clans. Yet he can never understand their overt will to kill, the unnecessary slayings of small kingfisher, of cobra, of bats. He tries to let his Western scientist sensibility go under, to see it from their point of view. They kill everything, because of the war with France, the war with the United States. Starvation, gutted infrastructure, old survival ways, three million killed, three million more maimed by Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon. They eat frogs, snails, the venomous insects. But that one old man, toothless, betel nut pulp on his gums, pisses him off. This scientist has had one too many miles logged in the forest when he sees the old man’s hut. The fence posts are laden with sixteen great hornbills – incredible birds of the Bucerotidae family who fly into the clouds of the forest, who chop into the toughest nuts with their large beaks. This old man with his minnow and snail pond, with his AR-15 butt-less rifle from some Special Forces soldier whose name had been stenciled into some woman’s MIA bracelet back in Ohio three decades ago. This old man with his seven water buffalo, he waves at the scientist, calls to him in dialect for tea and bong tobacco shots, rice cakes and a go at his rifle. This old man, rich compared to the village people in Ke Kem, is plucking the tail feathers of these big birds’ magnificence, with sevenfoot wing spans and wolf squadron precision. This old man is lashing them into dusters. This old man, with three dozen big, fat roosters and hens milling around the innards of some deer kill, he could have used the chickens for fifty cent brooms. Instead he’s got a load of these endangered birds, maggoty, shot through heads with savage precision. The scientist drinks, gets really drunk, yells at the old man, tries to explain to the old warrior, tries to learn from him, but the old man has seen too many bombs, too many big white and black monkeys slog through his fields. So two men from two sides of the ocean (only a dream to the old man) wrestle, and the scientist is belly up, like a barking deer. He is in the man’s sites, and the old man says he knows the Yankee, has spoken about the American scientist and his two prostitutes in Ke Kem before. Tami Phelps


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And so the sixteen hornbills are left there, and the old man rests in the pond, tethered onto stones, his old rifle next to him, his clumsy excuse hot on the scientist’s tongue as he leaves: “I am a hunter. A soldier. They are there, in the air. Vietnam is the air, water, land. Vietnam is me. So I hunt them . . . when they’re gone, I will hunt other birds.” “The green snails will be fat in the spring,” the scientist says in Hmong dialect before he has that old Yankee rifle trained on the Hmong. There is no trembling. Just a toothless smile. Then a nod. *--* *--* *--* Nicholas Mosely is buoyed onto two rectangular sheets, wrapped up mummy style so his skin is taut and his body looks like a big Buddhist monk ready for the pyre, except Mosely has nobody waiting for his suttee. His head is partially shrouded, except for his beard and hooked nose and cracked whitish lips pointed up toward the cracked masonry of the adobe duplex he has rented these past five years. He looks like a beached porpoise, or some strangely skinned bear with opal-blue eyes. He knows he is an odd sight, a tumorous pupa, a forty-five-year-old male with stretched out biceps and with bone-spurred legs and sun raped skin and crow’s feet deep into his face – a man who flees his jungle back to the source of the original flight. Again. And again. He hates this “cantina of a town stuck smack on the edge of the Southwest,” inside the “brutal poverty of ideas lacerated by a dead mythic river and the bicultural angst of the white and brown boys still believing in Pancho Villa and Billy the Kid,” he repeated to his Brit cohorts around a fire. The nubby mountains are hot slag gray, and represent his despair and despise, the antithesis of the moist velveteen horizons in Vietnam. The Agent Orange nightmare. Mosely is splayed out on the oak floor, the varnish long ago stripped out of the grain. These magnificent barbed shadows penetrating the warped three-inch vertical blinds are pouring in that certain morning light unusual for Chihuahua sierra – a rare bluish warm light which is festooned to nimbus clouds, those rare thick clouds with ten thousand-foot ceilings of pure whiteness and tornado grayness that hardly ever make their way into the dry, denuded valley. He has been there all night, his slow breathing penetrating the eight percent humidity, his face chapped, the wrapped torso and limbs gooey with salicylic acid cream and crude coal tar ointment and peeling lesions. He has been teetering in and out of sleep, the heavy smell of corticosteroids seems like burnt plastic

-- so penetratingly thick on his skin and doused with the tar, it was as if a sculptor had smeared it on, to shape a new form. His peeling jungle odor is mixing in with the stench of wet marijuana plants hanging upside down and drying out under the ultraviolet lamps he’d been using for two weeks each morning after stripping away the black tar with baby oil and sitting nude under the real sun and blue rays as part of the treatment of returning to the desert from tropics. It is the price he has to pay spending time in jungle. Acute psoriasis. The reluctant sun inside clouds is anointing Mosely with the shrouded desert light of dawn, and it -the light and the electricity on his face from the molecules of the jet stream -- is reminding Mosely of the shafts of sun which wrap the rice fields and tea plantations inside the Hmong valley, twenty kilometers from the Laos border and two kilometers from the trail leading into the jagged mountains and jungle he had been deployed into four times over the past five years to study the pristine biodomes with several British science teams. The light for a moment in Texas here, the very one-horse town that was still beautifying a gunslinger like John Wesley Hardin and was erecting a twelve-foot bronze statue of an Indian killer like the conquistador Juan de Onate, is just like the corona from the shifting earth and heavens of Vietnam. He sees the remote valley near Pu Mat, bisected by the Ke Kem River which turns wide and flat in the agricultural hinterland, but only after 200 miles of twisting and violent cascading from inside the dark mossy alluvial of the Vietnam and Laos rain forest where Mosely and the Brits have set up a permanent biodiversity camp for international ecology teams to study inside an area so remote and untouched by progress that Mosely and several fellows have catalogued more than two dozen previously unrecorded species of plant, fish and mammalian life here. The light is amber incandescence inside the log stilt house, raised up seven feet from the rice fields, the floor slated with bamboo planks and tied together with flattened ivy twine. He studies the columns of light and ambient shadow, watches the dogs pulling apart scraps of deer hide, watches the two village elders’ thirty-year-old daughters bathing waist-length titaniumtinged hair in a pink plastic tub. He gathers the light on their skin with his scientist’s eyes, plants his vision on their bodies as they unfold into unimaginable curves and angles, the zero fat of the Vietnamese-Hmong female physique unpaintable—the color of smooth skin from their one thousand-year-old ethnic clan, their muddy


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 feet, their collar bones like the femurs of delicate-looking but hardy jungle deer, the hair flattened by brackish river water. He has never imagined the human womb capable of producing such simple angular forms, almost amorphous, but female, like some plant and animal mixed. The light comes in down and at angles from the palm frond roof, from the side of heavy red-tainted wood framing of the shuttered windows, and his body kneels over, stripped and free of lesions, his supplication aroused by the primitiveness and by the bamboo shadows inching over his warming body. The two daughters of the Hmong leader called Lam Dong Kon play with the water, rub cheap Chinese soap into sloppy lather, and Mosely hunches over, watching the mossy skin of these moi girls – savages as the citified Vietnamese call them. Small Guinea chickens run between their legs as they let the broth trickle down on their light warming skin. Mosely hears the El Paso buses below on the street, hears people chattering, smells the tints from the body shop next door where ex-cons smear on Bondo and sweat beer. He’s aware of the sexual excitement, the one short fuse away from unraveling his cocoon and running wild down Pershing Avenue while he chants Hmong songs before being pulled away handcuffed. Something for the front pages -- “Somewhat Well-known Botanist Found Flashing for Early Morning Commuters.” There had been some precedent ten years before, the two ratty dailies running three days of stories on his antics. He had taken a group of graduate students to Mount Graham in Arizona, a ten-thousand-foot-high sky island with thick coniferous pines and bear and mountain lion and various endemic species, and they chained themselves to a fence leading to the construction pit for a proposed observatory. They were roughed up by the sheriff’s deputies, but Mosely’s case got on the wire and eventually his photograph made it in print in El Paso. For two months Mosely got calls for interviews, for statements on his theories of biodiversity and the red squirrel on Mount Graham and how the whole fabric of forest life was dependent on two or three moth species that were being eradicated by the diesel smoke from heavy equipment clearing forest for the telescope. He had given into an interview by one of the reporters for the morning paper, and his entire rationale and science he had studied and published got twisted up and just plain misquoted. Nothing new for El Paso, frequently uninterested, on the edge of the real world. It was his only brush with fame in the city of Lee Trevino. Mosely hears the water buffalo and runty

117 dogs of Ke Kem, but he is feathering into the air, into unconsciousness – the pot, the barbiturates trapping him here, in a stowaway town where Bobby Fuller fought the law and the law won—no roots, no legacy, no job. A place to dry out his skin, and to want Vietnam, and to fear. There have been people spying in on him since his return, looking inside the cracks on the blinds, some pot-heads hanging out waiting for trouble, killing time ditching school. There had been the same kind of cholas a few years ago congregating outside and knocking on his door, sometimes peddling bead work, selling their stemmy dope, some offering their skinny loins and moussed-down heads for twenty dollar sex. They find the slivers of light and watch this hellish-looking white man stripping his skin and muscles of the black coal tar muck. Rituals. Back from Indochina, a week soaking in a tub with triamcinolone acetonide suspension, then ten days soaking up sun in his backyard, laying out for the early veronica of hot rays into his bedroom. Ten days of applying the black gunk onto each centimeter of his skin. Ten days of the nightly body wraps. Ten days of the benzodiazepine. Five joints a day. It’s the only cure for all the itching, for the ulcerated wounds inflamed after months inside rain forest, his body fed on and worn down from bad rice and green tea, fed into the streams of air and bleating mud, fed to the battalions of leeches and the fungal spores cresting in the waves of shadow, and fed on the tension. The antidote is to leave Vietnam for the barren desert of old fogies and the culturally dead children of the poor. And sun, drugs, tar compresses, and the water of El Paso, which has miraculous healing powers for this disease because of its confluences underground mixing in a granite bolson laced with lithium. Mosely is back for two months. Then a return, a return to vipers, to new jungle on the China border. Maybe the Sa Pa reserve. Mosely has never been modest, or careful, and he’s chased the poor rascals away in the morning, the same brothers and sisters of the young creepers who in the old days (before the jungle turned his epidermis into acute papulosquamous wounds) looked in at his shadow heaving with Guadalupe Ramona de Silva, when Lupe used to be a real regular here, back when Mosely still had enough social graces to keep her in a relationship. Mosely knows it has almost been two years since he last inhaled her, sucked on her pungent garlic and habanero breath. Now these teens are hanging around because they know Mosely smokes pot and pops barbiturates and jugs tequila for his disease --“Fucking, AIDS, shit, but the bro’s got some good shit all the time.”


118 They hang around because he has endangered hairy white friends riding Harleys. Hang around because he once had this companera who came around religiously -this wonderful Lupita Ramona de Silva who has made it big. Big-big for El Paso. “Always in the newspaper and TV for La Raza shit . . . she’s famous, man. Put El Paso on the map. She’s cool.” In the old days—when Mosely had been more understanding of “the Mexican-American Chicano/a I-amthe-son/daughter-of-Quetzalcoatl thing” and mingled with the local faction of Latinos Lupe organized as head of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce -- he had been pinned by her to the wooden floor, and they rubbed together, he thought, like Hmongs or pseudoryx, and some nights it was all howls like cats sucking up the last

CIRQUE the Juarez side right near the shadow of the international bridge into Texas. Mosely, like a giant Sir Richard Burton the Explorer of Victoria Falls in J-town, a world seer in the bars, invariably hooks onto some guy or female pair drinking Bohemia and Sauza gold tequila before they begin their trips into the interior of Mexico, for parts unknown in Central America. Mosely goes on and on about his own trips south when he was still in his teens. There’d be Mosely, veteran of the “Gringo Trail” and “Hippie Trail,” rattling on and on about “this biological survey in Guatemala we were working on for the government to save their mangroves,” or “that biodiversity project I’d been hired on for Brazil to study the deforestation of their dipdicarpus,” or “this Africanized bee project in Chiapas.” Mexico and South America had been on Mosely’s skin years before, when he was fresh out of graduate school from Washington State, and now he is Mister Indochina, or Our Vietnam Jungle Expert on the Border, like Lupe used to say: *--* *--* *--*

“Stuck in El Paso, Mister Big writing up his reports and articles for National Geographic and despising the very nature of La Frontera, my people, who I am, Nick. Over and over you say you go into the heart of my people’s birth, you do your science, you play Senor Big Shot. But you come back, baby, and despise this town, this place, the border.” He smiles at the beads of sweat loosening up like clear snakes on her cheek. “It’s a disease. My old man. Fatherson resentment.” She twirls a chunk of her thick shoulder length hair. “You despise me, Nick.” Lupe is dark-dark, her hair as big and Single Sheary Clough Suiter thick as her breasts. She is five feet one, pigeons on the ledge. And the spooks sucking in paint maybe . . . Mosely is six feet, thin, white and tanned on fumes out back would laugh and howl too. And even after the exposed legs and forearms, but white next to her in Lupe and Mosely spilt, the vatos still have something to the dark nude. Lupe, his dark version of Linda Ronstadt, howl and laugh about when Mosely traps himself in sex plumpish, those black perfect eyebrows, the dark, brownwith women from the bars he takes to his barren house. brown eyes with jade slivers, the eyes of some ethnic tribe For two months now, three max, he traps night in Mexico once pure, now vanished. flies, after bar running in Juarez playing Mister World “It’s research, Lup’. I don’t despise you. It’s this Traveler to some new crosser with a new backpack on, new sacred Chicano-La Raza shit. The dichotomy. All the inside a bar like the Kentucky Club which is perched on griping. I just question the backwardness of it here. The


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 rifts between your little groups, the straight Democratic ticket voting, the lack of services for your poor, the noise of all you Chicanos saying ‘Poor me . . . gringos are chingaring us. Gimme, gimme, gimme.’” Mosely tries to hold her, but she is strong, her skin is smooth but thick. “It’s gotten worse every year . . . each time, baby, you return with scars inside. Not just outside.” She gets him over on the bed and strangles him. Firm, mock, but from somebody perching at the window, it’s serious looking. “There’s nothing here for me Lupe . . . except you. I’m not just bashing your town. It’s empty all over the Southwest . . . nothing but invasions of people like me drying out their skin and bones.” Mosely holds her breasts, waits for the hot light to bring in the sun, to plow over the barren mountains in the distance. He is high all the time after each jungle survey, after the raw nights away from the jungle, away from the cities of Saigon, Hue, Hanoi. The new people, scientists and grad students, he meets, they’re in his skin too. The graduate students from Cambridge or the University of Glasgow he first meets in Hanoi, the reckless nights drinking, breasts flattened into his back on his motorcycle, the semi-awe during his team’s daily briefings. He takes some to the Falls, to those islands of clouds near Laos he can only explain to Lupe in their dreams together, or coupled into her flesh, the magnificence of water and rain and mud frozen into the million shades of green clenched inside her eyes. But they fight, and make love, the madness of the Mexican thing in Texas on the border – a white guy and brown chick. “Right, Pachuco . . . as if Hanoi’s this bustling Mecca of culture. You just hate Mexicans . . . you’re an elitist.” The taste of Vietnam is on Lupe’s skin, remarkably. “Hanoi’s more than bustling, Lupe . . . it’s Fourth World pleasure . . . there’s no pretense. I never thought I’d end up in a dump like El Paso watching my old man heave ho his brain. Hate Mexicans? Me?” She moves into his chin, crosses her legs, hunches over him onto his chest like a little Buddha. “You’re fucked up. It’s this yak, yak, yak, baby. Science hyperbole. You’re just fucking us, baby.” He feels the back where rucksack straps have carved in notches over the years. So many miles hiking with his Brits. The rain. The sweat. The sounds of birds,

