The Blue Mountain Review Issue 10

Page 1


vt The Last Days of Friendship with Shawn M.



The Death of Baseball

Martin Turner was the orneriest neighbor of my childhood and it was years before I paid him back for all the misery he caused with his cranked-up ugliness. . . calling the cops every time we played baseball in the street.

a journal of culture



issue #10 2018

Interviews with If we were too loud with our water balloon fights RATTLE magazine editor Tim Green or kick the can, a cop car would roll slowly down the street like a bull shark author Melissa Studdard sniffing the pavement poet A.E. Stallings for what wasn’t right. L amy t ibest n friend G r aand m juvie-bound, my winners Shawn, was seventeen. I fell right in behind him, father-less, and like a lemming, just looking for any cliff to jump off.


Atlanta artist:

Over the bass-driven beats above the loblolly trees Isabelle bending in the breeze,Gautier a Deep Purple haze thumping from Shawn’s speakers as I drifted away from any major league dreams. . . Martin Turner called the cops for the third time in one day.



breakout indie star



Medicine for the People

fPublished on the 29th of November in 2015, the inaugural issue of The Blue Mountain Review opened with an introduction that reads in part, “…we choose not to be unresponsive, but change and spread the days into a beautiful array filled with promise and bountiful growth.” What a prescient statement for a magazine so intent on growing with each new publication, expanding its vision of integrity and excellence in craft to artists with southern souls everywhere. That first edition of the Review featured samplings of poetry, prose, photography, visual art and an interview with the featured poet. Subsequent publications would expand to include book reviews, interviews with musicians, and interviews with Southern Collective Experience (SCE) members, introducing readers to new members of this artistic community and works of art as diverse as those who created them. The mission of The Blue Mountain Review is to discover and elevate excellence in the arts. The magazine is a forum for discussion, community, and creative growth. It’s a call to celebration as well as a call to action, and this tenth publication marks the incorporation of cinema into the Review’s core exploration. A fitting new addition in my opinion; after all, cinema is an amalgamation of nearly all other art forms. The most impactful films utilize the same narrative techniques as the most beloved works of literature. The filmmakers that we love are writers, constructing audiovisual stories for our viewing pleasure. They are poets, cutting together stanzas, each edit a foot, each juxtaposition of images part of a unique rhyme scheme. They are authors possessing their own syntaxes. Their shots the words that they compile and rearrange to convey meaning - imagery and metaphor used to draw audiences deeper into new worlds just as in any good book. t

*All rights within remain with the respective Artists*

Cover Notes Nahko Bear Photograph by JosuĂŠ Rivas A Publication of The Southern Collective Experience

Cover, Copy and Logo design by Laura McCullough

Behind the Scenes Poetry Editor, Interview Requests Clifford Brooks Prose Editors Mark W Maguire and Shane Etter - Design Director, Visual Art Submissions

A special thanks to artists Aeron Brown

Laura McCullough

and Sevgi Masters for their work, and

Peter Ristuccia for his resources.

Music Editor

Dusty Huggins

ii | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10


Intro by Tim Conroy



3 Tim Conroy 4 Rita Anderson 7 Brandon Marlon 10 TC Carter 14 Marianne Szlyk 16 Veronica Lupinacci 17 Karen Poppy 20 John DuVal Lawson 21 Margarita Serafimova 22 Michael Murphy Burke 24 Lora Dillard Bunch Bonnie Medford 25 Garrett Stack 26 Peter Ristuccia 28 Christopher Greer Brad Stephens 29 Kelli Allen 32 Sergio A Ortiz 34 Hannah Olson 39 Dixon Hearne 40 Laura McCullough

43 48 52 62 63

Terence Hawkins Theresa Lynn Ast Justin Jones Zach Greco Kris Anderdian

67 72 76

ISABELLE GAUTIER Aeron Brown Catherine Conley film column

Visual Arts

I ssue


Interviews music

78 NAHKO BEAR, Nahko & Medicine for the People 82 VINILOVERSUS 87 Beau + Luci 90 Chief Joseph and Dr. Laralyn RiverWind 95 Rise of the Independents: Chart your own Path Zach Greco article

literature 100 103 105 112 116 121 123

MELISSA STUDDARD AE STALLINGS AWC President, Ron Aiken Peter Junker Waqas Khwaja Wakefield Brewster Lanier Ivester

media & culture

129 132 136

Rattle Editor, TIM GREEN Vertikal Life Magazine, Celeste Duckworth Nathan Flynt, 2 Sons

features MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS : 138 Peter Ristuccia 140 Vignette with Holly Holt 142 Faces of Faith with Dr. Elise Whitworth


The Southern Collective Experience ...Because Everyone is South of somewhere.

iv | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10


intro A S S E A S O N S T U R N ...

“ Will we be all right?”

I introduce the winter issue of The Blue Mountain Review with reverence to our complicated lives and the most difficult moments we face. Perhaps the reasons we seek out stories and poems about people and places. There are places in our lives that seem to take on extraordinary meaning. These places are often associated with the people we love the most. For me, an ordinary city street with old oak trees and brick walls, sidewalks and bus stops, and a tall apartment building, will conjure memories of the most conflicting kind. The world isn’t small. Ours is a big, bewildering life circling around time and place. I believe spirits and memories wait for us in the spirals of a lifetime. Even years later, they recognize a gait, a voice, or tilt of a head. You can never say goodbye. xxxxx

The phone rang on August 24, 1994; I woke dreaming or never slept at all. Through the long night, I had tried to calm Tom down. I struggled to choose the safest words and to say them in the perfect tone. My brother Tom, a paranoid schizophrenic, called my apartment in McClellanville, South Carolina every 30 minutes. When I answered, he began ranting about Dad or my brothers or me. We hurt him or stole from him or were fighting him or raping him. He wasn’t making sense but it was real to him. I debated driving the two hours to him, but I talked myself out of it. Things would be better in the morning. I would phone my other brother Mike from work and we would figure something out. Finally, the calls stopped and I slept until 5:30 a.m. Then my brother Mike called me and said that Tom had leapt off the roof of the Cornell Arms Apartments in Columbia, South Carolina. He was gone. “What? What?” I repeated as I broke down deeply and completely. In front of me as I collapsed to the floor was my unmade bed. In the weeping sprawl, I awoke two brothers. cont’d

I ssue


With seven children and two adults in the house, whether we lived in military housing or off base, there were never enough bedrooms. Since we were the youngest, Tommy and I slept together. If one of us (usually me) wet the bed, we would, without a word, help the other change the sheets. We were freckled and skinny kids with crew cuts, Military brats trained to comply, camouflage emotion and blend in to any background. If you looked at our faces, you saw obedient pound-puppy eyes. Every morning when we woke for school, we would police our area and get to the breakfast table on time. When we heard footsteps and, “Time to get up,” from Mom we exchanged glances. The secret was to flatten our bodies like an ironing board. Then we grabbed the sheet and cotton bedspread as one, pulling them high and taut, stretching our young arms to the headboard. At that stretch point we quietly giggled and on the count of 3, slipped out the opposite sides of the bed to our knees smoothing out any wrinkles left. In the instant we rolled from the bed, we fell together. Staring at the unmade bed, the phone rang and rang. I closed my eyes to make a bed again and again. We always fell together. xxxxx

For decades, I put off writing anything, but particularly anything about Tom. I left him and writing alone. I had no will to write or compulsion to remember. When my brother, the author Pat Conroy, died on March 4, 2016, I felt a clarity and urgency that only loss can bring. Pat always encouraged me to write, but I didn’t have the courage to fail in the telling. But life and grief have turned me inside out. I finally discovered the conviction of my voice. I stopped allowing my fears and excuses to stop me fromexploring my truth. My book of poetry, Theologies of Terrain, published in November of 2017 by Muddy Ford Press, reveals much about myself. This issue of The Blue Mountain Review reveals much about each writer. I hope you appreciate the courage and conviction of each author, poet, artist, and musician in this edition. I congratulate and thank them for their work and welcome you to this issue with a question from the opening poem in my book, “Will we be all right?”

Tim Conroy Tim Conroy is a former special education teacher, school administrator, and vice president of the South Carolina

Autism Society. His poetry and short fiction have been published in literary journals, magazines, and compilations, including Fall Lines, Auntie Bellum, and Marked by the Water. A founding board member of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, established in his brother's honor, Conroy lives and writes in Columbia, South Carolina.


Tim Conroy

Assurances It comes to this: Will we be all right? A son needs a father to answer. For a few years after the Colonel retired from the Marine Corps, he worked as a Pinkerton security cop in Atlanta. During my visits from college, he would drag me along with him on third shift. We would cruise by landing strips of warehouses into the horizon between us. In a loop-the-loop maneuver, he would peer out from a Ford LTD’s window with an aviator’s keen eye looking for an enemy from the night sky emerging from a bank of metal buildings accelerating in Korea or from skies over Nam with one hand at 12 o’clock. If he spotted a door ajar, he would hand me the flashlight and bark Check it out jocko. I would moan, half asleep and alert to the danger, hop out entering darkness ready to love him with light shaking, exploring impenetrable places to check for what might still be there. I might spot men sleeping, smell cheap liquor— probably former Pinkertons or Marines I thought. I’d close doors, report that it was all clear. My father would call me a good dummy, then say, There’re no assurances in this life. art by Aeron Brown I ssue


Rita Anderson

The Outer Banks Before check out, you return to the hotel buffet for seconds, eggs and ham rewarmed from yesterday’s breakfast. Forking into the meat of an unripe melon, I fill my mouth, not hungry yet but too tired to speak, and you are always most talkative in the morning, the military training you to rise before the sun tumbles from its slumber. Zero dark thirty, you joke—a habit so ingrained you can’t even break it on vacation. Distracted you catch the news while I watch the trees outside, taller, greener, and more abundant than at home and, sure, I’m sleepy, but this grove seems to interact, in constant motion as if sharing a language I would never understand. Long married, we too had strayed from our familiar tongue, from a plan to visit your father; his death quick enough to stun us from our itinerary, casting a pall over the allure of North Carolina, where you’d lived once. We never did make it to Camp Lejeune, to Hatteras because there was too much distance between the Outer Banks and where we were. But weren’t you and I lost in a similar imbalance? –You, the adult orphan now. Your mother. Then your father. A foreign experience for me, I could not reach you, mired as I was somewhere between sympathy and empathy. Your father’s health likewise severing him from his hearing, his memory, sight, and then his breath. Rowing as we all must until we can’t anymore

along the outer banks of self, youth and old age distant shores.


Rita Anderson Balanced Extremes (New Orleans, Summer) Some houses here still have names, banana trees like beefeaters guarding mold that’s descended on once-elegant marble. Everything is uneasy: bayou waters are shifted to build a better lock and Lake Pontchartrain seems deeper than it is. I crouch in leaves while you stand watch under a young oak behind the Old Spanish Fort where burrs assail my laces. In Ozone Park, you lead me through a hole


in the fence to the boy whose stone penis maintains the water level of the pool he’s attached to, thick water the sun snatches up. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours, you tease. New with each other, we try to match desire for desire and I pull a muscle, kicking too fast forward. Moving slower, we avoid the children racing down the levee, a good sledriding hill if ever it snowed. Bamboo shades dragonflies that hound exotic blooms, before diving back into the Crepe Myrtle’s violence. We will rest here, and let the grass grow around us. Head on my lap, you tickle my thigh with a blade of grass, distracting as the heat shadows that eclipse words in my book. But you don’t look or worry because yours is a lazy talent. How could you understand my industry? We fall, our steps out of tune as fire ants encroach. I ssue


Rita Anderson Euphoria (Texas) Looking past grimy blinds, I swish the swill that is my first-ever “$1 Margarita” and study the gauchos who guard the hole-in-the-wall cantina we found open on a desolate skyline where only dust storms and tumbleweeds reside. The silhouettes, stamped from steel but linked together like paper dolls, throw rusty glances at the “ENCHILADDAS” billboard in the parking lot, a homemade disaster that is big enough to see from Mars. A band of Mariachis in costumes they have outgrown oversings to the table outside while I blink moisture back into tired eyes, throat full of grit and unspoken desire. --Mama, what are you drinking? an accusation that reminds me who I am [my primary function at this juncture] and how we ended up here, my neck tense from a long drive across country that was only half over—and we had no money to stop for the night. I push the chips and salsa closer to you like a directive because I need a pause button, a pit stop that adulthood rarely and parenthood almost never offers, a moment to unwind or be other-off the map and under the radar. When the waitress who has ignored us as much as the establishment itself had been neglected asks if I want another, you look away and I ask for the check instead.

Rita Anderson, a member of Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, has an MFA Poetry and an MA Playwrit-

ing. Poetry editor at the University of New Orleans, Rita has two volumes of poetry published: Watched Pots (A Lovesong to Motherhood), and The Entropy of Rocketman (Finishing Line Press). Rita won the Houston Poetry Festival, the Gerreighty Prize, the Robert F. Gibbons Poetry Award, the Cheyney Award, and an award from the Academy of American Poets. Her poems have appeared in almost 100 literary journals and anthologies. Rita is Senior Poetry Editor for Red Dashboard Publishing, and she lives in Austin. Contact Rita at


Brandon Marlon

Noble Warrior Ensconced in Damascus, he was widely revered as a Sufi and Islamic scholar from Mascara, Algeria, a hajji whose pilgrimage as a young man made him desirous of living the life religious, a gallant stalwart once elected emir when his countrymen in Oran had declared jihad against French invaders; still, his fifteen years as guerilla leader were long gone, and exile to Syria had proved a serene sentence. Imagine his countenance, then, when rioting Muslims threatened to massacre local Maronite Christians, forcing him to gallop with his posse amid mayhem, rescuing nuns, priests, merchants, entire families, plucking Western consuls like brands from a blaze, safeguarding civilians in the city's medieval citadel, and the surplus from that palace in his very own home. How biblically reminiscent was the obstreperous mob arriving at his door demanding he surrender his guests! Yet Abd al-Qadir, more seasoned in resistance, outdid Lot and the Levite both, rebuking the bloodthirsty for wishing to slay innocents contradictory to Allah's will, thereby dispersing miscreants. Ten thousand lives he spared from slaughter, for which chivalry he garnered renown as a second Saladin and was showered with honors, his ethics sung from the Vatican to Greece to Turkey; America and Britain bestowed bejeweled firearms; even his victorious conqueror, France, could not resist awarding the Legion of Honor and an annual pension. Thus a resistance fighter turned irresistible, his principles crowned with universal laurels.

Deutsch I ssue


Brandon Marlon

Sorrowing World Zealous to consummate credal demands, the wolves of evening sod in blood a globe of suspecting yet effete civilians, torpid fodder awaiting their fate, unsure of their means, wavering in their resolve. Apologists sated with a surfeit of massacres turn reticent and no longer default to excuses, refraining from the quondam claim that our murderers are depraved because deprived, merely seeking redress for valid grievances. The whirlwind's reapers sowed no wind; innocents slain were unstained to the end that met them abruptly on a whim, at the pleasure of hellions who connive to unnerve, terrify, slaughter. We have become benumbed and inured to the scourge, idle bystanders to our own piecemeal demise, resigned to a grim regimen convulsing the civilized with wretched regularity, impoverished by loss while still at a loss as to how to stanch the hemorrhage. Though we weary of chilling eyewitness accounts, horror's array will unrelentingly hold sway until budding homicides discern that none are ever sanitized by bloodbaths, not even those ideologically inspired.


Brandon Marlon

Outcry Legal remedies await their own enactment, an inevitability inexcusably overdue and far too tardy for the departed, their lives taken abruptly and arbitrarily by actants callous, unhinged, frenzied, eager to go out with a bang-bang-bang, not a whimper, indifferent to the carnage left in their wake in the streets and squares, in the hearts of loved ones lorn and bereft of cherished treasures. At such hours customary bromides— "our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families", "everything happens for a reason", "life goes on"— are exposed as less than worthless, availing none, not even their well-meaning, mechanical espousers. The insane, often responsible, ever remain unaccountable; patently unpalatable is the fact that those invested with authority pretend helplessness as horror recurs and the same, tiresome questions arise, the same solutions suggest themselves with unrealistic hopes of being implemented. Only an outcry piercing the heavens, rattling the skulls of sluggish legislators dozing in power's corridors will suffice to disrupt the pattern; shriek with me, then, on behalf of the needlessly deceased, for the sake of injured survivors; wail by day and howl by night for the waste of life, the animating impulse, the original surprise present; shriek in righteous indignation, at the top of your lungs... ...or brace yourselves for the foreseeable.


Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 225+ publications in 28 countries. www.brandonmarlon. com. I ssue


TC Carter

Dreamed of Horses I dreamed of horses Dreamed of men That I would never see ag’in Except through cracks In space and time That softly occupy my mind As I lie in peaceful sleep I see them as they were back then Those mighty horses, stalwart men

We ride across the bluegrass prairies We see no train tracks, see no fences We stop and loosen up our cinches

That beckon me from shadowed land To mount and ride once more beside My friends on one more late night ride

Beneath cottonwoods by a stream Where our horses drink and rest And we cowboys smoke and laugh and jest

The horsehair, smooth and soft and sleek I feel his heartbeat through my knees His breath comes to me on the breeze

We gather up refreshed once more The wind blows gentle through the trees We mount ag’in upon our steeds

Familiar as the sky above It smells of oats and summer grass And life we shared in long gone past

And disappear into the mist Flesh and blood now earth and grass And dreams and memories that last

Those boys and I restored to youth We came from places near and far As if guided by some western star

The daylight comes to banish dreams Oh, if I had some Godly power I would linger there uncounted hours But I awake back to the world Having dreamed of horses, dreamed of men That I would never see ag’in Except through cracks In space and time That softly occupy my mind

10 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

TC Carter

The Best of Our Days The boys sit around On a porch here in town And they feel mighty strange Instead of ridin’ the range To be bucking them rockin’ chairs down

Then in wintertime camp We stayed cold, wet or damp With four foot of snow and twenty below And not a good place where a puncher could go We dug in our heels and cowboyed up like a champ

Old Lefty he’s gone To his heavenly home But if he’s lookin’ down On the boys here in town Who talk of how they use’ta roam

Recall what Lefty said Before he got hisself dead About the hard life we chose And every cowpuncher he knowed Had’ta be tough and plumb outta his head

He might get a laugh That things come to pass Just the way he had said Long before he was dead And planted wrong side of the grass

He said on some porch We’d be holdin’ the torch And telling reasons and ways That declare cowpunching days Were the best ever was of course

Yippy ki ya boys Remember the days boys We were wild as the wind And tried to make the world bend To our lives building buckaroo stories

How we’d bark and we’d bray And continually say That those were the best Of our days in the west And we’d long to go back to them days

We tended to folly We were reckless and jolly But where we rambled and rode We lived the cowpuncher’s code And stayed square with the world, by golly

Well Lefty was right We’re here day and night Unable to ramble, not fit for the roam Hobbled at Miz Kelly’s boardin’ house home Oh, we make it do but it’s never seemed right

Remember the trails Where we set our sails For the railheads up yonder Where we rode and we wandered All for short pay and three months of hell

So Lefty is waitin’ For us cowboys that are hatin’ The towns and the fences disturbing our senses While talking of hawses and saddles and cinches And hopin’ that Lefty’s in charge of the gatein’

Remember the danger To the wayfaring stranger Who was compelled to take care To keep a watch on his life and a holt on his hair Or to abandon his life as a far ramblin’ ranger

I ssue


TC Carter

God’s Golden Shore Boys, don’t y’all worry ‘bout me I’ll meet you on God’s golden shore Where life will be lived easy And will last forevermore I’ll be waiting by the river Where the cattle like to graze Giving God all the glory And singing out his praise Boys, I know I ain’t been perfect But I didn’t need to be Jesus said to come just like I was And He would set me free He said to bring Him all my sins And lay them at his feet Confess Him as my savior And I’d be a man complete For His shed blood on cavalry Had paid the price for one and all And trusting Him was all it took To answer to the Father’s call So, boys, when you look up And see the moon hung in the sky Remember who the hanger was And why He chose to die Now boys gather ‘round me Bow your heads and ask Him in And know that Jesus hears you And forgives you all your sins

Aeron Brown

12 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Then boys don’t worry ‘bout me I’ll meet you on God’s golden shore Where life will be lived easy And will last forevermore

TC Carter

Colors Perhaps I’ve told you before about how smart she was Possibly I’ve told you more than once about how smart she was No matter, I will tell you again about how smart she was She knew the colors of all the crayons in the box She knew her numbers She could count to one hundred and understood the simplicity of going beyond one hundred She could read all of her Little Golden books She could tie her shoes She could button her coat She knew when to say yes mam, no sir, please, thank you She knew all these things and more before her first day in kindergarten because her mother and I spent the time to teach her and because she loved to learn Despite all that she never completed second grade The drunk driver who slammed his car into the school bus she was on one beautiful spring afternoon ended all that Later I wrote him a letter and mailed it to the prison where he was incarcerated for way too little time

I told him all these things about how smart she was I told him it was my intention to take his life when he was released from prison When I wrote the letter I meant what I said and for a long time could have carried out my threat But my wife and I still had each other and we had two other children to raise so I decided I had to let him live in order for us to live That was forty-five years ago This morning I read his obituary in the paper It was a typical obituary that highlighted the milestones of his life named those family members who preceded him in death and those he left behind who loved him and mourned his passing It told of the positive things he contributed to the community and to society in general I had to admit they were impressive I wondered how many of his good deeds and how much of his community involvement had hinged on his quest for redemption I wondered if he had made peace with God I wondered if he had thought with his last breath as we will of our smart girl who knew her colors

TC Carter started writing in February of 2012 with a special interest in cowboy poetry. His first public reading was at an open mic in Dahlonega, GA four months later. Poetry lead to songwriting which lead to guitar lessons in 2014. He would sum up a bio statement with a line from one of his songs: Don’t count me out. I ain’t done yet. I ssue


Marianne Szlyk


The Memory of Fire

Alternative History in Staunton, Virginia

The sunset through the faded shade reminded her of a Rothko: yellow blazing over sultry orange

The man who sings my favorite song wanders the streets of this small city. He no longer carries his guitar, too heavy for walking past seventy on uneven brick sidewalks that all run uphill.

as if that evening had been scorching, radiating, intense, compelling them to undress. But it wasn’t hot outside. A clammy ocean breeze blew in while the sun withdrew. The women shivered, huddling in the bleachers beneath fizzing lights; red-faced men drank pitchers of cold beer. Along the harbor it was colder. Couples strolled beside rough waves; women wore men’s jackets before supper. But the poster on her wall reminds her of that sunset and of the heat only she felt. Now she shivers, letting go as the wind reaches for her through glass. Now she turns the page.

14 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

An ex-smoker, he catches his breath beneath the marquee of the last one-screen movie theater, the one that used to show movies he liked. It reeks of buttered popcorn. He moves on past the site of the old Woolworth’s, the one that sold his records back when they were hits, when they crept out of open windows even in this mountain town, before they clung to him, never leaving the room with the reel to reel tape, never leaving home.

Marianne Szlyk I Remember R Street The chinchilla was racing across the top of the scratchy navy blue couch, past the window looking out at R Street, a street I still walk on now and then. Some days I expect to see the chinchilla pause and peek out past the Boston fern. I know they’re both dead. You’re gone. You’ve moved

further south.

the narrow hallway with book shelves,

I remember some books in German.

Once we could both read that language.

Waking up on the fake leather couch,

I heard traffic and rain.

You were reading

a biography of John Lennon

translated into German

while your father shaved in the kitchen.

The chinchilla was hiding behind the tree with silk leaves.

Behind my husband’s back you imitated his thick Boston accent his o’s that turned to a’s his r’s that turned to a’s his a’s that turned to a whine. After my divorce, One summer

you and I ate pistachios in Georgetown. we drove all night to North Carolina

You moved to South Carolina in 2004 I walk down R Street

past the Outer Banks.

after your father died.

now and again.

Some days I expect to see you there.

Marianne Szlyk edits The Song Is... a blog-zine for poetry and prose inspired by music (especially jazz). Her second chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, is available on Amazon. Her poems have appeared in The Blue Mountain Review, of/with, bird’s thumb, Cactifur, Solidago, Red Bird Chapbook’s Weekly Read, and Resurrection of a Sunflower, an anthology of work responding to Vincent Van Gogh’s art. I ssue


Veronica Lupinacci Sanity She has her own plot of land now. Wears a blue-flowered apron with rust stains in the pockets. She drinks hopscotch and pinesap whiskey, sings her mouth like a train. Knows exactly how long it takes the sun to set. Remembers every word. Recites her wedding vows to the yellow jessamines as she waters them. She washes all the dishes widdershins. She plucks the hair from cornhusk dolls, glues in their eyes—black pebbles— with spit. Reads landscript. Doesn’t speak to barn owls anymore. She sprinkles salt in circles around an empty bed. Sanity slaughtered every animal when he left and strung them up around the porch. A startled twig traced through the blood. Now Sanity eats eggshells and honey from a green glass bowl. Cleans her legs with kerosene. Packs tobacco in her eyes to sleep. Raids the body that was before Tennessee. She walks oiled oak halls. Listens for hints from zealous mosquitos. She is still in the farmhouse, quietly burnishing the banisters always, she stops before the last step. I can tell you that she imagines wooden wheels and they are always turning backwards. She sits with the evenings in her dark cabin eating dark brown bread. If she leaves the porch tonight, if she gets past the sticky hollowed masks strung up, she’ll run out into the corn fields, drawing a sickle through the stalks, then crouch in the rows and rows, keep her palms on the Earth, and ask the wind to strip her.

Veronica Lupinacci is a writer, instructor, and editor teaching from university to elementary levels in traditional and online classrooms. She has an MFA in poetry from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She was the founding editor of Globe’s Wing and an editorial assistant for Chautauqua. She has been nominated for Best of The Net Anthology 2016, was a finalist in the Gigantic Sequins 4th Annual Flash Fiction and Poetry Contest, and won first place in the 2017 Shamrock-Herald Tribune Contest in Sarasota, Florida. She has given presentations on pedagogy, international travel programs, and applications of art therapy through creative writing. Her poems appear in The McNeese Review, Gravel, BOAAT, Slink Chunk Press, Ekphrastic Review, The Pinch, and others. She currently teaches ESL online to students in Beijing, China.

16 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Karen Poppy When Every Heaven is Horses About horses we know a thousand poems At least: Rider at dawn, ready for death, Or dead already On his black horse, by night’s black moon. Vehicle to Heaven, Or what approximates it. Dead horses, Their ghost tantrums, hooves Pawing dust and sand. Eternity, A labyrinth of open air. “There are no horses In heaven”— Poem never read Until now. Horses not in Heaven, But Dreams. Too busy riding and reading Other poems About horses. Learning Their big, winning hearts. We know that every poem Should be about horses Because every Heaven is horses And every horse is a poem. The soft shine of their eyes. Every Heaven is horses. Their limitless, open hearts. We can rest in the syrupy longing Of their strong necks Pushed softly against us. We can move in syncopated rhythm With their breaths. We can see every best view between their ears, And know that their souls know our souls Without judgment. When every Heaven is horses That is the Heaven where we want to be. When every Heaven is horses The horses don’t bring us to Heaven. The horses are a Heaven each. We’re already there.


I ssue


Karen Poppy

I Like Ferns Best Tendrils skeletal, Curled, Intimately furred, Animal. Sweetly bristled Like hair Under A horse’s mouth. Spores, Countless Small pebbles. Lentils You touch And press. Hands sensitive From so many years Of leather reins, You said, “I like Ferns best.” But then you tear That fern apart. Young fronds From vascular core. Just like you tore That horse apart. Metal bit to mouth Until it bled, And bled still more.

18 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Karen Poppy

Game of Trust Do you remember In summer camp, or At some time or other, That game of trust? You throw yourself back, Arms crossed, eyes closed, Thrust into uncertainty, That dark threshold. Hoping the other person will catch you. When I became sick, so sick, And wracked with pain, And not knowing whether I would live, you said, “I’m not going to be a caretaker again.” Like you were the first time, do you mean, With her, your last partner? Trusting you, As she lay dying, of cancer, Falling back into the abyss? As you walked away, She fell right through the air. You went, following your own bliss. To that motel, across the street From the café You coyly nicknamed “Café Tryst.”

Karen Poppy has work published or forthcoming in The Wallace Stevens Journal, Parody Poetry Journal, and Young Ravens Literary Review. She has also recently written her first novel. In addition to writing, Karen Poppy is an attorney licensed in California and Texas. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I ssue


John DuVal Lawson

Shadows At the graveside of the nine-year-old who never knew his father, everyone’s in tears except the older brother, who expects to wake up any minute. The preacher says the lost are never truly gone, but waiting. I keep my head bowed, think she’s wrong, even though I like to picture that shadow-child, uncertain, gathered in the shadow-arms of his adoring father. The little ruby coffin sinks into the hole. Beyond the black-iron fence, beyond the fields, beyond a fringe of trees, the ancient mountain rises, winter-purple, cold as snow, up and up into the barren blue. It’s almost dark. We hug, shake hands, and hurry toward the parking lot. Behind the church, discreetly out of sight, the backhoe chugs, raking raw earth into place: rough cover, an eternal home. An icy breeze; the driver must be freezing.

A Brown Mutt Named Grace


For Bryan Do they bury them in the prison-yard these days Or burn the bodies to a fine gray ash? Whichever, I wish I were surprised how grimly Glad I feel to know the one I will not name, Who killed my friend, his wife, his girls with knife And hammer is, today, Boxed securely six feet down Or slowly Drifting in charred fragments toward the ocean.

The dog of my unconscious runs past me up the hill to sniff whatever’s waiting on the other side. “Watch out!” I say. “Don’t go too far!” She reappears at the top and stands there, wagging and grinning. “Woof!” she says, and, “Woof!” “Okay,” I say, “okay, I’m coming.”

John DuVal Lawson teaches writing and rhetoric at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. His poems and plays have been published in a variety of print and online venues including Main Street Rag, Public Republic, Paper Street, and Uppagus. Generations, a poetry chapbook, was published by St. Andrews University Press in 2007.

20 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Margarita Serafimova

A Question of Promise One cannot save anything, I toldApparition the waves, deep blue and snowy. Rosy They were taking as much sand as fit their strength. The river beside the path where I seek quietude is no longer golden x as sun sets on the winding trail. Twigs snap under my feet. Each sound leads to the same I want to see you beside yourself with pleasure, I told the image in my conclusion: Summer ismind. And the mirror disappeared. an honest season. Rain rivers; mud puddles form; then how pink wild roses grow— x greens & blossoms playful, shadows pensive. Is that the Blessed Virgin

Summer is over; daily we yearn for a peace that satisfies and smells like lavender. News dims autumn’s tangerine blaze to a season of bleakness. Campfires burn to a smolder. We await the mighty power that will rise from ashes though our actions deny any knowledge of a covenant arriving at fruition. Why mention rose perfume and a birth in a cave? Fire that exhumes can also consume; strong hurricane winds blow over unsuspecting waters. Anyone who isn’t weary must already be dead.

May Those Who Have Ears Understand Gray clouds always gather both rain and silver in their infamous linings, even if you kick a Pollyanna

standing in undulating silver wereon flying. atThe thisclouds leafy bend the trail Your Idesire stayed place where kneel? Deepinreflections but the clouds cherished their every second. accentuate the river. Malleable mystery ripples the woman beside me in the liquid mirror.

in her teeth. I’m not writing a conspiracy theory to make you believe what’s against your will.

Shimmering droplets & tangled beauty shine from the opposite shore. Rays from the setting sun tread water.

True cleanliness never climaxes in the confessional but in the sacramental grace that follows. I would die from too much humanity, including that of the priest, if God did not inhabit solitude.


Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017. She has two collections in the Bulgarian: "Animals and Other Gods" (2016), "Demons and World" (2017). Her work is forthcoming and appears in a number of prestigious journals, including: Agenda, Lunaris, New Poetry, Subterranean Blue, Pangolin, London Grip New Poetry, Helen Losse is the author of six collections of poetry, including Every Tender Reed, published by Main Trafika Europe, The Journal, A-Minor, Noble/ Gas Quarterly, miller’s pond, Obra/ Artifact, Poetic Diversity, Dark Matter, Street Rag in May 2016. Her poems have been anthologized in Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont, Plum Tree Tavern, Oddball, The Voices Project, Outlaw Poetry and others. Some of her work: and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VII: North Carolina. Marga ritaISerafimova/?ref=aymt_ homepage_panel. I ssue


Michael Murphy Burke

Rebirth Into Silence

{The Sensual Seduction Of Spirit} When you allow yourself to be taken Taken As in the sense of being open To allow This is a feminine awakening in your being It does not matter the shape, gender, or color of the vessel Nature cares not for our perception of its glory It functions within It sings to itself through our blood Through the beat of our hearts It is us As plants In the soil of life Drumming into photosynthesis Light playing a duet with Darkness We are the pulse of this union To which we may tap a foot Snap a finger Or vocalize a sound This energy That compels us to Sing our Being Is the feminine nature of the Divine The Yoni of my Beloved I am this vessel And when I disappear to all judgement When I excavate myself from all expectation I surrender, I allow, I accept, I Become I Am As if I am being entered by a lover But, in this case, the lover is within me already The lover is awakening inside of me Not entering from outside of me

Sevgi Master

22 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Michael Murphy Burke

It is not at all that she comes into me It is that all of her comes out of me Her passions expand through my every pore And I engage in this Union of Vibration I am being made love to by the Universe She is so clear, vibrant and connected To all that is That I am no longer being loved I Am Love She bathes me in sacred sound The sound of pure pleasure The sound of breathing planets In tune with the flight of light The sound of night sleeping In tune with day waking The sound of Yeshua’s words In tune with Judas’s kiss

I am this vibration I am this tone Which is all tones Making love To themselves Uni-Verse One Song We are all on the chart for the score of this one song And every section is important and critical For our sustained return to wholeness For our rebirth into silence The Divine Feminine is the energy that sings this silence And the actual tone That sound itself Is the Divine Masculine Together, they birth us into Oneness The energy that creates And what is created Two parts of the same whole I am this I am that I Am.

Michael Murphy Burke has been a poet all his life, with his first published material being in his high school newspaper when he was a sophomore. More recently, he contributes steadily to Oracle Magazine and is also published in Aquarius Magazine and Conscious Life Journal. In addition to writing, Michael also creates artistic visions in a variety of woods for private clients as a custom woodworker. He can also be found doing spoken word, sacred sound shows and meditations throughout the Atlanta area and beyond. To contact Michael, send an email to I ssue


Lora Dillard Bunch, Bonnie Medford

Imperfect Nightmare1 As exhaustion and delirium set in I lie here screaming on the inside while awkwardly silent otherwise. The weight of the silence and darkness is far heavier than it appears. The mysteries lurking in the night are mocking me with a teasing void. My mind full of chaos and torture from the hearts own ignorance and pure out stupidity. The flashing neon sign in my head simply reads “DONE” but, that’s a lie I’m trying to convince myself of.

Your Wedding2 I watched the swans at the reception and imagined scratching your wife’s eyes out.

Lora Dillard Bunch is an artist and writer, Wellness Professional, yoga instructor, reflexologist, polarity practitioner, Reiki practitioner and teacher living in North Georgia. 1


Bonnie Medford is a student in the Reinhardt University MFA program and is scheduled to graduate in 2018. Bonnie

started writing short stories and poetry when she was 12, but has given up the practice many times. However, writing keeps calling her back as a passion and a release of stress. She is grateful to the MFA program and its creator, Dr. Donna Little, for the encouragement to not just write, but to submit her work. Bonnie has been previously published in The Blue Mountain Review and Sanctuary.

