Lost Lake Folk Opera V8: Waterways

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Lost Lake Folk Opera

V8 Autumn 2023

Fiction-&-Non- Poetry Plays Opinion


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Lost Lake Folk Opera N8

AUTUMN 2023 V1


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Contents Tom Driscoll .......................................................................................................................................... 7 All You Can Drink ....................................................................................................................... 7 Robert Leo Heilman.............................................................................................................................. 8 Two Short Pieces.......................................................................................................................... 8 1. The Smell of Home ................................................................................... 8 2. Jimmy Grant ............................................................................................... 8 Kemuel DeMoville .............................................................................................................................. 10 Cosmic Bob and the Vulture of Eternal Regret .................................................................... 10 Larry Gavin ........................................................................................................................................... 13 Resident of Rivers: A Triptych ................................................................................................ 13 Liz Minette ............................................................................................................................................ 14 Tadpole Season ........................................................................................................................... 14 Jim Johnson .......................................................................................................................................... 19 Ceremony..................................................................................................................................... 19 Danny Burdett ...................................................................................................................................... 22 Black Scoter and other poems ................................................................................................. 22 Valparaiso ...................................................................................................... 22 Boulevards ..................................................................................................... 22 The Golden Age of Shotgunning .............................................................. 23 Black Scoter ................................................................................................... 25 Metrapolitan .................................................................................................. 26 Cafe Noir ....................................................................................................... 28 Justin Watkins....................................................................................................................................... 29 Watching Rain ............................................................................................... 29 Mara Adamitz Scrupe .......................................................................................................................... 30 The Sea Between Us .................................................................................................................. 30 R. P. Singletary ..................................................................................................................................... 32 What Name Is Given This Child? ........................................................................................... 32 Brad Gottschalk ................................................................................................................................... 35 The Bison Hunters ..................................................................................................................... 35 Emilio De Grazia ................................................................................................................................. 42 New Nosiness ............................................................................................................................. 42 John Zedolik ......................................................................................................................................... 44 Water Waylaid & Other Poems ............................................................................................... 44 Alternative Route ......................................................................................... 44 Firm Realization ........................................................................................... 46 Charge Into.................................................................................................... 46 Possible Improvement................................................................................. 46 Robert Wooten..................................................................................................................................... 48 Two Water Poems ...................................................................................................................... 48 A Negative Capability .................................................................................. 48 A Silt Feeder .................................................................................................. 49

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R.D. Saporita ........................................................................................................................................ 50 The King and I ........................................................................................................................... 50 Al Causey .............................................................................................................................................. 59 A Better Friend ........................................................................................................................... 59 Robert Love .......................................................................................................................................... 62 Two Saskatchewan Poems........................................................................................................ 62 Supper ............................................................................................................ 62 Broken Water ................................................................................................ 62 For My Paddle, A Gift from My Father Forty Years Ago .................................................................................. 62 Last Portage................................................................................................... 62 James Ross Kelly.................................................................................................................................. 63 The Farm, the Flood, & Why the Fairy Shrimp Left ........................................................... 63 Lee Gundersheimer ............................................................................................................................. 68 Not Young Anymore................................................................................................................. 68 Becky Bolling ........................................................................................................................................ 72 River Towns ................................................................................................................................ 72 Jed Nelson............................................................................................................................................. 76 Slaughterhouse ............................................................................................................................ 76 Mona M. Miller .................................................................................................................................... 81 The River Doesn’t Lie ............................................................................................................... 81 Lee Henschel Jr. ................................................................................................................................... 84 Excerpts from the Beggar’s Coin, Short Stories of Vietnam & The ’Nam....................................................................................................................... 84 First Day ........................................................................................................ 84 the moon’s koan ........................................................................................... 86 James Armstrong ................................................................................................................................. 87 Empire Poems Sampler............................................................................................................. 87 To Washington Crossing the Delaware.................................................... 87 Knife River .................................................................................................... 88 Loch Ness...................................................................................................... 88 December 8 ................................................................................................... 89 The Office of Homeland Security ............................................................. 89 Against The Gnostics .................................................................................. 90 Robert Gorelick ................................................................................................................................... 91 The Psychotherapist .................................................................................................................. 91 Ken McCullough ............................................................................................................................... 101 Mini Wo Cho Zani and Other Poems .................................................................................. 101 Backwaters, Near Trempealeau Mountain ............................................. 101 Latschies ...................................................................................................... 101 The Loneliest Island .................................................................................. 103 Mini Wo Cho Zani ..................................................................................... 104 Late August 2001 ....................................................................................... 105 Louis Martinelli .................................................................................................................................. 106 Carrying Water to Trees .......................................................................................................... 106 Myles Weber ....................................................................................................................................... 108

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Six Waterways ........................................................................................................................... 108 Taste ............................................................................................................. 108 On the Beach, circa 1880 .......................................................................... 108 A Similar Compromise .............................................................................. 109 Dairy Queen ................................................................................................ 110 Back from Big Sandy ................................................................................. 111 Boundary Waters ........................................................................................ 112 Tom Driscoll ......................................................................................................................................113 Lily Jo ......................................................................................................................................... 113

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The Mississippi River as viewed from overlook park in Alma, Minnesota, 2023.

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Tom Driscoll All You Can Drink ust imagine if the Great Big Muddy Trench from Istasca, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico off New Orleans, Louisiana, looked like the Photoshop Beta Generative AI image shown below. Gloomily entitled The End, AI first generated an apocalyptic drought along the river, then selectively rendered the old river port of Alma a ghosttown. And where you see the stack of the nearby coal burning power plant, AI dropped in a toxic waste dump. A lot to unpack from that there landfill. Planet Management of Climate Change—human behavior (every human everywhere policed for disrespecting the Earth); carbon, carbondioxide, methane, and emissions regulation; universal zoning, building and land use mandates; computer, private data, cloud, and AI defenses departmentalized. Meanwhile, the very foundation stones of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–air, water, food, shelter (a heated, air-conditioned place to sleep, a toilet to flush), and clothing is being undermined by the growing number of privledged individuals with means to reach the upper levels of Maslow’s pyramid until somewhere past the new Mercedes and the yacht and the smarthouse on a mountaintop one (we) attains self-actualization and realizes that like in every rousing game of Monopoly, the capitalist geniuses (us) end up a in jail of their (our) own making. Consider this special WATERWAYS issue of Lost Lake Folk Opera an artistic, glimpse at the complex ever present past tense where technological marvels like AI and Climate Change mix it up with the tenuous future present.


The End, Tom Driscoll, Generative AI, post-apocalyptic view of the Mississippi from the overlook in Alma, Wisconsin, 2023.

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Robert Leo Heilman Two Short Pieces

1. The Smell of Home priver from Tiller the river pours through a narrow channel between gray basalt rock faces into a deep, still pool where salmon circle slowly, waiting for fall rains. The Spring Chinook salmon arrive here in June after a two-hundred-mile journey upriver from the ocean. The salmon know the smell of home, the scent of jasper, basalt, porphyry, quartz, agate and tufa carried by the waters from the gravel beds they were hatched in. Patiently, they work their way against the current returning from the Aleutian Islands home to the South Umpqua. They wait out the long summer months when the river slows and the water grows warmer, never eating, living on the fat stored in their huge bodies. On summer mornings you can see them from the cliffs above, silvery ghost shapes in the sun dappled waters below, moving in a slow, solemn circle dance. They are a bruised and battered lot, bearing the marks of their passage, old wounds from seal bites, fishhooks, nets and the scraping of rocks encountered in the riffles of the home stretch. Their flesh, once firm from the arctic feeding grounds, grows soft in the warm river water. Fuzzy white patches appear on their scaly sides, the mark of infection and a sign of approaching death. They are prisoners here for a while, holding in the deeper pools scattered among the shallow upper reaches of the river, rising in the cool, quiet morning hours and hiding in the depths when the afternoon comes bringing heat and the campers and bathers who splash about on the surface. Evening comes, and the humans leave. Blacktail deer come down to drink. The firs and cedars cast long shadows across the pool. The clever-handed raccoons fish for crawdads along the edges and silence returns to their watery world with the night. There is a quiet joyfulness to their languid circling—not the exuberance of their leaping struggle through white water on their way up here—but a deeper joy made of patience, survival and expectation. Their long journey is nearly over, the uncounted thousands of miles behind them. Soon the rains will come, and they'll swim upriver on the rising waters as their ancestors have always done, to dig their nests on gravel bars, and lay their eggs in the waters of home.


2. Jimmy Grant


ran into Jimmy Grant after he got out of prison, about a week before he went over the bank into the river. He seemed kind of shy, you know, ashamed to see me again or something. I was surprised to see him back in Halo after—what was it, five or six years? We didn’t say much, just “Hello, good to see you,” and “Well, I gotta get going,” kind of stuff. It’d been so long. We met in high school when I was the new girl in town. My cousin Becky was dating his friend, Logan Stimson, and we double dated a little, me and him and Becky and Logan.

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We’d go out to the flats at end of Gagnier Creek Road for keggers sometimes or just spending time driving around on the back roads like teenagers do and, well, of course, parking and making out. Logan was kind of a jerk—him and Becky broke up after a couple months—but Jimmy was always nice and he always had weed which, in a town like Halo, was two good things to like about him so we kept dating for a while after Becky and Logan stopped running around with each other. I remember Jimmy telling me once, a couple years after we broke up, “There’s no way to make money around here but selling weed or working in the woods—and I hate working in the woods.” He was a couple years older than me and it was after I finally got out of high school that he started doing crank and selling it to the local tweakers. There’s always been meth around here, what with all those guys working graveyard at the mill and such. There’s those bikers too, the Lost Souls, who came up from California when things got too hot for them down south. And, you know that recession hit really hard around here, and people started getting weird, with everybody out of work and the whole town emptying out as people went looking for jobs. I don’t know what-all got to Jimmy. Like I said, we stopped hanging out together back before I graduated from Halo High, but I guess he had his troubles like everyone else and it probably felt like it helped somehow. So, yeah, from what I was hearing, he got strung out pretty bad and then he got in trouble for the robbery. Him and Logan busted into some old people’s house out Franklin Hill way, stuck a gun in their faces and made off with what they could take, an old gun and a little cash and a credit card. They were in such a hurry that Logan got his car stuck in the ditch across the road from the house they’d just robbed. Jimmy took off across the fields but they caught Logan

hiding in the blackberries because he’d stayed behind too long trying to get his car back on the road and he ended up telling the cops that Jimmy had talked him into it. So, Jimmy was a wanted man for a few months. I met up with Jimmy about a week before they finally pulled him over on the highway. He was staying at his cousin’s trailer house over in Tall Cedars and I dropped by to see Evan, Billy Grant’s wife. He looked terrible, kind of yellowy and worn-out. I couldn’t believe that he was still in town at all, what with the cops looking for him, and Halo’s not a hard place to find people what with everyone being up in everyone’s stuff all the time. I tell you, if I was in trouble with the cops like that I’d be over the border in California in an hour and a half. It’s only a hundred miles from here you know. I thought it was weird that he hadn’t done that, run off to a city somewhere where nobody knew him, but later on, Skip Newson explained that if Jimmy went to somewhere where nobody knew him he wouldn’t have been able to score his crank and wouldn’t have had anyone to sell it to for the money it takes to buy it. So, I guess it made some kind of sense that way. No one knows what happened when he got killed—some kind of an accident, driving too fast maybe or he swerved to miss hitting a deer or somebody’s cow—that kind of stuff happens sometimes around here. It took a few days for someone to notice the wreck. I didn’t go to the funeral or anything but it was kinda sad, you know, hearing about it and wondering if he might have done OK or not. I’ve still got a little pink teddy bear he won me at Settler’s Days throwing baseballs at bowling pins. I really don’t know why I hung on to that, I just did.

ROBERT LEO HEILMAN is the award-winning author of three books of literary non-fiction including “Overstory: Zero, Real Life in Timber Country.” He lives in Myrtle Creek, Oregon and writes occasionally for The Daily Yonder

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Kemuel DeMoville Cosmic Bob and the Vulture of Eternal Regret CHARACTERS: Bob: A 17-year-old. Vulture: A fat turkey vulture. Angel: An Angel. SETTING: A small clearing in a field gone fallow or some forgotten meadow. The long grass is dry and dead, brown, dusty, and hot. LIGHTS UP VULTURE: (Sits center stage. Its belly is so full of rotten meat that it can’t fly.) BOB: (Enters, walking home from school.) Oh! Oh man. Oh man. VULTURE: God dammit. BOB: (Puts down his backpack and starts walking carefully toward VULTURE.) It’s okay. It’s okay. VULTURE: Don’t do this kid. Not today. BOB: Don’t fly off… VULTURE: Look at me. I’ve got a belly full of deer meat. I can’t even walk. BOB: (Grabs VULTURE and hugs it to him tightly.) There you go. Look. I’m a nice guy. VULTURE: You're a jackass. BOB: I’m gonna take good care of you. VULTURE: Sure you are. You gonna let me ride around on your shoulder like some goth pirate? Feed me table scraps and pet store mice and we’ll go on all sorts of wacky adventures. Like in “Cannonball Run 2.” Bobby and the buzzard. BOB: Hey, hey, hey. It’s okay. VULTURE: (Struggles free. They circle each other. BOB tries to catch VULTURE, and VULTURE, with its wings out, tries to avoid BOB.) It’s not okay? Nothing about this is okay. I’m a vulture. I’m not some lobotomized feed-store parrot. I am a creature of the hot winds. Death is my dinner bell. You haven't thought this through. BOB: Come on. Come here. I’m gonna take good care of you. VULTURE: I won’t be your twisted 4H project. You don’t know what it means to be wild, you neutered ape. Oh god. I’m too full for this. I’m gonna be sick. BOB: (Catches VULTURE again.) There. See. I got you. Nothing to be scared of. I got you.

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VULTURE: You see this beak? There’s still blood on my beak. It’s made for tearing flesh. Ripping meat from bone. I will pluck out your eyes while you sleep, and you won’t even feel it. I can smell death for miles. I can smell your faulty heart that will lay you low at 38 and kill you before 50. You’ve got nothing. I’m not scared of you. I’m scared for you. You’ve got nothing. ANGEL: (Looks a bit like something you might see at a six-year old’s church Christmas pageant, enters carrying a large, heavy coffee can, walks over and dumps the contents on BOB. The coffee can should be filled with canned Spaghetti-O’s or something similar. VULTURE gags as if it just vomited on Bob.) By the Feather, the Song, and Jingles the Holy Goat. You are anointed! Bob of the infinite cosmos! Vessel of the great Sentient Radiation! Child of matter and stardust! Arise! Arise and witness your inconsequence! BOB: I can’t see. Oh god it’s in my eyes! VULTURE: (Breathing heavily and wiping its beak while BOB gags and retches. ANGEL gets down and paws through the pile of vulture vomit.) I. I tried. Oh man. I tried to warn you. I tried. When you spend a lifetime consuming death you become a mason jar for the Eternal Something. A pickler of meaning. ANGEL: Ego. BOB: Whose talking? I can’t see. The vulture puked on me. VULTURE I feel so much better. Lighter. I’m giddy! Have you ever seen a giddy buzzard? ANGEL: The weight of the world is only a whisper now. BOB: Can you help me? Do you have a towel or something? This really stings. ANGEL: I can help you. (ANGEL takes BOBs hand and puts it in the pool of vomit.) BOB: Is that…? Is that…? What is that? ANGEL: The dust of the earth bakes your story into its mantle. VULTURE: Don’t do this. He’s just a kid. He doesn’t know. ANGEL: (Moves BOBs hands around in the vomit.) Do you feel this here? BOB: (Almost smiling.) It’s… It’s nice.

ANGEL: That is the dream you hold in the center of your secret heart. The hidden hope you harbor for the unfolding of your life. Can you feel that? The grotesque yearning for something other. The primordial need to shout into the great pit of the universe and add your voice to the chorus of the eternal “I ams” and the sickening realization that you won’t be. “I am not.” Like being comforted when you’re sick with the flu. You feel warm and loved and nauseous all at once. It’s the relationship with the woman you’ll marry. It’s the truth of it. The core. BOB: Is she hot? ANGEL: You’ll grow to resent each other. BOB: We’ll hate each other? ANGEL: Hate is too passionate. You’ll only know the dull ache of her resentment when you die. BOB: Oh. ANGEL: Do you feel this? BOB: Yes. VULTURE: Leave him alone. He knows enough. ANGEL: The action must be complete, and of appropriate magnitude. BOB: It’s really warm. This part. ANGEL: It sings. It sings! You will have two sons. One won’t respect you and the other won’t respect himself. When he is 19, you’ll try to choke your oldest against a wall. Your youngest will have a drug addiction and every woman he loves - truly loves - will abort his child. You’ll know this before you die. VULTURE: That’s dark. BOB: But I can make changes. ANGEL: You could. But you won’t. Life binds our hands with ribbons and convinces us they’re chains. VULTURE: Or life binds you with chains and strangles you with ribbon. ANGEL: I don’t see the difference. VULTURE: There is a difference. ANGEL: Radiation coalesces. Radiation disjoins. The outcome is the same, no matter the action. BOB: So am I happy? Ever? VULTURE: You won’t find happiness if you only look at vomit.

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ANGEL: Take flight harbinger. You are not needed here. VULTURE: Not yet. (VULTURE flies away, exiting the space.) BOB: Can you help me wipe my eyes? I still can’t see. It’s burning my eyes. (ANGEL faces away from the audience and pulls up their robe, exposing their bare ass to the audience, and wipes BOB’s face with the robes. This should not be sexual or awkward for either of them.) BOB: (Continues, pointing into the sky.) Oh. Look at that. That’s starlight right there. In the middle of the day. That’s special right? That means something. ANGEL: Your sun is a star. For you it only shines in the middle of the day. It’s always starlight. BOB: I know that. But that little bright dot there. That’s starlight, right? ANGEL: To me all light is starlight. BOB: Imagine how bright you have to be to shine through all that blue. Imagine. It’s amazing. It’s all amazing. The lights fade except for a spot-on BOB that gets brighter and brighter on his face. We see tears continually rain from his face. Not from sadness and not from joy. He is crying at the intensity. The intensity of it all. All at once. And then the end.

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KEMUEL DEMOVILLE is an award-winning poet and playwright whose work has been produced internationally every year since 2005. He has an MFA in playwriting from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and an MA in syncretic theatre from Victoria University of Wellington in Aotearoa, New Zealand. His work has been published by Spider Magazine, YouthPLAYS, Heuer Publishing,

Sediments Literary-Arts Journal, Meow Meow Pow Pow, and is included in 222 MORE Comedy Monologues, an anthology from Smith and Kraus Publishers.

Larry Gavin Resident of Rivers: A Triptych 1 It is the gravel and sand that gives the water voice. That and small birds that gather along the banks and sing out. Be still. The river will answer questions like emerging from a deep sleep. To wonder at the magic of dreams giving a glimpse of a world just beneath the surface of daily life. Listen to what they say let them inform today, let them inform every day. The magic of river and dreams. 2 Storm clouds in the west like a dark dog sleeping, like the sturgeon seeks new depths in the heart of flowing water, the heart making river sounds. Listen closely, hear the sound of gravity, mysterious and deep. Clouds give way to rain flowing from its source in the heavens, seeking a familiar home. Following the call of valley and rock of bird song and gravity sealing fate. Given all this; consider silent thanks. 3 Thanks that comes from that heart unencumbered. Consider first the surface - water working toward the sea. Continue to dream and listen to embrace the watery magic here. Signal to the small birds that chirp and sing. Find the path of least resistance arms wide open to the possibilities of flowing water. Celebrate it at every turn and gather with each other in a world of water

LARRY GAVIN is the author of five books of poetry. He worked for fifteen years as a senior editor at Midwest Fly Fishing Magazine. He currently writes about outdoor and environmental issues on a freelance basis. He lives in Faribault, Minnesota.

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Liz Minette Tadpole Season I. Snacking on M&M’s makes me remember how my sister and I, when we were kids, would yell from the summer yard “Are you going to the beer store Dad?” We always wanted to go along because Dad, in addition to the beer, would buy us a package of M&M’s. The woman who owned the liquor store, Mrs. Polo, (one of whose children was indeed named Marco), would let us pet their ancient black lab that slept behind the counter. One time my sister and I wanted to bring the tadpoles we just caught from the creek behind our house to the beer store and Dad let us. We had them in a red bucket, and placed the bucket carefully on the rubber mat of our parents acorn squash green Dodge Dart. The bucket spilled anyway, on the way to or from the beer store, tadpoles and water all over the place. My sister and I tried to revive them when we got back home, cupping their chubby bodies in our hands, depositing them in fresh water. They didn’t survive, and floated like lopsided balloons.

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I remember Dad cleaned up the car, and I don’t remember him being upset. Then, sipping Budweiser from his vinyl weave lawn chair, he watched us lament our dead tadpoles, and how if we ever caught more, they wouldn’t be the same as the ones we just lost. Sucking and crunching the hard-shelled, sweet M&Ms, we made small graves for them. Dad finished his beer.

II. Dad didn’t finish his beer in hospice. My sister had brought in a sixer of Budweiser, after the doctors said it would be okay, after Dad said he might enjoy a beer along with the bowls of cold, bland chicken soup. The cans snugged into a boutique-store sturdy paper bag Trish labeled “ROLAND” in magic marker block letters, he had a beer that night with what meal we’ve forgotten. He had a beer while we watched the Kentucky Derby on the little tv by his

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bed, Dad sipping, betting on the horse Spanish Chestnut because he liked the name. We like the way he said Spanish Chestnut without his dentures. He had a beer with another bowl of cold, bland chicken soup. When it was time to simply go home, and a nurse and I dressed him in his favorite flannel shirt, I told him we took the storm windows down, how nice it is to have the kind May air in the house again. Dad said he didn’t care, even though he did, as the nurse and I tenderly slid his arms, one at a time, into each sleeve. Packing the rest of his things, we forgot the bag, labeled with his name in big block magic marker, holding the beer– the three remaining cans, like two quiet cold shoes, and one without a partner, left to chill for someone else in the nurse’s station refrigerator. 16. Waterways 2023

III. There is one bottle of Budweiser sitting alone in a sixer cardboard container in the basement. Sometimes, my sister, Mom and I split a beer if we feel like it. Like a hot July day, maybe after mowing, and then watching some Netflix movie, the living room curtains pulled closed to keep out the heat. One of us will always bring out Dad’s Budweiser glass, the company’s logo decorated around the whole of it, for our portion of the beer. Our split beer salted up, maybe some lime juice, we’ll remember the tadpoles, the red bucket, the beer store that’s now a Kwik Trip. My sister shares a story how one of her neighbors tried having a koi pond in their south Minneapolis backyard. The koi survived one day, as muddy raccoon prints surrounded the pond the next. I share how on my walks, listening to music, I pass the tadpole creek that is now filled with vegetation.

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Walking by, I wonder if the tadpoles are still there. The red bucket sits in the garage holding pretty rocks. My Mom wonders if the kid she and Dad sold the acorn squash green Dodge Dart to years ago never kept up the car. The one bottle of Budweiser in the basement cool waits– a pour out for everything.

LIZ MINETTE lives in Esko, Minnesota, near Duluth and Lake Superior. Her poems have found homes recently in The Thunderbird Review, published out of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, The Nemadji Review, published out of UW-Superior, and Caveat Lector.

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Jim Johnson Ceremony he Drumkeeper from the Mille Lacs Band said, “The animals, birds, fish do not speak Ojibwe anymore.” He went on to say the last he had heard from them was that they wanted respect and to be caught only to feed a family and to be given their due ceremony. The Band has agreed to suspend the netting of walleyes in Mille Lacs because the population is so low. I would have traded that concession for the suspension of fishing contests. Many walleyes, especially large females, are found washed up on shore days after each fishing contest. Spending long hours in a warm live-well waiting to be weighed is dangerous, especially for elders. And the Band would lose money, while local restaurants want to serve walleye. Where else can they get walleye? Only Native Americans on tribal waters in Minnesota are allowed to net them. This is a very limited resource. But what kind of vacation to Minnesota would it be if you had to eat pollack? Or farmed catfish? You could catch your own walleye. And if you go through the effort and pay the price (a guide is cheap compared to buying a boat, motors, rods, reels, filled tackle boxes, and, of course, all the technology needed to find fish), then you deserve a walleye dinner, I think. It would be better to learn to catch your own, though it might take a lifetime, as then you would begin to know lakes, the winds and waves, the seasons as well as the ways of the walleye.


Then considering how valuable a walleye is, a fine dinner would be in order. And considering the wishes of the walleye, as spoken representatives of all species of fish, no less than a ceremony. 2. Aldo Leopold once wrote of the two spiritual dangers of not owning a farm. One was believing that food comes from a grocery store, the other that heat comes from a furnace. So there are also two spiritual dangers of not fishing. One is believing that fish come from a supermarket, the other that if we eat only from the supermarket the wild will be preserved. 3. Suppose you walked a bog all morning, a slow walked bog, carefully stepping over hummocks of sphagnum moss and labrador or wind fallen black spruce, watching out for beaver runs or slides covered by swamp grass knowing you could fall through, three or four feet, even deeper into the muck bottom, as you followed the flow of a spring creek, and casted to the bends where the stream undercut a bank, Cast after cast, a black wooly bugger, a fly you tied yourself, then let the fly sink, the line held under your left forefinger against the cork rod handles, as you retrieved with short pulls the line between your right forefinger and thumb. All morning you waited to hear the splash of a trout taking the fly and turning, then as you felt the line tugging against the tip of the rod, the bamboo stripped rod bending as the trout tried to run under the bank, but reflexed by a memory almost as ancient, you lifted the rod high and swung the flopping trout onto the sphagnum carpeted bank. More casting, walking on into the afternoon, the sun, you noticed, past its highest arc. Until you had caught two red speckled, dark as the tannic water they evolved in, brook trout. Two ten-inch indigenous trout. Wild trout.

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This then is how your day should be measured. You walked the slow walking bog. Walked farther than you had walked before. Followed a stream flowing, flowing slower than time. Noted the wind in the branches of the far pines. A gray jay squawking on one of the branches. Felt the early June sun on your face and knew the trout would be active as the water warmed, feeding on snails, or leeches as this was the reason you were casting the wooly bugger—you were connected, the fly you tied knotted to your leader, connected to the stream, the stream flowing through the bog, the trout finning in the stream. 4. Small trout should be gutted, dipped in corn flour, and fried on both sides in butter, olive oil, or bacon grease, with the heads on, in a cast iron frying pan. I like to place a sprig of wild mint inside the body cavity. Wild mint is best found along trout streams or on old beaver dams. Fry the fish until the eyes glaze over telling you the trout have returned to the other world. A savvy cook may carve out the cheek meat and eat when no one is looking. If, with the heads on, the trout will not fit into the frying pan, you must cut them off. This is regrettable but necessary. These will be thicker fish and need to be sautéed on both sides. After sautéing, take fish from the pan and with a sharp fillet knife cut along the back, through the skin and meat to the backbone. The meat should be soft enough that it comes off as easily as falling down in the bog you had to cross to reach the stream where you caught the trout. Keep the knife moving until you are able to flip all of the meat off and onto a plate. Then take the other half with the bone structure intact and pull the tail and the bones, the skeleton as delicate as a monofilament leader but connected like tributaries to a river. The skeleton should come easily, as easily as getting up in that hummocky bog you fell in, come intact, leaving the other fillet. If trout are too large, you can fillet them. But if they are that large, you should have released them. Large trout are heavy spawners and important to our future, if we have one, fishing.

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Also, small trout taste better. I know you will do the right thing. 5. Serve your trout with wild rice. Minnesota and Canadian harvested rice are wild. Don’t even consider Californian rice, not that California can’t be trusted to be wild, but it is important to stay local. Cook the rice risotto-style in olive oil, white wine, and broth. Add green onions, wild asparagus, slices of cattail shoots, locally grown peppers from your garden or local farmers’ market, or chanterelles you have picked from under a fallen log marked in your August memory. Serve only what is in season, locally grown, bought at the farmers’ market, or foraged. Then serve the wild rice and wild trout. Add another sprig of wild mint. Pour glasses of proper wine. Chilean sauvignon blanc, Argentine terrontes, Oregon pinot noir or gris, or maybe a white rioja may be fine, though a local chokecherry or rhubarb might be better. Toast the Maker. Toast the fisher. The ritual meal links us to our past, our history, our animality. Our respect for ourselves well as the other, the other species. Knowing that we are connected reminds us of our dependency on the soil/plant/animal food chain. Rather than gadgets. So toast the fish for giving its life for you, for your family, for all, as we all must do in order to live out our days according to our own not so operatic but organic destiny. Remember you must not just clink your glass against another, but must also drink, drink heartily after each toast. Don’t just look into each other’s eyes while holding the glass at half cast, but drink. Then after each significant drink, recall the eyes of the trout and see the moon through the mist coming off the stream or the sun through the smoke from a Canadian fire or the shadows of the earth’s eclipse. Then eat. Peel the meat off the skin with your fork like the next chapter of your life unfolding. And taste the flavor of the living water, before even the iron age, tannic and crustacean filled, water edged in mint flowing through the tall

And never, never leave any of the meat. pines bending like oars against the wind. Already with a hint of autumn. 6. You must end with a poem. An ode by Neruda will always be a good choice, but again a local poet might be better. If you do not have a proper poem, feel free to use one of mine.

7. Love Me Like a Bog Lay me down on laurel, Labrador tea and leatherleaf. Lay me across sphagnum moss, solomon’s seal and rosemary. Gather bladderwort, swamp pinks and rose begonias. Swaddle me in white cedar, black spruce and tamarack. Whisper sweet infinities of juncos, palm warblers and Lincoln sparrows. And forever love me like a bog.

JIM JOHNSON, Emeritus Poet Laureate of Duluth, is the author of the collection “Text for Our Nomadic Future” (Red Dragonfly Press, 2018). He has been writing his fishing memoirs. He lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in the spring so he can fish the Driftless Area. Then he summers in Isabella, Minnesota.

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Danny Burdett Black Scoter and other poems

Valparaiso your gift is Van Gogh night of restless, avid ink light not of star but street (and blue-white liquid moon) Cerro Concepcion breath soft blasting your gift is swept solitude of polychrome hill canyons our gift is no one to mar; no one to witness your gift is black membrane sky barring nightmare of scream and caress your gift is

Boulevards The Lawrence bus posits infinity as an occasionally broken line drawn and redrawn. In a hundred second floor apartments, its pronouncements are clear and intimate. Absorbed with the complaint of riled or lonely dogs. With the sonar of drunken men, unpackaged words sounding off hushed SUVs, indifferent walls: 81–Jefferson Park–Blue line– Silence is as hectored as starlight.

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Lawrence Avenue is the melodic line. Sought and repeated. Encompassing, diluting, speeding.

The vines of commuters who stare so fixedly at their hands, craning from the rampant sun, say leave us, leave us. How else the meander of razor wire– Its caught and shredded plastic? Evanescence of bough and leaves on the darkened brick above the dumpster. The metal cables of the fire escape that race like piled lines of Manhattan Glass? Lawrence Avenue rejects with sizzling asphalt. Even as it staggers and sweeps, it states, harmonies run not merely parallel, but perpendicular. How else the darkened brick? Above which the eastern sun flashes like a rumor. Paint partially detached in a gloss of pointed black shards. As Gaudi in mendicant wandering might pause to tag in trancadis or Valencia tiles. Lovers, even as they beg, say leave us, leave us. Silence pours like water, like melody from the avenue. Into the improvisation of alleys— the parallel and perpendicular.

The Golden Age of Shotgunning Even the name of the room seems denuded of its utility. Breezeway—I must look it up to confirm it was not some family misapprehension. Or a plank of verbal fashion that lapsed with sofas of overpowering earth tone or clamorous floral pattern. That room a paneled bridge with crank windows and slowly blinking lids of glass that connected garage and kitchen. When the door to the garage was shut

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with any force, the reverberation along my bedroom wall—at the antipodes of our golden ranch—as intimate and familiar as my father’s smoker’s cough. The 12 gauge that leaned in a corner of the room. One of the odd fellows of papers and eventual scrap metal that had settled there. Meaning, as color, drains slowly. The barrel that could safely be grasped with child’s hands—when was it last hot with purpose? When had the pump last sonorously sounded? The double click like a preacher’s throat clearing. To fulminate and cast brimstone. When the last youthful, heedless spray of shot? Hair and clothes will eventually catch on branches like orphaned grocery bags. Bodies beach against paneled walls, drift in tidal pools of drywalled squares. Anthropomorphize currents they can hardly discern. Even nostalgia is eventually rendered homeless. Guns and flesh do sometimes come to rest in modular homes in Tennessee. Scorned by the wind and the elder trees. Impermanent records, spent cartridges, sloughed skin. The respiration—the tolling click—of the breathing machine. The intermediate box in which you receded to bone. The side room where the years cast you, a rubicund embryo in full arrest. When, my father, did you coltishly ply these hills, hunting or merely shedding your nervous energy? They are out there: the Cumberland Mountains, Everest … Xanadu. And somewhere against a flimsy theory of wall, the 12 gauge, amongst the flotsam of you. As it propped no more meaningfully in the breezeway. Beneath the dark wood veneer of the shelves. Knocking against the cannonball bereft of hostility. Catalogued by fingertips. Small hands by larger hands subsumed. Where the utility of father and son? When the era of these drifting things? The golden age of the shotgun?