119 and the Hmong women. “I loved it down there. Yucatan. Guatemala. Honduras. Catching malarial mosquitoes and Godzillasized fruit flies in the name of ambassadorship. Out of pure love for the people.” He laughs, then tips her to the side, feels his own ribs where the lashes in the cool morning remind him of the Hmong. “You love the power of going in there and then leaving it all behind, baby. Fucking natives, maybe.” Nick stays silent “I’m not some Mayan princess, Nick, from Palenque you can lord over by making her carry your microscope and specimen trays. You hate the empowerment I have here . . . the ratio of you versus me.” Lupe sucks his deltoid, loves him, but her planet is a small one, Mosely thinks, stuck in El Paso, things to do with La Raza, with her empowerment, the Democratic Party Green Machine. Mosely wants science, wants passions out there, in rain forests in Indochina. “Christ.” He holds her, watching her jaguar eyes, those half Aztec, half Spanish eyes sizzling into his soul. “It’s love . . . I want to marry you, sweetie. He squeezes her harder until he imagines smelling the river near the science team’s camp. He hears the water rushing. Feels the bamboo shoots in between toes. He has learned to draw himself into the thin, strong flesh of Hmong women, but he knows even two years after their break up there is that love-hate attraction to Lupe, to her whole self, and she is a little overweight, but she holds him deep in memory. “I’m always the minority. I hate this place so much that I leave it. You hate it too, Lupe, but you’ll never leave. It’s some power you think you lord over them, Lupe.” She holds his arms back and studies the torso clenched between her thighs. She lurches over, touches the skin marks – leech, centipede, spider tracks. She touches the ridges of flesh, mottled, whitish as if worms are incubating just underneath. “This is something foreign to you, Nick. You can’t understand why you keep returning. And you’ll say, ‘Baby, it’s because of you.’ That’s your lie, baby.” “Like fucking me?” He wishes he didn’t say it. She breaks free, puts gouges into his forearm. He has spent years in Vietnam mostly, and a few months in Thailand and a few more in Laos. He might get horny in Hue or Hanoi, watch the city women’s dark hair while it floats like a swarm of termites behind while they peddle their bicycles. Sometimes at a distance and with enough China


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Beer consumed, they remind him of Lupe as a teen, from photographs he’s seen of her on her abuelos’ ranch near Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. But he stays away from the city girls. In Hanoi for briefing and debriefing his own team members – the students -- Mosely finds a Brit each trip, some graduate student in environmental sciences, entomology, botany. He shows her some out of the way Buddhist monastery in Hanoi, takes a young woman to a floating garden on the outskirts of town, shows her one of the lakes. It is the sex of fear . . . fear of isolation, in a place where the indigenous people are very different physically and philosophically. *--* *--* *--* The Hmong women are strong, with long tendons and efficient muscle. They are the vines of the jungle. Snakes. Mosely listens to the screeches of the buses, the sound of steel copulating into steel and maize at the tortilla factory just across the street. He is in El Paso, then instantly at the village of the Hmong elder, outside of Ke Kem: Mosely goes outside in the drizzle, the heavens greenish blue from the surrounding mountains of rain forest. He sits down with them, simultaneously holds the two women’s wet hair strands as the two snake their thin legs and arms into his skin. One stands up and giggles, and then holds up a dead silver viper. There is a fire, boiling rice. She holds the wet skin of the four-foot homicidal snake over the fire, and then she slaps Mosely with it, the other woman holding onto his chest. Mosely falls back, on hot stones, and the ancient nightmare unfolds into him. The two women are on his body. Dirt and chicken shit around him. The sound of kids from the neighboring farm killing frogs with bamboo spikes floats. He drifts with them, skin on skin, and the bamboo fence around the village elder’s big stilted households back the rest of the village. For several years he writes Lupe to try and explain the visions, the poetry of these women who stay young each time he returns. But Mosely can only write of the veiled things, the bats he helped discover, butterflies, kingfishers, the enigma of the forest and the science. He receives things from her, infrequently, through the slow carriers of the Fourth World. Newspaper clippings about her going from undergraduate student activist to graduate student protester, to independent political activist, to politician’s helper, to councilwoman, to lawyer, to political activist lawyer -- each year a new layer of armor turning her into a stronger and stronger advocate of some sort

of post-Sixties Brown Power Revolution. He knows that his return is for several months only, and for a while there is this scientist who can make her spin, and there is this Indian woman who can understand the flash of red and green in his eyes. This relationship has been undefined, and they both know a fit would be imperfect, that in the long run he cannot find synch in her metaphysical self -- her still fresh Catholic wounds and abating Mexican romanticism. But momentarily, for two months, they can play Diego and Frida. But she hides something inside, a fear, and Mosely’s rebirth in Ke Kem stays a ceremony, a song he plays on a zither, sings like a Hmong, like a dying bird or something more primate-like – guttural sounds and the lone string of the Vietnamese zither. He recuperates, plays the returning lover, the bachelor, and then finishes writing up reports to the Vietnamese government, for the World Wildlife Fund, for his cronies at Oxford and Cambridge, for the Non-Governmental Organizations who pay his way – a London-based non-profit organization dating back to 1890 called the Society for Ecological Preservation and Exploration. He gets money writing for professional trade journals published for botanists and ecologists. An article here and there in Scientific American. Then he goes over survey data and the film and insect specimens, drinking with and copulating into Lupe. He is barely tethered to life in this old neighborhood which has seen better days, which is a hive for spooks and young lost devils now. Mosely came here for his old man, for his mother, really. The Colonel had retired in the heat of El Paso after finishing thirty-three years as a regular in the glorious army, at Fort Bliss. His mother is full of rheumatoid arthritis, and the Colonel is emphysemic and confused and still on the battlefield at seventy-two. Mosely’s mother is sucking on the dread of her husband’s nightmares, of war and confinement. Fifty years married, the last ebb of lucidity left on a battlefield in Korea, so his mother suffers. Mosely gives the Colonel his caricature of a slovenly soldier (the Colonel calls his boy “Captain”) and lets his old man talk about the Korean battles, the campaigns where they lost sense of combat. “Hundreds of soldiers because of the wrong coordinates . . . bombing us back to hell . . . wasted lives. I’m their life line, Nick, do you understand. Their colonel. What can I do but go back and dig in with them and pray.” Then Mosely tells them of Vietnam, and the Colonel rises again, another day in the sun, the taste of the Howitzers on his tongue. “And you think, Captain,


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2 that it’s all Vietnam . . . nothing but terror and nightmares, you say, Captain. World War Two a cake walk. Korea, just a bump in the dark. Much more, Captain. I was there, an advisor, Captain. You won’t see that very often . . . this old full-bird Colonel. Yale types, Captain, telling me how to kill my son.” Captain Nicholas Mosely has followed his old man into battle, into Vietnam on another war front. He tries to let the Colonel know, explain the War Against Extinction of the Species, a quick primer on biodiversity, shows him his articles published in juried science periodicals. Yet the Colonel talks to his son as if Nick’s his company grade officer. Mosely tells the Colonel about Hanoi now, shows pictures of Ho Chi Minh in his mausoleum. He tells the Colonel about the groups from Europe and the U.S., the NGOs in the field of wildlife and habitat protection, like Bird Life International or World Wildlife Fund for Nature, for which he is a consultant. Mosely tells the Colonel about the teams his boy directs into jungles along the Laos and Cambodia borders, but the Colonel goes on and on about combat, white flashes, the blackness of the soul – the wars in Korea and ‘Nam still going on and on until Mosely’s mother ends up prostrate in a closet clutching the Colonel’s moth-balled dress blues, crying. The Colonel talks about the times he spoke with McNamara and Westmoreland, how he knew Alexander Haig when Haig was a light colonel. And Mosely speaks about their gibbons’ project, their lemur study. Mosely tells the Colonel how he has been trained to lead teams into jungle, how he is in charge of developing the botanical surveys, how he works with Vietnamese communists and Oxford fellows and scientists from Russia. But the Colonel is preparing his boy, Captain Nicholas Mosely, for the Tet Offensive, as if it is about to happen each time Mosely sees him. Each time he returns, Mosely sees the Fort in the middle of El Paso, sees his hunching mother and the Colonel. *--* *--* *--* Mosely is this stiff figure now, legs and one arm clamped by the cotton fibers as he stays still on his back waiting for the sun. He has one hand unraveled, just loose enough to squirt more streams of water onto the sheet. The hardwood floor is wet from the mist he keeps spraying from the cobalt blue plastic bottle she leaves with him. Lupe leaves other stuff laying around, like the molding loofa sponge and the plastic A & W Root Beer

cups and the jungle-tiger scene shower curtain and the blinking radio-alarm clock in the shape of Snoopy the dog and the piles of cotton size eight panties under the sink saturated with Lemon Pledge and the poster of the Santa Fe Indian Market Days and the blue Hopi beads she uses to hold down her five corn curls. The shadows from the mountains make noon seem like evening, and those flickering memories of lunch hours of quick sex go into his bones. He has those beads in one hand, and he feels the flapping into his chest when Lupe was like a thrasher shark on top of him. He hears the alley cats springing onto cockroaches and hears the last guzzle of air and tint flecking into concrete from some vato down the block who was drawing his message of his gang’s fury on some fat mailman’s stone wall. *--* *--* *--* Mosely is the leech quivering from a bamboo prod, the ooze of the carnivorous worm, his own tired fluid dripping into the air. In his other country, inside deep territory where bands of rebels are still being backed by the CIA and scurry through rain forest for muggings or lead Chinese merchants into Mosely’s forest reserve for the rare penis of a tiger or the single horn from an even rarer rhino, Mosely watches the leeches burrowing into his flesh. The leeches are floating up from the earth. Wiggling over wet humus. Under leaves. On the branches of ferns, the botanists have no names for. These black tubers stick out like lizard tongues tasting the air for mammal heat— even ten meters away they notice Mosely. The monsoons mean going back down, away from forest, back to Ke Kem for supplies and then to the Hmong village of their hosts for reading and drinking smoky green tea and listening to Ben Chambers and Neville Hawkes, blasted on Chinese Elephant beer, talking on and on about the bat caves the team has to go to next. Inside the elder’s stilted house, the white men and women from abroad play merry. The music from England. The funny clothes. The village erupting with activity as they pay for live chickens and eggs and beer and smokes, and then eat like King Henry. He captures the malarial nights. That centipede in the cave that leaves a welt as big as a grapefruit, or the beetle that produces torturous flinching and tachycardia for three days, the laboring pregnant solar plexus undulating from the gas of decaying giardia amoeba eggs planted in the intestines. The lonely sound of an old Hmong grandmother fighting with her drunk old


122 man. Water buffalo humping under a new moon in the tea fields. He sits up at nights and listens to this rhythm of people, the British, the Vietnamese from Hanoi, the Hmong. He listens to the guys sniffing rubber cement, slamming Budweisers, playing rancheras on their car radios. He smells the fermented fish sauce and rice and mien luon – noodle soup with eel, mushrooms, shallots. He smells the pinto beans and the guacamole, the salty chicken enveloped in cheese and rolled in corn tortillas. He touches roots and deer shanks and bamboo. He feels the pig skins bubbling up in lard. The fire is stoked by one woman, Bac Le, and Mosely carries her. The one holding the viper, My Son, strips the skin away with her teeth, the sound of the hide pulling away from fat and cartilage a sound of human birth, death. Drops of snake explode in the flames. All three touch the soft glistening muscles of the snake, and then My Son lashes him with it, his body left with slimy blood tracings. The women take the snake to a jar, a large clear ginger jar. In it are the tubers and vines of the deepest forest, and the emaciated, flaking carcasses of other snakes – green, hook-nosed, Papillion blue. Mosely wrestles with the women, until they decide to stand, and Mosely takes their father’s large rice whiskey jar and holds it up into the soft light of afternoon. He hears Ben and Nev and other scientists crooning to Elvis Costello in the stilted house close by, and he wonders about the girls’ father, about the village, about the hunters, and about this marriage he can never explain to Lupe, to the people he drinks with. He studies the jar’s innards, and the girls pull at the snake, exposing the venom sacks, spreading the fine ribs apart before splashing it into the fermented brew. They giggle as Mosely dips into the mouth of the jar with a small tea cup, and he drinks, and the sisters giggle more, and they rub the stinging juice into his skin. His white, smooth chest skin darkens by the ancient drinks, puffs up. My Son has the snake’s eye and optic nerve jiggling on her tongue. And he swallows the tip of her tongue, and Bac Le giggles as she cups his skin. Bac Le holds the two long hollow fangs between her buck teeth. The heat in El Paso singes his mind, and memory soothes the lesions. He is naked, the black tar smeared away. The inflammation is abated, and he looks at the clouds through the blinds. Pigeons float over Pershing Avenue. Fat ladies carrying bags and dry umbrellas waddle down the sidewalk to a bus stop. He hears Lupe somewhere on the news. Or it could be yesterday’s news. Mosely waits for the tide to leave him, waits for the sun to cure his skin. He has specimens. He

CIRQUE has the excuse of returning to the Colonel and his mother and her last sobs for her husband’s Alzheimer’s. Mosely wonders if he’ll sack out permanently like the Colonel one day, living in the jungle, on that ridge where rice and tea converge, where the girls will grow old and wrinkled quickly, toothless, the wrenching of their wombs the only sound now Mosely hears. The miasma in the morning hugging the river his final image. He wonders if he hasn’t already met the Colonel’s muse on some vined-over speed track on the Ho Chi Minh Trail hidden in his reserve. And he dresses, dangling a lit joint between his cracked lips, two pills spinning on that surface of the tongue where he can taste Vietnam, and he then remembers why he left Pu Mat this time, why Ke Kem is no longer a pleasant journey back, why the lesions are not the only reason for returning this time. He wonders if he can call Lupe now. He wonders who will listen to his reason for wet, bloody sheets and compresses and smelly sweats and ultraviolet sun covering his nakedness. He wonders if his skin is really plagued with psoriasis. Or if all these years My Son’s and Bac Le’s vipers have been just bubbling up under his skin. Some Hmong reason to go back. Into the color of the sky melting into six hundred-foot dipdicarpus at the top of the canopy. Back to the green of the scum on some snail pond just outside the reserve waiting for someone to fish out an old man’s ribs. Mosely was that color as he sucked in.