24 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Spectacles I want a wiry pair to better reflect my circumstance little windows to my electric vagus nerve, brawny cortices, jagged scapular acmes a perfect set of setting suns, icicles shaking in my wind a brace of doves to grace a crooked sinal roost but I detect the peripheral flashes the E FP TOZ the DMV quick to clear me of charges see the pensive remove and suasive whirl: gesticulations out of reach damn it if I don’t get carded still at the Squirrel Cage, stingy librarians refuse to remove my fines

Garrett Stack

missing: one membership card missing: one hard luck token missing: one compliment to a lifetime of podiums, sweaters, cigarettes lit in spite of sideways rain

Garrett Stack is a teacher and poet at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. His work is forthcoming or recently published in Southern Poetry Review, Naugatuck River Review, pacificREVIEW and others, and he is currently assembling his first collection of poetry.

I ssue e 10


Peter Ristuccia I The martyr’s shade haunted me Asked why since he died for the faith He isn’t yet a saint in heaven I never answered Didn’t look him in the face And regarded blind A crowded truth doesn’t let you breathe Obscurity has its own depths Meters of personal length Runner of the world You have rhymed my Bible anonymously Told a foreign English Rose torched dawn I abjure meaning that has words Sacred truth lets the horses out As desired

II Insomnia An all-nighter in the binge of the moment Earlier I heard a piano while taking a stroll In the outside of silence plot holes open up Dark in front and in back Looking for the faith healer and taking a Resettlement camp Its anarchy of baptismal names Without papers Unable to account for what was done Or is about to be done

26 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

III Drive-In Movie The drive-in movie theater was next to the highway Way out of town in the desert, the decade late for it Past their release our first time seeing the shows Most of were bad but a good laugh We knew it in the dusk Our time still went in the meteor And sat on the hood after or during Looking at the stars as they bathed I said constellations We could see all the seven Pleiades Your stories were mountains and seas on the Moon The side that can’t be seen, people living there We were that music, sometimes the radio Grinning the chill grinning the wind Youth isn’t armed with mercy and I was a bad dancer That walked to a tamer country It knew leaves and tides But the related stars Long unseen for the city’s created light

Peter Ristuccia

IV Translation Angel of immensities, lantern bearing lightning’s full flicker, moonless revelations: the sky has fallen-a stone into deep cold waters that inhaled the colors of longer days and thicker eves chorused by life. When hands have clasped shoulders your death repeated awakens endless and sequential the dispensation that grows souls in the dark and grows souls in the light when the feet know the rough play of the dirt and the grass, a black rose that is friends with the sea and companion to eternal courts no man has appointed and yet all are subject its edicts the hours behind glass, your wings are condor beyond towers amid wheels and thrones…

V I pour gasoline on this worship A sacred arson that immolates All icons painted by my hands Fancy edicules to overnight sensation Matters of sensitive violence The monsters of immediate interest I met an uncelebrated derelict That was God if you could see him He wasn’t going to make it through the winter

Sevgi Master

Peter Ristuccia is an entrepreneur and author. He is the Founder and CEO of Firefly Telecommunications, LLC,

an international technology start-up company. He is also a historian, novelist, poet and essayist whose work has been featured on National Public Radio. Before he started his own business, he attended the University of Georgia, where he earned a B/A in History. Through social media, he actively spreads awareness of art-history, a passion of his. I ssue


Christopher Greer, Brad Stephens

IN THE MONONGAHELA1 Two feet in Falling banks— History swirls around My ankles. Bedrock of forgotten Rivers haunt my daylight Dreams. It haunts my Night-dreams too. Should I drop down to one Knee, then fall face-flat Into stillness, would breezes Carry a driftwood corpse up Toward the Allegheny, toward Bridges, toward the mending of A broken speculation? We will See. Two feet in, falling banks.

Photsynthesis of the Mind (Tribute to a Dogwood)2 My silent friend, nestled among the pines Your blooms illuminated by honeysuckle vines Shade was not your only role For to my ear, you bared your soul A cracked window and conversations The gentle wind carried your prognostications Your weathered bark showing years gone by Roots deep in the clay, unseen by my young eye The needle on the vinyl was our favorite sound On your third branch, I could be found I could feel your smile as you swayed From a Van Zant story or Allman note being played A spring shower was your time alone, I would watch your leaves glisten as the sun shone It is when I admired you most, My arboreal soldier, forever at your post Southern trees, their history often reviled The sadness caused, unknown to a child Barefoot days and laughter is all I find At peace with the photosynthesis of my mind.

Christopher Greer’s work can be found in, or is forthcoming from, Canary, Inwood Indiana, Visitant, and other pub-



Brad Stephens is from Cassville, Georgia. An attorney by day, at night he enjoys good vinyl, expensive Napa Cabernets and watching his children try their best to destroy the house. The best advice he ever received is to believe nothing of what you hear and half of what you see. He can be reached by email at 2

28 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Kelli Allen

If I could be a rib’s width holding wrist to side Another man might not notice how many tawny frogmouths occupy a nest. The inclination to say as much unsticks us both from an afternoon sweet, entering lighter bones than expected. In this city crusted-over, an amputation you predicted, I swim closer anyway, to you, who never takes my hand, instead pushes one shoulder to furnish a bridge between not quiet and the watercolor I won’t show in any summer light. Murdering only two impulses a day means that your patience roots, slow-gallops past this chest into a gut holding many rooms, and you’ll prove claims exactly seven words. Not for open, but for beneath, and everything, scars ripped wire tight, just as suddenly burns as falls, finally, asleep.

When there are ostriches under amendments When was the last time you rebuked the one in you who wants something? Go on asking. Even hermits listen to the sitar player stringing the neck tight after taverns in this city go dark. The shadow has long hated the word “bliss” and the old Zen masters refuse to dream near sunset. This subconscious tells jokes to the weaker giants who cannot yet climb a witch’s growth mountain. Samson’s son dies and blame combs back from our foreheads long enough. Misfortune isn’t theft or forgetfulness. Salesmen come because our doors swing wide outward, through six storms or twenty. It’s only too late for street corner Mary, for sophisticated sick.

I ssue


Kelli Allen

If I flinched at every grief, I would be an intelligent idiot Wisdom sedimentary in a white hare’s belly and your palm almond pressed to the V that lights hearth from forest shades too close—symbols only insouciant for the body blind, beggars turning alms to names spoken backward and once. Singers’ caves in Granada host the fox and bull, both, and what is meant for feasting becomes smoke oiling ceiling to stack to wide, reflective skies. Thrum eulogies and untie these robes: what this skin wants ritualizes morning, sacred seeds wetting some new garden. We reject wine at the king’s table at such a cost. I am weak and the years are thick strings. Somedays, even the cups are driven mad. Clutch whittled flutes to both chests and refuse to turn around. What waits at one mouth waits at many. Who is listening, safe or certain? The kisses I offer you are holy. They are the fire of the old gods. And as with all magic things, this heat requires praise. Hold open your chest and tilt your cheek toward my lips. We worship only once in this life.

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Crane

30 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Kelli Allen

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn All I can see burning, and no reflection Robberies are often quiet. Our hands are in the air while we sleep and the silo empties twenty grains at a time. When the chamber echoes a hungry belly, we pay attention only to how deep our cups, how thin our woven mats and cricket high grass. I wonder

Saying morning out loud, maple leaves fall anyway Hair pinned back, broken barn a distant point that serves as compass, as salve, and we are, again, too easily alone. Which of us remember tender ruin, sometimes the mother’s locket, or the barley deep in dry palms? The breeze fits a wolfman who never wanted his moon, and you say don’t be sad and I am havoc, weak

at nobility. There are four crowns for taking, sacks open over the well’s lip. Remember when everything after the saddle meant asking to be wanted? You, too, are Tiresias— the staff you hold burns figs as they leave branches to baptize some sand too long in the sun.

and careful. We hold the other only so long before glass reclaims our backyard ship. The folksinger hears forecasts, lyre nestled into his ribs, tight against November uncertainties. For us, the seatop knows our timber and we speak soft, often enough to fool Coyote into thinking this story was his from the start. We rescue each other when the orchard cools to sleep.

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She has served as Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review and she directs River Styx’s Hungry Young Poets Series. Her chapbook, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press award. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books (2012) and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest collection, Imagine Not Drowning, was released by C&R Press in January 2017. I ssue


Sergio A Ortiz

Mountain Summit Loneliness and stillness. Forests and more forests. White magnolias, flowering dogwoods, and river birches; large, damp boulders without streams or sky or horizon. No Blue Herons with rigorous faces. The Great Horn Owl and restless zephyrs disappear before the sun comes up. The oaks shed their hoods of lichen when the wind lashes at them, They keep on fighting the sun. The cold, crude in its wild hedges.

Relentlessness once a definition, now a luminescent space, a tower of resistance, pronounced delay. Dodging consonants, vowels begin to swell, their mode of being measured by drips and drops. A flagellation. The less apparent divide, the unbecoming. The skillful demeanors we miss. One contends, gathers strength, knows the tautness of secrets. It's all about a bout. You, and you remain, to no avail, a conflagration.

32 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Sergio A Ortiz

Desiderata, Is It Needed There are days you walk around dazed and you're not very friendly. Minutes, even hours, find you lost and I know my presence confounds you. That's when you start talking in whispers. It's your way of asserting the strands of silver on your head, your Lord of the Flies dance around my campfire. Don’t let it blind you. Virtues abound in everyday heroes.

On the Run Little by little I lose my star. I am the orphan of something that dies. I open the capsule to the most virginal silence, evidence the light and word that impede me. I am the perfume of the disinherited rose. The orphanhood of beauty freezes me. The full moon man and the human oblivion dump are extinguished inside me. My voice sinks and collapses like the language center where God’s seamless epicenter resides. There is no doubt, I am leaving for balsam and sleep. The alive desire of the sonatina with which I call “my man” to the party has been ambushed. It's without earth wind or the diphthong of my lyrical moan.


Sergio A Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a six-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016/17 Best of the Net

nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Drunk Monkeys, Algebra Of Owls, Free State Review, and The Paragon Journal. His chapbook, An Animal Resembling Desire, will be published by Finishing Line Press. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

I ssue


Hannah Olson

The Pool in Front of My Office I. Since I started work here the pool in front of my office Turns from green to blackish brown. Men come. They scatter white powder over the black water. Today it is the freshest blue I've seen since my grandmother's pool, before she moved to assisted living. We go on Saturdays and Monday afternoons in Summer when hot afternoon sunrays warm the glass room and make the water dance over our faces and arms. It dances on the white and blue checked floor and over the folded hands of my mother and grandmother as they speak to each other and watch us plunge into the dark and silent water. II. Once or twice, my grandmother's pool had to be drained. The men are smoothing grout over the cracks inside the pool. We are not to go to the pool, though it is warm and the grass is too hot to play in. The pool door makes a sucking sound as I slip into the air conditioned hallway and again into the steamy glass room where the biggest hole I've seen since the Grand Canyon is opening its white mouth to me. I know nothing of heaving or the tricky business of pool repair. I imagine instead that if God needed to drain the Atlantic for any reason, he should consider how long it will take to fill it again and if the fish could be patient enough.

34 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10


III. Only at night do the lights in the pool remind me of souls making their way to the underworld. In water, the eyes cannot focus as easily and things seem always out of reach. I learned quickly the skill of breathing out my nose and blinking twice and waiting till after the second you could not stand the chlorine stinging your eyes anymore. There was a moment between, a moment you could not count When a shadow passed over the light, before it all went dark and you came up gasping for air, choking on water.



Hannah Olson

IV. The pool would never stay clear. Leaves from the crowding olive trees float like tiny withered vessels on still water. Heavier matter sits at the bottom, waiting to be stirred up by the patrons who won't be coming down to play. The clouds gathering obscure the mirrored surface of our pool. For then we saw only our faces looking back at us, questioning. Now, it is the white sheet below us and the heavy, moving thing between, a soup stirred up and roiling with the grass and the dirt and the shelled bodies of beetles churning in its plastered shell.

I ssue


Hannah Olson

Gulf Suite I. Snail and Medusa In Naples' sunbathed gulf blanched nudibranchs host the remains of tiny medusa jellyfish These naked sea snails browse their watery haven with glassy smears of cnidarian flesh bearding their soft blue chins The medusa unable to live for itself buds and releases millions of translucent ephyrae and the bay fills once more with free-floating bell capped jellyfish whose trailing tentacles involuntarily attract the larvae of certain carnivorous slugs Neither can remember its self before appetite turned one to the other and exchanged body for body to consume survive perpetuate a legacy inseparably bound indivisible self from self II. Wormtongue Willow and sycamore trees flank the bleached sandbars on either side of Bayou Pierre I step into the river to cool my feet and sink at once to the thigh in a loose mixture of stones and clay III. The Feast of Mt. Vesuvius A man who speaks anticipates his audience but no one heeds a Prophet in jersey shorts whose tattooed shoulders proclaim at hand for a distracted people at hand something to weep and something to fear to those for whom blue skies never cloud smoke and signal smoke and Mt. Vesuvius grasps the left foot of mankind usurping our womb-passage we who inorganically spread our thick cities over Earth and cull this planet provider predator the harvesters harvested IOVI VESVVIO gathers within a fire He stokes his hearth and sends his Prophet in plainclothes to make ready a nation for this time Earth shall feed on those she nourished and the sky will snow their ashes

36 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Hannah Olson

IV. White Picket Fence I fear the mild misted rain that does not stop but slowly fills gutters and the basements of low-lying houses There is nothing to fear so no one pays attention to the pleasant spray that slaps their face as they step out of the car onto a glassy sidewalk No one expects so everyone seems surprised to find at last the end is come nearer than could have been planned so artfully drawn and subtle as if it all just happened like my neighbor's house that collapsed at its foundation and fell into a pit in the earth ten miles long and three wide but since they were not home they bought a new house

and surrounded it with a white picket fence.

I ssue


Hannah Olson

kale my queen

The Things in Your Room

kale my queen pretty little lace and a rise and a range and a canyon by smoke and a pretty little tare

Sleepless I lay cradled in the hollow of your sunken mattress your right side your arm resting over my still breasts

and again.

dust trails stream from the air vent across a corrugated ceiling You breathe shallow dreamless breaths into my hair while I sleep with my eyes open.

kale mygod a spin and aspinagain by shower mountain by thumbnail splitrip again

milk stiffened carpet fractured floorboards

knowing by time and by tare the number of numberless times twelve it is twelve by ordination by timer by timehimself

Late blue sunlight in your broken window illuminates the silhouette of a spider that sinks and rises sinks and rises weightless and unfelt drifter passing over the hairs on your forearm to the places beneath

caress to my self no hands no knowing no



Hannah Olson is a recent graduate of Belhaven University and a recipient of the 2017 Elizabeth Spencer Creative Writing Award. Her articles have appeared in Rattle Review, Family Life Magazine, and Woman to Woman Magazine. A native of Denver, Colorado, she now lives and writes as a transplant to the Deep South.

38 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Dixon Hearne

Transitory Cars rust in scattered heaps as if tossed by pitchfork— littering the desert floor, changing shape with light and shadow and imagination. Debris. History. Art. A child’s roadside guessing game. Chards of some former world worn tired and frail, abandoned to the elements. Diorama. Monument. Ode to fickle tastes.

Night Visage

Wellspring Warm springs draw the pilgrims forth, the bracing winds of winter at their back. Healing waters gurgling from the earth quell the worry, pacify the soul, sate the thirst of human longing— an ancient wisdom rediscovered. In these rich hills and pristine forest— sacred land of native tribes— past and present collide, repel, eventually merge transforming life and human knowing, shedding tradition like litter on the road to Truth.

The pale moon gazes stark and cold from its ancient arc in the winter sky, half-blinded by light of sun, half aware of matters unfolding below its unhinged watch. Time steals past in units of wonder and weary eons of secret memory— waxing radiant, mystical in the evening sky, and waning with the purple sparks of dawn.

Dixon Hearne writes in his native South. His work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and earned

several other awards. His latest book is Plainspeak: New and Selected Poems. His poetry has been anthologized in Texas Review Press’s Southern Poetry Anthology: Louisiana and Down to the Dark River (Louisiana Literature Press). Other poetry appears in Tulane Review, Poetry South, Big Muddy, New Plains Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, and elsewhere. He is working on new poetry and short story collections. I ssue


Laura McCullough

Nahmer They have never built a box that could hold me. Not for lack of trying. Yet I build a cage for myself out of their approval. A Leopard, wary, the appearance of ease, unseen power, pressed rigid against the cool comfort of steel bars across the back. The door was never closed. A cage of my own imagining so much safer than their rejection. They want us to be less because they are afraid to be more. They want Differentness to be Weakness so we will try to be like them so that its ok to be them. My ardor singed the edge of your coat while your affected shallowness seared my soul. And when the weight of Reality, of human calamity, when a world of wrongness rouses that smoldering spark into something Worth crying for Worth living for Worth writing for Worth fighting for Worth being afraid of that tears down my bars and your walls and turns your apathy to ash you build a gallows in a contradiction, that at once, one can be too much of everything and never enough of anything.

40 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Laura McCullough


For E.S. and Cat I consider this darkness from the outside. Weighing the cost of a grand entrance all passion and wrath, an arrogance of youth no longer mine, I shy back from its surface. Smoked glass merciless in its reflection of all that I was. The torch of my exodus held white-knuckled and trembling, my temblar etching electric lines across an air I cannot breathe. Scrawling the notes of a song that I did not write, a ballad I have always known, refrain of will rising from chaos. Write something real. I hold it in my hand, this darkness. An onyx droplet settled into my palm; a singularity. I watch as it seeps between my fingers, living pitch, one tendril arching back to search for my pulse.

Sevgi Master

You cannot have me.

Laura McCullough is an artist, poet and designer happily nestled in the North Georgia mountains. Her poetry has been

published in several anthologies, most recently If I Could Tell You Anything from The Right Angle publishing. McCullough’s artwork has been featured in numerous outlets, including on the covers of Rattle Magazine and works by several prominent authors, in the galleries of the Art Institute of Atlanta, and on Good Day Atlanta. Her writing and illustration projects in process currently include a book of poetry, several children’s books, and a children’s Ministry curriculum. Examples of her work can be seen or she can be contacted at I ssue


You Will Be

A Writer in the New South

ETOWAH VALLEY WRITING PROGRAM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Earn Your Degree from Home 10-Day Summer Residency Award-winning Writing Faculty

42 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

In Terence Hawkins’ novel American Neolithic, a world he imagined as a dystopian fantasy now seems right around the corner. Following a contrived terror scare, the Patriot Amendments have legislated away our civil rights. Homeland Security drones patrol skies and streets; the Department of Social Integrity polices a strict adherence to scientific creationism as the state religion. Into this world comes Blingbling, a selftaught literate member of the last surviving band of Neanderthals. Framed in a hiphop murder, he is provided legal counsel--Raleigh-by shadowy benefactors. Raleigh’s strategy lands them both in prison and on the verge of vivisection at the conclusion of the book. What follows is an excerpt from its sequel-in-progress, Rats’ Alley. Its action takes place several years later. Raleigh is about to be released from prison through the intervention of the Homeland cops and military intelligence on a mission whose purpose and details remain not altogether clear. Here he finds out how his online presence will be altered to facilitate a seamless covert reentry, and how the world he is to reenter has changed.

Terence Hawkins

Excerpt from Rat’s Alley

Wikipedia was number one, of course. There was a time when I was flattered to have an entry at all. Now right beside my name it said stuff like ‘former lawyer, failed murder defense, disbarred, career ends, defense ridiculed, arrested, once respected, later years, rumors of alcoholism.’ Ick. Next a Post article. Oh boy. “’Flintstone Shyster Gets Barn-Bammed.’ Courtroom clown caveman ploy backfired, now in the slammer himself." For some reason the Post results ranked a lot higher than the Times.’ Oh wait--- stupid people have computers too! They weren’t any more flattering, but they did look as though they were better written. “Once among the more respected of the city’s second tier of criminal advocates, a Manhattan attorney now finds himself in a different role in the courts in which he once toiled." Well done. Gray Lady. If anyone smoked enough meth to stay awake after the first paragraph they’d be too high to read the rest anyway. And rest was worse. Nothing from outside the country, of course. Patriot firewalls in cyberspace were a lot harder to get over than anything we’d put up on either border. And of course the US market was still so much bigger than anything else, even though most foreign propellerheads would rather work in Bratislava than Redmond these days, that the search engines were only too happy to cooperate. But that meant that by the time I got to the bottom of the first page I was seeing results from InfoWars. “Jew York Shyster Jailed After “Evolution" Claim—EuroChristians Win Again!” I sighed. When were they going to accept victory? I turned to the Homeland guy. “Okay,” I said. “I get it That was three months ago. How about now? Or did you forget to pay Verizon again?” Of course he didn’t smile. In fact for a second I thought he was going to explain how the government got a special rate. Good to see Homeland was giving Asbergers’ kids someplace to work that wasn’t Goodwill or Goldman Sachs. Clickety-click-click. A fresh google page popped up. With much different results for “Lawyer for Neanderthal.” Number one was “Kississimee Judge calls Lawyer ’Neanderthal,’” which I guess must have been satisfying, but not worth the complaint to the Judicial Conduct Board that it cost him. Second was "Divorce Lawyers Fight Like Cavemen,” which if Bling had been in a position to sue I would have considered good grounds for a defamation case. By the bottom of the page I was seeing academic journals that mentioned the words in the same year. “Now let’s try your name,” said the ubernerd. Wow. Well, it was good to see I still existed. But in something like the same way dead people live on through Facebook. With friends still posting miss-you-buddies on anniversaries. I used to wonder whether the same people called the departed, hoping the phone rang in heaven. Intentionally, that is, not like the couple of times I accidentally told my phone to call mom and had to close the office door right after. My Wikipedia entry was now a one-paragraph recital of my squandered education and checkered career ending with “Raleigh closed his office and put his law license on inactive status, citing unspecified health reasons.” On social media I was apparently “taking a break for a while,” though apparently some algorithm or something on a Homeland

I ssue


Terence Hawkins desktop periodically posted a thank you for happy birthdays or hope you’re okays and sometimes tweeting a “loving retirement!” with a smiley or sunshine emoji. I noticed that if I knew someone's last name as well as first, he or she wasn’t posting, which I guess meant that a Man in Black had come by to 'splane things. ‘We fixed your image too,” said the idiot savant. They were the same pictures as before, minus any mug shots that had caught the search engines’ eyes. With an important difference. Same poses, same backgrounds, same clothes, but a face close but not the same, so that they looked like a slightly younger, heavier cousin. Similar enough so that you’d understand why you thought you recognized me, different enough so you knew you were wrong. “Good," I said. “Very, very good." The Homeland guy beamed. "Same principal as Stuxnet, back in the day," he said. “It’s basically a virus that hits everything related to you and the case. And not just online. Anything saved too. Of course it’s not a thousand per cent effective. Like for people who actually wrote the content. They’d know. So for them we leave it alone.” I started to ask him how they knew if a reporter was trying to access the story from a borrowed laptop. But then he'd say he’d have to kill me so I didn’t. He probably had to kill me already. 'We did the same thing with your friend," he said. "Only more so." His fingers blurred on the keyboard. '"Course it was a lot easier with him 'cause the DSI gave us a big head start." He'd searched "Neanderthal." What showed up was not movie clips, news reports, or scholarly articles. Nope. The whole first page was Department of Social Integrity links with titles like "Scientists Agree Fossil Record 'Inconclusive'" or "'Human-Caveman Co- Existence May Prove Biblical 'Young Earth’ Teachings." "May I?" I asked the propellerhead. "Knock yourself out." He slid his chair over and I pulled one up. I clicked on the last entry. It took me to a DSI website tied to the Hall of Scientific Creationism at the Smithsonian. To the right hand of the article was a still of an embedded video. It showed the smiling face of a heavy browed creature leaning on a crude spear. He looked like a cross between Mel Brooks and my client. I clicked it on. First appeared a Neanderthal tribe, or at least what I thought they thought was a Neanderthal tribe, ook-ookooking through a prehistoric landscape. I knew it was prehistoric because there were a lot of oddly shaped rock formations and there was a volcano smoldering in the background. Pretty soon a pterodactyl was going to fly overhead and Fred was going to burn off his calluses braking the car. Actually the production values were pretty high; I guess now that the bible colleges were getting more federal money than the Ivies, Jesus was loving his CGI. The voiceover began. It was the kind of slow syrupy nonregional light baritone you still heard on AM stations in small towns where the old people were still getting their Gospel standards through the airwaves. “We all know that some scientists think that we may have evolved from apes,” he said. If you threw in an all for some, know for think, and did for may have, well, I couldn’t agree with you more. “But recent discoveries not only prove them wrong, but show the inerrant truth of the Old Testament’s teachings.” Uh...what? “For many years, people of faith were bullied in the media and even in their own public schools by a secular humanist ideology that equated Christianity with Islam and even Satanism.” Whoa there big fella, don’t rightly recall none of that devil worship bunk. “But recent scientific discoveries that even the atheists can’t deny not only shows that evolution is wrong, but that the story of Cain and Abel is grounded in hard historic fact.” I was literally on the edge of my seat. I thought I knew the destination but still had enough faith in common sense to doubt that they’d actually go there. “Truly, there were Neanderthals in the world God created for us. As you can see they roamed the harsh world outside the Garden of Eden before the Fall.” The Neanderthals had stopped their random pelt-picking and rock-sniffing. One was pointing off into the distance at an oasis, a little patch of green on the horizon. “They were our cousins, our

44 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Terence Hawkins our divine Father's first attempt to mold an image of Himself out of clay. But even the greatest artist has to make sketches before he paints the big picture." My mouth hung open. They were going there okay. "Though science tells us that the Neanderthals were already on Earth when God created us, six thousand years ago, the Bible tells us what happened when we met." I wasn't able to even think about that. The Neanderthals were shambling apishly towards the green patch. “As every believer knows, Christian or Jew---” he wasn’t quite able to keep the distaste out of his voice for the last word--- “God drove our first parents out of the Garden of Eden when Eve disobeyed His law and tricked her husband into eating the forbidden fruit.” I didn’t quite remember the tricked part, but okay. I was now looking at a good-looking pair of vaguely southern-looking blondish twentysomethings dressed up in vines and sobbing as they half ran from what looked like a Disney theme park that was breaking up in a combination earthquake and tornado swarm. “When they left the Garden, full of the shameful knowledge that God had tried to save them from, they used that knowledge to procreate. Soon they had a family.” Now they’d landed themselves somewhere outside the Garden. Apparently the Tree of Knowledge didn’t have a section on agriculture. A visibly older and battered looking cracker couple in dirty pelts, sporting that skinny-paunchy look that anyone who’s ever stopped in a Cumberland Farms in West Virginia will never forget, had set up a little trailerpark family without the trailer. Actually It wasn’t quite a West Virginia family because in this case the kids all had the same father. For obvious reasons. About six filthy brats were fussing with piles of dirt while a newborn had Its head discreetly tucked into mom’s rabbit-fur halter top for a quick snack. Dad scratched in the dirt with a pointed stick. He’d had some success, because there were a bunch of what looked like tomato plants---guess the Mormons were right after all and Eden was in America---as well as some stunted date palms behind him. Between them and the Neanderthals was a stand of ferny-looking things that someone thought looked prehistoric but postedenic. The camera, or I guess computer, switched its point of view to the Neanderthals as they stumbled into it. Pretty noisily, I guess, because when one of them parted some fronds to get a good look at the oasis behind, the Flintstones were on full alert. The younger kids had scampered to mom’s knees, two teenish boys were trying to look manly, and dad was brandishing an honest to god club that looked like a giant drumstick with bark. The point of view shifted again and we were looking at the whole tableau. The Neanderthals were nothing deterred. A couple of them crept forward into the clearing, making curious chimp noises. Behind them the rest of the tribe looked on. Their eyes were wide with amazement. I couldn’t help but scroll back in my head to childhood memories of the terrified black Pullman porters and shoeshine boys who made cameo appearances on the Three Stooges back before they were pulled from the air in the brief politically correct interregnum between innocent racism and computergenerated fascist propaganda. Our ur-parents had somehow left an infant unprotected, squalling in the no- man’s-land between them and the apemen. In much the same way their distant descendants would leave their own kid in the back seat with the windows rolled up on an August afternoon when they went to score some crack. The kid attracted the attention of a young Neanderthal. A boy, surprisingly. Surprisingly unless you knew the Neanderthals. While a male human preteen would rather rub shit in his hair than express any interest in a baby, Bling’s people---maybe because they bred so slowly, but who the hell knows---were all equally part of child rearing. The Neanderthal boy gently picked up the howling infant. For a minute he cradled it in his arms. The shrieking subsided to a snuffling gurgle. Gingerly, his face open and friendly, he extended the kid to its family. If I didn’t have a pretty good idea of what was coming I’d’ve thought this was a Christmas special for a failing primetime series. You know, next week a Very Special “Gray’s Incest.” The kind that makes you tear up a little if you’ve switched from beer to Scotch and wondering why you’re alone for the holidays again. I ssue


Terence Hawkins

Mom darted forward and snatched the sprat, who immediately started bawling with added vigor. Dad held his cartoon club high. But he didn’t get a chance to use it. One of the older human boys sprinted out. As he ran he scooped up a fist sized rock with sharp edges. He was on the Neanderthal boy while still in his sprinter’s crouch. Both went down in a tangle of limbs. The hand with the rock was suddenly held high. Then it plunged down. On the video the Neanderthal boy’s cry was rendered as a baboon shriek. I’d been around them long enough to know that that wasn’t right. It would have sounded a lot like ours. A little different but not much. Pain is something pretty fungible, I guess. The human boy’s arm pistoned up and down a couple of times. The Neanderthal kid had stopped screaming. Both families had been quiet. Suddenly there was another cartoon monkey hoot and two Neanderthal men rushed forward. One made to stop the human boy, grabbing at his arm at the peak of his swing, while his buddy got his mitts around the Neanderthal kid’s ankles to drag him away. It was all the human dad needed. With the heroic roar you expect from an anime Spartan he lunged forward, swinging his mighty warclub. He clocked the Neanderthal with the boy’s arm right in the head. But he didn’t go down. Instead he straightened up as much as he could in this ape incarnation and got an A-Rod thwack on the other side of the gourd. In an earlier age of animation he would have seen tweety birds circling his head. Not nowadays. Instead a grayish red cloud sprayed out of his head. It looked like an enhanced frame from the Zapruder film. His friend at the boy’s feet didn’t react fast enough. Always a problem for Bling’s folks, it seemed. As the first guy hit the ground Big Daddy--who had suddenly sprouted a lot of muscle that he hadn’t had when he was a scrawny hillbilly inventing agriculture a few minutes ago—swung the warclub again. This time it came down right between the crouching Neanderthal’s shoulderblades. The impact splayed him flat across the boy. As though he was trying to protect him. Which I guess he was. Because he pulled himself to his knees and elbows and inched forward to cradle the boy’s ruined head and bury his face in the kid’s neck. Which is where it was when the club came down one last time, even harder, with a force that audibly snapped his spine. Blood gushed from his mouth as he collapsed over the boy. Big Daddy stepped back and surveyed his handiwork. Obviously animation had progressed while I was inside, because his face showed a pretty convincing mix of triumph and confusion. Then again the only animations I regularly watched were the Seven Dwarves gangbanging Lois Griffin, so I was no judge. In the background I heard Neanderthal gibbering growing rapidly fainter. Clearly they’d seen the writing on the evolutionary wall and were hightailing it off to a nice cave to wait for extinction. I figured we were at the end of the video because music was suddenly swelling up to drown out the last of the apemen howls. It was that weird pseudo Celtic stuff that you hear in movies whenever the Titanic sinks or a dying Spanish gladiator hallucinates his dead wife coming for him through the rye. Obviously we were at an historic moment. The voiceover had an unmistakable tone of satisfaction. “Though the Old Testament tells us that Cain slew his brother, science now shows us that the real story was garbled by generations and generations of Hebrew translators.” Just enough emphasis on Hebrew to let us know that Muslims and Mexicans had been the opening act for the big show. “In fact, it was a child of Adam and Eve who slew not his brother, but a cousin—a member of an apelike earlier version of the human race. Acting as God commands, enforcing our dominion over land and sea and air and all the creatures therein, our remotest ancestors erased our Creator’s early, flawed efforts. Within a few generations of leaving the Garden, true humans—God’s real children—had eliminated their competition, God’s first draft.” On the screen Big Daddy dropped his bloody warclub and gazed proudly at his skinny progeny, a manly tear glistening in his computer-generated eye. The boy looked down at the corpses he and his father had just collaborated on making. His lip quivered for a second. The view switched to his hand, still clutching the sharp rock with brain and hair matted on its business end. His fingers relaxed and the stone fell away.

46 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Terence Hawkins

For a second I wondered whether some pacifist hacker had found his way into the DSI servers. But I needn’t have worried. The music was mounting to a Disney- Gaelic crescendo of howling uileann pipes backed by what sounded like a double string section, like Shrek was leading the Easter Rising. The kid straightened his back and set his jaw. Without a glance down he stepped over dead Neanderthals and stooped to pick up his father’s fallen club. With one thin arm he hefted it over his head. The music paused. The kid let loose a shrill warcry no less mighty for it being a boyish tenor. The Pixar-Celtic soundtrack kicked into a triumphant drum-backed march. As Adam, Eve, and the rest of the First Family gazed all dewy eyed at the happy warrior, the point of view panned back to show them standing self-reliantly in their little patch of Eden, now-distant Neanderthals knuckle-racing towards the horizon in terror. The voiceover gave us the takeaway. “Adam and Eve showed us the way. Remember—God’s work is never done.” The drums rolled once more and the screen went black. My shirt was stuck to my back. I felt like I’d just seen the dailies for Triumph of the Will.” “Ahh,” I finally said. “Is this an experiment or something?” “Oh no,” said the propellerhead. “This got oh let’s see—” click click clickety click “sixty million hits since it went live. Over five hundred and forty thousand this month.” Before I asked he added. “And it’s the eleventh.” I sat still for a minute, taking it all in. “Government website, right?” “DSI landing page,” he said. I thought for a moment. I figured I’d better take this down the middle. “Guess things have changed since I came in.” “Sure have,” he said. He sounded pretty happy about that. I nodded. I hope I sounded noncommittal. “Good to know,” I said.

The infant Terence Hawkins rescued himself from a life of of obscurity and servitude by clinging to the stirrup of Frederick the Great at the Battle of Rossbach. He was transported through time and space to southwestern Pennsylvania, where his early experiments with electricity earned him the nickname “the Boy Tesla” and coincidentally carbonized several household pets. Surviving into late adolescence through the forbearance of his peers, he was not only admitted to but graduated from Yale University, where an already battered GPA was euthanized through his service as Publisher of the Yale Daily News. His early work was published online and in print in Eclectica, Pindeldyboz, Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k), Megaera, Keyhole, Ape Culture, and of course the New Haven Register. His first novel, The Rage of Achilles, is a prose account of the Iliad informed by the bicameral-mind theories of Julian Jaynes. His most recent, American Neolithic, was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014. In 2012, he became the founding Director of the Yale Writers’ Conference, and is now the Director of the Company of Writers. His website, at which many sparkling apothegms may be found, is www.; the Company of Writers’ is He vents his spleen in these dark times on Twitter as @Yalewriters. Otherwise he lives in Norwalk, Connecticut, with his muse and keeper, the pithy and enigmatic Mrs. H. I ssue


Theresa Lynn Ast

February Afternoon Late afternoon and dinner was on the stove. Jason and Brad had stayed after school to play basketball in the high school gym. My youngest son Charles was supposed to be doing his homework in his bedroom, although he was probably reading science fiction, but as long as he finished his homework before bedtime, I wasn’t terribly concerned about exactly when it got done. My husband wasn’t due home for another couple of hours, plenty of time to finish dinner and read for my Wednesday classes. Graduate school history courses were fascinating, but they were also an incredible amount of work. For months I managed to survive with little sleep, taking every opportunity to read, even while cooking. Mid February, but one of those strange North Georgia winters that seem like early spring. Pleasant, nice enough to have the windows and doors open; all three cats lazing around on the oak floor in patches of sunlight. The forsythia bushes at the end of the driveway were radiant, golden yellow, blooming two months early. I was in shorts and sandals as I puttered around the kitchen. Charles came tearing into the kitchen, screaming incoherently. He pointed down the hallway toward the end of the house. “The bedroom is on fire. There is a fire!” We ran down the hallway, as I came to the door of his bedroom waves of heat rolled over me. Charles and Brad shared a bedroom and slept on old metal GI bunk beds. The mattress and cotton sheets on the lower bunk were burning furiously. Charles burst into tears. “It’s my fault! My fault! I found a lighter; I was playing with it!” I hugged him fiercely, crossed the hallway to the bathroom, turned the water in the tub on full blast, grabbed every towel in the bathroom, and threw them in the tub. Charles ran to the linen closet to gather more towels. As soon as the towels were soaked, I threw them on the burning bed. Charles kept tossing towels into the tub, then handed them to me. On the fourth trip across the hallway I saw the mattress and quilt on the top bunk were ablaze. In spite of our efforts, fire engulfed one side of the room, the heat so intense I could not re-enter the room.

