BLUE MOUNTAIN Issue 19
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
The Roots of Michael Flhor Growing Pains of an Adolescent America with DL Yancy II Women of Resilience Contest Winners
SCE Member Spotlight Wakefield Brewster
Ilya Kaminskyâ€™s road to poetry Poetry & Prose
James Ricks of the Quill Theater
A Chat with Alma Coffee
A JOURNAL OF CULTURE
Introduction: Deep Time
One of the blessings I’ve enjoyed these past few months being locked up at home has been the opportunity to spend more time with some of the books I rushed through last fall and earlier this spring. Of late, I’ve been revisiting Robert Macfarlane’s Underland. I’ve been a fan of Macfarlane’s work since first picking up a copy of The Old Ways. His reverence for the value of language and its role in helping to safeguard our environment fits perfectly into my world view, and his penchant for immersing himself in exploration is truly admirable. In Underland, Macfarlane throws himself into the dark universe under our feet—primordial caves, excavations, burial sites, safety facilities for dangerous radioactive materials. He pays particular attention to our human urges to bury things, to hide things, to store things, and to mythologize the recesses of the Earth. Through it all, he details his concept of Deep Time, which places everything in the context of the vastness of the universe and the infinite depth of experience since initial creation. Seen through the prism of Deep Time, our everyday experiences, obsessions, and stressors gain some serious perspective. I mean, how insignificant is one aggravating afternoon in the context of the galaxy’s history? This isn’t to say the events of our lives are meaningless. Quite the opposite, actually. This notion of Deep Time reminds us of how precious each moment is, how unique our experiences are, and how we should appreciate them intensely and fully. As Macfarlane points out in the book, every second is part of the continuum of experience in the universe. Every life adds nuance, grace, and beauty to it all. Ironically, I rushed through my first read of Underland in between prepping for teaching, running kids to practices, and trying to get some of my own writing done. Just life in general. As much as I tried to focus on Macfarlane’s messages, I missed so much in my race to get from cover to cover in the book. I fell deep into one of those messages yesterday re-reading passages detailing a difficult solo hike Macfarlane took to view some of the oldest cave paintings in Europe. He made his way through some treacherous terrain crossing the Lofoten Wall in Norway to get to Kollhellaren at the onset of winter. To help himself survive the threat of avalanches, deep gullies hidden by loose snow, and poor visibility, Macfarlane repeated a simple, focusing mantra— “Take the time that needs to be taken.” Man, that’s it. That’s exactly what I’ve been needing to hear. I wish I had heard it last year when I first went through Underland, but maybe I wasn’t ready for his advice then. I definitely am now. After a few months of being spared the rush to get from place to place, or from thing to thing, I completely understand the value of taking whatever time I need to take to make it through this tough stretch in one piece, to make it through whole and in better shape than before. No need to rush toward a finish line. What’s a finish line when the stopwatch runs in Deep Time anyway?
Dr. Jack B. Bedell Poet Laureate, State of Louisiana, 2017-2019 Professor of English Coordinator, Programs in Creative Writing Editor, Louisiana Literature Director, Louisiana Literature Press Southeastern Louisiana University
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Contents LITERARY INTERVIEWS..............................10 WOMEN OF RESILIENCE ............................64 VISUAL ART INTERVIEWS .........................74 MUSIC INTERVIEWS .................................80 MOVIE REVIEWS ......................................88 BOOK REVIEW .........................................92 SPECIAL FEATURES .................................96 FACES OF FAITH ....................................124 POEMS ..................................................128 FICTION .................................................166 ESSAYS .................................................198
Growing Pains of an Adole
by: DL Yancey II
ompared to the ancient civilizations and countries memorialized throughout world history books and classrooms across the globe, America is merely a toddler learning how to feed itself. They say “You have to crawl before you walk, walk before you run, run before you jump”, but it’s hard to do any of these things if you’re malnourished. Since 1492 America has filled its belly with five course meals consisting of deception, racism, hypocrisy, hate, greed; and has quenched its thirst with countless gallons of bloodshed. Full and obese from overconsumption of this poison, she portrays herself as this bold and beautiful princess deserving to be idolized by the Seasoned Queens of this world. Expecting them all to gaze in amazement at her struggled rebellion for independence, all while her fairytale dream of growing up to be the prettiest queen of them all remains to be just a figment of her own imagination. Her aspiration of being a land of the free, home of the brave, with liberty and justice for all is a delusional world that she lives in, while the friends who share her room are forced to play along as baby dolls in compliance to her pretend tea party. Self-centered in the bliss of all the expensive materialistic joys that decorate her room, she consciously ignores the fact that those things were afforded from the free labor of slaves. 400 years since the institution of American slavery and she is just now learning how to pronounce the word “reparations”. Similar to the guaranteed cadence of the sun rising and setting, the unsettled issues of race relations are aired from underneath her rug polluting the environment choking out the oxygen. Then she blames the victims of this environment as they scream “I CANT BREATHE”. In reality, the toxicity of the atmosphere is a direct result of her reluctance to remove the rug and clean up her mess. Not only are those in the room restless and tired of the cyclic consistent systemic plague, the Seasoned Queens are joining in the efforts to help wake America up. Videos and images surface showing protests abroad for “Black Lives Matter” and other nations expressing their “declining American outlook” in mass publications. However, America continues to show signs of being stuck in a trance while many of her
close family members utter “All Lives Matter” instead of realizing that slavery is the foundation this country was built upon and the neglect of mending the relation with this particular constituent group has rotted the substructure of this society. ALL Lives can’t matter until we begin to heal and appropriate the unique challenges each group of lives face, starting with the foundation. No house can properly stand with a severely damaged foundation. America, your foundation is severely damaged and you have yet to humble yourself and realize that you’re just as sick as those you impose democracy on. Let’s look at the facts. In 1492, land west of the Atlantic, was reached and deemed uncharted territory by European standards. Previous sponsored European expeditions along the coasts of Queen Africa and Queen Asia found civilizations more complex and advanced than the European norm. So, these territories became potential ports of trade instead of being labeled “uncharted territory”. The natives of the Americas weren’t as advanced and did not have documented literature, modern technological means of warfare, or medicine to combat the European diseases. As a result, the Spanish, French and the British collectively violated the tribal/ family-oriented construct of a people and ravished their land as three men performing a joint molestation prior to initial menstruation. After a century of “settling in”, African Slaves were traded as a stock market commodity marking the beginning of America’s purchasing power parity before a democracy was even initiated. For 246 years (16191865) America’s free labor policy converted sugar cane and cotton into items of significant stock value in the world’s economic market. America still has not instituted a restitution plan or policy for this heinous inhumane exploitation of labor. Instead, slaves were “freed” to “figure out” how to navigate through laws that were developed by plantation superintendents who seen them as property and not citizens. This stinch is one African-Americans have to live with everyday. On jobs and in public places, there’s a “prove yourself” elephant in the room. The disheartening fact is that as some dance around it, a good majority don’t recognize that their own shadow contributes to the casting of the elephant’s image. It’s an unconscious bias
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
escent America that has “settled in” to the blind spot of conscious living. We are only 155 years post slavery (18652020), where 100 years of that time was dedicated to dismantling what former slaves independently created leaving the next generation fighting for civil rights, the other portion of that time. Have we made progress? Yes, but how long will we continue to see the plight of the African in America as an annoying mantra we have to pacify, as a toy unto a baby who won’t silence the cry of neglect. The problem with that analogy is that people will automatically focus on relating the African-American to acting like a baby instead of realizing America’s the selfish baby who shares the same play pen. We are currently 55 years removed from the civil rights movement and today we are facing the same systemic inequity and labor relation plague Dr. Martin Luther King Jr saw on that mountaintop. African-American representation in leadership ranks of companies are at a huge deficit. The majority of the prison facilities are swelled with African-American inmates. African-American communities are infested with improper police protocol, inadequate healthcare, high unemployment and so much more. It’s clearly evident that we’re still on a journey of redeeming the time our ancestors were robbed of. Until the generations of the human lives who built this country, only to receive ass whoopings and tree lynchings, have proper provision of governmental policy, America will remain sick in infancy. While we marvel over centuries of technological advancement through several industrial revolutions, America has yet to make adequate sociological advancement to its constitution that once considered African Americans 3/5 of a human. The rioting and looting is a reoccurrence of temper tantrums only because it’s a communication style that is a direct reflection of America’s immaturity level. It’s the only language she can comprehend. If this is false, show me where America has dealt proactively with race relation without the pressure of an internal/external movement. The Civil War (1860-1869) settled how only a portion of the country felt a need to abolish slavery. The Civil Rights Movement (1960-1964) non-violently struggled through opposed governmental charged
violence just to partially gain equal rights. Now the Black Lives Matter movement (2013- Present), who opposes police brutality and modern day public lynching, is labeled as a radical hate group by those in office who represent the founding fathers of this country. In addition, this same regime has yet to determine the Ku Klux Klan as a national terrorist group but would rather build a wall and deport a group of people who protected their land from westward expansion (Mexican War 18401849). It appears the idea of “making America great again” sounds like an attempt to reclaim victory over battles already lost. Right now America sounds like a sore loser who doesn’t see its true worth or potential. A nation desiring to relive a past and rewrite a history by changing the scorecard, instead of looking ahead and fine-tuning its faults to become a better leader like real champions do. Systemic racism plagues our corporate offices, our school systems, our real estate zoning, our financial institutions, our board rooms, our public offices, our religious organizations, and most sadly our families. Our policies are biased, our procedures are subpar, and our relationships suffer as a whole. Now I understand what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant when he said “I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.” (http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2017/jan/12/drmartin-luther-king-jr-i-fear-i-am-integrating-m/) The disparity we face is a crisis of not only economic inequity, but one of faulty integrity, and intentional reluctance to fix the foundation. Not only the structural physical damages, but also the faulty conceptual blueprint created by the “founding fathers” whose unconscious bias were of greater detriment than their conscious racial ideologies. We must ask ourselves, if holding on to the ignorance of our past is better than walking in the wisdom of a better tomorrow?
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
For America to truly grow up into a healthy vibrant young princess she must first conquer her appetite and recondition her taste buds. The vision of a functioning democracy as the premise of a great nation starts first with realizing that it wasn’t so great to begin with. The idea of democracy greatly surpasses the vision of those who proposed it. The idea is beautiful, but somewhere along the way America forgot to grow up and allow the vision to mature beyond colonial nursery rhymes. America’s population represents nationalities from all over the world, but it is currently being governed like it represents only 13 colonies. With the death of George Floyd and so many others before and already after, it’s too late for my son’s generation. Just as Emmet Till and Rodney King ring loud in my ears, our children ears are ringing right now! Maybe just maybe, if we all will simmer in this moment and allow it to stink more than ever, then maybe the recent changes we’re starting to see will be more than just a gesture to pacify the current social climate and actually fuel the fire for change that’s needed to make America psychologically and practically healthy for the next generation born in 2021.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
BULL CITY PRESS By: Clifford Brooks
Give us a short list of facts about your impressive history. We began with Inch, a magazine focusing on short prose and short poetry, then started our foray into publishing chapbooks. It wasn’t long before we partnered to create the Frost Place Chapbook Competition, which celebrates its ninth year this fall with the competition opening on October 1, 2020. In 2015, we expanded to fiction and nonfiction chapbooks when Origami Zoo Press joined the Bull City family-they had been doing amazing work and we really wanted to keep it in print. Soon after, we began a live reading series as a way to feature some of our favorite writers and also highlight new voices particularly in the North Carolina area. As a way of supporting the reading series, we began crafting broadsides to mark each reading event. And just recently we reimagined Inch from a quarterly journal into a quarterly micro-chapbook series, providing a showcase for the tiniest collections from emerging & established writers.
What sets Bull City Press apart from the others? We have always been stalwart fans of the chapbook format and from our beginning insisted that our titles be eyecatching and well-crafted books--both in high quality of the content and the superior craftsmanship of the finished books themselves. And from our humble beginnings-- selling Inch for a dollar per issue-- we’ve tried to make sure that our books were affordable so we could get them into as many readers’ hands as possible. We can’t help but be some of the biggest fans of the writers we’ve published and so often you will see us celebrating those authors’ successes that take place after they have moved on to larger presses/bigger achievements. We’ve also made a habit, from our earliest days, of celebrating the work of writers we adore, even if they haven’t published with us.
What’s the philosophy behind your press? We are captivated with the various ways artistic constraints of concision and brevity are tackled by writers of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. You can see that in our championing of the chapbook form and in the shape of our Inch series. We are firmly rooted in writing-as-community. As we say at our website: We love readers, we love writers. As writers ourselves, we find great excitement in publishing terrific work and shining a spotlight on talented voices in the writing community.
Tell us about your staff. Bull City Press has always been a small, volunteerrun outfit. We are people who love books and love design and feel a strong sense of responsibility to serve other writers with our efforts. But we’d rather talk about the authors we’ve worked with than ourselves. Is that cool?
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
What new books are you excited about? Right now we’re all about the latest title in our Inch micro-chap series. At times rhapsodic, at times elegiac, Junious Ward’s Sing Me a Lesser Wound parses Southern masculinity and interrogates the concept of home as a place we have to leave—and sometimes spend the rest of our lives looking for. We will have another micro-chap coming very soon from poet Rose McLarney. And then this fall you can expect us to release two titles from the 2020 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Armen Davoudian’s Swan Song chronicles what it’s like to take leave of a home and a country and search for a new home in language. Combining an English prosody with classic Persian poetry, Davoudian has given us a startling poetry of witness from a position of outsiderhood. And in The Temple, Michael Bazzett has created a testament to inhabiting, for a while, a body in this world. It’s a book seeking glimpses of the great beyond, a heaven fashioned out of earth and questions, in the here and now. Also look this fall for a reissue of an Origami Zoo Press title, Lena Bertone’s Behind This Mirror, with new stories and a companion micro-chapbook, Another Mirror. Bertone’s stories, full of characters like a magician who demands you leave your wallet at the door, an angry appendage with a mind of its own, and a woman who waxes and wanes, will vex and delight fans of fairy tales and their dark undersides.
How do we keep up with you on social media? The best way to stay in touch with us is through our Twitter: @BullCityPress
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Don Share the Poetry foundation By: Clifford Brooks Please provide us with a few details about Don Share. How ‘bout a bio! Don Share is the editor of Poetry magazine. His books of poems are Crown Decline (with John Kinsella); Wishbone; Squandermania; and Union; other works include Bunting’s Persia; an annotated scholarly edition of Basil Bunting’s complete poems; and a forthcoming edition of Bunting’s prose. His translations of Miguel Hernández were awarded the Times Literary Supplement Translation Prize and Premio Valle Inclán, and he has edited Seneca in English; The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of POETRY Magazine; and Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views from POETRY Magazine. His work at Poetry has been recognized with four National Magazine Awards for editorial excellence from the American Society of Magazine Editors; a “Firecracker” award from the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses for publishing the best poetry magazine; and a VIDA “VIDO” award for his contributions to American literature and literary community. To which I need only add: he is from Memphis, Tennessee.
You have over thirty years promoting the poetry of young writers. What got you into it and what keeps your fire burning to keep it up? Sheer love for poetry: what got me into it and keeps me going is that poetry surprises and overwhelms me continually; that it’s humbling to read as well as to write – and that its challenges open the mind and heart. Also: the pleasure and privilege of making a magazine every month with Holly Amos, Lindsay Garbutt, Hannah Kucharzak, and
Fred Sasaki, the most ingenious, indefatigable, and devoted people I know. I wasn’t an English major, or ever taught by anybody that there’s a certain way to read poems – so I’m lucky to undertake the work of discovery with an open mind and complete freedom, whether as an editor or as a reader.
You work for both the Poetry Foundation and Poetry. How do you fit into those beautiful machines? I’m not sure I quite fit in anywhere, but… Poetry magazine has been around since 1912, and so predates the Poetry Foundation by about 90 years. The magazine is now one of several of the Foundation’s programs and my sole role is to produce it every month.
Are there any charities close to your heart we should know about? How can we help support it? For personal and spiritual reasons, the closest to my heart is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. As someone who is both hearingand visually-impaired, a close-to-my-heart cause is to help make Poetry magazine content more accessible, and to continue presenting poets with disabilities in our pages. We have captioning of podcasts, a Braille edition of the magazine, and have worked to improve submission system and website accessibility. I have no recommendations for others beyond the hope that people will support whatever’s close to their own hearts in any way they can.
What is your philosophy on good poetry? I’m not doctrinaire enough to have a philosophy, but here are a few thoughts. When “The Love
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was published in Poetry in 1915, it was derided by readers and critics alike as “bad” poetry; same thing for Carl Sandburg’s famous “Chicago” poems, also published in our pages, in 1914 – and this has happened with many others, including some too recent to name, that after a while are thought to be “good” poems. The opposite holds true as well: poems thought in their time to be “good” are now gathering dust on unread, or unreadable, pages. In the long term, the best poems, and the best poets, if we do use such terms, are unaccountable and ultimately unignorable. All I conclude from this is that there’s poetry that speaks to us, and poetry that doesn’t, at any given moment, and from this fact very few philosophical principles or terms can usefully arise.
What personal creative projects do you have on deck? I’m in service to other poets, so I’ve set aside most of my own projects, or have to work on them very, very slowly. But a revised paperback edition of my critical edition of Basil Bunting’s poems will be published next year, and I’ve put together a selection of his wonderfully cantankerous prose pieces. Meanwhile, poet/activist John Kinsella and I have collaborated across continents and time zones on a series of poems in form exploring climate change; this has morphed into a book, Crown Decline, to be published this fall. And I’m writing a long essay about unseen and unacknowledged work by several generations of American immigrants who came here fleeing oppression - who wrote in Yiddish. They are part of the history of American poetry but have
been ignored and nearly erased. To help correct this injustice, I’ve been mentoring translators of this work.
How to unwind after too long at the job? I’m never really off the job; but fortunately, I don’t feel that it’s something I need to unwind from. I’m happy to be all wound up by poetry! To paraphrase the late genius and poet Little Richard - you always have to make sure that “the beauty is still on duty!”
How can we keep up with all things good at the Poetry Foundation and Poetry? Both can be found online at: www.poetryfoundation.org As for POETRY we have weekly magazine podcasts, of course the print magazine, the entire archive of which can be read for free at that site, as well as our Poetry Magazine App and Spotify playlists. Wherever you may be, we’ve got poetry for you!
zach linge southeast review By: Clifford Brooks
What was the epiphany behind, and the braintrust included, in creating The Southeast Review? The Editors’ Note to our first issue in 1979 states, “our purpose was simply to publish the best work available.” Van K. Brock’s forward to the same issue posits, “If future editors function as well as the present editors, SUN DOG,” the Southeast Review’s original publication name, “should become a nationally recognized literary arts magazine attracting outstanding material from across the country.” In the past forty years, we’ve accomplished both of these goals—and much more. The Southeast Review’s mission today is simple: to present the best work by underrepresented and emerging writers from across the globe on the same stage as wellestablished ones. In each biannual issue, we publish literary fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and art, among other genres. With nearly sixty members on our editorial staff, who come from throughout the country and around the world, we strive to publish work that is representative of our diverse interests and aesthetics, and we celebrate the eclectic mix this produces. Toward this goal, no more than thirty percent of the work chosen for publication is culled from solicitation—often much less: it is not uncommon for a given genre in any print issue to be comprised exclusively of work by unpublished writers.
Tell us about how your journal stands out from the rest. Two things make our print journal visually memorable: our custom logotype and our printing exclusively blackand-white cover artwork. Beginning with Volume 21 in 2001, the Southeast Review began publishing covers exclusively in black and white. With Volume 23 in 2003, we commissioned a custom logotype. We’ve used these two design elements to the present day. In May 2018, we launched our entirely new and heavily designed website,
and with it, SER TWO (“The Southeast Review: This Week Online”). TWO features new, wholly original, and digitally interactive artwork each Monday to accompany that week’s publication. Previous contributors have requested said artwork, printed it, and even framed it! After two years of TWO, we’ve moved onto two new efforts: continuing to publish original work online throughout the year, and also distributing our biannual issue both for purchase in print and for free online. We’re proud to honor the traditions we inherit from forty years of publication, including curatorial excellence, visual recognizability, ethical publishing, and continuous support for our contributors. In the present day, and moving forward, we strive to find new ways to meet and expand upon these goals.
What is your magazine’s philosophy behind “good writing”? When we think about “good writing,” we think first and foremost about ways to support emerging writers. Each of our section editors works uniquely to find and publish emerging writers and writers who wish to “emerge” only once. Our nonfiction editor works with women in prisons to teach the skill of nonfiction writing; we are grateful for the opportunity to have published one of her students this past spring. Additionally, inspired by this editor, we waive our nominal submission fee for writers who are currently incarcerated, who can submit to us in any genre through a family member or friend. Our fiction editor’s primary passion is for finding, editing, and publishing work from previously unpublished writers. For this reason, our fiction publications have been culled almost entirely from unsolicited submissions. Additionally, the bulwark of poets published in the last few years did not have a full collection of poetry published when we first featured their work.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
What is exceptional about the writers we publish is the breadth of their experiences, subjectivities, foci, and nationalities. In our most recent issues, we published artists residing in Canada, Nigeria, Great Britain, Scotland, and the United Arab Emirates. Our contributors are Sunni, Shia, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Nonreligious, Daoist, African Indigenist— They are gay, straight, bi— They are cisgender, transgender, gender-nonconforming— They are incarcerated, previously incarcerated, never incarcerated— They are both young and old— They are and are not disabled— They are self-described addicts and alcoholics, both in and opposed to programs of recovery— Some of them consider themselves writers and some of them are only just learning to write— As Editor, I feel at liberty to boast of our journal’s accomplishments in a way another member of our masthead might not, specifically because I have the advantage of a bird’s-eye view of the process. Our masthead finds artists who are not represented in literary magazines, especially not those produced in the South. They champion the hell out of these artists. They invest weekends to visiting them in prison, to interacting with them online; they spend nights emailing back and forth with our contributors to ensure what we publish best represents the artists’ intents and abilities; they study
contemporary publication like something more important than their careers depend on it, and this attention to what’s being published today, I believe, shows in how they support the talent they find. We promote our contributors on social media. We celebrate the successes they have placing work in other journals and being nominated for and winning awards. We submit their work to national contests. We stay in touch. This response may seem to have avoided the question. Rather, I might have avoided the question. The truth is there is no one thing that makes for “good” writing. Any one of our editors could choose to issue a statement along the lines of “We want work that cuts, sizzles, boils,” or so forth. But that’s the thing: we’re led not by an expectation for what’s submitted, but by a desire to champion as many types of work as we can find.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
What are some do’s and don’t’s on submitting to the Southeast Review? Do: - Revise your work rigorously prior to submitting; - Let the work sit for a long time prior to submitting, then revisit and revise again; - Get feedback on the work prior to submitting, preferably from a variety of people with varying perspectives and subject positionalities; - Know traditions; - Challenge traditions; - Write ethically; - Submit your best work.
Don’t: - Send your first draft; - Submit immediately after writing; - Submit without feedback; - Submit unless you read contemporary work; - Appropriate; - Plagiarize; - Write down the privilege ladder; - Depict violence without complication; - Reject your own work without giving us the chance to read it.
How do we find previous issues, keep up with new developments, and find you on social media? Easy! All previous issues still in stock are available for sale on our website. Our most recent and forthcoming issues are available for free on the site. New developments are posted frequently both on the online publication page on our site and on social media. You can find us on Facebook at Southeast Review; on Twitter @SoutheastReview; and on Instagram @SoutheastReview.
Ilya Kaminsky By: Clifford Brooks
What are a few highlights about you that people miss? What makes you, you? A person is what they love. And, I love words. But don’t poets see/hear/touch language everywhere? Yes. Going to the beach with my nephews fills the afternoon with language. Kissing my wife is a moment in which nouns understand their passion for verbs and adjectives shyly watch. Nouns start flying around the room when I engage with my brother in a shouting match, and the cats hide. And is there a better lesson in pacing and linebreak for a poet than botching the delivery of a joke? I love human beings. Time squeezes us from both ends like accordions, and I love this music we make. One might choose to see it from a distance. I prefer to see it from the inside, in the midst these person-to-person interactions. If I fail to be a human being first, I fail my poetry.
What drew you to poetry? What about it motivated you to begin writing it?
I am not a documentary poet; I am a fabulist. And, yet, the world pushes through, the reality is everywhere in this fable. My job is to make this border between the shelter of fable and the bombardment of reality a lyric moment, I feel.
What three poets (alive or dead) have the most impact on you and why? I am hopelessly in love with Shakespeare, mostly plays: The Tempest, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, of course, but also less famous ones, King John, for instance. My wife and I used to have Shakespeare parties at our place, which was great fun. We would provide everyone with lots of wine, copies of the book, and pencils; they drank and underlined their favorite passages in plays. So, after the party there was this great harvest of other people’s Shakespeare, which was a hunter-gatherer’s paradise. My first Shakespeare, though, was in Russian. The poets of my generation got quite lucky since Boris Pasternak translated many of Shakespeare’s plays and also much
This is a question that might lead to many questions, or many answers, all of the wayward. You see, I wrote verses in Russian for quite some time before we came to America. When we came to this country, I was sixteen years old. We settled in Rochester, New York. The question of English being my “preferred language for literature” would have been quite ironic back then since none of us spoke English—I myself hardly knew the alphabet. But arriving in Rochester was rather a lucky event—that place was a magical gift, it was like arriving to a writing colony, a Yaddo of sorts. There was nothing to do except for writing poetry! Why English then—why not Russian? My father died in 1994, a year after our arrival to America. I understood right away that it would be impossible for me to write about his death in the Russian language, as one author says of his deceased father somewhere, “Ah, don’t become mere lines of
Ukus to speak.
of Goethe—and he did a supreme job. Because Russian literature is much younger than English (so we don’t have much of a sense of 17th century literary Russian), one gets the feeling that one isn’t reading a translation but instead reading Shakespeare as if he wrote in the 1950s, at the time Pasternak was translating him en masse.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 Lyric poets that I go back to a lot are Catullus, Dickinson, Hayden, Mandelstam, Celan, Vallejo. I love these poets because they reinvented the language, the syntax, in a way that showed me their love/hate relationship with it. I love how Mandelstam isn’t always grammatically correct in Russian (of course he simply sees new grammar), how Dickinson wants to grasp from one line to another, skipping the politesse, using dashes as stairs to jump between floors, or how Celan combines words because German vocabulary didn’t make the right ones for the grasp of human despair. I love, too, the three dots in the middle of lines in Vallejo, who knew that language wasn’t enough— this is probably the case, at one moment in her or his life, with any lyric poet. Among the poems I am reading and rereading right now, “Middle Passage,” by Robert Hayden (which can be found in his “Collected Poems”), looms large. Why? Because it explains American history better than any other text I have ever read. Describing a journey of a slave ship, Hayden’s is a
documentary piece, yes, but also a chorus, a hymnal, an incantation, a lyric narrative, a drama, an epic account. It combines voices of the crew, a hymnal, a voice of a poet and speeches of litigants in court, among others; it’s an elegy but also a poem of protest. Its structure is spellbinding. Which is to say: It defies categories and uses all of them to enact history and show the reader’s own complicity. It was written decades ago but speaks to this very moment we are in: “you whose wealth, whose tree of liberty / are rooted in the labor of your slaves.” Longer poems I like to go back to or teach are Herbert Mason’s “Gilgamesh” and Christopher Logue’s versions of Homer. Those are great fun.
What are your recent books and what new projects are on your table? I did not have hearing aids until I was sixteen: As a deaf child I experienced my country as a nation without sound. I heard the USSR fall apart with my eyes. Walking through the city, I watched the people; their ears were open all the time, they had no lids. I was interested in what sounds might be like. The whooshing. The hissing. The whistle. The sound of keys turning in the lock, or water moving through the pipes two floors above us. I could easily notice how the people around me spoke to one another with their eyes without realizing it.
What advice do you have for others looking for a future in writing to help them avoid headaches? I love Goethe’s advice to writers:
“Do not hurry; do not rest”. To which I would add: read everything.
But what if the whole country was deaf like me? So that whenever a policeman’s commands were uttered no one could hear? I liked to imagine that. Silence, that last neighborhood, untouched, as ever, by the wisdom of the government. Those childhood imaginings feel quite relevant for me in America today. When Trump performs his press conferences, wouldn’t it be brilliant if his words landed on the deaf ears of a whole nation? What if we simply refused to hear the hatred of his pronouncements? Writing my recent book, Deaf Republic, I wanted the reader to see the deaf not in terms of their medical condition, but as a political minority, which empowers them. So, throughout Deaf Republic, the townspeople teach one another sign language (illustrated in the book) to coordinate their revolution while remaining unintelligible to the government. But having completed this fable in verse recently, I realized there is a great deal more I have to say, that didn’t fit into the fable, the story of my father, who was a foundling, whose parents were imprisoned or shot during Stalin’s purges and who was saved by strangers, and then saved again as a Jewish boy during World
War Two. The story of my grandmother in the camps. The story of my fatherâ€™s adopted father who fought Germans and was imprisoned by them and escaped. The story of my parentâ€™s late marriage and a great love, dancing in the streets, already in their 50s, buying strawberry ice cream as the country was falling apart around them. It is also the story of my coming back to Odessa, after twenty years, and turning off my hearing aids, to see what can I remember only through my senses of smell, and sight and how memory unfolds when once a deaf boy walks through the streets again and lipreads the stories of strangers in trams and trolleys and public parks. There are also stories about other writers, and how I learned from them. Some of these have been published in various journals. Here is a taste: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/09/magazine/ searching-for-a-lost-odessa-and-a-deaf-childhood.html
How do we keep up with you online? Well, this question is very easy to answer: I am at www.ilyakaminsky.com and also on Twitter at @ilya_poet where I mostly post quotes and stories from other writers, and on Facebook where I do the same plus an occasional fable or memory that might, if you like it, become yours.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
James Wade BY:Shannon Perri
few days into the coronavirus pandemic, my baby and I found ourselves with fevers and coughs. Obsessively checking our temperatures, I somehow ran the batteries out on our digital thermometer. I couldn’t buy another, as all local pharmacies and grocery stores were sold out. They were backordered online. Desperate, I put out a request to my social media community: does anyone have a thermometer they could spare?