French Irises

Katherine Coons


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2

Mary Kunkel

Cowboys and Kittens I snuck out the back door, down the stairs and into the alley. Everyone in town knew that my father owned this dingy four-room hotel but I did everything I could to pretend I didn’t live there. Hardly anybody stayed overnight in this town, which was nothing more than a flatter place in the middle of the already flat prairie anyway. As if having to live in this rundown hotel weren’t enough, my mother was dead and my father was a hunchback. He drove a taxi for extra money but people only called if their uncle or cousin wasn’t around to take them twenty miles down the road to meet the Amtrak. The only hotel, the only taxi service, the only hunchback. Making me the town freak. Once a year the rodeo blew through town and everybody in town showed up to watch two days of calf roping and bull riding and gorge on cotton candy and corn dogs. A few local guys would turn out to compete with the aging, down-on-their-luck cowboys who traveled the circuit. I bought a paper cone of cotton candy and stood under the bleachers, staring at the peeling green paint that hung in ragged strips above me. I was standing in the shade there, waiting for things to get going, when one of the cowboys walked over and tipped his hat to me. “Shore is hot today,” he said. “I bet we could fry eggs on that sidewalk over yonder,” he went on. When I didn’t answer, he added, “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?” He smiled real big and pushed his hat back on his forehead. I could see his gray eyes. “You remind me of a little cat,” he said. “Kitten. I’m going to call you Kitten. You hang on here a while, Kitten. I’m going to go ride a bull and I’ll be back.” I don’t know why, but I waited. The crowds filled the stands and I stayed there in the shade under the bleachers. Cicadas were buzzing and I could hear animals snorting and people clapping as I peered out and watched the cowboy get bucked off a scruffy, roan colored bull. He scrabbled to his feet and limped away, grabbing his dirty hat off the ground. After a while, he showed up again and held out a blue Sno-cone. “Thought you could use a little cooling off, Kitten,” he said. I took it and started sucking the liquid through

Horsey

Sandra Hosking

the ice, while studying the man in front of me. I decided he was probably almost as old as my father. “I need to go home,” I told him. “I’ll walk with you,” he said, and took hold of my arm to lead me over the bumpy ground near the arena. I felt a small flutter inside, like a bug flapping and crashing around in there. We came to the hotel, where my father sat sideways in a metal rocking chair on the front porch, the hunch of his back resting on the arm of the rocker. He looked up when the man tipped his hat and said, “Evenin’, sir,” but he didn’t answer. The cowboy winked and said, “See you later, Kitten,” as he strode away on a boot heel that was worn to a slant. I went upstairs and looked out the window toward the arena. There were clouds of dust hanging in the air and I could hear faint cheering. I laid awake for a long time, staring at the ceiling. When I finally slept, I dreamed of cowboys herding kittens. The next day, I went back to the rodeo and stood under the bleachers. At first I couldn’t see the cowboy but then I noticed him at the back of the crowd, passing a bottle of beer back and forth with a tall, blonde woman who was wearing a short leather skirt, a halter top and fancy little cowboy boots with silver circles that flashed in the sun. I looked for a while and saw the cowboy put his hand at bottom of the woman’s back and walk away with her. I watched until they went beyond the field where the livestock trailers were clustered. Then I couldn’t see them anymore. I went home and sat down to a dinner of corn bread and butter beans with my father. Dark clouds gathered in the north, which usually meant a storm. Lightning began flashing on the horizon. I took a small,


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pink vinyl suitcase of my mother’s from the closet in the hall and put in it three shirts, plus a sweater and some tiny bars of soap from the four hotel rooms. I sat on my bed until early the next morning, then I crept quietly to the edge of town, where the rodeo people were packing for their move to the next place. Cowboys and wranglers checked ropes and tow hitches, while slurping coffee from steaming mugs. I saw one of them pull a silver flask from his back pocket and, checking to see if anyone noticed, add something stronger. The cowboy came out of an old silver travel trailer with the blonde woman, who looked rumpled and sleepy. Big drops of rain were starting to fall, making fat, dusty splashes in the dirt. I ran across the field and knocked on the window of the cowboy’s truck. “Well, hey, Kitten,” he said, looking startled to see me. He cranked down the window. “What brings you out here so early?” “Take me with you,” I said. The cowboy narrowed his eyes and looked hard at me, then over at the woman sitting next to him. She raised her eyebrows and shrugged, then threw back her head and laughed loudly. “Well, what the hell, why not?” she said as she opened the door and slid over, motioning for me to get in.

Sunflower Remnant

Katherine Coons

Teresa Sundmark

Not Buying It It’s February and I walk into the coffee shop at the same time as this young girl I know. I don’t really know her, but our town is small so I know things about her. She’s a couple years older than my son and goes to school somewhere back East. It’s February and winter break ended in January and spring break is still a month away so it’s the middle of the term. It’s cold and this young woman is wearing a down coat and a knit hat. She’s in line ahead of me and she orders an Americano with a half splash of sugar-free caramel and asks to taste the soup of the day. Squash soup, extra garlic. She’s fidgety and she waits for her drink and her spoonful of soup and she’s swimming in that coat of hers and her legs are sticking out like bird legs and I’m not sure how they’re holding her up. Then a man walks in. A friend of her dad’s. “I heard you’re back,” he says. “Yes!” She says, “It’s so great to be home!” She’s trying hard to mean it, but the man’s not buying it. Then the barista hands over her drink and a plastic spoon with a dollop of squash soup. She steps aside so I can order my drink but I watch the way she’s eyeing that soup, staring it down. She lifts that spoon to her nose and inhales. She even closes her eyes for a second. Then just like that she comes back from wherever that spoonful of soup has taken her and she dips her pinky in it and brings a taste to her mouth. She tosses what’s left into the garbage. Now she’s paying for her drink and I’m not trying to, but I see inside her wallet. She’s got at least twenty-five bucks in there. “You like the soup? Gonna get some to go with your coffee?” her dad’s friend asks. “I’m a little short on cash,” she says. “Put it on my tab,” the man says to the barista. “No thanks,” the girl says. “I’m in a hurry.” She smiles her best smile and her cheekbones push sharp against her skin, like they might poke through. “You can get it to go,” the man says, and he’s trying not to sound like he’s trying so hard. “This coffee will tide me over,” she says, and she turns away.


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2 Her fingers are translucent, all knuckles, and they’re wrapped around that zero calorie Americano with a half splash of sugar-free caramel. Then the man and I both watch her walk out the glass door and make her way to her car. She sets her coffee cup down on the roof for a second and just before she plunges her hand into the front pocket of her big down jacket to dig out her car keys, she raises that little finger to her mouth one more time.

Jabberwock

Robert Bharda

Heidi Turner

Enough Water The other Leiana in my neighborhood is Hawaiian, and I’m not. She’s known for being the Safest Person in the World, and I disappeared behind her like a ghost for our whole lives until the summer I got my first surfboard, before I’d met Cassidy. But it started with the board. I walked to the McDonald’s at the bottom of the hill most Saturdays, and that day, the trade winds were blowing and the sky was only a few shades lighter than the sea. There was a yard sale three streets from my house, and they had it: the surfboard I needed. It was perfect: white and red, six feet long, and totally inappropriate for a beginner, I learned later. The board was $200 and I did not ask my Mom, or my brother Thom, for advice on the purchase. He was a sponger—a body boarder—and I assumed he wouldn’t know anything about surfboards or destiny. Across the street, the other Leiana waved at me. “I found my surfboard!” I yelled over my shoulder, clutching my birthday money. It’s impossible to live on a rock that small in world’s largest ocean and not believe in fate, and when you live on a dormant volcano, you live for the moment it hits you. The water was finally calling me. My new board lived in our garage for the last week of school (agonizing under any circumstances but unbearable that year). I was thirteen, willing to do anything to get away from my old self. I’m not surprised that was the year I found my board, or that, a few months later, I would finally meet Cassidy. On the first day of summer, I scraped all of the old wax off, tacky dustiness sticking to my fingers, while Thom loaded his truck with towels and his bright orange body board. We left before seven for Olowalu and no one was out when we arrived twenty minutes later. The board was finicky that first paddle out, and I got to the line almost a minute after Thom, even though he was taking it slow. When I caught my very first wave, it drove me through the glassy water almost back to shore. I pushed myself up, board rocking; every splash of whitewash threatened to knock me off. I finally leapt upward, corkscrewing through the air and into the shallow water, breaking through the surface as someone new. My hand was shaking when I high-fived Thom


126 back on the break line. “You’re going to be really good, Lei-Lei,” he said. I didn’t know what I had done wasn’t easy for everyone. That board was made for me, I just knew. By the time we paddled in, I was pink all over, and that night my Mom smeared my back with sap from our aloe plant. I could not go outside for three days. Leiana came by to visit and she laughed out loud when she saw me, but still insisted we go surfing together soon. “When you’re not so dead, yeah?” Once I healed, Thom and I were in the water every day, and the other Leiana rode with us whenever she was free. I got a real tan for the first time in my life. And I learned to hold my fear. Waves look tall when you’re laying down; they all terrified me from the moment they rolled toward me until I was rocketing down a translucent face. Thom never knew how scared I was before I caught a wave. As a sponger, he never stood up, so every wave was overhead for him. He hollered and whooped during paddle-out, and when the other Leiana or his school buddies went with us, they hollered too. I barely missed my old friends that summer, and the new friends I made through Thom were a lot less difficult to understand: they liked surfing, sex, and weed, and didn’t mind that I only liked one of those things. “Lei, you’re a charger,” the other Leiana said after one of our morning sessions. “Keep charging,” Thom insisted over celebratory poké and rice. I did. In August, I pulled my first real turn down a wave, twisting back and forth around the choppy spaces in the water, finally seeing the smooth path carved in the sea. It marked the beginning of riding waves near my own height, just in time for the new semester. When school started, there were gazes. Between the tan and the new muscles, I didn’t look like my old self, the “Haole-Lei,” and she was forgotten almost instantly. Two boys I’d known for years asked me if I was new and if I wanted to go out with them; I did not. Instead of trying out for the school surf team and embarrassing myself, I joined swimming. That’s when I met Cassidy, the only junior who liked the freshmen who made varsity. She knew my brother, but the way she talked about him made me think she hadn’t slept with him. Cassidy was the first true redhead I had ever met. Her hair was flame-like, curling out and falling away from her shoulders. She had thousands of freckles, enough

CIRQUE that she looked even more tan from a distance, and I wondered if anyone would notice the few new ones on my nose and shoulders. I don’t know why it mattered, and I liked her anyway. She was from California, packaged in all the stereotypes, but a great surfer; there was almost nothing else that we had in common. She was someone who needed to be free, and the first person I knew who would surf alone without telling anyone where she was going. She said it was “courage and/or mania,” with a smirk. The first time we surfed alone together, we went to Ironwoods, a break named for the old pine trees that grow on nearby golf courses and on estate properties. In September, Ironwoods breaks in shallow water over a flat rock bottom that forms stretching, multi-peaked waves. After our first couple rides, two local guys, both a little older than me, paddled out to the next peak over. They crept closer and closer to us, trying to edge us off the best part of the break. When they were almost on top of us, I made the mistake of catching the first wave that rolled in. One of them paddled for it too, dropping down to the right, forcing me up the face. I pulled off the move, and it didn’t matter. He yanked my outstretched arm as he passed below me and I went flying behind him, my back brushing the rock bottom a foot below the surface. I stood up in the knee-deep water and pulled my board back to me—it wasn’t even scratched. When I got back out to Cassidy, she didn’t say anything and charged the same waves as the guys three consecutive times, following just behind them anytime they went right. They slowly drifted back toward the left and rode the smaller break, a sign of respect. I did the two tricks I knew on the same wave, knowing they could see. We all paddled in at once, and they apologized by letting us shower first at the one beach shower. We took turns objectifying: they watched the water run over our bikinis and my hands wiping the sand from under my top, and we watched it trickle between their abs and into their board shorts. In the parking lot, the older-looking one offered us a joint. We stayed while they smoked it, pretending all was forgiven until it was true. The one who had pulled me down had pierced nipples, and was in Cassidy’s science class. His name was Josh, and he was dating the other Leiana’s older sister. She’d described him as a well-hung squirrel. I’d known the other guy in elementary school: he was the first person to call me Ghost, back when I was in first grade and he was in fifth. I cried in the red dirt by the side of the building until my teacher found me. I


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 didn’t snitch, and the nickname stuck even after he went to middle school. In junior high, the darker girls would sometimes shine a light from their phones onto my bare stomach while we were changing for P.E. and scream that they were blinded by the Ghost haunting the bathroom. On the way to my house, Cassidy sulked. “You didn’t have to rub your tits in front of that Josh kid,” she muttered. “If I hadn’t been there, they’d have pushed you off the break.” “It was just sand. Josh isn’t into girls like me.” “White girls?” The boards bounced on the armrest between us. I told Thom what happened when he came into my room to borrow a pen. His eyes widened in fear, then anger. He had never seen that kind of thing on an empty break, and that meant the guy who pulled me down was either a loose cannon or a merit-surfer who treated bad surfers like blasphemers. “Josh is Josh. What if it wasn’t him? Do you think Cassidy would be able to fight those guys off if they hadn’t given in? Do you think it would have made any goddamn difference that they knew me if I wasn’t there?” He sat down next to me, head in his hands. “You’re right. You did the right thing. That girl…” He paced across my room, tripping on my crumpled-up t-shirts on the floor, getting tangled in my jeans. He grabbed my cell phone and called Cassidy on my speed-dial. “Cutting off riders might fly in Malibu, bitch, but not here! You gotta show aloha or you’re gonna get pounded by some moke with buncha friends and you’re gonna get my sister fucked over!” She didn’t talk to either of us for a couple days, not until Thom asked her to meet him in the Field behind the school. I wasn’t invited, but all was well when she came back, a little higher than before. After that, whenever we went surfing together, Thom would tell me which waves would form into barrels and which wouldn’t, waves to ride and to give away. “There are waves that aren’t meant to be ridden,” he’d said. It made sense. I assumed knowing the difference was to be a surfer, or even a person. “See that one? It’s going to break down on the left. You can tell because of that deep patch – it’s got nothing under it, so it’ll just fall apart.” Waves did what he said. I learned the water, how to tell a deep reef from a shallow one, how teal meant sand and royal blue meant depth, how the clouds moved in relation to the wind, and how the wind could create or

127 destroy a break. The other Leiana said I had better eyes than anyone else. Josh agreed, and whenever Cassidy was on one of her binges, Josh, Leiana, and I formed our own ocean trio. The rainy season came and we started surfing the seasonal North-Western breaks. I was riding some of the island’s better waves, swooping down like a bird of prey, toes curling into the waxy surface of the board, abdomen already twisting toward the wall. Fewer and fewer guys cut me off, sometimes giving me priority if we charged the same wave. It was something in the way I sat: I looked like I had been there from the beginning, like no one could stop me. But when I watched Cassidy, I knew she was better than I was. There was a precision and attack, and she was fearless and she knew I wasn’t; I’ve wondered if she hated me for it. The other Leiana wouldn’t surf with her; she thought Cassidy didn’t understand water well enough to keep herself safe. Sometimes, I would paddle straight over an approaching wave, sitting back up while it broke behind me. “Why didn’t you go for that one? I practically gave it away!” Cassidy would ask, already moving for the next wave. I didn’t answer, but I knew why: it was not a wave I could ride. On the first day of Christmas break, Cassidy wanted to surf at Honokeana Bay. That particular bay is flat most of the year, a snorkeler’s paradise, but when the waves come, it’s what we call “firing.” Both sides of the bay look rocky, and from the shore they look symmetrical. In reality, the left has deep, more forgiving water, while the right is shallow, sharp, precise—it produces waves have paralyzed a few surfers over the years, and a current that had pulled snorkelers into open water. The left break, Little Makaha, was named after a famous break on Oahu. The right is called Hole in the Head. Cassidy wanted to go to the right. Thom had only ridden there once, but he rarely talked about it. He preferred the left break, where you had a chance to get out if things went south. “Where are you guys going?” he asked. “Honokeana.” I didn’t say which side. Thom paused. “Don’t fuck yourself. Ride hard, leave early.” That became my mantra while we marched through the rickety resort that blocked our way to the bay, ignoring the drunk tourists, well into their seventies, who