48 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Theresa Lynn Ast

The bedroom filled with an impenetrable gray-black smoke – nothing like fires in films – heavy greasy smoke spreads long before the flames consume everything. Smoke spilled out into the hallway burning our eyes and throats. I rushed Charles out the front door with instructions to go to the neighbors across the street, call 911, and then stay there until I came for him. He started running and for a moment I forgot the fire, fearing he would be struck by a car. Smelling smoke, my neighbor Linda came out on the porch and rushed Charles inside. The other two bedrooms were on fire and smoke billowed down the hallway. Half the house was burning, but there was a phone by the back door. I headed that way, thinking about picture albums, books, my mother’s dishes, and the years of research notes in the computer. I stopped at the back door and dialed 911. Of course I knew that the moment the operator picked up, our address automatically appeared on the computer screen in front of them. As I dialed, I could see the computer in my mind’s eye. But when the operator answered I yelled my address at him. I shouted it twice in a row, as if he were deaf, in case he didn’t understand me the first time. Part of me knew he wasn’t writing down what I said; he didn’t need to, the system is automatic. Fear and adrenaline turned me into a frantic crazy woman. He asked me if he should send an ambulance. I shouted no. He asked me if everyone was out of the house. I said yes. He told me to drop the phone immediately and leave the house. I hesitated like there was something else I ought to do. He raised his voice and shouted, “Get out of the house. Leave now!” I dropped the phone and left through the back door just as the last room filled with acrid smoke. Above the sound of the fire crackling and popping, I could hear the mournful sound of fire engines in the distance. They were close, but the windows in the bedrooms were exploding outward. Our station wagon was parked in front of a large bay window. I moved back toward the house to move the car, this was something I could do.

I ssue


Theresa Lynn Ast

Flames leapt out of the windows, curled over the gutters and on to the roof, strangely beautiful and utterly horrifying. Eight months earlier, my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather both suddenly died within three weeks of each other. The previous fall my sister dropped out of graduate school; my husband had been making noises about going our separate ways. Now, now the house was burning, my best efforts not enough. Not enough. It was too much. I raged against heavens and then fell quiet and calm. Calm is not the right word, I felt resigned and determined. My sons, twelve, fourteen, sixteen knew their father wanted to start a new life. For their sake, I needed to be strong, resilient, to protect them, reassure them. Fire engines arrived and the firemen contained the fire, but the house was consumed, all that remained were charred timbers and bricks. My two older boys arrived home to see the giant smoldering carcass that had been their home. A friend up the street invited us to come spend the night with them; that night turned into four months. Our immediate physical needs were met, I worried about how my sons were doing emotionally and I worried about passing university exams, but I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel like crying; I don’t remember feeling much at all. Four months later we moved back into a rebuilt house. The boys were promoted to the next grade and continued playing basketball. Somehow I passed comprehensive doctoral exams. Family and friends were supportive, helpful. I began work on the dissertation and we settled into a fairly comfortable routine of school and work. Life was bearable, almost normal. The autumn months rolled by full of bracing winds. We had a nice Thanksgiving with extended family and looked forward to the Christmas holidays. For many years I pulled the Christmas decorations down from the attic the weekend after Thanksgiving. That Saturday the boys and their father went to see an afternoon movie, and while they were gone I decided to get the Christmas boxes down. I pulled down the attic ladder, climbed up… and stared into my completely empty attic. There were no boxes of ornaments or strings of lights, no wreaths or candles, no outgrown children’s clothes, no boxes of family mementos, no handmade quilts, no little cowboy outfits, no trace remained of seventeen years of family history, erased, consumed by fire. As my eyes filled with tears, I stumbled down the ladder and collapsed on the floor weeping. I wailed as if my heart would break. My family was safe, we were incredibly fortunate. All we lost were things. Things are just things, they can always be replaced. I cried and cried. Confused, exhausted, I tried to make sense of the huge difference in what I knew to be true - we were blessed, and what I felt - bereft, cheated, abandoned, wounded. My anguished feelings, did not correspond with reality. They made no sense, because the Red Cross provided basic clothing and beds to sleep in; friends helped us with dishes, sheets, towels, furniture. We had the things we needed to get by day to day, to go to work, to go to school. I tried to disentangle and understand my reaction. We did not actually need anything. Was I really weeping over a chair, a lamp, a book? What I desperately wanted back were the things that cradled and carried my family history; the things that brought back the sights and sounds and smells of my boys when they were little. We had pictures of previous Christmas trees, but they paled in comparison to the annual ritual of unpacking the boxes, replete with memories, one by one. I remembered all the years when I carefully held each ornament in my hands, transported back to that particular Christmas. Sweet memories would come flooding in – who helped me make the ornaments that year, who had just lost their first tooth, who had just learned to ride a bicycle, what kind of music were we listening to, who came to our house on the 24th for a Polish Christmas Eve dinner. All the tender memories of family life were tightly bound up in the physical objects from those years.

50 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Theresa Lynn Ast

I desperately wanted to be able to open the boxes marked, “Boys Clothing” and find the little cowboy outfits I made for them when they were four, six, and eight, little denim vests with red and silver embroidered sheriff’s stars. Two years later I made all three boys Batman and Superman capes; I even made extra capes so that when their friends came over to play, everyone could be a super hero. There were crazy Halloween outfits and costumes for school plays, and lots of outgrown flannel pajamas, the kind with the feet in them. Taking things out of the boxes one by one, unfolding them, smoothing out the wrinkles, then refolding them, was to relive those sweet years when my boys were young and we had nothing more pressing to do than gather pine cones or play in the rain. In the bottom of each box would be the quilt I made for each of them. I remembered shopping for the fabrics and the boys requesting a denim border, because navy blue was manly. They said they didn’t want “girlie” quilts, quite embarrassing when friends came over to play. I made striking ,colorful, “young boy masculine” quilts in shades of blue and red with touches of yellow. Strong primary colors for my strong, beautiful sons. When I held the quilts I could see them laughing, bouncing up and down on their beds; I could see the quilts draped across chairs to make caves, forts, and other boyish fantasies; I could watch as a stream of sweet bedtimes hugs and kisses paraded through my mind. There were fine evenings when I slipped under the quilt with my youngest while I read him a bed time story; evenings when I sat cross-legged on top of the quilt while we said our prayers together. Evenings when …. ~~~~~~ It really isn’t the possessions we lose in fires and floods that so wound our hearts; it is the loss of those tangible objects that poignantly remind us of our distant past, our shared history. When life gets too busy, when children are nearly grown, when life becomes sad, almost more than we can bear…mothers, probably fathers too, instinctively turn to what we can touch, to those things we can hold close. We are tactile creatures and those things we hold, we touch, are proof certain of the life we have lived, of the good and painful and joyous moments we have shared. Our past is part and parcel of the present and strengthens us, enables us to move forward, to keep loving, to keep creating new memories.

Theresa Lynn Ast, Ph. D, grew up on Air Force bases and has spent the last twenty years teaching European History

and Interdisciplinary Studies at Reinhardt University, a Liberal Arts Institution, in North Georgia. Her research and teaching disciplines are Modern Europe, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, History of Science, and Twentieth Century World Conflicts. She began writing poetry five years ago after her father and younger sister died. For the past two years she has participated in the Etowah Valley MFA - Creative Writing summer program and currently studies with the poet and editor William Wright. I ssue


Justin Jones

The Weight of Innocence My childhood summers were filled with fishing, with the sour scent of still water mingling with the coppery tang of liver or, if it was a lean month, hotdogs for bait. We had a lake on our property where we fished for smallmouth bass and bream. Sometimes the pond got so full, we would catch the bream and toss them on the bank to die. They flipped from side to side, their blue and yellow scales shimmering in the sunshine until their frantic lives were smothered by the air I breathed. It seems a cruelty to me now, but at the time, it was just something we did. Some of the best times, though, occurred when my father took us to Old Mr. Sams’s pond, because we always came home with a huge mess of catfish. On the way there, we scanned the ground for the black sheen of cottonmouths and the subtle camouflage of copperheads, their slitted eyes watching us in cautious silence. Once I got my line hung on a branch, and when my brother popped it free, the plastic red and white bobber thwacked a timber rattler on the head not six feet behind us. We ran like cheetahs, with all the energy of childhood, laughing like lunatics all the way home. In those days, danger and fun often seemed the same. When we got home with our catfish, the first thing we did was clean them. Somehow, their suffering never entered my mind. It never upset me to see them wriggle on the line with a hook through the mouth or even protruding through an eye socket. I didn’t like the sound it made when you pulled the hook out, like you were rolling a cracked nut between your fingers, but I shrugged it off. It didn’t even bother me when my father nailed the catfish heads to a post in the shed and peeled the skin from their backs with pliers while they croaked and struggled. They were just fish and, fried up by my mother, they made my taste buds dance. The cattle were a little tougher. It was my job to keep them fed and watered. They stank to high heaven, but their big brown eyes and the way they swooshed their strong blue tongues into the metal troughs for food and water was a little too close to a cat or a dog. When we slaughtered one, I missed it for a time, but hamburgers and chopped steak are eyeless. And I never saw them killed. The steaks we ate then were ambrosia, though sometimes my mother would trick us. I remember sitting down to dinner and being strangely turned off by the taste and texture of the meat. Later, she revealed we had eaten tongue. I didn’t speak to her for a week. Summer evenings often involved catching fireflies or toads. My brother and I were curious doctors who sometimes dissected the toads, taking their tiny organs and placing them in vials for later study. We weren’t just killing them, we said. We were experimenting. Once, I brought the eyes to school to show my friends. At some point, I put the plastic container in my desk and completely forgot about it. When the room started to smell, Mrs. Carmicheal, our teacher, made us clean out our seats to find the offending source of stink. I was mortified when I realized it was my fault. She just laughed and tossed the eyeballs out. In those days, death was the daily constant of life on the farm. We breathed it in with the air. Pets were different, though. It hurt to lose them. Once, one of our kittens leaped into my pitchback and got entangled in the elastic webbing, breaking its tiny leg. I cried when my father shot it. When Taffy, our German Shepherd, having grown old, chewed off one of her hind legs, we put her down too. I dug her grave among my mother’s purple irises. English ivy was her blanket, and overhead, my favorite oak protected her. I wept her into the earth. As much as it hurt, though, it was natural. Bad things happened. It was nobody’s fault, just the way of the world. Once, though, I was at a friend’s house. It was autumn during my sixth-grade year, a Saturday, and I had somehow convinced my mother to drive me to Randall’s place. We had been friends since first grade, but we had grown closer that year. He was bigger than me, chubby and good-natured, with a broad smile and a perpetually flushed face. I was a skinny little towheaded boy who wore flannel shirts virtually every day and sometimes cowboy boots with denim shorts. Randall and I haunted the woods behind his house, painting them with our imaginations. That Saturday the birds hadn’t flown south yet, so it was still pretty noisy. Squirrels skittered and scampered everywhere, gathering nuts and ferreting them away in their hidey-holes. Beneath our feet, fallen leaves crunched, throwing up dust. We searched for sticks we could use to build a fort but ended up mainly breaking them against whatever tree seemed strong enough to take our blows.

52 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Justin Jones

Then we heard the laughter, several voices, all younger than us. We decided to investigate, a pair of Indian braves stalking silently through the woods after our prey. Randall said there were some kids who lived close by. We decided to scare them. After all, compared to them we were big kids, and what greater joy is there for someone who is small than to, just for a moment, feel big? As we grew closer, one of the children shouted, “Do it!” Another laughed, then a third. Coming into sight of the small clearing where they were gathered, we saw there were actually four of them. I had seen one of them before. He was a third-grader. They laughed and shouted in a scene that seemed as ordinary as the chipmunks scurrying under the leaves. But it wasn’t. One of the boys wore cowboy boots. They were too large for him, probably hand-me-downs he hadn’t grown into yet. His jeans were thrust into his boots, bunching at the top like the skin on a Shar-Pei’s face. Beneath the heel of his boot was the head of a kitten, white and gray, mewling excitedly, completely oblivious to what the boy was about to do. For a moment, I couldn’t move. I have always had a special love for cats, stemming back to the six-month period when we lived in some apartments in Sandy Springs. There were no kids my age there, so I found company in a pair of stray cats that hung around the playground. At the time of the boot incident, my family had something like two dozen cats. My dad hated it, but they just kept breeding. My mom laughed and said, “People are gonna call this place Rosie’s Cathouse.” For my part, I loved them. They were family. Kittens were especially beautiful to me. Innocent and helpless. For a moment in that autumn wood, I was helpless, too. The kitten looked up, its blue eyes wide. Its mouth opened, revealing a tiny pink tongue that protruded just a bit when it meowed. A black spot under its chin appeared as it crooked its head, looking up but not seeming to understand the flat leather surface that hovered above it. My stomach dropped and then churned. My skin was cold. I felt I would vomit. My vision, though, was as sharp as a knife. Every detail of the kitten tightened. I noticed the third-grader’s silver belt buckle and the looks on the faces of the other three kids. They smiled easily, naturally. One was watching two more kittens, both gray and both innocently rubbing against his white Nikes. The look on the face of the first child, though, was one of deep concentration. Was he struggling to aim? Or was he focused on the joy of domination? Still frozen I watched the third-grader raise his heel higher and drive it down toward the kitten’s head. When it struck, it slid off the white fur, flipping the cat onto its back with a squeak. My stomach knotted, and my teeth clenched. The kitten’s head now lay under brown and cracked oak leaves. It wasn’t moving. The boy raised his boot for another try. Finally, I thawed. Air rushed into my lungs, and I found my voice. Horror had hardened to anger. Fists balled, I hurtled toward the third-grader. His eyes widened suddenly, and he took three steps backward. I shouted something, I have no idea what, and placed myself between him and the leaf-covered kitten. For a brief moment, he and his friends looked like they were ready to fight, but when Randall lumbered out of the woods at my back, they fled, hollering foul names over their shoulders. I stood there panting and watched as the two unharmed kittens tried to follow their attackers. Randall grabbed them, though, and I went to the injured one. It had rolled back to its feet. A fragment of a leaf lay plastered to the top of its head. Blood stained its white fur under one ear. It took a couple of stuttering steps, blinked, and sounded a broken meow. I lifted it, cradled it against my chest. Soft as twilight, its fur brushed my arm. Our eyes met and it hissed, showing needle teeth and one drooping eyelid. The image of the little boy’s too-large boot and the tiny white head of the kitten has never left me. Animal death surrounded my youth. It was part of life. We killed the cows, we ate the fish, but here was violence without purpose, killing for pleasure, the desire of the small to hurt the still smaller. It wasn’t until years later, though, that I realized something. Randall and I had wanted to frighten the third-graders, too, to terrorize them in our own small way. When I see them in my memories, they watch me with the eyes of the toads I pulled out for my own satisfaction.

I ssue


Justin Jones

Excerpts from THE MUDSNAKE

1 From above, Dar watched the men set their camp. They were of a predator’s mind, incapable of seeing themselves as prey, so it was no surprise they chose such an indefensible spot. The ground was a scraggly slope of loose stone, and they were walled between two dead screens of tight-packed gorse. When a fire flared to life within the screen, Dar shook his head. Lightning bugs in a jar, he thought, glancing upward at the empty sky. The sterile light of the listless gray sun had faded into charcoal night. A few faint stars glowed dimly, but the Cataract, like the film on the eyes of the dead, shadowed their light. A laugh from below sent Dar into a crouch, though thorny outgrowths of hostile scrubs, like grizzled hairs grown patchwork on the face of a leprous colossus, made him near invisible. Besides, if the Hunters were not seeking food, there was little chance they would see him. Briefly, Dar considered scouting his prey more closely, but there really was no need. Rising, turning, he loped up the hill with his too-long arms, thick and knotty, splayed wide to keep balance on the treacherous terrain. The air was uncommonly still, hot and heavy, lying across his shoulders like a wolfhide blanket. Near the crest of the rise he spotted the long shaft of a spiker jutting from the soil. Twenty-two days without rain left little hope of finding water, but still, respecting the routine he had followed all his life, he unhooked his sickle and hewed the plant in two, careful to catch the falling spire with its fan of leaves. He was far from the Hunters now, but there was no point in risking a slide. The plant was as thick as Dar’s forearm, with a point like a hollowed spear where he cut it. Lowering his face to the tube, he drew long and hard, but no water came, not the barest moisture to sooth his chalk tongue. If their luck did not change soon, none of the Militia’s work would make any difference. They would have to resort to more gruesome means of survival. But Dar refused to give up hope. He had too much to live for. Carrying the spiker with him, he continued his climb, quickly cresting the hill and descending into the valley beyond. It was shallow. A dry creek bed winded through its length. Large flat stones formed its base, creaking against each other as Dar’s hard leather boots pressed them down. His legs were short and thick, giving him impeccable balance as he hopped to the other side. Then following a natural path through deep-rooted trees, he climbed another hill and rounded a rocky outcropping to the vantage he sought. The dim greenish glow of a peat fire far below marked Dar’s own camp. A cursory glance would miss the light as the men had it properly shielded, and the smoke was masked by darkness, but Dar’s eyes, like chinks of emerald embedded in his earthy face, caught a glimmer reflected off armor. Without hesitation, he jogged down the hill. The ground was rutted but firm, and he whistled his approach long before reaching his men. There was little chance they would mistake him for a Hunter, not because of the insignia on his chest, the flaming shield of the Governor’s Militia, but because he was a Steepman, the only Steepman in fact that anyone had seen outside of the mountains. The people of the hills and of the plains were tall and lanky, the antithesis of Dar’s earthen stoutness. When he sat amid the stones or stalked beneath tall pines, he looked a statue scooped from the ground. Still, mistakes were made, so he whistled again. His men were already rising when he stepped into their midst. “Kalek,” he called, accepting a waterskin from a new recruit named Stird. Drawing a single pull of stale liquid, Dar noted how little was left. Maybe the Hunters had been luckier. Kalek stepped forward with a brusque “Aye.” He was taller than the other men, with closely cropped brown hair and a patchy red beard. Bright blue eyes shone despite his seriousness. “You find them?” he asked. “It was not hard.” Dar crouched beside the fire and began sketching out the Hunter camp in the sandy earth. His plan was simple, direct. He had learned long ago complicated requirements grew failure like mushrooms in the damp. Looking over Dar’s shoulder, Kalek laughed. “I’m glad you’re on our side, Captain.” Dar’s wide mouth spread in a grin. “Aye, my friend. Me too.” “When do we attack?” “Midnight.” “As you say.” The gathered men echoed Kalek as Dar swept his markings out of the sand with a single broad hand.

54 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Justin Jones





Dar looked up from the flat of sand in which he was practicing his writing. He had just spelled out his name and his Papa’s and then run through the list of words his father had given him: plain, ditch, hound, mushroom, tablet, survey, coin. Tapping the table at which he sat, he bit his lip. The words were empty words, meaning as little to him as the grains of sand he scratched their shapes in. “How do you spell ‘Cataract’?” he asked. Dar’s Papa told him, not looking up from the clay pot he was shaping. Dar spelled the word in the sand, hoping that seeing the letters in front of him would somehow give them meaning. Frowning, he wiped them away and let his eyes caress the pot his father was throwing. It had been Papa’s focus for nearly a week now. He had made it and unmade it and remade it, spinning it repeatedly on the wheel only to tear it apart and make it again. Finally, Papa seemed to have gotten it right. The twisted hourglass shape and ornate double handle with whooshes on top like splashing water captivated Dar now that he could see the form together. On a whim Dar sketched out in two dimensions the shape of the pot his father was forming in three. Pursing his lips, he tried to add Papa’s hands to the drawing, but he did not know how to capture the gnarled knuckles and parchment-thin skin that always so fascinated him. All he made were sticks with no soul. Those false hands missed their blue veins, thick and road-like, which mapped their way across the tops of Papa’s hand and climbed upward from the wrist to the bend in his elbow. At times, Papa’s knuckles swelled to the size of the nuts that grew on the higher slopes of the hill. When they were like that, Papa still worked, but he was slow and deliberate in everything he did. Papa must love his art so much if he continued to work through such pain. After a moment, Dar’s father asked, “Why do you wish to know?” “What?” Dar had forgotten what he asked. “Cataract. Why do you want to spell it?” “No reason.” “Alright.” Dar brushed out his drawing and spelled the word again. He drew a line under it, then looked up at his father. “When did it happen?” “When did what happen?” Dar hated it when Papa pretended not to understand. “The Cataract.” “Before you were born.” “I know that.” Dar had asked the question before. “But when?” Papa let his hands work over the lip at the top of the pot, cutting lines into the still-soft clay with a chip of obsidian. “Long ago,” he said. “Why won’t you tell me?” “Why do you want to know?” Dar thought for a moment. “I want to understand.” “And why does when it happened help you to understand?” Dar was not in the mood for a lesson. “Never mind,” he said, scratching out the word in the sand. Dar’s Papa worked on the pot for a moment longer and then stood, dipping his hands in the bucket of water that lay beside his wheel before drying them on his linen apron. Dar felt his Papa’s eyes but did not look up, again writing the word “Cataract” in his flat. Papa stepped next to him and wiped the word away. Using his finger, he wrote three letters in the sand. W-H-Y. Dar started to answer, but his father gestured toward the flat. “Write it.” He could not form the right words. “It makes me hert,” he wrote. Papa corrected his spelling then wiped the words away, replacing them with “How does it hurt?”

I ssue


Justin Jones

Dar wiped the sand. “In me,” he wrote. Papa nodded. “Me, too.” “When was it?” “I was young, not so much older than you.” To Dar that seemed ages ago, but he knew his father would say otherwise. “Was it hard?” “Very.” “Did it happen all at once?” “Do you mean were we warned?” “Maybe.” Papa stepped away from the table and walked toward their meager sitting room. They did not have much, though the house was comfortable. There was the kitchen, the workroom, the bedroom where they shared the single bed, and the sitting room where they would sit for hours talking to the men who came from Shade Hill to ask Papa to make something for them. Once or twice it had been a woman, but they never spoke to Dar. Papa walked to the hearth and coaxed the coals into flame, the earthy sour smell of burning peat rising from the pit. Dar added a fresh brick, and the two of them sat in the gnarled wooden chairs that rested before the smoldering fire. Dar loved these moments, when they sat as men sat, talking. He had not seen his tenth ten-moon yet, but he liked to imagine himself a grown man with a white beard, telling Papa all he had done. Then, they would talk as equals. Or sometimes he imagined himself in the role of guest, having stopped by to order a special pot from Shade Hill’s greatest artist. That thought always made Dar sad, though. He did not want to be a guest. He wanted to belong. He wished Papa was his real papa, but that was not how the story went. Papa had found him in the mud of the river, his thumb plugged in his mouth and the folds of the mudsnake, his temporary mother, coiled protectively around him. Papa had said that Dar had been like a gift someone had wrapped and left especially for him. Dar liked to think that was true, that his real Papa had taken him to the water and begged the mudsnake to watch over his baby until Papa came to take him away. This was why he did not like to think of himself as guest. He wanted to believe he belonged. And Papa said he was no guest, that he was home, but the children said Dar was a fake and that Papa would send him back to the hills when he grew tired of Dar. That he would have to go back and be with the other savages, the Steepmen with their broad faces and knotty arms like the trees that fell in the snow. Dar did not believe them, but it made him grit his teeth and want to knock them down. Papa said he was not to knock them down, though. He was to be civilized. So he did not knock them down. He let them laugh, but in his mind he saw them on the ground, their eyes swelling and blood running from their noses. Maybe one day he would fight them, but not now, because more than anything, he wanted Papa to be proud. Seated before the fire, his feet dangling, Dar watched his father. He looked tired. “Are you alright, Papa?” he asked. Papa nodded and smiled. “Of course, my son. Thoughts often take an old mind away.” “To before?” “Yes. To before.” Dar nodded and tapped his fingernail on the wooden armrest. Papa also tapped his finger. “Do you really want to know about the Cataract?” “Yes.” “I am afraid you are too young.” “I want to know.” They were silent for a time, listening to the popping of the fire. Dar’s eyes found the drawing that hung over the hearth. He had made it himself the year before. It showed Papa by the river, smiling down at the shape of baby Dar in the mud. The drawing was childish, he now realized. He could do so much better. The figures were little more than sticks, and he had forgotten to draw hands on Papa. And why had he made the river green? He could not remember. Maybe he would draw a new picture for Papa to hang, if they could trade for more paper. “Sooner or later,” said Papa, “you will need to know, I suppose, but it is a hard story.” Dar started to say he was big enough, but he had seen how Papa looked at him when he said he was big. He did not have the word for the look, but he knew his father saw it as proof that he was not big. So he said nothing.

56 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Justin Jones

“Alright. Like I said, I was a young man when it happened, in my seventeenth ten-moon. It was summer, and the grass was green in the meadows. The wheat was growing long, and I remember the smell of flowers, cowslips and roses.” Dar knew about flowers. Sometimes the thistle still bloomed in the hills, and he had once seen a small white flower in the yard. Papa had called it clover. Dar had wanted to pick it and keep it always, but Papa said that rare and beautiful things should be admired where they are. Papa was speaking again. “My father was a herdsman. Do you know what that means?” Dar shook his head. Papa frowned, and Dar wondered why. “Before the Cataract we had large groups of animals. We called them herds. My father kept goats. Like Maggie.” Dar loved Maggie. It was his job to milk her. Sometimes Papa would make cheese from her milk to sell in town, but he would always save some of the curds for Dar. “He had two score goats in the herd.” Dar’s mouth dropped open. There were not that many goats in all of Shade Hill and its surrounding farms. Papa smiled. “It is hard to believe, yes? But it is truth. We had so much in those days and did not know what it is to do without. Sometimes there was a bad season or the wolves got into the herd. Then all the men would hunt and come back with skins and meat. I remember how it tasted, wild like the wolves themselves, charred over the fire. One time my papa gave me the kidneys to eat. I felt like a warrior.” “It sounds wonderful.” Papa’s eyes found his, and Dar was confused. Why did he look sad when the memory was so sweet? “It was, my son, but the Cataract changed it all.” Dar thought about what he knew. Once there had been Cerus, the Maker and the Keeper, but with the Cataract, She had gone. “Why did She leave?” “Nobody knows.” He let out a great breath and prodded the peat brick with one booted toe. “You asked earlier if we were warned.” Dar had not asked that, but he did not say so. “I suppose we were. There were signs.” “What kind of signs?” “The sort of signs men have always ignored. Crops failing more often. Strange animals appearing where they should not be. Mass migrations. I remember my father striking the wall in frustration because some unknown crawling thing had devoured the corn. The sun even faded once.” “It used to be yellow.” Papa smiled at the memory, and Dar smiled because Papa smiled. “Yes. It was yellow, and sometimes orange, and even red. Dar, you would not believe the colors at dawn and dusk. It was like Beauty herself had painted the sky with fingers dipped in rainbow.” Dar smiled. He did not know what a rainbow was, but he did not want to startle the smile from Papa’s face. Dar loved these moments, when Papa’s old happiness could weave its magic in him, too. But as Dar sighed his wordless joy, Papa’s eyes went from wistful to sad. Dar hated to make his Papa sad. He thought of what to say to make him happy again. “Maybe She will come back,” he shouted, trying to put all his hope in the words. Papa smiled but not with his eyes. “Aye, my son. Perhaps She will. But if She does, we will have to be worthy of Her.” “Was it our fault She left?” “Aye, it must have been. Though I do not know why. Men did not start filing their teeth until after.” Dar shuddered. He did not like thinking about the Hunters with their pointed teeth. He had never seen one, but the boys told stories that made the shivers in Dar. “How do we get Her back?” he asked. “I do not know, Dar.” The smile returned to Papa’s eyes, and he leaned forward, placing a gnarled hand, lined in blue, parchment-thin, on his son’s knee. “Perhaps it will be you who finds the way.”

I ssue


Justin Jones

2 Dar felt her beside him. The warmth of her body. The suppleness of her breasts. The slow easy fall of her breathing. Sabinay, the wife he did not deserve. His hand slid down to the swell of her belly. Beneath the skin, Dar’s unborn child pushed against him, the firm pressure of life in pause, waiting its moment, preparing for its first great leap into a world that would welcome it with love. Light in the darkness. Sabinay purred Dar’s name. “I did not know life could be so sweet,” he answered, a rare smile crooking the corners of his broad mouth. “Tell us a story,” she said. “One of the old ones your father used to tell.” Dar shifted under the sheets, bringing his head close to the stirring life that would be half him and half her. “Long ago,” he said, “when the sun still burned yellow and the grass was green and the trees were tall and the earth fed life into the air – in those days there was a woman called Peace. Cerus, She who birthed the world, placed Peace among the men of the field to show them the path. Peace was a shepherd, and all men showed her their love, each in his own way. Those who tilled the soil brought her succulent fruits and rich seeds. Those who tended animals brought their first lambs. The weavers made her shifts of vibrant color, worked with the threads of their love. Carpenters brought her baskets and chairs, each design more ornate than the one before. “Once every year, when the sun was highest in the sky, the women brought their hopes, bundled in baskets sweetened with flower blossoms, blue and red and green and orange. As that day grew nigh, the women debated which flower Peace would love the most. Each year they would see the sorrow of disappointment in Peace’s face, and they knew they had guessed wrong. One year, a child of perhaps twelve ten-moons appeared amongst them. Nobody knew from whence she had come. One day she was not, and the next she was. This girl brought Peace a tiny basket, a thin cloth of coarse wool draped across its top. It was a meager offering, and Peace looked on the child with sadness. Whose hopes, she wondered, could be so small? “‘I’ve brought you a gift,’ said the child, and Peace took it in her fine, long-fingered hands. It was lighter than any basket she had ever held so that she feared it would float away. “Grasping it tightly, she asked, ‘Are your hopes no larger than this?’ The girl smiled and gestured for Peace to look inside. She raised the cloth, and she could not move. Her breath stopped, her eyes filled with tears. The women leaned closer, longing to see what had so struck Peace. The scent of the first rose of summer climbed from the tiny basket, but within the woven rushes, no flower lay. Rather, a tiny heart thrummed, its language so simple and so ancient that none of the women knew what it was. “After an eternal moment, Peace exhaled a long, shivering breath, an echo of longing fulfilled. ‘You have brought me Love,’ she said, and the child laughed, though it was no longer a child. In its place hovered a great bird with feathers of gold and silver and bronze. It flapped its wings, and the blossoms in all the baskets began to fly, filling the air with the taste of honey and the sound of children’s laughter. One by one, the blossoms, like butterflies newly hatched, alighted on Peace, covering her arms and her eyes and the gentle curve of her hips. None of them saw the miracle when it happened, but where there had been flowers, soon there was only Peace, her smile beatific, her hands resting on the swell of her stomach. ‘I am quick with child,’ she said. ‘Such joy from so small a hope.’” Dar grew quiet, thinking of the tiny joy that thrummed beneath his hand. When his wife breathed, he could smell the flowers on her breath. “What about the baby?” she asked. “You said Peace was quick with child.” Dar leaned forward, planting his lips gently against his wife’s stomach, kissing her again and again, and through her, he kissed the child he had yet to see. Hard though he was, he felt the stirring of tears. “It was years before Peace bore the child.” Sabinay laughed and it was music. “How terrible.” “Aye,” he said, “but when the child was finally ready, she climbed from her mother straight to the sky. High overhead, she watches us all, the child of Peace and Love bringing light into the darkness.” Sabinay said nothing for a long moment. “Maybe the child inside me will bring such light.” He felt the slow movements beneath her skin. It already has, he thought. My heart brims with that light.

58 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Justin Jones

3 Dar heard the words. They were like pain in a dream. He knew he should hear them, that they should mean something, that somehow they should be connected to him. But somehow they were not really there. Like seasoning in bitter greens, spices that you never quite tasted though you knew you put them in the pot. It was better to pretend they were not there. Who would seek out pain if he did not need to? His eyes shot wide. Unremitting pain, the plunge of a knife, the tearing of a wolf ’s jaws. Something searched in his gut, something seared. Flesh burned. The scent of cooking meat in the air. Thatch above him. He thought he drank the pain, but he was wrong. The pain drank him. The words came again, and they were harder to ignore. They were insistent, inexorable as falling flakes of icy snow. Bit by bit, tiny weight after tiny weight, they settled upon him. At first he thought they were a shroud, the pall of night, the closed lids of the eyes of the dead. But that was wrong. They were pinpricks of cold, subtle but building, rising to a point he could not ignore. For a moment he listened, but with the focusing of his mind came galvanic pain. He did not know why, but he shut the ears of his mind and slept. Dar shivered. Why should the chill bother him? He was dead, deep in the cold of the earth, immersed in the shadow that came after. It was best that way. But still, he could not stop shivering. Something pressed against him. He tried to push it away, but the exertion pulled him back into the earth.

“My friend.” Soft words brushed against Dar’s ear. “You are not done yet.”

Three faces in his dream, but he could not see their features. The mildest impression of eyes. Do they see me where I lie? Do they know I am weak? Again the voice was there. “Chew,” it said. “Chew and swallow. You must eat.” Something was in his mouth, sweet and charred at once. He swallowed. Coughed and swallowed. The clang of steel on steel forced open his eyes. Not because he feared more pain. What more could there be? It was because he needed to know. Two men, dim shadows, swung blades before him. Somehow he sat upright, leaning against something hard, looking ahead at a fire. More figures stood around the two who fought. Someone laughed. He knew the voice but could not place it. His mouth tasted sour. His gut throbbed. His leg burned. Hurt is inevitable as death, they said, and they were right. Something pressed against Dar’s lips. Hot broth flooded his mouth, and he nearly choked. He raised his hand to push it away, but somebody caught it, squeezed it, gently lay it beside him. Dar opened his eyes. Kalek looked back. His smile was as the cracking of ice. “Who says death is the end? I have resurrected you.” Dar swallowed again, and then he slept, but this time it was a real sleep. It was not festooned with horrific wanderings of his horror-stricken mind. It was deep, thoughtless, and when dreams came, they were memories of times before. In them he trod the slopes of Shade Hill. He helped his Papa plant the grain and harvest the grain and pound the grain to meal. They baked bread, and they fished the streams when the heavens blessed them with rain. Dar churned the cream until his hands bled, and the butter was ambrosia spread across the bread they baked in their ovens throughout the year. These were the good times, the days of gold he remembered from his youth. Somehow, in that sleep the horrors of life found no means of ingress so that when his eyes opened again on the gathered shapes of his Reapers, huddled in the cold, shaggy mounds of snow-dusted breath, for the briefest of moments he forgot his pain.

