Quest of the Elusive Shoebill by Robert Sassor
A Root and A Branch by Heather Miles
The Geographic Poems Of Travis Macdonald
Volume 5 Issue 1
Featuring the Poetry of John Grey, Robin Chapman, Cory Collins, Kristin Berger, Kristin Berger, Jessica Van de Kemp, Susan Bruce, Milton Bates, Karina Lutz, Julia McCarthy, Timothy McLaughlin, Zachary Hester, Sheila Boneham, Travis Macdonald, ZoĂŤ Mason, James Grabill, James Dott, Michael Salcman , and Francis Daulerio. Also featuring Melu by Amy Wright and selections from Crow Feathers, Red Ochre, Green Tea by Gwendolyn Morgan, Wild Life by Jamie K. Reaser, and Searching for What is Not There and Martin Willitts Jr..
Volume 5 Issue 1 Summer Solstice
Contents Quest of the Elusive Shoebill by Robert Sassor
The The The The The The The The The The The
11 12 13 14 16 17 18 21 22 25 26
Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry
of of of of of of of of of of of
John Grey Robin Chapman Cory Collins Kristin Berger Jessica Van de Kemp Susan Bruce Milton Bates Karina Lutz Julia McCarthy Timothy P. McLaughlin Zachary Hester
Melu by Amy Wright
A Root and A Branch by Heather Miles
The Poetry of Sheila Boneham The Geographic Poems Of Travis Macdonald The Poetry of Zoë Mason A Prose Poem by James Grabill The Poetry of Francis Daulerio The Poetry of Jim Dott
42 45 48 50 51 51
A Look at Crow Feathers, Red Ochre, Green Tea by Gwendolyn Morgan
A Look at Searching for What is Not There by Martin Willitts Jr
A Look at Wild Life by Jamie K. Reaser
New Wasichu, Crossing A Book Review
The Poetry of Michael Salcman Contributor Biographies
Written River is a literary journal published by Hiraeth Press which focuses on poetry and non-fiction prose exploring nature and our relationship to it. Published biannually in digital format, we strive to encourage the discipline of eco-poetics and return the voice of the poet to the body of the Earth. Eco-poetics is poetry in which the energy of the ecosystem flows through the poem, creating a written river of words which ebbs with the creativity of the entire Earth community. Written River marks the confluence of many streams and many voices as they flow back into the nourishing ground of the watershed. Co-Founder, Editor, and Designer Jason Kirkey Co-Founder, Editor, and Designer L.M. Browning Associate Editor J. Kay MacCormack Written River is published by Hiraeth Press. Poetry is the language of the Earth — not just poems but the slow flap of a heron’s wings across the sky, the lightning of its beak hunting in the shallow water; autumn leaves and the smooth course of water over stones and gravel. These, as much as poems, communicate the being and meaning of things. Our publications are all poetry, whether they are poems or nonfiction, and reflect the ideal that falling in love with the Earth is nothing short of revolutionary and that through our relationship to wild nature we can birth a more enlightened vision of life for the future. We are pas sionate about poetry as a means of returning the human voice to the polyphonic chorus of the wild. We publish a range of poetry and nonfiction dedicated to exploring our relationship with the earth. Our titles reflect our mission to participate in the re-creation of our culture in full par ticipation with the earth community. Our nonfiction titles represent a diversity of perspectives on the topic of ecology, spirituality, and place-based literature. Each of our poetry collections, in their own way, ask “what use are poets in times of need?” answering in voices of rivers and stones. Our books are food: come browse our collection and nourish yourself. Cover Image: © photo by Mykola Swarnyk (Flickr) Photo Left: © photo by Andrea Petrosillo (Flickr)
ÂŠ Frank Kovalchek (Creative Commons)
Quest of the Elusive Shoebill
ÂŠ pelican (Flickr Creative Commons)
by Robert Sassor
oving to western Tanzania from a siren-rich metropolis of the U.S., one of the first things I noticed was the difference in the sounds of sunrise. In Tanzania, the rhapsody begins with birdsong: a pre-dawn duet of Tropical Boubous, which sounds like one bird’s song, but in fact is a pair’s gapless duet. Bocage’s Akalat and Green-winged Pytilia chat, and before long, a neighbor’s rooster joins the chorus. After the first movement, a soloist: the Islamic call to prayer is carried on diurnal winds that, as it crescendos, shakes the leaves in the trees: “Make haste towards prayer; prayer is better than sleep.” So, too, is birding. I am a gumshoe birder. Tanzania, however, has a way of initiating birders. When I saw a Southern Groundhornbill hop onto a Land Cruiser and strike at its windshield with enough thrust that I feared it would crack the window, I realized that East Africa’s avifauna are in a class of their own. The paragon of their birdlife is the Shoebill, a pre-historic looking bird that is so oddly constructed that I am reminded of Douglas Adams’ explanation of another odd species: seemingly “assembled from bits of other animals.” The Shoebill is tall—up to 5 feet—with long, strong legs and plumage that dabbles with shades of gray. A crest helps to aesthetically balance the creature’s, the creature’s eponymous feature: it’s “horn-colored” bill that is shaped like a wooden shoe
(hence its name) or the head of a baleen whale, hence its scientific classification: Balaeniceps rex. I first encountered this species in a murky image on a Tanzania National Parks calendar in a poorly lit storeroom. I stepped closer, trying to understand the image before me. The Shoebill became my nature grail: the symbol of nature’s profound grace and originality. To believe that they existed, I would need to see one for myself. When my friend Dale invited two friends and me to spend a weekend with him in the Moyowasi wetland of western Tanzania, one of the remotest wetlands in East Africa, I needed no incentive beyond the chance to spend a couple of days in the bush. Having already lived in western Tanzania for more than two years, I realized that this might be my best chance to spot a Shoebill. Shoebills are notoriously reclusive, so much so that their common name is the Elusive Shoebill. Their preferred habitat happens to be one of the least likely places to find people: permanent swamps and flooded marshes from southern Sudan through Zambia. Shoebills are particularly fond of undisturbed habitat; rampant human-ignited wildfires consistently push them deeper into the impenetrable hearts of swamps. Due to the difficulty of pursuing them, their existence borders on the mythical.
“It is hard to describe
the cognitive dissonance
of stepping into a landscape
that looks like solid vegetation but that undulates
beneath your feet.
The bull rushes rippled around our every step,
my foot plunging inconsistent
depths into the cold water below.”
Its hide was streaked with white droppings from the raptors that had feasted there. The limbs were strewn among the reeds; skin that once flanked a powerful hind leg was filled with a shallow pool of rufous-colored water. I loathe that we live in a society that values the desecration of such creatures to make trinkets and jewelry. I wanted to show these remains to every woman who wears an ivory necklace, and to every man who covets an ivory-handled dagger. Our society’s ability to mentally detach its choices from their environmental impacts was epitomized by the deflated elephant at my feet. We returned somberly to our craft. That evening, we continued our exploration on foot, penetrating a still landscape— save for the flies—and enwrapped in the peacefulness that permeates both outside and within after a long, hot day in the bush. I was determined that on the following day, we would find a Shoebill. Due to the nature of the Shoebill’s habitat, we needed to venture further from camp. Early the next morning, Dale drove us to the perimeter of a marsh where he had seen Shoebills in the past. From there, we continued on foot. It is hard to describe the cognitive dissonance of stepping into a landscape that looks like solid vegetation but that undulates beneath your feet. The bull rushes rippled around our
© Milestoned (Flickr Creative Commons)
Dale and our friends, Gena and Lucía, humored and embraced my goal. We would search for the authentic, the rare and the wild: we would quest for the Shoebill. We arrived at camp midday, and Dale welcomed us with a boat trip along a river that feeds the famed Malagarasi, passing vegetation that shifted from a grassland-woodland mosaic to tall papyrus beds on either side. We were on the edge of a swamp, and the papyrus was too tall to be suitable for a Shoebill, whose 8-foot wingspan requires open areas within a swamp; other winged creatures, however, abounded. We slowed to observe the area’s more popular birds: the African Spoonbill, African Fish Eagle, Madagascar Bee-eater and the Purple-crested Turaco in all its resplendent glory among them. We passed a small herd of elephants, whose dark skin, bearing the craqaluere of an ancient painting, seemed poorly camouflaged against the tawny-green landscape, particularly in a time when its key rival—humans—rarely suffer colorblindness. I later came to regret this observation. As the boat glided across the river, we encountered a stench of decay that hung on the water like a fog. We pulled the boat into the reeds, which stood taller than our heads, and set off on foot to find at the source of the fetor the gruesome remains of a behemoth.