128 sat on their balconies to complain. There was no security to stop us then. There’s a fence now that encloses the whole place in its own rotting wood. There was still a rockand-cement ramp leading into the water back then, with a handrail; the elderly could still get in the water. Before we paddled out, Cassidy flipped off the four buildings in succession. We paddled into the gray-blue sea, waving to the few surfers we recognized paddling in from the left side and those watching the waves from the grassy hill to our right. The ocean changed from smooth to wavy as we paddled out. Rolling, unformed waves passed below us. We settled on the main line of the right side, where the small waves would break past us and the messy waves far in front of it. I caught my first wave and realized my mistake: I didn’t know the wave had teeth. It demanded perfection patience that stretches seconds into days. I lost my nerve and bailed, riding up over the shoulder early while I still could. I hated it and knew it hated me, and it was the kind of wave Cassidy would love. She rode six waves in succession, paddling out between them with almost no rest. My chest grew tight from the cold and my fingers were slowly numbing. My toes would not be as strong as usual – so much depends on your toes. The afternoon wore on and Cassidy got antsy. More surfers paddled in. Josh and the other Leiana were watching from the grassy dune above the lava rock shore, with other locals. I didn’t mind the audience, but Cassidy wanted to give them a show. She wanted to defeat the whole ocean, and I didn’t have the energy to stop her, even though I had only taken off on the one brutal wave. We weren’t the same kind of surfer: I wanted to learn to be part of the ocean, and she wanted to test herself against it. She looked into the far reaches of the sea, her eyes matching the sky behind the clouds, a cold blue that grew colder. Rain fell. “Is that the best you’ve got?” she screamed, her voice echoing off the rocks and walls of the surrounding hotels. The words were lost on the water. A wave was coming. The deep blue wall racing toward us was massive, too big, but we were too far away to paddle over it and too close to duck dive. Cassidy smiled wide. We both paddled hard, trying to reach it before it broke. My breath caught in my chest and did not return. I turned myself around and the world slanted. I didn’t have to paddle any more. Cassidy turned right, and I swooped down toward the left, toward the audience on the shore. The wave bucked and I

CIRQUE was thrown into the water. I clenched my jaw and did not scream. My leash yanked me and the water roiled under its own weight I heard a crack in my knee through my bones. Something hit my head. I found the air and took a deep gulp of air. Another wave was rolling in, and I swam hard— pointlessly—to try to outrun it. Fluid red flashed past me under the churning water. It took me. When I surfaced again, the rocks were only yards away. I had a few seconds and I swam hard, dragging my board behind me, with no breath and no time. The foam hurled my board against my back and it split; the foam pushed me onto the rocks. I twisted into a crack, scraping my side along my ribs. My leash dragged me toward the smaller, more dangerous wave that forms in the breakage. The final lashing of the wave threw the shattered back half of my board at me. I covered my face and the fins sliced deep into my wrists. Blood poured down my arms and through my hair, mixing with the whitewash pouring over me. I could feel the leash pull me toward the sea, but I saw nothing. I had not really been breathing. I came to, vomiting saltwater. Josh sat back on his heels, his hands clutched for CPR. The other Leiana was soaking wet, her jeans sticking to her calves, her shoes gone. She held my broken board, just the leash-and-fins half. “Thank God…” she sat back on her hands. “Ho, Mary,” she said, not invoking a saint, “you got fuckin’ worked.” “Where’s Cass?” I choked out, struggling against Leiana. She held me down, I could see my own shredded skin and the bruises already forming on my back and hips through her eyes. Her t-shirt was soaked with water and blood. Cassidy ran up, breathless. “I got here as soon as I could, girl.” Her voice trailed off, her eyes swung between me and the ocean. I could imagine the ride she had taken, the three turns I knew she would pull. She had beat it. She could say forever that she rode that wave, that she belonged. Leiana wouldn’t look Cassidy in the eye while she made my leash into a tourniquet. My hands got colder. “Fuckin’ haoles. Never know when to quit.” she muttered. Josh nodded. Blood trickled toward the ocean. I never saw my board again, and when Leiana and Josh visited me in the hospital, they realized more than my board had broken. Thom had hope. Cassidy went


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2 surfing the day after my accident. She wasn’t there to surf with me. She was there to surf. There are places in the world where you could get hurt surfing and then avoid the ocean, where you could live your whole life as though it never happened, and Maui isn’t one of them. The sea was visible from home, from school, from the post office. The smell of it lingers. If I had died, I would have been a hero; the surfers would hold a paddle-out, a bunch of old guys playing ukulele on the beach while friends wept into the ocean. Instead, I survived. I sat and listened to the other surfers at school talk story. My blood swelled in response to mentions of my favorite breaks, and I gripped the edge of the seat like the rail of a board. Josh said I was wave-gasming. I never found a good comeback for that. The other Leiana watched me and my scars. By April, I was strung out on the closeness of the ocean. On a Friday, when I got up to escape the surf talk, she followed me into the bathroom. “You mad about it?” she asked, holding up my arm, twisting it so the scars from my fins were visible to both of us. Most of my thoughts froze. “Fuck,” I sighed. She’d known, probably before I did. “We’re going out there. Today.” “Who’s we?” “We” was me, the other Leiana, and Josh. We walked to the edge of the water down by Front Street, where one of the surf schools did their intro lessons. I stood in the water up to my ankles, clenching my fists, and finally sat in it, soaking my jeans. The next week, I had to float in the water. Thom drove the other Leiana and me that day. A couple of his buddies showed up and drank beer while I bobbed five yards away from shore, gripping the sides of a borrowed longboard. “What’s your sistah doing? She looks all kine buss up.” They wanted me to hear them. “She’s training.” Thom replied. The next week, I was shark-bait, but Thom still drove me to the beach. We watched waves and ate shave ice. Cassidy was out, but she didn’t bother to meet Thom’s stink eye when she came in. Week five: catch an ankle-slapper; standing optional. In June, at seven in the morning, Leiana, Josh, and I piled ourselves and our boards into

Thom’s red Ford Ranger and drove to Fleming’s beach. The shore always smells like rotting wood and rain water, but the ocean was clear blue-green. More importantly, there’s a manned lifeguard tower. We watched two sets roll in from the shore, finally paddling out. Josh figured out what I had liked about my old board–other than its magic—and let me use a board that felt similar in the middle, against my stomach. My arms and lungs burned on the paddle-out; I’d lost my endurance but not the muscle memory of piercing the water. I tried to go for a wave but choked at the last second. I poured the salt-water over my mostly-dry hair, baptizing myself. I caught the next one. Thom cheered for me the whole ride. The water asked me to ride it and rewarded me for trying. The lifeguard cheered for me from his tower. I didn’t know that, the next December, I would have a new custom board, in blue and white. I didn’t know that a lifeguard would risk his life and still fail to save a lone surfer at Fleming’s, that we would all paddle away from the dawn one glassy morning. I didn’t know that the other Leiana would sing “Aloha ‘Oe” while I released a lei onto the open water, that Cassidy’s mom couldn’t swim, but would trust Thom to paddle her out on our dad’s ancient longboard, that her hands would be bluish against his chest. I didn’t know that we would be singing for Cassidy, that I would still hear her voice echoing off the rocks: “Is that the best you’ve got?” That day, I was just surfing, my borrowed fins leaving a trail of slices in the water that healed themselves almost before I could see them. I only heard voices cheering for me and only saw the whole blue ocean stretched out behind me, sending wave after wave, pushing me back to the shore so I could see them coming.

January Surf

Tim Roos


130

CIRQUE

Under Her Skin

Tami Phelps


131

Vo l . 9 N o . 2

P L AY S Sandra Hosking

Ask

A Ten-Minute Play Characters: 1f, 1m Williams - 40s, a man, a college professor Alex - 20s, a woman, a student Setting: The office of a college professor Synopsis: Williams, a college professor, questions Alex about her behavior.

WILLIAMS Is this some sort of power play? ALEX Because I’m standing? WILLIAMS Is this another one of your statements? ALEX I’m standing. That’s it. You can sit if you like.

SETTING: A small academic office belonging to Professor Williams AT RISE: WILLIAMS, a college professor in his mid-40s, leads Alex, a student in her early 20s. WILLIAMS

(He starts to sit and gets up again.) WILLIAMS That’s okay. (He awkwardly stands. She is steadfast.)

Have a seat. ALEX

ALEX So what is it? You asked me to come in here. What?

I’ll stand. WILLIAMS

WILLIAMS I wanted to make sure. Did you accuse me of—

This could take a while.

I’m okay.

ALEX I didn’t accuse anybody of anything. I merely stated my opinion.

WILLIAMS I’d feel better if you were sitting.

WILLIAMS I wish you would’ve asked to be heard before—

ALEX

ALEX You would? Why?

ALEX Ask to be heard? Why would I do that?

WILLIAMS I … I don’t know. ALEX I’m standing.

WILLIAMS Because— ALEX This isn’t a courtroom. You’re not a judge.


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CIRQUE WILLIAMS

Yes but— ALEX You spout your opinion every day. You didn’t ask. And why would you? Why would I? WILLIAMS It sounds like you’re saying I’m— ALEX Sexist? WILLIAMS Yes.

WILLIAMS You could’ve asked and left out the other. We could’ve discussed. ALEX I’m not part of the committee. I wasn’t part of the discussion. I didn’t make the policy. You did. I don’t want to be on the committee or part of the discussion. I was just telling you how I felt about your decision and what I would do as a result. WILLIAMS If you would’ve just asked. ALEX Do you believe in the constitution?

ALEX I didn’t say that.

WILLIAMS Of course.

WILLIAMS Not in so many words.

ALEX There’s this little amendment, the first. It says I don’t have to ask. I can just say things.

ALEX WILLIAMS

Not at all. But in this situation— WILLIAMS You could’ve asked before threatening to— ALEX Threaten? WILLIAMS Saying the other part. ALEX I told you what I would do. WILLIAMS Right.

ALEX Any situation. Whether you listen or agree is another matter. It’s okay if you don’t agree. I stand behind what I said. I will still do what I said. WILLIAMS If we could discuss. ALEX No. WILLIAMS No? ALEX

ALEX So you don’t want to know what I would do.

No.

WILLIAMS Not, well … are you sure you won’t sit?

WILLIAMS I don’t know what to do with that.

ALEX No.

(pause)

ALEX It’s difficult for you, I know.


133

Vo l . 9 N o . 2 ALEX Yes. WILLIAMS I had to explain you. ALEX You didn’t have to do that. WILLIAMS I feel I did. ALEX That would’ve been interesting to hear. WILLIAMS It was difficult. ALEX I could explain myself, but I don’t. WILLIAMS What do you mean? Suggestions

Tami Phelps

WILLIAMS I know you’re blunt, and I’ve accepted that. ALEX Accepted? WILLIAMS Tolerated, no, I mean, acknowledged. ALEX Tolerated. WILLIAMS You might apologize. ALEX

ALEX I don’t explain myself. I am myself. I think what I think. I say what I say. I don’t ask. I don’t apologize. People can experience me however they do. I can’t control that. WILLIAMS With that kind of thinking, you could justify all manner of sins. ALEX What I said was a sin now? WILLIAMS I didn’t mean that. ALEX

I don’t think so.

I must be absolved then?

WILLIAMS He doesn’t know you. The chairman was offended.

WILLIAMS If we are to continue. Please, sit. ALEX

ALEX No.

It’s okay. WILLIAMS You’re okay with that?

WILLIAMS You’ve made your point.


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ALEX I don’t think so. You are still troubled by my standing. My head must not be higher than the king’s.

WILLIAMS My legs are tired. ALEX

WILLIAMS

Then sit.

I’m not a king. WILLIAMS ALEX

I can’t.

King of your castle. WILLIAMS

ALEX We’ve been over this. You can.

Now you bait me. ALEX

WILLIAMS Why are you doing this to me?

You’re right. I’ll go now. (She takes a step toward the door.)

ALEX You asked me, directed me to come.

WILLIAMS I’d like to continue.

WILLIAMS Slings and arrows.

(She laughs.) This is not funny. I take this very seriously.

ALEX Have I a gun? A blade? I am unarmed. (She holds out her arms.) You may search me.

ALEX WILLIAMS Not all weapons are tangible.

I know. WILLIAMS I’m upset. ALEX Yes, I know.

ALEX I asked a question. If a query is an assault, then your universe is a mine field. How do you ever navigate it? Oops, sorry, another question. WILLIAMS

WILLIAMS Most people would say, “I’m sorry I upset you.”

It is not the question.

ALEX I can’t say what I don’t mean. It would be fraudulent.

No?

WILLIAMS One hundred percent honesty all the time does not work in polite society. It is okay to hold one’s tongue. To save face. ALEX Your face. But marginalizing me and my stance is okay. WILLIAMS

ALEX

WILLIAMS It is that you questioned me. ALEX Ah, there is the rub. And the truth. WILLIAMS In front of them, in front of him.

Sit! Please ALEX No, thank you.

ALEX This is an institute of higher learning. I thought you were used to that sort of thing.


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2 WILLIAMS I expect it from some but not from … ALEX Me. WILLIAMS Correct. ALEX I see. WILLIAMS Good. Now, will you sit? ALEX No.

choose to walk their own path instead of blindly follow. WILLIAMS (rising and slamming his hands on the desk) Even if that path leads right over a cliff! ALEX (slamming her hands on the desk and facing him) It is their choice! WILLIAMS There it is. The outburst. ALEX For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. WILLIAMS I thought you were not bound by such laws.

(He slumps into his desk chair.) WILLIAMS I can see it now. Raised hands. Questions. Interruptions. Posters calling for reviews. Sit-ins in the dean’s office. ALEX Because I didn’t accept? WILLIAMS Because you said, no, announced you wouldn’t accept.

(ALEX turns to go.) ALEX I’m going to leave now. WILLIAMS Have the tables turned? ALEX The tables were always turned. I choose to dismiss myself.

ALEX I didn’t announce.

WILLIAMS Not yet.

WILLIAMS To the whole group.

ALEX Yes. I am merely telling you what I will do.

ALEX I raised my hand and spoke very calmly. I did not shout or slam my books down or storm out of the hall. I’m sorry if my mature manner offended you. Next time I won’t be so civil.

WILLIAMS This conversation isn’t over.

WILLIAMS Sometimes a calm sea can hide the tumult beneath the surface. When that energy is released, however it is released, it spreads like algae throughout the ocean.

Good-bye.

(ALEX starts to exit.) ALEX

(She leaves.) WILLIAMS

ALEX I hope it does. I hope others don’t sit idly by while you and your precious committee issues their edicts. I hope the sheep

Wait. (Lights fade.)