I ssue


Justin Jones 4 Sabinay’s hand was hot and wet in his. She squeezed hard, fighting the cries that threatened her throat. “Give voice to your pain,” said Sahrah. “You must not hold it in.” Sabinay’s eyes were knives as she glared hard at the midwife. When she looked to Dar, though, he saw something else. They were rich and brown, like the hickory nut after it has shed its green skin, but within her hard shell loomed agony. Agony and worry. Sabinay had nearly died when Marran was born. After nearly a day of gut-wrenching suffering, when the baby would not come, Sahrah had stuck her hand inside and twisted the baby round. Sabinay later said it was like being split from inside and then, when the midwife had wrenched their son free, hollowed. When Dar looked at his wife now, he knew she feared such pain. But there was another fear, more terrible, that neither he nor Sabinay would give voice to. “Do not worry,” said Sahrah, crouched on the low stool that sat in a puddle at Sabinay’s feet. “The babe faces down this time. You will be fine.” She paused and did something that Dar did not see. Sabinay flinched. When the midwife looked up, her brows were furrowed, deepening the creases that already decorated her face. Something was wrong. “You must push,” she said. “Let your pain breathe and push the babe out.” Sabinay’s face reddened. Another contraction. Her eyes grasped Dar harder than her hands, and he knew she had not seen the worry on Sahrah’s face. He leaned close to his wife and whispered, “Heart of mine, you must do as Sahrah says.” She shook her head. “I cannot.” He kissed her lightly on the cheek, tasting her sweat and her pain. “Do not hold back,” he said. “Let it out.” She groaned, gritting her teeth. “Something is wrong. I feel it. The baby does not move.” Dar tried to smile. “How can you tell, love, with the cramps? Your belly ripples like a flood.” He brushed a hand gently across her forehead so that the sweat would not fall in her eyes. “You are strong, my wife. I see it every day. Now, you must be strongest. Push.” Her eyes hardened, and when the next cramp came, her face grew red, her jaw clenched, and she bore down like she pushed the world. A cry finally ripped from her throat, and Dar looked to the midwife. “Better,” she said and told Dar to raise his wife into a sitting position. “Another thrust and the baby will be out.” Dar sat partway behind his wife now, holding her weight. The smells of sweat, blood, and urine made the air a witches’ brew of suffering. One of his arms now wrapped around Sabinay’s shoulder, resting against the swell of her breasts. The other still held her hand as she waited for the cramp. When it came, his body and her body were one straining form, a dual carving of fear and hope. Sabinay screamed. Dar yelled. Sahrah said something, but he could not hear. Then Dar’s wife fell limp. He held her tight, like a man swimming with the weight of another under his arm. But then she breathed, and they both locked eyes on Sahrah and on the bundle of flesh she held in her arms. It did not move. It did not cry. Sabinay’s keening cry was wordless but spoke of pain and sorrow and, above all, despair. Sahrah’s face was stone. “I am sorry. The child has no breath.” The hand in Dar’s squeezed harder. Another cry rent the air. For a moment Dar could not move. He could not take his eyes from the child in Sahrah’s arms. How could it be? Was there not sorrow enough in the world that children had to be born dead to teach their parents to wail? “It must not be,” he said, though he was not sure if the words actually left his lips or if it was imagination, dream, some figment of reality that was too real to manifest. He pulled himself away from Sabinay, laying her weeping body back on the bed. Slowly, hesitatingly, he stepped toward Sahrah, reaching for the lifeless child. It was a boy, he saw, but one who would never know the love of woman. His eyes were closed and one hand hung limply at his side, the tiny fingers curled like the shoots of young ferns. His son. His son who would never be. Dar reached for him, and Sahrah shook her head. “It is best not to touch it. I will dispose of the body.” “The body?” said Dar. “The body? He is my son. Live or not, he is mine.” Again, he reached for the child. The old woman tsked but handed him over. His body was warm in Dar’s hands, not cold like those that had come before. His chest did not rise or fall. “It has no breath,” repeated Sahrah, shaking her head at Dar.

60 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Justin Jones

He looked from the lifeless babe to its crying mother and then to Sahrah. “Then I will give him mine.” He lowered his face to the boy’s, placing his lips over the opened mouth, that bud of lambskin, tender as the soul. Then he breathed. In his hands, the chest of his son rose. The belly filled in an imitation of life. Dar pulled away and looked down at his son. Sahrah said something, but Dar had no ears for her. Again he placed his mouth over his son’s, and again he blew. The chest rose, and Dar pushed it down, forcing the air out of the tiny lungs. A third time he blew, and a fourth. He did not know how many times he tried to give his breath to his son, how many times his son refused to accept it, how many times he helped the inert lungs to expel the air. Sahrah pulled at his arm, and Sabinay’s cries were a knife in his ears, the liturgy to his sacrament of breath. And then the first stuttering steps of life. The tiny hand clenched, the arm jerked. Something beneath Dar’s fingers heaved. A flutter, uncertain and tremulous. A pause. And then another. Too far beyond awareness to imagine that what he did mattered, Dar breathed again. The legs kicked. And the lungs let loose a cough. A wad of mucous fell from the child’s mouth, and then he wailed. The eyelids slid open, and Dar would swear forever that their eyes had locked and that in that moment they spoke each to the other. The baby said, “I know you,” and Dar said, “You are mine.” One breath, one life, one heart. “You are Omyra,” he said as the tears reminded him that he, too, was alive. “Precious life,” said Sahrah. “Precious life,” echoed Sabinay, her voice husky with pain and tears. “Omyra.”

Justin Jones teaches high school English and Creative Writing in Canton, GA, a northern suburb of Atlanta. He also

mentors young writers in their explortion of writing as a career. His first novel, Forlorn Hope, was released in 1994. Until recently, he has spent his spare time raising children, grading essays, and taming ill-behaved felines. He has a BA in English from Oglethorpe University and an MS in Education from Walden University. Currently, he is working on an MFA in Creative Writing from the Etowah Valley Writer’s Institute of Reinhardt University. He has fiction and nonfiction forthcoming in both Family Life Magazine and in Sanctuary.

I ssue


Zach Greco

The Road The heat. Mid-afternoon after shower hot, dirty, humid July Georgia hot. A heat so thick the air is not breathable; it is more of a liquid than air. It is the heat of the womb. It causes waves and illusions in sight. It dulls the singing of birds and roars the engines of trucks. The heat pastes choking exhaust in the throat and eyes. The asphalt sticks to shoes and glues itself in lungs and mouths. It breaks out sweat across the brow, it oozes down the spine, moist dark patches appear under arms and around the collar. Salty beads roll over the edge of lips cursing taste buds, dripping and burning eyes. The mercury soars for days on end ninety, ninety-seven, one hundred and two, never below ninety, never even at night. In this sweltering, foul summer.

Zach Greco is the Bassist for the Southern Rock band Greco. His article, Rise of the Independents, can be found with links and more information in the Music Interviews section of this issue.

62 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Kris Anderdian

The Blue Ribbon It is the subtle things in life of which we miss the most, as they provide some temporary stability in the roughwatered, rapid ride we call existence. As a boy I wanted to live, not exist, but as a boy my concept of life was as simple as catching critters in the meadow in my backyard. The Field, as it came to be called, was a magical place. In a rural Virginian land surrounded by trickling streams, old oaks and tall maples, The Field was an acre of natural space, unaffected by the hands of man and crafted by the grace of Mother Earth herself. Come spring, the flowers would bloom, and ol’ Jimmy would be out there with his net swinging at the butterflies and dragonflies and even damselflies, too. He’d chase them ’til suppertime, and as my mother rang that dinner bell and chimed out our names, sure enough we’d come running and hollering through The Field at her: Jimmy with his bugs and me with my critters. Momma would halt us on the porch, hands on her hips, blocking the doorway. “Alright now, stop right there! Jimmy put them bugs down, don’t you even think about walkin’ in my house with - where do you think you’re goin’, boy? What’s that squirmin’ in your pocket there? Let’s have it! Boy, don’t you lie to me! Why, just the other day you come runnin’ in my house with a snake half the size of that scrawny leg of yours! Jeremiah Caldwell, you got ’til the count of three before you end up on your rear-end, now don’t you make me ask again!” I took out the squirmy thing in my pocket. “Oh see, now there you go again! Didn’t your daddy tell you not to pick up anythin’ bigger than your forearm is? Well, that snake there’s bigger than your forearm now, ain’t it? Then, why you bringin’ them God-forsaken creatures into my house? Hell, you’re only six years old! If you wanna live to see seven good years, then I suggest you stop pickin’ up them snakes, hear me?” “Yes, Momma.” “Alright now, supper’s gettin’ cold. You let that snake go. He don’t like livin’ in your pocket.” “Yes, Momma.” I’d make my way inside and take off my shoes and place them neatly near the door. With the smells of a delicious meal wafting through the air, I sat next to my father. “Boy.” “Hey, Pop.” A plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas sat on the table in front of me. I started to eat around the peas. “What you catch today, Jeremiah?” “Just some ol’ garter snakes. That’s all. Little ones.” “Uh-huh.” He lifted his beer to his lips, scratching his black beard with his free hand. He stared at me as I watched the bottle condensate. It made me sweat, too. “Thought I told you not to pick up them big suckers.” “You did, Pop.” “Did I? Why’d you go and do what I said not to, then?” I gulped nervously and he saw. In the background, I could hear the TV, my mother still hollering at my brother, the sound of Jimmy’s monotonous “yes, Momma” filling my pounding mind. “Jeremiah.” “Well, I don’t know.” “You don’t know.” I shook my head. He took a bite of his meatloaf, grunted a sound of appraisal, and spoke to me while chewing. “A man should always know the reasons why he’s doin’ what he’s doin’. I married your Momma ’cuz I loved her, and I’m havin’ this talk with you ’bout not pickin’ up big ol’ garter snakes ’cuz I’m scared to death of her, and I’m drinkin’ this beer down ’cuz hell, I just can’t stand the sound of her voice no more. You understand me, boy.” My father’s inquisitions were always rhetorical, but when he smiled at me, I smiled back. My father approved of I ssue


Kris Anderdian

most things I did; he felt it was natural for a boy to explore the world on his own. Jimmy sat down. He picked up his fork and, with a deadly glare from Momma’s eye, began to eat around the peas. I finished eating early, so I began to wash my dish in the sink. I remember ol’ Jimmy pouting at the table, his peas untouched. “Fine,” Momma hollered, “you can just sit right there and stare at ’em ’til they eat themselves! But don’t you think you’re goin’ outside ’til them peas are gone and that dish is so shiny I can do my make-up in the reflection!” Jimmy didn’t eat the peas. Not because they were cold and he hated them, but because Momma took away his dragonflies at the door. Early the next morning, I awoke alone. I brushed my teeth, ate my cereal, put my clothes on, and went outside to The Field. Jimmy wasn’t there. Tired and cold, I ran back home, collapsing underneath the big old oak tree in front of my house. “Find who yer lookin’ for, Slim?” I followed the voice upward. It was Jimmy, high up in the old oak tree. “How long you been up there?” “Long enough to see you runnin’ from your own shadow.” “Shut up!” He laughed. “No need to get all rowdy now.” “What you got up there?” “Got up where?” “In your hand right there.” “What, this ol’ thing?” “That’s Momma’s blue ribbon. Granddaddy gave her that.” “So?” “So, give it!” “Relax there, buddy, I ain’t doin’ nothin’ with it!” Jimmy tied Momma’s blue ribbon around three tree branches in tight knots. “Don’t do that!” “You just try and stop me, Jerry!” Jimmy wanted revenge because Momma made him sit at the table all night with his peas, but that was Momma’s blue ribbon—her daddy gave it to her when she was a little girl. He died, so it meant the world to her. It wasn’t right for him to steal it like that. I couldn’t climb up the tree, though. When I said I was going to tell, Jimmy came down and punched my arm ’til it was numb. I had no choice but to give up. Momma was irate. She damn near tore down the whole house and then some looking for that blue ribbon, but she never found it. She knew one of us took it, and from then on, she always loved us a little less inside. She never said she did, but I could tell. Time went on as normal, and I forgot all about the blue ribbon. We all did, except for Momma, but she never talked about it again. That fall, we abruptly decided to move to a place called Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Something about Momma’s brother Billy having the rights to their daddy’s house, but he didn’t want it no more, so he gave it to Momma and us. Things were never the same again. Jimmy blamed Momma for the move. When he was old enough, he moved away, and we only saw him on Christmas and on Momma’s birthday. Pop died of emphysema in my mid-twenties. It was slow and painful, and it made me stop smoking. It’s funny: I told him about back when we lived in Virginia, and the reason why I caught that big ol’ garter snake when he told me not to. I told him I caught it because I knew what I was doing. That made him laugh, so I laughed too, but then I wept. Momma died when I was forty-two. I received the call from her doctor at the hospital. I was told she had suffered a severe heart attack and died, and then I died, too, on the inside.

64 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Kris Anderdian

I am old, now. Everyone I had once loved in my younger years is dead and gone. I am much too old to remember most things, too old to feel human, even. It is the subtle things in life of which we miss the most. I never again returned to The Field, never again felt the hot, sticky breeze of summer’s embrace. Never again did I feel the touch of a butterfly’s flutter against my cheek, or the smell of the rain in the early morning after a Virginia night’s storm. My father once said to me (a few years before his death) that it was unnatural for a man to leave the place in which he was born and never return. I am unsure whether I agree with my father or not. Sometimes, when you go back to a place you haven’t been to in a very long time, it’s not how you remembered it in your dreams. And in my dreams the blue ribbon is still there, tied tightly to the three branches of the big old oak tree in my front yard, overlooking The Field, where the best of my memories sleep.

Kris Anderdian is an Armenian-American reader and writer of poems, short stories, and fiction novels. His short story,

"Butterflies", won first place in a short story competition offered by Seascape Literary Magazine in 2009. This was followed by published poems "Cadence" and "Dawn" (2010), and "Perfect" (2011). Additionally, in 2010 his poem "O Beautiful Fever!" was published by The Fine Line online literary magazine in their inaugural issue. Kris received a B.A. in Environmental Studies at Stockton University in New Jersey in 2013. During that time, he continued working on his craft and had a poem published by Stockpot, Stockton's literary magazine, entitled "Poete Maudit" (2013). At present, he is seeking representation for his recently completed novel, "Why the Sun Sets Red", a YA/Romance, and is hard at work writing a new novel. Other than reading and writing, his interests include hiking and traveling with his girlfriend, spending time with his family, and eating food. He works for the NJDEP Division of Air Quality and serves in the Army National Guard.

I ssue


Mack Anderson

“I’ve come home to the place I was always writing about…. I’ve tried to make Beaufort, South Carolina, my own. ”—Pat Conroy

The Pat Conroy Literary Center features exhibitions honoring the writing life of one of America’s bestloved storytellers and the author of The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, and more. The Conroy Center is an American Library Association Literary Landmark and South Carolina’s first affiliate of the © Steve Leimberg |

American Writers Museum.

Make plans to join us in Beaufort this November 2–4 for the third annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, an immersive weekend of author panels, book signings, writing workshops, live performances, tours, exhibitions, and receptions in Pat Conroy’s beloved adopted hometown in the heart of the Lowcountry. Registration begins in July; visit us online for details.

308 Charles Street, Beaufort, SC 29902 | 66 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10





Mack Anderson

Contemporary Expressionist Artist

Born in the west of France, Isabelle Gautier was exposed to and strongly influenced by both early and contemporary expressionist painters. When she began creating her own work, painting helped her better understand her core values, to dig into and explore what directs our paths in life . Painting for Isabelle also gives time for and support to meditation. The process of experimenting, failing, learning, trying again, sharing, discussing, and adjusting within her work is for her a way to “put life under a magnifying glass.� Isabelle uses brushes, palette knifes, pastels and rags to create vibrant and engaging works of art. After her college studies, art classes at Les Beaux-Arts in Paris and the birth of her two children, Isabelle moved to Atlanta in 1999. A few years later, she began her professional career as an expressionist contemporary artist and was soon represented by numerous galleries across the United States. Her work has been featured in television

I ssue


Isabelle Gautier

series, National Art Shows, 2013 HGTV Smart Home, Neiman Marcus Pop-up Gallery, Marietta/ Cobb Museum and many public venues. Isabelle’s abstract paintings are reminiscent of her childhood on the coast of Normandy, but she has now lived long enough in the Southeast that her love for flowers has become a passion clearly seen in her work. Deeply embedded in her French culture, her love of minimalism keep her rooted. Whether expressionist, non-objective, floral or minimalist, her work emanates a dynamic energy and obvious immersion in the process. While she has been featured in The Blue before, Isabelle’s most recent collection caught our eye yet again. Her new work involves an exploration of Tachisme, a style of French Abstract painting characterized by non-geometric forms and intuitive, spontaneous gestures of the artist’s brushstroke. This style can vary widely, but Isabelle has taken her love of minimalism to new heights with a restricted palette and keenly honed graphic expression.

“Each tachisme painting is like a poem written on the canvas. That is why you will find a dot somewhere in every piece... it is the period at the end of the sentence.” - Isabelle Gautier

Collectors of Isabelle’s work are spread across The United States and Europe. Atlanta Fine Home Sotheby’s International Realty, The City of Milton (GA) new City Hall, Embassy Suites Downtown Greenville, SC and Kennedy-Douglas Center in Florence (AL) are just few examples of her US installations. More of her work can be found, or she can be contacted, at 68 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Isabelle Gautier

I ssue


Isabelle Gautier

70 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Isabelle Gautier

I ssue


Laura Brown Aeron McCullough

THE ART OF AERON BROWN Aeron Razz Brown was born and raised in the Inland Empire of Southern California. At the passing of his father at a young age, Aeron was submersed in his father’s sketches, lyrics and creativity. As any son does, Aeron wanted to connect with his father in the very few ways he knew how, art and music . Aeron started Collaging His Father’s scraps of artwork into his drawings and later on started collecting vintage found objects onto his own hand painted works of art. Aeron Captures Light and Beauty with a modern Indie Style of acrylic paintings. Using various combinations of materials, including acrylics, collage, canvas and wood, recycled paper, vintage collections of newspapers from the 1920’s-1960’s, scraps of book pages, book covers, sheet music, and poetry on handmade custom frames, Aeron immortalizes these deeply personal and unique creations sealed in acrylic varnish and resin. Sharing his vibrant masterpieces all over Southern California, he has now become a very well established artist, gaining attention across the country with his work. Aeron is a founder of the DTR Art walk, and the owner of The Threshold Art Gallery, Redlands CA.

72 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

LauraAeron McCullough Brown

Find out more at I ssue


Aeron Brown 74 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Aeron Brown

I ssue


Published on the 29th of November in 2015, the inaugural issue of The Blue Mountain Review opened with an introduction that reads in part, “…we choose not to be unresponsive, but change and spread the days into a beautiful array filled with promise and bountiful growth.” What a prescient statement for a magazine so intent on growing with each new publication, expanding its vision of integrity and excellence in craft to artists with southern souls everywhere. That first edition of the Review featured samplings of poetry, prose, photography, visual art and an interview with the featured poet. Subsequent publications would expand to include book reviews, interviews with musicians, and interviews with Southern Collective Experience (SCE) members, introducing readers to new members of this artistic community and works of art as diverse as those who created them. The mission of The Blue Mountain Review is to discover and elevate excellence in the arts. The magazine is a forum for discussion, community, and creative growth. It's a call to celebration as well as a call to action, and this tenth publication marks the incorporation of cinema into the Review’s core exploration. A fitting new addition in my opinion; after all, cinema is an amalgamation of nearly all other art forms. The most impactful films utilize the same narrative techniques as the most beloved works of literature. The filmmakers that we love are writers, constructing audiovisual stories for our viewing pleasure. They are poets, cutting together stanzas, each edit a foot, each juxtaposition of images part of a unique rhyme scheme. They are authors possessing their own syntaxes. Their shots the words that they compile and rearrange to convey meaning - imagery and metaphor used to draw audiences deeper into new worlds just as in any good book.

76 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Catherine Conley

THE NEW SOUTHERN CINEMA Our cinematic landscapes are filled with music; very few feel complete without it. Whether they are sweeping orchestral arrangements rolling over us in waves or a series of minimal, non-linear sounds that creep up our rigid spines, scores immerse us in a film. Leitmotifs underscore our connections with established characters; our hearts swell with the crescendos and race in staccato with the violent shrieking of horror movie strings. The films we watch are choreographed like dance pieces – fighters clash and spin away from one another, background actors slip across the screen at just the right moment, and camera movements are executed with the utmost precision. The cinematography and mise en scene that so deftly make up these phantasmal worlds, feature composition elements shared with other visual art forms. Directors of photography paint light and shadow across the screen to influence our perceptions, applying color theory to tap into our basest emotions. Different lenses and focal lengths are used to provide perspective and that perspective is used to pull us into characters’ heads, indicating their state of mind and their views of the world. When discerning, practiced minds bring all of these elements together onscreen they can produce some of the rawest and most evocative media we will ever consume, which is why the Review has decided to integrate film into our appreciation of exceptional southern art. Over the past decade, Atlanta has come to be the “Hollywood of the South” due to the increasing number of big-budget studio films being shot in the region. These productions are, without a doubt, wonderful, creating numerous industry jobs for southern film-lovers and putting Georgia on the film production map; however, this column will focus on independent film. We’re interested in the shorts, the passion projects, and the experimental films, and there are an abundance of these films to be seen. For the sake of clarity let me submit a definition of independent film. At its most relevant during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the term was used to describe any film made outside of the studio system. At that time, the “big five” studios practiced vertical integration over the entire filmmaking process, signing stars and directors

to long-term contracts, mass producing hundreds of standardized films each year, and screening them exclusively in their own multiplexes. In an industry that provided little room for agency or creative input, independent filmmakers were largely shut out, fighting against a seemingly unstoppable machine. With the end of the classic studio system in the 1960s and the increasing accessibility to the tools of the craft, the lines between independent films (or indies as some like to call them) and mainstream films have become increasingly blurred. While short films shot by first-time directors on shoestring budgets are quintessentially indie, some independent features boast funding that rivals summer blockbusters. So where does one draw the line? For the purposes of this column I will adhere to a popular consensus in the debate over what constitutes an independent film: indie is defined by the spirit of a film rather than its budget. The movies that we intend to explore have heart; they are labors of love that eschew the substitution of spectacle for competent craft. As lovers and creators of art, the editorial staff of The Blue Mountain Review understands the importance of including such an influential and far-reaching medium in the magazine’s artistic analysis. Cinema, like any other medium, informs and is informed by culture, providing us all with a mirror by which to see what we as a society hold most dear. It’s essential that we reach out to - and promote the work of - filmmakers who exemplify the Review’s core values of artistic integrity and amplify their messages on life, art, and the human condition. Enter this column. I hope to dive into the South’s vibrant community of independent filmmakers, to meet its auteurs and its amateurs - those trying and succeeding to tell their stories outside of the studio system. I want to learn what inspires them, what haunts them, and what stokes the creative fires in their chests. I want to explore their passions and ways in which they allow us as viewers to see the world through their eyes, if only for a few, brief moments. And, I would like to share this exploration with you.

I ssue

Cat Conley film writer



NAHKO and Medicine for the People interview by Laura McCullough

Nahko, you speak quite a bit about identity, and the journey you have taken in discovering and exploring your own is a consistent theme in your music. Why do you think the understanding of identity is such a driving motivation for those who create? How has your view of the music scene, and your place in it, changed as you have come to better know yourself? As humans, we spend lifetimes considering our purpose on the planet, in these bodies, in this life. I learn so much from my ancestors about who I am today. I learn from their mistakes, from their trauma, and from our collective stories in ways that help me translate my own dysfunctions into healing opportunities. As artists, we thrive on knowledge and wisdom keepers. We are storytellers. Our own roads to ascension are fascinating and an amazing platform to start from. My view of myself and the music scene has changed a lot since I began. In the beginning I didn’t really know anything about the scene or even how I wished to be seen. It’s a wild ride and I took a crash course in it, for sure! I like the steady ride we are on. We have risen quickly, in one perspective, but to me it’s a steady rise. I believe we exist in a less occupied area of the scene, perhaps even carving a new symbol in the caverns of this ‘industry’. Holding steady with intention to always ‘do us’ in ‘our way’ has surely been a sacrifice, but I love the adventure and know that we are doing good works for the people and planet. It’s easy to be hard on yourself in this result based world. The results that matter, though, are your own for yourself.

78 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10


You describe your music as having a “world message”, and have yourself been called a “global soul”. What makes a piece of music, or a musician, relevant on that larger human scale? What drives you to create music that pushes beyond being defined by a particular culture or genre? I suppose everyone’s offering of truth from their heart is important, if that’s what you’re asking. In that case, it’s all relevant. As for the music that flows through me, I wouldn’t suggest I specifically create music to live in an unknown genre per say, but the music certainly has a mind of it’s own! I appreciate so many styles of music that it comes out in my songs and recordings. I’m not trying to be a reggae artist by having a few songs with a classic one drop. I’m not trying to be a folk artist with a shuffle and four chord melody. I’m definitely not trying to be hip hop when I write rhymes! Somehow, and this is the mysterious magic of music, with all my facets combined I’ve been able to curate a tapestry of sound and poetry that makes sense...and it works for me. My drive derives from my curiosity towards life, the gratitude I have to the journey, and the expansiveness to which I am witnessing within myself and the world. In witnessing to the world, your personal heritage brings together Native voices from 3 corners of the globe. What do advocates for modern equality and social change most need to know about the First Nations voice? WE STILL HERE. AND WE WOKE AF. :) I think that’s one of the best answers I’ve gotten in an interview! DOING something is such a key part of that awareness. Most bands have a cause or two that they support, but how did activism become such a major part of MFTP’s work both on and off-stage? What causes do you feel have impacted you the most deeply through your involvement? Before I was touring full time, the table I was most fed at was that of the activist. From farmer’s

I ssue


Nahko markets to climate change rallies. Kind of a natural move. From touring with to becoming a board member on Honor the Earth and studying under Winona Laduke. These and more were my training grounds. It wasn’t until well after I began that work did commit to a full time job of touring. It naturally evolved. Impacting me the most has been my work with First Nations peoples because I feel such a deep kinship and love for my people of Turtle Island. Talk to us about the Medicine Tribe. What makes your community of fans so unique? I observe our ‘Tribe’ as part woke and wounded and part wide eyed and curious. Karmically, many of us have returned to human form on either a high vibrational level of consciousness or on something lower. The latter is not negative or bad, it’s just a reality and we have to learn to be compassionate and empathize with everyone’s evolutionary process. Many of us, at whatever level, are working overtime to identify our wounds so we can heal them in order to ascend to a higher state. Many, too, are just now discovering ‘light’ and a ‘higher state of consciousness’ and perhaps we all identify with these terms in different modalities. I don’t think our fans are any different than others, necessarily, since we’re all humans becoming, but I do think that the right people discover our music at the right time in which they need it on whatever level of awakening they are on. The right people, and all their friends, will have a great opportunity to connect with your music this year. Starting at the end of February, you’ve got a tour coming up that has you hitting venues from Maine to Florida with daily shows, followed by some huge festivals over the Summer. What keeps your performances fresh and your shows full of the energy people come to experience with that kind of packed schedule? How do you find the balance between the show that your established fans expect and the demand for something new? Fresh performance comes from an ever expanding joy to create music with a group of fellow mystics. The guys and I are always trying new things out and we strive to always provide a new version of ourselves through the shows. I’m terrible at keeping new songs till records come out, so I’m always teasing new content. Also, we have a fairly large catalog to pull from now, so we tend to love the throwbacks. On those teasers, social media has played a pretty significant role in your rapidly growing popularity as an artist, as evidenced by the success of one of your first big hits and it’s video, “Aloha Ke Akua”. How do you maintain your social media presence as a marketing tool that stays personal and accessible, without becoming just another ad-space? That’s definitely a tough one, but I feel pretty good about where we’re at with it. We created a band page for a couple different socials platforms to help with the announcements side of things and let my personal pages continue to stay just that - personal. On those days in life where even the air feels heavy, the ones we all have that drag and seem to push back against the pursuit of your craft… where do you find your voice? What keeps you inspired? I do a lot of solo things these days. I work with my hands whether in the garden, landscaping in the yard, or working with my horses. I love being outside. But, I’m also a nerd and enjoy my study space. Whether I’m learning about inter-dimensional beings or studying Eminem’s new record - my span of interest is pretty wide. Right now, my 30s is all about education input so that my creative output stays fresh. It’s all an effort to self love. Health and wellness.

80 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Nahko That effort to educate yourself definitely shows in your writing. From “Love Letters to God” to “Dragonfly”, your lyrics are truly poetic. Like any poet, you write lines that are unique to your experience and others that can be taken to a personal place by the listener. One of your new songs, “Sing Him of My Revelations” from My Name is Bear, takes us on a journey from the open road to an intimate place of loss. It includes a line that stands out, “Built by a beast.” I would love to understand more about the heart of this song, and this line’s place within it. At that time in my life I was pretty lost. When we are young and full of that good ‘ol angst we tend to push good things away from us - or rather whatever our parents wanted for us - and invite dangerous or reckless behavior in. My relationship to the Creator at the time I wrote that song was disjointed to say the least. Angered by the box I had been told was ‘the way, the truth, and the life’, I lashed out pretty hard in my late teens and early twenties. I refer to the Creator as a ‘beast’ in this track you mentioned. To me, only a beast could create such pain and chaos. I was full of sadness and felt hollow and alone at that time. If there was one song that someone who has never heard your music could get into that reflects who Nahko, who the Bear, is today and what Medicine he’s bringing, what should they listen to? Love Letters to God That’s actually the first of your songs I ever listened to. It really is an excellent song. So, in all of your engagements and interviews, what’s one question you’ve never been asked that you wish someone would ask, and the answer? Do you want to talk about extra terrestrials? Yes. Perhaps we can set up another conversation just to see where that Rabbit Hole leads... The Blue is always up for a bit of adventure! To close us out, with the impact and momentum the band and the movement surrounding it are already seeing, what lies on the horizon for MFTP? A huge summer support tour which was just announced. We’re also gearing up to prep our next band LP. Stoked!

More about Nahko, the band, their tour dates and music at

I ssue



VINILOVERSUS interview by Dusty Huggins VINILOVERSUS is rock band from Caracas, Venezuela formed by Rodrigo Gonsalves, lead vocalist and guitar, Adrian Salas backup vocals and bass, Mangan on drums and Juan Victor Belisario on second bass. They released their debut album titled “El Dia Es Hoy” through iTunes on February 2008 and the CD on July 2008. VINILOVERSUS blends different influences of rock from Arctic Monkeys to Kings of Leon to Led Zeppelin to Dermis Tatú. Due to recent political demise in Venezuela the band has chosen a path not chosen by many… the path less travelled. Tell us about the formation of VINILOVERSUS and the meaning for the band name (for the English speaking audience). Rodrigo: VINILOVERSUS formed in 2004 in a very innocent manner. We simply loved the idea of playing music and having a band like any other teenager who played an instrument. We were never pretentious about our plans however, we were very aware of the lack of rock and roll bands in our country and our goal was to become the band that filled the hole. Most of us in the band were only 19 and we were tired of the same old bands being revered over and over and we wanted to create a new and fresh music scene that broke free from the classic bands that had ruled the airwaves for more than 15 years... Oddly enough, we managed to do exactly that and became the initial spark for what would become an extremely rich music scene that to this day represents Venezuela throughout the world with amazing musical projects. I believe it is one of our biggest achievements to date. Ironically, all of this happened while the country was beginning to collapse both socially and economically. For some strange reason, in the midst of all the chaos, rock and roll thrived... What was it like living in Venezuela at such a trying time? Rodrigo: Venezuela has been on fire for the last 20 years and every year the fire has gotten more intense. When we started out, things were not nearly as bad as they are now, however, you did not need a political science degree to see that the country was headed in a terrible direction that would inevitably destroy it like it has.

82 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

VINILOVERSUS During the band’s first years we got to play hundreds of shows in many live venues throughout the country and that was something that helped us gain respect in the music scene and a level of recognition. We were hungry to play all the time... (That hunger hasn’t diminished at all. If anything, it’s gotten stronger.) Even though crime was on the rise and leaving venues at night after the show with our instruments was extremely dangerous, we were driven and ambitious enough to take the risk every single time. Another factor was that people were not as scared to go out at night as they are nowadays for fear of getting robbed, kidnapped or killed. Those things still happened back then but not nearly as much as they do now. Having an outlet to speak out about controversy in your home country is a huge responsibility and honor. How did it fell to be able to speak the truth and have so many fans grab a hold of your message? Rodrigo: After gaining recognition for our debut album, EL DIA ES HOY (Today is the Day) and being labeled “the new sound of Venezuelan Rock” by the local press, mixed with the fact that we were no longer teenagers, we realized that we could use our voice as a band to speak out about human rights issues that were becoming more and more present in our lives do to the incredible injustices we were seeing all around us. Caracas, our home town, was becoming more chaotic each day that went by and we could actually feel the tension that was brewing everywhere we went. For that reason we decided to name our second album “SI NO NOS MATA” (IF IT DOESN’T KILL US). The album cover showed the city of Caracas turned upside down. The idea was to reflect the state of emergency that the country was in, sort of like when ships that are at sea turn their flags upside down to indicate a state of emergency or “mayday”. Our third album “CAMBIÉ DE NOMBRE” (I CHANGED MY NAME) was the most outspoken album of all regarding these issues which were now a priority to us in terms of songwriting. After touring all over the country, gaining a huge fan base and becoming the first rock band from Venezuela to ever get nominated for a Latin Grammy, we realized that we had the responsibility to condemn our government for every horrible act of injustice it was taking part in. One of the most iconic songs in the album “ARES” was a song about a society pleading the god of war to keep his weapons away from the innocent masses. We partnered with several nonprofit peace foundations and used the phrase #NoDispares (Don’t Shoot) from this particular song and it became the slogan for human rights campaign against gun violence which was a deeply troubling issue to which the government leaders were completely apathetic.

I ssue



What was the final deciding factor in moving to the United States? Rodrigo: After finishing our third album and once again being nominated for a Latin Grammy, we felt that we had gone as far as we could go in terms of success with a rocknroll band in a third world country. It felt a little bit like the “big fish, small pond” syndrome and we knew that if we continued down the same path we would get comfortable, lazy and worst of all... predictable. The idea of becoming complaisant was something we dreaded, so we made the conscious decision to start composing our first english spoken album “DAYS OF EXILE” and move to the US to start from scratch with a new audience and hopefully grow as artists and citizens of the world and instead of just citizens of Venezuela.