every step, my foot plunging inconsistent depths into the cold water below. Dale and Lucía mounted a small patch of earth, and spotted in the distance a stork-like bird. Would we achieve our grail so early? We stalked closer and found that it was a Saddle-billed Stork, magnificent in its own right, with a vibrant yellow “saddle” on its long red and black bill. The area around the wetland had recently been burned, and Dale speculated that the disturbance may have pushed Shoebills further into the swamp. To continue our journey, we took a canoe, and embarked along a channel just wide enough for the vessel. Wide enough, yes, but deep enough, no. We took turns in pairs, removing our socks and shoes, and powering the canoe by hand through the swamp. Reeds cut at my feet, and the cool mud soothed them. We were up to our thighs in mud and water, venturing into the heart of the swamp—a landscape whose very name joins the Kiswahili words for heart (“moyo”) and troubled (“wasi”)—but none of us considered returning. The heat of the day had only just begun, and so had we. Eventually, we could paddle through, and approached a throng of birds—storks, ibises, egrets, a Squacco Heron and more. We attempted motionlessness as groups of birds rose in sine waves above the water and rested again, only to ultimately fly off; others paid no heed at all. Being surrounded by an assembly of such graceful creatures was reward enough alone. But nearby, Dale whispered: “A Shoebill!” The Shoebill was at the edge of a clearing, and we were in full view. We disembarked the canoe to hide behind reeds, taking turns viewing the bird with binoculars. The ineffable was made real. The Shoebill was faraway, but unmistakable. As Barry Lopez wrote after witnessing a narwhal, “…a story too farfetched, had been verified at a glance.” So too did I marvel when faced with the reality of this unlikely creature. Then the Shoebill outstretched its prodigious wings to fly low to an adjacent clearing. We attempted to follow on foot, but we are not designed for the swamp. We turned at times into quadrupeds, laughing as we slowly succumbed to the mud, falling backward, sideways, always downward. The Shoebill flew off further still. Our quest had already been realized. We were among the lucky few. Birders prize Shoebills not only because they are unique— being a “monotypic” family, which is to say that they have no
close relatives—but also because they are rare. The IUCN lists the Shoebill as threatened and vulnerable, and cites a 2002 population estimate of 5,000-8,000 individuals, the trend for which is declining. BirdLife International reports that some of the greatest threats to Shoebills is the drainage of its habitat for agricultural or other purposes, and the degradation of remaining habitat, such as through burning. The direct persecution of Shoebills, including capture for the live bird trade, is particularly problematic for small, isolated populations of the species. While pursuing the Shoebill, we had the opportunity to observe both the species and its threats. The elephant carcass we witnessed was evidence of the direct persecution of preferred species in a vast landscape that is difficult and costly to patrol. We also saw evidence of the fires that, under certain conditions, burn uncontrolled across the landscape, destroying habitat and nesting sites along the way. Pastoralists ignite some of those fires to manage the land for their cattle, and to rid an area of pests like tics, tsetse flies and snakes. So too do hunting guides ignite fires to clear an area for the benefit of the global hunting elite. Early burning is among the suite of strategies being employed in certain areas to reduce the environmental damage from wildfires. More dynamic strategies are needed to meet the needs of increasing populations of people who, according to one climate change projection for Tanzania, will be subject to more severe weather extremes, including drought. We live in an imperfect world, where the value of preferred species is often measured by its worth alive in the wild versus the price of its parts. Ecotourism does not guarantee conservation action, but it does signal to decision-makers that there are financial arguments for protecting a species and its habitat. For those who will be traveling in East Africa and who want to include a Shoebill quest in their experience, Uganda is a logical place for undertaking the search. One-eighth of Uganda is wetland, and ecotourism of avifauna, including the Shoebill, is established there. Take a copy of Stevenson and Fanshawe’s Birds of East Africa, which is an indispensible guide. Brief glimpses of sublime natural phenomena are enriching and transformative; they are worthy grails. Our experience that day also signaled a superior challenge: to save these magnificent species and the sites they inhabit by better balancing the needs of people with the rest of the natural world. That is the quest that endures. 9
10 ÂŠ photo by S. Rossi (Flickr Creative Commons)
Foothills at Dusk
The Question Of My Survival
by John Grey
by John Grey
Advance but stilly, before you, blossoms border with butterflies., webs and beetles, swallows, eternal, circulate the mountain ash. Above, different distance: vesper-pure, night broaching. embroidered clouds extend, fashioned for sky's raiment, in its fastness, in your breath, as gods lie at the heart of the high silence. Bend over into trembling paths where nerves dangle, nibbled by brisk wakening of an ancient kind, of early fall, golden warmth of purple berry, that rings the bell-wind, so deeply golden only spiders startle. Fog up from lake, unshakeable, gray reflection, where titans endure, and through the mist, the cool gray-yellow you, you, veiled, but still you.
The cube is no wilderness and the computer screen can conjure up the image of a Minnesota forest at dawn but doesn't know it from a sale at Walmart, so it's up to me to remember deer nibbling, fox trotting, bobcat slinking silently between the grass and light. This office is the engine so they tell me, though I prefer the brain with its heart somewhere devouring the dank water fruits with moose, or crawling from a groundhog's hole or high in an old oak jack-hammering woodpecker holes. A guy thinks he's making a living but the real living is elsewhere. I see a black bear, head bent, sipping at the stream, follow a wolverine track, watch fishers cavort in splashy shallows. One paycheck comes. It's never enough. Another soars with the hawk, romps with the swallows. I lie on my back on the soft, giving, earth...pay-dirt.
A Warm Wind
Raven calling overhead, red squirrel rushing from tree to tree in the lodgepole woods, light finding a line of snowbank here and here, brightening a strip of bark, reaching into our winter lives— this morning the sun cast pink light onto the mountaintops as the moon, past full, set behind their glow—and we tuned again to the world's cycle, finding the natural rhythm of our day.
is melting the layers of snow and the young mule deer is foraging mouthfuls of windfalls— branchlets re-emerge in the shrinking crust that an earlier Chinook shook from the pines— how the layers of time accumulate, condense, become common ground before they slip under the next snowfall.
© photo by mypubliclands on Flickr (creative Commons)
by Robin Chapman
by Robin Chapman
Blue Caribou by Cory Collins
Iron-antlered in the sun, hewing west and right into fog, clamouring onto mud flats and kicking up dust; rearing in a way that should be impossible: jackal-headed, open throated, mad. Is it deaf? Snow blind? It drops on tableland of ice and dirt, scares away the birds with gnashing of its flat, flat teeth. Snuffing itself out, almost, paper cutting its own throat with jagged panting, ragged from the hail. But he gets up and up again, spouting breath against the sky. Did Native Islanders ride you? Bow down, buffalo and bear, to the one who breathes again.