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F E AT U R E S Deb Stone

Paulann Petersen: A Poet Laureate’s Wide Embrace After you notice the sensuous lilt of Paulann Petersen’s voice, you’ll notice her hands punctuating the poem as she reads. Hovering midflight on the note of a word, fingers fanned like open blinds, or waggling as if to say, and whenever I walk / I carry with me / these open hands. No poet has so epitomized the quickening sense of a holistic female self within Oregon’s varied landscape. Even the titles of her books—The Animal Bride, Blood Silk, The Voluptuary—evoke the heroic struggle of her desire to bring the body to the page. Paulann’s ability to embrace the sensate and the cerebral with emotional facility evokes a literary landscape as lush and complex as Oregon’s diverse ecosystems. Her writing is rooted in her body where its political, cultural, and geographic borders begin, but extends outward, inviting the reader to springboard from her words to their own. It’s as if each of her poems is a portal for a writer to discover his or her own point of light. Paulann’s attention to other literary readers is rapt and undivided. She focuses on the reader, inviting their words to enter and change her. “You are a different person if the poem transports you,” she says. Paulann understands that the world of poetry can seem elitist and that such attitudes are wrong. “Poetry is not the domain of just a few. It’s as natural and accessible as heartbeat and breath.” She conducts readings and workshops from the Oregon high desert to the southern coast range, from rural communities to the Portland tri-county area introducing everyday citizens to evocative poems. She provides prompts to generate writing from participants and strives to Paulann Petersen

establish a supportive place for them to share their work. Paulann was born in 1942 in Portland, Oregon, the only child of Paul and Grace Whitman, in what she calls a “decidedly nonliterary family” with a handful of books in their home. An imaginative girl who often wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister, Paulann wrote poems as an elementary student at Richmond Grade School and won a student writing prize while attending Franklin High. In 1960, her family moved to Klamath Falls, where she married and had a son. As a young housewife, she began reading poetry in the Saturday Review, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. She discovered Phillip Larkin and other contemporary poets whose work seemed riskier and fresher than poets whose work she had read in anthologies. She began haunting the public library and borrowing books through interlibrary loans. It was through this statewide access that she discovered Grace Paley, Louise Glück, Lucille Clifton, and Li-Young Lee. While at Pomona College, Paulann met Harvard graduate Sears Jayne, an influential and impassioned professor whose lectures on Edmund Spencer’s epic poem The Faery Queen swept her away. “I want to do that,” she thought. Paulann was living in a turn-of-thecentury house outside Klamath Falls with her two young children and her second husband when she decided to return to college. She Photo: Rose Lefebvre


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2 drove the sixty-three miles along the north slope of the Siskiyou mountains past rivers, marshes, and high plateaus, then back again each day. The drive afforded her time to think about the political and class differences between rural and urban areas in Oregon, and to muse about literary works she had encountered during her studies. It was there at Southern Oregon University that she met Lawson Inada who became a mentor and friend. She earned her M.S. in Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts, graduated Summa Cum Laude, and earned the 1984 Outstanding Graduate award, an honor usually reserved for students in science or math. Over the next three decades, Paulann published six full-length books and five chapbooks. Her seventh book, One Small Sun is forthcoming from Salmon Press in March 2019. She was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship where she did graduate work at Stanford, and won Carolyn Kizer Poetry Awards, Willamette Writers’ Distinguished Northwest Writer Award, and numerous nominations for a Pushcart Prize. Paulann’s four years as Oregon’s sixth poet laureate were a culmination of decades of commitment to literary communities for which she won the 2006 Stewart Holbrook Award for Outstanding Contributions to Oregon’s Literary Life. She serves on the board of Friends of William Stafford, organizes the annual worldwide January Stafford Birth Events, and has taught workshops for Oregon Writers Workshop, Oregon State Poetry Association, Mountain Writers Series, and Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College. For the last twenty-three years, Paulann has hosted carefully curated and well attended literary salons featuring new and established poets in her 1895 Sellwood area home where she serves savory tidbits, delectable desserts, and wine to whet the appetites of readers. People sit on antique oak chairs, rich red tapestries cover the walls, and a row of mannequin hands lines the sills of the parlor room window. Poetry, Paulann asserts, ought to encourage a wide embrace. She is a consummate community builder, a champion of public libraries, and a model literary citizen. When asked about how her hand gestures might represent her view of inclusiveness in literary circles, she said, “regardless of how new or startling it may seem, we already know we are inseparably part of the world. [We are] profoundly interconnected.” As her poem “When Meeting the Other” seems to say, we must all strive to be the Hands that carry enough / heat and light to give away. Be that sun.

REVIEWS Vivian Faith Prescott

A review of Apportioning the Light, by Karen A. Tschannen

Cirque Press, Anchorage, AK, 2018 From “On the Importance of Detail ”...how the shout of it leapt up like a bright silver fish..."

Apportioning the Light is the debut poetry collection by Karen A. Tschannen. Tschannen is an Alaskan poet, educated in poetry at the University of Alaska Anchorage; in addition, she has studied extensively classic British and North American poetry. Her deftness with contemporary verse is evident as the weight of words is carefully and playfully measured, likewise illuminating the language contained within its pages. Poems in this collection have been published in journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Cirque, Ice-Floe, and elsewhere, in addition to appearing in several anthologies. Here is the last stanza of the title poem “Apportioning the Light”: Consider this: There are places far from here where decisions of light and dark are swift and equatorial, where yellow birds flash splendid wings in tangled lianas calling back the sun in raucous syllables…(48) The collection demonstrates this vision. I begins with nostalgia, as the narrator reflects on mother and father, sister, neighborhood and street in a way that draws us in to peer out at that same street while peering inside of ourselves. How does this poetic magic happen? It’s all about detail, isn’t it, dear reader? Details such as “the long tongue of the sun” and “only the sea’s sighs and everywhere / wind in the wires.” Details move this collection forward in a manner that landscapes where even homes and death are observed with a sense of intimacy wholly extended to


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the reader, which is why we (or I ) read poetry in the first place. In the poet’s hands we observe and we delight in the interpretations of nature and grief and renewal. As you read poem after poem, the narrator reveals, and simultaneously allows the reader to enjoy the ah ha moment, i.e., the surprise and delight. We see this clearly in “The Importance of Detail”: I continue. You do not. I need now examine the particulars of our days, examine all eighty-nine fine gradations of blue in the wing of the Steller’s jay, distinguish in the pink throat of the rubrum lily the burnt-sun smell of stamens, notice with care the backs of things, their depths, their furrows…(86) The themes in the collection—light, color, Alaska, grief, language—are themes that touch upon the vulnerability of our humanity. Also of note are the poet’s skills in crafting poems about language—which isn’t easily done—how the poet turns the language inward, playing with the poem. “words for the day” and “Losing the Word” are two examples: feel them in my mouth cuing my tongue honing my teeth plumping my lips aerobics for the tongue teeth lips luscious longing… (“words for the day,” 72)

It was on a Wednesday that I took a lover… after the surprise of new flesh—to attend to the patterned necessities of wife and motherhood: the planning of meals, the purchase of meat. (81) I am especially fond of discovering other Alaskan poets. As an avid poetry reader, I typically read one or two poems from a collection each a day—small delights to begin my day. In the midst of a healthy and lively Alaska poetry scene, Tschannen’s book stands out with both lyrical and narrative poems alive with detail and language. Overall, the poems are bright silver fish; thus, Apportioning the Light is a fitting title. This full-length collection by Alaskan poet, Karen Tschannen is adept in craft and insight: This is what poetry is. It pays attention to detail. It is detail.

Poetry serves as light, as song, as language, as place, and as mourning: it’s what good poetry does. In “When I Arrive” (42), the narrator speaks of an accident and then immediately poses a question, and, subsequently, we follow the narrator’s thoughts through an emotional and literal landscape. Beautifully done. The poetic voice does not confuse, but clarifies and draws attention to the small things that grieve us and those that give us hope. The voice is familiar; thus, the narrator is familiar, but not at the risk of being complacent or boring. There is enough variety in structure and voice to be surprising. In a prose poem titled “Wednesday”:

Karen Tschannen and daughter at the release of Apportioning the Light


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Jessica Cherry

A review of Human Being Songs: Northern Stories, by Jean Anderson

University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, AK, 2017

Anyone who has spent time at a workcamp on the North Slope oil fields would argue that it is a place full of stories, well deserving of literary treatment. From the burning methane flares, to the ephemeral ice roads branching off the central spine, nothing here on Earth resembles an extraterrestrial world so much as the frozen Arctic industrial complex. When I read the title story from Jean Anderson’s 1989 collection In Extremis, a few years ago, I thought, yes, here’s the perfect short story about Prudhoe Bay. It’s 1976. Protagonist Len Peacock is reciting Yeats’ poetry in his head and sucking down a ”doll-baby bottle” of Jack

Daniels as his plane touches down in Deadhorse for a month-long shift. He’s a baker with a strained marriage and a burning crush on a young woman, Angie, who works in the camp. But, their one encounter drives Len back home from the Slope in a heartbeat. Was Angie just another broken soul or a kind of Angel of Darkness? We might credit this author for inventing Arctic Industrial Gothic as a regional genre. Anderson is back this year with an extraordinary and equally provocative new story collection, Human Being Songs: Northern Stories. Her voice perfectly captures a certain perspective of modern Alaska. She doesn’t dwell on the romanticized wilderness of the Far North, or the Pioneer ethos, except as flawed backdrops to some of the characters’ thoughts or actions. These stories, as the earlier ones do, measure the weight of relationships between people, primarily in urban Alaska. Her characters are educated and heart-full, but struggling: a census-taker, an Aleut artist, an adjunct professor. Their emotions are universal, but their circumstances have our regional flavors: long distances between families in Alaska and down South, rural and urban poverty, a boom and bust economy, geographic isolation, complex relations between migrants and Alaska Natives. Russia and Siberia are referenced throughout the collection. She writes in the first story of the collection, Profligate: I’ve roamed—gone West, as so many others did all those generations ago, to new worlds we never imagined. Geography, beyond the new millennium’s bend, has coaxed me so far West I’ve gone East. Maybe like digging a hole in the backyard and reaching China. Not really intending it, never exactly “brave.” Here the narrator isn’t scaling a mountain; she is drinking


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CIRQUE worlds of imagination and experience, a notion central to Anderson’s work. Female narrators dominate Anderson’s stories in this collection. Internal monologues follow the characters through quotidian events, with minimal dialogue. Her narrators are at once regretful and at peace. They replay the past, but not at the expense of the present. These women are self-conscious and protective, but giving of themselves to others. They are keenly aware of economic disparity and racism, and awkwardly trying to face both problems. With the exception of an embarrassed child waiting at the library, the male characters in these stories seem to be marginal figures; they are dead or gone or shortcoming. Her narrators live on the periphery of the success they want, but they aren’t bitter about it. She writes about Alaska as it is, not as we imagine it to be.

Jean Anderson

a fruity Mai Tai on a flight between Anchorage and Maui, with her 74-year old mother who is terminally ill. She describes intimate details of her mother—her cash in a plastic bag, her unfamiliarity with travel—as facts, without embarrassment. The narrator goes into a nostalgic reverie about how precious is the Ziploc in Russia. Before this trip, the narrator was in Bethel, teaching dental hygiene. This rich blend of space and time and cultures may seem familiar to many Alaskans. I had lunch with Anderson a year or so ago at Lunch Café in Fairbanks. We first met at a Writing in the Dark event hosted by the Fairbanks Arts Association. I immediately found her warm, interesting, and relatable, so when I stumbled on her first story collection at Inkwell’s used bookstore in Soldotna, I wanted to express my appreciation for her older work, and hear more about her inspirations for writing. At lunch, I asked Anderson if she’d been to Deadhorse (“No”—but she’d heard plenty of stories), and we talked about Siberia while her eyes sparkled and her hands danced. She visited the Russian Far East with the Fairbanks-Yakutsk sister city program a number of years ago. I absolutely understand why Siberia is mentioned in many of her stories. It is both familiar and utterly foreign to Alaskans. This is the Far East, just on the other side of the Far West, here in Alaska. This is a person passing between the

Anderson seems to sum up her vision of the Alaska writer in her piece, Smallpox (Notes from a sleep-deprived, overeager visiting writer, Lower Kuskokwim School District, Southwest Alaska): Scarlet sunset on snow, and of how you might—anyone—[treeless/sky]—someday become—yes/if you try—a writer. Because you love stories. And because you live in Alaska where there are so many. Stories everywhere, far too few of them ever written {poured/pored] on paper [far too—for?]. And because you love hearing them over and over, told by people you love or maybe people you don’t know at all. A couple of years ago, during my own winter trip to the Russian Far East, our guide, Katia, had organized an excursion on a bus to see some cave paintings. It’s an arid region, and this tiny, Soviet-area bus had driven us on the frozen, windswept Lena River for many hours at -30F. Everyone else from Fairbanks and Galena and Nulato piled out at our fourth or fifth stop, but I’d grown weary and stayed on the bus. I silently watched the driver kill the engine in the middle of the endless, white wilderness. He opened the engine compartment, smoke poured out, and he crawled inside face first with a wrench, cursing in his native Sakha language. Do we survive because of humanity, or in spite of it? I wondered. I think this is the question at the center of Anderson’s wonderful new story collection.


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Cindy Mom

A review of How Light Reaches Us, by Kristin Berger

Kelsay Books, Aldrich Press, Hemet, CA, 2016

Kristin Berger’s dedication, to all my loves (pg. 5) tells us, even before reading any of the poems, that How Light Reaches Us is a book about passion. Berger’s loves are many and far-flung, and she embraces them all simultaneously: the parched desert and the lush forest; the domesticity of home balanced with a yearning for the wild; the comfort of the familiar and the allure of the unknown. If we take her dedication as a cue, we realize we don’t have to choose. We are given permission to love them all. In “Summer Triangle” (pg. 53) she invites us to explore: Tell me, Lone Wanderer— Does your home country taste of hope? Do you have enough starlight to travel by? One season to the next, can you stumble, gladly, with no map? Berger herself is a wanderer, a poet with the soul of a biologist. Perhaps that is why her writing has blossomed in writer’s residencies at the H.J. Andrews Forest and the Starkey Forest and Range. Rather than lending a dry or scholarly tone to her poems, time spent in the field with biologists has brought a deep understanding of ecology, habitats and animal life to Berger’s work. “Blaze” (pg. 47) is A love letter from a Wolf Mother. “Pushcover” (pg. 43) ventures into a darker realm of hunter and hunted: Pelt before death, bones/ beaded to nerves. In “The Pain and Bliss of Hibernation” (pg. 28) Berger asks: What would the bear imagine if she could wake, for a moment, from the creep of winter, peer up the hollowed tree trunk, aurora borealis blowing through with a metallic howl— “Badger” (pg. 44) was written as an accompaniment to a photograph taken by artist Gillian Vaughan, and is just one example of Berger’s frequent collaborations with other poets, writers, and artists. As the recipient of two writer’s residencies at Playa, in the high desert of Oregon’s outback, she has adopted Playa’s value of exchange, where co-residents can learn from one another. “Our Own Private Alaska” (pg. 23) is

a collaborative work with poet Scot Siegel, and the book’s cover art “Thunderstorm I” was painted by Rakar West – both past residents of Playa. Another source of inspiration is the assemblage of colloquial, and sometimes antiquated, landscape terms found in Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape (Trinity University Press, 2006), edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. Eddy Line, Coyote Well, Jaral, Céja, Desire Path: these and eleven more can be found in an abbreviated, interpreted glossary in the Notes (pg. 67). They make an indelible mark on this collection of poems. The two landscape-term poems


142 “Aimless Drainage” (pg. 35): She has to hold her own, loop under and around talk of back roads, flatbeds and boys that go nowhere in this valley that floods every hundred years with love letters it scrawls to itself.

CIRQUE curve of a river; from deep within the blue heart of a glacier; flashing from a high-latitude stippled sea; searing us with the heat of a sage desert; glowing from within a jar of canned peaches. But these lines are merely rough paraphrases of Berger’s poetry. You must read the poems themselves to experience the most brilliant light.

and “Kisstank” (pg. 37): “Sonder, in Reverse” (pg. 65): She knew those high, flat rocks where women ground seed from chaff, varnished small desert bowls cupping rain and the resuscitated moon— where she taught me to drink slowly, deeply and often. and several others illustrate a strong woman’s place in the world. In “Mere” (pg. 34), “Spur” (pg. 36), “Stream Sink” (pg. 54), “Thalweg” (pg. 39), and “Despoblado” (pg. 45), women work, dream, struggle, love, and change. “Kisstank” is not the only place to drink in the desert. Berger’s landscapes of silt, dust, baking heat, hardpan, and barbed wire are tempered with juicy figs, honey, melon, berries, a ripe plum. They don’t appear often, or in large quantities, but sprinkled throughout the book they are enough to quench our thirst. In one poem, “Talus” (pg. 58), these textures are placed directly next to each other in successive lines: cairn to scree/ bush to berry. So, how does light reach us? It comes to us from a sliver of moon reflecting on the

And isn’t that how most dreams are constructed? Feathers, smoke, salt and palm – the past we rush towards, the silt-loaded river, the swing-bridge waiting for us in the dark.