James Wade answered my call. We are both writers in the Austin area and graduates of Texas State University, so we were friends online, but we had never actually met in person, at least to my recollection. Despite this, he kindly dropped off a thermometer on our doorstep, and thus, my family and I were able to monitor our temperatures. I did eventually get tested for Covid-19 – my results came back negative – but I’ll never forget how comforting it was to know that someone in my community had my back. In a time of isolation, I wasn’t actually alone. It is this same compassion, same generous spirit, that Wade brings to his fiction. His debut novel, All Things Left Wild, published by Blackstone Publishing, is full of complex characters grappling with the pain they’ve endured and they pain they’ve caused. Set in 1910 in the American Southwest, the novel follows two main characters whose destinies are hopelessly intertwined. In a botched horse robbery instigated by his brother, young Caleb Bentley murders a boy. He then goes on the run, while the father of the boy, Randall Dawson, a wealthy rancher who is more bookish than rugged, sets out to find him. Both men are struggling to cope with loss, identity, and love. The novel asks hard questions – Who deserves redemption? Who deserves blame? And how does the land one stands on complicate these questions? Though the ongoing virus kept us from meeting in person, it was a pleasure to speak with Wade through email exchanges. We discussed the book’s inspiration, life on the road, writing about grief and violence, free will, and more. Once again, I found myself the lucky recipient of his time and generosity.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Shannon Perri: All Things Left Wild is set in the early 1900’s in the western parts of the country. What made you decide to tell this story now? Where did the initial idea come from? James Wade:
My wife and I were free-camping on federal land outside of Carlsbad, NM, and one morning I took a walk—just sort of a quiet walk, for meditation and reflection and all that mindfulness I’m always failing to achieve— and at some point I lost sight of our camp and I looked around and the land seemed so unlived, so untouched, that I started to feel guilty about even walking through it. But then the wind came up over a draw and it was blowing so impossibly hard, and I watched it blow my bootprints away like they’d never existed. And it sort of dawned on me that of course this piece of country had been lived on—it had seen civilizations rise and fall. Native Americans, Spaniards, ranchers, oilmen, they’d all had their footprints blown away—had their stories lost to the wind. So I went back to camp and wrote a paragraph or two about a dust storm, and it all went from there. And I liked 1910 for the book because it’s a great example of the disconnect between the “civilized” America we think of by that point in history and the American West, which stayed wild for much longer than the rest of the country. That was due in part to the geographic challenges and lack of transportation infrastructure, but there were also murky legal standards because much of the Southwest was still divided into territories rather than states. This is also the year when political tensions in Mexico boiled over into the first battles of the Mexican Revolution. The country was only one generation removed from the Civil War, and yet it was also at the beginning of what would be the most remarkable century of progress in human history. We were essentially trying to find our footing as a nation, while also seeing the world around us modernize at an unprecedented pace. This sort of disruptive technology, disruptive forward momentum, is something we’ve dealt with ever since. And in the Southwest, you had a remarkably large, unregulated swath of land and resources. This became a breeding ground for corruption. And, as a result, we begin to see the gap between rich and poor growing rapidly during this time-- much like it has in recent years. From the post-Civil War 1870s through the Great Depression, the country saw a massive income inequality, which led to economic anxieties, which ultimately led to more crime. I tried to create a world where economic tension was always present in the background. For example, almost every supporting character we encounter is poor. And if they are rich or have power, they are most likely corrupt.
So, it was a tumultuous time, but something I also hoped to show is how even during historical turning points, individuals are still struggling with very personal, very human issues. We tend to think of people in the past only as they relate to whatever event or movement was taking place at that time. For instance, we are (hopefully) experiencing a historical shift right now, and while of course we’re fighting the good fight, we’re also raising our kids, trying to stay connected to loved ones, and making decisions in our own lives that would be challenging no matter the era and no matter the events around us.
SP: I was impressed by your attention to historical and natural detail. Did the book involve extensive research? If so, did you research before writing, or did the processes occur side by side? JW:
The natural detail came much easier. The short version of that story is: my wife and I both quit our jobs in Austin and donated all but a storage closet worth of our belongings, then lived on the road in a 144-square-foot travel trailer for two years. Because of that, the landscape, the flora and fauna, and much of what is described in the book were things I was seeing each day. I would go hiking and carry a notebook with me to scribble thoughts and details about terrain and trails and how the sky looked at various times of the day. The historical details were tougher, because it became this frustrating game of finding out some interesting fact and then realizing it didn’t fit in the story. For example, I could have written an entire novel about the town of Mesilla— that place is so rich in history—but it didn’t serve the narrative to linger there for too long. The research process was done alongside the writing, and alongside our travels. It was a great way to explore public libraries, historical sites, and museums during the trip. But I always tell people not to look at the book as any sort of authority on history. I’d hate for someone to think the Strassi Indian tribe actually existed, only to find out it’s a play on my wife’s maiden name.
SP: That is so gutsy, to quit your jobs, donate everything, and live on the open road for two years. What most stands out from that time? JW: We expected to see beautiful things-- and we did. The hiking, the scenery, the solitude, were all incredible. But
one of the surprising things was the amount of memories we made with total strangers. We went to trivia night at a bar called The Bent Rod in McClellanville, SC-- a small shrimping community north of Charleston. By the end of the night we’d been invited to a house party, offered spots on a shrimp boat, and invited to Ted Turner’s Ranch (apparently one of the young fellas worked as a ranch manager). In Kernville, CA, we met Ms. Carol, who’d recently lost her mother. She took us to dinner and told us stories about her amazing mom and how close they’d been. I think she appreciated our ear, and we certainly appreciated her kindness and her willingness to open up about her loss. In Casa Grande, AZ, we joined dozens of family members at an RV park as they celebrated their patriarch, Esteban, who had just been declared cancer-free. We made lasting friendships from Lodi to Terlingua. We even met a group of Scotsmen in New York who still send my wife birthday wishes, and who preordered my book months in advance. Social surprises aside, we ultimately challenged ourselves to live a smaller, freer existence. We meditated more, worked as a team every single day (there’s a lot of daily maintenance and preparation that comes with living on the road, and in such a small space), and figured out which things truly brought us joy-- which is why we’re planning on hitting the road again as soon as our newborn gets a few more sunrises under her belt.
SP: I was recently reading Margot Livesey’s craft book, The Hidden Machinery. In it she talks about the importance of long lines and short lines of tension in novels. Your book, though sweeping in the terrain it covers, is focused and suspenseful. Did you think about plot when first writing? Or did the story’s shape arise in revision?
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
A little of both. This was the first complete manuscript I’d ever written, so there was a tremendous learning curve. I just finished writing my third novel and I’m still learning. I tend to write out of order-- images or scenes that don’t flow with anything yet—which definitely makes the revision process important. I kept a loose hold on the plot during the first draft, but certainly needed to shore it up in several places. I think the basic plot helped me a bit. With the entire story being one long chase, that provides at least one connective line of tension. But there are stills several sections of the book where I think I could have done a better job in 2020 than I did in 2018. I think I’ll always feel that way about anything I write. I hope I do. I love learning and growing as a reader, a writer, and a thinker. That’s the joy of the process, and in the end the process is the only thing that is guaranteed.
SP: Central to the novel are the transcendent themes of grief and loss. What drew you to exploring this subject matter, particularly in the western genre? JW:
I love this question, particularly the second half. As soon as you say western, a lot of folks who aren’t fans of the genre will immediately tune out. They think cowboys and Indians and riding and shooting. And while the novel does have each of those things, I like to think I went at least a layer or two beyond the stereotypical tropes. One of those layers was how grief and loss impacts humans. Not good humans or bad humans, modern humans or historical humans—just humans. And looking at that through the lens of perhaps the most “American” of genres really enticed me. We’re used to seeing the iconic image of the cowboy riding his horse into the sunset as the credits role. But happens after that? What happens when night falls and the cowboy is alone with his own emotions and he has to wrestle with the weight of his actions, the pain of his loss? Those are the westerns I’ve always been drawn to-- not the overly romantic renderings of the genre.
SP: What do you make of the distinction between “literary” fiction and “genre” fiction? JW:
I’ve heard too many opinions to burden the world with my own. Literary, upmarket, genre-- I let my agent and my publisher make those determinations. Does Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy belong in the literary section or the westerns? I’d argue McCarthy is literary, while Larry McMurtry is more western, but the latter won a Pulitzer for Lonesome Dove. Confusing stuff. Then again, my wife arranges our bookshelf by color, so I don’t have any tough decisions to make.
SP: Another question swirling throughout the novel: what makes a person good or bad—does such a distinction even exist? Again and again, the characters reckon with if they can redeem themselves, if human behavior is really a choice or a product of our past or both. This made me wonder: what are your thoughts on free will? Did writing this book offer any clarity on the question? JW:
My philosophy on “choice” is that very few (if any) of us are ever presented with a pure choice. All of our lives, even before we’ve begun living them, are predicated upon the lives of those before us, and those lives impacted by others before them and so on. The thought of any man’s existence must be traced backward along billions or trillions of intersecting strings, each fanning out from still more strings, and all a part of some never-ending ball of cosmic twine. But I think we can recognize and acknowledge such a thing, and still believe in our own free will—but with a healthy understanding of how we got here. It’s like when a hardcore libertarian goes to public schools, drives on public roads, and participates in a public marketplace kept safe by regulations, and then says he doesn’t believe in the taxes to fund such infrastructure. This person doesn’t understand how he got where he is.
The same with most religious folks who never actually chose to be religious. If you’re born in East Texas, like I was, you’re likely going to be a Christian. If you’re born in Iran, you’re likely going to be a Muslim. As fervent as our modern religious beliefs may be, they pale in comparison to the dedication of ancient cultures who often relied on certain religious practices to make the sun rise each morning. These are all circumstances that dictate choice.
The short version is that I believe in free will, but I also believe our circumstances, both chosen and given, play a much larger role in even the smallest decisions. And that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t take responsibility for our choices or hold others accountable for their choices. But we can do so from a more informed and compassionate place.
If that sounds like an answer, it’s not. I continually grapple with purpose, nihilism, spirituality, etc. and writing this book, or writing in general, doesn’t get me any closer to the answers, but that’s alright. It’s therapeutic. It’s good practice in opening my mind. And ultimately, I don’t read books for the answers. I read them for the emotions, for the stories, and for that most holy of agreements between author and reader that says we’re all human, we’re all lost, but for the next 300 pages we’re all in this together.
SP: All Things Left Wild, though tender at times, is also full of violence and murder. How did you approach writing these darker scenes? JW:
I wanted to match the danger and the violence of the time, but I also didn’t want the reader to be numb to those scenes by the novel’s end. That’s why much of the violence takes place off-page. And much of what does make it onto the page is quick, almost casual action. I chose that approach for two reasons. The first, I don’t like reading or watching violent scenes, and I don’t like writing them, and I didn’t want to glorify them. The second, the majority of violence in the world is not some Hollywood, dramatized event. Rather, it’s quick and shocking and then it’s over and we’re left to pick up the pieces. I wanted to focus more on those moments before and after the actual event.
That said, there are still some intense sequences, and writing them was challenging. My wife could always tell when I wrote something heavy, because I’d be a little quieter in the evenings. She called it “book brain.” I usually needed something comedic to reset things. It was like the Harry Potter kids eating chocolate after fighting Dementors.
SP: You have some amazing characters in this book. In addition to the two protagonists, I found Grimes and Charlotte to be so unique and enthralling. Could you speak about your process for building out complex characters? Where do these people come from for you? JW:
For Charlotte it started simply. I wanted someone who was the complete opposite of Randall. Randall is naïve. He’s a privileged, wealthy, white man. He also has zero survival skills. Charlotte is a poor, black woman. She’s smart and grounded and can also kick major ass. But after writing her first scene, I just fell in love. I started exploring her past and expanding on her reasoning for helping Randall and Tad to begin with. She is one of the only characters in the story who is able to have humanity and violence coexist within her.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 Grimes was an interesting character build for me, because he is pretty clearly an antagonist; and yet, he has some ideas about the world that are very appealing. I think it would have been easy for me to stick him with tried and true evil traits like intolerance, bloodlust, white supremacy, greed, etc. But it was more fun to imagine him as a wellintended, but severely misguided cult-like leader. He’s incredibly smart and charming—a natural leader—and he has progressive views on equality and socioeconomics among other things. But, he’s essentially made a deal with the devil in order to pursue his idea of utopia. And I think that’s something that is very familiar in our political history and of course in our current political climate.
Both Grimes and Charlotte, and any character save a red shirt here and there, exist to hopefully ask questions about some larger thematic element of the story. Grimes asks us if it’s possible to have peace without war—or if it’s possible for moderates to accomplish anything. Charlotte asks us if revenge is ever worth it, and if protecting those who are weaker than you is something you have a responsibility to do. Shelby is an example of the perils of ego, of toxic masculinity, of being raised by a cruel father. Every character (hopefully) brings some semi-worthy question, if not lesson, to the story.
SP: Lastly, how do you stay motivated when the writing or life or both get challenging? JW:
Oh, gosh. That’s the hardest part, right? I think like most things in life, it’s about finding balance. With writing, it’s telling yourself you can do it while also acknowledging it’s a tough thing to do. When the motivation is missing, there are a few small things I might try: taking a walk in the woods, reading from a handful of favorite books, or maybe thinking of how much my self-employed family has to pay for health insurance each month. But the only real key, at least for me, is forcing myself to sit at my desk and work. If you force yourself to write on a “bad” day, you may surprise yourself with something great. If not, at least you tried, and at least you stretched your mental muscles a bit.
And I guess the same applies to life, though I find life much more difficult than writing. I guess you have to force yourself to wake up and live, even on days when you don’t feel like it. There’s a line somewhere between being naïve-- sort of overly-optimistic-- and being grateful and kind to yourself. Just like there’s a line between being a realist and being constantly dispirited. As I mentioned, I tend to have a nihilistic streak in me, but my remedy for that is the same as my remedy for writer’s block. I hike, I read, I hug on my family.
Hello to Goodbye-Love: Kori Frazier Morgan BY: Casanova Green
ragedy can break or make those who must endure it, and it leaves deep scars and deeper memories that will last for generations. We are all experiencing this as we grapple with COVID-19 and many issues that the disease has brought upon us and unveiled. We have seen the best and worst of humanity, and these lessons will affect not only the immediate future but the lives of those who will come after. What if we were able to capture life in 2070, fifty years after COVID-19? How would the world change because of what we are experiencing now? How would we change personally and how would our memories change the experience of the present? Kori Frazier Morgan expertly navigates how tragedy affects the present and the future in her newest book, The Goodbye-Love Generation, published by Bezalel Media. The Goodbye-Love Generation interweaves stories from multiple perspectives and time periods that all center around the immediate effects and the legacy of the Kent State Shootings in May 1970. She uses her experiences growing up as the child of those who experienced the event and as someone who was born and raised there. This is not your typical “based on a true story” novel. It is a creative and imagistic rollercoaster that loops and weaves through the fictionalized worlds of the central characters The Purple Orange and those connected to them personally and experientially. As you read, you will experience the heights of joy and fulfillment and the depths of sadness and failure, empathize with many characters while simultaneously judging and questioning their choices, and find beauty in the flawed humanity of the characters that echoes our own experiences during and after tragedy. I read the book in one sitting—which I rarely do—while caring for my energetic toddler and barely moved. Join Kori and me as we dig into the book itself, the craft behind it, the experience writing it, and what is both current and next for her.
Tell us about yourself.
I have been writing professionally for the better part of 15
years. I went to Ohio Northern University for a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and Professional Writing. I then got my MFA at West Virginia University, where I had the honor of working with Mark Brazaitis and Emily Mitchell, two of the finest fiction writers and teachers I know. My work post-MFA has been diverse, ranging from teaching college English to creating educational materials to copywriting. Today, I live in the Akron area with my husband, Curtis, where I teach Bible classes to teens at our church.
Can you give a brief synopsis of the book?
The Goodbye-Love Generation is a novel in stories that takes place in northeastern Ohio between 1969 and 2019. While it features a diverse cast of characters, it primarily centers on a band called The Purple Orange that is active in the music scene in and around Kent. The band is getting noticed and is on the verge of breaking out of the local scene when the Kent State shootings divert their plans for success. The majority of the book shows them, as well as other interconnected characters, dealing with the aftershock of the shootings and the event’s ripple effect throughout their lives.
You were inspired to write The Goodbye-Love Generation out of love for your hometown of Kent, OH and the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. Can you explain your journey of starting and writing the book?
I grew up in Kent, practically right up the road from where the shootings happened. My generation is the children of the college students who watched it happen, and there was no escaping it when we were growing up. Everyone I knew had family members who were there. My dad was the drummer for one of most popular bands in Kent, and he and my mother hid out in one of the bars during the riot that took place downtown on the Friday before the shootings. My uncle was at the protest itself and several of his friends were shot, including Sandra Scheurer, one of the four students killed. As the
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 children of the survivors, I think the unhealed
wounds of that generational trauma were passed to us in a lot of ways. The event was just always there. What’s interesting about my journey with this project is that I actually didn’t start out wanting to write about Kent. When I was in grad school, I wrote a lot of historical fiction about events I had no connection to that happened in places I’d never been. At one workshop where one of these stories was critiqued, a classmate told me that she had a problem with ethos in it and that she didn’t believe me. It was a harsh statement, but she was right; it was the first time I’d actually thought about fiction creating a world that must be believed and how the writer’s experience is a conduit for that. Later in the semester, one of my colleagues found out I was from Kent and started asking me what it was like to live near the site of the shootings, and I told her some things about my family’s connection to it. “Why don’t you write about that?” she asked me. I talk a little about this in the introduction of the book, but I think we tend to take the places we come from for granted like that. The question we ask ourselves should be, “What can we give our readers that they can’t readily get for themselves?”, and often, the answer to that question is what we should be creating. The Goodbye Love Generation was written at WVU and was my master’s thesis. Then it sat on my hard drive for ten years. I submitted the individual stories to various journals and was honored to be featured in Forge, SN Review, Prick of the Spindle, and the University of San Francisco’s Switchback, where “No Sugar Tonight” was first runner up for their Editor’s Prize. But I never did anything with the stories because I was too busy trying to turn the thing into a more traditional novel, and I just couldn’t make it work. This year, of course, was the 50th anniversary of the shootings, and I finally decided that I needed to publish the book as is, with some minor edits. I felt that it was important to minister to my community with my writing and releasing a book that I’ve always called “my love letter to Kent” seemed like the perfect way to do it. After all the commemoration events on campus were canceled because of COVID-19, it became even more urgent to me that I release it. The physical events to honor the shootings had to be canceled, but my book could not be.
As a musician, I like how you made the book into a track listing of “songs” fitting to the musical concept of the book. What made you make that decision? One of the things these characters all have in
common is the way that music informs their lives, and not
just on the surface level of this being about a rock band in a very specific location in time and place. Music is quite literally how many of these people survive the trauma, fear, and loss of both Kent State and events in their personal lives. Every story has a moment in it where the central character reaches out to music for comfort. Structuring the book in a way that mirrors that of a vinyl record (the track listing, the splitting of the book between Side 1 and Side 2) seemed like the perfect way to communicate this theme.
The major thematic cord that connects the book is trauma and recovery. You could have easily focused on the main event-- the shootings. However, you chose to look at other experiences which were influenced by the shootings. What made you move the story in that direction?
To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that theme existed until I read the final manuscript. I completed the final edits in late March when COVID was ramping up and I was struggling with my own emotional response to it, and I suddenly saw myself in these characters in a way I never have before. The book’s exploration of trauma was suddenly acute and poignant in a way it never had been for me, which I think accounts for part of the great response it’s received—not to mention the protests and social justice movements that have risen up. I think the shootings have become a vehicle in the book for
exploring how people today respond to trauma—particularly large scale events, even things like COVID and the murder of George Floyd, that broadly impact communities as well as informing the individual struggles of people.
This story is based on a real event but the events of it are fiction. Why did you choose this route rather than a literary nonfiction piece?
Honestly, I think I just wanted to write about a band and that was where it started. I’ve always seen the shootings through the eyes of my dad, and music was his frame of reference for interpreting the world around him. Once I had that part figured out, the rest of the characters and their individual stories naturally evolved.
Let’s talk craft for a moment. One of the aspects of the story that hooked me was your use of voice juxtaposed with image. You captured the same people in multiple time periods and they, along with their surroundings, were not static but evolved with the times and situations. How did you manage to achieve that in the work especially given the time and perspective jumps from story to story? You have to know your characters really, well for something like this. I think my familiarity with the experiences of people from this generation made it easy for me to think about how time would change not just them and their life experiences, but their perception of the past. What all these characters have in common is that each of them has a moment where they have to reconcile who they were before Kent State with who they are in the present, and for most of them, it’s a messy process of unraveling their identities
from the trauma that history and life forced onto them.
For example, one of my favorite stories is called “The Conscience Round” and is about a man who served in the National Guard while attending Kent State as a student as he looks back on the shootings from a vantage point of 40 years and dealing with how fragmented his life is as a result. I think that overall, it is important for readers to see these characters at different stages in life to get a total portrait of the ripple effect traumatic events can have.
As a reader, I am a fan of a messy ending. Why did you choose to end the stories the way that you did with some having a full circle moment and others fading into obscurity? I am a huge fan of the show Mad Men, and one of its biggest strengths is that the final shot of every episode packs a huge punch. So much is revealed about the characters and what they have been through in terms of the plot by the images we are left with. I watched a lot of that show when I was writing this back in grad school and I like to think some of Matthew Weiner’s genius rubbed off on me! That said, I tend to end stories with images that suggest the outcome for the characters rather than explicitly wrapping things up. What I love about every one of these stories is that they end on powerful images like that, and while the ending in many cases may not be completely spelled out, the final sentence gives you a decent idea.
You have done a series of short videos for this book on YouTube explaining the stories. How did you come to that idea and what can people expect from those experiences?
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 I promoted this book’s release while I was in lockdown, and I did a lot of Facebook and Instagram live events to promote it because it was all I had. I even did my book release party on Facebook, complete with 70s music trivia and book giveaways. But what I noticed was that people genuinely enjoyed the events—I did a Q&A about the book that was supposed to be 15 minutes and ended up being over an hour. People were so interested that I decided that I needed a space to showcase more details about each story’s significance and some “behind the scenes” content. Most of the videos I’ve done so far are about 2 minutes long and are me explaining some specific facet of each piece. There are two where I filmed on location at the places where two of the stories take place. There’s also a book trailer, which is composed entirely of audio and home movie footage of bands my dad was in during the early 70s. Just as a side note: I’ve also created a Spotify playlist that has the “soundtrack” for the book—songs that are alluded to in the stories as well as others that are evoked somehow in the writing. I’ve also created individual playlists based on each of the major characters, which was really fun.
How was the process of creating The Goodbye-Love Generation similar or different to your previous book, Bone China Girls?
Well first of all, they’re two different genres about two completely different topics, which alone made the process different. Bone China Girls is a chapbook of linked persona poems that tells the true story of the 1965 murder of Sylvia Likens, a sixteen year old from Indianapolis who was murdered by a group of her peers, most of whom were female. The poems are narrated by all of the women who were involved, including Sylvia herself. However, the common thread is that both books deal with trauma—except I think that Bone China Girls is more about how trauma occurs, while The Goodbye-Love Generation is about how it is resolved. Both projects involved a tremendous amount of research, as well as the discipline of being able to understand the characters and voices of each.
One of the major topics that recurs in The Blue Mountain Review is the intersection of creativity and spirituality. Although this is not a religious or spiritually based book, we know that our personal experiences ground our writing. How do the themes in this book
show your experiences as a woman of faith and how did creating the book help you?
My spiritual writing process is that God shows me what to
write and I do it. Every major project I’ve done can be traced back to a specific moment where He revealed to me what the next idea was. Because really, it’s His project anyway, not mine—I like what Flannery O’Connor said on this topic, that “when a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God.” I don’t worry too much about how “Christian” my work is or whether or not it’s going to change people’s minds about God. That’s His job, not mine. I just make my offering and ask Him to use it. I think the most gratifying thing for me, though, is how much this book has resonated with people. The response from Kent readers has been incredible, and honestly, that’s all I need. I wrote this book for my hometown. Having people whose lives were fundamentally altered by the events that happened there tell me how touched they were by it is really all I need.
What advice do you have for writers, especially during COVID-19?
Pay attention. I believe COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we will tell stories. The events we’re living through now will be reflected in all contemporary fiction written from this point forward, and your voice and perspective matter. Even if you are struggling emotionally right now, even if writing is hard, get something down every day, even if it’s just a thought on a post-it note. If you need some extra inspiration, try going to a writing webinar or online class. I particularly recommend TheHabit.co. Jonathan Rogers’s courses and online community for writers have been an invaluable source of inspiration during this time. I’m in his Writing with Flannery O’Connor class right now and it’s transcendent.
What can we expect from you next?
I am going to do some essay writing next, I think, and based on the ideas I have now, this project will have more of a spiritual angle than the previous two books. We’ll see where it goes. You can learn more about Kori at www. korifraziermorgan.com and email her at korifrazier@ gmail.com. You can also learn more about the book at www.goodbyelovegeneration.com.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
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What sparked its birth? How did it get its name? Madhouse Press started as a grad school project in the Spring of 2017. I had been thinking about starting a press for a few years and during that spring the time felt right. I started the press for two reasons: 1) I love the poetry ‘unit’ of the chapbook and wanted to create a space where a shorter, more concentrated form of manuscript could be appreciated, 2) I noticed that there was a definite lack in the poetry/ publishing community of marginalized voices. I felt like there were books that needed to be published that weren’t being published. Madhouse emerged out of these twin desires.
What’s your philosophy behind the way you choose who to publish? Since we have a somewhat untraditional submission model right now, we work mostly through queries, solicitations, and contest submissions. As a press, we are committed to publishing marginalized voices and always seek to publish work we find compelling and cutting regardless of a poet’s status or publication history. We are committed, too, to expanding the scope of what gets consumed in the world of poetry today.
You create gorgeous, handcrafted books. What’s the passion behind fine-tuning this niche? My senior year of undergrad I took an advanced poetry workshop in which we spent a lot of time working on letterpresses. I learned how to print and how to bind and sew books in that class and discovered a real love for the various methods of bookbinding. One of my favorite aspects of running the press is the collaboration between artists: the poet, the cover artists, the letterpress printers, the interior design. So much thought and effort goes into each book. Very little has changed in the three years since Madhouse began publishing. I used to print the covers myself but now we outsource them to various letterpress printers within our communities. But other than that--each and every chapbook in hand-printed, hand sewn, hand-cut and numbered. It’s a painstaking process but the finished product is undeniably worth it.
What are a few do’s and don’t’s for those who submit need to keep in mind? DO: send us work you’re afraid to send elsewhere. DONT: send us full-length collections or fiction manuscripts
How can we find you online and keep up with you on social media? You can email us at email@example.com or follow us on Twitter @madhouse_press.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
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Marco Rafala BY: clifford brooks What ignites the soul of Marco Rafala?
’m a first generation Sicilian American, a failed musician, and a nerd. I grew up in a working class, immigrant family in Middletown, Connecticut, and my Sicilian father shaped me in ways I’m still understanding. My father immigrated to the United States from Sicily when he was 29. He was a boy during the Second World War and experienced the Allied invasion of Sicily firsthand. The Allies bombed his village, armies swept through its streets, and, after Italy switched sides, the Germans bombed the village too. This changed him in ways he could never articulate and gave him an explosive temper with a short fuse. When I was growing up, my father often told me stories about his life during and after the war. Each time he told a story, it was like he was there again, living it, and bringing me by his side. Things my classmates at school read in history books about the Second World War, lived at home with us. But my father also shared his love for his homeland, for its beauty and history and even the soil itself that sustained his family. My father speaks little English and has little formal education. When I was growing up, he worked as a machinist in a factory that made parts for military aircraft and the Space Shuttle fleet. He worked long hours, including many weekends, but he still found time to tend his garden. In his heart, my father is a gardener. One of the things I inherited from my father is his persistence—which is a polite word for stubbornness. It took me ten years to write and revise my debut novel, How Fires End. I made the time early in the morning before my job, on my lunch break, and during weekends. As much as my father and I are both similar in our stubbornness, growing up there was often a gulf between us. My father was strong and stocky, a traditional Sicilian who adhered to strict notions of machismo. I was an alien to him, a strange, scrawny thing—a shy bookworm who played Dungeons & Dragons instead of soccer like my cousins. As a boy, I felt that my American half somehow disappointed my father. I wasn’t Sicilian but I wasn’t American either. I existed somewhere between those two worlds—the worlds of my immigrant father and my American mother. In the 1970s, there were few portrayals of what it meant to be bicultural but then my older brother introduced me to Star Trek. Mister Spock was the first time I saw a character dealing with the struggle of being a child of two worlds, and existing in neither one of them. A lot of what I write—and what motivates me to write—is about finding ways to understand how traumas carry across generations, what the costs and consequences are, and how our relationships and identities are complicated by them.
What’s your philosophy of creating good writing? Reading everything aloud is essential to my writing process.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 Writing is about finding the rhythm in the words and in the narrative. Huraki Murakami said that you have to find the right arrangement of words to match the rhythm. I read everything I write out loud, listening to the music in the sentences, trying to find the right arrangement. I spent my 20s as a guitarist and mandolinist in various bands, writing songs and playing shows. A band can’t function if the individual members are off doing their own thing. In a song, each part compliments the whole. In writing, you have plot, character, setting, language—and, like members of a band, all those elements have to work together to create a larger whole. The challenge, of course, is that getting those elements to cooperate can be just as hard as keeping a band together. And I couldn’t keep any of my bands together, even when we had a major-label record contract staring us in the face. I also don’t believe in waiting for inspiration. If you want to write, you have to clock the time. Make a schedule that works for you—which doesn’t necessarily mean writing every day—and then punch that timecard. Octavia Butler said it best: “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.” Writing is a lot like solving a jigsaw puzzle, with equal parts frustration and discovery. During this pandemic, my partner and I have been doing a lot of puzzles, and we’ve realized that often the piece you’re looking for looks nothing like you expect. For me, this is also true of writing.
Who are your Top Three Favorite Authors? What would you ask them if you had the chance? My top three changes at any given time as books come in and out of my life. But there are a handful of authors and books that have been very influential in my writing—and who I’ve also been lucky enough to get to know. Alexander Chee’s debut novel, Edinburgh, is one that I return to again and again. In Edinburgh, the protagonist, Fee, and his friends experience a trauma that no one speaks about, and through Fee’s eyes we see how that trauma—and the silence around it— shapes his life. It was the first time I’d read a novel that laid bare the damning nature of silence and what it did to people. I met Alex in the early 2000s at the Wesleyan Writers Conference and became his student. He was the first person who told me that my short stories were part of a larger whole, that I was actually writing a novel. Christopher Castellani’s debut novel, A Kiss from Maddalena, is about ordinary Italians during the Second World War and the hardships they endured. A lot of what you see about Italian Americans—and especially Sicilian Americans—in books, films, and television is about the mafia. When I was querying literary agents, one agent suggested they would be interested in my novel if I made the main character haunted by a mafia past, rather than a childhood war trauma. In A Kiss from Maddalena, the stories of Italian civilians during wartime takes center stage and that helped my novel feel possible. Hafizah Geter, who I have been lucky to have as an editor, is also a brilliant writer. Depth, language, rhythm—she weaves these elements together in a way that is always breathtaking. From her recent essay in The Yale Review: “As the coronavirus death toll rises, as Black folks beg for testing, for treatment, for economic relief—for our pain to be believed—as my nephew watches my father convalesce from a February lung cancer diagnosis and a partial lobectomy, and as bodies flood the street to protest the lives murdered by police, I am reminded that there are a million ways to teach a Black boy about death.” Hafizah’s debut poetry collection, Un-American, comes out this September from Wesleyan University Press.