The Gulf of Bothnia by Cory Collins
has ninety islands, or around two hundred depending on the tides. They clip and start each other with a jaggedness thatâ€™s wild, almost angry if you can believe that of the land. Villages and woods dab their shadows, the awnings darkly sailing up the water, in midnight shores by Helluland and Ro. Gulls are sugaring their beaks with bread, stealing sheep feed and almonds from the trees. One will nearly break its wing swarming kestrel bays, flamingo coves, and other inlets with invasive, hungry birds. But the ninety islands have an order, the kind that stills itself in day, and makes the waves unwind and hew. The gulls, shadows, woods and waves are tapering themselves, pruning stark parts of island into fiefs of shale; eroding, eating sea stacks and almond roots, recalling Easter Island as they all submit to sea.
Viewshed – Hwy 18, Lincoln City to Portland by Kristin Berger
Above saturated fields taking on more rain without muddy complaint, kestrels mount wooden T’s, so close to their prey— A rainbow extinguished itself in a clear cut. But that was thirty miles back, and now the child cries at the rolled-up window: Correctional facility, glassed-in airplanes, billboards that begin to repeat and all the stop-lights breaking us down home is house next to house, and our yard is so small— Gone is the dream-blue ocean rising above a disheveled forest. How can water be higher than the sky? Her mind hovers over drowned furrows, fans pink air: Looming shadow, she hones in on that settled mud— the startled frog, some bones to snatch back to the nest.
Rising Sea Levels by Kristin Berger
I. Geese survey the salt marsh at dusk for a perch to view both partner and predator clearly: a tenderly-built, temporary home. Orion and the moon lean into off-shore haystacks and everywhere makes room for the whispered spring tide. Even mudflats, drinking air and pulsing, anticipate the first kiss.
How cliché to fall helplessly for off-course bird. They disappear the minute you brag of their presence, dare someone to disprove your theories. Light never judges the surface of things; we all give albedo-heat, body to body, one wave swamped by its twin at sundown. We re-charted the map just by noticing, then skirted the gold-drenched beach like restless dunes craving flight, by degrees.
II. All signs point which way to run in the event of a wave determined to erase the spit. Two choices— one, a narrow bridge arching over the Nestucca flush with steelhead and idling dories; or, a cliff fringed with licorice ferns and daffodils, neither a good hand-hold but impossible not to grasp at. Or, the mute third: Stand in the feral wrack line along with what the world has shed— baby shoes, gull bones and lure, tatted yards of the minute and foreign, and face whatever comes, however small it first appears on the horizon.
IV. Waves plait their argyle retreat and fog diminishes land in one gesture; a boardwalk slips under a blanket of sand while the party house remains alive and lit— We pocket desire like so many whorls of jasper murmuring in the jetty’s arms between tides—a sweet, abiding swell neither taken in wholly, nor released. As long as geese navigate with courage in the night, nothing as common as love will become extinct, here, under the bluing, sheltering pines.
III. How light reaches us, we will never know. The bird startled us out of our tidy lives into the sharp wind—a whimbrel and an apron of devoted sandpipers, its belly a burnished crescent above glissading suds of rime... 15
by Jessica Van de Kemp Every sore eye watching for the blanket of sweet-vetch: the sun an old tree stump, the birds calling in a new language. (I think the shooting red is a cardinal.) The houses like rocks in the desert, dusting over faces, occasionally rolling into one another and denting expression. Sometimes there is water, but never enough to fill the lakes. It's a wonder our skin isn't a sweet flower, powered by the sun, a stimulant for the solar system. Even our shadows take the shape of young roots collected in summer, hot and woody, inedible. What I watch for is showy pods in gravel bars, red blooms, a lone cardinal singing to a stump in the woods. My heart, my courage, the dead words firing at the great blue. The sky opening, fumbling for a rock to stop the flow. My house lifting into the clouds like a mountain. A smoke the cardinal traps in his throat and the full sound of water. I too trade rock.
by Jessica Van de Kemp And the seeds parachute and the butterflies, showy clusters of red-purple splitting fire. The night is open, disturbed, burned, in perfect condition for hundreds of flying embers, for the honey poultice on its sores and its swellings. I can see nothing from the house but flying tinder and the spark of rose lightning in the open field. The crick boils into ale, the field bathed in perfumed stem pith. And I bargain with the night for another bottle, a fire or two so we can rebuild. The bud clusters surround, the windows gape, the red-purple tufts burn violent and gentle the nightstand. I hide you in the rock garden with the gems and all the other burning elements.
Layers Of Sea by Susan Bruce
Stones protrude like nostalgia unhinged and herbal. There is no deliberate arrangement in the wanting. We disagree over who sits where each dedicated to a single storm.
inattentive and rambling within waterâ€™s garden the fathoming and.
Atlantic Daily by Susan Bruce
Born a lunatic the blithely wave esses toward shore & near the end grabs up a surfer girl, who rides the shoulder to her mama clapping, & the wave returns upon itself backwash unconscious.
ÂŠ photo by milan.boers on Flickr (Creative Commons)
Never having met anotherâ€™s imagination my breath presses against the neurology
by Milton Bates
ÂŠ photo by Nicholas_T on Flickr (Crative Commons)
All night the white pines swayed like saints in ecstasy, convulsed by pentecostal visitations of the spirit.
Beneath our spindly rafters and too-thin shingles we tossed in sympathy, our sleep disturbed by dreams of giant pines collapsing, exhausted, on our bed. Restless, I rose before daylight and found the trees intact, serene, steadfast as the cedars of Lebanon. Among their branches, still shifting slightly, the stars flicked on and off.
Backwasting by Milton Bates
is what geologists call it when a glacier stalls and begins to spend the moisture it collected from the air, the rubble it scavenged from the land. Inching backward like a beast obedient to an unseen master, it unfurls a tongue of ice-melt, milky with powdered rock. The tongue grows long and clear, becomes a river like the one that carries our canoe. We notice what the first water had to get around or over: a grassy mound that was once a load of glacial till, boulders brought from far away, alien as meteorites in this meadow. Where an oxbow signals an intricate ancient maneuver the river seems to stop, baffled
by something it has yet to solve. We step ashore to view the blockage, a floating junkyard of soccer balls, broken furniture, cushions with tattered vinyl skin. How these castoffs hold the eye, random as the objects in a painting by Magritte or DalĂ. They declare the thinginess of things no longer subject to human need or desire. The river, though, is less a river here, choked with refugees. We drag our boat across the oxbow and paddle on, escapees likewise from an upstream city, wasting back.
ÂŠ Andreas Overland Flickr Creative Commons
In Lightning by Karina Lutz
In the hills the sky is not so distant. The clouds roll low. On a foggy day we may stand in them, a world of light surrounding above and below. Sometimes the thunderclouds, too, dip so close the lightning is not a jagged line but a space… soft and slow, a pause of light, while the thunder starts its rumble almost before the dark falls again, as it does, so fully, all moon-, star-, twilight snuffed by the moving clouds when lightning ends; then darkfall pauses—light suspends— and crashes back down. (In the hills, it’s this darkfall seems harsh, not the shock of bright light as in the lowlands.) We should be afraid, but we’re not, the fat rain its own thunder and solace. As we turn our bodies in the dark, we orient to a new part of the landscape to be illuminated, to be imprinted, and carry on in the dark as the ursine clouds lumber away.
Concentric by Karina Lutz
"The self is made of nonself elements." —Thich Nhat Hanh Our river mouth is midnight still, an estuary between tides. Drizzle seeps into mist. Striding the midline of the dock to the end, each creak, each step, each sway moves the cry inside from ‘may I love and be loved’ to ‘I love— I am love—’ At the end of the dock, standing still, see the emergence of slow ripples, expanding, something like our self at the center.