“We also felt that if we really wanted to make a difference in terms of human rights, we needed a bigger microphone, and we could not do that by staying in Venezuela.” We also felt that if we really wanted to make a difference in terms of human rights, we needed a bigger microphone, and we could not do that by staying in Venezuela. Our ambition to accomplish seemingly impossible goals has always been a driving factor in Viniloversus. Also, when making this decision we were very much inspired by a Venezuelan icon and friend of the band called Maickel Melamed who coined the phrase “no dream is too big to not chase” after completing several marathons that were considered impossible by doctors who diagnosed him with muscular dystrophy at birth. Why Miami? A. Duhau: Miami became a place of refuge for us who, as we say, were forced into “voluntary exile” to escape the absolute destruction of Venezuela and the violent persecution of all opposition. Miami allowed us to regroup in the middle of a storm and because of that were able to keep creating and evolving as artists. Being in Miami gave us the opportunity to produce our first english album whilst remaining close enough to Venezuela to help create a bridge for much of our family and close friends who still struggle in the mad-inducing chaos of a country that is collapsing in on itself. How has the U.S. treated you so far and what are the differences and challenges in the two countries? A. Duhau: Being in the US and deciding to make our transition into English was very natural for us because deep down we’ve always been inspired by American and British music and artists, so it’s like this was our door to actually go towards that direction. Miami is mostly dominated by Reggaeton and EDM music, but we’ve been blessed, in large part due to the massive Venezuelan immigration, to have a surprisingly loyal following in and around the city. Beyond Miami, the band has always had a deep connection with New York City where we have played numerous times in the past few years. It’s been interesting to gauge reactions to our music with both newcomers to the band as well as old fans. People who have never heard of us are sort of taken by surprise and we’ve made many beautiful connections by playing the US live music circuit for the first time. In Venezuela, we were limited because the music industry all but disappeared sadly and there was nothing more to look for, whereas in the United States we are up side to side with our heroes and a massive market, so we feel pushed to make

84 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10


even more of an impact, but we feel like we can stand behind our music and we know we have an important story to share which allows us to create deep and lasting relationships with our fans. I am sure there was a lot of angst and heartache with having to leave your country. Did a lot of that emotion come out on the new record? A. Duhau: The new album combines many different emotions because the songs were composed over a large period of time. The first songs began as part of a side project Rodrigo, Mangan and I were working on which ended up becoming the starting point for VINILOVERSUS new album when the band decided to reconvene. So some of the songs, such as Broken Cities, Boss Don’t Fire Me and Hey Mama, were composed with the emotional context of being in the thick of it in Venezuela, aware of our approaching departure, but with a sense of resignation and nostalgia towards our scorching home. We composed the rest of the album as we were settling into the US in what became a powerful outpouring of inspiration and musical experimentation. We approached it as a parallel of what was happening in our lives, a fresh start, white canvas, so we allowed ourselves to go in whatever direction the music took us without much questioning, taking on new instruments and switching roles around to find the songs. We felt a deep growth as a group and as individuals’ throughout the production of this album. We explored our experience in the context of our Venezuelan origins as well as from our experiences as world citizens. Songs like So Many Stars & Disintegrate Me, deal with the idea that we are all aliens who are searching place in within our context; something that can be explored from so many different perspectives (individuality, family, social, nationality, spirituality). It’s about trying to bridge the realm of human relationships and our context of our reality in order to better understand our place in all this; these are songs that are both very personal and very universal at the same time. Then there are songs which can be traced back to the band’s traditional direct and more violent approach to getting people’s attention, such as Show Me the Money, which draws from the band’s punk roots and attitude, the most powerful messages only need a few words. Schoolboy and In My Head point to the band’s musical evolution and explorations of psychodelia, dance rock and funk and integrating that into our universe so as to not forget that in spite of life’s madness there should always find a space to explore, be curious and have fun. I ssue


VINILOVERSUS Tell us about the upcoming tour and what would make it a success by VINILOVERSUS standards. A. Duhau: We couldn’t be happier about our upcoming tour because we are going to be bringing our show to places where we had never properly played before but with which we have deep rooted connections. First, we will be touring the East Coast where we will go for the first time to Atlanta, which is such an important musical capital from where so many amazing musicians have come out. Also it is the hometown of Martin Luther King, who is a very important reference to us as a human rights leader and activist, so we are really looking forward to visiting Atlanta. In Charlotte, we are playing for the second time because on our last time around we put together a small show which turned out to be surprisingly great so when they invited us to play there again we loved the idea of stopping by. Washington, DC is a city that we all love so much, we have family, friends and long standing relationships in the city, plus its such an inspiring and symbolic city, we can’t wait to have our first proper show in DC, the fans there are so great. After that we’ll be playing in Boston for the first time at Berklee Music School’s 939 - Red Room which we are extremely excited about because the venue is amazing and we look forward to connecting with the music scene around Berklee and supporting projects from talented some of the talented students there. We will close this first leg of the tour with a show in NYC and one in Philly the day after. New York City is perhaps our favorite city to play since we have enjoyed many incredible experiences there and we feel like the shows keep getting better and better each time we visit. Philadelphia will be a first time for us, but it is a city that we are very excited to visit since most of us have never been. After this first leg we will be playing at Okeechobee Fest the first week of March in Florida, which is one of our career highlights not only because of the magnitude of the festival and the lineup which includes some of the greatest artists alive today, but because of what the festival stands for and what the people behind it are doing to bring culture to Florida and highlight the art that is coming out of Florida, something that is quite needed. This will be followed by two really exciting show’s in Chile and Buenos Aires in April 6 & 7th respectively. Again we have never played in either and we have many links and ties to these places, so we are looking forward to these and many other dates that we are still closing down.

Tour Spotify 2zwh4WnVBGZcfnllC7DUxt Youtube channel UCKhmbxDavLWu3SEzPKECTyQ

86 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Beau + Luci

BEAU + LUCI interview by Dusty Huggins BEAU + LUCI, nationally touring and recording sister-led Americana Rock Band based in Atlanta, Georgia, enchant audiences with hypnotizing harmonies and bluesy melodies steeped in the mystery and folklore of the Okefenokee Swamp, “the land of the trembling earth.” Growing up in the rich heritage and spirituality inherent to the southern swamplands surrounding their hometown of Waycross has shaped their lives and the essence of their innate storytelling craft. These Sister Sirens mesmerize audiences with rootsy lyrics, alluring melodies, and spellbinding Swamp Rock incantations, existentially calling to audiences of all ages and walks of life. What was it like growing up in Waycross Georgia? Luci: You always hear people say, “You don’t appreciate your hometown until you leave,” and I think that’s definitely the case! There’s so much musical history there that we didn’t appreciate until we got older: Gram Parsons grew up there, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and The Carter Family player in the Waycross Auditorium. Not to mention the history and folklore of the Okefenokee Swamp! It was a good place to grow up though; our family is very close, and my dad was a huge classic rock aficionado, so there was always an Allman Brothers or Led Zeppelin Recording playing in the house or the car. At what age did you two start singing together? Beau: We grew up singing together in church, starting in the children’s choir, and before that, we knew the words to every Allman Brothers song on the radio and all the gospel music and hymns we sang in church. By the time we were in our early teens, music was such a part of our lives that it was a natural evolution for us to start writing, recording, and performing our own music. When did you realize this is what you wanted to do? Luci: We were about 12 and 14 when we went to our parents and said, “Mom, Dad, we feel like we’re being called to music.” It was a huge shock in some ways, because we were the sports family; Beau was an incredible softball player, my parents coached every season, but she had a bad injury that pretty much ended her career about the same time we started writing our own music. Music was such a huge part of our lives though, in ways we didn’t even realize in the moment. Beau: it was almost immediately after playing with a live band for the first time- we both realized that’s what we had a passion for and by then we were so incredibly hooked that there was no other option. The band is already making a name for itself, what would attribute your successes to? Luci: Honestly? The grace of God and a stubborn mother who refused to let her two daughters lose faith in themselves. Beyond that, I really believe that once you get a taste of it - of creating something that didn’t exist I ssue


Beau + Luci before, of watching a song develop from words on a page or a simple chord progression into a full blown anthem that gets people on their feet, of getting on a stage and, for a short period of time, having perfect harmony and understanding with everyone around you - it’s always in you. There’s a drive to create and share the songs in your heart, and while you’ve still got a song left to give, it’ll never go away. Beau: An insane amount of love for each other and what we do along with polite persistence and being surrounded by the most incredibly supportive family and friends group you could ever imagine! it would be entirely impossible for us to even consider doing what we do without the amount of help and support that we get from our parents, little brother and friends we’ve made in the business. What do each of you listen to in your free time? Beau: I’m a massive Arctic Monkeys fan, I’ve recently been listening back through the entirety of Prince’s and Joe Cocker’s discographies, which has been an incredible experience as a song writer. Otherwise I absolutely love First Aid Kit, Ben Howard, Jack White, the White Stripes, the Black Keys, Nathaniel Rateliff, Fleetwood Mac, Otis Redding, Luci: The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, The Arctic Monkeys, Jason Isbell, Dawes, Lukas Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams, Big Star, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett... anything with groove and soul and lyrics that catch hold of you! With many sibling combos there have been a lot of breakups and controversies. Do you two go through that when creating? If not, how do you do it? Luci: Honestly, no! We are almost always on the same page, and when we’re not, we either work through it or move on to something that resonates with both of us. We’ve always gotten along well, and have always been friends, besides being sisters! We’ve always been able to work through anything and everything, and we know that we work better together than apart! Beau: Not at all- we have disagreements sometimes but I think we both would rather hear each other out and figure out what works best for both of us than stand firm and fight it out over something. We get along very well which is extremely helpful when traveling and writing together.

88 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Beau + Luci What types of processes do you use when creating? (e.g. lyrics then melody, vice versa) Luci: It’s different every time! It really depends on the scenario, who we’re writing with...sometimes we’ll have lyrics and melody and a song mapped out. Other times somebody will play a riff or a bass line, and lyrics just started flying. And sometimes you get stuck on an idea and it takes forever to work itself out. What are some big things you have planned for in 2018? Luci: Our hope - and plan - is to be on the road touring more in 2018! We did our first big tour in 2017, to Colorado with The Howling Tongues, and can’t wait to get back on the road again. We’re also writing and developing more music, and can’t wait to share it! Beau: we are excited to release some of the new music we’ve been writing and demo-ing in the down time and cannot wait to get back on the road with it, too! At what point will you consider your musical careers a success, if ever? Beau: As long as we’re making music that’s true to our hearts and able to share it, that’s success to me. We want to tour the world and share our music on a larger scale, and be able to connect with others, and grow as artists, writers, and performers. What do you hope to accomplish? Luci: My goal is to be the greatest version of myself possible, as a writer, musician, and performer. I want to constantly seek after that and never allow myself to get settled, and that’s my greatest hope for us as a band as well. Beau: My goal is just to create music and art that is genuine and honest to myself, what I’m feeling, and what we are dealing with at the time and I just hope that it resonates with others who hear it as well.

I ssue


The RiverWinds

CHIEF JOSEPH & DR. LARALYN RIVERWIND interview by Laura McCullough Chief Joseph RiverWind and his wife Laralyn are dignitaries and servants to the greater good of the highest order. As Ambassadors, ministers, and musicians they have numerous outreach programs and organizations they facilitate. They are the founders of FireKeepers International Ministry and pastor its associated Fellowship, the founders of HeartCrossers Suicide Prevention Program, hosts of the Council Fire TV/Radio program, as well as touring and performing with their NAMA award-winning band, The Blessed Blend. Among many other honors, you are the Peace Chief and Tekina for the Northern Arawak Tribal Nation. Please share with us what these titles entail. As musicians and artists, has serving the Arawak Nation in this capacity influenced what you create? Chief Joseph: In many First Nations traditional governmental structures there was a War Chief and a Peace Chief. Each one having very distinct responsibilities which depended on the tribe being at war or not. The position is not self appointed or easily given. First the clan mothers hold council to decide who qualifies and then a decision is made. The decision is then brought to the Principal Chief who then announces it before the people of the tribe in a public ceremony. As Peace Chief my duty is to encourage dialogue between our nation and other tribal nations as well as within local, state and national governing agencies. Initiatives that help to encourage the arts, music, dance, culture, language and other aspects of the Arawak Taino culture are brought before the people in an effort to continue the vibrant legacy of Arawak Taino culture in its various forms of expression. Other things that are focused on include environmental causes, humanitarian aid, and assistance with military veterans, police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel who are also considered warriors. These warriors are to be taken care of during peace times which falls upon the Peace Chief to assist in helping them find programs for education, housing assistance or whatever need they may be experiencing. This service also extends to the families of these personnel. This position provided a great platform for when we went to Israel where we recorded the music video for song that I co-wrote with Joshua Aaron “Every Tribe”. The musical influence of our culture is also evident in our music and is something that we incorporate into the songs that we write. Dr. Laralyn: The title “Tekina” means spokesperson and is a position of honor among the Taino. When I was

90 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

approached by the Principal Chief and Clan Mother about accepting this honor I told them I did not know how I could do so, not being Taino, myself. They insisted. Shortly before the ceremony making me Tekina (and my husband, the War Chief, at the time), we were approached by an Anglo woman who was rather vocal in her opinion of our tribal regalia and the presumptions she made about our character and religious beliefs based upon what she saw of our outer appearance. Those with me were instantly inflamed by her derogatory comments and became enraged. But I spoke to the woman in a different manner that disarmed her, defied her stereotypes, and answered her in goodness and kindness. The incident resolved without bloodshed and the woman left with a completely different attitude. The Clan Mother turned to me and said, “And THAT is why you must be Tekina.” I have served in that capacity until 2017 when the new Principal Chief appointed me Ambassador. In both positions, I endeavor to bring education, peace and goodwill between those we can be in good relationship with while also giving an honest assessment of (and warning concerning) those with whom this is impossible. As advocates for the voice of First Nations peoples in the community of the Arts, do you feel that Native voices have been well-served and represented in the modern movements for cultural awareness? In the larger tapestry of global culture and the art of identity, why are the threads of the Native voice so important?

The RiverWinds

Dr. Laralyn: Although I cannot speak to all of the arts industries, I can tell you that in the music industry, the indigenous voice is undermined. The presumption by the record labels is that the Native sound is niche, with a small market. They lack the insight of seeing how the favor of public opinion has swayed over the last couple of centuries. The movie industry figured it out after Kevin Costner’s surprise $424 million blockbuster “Dances with Wolves.” You would have thought the international success of fluteplayer Carlos Nakai, with platinum and gold records and countless music awards would have paved a road for other artists with the record labels but alas, the “niche mindset” concerning interest in Native arts remains unshaken. Call me partial if you like but the Indigenous voice is crucial in the orchestra of sound. And by “Indigenous” I do not mean exclusively North American Natives. When a people group is situated on the land given to it by Creator, there is a connectedness to creation that is unparalleled and cannot be imitated. Indigenous people are present throughout the world: the Ainu of Japan, the Sami of Scandanavia the Yukaghir of Siberia, the Quechua and Aymara of Peru. The longer we are separated from that place, the more something in us weakens. In some Native cultures, it was tradition to return to your birth rock periodically to gather medicine. Hearing the wisdom and the soul’s song of those who still have that connection or have found it again, is priceless. It points us home to the place where wisdom waits and calls for us. Chief Joseph: Social media and todays technology has really helped in getting the indigenous voice heard

through various platforms. After the protests at Standing Rock there was global attention on First Nations once again which a revival of sorts in indigenous communities. Native people from Alaska to South America began to rise up concerning broken treaties and mistreatment of their people at the hands of the government. Things which still happen to this day unfortunately. As the last people group to hear the message of the Gospel we are positioned in a prophetic timeline of epic proportions. As a result there is a battle in the spiritual realm for our people between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. First Nations need prayers and intercession now more than ever. What are your thoughts on the lines of separation often drawn between traditional First Nations expressions of creativity and the modern styles of literature, poetry, art, and music? What is the place of the traditional within the contemporary? Is “relevance” and “accessibility” friend or foe to the Sacred? Dr. Laralyn: Sometimes, I wish the lines were not so blurred… but then my words become a mirror to reflect upon my own blurrings. I see many Natives in the younger generation immersed in the hip hop culture and I ask, “Where is the drum? Where is your own sound?” But at the same time, my own music would combine elements from my other Celtic heritage to weave together for a new sound. I think the difference her is that both the Native and Celtic expressions were from within me. The question that remains for the Native youth is if that sound is a part I ssue


The RiverWinds of them or if another popular culture is moving in and taking over theirs. It is sometimes interesting for me to hear Native rap enthusiasts speak out against assimilation. The only difference between forced assimilation and popularized assimilation is the heart condition of the subject. Tradition within the contemporary expression seems to be an oxymoron. But I attest that when a culture insists upon no forward movement of traditions whatsoever, that it is an admission of the death of the culture. A people group living and breathing have a right to forward progress of philosophy, religion, art, and expression. However, regarding the traditions of the past is a matter of respect for our ancestors, as well. The sum of all this is “to each his own.” Some are meant to be guardians of the tradition, carrying them down unblemished for future generations. Others are meant to grow, stretch and expand the boundaries of the nation. We are each pieces of the puzzle. We need not be identical in shape and size in order to be a part of the greater whole of our people. Respecting the variations of individuals in serving different life purposes proves to be one of wisdom’s finest garments. When speaking of the Sacred, I believe that revelation does not belong to us (or any mere mortal) but to the Author of the work. There are many cultures that fiercely guard things of the Sacred. And in some ways, that should be done. For example, not just anyone should be erecting their own sweat lodge and inviting friends over for “ceremony.” That’s how people end up dead in lodge - not knowing what they’re doing and unintentionally killing their friends or - God-forbid - their paying customers. Some charlatans actually sell ceremony to the highest bidders. But barring people from hearing and learning truth and goodness that leads us closer to Creator is just wrong. Yes, exposing those things of the Spirit that we hold dear makes us vulnerable to criticism and attack. The world will always house fools. But there are hurting people out their crying out for Truth. Who are we to keep it from them once we have found Him ourselves? I will not hold the life preserver and watch someone drown. What is the fire that drives you to pursue so many varied projects, outlets, and platforms for your work? 2. How do you keep that drive and momentum going strong with so many “irons in the fire”? Chief Joseph: I feel that the ultimate drive is knowing where we came from, the tragedies that we endured, the suffering, the rejection, the hurts and the pain of our own past that we have been set free from. We know what The Creator did for us through His Son Chief CornerStone

92 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Yeshua and through the power of the Ruach HaKodesh (The Sacred Spirit) and we want to see this freedom and healing for all nations, tribes, and tongues. In these ends day I believe that First Nations are uniquely positioned in a place that can bring restoration, healing and reconciliation as we prepare for The Messiah to come and make things right once again. Dr. Laralyn: The Sacred Fire that drives us is the one that Creator placed deep in our spirit… or is it the one He lit under our backside when He told us to get up and go? I suppose He can use either of those fires to motivate us. But the one from within our spirit is love - love for Creator/ His Son - love for our fellow man - love for the searcher and wanderer - love for the suffering and hurt. We’ve been there and we came through it healed and at peace. It is a priceless gift that cannot be man-synthesized. We’re still trying to figure out how to take some irons out of the fire. Until then, we just try to keep the fire hot and the anvils busy! As international dignitaries, ministers and awardwinning musicians, you have travelled the world serving and engaging with people from many nations and walks of life. Is there an experience, a sort of “snapshot” moment, which captures the essence of why you do all that you do?

The RiverWinds Chief Joseph: I After being invited to a Shabbat dinner at a Orthodox Family’s home in Beit Shemesh one of the guests we met is a popular news anchor from Tel Aviv’s Israel Hayom News broadcast. He asked us if we would come and be interviewed knowing that we are believers in Yeshua. At the end of the interview he asked us if we would be willing to sing a song on the air and we felt like we were supposed to sing Kadosh which s a song that was written in Galilee by a messianic Israeli believer. With a native drum, flute and our voices we were able to sing this song that was broadcast throughout all of Israel and the response was overwhelming. Some of the sound, video and even the makeup crew were in tears as the Rauch of the Living Elohim touched their hearts that day. It is moments like these that we love to experience and share with others which is why we are now leading unique First Nations tours to the Holy Land through Radiant Israel. Chief RiverWind, your book, That’s What the Old Ones Say, is a collection of stories told by Elders of various First Nations tribes about the Creator. How has storytelling as an art form shaped the Native identity? How does storytelling differ from other forms of prose, literature, and performance art that makes it storytelling? Chief Joseph: Native storytelling takes on a few different aspects. There are stories about animals and situations in life that are meant to teach life lessons for young and old alike. These stories teach morals, ethics and other cultural traits that are found within a specific tribe. There are also stories that are history and sometimes prophecy. These stories are different in the way that they are learned and retold. Unlike the phone game where one person begins and by the end the story has changed there is a system in place that prevents that from happening when working with the oral tradition. The very important stories retain their integrity throughout the centuries with one simple rule. Nothing is added and nothing is taken away from the story. As a young child the elders choose the ones who are really good at memorization and they are set aside and taught the stories word for word with the warning to not add or take a word out. This ensures that when the story is told it is same as if it was told 100 years ago or 1000 years ago. These are the true storytellers or wisdom keepers of First Nations people. Unfortunately with the advent of technology the art of storytelling in its purest form is beginning to dwindle although there are youth out there who are using the technology to record and preserve these stories before the next generation of elders are gone. This has shaped the native identity because there was a time when recording anything was considered taboo and it all

had to be learned by word of mouth like songs on a drum. The elders have seen the need for the stories and songs to be preserved because they see the pull that the world has on the youth of today. Life is difficult on the reservation with many choosing to leave in order to find better opportunity. With recording it ensures that no matter when or if a person comes back to their people the stories are there which defined who their people were. If you could book the line-up for a storytelling festival, speakers from past or present, whose stories would you most want shared? Chief Joseph: Tecumseh Crazy Horse Geronimo Black Elk Judas Maccabee Te Ata Dr. Laralyn: Yeshua of Natzeret (whom some call Jesus Christ) Adam & Eve Fred Bradley, traditional Cherokee storyteller Sha’ul of Tarshish (whom some call the Apostle Paul) - for exciting adventures Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Joan of Arc Genghis Khan - for the fear factor… and the falconry Hildegard von Bingen What a musician creates is usually a reflection of their own story. Your music has shifted in the last several years from your NAMA award-winning rock sound to something that feels much more personal and spiritually focused. Tell us about the creative journey over that time period and how it has changed your music. Dr. Laralyn: Our elders say one must be filled up before one can pour out. Music in my youth was defined for me. There was no creativity. In the earlier years of my journey, I had not found my song and so music was easily stolen from me by life, by my poor decisions, by the worries of the world, by trickster. In my early friendship with Joseph, he encouraged me to find my song. I began surrounding myself with music; praying for my voice; singing again. In the earlier years of finding my voice, my songs have been a reflection of my journey - some of mourning and healing (“The Trail Where They Cried”), others of love and romance (“Going to Gath’ring?”) and some returning I ssue


The RiverWinds to my roots (“Call to Creator”). Now my focus has shifted from inward to upward. Like the elders say, we must be filled up before we can pour out. Now, I feel filled up healed and whole - able to point others in a direction of healing and goodness. So, now many of our songs focus on giving Creator thanks, honor and love. When we focus on giving Him love and getting love from Him, so much of the rest of the universe lines up in our lives. After all, the Master Weaver, the Great Potter, He knows how to shape our path and craft our surroundings. Chief Joseph: The first three albums that we released were for the purpose of outreach as we traveled and performed at many different types of venues throughout the country. This is why there is a mix of songs on our cds that are not all praise and worship but we still did not hide the Light of who we were singing about. When we finish our next cd it will be all Praise and Worship for an audience of One. We have all the songs written for another cd and just praying about when to release it and for the financing to come through. The song we are recording now is called “Our Kiss To Israel” which is a song of repentance from the church to the Jewish people for the wrongs throughout history done in the name of Jesus and the Church. This song will be performed at Israel’s 70th Anniversary Celebration this year. We are very excited about this opportunity to bless the people of Israel with this song of reconciliation which will be given away as a free download after the song is released. What could you listen to on repeat that never wears out its welcome? Dr. Laralyn: “Unbound” by Robbie Robertson ( the song but not the music video)

94 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Chief Joseph: I cant get stuck on one song, there are so many good musicians out there with ever evolving songs that it would be too hard to pick one. If I did it would quickly get boring and I would have to move on to something else. What encouragement would you give to those wrestling with how their personal heritage defines or inspires their creative voice? Dr. Laralyn: You are made who you are for a reason. You have a purpose in life. God did not make a mistake when He made you. Each culture has issues of honor and of shame, of victory and of heartache. Do not be defined by your past or the past of your ancestors but embrace the beauty within your culture the way an artist holds a paintbrush. Remember, the paintbrush is just the instrument. The artist is you. Chief Joseph: Everyone has a song that was given to them by The Creator from the moment they were brought into this world. The elders say that it is this song that helps us to know who we are. Some say that your song can be taken from you or stolen from your spirit which can cause a deep loss in your life. Find your song through prayer, through the arts or gifts of creativity that Creator has made you with. You will now when you have found your song because it is a song that was given to you so that one day you can give it back to the One who made you. Learn more about the RiverWinds and how you can become involved:

Zach Greco


Crashing a 15 passenger van at 75 mph on I-16 with my brothers was never a situation we had planned for, been prepped for, or were remotely warned about. When your front driver’s side tire blows apart and you are forced down into a muddy, wet, ditch, separating east & west bound traffic at the speed of a cheetah, in high pursuit of a large immobile concrete culvert, it brings things into perspective. Have I really lived the life I’ve wanted to be living? Am I going to get the chance to live any more of it? Thankfully we all survived that day, a bit obvious since ghost writing isn’t actually a supernatural phenomenon. But when I do look back at the first question I asked, “Have I lived the life I want to?” I could answer “Yes”. I’ve lived the life I’ve wanted because we exist in a time where you can chase your dreams, even if you don’t know where to start the long marathon of living your dreams. We live in age of independence that has never been available before. How do I know this? Because my three brothers and I formed our band Greco, to play rock n roll music together, be successful, and be independent. And we’ve done it without a record deal, without a management company, and without any of us being a career touring band member previously, because we learned to learn on our own and to chart our own path. The information is available, it is at your fingertips. In a way that information has never been before. It doesn’t matter what your dream for life is, being a musician, being an accountant, a mother, a tour guide, writing poetry, owning a lawn maintenance company, being an award winning fly-fishing television host. There are literally hundreds and thousands of places you can start charting your own path to accomplish your dream.

An obvious starting place is standing on the shoulders of people who have come before you. We did that and I recommend that you do the same too. Whenever we come to an area that we don’t have experience in, or we aren’t really sure on how to proceed, that’s when the work starts. Usually it starts with a google search, then a lot of questions, terms, and acronyms or phrases that are foreign to us, but if you keep spending time trying to learn, you’ll get there. It’s important to mention that there is no silver bullet that will propel you to independence, artistically, financially, or in fulfillment, but there is a lot of work and when you’ve accomplished everything, there is still more work waiting in the wings. And over time you’ll realize you aren’t chasing your dreams, you’re running right in the midst of them. I ssue


Zach Greco Often times you will feel lost, and not sure of what to do next, but as the late comedian Mitch Hedberg joked, “If you find yourself lost in the woods, f*** it, build a house. I was lost but now I live here! I have severely improved my predicament!” In essence that’s what going on out your own and being independent is, you step off into the unknown and forge a place for yourself. The way to become independent is to become an expert. And you become an expert because you keep going. The first day you drove a car you weren’t very good at it, the first time you played a sport you didn’t know all the rules, and the first time I picked up a bass guitar, I didn’t even realize it wasn’t a guitar “guitar”, (I certainly couldn’t play it, and little did I know that I cordoned myself off from ever playing a guitar solo). But over time when you stick with something you get better. Use whatever talent you have to pursue your dream and chart your path. If you are great organizer, then organize the hell out of your dream, if you are good at talking, then talk with people about your dream. The point is to start. Get going on it today, seriously take five minutes today and do some research on it. Call your best friend and tell them “I started doing my dream today!”, and then follow through and actually do it! There are literally hundreds and thousands of places you can start to become independent. For Greco the start to our independent life was organizing our rehearsal schedule by days and times, we didn’t realize it, but we set ourselves on charting our own path. Scheduling out rehearsal now seems so small and trivial we don’t even think about it, but when we started we had to make sure to request off certain times & days every week. Once we did that we continued to improve, little by little. Next we realized, we should schedule writing sessions for new songs, schedule show days out farther, and schedule our time off, so we wouldn’t book a show or event when we had another part of our life happening. You can do the same, start by making one adjustment or improvement to your dream, maybe it is your schedule or your budget. If you do that you’ve just cleared the biggest challenge, “Where to start?” Most people have their end goal in mind, but they have no idea what the first step is. Like I said, search online, someone somewhere has done something similar enough to what you want to do to give you a first step. I got advice once from a former boss,

96 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

don’t wait for everything to fall into place and don’t wait for a plan to be perfect, the best course of action is the one you start today. He was right. Now I would like to let you know with full disclosure, that the endeavor I tried that day completely failed, it failed so hard, that I will likely never be able to repeat a failure that cataclysmically again, but it doesn’t matter. I didn’t waste six months of my life, I didn’t waste money; what I learned from that experience has helped me get to be where I am today. It has helped me chart a path for my life that makes me fill fulfilled and happy, it gives me a chance to be who I want to be, and live how I want to live. And surprisingly the people who knew me then and know me now, don’t even see it as a failure, they just see it as something I did for a while and then moved on from. That’s important too, because an incredible thing to remember is that you aren’t alone in your path. There are other people doing it, they may not be in your hometown, they may not be your neighbor, co-worker, or family, but they are out there. That’s where you find your team members, your coaches, your mentors; it is even where you find your fan club (moms are a good place to start). Talk with these people, get into their groups, go to the same events as them, and use the same websites. You may eventually have to break off from the group and where they are going to reach your destination, but you can at least start with them. And learn the common language. I’ve never had a “mentor”, never had one person who guided me along to reach my goals, but I have had a lot of people I’ve learned from. Some have taught me how to book a tour, others have shown me how to budget, one friend even helped me with Power BI so I could analyze and breakout our target demographics (FYI – the world of big data can be like a peanut butter sandwich without milk on stale bread). These people didn’t appear to me and offer to help, we found each other because of our shared interests. Some of them I will never meet in person, there are bloggers and YouTube personalities who I have gleamed information from. As you chart your own path, you will inevitably start finding people to help you. Not everyone you meet will be everything you need, in fact it is more likely that people will only be able to help you in one or two areas of life. So, leave your teachers when they have nothing left to teach – you left the nursery, you left elementary school, sometimes there is nothing left to learn from someone and it is time to move on. You probably don’t think your

Zach Greco school teachers were bad, because they can’t teach you anymore, you’ve just matured and don’t need their help anymore, so honor the experience and then challenge the status quo. Because as they say in business, what got you here, won’t get you there. But if you open up your dream to let others be a part of it, I can guarantee that some of them will help you along. Not to mention, you may have a talent that can help someone else succeed; it doesn’t even need to be in the same field. My brother Josh has helped other guitarists learn how to play, and I’ve helped other bands book a performance, but we’ve also helped people learn how to organize their budget, and how to use the cloud to keep their team together, and they aren’t remotely interested in performing music. If you share with others, talk with people about both their skills, fields, and talents it will lead you to all types of opportunities. Be friendly, be helpful, and honor that someone else has shared their dream with you. In fact, most of our opportunities, including the opportunity to share our story with you, is because other people shared their dreams with us. And we are so grateful to be a part of that. If you are having a hard time finding someone you’re in luck, as there are a couple of other resources that can help you become independent, the cloud and the hive. The cloud is literally the same cloud you use when you connect to iCloud, google drive, or when you watch Netflix. The hive is the collection of people all across the globe you can connect with via social media platforms, in person, on the phone, internet, YouTube, blogs. email etc. The hive is easier to understand, so we’ll start there. You can find almost anything you need online from someone. Whether it is how to incorporate, how to buy supplies for a wedding, where can I get cheap sporting equipment, and on and on. Literally the information of the globe is in your pocket, you have an oracle in your hand for free, everywhere. You have to embrace the hive, but not just the digital hive, but the leaving breathing people you interact and see every day, because everyone is capable of something, and you will never know if you don’t ask. But use some common sense, “if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.” The cloud takes a little bit more abstract thought to understand how it helps, but it too will put you on the path to being independent. With the cloud

you can now take your dreams and your independence anywhere. You can have all your digital assets online, your pricing, your schedule, your costs, samples of your work, you name it. You literally can take your dreams, your work, and your independence anywhere in the world with you. I’ll give you an actual cloud solution for a problem Greco was having. One of the best ways for bands to grow their fan base is via their email sign-up sheet. So, we, like all bands, take a sheet of paper on a clipboard to a show, have people write their name and email in the dark clubs, decipher it the next day, and add the emails to a spreadsheet. As you can imagine, there were lots of mistakes (drunk and writing in the dark don’t tend to be very helpful for people’s script.) To say the lease the email sign-up sheet wasn’t very effective. However, we embraced the cloud and switched to a google form for our email sign-up sheet. It is available on any of our phones, it can’t get lost, people type their name and email into a backlit device, we add notes about when we meet them, and what zip code we are in. And now we can send our fans pertinent information just for them. With your independence at your fingertips, and the knowledge of the world resting in your pocket, can you really even lose? But aren’t you scared about failing? What happens if you can’t do the things you set out to do? These are questions I get asked frequently, and the truth is I don’t worry about it. Life is full of failure & heart ache whether you are chasing your dream or not, so if you are trying to do what makes you happy, what makes your life fulfilled, then what’s the worst that can happen? Most of the time you won’t fail, you’ll simply confront a challenge, but since you’ve prepped yourself, worked on yourself, you’ll be up to it. You’ll make the best decisions that you can. As the van careened off I-16, we weren’t worried about if we were going to fail, or what we had done wrong to get to that point, we were only concerned with how to fix the situation, how to handle what was happening, and because we were prepared: wearing seatbelts, had stored gear properly, and Sebastian had experience driving our van. (It’s amazing how luck will often show up and save a prepared person with skill), we made it out fine. It wasn’t ideal, we missed a show and had to spend money on a tow truck, but we managed the situation and learned from it. And now less than a year later, it doesn’t matter that we failed, we’ve booked another show at the venue we missed, and we have a great story. I ssue


Zach Greco That’s the thing with being an independent and charting your own path. You can’t plan on failing, you can’t plan on an accident that can derail you, any more than you can plan on catching a lucky break. All you can do is be prepared, work toward your goals, and do your best. Good and bad things are in your future, I promise. But really, what’s the worst that can happen? Most things aren’t going to be a life/death situation, in fact most problems are a mild inconvenience and a learning opportunity. And as our father always said to the Greco boys, “Five years from now will it even matter?” Honestly, no one is paying attention to your failures, no one is judging you because of a setback, and if anyone is paying attention and points them out, those are probably the people who can help you fix them, because they noticed. So it is very likely they will have some insight into what you need to change and adjust. Take criticism and improve yourself, hear those people’s opinions, and look at your goals, and use them to grow. But not everyone will understand what you are doing, everyone will have naysayers, that won’t believe you can do the things you are planning, they won’t believe in you, so forget their opinion. In fact, it is best just to ignore them and let them live out their lives without you. Because don’t forget the most important rule of charting your own path, is pursuing your dream. So do it, and do it how you want! You may say, well Zach this is all well and fine, and I am appreciative of what other people do for me, and I’ve started working, but can you give me an example of how being independent, how charting your own path has opened up doors for you? And as you probably guessed, yes, I can. South by Southwest (SXSW) is one of the largest music festivals in the country, over 170,000 attendees crowd into Austin for music, film, technology, and comedy. It has been a great place for dozens of artists and creative types to launch their career, and push on to the next level. It was something we wanted to be a part of, somewhere we wanted to play, something we wanted to add to our bucket list, but we didn’t know anyone there and we had no connections at SXSW or in Austin, TX. But we didn’t let that stop us. We charted our own path. First, we embraced the hive, we started reaching out to everyone we knew who had played at SXSW, ran an event at SXSW, attended SXSW, we googled, we read blogs, we read articles, but all of the ideas we came across didn’t fit our goals and didn’t

98 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

align with what we believed was possible. In fact the message we read and heard over and over again was, you had to pay to play at SXSW, or you had to play Austin outside of SXSW to get a shot to be in it, or you had to pay submission fees for 3-5 years before you got accepted to SXSW. But we didn’t let that stop us, we continued on charting our own path, making the decisions for ourselves and refusing to take no for an answer. It wasn’t until I spoke to a good friend who had ran events previously at SXSW that we caught a break and created an opportunity. He gave us the number of a venue that hosted events that usually books in October (by the way, SXSW is in March 2018 and this was June 2017 when we started), so I gave him a call, and got some info. And here we are 10 months later hosting a 14 band independent artist showcase on Wednesday March 14th the first day of one of the largest music festivals in the world. We have incredible media partners and sponsors. Fans are going to be heading out to join us for the show! And our band got the opportunity to not only play, but host 13 other bands from across the southeast and southwest, because we made the opportunity happen. We started asking questions, we did the work, and we didn’t quit. You are probably saying, that it sounds like Greco caught a lucky break, and we did, it was 100% a lucky break! We will forever be grateful that we caught that break; don’t ever take anything for granted. We always honor the experience, we are eternally grateful that we got lucky. However, it wasn’t random and it wasn’t unexpected. Our success came from our hard work meeting opportunity. A year ago, we couldn’t have caught the break, because we wouldn’t even be able to understand it, and if by random chance we did, it would have been a squandered opportunity, as we wouldn’t have been able to do anything with it. And if we hadn’t struck out on our own, created our own path, and challenged the status quo, we wouldn’t have been able to take advantage. But by continuing to work on our dream, we’ve now built an organization that is capable of planning, implementing, and executing what we need to be successful, and our pipe-dream of playing SXSW is an upcoming reality. The great thing about being independent is that you are in charge of your life and what you choose to do. A good friend told the band, “it’s great being your own boss and independent, because you get to choose which 18 hours a day you work!” Now she was being a little facetious with the length of

Zach Greco time, but she was definitely right that we needed to expect to work and keep on working. SXSW is going to be a great event for us, but we didn’t stop there, we looked at what we’re doing for SXSW and applied those principals to other aspects of our and our friends’ dreams. Our next endeavor may even be tougher because it is in our hometown. Greco is originally from Athens, and we have gotten the opportunity to play for the last three years at our good friend’s bar every year for Athfest; in fact, he is one of our earliest supports, booking us when our stage show was lackluster at best. However, now that we are able to put on a world class event we will be bringing 12-15 independent bands and artists to Athfest in June to our showcase. We are helping our friend make more money at his bar, we are giving a stage to other acts to showcase their talent, and we are giving people a chance to see incredible music for no cost to them. And this fits one our bands biggest goals, helping others around us. To be truly independent you have to plan your goals, remember your goals, reference your goals, and you have to keep them in perspective. If you want to be the next Michael Jordan, but don’t know how long a basketball game lasts, you should probably slow down and put those goals into perspective. One of the pillars of Greco is inclusion, our goal is to give everyone the chance to be a part. From day one we’ve always wanted to help out others around us, and that is key to being independent, because no one truly does it alone. An important factor to being independent, that sounds counterintuitive, is to rely on others and I mean more than just helpful advice. Let other people help. Put your trust in them. And trust them to do what’s best. If you look for them, there are people who can be part of your team, even if they aren’t card carrying club members. I am extremely lucky in that

the three main people in my dream are my younger brothers and we have the same interest, but there are literally dozens of people who help us out in tons of small and some large ways. (We were interested in being astronauts but between dehydrated ice cream, space sickness, and the really high test scores, we chose music). You might have the vision, you might chase the dream a little harder than everyone else, but everybody can use a little help. Not to mention it makes this journey through life a lot more enjoyable. And if you are completely honest, you aren’t always the best person for the job or in the right place at the right time. My brother Sebastian, our flamboyant front man was behind the wheel that day on I-16; he was the only one who could address the situation. I was in the back seat reading, Gabriel was asleep in the middle seat, and Josh was navigating (i.e. the music and snack master). All three other brothers had to trust Sebastian’s judgment to keep the van from spiraling out of control, we definitely added some loud shouts and expletives, but we really could do nothing in the situation to help, in fact if we had tried to assist him in driving, we would have caused more harm than good. That’s an easy situation to see that point, but that happens in your daily life, sometimes you need to step back and trust the people around you to handle a situation, without you. Being independent and charting your own path, isn’t about getting it my way, or doing what I want, it is about realizing that the models for living a fulfilling life are whatever you want to make it. And if you look there are people who want to be a part of that life too. You can do it on your own, you can learn on your own, and there is always a little help if you’re looking for it. Band website: All social media: @wearegreco

I ssue


Melissa Studdard

MELISSA STUDDARD interview by Clifford Brooks

What is it that makes you the writer, advocate, and fan of the arts we see today? What from your youth crafted you to be such a beacon of hope now? Who are those who did the most to fertilize your fields of imagination? Since childhood, I’ve had what my parents and teachers referred to as an “overactive” imagination. My favorite things were reading, playing with my pets, and sitting high at the top of my jungle gym where I could talk to God or whomever else was up there and would listen. The truth I sought was not in facts but in the stories people told. That’s how you really understood something or someone, I felt.