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Black Scoter You say, “Can you see them?” but I can’t yet. They skim the illusion of green and probably feel the spray. Eventually the line rises and in its prominence seems to make straight for us, as if determined to attack. Last summer—the Hudson Bay, Alaska— they dove, rode thermals, fed through days. Thoughtlessly impelled in the season’s rightful consummation. Until the click of genetic tumblers: a coolness beneath soft feathers of a breast; eyes flicked upon the waning light of earlier hours.

Last summer –Roger’s Park, Albany— we moved oblivious. Our skins untraced and undiscovered. In viscous pods not displaced by other bodies. You splashed and eyed the mornings, passed in soothing application. Your shoulders shed winter layers and were rendered golden. Altering the green-brown orbits of turtles. I perched in darkened chambers, or walked. Hung cadences. Perhaps they are black scoters. Revealed by the set of their wings, the fluid V from which two withdraw—in duty or rebellion—only to subsume themselves again. This brief crusade of knowing is gently ripped, carried away, like desiccated and shed skin. Like a hot dog wrapper by the impatient, custodial lake breezes. Our shadows marvel at each other. Apply endearments, interim names.

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In their sun dependence among the sere stalks - perhaps sand reed or marram grass - are dazed out of questioning. Leaving the sedimentary wisdom of warm propinquity. Leaving the essence of black bellies, flanks and breasts. Fanned, puissant, tightly angled wings. Which tilt as they pass over the jetty until the birds become abstract. Letters of a private alphabet.

Metrapolitan Chicago commuter trains, London streets. Perfume clouds of diesel. Exhalation of the red pancaked buses and the bantam lorries. Thirty years ago I emerged from the Tube at Piccadilly and nearly fell to the silent, pliable cartilage of my knees. Phillips and Sanyo were the names of saints. I had long been worshipping Coca-Cola. The bang of top deck seat back is alarm clock or thunderclap. A red shirt moves in the periphery. Limbs are limbs; legs sway as branches. And yes - the convex curve of well-curated ass in yoga pants delivers its electricity. The tidal change is apparent. Yet blood is discomfited—so little memory, so little patience. I am undone by diesel or heady whiffs of lilac. The sheen and bulge of Lycra. Misinterpreted dispatches of leaves and hands. Though I hold the gaze out of the opposite window with the specious discipline of verité, the murmur of branches

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above the tar of the station’s flat roof chorus, “The gentleman doth protest too much.” Thirty years ago a first distorted vision of Regent’s Park. No Nash terraces in their eternal cream. Merely some side yard entrance. As the blackened

backside of the city from the Gatwick train approaching Victoria Station. A few pallid sunbathers and uncut grass. Trees like so many extras. As those outside a Michigan bedroom window or the back patio of a suburban ranch. A year later, the post-coital hush and sweat of leaves in Hampstead. October after rain in its distillation of color and atmosphere sheathing the sky drunkenly. Separating soft, taut skin. The distraught hands and arms of the trees above the station. Through chutes of birch, plane and maple, sinister catalpa. Screaming, hair aflame. Or just whispering, whispering. Contrast, absence of sound read as madness. Misread and misread as the deliberation of immemorial choruses. Or just the crowd of some unseen football match. A fervent Saturday at Stamford Bridge, Craven Cottage. Kabuki, Aristophanes, Samuel Beckett. Dithyrambs, terrace chants and voided cans of lager. Decades tease and chatter from adjacent seats. Memories glide easily. The taking of identical vitamins, the arrival of trains. Familiar face of the asphalt where we alight. Time is apparent but I am bereft of date. The quotidian charges like a Horseman of the Apocalypse.

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Cafe Noir After the film, you try to accept the fugitive warmth on the simplest of terms: a gift. Regardless of parting or dealt aberration. November so rarely caresses. Who are you to deny such gestures? A not-so-populous cafe where there is a coastline of table available. Alone and together— so best it seems to go. Voices and music are dispersing waves. Abstractions mainly. Procession of food and drink more specific to the senses (their own fulsome caress). The luxurious walls of window give onto Weesperplein, Serphastraat. Silent slide of cars, mainstream of bicycles. The optimism of city lights. A lucid dream, though no less finite. To be felt, even worn, but not held. You stretch into every corner, all the accepting space of this moment.

DANNY BURDETTE has published poems in The Literary Review, The Midwest Review, Mudfish, Off the Coast, and elsewhere. He is also the author of the film blog, “Pictureland.” Danny lives in Chicago.

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Justin Watkins

Watching Rain Rain fell into the wineglass The man pointed out into the yard Big rain drops falling straight down The boy's hair darkened and dripping His hand at the dog's black ears A sort of dire wolf silhouette Rain touched them all Breaking and misting and catching the sun Breaking on the boys face Actual breaking and streaming Around his nose and down his cheeks Dropping off his chin falling and breaking further And the man watched the rain He drank the rain and the wine And told the boy: I never minded it

JUSTIN WATKINS was born in the top right corner of Minnesota and now lives with his wife and two sons in the bottom right corner of the state. He walks trout streams, wades carp flats and paddles with family and friends. He graduated from St. Olaf College in 1998. His chapbook, “Bottom Right Corner,” won the 2014 Red Dragonfly Press Emergence Chapbook Competition. His most recent collection “A Mark of Permanence,” was published by Up On Big Rock Poetry Series in 2018.

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Mara Adamitz Scrupe The Sea Between Us I’m a stowaway a song before sound an explorer a collector/ assignee of old world seeds set afloat in hinged wooden boxes latched/ thrown overboard as cyclonic reminder reparation repatriation my flora an inventor’s design a pirate’s bounty graftings cleave my barbarian brain/ forced hothouse swells my gorgeous sumptuous monstrous artificialities/ hybridities as false as Fairchild’s Mule sexing Sweet William & common pink a breeder’s imperfect universe/ inosculation jointed crossings vascular eventualities bled one into another ray to atom speck to shred to trickle / underground & blind like everyone I admire what’s shaped in my likeness I’m a maze set free absolved of botany’s sin of playing God I’ve managed to stay upright in this shit storm world dream myself beyond me at a distance far greater than my body’s reach or substance ocean to freshwater to inland sea I’ve kept fast to my bailey/ Martello/ Cork coast or Halifax passage I pick my blossoms past their prime/ roses’ rot scent tokens nuts & berries

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scooped on my tongue stuffed in my cheeks you ask you corralled at my kitchen table refusing the food I set before you you you won’t eat with me but sing your songs into my teeth yes & breasts & spine your language a croon a lullaby a torrent you slip into my bath rocks & raffia sweet apple alien our coffees cooling you you argue bliss/ the possibilities of surrender of ecstasy all in favor of? while I caution acquiescence: that which is is after all & can can only be be as the parts assuage the whole the rootstock the scion which one was I/ and which were you? kept somehow alive while our tissues made contact our veinous cambia connected yet graft our frailest axis: do I still love? you ask me odd it seems so so immaterial I demur: don’t you? but let’s let that go for now let’s wander other paths make patience our garden track high the hot sun’s straight overhead pulling us up up upright/ maybe rapture’s beside the point or as close as we’ll come to our dying or perhaps our tempests in their unyielding their resistance gentle us habituate heal & bind us strongest at our weakest conjoint

MARA ADAMITZ SCRUPE is a visual artist, writer and documentary filmmaker and the recipient of many creative grants and fellowships. Mara is the author of six prizewinning poetry collections, and she has won or been short-listed for prestigious international writing prizes including National Poetry Society Competition (UK). She is Professor Emerita, School of Art, University of the Arts, Philadelphia. She is the author of “REAP, a Flora” Up On Big Rock Poetry Series 2023. Mara lives with her husband on their farm bordering the James River in the Blue Ridge Piedmont countryside of central Virginia.

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R. P. Singletary What Name Is Given This Child? or weeks on end, the sad dream replayed: I was he, and he was so very tired. Even in my sleep, I felt his age-old, anguished fatigue, no strength to relax itself, to let him or me, to let us both sleep for good. If I awakened, he and his spent state arrested me still. He exhausted me, but for eternal life could not gift himself the same once and for all. Worn out by all the bars, hookups, the pretending, the demanding family, running from it all, anger over all of the running and yes, the running from all the anger and now after death. “Had anything changed?” Uncle Hoyt kept asking me. “Half a century later, no different? Them riots in that West Village bar all for nothin’?” Sapped from his shared memories of that era I’d not been forced to witness, weary of his incessant refrains, I would awaken from all these repetitions, and the trance would continue during daylight hours. He journeyed with me. He said he’d ventured back home, back South, to check on me, as I neared my own landmark of birthdays, that half-century mark fifty years after Stonewall. “We ought to know better by now,” Uncle Hoyt scoffed. “Our fuckin’ frozen South! Ahahahaaaaaa, frozen in time, my ass, my honeyed-ass homeland, I cared more for you than any country in my damn passport, you my South, you cradled me, we lapped up your church-picnic pimento cheese, your fallcookout mustard-sauce BBQ sopped, played at your athletics year-round in your climate, and lest you forget!, tried our best to love Mom and Dad who tried their damndest to love what they called love, right?” At work, I’d close my eyes, hopeful for a restful minute’s dream within this restless eternal hoax, but no. Eyes opened, I were still Uncle Hoyt, amid and suffocated by that great extended family of its time: aunts and uncles, great-aunts and grand-parents and lesser-uncles, third cousins and endless in-laws removed second and fourth times but never close enough or far enough as you wish, all of them having so artfully designed their speech and lives as to avoid discussing and dignifying the long-ignored elephant-in-the-room, their kin, my uncle. Was he the poet or was I? “They tried, bless their hearts!” he wept. “Churchgoers’ hearts, they creak to function, they bleed redwhite-and-blue, they feel real, don’t they? Only to blot me out. Irony and blasphemy, our sex-mad, cultish culture of religion, but I can’t do this no mo’, no reckonin’ about it.” The dream’s storyline ended that way every night for weeks. To call it a broken record pokes meanspirited fun at my uncle and makes unnecessary light of our own familial frailties. Standing that Sunday at the altar, the man in the dream spoke to me the loudest yet. “What name is given this child?” We had argued over who should utter the adopted child’s name when the priest would ask at the baptism. For a solid week, we’d leave the child to fall asleep with the nursery door partly closed, so the love of our double-male parenting wouldn’t learn to associate our affection with the outside voices we too often used indoors, mistakenly. “What name is given this child?” I didn’t hear the priest the first time she asked because I kept replaying in my mind that recurrent dream of two stories that I finally realized were one and the same: the mythology of my parents’ could’ve-been memories of my own hoped-for life, its never-discovered wife or consequent biological grandchildren for them, and the horror-filled, fictive


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morality tale of that distant, older, whisperedbachelor uncle gone missing up north after a sexed fire’s raid at a New York City homo bar that certain polite-people family members didn’t ever discuss in mixed or even close company. I didn’t hear the priest because my head too full to hear her, didn’t hear her the first or the second time she asked. “What name is given this child?” I heard her the third time. My confused thoughts loosened their exhausting grasp of my physical paralysis, at last too tired to ignore my own reality. I turned to see my parents standing to my right. I saw my husband to my left, his parents standing to his left. The priest, holding our child over the clear water, smiled. She needed parental consent to proceed. We’d practiced. We all knew what to do. This ought to be the easy part of it all. “Mark,” my husband called my name. He squeezed the ring on my finger. “Let’s do this— together.” Our daughter cried. The priest rocked the infant as an assistant cooed for more entertainment. “Ginger Hope,” we announced in unison. “Ginger Hope,” we repeated. “Ginger Hope, indeed,” the priest confirmed. “I baptize you in the name of the …” No incense this Sunday, but the dream again clouded out the ceremonious pageantry of the ancient Christian occasion. I saw the long-lost uncle. Unlike every other episode of the dreamy serial, I saw his bearded face, clear as brightest summer day through the sagging, centuries-old glass of the frail, stone-walled church. He’d escaped alive and well like about everyone else that night, and he wanted me to know. He had not been walled in. He found a better life, and his now-booming voice, restored and full of vim, shouting in my unfortunate, but welcoming ears, told me this as if sent by a dove, a holy messenger over holy water in our righteous Southland, where Jesus forever battles Hate, internal and external to selves, within and without church walls. I knew this sacred image from a Sunday School lesson about the first baptism: dove, voice from on high, River Jordan’s waters, acceptance into family, divine.

“Amen,” the congregation responded to the priest’s acclamation. The priest held Ginger Hope aloft, to showcase her in the billowing, beautiful baptismal gown. The congregation applauded, to my embarrassed mother’s audible disgust. “I love the name Ginger Hope,” the assistant said to our extended family, now counting a sacred seven in its fold: four grandparents, two parents, plus one daughter. “I already see a family resemblance,” the main priest joked, “in both of Ginger’s fathers.” Our red hair, John’s and mine, attracted us in the beginning. We had always hated being red heads, heard all the jokes, subjected to every adolescent cruelty, but the mirror of sameness clicked in that bar when our eyes choked full of one another’s “gingeryness,” as we came to call it. “You both have lovely parents,” the priest said before relinquishing the baby to me. “Thank you,” I said. I shifted Ginger Hope into John’s hands. “Dad, it’s your turn to father,” I added, remembering our plan that I would take Ginger Hope up to the altar and John would hold her when we walked back to our seats. John smiled like a father. My father patted me on the back. I felt like a dad. We took our places, lined up like a real family in the old pew with its worn cushion. The midday autumn light shone through the clear-glass window of the historic church, where our ancestors had worshiped since colonial times. I looked out the window at generations of our graves, covered in leaves. My mother whispered to us, “I wish all our family could be here, to see Hope alive and well, in such strong manly hands.” She winked. Ugh, I thought but let her enjoy the moment, despite her corny humor. When she leaned against my father, I saw them clutch hands, the way they had all their life, as if on a first date. That’s what I’d always known could be possible for me, and I lucked out on the generation of my birth.

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I’d forgotten about the uncle’s memorial plaque set in the church wall next to our family pew. “Hoyt,” the one-word fraternal memory poked at eye level after I sat back down. Every Sunday growing up, I now recalled, I’d caught my mother’s odd glance at the marker below the window. Uncle Hoyt left me alone after that Sunday service. I didn’t understand until later. I just knew I started sleeping as a family man, and it felt good for a family to rest in peace.

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R. P. SINGLETARY is a lifelong writer and a native of the southeastern United States, with work appearing or forthcoming in Literally Stories,

Litro, Teleport, CafeLit, JONAH, Flora Fiction, Syncopation, The Chamber, Orion's Beau, Microfiction Monday, Stone of Madness, and elsewhere.

Brad Gottschalk The Bison Hunters September 10, 18— Charity Moritat 480 Baulding Street Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Y DEAREST CHARITY: I have safely arrived in Rock Falls in the Montana Territory. The

town is quite small and rough around the edges, but I have taken a room at the Winslow Hotel, which the porter on the train assured me is a respectable establishment. By chance, I have encountered another man who will be joining our hunting party at Ft. Jackson. He has been at the hotel for several days now, waiting for the wagons that will take us out. The gentleman’s name is Jordan Billingsley, and he is a peculiar sort—something of a dude in striped trousers, high-heeled boots, an embroidered waistcoat, and a very colorful cravat. He claims that he was with one of the Ohio regiments but does not comport himself in the manner one would expect from a man with military experience. We chatted over whisky in the hotel dining room, and after two glasses, I retired to my room and left Billingsley at the bar. We had a slight disagreement about the date of our departure for the fort. I believe the wagons will leave tomorrow, but Billingsley is certain that we have a wait of three days before we are off. I am of two minds regarding my traveling companion. First, if this is the sort that buffalo hunting in the Western Territories attracts, then I am uneasy regarding the potential success of this endeavor. On the other hand, if I was fearful, I would be regarded as too citified for this adventure by other people in my party, by comparison with Billingsley, I will certainly look more favorable. Your loving husband, Kelvin September 12, 18—

MY DEAREST CHARITY: We have arrived at Ft. Jackson, which I am given to understand is just east and north of the hunting territory ceded to the Sioux. If I may be allowed to gloat for just a moment— I was correct about the departure date, and I must admit it gave me a small amount of malicious pleasure to see Billingsley endure the wagon trip under influence of a rather severe hangover. The ride from Rock Falls to Fort Jackson took a day and a half. We were slowed at one point in the journey when one of the horses pulling a wagon stepped into a prairie dog burrow, fell, and had to be replaced. We camped for the night on the open plain. During the journey, I became acquainted with the other members of our party. There are twelve of us in all—two privates from the fort, and ten men hoping to do our part to open up the West to our Union. I must admit that perhaps I am not as sociable as I once believed, because the majority of our party members made little impression on me. Apart from Billingsley, three or four stood out, though, and I will describe them as best as my abilities allow. Lachlan MacPherson is a rather severe man, not exactly ill-humored, but quite grave. He is very reserved. We spoke little during the wagon ride, but he did confide to me that he didn’t “give a tinker’s d__n” about the Union, but only wanted to profit in the trade of buffalo hides. I am sure he is a veteran of the War, and I strongly suspect he was a secesh. Pirko Horkonen claims to be a Finn. His English is not expansive, but he seems to be a pleasant enough fellow. However, he is rather slight, not tall in stature, swarthy, with a distinctly Asiatic cast to his eye, not an example of the fair giants one associates with the Scandinavian countries.

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Oddly, he intends to hunt with a bow, and he assures me that he successfully hunted elk with it on many occasions before crossing the Atlantic. Simon Lafayette is a loud and brash man, given to sudden turns of humor. He claims to have hunted buffalo in Texas. He has with him a companion, Howard Polk, a very tall, very thin man, who has a camera and a set of charcoals and paper for making drawings. I believe the idea is to document our hunt, but I am uncertain who would foot the bill for such a project. After a more or less uncomfortable night during which the temperatures stayed above freezing (thank goodness!) we arrived at Ft. Jackson. It is a small affair, staffed by only a handful of soldiers and commanded by a captain, John Pelligrew. The land around it is fairly flat, with a few small, ragged hills, and, standing on the palisade platform, one can see a distance of at least five miles over the plain. The only buildings are the barracks, which forms part of the protective wall, the magazine, and the officers’ house, which is now occupied only by Capt. Pelligrew and a lieutenant who is too young to grow a beard, and whose name I missed during a confusing round of introductions. Shortly after our arrival, we lined up on the parade ground near the magazine, and Capt. Pelligrew, aided by a sergeant named Ingram, commenced to hand out rifles and ammunition to our party. I had heard rumors to the effect that the Army would be supplying our hunt, and certainly we expected to have guides and wagons at our disposal, but I must admit I was heartily cheered to see that the Army sees ridding the Western Territories of buffalo an enterprise worth subsidizing with more than a couple of privates and some clapboard on wheels. We had supper in the officer’s house. The captain is a pleasant fellow and told us a few tales of his own of hunting buffalo and engaging the Sioux in battle. I must admit I am rather excited to begin this adventure. I remain, Your loving husband, Kelvin

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September 15, 18—

MY DEAREST CHARITY: We safely returned yesterday, at a late hour, from a fruitless hunt. We ranged north as far as we could in a day on horseback and did not see a single buffalo! This means that we must prepare ourselves for an extended excursion, which will entail loading wagons with tents and provisions enough to last at least a week or two. Tomorrow must be my last night in a warm bed for quite some time. The prospect of discomfort does not much disturb me, though, not nearly as much as the fear that we will be carrying out such extended preparations and still may not see a herd. I have become acquainted with the other hunters in our party. James Barlow and Andrew Keene are from Boston and were friends previous to travelling west. They are both young and enthusiastic but seem mainly interested in adventure. The dismal failure of the day did not seem to concern them even a little. An older man, who introduced himself only has Harrington, hails from Tennessee. The last two are named Voychick and Levandovsky. I must say, though I do not wish to disparage anyone in our company, they seem an unsavory sort, and I have attempted to avoid any but the most casual contact with them. I do not know when I will have the opportunity to write to you again. We are packing provisions for a fortnight’s excursion, and even if I found the time to write to you during our foray, I would have no means by which to deliver the letter. I shall take what opportunities are afforded to me, however. Your loving husband, Kelvin. September 28, 18—

MY DEAREST CHARITY: I have sad news to report. Lafayette has been gravely injured. We are sojourning at Fort Jackson for the next several days while we prepare for another excursion. The events of the last two weeks are something of a jumble, especially those leading up to Lafayette’s injury, but I will attempt to set them down in a sensical order. For several days, we traveled over the plain, making slow progress and seeing nothing worthy

of note. On the tenth day out, one of the Army privates who had been scouting ahead brought news that he had spied a small herd of buffalo to our north. This was near sunset, so we prepared to make camp and planned to start the hunt at sunrise. However, during the night, a dense fog crept up, and by morning it was thick around us, allowing us to see barely twenty feet beyond our noses. At this point, Lafayette suggested that we engage in what he called a “still hunt,” by which we could use the fog to hide our movements and closely approach the herd. The still hunt was carried out in this manner—our men arranged themselves in a straight line and stood apart, each man just close enough to his neighbors on the right and left to remain visible. Then, moving simultaneously, we approached the herd slowly, moving as quietly as possible, and, in this arrangement, I had my first sight of a living buffalo. Nothing in my experience had prepared me for it. I had seen engravings and photographs of them, and a hide or two, but when you are near a living buffalo, you understand in a flash how paltry, how devoid of even the slightest significance is any secondhand experience of one. It rose out of the mist, fifteen feet at the shoulder, its great head lowered to the ground where it was feeding. Its head, indeed, seemed nearly as tall as my own frame from toe to top. As it moved, it undulated, and it seemed almost as if it could carry the full plains of the entire Western Territories on its back. Perhaps it was the closeness of the fog that gave this impression, but it was unshakable at that moment. Yet, at the same time, it struck me that this magnificent beast had but outlived its own time. It belongs in a time of untamed nature, of the woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, an atavistic remnant of a vanished world. The creature stood barely fifty feet from us. Lafayette shouldered his rifle, aimed and fired. All that followed was confusion. As if knowing who his assailant was, the bull charged Lafayette with a speed that, in a creature so large, astonished me. Everyone began firing then. I do not know how many of our shots were true, but however many were, they failed to stop the charging bull. It knocked Lafayette to the ground then trod upon him with great force.

MacPherson faced the beast calmly and fired a shot then quickly reloaded and fired another while Horkonen moved in close to us and shot two or three arrows into the beast’s side. With courage that surprised me, Billingsley, whose rifle had jammed, stood barely a dozen feet from it emptied his revolver into it. Finally the bull dropped to the ground and lowed mournfully for several minutes before dying. We bound Lafayette’s leg in a splint, gathered our equipment, crafted a litter from shirtcloth and wood from our provision crates and went back to camp. So we engaged in a two week excursion for the prize of a single beast! The next morning, we packed up and began the journey back to Fort Jackson, a journey that took three full days. Thankfully, Lafayette’s injuries are not life threatening; we have sent for a doctor who will advise whether his leg will be permanently lost. I hope the events I have described in this letter do not cause you undue anxiety, my love. For my part, I am in perfect health and have suffered little discomfort since I wrote you last. Our party has avowed to carry out no more “still hunts,” and will, in the future, hunt only on horseback. Your Loving Husband, Kelvin October 17, 18—

MY DEAREST CHARITY: We have at last had a fairly successful hunt, and have returned from it with forty odd hides, which, when divided up, may bring us each some small profit. As promised in the previous letter, all of our hunting has been from horseback, and it is a much more pleasant and efficient manner than stalking buffalo on foot. Ten days out from the fort, we encountered a herd. The day was bright and cloudless, and we could fire upon them from a good distance. We killed several, at which point, the herd began to run from us, and we followed, this time we and our horses were doing the charging! We managed to bring down a number while pursuing them, but ended the pursuit sooner than we were inclined to preserve our horses. The excitement of the hunt wore off quickly under the weight of the following hours. It takes two men about two hours of labor to completely

Lost Lake Folk Opera v 8 n1 37.

skin a buffalo and harvest the horns, hump, and tongue. We were at this task for a full day and into the night, working by lantern and brands from the fire. We stacked the hides in our wagons and wrapped the meats in cheese cloth. Horkonen and I interrupted our labors a few times to pose for Polk (who continues to accompany us, even in Lafayette’s absence). Perhaps in a future letter I can send you a daguerro of me standing next to one of these mountainous bulls. That night, an unexpected argument arose that quickly turned rancorous. I should state here that Billingsley and MacPherson do not get along at all—in fact they despise one another. Up to this point in our adventures, this animosity has been but a small annoyance, but at this point, it became a serious impediment to our endeavor. The upshot of the conflict was that Billingsley wished to return to Fort Jackson, while MacPherson wished to continue hunting. Each man recruited some members of the party to his side, and soon the camp was split in half. The privates from the fort refused to take part in the argument. For my part, I sided with MacPherson despite my doubts about his character, for I recognize that he is the most experienced and skilled hunter among us, and without him, our chances of success would be greatly limited. We determined to put the matter to a vote. As Horkonen abstained, Polk, the photographer, cast the deciding vote. Since I am writing to you again from Ft. Jackson, there should be little surprise as to which side won the decision. In two days’ time, we will be out again. I admit I was rather irked with Polk, and because of that, perhaps childishly, I have not checked in on Lafayette’s condition. I am ready to kill buffalo in numbers more significant than forty and grow impatient with the slow progress we are making. During the wagon ride back to the fort, I spoke of this extensively with Billingsley, perhaps in order to encourage him to be more willing to undergo the hardships and difficulties our task now demands. MacPherson had no interest in this discussion. As I have said, he is fixated upon accumulating money and would gladly hunt prairie dogs if the profit in that equaled the profit in buffalo hides. Yet, I often find his company 38. Waterways 2023

more agreeable than that of Billingsley. So, setting my personal feelings aside, I sat with Billingsley for most of the journey and discussed with him the many benefits our Union will reap from the destruction of the buffalo. First of all, with regards to the Indian problem, dispensing once and for all with what General Sheridan has called the Indians’ shaggy commissary will force them from the plains where they are now free to raid and murder our settlers, and bring them quietly to the reservation lands we have established for them. There, they will live as dependents on our good government, which is only proper. That this may be accomplished without excessive human bloodshed seems to me a point beyond argumentation. Secondly, having these beasts gone from the plains will open the land for the railroads, after which ranchers, towns, and civilization in its completeness will follow. This is, of course, a tragedy for the Indian, but it is a necessary tragedy, for the wheels are now on the engine of progress, and they cannot be removed. I urged Billingsley to consider how poorly the killing of forty buffalo in a month will contribute to this outcome. Well, my dear, Billingsley listened to me with a not inconsiderable amount of patience, but I suspect I will have to wait until our next hunting trip to discover whether my words have swayed him to my way of thinking. Upon returning to Ft. Jackson, I finally inquired after Lafayette’s condition. He has lost his leg, and with it, according to Sgt. Ingram, all taste for adventure. He has boarded a train for New Orleans, where a cousin of his owns a shipping and receiving company. I must go now. We are having supper in the barracks again, and he who is late eats turnips. Your loving Husband, Kelvin November 8, 18—

MY DEAREST CHARITY: We have just returned from another fairly successful hunt and have brought in nearly two hundred hides. These, plus the forty we brought in previously, have been shipped to the railroad by Sgt. Ingram, and he assures us that payment for them will arrive soon. And while all of this is a cause of some good cheer, serious troubles have overtaken us, and

our hunting party is in disarray. We are no longer hunting in unison and dividing the hides evenly, and though there is still some coordination during each hunt, it is quite minimal, and only for the safety of each of us. Perhaps it is foolish of me to even consider this odd collection of strangers from all across our Union to be a “party,” for it seems we are united not by a common goal, camaraderie, or even personal self-interest. I have seriously considered boarding the train for Milwaukee on any number of occasions this past month. There is no need to burden you with every petty squabble that has erupted among the men, for that would take tens of pages and would, as well, be exceedingly tedious to read. But to illustrate my point, and explain my pessimistic cast of mind, I will set down some of the more important disagreements. Three days out from the fort, we spied a small herd and approached, but keeping a fair distance from it. Each of our men picked one buffalo to pursue, and we charged in on our horses. I was concentrating on my own bull, did not see with my own eyes the actions that caused the following controversy, and am only repeating what has been related to me by other members of the party. Apparently Horkonen fired a couple of arrows into his bull but failed to bring it down, after which Billingsley, who had killed his prey with a couple of shots, finished Horkonen’s work as well. We set about skinning the beasts, then returned to camp. At this point, Billingsley demanded Horkonen’s hide for his own, and furthermore demanded that he stop using the bow and take up a rifle. Horkonen’s lack of skill with the English tongue kept him from producing a clear argument against Billingsley’s attacks, and furthermore, Billingsley had aligned with him a number of men from our party to join him against Horkonen, so the Finn had no choice but to relent and agree. Surprisingly, MacPherson was one of the men who joined with Billingsley, and this was the first time I had seen them cooperate in any endeavor. Two days later, we had set up another camp and scouted another small herd; this hunt was carried off without incident, and each of us brought down at least two buffalo. The trouble began later at camp. After we had eaten our salt

pork and hominy, we were relaxing around the fire, but Billingsley was notably absent. He appeared about an hour later, unapologetically intoxicated. I should explain here that we have expressly forbidden spirits during our hunting expeditions, as hunting buffalo is dangerous, and one must have one’s full faculties about one when engaged in it. A drunkard will endanger not only himself, but all of us, if he wakes in the morning not fully able and prepared to wield his rifle and pistol. MacPherson was quite angry, and, with the help of two other men, including Horkonen, for that matter, claimed Billingsley’s flask and poured the remaining (paltry) amount of whisky on the ground. Billingsley then attempted to strike MacPherson, but in his state was unable to land a blow with any sort of force at all. MacPherson returned the strike, bloodied Billingsley’s nose, and knocked him to the ground. At this point, I intervened and took Billingsley to his tent. I strongly suspected him of having more whisky stashed away somewhere among his equipment and had hoped he would drop off to sleep and give me the opportunity to discover it, but he did not, and instead regaled me with a tale of one of his doomed romantic escapades. Four days later, we had completed another successful hunt. Horkonen and I and some of the other men were posing with some of the buffalo while Polk recorded our achievement. There was nothing unusual in this, we had many times posed by the buffalo we had killed, but on this occasion, MacPherson approached us and began to berate us, accusing us of vanity and laziness, having our portraits taken while others were working. The other men argued with MacPherson, and the matter was left unresolved, but the photograph taking was cut short, and we set back to work skinning our kills. I could, of course, pretend to myself that MacPherson was not addressing me personally, after all, I have worked very hard during this adventure, but I must admit I was wounded. The result of all of these disagreements was that, though we had experienced greater success during this month than in any previously, all of the men have become irritable and disinclined to seek out one another’s company. I must admit I

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did not feel differently. The company of Billingsley, especially, I sought to avoid. We are once again taking some days’ rest at the fort. I am exhausted, heavy of heart and limb, and must now retire. Your loving husband, Kelvin November 30, 18—

MY DEAREST CHARITY: Events have taken a rather strange turn over the last month, and I will set them down as best as my memory allows. And I urge you to stay in good cheer as you read these pages, my dear, for I assure you that, though the events described herein are grim, in the end, fortune granted our party favor. We spent several days preparing for this most recent excursion, laying up provisions, repairing wagons, and bundling hides for the market. Mr. Harrington had fallen ill and stayed behind, which meant our party was down to eight, as Howard Polk does never participate in the actual hunting. On the eleventh of November, we set out again. On the advice of one of the privates guiding our efforts, we travelled west and south, crossing into the territory given the Sioux to hunt. If this mild transgression caused any anxiety in any members of our party, no one showed a sign of it. On the fourth day out, we encountered a herd of buffalo. At this point our party was still quite fractured and we had taken to hunting mainly in pairs and threes, not sharing labor, and still not sharing any hides, either. MacPherson hunted alone; mainly by default, I hunted with Billingsley; Barlow and Keene, of course, hunted together, and they seem to remain indifferent to our success; Horkonen hunted with Voychick and Levandovsky. The first hunt itself was unremarkable. Billingsley and I managed to bring down six buffalo. My skills are improving, I must say—the thought that I could, even with the aid of a hunting partner, bring down six buffalo in a single day would have been unthinkable just two short months ago. As we returned to camp, light snow began to fall, and a strong wind began blowing from the northwest that chilled us terribly. Soon there were four separate fires burning across the camp as the hunting partners, who then were keeping mostly to themselves, sat and took our suppers. 40. Waterways 2023

The next day, we rode out again and encountered what was probably the same herd about half a day’s ride from camp. We proceeded to another hunt, and Billingsley and I brought down four buffalo. I was not closely observing how the other hunters might be faring at that time, but it did not appear to me that any were more or less successful than me and Billingsley. The weather was still quite cold, and again the camp displayed four separate fires. While Billingsley and I were eating our supper, Horkonen’s tent caught fire and was rendered useless. He was not inside and was uninjured. I could tell by the resentful looks he gave the rest of the party that he was certain the fire had been set deliberately, but with the wind scudding through the camp, there is every possibility that the tent was burnt through mere accident. With Voychick’s and Lecvandovsky’s aid, Horkonen was able to craft a makeshift tent out of three or four of his hides, but the result of this is that their value at the market will be greatly diminished, if not ruined completely. The next morning, Horkonen approached Billingsley, and as we were de facto partners, I was there for the encounter. Horkonen demanded that Billingsley return his bow. He argued that as we were all now hunting in pairs and threes and not sharing in our kills, there was no necessity in demanding that he (Horkonen) not hunt in a manner that suited him best. At first glance, this may seem a reasonable argument, but Horkonen’s demeanor was markedly not reasonable. I surmised that Horkonen blamed Billingsley for the burning of his tent (which is patently untrue, as I had been with Billingsley the entire evening and knew firsthand that he had nothing to do with it) and had engaged in this confrontation as a way of settling the score. Billingsley refused Horkonen’s request. As the argument grew heated, I observed several times that Horkonen’s hand was settling upon the butt of his revolver. All of this occurred in the early morning, before any of us had eaten our breakfast, and Billinglsey was unarmed. Their shouting caught the attention of the rest of the camp, and MacPherson walked over to us to ask what was troubling the two men. Horkonen’s English failed him, and he began cursing Billingsley in Finnish, and as he did, I noticed a

malicious aspect suddenly appear in the Finn’s narrow eyes. I took out my revolver and shot him in the chest; he dropped dead almost instantaneously. We buried the Finn in a rock grave half an hour’s walk from the camp. Rest assured my dear that the rest of the party, even the Finn’s hunting compatriots, have agreed that my actions were carried out in the defense of Billingsley. I have confirmed this with Capt. Pelligrew today as well—there will be no repercussions for me from either the Army or the law. I must emphasize that when I drew on the Finn, I had no object other than to protect Billingsley and end the conflict with as little violence as possible. However, removing him from the hunting party had a series of remarkable effects which I must admit I had not anticipated. The first effect, and perhaps the most important for my own personal sense of success was that I earned MacPherson’s respect. I demonstrated to him that I was not simply a traveling dilletante, but that I was ready and willing to do what was necessary, no matter how unpleasant, to rid the Western Territories of their buffalo. The second effect was that Billingsley immediately stopped bickering with MacPherson, and what is more, he poured out the contents of his several flasks that very morning and was the very model of sobriety for the remainder of the excursion. The third effect was less immediate but no less important. Over the last two weeks, our party has begun to

cooperate. We are now hunting as a unit and splitting the hides evenly amongst ourselves. It is almost as if, by killing the Finn, I purged our group of a noxious substance that was slowly poisoning us. I must also report that I have come to have more sympathy with MacPherson’s mercenary approach to hunting. I now understand that it is indeed Providential that we profit from it. If God meant for the buffalo to maintain its position as the lord of the Great Plains, he would not have engineered a society which delivers such profits awarding its destruction. We returned to Ft. Jackson with an additional 250 hides, and now that our party has gained some experience in hunting buffalo, I am certain that if I remain here in the West for this winter and the coming summer, I then will have the means of discharging all of our debts, my dear, as well as having the satisfaction that I have done my small part to encourage our Union’s westward expansion. Your loving husband, Kelvin BRAD GOTTSCHALK is a writer and sometime cartoonist who has lived most of his life in Wisconsin. His fiction as appeared in a number of journals including Another

Chicago Magazine, The Writing Disorder, and Eclectica. By day he is an archivist. You can read more of his work at www.silenttheatercomics.com.