You’re getting serious attention about your debut novel. Please tell us some high points from your work. As a debut novelist, one of the highlights has been receiving messages from readers. Readers—whether book reviewers, bloggers, bookstagrammers, or strangers who heard about and bought the book—have been so open in sharing what the book meant to
them. One woman from California, whose late husband was from Sicily, contacted me on social media to say that she bought copies of How Fires End for each of her four children because it spoke to their own family’s history and immigrant experience. When you’re toiling away writing draft after draft, your real hope isn’t just publication. The dream is having people connect with the story you’re working so hard to bring to life. Having that happen after ten years is incredible. Another great honor was having my novel selected by Scribbler—a monthly book subscription service—as their October 2019 book of the month. Seeing subscribers’ enthusiastic social media posts about the book was a huge thrill. As part of the box, I wrote an essay about worldbuilding just for Scribbler subscribers. My editor, Hafizah Geter, and I also did a call with subscribers about the writing and publishing process. There have been so many other highlights. Meeting readers at events has been unexpected and wonderful. I was scheduled to speak on a panel at a conference in Italy in May and, while the event was rightly cancelled due to the pandemic, I was ecstatic to be asked to participate. Early on, I also connected with a group of debut authors on Facebook who had novels and memoirs releasing in 2019. This community has given me insight, perspective, and friendships that have been invaluable.
How can we keep up with you on social media? You can find me on Twitter @MarcoRafala, on Instagram @sicilianaut, and at my website https://www.marcorafala.com/ My personal essay, “When a Family Measures Time by Its Losses,” means so much to me, so I’m going to plug that here too. It’s about how my uncle’s disappearance shortly after my family immigrated to the United States shaped all our lives. You can find it at LitHub: https:// lithub.com/when-a-family-measures-time-by-its-losses/
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
American Neolithic Terence Hawkins “This is a one-of-a-kind novel…Terry Hawkins is a bold and fearless writer.” Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Mrs. Fletcher
It’s the day after tomorrow. America is Police State Lite. The Bill of Rights has been swallowed by the Patriot Amendments. Science bends the knee to state-sponsored Creationism. The Supreme Court is powerless before the Patriot Tribunal and the Homeland Police upholding their motto, “Always Watching.” Enter Blingbling. Foreign-looking, undocumented, and apparently homeless, he’s implicated in a hip-hop murder. His lawyer, the hard-boiled Raleigh, keeps him from Homeland’s clutches until a routine DNA test exposes a secret that threatens to destroy his client, his career, and much more. Release Date: November 4. Pre-order at thecalliopegroup.com
the skin o dreams: new and collected poems 1995-2018
Quraysh Ali Lansana “Quraysh Ali Lansana has woven a roadmap of poems and prophecy from Tulsa to Chicago, slowly breaking open the voices of history with each step. Follow the path on these pages to enter your own skin.” Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize winner, Olio
the skin of dreams is a remembering, an offering and a gathering of geographies. Traversing twenty-three years of earth and breath, Quraysh Ali Lansana’s first new and collected works roadmaps small town Oklahoma to southside Chicago in compelling poems that question, surprise and dare. As a direct descendent of the Black Arts Movement and last student of Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, Lansana explores the complicated internal and external terrain of Blackness and history from a post-King, post-Kennedy childhood through the election of the first non-White president while grappling with the definition of home. These are poems that cry, sing, scream and see. Available now at thecalliopegroup.com
Mildred Barya BY: Clifford Brooks What’s the rich history of Mildred Barya? I can tell you a bit—it involves writing poetry and prose, reading world literature, teaching, hiking, cooking, sleeping, and yoga. The writing aspect is what holds everything together—my constant. I’ve learnt how wretched I get when I do not write. I become the opposite of rich… I am most joyful and complete when I’m immersed in the process of writing. Nowadays, I may begin a piece that looks like a poem and by the time I get to the end, it’s crossed genre and turned into a hybrid with its own logic. This process of knowing and not-knowing what I’m writing doesn’t cease to surprise and delight me.
What’s your philosophy on writing quality poetry? Authenticity - Over the years, I’ve learnt that one may study forms and other technicalities that make a good poem, elements of craft and all—musicality, figures of speech that are capable of bringing back the dead while at the same time haunting the living, and so on, but none of the mastery can redeem a poem whose tone or experience comes off as superficial. I’ve heard kids say some of the most remarkable lines (I’ve wished I’d spoken them myself), when playing with other kids or just goofing off. What’s sad is that they grow up and lose all the poetry, then they have to take creative writing classes to learn how to become poets again. When my nephew was 4 years old, he ate a cookie a week or so after his mother had told him to stay off cookies. He was so filled with sugared joy that he couldn’t help but “confess”. We were gathered at the table when he bounced into the room, a broad smile covering his face. He looked at his mother as he deliciously narrated his story. Then his mother said, “Didn’t I tell you not to eat the cookie?” And the boy said, “Mummy, I forgot to remember.” We burst into laughter and I felt compelled to take his side. Later, I wondered what would have happened had Eve looked into God’s eyes and said, God, I forgot to remember, and truly meant it. How might that whole apple incident have turned out?
What is your responsibility as a poet to the reader? To pose the problem or issue at the heart of my writing correctly. I’m a believer of Chekhov who said that it’s not the writer’s ‘obligation or task to solve the problem but to formulate it correctly.’ This approach enables me to examine closely whatever craft elements I’m using and come up with what I think are the best strategies for stating what I wish to communicate. I do not begin here, though, this happens in the revision stage. The initial writing is unencumbered—I let it come out of my body the way it wants to without thinking too much. I spend more time revising than writing. I find being human and living my life in the fullest sense quite a huge responsibility for myself, without imagining bringing in the reader. So before I externalize anything, I feel like I owe it to myself first and foremost to be satisfied with it, then the reader can take care of it whichever way they consider fit.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
How does your poetry function in this current political climate? It’s charged! There’s a place for every emotion and I must say the current climate has provoked a lot of rage. But if I take a step back, I realize that it’s always been this way. Nikki Giovanni said, “Rage is to writers what water is to fish.” Audre Lorde has a long essay on the uses of anger, coming from what she and the black community were experiencing at the time. I can’t imagine less angry poets at this time. Maybe the ones who have their heads in the sand. We are poets of our time and creatures of our environments. Even when we think we’re writing the future, often enough we’re drawing inspiration from the past, while being shaped by the present. Reality’s grip on us is so strong that we cannot easily shake it off. When you read Ntozake Shange, Ai Ogawa, June Jordan, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, Matthew Olzmann, and several others, alive or dead, you recognize inventive and courageous ways they channeled anger along with the compassion and love that thrives in their work.
What drew you to teaching? Where do you teach and how to you keep the fire burning? It was the other way round. Teaching pursued me when I was doing everything I could to avoid it. My parents were teachers, so I told myself I was going to do something very different, watch me! I ran to journalism, humanitarian work, organizational psychology…and always ended up in charge of training others, because, apparent to everyone but me, I was a good teacher. I’d get defensive about it and say, “This is training, not teaching.” I would see my colleagues’ evil grins whenever I said that. Fast-forward, I’m at Syracuse University in the MFA program, and part of the package is a teaching fellowship. I step into class and all the suits I’d worn fall off. I’m enjoying myself so much and my students are glowing and I’m like, dear God, this is it. I teach at UNC-Asheville. I refuel every summer—allow my mind to rest (chuckles)—if such a thing is possible. I attend to research and writing creative projects—I always have several in the pipeline. I also spend quality time gardening, observing wild life—black bears, turkeys, deer, eastern rat snakes—and taking long walks if I’m in the area. But most summers I’m gone to writing residencies, which have a way of rejuvenating me, so that when the Fall semester starts, I have new energy. Having a creative outlet keeps me sane and everyone is happy.
What books do you have out now? Three old books—Men Love Chocolates But They Don’t Say, The Price of Memory After the Tsunami, and Give Me Room to Move My Feet. I’m thrilled about the two new poetry manuscripts that I’m currently sending out. In different ways—one more surreal and the other realistic—I move through the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, as I explore subjects like ancestral memory, liminal spaces, blackness, belonging, freedom, migrations, and ecosystems.
What are you working on now? I’m revising a historical novel based on a 2001 Doomsday cult in Uganda, and also writing nonfiction essays that move back and forth between “home” and diaspora.
How do we keep up with you on social media? Sometimes on facebook and twitter, but the most consistent is visiting my literary blog: http://mildredbarya.com In person, I host the Malaprop’s Poetrio Events at the bookstore and café every first Sundayof the month, at 3.p.m. We’re now on halt until COVID-19 air clears.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
For Tamir Rice You will not grow—
on your birthday, family comes
I trace your face
in things left behind: a coffee machine,
a washing machine,
they say, heals.
wishing they create
new sounds— I do not want to heal the sound of your toy gun
the sound of your laugh
my greatest gift—
to have heard you
a mistake for recovery?
I string together memories like beads to carry me through
I sing names of lives we lose— our fucked history repeated, over and over— never over!
Rachel King Editor Ruminate Magazine BY: Clifford Brooks
Tell us about your literary journal. What What do you look for in a “quality submission”? What should people do (and don’t do) to create an makes it different from other literary magazines? attractive product? Ruminate is a reader-supported, contemplative literary arts magazine. We invite slowing down and paying attention. We love laughter. And we delight in deep reading, telling stories, staying astonished, and doing “small things with great love,” as Mother Teresa said. The prose, poems, and visual art in Ruminate are reflective. We’re probably more open to spiritual pieces than some magazines but don’t cater solely toward them. Our physical magazine itself is high quality: thick paper, glossy pages. We want the physical product as well as the words and visual art to invite people to slow down and enjoy. What personally drew me to Ruminate was its rich, sometimes slower-moving prose; I loved how it didn’t feel the need to wow on the first sentence but could quietly build into something beautiful. I have also grown to love our high-quality poetry that often explores the earth and our relationship to it, our visual art that isn’t afraid to contain activism, and our notes section, where we publish flash nonfiction written by readers.
While reading a story, I personally look for good pacing, good sentences, and/or good characterization. There are thousands of ways for a story to be good, and sometimes another aspect will strike me too, but those are my primary three. If a story shines, then I ask myself whether it’s a Ruminate story: is it
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 contemplative, that is, either ruminating on experience or in a more spiritual sense, does it contain transcendent aspects? I think including a variety of voices improves the quality of a magazine. As I’m approving content, I make sure that the selections in each issue are diverse as well as well-written. I’d suggest writers read the magazine, even just a piece or two, before submitting to get a feel for Ruminate’s aesthetic. We offer digital copies for five dollars and post-free poetry and prose excerpts from each issue on our website.
What’s the philosophy your journal runs on? What ethical foundations do you passionately uphold? Ruminate holds that the everyday is sacred; that art, like people and the world, have meaning in themselves and don’t need to justify themselves to exist. We also believe that making art, like making a life, is always a process of beginning again.
How did you become involved in your magazine? What unique perspective do you bring? I first encountered Ruminate while reviewing literary magazine for NewPages in 2008. In 2018, I applied to be Ruminate’s fiction editor through a Submittable open call. I was a finalist but didn’t make the cut. Brianna Van Dyke, Ruminate’s founder and former editor-in-chief, then asked me to be the managing editor, since I’d worked in editorial production in book publishing for many years. I accepted that position, then became the editor this year after Brianna stepped down.
What are projects do you have on deck for 2020 and 2021? We’re currently in the process of hiring a new poetry editor; the poet Kristin George Bagdanov, who has worked with Ruminate for many years, will soon step down. We’ll then hire a new fiction editor; I’m acting as the interim one right now. We’ve recently started accepting flash fiction for our online magazine, The Waking, and we want to continue to grow that space. My favorite Ruminate fundraiser, Happenings, where past contributors and friends of Ruminate create spontaneous pieces of art for ticket holders on Facebook Live, happens every March: please keep an eye out for it in 2021!
How do we find you on social media to stay in the know? Website: https://www.ruminatemagazine.com/ Twitter: @ruminatemag Facebook: @RuminateMagazine Instagram: @ruminatemag
As a dedicated writer who has had many rejections and a few successes, I bring compassion toward our submitters and contributors in my role as the editor. I want to assist emerging writers as editors have assisted me. I prefer to accept pieces from our queue not solicit them, I line-edit the prose, and I love that we don’t charge for submissions during open reading periods and that we pay writers.
Rachel Mindell from Submittable BY: Clifford Brooks
What’s your story, morning glory? What makes Rachel Mindell feel at peace in this mad world? Your
question makes me think of Donnie Darko if that offers any insight. What a mess we’re in.
My 11-month-old son is the most peaceful thing I’ve got going, even when he’s berserk. I’m also leaning heavily on moving plants between pots and watering, popsicles, and reading ebooks in bed—an alternation between Octavia Butler (Lillith’s Brood) and bell hooks (All About Love: New Visions), destruction and rebuilding, aliens etc. While stroller pushing, I’m listening to Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning which isn’t “peaceful” per se but fundamental learning for a more peaceful future.
I understand that you’re an accomplished poet. Please tell us about the creative work you’ve written and how it’s developed over time. I grew up playing music and singing so the sound obsession runs deep. In college, I started writing poems. I got heavy with it in my late 20s and went to MFA school at 32. Initially, my work was hyper narrative followed by total contempt (learned) for “confessionalism” (IMO a sexist codification of mainly female experience) and little to no “I/me,” followed by recent attempts to bridge a love for wonky sound,
dense language, and angst with personal, bodily truth. I have no idea how successful any of this has been. I also started trying to write essays a few years ago. I’m not writing at all these days, outside of work and cryptic voice memos like “son nursing with foot on my neck.” Maybe these fragments will become something and maybe they’ll live and die in my phone. I’m ok with it. The upside-down world has me doubting what being an “accomplished poet” (I’m not, but thank you for saying so) even means or matters. I have a new chapbook out, May/be, published by Tammy.
Who are your literary heroes? If you could meet one of them (alive or dead) who would it be and what would you ask him or her? Anne Carson was an obsession for a while and I did meet her only because I accosted her in the AWP bookfair. It was mortifying. Here’s what she said about the interviews: Kevin McNeilly: Do you think there is a poetics of the interview? Anne Carson: No, I think the whole form is a mistake. I can’t say I have writerly heros and lists limit but here are loves from the nearest bookshelf: C.D. Wright, Terrance Hayes, Rebecca Solnit, Ross Gay, Dorothea Lasky, Sharon Olds, TC Tolbert, Khadijah Queen, Joan Kane, Julie Carr, Brandon Shimoda, Clarice Lispector, jos charles, Julio Cortazar, Eileen Myles, Mary Ruefle, D.A. Powell. The questions I always want answered are about the creative process (from magic rituals to revision).
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
You’re Senior Editor at Submittable and you’ve been with the company for over four years. How did you get involved with Submittable? How have you made this incredible company your home since you got on board? In grad school, I edited the school’s literary magazine CutBank and we republished Submittable CEO and co-founder Michael Fitzgerald’s short story in an anthology. Submittable supported our launch event in Missoula and then invited our editorial team to come into the office in 2014 and talk about what could work better within the product. Submittable had a tiny office and they bought us pizza and I was so impressed with how much they cared. When the opportunity to work for the company presented itself, I was thrilled. It’s been exciting to witness and be part of Submittable’s expansion. I started in customer support, then moved to editorial, and eventually, editorial became marketing. I’m blessed to have a job I can do remotely that I also really enjoy and through which I can continue to learn and grow.
Your gift with words, teaching, and business (rare like a blue unicorn that speaks Latin and grants wishes) is unparalleled. How did you grow these rare traits into one fine-tuned machine? I’m an experience-hoarder with a shortish attention span and a perfectionistic bent. I prefer to be busy. I’m a Capricorn. Between my work with Submittable and my personal writing and teaching, I get to sort of do it all which is the only way I like to do it. I think I got here through some version of the gig economy, piecing my income together from a variety of passions and piecemeal freelance/project work. I was a waitress and bartender for many years and if you can’t multitask in that arena, you’re done. I’ve also benefited from all kinds of privilege, studying
“impractical” things I wanted to study, taking out massive loans to do too much school, and being able to make choices across the years in line with evolving dreams.
Please tell us specifically about your educational endeavors, including Submittable’s partnership with Skillshare. What drives you to help other writers avoid painful pitfalls and confusion? I’ve had great teachers that made me want to teach. Before working at Submittable, I was already a big submitter. And after? Forget about it. I like to share what I know, from the front end and back end, so to speak, and I like to learn from others about their process. Publishing is not the end all be all but I do think submitting has helped me read more, nurture community, and revise better. Creating a free class on submitting with Skillshare (https://skl.sh/submittable) was a really fun experience, even though I was on the verge of puking the whole time because of morning sickness. The Skillshare crew is made up of consummate professionals and I can’t say enough good things about what they offer and how they work.
What makes Submittable stand out as a startup? There’s a lot I really appreciate about Submittable but two things are especially significant in my mind. The first is our commitment to kind, quick, human technical support. If you’ve ever reached out with an issue, you know that Submittable takes customer assistance really seriously. The technical support and onboarding teams are some of the smartest, nicest people you’ll ever interact with. I also get jazzed on what an insanely versatile product Submittable is. At least once a week, I come across a group using the software in some way I’ve never seen before. Most people know us from publishing but I love that Submittable has also been able, for example, to help organizations (including the Montana state government) facilitate COVID-19 emergency relief grants. Part of my job involves interviewing client organizations and I’m always humbled by the great work Submittable helps organizations achieve across industries, mostly due to the creativity and dedication of our users.
What do you feel is your responsibility as a poet is to your readers? How does poetry help society in this tumultuous time? Honestly, I don’t know. I feel my responsibilities as a human are to learn, work for justice, amplify what is beautiful and what is right, be brave, be honest, protect others. I’m not using poetry to do that right now but so many other people are and I hope we all keep reading and supporting them. I’m still not sure what poetry can and can’t do but I know that art matters. A whole lot. Now and always.
What makes you happy? How do you unplug from the madness all around you? My son makes me happy. My plants and my dog and my blow up pool and my family and my friends make me happy. I love long walks at sunset with a headset, baby, and audio book (or podcast or music). As a new mom, I’m always ”on” but I’m not always “plugged in” if that makes sense, especially when it comes to consuming media. I wish I had more time to read and more time to write but I also love my life just like it is and I feel incredibly grateful all the time.
How can we keep up with your creative work and teaching? I have a website I update sometimes.
What is your philosophy of “good writing”? For me, it’s always changing so there’s no philosophy I can share except that I know good writing when I see and hear it. I know it when I’m surprised, captivated, challenged. I know it in my own work and the work of others by these same criteria. Awe feels like an important word.
How can we follow you on social media? I like Twitter.
What new developments are coming from Submittable that folks should keep an eye out for? We’ve had an incredibly busy year and too many exciting new features to list with many more on the horizon. Creative people should definitely spend time with the Discover feature and try external submission tracking. We’ve got all kinds of cool weekly blogs scheduled through the fall with a knockout virtual reading featuring our Eliza So Fellow Tiffany Midge on deck.
Thanks for the opportunity, Clifford. This was fun!
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Director Rainer Writing Workshop
Pacific Lutheran University’s Low-residency MFA BY: Angela Gregory-Dribben Tell us about how Rainer Writing Workshop came to be? The Rainier Writing Workshop was founded in 2004 by the writers Judith Kichen and Stan Sanvel Rubin. For many years they had run a summer writers’ conference in Brockport, in upstate New York, and when they retired to the Pacific Northwest, they thought it would be a wonderful thing to start a low-residency MFA program here in the region. This was at a time when there was still only a modest number of these programs in the country. They ran the program for 10 years, and I took over the helm in 2014.
What is your role in the program? What leadership skills do you think are important as a director of a low-res MFA program? What other positions do you hold in your writing life? As the director of the program, I have a multifaceted role. I recruit and support students and faculty, I engage in administrative and financial oversight of the program, I promote it and celebrate its strengths and accomplishments, and I also try to shape the values and the vision of the program. There are two leadership skills that I feel has been important to me in this role: a sense of patience for all the challenging tasks that go with directing a program with many moving parts, and a sense of organization to work hand-in-hand with that patience. Besides being the director of the program, I also teach writing and literature to undergraduates at PLU, and I am the poetry editor for New England Review.
How did you come to poetry? What was your formal education path? Who was your greatest influence along the way? I came to poetry relatively late, in that I didn’t start writing poems until my junior or senior year of college. Before that, I wanted to be a literary journalist, like the writers in The New Yorker. But when I started writing poems, I knew it was my home genre. I went to Wesleyan University for my undergraduate education, where I had the amazing mentorship of Annie Dillard. I did my MFA at the University of Iowa, where I also had some crucial teachers, including Jorie Graham. After Iowa, I was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford. My teachers have certainly been important influences, but it’s also worth noting the influence of my peers and their work. When I was at Iowa, there was an incredible cluster of poets whose work I admired, including Michael Dumanis, Robin Schiff, Matthea Harvey, Cate Marvin, just to name a quick few.
What or who is your favorite poet or collection to teach? Why? There are a number of poetry collections that I teach on a fairly regular basis. I’ll name just a handful that I taught this past spring in my undergraduate poetry workshops. Yusef Komunyakaa’s book of poems about his Louisiana childhood, Magic City. Louise Glück’s classic book, The Wild Iris. And Craig Santos Perez’s complex rendering of Guam and his Chamorro background in the first book of his from unincorporated territory series, [hacha]. But I could’ve named another half dozen books that I teach all the time.
What does RWW seek in a student? What is happening behind-the-scenes in the admission process? Writing talent is obviously a very important strength that we want in a student of RWW. But more than that, a mature sense of the hard work that it takes to deepen and complicate as a writer. Our students are independent, which is needed in the low-residency structure, and also eager to receive strong direction from a mentor.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 These qualities show up in the three items that are probably most important to us when we evaluate each application: the creative writing sample, the critical writing sample, and the personal statement.
What qualities most influence a student’s success specifically in a low-res program? As I noted above, talent, maturity, and independence are key. I think it’s also important for a student to have a willingness, even a deep need, to experience radical transformation in his or her work, and in his or her conception of what it means to be a writer. Our program is in the business of transformation. We provide all of these resources—of learning, of community—in the service of that transformation. It’s worth mentioning here that one of the ways we create the potential for transformation is by supporting students who work in multiple genres, even within one mentorship year. Our faculty and our students write and publish in many genres, and therefore we encourage that kind of cross-genre creativity.
What is the process for becoming a mentor? The mentors for RWW are, first of all, talented and ambitious writers who publish in the best venues and with the most reputable publishing houses. They are also excellent teachers who come from top-notch home institutions. For our faculty, teaching at RWW is a side gig, but this only indicates how much they love teaching. Our most recent faculty have come to the program because they were recommended by somebody who already teaches for the program and knows the kind of high-quality teaching the program demands. One noteworthy strength of our faculty is that they write and publish in multiple genres, and therefore they have a richly complicated sense of literature and writing. I also believe that having a teacher who works in multiple genres makes for a strong teacher.
How are students matched with mentors? What should a student expect from a mentor relationship? At the start of each mentorship year, a student is asked to fill out a project form wherein he or she describes their goals for the coming year. The student also has a chance to list the possible mentors he or she wants to work with. Based on what the students’ goals are, and after consulting with the faculty, I make the student/ faculty mentorship pairings. A student should expect support from the mentor that is both rigorous and caring. A mentor encompasses numerous roles during the year-long mentorship: comrade writer, coach, counselor, and model for inspiration. As someone who also mentors students, I will say that the dynamic goes both ways. That is, students are also, for me, sources of camaraderie, learning, and inspiration.
How does a program create a sense of community in a lowresidency setting? What is the student’s role in creating their own connection to others in the program? One of the ways that community is created for a low-residency program is through the intense experience of the on-campus residency. The students and faculty really bond during this time, and this carries over into the rest of the mentorship year when everyone is at home. Based on what I hear from students, cohort and friendship groups are formed during the residency and these groups work hard to continue their conversations at home, via social media or in-face gatherings for people who live nearby. I’ve heard of friend-groups doing writing retreats and vacations together. In terms of community, a student gets out of it what a student puts in. That is, if someone works hard to create and grow community, they are rewarded for that. But there are also those who are more reticent, and that’s fine too.
What do you feel is unique about RWW in the low-res scene? I think there are two unique aspects of RWW. First, there is the year-long mentorship, which really encourages a deeper conversation between the mentor and the student. Instead of the mentor just overseeing the students’ academic tasks, their conversation can include more dimensions of the writing life. I think another distinction of the program is its communal spirit. Everyone comes to the program with their own strong ambitions, and these are often very different ambitions, but the program strives to give every student’s ambition its deep support. And so, there’s no competitiveness in the program, only a sense of common and individual causes harmonizing. Rick Barot was born in the Philippines and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has published three volumes of poetry: The Darker Fall (2002), Want (2008), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and won the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize, and Chord (2015), all published by Sarabande Books. Chord received the UNT Rilke Prize, the PEN Open Book Award, and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award.
It was also a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, The New Republic, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and The New Yorker. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Stanford University. He recently received the Shelley Memorial
Award from the Poetry Society of America. He lives in Tacoma, Washington and directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University. He is also the poetry editor for New England Review. His fourth book of poems, The Galleons, was published by
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Christopher Margolin The Poetry Question BY: Clifford brooks
What made Christopher Margolin fall in love with The Poetry Question? A student named Andrew Morris stood up in class one day and challenged me to prove the relevancy of poetry in the 21st century. I may have been teaching a Creative Writing class, but the reality was that I couldn’t answer the question. I wanted to tell him that it is so important, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know why. As a class, we went to YouTube and watched poem after poem after poem. We started with Def Jam Poetry and followed our way down the rabbit hole until we had a whiteboard filled with 183 poets that each of us felt had changed us in some way spoken to us. Made us feel something. We spent days tweeting at every musician, poet, writer, actor, asking them the same question: “What is the relevance of poetry in the 21st century?”. We received hundreds of responses from celebrities all over the world. For my students, it was magical to get rappers and writers who they knew writing back to us. For me, it proved that poetry was alive and well, and served an important purpose in the 21st century: to inspire emotion. My class pushed me to start The Poetry Question as a house for all the tweets we were getting. When we were featured on the Craig Ferguson late-night show, I knew I had to do something. The poets we had found were mainly from small presses, and I became interested in sharing their voices. I wanted others to hear and see what I had witnessed. It was like a new religion, and small press poetry was my holy water. I fell in love with TPQ because I was able to push out the voices of small presses and small press poets who may otherwise go unnoticed. These are the voices of our generation - whichever generation - and they deserve to be heard. They deserve to stand the test of time. They are the honesty we need. I try to bring that same honesty to TPQ on a daily basis.
How do you define “good poetry”? Is there such a thing as “good poetry”? It’s all subjective. With TPQ we really try to be honest in our reviews. We want people to know why they should spend their money on these words. I don’t always like everything, and sometimes it’s difficult to write a positive review, but a negative review does nothing to support the community. Saying that I don’t like something has no bearing on whether or not the next person does. There was a reason the book was published, and it’s my job as a reviewer to point the reader in that direction. I don’t need the book to be amazing. They aren’t all going to sit right with me. But why take away from what you like? Why tell you that you shouldn’t buy something that may speak to you more powerfully than any other piece of literature. “Good Poetry” is anything that speaks to you. It’s anything that makes you question or uncomfortable or dizzy or in love.
What does The Poetry Question offer that other literary sites don’t? As far as I can tell, TPQ is the only site in the world that focuses solely on Small Press Poetry recommendations and reviews. I pride myself on trying to be the voice for Small Press Poetry. We offer more than 300 chap and collection reviews each year, more than 100 essays on the “Power of Poetry,” and over 60 book recommendations each week. I just don’t know where else people are going to see this kind of content. We offer honesty and a human touch. We do not write flat academic reviews. We write short, pointed reviews, that show our personality as much as the work of the authors. We want you to be engaged with what we are saying, and hopefully want to start a conversation and lead to a purchase.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Who are your five favorite poets? Why? Ah, you’re asking me to do my own #TPQ5. That’s cruel. I’ll give you my top 5 poets at 12:31am on a Wednesday morning. 1. Slyvia Plath - There are few poets who can craft lines like Plath. The immediacy of emotion and the willingness to be forever vulnerable sets her apart from her contemporaries. Plus a line like, “I am nothing; I have nothing to do with explosions” grabs me like very few lines of poetry have ever grabbed me. 2. Langston Hughes - He was the first poet who made me fall in love with words and the musicality of poetry. 3. Danez Smith They say it like it is, and it’s always the most beautiful when it comes from Danez. There’s just something so poignant and pregnant in every line. 4. Arhm Choi Wild - I just finished reading his newest collection, Cut to Bloom, and spent almost every page with a pen and a tissue. I couldn’t write down my own thoughts about his words fast enough. 5. Ebony Stewart - If you don’t know Ebony Stewart, race to your computer, type in her name, and watch. She is power. She is such a genuine soul and light and will kick you in the mouth to make you understand who you really are in this world.
How do we keep up with you on social media? You can find me @poetryquestion on Twitter and everything else at http://www.thepoetryquestion.com
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Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Wome Resili 62
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Laura Ingram 1st Place Winner BY: Clifford brooks Tell us about yourself. I’m currently a creative writing undergraduate that’s bounced between a couple of schools, but felt the most at home at Hollins University, a small, women’s-only institution in the mountains of Virginia. I love most books and all cats, and I’ve been writing since I was seven.
What moved you to take up poetry? I think I more fell into it than anything. I was fifteen, I’d say, when I wrote my first good poem, about, of all things, the cold coffee in the classroom. I was deeply struggling with myself at the time (what kid that age isn’t?) and poetry ended up being the medium I needed to break— and then blossom.
What drew you to the Women of Resilience chapbook contest? I found the Women of Resilience chapbook competition while I was in the hospital being treated for anorexia nervosa and after a hell of a year, it called out to me, and asked me to come home to writing.
Tell us about The Ghost Gospels, the winning chapbook submission. The Ghost Gospels shares a title with my high school senior writing portfolio, only this version shows how much I’ve grown. It’s baby teeth in a baggie, bird bones buried in the cold dark earth. The Ghost Gospels tells of the travels of my skin and my bones through the ache of adolescence and the tenderness of change.
What are your plans for the future? My plans for the future are a little muddy right now, but I am an undergraduate working towards a Creative Writing Bachelor of Arts, and then an MFA in poetry. After that I aim to work as a professor of creative writing and a poetry fellow. In the meantime, I will keep writing.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
dry ground by night in waste and desolation. I cartograph a city from what I once wanted a city of thieves thirsty for milk long soured in a ceramic cup clouds shrugging rain off their shoulders me starting a séance fending off flickering ghosts and sickly-thin sun with a broken umbrella. Every house here is empty, dim as dreams. I let myself in to the first colonial I come to, sit by the peony plant withering on the windowsill watching the dust mites flit from bright to bright through the rungs of a chair the only sound the thud of a locust landing against glass— No one’s come home. I go to the river to remember God, my God-given name, black-eyed-susan my God-given name, lamentation— I skip my purpling heart across the water like a stone make a Eucharist of dandelion stems (this is my body, broken for you) bury my own bones by the creek bed abloom with lilies my bones mixed with fawn’s bones so little as inelegant as an end.