Cirque Press is happy to announce its publication of Kristin Berger’s newest poetry collection Echolocation (August 2018)

Kristin Berger

Window Fog

Kathryn Schipper


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CONTRIBUTORS Luther Allen facilitates SpeakEasy, a community reading series, and is co-editor of Noisy Water. His collection of poems, The View from Lummi Island, can be found at http://othermindpress.wordpress.com.  Allen’s work is included in the recent anthologies WA 129; Refugium, Poems for the Pacific; Poets Unite! LitFUSE @10; and Weaving the Terrain.  His short story, The Stilled Ring, was finalist in the annual fiction contest at terrain.org. Alexandra Ellen Appel lives, writes, and teaches in Boise, Idaho, a stone’s throw from the river. She is currently at work on her umpteenth collection of unpublished poetry. Alexandra has worked, played, and taught along the YK Delta, and in Gustavus and Anchorage. Alexandra loves the All of Life and plans to continue being un-famous with such fine novels as Better To Have and the sequel, Buddy’s Christmas Tree Farm, and an unfinished memoir – Single, Head of Household, etc. She lives in a sweet small home with her companion Henry, the Terrier, who, in another lifetime, was an Irish Wolfhound. And so it is. John Baalke has published work in Ice-Floe, Cirque, Web Del Sol Review of Books, and other journals. He has an MFA from Seattle Pacific University and works for the Pedro Bay Village Council (AK). Thomas R. Bacon lives in Sitka with his wife and their cat, Demon. He is a member of the Blue Canoe Writers and a previous contributor to Cirque. Christianne Balk’s most recent book is The Holding Hours (University of Washington Press). Her work has appeared in Harper’s, Poemoftheweek. org, Atlantic Monthly, Nimrod, Measure, and other online and print magazines. She lives in Seattle, loves the Anglo-Saxon rhythms of everyday street talk, and travels frequently into the Cascade Mountains. Ray Ball: I live in Anchorage, where I am a history professor, writer, runner, and traveler. I have authored several academic essays and books and have had poetry published in Cirque and Alaska Women Speak.  Tara Ballard is from Alaska. She holds an MFA from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Her first collection, House of the Night Watch, is the winner of the 2016 Many Voices Project through New Rivers Press, to be published in 2018. Her poems have been published in The Bellingham Review, Cirque, The Southampton Review, Salamander, One, and other literary magazines.  Gabrielle Barnett is an Anchorage based writer. Her poetry has appeared in Cirque and Alaska Women Speak. Her short story “Mountain Man” is included in the anthology Building Fires in the Snow. Judith Barrington’s fifth collection of poetry, Long Love: New & Selected Poems will be launched on June 12th. She is the author of The Conversation (2015), whose title poem won the Gregory O’Donoghue International poetry award. In 2001, Lifesaving: A Memoir was the winner of the Lambda Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. Judith has been a faculty member of the University of Alaska, Anchorage’s MFA Program. She has taught workshops around the U.S. as well as in Britain and Spain and is one of the founders of Soapstone Inc. Amy Baskin: My work is featured in Friends Journal, Every Pigeon, apt,

and more. I am a 2016 Willamette Writers Kay Snow Poetry award recipient for my poem “About Face.” I’ve worked on revision with Paulann Petersen and Renee Watson and participate in generative groups hosted by Allison Joseph and Jenn Givhan. Clifton Bates has lived in Alaska for forty-one years involved with Alaska Native education as a teacher, administrator, and university professor. He has had a variety of plays, poetry, drawings, fiction, and education articles published over the years. He co-authored the book, Conflicting Landscapes, American Education/Alaska Natives, with the Very Rev. Dr. Oleksa. He continues with his writing and artwork at his home in Chugiak, Alaska. Tom Begich is a poet and singer/songwriter born and currently living in Anchorage, Alaska. He has previously published a poetry collection, Six Truths: fifty sonnets, five CDs of original music, and a compilation music/poetry CD with acclaimed poet Timothy Mason. He spends his days either dreaming of, or driving on, the road and serving in the Alaska State Senate Originally from New York City, Robert Bharda has resided in the Northwest 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: two covers of Naugatuck River Review; Blue Five NoteBook, and within all four most recently published issues of Cirque. His portfolios of images have been featured in Cahoodahoodaling, Blue Five, Superstition, AADUNA, Serving House Journal, The Adirondack Review, The Critical Pass, Cold Mountain, Rio Grande and Santa Clara Reviews. 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. Marilyn Borell: I earned my MFA with a concentration in poetry at the University of Alaska Anchorage. I am a past contributor to Cirque who lives and writes in Anchorage. My work has appeared in Ice Floe, the Anchorage Daily News, and two anthologies, in addition to Cirque. Sami Lynn Boylan - When Sami is not recommending books to local Louisvillians, she considers herself an amateur artist. Using mediums ranging from photography and digital art, to painting and crocheting, she (with the help of her cat Vlad) enjoys exploring the creative world of art! Sean Brendan-Brown: I’m a medically-retired Marine and currently work as a photographer for the Insurance Commissioner’s Investigative Division (affectionately known as the “Yuck Unit”). I’ve published with the Notre Dame Review, Indiana Review, Southampton Review, Fourteen Hills, Hunger Magazine, and the University of Iowa Press anthologies American Diaspora and Like Thunder. I received a 2010 NEA Fiction Fellowship. 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


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39 years as a reporter and editor. I am an amateur photographer and a member of the Puget Sound Camera Club.

poetry Something Yet to Be Named (Aldrich Press, 2017). Kersten is the poetry editor of the quarterly journal, Alaska Women Speak.

Maggie Bursch: I grew up running in the tall grasses of Bristol Bay, Alaska and dodging bloated salmon on the beach while my parents were set netting. We spent our winters between the fishing town of Homer and our small cabin in the Wrangell Mountains. When I was old enough to contribute in the boats, I began to learn the skills I now use to run my own Bristol Bay drift boat. For the last few winters, I have attended Colorado College and currently live in Bellingham, WA.

Janet Clemens, a long-time Anchorage resident, is known for her colorful acrylic paintings with embellishments and artwork that often highlights Alaska wildlife and dogs.

Jack Campbell has taught in schools on the Yukon, Kuskokwim, and Kobuk Rivers, in Fairbanks and in SE. His collections of poetry include The Outhouse Spider: New and Selected Poems and Four Fevers Musings of an Alaskan Bush Poet. Tara L. Campbell is a speculative fiction and creative nonfiction science writer with a professional background in computer science. She enjoys writing at the intersection of science, technology, and disability. Stories about overlooked or misunderstood people and concepts are key aspects in her work. Earning a B.A. in English Literature and Writing from Marylhurst University in 2015, Tara also earned a M.A. in Science Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2018. Most recently, she was awarded second place for the Willamette Writers 2018 Kay Snow writing contest for nonfiction. Matt Caprioli is a writer in NYC by way of Alaska. He was a journalist for The Anchorage Press and continues to write for local papers in NYC. He has contributed to The Paris Review Daily, The Huffington Post, and Alaska Dispatch. His essays have appeared Best Gay Stories, Cirque, Opossum, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College. Vic Cavalli studied the visual arts and photography as a young man, and later in life discovered the potential depth and force of literature. In graduate school, he concentrated on the complex interpenetrating relationships between literature and the visual arts. He has been teaching English at the university level since 1987, and Creative Writing at the university level since 2001. His poetry, fiction, photography, and visual art have been published in literary journals in Canada, the United States, England, and Australia. Susan Chase-Foster writes poetry and prose in her backyard cottage in Bellingham, WA, under fig trees raining spider mites in Taiwan, and in coffee cafés in Interior Alaska, Spain, Mexico and New Zealand. Her work has appeared in Cirque, Clover: A Literary Rag, Noisy Water, Peace Poems, and Memory Into Memoir. She is a two-time winner of the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest. Susan enjoys calling her poetry “poemoirs,” moments captured as she wanders the world. Xiexie Taipei, her collection of poems from Taiwan, accompanied by her son’s photographs, was published this summer by Independent Writers’ Studio.” Jessica Cherry is a geoscientist, commercial pilot, photographer, and writer living in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. She forecasts floods for the National Weather Service and is an Affiliate Faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon, she lives in Sitka, Alaska. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (University of Alaska Anchorage) and recently published her first collection of

Katherine Coons is an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska. She has traveled in various parts of the world; travels include Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Borneo, The Philippines, Europe, and India which have immensely inspired her artwork. Coons has had several group and solo exhibitions in and outside the state of Alaska. She spent twenty years in Los Angeles where she was very involved in the contemporary art scene. Undergraduate studies include a BA in French from Rutgers and one year abroad in France. Coons also has a MFA in painting and drawing from California State University Long Beach. Diane Corson: The words in the forms of poems have been coming to me for most of my now very long life; they float on rivers, join stands of trees. It is with present seriousness that I edit and continue a retinue, an entourage of new work having the space in my not vacuous head, not filled with “cotton, hay and rags,” but with transcendent visual images that throw me into a convolution of excitement with crazy and beautiful poems. Katie Craney lives in a cabin with no running water in Haines, Alaska; a small town adjacent to over 25 million protected acres of glacially carved mountains, rivers, fjords, and ocean. Her work reflects on what it means to rely on the land for survival and had been featured and published internationally. Her series dedicated to Alaskan women authors will be on view at The Pratt Museum in Homer, AK this August, and at the Bear Gallery in Fairbanks, AK in 2019. www.katieionecraney.com 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 the outdoors, travel, and photography. Monica Devine is an award-winning author of five children’s books, a first-place winner in the Alaska State Poetry contest, and her creative non-fiction has appeared in Stoneboat, Cirque, New Letters, Alaska Magazine, Alaska Frontier Magazine, Children’s Television Workshop, and three anthologies. She studies figurative ceramics, photography, and writing from her home in Eagle River, Alaska. Website: monicadevine.com Poet/photographer Steve Dieffenbacher’s work has appeared in two previous 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 also has 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. Gretchen Diemer: My work has appeared in a number of publications and a volume of my poetry, Between Fire and Water, Ice and Sky, was published by NorthShore Press. I taught in the village of Noorvik, on the island of St. Paul in the Pribilofs, and in the Mat-Su Valley. I now live in a small cabin in the community of Ester. When not at the cabin, I travel both domestically and abroad. I completed a TEFL course on the island of Crete and plan to explore teaching positions in Mexico or Spain.


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Vo l . 9 N o . 2 Carol Douthat: I am a freelance photographer focused on landscape and wildlife, both animal and human. I also write. Laura Falsetti: I’m a dentist who lives and works south of Seattle. I’m also an emerging poet with work published in WA129: Poets of Washington, Muse /A Journal, and Cider Press Review, among other literary journals Jeff Fearnside: My poetry has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including The Fourth River, Permafrost, Blue Earth Review, Clackamas Literary Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Forest Under Story: Creative Inquiry in An Old-Growth Forest (University of Washington Press, 2016), an anthology of writers who have been awarded residencies at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest. My chapbook Lake, And Other Poems of Love in A Foreign Land (Standing Rock Cultural Arts, 2011) won the Peace Corps Writers 2012 Poetry Award. I live with my wife and our two cats in Corvallis, where I teach at Oregon State University. David Fewster was born in upstate New York. After several years of sordid fun in California, he moved to Seattle in 1987. His essays, sketches, fiction, and poetry have appeared in the LA Weekly, Exquisite Corpse, Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, the Stranger, Cups, Point No Point, Cirque and the anthologies Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapalooza 94 (Manic D Press), Thus Spake the Corpse Vol. 2 (Black Sparrow Press) and elsewhere. He calls Tacoma home since 1996. His book Diary of a Homeless Alcoholic Suicidal Maniac & Other Picture Postcards was funded by the Tacoma Arts Commission. He plays with Heidi Fosner in the group Folksingers In Hell. Leslie Fried has been the curator at the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage since 2011. Though originally from the wilds of Long Island, she spent eleven years in Oregon and twenty-seven years in Seattle where she worked as a scenic artist and decorative painter. Besides receiving a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington, she also holds a B.A. in Fine and Applied Arts from the University of Oregon. Currently, she is working on a mural about immigration. Giovanna Gambardella is an architect born and raised in Italy and liv-

ing 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, Guam, and the US. During her travels she 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, the Kenai Peninsula, and Alaska interiors. Paul Haeder: This piece is the anchor to a short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam. I work in Portland as a social worker for homeless veterans. Other jobs include case manager for foster youth, employment counselor for re-entry homeless adults, social worker for adults with developmental disabilities, English faculty at a dozen institutions, radio personality, and newspaper journalist. I’ve been publishing poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and journalistic pieces for decades. Gabriela Halas writes poetry and short stories in Anchorage, Alaska. A series of her poems and photographs were featured at the University of Alaska: Arctic Perspectives: An Art and Science Event, and she is a current recipient of the Association of Writers and Poets Writer to Writer Program. Gabriela’s day job is in social science research, traveling and engaging with communities in remote Alaska. She is also a board member for the Alaska Center for the Book. Her work explores the intersection of culture, nature, and identity. Weaving people interacting with place, she writes the blurring of those boundaries.  Jim Hanlen has poems in Rattle, English Journal, Connecticut River Review, Cirque and Third Wednesday. Jim retired from teaching and lives in Anchorage, Alaska.  Beth Hartley: A transplant to Alaska from Colorado 30 years ago. Learned to swear in Catholic school in Texas. Hung out with risky artists and Christian Brothers in New Mexico—,good times! Spent my time as a Biker Chick and decided it didn’t mix very well with teaching (besides the fact that I couldn’t afford the Harley and I don’t wear tattoos.) Love the snow and cold but am thinking maybe it’s time for a change. Have spent some time in writer’s workshops, have taught writing to children and youth, taken writing classes, published a few poems in the past (Alaska Women’s Speak was probably my last published piece) and professional writing - which I am really good at - along with writing eulogies. Really am getting back into writing gear again. (Including one of those novels that takes decades to write!) I love taking photographs which seem a natural complement to my writing pieces, and I pair them up when I can. Esther Altshul Helfgott: I am

Labyrinth

Jan Jung


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CIRQUE 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. My art has a style that is rooted deep in symbolism, nature, and story. When I create, I feel that I am sharing an ancient common bond with the artists of the past. I am forever searching for more inputs for my art. Yuliya’s artwork is shown locally and at Yuliya’s Art @ Facebook Splashnpaint@Facebook see https://yuliyaht.wixsite.com/website Janet C. Hickok is a long-time artist who thinks of her work as historical tapestries, concealing as much as they reveal, weaving together vigorous marks and fields of color. A spontaneous conversation begins and the painting informs its own path. 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, reworked, rediscovered and reconsidered. Often traces of previous layers remain visible, allowing colors to interact in ways that could not have been anticipated. That mystery of “what might be” keeps the work alive. S.C. Hodde lives and writes in Seattle. Charity Hommel aka “Alaskacherry” is a published landscape photographer and graphic designer living on Wrangell Island. She focuses her artistic talent on love for nature and simple lifestyle to reflect one of the most beautiful and unique places on Earth... Southeast Alaska. Sandra Hosking is a professional editor, writer, and photographer based in Spokane, WA, USA. Publishing credits include: The Spokesman-Review, Journal of Business, Glass International, Inland NW Homes & Lifestyles, Down to Earth Northwest, Insight for Playwrights, Cirque, Joey, 3 Elements Review, West Texas Review, and Edify Fiction. Hosking holds an MFA in theatre/playwriting from the University of Idaho and an MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University.