Further, I came from a storytelling family. That’s how we talked—telling stories to illustrate points, to entertain, and to share ourselves with each other. While other people were at their Thanksgiving tables arguing politics, I was at the edge of my seat listening to my mom tell for the seventh year in a row how I had beaten up two boys at the same time when I was five or my sister had to buy Christmas presents for four boys one year because she didn’t want to hurt any of their feelings by saying “no” when they asked her to be their girlfriend. My mom would start a story with, “Did I ever tell you about the time …” And we’d all say, “Yes!” And she would say, “Well, anyway…” And she would tell the story. My grandparents also loved reading. The whole time I was growing up, my grandmother was taking a continuing education class on Proust at her local community college. Twenty years with the same group of people and the same professor, and they never made it past the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past. That’s how much they loved it—they turned every detail over and over, reading and rereading passages aloud to each other until they realized decades had passed. There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll leave it here because I love this thought of my grandmother savoring Proust for twenty years. And, by the way, thanks for the compliments embedded in your question. You’ve just returned from India! Please give us the impetus for your journey, and what you think you gained from it? I spoke on ecopoetry at a conference jointly hosted by The Foundation for the Study of Literature and Environment and Sikkim Government College, Tadong. If you’re not familiar with the region, Sikkim is in the northeastern tip of India—part of the Eastern Himalaya bordering China, Bhutan, and Nepal. As stunning as the region is, I was even more compelled by the extraordinary people I met. They have an ageold sense of hospitality akin to, but beyond, what westerners know as the ancient Greek concept of xenia. The Sanskrit saying for it is “Atithi Devo Bhava,” which means “Be one for whom the guest is a God.” Wherever my colleagues and I went, we were treated as honored guests, and that itself was an education. The conference too, bestowed immeasurable gifts—to be among brilliant people sharing their thoughts is powerful enough, but when you are among that many brilliant people who are also so full of heart and the desire to heal the earth—well, that’s a dose of magic.

100 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Melissa Studdard

What books do you have on market our fans can buy? Where can we go to get them? What projects are you currently working on, or just on the horizon in your schedule? My books are a poetry collection I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, a young adult novel Six Weeks to Yehidah (which has a companion journal—My Yehidah), and an interview collection The Tiferet Talk Interviews. They’re all available at Indiebound, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble online. As well, I always like to encourage people to order books through their local independent booksellers when possible. Regarding what I’m currently working on, I want to quote something I saw on Twitter just today. The poet Carl Phillips said, “When people ask me if I’m working on a book I say ‘No. I’m writing poems & I don’t know yet what their plans are.’” I love that, and it’s exactly where I am right now. What do you think of the publishing world today? What are some of the improvements made in recent years and/or developments that have perhaps cheapened the industry? This is not really my area of expertise, but I do have mixed feelings about e-books. I’m glad e-books make books more accessible to more people, and I’m glad about what they can do for the environment, but I feel writers are probably not really getting their share of the profits. I was at a dinner one time, and four of the people sitting at the table with me had books on the same large press. One of them started complaining about low kindle royalties, and as they began talking about it, they came to realize that they had all received the exact same amount in kindle royalties for the fiscal quarter. It seems unlikely that they would have all sold the exact same number of books in the same period of time. I don’t know at what point in the chain the problem occurred, or whether it was intentional or accidental, but it’s certainly not fair to the authors. You’ve said in other interviews that sometimes your poems incubate for years before you write or complete them. How long does it typically take you to write or revise a poem? One of the most crazy, delightful, gorgeous things about writing is that many aspects of its process remain mysterious even to those who practice it. Though there are some constants, the overall process is not static, and I ssue


Melissa Studdard no matter how much I write I don’t fully know what to expect when I sit down to a new piece. There are poems I’ve written in fifteen minutes, with no revision, and there are poems that have taken years to conceptualize and months to revise. And there are many, many poems I’ve thrown out altogether. Sometimes they just don’t work, and that is something to recognize too. I think the best way to know when something is done is to put it away for a week or more and then look at it with fresh eyes. It’s best if you’ve written or are writing something else that you’re excited about in the meantime so that you’re no longer infatuated with the piece you’re about to revise. When you’re excited about a new piece it becomes easy to admit and fix flaws in the previous piece because your ego is not all tied up in it anymore. You know you’re fabulous because you have just written something new that you’re still high on. This is my cycle—working on a new piece, revising another. What have you never been asked that you’d very much like to answer (and answer, please)? No one has ever asked if anyone else in my family is a writer, and I’d like to brag that my 20-year-old kid, Rosalind Williamson, is a brilliant creative writing major at the University of Houston. Basically, if Franz Kafka’s writing and Gabriel García Márquez’s writing had a love child, it would be Rosalind’s writing. What are you reading right now? Currently, I’m reading about ten books. I always read a lot of books at the same time because I leave them partially read all over the house and my office at work, and I carry them in various purses and bags. I even keep them in the door pockets of my car. Next to me right now are Angela Carter’s Burning your Boats: The Collected Short Stories, Robert Bly’s Leaping Poetry, Kaminsky and Harris’ The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, and Janet A. Kaplan’s Unexpected Journeys: The Art and Life of Remedios Varo. As I’m sure you can surmise from this list, I’m inspired and delighted by the imaginative and the surreal. However, had you asked me last month, when I was preparing to go to India, you’d have found me surrounded by books such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Murali Sivaramakrishnan’s Ecological Criticism for Our Times, and Amy King and Heidi Lynn Staple’s Big Energy Poets: Ecopoetry Thinks Climate Change. What we’re reading does paint such a great picture not only of who we are but what we’re exploring at any given time. I think everyone should be asking each other this question all the time. What charity or organization do you support that you think more people should be aware of? Before I name an organization, I want to point to an incredible trend I’m noticing. Individual poets and writers have begun to regularly offer support to each other through personal charity. The first time I saw it was when Christopher Soto made a post on Facebook that he wanted to provide literary journal subscriptions of their choice to several graduate students; then many people replied in the comments that they would provide subscriptions as well, and he worked to match donors to recipients. Since then, I have seen people offer on Facebook and Twitter to pay writing contest entry fees, the costs of graduate school applications, and so much more. I love this trend, and I like the idea of making more people aware of it—it’s important for us to realize we don’t need an organization to help others. Yet, organizations are great too, and can do things on a much larger scale—so, the organization I’d like to call attention to is VIDA, which is a feminist organization that for years now has worked to create transparency around the lack of gender parity in the literary landscape. What some people may not know, and what I’d like to call attention to, is that in recent years VIDA has also begun working to amplify other historically-marginalized voices, including people of color; writers with disabilities; and queer, trans and gender nonconforming individuals. Find out more about Melissa and her work at: episode/i-ate-the-cosmos-for- breakfast/ poetsorg/poet/melissa-studdard

102 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

AE Stallings


interview by Clifford Brooks What is the particular style you would call your poetry? How has it evolved over time? I probably have a few different modes—there is a freer, persona-poem mode, a tighter quatrain mode, a stanzaic mode, a syllabic mode, forms of repetition mode. I realize that is not the same thing as style, but I am not sure how to describe a style. Right now I am experimenting with longer, nonmetrical lines linked by rhymes. What is your personal philosophy on writing good poetry? In my case, it tends to be useful for some part of the conscious mind to be focused on a technical problem— though not too complex a technical problem—so that it keeps out of the way of the subconscious. This isn’t a philosophy, more of a technique. There’s no recipe for poetry, each poem tends to get written in its own way. In this way, writing poetry get more difficult over time I think. What are some some of the rituals you go through before, during, or after writing? How does your editing process go? I don’t have rituals. I often begin a poem longhand, but will finish it on the computer. Lines often come to me while walking, but not always. I will often begin work listening to music, but by the time I am stuck in, the music will be over, and I won’t hear that. Name your biggest influence in poetry today. At a certain point influence isn’t the right word exactly. You are who you are, and one of your influences ends up being your own work, even if it is avoiding repetition. (Doesn’t Dana Gioia say this somewhere?) Poetry that tends to nourish me includes work (this is in no order) by Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkin, A. E. Housman, Richard Wilbur, Natasha Trethewey, Thomas Hardy, T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Ange Mlinko, Alice Oswald, Sylvia Plath, Christian Wiman… it is often individual poems rather than a body of work. I love “The Thought Fox” and “Thistles” by Ted Hughes, for instance, those are poems in my personal anthology of favorites, but I don’t know that he as a poet is an influence. I ssue


AE Stallings

We are both Athens, Georgia natives. Now you live in Athens, Greece. How has that changed or helped you develop your particular voice? I wasn’t born in Athens, Georgia, but I did spend important years at the University there, and some of my closest friends are from those years. I have lived in Greece for the majority of my adult life now, so it feels like home. I am comfortable I guess in my not fitting in, in living in translation. Do you have any new books on the horizon? My translation of Hesiod is just out with Penguin Classics, and I have a new collection (Like) forthcoming with FSG. What’s some advice you give your up and coming writers that may help them sidestep drama? I think Social Media is probably more dangerous to poetry right now than the supposed threat of professionalization posed by MFA programs. It can also be a great way to connect with poets, to learn about new work etc. But I think it makes it that much harder to review books, for instance. There is pressure to be always positive—after all, who knows when you’ll need a reference or a blurb or a job. I am somewhat disturbed by the opprobrium heaped upon those who dare to be critical. I think if you want to engage in literature on that level you have to have the stomach for a little drama. On the other hand, nothing is stopping you from just ducking out of po-biz altogether, just writing your poems and sending them out. (Or not!) What do you do to find inspiration, or what do you do to decompress for fun to keep your verse fresh? Actually I would say I am coming out of a year when I did not really succeed in doing that. I have had a lot of prose to grapple with, and am finishing up book projects. I am hoping that clearing these out of the way will help me get back into the freshness of verse. What are you into now aside from writing? Do you have any charities you support or causes you want more to be aware? I have ended up—as have many people in Athens—active, or entangled, with the refugee situation here. I volunteer with some friends at a squat in central Athens, and I also teach a poetry workshop to refugee women at the Melissa center. It may have to do in part with being a foreign woman in Greece myself, but at any rate, this is part of my life now. Alicia’s trasnlation of Hesiod may be found at: books/182135/works-and-days/ A Spotify playlist to accompany the book: a.e.stallings/playlist/ 6QWoGIkl2wd7pAsJOWSgJH

104 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Ron Aiken


President, Atlanta Writers Club interview by Clifford Brooks

Give us the lowdown on how you got started in the military, music, the law, and now writing? Music was always a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My father loved jazz, and I learned to love it too. I played reed instruments in high school, but as a math and chemistry major in college, I packed them away. I heard a song titled “Tali” from Leo Wright’s album “Suddenly the Blues” where he soloed on the flute. It was beautiful, and I decided to take lessons. I got drafted nine months later, passed the band audition and after basic training spent my time in the army tooting Stars and Stripes Forever up and down the coast of Northern California, rather than tramping through Vietnamese jungles toting an M-16. After I was discharged, I went back home to New York and enrolled in a music school, quickly realized pursuing a career as a professional jazz musician wasn’t viable, and after a semester, transferred to a local university and graduated with a BA in Music Composition. I took a management training position at New York Telephone and began the slow climb up the corporate ladder. The company encouraged its employees to take business-related courses, and when a friend enrolled in law school full-time, I decided to go to give it a try. The four-year grind of full-time employment and nights law school is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished. But it wasn’t satisfying. Personal injury and writing wills weren’t cutting it for me. I left New York Telephone and went to a Big Eight accounting firm (now it’s the Big Four) as a consultant, and after three years started a consulting and project management practice. A lot of the engagements were mundane—writing or reviewing commercial and technical documents and contracts. Then an exciting development occurred which got me back into to music. A friend had a son who’d gotten a recording contract, and he wanted me to take a look it, see if it was all right to sign. I did, and the contract was a total rip off. I took an interest in the kid, a rapper, and that relationship got me into entertainment law, management and production. Unlike most Atlanta Writers Club members, I didn’t have a burning passion to be a writer. I was a reader. My path to writing fiction started after my first trip to Germany and Italy in 2000. My senses were profoundly affected by my experiences, and I didn’t want to forget them when I returned home in New York. As a result, the fifteen-day trip turned into a 25-thousand-word journal and travelogue. Friends and family enjoyed reading it saying I made them feel as if they were right there with me. What about the South gives you the inspiration (and time) to create the fiction I adore now that I have your first book? What was it about your life in New York that hindered that process? The network of local writers I’ve been able to connect with and the AWC have been one hundred percent I ssue


Ron Aiken instrumental in my development as a writer. Those assets may have been available in New York, but I wasn’t able to find them. I belonged to a critique group headed by an accomplished college professor and writer. He was a demanding taskmaster--and not above dishing out ridicule--with an emphasis on developing the themes of legendary black authors such as James Baldwin while all I wanted to accomplish was write good pulp fiction. It wasn’t a good match. How do you fit your music passion into your passion for writing? My flute teacher has me working on Mozart’s Concerto # 1 in G major. I love the piece, and I’ve commented to him how impressed I am with how Mozart was able to take a simple two-bar motif, state it, develop it and recapitulate it into a fantastic first movement to play and listen to. That’s my approach to storytelling—simple themes (greed, revenge, power) developed and stated, as my wife reminds me often, cleanly, and with few frills. What is an interview question you wouldn’t want to have to answer again? I haven’t done a lot of interviews, so it’s not so much annoying questions I’d like to avoid, as the response I often get when a person finds out I’ve written a book— “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” I usually respond by telling them, to use the Nike slogan, just do it, but in a nice way. You told me that you want to improve the AWC with several new outreach programs and activities to bring in new members while helping the community. Please tell us about those? I believe everyone who takes on a leadership role wants to do more than maintain the status quo, instead, leave an organization in a better place than when they took over. The AWC offers programs to retain and grow its membership, and previous presidents have done a great job in meeting that objective. Writing is a solitary art, and I’ve tried to build more of a sense of community within the Atlanta Writers Club by having a mixer before monthly meetings. Members can share the writing with their peers, enter writing contests or just hang out. And we’re working on tapping into Georgia’s burgeoning movie industry by offering screenwriting workshops. Our charter also calls for promoting the advancement of literary art in our communities, and one of my passions is working with children. As a child, I didn’t enjoy reading. Very little of the material interested me. I’ve mentored elementary school kids in reading, and I’ve noticed that same lack of interest in some of the kids. Among young people, stories about super heroes are all the rage, and the AWC is exploring partnering with a local school group to develop a graphic novel program and use it as a tool to get kids, especially those at risk, interested in reading and writing. How were you chosen to be president of the AWC, and how has it gone for you so far? Short straw? I don’t know. I’ve been a member of the Atlanta Writers Club for over eleven years and have always been an active volunteer at club events such as the Atlanta Writers Conference and the Decatur Book Festival. I knew most of the board members, and I guess one of them got the idea to ask me if I was interested in the presidency. Initially, I hesitated to commit, but I wanted to give back to the club that helped me achieve my goals as a writer. So, I took baby steps, became a board member, observed and participated in decision making for almost a year before I took over in May 2017. There are five former presidents on the board, and with their combined

106 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Ron Aiken experience, acceptance of change and good counsel, I’d have to plan to fail not to succeed. I’m enjoying taking the Atlanta Writers Club in exciting new directions. A funny point—I was told fulfilling the president’s responsibilities would require 10-to-15 hours a week. I was retired when I stepped up and even with my other activities, that was infinitely doable. I’ll probably tell the next president the same thing. You have a Zen quality about you in such a hectic world. What helps you maintain that? I don’t know about this Zen thing, but I’ve had a lot of on-the-job training in conflict resolution. I’m the oldest of seven children and by default was the designated First Sargent. Both parents worked, and I had to control the chaos seven kids could create, keep the peace among us and make sure everybody and everything were intact when the folks came home. If it wasn’t? Well, you don’t have to guess who had to pay. I think that experience growing up helped me in my business career and life in general. Murphy’s Law—if something can go wrong ... I had to anticipate it, remain calm and resolve it when the inevitable happened. What was the turning point when you realized writing was a lion that wasn’t planning to let you go? Do you have any new projects on the horizon? Can you tell us a little about it? 9/11 sucked the life out of New York, leaving it spiritually and financially broken, and it was clear to me it was going to take some time for it to recover. My business suffered, and at the end of 2002, I retired, thus giving me a chance to put a lot of that freed-up time to writing I’d started after my 2000 European trip. I signed up for fiction writing and screenplay classes at the Gotham Writers School and studied Italian. I felt like a college kid again and threw myself into learning the craft and tackling a foreign language at the same time. In my first fiction writing class, I submitted a short story I’d been working on, and the instructor thought it had merit and encouraged me to expand it into a novel. “How do I do that?” I asked, and seeking the answer to that question became my Holy Grail until 2012 when that short story—Death Has Its Benefits—was published. Currently, I’m polishing up my third manuscript. It’s a mystery novel, and the working title is Dawgy’s Nite Out. Its theme is revenge—think of Charles Bronson’s ‘70s movie Death Wish—and I’m hoping it’ll garner a positive response from agents and publishers this year. What are some of the non-clichéd differences between your life in New York, and the landscape down here in Georgia? Explain how you got down below the Mason-Dixon Line? I was born and spent my early childhood in Arkansas, and my parents moved the family to New York when I was seven or eight. The South wasn’t a welcoming place for a black man, and I vowed never to return. Fast forward thirty years: My brother relocated to the Atlanta metro area in the mid-‘90s, and he started recruiting family members to join him, Day One. My wife and I visited him a couple of times a year. He’d pick us up at the airport, drive us to his house south of Atlanta, then after a couple of days, back to the airport and home. To us, Atlanta was CNN Center. When my wife retired in 2006, she made it known she was tired of New York’s hustle and bustle, cold weather, snowstorms and wanted to leave New York. She wasn’t shoveling any more snow and was moving with me, or without me. I took that as hyperbole, of course, but she got me thinking. Maybe it was time for a change. And most of the big time southern athletic programs were populated with black athletes. We took a leap of faith, and it’s paid off. Surprising to me? I’ve seen more interaction among races in Atlanta than I ever saw in New York. Audiences at arts and sporting events in Atlanta are more diverse than in New York. Communities, too. Maybe New York’s changed—I’ve been away for 12 years—but I can only imagine gentrification has made the city less racially and economically diverse. I ssue


Ron Aiken But overall, I’m struck more by similarities than differences, at least in comparison to comparing New York and Atlanta. Atlanta has a lot of what New York has to offer, just not as much; professional sports, theatre, a world-class orchestra, opera, ballet, great restaurants, Spivey Hall, live music venues with world-class talent, neighborhoods with their own unique character. No significant jazz presence though. And some New York doesn’t; a temperate climate and very little snow. Paradoxically, we’ve done a ton more things in Atlanta than we could ever afford to do in New York. Except for Atlanta’s great weather, I didn’t expect any of this. Remember, CNN Center was Atlanta. New Yorkers have a particular conceit about the city and their place in the world, and I must confess, that applied to me as well. I still consider myself as a New Yorker first, and every time I go back, I feel the energy—walking through Times Square at one in the morning, wall-to-wall people. Do you have any rituals you go through before sitting down to write? What gets you in the mood? Nope. No rituals for me. A pen and pad, music or the guy sitting next to me at Starbucks talking on his cell phone and I’m ready to go. I understand you play flute in a community band. Please tell us about that. After a couple of short-lived attempts to start playing again, I picked up the flute in 2016, took lessons, and gave myself a year to get back in playing shape. I expected to pick it up where I left off, but my progress was so much slower than I’d imagined. Fingers not as nimble, shortness of breath, sight reading subpar. With lots of practice, after nine months my teacher thought I was ready to play with a band, and I joined a wind ensemble. It’s still challenging, but I’m having a lot of fun.

What are some of the pitfalls you found along the way in writing/publishing that you’d like to help those up-and-coming to avoid? The Atlanta Writers Club covers every aspect of writing/publishing in its conferences, workshops, and monthly meetings, so I don’t have much to offer in that regard. But I will say that for most aspiring writers, the road to publication is a marathon, not a sprint and it’s easy to get discouraged along the way. I liken querying agents and publishers, to being a telemarketer making cold calls. To them, it’s a numbers game. They must have a thick skin because they know it’s going to take hundreds of contacts (and rejections) before they get just a few nibbles, and maybe one of those nibbles will result in a sale. So, perseverance is vital. How does your lovely wife keep you on the rails with all the various projects you’ve got going on? Years ago, Honey said of our marriage that I was more like a roommate, coming and going as I pleased than a husband, and to some extent she was right. With a regular 60-to-80-hour work week and the little bit of me time I carved out to keep sane, it didn’t leave a lot of us time. But I always trusted her judgment, even if I didn’t agree with her, I respected what she had to say. Hey, she got us to Georgia. She’s always kept me grounded, even when I wanted to fly off and try something different. She’s my biggest fan and harshest critic. Everything I

108 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Ron Aiken write goes to her for feedback. And she’s got a great sense of humor. For instance, when I showed her two consecutive pages on which my editor hadn’t left his signature red mark, she commented, “Oh, they must have gotten stuck together.” Now that we’re both retired, we have time to do community service work. We both have mentored at-risk elementary school kids, she volunteers at a hospice, and I teach kids chess. I’ve also been on the boards of a local theater company and an arts council. We both enjoy quilting, and I get in a little tennis from time to time. It’s a wonderful life. Would you mind adding an excerpt from your new, unpublished novel? The working title is Dawgy’s Nite Out. It’s a novel of revenge set in the music industry, and the story is a takeoff the ‘70s Charles Bronson movie, Death Wish. The excerpt is from the first chapter.

Chapter 1. JONATHAN BLONDE The food mart’s black-and-white video was soft and grainy, a pop tune playing in the background providing a hokey soundtrack. The digital readout at the bottom of the monitor set the time at 10:32 p.m., 5/1/14. May Day. Three days ago. A black, male clerk, his back to the camera, stood behind the checkout counter, punching the cash register and bagging groceries. The customer, a gray-haired old white man, faced the clerk. I couldn’t identify him because the poor quality of the tape and the aged VHS machine it was recorded on conspired to make him unrecognizable. “Find everything all right?” the clerk asked. I recognized the voice, though, when the old guy said, “Yeah, I’m good.” A bell chimed—another customer entered the store. I stopped breathing. I knew what was coming next. The clerk put the last item in a plastic bag and rung up the sale. “That’ll be eighteen sixty-three,” I heard the clerk say, then almost as an afterthought, “That was a good year,” said with a certain air of satisfaction. Eighteen sixty-three. The year Lincoln freed the slaves. With arthritic fingers, the customer fumbled to pull his wallet out of his right hip pocket. Finally wrested it free, passed a single bill to the clerk and waited for change. “You sure you want to see this, son?” Wilburn Jones, an Atlanta police detective, said from behind me. He squeezed my shoulders, then gave me a gentle pat on the back. I ssue


Ron Aiken We were in a windowless interview room in the Major Crimes Division downtown. A table and four hard-ass chairs took up most of the space. The lights were off to better view the video. My hands shook, but I said, “I … I’m okay,” and concentrated on the monitor. Then it struck me. “I didn’t know these old surveillance systems recorded audio.” “We caught a break. The clerk had called his wife; the answering machine picked up. See the phone on the counter? Left the call up while he took care of the customer. Lab guys synched the message with the video.” The intruder emerged in stages. First, sneakers partially covered by baggy jeans. Then the tail of a T-shirt that fell to the knees. Finally, the snarling face of a young black man, a hood pulled tight around his face. “Yo, where the beer at?” the kid shouted right into the old guy’s ear as if it was a megaphone. “In back, if you wanna cold one,” the clerk said. “Otherwise, next aisle over.” The momentary interruption caused the clerk to lose concentration, and he started counting out the old man’s change again. “Sixty-five, seventy-five—” But the kid instead of going for the beer leaned in and whispered something to the old guy, who I could tell responded because his lips moved. “What’re they saying?” I asked Jones. “I’ll be damned if I know, but you can bet whatever it was, it ain’t good. Labs working on it, but I ain’t holding out much hope they’ll come up with anything useful.” The kid pulled something out of the sweatshirt’s pouch, jammed it into the customer’s back, pushing him into the counter. “Hey,” the old guy yelled in protest. The gunshot’s muffled concussion made me jump. The old man slumped over the counter, dropping the change. The coins bounced off the glass countertop and fell onto the floor. He struggled to stay on his feet but his legs gave way, and he crumpled in a heap, pinning his left arm awkwardly behind his neck. The other arm flared to the side, seemingly reaching for the coins spinning on the floor. The clerk, fearing he was next to get shot, cowered behind the counter, arms wrapped around his face. “Don’t you move, muhfucka unless you want me to blow your fuckin’ head off,” the kid said, then vaulted over the counter, started emptying the cash register, and stuffing his pockets. Once he’d grabbed all the money, he stepped over the clerk, then disappeared off-camera. “He’s going for the surveillance tape,” Detective Jones said. The entry-bell sounded again. Another customer. Brandishing the murder weapon, the killer reappeared, but whoever had wandered in didn’t stick around,

110 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Ron Aiken because the bell clanged again, a split-second later. The murderer hesitated, probably calculating whether he should go for the tape or take off before someone else showed up. He decided on fleeing, but took the time to snatch a bag of chips on his way out. The digital clock ticked off another minute. The whole thing had taken less than two. Detective Jones stopped the tape. Except for the white horizontal lines streaking across the screen, the monitor was black. Bile bubbled up into my mouth, my throat burning when I swallowed it. “You all right?” the detective said. I nodded, raked my hands across my face. “You sure? Lemme get you something cold to drink.” “Naw, that’s okay.” Ignoring my protest, Jones buzzed the intercom and called out, “Bring a Coke for Mr. Blonde, will ya, Rob?” then to me, “Coke all right?” “That’ll be fine, Detective,” I said, but the tremor in my voice told a different story. I was far from being fine. Blood pulsed at my temples. I tried losing myself in the white noise hissing from the speakers. Become one of the dashes, unknowing, unfeeling, racing across the black screen. xxxxx Who are some of those who are either alive or dead who have inspired you the most? Without a doubt, my parents. They’re deceased, but I still feel the impact of what they did for my family and me. They were kids when they married. Moved with their five kids (soon to be seven) from the segregated South to New York to give their kids the best opportunity to succeed in life. They were all about family, singleminded in their goal. We led a utilitarian life—no fancy restaurants (I was an adult before I ate in a restaurant), parties, vacations, cars, jewelry. They stressed education and sports. What you achieved yesterday wasn’t good enough for today. You had to always strive to reach the next rung on whatever ladder you were were climbing. Of their seven kids, five are college graduates; three have graduate degrees and three entrepreneurs. And their children have tried to keep their ideals with two of their grandchildren practicing law. An example of my father’s single-mindedness: He had a Honda Accord with over 250,000 miles on the odometer held together with duct tape and baling wire, but refused to get a newer car because he wanted to save whatever the purchase would cost for his kids. The “kids” were all north of fifty with careers and families, but he still wanted to provide for his family. My dad and I certainly had our differences over the years, but he’s still the man I strive to top. More information on the Atlanta Writers Club can be found at I ssue


Peter Junker


interview by Clifford Brooks

What about poetry today gets under your skin? Not in the ethereal manner we cherish, but what gives you hives? Are there trends today that unnerve you? The truth is, I don’t read enough current poetry to know for sure what’s a trend and what’s just a set of peculiarities that catch my eye. But I wish more poetry would give me hives. I find blandness more objectionable. If something gets my dander up, at least I know that it’s worth closer inspection, or introspection. If I care to examine a thing that I have a big reaction to, it can give me new information about my own esthetic, emotional, intellectual position. I try as I can to bring an expansive kind of attention and open heart to every poem I read, and I think any reader willing to do so deserves to be rewarded doubly for the effort without having to inspect the poem with a microscope. I want to feel a bolt. I want to hear a boom. That doesn’t happen often. What are you reading? My daughter gave me the collected poems of Audre Lorde, and it’s an education for somebody like me, raised in the white Man-cannon. The word “urgency” shows up in countless book blurbs, but with Lorde, it’s apt. She was an activist, born in the 1930s, who was writing from the outside as a feminist, African-American, a lesbian, a mother, when there were practically no other voices like hers out there. It’s poetry as a survival strategy. She develops a unique formal control, even in her freest verse, using things like a sensory impression intervening in an otherwise predictable sentence, in a way that doesn’t fragment but rather completes an idea. She also has the “boom” factor. You can look at her last lines all by themselves and feel the echoing boom. I also just finished the audio of Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It deserves all the praise it has received. It’s prose poetry. I recommend the audio over the printed book because there are something like 130 different speaking voices, and there’s no way I would have kept it all straight on a page. It’s truly beautiful.

112 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Peter Junker

Off and on I’ve been studying a young poet, Melissa Range, her second book, Scriptorium. I have a few books that I’m always coming back to. Dean Young and James Tate are poets I admire. I read a book called Speaking of Siva, translations of Saiva devotional hymns translated by A.K. Ramanujan, every few years. My first poetry teacher was Norman Dubie, and I return to his early New and Selected Poems and Radio Sky and Groom Falconer. They remind me of lessons learned way back in workshop days, and I still find them amazing. When I need inspiration, I pick up Keats or one of Marvin Bell’s three “Dead Man” books. I’m also a fan of comics, but haven’t been in that scene for a while. (Too expensive.) Maybe if I stopped reading the same things I’d be up on current poetry and my own work might progress. What are you writing? I started writing in syllabics in the early 1990s and came up with this arbitrary form of 10 10-syllable lines (a total of 100 syllables) per poem. It’s always two quatrains followed by a couplet, so every poem looks nearly identical on the page. A friend described it as part sonnet, part haiku. It’s an obsession. Surprisingly, people almost never challenge me as to why I write in this seemingly formulaic death-march style, but I am always feeling like I need to justify it to myself. Why can’t you be more free? Why limit your song, when poetry should be a liberating voice? Aren’t you afraid of boring your readers? I think all are legitimate concerns. I do it because I love it. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of insights into that. I begin with the assumption that poetry is a performative act—like painting, which always has a frame, or drama, which typically has a stage. Poems are self-conscious constructions, meant to entertain and enlighten. Sometimes a poem strikes a pose and proclaims. In art history, there’s this snobby and kind of arbitrary division between the High Renaissance painters and some of the later ones, who were dismissively labelled “mannerist.” The Mannerists painted sacred or mythical scenes with characters in uber-dramatic and artificial but symbolic poses, they emphasized contrasts, they sometimes stretched perspective beyond what’s normal. Light falls on Christ as if electric spotlights had already been invented. It’s all for the sake of presenting the most emotionally affecting scene possible. Yes, it was pure artifice. The frame of my form actually draws attention to the artifice of poetry. To me, a poem’s not found—I’m missing the William Carlos Williams gene—for me, a poem’s crafted. It might not use the most natural diction or vocabulary, but that’s part of its strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of subtlety. But if I’ve just read a poem that required a microscope for me to appreciate it, I feel like I’ve done more work than the poet. Instead of being a rut I’ve fallen into, I think of the form as experimental. How can I pack 100 syllables with meaning? How many weird metaphors can I get away with in just ten lines? What happens if I repeat a word or a phrase, robbing myself of other potential uses for those syllables? Can it work for speaking in others’ voices. . . ? The questions are endless and that’s the fun of it. I like to tell stories about men, real and mythical, like about Odysseus, or Beethoven on his deathbed or, or, more often, of the utter despair and comedy of a guy climbing a career ladder in order to keep his suburban life from collapsing. Or just an incident in the life of my good-old boy persona. I’m interested in the implications of boys raised on Greatest Generation masculinity. For the longest time I didn’t write about specific personal experience. That changed about 10 years after I was hospitalized for manic depression. I had a surfeit of gorgeous grief to examine after going through a divorce, separation from my children, psychosis, suicide attempt (and professional suicide), hospitalizations, electro-convulsive therapy, bankruptcy and virtual unemployability. I ssue


Peter Junker

But even in the midst of all that, I fell in love with a wonderful woman. We’ve been together 16 years. Lately I’m writing more about recovery, mine and in general, and the ways that loss sets you up for a richer life, and the role love plays in survival for all of us who struggle (which, a friend points out, is all of us). Are there rituals you go through before writing? I’m not disciplined enough to have rituals. It sounds corny, but I’ve always relied on the Muse, who’s notoriously whimsical. Well, I guess I do have a certain mechanical pencil that I’ve used for years, a Papermate Titanium 5mm with a twist-eraser. It feels good. I like to write in a lined journal. I’m not even disciplined enough to write on subsequent pages; the work is all over the place, in no particular order. To the idea that poets “stand naked in front of a crowd” where authors can hide behind various characters: What do you think? That nakedness is true in my life. Especially topically, when I’m exposing my life and illness in a way that is uncomfortable. I do think that poets can adopt personae that are honest in their own ways. Sometimes I do that to contradict my own ideas. Even that is a challenge—in the old sense of the word—which forces one to self -revelation. I also feel that writing within strict limits, manneristically, as I do, is a choice that invites criticism. I can feel a bit defensive about it even though I can rationally justify it. I think there are prose authors who get naked in their work. Some fiction comes right from the gut while other fine writers focus on rollicking good stories. What is the most important thing to remember when reading to an audience? Very simple: Speak up and annunciate. Find your poem’s pace. If you read everything at the same droning pace, everything will sound the same. What books do you have out and where can we buy them? I only have a chapbook, Lunacy, It’s Called, which is available from Kudzu Leaf Press ( I’m sort of an intentionally undiscovered writer. I throw out most of what I write and it can take 10 years for me to complete something. Now, at age 55, after writing my whole life, I think I’m about four or five poems away from having a full-sized cohesive manuscript, about 70 poems, that I’ll be happy with. It is tentatively called Things Will Get Worse. I intend to make it worth your 18 bucks.