ÂŠ Daniel Wehner Flickr Creative Commons
Spring Equinox by Julia McCarthy
The earth is slowly peeling its white gloves off you can see them lying in the woods as though dropped by winterâ€™s dog as he follows his master across the sky fingers of earth showing through pointing.
The Prescience of Spring by Julia McCarthy
Late in the year’s day and the sky sags light turns its back to the world focuses on inner things fading in fading out like a thought barely caught or the memory of summer’s riot flowers bleeding out and weeds protesting our sense of order our small war with burdock I’m surrounded by the earth’s introversion the sky slowly drained grass returning to its deeper self flowers leaving their bodies to science deer-ticks walking on their grass stilts like blood-bulbs waiting for their last bloom in the orchard the earth is churned by Dionysian deer paradise consumed a bit of Eden in the entrails late afternoon autumn in camouflage as I walk across leaves the colour of small fires like burial rafts on the ground’s sea I remember the prescience of spring buds and shoots the birth of grief in all things born and gone I walk chaperoned by trees joined at the root Siamese forest beneath my feet *
dusk metastasizes blurring the particular figure and ground sighing adjusting my view it’s a quiet death an ordinary passing as the day excarnates here in the forest’s hospice where I sit below eons in the form of a great spruce axis mundi burls weeping resin and know this is the tree I would rest against in death as some tribes did long ago so that the tree in growth embraced the dead one’s bones above me a hawk sits in the darkroom of himself waiting for a mouse to develop as I wait for the stilling to emerge from the monosyllabic heart of solitude. 23
ÂŠ Roy Niswanger Flickr Creative Commons
No matter how often you appear before me, perched solid in the branches or flown above—weightless and open-armed—my body is newly jolted into joy
To walk free along a high ridgeline, to plunge into the smooth skin of sea, to lie still on a fresh pallet of green needles, to stretch my heart over the long strobes of dawn light:
each time. I’m unprepared, my hair in tangles, my house scattered about; I have no table set, no offering in hand. Yet you let me drop everything, stop utterly, while
this is what this body was formed for, this is the pure prayer of pleasure that the Earth sings into my simple and simpling ears.
the currents of my other life rush by, their weak pull revealed and shamed. With each succeeding visit, you stay on a tad longer. Our noble affair heats up and pulls me out
Why would I choose anything other? The mountain is never closed shut. The waters are not too busy burdened. The trees will not refuse me. And the Sun reaches into my window each morning.
by Timothy P. McLaughlin
of a stale swirl of thought as self, lures me back into my sinewed limbs, my bony teeth, my claw-like ends. I feel blessed, for certain, and what’s more, I sense
by Timothy P. McLaughlin
my need of you, how necessary are these friendships beyond the common alliances, how you may have traveled a long while for this reunion, heard my callings:
I stand and expand, feel his warmth cup my face, let my flesh enjoy its essential truth. Give the body water and it gives back thanks, Give it air and it breathes back grace. Give it that sun fire, that fresh forging, it will slough off the worn cells and bake the new self:
desperate or exalted. And now, you’ve come so close, I feel permitted to somehow flow into you, to put on the sleekness of feathered shoulders,
a pot, a bowl, a cup to hold a drop of blessing, given or found, and gifted back to Earth’s wide, warm lap.
the sharpness of telescope eyes, to know the sudden grace of lift-off—a salt pebble cast from curling sea spray— to savor the rush of cool liquid air threaded and latticed upon my skin. In such a perfect spell, my whole self is rinsed through and wrung out, hung on the line and flapping: spent and contented.
Eulogy for Wapiti by Zachary Hester |wa·piti| Shawnee, literally “white rump” Shank blood-maroon the kind of coloring New Year moons paint the ground in, shadows of the wildness of spirit. It is January; Colorado snow flays in the only honest primary red. Two policemen have just discharged automatic shotgun shells into the exhaling hide of an elk. How true, that definitions will fly into meaninglessness when the spirit of a wild thing coughs finally up upon itself: wa·piti, Shawnee, White Rump, what a hopeful trophy they have made in holy apocrypha of your namesake, blasphemers, tame savagery of men who haunt for music in the dominion of all wild hymns. I will try to imagine you as you were, in your life in your inhalations, in all the spiritual revelry a world had once shown you, how mating in your bugle call you gave our pure wild ancestors music, taught them the flute, burned wholly into them the posturing of courtship— In that position, there in the snow still, Wapiti you are framed in the ilk of moon and will forever be, balancing yourself between two worlds: one, our crude notion of the gross physical where you lie in cold snow, trembling into the dead breathless courtship of inevitably. The other, forever floating by the only yet-explored vestibule, a hallway of apparitions eternally dancing to the music of your kind, forever courting the holy om.
by Amy Wright Melu n. from the Old English for meal, a coarse, unsifted powder ground from nuts, seeds or any substance resembling this, not to be confused with melee, a struggle, especially a hand-to-hand fight among several people, a fracas—not a mess, any number of humans who meal together. *** The most severe extinction event ever known occurred during the Permian-Triassic period two hundred fifty two million years ago. More catastrophic than the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction sixty five million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs, the “Great Dying,” is the only known mass extinction of insects, making prior fossil records for ancient species like darkling beetles that originated 300 million or more years ago rare finds. *** In their minilivestock bin of oats, yellow mealworms form an alphabet soup of letters, spelling out an S, an I, a F. They crawl over each other writing. One lifts its head to form a three dimensional P. Henry David Thoreau’s “Simplify!” can be made out in tawny curls, although the message differs, since we who have taken to air are ridden less by rails than by greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater pollution, overtaxed livestock industries. Letters morph into pictograms, cuneiform. They cross latinate barriers, scrawl body language, prophesy patterns like tea leaves, their fawn tails purling question marks. *** “Within that pinpoint of a brain,” Taoist-text translator Stephen Mitchell asks, could a butterfly dream Chuang-tzu, who woke from the most famous dream in history?1 Do these larvae have an inkling of the transformation that awaits them? And if they do dream of the darkling beetles they will become, can they better prepare than by filling their crops with the most foodstuff available? Complete metamorphosis being the follow-through of their lives, the last stop on the train they boarded at birth, they are not trying to pack light. *** Due to socio-economic progress in Asia and the Pacific, the number of undernourished people decreased nearly thirty percent in the last three years.2 Latin America and the Caribbean also made strides, falling from sixty-five million hungry in the early nineties to forty-nine million by 2010.3 These numbers are encouraging but tempered by a rise of hunger in developed regions, which increased by three million from 2006 to 2012, reversing a steady decrease in previous years.4 Decline and redistribution are happening, the Food and Agriculture Organization says, but the numbers remain unacceptable, with one in eight people living globally with inadequate nourishment. 5 *** 1 Mitchell, Stephen, ed. The Second Book of the Tao. New York: Penguin Group, 2009, p. 19 2 World Hunger Education Service. “2013 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics,” Hunger Notes. 28 October 2013. Web 3 Ibid., p. 11-14 4 Food and Agriculture Organization, “The State of Food Insecurity in the World,” Rome: Economic and Social Development Department of the United Nations, 2012, p. 11-14. 5 Ibid. p. 8. 27