Lifecycle of a locust
Job 33:3 Through want and hard hunger they gnaw the
2nd Place Winner by:BY: Clifford Brooksbrooks Clifford
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. My formative years involved a lot of moving. I went to 9 different schools in Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida. I hated all the upheaval as a kid but now I pride myself on being an expert-level box-packer and I can adapt to almost any setting. Apparently, I inherited some of my parents’ wanderlust because after high school I went on to spend time in places like Montana, British Columbia, Japan, Vietnam, New York City, Micronesia, Maine and Arizona. I got my Bachelor’s degree from Antioch College before eventually returning to my birthplace of Urbana, Illinois to start my teaching career and raise a family. For the last 20 years I’ve been teaching English language learners in public elementary schools. My husband and I have two teenage children each, and most recently we also adopted a puppy, so suffice it to say we are never bored.
What moved you to take up poetry? I wrote my first poem when I was six--it was about hating my grandma’s liver and onion dinners. She was a longtime English teacher in a rural part of Illinois and her favorite thing to do was to turn farm kids into poetry lovers. I know this for a fact because at her funeral a couple years ago, many of them showed up and told me so. My mom has been a novelist since I was a little girl so somehow all this passion for writing filtered into my blood. It was never strange to me to think about writing as a worthwhile pursuit. So because of my innate love of writing, a sense of familial duty, and probably a strong need for its therapeutic effects, I have been writing poems for as long as I can remember.
What drew you to the Women of Resilience chapbook contest? Even though I have experienced tremendous love and joy in my life, most of my writing gestates in the struggle. I write about things like the disruption and instability of moving around so much, the breakup of my nuclear family when I was 13 and the subsequent 6-year separation from my mom. My poems are about illness, divorce, co-parenting, death, mental health, stepfamilies and substance abuse. As a poet, I consider it my job to tease apart these really painful things and reshape them into something that provides strength or hope or insight. Or maybe I’m just trying to distill them into something more manageable. In other words, my poems are the emotional schematics of my resilience process. I guess that’s why this particular chapbook contest seemed like a good fit for my work.
Tell us about your poetry collection. Eighteen Farewells tells of the many ways farewells can manifest in a life. There are the sad farewells that you might expect for friends and lovers, but also to health and youth, to expectations and dreams, to lives we lose to addiction and suicide. But also there are good farewells--anger and hatred towards ourselves and others, to our inhibitions and fear, to loneliness and pain. At this juncture in my life, I can look at my mother and my daughter and myself--and really all women--and feel so connected through our shared farewells; the ones that anguish us and the ones that liberate us.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
What are your plans for the future? To keep clearing space in my life for writing and to continue my commitments to the two poetry groups I’m involved with. I’m very lucky to have plenty of incredible poets and poetry lovers in my life that encourage and inspire me every day. Right now my biggest goal is to publish this chapbook and then, further down the writing road, a full-length manuscript. All graduates from Antioch College are told to “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity,” so I’ve got that on my to-do list as well. I have lots of work to do! Come visit me at emilykerlin.com
Lady of the lake
You donâ€™t mind a little coontail corded around your ankles, do you? Or ribbon leeches, passing gently
over the tops of your feet?
Do you hear it? There is a loon calling, but not for you.
You are alone
with a quarter moon. It is more
A spill of starlight moves
across the sky.
You shed your clothes; your body slides easily
into the dark
Your arms lift until you are wearing
If someone appeared right now --anyone--
you could certainly fall
But there is just you. And tell me
The lady of the lake. have you ever loved anything more?
Look how the stars reach down to receive
your gentle light.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Angela Dribben 3rd Place Winner BY: Clifford brooks
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. I like coffee, whole beans fresh ground, French press steeped three minutes. I love the way a dog’s hug feels. I am learning to cut my husband’s hair and manicure his beard. He loves the attention. Covid brought us this gift, time to make over one another. I love to press my face against the cool green skin of a whole watermelon although I try not to do it until I have gotten the melon home. Even more I revel in the soothe of wet rose flesh settling at the bottom of my belly. I eat the seeds because I would like to have a watermelon vine grow from my navel.
What moved you to take up poetry? A pursuit of clarity. To better understand the way pain and joy coexist, to coexist alongside the pain and joy.
What drew you to the Women of Resilience chapbook contest? I had a story about a group of women. In my mind, their greatest strength is their resilience.
Tell us about your poetry collection. In a poetic prose, the conversation visits what we inherit, being a woman, fertility or lack thereof, loss, what we talk about and what we don’t, what we repeat generation to generation, what is punishment and what is the pain of being human, and what we manifest in our bodies.
What are your plans for the future? To heal wounds, mine and those of others.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
An excerpt from Blue Boy:
And then when it was time, her grief slid right out of her womb and laid itself over top of me. I don’t think not once in forty-five years, I have not been aware of all he took from her that quick.
Was my conception some sort of family wallop through time? Like being hit so hard upside the head with a flying Pyrex that your child gets headaches? Off my Momma’s Daddy’s death, I mean. Like if she somehow balled up all that sadness and asked my daddy to hold it for her and next thing you know, all that sadness was growing in her belly. I always felt his loss through her. Like somehow that evening when she was on her way into the living room to get him for supper and he shot himself, like his pain abandoned his body and hopped into her. Doesn’t any kind of emotion need a living body to be anything at all?
Visual Interv 72
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
l Art views
Michael Flohr BY: Clifford brooks
What does the world need to know about Michael Flohr? I am a kind and sensitive person who grew up with lots of academic troubles. Dyslexia made reading a titanic effort. My parents had me in lessons early before school two times a week first half hour tutoring was for reading spelling. The reward was to paint in oils. This was all dirty in grade school.I was pulled out of class every day and put in with a group of kids who were severely disabled. There was lots of teasing when I would come back to the main class, but my saving grace was my drawing skills. People would always have me draw things for them. Sometimes they asked me to draw a picture of a naked lady. So, I guess if I were ever in jail, I would have a saving grace of being able to do tattoos. It’s helped me in a lot of ways have an artistic talent.
When did you know you wanted to pursue painting? Who were your first inspirations? I think I was born with it. When I was young, around seven years old, I knew art would make me a living. Inspirations would be maybe seen Bob Ross on TV. There was someone was making money doing what he loved. If he could do it so could I. Knowing that I was not as good academically it was an all-in approach. I had to make it an art.
How does music play into your creative process? Music is good when I am painting. I love jazz, Radiohead, and some blues. After a while you need more than music, so I podcast some talk radio. It is comforting to hear someone voice while you are in your studio by yourself. But when I am are in the middle of a good song, I’ll find myself painting and singing at the same time kind of like my studio is my shower. I think I’m the coolest singer as I’m painting. You flow with the vibe of art.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
How do you describe your style? People describe my style as “contemporary impressionism.” Part of my success is linked directly to a unique style. My art pushed people to come up with new words for it. I tell people, if I had nothing to show them, to refer to the work of Cézanne, van Gogh, and Monet as they painted bar scenes and street scenes.
If you could sit down with one of your heroes, alive or dead, who would it be? What would you ask them?
If I could sit down with a hero or inspiring person, it would probably be van Gogh. His struggles with depression seem like what I go through. I would ask him about how he dealt with people criticizing his new type of style which I sometimes deal with in my day-to-day life.
What is your philosophy behind your work ethic as an artist? My work ethic comes from Gloria growing up with a blue-collar dad and mom who maintained an auto repair shop. They instilled a good work ethic. I would go to the shop and help my dad. My dad said I could always come back and work at the auto repair shop. I did just that after taking a hiatus from art school. Everything went great until I incorrectly replaced a tire. The poor customer drove off the lot and his tire fell off. That is what my dad said you probably should go back to art school. I graduated with a bachelor’s in fine arts and did so with high honors.
What tips can you give up-and-coming artists to help them avoid hardship? Tips the other artist would be coming up with one single style in the beginning, and not a ton of different styles. You need to brand yourself first and then later your collectors can accept a change in style. All artists must suffer, but not in the way you may expect. My suffering was giving up a social life in art school and no dating. I even denied girls who wanted to hang out. I was obsessed with taking all the extra classes and painting
as much as I could. I had to make college count because a $100,000 in loans had to be paid back. Be prepared to live as a hermit in the early years. Eventually you will come out of your shell and into the world. First you must put in those 10,000+ hours of practice.
What do you do to unplug from life and relax? For a while it was golfing, but after suffering a neck injury I stopped. The injury had two nerves pinched from my right arm to my left arm. To pick up my right arm, my painting arm, was painful. I could not paint for a while. Eventually it got better on its own. After that I went back to a past time I grew up with as a young kid: bass fishing. That is what I do mostly to relax. I take my kids out on a boat that I had since a little kid with my dad.
How has dyslexia and ADHD affected your creative life? How have you overcome it? The dyslexia meant I went through constant tutoring. Being the funny kid in class took the other kids’ minds off looking at my horrible test scores. In the end dyslexia becomes a superpower because you can ultra-focus on something that most people cannot. As I look back now I would hate to be blessed with good reading skills and spelling skills because I would never be where I am now.
What is a question you’ve never been asked but would love to answer? “Do you wish you didn’t have dyslexia and could live a ‘normal life’? I would answer that being outside of the circle can be scary because you never know how the art world is going to treat you. The people inside of the circle also get inspired by people like me because it is something that they could never imagine doing. We all need each other in our life roles. I would not give up my dyslexia for anything in the world. It is a part, if not the root, of my gift. Without art in the world things will be too sterile and contrived. It seems we all follow our own path whether it is straight or with many curves. Believe in yourself. Accept yourself. Be brave. Never settle.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Music Interv 78
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
BY: Clifford brooks
What brought J Lind into the music world? I went through a couple seasons of severe depression as a kid. Each time music pulled me out of it. My experience of depression was oddly predictable once I got into the swing of it: I was anxious in the morning, apathetic about most things during the school day, and increasingly desperate in the evening. My iPod became my respirator. I’d rent CD’s from the library, burn them onto iTunes, then make playlists. I processed thoughts and emotions through music. I still do that.
Who are your earliest influences and why? I grew up in Phoenix, and my dad would drive me up north to Flagstaff most weekends in the summer to beat the heat. He had dozens of tapes, but my favorites were Dylan, Van Morrison, and Fernando Ortega. I bought my first CD at age 10, the soundtrack for The Nightmare Before Christmas. I loved and still love story-songs, especially ones with soundscapes that make you feel like you’re in another world.
How do you define yourself as a musician? I just love stories. If I didn’t have music, I’m sure I’d be drawing or trying to write a book. I’m nothing special as an instrumentalist, so I really focus on the narrative of each song. Poppy hooks are welcome so long as they serve the story, but I’d always trade a killer hook for a cohesive narrative.
What albums do you have out and what on the horizon? My latest record, “For What It’s Worth” (2019) is a concept album inspired by stories and reflections from hospice. I’ve volunteered in hospice for the last 5 years, so I drew on some of the most meaningful experiences to write these songs. The record was produced by Lucas Morton (Jill Andrews, Jordy Searcy) and paints some sonic landscapes of which I’m particularly proud. I also have an EP, “I Don’t Know” (2017) that is more stripped down, and I’m currently recording my next LP, “The Land of Canaan” (expected 2021).
How can we keep up with you on social media? Instagram is best (@jlindmusic), but you can join my email list on my website (jlindmusic.com) or become more involved with my process through Patreon (patreon. com/jlindmusic). I appreciate you asking! J Lind www.jlindmusic.com (602)-390-0915 |
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
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Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
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John Hart BY: Clifford brooks
What brought John Hart into the music world? In a broad sense, I’d say the combination of the love of music and the fear of not knowing what would’ve happened if I didn’t try. Along the way there were specific experiences that I had or songs that I wrote that caused the idea to root a bit more deeply, but the overarching love/fear narrative ultimately drove the decision. There’s also a part of me that has always been drawn to things that didn’t have a clear-cut point of entry, and music fell perfectly into this. Growing up, I’d go to shows or watch videos of my favorite artists and wonder how they got there. I think the intrigue behind that always kept the question in the back of my mind of whether I could get there.
You have an interesting transformation from hip hop to more of a folk sound. Please tell us how that transpired. Yeah, so I grew up with a lot of hip-hop influence. Just by nature of where I went to school and the friends that I had, I listened to a lot of it. The soul and the bounce and the passion and feel of it grabbed me at an early age, but I never really considered making it myself until after college. After college, I taught school for a couple years and hip hop was a way that I connected with my students. Through getting to know the stories of my students and recognizing a natural knack for being to rap, I decided to put out a mixtape and see what happened. Racial
reconciliation is something that’s very important to me, and even though it may sound a bit corny, putting out a mixtape and engaging with that community was a way that I pursued this. Within about a year of putting out the tape, I got really burnt out on the hip hop scene. I loved the music and the creation process, but I didn’t enjoy the dynamic of the industry. Now, prior to this (growing up and during college), I was heavily influenced by folk music. There was something about the organic nature of writing songs on an acoustic guitar that I fell in love within high school that never really left. Around the time that I was super down on the hip hop scene, a friend of mine and I had started a folk project in Chattanooga and got asked to open for a touring songwriter
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
at a local house show. It was at that show that I remembered thinking, “This is how playing music is supposed to feel.” At this point, I had several folk-ish songs that I had written that I felt good about, so I decided to go in that direction.
Who are your earliest influences and why? There are many! So, within my family, there was the Christian/worship music influence, which came in both the form of radio/CDs and live music at church. My mom loves the Motown stuff, so I listened to a lot of that growing up and loved/still love it. From my dad, there was a heavy folk and rock influence – Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Then, as I said earlier, school brought with it a heavy hip hop influence – early Kanye, Lil Wayne, Nelly, Eminem, etc.
How do you define yourself as a musician? I’d say that I define myself as someone who thrives off feel. Anytime music is put in a box, I don’t do well. I didn’t make it past ninth grade in the school band because I was on the drumline and wanted to play what felt good, not what the sheet music said. I later had a rocky relationship with the guy in charge of the worship team at church in high school because I felt micromanaged. I was told that my strum patterns were distracting (which, maybe there was some truth to that at the time) and that I wasn’t dressing as a musician should. I could talk at length about that experience in high school – it was almost enough to turn me off to music completely – but, fortunately, I recovered and realized that feel is an integral part of my skill set as a musician and to use that to my advantage as opposed to suppressing it to please a subjective construct of what somebody else believes music should be. Now, I try to keep it at the center of everything that I do musically. From writing to recording to live shows: if it feels right, go with it.
What albums do you have out and what on the horizon? So, I released my first EP “To Keep from Losing” last October (2019). It’s a six-track indie-rock/alt-country-esque record that I recorded in Nashville with Adam Lochemes. I’m planning on putting out a self-produced EP of three, possibly four songs in July/August that will be largely folk-driven and then hopefully put out another EP in the fall that will lean back more in the indie-rock/alt-country vibe.
How can we keep up with you on social media? Instagram is my main form of social media communication. I’m on there as @johnhart_music.
MOVie review 86
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
movie reviews BY: tom johnson
n my last article, I covered how horror films have helped us cope with our various fears since the inception of the genre. I ended by posing the question “What will be the next trend in horror for 2020 and beyond?”. I should have known better than to ask because Covid quickly made its presence known. Now, regardless of whether you believe we are experiencing the next black plague or you think the whole thing is an overblown hoax, you have to admit this health crisis has had a major effect on our society. All the masks and the social distancing may or may not become a fixture in our day to day lives but I believe we will be seeing more of what I’m dubbing “Outbreak Horror”. It may take a while for the movies to work their way through the Hollywood system, but I predict a glut of Outbreak Horror in about 2 years. That isn’t to say we haven’t had good movies of this type in the past, but they have usually been high quality and spaced far apart. The following 3 movies are good examples and will help scratch your pandemic itch.
The andromeda strain (1971) This movie was a bit of a throwback even in the 70’s. Horror of the time had moved on from sci-fi monster movies, but it is a fun genre mashup. The story starts with a space mission returning to earth around the same time a small town in New Mexico is depopulated. A single old man and a baby are the only survivors of what is suspected to be an outbreak of alien origins. A team of scientists is assembled and secreted away in an emergency facility to research a defense or possibly a cure. The team soon learns that an alien life form was the cause of the disaster and after its new mutation; it has become a threat to everyone at the facility.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
The crazies (2010) This is a remake of a 1973 film by the king of zombie movies, George Romero. But don’t be put off by the R word because this movie is what all remakes should be. It fixes a lot of the problems of the original while still adding some fresh surprises to set itself apart. After a plane crashes in a small Iowa town called Ogden Marsh, the residents start acting a little stranger than normal. Most of the odd behavior eventually evolves into fits of extreme violence. The sheriff, his family and a few locals are unaffected so it’s up to them to stay alive long enough to find the source of the infection and put an end to it. I am a self-proclaimed germaphobe. So, it will come as no surprise that I dread the coming onslaught of Outbreak Movies. But I see a few problems with the genre beyond my personal hang-ups. I believe horror works best when it provides a straw man as its focus. Jason Voorhees is a perfect example. He represents our fear of other and unstoppable forces we can’t control. It’s cathartic to watch him tear through a summer camp because we know we will never see him in our day to day life. In Outbreak Horror, the monster is the virus and people’s mistreatment of each other in the face of a contagion is the focus. Unfortunately, that isn’t limited to the movies at the moment so I’m not sure how healthy it is to dwell on it in our cinema. Watching Outbreak Horror while all of this is going on seems like having a marathon of Saw (2004) movies the night before your big operation. Outbreak Horror is usually joyless by design. Most horror movies have some element of dark comedy to them but it’s very hard to make sick people funny. Let’s use Gremlins (1984) as an example this time. After its success, we saw a flood of movies like Ghoulies (1984), Critters (1986), Munchies (1987) and Hobgoblins (1988). The cheesier they got, the more entertaining they became. If Outbreak Horror hits big like I’m predicting, the first few movies will probably be high budget, well written and interesting but the flood of cheesy rip-offs will just be gloomy and depressing. I hope I’m wrong and Outbreak Horror won’t be the next big trend (But it totally will be!). So, I guess this was a long-winded way of saying, don’t become too fixated on viruses, germs and outbreaks. We are having a rough time now, but we will all get through this together. Plus, we will be stronger and better prepared for any similar problems in the future. In the meantime, remember how I said it was hard to make sick people funny? Warm
Bodies (2013) and The Happening (2008) prove it’s not impossible.
Outbreak (1995) This is where we run into one of the weaknesses of Outbreak Movies as a genre. There really isn’t much you can say about them because you already know what is going to happen. This is one of the best movies of its type, but it can be summed up in a couple of sentences. The U.S military is interested in a lethal disease that was just discovered in African monkeys, so they send a team to investigate. Someone from the expedition smuggles a monkey back to the states to sell and it kicks off a deadly outbreak in a small town in California. It doesn’t sound like much, but the acting is great and by the end you get the feeling that the military brass is more of a danger than the virus.
book review 90
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
The Geese who might be gods
BY Benjamin cutler BY: Clifford brooks
ood poets find a groove and stay in it. Benjamin Cutler does that with the eye of Emerson and heart of Kerouac. Those are only sideways connections as it’s cheap to say someone “sounds like” anyone but themselves. Cutler appreciates nature on a spiritual level and his soul wanders. The wandering in style and form act as a half-drunken guide that never gets you lost. There’s no fear. No easy rhymes or clunky metaphors because this poet goes at each piece like a surgeon. Just enough muscle left to lift you up but not enough to carry you.
The Geese who Might be Gods never wastes a word. It’s a book that I read four months ago and then again today. It shifts with your mood. His voice is steady but in the sparse landscape around deceptively simple poems swirls from one watercolor to another. I think this is because Cutler is an expert with sound, grammar, and invention. His poems are broken into lines and stanzas that put you where he wants. It’s delicate and firm an art as any in poetry. He doesn’t hold your hand but does whisper when to pause, stop, and then reflect. This is a collection of poetry I highly enjoyed.Here, let’s learn more about the author:
The Geese Who Might be Gods, why the title and what does it reflect about you? The title-poem, “The Geese Who Might be Gods,” was my first published poem, and I remember its conception clearly. I was at my son’s cross-country meet. The course was on a local farm adjacent to the Tuckasegee River. It was mid-afternoon, “When the river / is more light / than water,” and the geese were gathered in number. They were beautiful, confident, arrogant—not unlike the gods of myth. This poem was instrumental in setting my gait and pace as a poet: my processes, voice, and the themes that permeate the poems that would fill the collection. Being the first of my published poems, though that distinction endows it with some significance for me, doesn’t qualify “The Geese Who Might be Gods” as a title-poem. It is the word “Might.” There is no certainty here, only a place to wander between question and answer—which is where I most often find myself.
How does this book define you at a point in time? The Geese Who Might be Gods is filled with spiritual meandering, the natural world, family and friends, and memory—so much of what I have both experienced and been processing through much of my life. As my first collection of poems, much of my life—from earliest recollections to where I find myself now—is represented in that book. I don’t know that it defines me (maybe even resists definitions), but it does reflect a personal journey and identity.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
What grew fruitful in you because of this collection? A dear friend and mentor of mine once told me that she believes one of the purposes of life is to “ascertain beauty.” This is something that I have always tried to do, but being a poet augments the way you observe your world—both internal and external. This collection has shaped how I think of others, the natural world, and my own experience— how to find and acknowledge beauty in unlikely places.
Which poems are your favorites? Which do fans favor that shocked you? I’m fond of “To the Turkey Vulture Pacing the Field” and “A Tomato Sandwich for the End-Times.” I especially enjoy reading them aloud at readings. These are poems that possessed me when I was writing them, and I believed in them immediately. I can’t say this for all, or even most of, the poems in the book. Some poems that have surprised me with favorable reader responses have been “My Brother and His Friend Pause from their Work to Raise My Mower from the Dead” and “She Wants.” I think maybe there is a humor to the first that readers enjoy. As for the latter, it’s always struck me as a strange one—though one I do enjoy. Perhaps it’s that strangeness and ambiguity that readers are drawn to. I am always mindful that a reader’s experience with any poem is a personal one and may be very different from my own—or my own intent in writing it—and I try to honor that.
What do you have on deck next? How do we keep up with you? I’m always working on the next poem—paying attention, listening, reflecting, and putting words down when they arrive. As for larger projects, I have a chapbook of poems in the works and near completion: A Ghost of Water—a collection of poems that incorporate water into their imagery and symbolisms. I’m also close to organizing another full-length book, though I’m still too early in that process to comment on it with any confidence or detail. To keep up with my work and poetry, folks can find me at my website, BenjaminCutlerPoet.com, and on other social media: Twitter: @Bookish_Bum; Facebook: facebook.com/BenjaminCutlerPoet; Instagram: @ben_cutler
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Leticia Hutchins Alma Coffee
BY: Clifford brooks
What’s the rich history of Alma Coffee? [Leticia] Our story begins years ago! My family has been in coffee farming for over 5 generations, that’s a combined over 500 years of coffee farming experience in Honduras. I grew up in what I thought was every child’s normal, visiting family in Honduras, running in between coffee trees, and picking coffee cherries for fun! Fast forward a few years and I was married to my high school sweetheart and living my dream of working at one of the Big 4 CPA firms! My husband Harry and I constantly talked about our life’s purpose and how we felt we needed to do our part in making the world a little bit of a better place.
These conversations sparked us to become more involved with my dad’s coffee farm, Finca Terrerito, in Honduras. It didn’t take long before we fell in love and decided to leave our corporate jobs to pursue coffee full time. Alma Coffee was born! We are completely vertically integrated, from seed to cup, we control the entire process and that’s why we can guarantee our coffee will always be fresh and delicious!
What makes you stand out among other roasteries? [Leticia] We own our own farms and that is what truly makes us unique. Normally the coffee supply chain has dozens of individuals involved, at Alma, we control the entire process from planting the seeds, to caring for the trees, to processing, storing, roasting, grinding, and even brewing! Among various great certifications, our farms are certified USDA organic and Alma is service-disabled veteran owned.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
What’s the Alma Coffee philosophy for success? [Leticia] Our three key pillars, and the three things we take into account with every action we make is Improving Lives, Sustainable Practices, and Making Extraordinary Coffee. In all the communities we touch and with every decision that we make we are always asking how this will improve lives! As farm owners, we aim to be sustainable in everything that we do so that the next 5 generations and beyond can continue to be involved in the coffee industry while still supporting their families. If you’ve tried our coffee then you know its extraordinary! There is rich history in every cup of Alma and we guarantee a freshness that you’ll taste!
What’s your responsibility to your customers? [Leticia] Without our customers, who we consider our Alma Familia, we are nothing. We don’t take that lightly. We can do good solely because our Alma Familia makes the conscious choice to support us. Our responsibility is simple, provide extraordinary coffee and we do this by ensuring the coffee is from that year’s harvest, it’s processed with clean water from our well that goes 400 ft into the ground, it’s stored properly, and always roasted fresh!
How do we find you on social media? [Leticia] You can find us at www.myalmacoffee.com or @myalmacoffee on all social media platforms. We would love for you to join us on our story and get to know you! To learn more about our coffee farms and that changes we are making to our Honduran community, follow our farm on instagram @fincaterrerito
Where Do We Go from Here? The instructor said,
go home and write a page tonight. And let that page come out of you- Then it will be true I wonder if it’s that simple? — Langston Hughes, “Theme As I prepared to write this article, I felt I had two options in terms of the tone I wanted to take: angry Black man or intellectual pundit. Since I am tired of being angry and all the other emotions it entails and don’t like pandering which punditry requires, I am choosing a third option. So, pull up a chair, get a drink of whatever you fancy (my drink of choice tonight is Powerade that I wish was hard cider), and join me here on the patio at sunset in the balmy Midwest heat for a chat. Let’s start with something that may seem controversial: I think coronavirus was a blessing in disguise. If you are reading at this point, I commend you. Granted, I do not glory in the loss of life that could have been avoided by… certain people… nor the economic, education, social, and political fallout caused by it. However, coronavirus has revealed the true ugliness that has become present-day America. Rather than being one people made by many cultural, religious, sexual, and gender expressions, we have become two factions that don’t care about the other while outliers scream “Can you all please shut up?!” We don’t listen with empathy anymore but wait for holes in responses and seek to destroy. We love our country but hate our fellow citizens who make our country great. Even the Christian church, which is the religious lingua-franca of this country, isn’t immune to this division and is nearing implosion itself. These things are not
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 new. They have been living and active for years even when we were called a post-racial country by racists trying to hide hatred for a Black president. But with the constant barrage of lies and fallacies, radical racism rising up unchecked, people in power who do not care about those who voted them in, and people who are seeing that either they were right or realized they bought into a pipe dream, the destruction we see now was eminent. Coronavirus was just the ill-timed match that set it off. The beautiful thing that has come from this explosion is that people took the fire and chose to harness it. Rather than letting it fizzle out like in times past, they choose to feed it good food and control its path until the landscape became barren and ready for something new. You see it in the streets renamed “Black Lives Matter,” the dialogue and healing that is coming from this, the cooperation that is rising in this time, and the openness of so many to realization that racism is a reality. However, there is always opposition to change and growth: the doubling down of racist, sexist, and homophobic rhetoric; the “all lives matter” chants and social media posts; the seething anger and rage of people who just don’t understand or are shell shocked from the sudden destruction of a pristine world; and the politicking designed to keep the status quo. We have to face the reality that the coronavirus is going to change our lives forever. Each generation has its cataclysmic moment, and we are in the thick of it. For those of us who are wise, the next question we must ask is “Where do we go from here?” The main thing we have to do is accept the bitter and help it led to the sweet. We have to be careful about trying to erase the pain caused by people and systems that still affects us today. There is a saying I always use, “History is written by the winners.” The battle for change is winning; however, that change should not create a revisionist experience that erases the pain it took to get to the promise. We need the bitter to teach our children that these things still bring pain and discomfort and empower them to make the sweetness of change and freedom better for their children. We need the bitter to be taught in schools so that they understand why it is so vital for the sweet to remain and grow. When we take a pen, a paintbrush, or a bulldozer to history and all forms of expression that expose the bitterness of humanity and edit it for our comfort, we leave the door open for history to repeat itself. It leaves the world without a locus of understanding and a check to keep people from replaying something that we know will end badly. Thus, those who are the winners become the thought overlords they once tried to destroy. Next, we have to reestablish critical thinking into our everyday lives. I have learned that critical thinking is creative thinking. When you critically think, you analyze information to validate and challenge you which leads to synthesis and the making of something new. Mentally, we have become the humans from the movie Wall-E. We have become mentally obese due to our refusal to take in information even if it doesn’t agree without and our unwillingness to actively discern what we received and use it as energy to move. The ship— the internet— does it for us, so we have nothing to worry about until we get to Earth and can’t walk. In this new normal, we must teach people how to analyze, synthesize, and discern so that we do not become thought vacuums of confirmation bias on all sides. Lastly, we must understand that unity is better and worth more than the divisions that have been put up. Unity requires self-humbling. We must look at ourselves as individuals and be willing to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is a catalyst for change and growth. Leaning into that discomfort requires you to be willing to lay down what you thought you knew so that you can become connected with reality. The reality is that we need each other now more than ever. Unity is not just marching and quipped “I stand with” posts. True unity is living out the change, celebrating the uniqueness that everyone brings to the table, putting others above we (wear a mask, people), and being willing to do the work even if there are disagreements. Unity is not assimilation. It is bringing your best to the table with everyone else’s best and creating a culture where we all can eat at the table. However, if we let up and allow the fracture to grow, our division will be our destruction. Since you are reading this issue of The Blue Mountain Review, I assume that you are either a creative person or a patron of the arts. Maybe, you are just a curious person who is just passing through. No matter who you are, I want to leave you with this: tell the truth. It is our responsibility to see the world from a different perspective and reveal what we see to the world. Now more than ever, we must reveal the truth no matter how bitter or sweet it is. Use your voice, your art, or whatever you do to help the generations after you see the reality we live in now. This journey that we are embarking is perilous, but we will survive this. As a man of faith, I have been listening to a song that was released recently, and the chorus is “He will carry us through.” Whatever you believe, we will get through this. Wear your mask, do your creative work, strive to be the change, and press forward.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
The WizarD Washington,
Eric Henning by: Clifford Brooks
Who is the legend behind the man, Eric Henning? I am curious about everything. My brain is like an old attic. It collects large amounts of useless knowledge, and after a fermentation process known to me and Erasmus of Rotterdam, it comes out as a magical performance. I’ve been exceptionally lucky in my career to have performed at three Presidential Inaugurals (George W. Bush, twice, and Barack Obama), two White House Easter Egg Rolls (for Laura Bush), and three National Christmas Tree Lightings (for President Obama). But I also had nearly 25 years as an investment professional, during which time I taught financial executives about the Internet; taught personal finance to international policy economists; appeared regularly as a financial expert on local and national radio; published a newsletter that was quoted in Barron’s, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times; went on a diplomatic mission for the US government, and helped to renovate a mutual fund. I retired from my partnership in the firm in 2007, just before the housing market collapse, which I had predicted in my newsletter in 1998. Now I have a wonderful group of friends, with whom I do a monthly dinner show at the Arts Club of Washington, which is the historic James Monroe colonial mansion. Before the pandemic, we had sold out 18 months in a row. Put together by a political consultant, a retired restauranteur, and a former Acting CIA Director. Your readers can learn more and sign up to see our invitation-only online Virtual Parlor Magic shows at www.WashingtonMagic.com And today David Copperfield called me about a magic history project he’s working on. In other words, if you made my life into a movie, nobody would believe it. My life is absurd.