Raven

Joe Reno

B. Hutton is a writer, performer, and a former radio host and columnist. “ Nihongo Neophyte”. His play “Emma & Adolph: In Their Own Words” has been featured in Anchorage and Fairbanks May Day celebrations. His columns, “Letters From Japan” and “Somebody Else’s Saturday Night” appeared in the Anchorage Press, and his poetry and prose have appeared in Cirque and F Magazine. Episodes of The Radio Show, featuring interviews with members of the Alaska writing community, are archived on the Cirque website. His creativity workshops run the gamut.

a nonfiction writer and poet with a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. I am the author of Listening to Mozart: Poems of Alzheimer’s (Cave Moon Press, 2014); Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems (Cave Moon Press, 2013); and The Homeless One: A Poem In Many Voices (Kota Press, 2000). My work appears in American Imago: Psychoanalysis and the Human Sciences; Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease; BlackPast.org: Remembered and Reclaimed; Blue Lyra Review, Celebrating Creativity in Elder Care (Health Professions Press, 2014); Cirque; Dementia Arts; Floating Bridge Review; HistoryLink. Org: the online Encyclopedia of Washington State History; Into the Storm: Journeys with Alzheimer’s, Collin Tong, ed. (Book Publisher’s Network, 2014); Journal of Poetry Therapy; Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature; Mastering Caregiving in Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias (Yale University Press, 2015); Pontoon; RASP Poetry Anthology, Michael Dylan Welch, ed.; Raven Chronicles; Ribbons: Journal of the Tanka Society of America; Seattle P.I., Seattle Star; and elsewhere. I am a longtime literary activist, a 2010 Jack Straw poet, and founder of Seattle’s “It’s About Time Writer’s Reading Series,” now in its 28th year.

Rob Jacques resides on a rural island in Washington State’s Puget Sound, and his poetry appears in literary journals, including Atlanta Review, Prairie Schooner, Amsterdam Quarterly, Poet Lore, The Healing Muse, and Assaracus. A collection of his poems, War Poet, was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in March 2017.

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

Brenda Kay Jaeger was born and raised in Alaska. She shows her work at the Georgia Blue Gallery, Anchorage, Alaska, and at the Parsons Galleries, Ventura, California.

Sarah Isto: Born in Fairbanks, now lives in the marine ecosystem of Juneau. She maintains her connections to Interior Alaska by spending the equinox months in the Kantishna Hills. She is the author of two non-fiction books. Her poetry has appeared in several journals including The Gold Man Review, Tidal Echoes, The Penwood Review, Minerva Rising, The Timberline Review, Cirque and Perfume River Poetry Review.


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Juleen Eun Sun Johnson was born in Seoul, South Korea. She was adopted and taken to Valdez, Alaska, where she spent her formative years. Johnson has had works published in Nervous Breakdown, The Rio Grande Review, Whiskey Island, Switchback, and other journals. She is a 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellow. Johnson currently writes and creates art in Portland, OR.

appeared in Cimarron Review, Clare Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine, Fogged Clarity, Former People, Reed Magazine, Rocky Mountain Revival, South Carolina Review, South Dakota Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Suisun Valley Review, and Wisconsin Review, among others. My first collection of poems, Another Autumn, was published in 2014 by WordTech Editions.

Jan Jung is a photographer known to hike slowly because there is too much to see on the way. A former elementary school teacher, now a mental health counselor soon to retire, she hopes to spend more time doing just that. She lives in Bellingham, Washington with her husband and wonderful dog, Renny, and spends time with her children at their lakeside family cabin in B.C.; in Santa Cruz, California; Gilbert, Arizona; and Issaquah, Washington. Her photos have appeared in Cottage Magazine and in the children’s book, Bridges Cloud.

Alex Leavens has worked as a naturalist for the Portland Audubon Society, backcountry ranger and firefighter in the Olympic National Park, and primitive survival instructor in Southern Utah. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Portland State University, and currently lives in Portland, OR.

Joseph Kashi is a trial lawyer in Soldotna, Alaska. He received his BS and MS degrees from MIT in 1973 and his JD from Georgetown University Law School in 1976. While pursuing other disciplines at MIT, he also “casually” studied photography with prominent American fine art photographer Minor White. Since 2007, he has mounted more than a dozen solo exhibits at various university and art center galleries in Alaska. Mickey Kenny was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He received his MFA from Colorado State University. His work has been published in MATTER Journal and Verse. He is currently teaching out in rural Interior Alaska and is working on a collection of poems and essays, entitled, Harm Harness Harmony. Artist, poet, and freelance writer, J.I. Kleinberg is a Pushcart nominee and winner of the 2016 Ken Warfel Fellowship. Her found poems have appeared in Diagram, Heavy Feather Review, Rise Up Review, The Tishman Review, Hedgerow, Otoliths, and elsewhere. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, and blogs most days at thepoetrydepartment.wordpress.com Joren Kleven is a budding artist. At fourteen, he created the self-portrait published in this journal as an assignment at Colony Middle School. He will finish high school in Cheney, WA. John Kooistra is a poet and essayist who has lived in Alaska since 1973 and Fairbanks since 1981. He’s taught philosophy at the University of Alaska, Purdue University, the College of Wooster, fished commercially in Cook Inlet for thirty years, and worked at various times as a tradesman. His writing is grounded in the world, in season and place, and goes on from there to consider the timeless human nature we share. Mary Kunkel worked as a professional massage therapist in Washington State for many years and currently blogs at www.lightlytethered. com. She has previously had two short pieces of fiction published. She lives with her husband Richard, in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Elizabeth Landrum was born and raised in Louisville Kentucky. She has retired from a private practice of clinical psychology and is enjoying living a quiet life with her wife and dog on an island in the Pacific Northwest where she enjoys the beauty and quiet surroundings for reflection and writing. Her poems have appeared in Cirque, Shark Reef, Southern Women’s Review, Grey Sparrow, Touch, Soundings Review, and 3 Elements Review. Yvonne Higgins Leach: Over the years, I have been published in literary magazines and anthologies in the United States. My work has

Eric le Fatte was educated at MIT and Northeastern University in biology and English and worked as the Returns King at Eastern Mountain Sports, but currently teaches, hikes, and writes in the Portland, Oregon area. He has published poems in Rune, The Mountain Gazette, Windfall, The Clackamas Literary Review, The Raven Chronicles, The Poeming Pigeon, Verseweavers, Perceptions and, happily enough, in Cirque. Rose Lefebvre was born in 1952 in Missouri and moved to Oregon in 1998. She has been a secretary/file clerk, a librarian, a preschool teacher, and worked at Clackamas Community College, first in the Disability Resource Center and then the Registrars office. For 16 years she has been involved with Chrysalis: Emerging Women Writersgroup at Clackamas Community College, and writes poetry. Living in verdant Oregon has been an inspiration for both her poetry and her photography. She totes her camera along to various events, along on hikes, and wherever she explores to capture moments and scenes. She has created canvases, prints and cards sold with her captured images. Judith Lethin is the retired Priest and Missioner from the Lower Yukon Region of Alaska with the Episcopal Church where she served the people of Anvik, Shageluk, and Grayling. She graduated with her MFA in 2014 from the Low Residency Program at UAA. She is still active in Ministry in Alaska as a Priest, Chaplain, and Retreat Leader. Northwesterner and animal behaviorist/writer/poet Rosemary Douglas Lombard enjoyed teaching in universities, running a biomedical library, working as a naturalist, and since 1979, research in her specialty, turtle cognition. She has earned first-prize awards in nonfiction and poetry and has literary publications in U.S and international journals and anthologies, including Bay Nature, Verseweavers, BluePrintReview, The Poeming Pigeon, and others. Her Turtles All the Way: Poems, with turtles throughout, is out from Finishing Line Press. Coming up are a writers’ craft piece in Writing for Animals (Ashland Creek Press, 2018) and “WIP Diode’s Experiment: A Box Turtles Investigates the Human World.” Peter Ludwin is the recipient of a Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust and the W.D. Snodgrass Award for Endeavor and Excellence in Poetry. His latest book, Gone to Gold Mountain, was nominated for a Washington State Book Award by MoonPath Press, as well as an American Book Award by the Before Columbus Foundation. A multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, he has participated for many years in the San Miguel Poetry Week in Mexico. He plays acoustic blues guitar and works for the Parks Department in Kent, Washington. Jordan Luz recently graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with his MA in English with a focus in Cultural Studies in Asia and the Pacific. He is currently a lecturer in UH Mānoa’s English department. He enjoys writing short stories and poetry in Hawaiian Creole English, also


148 known as Pidgin. This current piece is based off one of many childhood experiences and still reminds him not to “shi-shi on da bachroom floor.” 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, contributed a poetic reader’s note to Ruminate magazine, and published poems with BlazeVOX [books] and Cirque. 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 coedited Ethics in Higher Education: A Reader for Writers. Carmen Maldonado is an editor and poet living in Eagle River, Alaska. Terry Martin used to teach, but now she doesn’t. She’s had a rough first year of retirement but plans to get better at it. Martin has published three books of poems and hundreds of poems, articles, and essays, and has edited journals, books, and anthologies. She lives in Yakima, Washington—The Fruit Bowl of the Nation. Sean H. McDowell is an Associate Professor of English, Creative Writing, and Film Studies at Seattle University, where he also directs the University Honors Program. His poems have appeared in The Lyric, Scintilla, Fragments, The Vine Leaves Literary Journal, The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2014, and Clover, a literary rag, among other venues. He also has published numerous essays in academic journals and edited collections (most recently, “Heaney, Donne, and the Boldness of Love” in Donne and Contemporary Poetry) and serves as the editor of the John Donne Journal: Studies in the Age of Donne. David McElroy: I live in Anchorage and have been previously published in Cirque. A new book of mine was just released by the University of Alaska Press called Just Between Us. Two other books of mine are Making It Simple and Mark Making. John McKay is a poet, sometimes playwright, sometimes lawyer who has lived in Anchorage, Alaska for over 40 years.

CIRQUE Kevin Miller lives in Tacoma, Washington. Cindy Mom lives in Seldovia, Alaska, and uses biological field work as a way to fully engage with the land, wildlife, and people. Her essay “Freedom Is In the Freezer: Subsistence Fishing for Halibut” will appear in Edible Alaska’s summer 2017 issue. Find more of her writing at www. 45to60.wordpress.com. Cynthia Monroe was a lifelong Alaskan until decamping for New England two years ago. She is adjusting to her role as lecturer at Dartmouth College, but has yet to adapt to dark summer nights. Rebecca Morse: I am a transplanted New Englander and have lived in Fairbanks now for nearly 30 years. I enjoy reading, writing, and traipsing Alaska. Mark Muro is a poet, playwright and performer who lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. Monica O’Keefe is an Alaskan artist who paints both distant vistas and close-up views of the natural world. She is motivated by patterns of color and texture found outdoors, and intrigued by variations in scale from tiny to vast…She studies her surroundings while outdoors, and takes many reference photos for use in varying degrees of detail and accuracy for her acrylic paintings. Her work is influenced by her thoughts about mountains, clouds, sky, water, snow, wildflowers, birds, lichen, rocks, and other subjects of interest. Her paintings range from fairly realistic to whimsical to more abstract compositions. Leonard Orr has published three books of poetry: Why We Have Evening (2010), Timing Is Everything (2012), and A Floating Woman (2015), all from WordTech/Cherry Grove. His work has appeared in Poetry International, Rattle, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. He teaches literature at Washington State University Vancouver. Carl “Papa” Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, VA, now lives in University Place, WA. He is retired military, retired FAA, and now just plain retired with no wristwatch, cell phone, or alarm clock. Carl, Hospice volunteer and president of The Tacoma Writers Club, is a Pushcart Prize and Micro Award nominee. MOTTO: Long Weekends Forever.

Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 600+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 12 books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. Forthcoming this fall is Psyche’s Scroll, a full-length poem, published by The Poetry Box Selects, with an endorsement from Mike Burwell, co-editor, Cirque. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye. Visit her blog, Vagabond Poe Redux, at http://karlalinn. blogspot.com. Google her name to learn more; Tweet @LinnMerrifiel; https://www.facebook.com/karlalinn.merrifield.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Bruce Parker holds an MA in Secondary Education from the University of New Mexico and has worked as a technical editor, teacher of English as a Second Language, and translator (Thai, Mandarin Chinese, Urdu, Punjabi, and Turkish to English). His work has most recently appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review, Conceptions Southwest, Spank the Carp and 2elizabeths and is forthcoming in Common Ground Review. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, artist and poet Diane Corson, where they host a biweekly poetry workshop, and he serves on the Oregon Poetry Association board of directors as historian and newsletter co-editor.

Jim Miller is an Alaska Native artist who uses art as a path of healing from addictions and trauma. Jim considers himself primarily as a woodcarver, but also enjoys getting creative with metal arts and fused glass. Once or twice a year Jim will do classes for youth or community development. Peksulineq Heritage Week in Tatitlek and Nuuchek Spirit Camp are his favorite annual events in the Chugach Region of Alaska. Jim also has provided therapeutic art classes to a limited number of participants in recovery

K.M. Perry is living the adventurous life in Juneau, Alaska, while working on international justice issues for a non-profit humanitarian aid agency. Her passion is advocating for domestic violence survivors, the homeless, and foster children. Her summer is spent whale watching, hiking, bear viewing, and savoring the long days while fulfilling her passion for photography. The long Alaskan winter is filled by photographing the Aurora Borealis, hockey, writing, and editing photos. Ms. Perry is an avid traveler and has spent time living internationally. Frequent trips to explore new sunshine-filled destinations are the healing balm


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of living in a rain forest. Tami Phelps: Drezzo, Italy is far from my studio in Anchorage, but that’s where I found myself last August in a painting workshop. The art submitted for this issue of Cirque is the result. My cold wax painting idols, Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin, lead the workshop and gave me direction as I planned for my May 2018 solo exhibit at the International Gallery Of Contemporary Art in Anchorage, Alaska. The theme of my exhibit: “she-ness”. My work is included in the permanent collection of Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center and was selected as the cover for Cirque’s summer 2017 issue. www.tamiphelps.com Vivian Faith Prescott was born and raised in Wrangell, Alaska and 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 an Alaska Literary Award, a Rasmuson Fellowship, and the Jason Wenger Award for Literary Excellence. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Cirque, Yellow Medicine Review and elsewhere. She is the author of a full-length poetry collection and four chapbooks. Amy Crawford Purevsuren: I live in Unalaska with my husband and three children, where I teach high school Language Arts. My family and I enjoy camping and exploring the outdoors by foot, ski, bike, or kayak, as well as reading together. Alaska and Mongolia inform my view of the world and inspire my writing: I was raised in Anchorage and have lived in rural Alaska for the past eleven years; and I lived and worked for three years in Mongolia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, where I incidentally met my future husband and began working on a collection of poetry. 