The online World Population Clock ticks faster than a second hand. While I write this sentence, it clicks from 7,119, 381, 578 to 7,119,381,749. 6 *** In May 2013, the United Nations released a report entitled, Edible Insects: Future prospects for food and feed security. Written to answer the livestock demand for the expected population growth of nine or ten pillion people by 2050, the report suggests the large-scale cultivation of various arthropods—including ants, crickets, cicadas, dragonflies, mealworms, ants, and caterpillars—to improve bio-waste management, conserve freshwater and agricultural land use, produce more ecological livestock feed, and augment protein supplies for humans. *** The demand for meat is rising disproportionate to the population, because it is not merely the number of humans on the rise but also the corresponding amount of meat they are consuming. The largest current demand comes from the United States, with 265 lbs averaged per person annually. Europe follows at 166 lbs. The low 20 lbs consumed by developing nations has risen to 44 lbs in recent years, as they shrink the gap with developed nations. 7 *** The expected 73% increase in the demand for meat has scientists such as Dutch biologist Mark Post culturing cattle stem cells in petri dishes. Post says they grow the tissue in a doughnut-shaped ring, with cells placed around a mound of “nutrient gel.” 8 *** Mileu n. the physical or social setting in which people live or in which something happens or develops. Origin French from mi + lieu. *** August 5, 2013, taste-testers in London declare the $330,000 lab-grown hamburger’s flavor to be “close to meat.” An Austrian food researcher notes it is “not that juicy” compared to standard burgers, but Chicago-based journalist Josh Schonwald reasons its dryness is due to a lower fat content than traditional beef. 9 Scientist-turned-chef, Post explains that bread crumb binders, salt, and egg powder supplement the textural consistency or “mouth appeal,” while saffron and beet juice augment color.10 Currently the product is too expensive for commercial purposes, but many anticipate technology will soon advance to make mass-marketing possible. Atlantic Monthly writer, Alexis Madrigal, compiles a chart of predictions that beef—as well as lab-grown sausage, poultry, and lamb—could be commercially available with current funding anywhere from 2020 to 2035. 11 *** In the Cherokee origin myth, the world began as water. Crowded animals were all waiting “beyond the arch” when they sent Dâyuní si, a water beetle, to determine what lay below the ocean surface. The cosmogonic beetle dove to the bottom and returned with some soft mud, which grew and spread on every side, becoming the island known as earth. 12 6 United States Census Bureau. World Population Clock. 30 October 2013. Web 7 Dicke, Marcel, “Why Not Eat Insects?” TedTalk 2010. Web. 8 Reuters, “Scientists to cook world’s first in-vitro beef burger.” August 2, 2013. Web 9 Internet Travel Network, “Taste test: World’s first hamburger revealed in London.” Youtube video published 5 August 2013. Web 10 Reuters, “Scientists to cook world’s first in-vitro beef burger.” 2 August 2013. Web 11 Madrigal, Alexis, “Chart: When Will We Eat Hamburgers Grown in Test Tubes?” Atlantic Monthly. 6 August 2013 Web. 12 Mooney, James, Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. Nashville: Charles and Randy Elder-Booksellers Publishers, 1982. p. 239. 28
*** Ela or elo n. Cherokee word for earth. *** Though the images that have come to many of us are of Native American hunters, mounted on horseback and roaming the plains in search of buffalo, there were many agrarian Village Indians who developed bottomlands into garden plots. While tribes like the Cheyenne, Dakota, and Comanche re-presented freedom in westerns and were favored in history books, few romanticized the Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara for their complex agricultural legacies. But these tribes sustained themselves on the same land year after year by developing sustainable practices, recorded in a rare anthropological preservation of a woman’s account of tribal life in the mid 1800s, Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians. *** The blue and white ears I am grinding into cornmeal for corn mealworm bread are from a sacred heirloom seed called White Eagle, entrusted by a Cherokee descendant to my friend Don, an organic farmer. After harvest Don set aside a bag for the local tribe as he does every year, and this season offered a few ears to me. Lacking a recipe for blue corn cornbread, I turn to Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden13 as well as to several cookbooks, including American Indian Cooking and Herb Lore, which has a recipe for the delicacy Yellowjacket Soup. Though traditional Cherokee ground corn under mortar and pestle, coffee grinders are more common today. I use a turbo blender to pulp the hard kernels plucked from the cobs. “It doesn’t get any more whole grain than this,” I tell my mother, calling to ask if she uses flour in her recipe since several suggest a blend. I want this bread to crumble moist into a bowl of beans the way her corn muffins do. *** Se-lu n. the Cherokee word for corn, named for Selu, the Corn-mother, or First Woman, the spirit who protects the harvest. *** According to myth, Selu lived on Pilot Knob with her husband and two sons. The first boy was born in the traditional sense, of their union, but the second was pulled from the river.In´ăge-utăsû’nh(He-who-grew-up-wild) was spawn from the blood of game Selu washed in the water. The wild brother influences his brother to wonder where Selu gets the basket of corn she brings back to feed them daily. To satisfy their curiosity, the boys follow her to the cabin storehouse where they see corn falling from her rubbed belly and filling the basket at her feet.14 Myths vary here. The boys either grow frightened of Selu’s power afterward and kill her, or she dies because they uncovered her secret. Either way, Selu dies, putting an end to their Edenic days of easy abundance. From her blood sacrifice springs corn stalks, though they must be worked from the ground and replanted every year from saved seeds.15 *** The plastic mealy bin opens like a room that has been enclosed with sleep, though they do not sleep. Lights on or off, dusk or two a.m., the mini-barn aerates like shore sand. Their all-consuming appetites drive them to get on with it. Now is the time for eating. Later will be breeding time, after they have become what they anticipate fueling their bodies for change. 13 Wilson, Gilbert, Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987, p. 148.
14 Ibid., p. 244 15 Ibid. p. 245
Pupae are the quiescent ones, mummies preparing for metamorphosis. Larvae live it up like lovers in the Magnetic Fields’ song who claim: “There’ll be time enough for sleeping when we’re dead.” They glide past each other rumpling their sheets of oats, casting off molts as if they can’t get naked enough. An anti-serpent in the garden, Mitchell says of Chuang-tzu’s transformative dream, tempts you not to bite into the tree of knowledge but of life. Cleared of tossed bedding, the bin corners teem with small pyramids of bronze entwined bodies that, unlike cattle, pigs, chicken, and some humans, thrive in crowded conditions. *** When Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act forced the relocation of more than 16,000 Cherokee during the severe winter of 1838-1839, the nation had to squeeze onto smaller territories of land. One of the provisions the Cherokee brought with them during the Trail of Tears was White Eagle corn. Named for the white vein that appears on certain blue kernels, this breed is streaked with what appears to be outstretched wings of an eagle in flight. Finding the figure on a number of the kernels I was given, I imagine the comfort that totem would have provided, following them like the moon. How gemlike these kernels would become in the face of 4,000 deaths due to illness and hunger. I turn the talonscratched sapphires in the light and they starburst like moonstones. *** Mealys jump on kale leaves like Frost’s swingers of birches. Acrobats and contortionists, they jungle-gym collard spines. A working circus, they spin oats into gold protein at the rate of approximately one gram per gram ingested, as opposed to the seven to nine grams lost by cattle, unwieldy performers whose hooves can’t reach the same pedals. Efficient, low carbon converters, yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) contain 14-25 g of protein (per 100 g,) compared to 16-19 g. in tilapia, and 13-27 g. in shrimp. Also, their Omega-3 and six fatty acid proportions are similar to fish, while their iron, copper, zinc, selenium, and potassium content correspond to beef. *** For the first batch, I do not grind the measured cup of frozen and rinsed mealys with the corn kernels, but leave them whole, since they may be eaten in their entirety—unlike bananas, oranges, crustaceans, fish, etc. The second batch I grind in the blender. While their two-centimeter bodies jut at varying angles from the first loaves, the ground batch is the clear winner. After the iron skillet cools on the countertop for the requisite minutes, I flip the pan and pop a crusty loaf onto a wire rack. Blue corn kernels fleck the bread like blueberry fragments. These triangles have a natural grain sweetness. Any taste or textural evidence that the meal is enriched with ento-protein, vitamin B12 and essential linoleic acids is undetectable, except that it satiates my appetite longer than a bowl of pintos with plain cornbread. *** “Of silk-sack clouds! Has wilder, willful-waiver Meal-drift molded ever and melted across skies?” Gerard Manley Hopkins sings in Hurrahing in Harvest. *** The World Population Clock now reads 7, 120, 067, 908...921...933. ***
Mealys rarely pause, but when one does, it rests full-length against a slice of potato the way a fevered child might press a cheek to a cool tile floor. It nuzzles into a hammock of lettuce leaf like a father napping after mowing the lawn. It clings to my finger when I lift the bin to sift out frass, allowing me to honor Thoreau’s invective to “keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”16 *** Scientists remain conflicted about what caused the most catastrophic extinction event recorded. Theories involve an asteroid, climate change, and carbon dioxide build-up. What is known is 96% of all marine life and 70% of terrestrial vertebrates were lost and recovery took much longer than any previous extinction, up to ten million years. *** Blind seekers who follow their noses, mealys rear up, sniffing a celery. They troop forward, toothless androgynes, occasionally pausing to nose each other, Tiresias meeting Tiresias “throbbing between two lives....Like a taxi throbbing waiting”17 Coated with oat dust, they slip flour-faced and frictionless between trap doors in the grain.