Lost Lake Folk Opera v 8 n1 41.

Emilio De Grazia New Nosiness ow and then I try not to imagine a dinosaur nose. I’ve spent the better time of my life with my nose in a book. Now that fact makes me feel like a dinosaur. I also spent a lot of time watching TV, amusing myself to death. That’s what Nicholas Postman said in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” published almost forty years ago. TV, argued Postman, created not George Orwell’s 1984 totalitarian nightmare but Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a society dulled by pleasure-driven mindlessness by way of freely available mind-altering Soma pills, also known as drugs. A former chairperson of the Federal Communications Commission, Postman did not live long enough to write a book about where we are now—trying to figure out how to muddle along in a time when Orwell’s and Huxley’s nightmare views of society seem to apply simultaneously. Government and the marketplace both have technologies with Orwellian capacities, and both have their ways of feeding us “Soma” pleasures that diminish our capacity to be alert critical thinkers eager to engage ourselves in the self-government required of successful democracies. If government today indeed plays the Big Brother role, the enterprising spirit of our free enterprise system skimps on the freedom part. The private sector, while lobbying relentlessly for fewer controls on its privacy, wants total freedom to know more and more about me. We are being profiled now as we speak to each other here. And there is no shortage of entrepreneurs eager to supply the demands government makes on businesses eager to help government take our privacy away from us. Verizon, a Fortune 500 enterprise, was happy to accept the millions the U.S. government paid for telephone taps of Verizon calls. When asked if AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile were in on the scheme to develop “megadata” for the National Security Agency, each offered “no comment” as a reply. They want to keep what they’re doing a secret, and in Orwell’s nightmare world “no” means “yes.” Government snooping would be starved without providing the harvest of profits corporations and private contractors enjoy at public expense. Which private sector self-interest groups hate government most? It’s those having promiscuous love affairs with government agencies. As I learn more about what’s going on behind my back, I’m getting used to looking forward to a future in which loss of privacy is a default setting. The new technologies boggle, while probably reading, my mind. Lasers see in the dark and peer through walls. Hand-held gizmos put me on somebody’s radar screens. Google-Earth allows me to watch my cousin Pasquale hoe corn on a hillside in southern Italy. He doesn’t know I’m watching. Body and brain scans reveal naked truths about what’s going on deeply within, while technicians unscramble my genetic codes. My dirty little secrets are going public, right now here too. Meanwhile, somebody’s drones blow up somebody’s houses and family members. I think we rather adore these technological breakthroughs. They’re good for private sector business, and their exponential development and spread makes some people rich. For now. We want to retool college educations so we can train more people to use the latest technologies, so we keep gearing up to enable ourselves to improve our snooping. Long-distance thinking suggests that as we use our new technologies we become complicit in the outcomes they produce, but long-distance thoughts don’t have lasting power in a culture that values momentary reactions. And because so many of the new technologies entertain us and a few do some actual good, it’s difficult not to become addicted to them. They go down as easy as Soma pills. But scary genies have escaped and there’s no stuffing them back into their vials. Technowizards are working hard to manufacture robots and brains, and someday soon the brain machines will have minds. Then, of course, the real hard work will begin: Developing a conscience for machines with minds.


42. Waterways 2023

As our sense of self-control becomes more wired it’s not likely we’ll get a big kick out of checks and balances. And who will insist on the wisdom of bothering with knowledge when there’s so much entertaining information at our fingertips? We now have even better reason to believe in Santa Claus. Both government and the private sector already know if we’ve been good or bad, so we’d better be good for the sake of those running the shows. They’re watching us. Meanwhile, big shots who cheat on their taxes, spread lies about elections, those who launder millions, hide money in foreign banks and cryptocurrencies, those addicted to sexual exploitation and insider trading, those CEOs, college presidents, Big Ten football coaches, and others who can’t be shamed by absurdly high salaries—all these make technologies work for them. It’s useful when government snoops on nut-cases planning to blow up New York City, but scary when government helps business spy on and exploit us.

As a child of the Age of the Book I can’t help but believe in Santa Claus. I made a New Year’s resolution last Christmas Eve. I will continue to be nosy too, even as a dinosaur trying to lumber my way through the Digital Age. I will speak out, let everyone know what I think. I have a little roar left in me. EMILIO DEGRAZIA, a resident of Winona, Minnesota, has authored four books of fiction, including “Seventeen Grams of Soul,” winner of a Minnesota Book Award, and “Enemy Country,” a Writer’s Choice Award winner. A founding editor of Great River Review, he also has coedited (with his wife Monica) “26 Minnesota Writers,” “33 Minnesota Poets,” and “The Nodin Poetry Anthology.” His bibliography includes “Burying the Tree,” “Walking on Air,” “Seasonings,” and “Eye Shadow.” Emilio has served as Winona Poet Laureate. His latest book is “What the Trees Know” (Nodin Press, 2020).

Lost Lake Folk Opera v 8 n1 43.

John Zedolik Water Waylaid & Other Poems

Alternative Route i. water waylaid Used to stand at the mountain’s base a monument to Joe Palooka until some cretins stole the bas-relief of the comic-strip boxer’s profile to replace with the dull graffiti of obscenity upon the indistinct shades and hues of weathered concrete— But turn right, nevertheless, through the gap and pass the spring that used to splash innocently and freely over just gray rocks and emerald moss until stolen by some bottling company that has hidden the cool source within ridged metal walls and under boxing roof, so locked with the icy key of commerce until we reach the crooked T aside the run whose murmur and wrinkle we must imagine from the slope and the unceasing wheels that drive this trip ii. in memoriam ad . . .? We never turned right onto the bridge, and I still have no experience of it and now only the bare knowledge of maps, for gramma and grampa’s

44. Waterways 2023

house lay on the mountain’s flank, which dropped, splayed, after the summit to the left, which climbed past the small sandstone memorial, pink and worn like a well-used pencil eraser, to a portion of Major-General Sullivan’s march to destroy the loyalists and the Iroquois beyond the northern border in New York State— burn their villages and crops—just a genocide for the latter in that looming winter upon the plateau and besides the lakes— which you might miss—as you ascend to the lip and now descend to all that is below iii. solid focus Near the road, in the woods running down lay a millstone to which we would lope, on occasion, after leaving the car and gather around at least once for a photo—the great wheel quartz-flecked, adamant omphalos of this tight world, even discarded, at an angle upon the bedrock’s wrinkled sloped over which the quiet leave would closed again—the millstone never around our necks—as we were young, nimble so scrambled back up to the ribbon leading us down—

with new (or renewed) knowledge of the old ways and their discarded wares iv. partial reconstruction The folly stood a shell of cinder blocks unconcerned in those materials

of little thrill, where the houses soon sprouted again, a spring of safety after

parvenu—with white stone—or probably plaster—statues contrapposto curving

vi. leavening Saint John the Baptist Church sits, modest and quieter than the Evangelist

in the half-dozen niches that scooped out the façade on the ledge of authentic rock— and paused incomplete—for the drivers to pass judgment upon caprice, pride,

the chill of sharp angle that stirred the gut and certified life

who has been generous with his name, within which gramma’s remains will lie in a future summer

and short-sighted desire to reproduce Europe overlooking this valley that lights

boxed for her last mass, at this point where the route regularizes to city street

its eyes upon that center of river running to estuary then ocean in wet miles a hundred

and no smoke rises except at times escaping the usual ovens and stoves—

and a half, counted by no drop swallowed in the streams, unlike beads as we, hoping

and their over-cooked meals—so on down to the nadir of the river that would quench

for memory, a rudder in the swells through awful eternity

all if it could roll uphill and reach the dry summit that only knows wet

v. surface tension Devil’s elbow curved above and around the fires burning—

from rain, which sinks into the soil, someday reaching that river so far below

still—underground—a hellish scene, to be sure, if one could find a golden bough among the aspens and descend like Aeneas at the Sybil’s

this road whose serpent-twistings call for caution but lash the senses and mind to reel in the thread whose ends are farther asunder than the artic pole and its opposition

advice, but no such guide was discovered or wanted by us as we only needed the surface and a safe measure of speed through that sheer bend to the slack end

vii. porous depths So after short time, again rubber grips the road—back up and over to remember the passed ruins,

Lost Lake Folk Opera v 8 n1 45.

and roll with the stony punches months the marks of what was, what remains, to fix upon you like nitrogen upon root nodes underground nourishing but perhaps forgotten

since delivered, cognizant of shifting surfaces and the hard fist of upcurving earth meeting me below

or even unknown as you twist and turn through ways that require skill and clear sight until you loop under and wait, unconcerned, for falling water that always trickles through channels left by careless earth to insist, to find what is left of all below and behind.

Firm Realization On the yellow brick—alley—I bottomed out and am certain my undercarriage bears the scars—an ignorant hope of short cut— turned my wheels right, onto the hump—

Charge Into Edison’s electrocution of the elephant alliterates so appropriately—almost an imitation of his DC current, which would lose to Tesla and his AC, lightning-powerful nonetheless, but not so smooth on Topsy* the incorrigible criminal offender (so said) who suffered the primitive jolt, chained, smoked, and dropped into death, heart seized up by the master’s volts, with his net of nerves like many more primates, numb to the effect of electromagnetic magic, conducting chains on an unknowing behemoth, Coney Island amusement, in a new circuit of hard energy, wiring the amped-up ages soon to join our convenient, lethal grid. *found in Wikipedia. 24 June 2022

and—bump!—bump! I rued my choice in the battering instant but moved forward still until the baked clay leveled and I left it for soft asphalt of the frequented street

Possible Improvement

with hope (the second in seconds) in the soundness of my steel for future

The sidewalks on Wilkins Avenue are only paved in grass, both sides, if one pauses to check, so soft, dark,

integrity and use, no leaking fluid, debility, plus the delay and dinero of repair, which, so far, has been fulfilled, 46. Waterways 2023

and dewy to the tread, a surprise if one is looking up or straight ahead in half-aware expectation

of concrete and its hard conversation the tap-tap, clap-clap that would continue at least to the curb

then hushed if stepping onto the asphalt street and its quiet disposition and deference to wheels

as well as the rhythm of feet that would recover from the springy shock determined after seconds to be quite the comfort, pleasant exception before the quick return to the clackety-clack of the aggregate gravel, lime, and water, cured of the ground’s old give, its ancient unfinished rebound.


JOHN ZEDOLIKAN is adjunct English professor at Chatham University and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and has published poems in such journals as Abbey, The Bangalore Review (IND),

Commonweal, FreeXpresSion (AUS), Orbis (UK), Paperplates (CAN), Poem, Poetry Salzburg Review (AUT), Third Wednesday, Transom, and in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In 2019, He published a fulllength collection, entitled “Salient Points and Sharp Angles” (WordTech Editions. In 2021 he published another collection, “When the Spirit Moves Me” (Wipf & Stock, ahd he recently published his third collection, “Mother Mourning” (Wipf & Stock). His books are available of Amazon.

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Robert Wooten Two Water Poems

A Negative Capability You will once more hesitate to offer a sacrifice to the goddess—from Koine Greek.

Why does water exist? Rain—how it falls, water of my life running through my soul, also. Every god claimed me. My razor and morning shave shouted their wrath upon me. My face bled red tears of repentance. Why does water exist? I washed away my red tears, and I knelt before her. My house felt my god’s wrath. It shook the roof. Until I found that I was still alive, nothing mattered. All the gods had forsaken me. The weekend roared in. I walked along the jagged sea. Into the evening I sat thinking— down I walked, the beach un-scrolled, un-scrolling for my pleasure, mocking my life with silly acquiescence.

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A Silt Feeder With the bubbles coming up between his toes, Raymond asks John about it—“Gas,” he says, but Raymond doesn’t know. When he presses down it stops, but then starts up again where he is about to step. He moves his foot back and forth through the sand in the clearer water, and a small geyser of clear sand erupts upward. Looking back, as he follows John, he notes where he has turned the silt with his feet. But, when they return, again, and, by the same route, no trace of this remains. And what he sees is the creek bottom, all sandy and smooth. Then, no two sandbars remain the same, and he has to look twice to find out where he left his shoes, as, like everything else here, it seems to have changed.

ROBERT WOOTEN’s poetry currently appears in Tar River Poetry and in Trajectory. One of his poems was selected as the first-place winner of the 2021-22 Dream Quest One poetry competition. He earned an MFA in poetry at the University of Alabama (1998) and an MA with a creative writing focus at North Carolina State University (1994).

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R.D. Saporita The King and I was standing at the intersection of Fillmore and Divisidero streets in San Francisco at six in the morning when I first met him. I’d been waiting since 5:30 for a bus to take me downtown— being new to the city I had no idea of the bus schedules and hadn’t thought to check if the bus— I knew at least that it was the 22—even ran at this hour. As a recent New York transplant, I’d just assumed that the city, and all its attendant machinery, ran all night—but it seemed that in San Francisco people actually went to sleep in the evenings— and except for an occasional passing car I found myself alone in the foggy semi-darkness of the pre-dawn street. New York had taught me to stay far away from doorways, especially at night, since anyone could step out of one and end an incautious life—so I was standing nearly in the middle of the empty street, occasionally craning my neck to look up Fillmore and across Divisidero for the bus. I thought I’d seen someone standing at the crosswalk across Divisidero, but it was hard to tell in the dark, and then he suddenly appeared beside me, as though he’d materialized out of the fog. I stepped back instinctively, to put some space between us. He was a few inches taller than me, his height added to by the fact that we were standing on an incline—not unusual in San Francisco—and I remember thinking that all he had to do was push me hard and I would tumble over and roll down the hilly street into the bay. But he only smiled and said: “Hey. What’s up?” “Nothing,” I said, getting my bearings and smiling back, “just waiting for the bus.” “Oh right,” he said, pointing up at the bus stop sign, “the bus.” He patted his top jacket pocket lightly and then drew out a single cigarette. “You got a light?” “Sorry. I don’t smoke.” He smiled. “That’s cool. I’m trying to quit.” He slipped the cigarette back into the slit of his jacket pocket and then tapped it carefully down with his finger until it disappeared. “I’m King,” he said, looking up. “Sal.” I put my hand out—he looked down at it and laughed slightly but then took it and shook it limply. “So where you trying to get to Sal?” “Downtown. Pier 3.” “Pier 3? That’s not downtown man, that the Embarcadero. That’s all the way downtown.” “I know. That’s what I was counting on the bus for.” Actually, I didn’t know how far it was. I’d glimpsed at a map on-line but hadn’t put anything to scale. All I knew was the Pier 3 was about four finger lengths from my apartment. But I felt foolish enough already, waiting for a bus that wasn’t coming. So I didn’t say anything else about it to King. He shook his head, smiling slightly. “So what’s at Pier 3 anyway?” “I heard there was work sometimes in the mornings unloading shipping containers. “ I wanted to make it clear up front that that I was unemployed and broke and a poor prospect for anything King might be planning. At the same time there didn’t seem to be any reason to keep my destination, or the job, a secret, after all, who would want to unload containers anyway, even if the job existed?


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But King surprised me. “Oh yeah, that’s right”, he said, “I heard about that. Mind if we team up? I was thinking of going there too.” This seemed unlikely. If I was out at 6 a.m. because I was starting (or attempting to start) my workday, King was obviously at the tail end of a long night. When he turned away for a moment to look up Fillmore for the bus I looked him over. He was about 6 feet, (though he seemed taller because he was still standing over me on the hilly street), a thin, light-skinned black boy/man in his early twenties. He was wearing a three-piece suit in some shade of peach with matching loafers with pink trim. His collar was open and his tie, still knotted, hung loosely outside his vest. Whatever he was he wasn’t a day laborer. But I wasn’t about to call him a liar. It was still dark, and we were still alone on the street. Plus, there seemed to be some kind of electric charge running through him, he kept rolling his shoulders like a boxer warming up for a fight and snapping his fingers to some imaginary beat. I guessed he was speeding on something, which made him more dangerous and unpredictable. But what I couldn’t understand is why he’d want to come along with me? If he’d wanted to mug me he’d already had the chance, what could he hope to gain by spending the entire morning with me? Was he planning on waiting until we finished work (if we even got the job) and were handed our day’s pay (again, if we got the job and if they paid in cash) and then steal mine? Was he thinking that far ahead? Or did he just want to share a ride downtown? Or was I just overreacting because he was a young black guy? Would I feel the same if a young white guy, dressed in a three-piece suit, had suddenly appeared out of the fog at 6 in the morning and asked if he could go unload trucks with me? Yeah, probably. But the question was left hanging when King took another look up Fillmore Street and then turned to me and said: “I don’t think the bus is coming man.” I quickly nodded in agreement—seeing this as my out. “Yeah, I shoulda checked the schedule.” I shook my head at my own foolishness. “I think

I’m gonna pack it in. I’ll try again tomorrow or later in the week.” I started to turn away, but King raised his arms, palms up. “Whoa. You leaving?” “Yeah, I think so.” “Really? Just like that?” He nodded in the direction of downtown. “They pay good money there right?” “Yeah. Pretty good, I guess.” He gestured at my outfit. “Well no offense man but you don’t look like you can afford to turn any work down.” Though the sky was getting light we were still alone on the street. I suddenly realized I was worried more about how King would react if I turned my back on him and walked away, than what might happen if we stayed together. “I don’t know.,” I said. How’re we even gonna get there? It’s a lot further than I thought and it’s getting late. We may have already missed the shape-up.” “The what?” “The shape-up. When the foreman picks who’s gonna work for the day.” “Oh, yeah. The shape-up.” King shook his head. “Nah, it’s early. We ain’t missed it yet.” Occasional cars had been passing us as we talked, but only on Divisidero, which was a fourlane boulevard which crossed the city and always had some traffic, but none had passed us going down Fillmore, the direction we needed to go. Now King looked up the hill, across Divisidero, where a single car was idling at the light. He turned around to me. “I’ll get us a ride, don’t worry.” But of course, I was worried, because again I heard an implied threat under what in other circumstances would have been an innocuous statement. Was he going to carjack the driver? But I felt immediately ashamed when the light changed, and the car rolled slowly across Divisadero and King did nothing more than put up his hand and wave for it to stop. And surprisingly it did, rolling to a stop about twenty feet ahead of us. King ran past me, hitting me on the back as he passed. “I told ya man! C’mon! “

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As we got closer, I could see the car was an old jalopy, missing the rear bumper and with a crack spider-webbing the rear window. King opened the front door, which creaked loudly in protest, and slid into the front seat. I opened the back door to do the same but when I did a pile of yellowed newspapers and torn magazines fell onto the street. I gathered them up to put them back in the car and then saw they’d fallen from a mountain of paper trash that completely filled the space behind the driver’s seat from the seat to the roof. I put the papers I was holding on the floor where there was still a little space, and then climbed in, settling myself on top of a layer or two of magazines still left on the seat. The driver was watching me over his shoulder as I settled in. He was an old black man, bald, with tonsure of white curled hair ringing his head like a circle of clouds around a still brown lake. He was dressed like a farmer, in blue jean overalls and a faded flannel shirt. Beside him on the front seat leaned another pile of faded newspapers and a cache of what looked like unpaid parking tickets was stuffed under the front visor. The ashtray was open at his knee and a spray of multicolored candy wrappers overflowed it like a trash bouquet. Wedged into the front seat, his denimed belly nearly touching the steering wheel, it was hard to tell where he ended and the car began, as though he’d sat down in the driver’s seat years ago and simply taken root, and the car, and its detritus, had grown up around him. He wagged his big head at me, smiling. “Just push that stuff aside,” he said, “Been meaning to clean that up.” I nodded at him and smiled back. “No problem. Thanks for stopping.” I reached over and pulled the door shut. The car was old enough to have a manual shift on the steering column. The old man shifted it into gear and released the clutch. The car backfired twice and then jerked forward. I looked out of the cracked rear window as we pulled away and saw a cloud of blue smoke filling half the street. As we started moving King turned sideways in the seat, so he could look at the driver and me at the same time, then slung his arm across the top of the seat as though it were an old couch he’d been sitting on for years. He looked back at me and laughed. 52. Waterways 2023

“Just watch yourself if we go over any bumps. You might get buried alive.” The old man, missing King’s sarcasm, turned to him in surprise, genuinely concerned. “Nah, nah. He’ll be alright,” he said. He looked at me in the rear-view mirror and smiled, “Anyways it’s just papers and stuff.” “I’m fine. Thanks again for stopping.” “Thass okay. Where you boys going?” “We’re going down to the pier—Pier 3.” “Pier 3?” “The Embarcadero,” King cut in. “Oh, I ain’t going that far. But I can take you to Market Street. You can pro’ly walk or catch a bus from there.” “Thanks. That’s great.’ We rode for a while in silence. I was crunched into about a third of the back seat, the rest of it covered with the teetering junk pile. The windows were nearly black with grime and with the garbage pile blocking any other light on my left, it felt like we were driving underwater. King had turned around to the front and my only view forward was of the back of his head. I noticed that there were four letters crudely tattooed on the back of his neck, but I couldn’t make them out as they were mostly hidden under his high collar. I was starting to feel the tinges of the claustrophobia that always overtook me in tight spaces. The window on my side was covered about halfway up with dirt but I could see light out of the top half. To relieve my anxiety, I leaned slightly back and stared up and out at the passing buildings. If I hadn’t known we’d officially entered the Fillmore district I only had to look at the billboards plastered to the sides of the buildings to be assured. The faces on the signs were all black now and the products being touted had morphed from insurance and baby wipes to malt liquor, cigarettes and the services of bail bondsman. As if to accentuate that we’d crossed a cultural border of some kind, the car suddenly filled with the warm sound of 50s rhythm and blues. The old man had turned on the radio. I looked up front and saw him settling back in his seat, smiling and nodding his head in time to the song.

“Yeah, thass right,” he said softly, “thass right.” King turned his head to the old man. His face was scrunched as if at a bad smell. “Man, you really do like old junk, don’t you?’ he said. The old man, still deaf to King’s tone, took his question literally. He turned to King and smiling said, “Oh yeah. There’s plenty money in old stuff. May not look like it, but there is.” “No,” said King, “I mean the music.” He pointed a finger at the radio. “This old junk.” He shook his head in disgust, “Man.” The old man stopped smiling. He turned to King. “Old junk? That’s Dinah Washington! What you talking about, old junk?” “It’s corny man. Buncha old nee-grows moanin’ and groanin’. Put on something new man.” The old man reached forward and turned up the volume. “This here’s my car and I play my music. You don’t like it you can get out.” He slowed the car down and turned towards the curb. I cut in quickly from the back seat. “The music’s fine,” I said. “It’s nice to hear something mellow in the morning. Starts the day right.” The old man scrutinized me in the rear-view mirror, to see if I was kidding him. He must have decided I was sincere because he turned the wheel back to the road and sped up. But he was clearly offended and didn’t speak again until we reached Market Street. Without a word he pulled to the curb. “This is as far as I go,” he said. King pushed open the door and climbed out without looking back. I thanked the old man for the ride but he only grunted in response without turning in his seat. As he pulled away, I saw the pile of junk tip over and cover the back seat. King saw it too and laughed. “Bet he wishes you was still sitting there,” he said. I laughed. “No, not me, you.” Whatever he thought of us, the old man had taken us to Market Street as he’d said he would. But now we still had to get all the way down it to

the Embarcadero. I was about to tell King we should give it up when a streetcar stopped in front of us and he hopped on, then looked behind him and waved his hand at me. “C’mon, c’mon!” I jumped on behind him as the car started moving. King, gesturing to me behind him, told the driver, “He’s got us both,” then turned around to me and said, “I’ll pay you later, all I’ve got is big bills.” I fed the money into the fare box and we took seats in the front of the streetcar. We were traveling down the middle of Market Street on the streetcar tracks when I looked out the window and saw the 22 bus a block ahead of us, riding along the curb, going in the same direction. So I’d missed it after all, maybe it did run all night. The streetcar overtook the bus and after a few more stops we were suddenly at the end of the line. King hit me lightly on the shoulder and stood up. “This is it,” he said, “last stop.” I followed King off the streetcar. He pointed ahead of himself. “It’s that way,” he said. We crossed back over Market Street and started walking down a side street which ended at a small park. Homeless men were sprawled out asleep on the few benches, and even at this hour some street kids slouched in aimless groups clutching skateboards and sharing cigarettes. They looked us over as we passed, alert to any handout, but took one look at us and turned away. At the end of the park we walked into another side street. It was clear from a change in the air that we were near the water, though I couldn’t see anything but houses on both sides. When we reached the end of the street King pointed right. “Over there,” he said. I looked over. About a hundred feet ahead of us ran a wide boulevard and on the other side of it was a line of piers stretching off to the left for at least a half of a mile. Directly in front of us was a huge metal warehouse with “PIER 3” in black metal letters over a huge metal gate. A group of men were gathered in front of it. “Yeah, that’s it,” I said.

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We crossed the street and joined the edges of the crowd. King was right after all: the shape-up still hadn’t started. There were maybe forty men milling around in front of a warehouse with a metal gate pulled closed to the ground. It was much colder and damper at the pier than up on the Haight and the men were walking in small circles, stamping their feet and slapping their arms for warmth. Unlike King and I, they were properly dressed for the work in jeans, work boots, and heavy sweaters or canvas jackets. Most carried work gloves and metal lunchboxes. I walked up to the front of the warehouse to see if there was a sign-up sheet or any other procedure to follow. I asked the first man I saw but he told me there was nothing to do but wait until they raised the gate and then try to get noticed. Some men had left their lunchboxes in front of the closed gate to hold their places for the shape-up. These were the regulars he told me; you weren’t supposed to hold a spot, but no one argued with them. “Would you?” he said, nodding slightly over at a group of bikers huddled together smoking and drinking coffee at a table set up with two coffee urns and some cups. “Is that coffee just for them?” He laughed. “Nah. They have to share it. It’s put out by the owners. Sometimes there’s more work down here than workers—not today I don’t think—and these guys get some goodwill with the coffee so some of the workers are loyal to “em when they have a choice of where to work for the day. Go get a cup. It’s free.” “I will. Thanks. Just wanna get my friend.” I walked back over to King to report. He’d put up the collar on his suit jacket and had his arms closed over his chest. “Hot coffee? Definitely! It’s fuckin’ cold man!” “Yeah. I know.” We walked over to the table and poured two cups. King nodded toward the guy I’d just been talking to who was still standing nearby. “Whad he say?” “He said there’s no procedure. We just wait till they come out and then try to get noticed.” “Whaddya think?” 54. Waterways 2023

I laughed. “Well, I’m sure they’ll notice us. Everyone has. But I doubt we’ll get picked unless they pick everyone.” “So waddya gonna do?” “Well I came all the way here. Might as well stay just in case there’s a chance of getting picked. So I’m gonna stay till it’s over.” While we were talking, I looked over and saw a young Filipino kid shyly approaching the table. He had on a thin parka, a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, jeans, and worn sneakers without laces. He couldn’t have been more than five feet tall and maybe 120 pounds, the only person I could see who looked more out of place than King and me. When we made eye contact, he smiled broadly and stepped closer. He pointed to the coffee urn. “Free?’ he said, still smiling. I nodded and stepped out of the way. “Yeah, it’s free.” He filled a cup and added some milk and sugar. King and I moved further back from the table and when the kid finished preparing his coffee he walked over and joined us. He took a sip of the coffee then bowed his head slightly to me, smiled again and said, “Very good. Thank you.” I waved his thanks away. “It’s not from me, “I said, “but you’re welcome.” He nodded his head, still smiling. I couldn’t tell what, if anything, he understood. I put my hand out. “I’m Sal, “I said. He took my hand and shook it. “Danilo,” he said, “but here,” he made a circle with his hand, indicating his American surroundings, “just Danny.” He offered his hand to King, but King just frowned down at him, mumbled something, and turned away. Danny looked up at me questioningly, but before I could say anything about King’s behavior, I heard a shriek of keening metal coming from the warehouse. The metal gate was being lifted. The crowd of men turned en masse and rushed forward. I looked over at King and nodded in the direction of the opening gate. “Should we try to get up there?”

He raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders, but the question was moot. As the gate rolled higher the separated men quickly merged into a solid wall of bodies about six rows deep. The chance of us breaking through the crowd to the front—other than by crawling through the men’s open legs—was nil. And even if we could worm our way through the mob, it seemed almost suicidal to try; the men, packed shoulder to shoulder and jostling for position, were bristling with suppressed violence. I decided to stay far back from them and King and Danny, standing beside me, stayed put too. But if there was any chance of a sudden riot it was quickly quashed. While the gate was still rising five men stepped out from under it. They were all about the same height and width and walked forward as a unit, like an NFL defensive line, an impression heightened by the fact that the man in the center was wearing glasses and carrying a clipboard and pen like a coach. They moved like a team too—as they walked forward two men split off to the left and two others to the right. Each pair stopped at the edge of the crowd. They moved apart slightly, and then took up their positions, legs spread like stone arches and massive arms crossed over their chests. They scowled down at the men in challenge. The cursing and shoving immediately ceased and the foreman stepped forward. He lifted his clipboard in the air and shouted: “Good morning, everyone! Thanks for coming! I think you all know the drill. I need twenty-five men today. As I go down the rows, I’ll hand a work card to the guys I want. When I’m done with the row anyone who doesn’t get a card needs to move off so I can continue with the next row. When the cards are all gone that’s it for today. Anyone who’s not picked can try again tomorrow. We always have work. But do yourself a favor and don’t argue with me. You won’t win and you’ll just guarantee that you won’t work here again. Okay? All right, let’s start.” Most of the men in the first row got work tickets, including all the bikers who’d waited on the sidelines until the gate had opened and then had casually stepped into place in the front row. No one had challenged them, and I guessed they were rarely, if ever, passed over. As big as the

foreman and his crew were, who’d want to go head-to-head with a biker gang? By the end of the second row the foreman already had about twenty men and the men in the back rows near us were already turning away, grumbling and cursing. Within another few minutes it was all over and the foreman, his crew, and the chosen few turned and walked through the open gate to the other end of the pier where another open gate framed a splash of dark water and blue sky and a robotic crane was unloading containers from a docked barge and placing them gently on the dock like a gigantic infant arm laying out colored blocks in a row. When the nearer gate closed again, blocking off the view, the remaining rejected men, who seemed to be waiting for some last-minute reprieve, turned and came slouching past King, Danny and I, looking us over sourly as they left, as though we were somehow to blame for their dismissal. I could imagine what they were thinking as they went by. King, at least, was six feet tall and looked sinewy and somewhat tough, but he was wearing a three-piece suit which now, in the direct sunlight, I could see was frayed at the sleeves and missing two buttons on the vest—and was definitely not prepared for a day unloading trucks. If King was of questionable value, I was nearly worthless, and as for Danny, a full foot shorter than King and about fifty pounds lighter, his only chance of being hired would be if a sudden earthquake dumped everyone else into the bay. I looked over at King and shrugged my shoulders. “Well, that’s that. At least we got some free coffee.” King didn’t answer. He was looking around, preoccupied with something. He nodded to himself and then turned to me. “Sorry. Whadja say?” “Nothing. I just said, that’s it. Better luck next time.” “Oh yeah, yeah.” King waited until a group of men had passed us and then leaned in towards me. “Listen”, he said quietly, “I think I know another place we can work.” “Really?” I said, too loudly, and then lowered my voice, if only for King’s benefit. I doubted

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any of the other men could overhear us or would think we had anything to say worth listening to. “That’s great.” “Yeah, I’m pretty sure we can get it.” He looked around again. “Where’s the kid?” “The kid? Oh, you mean Danny? He’s right there.” Danny, who’d latched on to us, was standing a couple of feet behind King on his left. King turned to where I was pointing and saw him. He smiled widely and reached over and tapped Danny on the shoulder. “Hey man, there you are! I thought you left.” Danny smiled and shook his head. King nodded at him. “Good, good, that’s good.” He leaned towards Danny and lowered his voice again conspiratorially. “I know another place to work. You wanna come?’ I wasn’t sure at first if Danny understood what King was saying, but then Danny looked over and pointed at me. “You too?” he asked. I nodded. “Yeah,” I gestured at King, “we’re both going.” Danny looked back at King. “Okay,” he said, nodding his head, “yes, me too.” “Alright then”, King said. He stepped back a little and spoke to both of us. “I just hope we haven’t missed it. Anyone know what time it is?” “It’s probably about seven.” I said. King ignored me. He turned to Danny. “You know what time it is? “ Danny stared back at him blankly. King lifted his arm and tapped his wrist with his finger. “Time? You know. What time is it?” Danny looked at King, still confused, and then his face suddenly lit up. “Oh! What time it is! Yes! Yes, I know!” He rolled back his sleeve and revealed a silver watch and band. It looked like a diver’s watch, festooned with metal knobs and buttons and with the hours displayed in thick, ornate, numbers in regular and military time. At first glance it appeared heavy and expensive, but it was an obvious fake; I’d seen the same watch, or 56. Waterways 2023

a similar copy, being hawked by street vendors up and down Market Street. “There ya go!” said King, smiling as Danny held out his wrist, offering the watch for our perusal, “So what time is it?” Instead of answering, Danny turned and stretched his arm out to me, nodding and smiling. I turned my head to read the upsidedown hands. The watch was running at least and seemed to be keeping good time. I looked over at King. “It’s 7:20 “I said. King looked at Danny for a moment and shook his head. I thought I saw a flash of disgust cross his face. But he looked up smiling. “7:20” he said. “I think that gives us time. Let’s get out of here.” We crossed over the boulevard and started back the way we’d come. I didn’t know where we were heading ultimately but knew we could catch a bus or streetcar from Market Street to just about anywhere in the city, so it made sense to me that we were heading back there. “So where’s the job?” I asked King as we started down the side street. I could see the park up ahead of us. “Umm … it’s up at Sutter Hospital on Castro. They hire people every morning to do cleanup work. You know, the janitor stuff, empty the garbage, maybe mop the floors. It’s kinda dirty but it pays pretty good. That cool?” “Yeah, that’s fine. And we still have time?” “Yeah, if we get there by eight. And when they really need people, it can even be later.” We walked on and came back to the park. The benches were empty now and the street kids had been shunted to the edges. I guessed the cops had come through and cleared the place. Welldressed commuters were pouring through the park now; I followed their stream backwards and saw that they were disembarking from a pair of ferries docked at the water’s edge. As we came out of the park onto another side street someone called to us from across the street. I looked over and saw two boys who looked like Danny shouting and waving at us. I turned to Danny and pointed across the street. He saw the boys and waved back and shouted at them. They were

waving him over to their side of the street. He looked at me and smiled. “I’m going,” he said. “Thank you.” “Going? Oh. Okay,” I said. “You’re welcome.” Danny started across the street to his friends. King, who’d been walking fast ahead of Danny and I, turned around when he heard the shouting. He saw Danny in the middle of the street and stopped so suddenly that I walked into him. “Hey! Hey man!” he shouted, “where you going?’ He ran over to Danny and stood in front of him, blocking him from his friends. They were both in the middle of the street but luckily the traffic was still light. King stood over Danny yelling down at him. “Where you going man!? We gotta get up to the hospital! You said you wanted to work with us!” Danny was looking up at him in confusion, shaking his head and pointing over to his friends. “No, no thank you!” he said. “Going home now.” “Goin’ home!? Whaddya mean!? We’re gonna go work man! Don’t you want money? You know they pay a lot.” King put his hand out and rubbed his fingers together. “Plenty money man!” he said. King was suddenly interrupted by Danny’s friends who’d started across the street when they saw what was happening. They walked up, waving their hands at King and yelling at him in Filipino. Before King could react, they threw their arms around Danny and walked him over to their side of the street. King stayed in the middle of the street for a moment, watching Danny and his friends as they moved away down the sidewalk talking and laughing. A car passed by suddenly and startled him; he turned around, checked the street and then joined me on the sidewalk. His face was twisted in anger. “Fuckin’ little flip” he muttered, “where the fuck’s he going?” “With his friends I guess. Doesn’t seem interested in the job. “ “Yeah, what the fuck? He just takes off? Little fuck.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Yeah, well. Waddya gonna do?” I started walking again, and King fell in beside me. I wanted to leave the whole scene behind me as get away as quickly as possible, but King couldn’t let it go. He looked back over his shoulder as we walked away, and then turned back to me. “Can you believe that little flip? I get him a job and he just walks away? “ I shook my head in sympathy and smiled. “Well who cares?” I said. “I mean it’s better for us.” “Better for us? How?’ “Well, you know, one less person gives us a better chance of getting the job.” King stopped walking and looked at me. “What job? “ “The job at the hospital. I mean maybe today they only need two people. I mean it’s nice you asked him along but this way there’s, you know, less competition.” King smiled slightly and tilted his head. “You’re fuckin’ with me right?” I smiled back. “Fucking with you? No. What are you talking about?” He leaned towards me as though he were talking down to a child. “There’s no job, man,” he hissed. “I just said that to keep him around. I figured we’d walk him down an alley and take him off. I thought you knew.” By now we were standing in bright sunlight, with people and cars passing us in a steady commuter rush, but for the second time that morning I took a few steps back to put some space between us. “Take him off? You’re kidding right? Why would I think that? He’s a Filipino kid, probably illegal, waiting with us for a job at six in the morning! A job we didn’t get! What the hell would he have to take anyway!?” King looked at me levelly. “He had a watch he wasn’t using.” “What?” “Couldn’t even tell time. Little fuck.”

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I started to reply but suddenly realized I was arguing with King as though he was an old friend, someone I could criticize and condemn without repercussion, instead of a volatile and clearly dangerous stranger who was hardly in the mood for an early morning lesson in morality. So I kept my mouth shut. King shook his head, disgusted with me, and turned around, looking down the street in the direction Danny had gone. Without looking at me again or saying a word he started across the street. I turned away, glad to see him go, and stood for a moment. A surge of adrenaline must have pulsed through me at some earlier point because I noticed that my hands were shaking in delayed reaction. I shoved them both in my jacket pockets. I heard someone coming up behind me and spun around in the ridiculous fear that King had somehow circled back to “take me off”, but it was only a commuter in a three-piece suit who, at the sight of me standing in the middle of the sidewalk, my hands jammed in my pockets and my head dipped into the dark shadow of my zipped hoodie, made a wide detour around me and continued quickly up the street. I collected myself and walked another block up to Market Street and then two blocks up to the 22 bus stop. I waited about ten minutes for the bus and when it arrived, I walked to the back and took a seat at the window. The bus was nearly empty; now that the workday was in full swing the only riders were the elderly and the unemployed. I put my head against the window and closed my eyes. I dozed off for a moment and then was jerked awake when the bus braked at the next stop. I sat up and shook my head clear. The door opened on an old lady with a shopping cart, who stepped onto the first step and then turned around and struggled to pull the cart up over each step while the driver looked straight ahead impassively. When she finally

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climbed on and gave the driver her voucher, she took a seat directly behind the driver. The bus lurched forward and set me back in my seat. I put my head against the window again, the cool glass, still damp with morning fog, was like a cold compress on my forehead. The driver maneuvered the bus into the left lane, leaving the right lane clear for whatever bus was arriving next. When we stopped at the next light I looked idly across the empty lane to the sidewalk, where a line of people waited for the next bus. Scanning the line of faces I suddenly found myself staring directly at King, who was standing almost on the curb, looking up at me and smiling. Danny was standing beside him, looking down at the ground. King had his left arm wrapped tightly around Danny’s shoulder and as the bus started again, he tipped his head sideways at Danny, smiled crookedly at me, and gave me a thumbs up. Danny looked up then and saw me. His rubbery face stretched like elastic around his wide bright smile. He lifted his free left hand and waved it excitedly. The light changed and the bus started moving. I kneeled up on the bus seat, shaking my head “no” at Danny while I struggled in vain to open the sealed shut window. As the bus pulled away, King raised his hand and waved his fingers delicately at me, in imitation of Danny, then tapped his own wrist, and nodded his head. I was still tugging vainly on the window when the bus turned up Fillmore Street and the two of them disappeared from my sight. R.D. SAPORITA is a father of two. He lives in northern New Jersey, and teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at a public high school. When he is not playing with his children or helping them with their homework, he is grading papers or writing short fiction. In his “spare” time he plays guitar and mandolin in the bluegrass band High and Lonesome.

Al Causey A Better Friend hills. Not the chills that come from being wet with rain in a breeze rolling down a hillside. Not the chills of a sweaty fever. These were the chills from a vision of what my life might become. That my life could be all that it should be. The hair on the back of my neck stood and my skin tingled with bumps. The insides of my jaws shimmered and salivated with a tangy zest. I climbed a tree to the top of the rainforest canopy and looked into the dark sky full of twinkling stars. Distant lightning flashed and I extended my hands to the dark clouds on the horizon. My best words, the only words worth saying, I felt, came from my heart. Yet, my mind told me that my best words didn’t mean anything. After all, no one cared what I felt, what my heart said. Could my heart ever be stronger than my mind? I saw the graceful black arc of an ant’s antenna as it walked along the soft curve of the edge of a green leaf. I reflected upon when the leaves of this tree had offered me shelter from sun and storms and, like a friend, provided warm tea to drink. My heart felt safe and open, strong and connected. I wanted to understand my heart. I wanted to know if I could ever be good enough to be friends with my own heart. While my mind told me that I wasted time, sometimes I heard the words my heart shouted. “My mind and heart, can’t we work together?” I asked. “We are so different, so diverse, perhaps we could help one another.” “What is a well-lived life?” my mind asked. I wondered if my heart knew. Did my heart feel my mind’s probing? Yes. My heart felt warm, soft, content, and peaceful–yet it remained quiet. However, when my heart smiled at a sea grape in a rainstorm, the wind whisking the drops sideways such that I only faintly saw, my heart laughed loudly. When I sat among the warm river rocks, the current swirling around stones and slowly rocking me, my heart felt inspired and thrilled and eager to see what might come. Exactly what did my mind say about a well-lived life? That was tricky because my mind only knew the things that have been. During my youngest days, my mind remembered what I liked and disliked. Once I learned about dreams, my mind told me that I should dream so that I could reach farther. But sometimes it impersonated an evil spirit that told me to be afraid. I still reached. It was not pleasant. My mind discovered that I could be better than some fears. My mind realized that it was wrong about some things. However, some fears were so powerful and deep that I could not even see the currents, and no matter how I swam, my mind whisked me under the dark waters. My mind also told me that someday I’d be old and out of time. I wondered what else I might do. I agreed that I didn’t want to waste time. Now I see the influence of my mind, and that’s why I want to be better friends with my heart. Could we be better friends? I hope so, and if we became the best of friends, what would my mind say about that, I dare to ask. “I suggest a more subtle approach,” my mind said. “Let’s discuss dreams. Dreams guide you to offer the most as a creature in this world. You can also take the most, gain the most, and possess the most.” “But,” I asked, “can you come up with a dream?” “Sure. A dream is an abstract concept. Choose any object and visualize it, think on it, meditate on it.” “But can you feel the dream?” I asked. “Ah,” my heart said, “this is where we can learn to work together. The mind creates a dream and tries it by visualizing itself inside the dream, living the dream, having achieved the dream. But I tell you how it feels, what it means, and if it is important.”


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“Let’s try it right now,” I said to my two companions. “Mind, tell me a dream.” “You dream of being a good daughter,” my mind said. “Now, let’s try it,” I said. “Okay,” my mind said. “You are in front of the family hut, under the porch. It’s after breakfast, during the powerful time of the day. You decide to tell your mother a story. No matter what you say, you will create a new thing in the world. The longer the story, the bigger the thing will be. It’s that simple.” “It could be gibberish,” I said. “It could be a childish observation. My mother certainly already knows everything.” “Even a child can be inspirational,” my mind said. “I’m not sure that’s true,” I said. “Okay,” my mind said. “Let’s say that if you tell a story every day, you will most definitely get better, especially if you listen well.” “That sounds better,” I said, “But will I really offer anything important?” “If you study, then you can pass along your knowledge. If you live, then you can pass along your experience.” “What would it take for me to make her laugh?” I asked my mind. “Wit goes a long way. An unexpected word. Surely that would make her smile.” “Some people are wired to entertain, to make people smile and laugh. That’s doesn’t sound like me.” “Oh no?” my mind said. “Maybe you’ve not tried.” “Let’s leave it there for now,” I said. “Okay,” my mind said. “Heart,” I said, “what do you feel about this conversation?” “You can only be an important daughter to the extent that you let me share.” “What do you consider important?” I asked my heart.

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“Mind, you best stay out of this!” my heart said. “Important things are too complicated for you. Important things take the consideration of the past and combine the present moment and the future. The most important things never need to be explained or even defined, because important things are known to all men instinctively. Unfortunately, people listen to their minds instead of their hearts. Shout from your heart, my friend. Let me tell you what to say.” “I’m willing to give it a try,” I said. “Can we try now?” “Why not?” my heart said. “What thoughts give you intense feelings?” “Little children who are hungry, staring at me with my riches,” I said. “Villagers struggling to overcome their bad habits and habitats. Wasting life. Living well. Making all the difference for someone. Learning to laugh loud, to dance without thought, to hold my hands up and yell without reserve. The vision that I might become better.” “That’s good,” my heart said. “And you feel it.” “Yes, I do,” I said. “But how can I tell about these things?” “Devotion yields determination. Say the words. Let your mind do some research but be careful that your words come from the heart so that others can feel the same.” “Or to at least paint the picture so others can see the feelings you have,” my mind said. “Wrong!” said my heart. “When the heart speaks, the words always unstoppably transfer to the heart of the listener. To the extent that you say heart words, you touch and awaken hearts.” “Okay, we are supposed to give it a try now,” I reminded my heart. “Well, then, let’s start with a dream,” my mind suggested. “What about that heart?” I said. “No. Don’t think about it, my youngster of heart things. Just let me speak for you.” “Okay, I’ve got it,” I said. “Here’s some words I feel:”

I want to feel this very moment I turn my palms up It feels good I breathe deeply And look at the farthest horizon I see good in me that others drink in A sphere of light reaching eternity All hearts turn to the center They can’t see me But they feel my heart They want it need it like it and hate it And if they face it, they know it Because their minds could never stop their hearts from seeing And our hearts throb together “I’m liking this,” my mind said. “Does it matter what you think?” I asked.

AL CAUSEY earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in English at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He served in the United States Navy as a naval aviator and was a published aviation safety writer. After the military, he served as a Southwest Airlines captain for twenty-five years and founded two not-for-profit educational programs currently serving at-risk youth. In 2022, he moved writing to center stage and wrote a novel and a novella to explore the theme of self-image and its role in how people change.

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Robert Love Two Saskatchewan Poems

Supper The pike’s gills rise when I make the first cut. She twitches each time the knife, sliding along her spine, ticks a vertebra. But her eyes look from a place steel can’t touch. She doesn’t expect remorse or compassion. This afternoon she was swimming. This evening her flesh will fuel mine. There’s no need for apologies. She never assumed she would live in the same body forever. Cranberry Esker Camp

Broken Water Rainbeads shine like stars on the black lake. In the space of one paddlestroke the wind they carry from the grey sky foams on the whitecaps. Dragonfly Lake

Bob Love lives in northwest Montana near the confluence of the North and Middle forks of the Flathead River. He and his wife Inez have two children, Orion and Keeley, and three grandsons, Henry, Augie and Ford. Bob is the owner and sole employee of Confluence Timber Company. His debut poetry collection, “Pathfinder” (Up On Big Rock Poetry Series), was released in April 2023.

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For My Paddle, A Gift from My Father Forty Years Ago Funny, Where A riven Sculpted Ash plank Can take you. Standing Rock Lake

Last Portage Last portage behind us. We load the packs And push off into the shallows. No need for conversation. After nine days out, Our paddles slip through The water like fishtails: No splash or gurgle. Listening to the bow wake I hear A strand of pickerel weed Clinging to the keel. Will the world Be there When we get to the car? Turtle Lake

James Ross Kelly The Farm, the Flood, & Why the Fairy Shrimp Left ur creek ran through our property about a half-mile from its entrance to the Rogue River. An adjacent ranch pumped water from a dam they made thirty feet from our downstream fence. They rebuilt the dam with a D-8 Cat every spring, as the winter’s rains and the creek’s high water would take the dam out. The creek then backed up each summer, to flood a feeder ditch to a pump at the bottom of a steep hill, that was again thirty feet from our fence. The large whining massive electric pump rerouted the tributary over 500 acres, lifted the water and poured water on dry desert ground to irrigate alfalfa fields. This deep growing legume was the money crop. We leased this ranch one year while the land changed owners. Before the dam and the irrigation Reese Creek ran silver salmon and steelhead every winter. We’d take four or five usually with a pitchfork as they ran though the riffle just below our garden.


On the large ranch with the small Ford tractor, I cut hay, raked hay, and bucked bales of hay. We sold nearly all of it in tight stacks that I packed fifteen feet high. Other small farms and a dairy came and bought this one-year boon that we’d come by. In this process, I had a free run of 500 acres. At 15, the ranch provided a massive expanse of my landscape, having been confined to 22 acres before that time. The river kind of became my own, with three good riffles and a salmon hole. There were pear trees and a pond that had two-foot trout that sometimes produced a good one every other cast. I worked all summer and in addition to farm work I helped build a shop and I earned at the end of the summer twenty dollars. I was pleased to get it and bought a cheap military surplus deer rifle. It dawned on me decades later that I was really some sort of bond slave; I never had a thought of that as every hot afternoon on a tractor, working with my grandfather who gave me money whenever I needed some. Before the depression, he had owned a similar spread and made living at it, put three kids through High School and one to college before 1930. Real farming seemed to me to be the greatest adventure of my life. It was the last real farming my grandfather did. All that summer he beamed like a man stepping into heaven. That summer in Oregon the money financed good things of which I have no recollection. I do remember sense of the wealth of the earth, and the smell of new mown alfalfa — three cuttings of it; and the smell of the choking dust of the harrow, before we planted oats on fifteen-acre field that was a deposit of pumice from some volcanic action. I remember taking a friend of mine, a punk just moved up from L.A. to the river where the creek’s mouth backed up water and formed an estuary that changed every year and pointing out quicksand. I watched him swagger out onto it. When he began to jump up and down on the promontory of liquid sand, I saw him sink to his armpits, and I pulled him out with large dead limb lying next to the shore of the creek. I was laughing that day, and that summer was probably the best summer of my life up to then. My aunt and uncle had sold a business in town and were home every day and there were big farm meals, morning, noon, and evening, hard work but plenty of time to do wild things between the haying and the irrigating and the harvest. The 15 acres of oat hay had been my grandfather’s idea and it paid off with a little bonus crop of specialty feed. When the owner came the next year, their gentrified ways took over. Arabian horses with Arabic names in new stalls that were constantly cleaned was a lot different from the angus cows that had been there before. The owner was the heir to a large share in the largest salt company in the world, as her father had been the attorney for the salt magnate starting around 1900. She had married an Italian count

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who had been killed by Fascists in the 1930s. The “countess” who by all the rules of European royalty had the right to call herself, “countess,” unless she remarried, which she never did. She did raise beautiful Arabian horses. And she built an expensive home on that ridge that looked over the Rogue River, winding its way around the mouth of Reese Creek about a mile upriver from Dodge Bridge. The countess, a woman in her middle sixties, clicked her false teeth every time she began to speak. She was very kind to me. I sold the countess and her mother fresh eggs once a week, and they often asked me in for tea with imported small cookies that I found to be unusually good. Once she showed me her mare that she’d purchased in Saudi Arabia, and told me how in Arabia, they house broke their special horses so they could keep them in the same tent they lived in. She told me her Arabian mare that had been owned by Bedouins had house broken all of her foals by biting them in the ass each time the raised their little tails in their stall. My Aunt baked her and other neighbors Christmas cakes that I delivered in late December of every year. They had a ranch manager, named “Pappy” who was an old L.A. movie horse wrangler about 20 years younger than my grandfather. He and his wife lived in the home the previous owner had built. He trained the horses and arranged the buying and selling of pedigreed stallions and mares and was on the road to horse shows with the countess, regularly. They rebuilt the old farmhouse closer to the river for a farm hand and his wife and two kids. He took over all the farm action I got to do that summer. Everyone had come from rural areas around Los Angeles. I saw the world expand, and the purpose of family farming change at the exact time agriculture began to give way to gentrification. Our 22 acres had been sufficient for subsistence; but that summer my grandfather and my uncle and I sweated for money on an expanded landscape that was shaped and molded into farmland. Each irrigated alfalfa field had been leveled and sloped exactly to drain down a flood of water to the end of the field when I pulled the aluminum water head from the ditch it would 64. Waterways 2023

water five to ten acres that would become lush dark green three-foot-high legumes all pumped from little Reese Creek. We would cut the hay, let it dry for three days, rake it into windrows, and run a hay baler down each straight line of good cow food, and make tight rectangular bales that weighed seventy to ninety pounds every one of which I lifted twice or three times. I had no notion of gaining a wage other than the promise of a twenty-dollar rifle, that killed big blacktail bucks in the fall. I picked a British .303, “Jungle Carbine,” that had a cool looking flash suppressor. The gun store where I bought the weapon, had a jingle on a Radio, “You can start a revolution, with the stock on hand.” Around 1968 that radio jingle stopped playing. After the summer we leased the farm, the new owner let me and no others have the run of the place except a stipulation that, I could not hunt their deer—as the countess was fond of deer. This always disappointed me as I was extremely fond of deer as a meal and knew where the big bucks were. However, I never violated this trust and hunted deer elsewhere. I made effective use of the three good riffles and a salmon hole which was the payoff of exponential interest on the twenty-dollar summer. I was unaware that this particular summer gave me five years of glorious river, where I learned to fly fish on my own, read water, and watch dudes in drift boats go by in succession while I was the only one that had access to fish two miles of great water on one of the best rivers on the west coast of North America. So, I should say that glory is not counted in money. The countess eventually let me hunt ducks off the far pond, where the trout took dry flies and spinners every evening. I killed my first ducks there by myself, at fourteen with 12-gauge shotgun that was only six inches shorter than me. My friend, who ignored the quicksand warning, was a heroin addict by 1972 when he came back from Vietnam. This was the year the countess sold the ranch. The next ranch owners, who were not gentry, poached all the deer on the ranch by 1976, the year before my brother went in the Marine Corps. These folks were also from Southern California, and they shot a neighbor kid

in the back with rock salt for fishing in the far pond.

≈ But there was rain on snow three days before Christmas in 1964 and highways all across Oregon were closed. At our home, Reese Creek ran almost three hundred yards wide through our farm; it was a jump across kind of creek in the summertime, but then logs and water floated brown and at the north bank of the creek ran as a torrent through a growth of willows and backed up to each edge of our valley bottom.

Later we jumped a flock of mallards that almost darkened the sky on Ginger’s slough, down river from the log jam, and for every shot fired two or three mallards rained from the sky; that same summer I fished steelhead on Jackson Island 10 miles downriver and saw debris from the flood thirty feet in the cottonwood trees, and I beat through the black berry vines and smelled life there and in the dead logs from the deluge all those years still hanging and cleaner than the dead Angus smell. Below these cottonwood trees I caught a 15pound steelhead in the riffle on the Islands’ west side on a wet fly and heard pileated woodpecker cry between his jack-a-hammer pounding for larvae.

From our back patio overlooking the place you could hear the roar of the Rogue River and the thunder of large rocks rolling downstream and banging off one another from a half mile away as all the Cascades let go its twelve feet of snow.

Most every spring I picked oyster mushrooms and morels there on that island with wild iris and spring cottonwood smell and one year I stuffed them in a wild turkey I cooked inside a Weber grill at my cabin below Neil Rock.

The Shady Cove Bridge burgeoned and gave way as logs backed water up and jammed and exploded VW size chunks of concrete one hundred yards down steam.

In the 1990s, Kim Novak bought the island and hired men to throw people off the island should they trespass. While in the middle of the riffle that runs by the island. I sent my wet fly line whipping through the air in the same manner I’d fished in that riffle for three decades.

Dodge Bridge’s east approach washed out the next leaving it leaning like a broken monster and for two years, I climbed a metal ladder to get to the Dodge Ranch and walked across the sloping concrete slabs to sometimes work, or more often socialize in the riverbank spin fishing way I spent my youth. Flooding my head with rods and reels, and shotguns and smelling the then fall’s sour smell of dead salmon before the dam bisected the fecundity of this river valley for flood control. A herd of Angus cattle were taken all at once and that night of rain on snow in the high Cascades, they were all together deposited under a large log jam on Ginger Roger’s ranch.

Before the flood the main channel ran on Jackson Island’s east side through Jackson Falls where we, as boys took to inner tubes and ran these rapids in inner tubes from old truck tires, where we’d be drawn underwater in the falls’ descending chute and bounce off a rocky bottom and pop up like corks to swim for our tube and our parents never knew we were not at the mellow swimming hole on the former lazy side of the river, that summer, nor did they know four days before Christmas of a deluge and a 27 foot wave coming down past us to the sea.

Fifteen years later and after our own war, Vince and I hunted ducks. I danced with my rubber cork boots and neoprene waders over the top of that twisted pile of logs and Vince, whose father leased Ginger’s ranch for a dairy farm. The sour smell still faintly lingered on those bleached logs as we tested out his Black Labrador who brought us a duck for every one that hit the water, on that good dog’s first time out.

“See why you never build a home in a flood plain!” he’d said.

That night in 1964, homes were lost, and the next day my grandfather in his Stetson hat and chewing Beechnut tobacco in one side of his jaw and with his eight grades of schooling, but sounding like a federal government hydrologist, he pointed at the torrent of Reese Creek, running to the roaring Rogue and the sea beyond.

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≈ Potholes were surrounded by low chaparral and scrub white oak replete with springtime kitten’s ears but they were full-on winter pond potholes that landed ducks, geese and trumpeter swans. The occasional jackrabbit, and unpredictable deer traffic. Winter was an engine in the manner of this valley bottom’s dry Agate Desert. A mere forty acres had missed cultivation in any of the family farms that surrounded it. I would sometimes hide in a tree and climb a little above it all and life would fill full these vernal pools and waterfowl came and moss edged rocks that held algae streamed water a couple feet deep became another world from my own. In this landscape covered with chaparral, or buck brush, or some old timers just called it “Grey Brush,” all about four feet high, it all came to just below my chin in those days when I was young and could disappear here in a privacy that seemed familiar when the air was exactly right, the smell would waft chamomile and the creosote of the chaparral and each pothole would appear just before I was on its edge. When I started hunting, I’d take a couple ducks over there every winter and jack rabbits too. Cold blooming mistletoe were in the oaks and there was fairy shrimp in the potholes. If you bent down and looked really hard you could barely see them. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day the ponds were always full. In this yuletide week Trumpeter swans, would migrate through, knowing what we did not know, the fairy shrimp whose procession came in the wet notion of creation and beauty and glorious sustenance for all living things being meals for the traveling grand swans whose size rather scared me once as I came upon them hunting ducks and just watched them fly off in to the white of the fog, knowing they were protected. Then this cool world would disappear in ponds dry by the end of May, and then summer, 105 degrees would make all the pond’s algae disappear too, to lay bare naked black round rocks. These hot rocks became depressions you would think of as lifeless, or so it seemed; but 66. Waterways 2023

next year came a clean smell that ran here with every winter’s rain coming full on in again in October. Again, the fairy shrimp appeared. And again, the swans would come by December. Winter clouds holding low and sometimes an inversion put this valley in a thirty-day fog and black ice on the highway every night. However, if you could get to 2,800 feet there would be sunshine above this nether world of invariably 30 days of solid fog. Up on cliffs near Hull Mountain you could look down on the two Table Rocks, as they were two islands rising from a white sea of clouds. The Takilma went there every winter to do ceremony and build fires in a limestone cave underneath and see in the flat promontories of the two volcanic rock mesas above the fog. It was where the world began, the Takilma said, but this is only 1963, in the potholes where I’ve taken you, I had no notion of Neil Rock nor the indigenous Takilma and a world outside of the winter fog. Those years contained everything for me neatly in Southern Oregon. Black ice on the highway to Medford. The ghost existence of day-to-day fog during the inversion weeks. Years after this, I walked up above the winter’s fog and saw the Table Rocks floating on a sea of white obscuring all of civilization underneath, and I realized that I was seeing the same vision men three hundred years before had seen. Three years after the sad November of 1963, all the scrub white oak and one hundred Ponderosa pines were felled. Then a D-8 Caterpillar bull dozed all the chaparral. A rock picker plucked up all the bottoms of these potholes and hundreds of thousands of rocks to be piled 100 feet from our fence line. Then came a harrow, and the rock picker again, and then the plow, the rock picker again, and then the disc, the rock picker again, and again the spring toothed harrow, then the plough and once again the transforming teeth of the harrow and the desert ground and ecosystem became soil. The process would grind up the soil and pour mountains of chemical fertilizer and then disc and harrow, and a crop of sorghum would begin to mix into the dairy farm’s silo once a year. This portion of the Agate Desert disappeared forever.