114 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Peter Junker

The Man Outside Eden I never could get used to the rivers That flooded my eyes in the dry season, Or nights spent sleepless, dreading predators, Or the way the turned earth smoked in the cold.

Father and Son He’s in his 90s, and everything hurts. I’m halfway through a 30-year mortgage, In a green niche of DeKalb County. He’s Out west, in a brown-stucco stopover

Good was all we had at first, and I kept Lookout for it even after we learned To see the invisible things, what ate Us and spat seeds of ourselves in our sons. My clever children pitied how I pined For brighter times and saw things black and white.

Called assisted living. I live for love Of my long-sought soulmate and our leafy Home. His childhood sweetheart, my mother, Is in hospice. He eats just enough to Spare her the pain of him going first. I have to prune the trees before the next frost.

Pity Not The sparkly lady doctor on Today Spoke first of insomnia’s commonness, So get over yourself, then cataloged Its bloody busload of consequences, So wake up. To this guy, it lacked romance Not to nod to the great sleepless poets Nor note how Jesus had his eyes open. Pity not the pooped ones. We got daylight, Should we need it, and something some thing sez Is that something soon may reach its zenith.

I ssue


Waqas Khwaja

WAQAS KHWAJA interview by Clifford Brooks

What calls to you when you write poetry? What therapeutic value does it give you? Words, fragmentary phrases, sounds, stray bird calls, the rustle of a squirrel’s feet, the murmur of a bee’s wings, a note from a violin or a sitar, the throb of a tabla under supple fingers and an eager hand, the slow rhythmic splash of an oar in the water, visual images, tastes, acrid, and sour, and sweet, fiery and cool, provoking and questioning, smells, fresh and bracing as the morning breeze, fragrant as mango, guava, and orange, musty and mysterious in rooms that have been shut a long while, thick and suffocating with the refuse, spoilage and decomposition of daily life, tactile experiences, textures of things, water running through the fingers, the scratch of pine needles in the soles of my feet, bodies twining in each other’s arms . . . whatever stimulates or deranges the mind, makes the heart beat faster . . . the sinking in the pit of the stomach . . . the color, the vitality, the exuberance of life, its despairs, hurts, and traumas, its madness and exhilaration, its quiet reflective moments, its spontaneity, its pleasures, its sorrow, its painful labored stumbling toward an unknown future, toward half-distinct, half-realized goals, its uncanny designs and exasperating indeterminacies, its exquisite forms and maddening, enthralling formlessness . . . oh, every fiber and cell and gobbet of existence, even stone and rock and metal, whatever is natural or manmade, visible or invisible . . . the unity behind it all . . . the source that generated and discharged it in this intoxicating abundance and multifariousness. It is only in and through poetry, I find, that I can truly live and feel. To inhabit it entirely will be, paradoxically, to lose myself to the world around me, its socially regulated ways of existence and actualization. But poetry gives me the freedom, the comfort, even the vitalizing thrill of remaining in touch, existing in, and transcending at the same time the confines of our politically structured human and social geographies. What question do you want asked that you never do? What’s the answer? I don’t ever think about this at all. Whatever I have to interrogate myself about, I do so in my reflections and in my reading and writing privately or in a conversation with others. And it would be rather presumptuous of me to conjecture what others would want to know about me, or that they would at all want to know anything about me. Besides, I have a hard time answering questions anyway, for I often have a number of disparate ideas and feelings that I need to sort out for myself before I can hazard an answer. So I struggle with how to approach and respond to a query as much as with what I should be saying that would best reflect my thoughts on the subject, which, to my dismay, may end up with the realization that this response is contingent only on certain circumstances and that I may actually have a different view if the context were to change. I much rather prefer a conversation than a question-and-answer approach. What are some things you want people to know about you? Nothing. Literally, nothing. Just read the poems I have written. There’s nothing outside them that is worth knowing about me. Where do you go to write? If this is a question about starting a poem, or making notes about a poem that I would write later, then this can, and does, happen anywhere and everywhere. I may be brushing my teeth and a phrase, an idea, or an image may come to me, and I will pause straightaway and jot it down in my notebook. I may be driving and have this brief moment of illumination. There is no set place at all. But the drafts of poems are written and honed in my

116 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Waqas Khwaja

study at home mostly. I do need to shut myself up and let the imagination do its work. Once it gets going, though, an interruption does not necessarily disrupt it. I feel as if I am “in a zone,” as they say, and as long as that state persists, the composition continues. I wish I had greater freedom of time than I do. But there are only so many hours in a day, and the nature of my work as a professor allows only so much liberty and latitude for the activity that is dearest to me. There have been times, rare indeed, but times nonetheless when I have turned away from a task that I may have been doing, reading a book, grading papers, or, in my life as a lawyer, preparing a brief, and written down a complete poem that I have not had to revise or rework. But, if I had always waited for such occasions, and this was the only way I wrote, then there would be precious few poems to show and not work enough for even a third of a chapbook. What are some of your accomplishments? What are some others you hope to reach? I have published four collections of poetry, a couple of edited anthologies of poetry and prose translations from Pakistani languages, a handful of scholarly articles on literature. I don’t know if these are “accomplishments.” It’s just a trickle in a rather long stint of life. I would be happy if I were to do a bit more of this in whatever time is left for me. Who are your inspirations in life? Gautama Siddharata, Mahavira, Zarathustra, Miriam and Moses, Jesus and Mary, Khadija and Muhammad, Rabia Basri, Qurratu l-‘Ayn Tahirah, Lal Ded, Nanak, Kabir, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins. What are you reading? A diverse set of poetry collections: Niyi Osundare’s If Only the Road Could Talk, Mad Heart Be Brave: Essays on the Poetry of Agha Shahid Ali, compiled and edited by Kazim Ali, Eugene Ostshevsky’s The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi, Yves Bonnefoy’s Second Simplicity, Rupert Fike’s Hello The House, David Hawkes’ A Little Primer of Tu Fu, Arun Kolatker’s Collected Poems in English, The Absent Traveler: Prakrit Love Poetry from Gatahasati of Satavahana Hala, How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets, Adonis’ Selected Poems. What books do you have out now, and where can we buy them? Only a couple of my books are still in print and available in the States at this time—my latest collection of poems Hold Your Breath, published last year by Onslaught Press, UK, and an anthology I ssue


Waqas Khwaja of Pakistani poetry for which I served as translation editor and contributor, Modern Poetry of Pakistan, issued by Dalkey Archive Press in 2010. It is still possible to order my 2007 collection of poetry No One Waits for the Train from Alhambra Publishers, Brussels, I suppose, but it is no longer being distributed here in the United States. The earlier collections, Six Geese from a Tomb at Medum and Mariam’s Lament and other poems, have limited availability in Pakistan only. The IWP travel narrative Writers and Landscapes and an anthology of Pakistani Literature, Mornings in the Wilderness, that I edited, and for which I translated the included short stories and poems from Urdu, are out of print. Another edited anthology, Pakistani Short Stories, has limited availability from India. A complete edition of my new and collected poetry, tentatively titled Out of My Hands, is currently in the works. Availability of books: Hold Your Breath and Modern Poetry of Pakistan are both available at; Hold Your Breath is also available directly from the publisher, Onslaught, UK-- product/hold-your-breath/; No One Waits for the Train appears to be currently out of print, as are the others, though a few used copies of each title are available from independent sellers on Amazon and Abe books. Out of my hands, paper boats, these doves sent down the rumpled waterway. A slim, dark-eyed boy of four, keen beside me, watching. His sister plump with wonder and a little sore at being the elder one without a grouse, and not exactly pleased at sharing the duck-white fleet. Flat on my stomach i lie, holding each child in turn just low enough across a brick platform to set the boats right, without danger of turning in air or tilting on the water’s surface. You who sat last night amid shouts and cries folding sheet after sheet into these frail vessels, while children cut out paper to canopy them brightly and fix small pennants on thin bamboo sticks, watch with a halfsmile inwardly amused, a shade apart.

118 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Paper Boats And boats like fledgling birds are caught in snarls, in hand-breadth eddies around naked poplar roots, in sedge pushing through the bank’s dark earth. A few break out to the safe smooth middle, shiny like the sun-browned skin of youthful maidens. The rest are fished out, or dragged with a dry black twig back, and given a second chance. Again I hold the girl first, she is getting heavier each day, and bring her down near the water’s surface. She lets go too soon, but the boat rights itself. Afterwards, Omer. Slowly he sets his vessel straight in air, held between a tiny thumb and finger, a syllable suspended, and lets it drop. It crosses the rough into the main sap flow. You walk away from the platform to the very edge of water and kneel to offer your sparkling brood—

Waqas Khwaja My Underwear It lasted me a long while; now, it’s quite worn out. The frazzled area at the back has three holes in line; the fourth is a tack higher left—a run. The elastic might just hold out a few days: it still seems tight enough to prevent sliding, though its lack might be remedied in other ways. Sack cloth would be tougher (this too is not white anymore, and the selvedge where it chafed against my thighs is not only corroded but yellowed) and cheaper, but it would flay the skin off sac and penis tip, both saved for functions not to be incommoded. It floats up, now, the night sky’s milky pathway.

-From Six Geese from a Tomb at Medum

a pack that spreads out by and by, tossing, shivering in the expansive light. Far out where light falls in dazzling showers, tinting the waters, or shatters on the surface, tiny pennants. Then nothing. A pennant again, perhaps. We decide to walk along the bank. The coral blossoms hang low over our heads, and children gather a fallen branch or two. The willow trails in water. Over moldering leaves, a furlong. Not a sign. We take the car now, down the waterside road. A mile. More. No sign still of pennants or boats. The girls is Fatima, seven. That dark-eyed boy i have already named. And their mother who knelt at the brown water’s edge to float her boats.

- From Six Geese from a Tomb at Medum

I ssue


Waqas Khwaja

Poetry Poetry is not untruth merely: it is a lily spun into an onion— you unwrap it cup-leaf by cup-leaf your eyes watering till you arrive at last at the bulb of deceit.

a struggle between gods and men. A conqueror’s clumsy nag sprouts wings. The rose discloses an elfin princess where only a hungry worm nibbles away the freshness of leaves.

It makes a god of Sisyphus then turns his sun-rock cold, a lifeless blue boulder pushed endlessly up a hill to roll back again and propitiate a new king.

That walk across the block is an odyssey fraught with epic dangers. A lying Sindbad prattles in every house his bread and onion diet transformed to sumptuous feast. A lily spun into an onion— you unwrap it cup-leaf by cup-leaf your eyes watering till you arrive at last at the bulb of deceit.

It burrows into earthwork of heart or activates a ganglion on a bland page recreating refracted memory as truth, commonplace love as divine rage a street fight as

Poetry is not untruth - From Mariam’s Lament, and other poems

120 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Wakefield Brewster


interview by Clifford Brooks What charities do you support? The Charity that I support is my Community first, my FellowMan that is nearest to me, at anytime, every time. That’s the best way that I can describe it. I’m a walker. I take Public Transit. I’m always on the ground level with everybody. I preface with that description as I believe that simply dumping money at a popular and known charity is dodgy. I preface with that description as I believe that simply dumping money at an obscure and unknown charity is dodgy. I find that to be a route and path to assisting my FellowMan that I don’t fully believe in. I know that money makes the world go round. However, quantity rarely equals quality in this same world and furthermore, I haven’t the disposable income to make any kind of significant individual financial contribution. I pick up garbage on my daily 10Km walks. After the Winter, you’ll see me walking with plastic bags in hands, gloves on, grabbing what winter-litter left Spring to expose. I ask the Elderly if they need assistance crossing the road. I’m a SnowAngel when I can be and a LawnAngel when the weather permits. I help my neighbours lift stuff. I help my neighbours move stuff. I offer to spot strangers doing heavy lifts at the gym. I ask if people are in need of directions. I make eye contact and smile at strangers on Public Transit even though I’m always plugged into my iPod. I always wave, smile and look in the eye of the driver that allows me to cross the street - where pedestrians have the right of way. People call me, I answer. People email me, I reply. People text me, I respond. I’m a Youth Mentor to struggling teen boys. I climb trees to rescue drones and kites. I hail a small salutation to almost everyone I pass when I’m walking and I show absolutely no reservation about making myself known to the neigbourhood kids. I have joined the HealingArts as a Massage Therapist with a budding education in Reflexology and Reiki. The Charity I support is Kindness. Kindness costs me nothing. I’m here to help. What are a few of your publishing pet peeves? My publishing pet peeves, I really have none. I’m not a very published Poet. I suppose I would love the opportunity to be published more but that’s never been heavy on my mandate. Reason being, I find that when a person reads my Poetry, it’s a piece that is lost in translation.

I ssue


Wakefield Brewster I am a Performance Poet Extraordinaire. I say that with all of the pride and humility that I can muster. If you hear me first, you can read me second, and things will make sense. The other way around, well, best of luck. It at times seems slippery and cryptic beyond my own understanding but when I present the Poem to you, when I feel in the grips and throes of the Performance, when I’m in a public place having a cathartic moment on the microphone and the world turns to television static and colour bars – you can’t capture that shit on paper. I wish to publish my Poetry on the mental walls and emotional annals of every listener I’m fortunate to capture. I want to be forever published in People’s memories… What do you hope your work with mankind will achieve in easing social strife? I believe that the answers I’ve given thus far combined, answer this question. I walk, talk, live, breathe, eat, and sleep my beliefs. If we are to lead by example, I honestly think that I am doing my job. It is small scale, yes. It is nowhere near a movement in any way, shape or form. I believe in what I do, however. Other people’s belief in who I am or what I do is not required to do what I do and be who I am. I’m as fallible as any other human being, fact. We are all imperfect and we need to get a perfect understanding of our own imperfections before focusing on anyone else’s and it’s not our lot to shift that focus to begin with. I am in the extensive trenches of “me” work. It’s been about 3 years of focused “me” work and I have to say I’m freaking sick of “me” right now – but in the grandest scheme of things, “me” is the only definite thing that I can work on, that I can change, that I can improve for the better of everything and everyone around me. If I can lead in any way by example, in the interest of easing social strife, I’m simply working on me. It’s the greatest selfishness to indulge in. I can ease social strife for mankind by not being a pain in the ass to mankind. What projects do you have on the horizon? I have many aspirations for projects. I need to procure a quartet or quintet of musicians for my Poetic/Musical Crossovers. I need to procure a videographer and a sound technician to create my double CD dream; A disc of All Audio/A disc of VideoPoetry – combined. I’m presently toying with the idea of a live installation show with a painter. I know it’s going to happen. I’m continuously attempting to set up Poetry/Writing Evening Courses free to the Public – especially in the disenfranchised communities. I’m an advocate for literacy – I wish to bring the world of words to all of the world – starting with my hood, South East Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I want to tour.

122 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Lanier Ivester


interview by Laura McCullough Lanier, your bio on The Rabbit Room describes you as “a Southern Lady in the best and most classical sense”. What does that mean to you, to be called a Southern Lady? What does it NOT mean that is often attributed to the cultural caricature of “South”? I’ll admit, I was honored to be described that way on The Rabbit Room, because a “Southern Lady” embodies some of the ideals I most cherish and aspire to. In my mind, a Southern Lady is a woman secure enough in her femininity to complement, rather than compete with, the male identity. Without resorting to gender stereotypes, I think it’s empowering to acknowledge, and even celebrate, the unique strengths and gifts the different sexes bring to the table, and, as I see it, the power of influence is among the greatest tools in a woman’s arsenal. From instilling values into the hearts and minds of their own children, to ruling empires, women have historically been some of the most effective agents of social change, and I think that’s very exciting and inspiring. On a more practical level, I think a real Southern Lady disarms suspicion and self-consciousness in other people by an unfeigned reverence for their personhood. When a Southern Lady asks how you are, it’s because she really wants to know—not because she’s making conversation. She values the needs and feelings of others without discrediting her own, which is what lends sincerity to her words and actions. She is not afraid to uphold polite manners in an increasingly uncouth society, because she knows the real motivation of etiquette is to care for other people and to set them at ease. She is informed, independent, and strong—tender and compassionate, with a core of iron. What it doesn’t mean, but is often caricatured as, is pretention and frivolity. A real Southern Lady cares about the details of her environment and her own person out of respect for herself and others. Southern women are often portrayed as ignorant socialites spouting banalities and cooing over nail colors, but nothing could be further from the truth. And while instances of shallowness and excess certainly exist in the South—as in all regions—a Southern Lady “in the best and most classical sense” rises above such generalities with a gracious smile and a benevolent heart. I’ve known such women, and I’m descended from some of them. And while I can hardly claim to have attained to the model I’ve just described, it’s certainly an ideal I’ll be striving towards for the rest of my life.

I ssue


Lanier Ivester How has the truth of this moniker shaped your writing? What other influences have you found most evident, looking back over the evolution of you work? I’m very proud of my Southern heritage, and I always want to honor that in my work, even while shaping as honest a portrayal of it as I possibly can. Our South is an extremely complex region, marked by nobility and courtly tradition, and marred with a painful history of injustice and fear-driven prejudice. She has her beauties and she has her grotesqueries, both of which must be acknowledged. I’m indebted to women like Flannery O’Connor, who mined the riches of her own region in order to illustrate the tragedies, absurdities, and dignities of life. Her stories are full of men and women any Southerner feels personally acquainted with, for better or for worse. But she never misses an opportunity to illustrate how grace might explode into the most ordinary of circumstances. “When in Rome,” she famously wrote, “do as you done in Milledgeville.” In other words, never forget, in your life or in your work, where you ‘come from.’ In general, I’m fascinated by the lives of writers, particularly female ones. The determination to succeed in what has been, up until fairly recently, a male-dominated industry, has kindled my own ambitions in a significant way. I love to read about their habits, their creative rituals, their trials and their triumphs. I’m a lot likelier to get to my writing desk every day when I remember that L.M. Montgomery used to rise in the pre-dawn hours before her teaching job to write with fingers so cold she could “scarcely hold the pen,” or that Jane Austen wrote all of her novels in the Chawton parlor, decorously sweeping her manuscripts out of sight when company came to call. Such examples make all my excuses and distractions seem utterly unreasonable. Beyond your personal website, your essays and entries have been featured by a number of notable online journals and literary forums. What common thread runs between the outlets for your writing which have drawn you back to contribute again and again? Which projects and collaborations have most brought out a reflection of your heart onto the page? My work with The Rabbit Room has been deeply rewarding and meaningful because, not only do I count my fellow contributors as friends and compatriots, they are also some of the contemporary artists whose work I most admire. From the moment I discovered The Rabbit Room community, I felt like I’d found my people: here were singers and songwriters and painters and authors compassionately honest about the sorrows and complexities of life, but unafraid to celebrate its joys, or to uphold the hope of a shared faith. The mission of The Rabbit Room is to foster ‘Christ-centered community and spiritual formation through music, story, and art,’ and they accomplish this in many ways—not the least of which is enabling artists to connect with a resonant audience. Two other organizations with which I’ve been honored to connect are Anselm Society and Art House America. While the mission of both stems from a common desire to cultivate a sacramental worldview, they approach this goal in different and appealing ways. Anselm seeks to champion a ‘renaissance of Christian imagination’ via an artistic approach to cultural apologetics, while Art House exists to promote the vision of a Christian life wherein discipleship and and imaginative living are inseparable, taking pains to value every vocation, from more obvious art forms to feasting and earth care. The kindred connection between The Rabbit Room, Anselm Society, and Art House America, is a compelling passion to honor the ways in which men and women express their God-given creativity, championing the belief that we are all created in the image of a Creator. Speaking at Hutchmoot, the annual Rabbit Room gathering in Nashville, has granted numerous opportunities to scrutinize a topic that fascinates me, howsoever niche or obscure, until I can communicate some of that fascination to others. But it’s been The Molehill, The Rabbit Room’s 4-volume (and counting!) anthology which wrung the most heart and hard-won satisfaction from my pen. Not only have I had the stupendous and totally unlikely experience of seeing my

124 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Lanier Ivester name in print alongside such giants as Luci Shaw, Walt Wangerin, and G.K. Chesterton, I’ve been able to encounter the editorial process in the most affirming environment imaginable. It is no exaggeration to say that I owe my continued persistence as a writer to the rigorous and unrelenting work of The Rabbit Room Managing Editor, A.S. “Pete” Peterson. Pete has helped me hone my voice without breaking it, as a less-intuitive editor might have done. I’ve learned more through Pete editing my stories than I would in a graduate-level course in creative writing. A brilliant author in his own right, it has been tremendously rewarding to work with him. Tell us about your blog and your bookstore, Lanier’s Books. What set you on the path of these endeavors, particularly the unique occupation as a purveyor of rare and vintage titles? Lanier’s Books was the natural outgrowth of my personal passion for antiquarian books—a passion fueled in my youth by a woman named Katherine Downs. Mrs. Downs ran a used and rare bookshop in the basement of her son’s CPA office in my hometown, and as soon as I got my driver’s license I became a regular customer. I used to sit for hours, talking about life and books with Mrs. Downs and her sister Miss Edith, and together they introduced me to a trove of yesterday’s authors who deserve to be remembered today. When Mrs. Downs offered me a job it was a dream come true; she paid me by the hour, and more often than not I’d approach her desk at the end of the day with a stack of books in lieu of my wages. Years later, my husband urged me to channel my love of books and my love of writing into a blog honoring the titles that had inspired me as a young woman and helped shape many of my values as an adult. Building the site into a bookshop was a vision from the very beginning, though it took many years for this dream to take shape. My little shop is very specialized, featuring books and authors I feel like I can vouch for. And while over time I’ve naturally made new (to me!) literary discoveries, the core of the inventory I curate will always be stem from the hours I spent in Mrs. Downs’ shop, and the titles she put in my hands.

What separates a “classic” from the vast sea of available, and forgettable, literature? A classic, in my opinion, is a book that skillfully and accurately represents the human condition and portrays human nature in an authentic way. While the market has always been flooded with what Charlotte Mason so aptly labelled ‘twaddle’, a classic supersedes mere entertainment to give us a portrait of what real men and women might do in a fictional setting. The circumstances of a classic are as endless as human experience itself—but the ways in which the characters act within those circumstances are both recognizable and convincing. And the action doesn’t have to be noble or inspiring. Sometimes it’s convicting, or downright uncomfortable. Take Huck Finn’s treatment of the faithful Jim, for instance, or Rosamund Vincy’s manipulations of her husband in Middlemarch. I ssue


Lanier Ivester On the other hand, a classic can show us the heights of our potential (Sidney Carton, anyone?), inspiring us to ‘far, far better things’ than we originally imagined ourselves capable. I think the best description of a classic can be summed up in Gwendolen Harleth’s comments at the end of George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda: “It is better - it shall be better with me because I have known you.” If we can say that of a book, then it deserves to stand the test of time. If you could write a purchase order for the ten most precious and winsome editions of your heart’s desire, but could not hold them in your hand, could not ferret them out from some hidden corner or walk the streets of London in the merry hunt…. Would it be worth the trade? I can’t say that it would. I imagine that most collectors would join me in saying that the love of the treasure hunt is often inseparable from the love of the books themselves. Scouring the bookish alleys of London, perusing the endless stalls at Hay-on-Wye, burying myself in some dusty Dorsetshire shop—even a quiet afternoon among the shelves of Downs’ Books—all of these are among my very favorite memories. Few things can make my heart beat faster than the scent of a dusty old bookshop, particularly when it produces some title I’ve been chasing down for a customer, or a gem for my own collection. Say you could fill a shelf in your shop with those same ten books in truth, what would you choose? What a fun question! My dream shelf would include first editions of each of the following: Middlemarch, 1871-72 (all eight volumes), by George Eliot Little Women Vols. 1 and 2, 1868 and 1869, respectively, by Louisa May Alcott Wives and Daughters, 1855, by Elizabeth Gaskell Jane Eyre, 1847, by Charlotte Bronte Lyrical Ballads, 1798, published without attribution by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918, edited and with notes by Robert Bridges Orthodoxy, 1909, by G.K. Chesterton Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women, 1858, by George MacDonald Our Mutual Friend, 1865, by Charles Dickens Persuasion, 1817, by Jane Austen (posthumous)

126 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Lanier Ivester What are you personally reading right now? I’m the kind of person who is always reading several books at once, often shuffling a pile from room to room, as necessary. Right now I’m enjoying Radical Hospitality by Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, based on the Benedictine concept of welcoming others as one might welcome Christ himself. I’m also reading Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower, as well as Wendell Berry’s classic Remembering. In addition, I’ve embarked on a collection of Mary Oliver’s essays called Upstream, and a re-read of one of my very favorite novels, Pilgrims Inn by Elizabeth Goudge. Oh, and you’ll never find me far from my dog-eared collection of G.M. Hopkins. His sonnets have been such faithful companions in both joy and sorrow I can’t imagine my life without them. You are currently pursuing a study of Literature at Oxford, the oldest English-language University in the world. As a Southern girl, why Oxford? English Literature is a life-long love of mine, and Oxford University has always represented both its fostering and its preservation to me. So many of my literary heroes were either Oxford scholars or dons, that the very streets seem sacred. From my first visit in 1998 (when I snuck into a lecture with an undergraduate friend) I’ve always felt that part of me belonged there—but while I understood the why, I couldn’t imagine the how. When I made the decision nearly two decades later to pursue higher education, Oxford’s newly launched Certificate programs seemed tailor-made to my needs and desires. Comprised of mainly distance-learning modules, a certain number of on-site credit hours are required to complete the course. Meaning that, once accepted, I would “have” to spend some time in England over the next few years—music to this Anglophile’s ears! I love the tutorial-based system of the Oxford model, the smaller classes and the constant demand to articulate one’s point while keeping an open mind to those of others. And while the American university practice of requiring Core Courses independent of one’s major can help to ensure a well-rounded education, I really believe that the British approach makes more sense for one undertaking university studies later in life. Oxford assumes that one’s Core has been addressed in lower schools, so that higher education can be devoted almost entirely to one’s major of choice. In life or in literature, if there were one question you could choose never to have to answer again, what would it be? “What’s your favorite book?” That question simply paralyzes me, and, depending on the day, you’re sure to get a different answer. What’s more, I have so many favorites that choosing among them would be like choosing among my dearest friends, a thing I could never do. Despite all your adventures and accomplishments, is there any goal yet unachieved that tugs at your soul, a plot development without which your own story would feel incomplete? Absolutely! I’ve always dreamed of publishing a book, and while the shape of the story itself has changed over the years, the dream persists. Fiction will always have my heart, but recently my passion has shifted towards memoir, specifically oriented around the essential sacredness of domestic spaces and the ways in which our physical homes image our ‘at-homeness’ in God. I would also love to compile a book of sonnets someday. One of my favorite authors, Sheldon Vanauken, saw writing as a vocation in the most spiritual sense, an obedience to a loving will higher than his own. I feel the same way, which is what makes these aspirations seem less audacious than inescapable. I long, ever and always, to write as an act of love, without being hobbled by end results. At the end of the day, I just want to be faithful to the fire within. I ssue


Lanier Ivester

Almost invariably, when authors begin to put pen to paper, they are either writing to escape something or writing to find something. Which are you? The latter, I think. When I write, whether for the public eye or in my own private journal, I always feel like I’m chasing something down: pursuing the source of some inarticulable joy, or searching for some foothold in sorrow. Writing for me is like following a fairy light through a dark wood—the light is always there, though it’s often obscured by the trees. But the belief that there is meaning in the full range of human experience, and a benevolent purpose brooding over it all, goads me onward, no matter how rough the terrain. In its purest sense, writing is for me a form of prayer; a means of mining down to the bedrock of what I really believe. And the real magic lies in the fact that this bedrock is increasingly vaster and surer than I’d ever dreamed. I feel like I’m exploring an endless country of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, and I cannot imagine a more worthwhile undertaking, in life and in art. For more information on Lanier and her writing: Website: Bookshop: Rabbit Room: Art House: Anselm Society: Hutchmoot: Brian Hall Photography:

128 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Tim Green

RATTLE MAGAZINE Editor, Timothy Green interview by Laura McCullough Tim, please tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you came to “man the Masthead” for Rattle Magazine. Well, I’m more or less the managing editor and do Rattle’s day-to-day grunt-work full-time, but our founder, Alan Fox, is still editor-in-chief and is the final word on all large decisions, and his wife, Asha Fox, and my wife, Megan Green, are both very involved in the selection process, too. I’ve been doing this for 14 years now, which is hard to believe. I was a molecular biology major in college, but after working for a few years in a research lab as an undergrad, I realized I didn’t have the attention span for actual research, so I took an extra year and studied Buddhism, then decided to take another year just working, trying to decide between law school or med school or getting an MFA. I also thought about going into science journalism—I just had no idea what I was going to do with my life. About halfway into that year-off, I emailed a few poems to Rattle. I was working as a group home counselor then, and I sent them while on a night shift, so at about 2 a.m. Immediately Rattle’s editor at the time, Stellasue Lee, replied with a canned response thanking me for my submission. It was a quiet night and I was bored, so I replied and said something about how she was up very early. We ended

up emailing back and forth for a while, chatting about poetry and life in general. At some point I mentioned that I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with mine, but I didn’t think much of it. A few weeks later, Stellasue wrote to ask about publishing one of those poems I’d sent, and suggested I start working for Rattle. Honestly, I still don’t know why she asked me of all the people who’d been submitting, but I guess she liked my poems and thought I had opinions about poetry that made a good fit. Whatever it was, I’m still grateful. She was looking to retire and needed a replacement, and I was drifting aimlessly, so I figured moving out to Los Angeles would be an adventure. Fourteen years later, here I still am. It was luck on my part, and intuition on hers, I guess. Rattle is one of the most widely circulated poetry journals in the world, and yet your tagline reads, “Poetry without pretension since 1995.” What does that statement mean to you as Editor? How do you maintain the balance of that idea with the status Rattle has achieved within the literary community? When I started working on Rattle, the tagline was “Poetry for the 21st Century.” It was a great line for the ’90s, but once it actually became the 21st century, it seemed a bit misplaced. I wanted to change it, so thought I’d A/B test a few different lines, and the first one I tried out was “Poetry without pretension.” It was the simplest way I could think to phrase Alan’s vision when he founded Rattle, so I went with that first, but my plan was to change it every few months and see what resonated. Immediately, though, people started commenting on it, so I just left it up. Somewhere around here there’s a notebook with the next 20 taglines I’d meant to test. I might still use them, too— maybe the testing is just very slow. But that line is the essence of Rattle. When Alan rediscovered his youthful love of poetry later in life, he had trouble finding a literary magazine that published the kind of poems he liked. He felt everything was too academic and lofty—what he wanted to read were poems that were down to earth, about the real world we all live in. Everything felt I ssue


Tim Green pretentious, so he decided to make a poetry magazine that wasn’t. Balancing that is easy, though—we just publish what we like. Alan and Asha don’t read any poetry, really, other than the submissions I show them. They appreciate poetry, but aren’t dedicated poets; they work in real estate and media. Because of that, they’re perfect ideal readers for our mission: I pitch them the poems that I think are compelling, and they let me know if they’re too esoteric. It’s a simple system, but it always works. With so much going on in the world, so many issues and forms of media drawing people’s attention, why is poetry important? How does Rattle as a publication strive to keep poetry relevant as an art form? Poetry is important because it’s the distillation of what’s missing in the modern world. A poem is a tiny, quiet, focused, introspective empathy machine—and wow do we need that now. A poem is a meditative moment of engagement. What better antidote is there from this frenetic age of click-bait, knee-jerk, memetic reactions. The experience of watching the TV news or scrolling through Facebook is simultaneously dizzying and numbing. It’s a massive digital disconnection from reality, and we’re all trapped in the net. Poetry is the exact opposite—it’s a simple, expansive, intimate moment of human connection. Rilke wrote that love is “two solitudes that protect and touch and greet each other” and that’s what poetry is. I don’t think it needs to be kept relevant—it’s self-relevant. The more our culture moves away from stillness and contemplation, the more relevant a respite becomes. There’s no stopping the progress in that technological direction, so there’s no stopping the need for brief escape from it all. Share something with us about Rattle that very few people know, or that people might find surprising! Hmm. Well, there is no Rattle office. Our mailing address is just Alan’s business office, and the only space Rattle takes up there is a filing cabinet full of our legal documents, and a cardboard box on top for the mail. The rest of Rattle is a computer in my house two hours away. We have our editorial meetings at Alan’s dining room table with golf or college football on a TV in the background. What is something people think of as part of an Editor’s job, which never actually happens? It would seem that an editor’s job would include a lot of

130 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

editing, but in this genre that really isn’t the case. Every time we publish something, it was the best out of 500 other poems that we could have published instead. If we publish three chapbooks in a year, it’s the best 3 of 1,500 others. That 0.2% at the top really doesn’t require much editing—and if a poet makes it through that gauntlet, they probably know what they’re doing better than we do, anyway. Occasionally we might reorder a few poems, or ask to cut off an extraneous stanza or clarify a line—and there are always typos, of course—but the days of Ezra Pound rewriting T.S. Eliot are over. At least here. We’re looking for poems with a unique perspective, and that includes the little nuances of speech we might not write ourselves. Either a poem works or it doesn’t, and it’s a holistic, obvious yes/no decision every time. In reality, what are the most challenging and the most satisfying parts of your job; the things that make you second-guess heeding the alarm in the morning, and what keeps you coming to work anyway? The kids wake me up in the morning, so there’s no need for an alarm clock. The most challenging thing about the job is sending so many rejection letters. It’s no fun being the daily bearer of bad news; I don’t think anyone takes pleasure in that. But the best part is opening into a batch of submissions, having no idea what’s going to come up next. I especially love reading the Poets Respond submissions, which are about current events. I don’t bother watching the news anymore—I get all my news through poetry, and I like it that way. We get about 200 poems a week that way, and if there’s a news story worth knowing, someone will probably write a poem about it. How have you been changed personally by your experiences in your tenure as Editor? I don’t know that I’ve been changed personally, but I have learned a lot about people reading all these poems. Each poem is a look into someone’s psyche, whether we publish the poem or not—and I’ve read literally millions of poems at this point. I think you develop a very good sense of what’s honest and what isn’t, which lends itself well to other reading. And the wide variety of human experience is always fascinating. I’ve also learned over the years that any time you do anything that’s visible, there will be someone there to complain about it. I used to take criticism seriously, but there’s no way to avoid it; there is no right choice to make that won’t be wrong in someone else’s eyes. And the individual poems that receive the most appreciation also receive the most criticism, like a law of

Tim Green nature. It’s almost as if a great work of art necessarily evokes a response, which can then be filtered as either positive or negative by the reader. Love can’t exist without hate, somehow. That’s fascinating to me. In addition to Rattle’s notable Annual Poetry and Chapbook Prizes, you offer the Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. What counsel would you share with poets, and writers in general, who struggle to effectively understand and wield this crucial literary device? There’s only one workshop I give lately, and it’s called “Write like a Child.” I use poems from the annual Rattle Young Poets Anthology as samples, and quote from Zen in the Art of Archery: “The right art is purposeless, aimless! The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one, and the further the other will recede. What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.” Or I quote from Bukowski’s gravestone: “Don’t try.” That’s really the key to unlocking creativity—it has to be spontaneous. Our body already knows what to do. If a six-year-old can do it, so can you, as long as you don’t have too much willful will. Much of a writer’s practice is just finding a way to let go of intention and getting back to that original state of childlike play. What would you consider 3 Cardinal virtues of a great poetry submission? Honesty and surprise and honesty. Most submissions don’t work because they’re trying too hard to sound poetic or express some preconceived idea that isn’t actually all that interesting. We’re all weird, because we’re all human, and we all have a unique voice, because we’re all human. The trick is just tapping into that in a way that lets it out on the page. If you could choose one type of submission that you never had to lay eyes on again, what would it be? It’s hard to think of it in that way—every poem is its own unique object. But there is very often that sense of overpolishing a poem, of trying to sound poetic, when there’s really nothing more poetic than natural spontaneous human speech. I just keep coming back to that “Don’t try” idea, but novice poets, anyway, tend to try so hard. Write like you talk, inhabit a spontaneous, authentic voice, and readers will want to listen. We’re all drawn to the music of authentic speech like moths to a flame.