photo by © net_efekt on Flickr (Creative Commons)
16 Thoreau, Henry David. Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910, p. 101. 17 Eliot, T.S. The Wasteland. London: Liveright Classics, 2013, p. 188.
ÂŠ Gordon Robertson Flickr Creative Commons
A Root and A Branch by
attended my first protest when I was six. “Mr. Pulp Mill, don’t be a fink! Please don’t make our playground stink!” Side by side, brother and sister, defending our home. Not the structure of our house. Not houses down the road or on the next ridge, but a school ten miles away and the forested hillside it called its neighbor. No official document made it ours. No feelings of ownership or dominance would have pervaded our young minds if the entire mountain were deeded to us two, alone. It was its own entity, part of the place we called home, nonetheless. Our two snow-white heads were miniature versions of the caps still clinging to the mountain from winter. Two round sets of crystal blue eyes too big for the faces upon which they were set grew watery from the wind. But even the chill of crispy air couldn't cloud the reflection in our baby blues of trees towering overhead. Trees and earth that protected us, that now needed us to protect them. Our petite six and sevenyear-old frames were dwarfed by our hand-me-down coats, our voices were meek. But the shadow cascading down from the crowd behind us, with mom at the helm, created confidence. “Mr. Pulp Mill, don’t be a fink! Please don’t make our playground stink!” Belting our protest again, twenty five strong, clear voices rang in unison with ours. A third time, another thirty joined the chant—determined. What is a fink, anyway? Does it matter? Must one have mastery of the English language to experience that which it
represents? To understand the slimy, scandalous, stingy corporate greed slated against the fate of a vulnerable people, a voiceless land? Must one be educated in Biology and Ecology to appreciate the world for what it is? To embrace the source of life, and all forms of it, for that matter? To recognize the value of a mountain, a tree, not as it benefits mankind, but as it simply, is? It seems so easy when you’re six. Not everyone in Appalachia is a coal miner’s daughter. *** Side by side, brother and sister growing, playing, adventuring. Summers spent spot-lighting, swimming, fishing in creeks; naive to what coal slurry contaminants might plague our sunlit splashes. Unaware of anything that might lay beyond the hills of our narrow vision. The same hillsides where flickering lightening bugs matched the stars in number—and the stars, themselves, were multiplied by thousands, magnified by a sky whose true depth becomes detectable only where there are no city lights to mask its magnificence. We immersed ourselves in the innocence, the beauty, the excitement, the danger of a West Virginia childhood. From training-wheels to four-wheelers and dirt-bikes in one swift season; a few seasons too soon by city-folk standards. There were hours spent hiking through patches of poison ivy and learning to identify it. “Leaves of three, let ‘em be.” Bringing small snakes and lizards and terrapin turtles home to play pet store. Heath constantly presenting Mom with critters pulled from his pockets. Building playhouses—and losing a tooth over an immature fight for the only available hammer. Seconds later, the playhouse is eclipsed by wonderings of what mom will say. And worse, to wondering how the Tooth-Fairy will know to leave a dollar if this precious white pebble remains lost forever in the unmowed grass, absent from beneath the pillow. We played rough. We played hard. We played freely. The itches, the stitches, the broken bones—small prices to pay. True children of the hills. *** Suddenly—serious stigmas. The plight of the Appalachian youth.
I'm not sure when or how, but at some point, the freedom, the bliss, the smiles, the pride dissolved, at least for me, dissipating into the murky waters of the Atlantic. We spent a week at Myrtle Beach every summer, we're from West Virginia, remember. Maybe it's the salty ocean air that draws us in, so different from the cool atmosphere of the trees and valleys. Suffocating and refreshing, they both are, in their own ways. Maybe it's the furthest from home we dare adventure. Or, maybe it's the limit placed on travel options by the blue-collar wallet. Whatever the case, there remained something so seductive about the ocean—it's apparent infinity, perhaps. Maybe I'll live here, someday, I found myself thinking... Until these youthful, romantic thoughts were interrupted by the inevitable, "Where yall from?" Isn't that the first question all fourteen-year-old boys ask thirteen-year-old girls when they cross paths along the surf? My brother, nowhere to be found, was absorbed in his fascination, obsession with searching, tirelessly seeking shark's teeth—a pastime to which some of us can only commit one back-breaking hour, compared to his eight. But, why should he bother himself with people he would never meet again, whose presence had no real effect on his being? Why should he stray from the pleasure he found in coming to know the secrets of this sandy shore? The pleasure in examining centuries old fossils of the earth's most mysterious swimming predator? If he was missing out by not mingling, he sure didn't know it. No worries for me, though, for I'd found a kindred spirit in cousin Ashley. One week of every year we were inseparable. She, too, was curious. She, too, believed people from exotic lands like Atlanta and DC must be so interesting, so much more exciting than us. Her own land of Roanoke, Virginia, felt exotic enough to me. It was a big city, after all. There were three movie theaters within ten minutes of each other and a 7-11 she could walk to. Distance was measured by city-blocks. I always wondered how many blocks make a mile. "Where yall from?" Our newfound friends would ask. Her, "Virginia," was never answered with ridicule or disdain. "Cool, what part" and "Oh yeah, I went to Richmond once," set the standard. Nothing like the ridiculous rants that ragged on my answer to this simple question. Nothing could have prepared me for the first "Oh, do you fuck your brother" or "Wow, but you have teeth?" jabs that came in response to my quiet "West Virginia."