How did you get into magic and why? Let’s start with the “why.” My parents were both Naval officers, so we moved around a lot. It’s hard to make friends that way, and it’s easy to become isolated. It’s especially easy when you’re overweight, clumsy, and keep getting singled out by teachers for being smart. That tends to attract bullies. I hid out in my room, and, like most young American boys, between the ages of seven and twelve, I started experimenting with magic. It was a Band-Aid to cover up tremendous social awkwardness so I could talk to people. Now they can’t shut me up! As to the “how:” four things converged during third grade. My Dad had finally retired from the military, so we had settled down and one spot. During the school year, I saw my first live magic show. A magician named Dick Gray came to my school. I remember three things: he pulled silver coins out of the air and dropped them into a golden bucket; he produced a bunny rabbit; and I wanted to be him. Third, I got my chance later in the year, when the school announced a talent show. I couldn’t do magic yet, but I lip-synched to Ray Stevens’ cover of “Along Came Jones.” That was my first taste of applause; and I was hooked. Finally, a well-meaning teacher, seeing my dilemma over which Scholastic book to buy with my 25¢ (yes, I went to school back when giant lizards ruled the earth), recommended a biography of Harry Houdini. I devoured it, and became fascinated, not with Houdini (who was a schmuck), but with the whole late-Victorian, early-Edwardian period, when magicians ruled show business. I got magic books from the library, practiced in my room, and did tricks for my school friends. Soon, their parents were booking me for shows. And from there it just grew out of control.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
How do you make magic your own? This is perhaps the most important question for any artist. We begin with thrill of just being able to draw a picture, play a song or do a trick. We are excited by the “how,” the methodology. It’s exhilarating; and giving pleasure to the audience is part of that. Later, we get serious about asking why it works, and seek fully to master the techniques so they become second nature. Next, we stop being a cover band, and write our own songs, tell our own stories, and put ourselves into our art. That’s the question for me as a magician: what stories do I want to tell? It took me forty-eight years to get to the point of asking that question with awareness. The final stage that artists attain is mentoring the next generation of artists. I’m doing some of that now as well. Although, as any teacher will attest, I learn at least as much from my students as they learn from me.
You performed at the White House. Please fill us in on that scene. That’s a very long story indeed, but I will do my best to give you the abridged version. Due to a variety of circumstances, I was free on Halloween, which I told the intern who called me ten days before. His boss, who was producing the Obamas’ Halloween party, got on the phone, and, after giving me a long list of restrictions, asked what I could do. He wanted me to make something animate and float. In the Green Room. I had two days to figure it out and send him rehearsal footage. I created a routine with a ghost in a box that escapes and makes the table itself float, and was in. Skipping over the challenges of decking to the White House the day before during the Stephen Colbert - John Stewart Rally for Sanity, and some other challenges, I ended up doing a short 5-minute show about a dozen times over during the evening. Somewhere on the archives there is a photo of
Malia Obama holding one end of the tablecloth, and me holding the other end, with that table in midair. Under the table you can see President and Mrs. Obama, their jaws hitting the floor. Oddly enough, I wasn’t at all nervous performing for the VIPs. But it was asking three days later, when I did the same routine for my local magic club!
What advice do you have for those trying your vocation on for size? How do we keep up with you on social media? My advice is the same for magic as for any other performing art. Read, watch video, study the masters, learn their work and their techniques. Sometimes, you’ll learn more from their biography than from their techniques. Imitate the masters in private and learn the classics. Start doing the classics in public. Find someplace where you can be bad. I mean, some stage, or gallery, or coffeehouse where you can really stink up the joint. Lather, rinse, repeat, until you get enough flight time to become worth paying. Once you’ve made the classics your own, think about charging money for it. And keep working on your original material, slowly feeding it into your regular show until you are doing all original stuff. Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, study business. This is unquestionably the most neglected area of the arts, but it’s one that everyone needs. Too many artists are blocked from success by this lack of knowledge; and many who are successful end up penniless through unscrupulous business associates. Just as you don’t need to be an engineer to drive a car safely, so you don’t need to be a financial expert to have a working knowledge of how money works. Being a professional artist isn’t a job; you don’t get a salary (usually). It’s running a business, which is a completely different animal. Not everyone is suited temperamentally to running a business; that’s why we have managers and agents. But you have to know enough to get your business off the ground before the managers and agents will take notice. You can follow Eric Henning on Facebook @EricHenningMagic, on Twitter @ HenningMagic and on the web at EricHenningMagic.com
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
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James Ricks the Quill Theater by: Clifford Brooks
Give us the skinny on James Ricks. What makes you tick? Well, I am a native of Victoria, British Columbia, but have been living in the states (thanks to a dual citizenship) for over 25 years now. I go back home as often as I am able, but running a theatre makes that pretty difficult. I am the artistic director for Quill Theatre in Richmond, VA which is the producer of the annual Richmond Shakespeare Festival. Even with all the challenges of running a not for profit in an economy that doesn’t really support the arts, I feel pretty blessed to be where I am. What makes me tick? I guess my love for language, my family, epicurean pleasures and my indefatigable awareness of mortality are the things that lie at the center of me. I’m just trying to make as much art as I can for as long as I can. I love the city I live in and am happy that I can contribute to my community by producing dynamic live theatre.
What got you involved in theater? What keeps that fire burning? When I was a kid my older sister was in a high school production of ‘She Stoops to Conquer’. Naturally, I was in awe of her and the response she got from the audience just be being her funny self. As a middle school student already suffering from severe class clown syndrome, I thought “Well jeez...I can do THAT.” I don’t perform very often anymore, but I do love the sense of community that occurs in theatre. There’s the communal bond that occurs with the actors and designers as they put the show together, of course. And the relationships on stage are also interesting. But the relationship between performer and audience is something that continually fascinates me. It’s an ongoing negotiation that shifts with the currents of countless variables. It’s one of my favorite things about live theatre.
Why did you fall in love with Shakespeare? I fell in love with Shakespeare when I was a junior in high school. I was already fairly immersed in performing whenever and wherever I could. It was 1989 and Kenneth Branagh’s newly released film ‘Henry V’ was in theatres. Our English teacher organized a class outing and we all trucked out to catch this film on the weekend. It was a pretty bare-bones production, cinematically.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
How is the Quill adapting to life during the Coronavirus? Quill Theatre is in the same holding pattern as the rest of the world, really. We’ve had to suspend performances and we are waiting to see how the summer is going to play out. I think the name of the game for us right
now is to hunker down and weather the storm. We’ll do our best to maintain a presence in the community, so we don’t slip out of people’s awareness, but I think the name of the game is survival. If we want to come out swinging when things blow over, we need to settle into careful planning and modes of austerity. In the meantime, we developed ‘Quarantined Shakespeare’ which we post on Facebook and Instagram. We are also offering education initiatives online to high school students. We’ll make it through this, but it’ll be a lean summer/ fall, I think.
How can we keep up with you and yours during quarantine? We are pretty active on the social media outlets. As I mentioned, we will keep producing our Quarantined Shakespeare series. We will also post updates about our upcoming season, highlights on some of the exciting artists who are going to work with us and perhaps some specially designed content from some of our artists who are stuck at home looking for a creative outlet.
Ray Bassett from Scenic Roots on WUTC/NPR by: Clifford Brooks
What’s the story behind Ray Bassett? A work in progress! A lot of work – and I reckon progress, too. I was born in rural Minnesota, but I grew up in New Jersey between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. I returned to Minnesota for college and then start a career as a radio journalist. From there, I moved to New York City – where I spent twenty-one years as a producer at CBS News and The Associated Press. In my last – and longest – gig in New York, I worked for a broadcast icon: Charles Osgood. I was Charlie’s radio producer at CBS for “The Osgood File” during his final decade in broadcasting. It was a once-in-a-lifetime gig – and I remain ever grateful that he asked me to work for him and for our time together.
How did you end up on WUTC in Chattanooga? After Charlie retired – first as host of “CBS Sunday Morning” on TV and then the “File” on radio – I took a sabbatical. He was the last of his generation on the national broadcast stage, and I was looking for a change of place and a change of pace. I applied all over the country – mostly in public radio. One thing led to another that ultimately brought me last year to Chattanooga.
What does “Scenic Roots” focus on? How did it come to be? I was hired by WUTC to develop, produce and host a local weekly afternoon talk show. Here’s the vision for the show that I crafted on the way to our launch: https://www.wutc.org/programs/scenicroots The title “Scenic Roots” grew out of a blur of brainstorming chats that I had with the show’s founding producers: Haley Solomon, Karley Dodson and Will Davis. This spring, Richard Winham joined us, bringing his music and conversations to our show - while we adjusted to life under COVID-19 and all that has happened since.
What are your plans for “Scenic Roots” and WUTC? To live true to what we aimed to do – and to make it better every day.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
How can we keep up with this and everything at the station? “Scenic Roots” airs on WUTC – 88.1 FM, wutc.org and the WUTC app. Listen weekdays at 3 PM ET – or the encore edition at 8 PM ET on Monday through Thursday nights. Our audio archive is at the link above, while our shows and interviews are also available as podcasts. To follow us on social media, check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at scenicroots 423. For all things at WUTC, visit wutc.org - where you can also connect with the station’s social media. Thanks again, Clifford, for your phenomenal support for “Scenic Roots” from day one – and thanks again for asking me for this opportunity to visit with your audience.
Steve Gillion by: Clifford Brooks
Tell us a little bit about yourself? What inspires you? How do you define the man you are today? These are tough questions. I have been privileged to teach at some of the finest universities in the world, but I have never lost touch with my roots growing up in a working-class community in Philadelphia where I labored at a toilet paper factory to earn enough money to attend college. I have always lived my life by the Golden Rule – to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Modesty, compassion, and humility inspire me. I find arrogance and pretense irritating.
When did you first find you calling as an educator and historian?
There were really two turning points in my career. The first took place when I was an undergraduate at Widener University. I had been a lousy student my entire life. I ranked in the bottom 10 percent of my high school graduating class and was admitted to college on academic probation. I dreamed of one day being a Major League pitcher, even though I only had a 70mph fastball and that was with hurricane-force winds at my back. But in my sophomore year, I took a class in medieval history with a young, dynamic, and inspiring teacher. One day, the professor opened the class for discussion. I remember sitting in the back of the room listening to my classmates and thinking: “Why can’t I talk like that?” “Why can’t I articulate my thoughts that way?” At that moment, I realized that I would never be a professional baseball player, and that if I were going to succeed, it would have to be with my untested brain and not my tired right arm.At the end of class that day, I walked out of the room, went to the gym, and turned in my baseball uniform. Almost overnight, I went from a C student to an A student. But I still didn’t know how to make use of my newly discovered talent for learning. That brings us to the second turning point. After graduating from college, I read The Creation of the American Republic by Brown University professor Gordon Wood. I found it fascinating and discovered then that I wanted to be a historian, someone who could interpret the past. A few months later I applied and was accepted into Brown. The rest, as they say, is history. Those two moments had a profound impact on me for another reason: they taught me how a dedicated teacher or author can inspire people and change the trajectory of their lives.
What is it like to be called to speak on the History Channel?
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Nervous? At ease? How does it feel to be considered an expert on such matters? Standing before a large group of students is completely different from sitting in front of a television camera. The hardest part about being on television was learning how to read from a teleprompter. I used to flub my lines all the time, but eventually figured it out. The story of how I got my big break at the History Channel is pretty funny. I started by appearing as a talking head on a show called “Movies and Time,” which was hosted by Sander Vanocur. But I wanted more responsibility and asked if I could host my own show. I went to the head of programming at the network with my request. She sat me down and said, “Steve, there are two kinds of people on the History Channel: historians and talent. You are clearly not talent.” Those words were still rattling around in my head when I met my friend, John Kennedy Jr., for dinner that night in New York. I shared the story with John, who proceeded to do what he loved most – making fun of me. But the next day I was called into a meeting and told that John had contacted the network, offering to sit down for a 30-minute interview on the 80th anniversary of his father’s birth. But he would do it under one condition: that I host the show. John’s generosity led to the network giving me a Sunday morning public affairs show, “HistoryCenter,” that aired for the next decade. Over time, I hosted other shows, including “History vs. Hollywood” and “Our Generation.” For the past decade I have been producing primetime documentaries based on some of my books. Working for the History Channel has been an enormous privilege and a great learning opportunity. I view television as an extension of the classroom, except that instead of talking to 150 students you have an audience of 500,000 or more.
What are you reading right now? I am a big fan of the Oxford History of the United States series and am currently reading Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815.
How do you think history will remember the current political administration?
I usually get it wrong – just ask President Dukakis! But based on what we have seen so far, I do not believe that history will be kind to Trump or his administration. However, if you ask me that question two decades from now, when we have access to more archival material and oral histories, I may have a different answer.
What is your philosophy on living a good life? I know lots of very successful, wealthy people who are absolutely miserable. Especially as I get older, I try to live in the moment, treasure the many blessings in my life, and spend less time fretting about things that I cannot control. The pandemic has only reinforced this philosophy.
What books are under your belt already and what books do you have coming down the pipeline? My next big project is going to be a revisionist account of Bill Clinton’s presidency. I do not believe journalists who have written the first draft of this history have done Clinton justice. They have ignored two major obstacles that he faced: trying to maintain a governing coalition by pulling together a Democratic Party that was divided ideologically between liberals and moderates; then meanwhile, outmaneuvering resurgent Republicans led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich. There is no excusing Clinton’s behavior toward Monica Lewinsky, but that should not overshadow his accomplishments during the 1990s.
I have given up trying to predict the future because
Who are your favorite presidents and why? I have always been fascinated by JFK. He was the first president that I remember as a child and, like millions of Americans, his death and funeral are seared into my memory. Being friends with his son, John Jr., only intensified my interest. So much of the legacy of JFK is tied up with the tragedy of what was lost that the topic provides endless opportunities for speculation. It’s also impossible to understand modern America without coming to terms with the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, another one of my favorites. Roosevelt led the nation through
two of its greatest crises – the Great Depression and World War II – and along the way he redefined the relationship between the people and the federal government.
Roosevelt’s enduring impact is partially captured by a story about a mourner who turned out to watch Roosevelt’s funeral train as it traveled from Warm Springs, Georgia to Washington D.C. A reporter saw the man standing by the tracks weeping as the train passed. “Did you know Franklin Roosevelt?” the reporter asked. “No,” the mourner responded, “but he knew me.”
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
SCE Member Spotlight: Wakefield Brewster by: Clifford Brooks
Give us the skinny on Wakefield Brewster. What’s your story? The skinny on Wakefield Brewster, aka: DaLyrical Pitbull: •Poet •Spoken Word Artist •3-Time Calgary Poetry Slam Champion & Team Captain; 2006, 2008, 2009 •Calgary Poet Laureate Finalist, 2012, 2020 •Reading Series Founder of Poésie à la Pâtisserie & Pitbull Poetry Reading Series •Resident Poet & Spoken Word Artist of The Grand Theatre, Calgary •Literacy Enhancer •Poetry Coach/Mentor •Poet-In-Residence •Classical Pianist •Percussionist •Registered Massage Therapist •1st Dan, Black Belt, World Tae Kwon Do Federation •Advocate for The Humanities, Addictions & Recovery, Healing Arts, and Mental Wellness Most recently, he has been appointed the very first Resident Poet & Spoken Word Artist of The Grand Theatre House in Calgary, Alberta. He finds that underneath these many, many hats and the many, many hoodies he wears, resides a wonderful life. He would like to Thank You all sincerely for being a part of it.
What do you think is your responsibility as a poet to your fans? I’m Elated, Flattered, Grateful, and Honored to earn fans. My responsibility to them is not unlike my true responsibility as a Poet; to listen to Them - The World, carefully and compassionately enough to speak back to Them - The World, emphatically and authentically. I’m a far better Poet than I am a conversationalist, but through Poetry, I am able to have my most honest and honorable conversations. The World needs to listen because The World has some things to say! “I’m trying to help. I’m here to help.”
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Who are your heroes of poetry and why? Saul Williams, Linton Kwesi Johnson, I-Roy. Saul Williams, The Godfather of Slam, taught me how to deliver. I, as a classical pianist, percussionist and Rapper, cannot help but to write musically and rhythmically. Observing his style allowed me to seamlessly stitch together intelligent diction and intense delivery. Linton Kwesi Johnson for his storytelling banter, his Jamaican Patois so similar to my Bajan (Barbados) Patois, the familiarity, the lilt of his language, the cadence of his voice, his use of pause and silence and space, his ironclad steady sense of calm even when delivering a scene of calamity. I-Roy, for his childlike spirit, uplifting tones and spontaneous joyous vocal outbursts. He employs a lazy drawl that tails onto words, makes humorous references usually out of context and his voice simply smiles pure sunlight.
You work in holistic medicine as well. Tell us about that. I am an RMT, Registered Massage Therapist, Owner and Operator of WakeFull Wellness Registered Massage Therapy and HealingSpace. I am pursuing Reflexology and Reiki to combine the 3Rs, a trifecta of Holistic and HandsOn Healing. It was through the Literary Arts and now through the Healing Arts that I am truly expressing myself as a man living a life of service to my fellow human beings. Assisting others along their WellnessJourney is a gift that I’ve been blessed to receive.
Where do you see yourself within the Southern Collective Experience? I see myself as ‘The Northern Border’ of the SCE, a poetical mild-wild-child of the Collective and I say this affectionately. I feel like a fringe-entity, distantly connected, genuinely invested, hoping that I bring a swing of poetical-sing that resonates in several unique and unexpected ways. I genuinely wish to share and exchange on the musings and machinations of Poetry with the SCE and hopefully create, collaborate and become your Canadian Comrade of the Collective.
How do you make the art form of spoken word all your own? I believe that it is my personified passion for Poetry and Performance that makes it uniquely mine and memorable. I write in a free form that borders on chaos to the eye. Often, I write using Ebonics, slang, phonetics, alphanumerical, personal mashups and without conventional punctuation. In the true sense, I write akin to a musician composing a score, with clues, indicators and alerts to guide my performance each word of the way. Having such an intimate relationship with my own pieces of Poetry literally brings them to a life that lives through me. When I share, I believe people live along with me, through the performance of the Poetry.
How has your youth shaped your art? Alcoholism began at age 8 and substance abuse began at age 18. My mind began pickling early and I was fraught with a handful of undiagnosed, and therefore untreated mental wellness challenges that came mostly in outbursts and abbreviations: ADD ADHD OCD PTSD depression. When I began writing at about age 17, I had endless material to write because I was forever living in hazes from golden flows to surreal stretches which mixed and mingled with reality. All of this created quite a beautiful mess and at times, my writing crafted a creative clarity. Up until 4 years and two days ago, I’d go nary a day without something to alter the state of my mind in a drastic and impactful way. All of it made its way to the surface through my personality, my persona and my Poetry.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I see myself hustling harder than ever.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
How do we keep up with you online? https://youtu.be/60zSU5gNqgE https://youtu.be/ltnMXieZj4o https://youtu.be/tgCx9KYmC4I https://youtu.be/tn9t3y0jWww https://youtu.be/Inbep3Hq1pE https://youtu.be/xX9xFkQvwxo https://youtu.be/kToXDK43CPU www.wakefieldbrewster.com / .ca - presently building https://www.facebook.com/wakefield.brewster-Facebook Page http://theindieyyc.com/ - Curator & Host of The New Beat https://www.thegrandyyc.ca/ - Resident Poet & Spoken Word Artist https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-8zjrq-abc98f - weekly podcasting with The Gyst Life Cultural/ Community Hub - Episode #43 and onward https://www.vancourier.com/entertainment/east-vancouver-dad-compares-whistler-s-party-scene-thenand-now-1.23983334 https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/lets-talk-hope-calgary-conference-tickets-75870285065?aff=ebdssbdestsearch https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Sfz7xjPHs3Y - VideoPoem: Sumpin’ Ain’ Right January 2020 https://www.dtswiss.com/en/232one - Voiceover for German-made Cycling for men commercial, January 2020 https://onlineforauthors.org/wakefield-brewster/ https://youtube.com/733sLmamoTA https://www.instagram.com/tv/CBE16R6BQue/?igshid=1dgcfhisfanjihttps://www.instagram.com/p/ CBE16R6BQue/?igshid=1pgjhsyug605y
BLACKOUT 2020 s’pose to represent perfect vision
Ya best proteck ya neck
Coincidentally cultures be on courses of collision Pressuring the people into doings of division
I’m shaking when I show my wallet
Or even cash a chèque
I know this cop is gonna call it
Getting down with Demolition
His life was under threat Popping off his pistol
Coming crystal clearly on da coattail of da-COVID
Like the bullet owed a debt
My brain and his ballistic
Put you in da KNOW-VID
Gonna have a tête à tête
Gotta stop a RunningMan Click-BANG-GO-DID
A situation might arise
But nothing really rocked us like da
That you did not expect
Death of G-FLO-DID
Immediately in their eyes Now you looking suspect
Don’t Believe The Hype
Though now we’re living freer
Or the news
We also live in fear
Or the lie
For we know Mr. Officer
For every day MyBrother from AnotherMother die
Is also Overseer
Goodbye how I missed her Lovingly I kissed her
Check the etymology
Every day we miss a Sister from AnotherMister
My message move in clear Spectacular vernacular
Death defying daylight
Puts vision on the veer
So that everybody saw
He’s the Long Arm Of The Law
Another daily modern lynching
But he’s lawless on theLand
Under Jim Crow Law
He’s the leading cause of BlackDeath
Da WU had always warned us
He’s The BubonicMan
Better get ya shit in check Cuz even though I got your back
He’s da bully and da bouncer A MonkeyMan in dress
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 Wit’ key an’ cuff diss monkey nuff
And their madness
Lock up ya han’ in stress
Honouring our Elders who fought hard
Even if you see your day in court
But never had this
It’s full court press
Power of assembly and of gathering and speech
Next they put the fullness of your life
Black motherfuckers couldn’t bathe on Whitey’s beach
Upon duress Now we making moves and moving mountains He’s the first line of authority
Raising fists around the world
A cop can kill you quicker
To garnish globalizing
Than the average con can
And sometimes in the same way
With riot gear and weaponry
We all find truth fiction-wary
With steel toe boots to step on thee
Number 45 is
The spawn of criminology
Rolling out the military
Enhanced by new technology The military marches Rounding up the BlackSheep
The marching turns to mobbing
Saith did the herder
The mobbing needs a muting
Slaughter in the streets
But now it’s turned to robbing
Is now akin to man and murder
The robbing got relentless
And led to all the looting
Above the gun clatter
So Number 45
Tell me how DAFUQ yo gonna hear dat
He simply said to
Black Lives Matter
Start the Shooting
There is no denying this priority is higher
Brandishing a bible
Historically it’s never whytelyves coming under fire
To allow his ill behaviour
This land of opportunity
Acting like a
All built for one community
Instead of seeking unity
Shall punish with impunity
Sentinel and Saviour
The reasons for our marching
Encroaching with his evil
Are their methods
Up until eleventh hour
He ain’t the only one Who must be Parted from their power
Hands-On law Fists on flex Guns on draw Knees on necks Hands-On law Fists on flex Guns on draw Knees on necks
Impossible to make a stand When flattened To the floor I’d ask MyBrother Patrick Shand But he ain’t here no more We lost him 20 years ago Exactly to this plight And even though they snuffed him out We all still see his light
Legislation Lacking And we got to lift da lack out Politicking Politricking plans We gotta back out Freedom fighters falling into floss and force da flack out So join me when I say dat everyday goan be a
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
faces fait 122
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
a Conversation with
Chris woodhull Maybe You Don’t Think There’s a Problem: By: Paul Luikart
hris Woodhull is a friend of mine. For that, I’m lucky. He’s the kind of guy who is years ahead of the rest of us in his thinking on justice, God, race relations, art, and “how to love your neighbor as yourself.” He’s the kind of guy who might say something I’d dismiss in the now, but five or six years later, when the fringe-sounding thing he said back then enters the consciousnesses, and even practices, of main line American churches, I’d be forced to remember. “Chris knew. He knew it back then. He knew it all along. He was right.” Prescient might be the word. Or, maybe, prophetic. Chris is also an Anglican priest and the executive director of the non-profit Build Me A World. Build Me A World is, from its website… “…a Chattanooga-based non-profit offering mentorship and creative opportunities for our neighbors. Many have experienced the destructive cultural cycle of gang-related crime, and the life challenges that accompany that cycle. We believe your inner work begets your outer work. Creative expression is the tool we utilize to empower new thoughts, new faith, and new horizons for yourself, your family, and our community.” In the wake of the public murder of George Floyd, as white Christian churches finally begin to reckon with their little complicities in the racism that permitted such a killing in the first place—I wondered Chris’ thoughts. He was good enough to sit down with me a couple of times (properly socially distanced, of course…) “There’s a deep spiritual dissonance that we (white Christians) can’t see in ourselves,” Chris said, “Racism is the church issue of the day. Or should be. But we’re totally unprepared to respond to it.” Why? “The white church has held an assimilation point of view forever,” he said, “where black people can be
accepted, as long as they act white.” I wondered what it meant to act like a white Christian, but then it hit me. An evangelical church I attended, whose congregation was something like 99% white—which included me—functioned just like an ala carte cafeteria. But instead of choosing from the Jello, the coleslaw, the ham steak, the slice of pizza, the dinner role, the Coke Zero, or the decaf coffee, it was: ‘You can be part of the worship team, the racial justice team, the childcare team, or be a communion helper, a Sunday school teacher, a volunteer tutor, or take a class on missions!’ Acting like a white Christian means everything is optional. There aren’t any lived out, long term implications to the faith. It’s choosing not to be a part of racial justice in the same way you’d choose the cheeseburger over the baked tilapia. “Being anti-racist is a practice,” Chris said, “The white church isn’t sure what our work is. ‘Jesus is Lord,’ has become a slogan without a program. We say, ‘This has to stop,’ but we’re totally unprepared to respond, because we have no endurance. Talking about Christian faith should necessarily include talking about race. Becoming a whole, real Christian should include practicing antiracism.” I had to check my brain for an understanding of the term “antiracism.” It’s a notion the right seems to have conflated with left-wing politics, after it successfully conflated right-wing politics with Christianity sometime in the early 80’s. That is, perhaps, one reason the white church has generally fought off anti-racism as a practice. So, what does it mean for the white church to be antiracist?
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
“One way I want to answer that question,” Chris said, “is ‘I don’t know. What do you think it means? Maybe you don’t think there’s a problem.’” Yeah! The white church isn’t in agreement with itself about racism being a cataclysmic problem in the first place. So, what are we supposed to do? “It’s human nature to want answers,” Chris said, which was actually re-assuring. “For starters, practicing anti-racism is physical. The disease is in the whole person, it is embodied, captured in the entire person and made endemic by the helplessness of the community to understand itself. We need more than consultants, we need guides, and I hesitate to say, revolutionaries. A person can be in philosophical agreement with something, read all the books, listen to podcast - all of which are necessary small elements, but have made no real progress. Most Churches wear themselves out with theological statements, insisting on their end-lightened point of view with no record of behavior to support the claims. Why? Because they are liars? Not really. Actual change is not a matter of rearranging biases and thoughts, it is physical. And like any human growth process. It is painful. Rebirth is messy.” While I pondered how much I just love that painful, messy awkwardness, Chris moved on to creativity. “And imagination always has a place,” he said, “Formulation of solutions to the race problem in this country will only be hampered by our own lack of creativity.” Come again? “Our imaginations have to be transformed,” he said, “Not just our thoughts and actions. We have to turn our imaginations into anti-racist imaginations.” Now, our imaginations are our most personal possessions. In fact, I dare say they’re the only entities over which we have true autonomy. In our imaginations, we can conjure scenes from nothing at all. We daydream and fantasize. We speak in perfect, pithy rejoinders. We murder and love. All in these private little studios in our brains. Why’d we want to give anything, let alone racial injustice, any purchase on our private land? To restate Chris’ point, racism must be dealt with in community, which means we sacrifice parts of ourselves for the good of others. The white church, with its Old Country Buffet approach to religion, has come up short. The more things are optional, the less any one of them is vital. And, more damningly, the message received by congregants is, “Gosh, look at all the ways I can choose whatever I want, however I want it. Faith must mean I’m the center of things.” When we renew our imaginations, however, we willingly offer the most private pieces of our existence to the community as a tool for creating solutions to community problems. And, in America, racism has been the one, glaring, constant community problem since before the nation was even founded. I wish there was a little button to push, something we’ve all been missing, high up on a shelf somewhere, a “Racism Off” button. One push, and all the race-based injustice goes away. But evidently, such a button does not exist. What does exist, though, are people like my friend Chris. A prophet, I’d say, on race and the dynamics of poverty and community. The kind of guy who speaks truth to power. And, I should add, the kind of guy who won’t ever back down. I’m glad we’re friends.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Everything came sooner this year— ‘February Gold’ daffodils frilling the neighbor’s yard, marching in patches, like bonneted Dutch dolls patterning the quilts hand-stitched by my grandmother in the halo
Free of flesh, they flapped, shaking off the damp, and rose, thermal riding, with the two-tone underside of their wings spread in shallow V’s—carrion-feaster comfort wing-warping on a cleansing breeze.
of a Depression glass kerosene lamp; the ground thaw of the full worm supermoon, with the mounding of earthworm droppings crushed under my boot weeks before the tropical rush of stopover warblers; March passing, blurred with rain and dark clumps of turkey vultures roosting in a stand of loblolly pines—I sheltered in place, exceeding social distancing by a backyard length, in full retreat to an afternoon of porch sitting— weary of text bursts and COVID-19 tweetstorms.
Hissing, I heard hissing, and my neighbor, fenced in, called that the birds would not snatch the pacing cat. I took up my father’s cracked binoculars, trying to zero in, for the first time, on why he hovered over field guides to American birds; his lifelong dream was to find a birdfeeder that defied squirrels—he never did. The vultures’ red, shrunken heads wrinkled, scrubbed bald, like the scalps of ancient monks; the night before, their hooked beaks, like polished bone, had ripped into a possum rotting by the garbage.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Catherine Hamrick is the copywriter and content strategist for Berry College in Rome, Georgia. She held senior editorial positions at Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light, Victoria, Southern Accents, and Meredith Books. Catherine writes poetry and narrative nonfiction. She placed as a runner-up for the 2020 Natasha Trethewey Prize for Poetry.