Jim Miller Tim Raphael’s poetry includes, “Outside Depuyer,” which will be published in the Winter/Spring 2018 issue of Timberline Review. He was a 2017 prize winner in the Oregon Poetry Association’s New Poet’s category, and his poem, “Sutton,” will be published in Verseweavers, OPA’s annual anthology. Tim is a graduate of Carleton College and lives with his family in Portland, Oregon. Diane Ray is a Seattle psychologist and native New Yorker published in: Common Dreams, The Women’s Studies Quarterly, Drash, Cirque, Voices Israel Anthology, In Layman’s Terms, Jewish Literary Journal, and IFLAC Peace Anthology 2018. She won Honorable Mention in the Reuben Rose Poetry Competition 2017. An activist with Public Watchdogs, she heals from life’s woes via her soulmate, grandbabies, watching daughters morph into Mama Bears, travel, Women of an Uncertain Age Poets, and the oasis of classical ballet class. Joe Reno is a well-known Ballard artist who has never stopped loving the Northwest. His work can be seen at William Wikstrom Gallery in Seattle and at Ballard High School there is a large Reno mural. His work appears in The Pacific Northwest Landscape: A Painted History and in Cirque. Susan Rich is an award-winning poet, editor, and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. She’s the author of four poetry collections including, most recently, Cloud Pharmacy, and The Alchemist’s Kitchen (White Pine Press) and co-editor of the anthology, The Strangest of Theatres, published by the Poetry Foundation. Rich has received awards from 4Culture, Artists Trust, Fulbright Foundation, The Times Literary Supplement (London) and the Seattle Mayors Office of Arts and Culture. Her poems appear in The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, O Magazine, New England Review and Pleiades.

Joseph Robertia is a former zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, turned professional journalist. He’s been named as a finalist for the Barry Lopez Creative Nonfiction Contest and his first book, Life with Forty Dogs, won the Dog Writer’s Association of America’s “Best Book” Award. He contributes regularly to the Anchorage Daily News and has received multiple Alaska Press Club Awards, including: Best Outdoor Column (2015), Best Outdoor Story (2010, 2008), and Best Use of Story and Photos by a Journalist (2010, 2009, 2004). He is also a two-time recipient (2000, 2001) of the American Association of Zookeepers “Excellence in Journalism Award.” Matthew Campbell Roberts was born in Napa, California, and attended a one-room schoolhouse in Wooden Valley set in the middle of a vineyard. He currently teaches English courses at Pierce College. His poems and other work appear in Clover, Cirque, StringTown, Clackamus Review, The Adirondack Review, The Cortland Review, Whatcom Places II, The Kennesaw Review, Windfall, The Methow Naturalist, SmartishPace, Jeopardy and other literary journals and anthologies. He was a recipient of the Jeanne Lohmann poetry prize. He lives in the south Puget Sound region where he fly fishes for sea-run cutthroat and salmon. Timothy Roos grew up in western Washington and has lived in central Washington, southern California, and on the Olympic Peninsula where he and his wife raised their two children. His poems have appeared in such journals as Poetry East, The Raven Chronicles, Pontoon, Alba, and Soundings Review. His interests include nature photography, mountaineering, and indulging his healer-mix in Frisbee. He


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works as a high school teacher in Port Angeles, WA. His photographs can be viewed at www.troosphotos.com. Brenda Roper’s love of travel still exceeds her financial circumstances. A 40 day pilgrimage on the Northern Coast of Spain invites jubilation and daydream. Single supplement. A yellow arrow. An act of faith. Quietude and connection. Photographs and ocean and blog. Let there be wine as she celebrates her 60th birthday year one step at a time. Stay tuned. brendaroper.com Janice D. Rubin is a counselor and educator. Her poems have been published in the Austin International Poetry Anthology, Tiger’s Eye Poetry Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Arabesque Journal of Poetry, The Quizzical Chair Anthology, and the anthology It Demands A Wildness of Me (Uttered Chaos Press, 2017) and other journals and anthologies. She was nominated for the Pushcart Poetry Prize in 2008. She is the author of Transcending Damnation Creek Trail & Other Poems (Flutter Press, 2010) and Tin Coyote (Blue Light Press, 2018). Kathryn Schipper: I took the attached images in Astoria, Oregon and Port Townsend, Washington. Both towns, bypassed by the rush of the modern world, still stand sentry over their respective inlets from the Pacific to the places that have formed my life: Portland, where I was born, and Seattle where I now live. I have always been fascinated by the role of time and how it can be conveyed by art: The instant of a drop’s suspension above a breaking wave, or the creep of cracks and decay, all are manifestations of the inescapable element that shapes us all. Todd Sformo is a biologist living in Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska, who has worked on organisms large and small: bowhead to beetle to bacteria. He received an MFA from University of Alaska Fairbanks and has either taught or been a teaching assistant for various classes: English and adult education, scanning electron microscopy, overwintering physiology, and art history (at Attica Prison). Anchorage nature writer Bill Sherwonit has called Alaska home since 1982. His essays have appeared in many newspapers, magazines, literary journals, and anthologies, including Best American Science & Nature Writing. He’s the author of more than a dozen books, among them: Living with Wildness: An Alaskan Odyssey and Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska’s Wildlife. Luna Shiok just graduated 6th grade and her interests focus in traveling, photography, art, and dogs. Scot Siegel is an Oregon poet and city planner. He the author of The Constellation of Extinct Stars and Other Poems (2016) and Thousands Flee California Wildflowers (2012), both from Salmon Poetry of Ireland. Uttered Chaos Press published his chapbook, Daughters, Here | Daughters, Gone, this spring. Siegel’s poetry appears in Nimrod, The Coachella Review, Crab Creek Review, High Desert Journal, Verse Daily, and other journals, and is part of the permanent art installation along the Portland, Oregon MAX Light Rail Orange Line. Eugenie Simpson lives and writes in Bellingham, Washington where she enjoys the company of many fine writers. Her themes often center on embodiment, mortality, and the struggle to cultivate hope in a complex, troubled world. Her previous work has been published in cold drill, psychopoetica, the Billie Murray Denny Contest Winners, and recently in Cirque.

Shroom

Jack Broom

Judith Skillman is the author of sixteen collections of poetry. Came Home to Winter, which received a Washington State Artist Trust GAP grant, is forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions. See www.judithskillman.com In her art she is interested in feelings engendered by the natural world. Her medium is oil on canvas and oil on board; her works range from representational to abstract. Her art has appeared in Minerva Rising, Raven Chronicles, The Penn Review, The Remembered Arts, and elsewhere. She has studied at the Pratt Fine Arts Center and the Seattle Artist’s League under the mentorship of Ruthie V. Shows include The Pratt and Galvanize. Visit jkpaintings.com Kathleen Smith is a northwest poet with roots in Montana’s Flathead Valley. Her work has appeared in Cirque, Helen: A Literary Journal, Rise Up Review, Baseball Bard, and The Far Field. Also included in several regional anthologies: Okanogan Poems volumes 2 and 3, Floating Bridge Review #7, Poets Unite: LitFuse @10 Anthology, Yakima Coffee House Poets Twenty Second, and 129+ More Poets of WA. She lives and works in the community of Roslyn, WA. Jen Soriano is a Filipina-American writer whose work blurs the boundaries between nonfiction, poetry and speculative fiction. Her lyric essay “A Brief History of her Pain” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and her essays have appeared in a number of journals including Waxwing, Pleiades and TAYO Literary Magazine. She is also the hopeful published-author-to-be of Making the Tongue Dry, an essay chapbook that was a finalist for the 2018 Newfound Prose Prize. Jen lives in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle, WA with her two favorite boys in the world. Cheryl Stadig grew up in Maine meandering the woods, fields, and waterways. She lived in Alaska for almost 20 years, at various times calling Teller, Anchorage, Ketchikan, and Prince of Wales Island (POW) home. Raising two sons on POW and the experiences of life in Alaska influence her work greatly. Her work has been published in Cirque, Inside Passages, and other publications. She currently explores from New Hampshire. Kathleen Stancik lives near Roslyn, Washington and is grateful for the community of Roslyn poets and all she has learned from them. Her poems have been published in Cirque, Twenty-Third, WA129+3 Digital Chap-


Vo l . 9 N o . 2 book, Poets Unite: The LiTFUSE @10 Anthology, Ekphrastic Journal and others. She was a featured poet at the Inland Poetry Prowl in 2017. In addition to writing, she loves music, acting, chocolate, and dachshunds. Cynthia Steele, a published poet and nonfiction writer and award-winning photographer, has an MA in Literature with a published thesis on Jewish/English WW I poetry and a BA in Journalism. She served as editor of UAA’s True North Magazine and The Northern Light. As an adjunct instructor for several years, she assisted with editing and layout for Understory, UAA’s creative arts journal and joined as an associate editor for Cirque; she occasionally reads for Poetry Parlay. A 47-year Juneau resident, Richard Stokes is retired after 23 years from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. He now works seasonally as a naturalist guide for Gastineau Guiding in Juneau.  Deb Stone is an Oregon writer whose essays, op-ed, and fiction pieces have appeared in The New York Times Motherlode, STIR Journal, The Oregonian, Portland Tribune, Portland Upside, Manifest-Station, The Life Sentence, Foster Focus, and Clackamas Literary Review. Her essay “Skipping Stones” is included in The Truth of Memoir: How to Write about Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion, and Integrity. Deb’s essay “Waiting at Windows” appears in Blended: Writers on the Stepparenting Experience, edited by Samantha Ducloux Waltz. 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, in Salt Lake City, Utah by Michael Berry Gallery, in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado by Stones, Bones, & Wood Gallery, and in Old Colorado City, Colorado 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, Colorado Springs Fine Art Center at Colorado College, and works from her studio in Colorado Springs. Online at www.backdoordesigns.com Teresa Sundmark lives in Homer, Alaska and is a graduate of the UAA low residency MFA program. Her short stories have been published previously in Cirque and Stoneboat Literary Journals. She writes for loftyminded.com and works part time at the Homer Public Library.

151 Geographic, and Cirque. He lives in Anchorage with his wife Susan. Taking photos forces him to stop and really see the world. Joanne Townsend lived in Alaska for 35 years and is a former Alaska State Poet Laureate. She lives in New Mexico with her husband Dan and two dogs, Pilot and Cloud and is currently a co-editor of poetry for the journal, Sin Fronteras: Writers without Borders. Pepper Trail: My poems have previously appeared in Cirque, as well as in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Cascadia Review, Pedestal, and other publications, and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Awards. My photographs appear regularly in Oregon’s Jefferson Journal, and early in my career as a research scientist, I even had photos published in National Geographic. 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. Tim Troll is currently the Executive Director of the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust. 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. Her full-length poetry collection Apportioning the Light, published by Cirque Press, was released in March 2018.  Heidi Turner is a writer and musician from Maui, Hawaii. She earned a reputation for professor impressions and a Master’s in English from Azusa Pacific University. Her work has been published in Cirque, as well as in Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Adirondack Review, and The Other Journal. You can keep up with her work at hidturner.com. Lucy Tyrrell moved from Alaska to Bayfield, Wisconsin in November 2016, trading a big mountain (Denali) for a big lake (Superior). Her favorite verbs to live by near Bayfield and Lake Superior (or anywhere) are: experience (nature, outdoor adventures like mushing and canoe-

Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have recently been published in Raven Chronicles, U City Review and Ekphrastic Review, as well as in the anthologies, The Doll Collection and Ice Cream Poems. Her poetry has received two Pushcart Nominations. She is a former speech-language pathologist (SLP) for Seattle Public Schools Jim Thiele worked as a photographer for a biological text book company for several years before moving to Alaska in 1974. He worked for The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the University of Alaska as a biologist and then as a financial advisor in private practice until he recently retired. His photographs have been seen in several publications, including Alaska Magazine, Alaska

Giovanna Gambardella


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ing) and create (write, quilt, photograph, sketch). Karen Vande Bossche continues to get up each morning, kiss her husband, feed her cat, and consider the words that make up her life. She has been published in Cirque, Sweet Tree, Shark Reef and other journals throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Previously published work can be accessed through the website kjvandebossche.com Emily Wall is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Alaska Southeast where she teaches creative writing and is faculty advisor for the literary journal Tidal Echoes. She has been published in a number of journals in the US and Canada, most recently in Prairie Schooner and Alaska Quarterly Review. In 2013 she won a statewide contest and a poem of hers was placed in Totem Bight State Park in Ketchikan, Alaska. Her first two books were published by Salmon Poetry. Her most recent collection, titled Breaking into Air, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. Emily lives and writes in Juneau, Alaska. Michael Wanzenried has been living and working in the coastal, inland, and (currently) northern Pacific states for the last nine years. Prior to moving to Anchorage in May 2016, he worked on his MFA at Boise State where he continued for a while as adjunct faculty in the creative writing program. The majority of his non-writing time, however, is spent doing archaeology. Most recently, he spent all summer and fall surveying parts of the Arctic. He and his wife and cat live in a fabulous well-lit basement apartment in Midtown Anchorage. Ten years ago, Sandra Wassilie moved to Oakland from Seward, Alaska. She served as poetry editor for Fourteen Hills while completing her MFA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University (2012) and cofounded the Bay Area Generations Reading Series. Her most recent poetry has appeared in Cirque, The Naked Bulb Anthology 2016, and Oakland Review. She has produced one chapbook, Smoke Lifts, and recently completed the first draft of a novel.

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. Richard Widerkehr earned his M.A. from Columbia University and won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan. His second book of poems is In The Presence Of Absence (MoonPath Press); one poem in it was read on Writer’s Almanac, and one was posted on Verse Daily. Recent work has appeared in Pennine Ink, Rattle, Arts & Letters, The Binnacle, Bellevue Literary Review, and Measure. Other work is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, The MacGuffin, Natural Bridge, and Chiron Review. He reads poems for Shark Reef Review. Paul Willis I am a professor of English at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, but was raised in Corvallis, Oregon, and attended graduate school in Pullman, Washington. My most recent collection is Getting to Gardisky Lake (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2016). Forthcoming this spring, also from SFA Press, is Deer at Twilight: Poems from the North Cascades. Individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Ascent, Verse Daily, and Cirque. 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, Mesa Refuge, and PLAYA at Summer Lake, Oregon. Nancy Woods 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. Her poem “Remembering Harding Lake,” published in Cirque, won the Andy Hope Literary Award. www.nancy-woods.com

Ingrid Wendt is the author of five books of poems. Her first book, Moving the House, was selected by William Stafford for the New Poets of America Series, BOA Editions. Later books have received the Oregon Book Award for Poetry, the Yellowglen Award, and the Editions Prize. Co-editor of the Oregon poetry anthology From Here We Speak, and a three-time Fulbright Professor in Germany, Ingrid has taught at all educational levels, including the MFA program of Antioch, Los Angeles. A resident of Eugene, Oregon, her poems have been read on the air by Garrison Keillor. Tim Whitsel: I have lived on the Pacific Coast most of

Krasava

Yuliya Helgesen-Thompson


Bay of Banderas Judith Skillman


HOW TO SUBMIT TO C IRQUE Cirque, published in Anchorage, Alaska, is a journal created to share the best writing of the North Pacific Rim with the rest of the world. Cirque publishes twice yearly – summer and winter. The deadlines are on the spring and fall equinoxes – March 21, and September 21. Cirque submissions cover a wide range of topics and are not restricted to a regional theme or setting. Cirque is an independent journal staffed by volunteers. We are funded by donations, ads, sales of single issues and subscriptions. Your support keeps Cirque in print. Cirque invites emerging and established writers living in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Yukon Territory, Alberta, British Columbia and Chukotka— to submit short stories, poems, creative nonfiction, translations, plays, book reviews, interviews, photographs, and artwork for Cirque’s Summer 2018 Issue. Replies average two to three months, and we don’t mind you checking with us about your submissions.

Cirque #19 (Winter 2018) Submission Deadline: September 21, 2018

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, 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.

New - We are now using Submittable to manage all submissions. To submit writing or images go to the Cirque website at www.cirquejournal.com and use the Submit button or go to https://cirque.submittable.com/submit Correspondence email is: cirquejournal@gmail.com

Snow on Madrone Bark

Pepper Trail


A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim VO LUM E 9, N O. 2

CIRQUE

$22

Profile for Michael Burwell

Cirque, Vol. 9 No. 2  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Cirque, Vol. 9 No. 2  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Profile for burwellm
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