Where do people come up with these things? Surely I must be missing something? Why does it seem that I'm the target of a cruel inside joke that everyone gets but me? Maybe they're the ones who are confused? But time after time, people from Boston to Burbank, New Orleans to New York, Chicago to Charlotte, anywhere and everywhere, all shivered and scowled at the thought of my home state. Confusion gave way to pain and frustration and eventually shame. An anxiety in the anticipation of these encounters, that had started to feel like confrontations, settled in the form of a deep-pitted stomach ache, solicited by the thought of this most uncomfortable question. "Where yall from?" they would say. As the crimson crept up my neck and into my cheeks I could only ever control the conversation by responding, "What kind of music do you like?" How long will my diversions last, I'd wonder. What else can I do to avoid the discomfort? "Where yall from?" they'd inquire again, as their sun kissed faces searched ours for any sign of a connection, and I searched myself for an answer that wouldn't scare them away. Finally, I figured it out. Silence. If I wait. Long enough. Ashley answers, "Virginia..." Stay still. Let them assume she answers for us both. *** West Virginians, we were told, are toothless, incestuous, backward hillbillies. Rednecks. Uncultured, uncivilized, unintelligible hicks, they called us. You talk funny, you have no money, you smoke, you chew, you spit and you're slow. Bombarding us with bullshit, the bullies of the world believe we’re dumb. Everything we’ve ever known is strange—to them—and so, so dreary. They can't see through the curtain, a black canvas, the offspring of coal, inconspicuously sifting through the breeze and slowly settling on unsuspecting neighbors like pollen collecting on a new car in spring. They've never seen the colors of the fall overcome the dark shadows, like the orange and red hues of soggy FrootLoops, boldly penetrating a milky-bowl's effort to cloud its beautiful autumn rainbow. No—your home is dirty, dingy, the epitome of trash, they spouted. Worthless. Most importantly, there’s nothing there, they said. Nothing there? Aren’t the wild, untamed mountains something? What about the white tail, the black bear, the copperheads and coyotes? The Pawpaw trees, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron? What about my best friend
Bethany? Mom, Dad, Mamaw, Papaw and Heath? What about them? What about me? What is the definition of nothing, anyway? If you call it nothing long enough, does it become nothing? Could they be right, I wondered? My brother never had to wonder. He knew. *** Side by side, brother and sister, dreams diverging. Like me, Heath spent his school-days in anticipation, a world of fantasy. Don't most teenagers tend to, at times, slip into a far-away gaze, a blank stare behind which their most intimate desires play like a romantic movie with the happiest, most predictable of endings; a movie with no loose-ends, where all hopes are fulfilled. What would the dreamers of those fantasies give to make them reality? Heath's dreams were no movie, they were his life. He simply longed for 3:00 when the school bell would release him to his sanctuary: the wild, wonderful woods where he felt warmth, peace and all the comforts of what we know as home. He roamed miles upon miles of thick, luscious mountainside; a place where worldly judgment is suspended, where nothing stands between a man's spirit and God's good earth but the duct-taped soles of his Rockies. The squirrels, the salamanders, turkeys, and trees don't see him as an outsider, for he is part of their world. And that world, to Heath, is perfection. Meanwhile, I dreamt of escape. The hillsides were becoming prison wallsâ€”stifling my growth, my potential, my life. Choking my confidence and closing doors that hadn't yet been opened. A sting of resentment crept into my consciousness. There was an entire planet of experience waiting for me to swim its treacherous seas, climb its highest peaks. Sky-scrapers and sidewalks; streetlights and city limits; history, art and architecture; sex, drugs and rock and roll, all enchanting me with the bewitching song of a Siren luring a lonely sailor. A song that felt muted by the madness of the ordinary. These songs, we bury them deep for as long as our itchy-feet permit. We ignore, second guess, deny, cry and conform... We do it for our parents, for the kids, for financial reasons, for fear, for the future, for the farm... Sometimes for forever. But, not me, I decided. I'm getting out. I don't belong here. *** I graduated high school at seventeen, one year after Heath. College was mandatory for our generation, or so we were
told. This was one of the few lies fed to Heath that he ever fully swallowed. He was not, however, inclined to participate in the full-fledged, on-campus, social constructs of the so-called college experience. He stayed Home and commuted to class strictly for the purpose of securing a career in wildlife biology; a field within which he could flourish without the hassle of suits, computers, offices and worst of all, people. Perhaps, someday, his unparalleled knowledge of the preferred prey of red-tailed hawks and the mating rituals of bobcats would yield him enough financial freedom to live as he pleased. Or maybe it would be his keen understanding of the seasons in which black snakes shed their skin and of how the film blurring their vision effects their personalities, or his ability to identify a coyote's howl as a challenge for dominance or a call to feed, that set my brother free. Heath's education was a means to an end that unfolded so clearly in his mind he could have picked it out of his own head and spread it across a countertop like dough for a pie-crust. As clear as a postcard picture of a West Virginia state park, displayed in detail for all the world to covet. He was happy here, completely content. How could that be? How could he be satisfied with this sheltered, naive, insignificant, seemingly shallow existence? How could he not have greater ambitions, a grander vision? Isn't he smart enough to know this ridge is but a tiny spec in an infinite universe? It doesn't even show up on most maps. People ten minutes away have never heard of Pliny. There are no stoplights or grocery store. Hell, there's barely a road with painted lines. Population six. More cows than people. How can this be enough for him? Enough for anyone? *** I'd never been further from home than Florida for a few short days when I first flew to Frankfurt. My eagerness to spend thousands of graduation dollars on an aimless, lonely trip to Europe baffled my brother. "You've never been in an airplane," he told me. "You don't even speak their language. What's in Germany anyway," he asked, knowing that any explanation I gave would not satiate his concerns. He never said I was selfish, he didn't have to. He may not have even thought it, but how could he not? To leave behind the comforts of everything I knew and everyone who loved me. To venture into the vast unknown of life as a vagabond, a tramp, a gypsy, a groupie, a hippie, a hipster; God forbid a hooker, a beggar, a fiend. Who knew what 35
might come of this madness? What would it do to my family, my home? Did I care? What person of sound mind, of reason, of logic, whimsically walks away from a world of such wonder in the name of wandering, he wanted to know. "Who wouldn't?" Blinded by the bold, ignorant force of a burning desire to find all that I'd never known, all that I'd been missing, I was on a mission, a walkabout, a journey for a place I fit in. A place that got me. The first day of forever is never disappointing, and as my feet left the solid ground they had been married to for seventeen years, I felt no trace of fear. As I climbed that rickety, metal, staircase onto the tiniest, most insignificant mechanical bird to ever take flight, the sound of my racing heart beating against my temples eclipsed the hum of the engine. As I settled into my fun-sized seat, my knee bounced to the rhythm of a hummingbird flapping its wings. It may have looked like nerves, but the butterflies in my belly were born of excitement. We climbed through the atmosphere rising above the monstrous mountains and I found freedom. For the first time since those spotlighting, lightening-bug catching summers that seemed so far away, I was floating, exactly where I wanted to be. In that moment, for one fleeting minute, the mountains below were a giant bowl of garden fresh broccoli. Had I ever known a scene of such serenity? Had the hills always hit the clouds at such heights? The mountains moved like waves over a stormy sea. The rivers and streams pulsed through the greenery like veins and arteries popping and throbbing against the temple of a steroid infused total body builder. Home looks so much different when you're looking down on it. * * *. Brother and sister and ridiculous reactions. In four frantic years, fraught with feverish anxiety, I moved no fewer than ten times, finding myself in the folds of North Carolina. The Tar-Heel State was fast and fun, for me, at first. But were it not for the framework established by semesters and the scholarship that forced my feet to find stability for what felt like centuries at a time, those moves would have increased ten-fold and by ten-thousand miles. Though Virginia alone separates the states of North Carolina and West Virginia, the distance, the difference, was definitive, for me. I had opened the door to the world. 36