The sweet water of the spring below our home that pumped from an electric motor sidled down near watercress, for 40 years, would no longer run sweet. Barely one year after the potholes and chaparral disappeared about the time my grandfather had died back in Kansas—the water tasted awful. The afterward of changing the surface of the desert that was really a water shed was bad water. The mechanized method for industrial milk and butter took it all at once, leaving a stale chemical smell and ring in the glass of an infected water table and though the deer came through sporadically, they never again fawned there after the potholes were gone— and so left the fairy shrimp, and we never again saw the trumpeter swans. I am still thirsty for that sweet water—I will never taste it again.

JAMES ROSS KELLY lives in Northern California next to the Sacramento River. He has been a journalist for Gannet, a travel book editor, and had a score of labor jobs—the in-between jobs you get from being an English major. He retired as a writereditor for the Forest Service, where he spent a decade each in Oregon and Alaska, respectively. He started writing poetry and stories in college on the GI Bill. His first book of fiction "And the Fires We Talked About," was published by UnCollected Press in 2021. Subsequently this indie press published Mr. Kelly's first book of poetry "Black Ice & Fire," as well.

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Lee Gundersheimer Not Young Anymore Cast of Characters METHUSELAH—A Great Bristlecore Pine Tree, 4,853 years old, played by an older performer of any gender, binary or not. This character is based on the oldest non-clonal tree still living. PROMETHEUs—Another Great Bristlecore Pine Tree, who was over 5,000 years old when murdered. Also played by a performer of any gender, binary or not. DONALD RUSK CORREY—an American professor of geology who was 70 when he passed away but may be played by a male actor of at least middle age though can be older. If it is possible, the song “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” from Gigi (Lerner and Loewe) plays, or the performer sings, but only if the royalties are not prohibitive and it is financially possible. “How lovely to sit here in the shade. With none of the woes of man and maid I'm glad I'm not young anymore.” The Zoom screen pops up with a very old performer of riveting presence and any gender, binary or not, with very lived in features, unafraid of the age and life experience they represent. There is no attempt to perform or costume as if not a human, even though this character is a tree. The song continues (if not possible to use it, the play just begins with the first line of dialogue) “The rivals that don't exist at all The feeling you're only two feet tall I'm glad that I'm not young anymore.” METHUSELAH: I am 4,853 years old and since no one knows the exact day I took root; I chose this day for my birthday. You will understand why in a moment. I am what you call a Great Basin Bristlecore Pine, and I live in an undisclosed location somewhere in the White Mountains in Inyo County in Eastern California. More on why my location is a secret later as well. You gave me the name Methuselah, which is I suppose fitting since he was the oldest recorded person in your Bible, though he is also in the Koran, and many other ancient stories. Your Methuselah has become a symbol; synonymous with the word ancient, but to me he was a whippersnapper, a teenage boy- he only lived to be 969 years of your age… And I am not male or female, none of us that grow in the earth are. What I also find puzzling is that some of your biblical scholars’ entire life’s work is to find ways to prove that this Methuselah actually lived, that a human being could have lived nine of your centuries. There is so much concern to make literal your legends. If it is not possible, then it can’t be believed in. How old must we be before we realize the truth is stranger than any fiction… But more on that later… Your bible says:

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When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him. When Methuselah had lived one hundred eightyseven years, he became the father of Lamech. Methuselah lived after the birth of Lamech seven hundred eighty-two years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus, all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty-nine years; and he died. Riveting… And such an exciting ending… But poorly planned, too sudden endings run deep in your world’s story, do they not? And Methuselah, son of Enoch, served his purpose, so they say, he is the direct link, the lineage of Adam directly to Noah. And lineage is also important to your world. All this bias for begetting. More on that later. Another Zoom screen pops into view with an equally imposing performer who is possibly of even greater age, again of any gender, binary or not. Also a tree, but not presented as anything but human. PROMETHEUS: They named me Prometheus and I am no more. But I visit my dear friend here on each of the once-a-year days that you believe mark age. METHUSELAH: I chose this so you might still be forever, I did not want to believe it was your last. I thought somehow if I marked your day, it would somehow… I could not bear the thought of never… Stops. Overcome … PROMETHEUS: You see even though I was rooted in what you call Nevada, thousands of your miles away, we spoke often, we were very connected— METHUSELAH: —We were almost the same age— PROMETHEUS: —Give or take a hundred or so years— METHUSELAH: Think of all we endured together.

PROMETHEUS: The shared experiences of an almost eternity. METHUSELAH: And we trees do communicate, you know. All our forestsPROMETHEUS: Our valleysMETHUSELAH: Our voices, a language traveling by earth and by air. TOGETHER: Mycorrhizas… METHUSELAH: Our version of your world wide web… PROMETHEUS: If only you had time to hear more than one of the stories we could tell… METHUSELAH: So on this very senselessly tragic day, in my friend’s honor, I grow my new rings, and become another year older. A Zoom Screen, that should not be on the same row as the others, just below it, opens with a male scientist who lived to be seventy but can be played by any performer from middle to old age. DONALD: The process of growing rings is called Dendrochronology, and I should know it was my life’s work. METHUSELAH: May I introduce the most well-known and hated Dendrochronologist in historyDONALD: My name is Donald Rusk Currey. METHUSELAH: And he is a murderer! DONALD: And I am a murderer. Of history. Of all that was sacred to me. And I spent every day of my life regretting what happened on August 6, in the long ago now year of 1964. METHUSELAH: Long ago…. PROMETHEUS: Have you even heard about me? Do they even teach you my story? Not of my namesake, the Prometheus of legends, the one who brought fireDONALD: Prometheus, the example of overreaching, of disobeying the gods. Who was punished by having his liver eaten each day by an eagle. I’ll drink to that… METHUSELAH: An eagle pecking you alive at your liver. That might have been a fair deal for you. DONALD: That isn’t untrue…

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METHUSELAH: But you lived to 70, hailed in academia, you became a professor emeritus. Not bad for the destroyer of something so immortal… PROMETHEUS: I’m afraid they may not be able to follow; we have gotten so twisted in the limbs of our story… DONALD: I was a young graduate student studying the Climate Dynamics of the Little Ice Age. METHUSELAH: Who names these things? Little Ice Age? Take it from me- I have witnessed a disaster or two- take just last year, how many of my forest was murdered. PROMETHEUS: I was so worried for you. I was not about to let you perish… METHUSELAH: My dear friend, it is not as if you could help any more than I could when they came for you. It sadly for us all is but a matter of time… DONALD: And at first, I was vilified; how could you make such a mistake? I spent years trying to right that wrong, METHUSELAH: How many? How many years is enough to balance erasing five thousand… DONALD: I fought for and won the naming and protection of the Great Basin National Park. PROMETHEUS: Where I was rooted. My home. METHUSELAH: Until he came along. And had you torn down, for his research. DONALD: I will never be able to take it back. I lost two tree borers. They were about a thousand dollars each. I was worried how to report such a cost. METHUSELAH: Think of the irony, concerned for the cost … DONALD: I was so young. Such a jerk. I knew you were old, just had no idea, was not even close. If I had known… METHUSELAH: You’d do what? Treat us with more respect? DONALD: Prometheus, it turned out, was the oldest living thing on earth at the time. PROMETHEUS: They thought by counting my rings, I was only 4,862, but even that they got wrong. I was well over 5,000 of your years. 70. Waterways 2023

Methuselah: And gone. Ended. Felled. For some science. To make his mark, carve his name. DONALD: I wasn’t interested in fame. Or for that matter my degree. I cared about the knowledge, the discovery, the proving of what might be. METHUSELAH: Prometheus… overreaching… disobeying the Gods… PROMETHEUS: He ended all that was. All that had come before… METHUSELAH: On August 6th, 1964, in the quest to find core samples, Donald Rusk Curry won the approval of the local National Park Service, those whose job it was to protect… PROMETHEUS: And he, along with them, cut me down and had me split open. A piece of me is even still on display in the visitor’s center. METHUSELAH: But I have vowed to live on, and have somehow survived, floods and fires, and droughts and on this day each year, deep inside these furrows of ancient bark and misshapen limbs, I grow out and add another of my life’s rings. Methuselah looks at Prometheus for the first time. For you. In your honor. DONALD: And each year on that day, I find myself here reborn but for a moment on this earth once again… METHUSELAH: No one invites you. Trust me… Next thing, he’ll claim to that rock he is chained. DONALD: And I try to tell whoever will listen to the story of Prometheus. PROMETHEUS: And my good friend Methuselah DONALD: Who must now be protected, with a location kept secret, so that the same careless fate won’t be the outcome. METHUSELAH: Until the next little Ice Age, or your stolen from the God’s angry uncontrolled fire destroys us… PROMETHEUS: May this story we tell, be one for the agesDONALD: For like I so foolishly once causedMETHUSELAH: there must never be another need for it to be rewritten.

DONALD: For then it will be too late for us all. (His Zoom window disappears.) PROMETHEUS: We all have our chance and then one by one we depart. (This Zoom window goes dark.) METHUSELAH: We are still here- this moment is ours (Five long beats with the performer gazing at us before): Until we speak the final words of our very last line. The last Zoom screen goes to black and the play is over. If the song “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” is being used, it plays out over the curtain call and the Zoom Room until over: “The Fountain of Youth is dull as paint Methuselah is my patron saint

I've never been so comfortable before Oh, I'm so glad that I'm not young anymore…”

LEE GUNDERSHEIMER has built and run two separate theater spaces in Manhattan and managed many new play workshops. He has directed over forty plays and performed in countless theaters in NYC. He’s been an acting, directing and playwriting teacher for over twenty years, including for five major universities. After years of theater activity and teaching from his homebase in Winona, Minnesota, Lee currently directs and performs from his base in Bradenton, Florida.

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Becky Bolling River Towns River town Evansville where I was born, Kentucky on our southern border on the banks of the Ohio. In the 30s, the river city’s great flood swept downtown away, flooded streets. This was before they built the concrete wall to girdle the river front. A city on the Ohio, it sprawls east, north, west, crawls into modernity sows cornfields with malls broad avenues, garlands of fast-food restaurants. Once frontier territory, the river’s banks no longer host tugboats or steamers. Ohio chugs to Mississippi churned by speedboats fringed by fishermen who step from campers trudge in waterproof boots to soggy banks to wait with Buddha patience for the tug of line. Evansville chews words spits them like tobacco, elongates vowels like taffy: we warsh our knives and farks in the sink eat dinner at noon on Sundays and supper in evenings, call green peppers mangoes, know pole beans from green from snap beans and 72. Waterways 2023

melons are mush, but corn is corn, on cob or in kernels fried in butter or boiled in a pot. Evansville nights, Fridays, Saturdays, at the corner bar, sounds liquid spill country western from the doorway beer and whisky gin and tonic river-ripples jazz modulations laughs, jokes, curses, cries. Arguments peak, swell, drown soft banter at nearby tables where ace of spades, jack of hearts snap and fly over drunken din to contrary corners to be swept up with tomorrow’s trash. Whiskey anger spends itself, falls back into the rushing currents as Cash’s bass rumbles through smoky rooms and Hank twangs so lonesome he could cry about someone’s cheatin’ heart Evansville, polaroid snapshots, my childhood moments when the river town engorged like a tick stretched its borders well before the great exodus. An only child of divorce

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playing at circus acrobatics in polyester shorts I swing up and out over clover buds and bees, let go and jump, drop shoeless, flatfooted, knees flexed on wet spring grass or hang upside down on the crossbar two then one legged a broom of red hair sweeping clouds of pollen. A rush of blood makes me giddy, as I defy the tug of earth, against gravity, against boredom. The tennis ball swacks thunks, slams against the garage wall rebounds with a muffled plop on the alley’s concrete slab. I feel the upward sweep of my racket. It sifts air— swish, swat again, over and over, again, the comfort of repetition. Careless of filth, I explore alleyways, ash pits, suffer in stoic silence glass-cut bare feet, sift glittery bits from gravel, ignore the tangles of bike-blown hair the raw heat of sunburned shoulders, the tightness of scabbed knees. I am in awe of green, iridescent June bugs, clover-drunk bees on cotton-tip clover, the sanctity of a praying mantis on a chain link fence. I recall the smell of garbage burning in rusted barrels, my walk to school past ma &pa groceries with penny candy 74. Waterways 2023

and pig’s feet in glass jars on butcher countertops, summer nights, the car windows rolled down, my mom and I caught in the glow of celluloid dreams at Sunset Drive-In where the stars on the screen outshine those in an Indiana night sky Growing up meant growing away. I was well gone before the casualties— Burlington Coat Factory Chrysler, Zenith closed, Whirlpool exiled south. I never saw the malls die, commercial mazes hollow like ghost towns, faded letters on stained marquees—Sears, JCPenney. For Sale signs, those grave markers for the working class, a generation takes the hit, goes adrift in search of jobs ferried across national borders. Everything moves on. Gone, those Hoosier nights at now ghost-haunted drive-ins, shuttered factories where my kin punched clocks, waited for pensions, warehouses empty, shuttered over broken glass. No longer my concern. I’ve moved on, like the jobs. At each turn in the road, I head north—Terra Haute to Chicago to a Minnesota town on a different river. Taking refuge far from the waters of my childhood, shedding the burden of who I was to become who I am, I still hear the roar of rushing water, smell the fishy tang of the river.

BECKY BOLING currently serves as co-Poet Laureate of Northfield, Minnesota, with D.E. Greem. She is the Stephen R. Lewis, Jr. Professor of Spanish and the Liberal Arts at Carleton College, Emerita. She has published scholarly articles as well as poetry in the Martin Lake Journal, Willow Wept Review, and Persimmon Tree. Her poetry and prose appear online at The Ekphrastic Review, visualverse.org, and in several Writers’ Night collections at the Northfield Public Library. Becky was raised in southern Indiana, and she shivers in the colder but more welcoming state of Minnesota where she has raised a son and badly tended a garden.

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Jed Nelson Slaughterhouse


here did things go wrong? This is the kind of thought that clouded Tim’s mind on a daily basis. Most days these thoughts occurred in the dark, cold morning hours over a cup of coffee at the local truck stop. He sits in the same booth and watches the same news broadcast almost every morning. Ever since he moved back home life has moved a little slower. He misses the fast-paced New York way of life, a life he was living just months ago. *Ding*

Tim hears the bell ring signaling someone has entered the building. He’s surprised because no one usually comes in this early. Tim sits with his back to the door so if someone he knows walks in, he won’t make eye contact. He tends to avoid any sort of socializing these days. Tim listens to the man and the cashier’s small talk as he’s being rung up. The next thing he hears are footsteps coming up behind him. Tim keeps his gaze down on his coffee and notices the man stopping right beside him. “Timothy Baker, as I live and breathe.” Tim looks up and sees the face of a man he’s known his whole life, Mr. Downs. “Mr. Downs, it’s great to see you. Please, have a seat.” Tim is happy to see a familiar face. Especially someone he has a lot of respect for. But having to explain himself and where he’s at in life is bothersome. “I’m surprised you recognized me Mr. Downs. I usually sit with my back to the door so…” Mr. Downs interjects, “So people don’t recognize you?” “Yeah, I figured that.” “I recognized you though. Hell, I only have known you your whole life,” he says with a chuckle. “So, how long have you been home?” “Been back for about four months. Things didn’t pan out in New York, so I figured I’d come home. Plus, I couldn’t afford rent anymore.” “Well to hell with them. Someday they’ll see what they missed out on and they’ll be kickin’ themselves in the ass for it. You’re a mighty fine writer, Tim. I’ve read all your work.” “Thanks. I appreciate that.” For as long as Tim could remember he’s wanted to be a writer. In school he’d daydream scenarios he could turn into stories. He found success in college when he began writing for the school’s newspaper. During his sophomore year he began writing his first novel. He tried his hand at a love story turned into tragedy, and when it was finished it took off. Becoming very popular within the campus, Tim decided to try and get it published. He reached out to publishers in New York, and it found traction right away. It was almost too good to be true.

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That summer he drops out of school and moves to New York to become a writer. Tim spent two years of his life in New York scraping the bottom of the barrel. Two years of his life he could have spent finishing college. But no, what came out of those two years was hunger, money lost, and only one book written. The publishing company did not believe he was holding up his end of the bargain, so they terminated his contract. Tim spent the next five years in New York working as a waiter just making enough money to make ends meet. Just after his 25th birthday he decided to come home. “So what are you doing for work these days, Tim?” “Well, I still write here and there but it’s nothing worth sending to publishers. I’m also washing dishes at Sue’s Place to make some extra cash.” “You know it’s good to hear you’re trying to get back on your feet. I’m happy for ya. But you don’t have much support around here anymore. Why don’t you come by sometime and I’ll put you to work at my place. Hell, it could use it. Plus, you’ll make some extra cash. What do you say? It’ll be just like old times.” Tim was raised by his grandpa who was lifelong friends with Mr. Downs. During the summers, Tim and his grandpa would help Mr. Downs with landscaping, painting his house and barn, and whatever else needed to be done. Some of Tim’s fondest memories were spent working for Mr. Downs. The summer of his junior year of high school Tim’s grandpa began having health issues. His grandpa always said he’d be fine to continue working during the summers despite the issues. One day the temperature was a sweltering ninety-seven degrees. The heat plus humidity was too much for him. That was the day he collapsed. He never woke up. Since then, Mr. Downs has taken in Tim like he’s one of his own. He helped Tim make it through the rest of high school and a year of college financially. When Tim moved to New York he swore he’d never take handouts from

Mr. Downs again. Lord knows he could use the money now. “That sounds great, Mr. Downs. I’ll take you up on that offer.” “I’m glad I can help. Why don’t you come over sometime today. I’ll have you work in my basement. It needs organizing.” “I’ll stop over this evening. I got a shift at Sue’s.”

≈ Tim has this overwhelming sense of nostalgia as he drives to Mr. Downs’ place. It’s always been a quiet, relaxing drive. A straight gravel road with fields on both sides. It’s a gray March evening. Crops are out of the fields, snow almost all melted. It feels barren out here. Tim just has the dull light from his headlights guiding him down the road. Tim goes over a slight hill then sees him. He sees Mr. Downs standing at the end of his long driveway looking out across the field. He’s standing as stiff as a statue. As Tim pulls over and comes to a stop, Mr. Downs signals for Tim to turn off his car. Tim follows orders, gets out of his car and then approaches Mr. Downs. “Mr. Downs, what’s going on?” Mr. Downs puts his finger to his lips and shushes Tim. “Listen…,” said Mr. Downs. At this point Tim is confused. He listens but doesn’t hear anything except for the subtle whipping of the evening wind. Tim looks at Mr. Downs and follows his gaze across the field. He’s staring at the neighbors. There’s not much to the property though, only a tall skinny house and small shack. He notices a dim light coming from the shack’s only window. Perhaps someone’s getting some work done, no big deal, Tim thought.

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“Hey, Mr. Downs, I really don’t think anything is going on over…”

“Let’s call the cops and have them take another look,” said Tim.

Then he hears it. Tim was interrupted by a scream ripping through the night. Every hair on his body stood up on end. The scream came from the shack.

“No. If he is what we think he is, I don’t want to anger him. Plus, if we call the cops on him, he’d know it was me. How about the two of us go over there tomorrow; talk to him face to face. We’ll get a gauge on him before we go to the police.” Tim nods his head in agreement.

≈ “His name is Jack Crowder. He moved here about a year and a half ago. He’s not too old, I’d say he’s in his early forties. I haven’t had many interactions with the man. I’ve heard things though; you know how word gets around about someone in a small town. Especially if they’re new here,” said Mr. Downs. The two are in Mr. Downs’ kitchen now talking things over and figuring out what to do next. “He doesn’t farm but he has a load of pigs. Every so often he slaughters some, but he keeps them in a fenced area. That shack over there is his slaughterhouse,” Mr. Downs says. There’s a heavy silence between the two. “I know we heard that scream but for all we know it could have just been some kids mulling around his property. He could have seen them and startled them off,” said Tim. “We don’t have to resort to the thought of murder.” “I understand, but this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.” “What do you mean?” Tim asks. “Well, right about the time he moved in I heard a scream. It happened in the middle of the night. I sat right here at my table and looked out the window and noticed the light to his slaughterhouse was on. He was new to town, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and told myself he was slaughtering one of his pigs, and it was a squeal and not a scream. But right as I lay back down in bed, I heard it again. This time I know what I heard. So I called the cops. Only thing the cops found were two slaughtered pigs.”

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The two didn’t sleep a wink that night. How could they with the task at hand. For all Tim knew Jack Crowder was a murderer, and they’re about to go talk to him. Tim keeps thinking that this is it, if they piss him off, they’re next to die. They pull into Crowder’s baron yard, nothing but his house and slaughterhouse. His car is parked right next to the slaughterhouse, so they know he’s home. “Okay, we’re not going to confront him right away. Let’s try and peek inside the slaughterhouse then we’ll talk to him and try to get as much out of him as we can,” said Mr. Downs. The two exit the car and walk straight toward the slaughterhouse. They walk slowly, as if they’re walking across a creaky hardwood floor. Tims heart pounds. The two are now in line with the front door of the house, when they hear a voice softly ask, “Can I help you two?” The two snap their heads to the right and see Crowder standing behind the screen door, drying a coffee cup. He was tall and slender like his house, he wore a plaid button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up halfway, along with blue jeans and a pair of boots. He had piercing blue eyes that looked dead. They looked like fisheyes. Crowder opens the door and walks down to the second step and takes a seat. There’s a silence as the men just stare at each other, Crowder continues drying the cup. Mr. Downs breaks the silence.

“You have any company last night, Crowder?” “Why would you think I had company last night?” Crowder asks with a grin. “I ain’t here to play games. You know why.” “I’ll tell ya Downs, I haven’t got the slightest clue as to why you’d think I had company over.” “We heard the scream,” Tim said. Crowder acts surprised by this “Oh my gosh, that’s awful. But I didn’t hear a thing. In fact, I didn’t hear anything. Last night was a very windy night, remember?” “We know what we heard”, said Mr. Downs, “We heard a scream. Now you got away with this once before, but you won’t get away with it again. I know what’s behind those doors, and soon enough the police will too. Come on, Tim.” The two turn their backs to Crowder and head back to the car. Crowder jolts up from the step and calmly says to Mr. Downs, “You know Downs, I respect a man like you. You remind me of my father. Oh, I loved my father. Did you know that he was the one who taught me how to slaughter pigs. I have the best technique. Say, I got some bacon I could get rid of. I’ll drop some off to you later.” Mr. Downs looks at Tim, then back at Crowder and tells him he doesn’t want any. Mr. Downs and Tim reach the car, but before they can get their doors open, Crowder says, “We’re neighbors, Mr. Downs. So let’s act neighborly.”

≈ The rain was too loud. Tim lay in bed contemplating everything that happened today. Should they have gone over and talked to Crowder, or should they just have had the police take care of it? Mr. Downs decided that they’d call the cops first thing tomorrow in order to let things cool down before getting the police involved.

Tim sits up in bed and watches the rain as it runs down his window. He starts remembering how on rainy nights he’d be too scared to sleep because of a scary movie or the thought of a monster in his closet. Those things used to be his imagination getting the best of him, but tonight it all feels real. Crowder’s appearance and the sound of his voice fueled Tims belief that something wasn’t right. He couldn’t get it out of his head. At that moment there were three loud knocks at his front door. He imagines it’s Mr. Downs coming over to talk about what their next course of action is. Tim gets out of bed, puts on some clothes, and proceeds to the front door. What lay beyond that door is something of a nightmare. Tim opens the door to find Mr. Downs, but not the rest of him. Laying at Tims feet was the head of Mr. Downs.

≈ The rain is coming down even harder than before. Tim can barely see as he drives the soggy gravel roads on his way to Crowders. He feels frozen, not being able to fully understand what he just saw. Part of him thinks this is all a dream, and he’ll wake up any second. But he’s getting close to Crowders, and the light that’s on in his slaughterhouse tells him this is no dream. Before Tim pulls into Crowder’s driveway, he turns off his headlights, trying not to be spotted. He parks the car and turns it off. The time is now. Beside him is his grandpa’s shotgun, that’s one of the only items Tim kept of his after his death. Tim exits the car and makes his way towards the slaughterhouse. There’s no time for fear, he thought. He’s now inches away from the door when he hears Crowder from the inside. Tim hears laughing, but also whimpering. Crowder’s noises become more hysterical and that’s when Tim makes his move and quietly opens the door a crack to peer in. Crowder is standing there, shirtless and holding a knife, repeatedly cutting himself on the chest and arms. With each slash

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his laughter grows more hysterical, but it’s also followed by a sad whimper. At this point he’s on the ground, writhing around. Tim doesn’t know whether it’s pleasure or pain, probably both. Crowder staggers back to his feet, and that’s when Tim makes his move. He swings the door wide open and aims the gun right at Crowder’s head. Crowder turns to see Tim in the doorway. They make eye contact for a split second and Tim sees no soul behind those eyes. He is completely lifeless. Before Crowder could say a word, Tim fired the gun. The bullet hit Crowder in the head, and he fell to the floor. At that moment, Tim’s world went quiet. The scene set before him is otherworldly. It’s a hellish scene of pig carcasses, and blood. It’s obvious this place has never been cleaned. Blood covers every square inch of the room. Tim takes in every ounce of this moment. Along with the pig carcasses he sees Mr. Downs’ lifeless body. The only person in his life that cared for him was taken, taken selfishly by a psychopath.

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Just as Tim was about to leave, he looked up at the ceiling. What he saw will be with him forever. They were right about the scream. Hanging from the ceiling was a woman’s lifeless, naked body. Her arms and legs spread out wide and hanging from her wrists and ankles. She was headless, with a pig’s head where hers should have been. She hung there like an ornament. She hung there like she was on display. Tim drops the gun beside him and takes in this moment one last time. This was a hellscape, a hellscape that would haunt him for the rest of time. Tim walks backwards out of the slaughterhouse, not wanting to turn his back on it. He closes the door. Tim stands halfway between the slaughterhouse and his car, not breaking eye contact with its door. He’s being pelted by the rain. The world is so quiet. JED NELSON is a second-year student at Riverland Community College in Austin, Minnesota. He lives nearby in Lyle.

Mona M. Miller The River Doesn’t Lie ust like that! In the unconscious blink of an eye, not only was Will Martin’s rabbit boat gone with all its gear, so was the lower Horseshoe Bend Beach. Nothing on the river now appears the same as before. Rock formations have shifted from when Will tied up a few hours earlier to watch the eclipse. Douglas fir—not there ten seconds ago, not even seedlings—tower thirty feet high not twenty feet away from the wild Rogue River’s edge. The young river guide quickly scanned the area; no sign of his fully loaded raft; the 500-pound boulder he had tied off on was no longer in view. Nothing was as it had been a heartbeat earlier. His gear, his phone, his food, his water, all disappeared as if it never existed. Will walked to the water’s edge and stood there gazing downriver for a good ten minutes. Behaving almost childlike, Will repeatedly bent down to pick up a handful of pebbles scattered at his feet and absently tossed them into the river to listen to them plunk— plunk-plunk. Gotta think this through; the way everything, absolutely everything, has changed. He did not recognize rapids he had run just a week earlier, and hundreds of times before that. The forest had a different form and density. The trees now were big, old, despite the fact that 500,000 acres of massive old trees were destroyed in the famed Biscuit fire in the summer of 2002. Nothing was as he remembered it. Nature seemed to tell him her story, but a version unfamiliar to him. What in the world is happening? Will wondered. Maybe I’m dead. Stunned, incredulous at the phenomenal change of scenery, Will, ever a realist, quickly accepted that his world had somehow changed. Navigating the 34-mile Rogue River whitewater was just about the extent of the seventeen-year old’s world. And in a bright flash, that world had changed; and he could not explain why, how, and what it all meant for him. He knew he had to move forward. What steps will I have to take next to survive in this strange reality? In the process of surviving, maybe I’ll figure out how to get back to where I started before the eclipse. Will snapped out of his reverie when he noticed a girl backing away from him holding a rifle, as though she had first approached him, changed her mind, and decided to sit on a large boulder with a good view of him facing her from the river’s edge. She couldn’t possibly know what was on the boy’s mind, but she assumed he needed time to think. “Perhaps he fell in the river,” she muttered to herself as was her habit, “been separated from a group of trappers; maybe hit his head. She didn’t see any blood and never got close enough to see if he had lumps or bruises. She did not know what to do, so she sat there. Will called out to the girl watching him. “Hi there. What’s your name?” He slowly walked up the bank toward her. Apprehension and wariness left him when she lowered the rifle. “I am Abigail,” she replied carefully. “My family calls me Abi with some affection.” “Pleased to meet you, Abi. Hey, do you have any water? I’m feeling dehydrated. I guess a solar eclipse will do that, huh, dry you out?” “I have a full canteen, and more at the hut.” Abi passed an antique wood drum water container to Will. “You called the black sun an ‘eclipse’? That is not a word I have yet learned.” “No? Well, that blackout of the sun by the moon, and the big flash when the sun reappeared, that you just witnessed, is called a solar eclipse.” Will took a long swallow from the old canteen. He had seen one like it at the Marial Lodge Museum, an old building on the property of his favorite of two lodges he and his crewmembers stayed at with guests on guided trips.


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Regardless of the age of the flask, the water tasted clean and refreshing. Since Abi said there was more, and he was terribly thirsty, he drained it. She laughed when he captured the last drops and returned the canteen to her. Without saying more, Abi stood and headed back upriver to the Horseshoe Bend upper bench, Will close on her heels. “Where is your camp, Abi?” Will found his words again but had so many questions he felt speechless. “We have a hut. My brother Daniel is busy scraping beaver hides there right now. We stay at the hut for many days during this time of year when the beavers are fat, and their fur is still full. This is a good season to trap. We trade pelts for supplies. I’d better get back. Daniel needs my help,” said Abi. When they reached the spot where Will had watched the eclipse from a folding chair with beers in both cup holder arms, he realized that his chair, the outhouse, and the inland trail were no longer there. Thinking backward to the first seconds after the eclipse, Will remembered seeing Abi, her rifle pointed at him, poised on a boulder where the outhouses had stood seconds before the solar flash. His mind struggled to make sense of the strange inconsistencies. Now, the outhouses were originally installed by the forest service at large campsites along the river in the early days of the creation of the Rogue River Wild and Scenic Wilderness area. But the service started removing outhouses, so maybe Will was overthinking things by remembering back to before the outhouses were removed. Rafting groups, private or outfitted, were requited to follow the “In and Out” regulations. It meant Will’s rabbit boat carried approved groovers to carry out all client waste. Will had heard many other names for rafting toilets but groover it was to him. The groove came from sitting on five-gallon buckets with portable toilet seats. Clients and crew were fed well, and the fivegallon buckets were always full by the end of the trip. It doesn’t matter! Wherever I am, the Horseshoe Bend outhouse is gone. And there is no evidence it ever was here. Before the eclipse, a trail head was visible on the 82. Waterways 2023

edge of the river camping area. Trail access was one of the reasons Horseshoe was such a popular overnight campsite for both rafters and hikers. Many places on the river required a steep and sometimes treacherous hike up to forest trails. Before the eclipse, Will had followed the trail a short distance to a spot good for panning gold. Now there isn’t even a deer track where the cut trail had been. It’s like time before the eclipse has completely disappeared. What am I supposed to do? Abi’s voice distracted Will back to her reality. “You can join Daniel and I if you wish. We have food, water, a warm fire, wool blankets, and a sheltered place to eat and sleep. You are welcome to share what we have for tonight. Tomorrow you can look for your raft.” Will smiled. “Thank you for the offer. I would like to stay here by the river’s edge for a while. My group may pass by—I don’t know, I need to wait and see. They won’t continue down the river in the dark. All right if I join you and Daniel after sunset?” “Yes, of course. Our hut is not far. I’ll come back to guide you.” Abi turned away from the river. “Before you go, where did you say your family lives?” Will asked. “Our homestead is a long day’s journey downriver. Our parents and younger brother are there. We have some chickens and goats and a large meadow in the full sun on the upper bank of the river. We grow lots of summer vegetables.” Will continued questioning. “How long have you lived there with your family? Is the homestead upriver from Mule Creek Canyon?” Abi hid her impatience. “How do you know so much about the canyon? I don’t know Mule Creek, but yes, we live just upriver from the beginning of the canyon. My parents settled there twenty years ago, and my brothers and I were born there. I guess you could say we’ve been there forever.” Realizing that maybe he shouldn’t know about the canyon below their homestead, Will backtracked. “I saw an old map. It was called Mule Creek. Anyway, thank you again for your generosity. I will look for you in a few hours.”