A Matter of Perspective Stone & packed earth meander across the Eurasian Steppe while barbarian horses skirt the structure. Daunting barrier turned festival site. The Great Wall of China
Twenty-eight years and one day, a political declaration of power made visible brick by brick demolished, now transformed into public art. Berlin Wall, Germany
terrorism, racial segregation, apartheid cultural blight, canvas for graffiti twenty-six-foot-tall concrete slabs. West Bank Wall, Israel
iron-post teeth rust in the sun, slice backyards, farmlands, sever parks boundary stretching defined by small crosses, names on paper tucked into corners and holes. Border Fence, Southwestern U.S.A
Leaving my office, freeway battle driving home, my gated community with its finely decorated entrance, I am
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Nancy Hartney writes non-fiction, poetry, and short stories. Washed in Water: Tales from the South, her debut collection (2013), received Best Fiction of the Year 2014 and the Presidentâ€™s Award by Ozark Writers League, Missouri. A second collection, If the Creek Donâ€™t Rise: Tales from the South (2016) continues to receive critical praise. Short stories have been published in The Big Muddy: Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, Seven Hills Review, Voices, and Echoes of the Ozarks. Cactus Country, Rough Country, and Frontier Tales have featured her work. Her articles and book reviews have appeared in various publications and regional magazines. A member of the writing community, she contributes to organizations in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Florida. Sweet tea is her beverage of choice.
After Care At dawn, he springs up. No moping now, no brooding, no obsessive thinking. He moved out of his dark tower room, sleeps now with windows wide to the sea. He hears the Queen, his mother, murmuring, chatting, with the new King through their half-open bedroom door. The prince hears her familiar giggle and glances down at old Pounce, his father’s golden Retriever, curled on the rug near his bed. He scratches the dog’s ears and chin: It’s terrific she’s happy again, isn’t it? His schedule is full: restoring Elsinore’s landmark district; co-chair, with Laertes, of the Swordsmanship Tourney to Benefit Harbor Seals; and, most wonderfully, with Ophelia, a lunch date. What a miracle , he muses, it was that
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Ophelia took me back, after that unfortunate scene. After months of couples counseling, long talks in Elsinore’s coffee bars, she finally agreed. How grateful he is to Polonius for finding the psychiatrist! Now, when his father’s ghost appears, he has learned to smile gently and turn away. He looks to sea, spies the new ship, in the harbor and recalls his troupe of actors is due in today. But he starts to squirm; sweat rolls down his neck, his stomach wrenches and he rubs his brow. He checks his watch— he cannot remember the right time for his pill. And what play, he wonders, did he ask the actors to present? Surely, he thinks, he will remember.
Lisa Bellamy studies poetry with Philip Schultz at The Writers Studio, where she also teaches. She has received a Pushcart Prize, a Pushcart Special Mention and a Fugue poetry prize, and is the author of The Northway (Terrapin Books: 2018) and Nectar, which won the 2011 Aurorean chapbook prize. Her work has appeared in TriQuarterly, New Ohio Review, The Southern Review, Hotel Amerika, Massachusetts Review, Cimarron Review, Southampton Review, Chautauqua and PANK, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and the Adirondacks.
Camerawoman: Jungles of Borneo Here trees are cathedrals. Branches: piers overlooking an ocean of jungle, unmatched in awe, unmatched in break-neck heights. To reach the desired angle
I must break rules. We are not to disturb the flora or wildlife but as I climb, my feet rake small limbs off
the trunks; whorls of churning leaves are a green snowstorm crusading from their balconies
to the church of ground below. My presence is a ruckus. Everywhere I go, there follows a calamitous chorus.
I am not the same woman as before I came to this classroom. I was too cautious. Someone said I should don a costume
of stone, force myself past fear, then quietly, stealthily, propel into the unknown like a leopard pouncing as it kiss-kills its prey and if I canâ€™t cope
with the risk, there are hundreds of women dying to be me. But courage is never that simple. I went through many shades of ready
before truly being ready. Now, I know the shots I need to take, I know the risks. There is no costume, there is no mask.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Just knowing the dusk is coming. Knowing the best angles, the right camera to use in the dark. Iâ€™ve been given tools to make the night sky
glint and the hidden fauna parade through this nocturnal forest. I was told not to disturb the norms. Instead, I join the chorus
Michelle McMillan-Holifield is a recent Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has been included in or is forthcoming in Boxcar Poetry Review, Jabberwork Review, Nelle, Sky Island Journal, Sleet Magazine, Stirring, The Collagist, Toasted Cheese, Whale Road Review and Windhover among others. She hopes you one day find her poetry tacked to a tree somewhere in the Alaskan Wild.
Hiking Ocean Cliffs When we get to the trail’s end, we will dislocate our voices from breath, pop them from their sockets, their final degree of freedom. Watch them twirl like maple seeds down to ocean. Yours will hit foaming waves and churn—perfect. Mine will fall short and land on rock and sand. But what difference will it make? Aren’t both lost forever— hasn’t the end begun? The difference is decomposition. Yours moulders, greens, waterlogs, never rises. Mine dries as bones, bleaches, catches on wind.
Danielle Hanson is the author of Fraying Edge of Sky (Codhill Press Poetry Prize, 2018) and Ambushing Water (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in over 80 journals, won the Vi Gale Award from Hubbub, was Finalist for 2018 Georgia Author of the Year Award and was nominated for several Pushcarts and Best of the Nets. She is Poetry Editor for Doubleback Books, and is on the staff of the Atlanta Review. Her poetry has been the basis for visual art included in the exhibit EVERLASTING BLOOM at the Hambidge Center Art Gallery, and Haunting the Wrong House, a puppet show at the Center for Puppetry Arts. More about her at daniellejhanson.com.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Fourteen feet, end to end, the joggling board on your front porch is long enough by half that should we ever come to words, or no words, forgetting forgiveness, or how to laugh, we each could take a seat at opposite ends and stew in our separate silences, refusing to bend, just then not even friends whoâ€™ve been so much more over great distances. But sitting there fretting, tapping our feet, we would find the flexible, giving wood, yellow pine painted in Charleston green, beginning to bounce us, inch by inch, toward the middle of this pliant bench, and bound to touch, hip to hip, making up such lost ground.
Peter Schmitt has a new collection, Goodbye, Apostrophe, is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing in November.
KOA Like honeybees drawn to fields of yarrow, they descend circling in their Airstreams, pop-up tents, pop star motorhomes, rounding the perimeter, homing in on the petals of their campsites. They come from Indiana, Ohio and Ontario. They are retirees who limp to restrooms on operated knees, they are six-year olds racing bikes or scooters screaming down paved paths. A few are honeymooners, pulling their blinds closed at dusk.
Greg Stidham is a retired pediatric intensivist (ICU physician) currently living in Kingston, Ontario, with his wife Pam and their two foundling “canine kids.” Greg’s passion for medicine has yielded in retirement to his other lifelong passions—literature and creative writing.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Parting words: Tried and true each rebel knew that those days could not last forever We move away, we step out, but we never truly move on
A world that is bleak, full of racial inequality and those that are too afraid to speak I would be remiss if I did not leverage the privilege I was born in
I do not know every person, every face, or every heart So a generalization is inadequate and a blanket statement false
But fight for our rebels, fight for our kids, fight for the voiceless while you can Stand against injustice, and let not fear hold you back again
For if we stood as one, against the unjust and the selfish Political power and manipulative leadership would crumble in our wake
I love this world, its broken pieces, and its hopeful youth Rebel I will always be, for them, and not for you
Kaitlin Nora Rose Silard grew up on the East Coast of the US and has since found her way to Austin, Texas. Her love for the world and it’s burdens has been encouraged by immigrant family roots deep in Civil Activism. After teaching in South Philadelphia and now in a Title 1 school in Austin, her heart and fight is in our broken education system. “Tu lucha es mi lucha” rules her actions, mindset, poetry, and art.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
THE SKY WAS NOT YET THE COLOR OF COFFEE GROUNDS when earth climbed the nearest sun-lit parapet
happy as a dog’s bare snarl in the near long ago. Her surface a web-whorl, indoor pool coruscating off and on like Christmas lights run by a hyperactive automaton.
Made into a malady: stages of regret, snippets of sobs. She startled in mirrors, became an airtight-upright treading water flung to cedar heights. Violins played a premature dirge for her choir of slack orchards.
Her life, a knot of breath tied too tightly. Nevertheless, she sings backup to the wind through the alleys of her arteries. Her microphone’s a memory chip, shoe horn worn nightly. Rain licks her bone spurs, her scoliatic spine’s
not worth a dime. She’s a cast iron furnace heating a three ring circus. And when she breathes through the portal of her lungs, the word “I” appears and her pre-historic self goes looking in the forest of her girlhood for a new there.
She’s wearing aloe to ward off insects, glazed lipsticks made from oil slick. And, in the blindness of youth, dusts her nether parts with asbestos. Her profile hints of childbirth: her midsection surges, is a raucous tide releasing its druzy ills on ruminant shorelines with nary a ripple. She’s a souvenir from a recent ice age.
Presides over tent cities, wrapped in fiery blankets under a holocaust of stars. Every night a different city, every city another lover. Skin, each writes, then with quartz-jawed javilinity accosts her. She forgets their names. Their hands won’t cradle her. Their knees tear holes in the faceless mud, ancient carpet from which they’ve come
unraveled. So many monkey mortals, all so very cold. In the end, her fire shall consume them, feign promise on the other side of the dying opal glow of a moon playing office bulb in the stucco ceiling that holds it all.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
THERE’S NO GAIN IN HARDSHIP:
LOVE KNOWS A BIT OF BOTH
For Ethan The moon’s wax light’s gone out and the morning sky’s cleansed of night’s weightless black. The open air markets have opened and everything’s for sale: a plastic poncho and rain hat, African mask; shoes a priest must once have worn, torn pages from an ancient Talmud. The evaporate that ruined it wasn’t rain. Rain’s inconclusive. The moisture from a palm’s convulsive clutch is not. The ornamental lake’s in place outside the city gates and an increase of lepidoptera surrounds it. Out of the blue you ask why death shudders loose so quickly in humans. I tilt my head back to swallow sunlight and tell you what I know: wolves and wolverines have nothing in common. A fistful of dirt can grow a tree and in a year birds ruin it. You’re impatient, and like the rest of your generation want speech gone: the indefatigable made indelible enough to haunt the floorboards down to their deepest, least emotive grain. I say, the void into which we slip’s necessary, and that everything’s really only a prior and after. All else has been kept from us since before air met first-breath. Which is to say, we’re a prop come out of the cosmos: a stellar rain the better to light God’s way when he brings his slow withering in the dark down on us. He owns no hindsight. His angels elude Him, are forged. And like the door that stammers shut after someone we love leaves us, our loneliness makes us ungovernable and grasping. Because that’s what death does and love’s even harder to explain. But it grows from the tongue I say, like a tributary bearing kidnapper’s gloves, imparting the joy of flotation.
TONGUE IN CHEEK A state of awe’s racheting through my brain. My torn sheets daydream in hieroglyphics. Snow advances brightly along my choir of swivels. Dark beneath the scansions supporting windows. Dark too the many ills of childhood. But I’m no longer looking to affliction and the dreads in my dreadfuls refer to hair. Who’m I kidding? My hazards are blinking. Gurneys fly from the hats of the curious rubbernecking from their vehicles. An ambulance’s flashing lights turn the night red. All’s Bollywood out here: glitz of shattered windshields and horn blare of the trailer truck that lies atop me. No siree, I haven’t cannonballed into the infinity pool no matter how much life pressured me into seeking permanence. What to do. Put play on pause. Lay low. Wait for the latest news, every radio signal a sign for the state of my inner muse. Make music and caskets for the living from the milkweed pods now strewn across the road. Side with faith and put it high up on cinderblocks. Be mired in calm. How many times have I wandered into floodwaters sheened with oil given up my warmth to permafrost. I’ve occupied the house of underage drinkers, soaked up absinthe at my elders’ feet. And if my hearing’s now to be judged a loss, teeth chipped and missing, I’m still a house full of people. I’ve doors they walk through, rooms they vacate leaving me empty. What to do. No Lone Ranger to initialize a rescue. Sky King’s* been lost in the Canadian Rockies since forever. Rain seldom licks Australia’s naked shores, not the only reason it’s burning. Underage drinkers everywhere get sloshed on sweetmeats and vapors and the brittle fleece of peaches grows
ever more addictive. What to do. The circumspect take healing baths in Epsom salts, go looking for planets to explore; study the exoskeletons of insects. Some build bridges over crowded causeways for animals to cross: errant wolf packs, lost caribou and their moss covered racks--their numbers fleeting. Their animal lives coiled in the humdrum of appetite’s tweezers.
Look, heaven owns no clock. Time’s gone for a lantern to light and something just a little bit over the top, some ooh and ahh: a flying lemur to scratch its footprint on a diamond’s hard surface, and maybe to visit yesterday’s bird. The hills there are littered with species and live births still launch in the dark, but light soon braids its bed
within them. Wind’s cavalier and cantilevers recklessly through a householders’ goods upsets the lamps, snuffs his candles. Keeps pace with the climate and sometimes is brought to ground by dead matter: a leaf insensate, a strand of hair. No pond
goes on forever. The swimming doesn’t exceed its end. The swimmer bends to lake moon opalescence of the bleached tomb and dons its silver liquid, his final neon jacket. The music’s still wild to play, harmonica lip-flayed by marathon ampersands. The nights dance unapologetically long after
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
on the ghost-sloped floorboards of the universeâ€™s vena cava. The wail of a thorned rose occludes the gardenâ€™s embrace which, nevertheless loves it dark and sweetly. And this too
is the way of birds.
When endangered, they reverberate off the clouds like gunshots, resist full cloud-cover. Their stiff little tongues on fire. Sadistic is he who gathers in the aftermath their holy silence. Bright fruit placed in the cavity, the eager grave of his mouth.
Susan Sonde is an award-winning poet and short story writer. Her debut collection: In the Longboats with Others won the Capricorn Book Award and was published by New Rivers Press. The Arsonist, her fifth collection was released in 2019 from Main Street Rag. Her sixth collection, Evenings at the Table of an Intoxicant was a finalist in the New Rivers New Voices 2019 contest. The Last Insomniac, a chapbook, now working its way to a full collection, was a 2019 finalist in The James Tate Award. Grants and awards include, a National Endowment Award in poetry; grants in fiction and poetry from The Maryland State Arts Council; The Gordon Barber Memorial Award from The Poetry Society of America. Her collection The Chalk Line was a finalist in The National Poetry Series. Individual poems have appeared in Barrow Street, The North American Review, The Southern Humanities Review, The Mississippi Review, American Letters and Commentary, Bomb, New Letters, Southern Poetry Review, and many others.
Postcard Pity you can’t see the breakwaters nor the seagulls or black fishermen along the pier nor the boats with clouds at the dock as in any postcard or the café with a view of the sea and ruins of tourists smoking, drinking, eating Haitian stews for the first time. Time here passes according to one’s whim, one or two politicians, a priest and an ambassador. As the heat’s so sweltering, what needs to get done is done while drunk. Just like in any province you’ll find a lot of folks ready to recognize the parish as the national bird, and a lot of women alone, here, any whore will invite you to a cup of coffee. No matter how much they clean the palm trees, no matter how large they make the signs, every year a coconut kills a German.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Postcards by Homero Pumarol, translated into English by Anthony Seidman. Pumarol (1971, Santo Domingo) is considered one of the Dominican Republic’s most important poets. He is celebrated for injecting contemporary idioms, pop culture, and irreverent humor into his country’s letters. His most recent title is Poesía reunida 2000-2011, published by Ediciones De a Poco, 2011. His work has been included in the most important anthologies of Latin American poetry. He is also one of the founding members of the spoken word rock group El Hombrecito and appears on their LP entitled Llegó El Hombrecito. I have Pumarol’s permission to publish and translate his poetry. We have collaborated on these translations. My most recent full-length translations include A Stab in the Dark by Facundo Bernal (LARB Classics, 2019), Smooth-Talking Dog: Selected Poems of Roberto Castillo Udiarte (Phoneme Media, 2016), the novel For Love of the Dollar by J.M. Servín (Unnamed Press, 2016), and Confetti-Ash: Selected Poems of Salvador Novo (The Bitter Oleander, 2015). Spuyten Duyvil has just published my latest collection of original poetry, Cosmic Weather.
ROBIN Outside my oriel, she sits, tree-highEnough for us to see things eye-to-eye. Three feet away, she’s brooded there for weeks, Abiding till the time of squawks and squeaks; Till gawping, tip-of-barber-scissors beaks Make maws demanding food by gaping wide.
She is so calm anticipating need, We watch convinced the female will provide What blind chicks clamor for, their faithful greed As blind as they. She’ll tend them one-by-one, Soft gnomon turned each day to take the sun.
For now though, one black pupil ringed with white Is fixed, and half the world is on her right. When they must fletch and leave the nest and fly, Redeeming then the promise of her food, They’ll go themselves to nest and breed and die.
Till then, we two will watch and wait and brood About what is to come. And where she’ll go In her abandoning, we’ll never know.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Len Krisak’s poems in (or forthcoming in): The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, Raritan, The Southwest Review, The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology. Krisak’s prizes: Richard Wilbur Prize; Robert Frost Prize; Robert Penn Warren Prize; The New England Poetry Club Book Award; and four-time champion on Jeopardy!
Song I’ll see you your Stradivarius fiddlehead ferns and first red bird in the body before thinking. And raise you a foundation of salmonberries, you in your Himalayan throat-singing overtones combed by the years of Swedenborgian hair you’ve brought to negotiations over the future. I’ll see you this evening your last grave of horses and raise your quantum radio of restorative sciences where the sea-eagle beak a long time back cracked through the camouflaged shell of weathery unlasting. When I’ve searched through my hands, I’ve happened upon fields of your liberty and shade, the savannah where the lion shakes his gold mane in thermal reports, where your calf has had milk you’ve made rich and lean with mineral-brine rain and vegetables of high resolution, with animals watching over the future a thousand times song. Trust my intent, while purposeful, stands humble along trails of ants tying the freefall underground down with their marks
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 of a brewed mix of wet (R)-2-dodecanol on the planetary surface where they’ve drug the sting, communicating through their arts of scent conditions in the colony and nature of their foraging. Trust that flames enough exist to light candles in every leaf unfurled from the seed that carries the plant to green pastures. Song is the language that bridges the gaps between animals. I’ll see you your oneness in amber light over steps in a pilgrimage thousands of miles back within octaves. Om Mani Padme Hum.
James Grabill’s work appears online at Terrainonline, Calibanonline, Ginosko, Sequestrum, and others. Books - Poem Rising…. (1994), An Indigo Scent… (2003), Lynx House Press. Environmental prose poems, Sea-Level Nerve: I (2014) & II (2015), Wordcraft of OR. New Collections: from Cyberwit in India - Branches Shaken by Light and from Raw Art Review - Eye of the Spiral. For a number of years in Portland, he taught writing and global issues relative to sustainability.
Spirochete --Climate change is a tick’s best friend You’re covered in white from head to foot. You’ve sprayed yourself with poison. You tuck your pants into your socks— ready for a walk with our dog in the woods. Later, while your clothes tumble in the dryer, I inspect your body tweezers in hand hunting black bugs anchored with legs— they cling to your skin like desperate cats, suck your blood like vampire bats, and they carry the gift of Lyme (that’s lime with a “y”) a Pandora’s basket of deplorable diseases without the help of hope. Like the venom of a snake, this borrelia bacteria navigates the bloodstream
to take up residence in the body
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 an invasive species— syphilis’s twisted sister-in a fleet of miniature submarines armed with bio-weapons. The stand-out— Powassan, spawn for seizure, trigger for loss of memory and the ability to move independently. Our dog is immunized but there is no immunity for you and me.
Ed Meek writes poetry, fiction, articles and book reviews. His fourth book of poems, High Tide, is coming out in May. Luck, short stories, came out in 2017. He’s been published in The Paris Review, the Sun, The North American Reviews, etc. He writes book reviews for The Arts Fuse.
STAY AT HOME I’m looking out the window with the everydayness of Vermeer’s young women, though threatening skies are carrying the day so far— what I’d give for a shaft of dusty light. A quart of milk is in the fridge, wine on the counter and whatever this day finally delivers, it won’t last— “Let me help you,” I say to the women.’
Tim Suermondt is the author of five full-length collections of poems, the latest JOSEPHINE BAKER SWIMMING POOL from MadHat Press, 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Stand Magazine, december magazine, Blue Mountain Review and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Taters for Supper Grandma Fleming was setting on the high porch peeling taters for supper when Uncle Buddy up and showed his ass. She was dropping taters in an eight-pound lard bucket and piling the hulls in her apron when Buddy called her an old tightwad for not loaning him a dollar to see Gone With the Wind down at the Weddington on Main Street in Pikeville where the sign showed Rhett, plain as day, fixing to lay a lip lock on Scarlett, and God knows what else. Grandma laid down her knife, slung the hulls over the banister and told Buddy no young’un of hers was going to hell on her dollar for watching that little slut in her red dress and that hound with the mustache cussing and carrying on. That’s when she tore a slat off the banister and caught Buddy behind the ear and sent him rolling down twenty-seven wooden steps and her dead after him. Buddy hit on his feet and was headed for the railroad track when she brought him down with a lump of that old bone coal laying in the yard handy. She told Barbara Faye and Buncie and Jerry and them to let him lay, he’d come around dreckley. Said by the looks of them clouds yonder on Parky Banks’ hill the Lord might be blessing us with a little rain shortly, and went back to peeling taters.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Gayle Compton has worked as an underground coal miner, radio announcer, teacher and office factotum. Having studied English at the University of Pikeville and Morehead State, he considers himself self-taught. For more than four decades he has written about the most interesting people on earth, his people, the people of Eastern Kentucky, from the hard-working to the bare-assed and proud. He has work published recently, or forthcoming, in Main Street Rag, Tipton Poetry Journal, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Trajectory Journal, Better Than Starbucks and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. He lives with his wife Sharon in Pike County, Kentucky.
TO HIS POEM Riffer, hard to let you wake up, pillowSoft, wadded in time to go back to sleep, Longing to drift clearly, while your dog snores Her whimpers on her pad near the window,
Shade drawn to be on track for friends who reap
Thoughts, dreams, beat drums onto the very pores
Nightmares shape in fish, bird, beast once flying
Frequent and straight, yet curving now to keep Pace with hairy manes of horses, their lore,
Mules, too, for him, furrowing, plowing now – Let go.
Shelby Stephenson, author of Family Matters:’ Homage too July the Slave Girl and most recently Slavery and Freedom on Paul’s Hill.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Marco Sells his Book BY: BARRY JAY kaplan Richard phoned: “Are you sitting down?” “I am.” “Are you ready to hear this?” “I’m set. I’m on my mark.” Silence. Richard had acted in a Pinter play in graduate school and knew the value of a pause. “Marco sold his book.”
I stood up. “What?”
“Marco sold his book.”
“Impossible.” “Nevertheless.” I was pacing now. “Who to?” “Knopf.” “Knopf?” “Knopf.” I sat down. “But...” “I know,” Richard said and we spent an animated hour talking about the fact that there were at least six
of us—Michael, Philip, Dennis, Sam, Carter, me of course, him of course—maybe ten of us actually, who were meant to have sold our books before Marco sold his. “Something is very very wrong here,” I said. “Marco, for Godsake. I mean, just look at him, for Godsake. Marco? He looks like…we’ve all said this…a capuchin monkey!” Richard agreed and we went over the inequity from a dozen different angles, then rung off, each to call one of the other six or seven or ten and continue the dissection. I had been deemed brilliant at school. We all had. It was what drew us together, the six or seven or ten of us, our brilliance, our talent, our future. We all did drugs together too and drank beer at the same filthy little club on the other side of the railroad tracks from the campus: Jake’s, with its upright piano and horribly sad little Jewish piano player from New York who had once sat in on a set with Ray Charles at the Lenox Lounge in Harlem supposedly, but really, who did he think was going to believe that? This piano player was also supposed
to have been a poet whose poems had been published by City Lights though no one had ever seen the slim
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 volume with the charming title Tits and All, and this poet had also once been married, though given his current taste in undergraduate boys this seemed even less likely than his book of poems. In every sense he was worse off than any of us which was probably in retrospect why we finally stopped going to this little club which otherwise had only black light and cheap beer and the stench of urine and marijuana to recommend it. While safely ensconced in the nurturing and competitive arms of graduate school we had certain ideas about what a writer was supposed to be, meaning he must have a classical turn of mind—forget the books but think of the mind-bending curves of a Henry James sentence; meaning an aesthetic affiliation with the great mid twentieth century American novelists—Nabokov, Roth, Mailer; meaning of course a built-in post-modern sense of ironic detachment—DeLillo, Barth, Barthelme. It did not hurt to develop one’s abdominal muscles and capacity for pharmaceutical excess, and to be an authority in some arcane, impractical subject: Inuit fertility rites, the unpublished letters of Madame de Stael, the lost recordings of Lee Wiley. We were a group very concerned with style of presentation, self-presentation in particular, and of writing, another form of self-presentation in particular, and how those two were often joined, or were most happily joined in the persons of writers who were great stylists and themselves had great personal style, the kind of style one would want to be around, to socialize with, the kind of style that was made most manifest in the Salon. We did our best. Once settled in New York, Richard instituted stylish at-homes every other Thursday at tea time. His apartment was filled with objects and furniture of mysterious origin; one might admire or be impressed by the arrangement of a certain ashtray on a certain end table and not question whether their provenance was an auction house or a dumpster but take for granted that the simple fact of their setting was its own affirmation of significance, beauty and authenticity. Richard dared you to disagree. Guests dressed accordingly. There was an occasional old school pal at the Thursday salons but typically the people were culled from the arts and local news: a Pulitzer-nominated poet, an actress in an off-Broadway play, a museum curator, a theatrical producer, a drug addict, a nightclub singer, a visiting Brit. One heard and said witty things in such company, where the world was divided into those who did crossword puzzles and those whose names appeared as clues. I did not attend every single one of Richard’s at-homes but was given detailed descriptions of those I missed. More to the point, Marco was never seen at one nor was his name ever mentioned. Until he sold his book.
By the time this happened, I was no longer as close with any of the others as I had once been or maybe I had never been as close with any of them as I was with Richard once and even with Richard one always ran the risk of saying something not brilliant enough to maintain his good opinion. One could hear the sighs of disappointment, impatience, contempt in his voice but no not really, he was too brilliant himself to display disappointment with such coarseness. More likely his calls would simply stop coming until someone else disappointed him, some new outrage against taste was perpetrated, some indefensible point was defended, and he found himself drowning in displeasure and disgust, at which point his calls would resume and I’d manage to say something with rapier incisiveness about one of the six or seven or ten and he’d be as delighted as if I’d finally recovered from the flu and we’d be back. This is how things stood when he called to tell me about Marco.
Several months before this happened, I had finally landed a boyfriend. Granted, he was not someone that Richard or Carter or Sam or any of them would have considered a catch. Henry was not gorgeous, was not an artist, did not have money or attention-getting style. That he was brilliant and witty, a tenured professor of history, and in general had a morally superior character and was an astute judge of others’, were not qualities which any of them found alluring. No one spoke against him, of course. They simply were not impressed. He seems…nice, Richard had said, a little doubtfully. I didn’t care. Well, I did care. Of course, I cared. Everything was a contest, wasn’t it? Every detail mattered, didn’t it? Carter’s boyfriend was a Paul Taylor dancer: check. Sam’s ran a gallery of outsider art: check. I found myself drifting away from them, not available to attend the Thursday salons, particularly when Henry was invited and would feel obliged to accompany me though not really wanting to and certainly would neither have a good time nor show particularly well so really, what was the point? Marco’s publication party was something else. Not to go would have been an admission of the envy I could barely acknowledge even to myself and so I did not dare not go. And I had to bring Henry; to have appeared alone would have signaled some awful kind of defeat which is sort of what I felt with Henry at my side. The challenge was to transcend and do it with style.
The party was in Richard’s pre-war walk up apartment on West 95th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, an area notably lacking in charm which Richard praised for its convenience to the subway and planned to leave as soon as the film rights to his as yet unfinished novel were sold. Marco’s had not only been published, but gotten reviews so laudatory they could only have been co-authored by his agent and his mother.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 When Henry and I arrived the apartment was filled with fifty or so of the handsomest men in New York City plus six or seven of the six or seven or ten of us and not more than a half dozen women, all publicists or junior editors at the house publishing Marco’s book; as far as anyone knew, Marco did not personally know any women. The men stood in various glamour-bar poses around the periphery of the room, not making eye contact with anyone, even the people to whom they were talking, and occasionally bursting into raucous laughter, bitten off sharply at the end. The women wandered from the bar to the windows, unlit cigarettes in their upheld hands, unmoored and ignored. Damn that Richard! He had supplied Marco with a Thursday salon all his own, surrounded him with the handsomest men in New York and by doing so made the publication of Marco’s book Richard’s own triumph. It was Richard saying: I’m so above petty competition that I can celebrate the success of this little capuchin monkey, who after all cannot really be in line for the same literary trophy which I will one day win for myself, a feeling I think I’m right in assuming the rest of us felt too. I know I felt it. Youthful success is just that, and great promise is only that, and potential…potential is simply a scent in the wind that might at any moment blow foul right back in your face. Marco’s book! There was a stack of them on the table next to the bar guarded by a female sub-editor with braces on her teeth. I don’t know what expression I was wearing at that moment, but I do know that my face hurt. “Five minutes and we can go,” I whispered to Henry. “I’m fine,” Henry said. “We can stay as long as you want.” Just at that moment, Richard came towards us, a welcoming smile splitting his handsome face in two; as he neared us, his expression slowly morphed into a smirk that said: welcome to my party for the little monkey. His hand stretched out for a hearty masculine shake. The heat of my humiliation was filling the room. Before I could move, I felt Henry’s shoulder briefly graze mine as he made a decisive step towards Richard—and, I realized, taking the bullet meant for me—took Richard’s extended hand in his own, raised it to his lips and planted on it a lingering kiss. I could see the slight stiffening of Richard’s arm, the minute elevation of his shoulder in the desire and the reluctance to withdraw; in his acquiescence he became a coquette with an unexpected admirer. The men lining the walls leaned barely perceptibly forward, amused at the transformation, and turned en masse a curious, an appraising eye on my Henry.
We left the party an hour or so later and walked west on 95th Street towards the Drive. There was a cool breeze blowing, and some rosy pink light near the horizon as the sun set behind the apartment towers along the Jersey shore. The river looked like an undulating bolt of black satin. The air tingled with the smell of fallen leaves that crunched under our feet. I would have to say that things felt really good. We’d left the
party on a very high note of personal accomplishment. Henry had crested the wave of social challenge with a brilliant stroke of intuitive, ironic grace of which I had no idea he was capable. There was an implicit promise in this. We’ll see, I thought. We walked side by side, not touching, silent. I glanced over at him and smiled and he looked back at me and winked. I threw my arm around his shoulder and he laughed and so did I, and I thought: I’ve got to get back to work on my book. And so we walked the long blocks to our apartment through the park, not saying much, and later that same night I actually sat down at my desk to write.