Besides submissions, of which Rattle receives a whopping 45,000 a year, what are you reading right now? I don’t read much poetry other than submissions these days. Right now I’m reading everything I have by Stephen Dunn, to get ready for an interview with him next week. Beyond that, I’m in the middle of Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods. I read the first book that this builds upon years ago as a teenager, and I really like thinking about the truly ancient sites like Gobekli Tepe in Turkey—10,000 years old and we know nothing about those people, hundreds of generations lost to time. I still read a lot of scientific papers, too. Any time I’m curious about something, I go read the research literature. Psychology, physics, climatology, macroeconomics. For years the only magazine I subscribed to was New Scientist. When it comes to literature, though, I get my fill from the “slush pile.” I do flip through other literary magazines and review copies of books, but it’s more to keep aware of what’s going on than it is for pleasure. You discover and are given the opportunity to publish an unseen piece from a classic poet… whose work would you want to find, and why? I’d have to say Shakespeare, because it would actually be an international news story, which would be great for all of the other poets we publish. And how can you top Shakespeare? If you could be certain to leave one lasting impact on the world of poetry and literature, what would you hope to be remembered for? Just being a good steward of poetry. Keeping it real and raw and artful. I do think poetry is fundamental to the human experience in a very deep psychological way. We’ve had poetry as long as we’ve had society, tens of thousands of years in the oral tradition, and it’s the narrative backbone we’ve built this world from. It’s the only art where the medium is the reader’s own body—a poem is like sheet music for the reader’s breath, whoever the reader is, whenever the readers is, now or 10,00 years from now. It’s virtual reality without a headset, just with shapes on a page. That’s a profound experience worth saving and sharing. Visit for more information, contest and submission guidelines.

I ssue



VERTIKAL LIFE MAGAZINE Celeste Duckworth, Publisher interview by Clifford Brooks What was the single spark that ignited your need to build this brilliant journal? What projects have sprung from it? How much of yourself is in each word, image, and cause you stand behind? The original vision for Vertikal belonged to Norman Anderson and In the beginning, I saw myself just helping my fiancé with his business interests by consulting him on various aspects of business and encouraging him to see the full potential of his vision to inspire people. He asked me to become the publisher and while working on Vertikal Magazine I developed a passion for the work he wanted to do and I begin to see how what I loved to do which was encouraging people and writing actually did line up with the Vertikal message. The final spark came in 2014. Norman had been ill but still getting up every morning encouraging me and calling people to encourage them through all their endeavors. When the letters of condolences came after he passed I realized how much of his message people depended on and how many had flourished with a daily dose. So, I took complete ownership of seeing our Legacy continue. There have been so many projects that have sprung or flourished under Vertikal’s commitment to being a positive influence. Creative individuals like Donny Leapheart who created the Osiris Web Series and gave us permission to post the whole series as an exclusive on Vertikal Magazine. Went on to receive an award at the America Black Film Festival for best Web Series in 2012. We have featured many individuals who are now celebrities within the entertainment industry that begin as featured interviews on our radio program. Within

132 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Vertikal we have some projects we are proud if such as the Women On The Rise Program (Radio) Where we wanted to feature women who were pursuing their passions after leaving corporate America or maybe a stay at home mom with a great idea for other moms. Many women such as Tara Richter, Micki Esposito, Laura Bulluck, and Star Trek’s Marina Sirtis have told their stories of following their dreams after tough family situations that were truly inspiring for us to hear. The Reading Room (Radio) Was for my mom who passed away after a long illness. There were many nights my mom was up and couldn’t sleep and I thought about how she loved to listen to our weekly radio programs and we enjoyed talking about them after they were over. The Reading Room was designed to help give people a chance to experience the imagination-based entertainment of America’s Radio Days with online book readings which are set to music. We are hoping to expand with more authors donating their book and a few wonderful readers to read those books. Then we have Vertikal Media Group – We saw a need to help small businesses create their digital presence online. So we developed a small consulting section where we develop websites, mobile apps, tools for marketing and promotion to help them become more efficient and sustainable. This year we will introduce our own Vertikal Life Mobile App that will include easy access to our programs. How much of yourself is in each word, image, and cause you stand behind? Since I don’t believe there is a priority in who you are personally and who you are professionally I believe


that it’s about the alignment of both personal and professional. Living Vertikal! I would say about 100% of what I share is from my own experiences and of my future dreams. I once heard Myles Munroe say when we withhold what we have learned that the next generation suffers and in some respect is less effective for future generations. I believe we are seeing much of that with our young people today. My desire to bring people together for a cup of coffee, or to help people heal from life issues, to show we all have the same desires for ourselves and those we love, and that it is never too late to make changes. We just live inside different shells. What is the importance behind the name you chose for your magazine? Founder of Vertikal Magazine, Norman Anderson, after retiring from a career in Fashion Merchandising after 23 years and one day he was hanging at the park watching a group of teens riding skateboards. He thought they were really good and talked to them about forming a skate team that they called Vertikal Sk8 and he got them into skate competitions. Their tagline is a global movement of positive energy. Living “Vertikal’ meant living a no drama, no nonsense, and a positive straight up lifestyle. The actual original logo has a backward K in Vertikal meaning we set the trend. They developed T-shirts and had them placed in 40 skate/surf shops in Georgia. Because of how Norman lived his life someone told him that it was a great message and that he should have a magazine that featured inspirational stories that you may not see in mainstream media, and that is how Vertikal Magazine began. He saw Vertikal as being a Global Life Magazine and we are close to accomplishing that dream this year.

How do you see social media as a promotion, or drawback, to journals of culture? The benefit of Social Media for journals of culture is that you are able to find those niche markets easily, for example, most of my friends and associates on social media are authors, women in business, entrepreneurs, entertainers, and people who love to travel. I have been able to build on those relationships by featuring them in the magazine and have gained valuable connections outside of Social Media because of those connections. Also, it forces you to cultivate relationships by finding those individuals that align with your vision or goal. I had to really cultivate the groups that I am a part of so I can promote what we are doing at Vertikal as well as finding the right groups to promote our clients, products, participants, and advertisers. The benefit is that we have seen traffic increase not only with Vertikal but with our clients who we promote as well. Although that is awesome I have to remind myself that my ultimate goal is touching that person who is on Social Media looking for encouragement and inspiration. A few drawbacks are that Social Media can be addictive and be distracting as well as having a lot of false and unreliable information. We study our Social Media to find out what to promote because different platforms have different personalities and once we learn the personality we promote accordingly. Lastly, we don’t totally rely on Social Media for our followers we have a quarterly local newsletter, which points to local news where our main office is in Arizona and it also points to news featured on our online magazine. We also have a monthly digital newsletter that is sent by email to our audience and our radio program listeners, and our staff members promote on their Social Media as well, because it points to their I ssue


VERTIKAL Life individual expertise and experience. What are the names of those on your staff, and what are they reading right now? Current staff members are: Marisella Pacheco (Graphics/Design) France. - The User Experience Team of One: A Research And Design Survival Guide of Leah Buley, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban (for the eighth time :) Tiki Black (Digital Arts/Editing Director) United Kingdom, All Grown Up by Laura C. Bulluck Madison Masterson (Social Media Manager) Florida Reading “7 lessons from heaven” reading it because I’m trying to better understand myself, my purpose, and why bad things happen to good people. Jodie Masteller (Contributing Writer Team Lead) South Carolina - the Harbinger by Johnathan Cahn. It is about the ties that America had to God and how we are compared to the Israelites in the fact that we dedicated this land to God and have turned our collective back to Him. Brooke Jackson, (Administrative Assistant) Georgia Nichole Atchison (Entertainment Coordinator) Arizona - Rags To Riches: Motivating Stories of How Ordinary People Achieved Extraordinary Wealth. Isabella Wang (Staff Writer) France - Reading, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, because I think it provides such a unique perspective on feminism and the Afghan culture. Krisztina Hogye (Staff Writer) New York - Reading, “Six Pillars of Self-Esteem” by Nathaniel Branden. because I want to learn more about confidence and how selfesteem ties in with successful manifestations: believing we can achieve something because we are confident in ourselves vs doubting whether we can achieve our dreams. Dekontee Elliott (Fashion Writer), New Jersey – Reading, “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” This book introduced me to the power, that we as women truly have. Celeste Duckworth (Publisher) Maximizing Potential by Dr. Myles Munroe. I want to maximize every gift and ability I have in this coming year toward a more intentional life. What question do you never want to be asked again? There is not a question I do not want to be asked. Some questions are meant to challenge us to go beyond our current vision. But some are a distraction meant to knock you off track. They look good and promising.

134 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

For example, we were approached by a person who wanted us to interview a very controversial person and at the time the family had a lawsuits going on and I believed to be involved even in an interview was not in our best interest. I have given away lucrative work to qualified individuals because it did not line up with our mission. I don’t like to drown the readers with politics, but the world must dance in spite of the dreary scene today. How does your team help the world dance in this era so frightening? Our focus is always on our mission, core values and what our purpose means to those we serve. We believe we are part of a global community which motivates us to inspire and empower our readers and to build cultural bridges toward understanding, and acceptance while helping small communities become sustainability. The culture of our company is to keep team members focused on our purpose by having weekly team meetings and monthly staff meetings which can be pretty challenging when you have staff members in China and Europe. Through SKYPE we can discuss current issues and talk about the back story and how we can relate that story in a positive light to our readers. Internally we use project management tools such as Asana to keep team members involved in every aspect of Vertikal from daily operations to planning new projects. This allows us to remain cohesive and gives team members a sense of inclusiveness which can be hard when 75% of the company and work is done virtually. What keeps the team focused: Madison - My goal is to help society by spreading awareness of things such as bullying, racism, mental illnesses, and more. Tiki – We can rise above what we see or feel by spreading a message beyond survival into innovative living. Isabella - By portraying a true portrait of societies and individuals, and promoting an accurate and interesting discussion on the state of affairs in today’s world. I think it is not our job as writers to glamorize the truth for the story but to portray it accurately in its complexities and to prompt others to understand it better, and from this spur more discussion, understanding and action. Krisztina - By inspiring young entrepreneurs especially to have confidence but not be cocky because I find that this generation often mistakes confidence for

VERTIKAL Life cockiness and arrogance. Confidence and self-love is not narcissism. What charities do you support? We currently support Hope’s Crossing in Phoenix Arizona. Hope’s Crossing is a one-stop resource for a woman transitioning back to a healthy and sustainable living. Their dedicated team mainly consists of volunteers, community agencies, and donors. We have been their Media Partner for 3 years now which means we maintain their website, marketing, promotion, and any graphic designs they need for events. I chose this Non-Profit because Hope’s Crossing operates with transparency and integrity with a 92% verifiable success rate. But also my belief that to have a healthy community that is a productive part of a city begins with restoring wholeness to a family. You can’t keep building over communities you don’t want to deal with because eventually the problems become bigger and spill over into society. Vertikal staff is required to volunteer 12 hours quarterly. What merchandise do you have and how can we get some? Vintage Vertikal T-Shirts (They have the original Vertikal Logo) and this year a new T-shirt will emerge for Vertikal and will be available for purchase soon. What projects are you currently working on? Our two main projects this year is re-organization

of Vertikal Life which includes a new look for our magazine, radio programs, and scaling back our social media pages which are pretty extensive. Our second project this year will be working with two school districts for a project which includes introducing 7th & 8th Graders from United States, United Kingdom, Asia, and South Sudan to media. New Vertikal Life Magazine will be launched the end February and include promoting our Sister Magazines in the United Kingdom ( and ( part of building bridges to more global communities. My personal goal is to publish five books of speculative fiction and two books of poetry that I have written and to do more traveling and creating inspiring moments. Find out more at: Celeste Duckworth @ Facebook – blisher Vertikal Life @ Twitter – gZine Vertikal Life @ LinkedIn lestesduckworth/ Vertikal Life @ Facebook kalLifeMagazine Vertikal Life @ Instagram ikallifemagazine/

I ssue


Nathan Flynt

2 SONS KITCHEN Chef, Nathan Flynt interview by Clifford Brooks What makes your food different from the rest? What are the details you don’t want to slip through the cracks? I think the biggest thing that separates us from a lot of restaurants is our passion making as much as possible in house. Taking 2 weeks to make hot sauce or 5 days to make our ham or roasting all of our sandwich proteins in house or 36 hour smoked pulled pork (12 hour rub, 12 hour cold smoke, 12 hour slow cook) or Biscuits.Every.Single.Morning… Taking the time to do things right always makes them taste better. And that is the point, right? For everything to taste good and to feel good after you eat it. We are intensely focused on balance and flavor. What created your passion for food? I think that my passion for food has had a very long journey. It started as a child helping cook in my family’s kitchen. Working in the restaurant industry in high school. Then creatively feeding myself as a college student. After the traditional college didn’t work out, culinary school feed that fire even more. I think that my time at Bacchanalia, was where the passion was really exposed the most. The opportunity the we were given at that restaurant was unimaginable. The exposer to ingredients and techniques was amazing. The attention to detail that we were required to have, was unmatched. I loved it. The push. The challenge. The drive, it was great. How do you see your business in the local eatery scene in 10 to 20 years? The future of the restaurant is unknowable, but I am going to do my best to have 2SK around in 20 years. Anyone that knows, a 20 year old restaurant is a huge accomplishment. But I hope that we are a part of the growth of the industry here in Chattanooga. I hope that we help put CHA on the map as a food city. And, just like we try to do now (as a new restaurant), I hope that we are a leader in service and creativity. What are your personal top favorite foods/drinks on the menu? The Turkey Katherine has got to be on the top of the list. We’ve been making this one for a really long time now and every time I eat one I’m amazed at how tasty it is. Nice crunchy toasted sourdough, creamy 1000 island dressing, tangy cider vinegar slaw, gooey provolone cheese and the roasted turkey brings it all together. If there was such a thing as the perfect sandwich, this one would be in the running. A side of roasted broccoli is my favorite to accompany the glory of the Turkey Katherine. Please tell us a few things about your restaurant that the public may not be aware of, but should be. Things people should know…MLK is not what it used to be. Its clean and safe and has lots going on. Come check it out. As a restaurant we have parking beside the building, we also serve beer and we are open ThursdaySaturday for dinner.

136 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

The Southern Collective Experience is an organization

of the arts founded in 2010. A need was seen in the Arts community for increased professionalism and the tight-knit feel of a family within, and around, those who shared a similar vision. This is a group of men and women who not only dream of being an artist, but have gained success in that endeavor. They promote and provide personal support within their ranks to show through doing that not all of the Creative Ilk are incapable of sharing a stage. The cardinal virtue of the Collective is to promote the arts, in all its forms, proving that integrity, high standards, and classical understanding of the past, present, and future of expression do exist. Not only that, but they are thriving. Every member holds their own responsibilities within the organization, while gaining promotion for their own work through social media, SCE Events, this magazine, and an NPR radio show called Dante’s Old South. With each issue of The Blue Mountain Review, we set aside a section to introduce you to some of our members, to highlight their endeavors, and to honor their creative contributions to the SCE. You can find out about our other members, and much more, by visiting our website, I ssue


Peter Ristuccia

Member Spotlight

PETER RISTUCCIA interview by Clifford Brooks

What about your youth, teen years, early adult years, and fatherhood had made you the man you are today? How, and what parts, do these elements play into your writing? How do readers and new followers get to know you best - from afar? My family moved to Athens, Georgia in 1969. I was born shortly after that. The South has always been an insular region with a strong sense of self-identity that regards others as outsiders. Being Italian-American, Catholic and from a New York family gave me a social status that didn’t quite fit into Southern demography: it was sort of like being a foreigner, without actually being a foreigner. Having a name that was unpronounceable, an appearance that was ethnic and practicing a religion that was considered nefarious left an indelible mark on me. I think the experience and identity gave me insight into Southern society (especially race relations, and the strong role of religion) that others may not have had. As a consequence, a lot of my characters are misfits, people whose contribution to society isn’t acknowledged, but also, these characters don’t have a desire to fit in. The subculture of comic books has been dismissed, or simply missed, by the public. How have comic books/graphic novels evolved over time, from what source material, and how do you see it playing into the future? What academic value is there is comics? Does it reflect anything concerning the current state of affairs, sociologically-speaking, of course. When I was a kid, I read vast amounts of comic-books as well as science fiction and fantasy novels. These were mediums of artistic expression that were disregarded by mainstream society at the time. Comics were for children; science fiction and fantasy were banal genre fiction stories. Some of that might have been true-but there were a lot of amazing ideas being expressed in those stories, even if the method of expression was somewhat crude. Speculative fiction, as it is sometimes called, was unmonitored by the masses that consume pop-culture, and this gave a freedom to talk about the human condition in ways that would not have been available otherwise. I wasn’t the only young person to see the value, a whole generation of writers, artists and musicians have grown up with this understanding, and as can be readily seen, superheroes, science fiction and fantasy are all important features of contemporary society and acknowledged as such. What question(s) do you never want to answer again? That’s a great question. I’m not sure. Probably questions about my weight, lol… Who are the top 3 poets and top 3 authors and top 3 bands and top 3 painters you’d plant firmly on the What Makes Ristuccia Cork Board of Self? (Take your time.) Top three poets: Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas, Charles Baudelaire.

138 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Peter Ristuccia

Top three authors: Umberto Eco, Alan Moore, William Faulkner. Top three bands or musicians: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Leonard Cohen, Max Richter. Top three painters: Caravaggio, Emil Nolde, Henri Matisse. What are the points of formal education that you feel most proud of under your belt? Your education, and intellectual passion, has much to do with the breadth and depth of your poetry. How does the academic world weave into the more esoteric topics you gravitate towards? I thoroughly enjoyed getting my time in the history department. I learned the value of research, but also, the means by which research is undertaken. A lot of writing out there is poorly researched, with commentary about human fields of endeavor (art, philosophy, history, etc) that don’t have much depth. This leads to shallow conclusions and equally shallow statements about humanity, the world and society. Art suffers when there isn’t sufficient education-it’s an initiation into the higher worlds of thinking. Society has devalued an arts education, a process that’s been gradual for some time, and I think cultural output has suffered tremendously as a result. All the giants are in the past. Who is writing right now that you gravitate towards more than any other? We all have our classics and those who may still write, but an ocean away and a stranger. I mean an influence you see moving in another sphere you most admire? I’ve enjoyed Cormac McCarthy’s work immensely. His prose is some of the best stuff out there and he captures the modern sense of social isolation, anxiety and lack of direction quite well. The ambiguity of the characters, their subsistence level and anonymous personal suffering seems very real to me. How did your love of art develop into what you create for the Blue Mountain Review? What hints can you give others who may be painting today as advice on how to grab an art lover’s attention in today’s society? Do you have any rules of thumb as far as content, chosen form, or school of thought a painter should keep close to the vest? My mission is to share art, to export it to the masses. This is to help society overall, a way to impart something spiritual and meaningful into people’s lives without being dogmatic. I’ve found that people are very interested and appreciative of art, but just don’t know where to begin. I use social media extensively to get art out there, but also feel that art in the Blue Mountain Review will help me reach a wider audience. My advice to any artist: create what you feel, whatever that is. People will instinctively sense the honesty in any work of art and be drawn to it. Create art for yourself not society, and ironically enough, society will come to see your art. How is your heart? How is your head? How is life wearing on you, or are you wearing it? Despite the current climate of popular dread, I am hopeful. I see the world full of people who passionately care about each other and the planet they inhabit. I believe that as the world gets smaller, we will all see, that while we may disagree about the means, we have the same goals. It’s really a matter of finding common ground and keeping what is truly important in perspective.

I ssue


Margaret Holt

Member Spotlight

MARGARET HOLT Vignette with Holly Holt

I was honored to conduct the following interview with my Momma for Issue 10 of the Blue Mountain Review. All of my life, she has been my most inspiring beacon of light, guiding me through my soul’s darkest storms. Last year, she lost her husband of thirty-five years due to complications with diabetes. Her soul faced a storm of sorrow and uncertainty that widows, alas, must bear. My siblings and I took charge of her familiar post, and shined the beacon towards her vessel, hoping that she wouldn’t crash— and that she would come to shore safely. I hope you will see in the interview below why my Momma is my go-to for spiritual renewal—and that no storm can completely shatter her faith. Think back—what do you think (or who do you think) had the biggest impact on your decision to serve God? Growing up, my Momma always got us ready for church. She cooked for us, clothed us, and made me feel grateful for what I had. When I was little, Momma would give us a spanking if we acted up in church. She really helped me respect the church, but I wouldn’t say that she had an impact on my decision to serve Him. I just knew Him first through her. I was a wild child when I was younger. I didn’t know or care to know God then, even though Momma tried her best. I began loving God after I was grown, and this love helped me to better serve him. What is the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning? What stirs your spirit? I am grateful to be alive. It gets gloomy some mornings since I lost my husband, but the sun comes up every morning, so that stirs my spirit enough to get me going. Define what it means to be a good Christian. A good Christian means that you treat people right and help people if you can. You don’t talk bad about anyone, because it will poison your spirit. You have to love each other, because that’s what being a good Christian is: loving one another and trusting in God.

140 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Margaret Holt

How has being a mother and a grandmother impacted you on a spiritual level? I have been made to feel happy by both, and I cry when I see them because I am so happy. Adi [her niece], when she comes around, makes me happy. No matter how much time has passed, my kids are still my babies, but being a grandma is different than being a momma. Being a momma, you have to take care of your kids, and you have more responsibility. Being a grandma, it’s easier—you still have to watch what you do, but you don’t have to worry as much. With both, I am uplifted spiritually, because I love them—and they love me. How have you shared God with others? I have shared Him by guiding others to Him, towards the Bible, like my Momma taught me to do. Some don’t believe in God. This doesn’t bother me. I still share God with them, even if they don’t want to hear. I do this because I hope they will turn to Him and know the God I know. Has there ever been a time when you doubted God? How did you return to His light? I strayed when I was fifteen. I quit reading the Bible, did thing I wasn’t supposed to do, and stayed away from home—against my parent’s wishes. I thought my parents didn’t love me. I turned back to Him because I felt lost, and wanted the peace He brought in existing—everywhere. I turned back because I knew He loved me, no matter what. He remains with me, even now. What is your favorite scripture in the Bible and why? While Job is my favorite story in the Bible, John 3:16 is my favorite scripture. It has a lot of meaning in it. He sacrificed His only son to forgive us of our sins. He “loved the world,” and that was why He made the sacrifice—not because He had any other reason, except love. This is why love is important: we were saved by love. If you could uplift the spirits of someone who is suffering spiritually, what advice would you give them? I would tell them to pray. I recently lost my husband. I blamed God for taking him from me. But, through prayer, I have talked to Him and been able to heal. Praying is good for your spirit. Praying helps you not only know who you are, but allows God to be part of who you are, so you can feel Him with you. Is there anything you feel I haven’t asked? No questions, but I will say you can find all the answers in your heart through speaking to God. If you feel unsure of something, pray. If you’re hurting or you’re happy, pray. That’s it. It may seem simple, but you’d be surprised how uplifting one conversation on your knees to God can be.

I ssue


Elise Whitworth


Faces of Faith ELISE WHITWORTH Growing up in the South in the mid-1900s, one could not help but be exposed to expressions of faith, and it was no different in my life. We were not “church goers” as a family, but I remember sitting at the dining table during lunch and listening to “Back to the Bible” broadcast on the radio, and on several occasions, there were family Bible-reading times after supper, which was a tradition, passed down from my Georgia Southern Baptist grandparents on my mother’s side. The standard of what was right and what was wrong was instilled as well as integrity and a strong work ethic, but for the most part my brother and I were left on our own to figure out the meaning of the Scriptures and how to be connected to God and His family. In 1957 my father gave me a little white leather-bound King James Bible, and on numerous occasions I would start reading—“In the beginning God...” and progress as far as when all the ‘begetting’ began. After several attempts to get past the begettings, coupled with the hard-to-read tiny print and archaic language replete with thees, thous, doeths, and shalt nots, I gave up on Genesis and ventured into Matthew thinking I might at least get past the first books of the New Testament. Well, guess what? There was another group of folks ‘begetting’ right there in Matth-ews’ beginning. I finally concluded that I was not going to get much out of this little white Bible if all it contained were repetitious lisps of Old King James lingo and endless scenarios of people begetting people. So for the next seven years on the shelf to collect dust went the little white Bible. One day at the age of 14 I was digging weeds out of the Georgia red clay in the family vegetable garden. I paused for a brief moment to gaze upon the beauty surrounding me and listened to the trees of the field clap their hands and the concert of the birds lifting up their song as if they were praising the One who was their Creator. This was the first time I personally acknowledged that there had to be someone more powerful than any human who orchestrated, brought into existence and sustained such beauty and order. In that moment, as Yahovah (the LORD) engulfed me with His presence, I lifted up the only song I knew, Oh What a Beautiful Morning from the musical Oklahoma, as a song of acknowledgement and praise to the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. Now I chuckle inside and think that if John and Charles Wesley could convert Tavern songs into dynamic songs of faith, then perhaps my Oklahoma song offering to God might have been accepted with a slight smile as an innocent teen’s way of acknowledging the beauty and majesty of His creation. The journey of God’s Testimony (the Bible) becoming relevant to me began at age 16 after I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior at a Youth for Christ meeting followed by continued fellowship at Frank

142 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

Elise Whitworth

and Martha Houston’s non-denominational church and a Christian Youth Ranch led by Buford and Babbs Adams in Forest Park, Georgia. During my senior year of high school, emphasis on Bible verse memorization and Christ-centered music by spiritual leaders proved to be sustaining forces in my faith journey for years to come. I learned through diligent study of the Bible and life experiences that there is an obvious presence of God’s power in the written decrees and declarations of His Testimony and as such are very relevant to life and its challenges. Reflecting back, at first it was Christ-centered music that opened my heart to the voice of the LORD and continues to this day to be the instrument through which He orchestrates the awareness and reality of His Presence, directives, proclamations and wisdom. Through anointed and biblically-based worship songs there are also those special and rare times when the Messiah pulls back the veil to give a visual glimpse into His present or future plans or will in action. The top five songs instrumental in directing my focus toward Yahovah and His Presence are: Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)- reminding us of the lost and imprisoned state from which we were delivered by God’s awesome mercy and grace through Yeshuah’s ultimate expression of sacrificial love. Be Thou My Vision turns our “eyes upon Jesus so that the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Agnus Dei (Michael W. Smith version)- ushers us into the throne room of Yahovah for a deep soaking of His Presence. O Yah (Paul Wilbur)- is where God arises through this song of joyful praise thereby uniting open hearts to the rhythm of His triumph and glory. The Great I Am (Paul Wilbur) begins with an expressed desire to be near to the Great I Am and transitions to a declaration of how great Yahovah Is and how, at the mere mention of His HaShem (Name), adversaries tremble and are rendered powerless in the presence of El Shaddai (God Almighty) Who is worthy of our praise. God’s Testimony is another major source of where the Spirit of Yeshua draws my attention to specific scripture passages, or quickens particular words or verses to my soul, bringing to light what I need, whether it be a word of direction, encouragement, or correction. As the Spirit of God illuminates His Word, I receive it in calm assurance or, during times of correction, as an unsettling sense of having come short of what pleases the Father. In all candor, the reason I cling to my Bible is because it speaks truth to my human condition and opens the way through Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) into a deeper relationship through His Spirit and into God’s realm of reality and possibilities, thereby transporting me to a safe place above the fray and beyond the chaos of the world and into His personal space of peace, love and joy. “If Your instruction had not been my delight, I would have died in my affliction”- (Psalms 119:92, HCSB). Life was not always sunshine and roses, and like many of you, I faced some measure of poverty, wealth, depression, joy, rebellion, rejection, loss, rewards, death, love and abundant life while during the process tripping over Self. The long-story-short of this journey is that every day with each decision I make and how I walk it out, Yahovah persistently pursues me and patiently waits for me to surrender to His will and way. What sustains and keeps me in Yeshua’s safe harbor is first a firm foundation in the basic truths of God’s Testimony in both the Tanakh and New Covenant (the Old and New Testament). Secondly, maintaining focus on who He reveals Himself to be and how members of His family are to walk as we were originally created, in the image of God. Allowing Yeshua to come into our lives and tear down the middle wall of division between us and Yahovah and each other makes life less chaotic and complicated. Beyond the foundational tenets of my faith based on God’s Testimony, being open to the definite possibility that I don’t know everything, I remain flexible in learning what I don’t know and need to know regarding God’s Testimony and my belief system as long as it is based on and confirmed by God’s inspired word. I am not a fan of dogmatic doctrine and religious lingo based on personal opinions and philosophy because too often these tend more toward strife and divisions than serving to unify. I strongly believe that is important to remain teachable because growing up in Yeshua is a lifelong ‘line upon line and precept upon precept’ journey. I ssue


Elise Whitworth Another important component to one’s faith journey is to connect with people of like spirit who earnestly and faithfully seek to respond to God’s Deep calling unto deep and who, with humil-ity and resolute purpose, follow God’s instructions to please Him, and walk out love for God and neighbor. This journey has taken me to numerous parts of the body of Christ in America and for a year in England, including the NonDenominationalist, Baptist, Presbyterians, Catholics, Anglicans, United Methodist, Charismatics, Assembly of God, and Church of God, each having their own unique place and valuable part in the whole body of Christ. On October 28, 2017, I responded to an ad in a local magazine, and ventured over to the House of Scripture in Jasper to visit and check it out because I was seeking an extended family with which to have a more meaningful and in depth worship and fellowship and an opportunity for further spiritual growth. Also, the Father was drawing me to a Messianic Believers assembly because over the past five years, through personal studies of the dynamic Ancient Hebrew language, He revealed that there was so much more depth to understanding His Testimony. How gracious of the Father to orchestrate this vital connection as I remain blown-away regarding the depth of Yeshua’s steadfast love, openness, and sincerity of faith expressions demonstrated in and through House of Scripture’s leadership and family. For me, finding these vital connections never really came through social media or the internet, but through the printed page, word of mouth or relational connections, the latter of which is the case for most seekers of true depth in the LORD. Our techno-saturated society tends to isolate and de-sensitize us to meaningful personal relationships, and sometimes leaves the soul unconsciously starved for want of the warm touch of a genuine soul mate. Personally, Yeshua is my primary soul mate and I always count it an extra blessing when He arranges special connections with people of the same heartbeat and mind. In 2012, being deeply concerned about the direction our nation was going, I pulled together ten years’ worth of research from the fields of political science, history, social science, linguistics, philosophy, and biblical studies and wrote a book titled, The Rise and Fall of American Socialism. The three major thrusts of this book is to first, encourage responsible citizenship through a brief re-introduction to the historical roots of American freedom and situational awareness regarding the creeping onslaught of socialism into every segment of our society, including the church and educational system. Secondly, to get serious about electing candidates who will restore and uphold our nations’ Constitution. Thirdly, to return America to God-centeredness and Scripture as the guiding principle and standard of moral decency and ethical practices. The Rise and Fall of American Socialism was God’s way of ushering me into an extended season of researching the inexhaustible treasures of God’s Testimony and writing that will continue with a new biblically-based series titled, The Coming Firestorm, the first of which is, Volume 1: Faith Matters, hopefully to be completed and published by June, 2018. The purpose of this series is to unveil the riches of Yahovah’s steadfast love and restore the broken walls of faith regarding God’s Testimony and Yeshua HaMashiach. Of all that God has done in and through my life, I pray that the Coming Firestorm will serve in the present and beyond my life to draw others closer to Yeshua and each other and, in turn, heal the broken places of our lives and families. All glory, honor and praise be to Yahovah.

The Coming Firestorm

For more information about House of Scripture go to:

For more information about this book go to:

144 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

volume i:

Elise Whitworth

Tabula NOW AVAILABLE FROM KUDZU LEAF PRESS... THE AWARD-WINNING POETRY OF CLIFFORD BROOKS “With Athena Departs and Exiles, we have another collection born of that endless struggle, where Brooks puts into words what life has put into him—the roadblocks and majesties, the miracles and knock-out punches, all elevated to a plane where his poems seem to sing, each a choir preaching idealism and fire with a cadence that’s playful yet rich with purpose... His wordplay dances on the page and imbues the reality of love and passion with an arcane decadence, an obsession realized with any shame. Poem after poem Brooks champions this kind of passion, this kind of life, and as you progress through the collection you realize Clifford Brooks is building a mythology.” - James H. Duncan, Hobo Camp Review

Available on

And Coming this Summer: The SECOND EDITION of

The Draw of Broken Eyes & WHIRLING METAPHYSICS New Cover design by Laura McCullough I ssue


146 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

I ssue


148 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10


Creative Expressions

M EET & E AT Sunday, March 25 | 3 -5 th



R. T. Jones Memorial Library 1 1 6 B r o w n In d u s t r i a l P k w y Canton, GA 30114 


A finger food

B u s i n e s s C a rd s

B o o k s to S e l l ( yo u w i l l n e e d

t o a r ra n g e t h i s w i t h Ro b i n a h e a d o f t i m e )

Featuring: Clifford Brooks Speaker | Author | Poet

Fo r m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t t h i s e v e n t o r t o reser ve space to sell books, contact Robin: or 770.265.1270 I ssue


150 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

I ssue


152 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

I ssue


154 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

I ssue


156 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 10

“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.� -Sarah Williams


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.