Abi headed up the trail to her hut. Will noticed she stooped to retrieve a brown burlap flour sack, half-filled with something or other, and attached to a homemade shoulder harness along with another bag made of animal hide. The two bags looked to be of equal weight. Clearly, Abi had stashed these items before their initial meeting. Despite the upward incline and the load she carried, Abi’s stride was strong and steady as she disappeared into the forest with her rifle slung over her shoulder. Abi made her way back to the trapping hut. On the walk there, she took time to go back through the unusual past hour; to try to make sense of the boy who appeared from the river after the eclipse. It had all happened so quickly. One second, she sat on the riverbank waiting for the moon to pass between earth and sun. The next second, just as the first rays of light glowed brightly, she found Will standing on the riverbank like a fish had jumped out of the water. But he was not a fish. His clothing was soaking wet but unlike any clothing she had ever seen. She guessed Will to be close to her age. He stood taller by at least a forearm. Lean in frame, he had muscular arms and legs, his skin red copper; his hair the color of corn, hung long and disarrayed, slowly drying in the wind. His eyes mirrored the

blue of the sky, and his gaze was firm. Though his voice was calm, his words made no sense. “He has a gentle face,” she told Daniel, “a face that smiles constantly. Even with my gun barrel pointed at him—he smiled. When he spoke using confused words, he smiled.” Abi did not yet know of Will’s story, his incongruous realities, but she somehow knew that she should trust his sudden appearance was not a bad omen. She guessed he had a good heart. And she sensed that he needed her help. That is the way of the valley. My parents cooperated with the native people and trappers that found their way to the homestead. Cooperation brought good things to all involved. A shelter for the traveler. Another sturdy back for moving logs. Shared bounty when the beavers or other game were plentiful. Trade and barter opportunities to create positive benefits for all. It was the way of the valley. Surely Will understands he needs help. He came from the river. The river doesn’t lie. MONA M. MILLER is a former Peace Corps Volunteer and staff member in a number of countries in Sub Saharan Africa. She recently retired as Director at API- Academic Programs International, and Vice President, Program Administration at ThinkImpact. Mona lives in Thorton, Colorado.

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Lee Henschel Jr. Excerpts from the Beggar’s Coin, Short Stories of Vietnam & The ’Nam

First Day you place yarrow sticks on the pyre, and return the beggar’s coin

t was somewhere over Mount Fuji when I finally got a hold of my thoughts and was able to put into words what was happening to me. I’ll have to take this year in ’Nam one minute at a time, one day at a time. Forget about next year, or when you’ll get out of here. Think about here and now because that’s all there is. Mount Fuji, rising so grandly and symmetrically and out of the heart of Japan, has a way of clearing one’s thoughts. It’s been doing that for people for thousands of years. Henry Browning was on a roll, now. It was something most veterans usually do from time to time. It’s called “a flashback” in contemporary parlance. For Henry, this flashback had been sparked by his friend’s son, Paul. He asked Henry what it was like over there and Henry had tried to keep his response clear and simple. And this, he knew, was a distortion, but what the hell, he thought, Paul’s only ten. Still, ten is older now than when I was ten. Besides, the child is the father of the man, when it comes to the nature of things. It’s ironic, Henry thought, that here’s Paul, who wasn’t even born when I was in ’Nam, asking me the questions that hardly anyone else even asked. Henry wondered why that was. He asked Paul why hardly anyone asked him about Vietnam. Paul, ever thoughtful and deliberate in answering, replied that maybe no one really wanted to know. Henry said that he supposed Paul was right. They watched the football game on television for a while longer and then Henry asked Paul why he wanted to know what others before him didn’t care to know. Paul told him he was doing a report for his history class on American wars. “Oh,” Henry replied. The game was over now, and a re-cap of world news took its place on the screen. Paul had fallen asleep, and so it was up to Henry to provide himself with the stuff of life until he, too, could fall asleep. “A report for my history class,” he mused softly aloud. And what was it like over there? He wondered. Sometimes I’m not so absolutely sure it ever happened, if I was ever there. Mount Fuji was so beautiful when we flew over it. The pilot flew over especially for us because we were a troop plane. Some of us had already been anointed with the invisible mark. Everybody is marked, Henry reminded himself. Everyone dies. But I hated that pilot for flying over Mount Fuji, as if some of us would never return, or never be able to look out a window again. It was a thoughtful enough gesture, he reminded himself, it’s just that you hated everything at that point. Most of all you hated yourself. He hated and was scared of the insecurity of the year ahead. He remembered the hundred stories. They were all told by service vets who had been tainted and hardened and demented or changed by the insecurity and the emotional vacuum. One career sergeant put it this way: “You get off the plane and they give you an M-16 and a machete and line you up and tell you to chop your way through the jungle and after a year they line you up again and take away your machete and your M-16 and tell you to get back on the plane.”


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No, it can’t be that way, Henry had thought. That’s too simple. He knew it was only the gallows humor of some guy who wanted to get a reaction. This flashback was unfolding slowly, Henry knew, but it took its own course, making its own neurological connections with his subconscious, bringing the unrelated and meaningless vignettes of his past to the forefront. He knew he would be landing in Cam Ranh Bay and he wondered how it was that a Vietnamese place could have such an American name. But then he saw it spelled out on his orders and saw the difference. It wasn’t spelled Camron at all. It’s all going to be different. And he landed in the dead of night while it was raining. The rain smelled the same as home. When he disembarked, he grabbed onto that similarity so that hopefully things could proceed in a logical order. But the air was thick and black, and he didn’t know his directions. And he didn’t know if the mama-sans and papa-sans who stood inside the terminal were the enemy. It didn’t make any difference, though, because he was unarmed and green, like a bottle lamb for the butcher of God, the God that had nothing to do with Southeast Asia. There was another bus ride and that’s all the service really amounted to: one long bus ride. The bus driver was in the Air Force. He was unarmed, or so it looked, and relaxed, or so it seemed. Henry was tired, he recalled, and tried for some sleep. Eyes shut, bouncing along in the dark, he thought of absolutely nothing, but not for long. Somewhere during Henry’s bus ride, a sapper had infiltrated the main ammunition dump on the peninsula, Henry was to learn. The sapper carried thirty-five pounds of explosives and a detonator. He found the fifteen-hundred-pound bombs and used his satchel charge to set them all off which, in turn, set off most of the rest of the dump. All I wanted was some peace and quiet and what do I get? The sky lit up. Henry, riding in a bus not very far from the ammunition dump, took his first look at Vietnam. The bus driver pulled off to the side of the road, took a pistol from the glove compartment, ran out and jumped in the ditch. A sergeant came up from the back of the bus and yelled at the driver to either get his ass back in and drive like hell to a cantonment area or he was going to drive himself. Then the concussion hit. It rocked the bus. Henry remembered wanting to do something. But what? I was never trained to ride in a bus while the world was blowing up. So he sat stark still. Maybe death would miss him if he sat still. Finally, the bus got rolling again. By this time traffic was heavy. Ambulances, jeeps, APCs, whatever, all headed for the dump. The bus driver delivered them. Everyone got out. Some guy pointed to a barracks for them to sleep in. When the sun came up on Henry’s first full day in Vietnam, his flash bulb vision of the terrain was confirmed. Cam Ranh Bay was a sandy, fly-blown weed-attached, huge redundancy of hills that surrounded an estuary. It’s a big fucking ant hill, he thought, crawling with trucks, and jeeps and cars and Hondas and buses, plus ants, roaches, mosquitos and Americans and Vietnamese and, he was to find out later, Cambodians, Laotians and Indians. Henry knew his name, and his service number and what the rain had smelled like. He knew there had been huge explosions in the middle of the night. And he knew what his boots and his campaign togs felt like. These were his first impressions of Cam Ranh Bay, which wasn’t at all like Camron. By nine (0900) it was hot and sticky, and Henry didn’t know anything more about Vietnam but at least he found a urinal, which, in those parts, was called a piss tube. It stank. A two-inch-long cock roach had drowned itself in urine. For decency’s sake there were three walls around the piss tubes. Written on one of the walls was this: Read This—I spent my time in Vietnam and today I’m getting out of here. If you keep your mind on what you’re doing, most likely you’ll make it too. It’ll change your life. I don’t know anything anymore, except that I’ve been here a year and I made it and now I’m leaving. Most likely you won’t die. You got to make up your mind right now that you’ll make it.

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Henry zipped himself up and backed out of the urinal. A long cock roach crawled up his leg. He shook it off and ground it into the red, wet sand. Paul, who was staying over for the evening, stirred sleepily in the big, living room chair. I wonder if Paul will ever have to fight a war. He remembered a conversation he heard between his father and a friend when he was only Paul’s age. The only thing that really stuck in his mind was something toward the end. “I’m not worried about you and me having another war,” Henry’s father’s friend had said, “because we’ve already had ours. But I’m worried about him.” He was pointing of course at Henry.

the moon’s koan once she filled your arms with her warm and tender body once she filled your heart with her artless love now she dwells in a world you cannot know her eyes, shadowed in the moonlight standing in the water, watching you a blue sky, unseen in the blue sky rocket grenades hit your convoy you don’t know the one lying dead in the road turning black and starting to bloat you don’t know the one bleeding red but some mother knows that Cong lying dead tonight, women will sing the moon’s koan and write his name in stone

LEE HENSCHEL JR. was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and began his writing life when he was twelve. He is the author of the four volume “The Sailing Master” saga: “Book One, Coming of Age,” “Book Two, The Long Passage,” “Book Three: Letter of Marque,” and “Book Four, Gods of Clay.” His latest book, “The Beggar’s Coin: Short Stories of Vietnam & The ’Nam,” (Rocket Science Press) will launch in October 2023.

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James Armstrong Empire Poems Sampler

To Washington Crossing the Delaware Dear General, “Never stand up in a boat” is good advice I learned at scout camp. Especially true in December, in the dark, in a river knocking with ice. History paints with a mythic eye. Your priapic sword and flapping cape, your Napoleonic waistcoat, your destiny-fastened gaze—Leutze imagined these on the far-away Rhine. German art students stood in for patriots, shivering, hatless, some without gloves or shoes, some armed with fowling pieces and frontier muskets, eager to assert their independence by obeying a leader. Leutze added moon-gleam to your military pigtail. Dear General, you did a good deed by not becoming our emperor. We won’t mention your China teacups, your slaves.

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Knife River The cartouche of a snowshoe track affixes my seal to the frozen river’s official document, already signed in the dash and sniff of midnight by a doe’s diacritics punched in snowdrifts; by furtive grapeshot beside up-flipped moss; by the faint sutures of mice who’ve risked the open; by the efficient rivet-holes of a fox who went around the bend on patrol. We all leave our dent on the tapestry of nothing, below which the river murmurs and chortles, or makes a sound of wood blocks being tapped, or, if you look down through occasionally open hatches, shows its black tongue between teeth of glass.

Loch Ness Twenty-six miles of glacial trench shivered with peatish water; the torn gusts drove squadrons of foam across the reach barren as it was deep. The relict forest clung to the glen’s drop like a green kilt. The villages were stony, somnolent; Urquhart Castle, a dynamited remnant. Such basalt abandonments demand, like any void, a compensation which the brochures hasten to depict: a phantom, offered to the camera’s click or appearing as a sonar blip, a smudged dragon, corporeally aloof, equally derided as a slick of motor oil, a sea bird, or a joke— the infinite regress, the veiled face of proof. 88. Waterways 2023

December 8 thinking of William Stafford

It’s neither a famous nor an infamous day. It follows the line of other days the way elephants enter a town, calmly holding each other’s tails. The way, if you are traveling with a blind man, he puts his hand on your shoulder out of practicality. Nobody gets lost. But people do. Like those Japanese soldiers on remote atolls: they were faithful to the cause and to the stars, hearing only the drumbeat of surf. People admired their fortitude—thirty years camping out. But how did these soldiers feel when found? The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, William Stafford didn’t want to fight. The government put him in a camp, made him dig trenches, cut brush. His supervisor wanted to shoot him. The sound of wind in the trees was kind of like surf. He felt a hand on his shoulder each day after that.

15. from the Tower Variations

The Office of Homeland Security The asters are secure in their radiant faces. The walnut leaves are secure in their vagrant piles. The crows are secure in their ragged squadrons. The moon is secure in the arms of the white pine.

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Against The Gnostics We water the garden in the dusk. The sprinkler’s fantail, a shimmer of beads, arches over the orbs of the tomatoes and the basil’s dense umbrellas, the sulfurous fluttery tubas of the squash blossoms, until the earth turns moist and then exhales its mouthwash of fungus and chocolate, the fervid tang of worms. At the end of fifteen minutes, the spigot squeaks. For a long time after, there is only the sound of water dripping from the Presbyterian leaves; a robin runs the rows in his saffron leggings, probing for dinner, soiling his breast with the world.

JAMES ARMSTRONG taught English and Creative Writing at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, for 24 years. He was Winona’s first Poet Laureate and, helps run the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest. His latest poetry collection, “Empire,” (Up On Big Rock Poetry Series), launched in September 2023. In his free time, Jim plays guitar in the Bell House Band.

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Robert Gorelick The Psychotherapist approached the door at five o’clock in the afternoon. If I was ever going to be normal—if I was ever going to be freed from this awful mind sickness—I was going to have to walk up to the door, knock, and plead for help. I couldn’t go on any longer like this or I’d really have to put an end to it all. I didn’t know what else to do. I had never been this tired. I hadn’t slept for so long that I’d been dreaming; just half awake as I walked. I was so nervous I gasped for air. I didn’t want to knock on the door in front of me, but if I was ever going to get better, I just had to do it. So, I took a couple steps forward, breathed deep—and knocked. It was about three years ago, when I was a tenth grader at John Marshall Highschool, that things really started to fall apart. I admit, I was always a pretty screwed up kid. For example, until I began junior high school, kids in class could usually make me cry pretty easily by teasing me about stupid stuff that wouldn’t even phase anyone else. It got so bad that some of my classmates started calling me Barbie instead of Bobby. My name’s Robert, but until I started junior high school, I was called Bobby. And I hated that name because it sounded like Barbie and reminded me of what a sniveling little crybaby I was. So now I was Robert, and I braced myself to never cry again. Not that I would always stand up to bullies, but they would no longer be able to make me cry, no matter what they said or did. It was Friday, in June of 1968, with summer vacation coming up in about a week. We were closing our American History books because the three o’clock bell was about to ring. Friday at three o’clock; I always looked forward to it, so I could go home and be by myself all weekend long. But as I started my walk home that day, something awful happened to me, and it’s still happening to me. All at once it was as if all the students and everyone else around me weren’t quite real; no more alive and real than people I’d watch on TV. They were here but not actually here. There used to be this TV quiz show, that turned out to be fixed, where the contestants were placed in a transparent isolation booth so they wouldn’t be able to hear an answer that someone in the audience might shout out. Well, that’s sort of how I felt now as I walked home—like a glass booth had descended around me. I could still hear everybody, but felt alone and cut off, nevertheless. After this I became a lot more upset with myself, and it became almost impossible to hold a conversation for more than a minute without feeling that I had to get away and to be alone, even though I hated being alone all the time. No one wanted to be around me, and I couldn’t blame them one bit. Despite all of this, I swear I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself. Or, if I caught myself wallowing in selfpity, I corrected the situation pretty quick. For instance, I’d think about Glenn, the last real buddy I had, back in junior high. Before he and his family moved away, his brother Henry got back from a tour in Viet Nam. He seemed happy to be back, but then he put on maybe a hundred pounds, drank so much he lost his job soldering electronic components, and when he wasn’t passed out, he was walking around the neighborhood shouting and cussing at people. So, here I was going to college with a 2-S student deferment, which meant that for the time being I couldn’t be drafted. But I’m sure I was way too messed up in the head to be drafted anyway. I think maybe that made me lucky—in a way. I was now living alone with my parents; my brother having gone off to college and my sister having been married for quite a while. Things were getting worse as the weeks went by. Sometimes students called me names behind my back, like “spaz” and “retard” and “weirdo.” The worst was when girls would laugh and say to their


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friends stuff like, “He’s so hot,” and “Yeah, hold me back!” Good God—why couldn’t someone just shoot me! Once my father noticed that after dinner, I just sat at the table staring at the zig-zag patterns in the Formica. He asked me if I was feeling sorry for myself, because if I was feeling sorry for myself, that behavior had better stop “pronto!” And if I was thinking he’d feel sorry for me, I was going to be very disappointed, because that was one thing he wasn’t about to do. I thought, how stupid that was for him to say. Why would I even want anyone to feel sorry for me? I never in my life wanted that. What I really wanted was to be liked and cool and hip and with- it. I never wanted any sympathy from anybody. That wouldn’t be cool at all! I started to think a lot about sex. A—lot about sex. I hardly ever dreamed about having sex, but I did dream almost every night about standing in line to see a porno movie called “I Am Curious Yellow” and woke up with hard-ons and sometimes sticky-wet underwear. I had to see it. Even more than having sex, I had to see that porno movie from Sweden, which was probably because getting into see the movie was at least a possibility. One Friday after school I removed my school ID from my wallet, erased the 2 from my date of birth (3/19/52) and typed in a 0 where the 2 had been. Just maybe it would work! The next afternoon, I walked down Sunset Boulevard to the Pussycat Theatre and stood in line to watch “I Am Curious Yellow,” just hoping that the girl working at the booth would sell me a ticket. No way in hell did I look older than I was, but she sold me the ticket without questioning the date of birth on my school ID. After watching the movie, I walked out of the theater really messed up in the head. I was worse off than ever before—way worse off! I considered killing myself—for real! I was sadder than I’d ever been, hornier than I’d ever been, lonelier than I’d ever been, and angrier than I’d ever been. And I felt like I was about to explode. No, not explode. Implode! I took out my pocketknife and slashed my forearm, and continued down Sunset Boulevard, letting the blood drip—drip—drip. And I was 92. Waterways 2023

relieved. For a while. But I continued to go to these porno movies whenever I had the cash. And now when I wasn’t thinking about sex, I was thinking about offing myself. I continued slashing. I was due to graduate in January of 1970. It would be the last winter graduating class for John Marshall Highschool. I actually started to enjoy going to L.A. City College because there weren’t any cliques around like in high school. Yeah, I was still messed up, but no one around me seemed to know or even care. I liked speech class a lot. I’d never had trouble talking in front of a class. I know that sounds crazy, considering how impossible it was for me to mingle or make friends. But in front of a group, the students might as well have been cardboard cut-outs. It’s like they didn’t quite exist, so I didn’t have anything to worry about. Sitting next to me in speech class was Jodie Pascarella, who’d been in the fifth grade with me way back in Ivanhoe Elementary School. I had no idea what had happened to her and wondered if she recognized me. Jodie had been the last girl I was comfortable being around before things fell apart and everything went to hell. It was before this self-imposed exile that I’ve been sealed in. Our teacher (a young, stout, easy-going guy named Mr. Hague) would come up with an idiomatic expression, a common phrase, or just a word. Then he’d have us deliver a speech about it, between two and three minutes long. One of the assignments was for us to deliver a talk on the word “harmony.” The other students gave speeches that sounded like they were going to a love-in, like how we have to all learn to about our differences. At long last, we’ll come to understand that we’re all worthy of respect and shower each other with love. Now was the time! Well, I just couldn’t take this nonsense. When it was my turn to speak, I argued that human nature doesn’t ever change, no matter how hard we wish it would. There have always been nice folks, mean folks, people who’d give you the shirt off their back and people who wouldn’t throw you a rope if you were drowning. I argued that a person had to be naïve to believe that we’ve entered some golden age of peace and

harmony. Just look at history! Let’s take a good look at ourselves! Let’s wake up! The class was silent for a moment, then applauded as I returned to my seat. And Jodie told me she thought I was really right-on, and asked, “Don’t I remember you from Ivanhoe Elementary School?” The other class I liked was the one I was sure would change my life. Finally, I would be healed. I’d no longer be an outsider—a weirdo. I’d be as cool as anyone. Finally! It was psychology 101 and it was taught by a frumpy middle-aged woman with frizzy red hair, who always wore loose black dresses hanging midway between her knees and ankles. Her name was Eve Bonner Jones. Since I was first cursed with my affliction back in the tenth grade, I’d read a number of books about overcoming hang-ups that were keeping me from reaching my full potential, books with titles like “Neurotic No More-Six Proven Steps to Mental Health and Be There for You-Turning Your Mind from Your Worst Enemy Into Your Best Friend.” None of those books did me any good. At best they were just talks that made me feel a little better for a day or two. But Dr. Jones had the real cure—Primal Therapy—which she talked about in class about every time it met. Peering through her round, rimless granny glasses, she looked stern and confident, as she explained how the mental health experts were all “full of crap” and helped no one. We were all “crazier than loons” because none of us were ever taught to “feel what we feel. And all of you are crazy—Right-O?” she’d ask, switching back and forth between standing with her arms folded and with her hands on her hips. “You all have the answer, inside your head, to be whole and healthy. But what are you saying to yourselves? I’ll tell you—You’re saying, ‘Oh, please mommy, help me! Let me suck on your nipple’ or ‘Oh, daddy—please love me or I’ll die’ How pathetic! How crazy! You’re all just helpless little babies! Right-O? You’ve all been traumatized by your crazy parents and caretakers. Right-O? And the only—and I mean only—way to free yourselves from your baby cribs and stand on your own

two-sane-feet and not be crazy is by submitting yourselves to Primal Therapy!” Dr. Jones was making complete sense. I could really be cured! And not only that, she was also a licensed Primal Therapist. She would cure me! And, although Arthur Janov, the founder of Primal Therapy, charged eight thousand dollars for the therapy, Dr. Jones conducted the therapy in her garage for only fifteen hundred dollars, and she cured her patients in just seven days! I didn’t have anywhere near that kind of money. But somehow, I would get it. I had to! “What the hell are those marks on your arm? Are you some kind of sick-o? Have you been cutting yourself? Speak up and say something, for chrissake!” It was my father. We’d just finished dinner when my mother started crying and pleading to my dad, “We have to do something. Bobby’s sick! We have to help him. Look what he’s doing to himself!” I’d been bandaging the cuts on my arms, so they must have suspected something. But now they were really coming down on me—hard! “I’m not going to feel sorry for him if that’s what you want from me,” he scolded my mother. “When I was his age, I was busting my ass all day long moving furniture, so my parents and little sister wouldn’t be thrown out of our shitty little apartment. In the goddamn snow! I didn’t have the luxury to act like a crazy ingrate!” “But Gordy” my mother shrieked, “Bobby’s sick, can’t you see! He needs a doctor!” “Doctor my sweet ass!” my dad exploded. “What he needs is a loud wake-up call! Yeah, life’s a bitch and a half and he better get used to it!” Now my mother got so hysterical that I was afraid that she might have a total meltdown. So, I did as he said I got into the back seat of the Nova. Then we drove to the emergency room of L.A. County General Hospital. After about three hours of waiting, I was sitting between my mom and dad in the doctor’s office. He wore tag with the name “Kenneth Knee MD.” He looked just a few years older than me, with hair down to his shoulders; the kind of hair my father would chop off my head in about

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ten seconds if I ever dared to wear it that long! But he looked nothing like a hippie flower child, as my father would have put it. No, he had the cocky “What the fuck do you want?” look that made me think of some bully who grows his hair long because that’s what chicks like and might get him a chance at getting laid. My father was sitting there with his face burning beet red as my mother cried and told Dr. knee, “Bobby—my youngest—my baby, is cutting himself. Doctor, he’s in so much pain! I’m—I’m so frightened he’ll do something rash!” Dr. Knee’s expression hadn’t changed a bit as she cried and pleaded. “Oh—He is going to kill himself, if that’s what you’re getting at” he calmly replied. “It’s not a matter of if he’ll do it—It’s a matter of when he’ll do it.” My mother screamed in anguish. What a total asshole, I thought, as Dr. Knee began writing a prescription. Shit! If he wanted to fuck with my head, that would be one thing. But messing with my mother like this? I hated his guts! We got the prescription filled at the hospital and drove home in complete silence, like some tragedy had occurred. The prescription was for Thorazine. I was to take one pill twice daily. They were supposed to make me calm down and feel more at peace. Instead, they made me feel like I was being gagged and buried alive. I couldn’t take the torture and I figured that Dr. Knee, that asshole, had prescribed them to me as a punishment for acting crazy and giving my parents a hard time. So, I secretly stopped taking these pills from hell. I knew things were hopeless. My father hated me. I was driving my mother to the breaking point. And I saw no way of getting better—except, that is, if I could get Dr. Jones to treat me. I didn’t have the fifteen hundred dollars. But I had to make a move. Like being in a burning building, I had to jump. It might kill me, but I had to do something. The next morning, I decided to leave home, not knowing where I’d wind up. Not knowing if I’d even survive. I left at daybreak, late June 1971. I walked down to Santa Monica Boulevard and continued 94. Waterways 2023

westward, toward the beach. I hadn’t packed any clothes and only had a few dollars in my wallet. I just walked to get away from my past, even though I knew that was impossible. I walked through Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, Santa Monica, and at about noon arrived at the beach. There I removed my T-shirt and laid it down so I could keep the sand out of my hair. Then I tried to take a nap. But no way was I going to sleep. My God, what was I going to do now? Live on the streets? How? Just sit down on a bus bench: broke, hungry— and stinking to high heaven? And calling it home? No, I couldn’t give up. I really no longer had a home. If I returned to live with my parents, I’d have to go and be treated by Dr. Knee—that bastard! What was I going to do? There was only one answer—Dr. Jones! I stood, put my T-shirt back on, brushed off the sand, and started walking back. When I passed the sign saying, “Los Angeles City Limits,” I found a phone booth and looked up Eve Bonner Jones. I recognized the street. It would put me in the middle of Hollywood, not far from the college. At about five I approached the house. It was in a neighborhood of palm tree lined streets and green foliage (a bit brittle and straw-like now because of the time of year). It was two stories and looked as if it belonged in a family sit-com. I was apprehensive. I had gotten an A in her class, and I think she liked me well enough. But, as my father used to tell me, the bottom line is always money, and from what I’d seen in my life, I had no reason to doubt it. But I had no choice. I took a couple steps forward, took a deep breath—and knocked. A girl who looked to be twelve or thirteen answered. She was like a miniature version of Dr. Jones, the same frizzy red hair and stern, critical gaze. “Who’s at the door, Mary?” chimed Doctor Jones’s voice from a room away. “Who are you?” quizzed the girl in almost a monotone. “What do you want?” “I have to speak to Dr. Jones. I__”

“Some guy wants to talk to you,” the girl called back, cutting me off. “I have no idea what he wants.” A moment later Dr. Jones was at the door, standing there with her long, loose black dress and quizzical expression, as if she had no idea who I was. Then she smiled just a bit and said, “Hello Robert. What brings you here?” I didn’t know where to start. Why hadn’t I thought this out better? But seeing me struggle for words, she invited me into the living room, where she offered me coffee. I told her that my only chance at being made sane and whole was by undergoing Primal Therapy. She was my last chance, but I didn’t have the fifteen hundred dollars. I would get the money and pay her back with interest if only she’d treat me. After I finished, she raised the palm of her hand and yelled, “Stop! Just stop jerking off! You’re crazy, right-O? Of course, you are! And yes—I will treat you, and you will pay me back— with interest. You’re lucky, too. I don’t see my next patient until September. I can’t reveal his name, but he’s the lead guitarist in a famous rock band. I’m in demand now. And my fee’s risen to ten thousand dollars. So, why am I giving you a deal? Because you were a good student, and I can see you’re sick and tired of being crazy. RightO?” I was elated and more hopeful than ever. Sure, it would be tough, but I’d walk through fire to get better and finally be normal! After the coffee, Dr. Jones walked me across the back lawn to the guest room (a rickety wooden structure with flaking white paint, and a dirt-smudged window). Inside was a waterbed, a desk with a lamp on it, a chair, and a thread-bare beige carpet—and nothing else. “This is your room for the next seven days,” she explained. “You may walk about the yard. You can shower and use the toilet in the downstairs bathroom. But there is one cardinal rule: Talk to no one but me during the treatment. Am I being clear? Good!” In class Dr. Jones had explained that the goal of Primal Therapy was to guide the patient back to childhood, even infancy, as he lay on his back and focused on past trauma. And, reliving each

nightmare, primal screams would release the torment from deep within the psyche. The tortured mind would, in a short time, be given relief—and a happy, whole individual would materialize. I’d soon be cured! As instructed, the next afternoon at four I entered the garage (between the guest room and the house) and laid down on the carpet. The garage was more like a large den, without a TV, furniture, or even a window. Two objects that appeared to be aroused penises were lying on the carpet beneath the dull-orange glow of the dimmer-lights. Their sight put a chill through me. What were they used for? How odd. How disgusting! A round light dimmer was next to the door, which had an indentation where the knob should have been. Eyes shut and arms at my sides, I heard the door open. Then someone walked in and plopped down behind me. Fabric brushed my hair. “You must return to that time,” said Dr. Jones in a hushed tone. “Go back to that horrible time!” I tried to direct my thoughts to some nightmarish incident. I felt terror rack my mind and spasms shake my body as I screamed until I went limp and exhausted. “You did good, Robert. Very good! Your healing has begun. Now, go to your room, write about your successful session, and leave what you’ve written under the kitchen door. So, tomorrow then—four o’clock. Right-O?” I had no idea what had just happened. I wasn’t thinking about anything while I was screaming. I didn’t get it. So, when I got back to my room, I wrote that I didn’t feel like I was getting any better. On day two of the therapy, I heard the door open, and slam shut. Dr. Jones flopped down behind me. “You crazy shithead!” she screamed. “You’re not responding to the therapy. You’re too much of a baby to feel how you feel! Maybe you want to stay crazy! Maybe you want to be tied in a strait jacket and live the rest of your life in the basement of a loony bin! Now—go back to your trauma. And no jerking off!”