Barry Jay Kaplan’s short stories have appeared in Descant, Bryant Literary Review, Central Park, Appearances, Talking River, Kerouac Review, Northern New England Review, Upstreet, Brink, Amarillo Bay, Perigee, Apple Valley Review, Drum, Brink, New Haven Review and others and have twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. One of his stories was selected as one of five Best Stories on the Web. He is the author of three historical novels Black Orchid (with Nicholas Meyer), and Biscayne (Simon and Shuster) both selections of the Literary Guild and That Wilder Woman (Bantam Books). He is also the co-author (with Rosemarie Tichler) of the interview books, Actors at Work (Faber and Faber) and The Playwright at Work (University of Chicago Press). He has an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop where he was research assistant to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Mosquitos by: BRAD COBB With mornings he again rises and turns on the radio as a rampart against a silence that seems to have evolved a ravening quality. He listens, hearing nothing, and putters around until the stiffness leaves his joints for the most part. He finds himself, as always, stricken with a growing suspicion that strange doings are afoot, and he is fearful and mystified by them. On clear mornings he loiters on his back porch gazing across the fields toward the distant pandemonium of the sun until the immense span of alluvium seems poised to swallow him. It is through a Delta town so depopulated it resembles a place ravaged by a plague that he walks the quarter mile to the neighborhood store. He canâ€™t imagine it will remain open much longer with all the young people moving away, and those in their dotage, like himself, dying out. They serve breakfast in the mornings to help keep the business afloat, and he without fail orders a homemade custard-filled donut and coffee and sits in one of the chairs along the wall out front and eats, waving his hands at the mosquitoes, stragglers who have not retreated with the darkness. Others arrive at the store each morning. They greet him and say blah blah blah blah blah and he replies blah blah blah blah blah. He is friendly and of course mannerly as his mother had taught him( there was no excuse for bad manners), but inside he is jaded and spiritless. It is the low habit of being that propels him through his days rather than any love of them. Afterwards he returns home where the radio is always left playing and turns on the television but before turning off the radio. As he watches the morning game shows his face often takes on the look of someone contemplating a river or who has come to the conclusion that creation is a bit more than they can accept. His mind is awash with things that never before occurred to him. Like Eternity is one hell of a long time. If an ant carried the Sahara, grain of sand by grain of sand, across the world and set it here in Humphrey Arkansas, it wouldnâ€™t even be a beginning. Like There is a secret to my days which has been overlooked. Something I can feel but not understand. Yes. strange doings are afoot. At noonday he goes back to the store. They prepare a sandwich for him from the deli case, always bologna and cheese, which he again eats in the chair in front to another hackneyed chorus of blah blah blahs.
The television is still on when he re-enters his house. He watches his soap operas but no longer feels involved with the characters adulteries and the betrayals and rare tragic illnesses as he once did. Something else in his life has moved to prominence though if someone held a gun to his head and demanded he name it he would be unable to do so. In the gloaming, when the shadows turn blue then indistinct, he prepares a frozen salisbury steak dinner to eat then busies himself with small tasks that seem pointless and which never take up enough time to keep him from his thoughts. Like The moment I was conceived I began dying. Like How many Summers do I have left. Like Just what in the goddamn hell is wrong with me anyway. Strange doings indeed. On Fridays comes a brief reprieve from the etched-in-stone format of his days. It is when the Church just down the street from the store changes the message on its sign out front. Usually the sign has clever and humorous sayings about Jesus or the Prophets or Christians or Sinners, ,but every so often during the summer months the subject matter is mosquitoes since they are so much a part of daily life in the Delta with its rice fields and antediluvian swamps. These are his favorite. Across the street in what was once a park, he takes a seat on a bench beside a dry and derelict fountain. He watches intently as the caretaker arranges the letters. The sign reads Imagine life if Noah had squashed those two Mosquitoes. He slaps a knee and smiles. Inwardly he hees and haws. Now that is clever, he thinks. How in the world do they come up with such things. He didnâ€™t mind missing The Price is Right for a thing like this. The signs message remains in his mind, and he senses something insistent and peculiar within like an ember being enkindled at the core of his being. He finds himself in a deep contemplation of mosquitoes. There seems to be more to them than he had previously thought; an unnameable quality had been overlooked, just like in his life, but what? Everyone hates them, including myself, he thinks, but perhaps there are extenuating circumstances. He experiences a growing feeling of gladness that Noah had not squashed those two in the Ark. In the coming days his deadening routine is thwarted and he, unburdened somewhat, even more so than at the Friday sign changings. He even turns off his radio and television so he might hear should something speak from the silence. That night as he lays in bed a mosquito hovers at his ear like a restless wayward spirit. He listens attentively to its fragile whine as it whispers things beyond translation, yet it seems brimming with a most explicit significance. He imagines them winging their way through the darkness, famished and without number and certain in their pursuit.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 Malaria, he thinks. What a lovely magical word! The next morning at the store the perplexed clerk serves him biscuits and gravy. At home he attempts to start his truck for the first time in ages, but it only clicks and retches beneath its patina of dust. A neighbor gives him a jump, and it sputters to tentative life. He drives 25 miles to the public library in Pine Bluff with it backfiring like a string of lit firecrackers. After a perfunctory research he takes a table with a stack of books. Malaria, he reads, is a mosquito-borne disease. It’s typical symptoms are fever, vomiting, headaches, and tiredness. Imagine the joy of contracting it then getting well again, he thinks. From the books he uncovers many fun and amazing facts, but to his chagrin reads that it is all but eradicated in the United States. Even in the South, he asked. Yes. Even in the South. 90% of all cases are found in travelers returning from tropical countries where the disease remains widespread. What of the other 10%, he wonders, those who haven’t traveled to other countries. He is unable to find any information on the remaining percentage. So, he thinks, excited nearly out of his wits, there is still a chance that I can become infected! Before leaving the city he stops at Waffle House and orders a pecan waffle and hot tea. He flirts with the young waitress who is missing a front tooth and makes her blush. He feels like a strutting crowing rooster and has no doubt that if given the chance you could produce a monstrous raging hard-on. The vast flat spaces he drives through induces recollections of old. He remembers his father and himself fishing off a wooden bridge with cane poles and pulling up goggle-eye one after the other. He sees his grandparents shelling peas on the porch of their old shotgun house out in Seaton Dump. He recalls a provincial story his mother once told him when he was no bigger than a minute: a man was walking home one night when he was bitten by a snake. He was miles from help, and when he began to feel the venom take its toll he knew that if he didn’t take action quickly he would die. So he stripped naked and the mosquitoes covered him, sucking out much of his blood but with it the poison. The man was so thankful to the noble pest that for the rest of his days he would stand naked in his backyard one night per week and allow them to freely feed until he had grown woozy from lack of blood. At night he feels driven to walk the deserted streets of the town without the protection of repellent, but unlike the protagonist in his mother’s story, he is incapable of stifling his instinct to slap the winged Furies away; even so, their proboscis pierce him with myriad wounds. On subsequent mornings he resembles someone who has been given a minor scourging; his arms and neck and face are covered in itchy pink welts which he imagines and hopes are swarming with Plasmodium malariae. As he proceeds to the store he never fails to feel his forehead and wonder, do I have a fever? I think I’m hot. Is that nausea developing in my gut and the tiny throb of a coming headache? Am I not tired? I feel
tired. He wonders if the doctor will prescribe quinine or something more newfangled. But each time he is saddened to find his symptoms have failed to blossom. Friday arrives and his low spirits over the unfortunate stubbornness of his good health are raised when he remembers it is time for the changing of the sign. He is delighted to find the subject is again mosquitoes. It reads Even Mosquitoes know there is Power in the Blood. He is sure it is a portent though of what he is clueless. Perhaps, he speculates, it is that I will indeed develop malaria. After so many of his hopes come to nothing, a burning and furious thought occurs to him; it is that swamp mosquitoes are bound to be more malarial than town mosquitoes. It stands to reason. Why, they must be dripping with pathogens! That night, eager to test his theory, he drives to a dismal bayou, undresses, and walks along the cypresslined banks. He is immediately covered with a pelt of mosquitoes so dense he resembles a furry wildman. In order to restrain himself from slapping them he resorts to other movements; he performs jumping jacks. He hops from leg to leg. He thrashes and spins like an unhinged dervish. Finally he forces himself to stand still and stare up at the vault of heaven and itâ€™s conspiracy of stars, an immense spill of sugar, as he clenches his fists and bares his teeth and make sounds like someone straining during the passage of a gigantic bowel movement. Dawn finds him as swollen as a prize fighter with bites. He consumes a custard-filled donut at breakfast and is utterly convinced of the onset of indicators. He is sure he detects no fever in his forehead only because his hands are fevered as well, and that the queasy feeling in his belly is not from the custard, heavy like lead there, and that the possible pulsing in his head is bound with a promise of growing stronger. He is tired to the point of swooning, and not because he was up all night scratching. Steam rises from the streets. The leaves rustle and are susurrant. Cicadas drone. Doves coo and are amorous on the roof. A truck loaded with cotton eases past, tiny pieces of its cargo spinning in its wake like bits of moon. A robed Angel with a small instrument resembling a reflex hammer taps wind chimes, and a train whistle, soft with distance, gently cuts through the forenoon, this one like any other in the waning town. He nods off and a bizarre dream comes to him like it might to one in the grip of a fever, but after he jerks awake he cannot remember it. He is distressed to find himself invigorated by his short nap and his hopes of becoming one of the chosen 10% evaporating like the brume wafting up from the road.
He wonders what a
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
plane ticket to the Ivory Coast would cost even though he knows he can never afford one. A man can dream. The Quiet Eye of Eternity watches him attentively, and he imagines it as glaring and mean as a poked wildcat, but at least not indifferent. A meager whining makes itself known. A mosquito floats onto his hand and pushes itâ€™s beak beneath the surface of his thin parchment skin. With the finger of his other hand he presses it down into a shapeless smear of blood. He imagines all the clocks of the world ticking off time and each second as it tumbles end-over-end, one after another, into oblivion, and he has the strange idea that others, his spiritual kinsman, even mosquitoes, would also briefly exist in the mystery of meaningful futility and itâ€™s congress of ruin and wonder, and eventually be crushed magnificently beneath its weight. Another mosquito descends on his other hand, and he squashes it as well. Then he is alone.
Brad Cobb lives in England Arkansas. He has been published in several literary journals such as Bayou Magazine and Arkansas Review. His short story collection, A Brief Autumn Hunt and Other Stories, was a top ten finalist in the 2018 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for fiction.
Green by: ED DAVIS --For Bruce Lombardo
Late afternoon sun turns the little hillock overlooking the grassland prairie to gold. We’re here for
Brian’s green burial: no embalming fluid, no fancy casket, just a biodegradable box and a plot under a tree. Exactly the way he wanted it. Glancing around, I see at the end of the row in front of me a very pissed-off-looking woman with her beautiful teen-age daughter—somebody said her name is Green—sitting beside her. Anyone with two brain cells can tell she’s Brian’s: same nearly white blonde hair flowing halfway down her back, and hazel eyes that glitter like cut glass. She looks about fifteen, so she would’ve been four or five when Brian left her mother for Clarissa. We’d set up about a hundred chairs earlier. I see now we’ll maybe need more, with fifty or so already seated and people pouring down the path Brian himself had mowed here on his and his mate’s property back in May—well, not exactly their property. They’d willed it to the Biome Preserve, plus it’s open year-round to visitors, who want to see what Appalachian Ohio looked like before agribusiness and asphalt, fracking and mountaintop removal ruined it. When every single seat is taken except the one I’m saving for Alice May, Clarissa approaches the portable podium and begins talking about how many folks had cared for her beloved at the end. “He told me something early on, “ she says, tenting her eyes, “before the cancer got so bad.” She glances down, then back up, grips the podium hard. “Brian said, ‘When the angel of death comes at you with a strong arm and sharp sword, why would you want to blunt his blade and miss the gift?’”
Jesus. I close my eyes and suck down the summery smell of sweet grass.
Just then Alice May plunks herself down beside me, takes my hand and squeezes. When I look at her, she squints at me like I’m one of the old-timers she feeds, changes and bathes up at Tulip Tree Manor (I’ll be there soon enough). I realize my cheeks are wet and she’s gaping at me.
“Sun in my eyes,” I whisper. She nods solemnly at the lie.
In the next hour, stories get told, lots of them funny, mostly about Brian’s “abiding friendship,” as his elderly dad says, with “the physical world.” At last the speechifying dies along with the sun that’s stoked
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 itself into a blaze at the bottom of the horizon. I’ve been watching Brian’s ex. She’s never stopped seething— I’ve begun thinking of her as The Volcano—and it’s begun to fret me some that she might erupt. But before anything else can happen, a teenage girl announces she’ll sing “Into the West” from The Lord of the Rings, Brian’s favorite book, backed by a woman playing a harp. As soon as the harp starts, I’m gone, seeing Brian smoothing back his long golden hair the day he and I cut steps in the path up Razorback Ridge. What in the world would he have thought if he’d known I swore off dating men after I started working for him? That I’m crazy as a loon? (That’s probably right.) Brian hired me five years ago—at 61 and ten years his senior—to manage volunteers here at Biome, the nature preserve Clarissa founded twenty years ago to prevent every inch of ground between here and Cincinnati from being paved. Hired me, a motel housekeeper and factory worker. I’d never tried to manage anything, unless you count all those Toms, Dicks and a-holes that I used to let inside the inner sanctum of Reena Rawlins. (Not anymore.) Now Clarissa’s back at the podium and I missed the whole damn song.
“Does anyone else want to say anything before we—”
It’s like somebody fired a pistol. All eyes turn to watch The Volcano rise, stomp down to the podium
and lean forward, gripping the sides like a pinball machine. Holy shit.
“I’m Brian’s wife.” She lets it settle onto our shoulders like ash. “We never divorced before he left us
and moved in with her.”
Clarissa sits straight as a soldier being court-martialed. I’ve seen her take shit as well as shovel it, but I
think this is a test even for a saint who just smiles when rednecks trash her at public meetings. Here it comes.
When the woman stops, I can almost see smoke hissing from her fiery core. All we can do is wait to see
if she’ll blow. But then the only person who can do something does. Suddenly there’s Green squeezing between her mama and the mic. Her mother lets go of the podium, steps back and bows her head.
“You all loved my dad,” the girl says in a low, growly voice a cartoon bear might have. “He was a
mighty warrior, but . . .” Trailing off, she looks down—has she lost her courage? But then with a shy grin—“ . . . a very gentle mighty warrior who loved everybody he met. Mom and I thank you so much for coming out here to—”
And then a glittering green and red hummingbird flies in from nowhere and hovers a few feet from the
girl in the last bit of light let in by the crack at the bottom of the sky. Wings beat the air for another second or two before it turns and sails back to wherever it came from. Green’s face breaks into the biggest smile I’ve seen
since hearing the bad news.
“Daddy, you’re such a show-off!” she shouts. Everybody cracks up while the girl leads her mom back to their seats. Then Clarissa stands up and
hollers, not even bothering with the mic.
“Now please stay and help us bury this good, sweet man.”
We stand. By this time it’s starting to get dark. I hear noise behind us and turn to see a cart climbing
the hill, pulled by Maud Murphy and her three grown daughters.
“Brian was brought into this world by a woman”—it’s Clarissa again—“and he wants to be taken to his
grave by women, too.”
While the cart creaks forward, we lapse silent and remain so while Maud leads the group to the grave
fifty yards away. While we flow forward as one body, I watch Green guide her mother, arm around her waist, and wonder if the bitter widow will erupt again.
We stand two or three deep around the grave as the men take over from the women, two guys on each
side of the woven hemp casket that will disintegrate within weeks and give Brian’s body back to the ground whence it came. I let myself imagine soil and every living thing in it eating his flesh away, until the man who’d loved the earth so much had become it. My imaginings are interrupted when Alice May grabs my forearm and hisses, “Oh no! He don’t fit!”
Tilt and wiggle his container as they will, Brian is refusing to enter the ground. In the gloaming, I
watch men carefully maneuver the body back to the cart and pick up shovels while Clarissa steps between the grave and the crowd.
“This is Brian’s best joke on us yet. He’s laughing his ass off!”
Before any of the pallbearers can dig a lick, Green leaves her mama’s side and walks right up to one of
the men and holds out her hands. The guy makes no motion to obey till Maud Murphy steps forward, catches his eye and nods. He lets the girl have the shovel and stands back. When Green lifts her foot and kicks down hard, I see the child is wearing brogans beneath the hem of her long skirt, and I’d bet my bottom dollar Brian bought them for her. When her foot comes down a second time, metal slices sod. We listen to her chop and toss as her daddy’s hole widens. I close my eyes again and listen to her movements: chunk, as her foot lands on steel; riiip as the sod tears away; plop as she tosses it to the side. It takes about five minutes, her not being that stout. Finally it’s quiet again and I know it’s done. Opening my eyes, I watch the men return to the cart, lift the body down as carefully as before. This time the box pops in like the last puzzle piece and we all heave the same sigh.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Alice May gasps beside me.
She turns me, pointing up. It is the biggest, fullest moon I have ever seen, gold on blue velvet like a
wedding band on a jeweler’s cloth. It has been up there with Brian, looking over our shoulders the whole time his daughter re-dug his grave. Others have discovered it, too, and are grinning, clapping each other on the back and pointing. I look around to see who’ll look back. There’s Clarissa at the edge of the crowd talking to The Volcano. But the woman shakes her head, takes her daughter’s hand and turns away. I know she’s ready to stalk off down the torch-lit path toward the parking lot. To think ill of us forever. I don’t think; I just walk right up and stand in front of them. “I’m Reena. I worked with Brian. He took me in.” Jesus, Reena—like you were a stray mongrel? “I mean he hired me. I thought this here”—I wave at the sky—“was Brian’s moon, that it came up right when it did to, I don’t know, bless his body or whatever, but she”—I point to Green—“ already did that . . . in spades!” Crazy as I’ve become, I do hear my pun, and realize they got it, too, and that’s why they’re smiling, even though they both must be wondering why this old wreck is talking to them when no one else got within three feet. Their laughter gives me the guts to say more. “Brian, he was so—I mean, I felt like . . .” But I’m too ashamed to say it: I loved your daddy more than my own life. Now I’m blushing and I’ve used up my voice. Green takes two steps and draws me to her with her long arms. Her breath is warm beside my ear. “We know.” Her hug lasts long enough for me to hear Alice May flapping her jaws to Mamie King about the best way to make strawberry preserves. Finally the girl steps back into the shadows and looks at me just the way her daddy did that day up on the ridge when we cut steps together. Like then, I feel completely seen. Before I can get over being hugged so tight and for so long by Brian’s daughter, she takes both my cold hands in her warm, soft ones. “Come with us, Reena,” Green says in that raspy voice of hers. “We can sit in the van and you can tell me stories about working with Daddy.” I glance at The Volcano, but if she has any problem with what her daughter just offered, she don’t act like it. She shrugs like maybe it’s okay to take up with one of them. Now I know why I stayed chaste. To be worthy of Brian—and now his daughter. “Worthy of yourself”—that’s what Alice May would say if she weren’t still talking to Mamie King about blackberry cobbler. Before I follow Brian’s daughter, I look behind me to the mounded dirt and think about the Angel coming at you with his strong hand and sharp sword. The gift. Squeezing the fingers of my right hand, Green leads me forward out of darkness onto the flaming path back to where we’re going next.
Ed Davisâ€™ nonfiction and poetry have appeared in many anthologies and literary journals such as Main Street Rag, Still: The Journal, and Mountains Piled on Mountains: Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocene. His novel The Psalms of Israel Jones won the 2010 Hackney Award for an unpublished novel and was published by West Virginia University Press in 2014.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
BY: HOPE JORDAN
I remember the night rain poured down the chimney and you came into our bedroom wearing a headlamp and carrying a hockey stick. The mother raccoon and three kits that had taken up residence over the damper above our bedroom fireplace were making noises like small demons. “Time to relocate,” you said as you started banging on the mantel. We later figured that was when the mother grabbed one of the kits and ran up and out the chimney onto the roof, then across and back down into the garage window. We’d seen her do that before. The two remaining kits fell into our cold fireplace and you picked them up and they clung to you like young monkeys. Our friends said our encounters with animals sounded like a children’s book. We spent our first night in that house lying awake in the May moonlight that entered the naked windows, wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into. The post-and-beam bones of the house had been hidden under layers of shoddy construction, sheets of plywood sandwiched with mouse droppings, old and new. You found something rolled tight as a cigar in one of the old beams, and it turned out to be three prints of the same 19th-century photograph, a bearded man sitting in a chair with a large dog at his feet. The wallpaper in our son’s room featured sepia horses on an off-white background, and in my dreams I heard them breathing. One morning we woke up early to find three Haflingers in our back yard, eating the hay we’d spread over the new grass seed. The night of the torrential rain, you wore a bicycle helmet in case the mother raccoon defended her babies too fiercely. People thought we were crazy to live so far north. The first time your uncle drove up, he asked if we were in Canada yet. Your mother said it reminded her of the old country, especially the neighbor’s chickens. She loved going with us to buy eggs from Frank and Allison. She told us how the gypsies had once stolen her family’s chickens, and how her sister hid in a baking oven when the soldiers came to their village. Your sister fell asleep on our couch in the middle of the day, when she was in the thick of her second divorce. Our newlywed friends said their baby had never slept through the night, until the visit when all three of them stayed over, bedded down in your study. Did they think we lived a more peaceful life? Now I wonder if they sensed the chaos underneath. The nights I paced the road in front of the house, waiting for you to come home. Remember that early morning, drenched in rain, when the kids and I watched as you nudged the mother raccoon into the small coop where we’d once kept young chickens of our own? It seemed that we were moving underwater, all the way south in the Volvo on the dark highway to the conservation land on the other side of town. We let the raccoon family loose in the early dawn. The rain was clearing up by then and the woods looked raw, primeval. You remember the way the rain soaked through the old roof, the three layers of shingles the former owners had kept piling on. You remember the way the rain damaged the new sheetrock. You remember how the baby raccoons snarled. Your mother and uncle told the same old-country stories we’d all heard before, even in the lavish new homes of their suburban sisters. One afternoon, driving around our town, you said, “It would never occur to me to put bunting on anything.” I drove by our old house last year. It was October, a year after we sold it and moved away to different lives. I drove by our old house and I sat with Allison on their deck and we watched the chickens run around the yard and there was Frank’s old rooster, bedraggled, but strutting, still tormenting the hens. The chickens ran across the road into the yard that had once been ours, and I could see the orange berries of the bittersweet vines we’d once dug out of the lilacs and cleared from the apple trees. Frank had died. Frank, who had walked the dogs with us as the March snow softened, who didn’t mind being a third wheel, who’d been more of a brother to us
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 than anyone in our own families. The apple trees had always been ancient; now they seemed grayer, more withered. Now they seemed like they were dying. There’s nothing remarkable here. Young people get married, have children, leave the city to buy an old house in the woods. It could be the same pair of cardinals lighting in the overgrown junipers, or another generation of birds. Why would anyone stop by a house they’d once lived in to see if the new owners found an engagement ring in the grass? And yet this is what happened, months after we first moved in. We remember only bits and pieces – the embrace of a baby raccoon, the village oven, the March snow. Regret molders and becomes toxic. What I remember most about all those years is that one rainy night. The rain. Even now when it rains, when I drum my fingertips on the windowsill, I remember the rough touch of your plaid flannel jacket.
Hope Jordan’s writing has appeared recently in such journals as Twyckenham Notes, Split Rock Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, and Angels Flight Literary West. She grew up in
Chittenango, NY, and holds a dual BA from Syracuse University and a creative writing MFA from UMass Boston. She lives in NH, where she was the state’s first official poetry slam master. Her chapbook is The Day She Decided to Feed Crows (Cervena Barva Press, 2018).
Neighborhood Zombies by: JESSICA COSTELLO
“Is that a tattoo?” the cashier asked, gesturing towards the black spot on the back of her hand. Her sleeve had ridden up to show the flower she’d clumsily drawn there with permanent marker. Its middle petal was missing. His voice was velvety and almost a dead ringer for a voice she hadn’t heard since April.
She hesitated, eyebrows raising without her consent, swallowed back the impulse to ask that voice
to say something about voyaging through the stars. “Oh, no. It’s just a doodle.” A breathy attempt at a laugh, stamping out the heat rising in her cheeks. His nametag said his name was Juan, and she hadn’t had a sloppy fling with a Juan. “It’ll wash off.”
“I like it.” It was a relatively new habit, tracing bits of beauty into her skin. First flowers, then stars, then little
lines that could pass for fireworks. No one had noticed the flower mark before, or if they had, they hadn’t bothered to ask. Not her mother, not her roommate, not the men. They never stayed long enough. If you could call what she was doing making art of herself, the finished product turned out to be something that many people looked at, but no one inspected close enough to buy. She thought about how if she’d stuck in college, she would’ve picked art as a major. Or maybe psychology. Or maybe they were just different versions of the same thing.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. She shrugged towards the drugstore’s exit, lowering her head as she
passed the aisle of baby supplies, diapers and formula and strollers and discount toys. The hand that held the bags twirled the handles until the plastic turned her fingers red, all to stop the nails she’d filed to a point from scoring indents in the other arm, the one with the flower, a drunken daisy already one petal short. It had already started its tingling, and not just from the scratchy, oversized sweatshirt that made her look like an orange on the tree.
In the bags were a pack of cherry-flavored gum, Tampax, magenta lipstick, one new prescription to
put her to sleep, another one to make her smile convincing enough, and a simple notebook from the discount rack because they’d told her to start recording her thoughts.
The next time she went to therapy, it would be her last. A gimmick not worth the forty-minute train
ride out to the suburb that housed the only mental health clinic within fifty miles that her mother’s insurance would cover.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Puddles lingered on the sidewalk from that afternoon’s rainstorm. That meant it was an extra
challenge to avoid them, especially with feet already damp and cold inside shoes with worn-out soles and holes in the toes.
No one ever asked to hear the bartender’s sob story. No one looked at the arms that poured their
drinks. Most people only took.
According to the flashing sign across the street at the bank, it was 6:02 PM. Friday. Most people on
the street were probably looking forward to the weekend. Most people probably had places to go. Families, love, sources of softness. People who would notice if they disappeared, people who would notice a real tattoo or a drawing of one.
And by my own choice, I have no one.
When she was young, her mother told her never to end up like the women they’d seen pacing the
sidewalk. They weren’t hookers, no, but worse – lost souls. She called them the neighborhood zombies. Limping around the blocks of apartments and discount stores and community gardens, on their fourth sets of fake teeth and eyes glazed over from the drugs, skin covered in ink, collecting discarded beer cans from the gutter for those five cents.
Her mother had two other favorite quotable lines. One on the power of a name: “Your name means
‘butterfly’, and you’re going to fly away from here and make yourself a better life.”
The second one was on not repeating mistakes: “I was twenty when you were born and I don’t regret
it, but you should never have to choose between having a family and having a life of your own.”
So far, even though she’d chosen it, a life of her own hadn’t turned out so great. Still, she wore a
butterfly pendant, a lilac-colored crystal on a leather cord, a gift from her fifteenth birthday. The crystal was fake, definitely more like plastic, but it still let the light shine through. Ten years later and she was more like a suicidal mosquito – a college dropout with mismatched socks, no car, barely a job, a tiny apartment she shared with a roommate who did everything right – No wings to speak of. But occasionally she still rubbed the cord between her fingers, as if it would bring good luck.
These days, her mother only checked in on birthdays and Christmas, none of which happened in
September, and maybe once a month to make sure she was still taking the pills their health insurance paid for. And she was no better, no different, than the women her mother had warned her about becoming. Pacing the street, looking for something that didn’t exist in all the wrong places.
The same summer she’d gotten the butterfly pendant was the first time she’d brought a boy home and
kissed him goodbye, quick and soft and easy. Her mother called from the balcony between cigarette puffs,
“Now, we don’t wanna turn this house into a brothel.”
The boy – she didn’t even remember his name now, but he had been wearing a yellow plaid flannel
that darkened his eyes until they looked like honey – jumped away from her as if stung.
She’d looked at him, mouth downturned, and tore herself away. She’d been too young then to even
know what a brothel was. And over the years, she’d never exchanged her body for money, no, not explicitly. The temporary soothing of a heart that had never been and never would be whole was payment enough.
Fall was supposed to be pretty, but today the city seemed washed out, fragile brick and dull concrete
against looming clouds threatening to crush anything in their path. The old cereal factory was almost half a mile away, yet managed to stink the entire area of excess wheat. It smelled like the dust at the bottom of the cereal box that you throw away. She passed another chain-link fence and tried to smile at a boy passing her on a bike. He was too busy looking straight ahead at what was in front of him to notice.
So much potential. Whether it was because he was a boy or because he had enough money for a bike,
though, she wasn’t sure. Either way, she told herself to stop envying a ten-year-old who was wearing shorts despite the falling temperatures. She’d gotten to know this neighborhood well over the past few months. Over the summer, when it had been too hot to sleep, she’d gone running. The roommate loaned her pepper spray and she’d make a loop from the corner, down past the CVS, to the church and back. Anything to drown out the emptiness inside her head, even if it was just with the thud of her own heart raging and the feel of her muscles lengthening. Now, she was thinner, yes, but also frailer. Spring was supposed to bring new growth and rebirth, but that April had been when it had all fallen apart. Once, at the end of a run, she snuck into the church on the corner, not because she was looking for God, not because her mother said He was always listening (in her opinion, he was a mind-control myth), but because she wanted quiet. Quiet and the water fountain. She’d never learned how to pray, but maybe this was one way. The walls were decorated with marble statues and stained glass were a shelter from the wind that still cut cold and harsh even in those early autumn days. She would sit in the last row, where the light didn’t reach, and watch scattered believers hunched over in prayer. Here she was free to empty out, here with the stench of flowers filling the whole room. Sometimes, she let herself half-hope that one night, just for half a second, she’d recognize a face as its owner turned around and walked out. One of the guys, the guy from April with a voice like velvet, had said he’d found Jesus and so they couldn’t do what they’d done anymore. He had been an astronomer, or something of the sort, searching every kind of heaven for… for what?
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 What was there that wasn’t here? He’d never had an answer. Fair enough. After all, she made all her tips by flirting. At least in those rare moments, as another stranger closed the church doors behind him, smiling politely, she existed. Most nights, she slipped past so quickly, no one noticed she was gone. # After that pilgrimage to the corner pharmacy, that same silence plugged her ears. Right when she might have needed the Jesus-loving astronomer, even just for the prayers, she couldn’t remember his name.
She unwrapped the pill bottles from their suffocating plastic bags, and debated flushing their contents
down the toilet. But her mother would call her lazy if she wasn’t trying to get better, following the prescription, always someone else’s.