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I was a small child now. It was late at night as I got out of bed, entered the hall and into the living room. I was petrified with fear. I heard a loud bang, and then a shriek—loud and tormented—escape from my mouth. I could hardly believe it was coming from me! “Finally! You begin your therapy in earnest! Now, write down your experience. Tomorrow, then. Four o’clock.” I was not getting any better. This therapy was crazier than I was! Yes—I was screaming like a cat with his tail caught in a mouse trap. But I knew I was as screwed up as ever! I could hardly sleep at all. And I was writing lie after lie in my log so Dr. Jones wouldn’t go bonkers. Who knew what she was capable of? The next day, as I lay apprehensively on the frayed carpet, Dr. Jones entered the garage screaming “John’s left me. Oh, my God. He’s really gone!” Then she cried and pleaded, “Sit up, Robert. I need to talk to you!” She turned up the light and sat facing me with her legs crossed under her billowing dress. “Robert,” she sobbed, eyes filling with tears, “do you know, from your experience, if speedfreaks sometimes say things they really don’t mean? You see, John’s my lover. And I’m his lifeline, Robert. Do you think he might come back to me?” From my experience? I never even used drugs. I didn’t even smoke cigarettes. And who the hell was John? A couple of times when I went into the house to use the toilet, I’d see this tall, skinny guy about twenty, with stringy, dirty blonde hair. He’d be standing in the kitchen toasting bread or guzzling beer. And once at night when I had to piss, I heard shaking and bumping from upstairs. That must have been Dr. Jones and her speedfreak. “Oh, I’m sure he’ll be back, Dr. Jones.” I replied. “Oh, please Robert—call me Eve!” “I’m sure John will come back to you—Eve.” “Thank you! Thank you, Robert. And I know—I know you’ll get better soon!” Then, standing, and starting to leave the garage, she turned and smiled. “By the way, maybe you don’t think I’ve noticed your hard

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body. Is there any part of your body that isn’t— hard?” “She’s completely nuts!” I thought, “A total quack! But what am I supposed to do? Where was I to go now? Shit!” For the next three days I screamed my head off in therapy without knowing why. Then I’d lie like a dog, writing to Dr. Jones how much better I was feeling. I had to get out. I was afraid I’d crack up to the point where I wouldn’t be able to leave. Maybe I wouldn’t even know who I was anymore. I became frantic. The night before I took off, I paced about the lawn, planning where to go, when I saw Dr. Jones and her speed freak boyfriend through the kitchen window. She must have been elated that he was back, because they stood there grabbing each other’s butts and grinding into each other. But suddenly she pushed John away and shouted “You think I don’t know you’ve been fucking every waitress in town, you crazy speed-freak! You goddamn leach! You fucking loser! The least you can do is fuck me once a night! And no, I’m not taking it in the ass. I don’t want an enema— you crazy fuck!” “Now I have something to say!” John shot back, “Does that poor bastard in the guest house know you can’t cure anyone? Does he know that you’re just an old, horny, used up hag who’s crazier than all the pathetic, lost young people you pretend you can help? You’re disgusting. And I’m gone for good!” I could barely hear the front door slam. Then I heard Dr. Jones crying as she walked out to the lawn. I ducked behind an oak tree and heard a loud shriek. The Primal Scream! Peeking out from behind the tree, I saw Dr. Jones on her hands and knees, head raised, peering up to the skies, screaming “I love you, John! Come back to me.” Then, after a short pause, “I need you daddy. Help me! I need you!” I left as the sun rose the following morning. I walked zombie-like toward my college— something familiar, at least. By then, I was on the campus of L.A. City College. I plopped down on

a bench, bowed my head, and nodded off without even trying. “Hi, Robert!” It was Jodie Pascarella. She was sitting next to me. My God, how long had I been out? And how long had she been sitting there? “I haven’t seen you in class for a while. Is everything OK?” I just stared at her. I was getting an odd, comforting feeling. “You must know you’re the best speaker in class,” she smiled, almost impossibly radiant and bright. “And you’re a pretty nice guy, too.” Why the hell would Jodie Pascarella care about me? It was unbelievable! “I think you’re really nice, too,” I said. “Even back in Ivanhoe I thought that.” As we talked, the minutes flew by. I just wanted to stay there all day long. The isolation booth began to melt away as the colors around me grew vibrant. My sister Paula could ooze sarcasm better than anyone. If they had sarcasm classes, she’d get straight A’s. If there were sarcasm contests, she’d win the blue ribbon. Once, when I accidentally knocked over a glass of milk, she quipped “Nice, Bobby. Real nice!” And hissed it like a snake— “Nice, Bobby. Real ni-sss!” That’s why I wasn’t surprised when, on the morning of my eleventh birthday, noticing a toothpaste splotch on my shirt, she said “Nice, Bobby. Real ni-sss! Is that your retarded birthday decoration?” “Enough out of you!” scolded my mother, placing the strawberry birthday cake in front of me. “You’re twenty-years-old and you’re behaving like a spoiled little brat!” My mom, dad, Paula, and my brother Danny (home from U.C.L.A.) were waiting for me to blow out the candles when my brother interrupted the celebration. “Paula and I are going to play Bobby’s favorite song instead of “Happy Birthday,” because we know how much he wants to hear it.” “Danny, don’t you dare!” warned my mom, as my brother strode toward the hi-fi in the front room, and my sister stood, arms folded, looking at me with a smug grin.

The phonograph now blasted out a Calypso song called “Mama Look At Boo-Boo,” about a guy who’s upset because his young boy and girl don’t want to believe he’s really their father because he’s so ugly. The awful song, which Paula and Danny knew would get me so upset that I’d cry and pound on things, blared through the house and echoed around the kitchen table where I sat. They were playing it on my birthday! I knew they hated me, but this was too much. And even though I could have cried for an hour, I held it in. They weren’t going to see me go bananas. Not on my birthday! And when I blew out the candles to make a wish, I wished that Paula and Danny would drop dead. Danny strode proudly back into the kitchen as the song finished. Then he laughed his head off. Both my brother and sister were laughing so hard that they were barely able to sit down without falling off their chairs. “Now both of you can tell Bobby you’re sorry” my dad demanded as his eyes darted back and forth between my brother and sister. “We’re really sorry, Boo Boo,” responded Danny as Paula joined him in a fresh round of gut-busting hilarity. I had zero desire to open my gifts. I just wanted to dump them in the trash, dash outside, and ride my bike as far away as I could get. But that would upset my mom. So, I just sat and dealt with my anger. My mom asked why I wasn’t opening my presents, so without any enthusiasm I unwrapped Paula’s present. It was an orange and yellow terry cloth shirt with red argyle patterns. “Thanks. It’s really cool” I told my sister, as convincingly as I could under the circumstances. “It will be so comfortable when summer gets here” my mom commented. “It’s very handsome” my father added. “Yeah, too bad Boo-Boo isn’t,” Danny chuckled, which grew into a belly laugh as Paula joined in the merriment. After opening my presents, I got up to go out and ride away on my bike, but my stomach started hurting, so I went to my room to lie down. But my belly ache wasn’t getting any better, so I poured myself a glass of milk, which usually made my insides calm down. Then Paula

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and Danny came into the kitchen and sat across from me. My guts churned and ached more than before. “Bobby,” spoke my sister as if deeply troubled, “we’re so sorry about before.” “Absolutely,” my brother agreed. “And to make up for the horrible thing we did to you, we’re giving you a really neat present—a birthday IQ test.” “How many little brothers can say they’re so lucky?” asked my sister, before administering the test. “Now listen carefully: A boy asks his mom and dad if he can have a watch for his birthday. So, they let him.” “Do you get it, Bobby?” my brother asked. “No! I don’t get it!” I hollered. “You failed the IQ test” Paula sadly announced. “You’re officially retarded.” “I know you are, but what am I?” I screamed, looking back and forth at the lizards. “Oh, how mature!” taunted my sister, standing up with her hands on her hips. “My girlfriends’ little brothers are so much more mature than you’ll ever be.” Danny shook his head gravely and said, “You’re such a spaz.” When they left the room, I got so nervous I began shaking, as if bombs were going to start falling. It was Sunday, which meant Danny would go back to his dorm that night. What a relief. Why couldn’t he just stay on campus through the weekend, so I wouldn’t have to be the victim of his tantrums and a target of his rage? When I left the kitchen to go lie down again—it started. The storm began brewing in the bedroom I shared with my brother. First the stomping on the floor, the banging on the walls, and finally the shrill, eardrum piercing screams. And Danny began crying and pleading in sentences all broken and irate. “I can’t staaa-eeent, ge-ge-ge.” The tantrum, I knew, would go on and on. Whenever these fits occurred, I’d leave to go riding or hike up to Griffith Park. But late at night there was nowhere to go or hide. And when I went to bed, Danny would move to do his 98. Waterways 2023

homework in the kitchen, and I’d lie awake with my pillow smashed against my ear, praying for the demon to be silent. My parents would usually let my brother rage on and on, as if it were a fever that would have to run its course. But whenever I got upset and started shaking, my mom would massage my shoulders and assure me that it would be over soon. But once in a while my dad would spring up from his chair, slam down whatever book he was reading, and shout, “I’ve had enough!” Then he’d rush into the bedroom and start screaming at my brother, which would stir up a hornet’s nest but never shortened the tantrum. Now, around three in the afternoon of my birthday, my dad, sitting in the living room watching a Dodger game, stomped into the tantrum room, and bellowed, “Get the hell out of my house, you goddam jerk! Get out!” Danny screamed even louder and scrambled into the bathroom. “I can’t stand it!” he shrieked, curling up in the corner near the sink. “Eeeeohhh—I can’t staaa-eee” he screeched. “You’re a cockroach!” my dad shouted, standing over my brother as my mom and I stood by the bathroom door, watching the scene play out. “Come on, everybody; let’s step on the cockroach!” “Don’t step on me!” pleaded my brother, covering his face. “But I have to. I have no choice. We can’t afford an exterminator” my dad explained. “Honey don’t!” my mom begged. “Please, Honey—Stop!” “This has to be done. What else can I do? We have to squash the cockroach!” he continued, as my brother cowered in the corner. This kind of thing always happened whenever Danny came home for the weekend. But now things would spin even more out of control. It was an unseasonably warm evening as I sat on the doorstep listening to KFWB, the rock and roll station, on my transistor radio. I was trying to shake off the events of the day when I heard my mom yell from inside the house. “She’s a lunatic! Just say you can’t come over! Tell her you’ve been called into work.”

“Goddam it all to hell! She’s my mother, for chrissake!” came my dad’s reply. And with that the front door flung open, my dad raced out, grabbed my hand, and said, “come on we’re going to visit Grandma Emma.” I got into our 1959 frost-blue Chevrolet Impala and off we rode down Vermont Avenue, hanging a left on Sunset Boulevard, and in fifteen minutes we were in front of Grandma Emma’s apartment in Echo Park. The door to her second-floor residence was wide open, so we walked on into the unlit front room. I breathed in the familiar musty Grandma Emma scent as our eyes adjusted to the dark. “Ma?” my father called out. “Ma?” “Oy! Oy!” came my grandma’s muffled voice, from behind her bedroom door. “Oy!” We entered the room, and there, lying under a gray quilt, her head propped up on two pillows, with a glass of water and four pill bottles on the side table, was Grandma Emma. The window drapes were pulled shut, and the only light glowed dimly from the lamp on the table. Her face was coarse, white as talcum, her gray hair hung limp and stringy. She was just nineteen years older than my dad, but she looked a hundred at least. “How are you Ma? You look fantastic!” my dad smiled. “Oy! Oy!” she moaned, slowly turning her head to face my dad. “Oy! What do you do when you’re old and sick and your own son, your own flesh and blood, who you loved and raised, won’t even come visit you? Oy! Oy!” “But look. I’m here, Ma. Here I am. And I brought Bobby with me. We love you Ma!” “Oy! Just go. Go and let me die all alone. Oy! Go. Go now and be happy. I raised you to be happy. Oy! Don’t worry that I’m lonely and am going to die lonely. I just want my son to be happy. So just go now. Oy!” “Please! Please Ma!” pleaded my dad. “Don’t do this to me. I love you Ma!” “Oy!” moaned my grandma, “Just be happy. Let me just die. Oy!” Then my dad dropped to his knees and flinging his arms out in front of him, palms up.

He began crying like a little boy lost in a department store. “Oh, Ma! I love you. You have to believe me, Ma! Please!” “Oy! Oy!” wailed Grandma Emma. “Go! Go! You deserve to be happy. Don’t worry about me. Oy!” This was turning out to be a really messed up birthday. When we got into the Chevy to leave, my dad was all smiles, like we’d just been to a funny movie. “Well,” he grinned, “let’s say we stop at Thrifty’s on the way home for some ice cream. Pistachio—Two scoops. What do ya say!” When we got home, we found my mom sitting at the kitchen table, smoking a Camel, and staring down at her coffee cup. She silently lifted her arm and gestured toward us like she was about to say something. But then she dropped her hand back on her lap. Her eyes were red and wet. She’d been crying. “What’s going on?” asked my dad. “Joe’s tests came back. It’s cancer. His doctor told him he’s got six months, maybe a year.” I raced outside and jogged around the block, trying to calm myself so I could deal with what my mom was saying. My Uncle Joe lived upstairs, in the duplex he’d bought with my mom and dad years before I was born. Family and friends called him “Sunshine.” He was like those cheerful characters on old TV comedies; the guys you’d like as friends and neighbors. I’d go upstairs a lot just to hang out or when I wanted to get away from family problems. He was everyone’s favorite and now he was dying. That night Danny went back to U.C.L.A. and Paula left with Skip, her “bitchin’” boyfriend, for a vacation on Catalina Island. Thank God! But the news about Uncle Joe just drained color and life from my world. My mom was right. Uncle Joe was the family’s sunshine. The next morning, I walked the mile and a half to King Junior Highschool. I was all jittery thinking about my birthday yesterday. I was getting nervous a lot lately, but whenever I told my dad about it, he’d just chuckle, pat me on the

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back, and ask “What in the world do you have to be nervous about? Why, you don’t have bills to pay, kids to support, not a care in the world. What I wouldn’t give to be your age again. Footloose and fancy free. Right?” But I was nervous. I was beyond nervous. I was a seventh grader, which made me a “scrub.” A long time ago bullies would grab us puny seventh graders and scrub us down with mud, gutter sludge, and all kinds of crap. Now they’d just shove us around or trip us and say “Have a nice trip? See you next fall.”—Really witty stuff. I hated junior high. I hated rushing from class to class. I hated having to take showers with loud, obnoxious guys snapping towels at each other’s butts. I hated being attracted to girls who looked at me like I was a slime ball. But most of all I hated the school bullies. I hated anyone who got a kick out of making me feel humiliated. I hated surfer bullies, vato-loco bullies, and bullies with no specific classification. At lunch, I was sitting on the bench next to Chief Itchy Toe (a life-sized statue of an Indian, covered with a blanket, scratching his big toe). I always wished he could come to life so maybe we could be friends. I could have used a friend. As I grabbed my books and started to head for my fourth period gym class, a tall, lumbering jerk with his shirt tails hanging out bumped into me, causing my books to drop. He told me he’s sorry and bumped into me again. I snapped. “I hate your guts! I hate your guts!” I screamed over and over. And I was unable to stop. Students filed by me to go to class, and a lot of time went by, but I wasn’t able to stop.

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The next thing I knew I was being escorted to the nurse’s office by Mr. Antonelli, the boys Vice Principal. Three students who looked pretty sick were sitting in chairs against the wall. I wasn’t sick. Why was I in the nurse’s office? When she got around to me, the nurse explained that she’d have to call my parents. But I lied and told her that my mother had a bad heart condition, and that this kind of news would probably give her a heart attack. So, she told me she’d give me another chance to try and control my behavior. That night I went to bed early and lay awake listening to KFWB. I thought about what had happened that afternoon. I knew I was going crazy but had no idea what to do about it. After a short while my dad entered my room. “Are you alright, Bobby? I know you’re upset about Uncle Joe. We all are. But Bobby, life goes on. Do you feel like talking?” “No. I’m alright,” I assured him. “I’m just really tired.” There was no way my dad would be able to understand me. No one could. I was on my own; cut off from the world. And if anyone asked how things were going, I’d just say “Nice. Real ni-sss.”

ROBERT GORELICK is a former U.S. Navy photographer, holding a multiple subject and special education credential from CSUN. He’s completed a memoir of his youth, and spends most of his spare time in coffee shops and hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains. He resides in Los Angeles, California.

Ken McCullough Mini Wo Cho Zani and Other Poems

Backwaters, Near Trempealeau Mountain 1. An ocher pendulum stymied; one river mounts another. A land where songs are bent to fit the valley’s insolence. We drink the thick muscles of the moon on a sandbar between unseen footprints. For the last time, sallow queen, don’t bring me here to drown me. 2. A basket woven by herons will hold water for a fortnight. If the sun can’t sink in the west, rattlesnakes will guard you as you take infinitesimal doses atop the sacred mountain. If we had come here millennia ago to swim upstream at flood stage roots would have dragged us skyward.

Latschies for Richie Swanson The females lived in the water around Latsch Island and Wolf Spider Island and off into the nearby backwaters. Now and then you’d see what looked like a body doing a scissors kick just under the surface, but you could never see one up close. If you were out there at night and heard what sounded like a chorus of frogs that became more and more enchanting that would be them calling you. Best not to be there by yourself after sundown. They all had silver hair though they never seemed to age and you never saw a juvenile. Some people claim to have seen one or even a pair in silhouette from a distance but, as I said, though, never from close up. They say an old guy from Minnesota City got right up next to one and was blinded by her beauty but was also rendered mute and feeble-minded,

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so he was never able to describe her. Their males were not water dwellers at all but could be found along the ridges above the waterline in Aghaming and lived sometimes in tree hollows that resembled woodpecker nests. As adults, both male and females were rarely more than two feet in height. The adult males weighed about 20 pounds and the females about 15. And they were adept at climbing into small spaces. I don’t know why, but they were said to have a relationship with snapping turtles and some people say that they and snapping turtles exchange shapes on occasion. It would certainly be a good disguise for the Latschies. Their eyes were on the sides of their heads, so if you happened to see one it was confusing because you couldn’t tell exactly whether they were coming or going. Their singing could be heard mostly as the sun set and it sounded like singing maybe coming from a transistor radio at a distance. Something like shape singing, beautiful, soothing, but when you paddled your canoe or kayak over to where you thought it was coming from there’d be nothing there, except turtles slipping into the water off the trunks of fallen trees. There’s a man here in town, I won’t say his name, but you probably know whom I’m talking about. He says he came upon a group of the females singing, maybe ten of them, and they were singing to draw him in. They looked right at him and didn’t hide from him. He stayed with them for several days before he woke up one morning and there was no trace of them; they had just disappeared. He wouldn’t say anything about what his experience with them was like but his face always lit up bright red and his eyes glittered when the topic came up. Then again, he had always claimed bizarre things like this had happened to him all his life. You could count on him for a good story and each time he told one, it was always a bit different. Usually better. He is the only person I know that has ever seen the females up close. The males and females apparently didn’t spend much time together except during mating season, in the early spring. The males were a little taller and had eyes that were said to be more piercing than those of the females. When the males moved, they seemed to be gliding. As I said before, the males were land dwellers—their activities took place mostly on those ridges I talked about. Obviously, they were amphibious. And they were pretty good at disguising themselves, and their dwellings. They were also able to emit a greenish glow, like fireflies. The males were described by those who’d seen them as “ruggedly handsome.” Their bodies were covered with golden-brown hair. The females on the other hand had what looked like the scales of catfish but they didn’t have a fishy smell, more like the flowers of something like hibiscus. As I said before, no one had ever sighted a juvenile so it’s not clear at what point they transitioned into their adult forms, and how long that took. You never saw, for instance, a mother with a weanling in tow. No one was sure what they ate either. They were pretty neat in that they never left any refuse, like piles of discarded nutshells. I have a friend who has given nature tours of Latsch Island and Aghaming for many years and I’m sure he can tell you many more details about their habits and habitat than anyone else I know personally. You probably noticed that I’ve used the past tense in talking about Latschies. My hunch is that they are still there, but they’ve had to become more secretive as we’ve encroached upon them. I’ve never seen one myself but I’m sure I heard them once, very briefly. If you go out there looking for them, be quiet, sit still, and be respectful. Send good thoughts their way. If you hear what you think might be their singing, try to harmonize with them, softly, and if they seem to be asking you something, stop and listen carefully, and if you have the courage, answer, from your heart.

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The Loneliest Island Hurricane Sandy, the aftermath November 2012 Of the 41 dead in New York City 22 on Staten Island, my home town most of them near where we used to live– a 23rd islander, Frank Suber, 55 in Lower Manhattan when she hit– Many old-timers, my age or more Some living alone–best friends 79 and 73 Beatrice Spagnuolo, Anastasia Rispoli– Two aged 89: Walter Colborne, Ella Norris– Two boys swept from their mother, ages 2 and 4–Connor and Brandon Moore– A 13-year-old girl, Angela Dresch and her father George, 55 who went to look for her– An ex-Marine and his son, 51 and 20 John K. Filipowicz and John C. drowned in the basement clutching each other a last embrace as the water rose–the son a twin– And a brother and sister, 65 and 77, David Hagley, Charlotte Breuers –Two by two and the others: Leonard Montalto, 53 Marie Colborne, 66 Eugene Contrube, 62 Anna Gesso, 62 Patricia Bevan, 59 Jack Paterno, 65 Artur Kasprzak, 28 Andrew Semarco, 61 James Rossi, 85 George P. O’Regan, 79 My home, my island, shaped like a depleted heart– “the forgotten borough” where my relatives lie buried joined by these 23. Not statistics–names, of those who lived, loved and were loved. I mourn for them, I mourn for you, my island on the outskirts, an afterthought, an asterisk.

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Mini Wo Cho Zani Dakota for “Water of Life” From what authority do I speak today?— I was born on an island, surrounded by water under a water sign in mid-July. I spent most of my childhood on another island. All my forebears came from islands. I was baptized by immersion on two occasions. My body is 60% water and my blood is 90% though the molecules are 99% water. Though I am not a swimmer, I am, in fact, a sinker, I can swim great distances underwater. Twice, I have almost drowned. I have lived on several lakes and rivers. My friend Taff Roberts drowned once when he was a boy in Wales, and he says that the light streaming through the water was brilliant and it was a consummately transcendent experience. He was rescued by a passing postman and awoke the next day. Those of us here today live on an island city where any Huck and Jim can beach their craft and camp for the evening on any island of their choice– no fear of a landlord running them off. This is an oasis, with the Father of Waters flowing through our lives guarded by the otter and the heron By the muskrat and the peregrine By the pike and the beaver And we are their stewards, their husbands– we do not have dominion over them, as King James suggested. These waters are our blood, they are our life our elixir, their souls not to be defiled or poisoned, they are not a commodity to be divvied up. The water in our wells, the water that feeds the grasses draws up the limestone from below and makes our bones stronger. What will our legacy be—what will it be? Where we sit today is sacred ground. 104. Waterways 2023

Where we walk every day is sacred ground. Cherish the sweet waters and nurture them as they nourish us. Help us to listen to their songs, to let them wash over our bodies after a day of hard work or making love. Be strong! Have faith, and you can walk on these waters-you will not sink, friends, you will not sink. Drink! Amen! Amen! Amen!

Late August 2001 At Lawler Park outside Prairie du Chien the sun sets over the bluffs as we sip gins and tonic from plastic cups A Mennonite picnic to our left the women in pale blues and greens the men in khakis A pair of jet skiers slaloms down the channel and all the Mennonite boys rush to the chain link fence and hang there like cats

KEN MCCULLOUGH has received numerous awards for his poetry including the Academy of American Poets Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pablo Neruda Award, and a Galway Kinnell Poetry Prize. Ken’s most recent books include “Crossings: The Poets Laureate of Winona, Minnesota” (Shipwreckt Books, 2021), which won a Midwest Book Awards silver medal for best anthology; and the collection, “Dark Star” (Red Dragonfly Press 2017). He has taught at Montana State University, the University of Iowa, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Viterbo University, UW-La Crosse and Winona State University. He lives in Winona with his wife, playwright Lynn Nankivil.

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Louis Martinelli Carrying Water to Trees have lived in three farmhouses in my life—two of them more or less New England saltbox in design and one a wood frame house built up around what was originally a log cabin. The logs were discovered when the owner of the house tore out the interior of the kitchen to build a chimney for a wood burning stove. The logs were maple, a fairly common tree used to build houses before 1940, and they were two feet in diameter. The chimney builder ruined two saws trying to cut through the logs, and one of his co-workers accidentally dropped a third saw from the roof, breaking a window. One of the conditions for my living in the maple log house was that I act as a gatekeeper for the owner. That meant I would wear various hats, at various times, depending on who threatened the land with damage. Since wild game was plentiful there, especially trophy-sized deer and a growing population of pheasants, one of my duties was to walk the fence lines and see that they were not transgressed. Another was to keep a road open from the house to the main highway, and then again from the house to the river which bordered the property. Windfalls after storms were the primary obstacles to be removed. I got to know and admire the place, especially its trees, on my daily walks to the river. I got to know the river my first summer by stopping to fish it, and in the fall and early winter, by sitting on an abandoned railroad bridge and watching the stars rise and shine on the water. More than anything, I like discovering the trees: mature red and white cedar, juniper, several kinds of birch, red and white pine, oak and elm, shag-bark hickory, cottonwood, box elder, a few Kentucky coffee trees. None of these were old growth, but they surrounded agricultural fields, provided habitat for deer, red fox, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, a covey of quail and a large number of song birds. They provided a windbreak in the winter for the fields and the house, and shade in the summer. They were thick and beautiful to look at: a small oasis of forest in the middle of largely over plowed agricultural land. On one of my walks, I watched as snow fell and caught in the green branches of a common juniper. I was as transfixed by the new snow nesting in the small tree as the tree itself was enclosed by the snow it held. There was an element of worship in my feeling, as if I were witnessing revelation itself. When I returned the next day, the snow had melted away in the morning sun. But there was imprinted in me the union of juniper and white crystal flakes of snow with the knowledge of winter’s heart, to be read like a book in the common juniper. One day my landlord announced he was going to have to cut down some trees in order to make his loan payment. He did not want to as he had promised the previous owner, an elderly woman, he would never cut down the cedar trees. But now he had to cut down some cedar and even more oak. For every tree he cut down he promised to plant a hundred saplings somewhere on the land. He would plant maple trees and oak and river birch and pine. It would be all right. The cedar and oak trees were cut in the late summer, before an unusually wet fall. Erosion followed, a hillside sagged, the logging roads developed ruts and became muddy pools of water. A well-intentioned man, an engineer by profession, the landowner was true to his word. With the help of his sons, the new trees were planted the following spring and summer. Inspired by five majestic eastern white pines towering above the house, he planted many pines, some in unlikely places. The summer proved to be one of the hottest and driest in memory in the upper Midwest. Drought is more than the absence of rain; it is a condition which damages anything vulnerable to it. The saplings began to show signs of extreme stress from the dry heat. Particularly hard hit was the pine, which turned brown and withered sooner than the maple, oak or birch.


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I spent time each day carrying water out to the young trees in ten-gallon containers, only a few of the plantings were close enough to the house to reach with a garden hose. I was confident I could save them, so I did not ask for help. It was a noble exercise in futility. By the middle of July, two thirds of the trees were beyond recovery, and by early September, I was hard-pressed to find a dozen healthy trees. So far as I could tell, the plantings had been done at the proper time and soil depth and everything was accounted for except the one variable least visible to us humans: our exaggerated pride. The landowner, the loggers and the planters had all failed to consider the possibility of too much rain and not enough rain occurring in the same year. I had failed to consider my own helplessness in saving the vulnerable saplings. Good intentions or noble ends cannot overcome bad or inadequate means. The land surrounding the maple log house needed less engineering and gatekeeping and more caregiving, I think. The indiscriminate cutting became the end of the trees, the beginning of erosion, and the loss of healthy soil. Do no harm, the first principle of ethics in the

practice of medicine is equally important in the practice of land ownership. What the earth has come to need, increasingly, is the carefulness and refusal to harm that we associate, historically, with nursing. To treat land well, or restore to health land that has been damaged, is a kind of caregiving that is primary to the healing of nature.

LOUIS MARTINELLI is the author of the poetry collection “Dreaming with Open Eyes, Poems for Vincent Van Gogh,” (Up On Big Rock Poetry Series 2019), and most recently edited “A Paul Gruchow Reader,” (Rocket Science Press 2023).

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Myles Weber Six Waterways

Taste Waterfalls are nature’s failed attempt at kitsch. I hand the folded map of Lake Superior back to Brian. Our own worst efforts are links golf courses, Machu Pichu, lunar landings, and rock ‘n’ roll arena tours. Brian waves aside my cynicism–finds it impertinent. But I fear that human taste for the grandiose may portend a permanent epidemic of the obese. We favor the Great Pyramid of Giza to a stone church in the Swedish countryside, a deep-fried donut encrusted in frosting and sugar sparkles to a perfect fried egg with yellow bullseye. You grow past that, my friend decides. We’ll drive the North Shore this summer and check out Gooseberry Falls, but we won’t ignore the agates on the beach. I discount the geriatric nature of rock collecting and credit this man, my best companion, with barely passable taste.

On the Beach, circa 1880 Wet sand and bulky clothing mold a spartan combination for female French aristocrats, cloaked celebrities in Belle Epoque high society who had less sartorial recourse than our loudly drunken hoi polloi on holiday at Key West, Rehoboth— any resort town or country music festival.

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The bearded man in a porkpie hat, shaded by a beach umbrella, likely represents our artist, bored by professional obligations. Two small girls and a Scottish terrier pup cast judgement. Adult couture disregards common sense while these youngsters show some skin, naked legs wet from a dip in the sea. As if to eclipse the unsexed portrait subjects, a museum patron with buzzcut hair, his three-year-old daughter gripped to his chest, interposes, blocks our view of the painter’s brushstrokes. Art has its proper place, of course. But this muscle-shirted papa steals our gaze.

A Similar Compromise Few of my generation have invested the time, but from our haughty perch we know of this risible feature film. Two lead characters, decades apart, exchange love letters through a mailbox– slash-time-portal—that is what we’ve been told. The movie’s title serves as critical shorthand for every hackneyed plot contrivance. A director and two A-list celebrities signed on to the project. But let’s be honest: We might have accepted a similar compromise. Instead, we fancied ourselves too classy and singular for pedestrian romantic plotting—to our subsequent chagrin. The window for prudent compromise has closed. Some hoary practices exist for solid reasons. Not every life choice must be cutting-edge. My brother married and raised two sons,

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without regret. The Lake House, a faithful Hollywood remake of a middling South Korean film, earned back its investment and more.

Dairy Queen My high school frenemy (behind his back I call him Lies With Grin) informs the gang his church’s youth group plans to spend two weeks in Jackson Hole. They stole your drag name, quips Elijah’s cousin, stuck another day in town en route to Lake Vermilion, where he’ll pass the summer months with aunt and uncle. Not with Eli much this time: we both work thirty-seven hours a week at Dairy Queen to save some cash, to buy some weed, to push ourselves through sophomore year. We will visit Eli’s cousin when we can. I like the guy. All my closest friends are sharp as broken glass, small framed, and cute as him. Most the stoners think I fancy boys. Wyoming, Lies With Grin attests, dwarfs our own topographies. At Giant’s Ridge— the name—he scoffs, amused by frank attempts to manufacture awe. Vermilion’s nice, says Eli’s cousin, mournfully, as if in thoughtful retrospect on what lies ahead: solitude, books, a girl from Eli’s parents’ bay where cabins line a neck of land. A lake? The mountains, man. I wish you all could come. I do. The vans are filled, though.

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Eli studies both his shoes. With no acknowledgment, we once again share a thought: Is there an age at which we waste no time on friends we do not, cannot, will not love?

Back from Big Sandy Upon their return from the cabin, my landlord and his daughter prop the porch door open to haul in suitcases and coolers. Come morning, a bird adorns the curtains in the foyer. Drawn to sunlight with no means of circumventing glass, it claws white lace, asking the gods to intervene. I’d have freed it heading out but this tiny object, like an animal, swerves at my head as if to intimidate a man a hundred times its size. In flight, it does just that. I don’t hike the bluffs, swim the lakes, or survey campsites. When confronted rarely by a wild thing my lizard brain must seize control. I flee—no hesitation— my instincts for survival sharp as any beast’s if lacking its bravado. How else could I have made it this far?

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Boundary Waters The girls on our canoe trip claimed the boys were slackers. Every portage they complained, defamed, and cursed their male companions. We weren’t sure what crime we stood accused of unless they meant pulling both our weight and theirs. Displeased, the girls refused to clarify their beef or state what remedy might satisfy them. As the days passed, lightening their loads of powdered foodstuffs, my canoe continued heightening the pain across my shoulders. Near the end, the women’s spent campaign to air their grievances was clear to all a bust, so when it rained we ran together to the tents where one girl followed me as though she sought to make amends. I sensed regret, but now my blisters showed. She pressed her finger on the spot of sharpest pain and watched me wince. Sincere apologies were not forthcoming, neither then nor since.

MYLES WEBER is a professor of English at Winona State University in Minnesota, He is the author of “Consuming Silences: How to Read Authors Who Don’t Publish.” His poems have appeared recently, or are forthcoming, in Tampa Review, Crab Creek Review, Tofu Ink Arts Press, and Clackamas Literary Review.

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Tom Driscoll Lily Jo woman with long platinum hair wearing armfuls of expensive bling climbed out of a tallbacked booth tucked into the side room at the Java Shoppe, jumped to the head of the line of mid-morning customers, and with an annoying whisper, interrupted the new barista who was plenty busy already taking orders, “Joan, Ethiopian decaf when you have a sec?” The new barista, a striking young woman with blue and orange highlights in her artfully disordered dark hair, stopped just as Oisín was about to order, robotically shuffled over to a row of coffee pots, carried one of them into the side room, and curled her upper lip into a public sneer when she refilled the woman’s coffee bean brown cup. Moving in painful slow motion, the barista returned to the “Place Order” end of the counter facing the blackboard with all the coffees and sizes and prices for muffins and cookies, the whole menu written in colored chalk, smudged, erased, and overwritten to the point of illegibility. Her face expressionless, she said, “Sorry to keep you waiting, sir. What can I get for you?” Oisín replied pleasantly, “Large dark roast to go, please, Joan.” She entered his order into a credit card reader. “Got a name?” “In fact, I do. It’s Oisín.” The much-older man studied the much-younger woman’s right arm, a sleeve of green and red tattoo ink covering otherwise fair skin beginning at the enameled medical alert around her wrist and disappearing over her shoulder. “That’s quite an intricate tattoo, Joan. Must be a mighty good story behind all that imagery.” “I’m a mighty good story, all right,” Joan replied dryly; “a Wikipedia of medical miracles.” She studied Oisín’s eyes, his streaked with grey like his hair. Her eyes, Oisín observed from a stolen glance into them, reminded him of wet cedar boards.