With fumbling fingers, she straightened her hair so it was sleek and black like she’d seen in a magazine,
put on the darkest eyeliner she could find to bring out the night in her eyes, pulled her one black tank top from the back of the closet. Black fit her personality, so she shrouded herself in it, all but her lips, which she painted magenta. Her mouth was dry.
This was the same suffocation she’d been trying to push off since last spring. #
Friday nights were the best to work. Over the spotless glasses she’d been polishing, she watched the crowd trickle in after long days, long weeks, long lives, escaping into her normal. A new face at the bar ordered a whiskey. One of his forearms sported a sprawling inked Día de los Muertos skull, flowers springing from its eye sockets. His face seemed familiar, but she didn’t recall the tattoo. She’d remember that one for sure. He laughed, more like a prolonged exhale, when their eyes met. “What?” Her muscles coiled. “You just look like you could use a drink yourself, is all.”
“Would I be here if I wasn’t miserable?” She folded herself over the bar, took in the ink on his arms.
Inhaled and said, “I’ve been wanting to get a tattoo.”
“My friend did this one. Gave me a discount, too. But it hurt like hell for about a week.”
She smiled, almost to herself. There were worse kinds of pain. “I’d have to think about what I want.”
“He’s at the new shop over on West Street. You should look into it. Say Sean sent you.” This last bit
with a wink.
She broke eye contact and went back to wiping down the bar, face suddenly hot, as if she exposed her
deepest secret. Which she never would. “I just might.” # Even their neighbors’ noise had stopped by the time she turned the key at two-thirty that morning, leaving only the refrigerator’s constant hum. She dropped her key onto the table, as much to hear the sound as to put them down, and kicked off the distressed shoes. Soon enough even the refrigerator ceased its noise.
Why am I so hungry? I should be asleep.
Do I take those pills with a meal?
How much is a meal?
She stood rooted to one square of kitchen tile, a ghost in her own home, surrounded by
artifacts of a life she couldn’t claim. The aluminum tile was cold on bare feet. In a few hours, the sunrise would hollow her out again. One yellowish apple remained in the fruit basket, and she thought to cut it into quarters. Enough for a snack. But somehow, the cold tip of the knife ended up grazing the space between the petals. Just to see how it would feel to dance around the edge. No. Not again. She went back to carving the apple. Not quite a meal, but better than nothing. The blade tumbled to the sink, a metallic pit glowing in the watery moonlight. Tonight’s moon was a crescent, sharp and thin like a cat’s claw. She looked up through the window, through the scar-thin screen, found the moon hanging so heavy and alone, pockmarked and bruised, understanding.
She turned. Replaced the knife with the pen in one
hand, and with the other brought the apple to the table. Until dawn poured through the blinds, between sweet bites, she laid her arm flat on the kitchen table and traced an inky crescent moon over an old scar. And on an old sticky note, scribbled down the address of the new tattoo shop. And on an old sticky note, scribbled down the Jessica Costello’s poetry has appeared in Dirty Girls Magazine, Boston Accent, and Dear Sister Friend, while also publishing nonfiction at Well-Storied and Author Magazine. She currently writes for the One Love Foundation and Boston Hassle, and is seeking representation
for one novel while working on the next.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
three wines by: TRACY YOUNGBLOM Claire sat in a straight-backed chair at her kitchen table, one eye on the slice of gray-blue sky visible through the tilted slats of her blinds and the other focused on her wine glass: the straw-colored liquid illuminated by the sun until it turned gold. She took her first sip.
It was 5:30; it would be an hour before her husband got home from work. Ted was a therapist, a
reliable (and comparably well-paid) listener, slow to speak, long on a kind of contemplative silence his clients seemed to interpret as sympathetic. But once inside his own house, he bubbled over with stories of his day, details Claire thought (often) he shouldn’t share—names of clients, their abusers, specifics about marriages and partners gone astray.
The first sip was always the best. Not that anyone could appreciate all the nuances of the wine—
bouquet, mouth feel, acidity—on the first sip. Quite the opposite. The first sip was like a promise; it contained hints of complexities to come, led to Claire’s anticipation of more information to confirm her instincts. For, the first sip always led to a second sip, where these secrets were revealed. And that was the whole point.
Tonight, her rosé was tart, tickling the back of her jaw right below the ear, but also fruity:
strawberries, or was it cherries? A creamy texture, after all. And a bouquet that suggested, of all things, watermelon. Then a sudden dry finish, the liquid disappearing from her mouth as if she had never held, swished it there.
Ted didn’t like wine. He preferred a strong dark beer or a Scotch. Claire made no judgments—of
course he should drink what he liked. Sometimes when he got home, they would sit down together to talk about their days—Ted doing much of the talking—and they’d hold their differently-shaped glasses and sip, and it would seem like they had much in common.
She laughed at his jokes, then, and he smiled
when she related what she could about her day, her work with mentally ill clients in a local cohort of group homes. Her people—for that’s how she thought of them—waited out their lives, dulled with drugs that enabled them to—what? Go to their “jobs”? Try to appreciate the freedoms they had, cut off as they were from what most people considered normal? Young adults living under someone else’s rules, that’s what they were.
The clock struck 6:00. Claire swirled the remaining wine in her glass and got up to
make a salad for dinner. She drew the cutting board from its place in the corner cupboard, sliced peppers, mushrooms, green onions; rubbed the salad bowl with cut garlic; tossed greens with the vegetables and a simple vinaigrette she made in a Mason jar. She could grill some chicken if Ted was really hungry—it was already thawed in the refrigerator. She placed a hunk of fresh Parmesan in the cheese grater, crumbled some feta into a bowl. Maybe, with these ready proteins, she would be spared the work of lighting the grill or broiler.
She sat back down at the table. It was nearly evening now, the sky like a dark
blanket pulled up to a chin; the only visible clouds were tinged pink. Her wine was almost gone. Her body was warm, especially her cheeks, and she felt she couldn’t summon the energy to get up and pour a second glass. She rarely dared to; with Ted imminently present, it wouldn’t be worth it. She would—should—appear composed, ready when he came in through the garage. Her tongue would settle into her throat, she would make herself available. Because she loved him.
One desire would bleed into the next—it always did. After dinner, they would hold
hands, maybe watch television. His voice, trumpeting during commercials, would mix with the story of whatever show they were watching. Any ambivalence she felt would remain hidden; when he clicked on the remote and they rose to go to bed, she’d lead him in the dark, stopping his flow of talk with her hands and her mouth—never words. They’d sink together into the land of pure sensation until it didn’t matter that she had no breath to speak, that whatever was on her mind would sink into the fog of sleep, then distant memory. Or be forgotten. *
Paula and Doug had two children. Paula had always said they were lucky they’d
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 managed to have two—if it had been up to her, they’d have just had one. Her first labor, with Anne, had been so long and painful—nearly unbearable—that Doug had had to launch a strident campaign to get her to try again. He had harnessed all his persuasive powers; it had taken him several years. Mark had come into the world quickly, thank God. Then she’d had her tubes tied. It was a decision they’d made while she was pregnant. She would have asked Doug to undergo the procedure—get a vasectomy—but he’d objected before she could ask. He was afraid it would hinder his creativity, his spontaneity—and didn’t she love that about him?
In fact, he was spontaneous. He liked to hide, naked, in their walk-in closet,
slithering out as she hung up her scarf at the end of the day. Or, he’d shower, turn off the bedroom lights, command her to hunt him down in their small bedroom. It was a game for him, an exciting one. She’d long ago learned his familiar hiding spots: nestled next to his nightstand or crunched into a thin totem pole behind their bathroom door. It wasn’t difficult to encourage his fantasy, even if her mind was elsewhere.
Paula knew that people thought she and Doug were the perfect couple, the envy
of their neighbors. They never fought in public; their children were well-mannered, courteous, always referring to adults as Mrs. or Mr. __________. If any adult questioned their formal ways, Anne and Mark said nothing, refusing to be rude. Their insistent formality may have been annoying, but their neighbors understood that the children had conviction, Paula believed.
They all had conviction. Paula and Doug and their children closed the blinds at dusk
each night, shuttering out the world so it couldn’t corrupt their happiness. They had each other—that’s what their closed blinds said. Anyone wandering by on the street would think their world impenetrable, in a good way.
Paula sat often at her kitchen table at night, after the blinds were drawn, sipping wine
contemplatively. Tonight, she sipped her second glass. She hadn’t heard from Doug, who had probably gone to play poker with some co-workers. Anne and Mark were retired to their rooms, hunkered down with books or iPads. Paula didn’t know the difference anymore, and she didn’t know how to dissuade them from losing themselves online.
The wine was always delicious, tonight a bright sauvignon blanc she’d gotten from Costco on sale; it
sparkled in the glass like a crystal chandelier exposed to noon sunlight. Except it was not noon; it was 9:00 pm, and her husband hadn’t been home or even bothered to text her his plans.
This wine was tart; it tightened her throat, but on the back end there was a hint of peach—or maybe
pineapple—to make the swallow go down easily. The first glass had eased by her, like a sailboat riding the surface of the waves. This second glass—which she had poured deliberately, with intent—went down even easier. She was surprised that it was almost gone.
Doug was not a cheater. Still, he was gone more and more in the evenings now, leaving her not
only with the work of fixing dinner and the challenge of interactions with their children, but also with all the pleasures those simple tasks engendered. She and the children had simply wonderful evenings, in spite of Paul’s absence; dinner conversations were lively. Anne and Mark often asked about her work as an elementary school nurse, and she’d inquire about their favorite teachers. It was not fatally illuminating conversation, but it was pleasant and—well, enlightening. Tonight, for instance, she’d learned something about her daughter.
Do you mean you didn’t do any of the homework because you knew you didn’t have to? she’d asked
Yes, I’ll get an A no matter what, her daughter had replied.
Doesn’t that make you feel guilty?
Really, mother, why should it?
I don’t know. Getting away with something, I suppose.
After they’d gone to their rooms, she’d filled her glass for the second time with the sauv blanc and
now sat with her elbows pressing on the placemat her daughter had insisted on for dinner. She was fine—still sober, in case anyone asked. Tired. Sad that her husband had missed the intimate evening.
Where was Doug? she wondered, as she yawned tremendously. She could call him—or send a text—
but why would she?
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
At 9:00, she wandered upstairs, undressed, knocked on her children’s doors to dispense a proper
Good Night, then curled up with her two pillows and fell asleep almost instantly.
When Doug came in much later, around midnight, no light had been left on for him. He undressed
quietly, in the dark, persuaded himself he shouldn’t wake Paula to tell her about the poker game. Leaning over, he kissed her cheek.
Wine, he detected, wrinkling his nose. Again. *
Jan sat bolt upright in bed, sweat gathered on her forehead and in the hollow between her breasts.
Her damp nightgown clung to her body. At least in the old days, she’d woken up for something interesting—a sexy dream, even a scary one. Now it was just a hot flash.
She looked over at her husband, Travis, deep in sleep—insensibly—beside her. She wiped her sweaty
forearm across his bare chest; he didn’t budge an inch.
She threw one arm and her right leg outside the covers, careful not to let too much cold air whoosh
underneath to chill Travis. He looked so young when he slept, the way he’d looked when they’d first met, when she’d fallen in love with him. He didn’t look that way anymore, but then neither did she resemble her younger self. In all honesty, she rarely looked in the mirror anymore; she could be a hag for all she knew. She rolled away from him, giving her body’s engine a chance to cool off.
It would take some effort to fall back asleep now—a strange predicament of her middle age. In her
youth, falling asleep had been easy, instinctual; with young children, all it took was a soft bed, a pause in routine, a moderate silence. She had all that now, yet often she woke like this and then lay awake for several hours, trying to relax.
Sometimes, to anticipate the disturbance, she tried to trick her body into sleep ahead of time by
pouring herself a third glass of wine before bed. Not always—not more than two or three times a week—but it was a strategy she employed consciously. It’s not too much, she told herself, sizing up the shadow of her husband’s silhouette cast on the wall. She could always remember exactly how she got to the bedroom, into bed: how she’d drained the last drop of wine–a succulent red blend tonight—rinsed the glass, then walked upstairs to use the toilet and brush
her teeth before slipping into her nightgown and under the covers.
She had fallen asleep almost instantly tonight—a rare pleasure in her life—but had awoken now,
drenched and disoriented. Too bad her husband was so sound asleep. He never woke so she could tell him how terrible it was to be so hot—how helpless she felt. There was nothing she could do to stop it.
He lay next to her, snoring lightly but steadily; he could sleep through a tornado or a lightning
storm, unaware of any disturbance in his world. She and her night-time wakefulness had never registered as a disturbance.
Her mind was active now, combing through her past. She had worried so when their two boys left
home without a plan—though that was years ago. In those days, Travis had harangued her every night about the mistakes they were making.
Who doesn’t make plans? Who told them they didn’t need a plan? There must be something wrong
with them—or the way we raised them. He’d say all this, trying not to look in her direction.
Of those nights, she thought, the fewer memories the better. Their boys—Dan and Randy—had been
fine in the end, of course. Dan was a grad student in engineering and Randy worked as a machinist—both perfectly solid careers. But the toll it took on her—that is, having to endure Travis’s rants about it—had been significant. Her distress had never registered for Travis. He’d assumed (she’d assumed) that she could absorb his worry no matter what, no matter how mangled it came out, how much it crushed her sense of pride. Or, he didn’t think about her at all. Why did she have to do this every night—review the past as if it were a story she could revise? Travis rolled over toward her, threw one arm over her hip, laid that hand firmly on her belly. She lay still, waiting in the dark to make sure it was a sleeping hand, not a waking one—one that would demand something she couldn’t readily give.
Tracy Youngblom’s publications have been in poetry: 2 chapbooks (2010 and 2018) and 1 fulllength collection (2013). But in truth, she has always written in several genres. Her most recent publications include several nonfiction essays. She has twice been a Finalist for the Loft-McKnight Awards in Poetry, and twice a Pushcart nominee.
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Marco Rafalà SCE
oo k Club Pi
“ “ “
“ “ “
How Fires End is a raised fist of a novel, one filled with men’s brutal tenderness and tender brutality. It is both a subtle and powerful indictment of the silences between generations and a poignant testament to the bond between sons and fathers of all kinds. A blazing debut by an important new Italian-American voice. —Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
Beautiful, mesmerizing, consoling, and under immaculate control, Marco Rafalà's How Fires End is a powerful novel about the religion we create for ourselves as we face that which perhaps even God has not imagined for humanity.
author of Edinburgh, The Queen of the Night, and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
Marco Rafalà’s debut novel, How Fires End, avoids Mafia tropes for a moving depiction of multi-generational loss and love, grief and gratitude, heartbreak and hope.
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Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
make me an angel by: Guinotte Wise
ohn Prine, man. What can you say about him that hasn’t been said a dozen ways already? Well, that doesn’t negate the need or will to say it. So instead of getting all elegiac on your ass this is just a ramble. A look back. Back when tapes were a thing, I’d make up tapes to play in my truck especially when I lived up north in polka-land. John Prine was always on these tapes along with Chris LeDoux (I once heard a C&W DJ say, “Who is this Chris LeDoux? Some listener called in and complained we never play him...” That was in Kansas City. I avoided that station from then on. He probably would have said that about Billy Joe Shaver or John Prine. If you’re in the business you ought to have some background, not just a playlist issued by your top forty or C&W station. Background. Love of what you do. Respect for it. The last time I saw him was on that terrific public television show, Austin City Limits, a rerun, and he looked like he did on his last album cover, The Tree of Forgiveness, like he’d been through a lot but he was pure-D John Prine to his very boot soles, and that crowd was there because he was there. He said one of the cancer bouts that he’d survived had made his voice a little deeper, huskier, and he liked it that way. It didn’t slow him down much. He was a lot of places. Coachella, New Zealand, Brooklyn, Kentucky, Canada, Denmark, Berlin, U.K., Belgium, France, British Columbia, all over. Then his heart needed some fixing and this godawful Covid-19 shit that slammed us all to a screeching standstill and killed millions snuck in and he couldn’t make it through the double whammy. He’d have written a pretty good song about it, using all his most powerful tools: pathos, humor, genius
combinations of words that nobody else could ever think up.
I read somewhere that he’d sing and play in a closet when he was growing up so that if he ever went blind he could still go at it. When a lot of kids were reading beneath the covers with a flashlight, I had an old Emerson bakelite radio in there with me at night, listening to XERF Del Rio, Texas, the clear channel border-blasting (I was in Tulsa in the late 1940’s and it came in strong) gospel and hillbilly music station, and KVOO Tulsa, listening to Webb Pierce and Lefty Frizzell. I couldn’t carry a tune in a lard can but I could listen, and I was deeply affected by the same music that
was seeping into Prine’s consciousness, his fingers, his synapses and one-of-a-kind musicality. Then later in life I heard him and his songs and said, Thank You, music gods! A typical truck tape (I was able to locate six of these dusty old mixtapes from a stash of about 100 that have been left from Jackson, Michigan to Monroe, Louisiana) and one lists John Prine’s Be My Friend Tonight, alongside REM, Kazumi Watanabe, Lyle Lovett, Billy Joe Shaver, Nanci Griffith, Ricky Skaggs, Freddy Mercury and Depeche Mode. Eclectic. Another has him among The Church, Chuck Berry, Springsteen, Willie, Waylon, Chris, Pat Metheny and Los Lobos. Any more, when I drive, I just listen to Sports Talk and CDs. No one’s gonna please me up and down the dial, not even the pay radio SiriusXM that my wife likes on her Jeep. Unless they had a John Prine station with every fourth song being Crystal Method or Tony Joe White. Three Prines and a crazy synth item followed by three more Prines and a Cole Porter would be about right. I had CDs made up special when I was still doing radio commercials or TV sound at the studios—one might be just Prine alternating with David Allen Coe and a Kansas City Jazz outfit named City Lights Orchestra with David Basse singing. I might be attention deficient, so I like to keep changing it up but John Prine just knocks me out, song after song after song. Sorry I have to keep putting this in terms of me, but I’m just trying to evoke what effect he’s had on me— we know the indelible imprint he’s made on the folk, rock, Nashville and other aesthetics. As a poet with some books published I will claim some familiarity with wordplay and cadence and I hold him and the two Dylans in absolute awe. Another of my very favorite poets is Ted Kooser, a U.S. Poet Laureate. It’s quite fitting to me that, in 2005, at Kooser’s request, Prine became the first singer/songwriter to read and perform at The Library of Congress. What an honor. Ted Kooser, who will surely take his place next to Robert Frost, as one of the greatest poets of all time, recognized greatness in John Prine’s work. His poetry. Wow. That, to me, ranks right up there with all of Prine’s many Grammy wins and nominations. I never met him, but I know him, or think I do. I know him from the words, the kindness and humanness behind many of them, what the other legends say about
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020 him, who he mentored, his path. Man, what a life. What gifts he gave and had. He gave me this: Make me an angel That flies from Montgomery Make me a poster Of an old rodeo… Haunting. Unforgettable. I love it whoever does it, but here’s a tribute version by an Atlanta group called Foxes and Fossils that I kind of dug, being a fossil. Maybe you will too. If not, guess what? You’ll find plenty of covers out there, not the least of which is Ms. Raitt’s. But check out F&F. shorturl.at/ boDMN And he gave me Hello In There which resonates a bit differently with me now than it did fifty years ago. Let that one sink in. My goodness. shorturl.at/ kBDH7 My wife is a fan, too. She downloaded his latest album before he passed away onto her iPhone and John goes with her when she walks every day. Tree of Forgiveness. When I told her what I was writing, she plunked that phone down beside me and dialed him in. I’m listening right now. Knockin’ on Your Screen Door. It could be a good street busker on a corner in Birmingham or Memphis, but for the giveaway sleek, yet not overly lush, Nashville arrangement. Beautiful. God Only Knows seems simplistic, but, like a lot of Prine, it will probably gain meaning with listening.”God only knows the price that you pay for the ones you hurt along the way.” or “God only knows that I’m not true to the things I say and the things I do,” carries a stringent sting in these days after the unbelievable death of George Floyd. God knows Prine would have had some deeply felt
words about that. When I Get to Heaven starts with a harp thrum straight out of a Cary Grant movie, then he poeticizes about a vodka and ginger ale and smoking a cigarette that’s nine miles long. Seeing all his mama’s sisters. And his old man saying, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead peckerhead,” and proving him wrong. Only Prine could think of kissing a pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl—what imagery! What energy and color! Man oh man. If there is a heaven, and I sure hope there is, he’s there. And the concerts are free.
Guinotte Wise writes and welds steel sculpture on a farm in Southeast Kansas. A 5-time Pushcart nominee, and author of seven books, his poetry, essays and fiction have appeared in over 100 literary journals including Atticus, The MacGuffin, Southern Humanities Review and Rattle. His sculpture is represented at The Hilliard Gallery in Kansas City, MO and The Lois Lambert Gallery in Santa Monica, CA. Some work can be seen at http://www.wisesculpture.com
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
The White Dove of the Desert by :Connor Judson Garrett
could barely walk. The skin around the joints of my arms and legs was all but gone, scratched away day after day, making my own sweat torturous. The doctors diagnosed it as severe eczema, but nothing they said to do improved my condition. I prayed for a miracle, to be pain free, to run like the other kids without fear of reopening my wounds for the salt of my sweat to burn.
I found that miracle in the dry heat of the Arizona desert. Over the course of a two-week trip with my parents, my cuts and scratches stopped itching, giving them just enough time to heal. Like the tinman after he was oiled up in the Wizard of Oz, I could bend my arms and legs for the first time since I was a toddler. Those two weeks as a six-year-old -- removed from the humid Georgia air -- was one of the only memories I have of the itching stopping until it went away entirely at the age of thirteen. Nearly twenty years after my last Arizona trip, I’m standing in the desert ten miles outside of downtown Tucson on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation, scar-free, admiring the Spanish Catholic mission Ansel Adams called “The White Dove of the Desert.” I can barely look at the white stucco exterior of Mission San Xavier del Bac as it catches the sun’s rays and reflects them back into my eyes like a Moorish moon. The holiest things in the Bible are repeatedly described as being overwhelmingly bright, and in some cases, blinding — the Ark of the Covenant, the Burning Bush, and God Himself. As a pilgrimage site San Xavier inspires reverence, yet it is not an imposing place. Maybe it’s the fragrant desert air breezing across the courtyard, or sepia tones all around, but everything about the mission itself conveys warmth. It invites you through its intricately carved mesquite-wood doors to walk the Latin X floor plan. A few of the ceilings in the rooms outside the main cathedral are held together with the ribs of the saguaro, imparting the impression that the mission is more alive than its cold, stone European counterparts. But the magic of Mission San Xavier is how it came to be. The original church was burned to the ground by the Apaches. The present-day iteration was
constructed between 1783 and 1797 under the guidance of Franciscan fathers with 7,000 pesos borrowed from a Sonoran rancher. What they did with the money is what distinguishes San Xavier from other missions of that era. While many missions were created through conquest and forced labor, the Fathers employed the native O’odham to build the church from the ground up. In fact, with no written records of the builders and craftsmen, it’s believed that the O’odham comprised most, if not all of the artisans. Through the years, the mission grew from a source of paid work to a sanctuary from the Apaches, cattle ranchers, and miners looking to harm or force the O’odham into indentured servitude. When the Mexican government banned all Spanish-born priests, the last resident Franciscan left in 1837. The mission began to decay. As time and transition weathered San Xavier, the native people became its true keepers. The local natives grew concerned seeing their church falling apart and preserved what they could. And so, they stayed vigilantly taking care of the mission until San Xavier was brought under U.S. rule as part of the Territory of Arizona. When money was received for repairs, it was put in equal parts to serve their community. In 1872, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet opened a school at the Mission for the children of the Tohono O’odham. As the Franciscans returned to the mission in 1913, they continued to reciprocate the care the native people had given to the church and by 1947 built a new school adjacent to the mission for the local children. Even now as I walk through the mission, there’s evidence of a history full of kindness and cooperation. Vibrant frescoes depicting biblical stories like “The Last Supper” were painted on the walls to help many of the native people who could not read to learn them by heart. I move beyond the frescoes and into the wings of the Latin X. My eyes are dazzled by the spectrum of colors on the carvings, paintings, and statues. The figures and ornaments display a mixture of Native American and New Spain motifs. The interplay between carved saints and O’odham ornamentation feels strangely fitting — that somehow this fusion of cultures was deeply
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
t: A Mission of Peace necessary to create something so beautiful. Beyond that, it serves as a testament to what happens when we absolutely love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The White Dove of the Desert is an expression of peace and love between the Franciscans and O’odham. It is palpable. This is more than a church. It’s a home. I move past a steady stream of people, some of whom have Chicano and O’odham ancestors, who likely had a hand in building San Xavier. I stop before the pulpit and linger over the characteristics of the ornamentation. Up close, the cracks, imprecisions, and flaws become more apparent. Most of the statues and figurines are hand-carved, giving them a folk-art aesthetic, yet somehow, this only adds to the soul of the mission. It reminds you that these were individuals working together on a labor of love. There was no overseer or standard of perfection. It was pure, and for that, it is holy.
Connor Judson Garrett, winner of the inaugural Edward Readicker-Henderson Travel Classics Award, has written for magazines including Private Clubs, The South Magazine, The Blue Mountain Review, Georgia Hollywood Review, and Hook & Barrel, while continuing to write advertising copy for brands such as Texas Pete and Green Mountain Gringo. Additionally, he’s written two poetry books, a novel; Falling Up in The City of Angels, which was named a July 2020 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Bonus Book and a fantasy novella, Spellbound Under The Spanish Moss, which was selected as the debut book of the month for 2021 for the Pulpwood Queen Book Club.
As I stare at the splitting wood and clay, I think back to when my arms and legs were covered in cracks and how the desert healed my open wounds. I overhear a tour guide tell a group that there have been predictions of the mission’s collapse since the 1800s. In spite of this, the last bastion before the frontier stands just as it once did, illuminating the dusty red horizon to provide refuge for the weary wayfarer behind its walls.
Contributing EDITORS shannon perri
Shannon Perri holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas. Her writing has appeared in various newspapers and literary magazines, such as Houston Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Joyland Magazine, and fields magazine. Her short story, “Liquid Gold,” was a finalist for the 2019 Texas Observer Short Fiction contest; her story, “The Resurrection Act,” was awarded a 2016 Joyland Magazine Publisher’s Pick; and her story, “Orientation,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in South Austin with her husband, son, and menagerie of pets.
contributing editor Angela Gregory-Dribben lives with her two favorite redheads down in a bottom in Southside Virginia where they are hard at work growing the fattest sandwich tomato in the Piedmont’s trademark red clay. Her poetry and essays can be found or are forthcoming in Main Street Rag, Deep South, Blue Mountain Review, San Pedro River Review, Motherscope, Crab Creek Review, Crack the Spine, Cirque, decomp, New Southern Fugitive, and others. A Bread Loaf alum, she is currently a student in Randolph College’s MFA.
contributing editor Robert Gwaltney, a writer of southern fiction, is graduate of Florida State University. He resides in Atlanta Georgia with his partner, where he is an active member of the Atlanta literary community. By day, he serves as Vice President of Easter Seals North Georgia, Inc., Children Services, a non-profit supporting child with disabilities and other special needs. Robert’s work has appeared in such publications as The Signal Mountain Review and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. He is represented by Trident Media Group, and has completed his first novel, The Cicada Tree.
Dusty Huggins is a family man, musician, writer, and lover of literature. His interest in writing surfaced during his freshman year at Young Harris College due to an English professor nurturing his interest, stimulating passion, and building the confidence required to find his way as a writer. Dusty is the founder of the Atlanta blues-based, Southern rock band The Ides of June, and also performs as both the lead vocalist and bassist. He is a member of The Southern Collective Experience acting as the music editor for its journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review. In his spare time Dusty enjoys touring with The Ides of June throughout the southeast.
photography credits Steve Johnson SnapWire Pixabay Bruno Cantuaria Kaitlyn Jade Min An Sourav Mishra Mark Neal Skitterphoto Egor Kamelev Mochammad Algi Ibadah Mimpi
M. Sidharda Sebastian Sorensen Erik Karits DoDo Phantam Daria Shevtsova Cliford Mervil Artem Mizyuk Jack Gittoes Lukas Hartmann David Riano Cortes Janko Ferlic Mali Maeder
Lobanovskaya Lukas Hartmann David Riano Cortes Janko Ferlic DoDo Phantam Daria Shevtsova Emiley Farnsworth
Cliford Mervil Artem Mizyuk Jack Gittoes CottonBro Nicolas Anastasiya
Blue Mountain Review / Fall 2020
Clifford Brooks is the CEO of the Southern Collective Experience and Editor-in-Chief of the Blue Mountain Review. He is also the journal’s content editor. Aside from these duties Clifford is the author of The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, Athena Departs, and Exiles of Eden. These collections of poetry can easily be found online.
contributing editor Tom Johnson was born in Roswell, Ga. He went to college focused on a career in Information Technology but to make ends meet, he worked in a few demanding sales jobs that taught him the ins and outs of marketing. He had always loved writing and he found that marketing gave him an outlet as well as a way to pay the bills. He enjoyed those aspects of his work so much that, after college, he decided on a career in sales instead of going straight into IT. Within a few months, he studied for and passed the Georgia Real Estate Exam. For the next four years he worked for Remax and later Lindsey and Pauly as a seller’s agent. After that, he became the Director of Marketing and Residential Support for a computer company. There he helped them to increase their visibility, develop new leads and on occasion, write content for client’s websites. In late 2009, he decided to go solo as a freelance copywriter for a wide array of clients. In recent years, he has been branching out into fiction and entertainment writing. His first book is slated to be published in 2020.
Casanova Green is a writer, singer/ songwriter, educator, and pastor. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University where he earned a BA in Language Arts Education, with a minor in voice. In 2018 he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University located in Georgia’s Etowah Valley. Casanova is a member of the Southern Collective Experience, often serving as a contributing editor. He has been published in several publications including The Blue Mountain Review, Raw Art Review, and Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2019, Casanova published a mini-chapbook of poetry entitled Whispers & Echoes, and his first book of poetry Things I Wish I Could Tell You is scheduled to be published in 2020. Casanova has done extensive ministry work since the age of nine, and has served as both a worship leader and choir director for over twenty years. He released his first album A Worshiper Mentality in January 2016, and his second album Songs from the Journey: Part 1, in August 2019. He is currently working on his third album Songs from the Journey: Part II, which will be released in 2020. Currently, he is the Owner of CGCreate LLC and serves as the lead pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH, where he and his family reside.
Graphic Designer Born and raised in the land of peaches and peanuts: Georgia-native, Kaitlyn Young is a freelance graphic designerspecializing in both print and digital editorial designs. With a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and a minor in Public Relations from Kennesaw State University, she has worked in the marketing field professionally for nearly a decade. While marketing is her full-time occupation, her true passion is turning ideas into functional and informational works of art by designing magazines, invitations, business creative collateral and more. Kaitlyn lives in Canton,Georgia with her husband, daughters and Labrador, Dolly.