Saturday morning, the end of the new barista’s first week working at the Java Shoppe, Oisín arrived right at opening, six a.m., a teardrop bag slung over his right shoulder, as usual. His car idled at the curb outside, warming up on a chilly October morning, to carry him to a book fair in Minneapolis. “Gonna be a beautiful day today from the looks of it, Joan.” “Hang on a sec, ok?” Joan hurried through the small café switching on lights and window signs before returning to the counter. “Looks nice out, but I’m stuck in here till we close at one. Having the dark roast to go this morning, Ocean?” “Yes, thank you, Joan.” His bearded face morphed an avuncular smile hoping to dodge her lurking mercurial behavior with a compliment. “You must be fitting in well here; opening up for the boss.” Joan shook her head, her hair pulled back into a long, multicolored ponytail as wild as any horse’s, her eyebrows taut with appealing innocence. “Only so Kim can sleep in. She’s always shorthanded. Practically begged my stepmom to get me to apply to work here.” Before the new barista could turn away, Oisín said, “Say, I wanted to show you this …” He fished a stainless-steel medical necklace from inside his hooded, light blue pullover. “… I wear a Staff of Asclepius necklace. I see you have the bracelet.” “Ahh.” She drew out the word, feinting interest in Oisín’s prattle. “Mm-huh.”

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Oisín mused before continuing: Joan must be twenty. Barely, if. Maybe eighteen; a high school senior. He wanted to ask her age but, leery of generational sarcasm, or of himself appearing creepy, he did not. Instead, he offered bits of unsolicited information. “Asclepius, the original owner of the staff you see here, was a Greek physician. He had two daughters, Hygeia, the goddess of health, and Panacea, goddess of healing.” Joan replied, “Let me guess, the daughters would be hygiene and snake oil.” “Panacea isn’t exactly snake oil …” Oisín muttered. “Sugar pills and fiddle sticks,” grumbled Joan, her eyes darkening. She continued unprompted, “I’ve tried ’em all, Mr. Ocean, and I’ve had a dozen panacea surgeries. So please don’t tell me about snake oil. Surgeons have slathered it into both my heart chambers, and they are still cheddar-cheesed with tiny holes.” “I’m sorry to hear that. If I may ask: you have a septal defect?” “Septal defectssss,” Joan hissed, “atrial and ventricular septal birth defects to be exact. You a cardiologist?” “A patient.” Oisín jiggled his necklace. “A patient patient, Joan, that’s me. Double Ps— patience and peace. They keep me alive.” “Bad heart?” “No heart.” Oisín hoisted his Patagonia teardrop. “Well, here’s my heart.” “Heart in a bag?” Joan laughed, bemused, “Forget the sugar pills, sweetie, you need a new heart. I’m on the list, but I might as well be like ten billion down. Occasionally my name inches up because I’m having a critical episode, but there’s no donors because I’m AB negative, so I’m hard to match. Meanwhile, growing up, my heart size kept changing too. Now, I have lupus. Not in my karma to get a heart. I must have been a rattlesnake or something awful in my past life.” Oisín avoided Lily Jo’s eyes. “I’ve never been listed.” Lily Jo wagged her finger. “I’d get right on that if I were you.” “Yeah,” he chuckled. “Long story short, I had a heart attack; my left heart imploded; my kidneys 114. Waterways 2023

went sideways during surgery to place this LVAD to take over pumping my blood.” Oisín half-unzipped his silver-grey shoulder bag containing batteries and a controller connected to a pump below his heart via a quarter inch silicone sheathed power and data cable passing through his abdomen. “Transplant screeners told me they couldn’t do double organ transplants because there were too few donors in this region.” Oisín forced a stupid grin he immediately regretted because he was not looking for pity, but rather someone to talk to. Joan looked at him with an expression of sympathy and mild disappointment. “So, why don’t you go sit down, I’ll make coffee and call you when it’s ready.” He moved to a storefront stool. With her back to him, Lily Jo prepared coffee, a solemn, timeconsuming morning ritual at the Java Shoppe. She swayed, her hips going one way, her shoulders the other, the hem of her silky dress brushing the smooth backs of her knees. He caught himself staring, twitched his head and picked up a book from the storefront coffee table, a serious-looking tome of his own short stories published two decades earlier. “Oceans of Loam and Ice” it was called, though he couldn’t immediately remember the table of contents. It wasn’t an imposingly fat book, but a hard back complete with a frayed dustcover, a postage-stamp black and white portrait of him on the back taken outside a North Shore cabin on this fiftieth birthday twenty years earlier. God, I look so fucking healthy, he chuckled to himself. Oisín had known the coffee shop owners from the years he’d spent as chairman of the town’s economic development commission. They were devout, born-again Christian couple named Kim and Larry, who took out an economic development loan to start the Java Shoppe after the great flood of 2007. Oisín took unusual solace knowing that neither Kim nor Larry had read any of his donated reading materials, his books and issues of his literary magazine, because there were fucks and shits and goddamn sonsofbitches or worse at least once somewhere between every cover, hidden cockroaches riding in a shipment of Walmart toilet paper. His award-

winning covers had not been banned at the Java Shoppe, even after they were removed from the high school and public libraries once the head of the city library board, Heidi Carlson, took the time to read them. “Mr. Ocean!” Lily Jo barked a few minutes later. Oisín pushed up his glasses and as fast as he could got off the bench. He felt momentarily dizzy, steadied himself a second, and took a few weightless, wobbly steps to reach the end of the counter, which he promptly grabbed. “For heaven’s sake,” she scolded him pleasantly. “When are you going to stop calling me Joan?” “You’re not Joan?” Oisín replied. “I’m Lily Jo, Mr. Ocean.” Oisín ignored what he considered to be a childish pout verging on insouciance. “You go by Jo though, correct?” “No, sugar pills. I go by Lily Jo.” She dipped onto her left elbow, her neck craning toward the blackboard, and pulled up the collar of her wildly colorful dress to expose the back of her left shoulder, a small tattoo woven-in among warren of tats slathering her left arm. It was a lily of the valley, green leaves, small ivory bells, their flairs crimped, dangling from slender green hooks, so perfect in detail Oisín could almost smell the tiny flowers. “Lily Jo,” she repeated. Oisín nodded, a little embarrassed by Lily Jo’s lack of inhibition and view of her vertebrae. “Lilies of the valley were my father’s favorite,” he confessed, “I think because of their intoxicating smell.” “Intoxicating? They do smell pretty, but I’m more addicted to the smell of coffee brewing.” Oisín looked into her eyes for a clue to Lily Jo’s charm. “Well then, pet, my name is Mr. O’Toole. Tommy Oisín Patrick O’Toole.” “Oh. Well, I think Ocean is an unusual middle name though, isn’t it?” “My middle name, which is the name I’ve gone by for fifty years or so since I studied one semester in Dublin in college, is Oisín.” He spelled it out and wrote it out on Lily Jo’s note pad, diacritical and all: “O i s í n. It’s Irish. My

namesake was the greatest Irish poet in antiquity. Yeats wrote about him an apt epigraph for me: You who are bent, and bald, and blind, With a heavy heart and a wandering mind, Have known three centuries, poets sing, Of dalliance with a demon thing. “Oh my gosh,” gasped Lily Jo, her eyes expressing the surprise of someone who’s tasted hot sauce on eggs for the first time. “I know what dalliance means.” “Me too, Lily Jo. Oh, that’s a much prettier name than Joan.” “So did you? Dally with a demon thing?” “I don’t remember exactly, but when I landed, I turned three hundred years old in a last gasp, doomed to carry my dead young man’s heart in a bag.” Lily Jo looked into Oisín’s eyes, rubbed the back of his shoulder with one hand, like nurses often did, and squeezed the old man’s bruised left hand with her other. “But you’re still here.” Oisín smiled with the joy of a dying man. He liked Lily Jo and did not try to hide it. The Java Shoppe closed every Monday, so the following Tuesday, Oisín stopped for coffee at his usual time, midmorning. Lily Jo was not there. She wasn’t there on Wednesday either. Thursday morning, Kim, the owner, took Oisín’s coffee order. “What happened to the new girl?” he asked, quickly correcting himself, “the young woman, Lily Jo.” “She left to seek fortune, fame, and forgiveness, I guess,” Kim flippantly replied. Kim’s daughter Marcy mashed sandwiches in a waffle press. “Mom, she said she had to leave to go find her place in the world.” Kim turned her back to the counter. “Whatever. She quit and now we’re short-handed again.” Oisín waited for his coffee. Wearing a frock and a white bib apron, Marcy brought over Oisín’s coffee after delivering a breakfast sandwich to another patron. “Here you go, Oisín. Careful, it’s mighty hot.” “Thank you, Marcy.”

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“Lily Jo has lots of problems,” Marcy whispered, pointing at her forehead.” “Mental?” Marcy nodded Yes. “More medical than mental.” “I saw she wears a medical alert bracelet.” “She was born with holes in her heart.” “No. Wow.” “She seems pretty normal now; I mean I know she’s sick; she’s really smart.” Marcy’s mother Kim chimed in, “I’m sorry, but she’s a heartsick dummy as far as I’m concerned.” “I’m sorry too.” Oisín started for the door then turned back. “She’s from here, though?” Marcy whispered again, “She went to middle school here then started high school at Rochester Mayo but came back and finished her senior year in town; we graduated in the same class. She lived off-and-on with her father who’s the middle school principal, Marlen Casper. Mr. Casper’s married to Jami Dahl, Jami Casper now. Lily Jo doesn’t get along with her stepmom, which is why all the moving, plus her heart. She goes to Mayo Clinic for that. But then she got pregnant by the senior class prom king, Freyr Bjarne, and went back to live with her real mom in Rochester right after graduation before moving up to the Cities to go to the U.” “Lily Jo went to the U, and she has a baby?” Marcy’s eyes widened then shrank to fiendish dots. “Neuuu. That’s why she moved away. My mom says she’s going through a living hell of her own doing. That’s probably true, but nobody’s perfect. She’s got a bad heart and no baby. I feel sorry for Lily Jo. I pray for her all the time.” “You think she went to find herself up in the Cities?” “Who knows? Personally, I think Lily Jo just wants to get away from everything, especially this town and the state of Minnesota. Can’t really blame her.” Oisín felt uncomfortable talking about Lily Jo in her absence. “Imagine that,” he said. “Well, have a wonderful day, Marcy. Kim.” Thomas Oisín Patrick O’Toole moved to the southeast corner of Minnesota bordered by Iowa 116. Waterways 2023

and the Mississippi River after moving from suburbs of Northern Virginia two decades earlier. He, his wife Florence, and his dogs chose to start their lives over in a small rural town dwarfed by bluffs carpeted with hardwood forests, cattle paddocks, and vast agricultural fields. A bucolic landscape indeed—two large, underpopulated counties cleaved by broad, storybook valleys and dark rivers prone to flash flooding. Swift trout stream seams stitched an undulating quilt of corn and soybean fields rimmed by ice age limestone carved when glaciers melted before the gigantic ice sheets were able to grind them down like the rest of the prairies and great plains. The Driftless Area, enigmatic karst, underground rivers and bat caves, provided nearendless sensory inspiration for Oisín’s prose and poetry. Isolated farm towns, the irrepressibly insular, homogeneously white populations, however, inspired his desire to document the slow, steady decline of the rural Upper Midwest, its residents trapped caustically between its colonial past and an uncertain future. Not two centuries earlier, Dakota Sioux in the Driftless and throughout Minnesota were violently banished to reservations and their lands settled by European pioneers. Oisín had encountered tribes in the remote heart of Africa faced with the exact same historical dilemma imposed by colonial militias. What he experienced when he arrived from inside the Beltway left him curious but empty inside. Socially isolated in rural Minnesota despite two decades of community engagement elsewhere, for the first time in his life Oisín felt unwelcome. The question he had asked of Marcy, “Is she– Lily Jo–is she from here?” was loaded with leaden intent. Oisín quickly learned that he was not from “here” despite being born and raised in the Midwest. A man running the asphalt crew that paved Oisín’s long driveway, said to him, “When I was eating lunch down at the Norsk Café a guy told me that you were in the second tower of the World Trade Center when it got hit. I mean, man, oh-fucking man. What was that like anyway if you don’t mind me asking?” Oisín had heard similar fabulous rumors of his origin before, but never the World Trade Center fabrication. He and his wife Florence had

transplanted themselves from North Arlington, Virginia, fifteen months before 9/11. They both left careers in international development and disaster assistance to start over in a town of 1,500 residents. Florence and Oisín interested townsfolk because they were new, and not “from here,” but what interested everyone even more was the dilapidated, once majestic 150-year-old house they had bought and immediately started refurbishing. Locals figured the mysterious city slickers from out east were idiots for buying the Arendahl House. Behind his back they laughed at him and gossiped. Having not received the memo that he was an idiot, Oisín set to removing Arborvitae that surrounded and eventually swallowed the house. Folks passing the Arendahl House every day on the highway still known fondly as “Arendahl Avenue,” unanimously agreed that the place looked better once the trees were down. Oisín and Florence reconstructed the exterior of that old house starting with the 1856 limestone foundation, laid up without mortar, ending with the roof, by hand, by themselves, the aforementioned asphalt crew being one of very few contractors with large machines invited to their project. Never once did Oisín set foot in the old Norsk Café, knowing he simply lacked the stamina required to take an uninvited seat at the infamous, sixteen chair Table of Wisdom and speak plain English for more than a grunt or two. Florence, who grew up in a small Iowa town of 500 residents told him he was being a snob. Oisín did not disagree. He was the first to admit he was a snob. “Artists are always snobs. They have to be. Style and voice and taste are all about snobbery,” he liked to point out. To satisfy he need to articulate his peculiar situation of being secretly watched while publicly ignored, Oisín began writing features for the weekly county newspaper. He started a blog covering rural politics and rural economy hoping that the focus on his adopted region would distract him from writing drab fiction that sounded like a debrief report of his years in Africa and inside the Washington Beltway.

In the summer of 2007, after eighteen inches of rain fell one Saturday in August, Oisín’s adopted town of Rush Creek flooded. That fateful evening, the local volunteer fire department and public works posted spotters on the bridges and levee berms ringing the center of town comprised of low-lying business and residential neighborhoods. Flood-watchers stood vigil in the drizzle watching the swollen Root River that ran to the south of city limits, as well Rush Creek, a popular trout stream that cut through the center of town on its way to dump into the river just east. Fearing the larger Root River might breach the levee, public workers closed the gates, which allowed small floods to rise inside the levee in holding ponds. Around 2 a.m., the Rush Creek suddenly rose, breached the levee system, and filled the town like a bathtub. With the flood relief gates closed against the river, floodwaters just kept rising until 90 downtown businesses and 350 residential structures were inundated. Well before the sun came up, Oisín slipped on his five-buckle concrete boots and waded past police lines with a camera and press pass on a lanyard around his neck. He went straight to City Hall, which happened to sit above the flood on a knoll so that only the basement suffered damage. He spoke briefly to the Mayor and the County Sheriff, who led the command post. He assured them that he was going to explore the flooded areas. “Promise I’ll be careful.” The mayor started to object, but the Sheriff, whom Oisín had interviewed for other stories, said, “Go ahead. Keep out of trouble, ok?” When a deputy from one of the adjacent counties spotted Oisín taking photos of damaged homes from the northside bridge over the creek that had caused the flood, the deputy raced up in a brown cruiser, slammed on the brakes for maximum effect, and hopped out of the car red in the face and madder’n the dickens. “Whaddadahell you think you’re doing?” Oisín flashed his press ID and took a picture, with flash, of the deputy. “Taking pictures,” he said smartly.

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“Well, you just take your pictures and march on down the highway north and don’t come back this way.” “I’m a reporter. The Sheriff knows I’m out here. He said it was ok.” “I don’t care who okayed it. You don’t belong out here.” The deputy pointed north. “Now I said get moving.” Oisín pointed southwest. “I live over past City Hall on 33.” “Well, that’s just tough shit, sir. I said move it!” Oisín clenched his teeth, tensed his arms and torso, and started walking. The deputy rolled past on the way back to the northside checkpoint. Oisín sprinted down the first side street to the east past muck covered tennis courts into a hardhit neighborhood that sprawled along the levee where a veritable tidal wave had come over. The air was thick with the smell of lawn fertilizer and gasoline. Many of buildings teetered off their foundations; some of the older block and stone foundations had completely collapsed. A couple of natural gas fires burned. One house had exploded, windows shattered black and smouldering with a sick blue-green glow. Streets had buckled. Mud-covered cars sat in water up to their door handles. In the distance, where water rose highest on low-lying streets, rescue teams in canoes and flat boats moved methodically from house-to-house using spotlights to search for stranded inhabitants. A couple of blocks south, a rescue crew had torn a hole in the roof of an assisted living apartment building and were still in the process of rescuing residents, hoisting them onto the shingles and down into a DNR fan boat. Despite the poor lighting, Oisín captured everything he could on film instead of trying to scribble notes; notes he kept in his head. About the time he was ready to hike back City Hall—since he’d talked himself out of wading over his boot tops into the lowest areas of the neighborhood—the same damn deputy who chastised him on the northside bridge came racing down the street, engine roaring, lights flashing, throwing mud in his wake. Oisín quickly slogged into water up to his knees, soaking his shoes, wetting the hem of his shorts; he pulled himself onto a porch deck keeled over on the back of a dirty blue house slung cockeyed on its 118. Waterways 2023

broken block foundation. Through the patio door in back, he spotted a young girl of maybe 8 or 9 sitting on a breakfast counter, knees pulled tight to her chin, a potted plant at her bare feet. Water inside the tilted kitchen covered the stove. Their eyes made contact in the cloudy predawn grey of disaster. “Help,” she whispered. Oisín wrestled open the patio door warped by the havoc of the flood. “Are you hurt?” he whispered, because the girl had whispered. “No.” “Is anyone else with you?” “No.” “It’s ok,” he said. “I’ve got you now.” Oisín lifted the girl off the counter and carried her outside where the angry deputy waited, a look of bewilderment stitched to his face. “Can you take this girl to the shelter, deputy?” Oisín asked. “You bet cha,” he replied, scrambling to open the backdoor. Oisín waded out of the murky house with the girl in his arms, hers wound tightly around his shoulders, her cheek against his ear. When he tried to set her in the sheriff’s cruiser, she clung on. “Can you take me?” she whispered. “My stepmom didn’t come home last night.” “Where’s your father?” Oisín whispered. “I don’t know.” Oisín looked into the deputy’s suddenly sad blue eyes. “Hop in,” said the deputy, his voice betraying no anger. “I’ll run you both to the shelter. Not safe around here.” The deputy whispered to Oisín, “When she’s settled in, you can come back out to take more pictures in the daylight. Be a lot safer for you.” In 2010, Oisín was elected president of the local Economic Development Authority, flush to overflowing with flood reconstruction and new business funding. To Oisín, after years of isolation, the new friendships on the EDA and in the business community—unfulfilling but genuine—seemed a major social breakthrough so long as he kept his expectations simple and low. Saying hello on the street. Being called by and addressing residents by name. First names. Sharing moments of laughter. Gossiping.

Gossip came naturally to the journalist and interviewer, who understood its importance as a communication tool. People joining in a discussion of someone who was not present to endorse or refute the storytelling about them revealed more about the gossipers than it did the gossipees. Oisín began to feel he understood the town, the language, and the people who had gossiped so much about him before they had even met him. Pretty soon, Oisín was pulled in a hundred different directions. His writing suddenly took off, and not just the journalism that gave him a pretext to interview governors, senators and representatives, presidential hopefuls, government leaders, business leaders, local leaders from all over the state, as well as hundreds of ordinary people who always populated his stories, but his fiction as well. He sold a short story after a long dry spell, and his poems were suddenly being accepted by literary magazines. Then a publisher accepted Oisín’s third novel-length manuscript, “Neuf Paroles Triste.” The book sold poorly, but that didn’t slow down the growth of his local celebrity. Oisín, journalist, author, man with the mysterious past, became the subject of stories, interviews, photo shoots, television, and YouTube videos. Just ahead of the tenth anniversary of the great 2007 flood, Oisín woke one hot July morning with a monster inside his chest. He survived a massive myocardial infarction that morning, but he lived and-died through another half-dozen aftershocks the following week whenever his heart stopped dead and he had to be revived with countershocks. Cardiologists at Mayo clinic implanted a pacemaker. When that didn’t stop his minutes-long visits to the edge of the sensory black abyss where time stood still, cardiologists implanted a defibrillator. The defibrillator preempted knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door, but it did not, could not, replace his left ventricle, which had been too long deprived of oxygen during the initial cardiac mugging. His kidneys failed. He was dying, and off-the-shelf heart transplants don’t often happen. His only choice—besides, his surgeon joked humourlessly, calling the funeral home and

ordering a casket—was a heart assist device known as an LVAD, an internal pump to push blood through Oisín’s blown-out left ventricle and out into the aorta and the rest of the body. Oisín didn’t know how exactly they began, the time loops that twisted Mobius-like through the surgical procedure and induced coma and months that followed, but he attributed the odyssey of his imagination to the suggestion of anesthesia. After sixty days, Oisín was discharged, his LVAD gear in a shoulder harness that looked like a suicide vest. He used a walker and moved slowly. Florence drove home while he looked out the window at the summer he’d lost, the fields along I-90 East going brown, the beans and corn. He wondered if his dogs Floyd and Sabina would remember him. He cried involuntarily, something that began the day he heard a children’s choir moving along the hall in Mary Brigh singing songs. It reminded him of Africa. He missed Africa. He told himself, as soon as he was well enough, he would go back to Africa again, and he cried involuntarily, knowing he’d never go back to Africa, or a hundred other places he’d lived and worked and visited. Over the winter, he led Floyd and Sabina along trails he’d once scampered and skied without ever once considering that he might never see the deep backwoods again. Sometimes, when he reached turnaround points, he stopped and sobbed for joy. He started writing poetry again for the first time in years. Snow, sleet, freezing rain, bitter wind and brutally cold temperatures did not daunt him. He hiked every day. Every day he wrote poetry, and more fiction. Every day he celebrated his achievements with beer or wine. Oisín, still not entirely convinced of life or death, was convinced, deeply, intellectually, that his life was a fiction—not untrue, as many naively believe fiction to be—a narrative, a story alive, a tale told and retold. He rented that little office in a downtown storefront sort of kitty-corner from the Java Shoppe, which of course is where he met grownup Lily Jo eleven years after he carried ten-yearold Joan from her mother’s flooded kitchen. Oisín started an elite, coveted and poor-selling literary press, and twice-a-year published, Spilt Blood, an award-winning literary journal. He resigned the EDA after seven years, and he and

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Florence sold their magnificent house, downsized, and transplanted again, this time to Winona, on the Mississippi River, home to two universities, a technical college, restaurants, movie theatres, a good job for Florence close to home, a literary culture Oisín fit comfortably into, an old brick storefront large enough to accommodate a small office and a large conference room for working with authors and hosting publishing and writing workshops. So, it turned out that ten years after he failed heart transplant screening, fifteen years after his book “Oceans of Loam and Ice” was published and sold tepidly, and eight years after Lily Jo abruptly quit her job at the Java Shoppe to “find her place in the world,” he noticed a patent leather black Tesla pull up in front of his office in old downtown Winona. A woman in a calflength cashmere sweater, and a boy, maybe seven years old, got out and walked into Oisín’s shop, cluttered with books and copies of his magazine by scores of authors he’d published. The woman and the boy didn’t acknowledge Oisín at first; they were drawn to the kiosks and book stands displaying Oisín’s wares. Finally, she looked at him, still young to the old man, but strangely mature, making her appear both familiar and painfully beautiful in his eyes. “Did you write any of these?” she asked. “One or two. But I publish a lot of literary authors and poets. Are you looking for anything in particular?” Oisín smiled at the boy. “I’m sorry but I don’t publish children’s books.” “Which ones are yours?” asked the wealthy woman. “I’ve already read “Oceans of Loam and Ice.” I liked it very much.” “You read it?” Oisín replied, mildly shocked. “I read some of the stories two or three times. I always knew you would be a good writer.” She pushed out her hand to shake his. An elaborate wild rose tattoo, pink with a golden center surrounded by green leaves covered her wrist and the back of her hand. You don’t remember me, do you? I’m Joan. Lily Jo. You rescued me from the great flood all those years ago.” “Lily Jo?” Oisín, pulled on the strap of his heart-in-a-bag hanging on a hook screwed into the wall behind his desk so that he could only half stand. I’ll be darned. Lily Jo.” He wanted to 120. Waterways 2023

unhook his bag to get up and hug her but just smiled, dumbfounded. “You know, when you worked at the Java Shoppe, I didn’t recognize you from the flood, but I knew there was something familiar about you. I made the connection after you disappeared—left. You look like you’re doing well. That wild rose is a lovely tattoo, Lily Jo. Perfect.” “It’s a dog rose,” Lily Jo smiled, confident, smothered in the artwork of her skin ink and colorful blouse under sweater; draped with jewelry: diamond bands and gold bracelets, pearls, and a simple medical alert pendant surrounded with rubies on a platinum chain around her long, sinewy neck. She traced the rose with a manicured finger, her nails enameled in red. “It was a gift from me to myself.” “What was the occasion?” “I got a new heart five years ago, Oisín.” Oisín wrestled with the sudden urge to cry and won. “My God, that’s fantastic,” he said, dryeyed. “So is this guy your son?” “Lily Jo grinned. “This is Brendan.” “Brendan?” “Yeah,” she beamed. “My prince.” Oisín took her hand in both of his and held it. “I think about you sometimes. I guess it’s because of the way we met back in Rush Creek flood.” “Like in your story ‘Sea of Ice,’ the woman on an island garden surrounded by nothing but water.” “You really have read Oceans,” Oisín beamed, still fighting the urge to break down and bawl like a baby. “Would you like to sit? Brendan, can I get you a bottle of water? There’s Kit Kats over there on the table.” The boy shook his head No, fixated by all the book covers. Lily Jo took a chair. “I have to get going, but I’ve driven past here a hundred times and keep telling myself I need to stop and see you—” “—about books.” “Yes, about books. I read a lot. You understand, I bet. When you spend weeks in the hospital, months in rehab, you have plenty of time to read.” “A new heart. Oh, I’m so happy for you.”

“Thank you. How is your VAD?” Lily Jo glanced at the teardrop bag hooked to the wall. Oisín had lived so long with his heart-in-a-bag that he often forgot about the precarious and onerous equipment; about how fragile he was with barely half a natural heart, dependent on dozens of pills daily; dependent on electricity, the heavy batteries in his bag during the day, a long extension cord connected to a transformer at night. He never quite slept well, never quite woke from looping dreams. He drew a deep breath. “Still walking the back trails with my dog Floyd, but he’s getting old. Sabina died, oh boy, five years ago already. Dogs live such short lives. I think it’s some kind of karmic punishment for being a human, the bond with a creature that dies and returns as another dog, and another dog, love and death.” He stopped himself, grinned weakly and said, “Sorry. I ramble anymore when I talk, like I’m forever writing a first draft.” “Do you remember,” Lili Jo asked in a very studious voice, “writing these lines? What’s light is dark, dark is light. Hot is cold and what’s cold is hot. What’s right is wrong, wrong is right. What isn’t is and what was is not.”? “They’re from Oceans; that I know for certain. Help me. What was the story again?” “‘Sea of Ice,’” Lily Jo laughed, proud to have stumped the auteur. “It’s the last story in the book; the one where spacetime is an infinitely wide Mobius Strip; and the woman in the story is born from the ocean, and when she has a spontaneous pregnancy, she spontaneously terminates it. Time twists her life so that she’s on the underside of where she was moments before, ‘where what isn’t is and what was is not.’ She tries and tries but she can’t have any more children which means she can’t find love—the sea of ice—but she has her garden; every beautiful rose and lily is a child, just as every word in your story embodies a lifeforce. The oceans rise and sea ice covers the land, except the island where her garden grows. She is the garden. She is her own mother and her own child. I love that story, because I feel I am she, that you have somehow created me again and again in words. Ideas and images.”

Oisín couldn’t take his eyes off Lily Jo when a dark wraith descended from the ceiling and slowly enveloped him in a shroud woven from time and imagination. “It’s not too late for me to rewrite the ending, Lily Jo. Or the beginning.” “Which is this?” she asked, devoutly compliant. “I think this is the end.” “I don’t want it to end,” he replied, his eyes occluded with tears. “You are me as much as you are she. Don’t go, Lily Jo. My dear child, words cannot describe how I am going to miss you when the curtain falls. Where is your son? Where is Brendan?” “I don’t have a son, Oisín. Brendan is our father and our mother; Brendan is you reborn and dead again.” Forever etched on the surface of space disconnected from the time that held him there: a sack of vital organs overtaken by cankerous tissue and blood vessels: the loop of time—Oisín nodded and said, “I’m not afraid, but I don’t want you to go, Lily Jo.” The room grew darker and colder. Lily Jo squeezed Oisín’s hand and rubbed the back of his shoulder. “I am not here, Ocean” she whispered. “You are not here.” The warmth of her flesh against his. “I am inside of you.” Brendan Sullivan left his body at the exact moment he’d stopped marking up the stories in his new collection, “Thermotropic Liquid Crystal,” fiction he’d painstakingly crafted and revised over the first cold, dark winter with an LVAD, constant suffocation and drowning from end-stage heart failure. He put down his fortyyear-old Rotring drafting pencil, pushed himself up out of his worn-out arts-and-craft style oak recliner, and watched from a corner of the room, near the ceiling, in front of the cold air return above his chair, as his physical body wobbled upon its ankles, feet bent aside under his shins, useless. Sullivan’s time loop snapped. He vanished for a heartbeat and reappeared, his body now ten feet away from the foot of the recliner, the pages of his precious unfinished manuscript scattered around the living room darkened by fall. He watched his physical body stumble drunkenly against a large flat screen TV perched on a

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pedestal beside an oak bookshelf, and implode downward into an old lap blanket, the flat screen TV and a spray of hard stitched spines and brittle dust jackets on top of him. His pajama bottoms were soaked with piss when he woke up again, this time twenty-five feet away in the kitchen hall near the back stairs. His LVAD batteries, controller and wires spilt like guts from his suicide vest, splayed open, vulnerable. The critical driveline anchor glued to his abdomen was yanked off from the force of falling; the site, the hole in his abdomen where the driveline pierced his flesh and snaked up inside him to the pump attached to his heart oozed blood. The constant pressure of his LVAD pump caused an internal GI bleed, a gusher from a pinhole. Brendan bled out. He had no blood pressure, no hemoglobin. His intestines filled with blood. His heart was for all practical purposes empty. He was dying again or already dead. Somehow, he managed to crawl on his stomach within reach of his cell phone lying beside the recliner where his death had begun. He dropped his head to the carpet and took a

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moment of looping reflection to consider the opportunity before him to put an end to the cycle of life and fiction, time and desire, fulfilment and unhappiness, by simply lying there on the carpet that smelled like wet dogs and a dying man and go to sleep. Suddenly Brendan wracked his eyes upward at the opaque underside of the Mobius Strip, certain that he would not die. He chose to fight for his life. Then he called 911. TOM DRISCOLL is an Army veteran, returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and former design officer for the United States Agency for International Development, He has a degree in English from the University of Iowa, and studied in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Author of fiction, poetry, plays, and journalism, including “Bleu: Selected Poems 1967 – 1998,” and “Ondine & the Blue Troll.” A collection of short stories, “Footnote to Doggerel,” will be released in October 2023. He is the Managing editor of Shipwreckt Books Publishing Company and Lost Lake Folk Opera literary magazine. He and his wife, Beth Stanford, live within spitting distance of the Mississippi River in Winona, Minnesota.

Lost Lake Folk Opera v 8 n1 123.

124. Waterways 2023

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126. Waterways 2023

Lost Lake Folk Opera Shipwreckt Books Publishing Company

Contributors Robert Leo Heilman Kemuel DeMoville Larry Gavin Liz Minette Jim Johnson Danny Burdett Justin Watkins Mara Adamitz Scrupe R. P. Singletary Brad Gottschalk Emilio De Grazia John Zedolik Robert Wooten R.D. Saporita Al Causey Robert Love James Ross Kelly Lee Gundersheimer Becky Bolling Jed Nelson Mona M. Miller Lee Henschel Jr. James Armstrong Robert Gorelick Ken McCullough Louis Martinelli Myles Weber Tom Driscoll


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