I might as well have hoofed, hiked, clawed, climbed, battled, and bruised my way across the Blue Ridge range that forms the boundary between the chosen one, Virginia, and her step-sister, West Virginia. For it is the Blue Ridge peaks that keep others at bay, that keep insiders in and outsiders out. And I had overtaken them. In 2003, it was Germany. Frankfurt, Koln, Dusseldorf. It was the Rein, the Black Forest, the castles, the accents, the banana flavored beer, the Autobahn that planted the seed. Like a crack addict caught without a rock, I sacrificed anything and everything—food, friends, sleep and solace—for the chance to chase down another bucket-list favorite. The fruits of the fame and fortunate of foreign lands had infiltrated my veins as furiously as the junkie's first needle. It was a fever. In 2003, it was Germany. In 2004 it was Germany and Sweden and Norway. In 2005 it was England, and Scotland, and Holland, and Germany. And England. And Germany. Somewhere in between it was Philadelphia, DC and San Diego. Always it was High Point, then Greensboro, then High Point, my place of "permanent" residence. If you're not high, then what's the point? Not high on pot, not high on pills—though, at times, I was high on both—but high on a pointed search for you. *** Hasn't he heard all the same sneers, the same stereotypes and snide remarks as me? Has he not had the same ceiling capping his movement? A ceiling created by a community of poverty and complacency, camouflaged by a country's confused conception of a culture as a clan of dissidents. One might have said the stigmas simply rolled over his strong country-boy shoulders straight back into the abyss like a sound-wave radiating from a tree falling in a lonely forest. One could assume that he's calloused and immune—but one would be mistaken. How can callousness account for what looks like a blatant embrace of the very societal attitudes that taunted his sister? Heath's response to assumptions about Appalachians is to fuel the fire of the foe with the force of a quick-witted, often unprovoked, self-implicating humor. One such incident began when I brought a friend home from Philly to meet the family. Was he guilty of harboring hallucinations and associations of Deliverance in his head? Probably, even though Deliverance takes place in Georgia. Did he outwardly display any notions of superiority? Absolutely not—unless, of course, the contrast of his Chuck Taylors against Heath's steel-toes was some sort of intentional snobbery. Still, did Heath do everything in his power to cause
this innocent outsider the same discomfort they so often cast upon us? You bet. Perhaps surprisingly, despite his hesitance to welcome strangers, Heath knows how to work a crowd, if the crowd is on his turf with his friends and his old buddy, Bud Light. Bring a city-boy into the circle and the hillbilly twang, the country slang, is laid-on thick as he delivers his most famous of stories. Casually plucking a tic from his arm and flicking it to the concrete, he began, "Shit, at sucker's been nere all evenin'. Thought it was a mole. I hate 'em damn moles," he said, without so much as a smirk. "Member at time, Sis, when we was in the bathtub and I had at one mole bollerin' me?" he asked, with the seriousness of a new soldier saluting his sergeant. I braced myself for the potential mocking, likely humiliating that might follow. Despite the distance that time and state lines had placed between us, a little sister always knows her big brother. From a fury founded in the foul minds and foolish words of witless city-folk, stories of an unspeakable, unpredictable, scandalous, nauseating nature were often forged in the not-quitenormal mind of my prideful brother. Wherever he was headed, it wouldn't end well, for me. "It was right on the head of my pecker," he announced. Of course I had no recollection of this fictitious tall-tale, but his crowd was already enthralled. It's hard to interrupt a comedian on his stage, the Appalachian storyteller. It's hard dissuade a man on a mission to lie. Whether the rush of red blush that splashed across my face triggered truth or transgression, the locals knew. But my Philadelphia friend damn near fainted. "Yeah," Heath continued, "Member, you chewed it right offa there for me." Smoothly sipping his story-making juice, he maintained his serious stature with a grin hidden behind a bottle and an infectious laughter ensued. Where might I find a hole within which I can insert my head, I wondered. But the boisterous hee-haws billowing, echoing off the garage walls were building. My belly collected the bouncing cackles like kids catching lightening bugs in mason jars. Like the glow of the butts of those tiny bugs flickering inside the can, searching for escape, the contagions in my gut tried to break out. My control was fleeting and though I was far from pleased, the cramp in my belly from containing, constricting the urge to snicker and snort and shriek and convulse overtook my body. Nearly collapsing in the confusion, the chaos, the chuckles, the tears and the hoots, I committed to the hilarity of my brother's outrageous tall-tale.
Forty five minutes later when the walls finally quit trembling from the vibrations of ten redneck voices fully-engaged, Heath added yet another punch-line. "Oh, come on now y'all. It ain't that funny," he snickered. "We wasn't at old—maybe fifteen and sixteen." Members of the circle—myself included—erupted again with renewed vigor in our aching vocals. All save my friend from Philly. Clearly he felt confused, maybe even abused. Stuck on the outside of a close-knit—seemingly too-close— circle of cousins and uncles and brothers and one twisted family tree where the booze flow and the jokes grow from the roots of that tree that he can't identify. Heath's maniacal mole monologue ended there, but his sheepish grin spelled out for my Philadelphia friend the message that had gone unspoken: Who’s the joke on now mother fucker? Welcome to West by God Virginia. *** Homesick, that's the word. It took seven years to say it. Empty bottles of cheap bourbon said it for me, blanketing the dingy, vomit stained floors of a hundred different bachelor-pad-like apartments, hotels and hostels. An unmade bed, duffel bag closets, a refrigerator of condiments, beer, and nothing. A million thoughts, a trillion dreams, none willing to take shape or form. A silhouette of faceless desire. And me. Alone. So many people had popped into my life. Most had popped back out as quickly as corn popping on a stove-top. There were musicians and bartenders, and drug dealers and users, dancers, romancers, debutants and soldiers. They were good, bad, ugly and beautiful. There were one-night-stands and flings and lust. There was fun, there was definitely fun. There was spontaneity, suspense and living—living beyond the hills. There were landscapes and scenes of Middle-earth status, of mountains whose edges were sliced sharp by nature and water, not the nature of industry. Images of crimson cliffs and nude desert dunes made their mark upon my eyelids. People and places, the colors of the world. But not all colors are clean enough to turn truth. To turn it on itself, that is. So, for a time there was satisfaction in the sounds, the scenes of the world amidst the scenes of my own silent suffering. Scenes of a soul that doesn't know that it's lost. And, finally, I was encircled by nothing but a plethora of questions and a longing for what? Suddenly, the record that had played in my head for nearly a decade, sending me staggering through the universe, was dented and dinged, unwilling to play. And a sweet song of 37
Home, of a brother, a family, a land who knew me, streamed through mysterious speakers. Beckoning. The familiar strings of a banjo and a fiddle pulled on the strings of my heart, deciding for me the fate that I could not decide for myself. Home. *** Truth is relative, this we know. But when you've believed— known, as I had—something to be true for more years than you haven't, only time can transcend your stubborn convictions. My brother believes we are the lucky ones. Don't pity him for his sad Appalachian upbringing, for he pities you, and he always has. He will never know the hollow hell of not knowing, of becoming a grotesque, of losing sight and sound and all senses in search of a sense of self. He has always had his truth, and his sense. How unfortunate it must be, he thinks, to live life in an ivory tower of metal and erroneous prestige, trapped behind bars and beliefs made by man. Absent from your city walls that no tree has room to grow between, from within which no stars can ever be seen, is the bliss of truth. Unity. Freedom from conformity found only in the trees, the birds, the grass, the artistry of almost heaven, placed conveniently outside a front door thats always left unlocked. Life found and made in the comfort of belonging. Belonging: To a family bound by the fibers of a handmade quilt, passed down for four generations. To a town that doesn't just know your name, but stops by for every birthday. Belonging to a past, a present and a future. A story in which you're the star and the hero. A bubble, no matter how small, of what matters most in the world. Belonging to a mountain, a stream, a trail, a forest of flora and fauna, a field of wildflowers in bloom, as much—or more?—as they belong to you. Finally, I think I might belong too. *** I'm not sure when or how, but at some point the freedom, the bliss, the smiles the pride flooded back into my body, rekindling the burning embers of a lifeless fire, long since burnt out. Reminding me of the fairy tale adventures I once had on these hilltops, in these hollows. The lightening bugs, the woods, the muddin', the crooked creeks of snapping turtles that danced in frying pans and catfish caught on liver and beer can bobbers. Of love and acceptance and songs I knew all the words to. How could I have allowed my memories to be tainted by the same villains who raped and pillaged these mountains, the vandals and pyros who lit the flames that singed the edges of the pictures in my head, leaving corners of ash and crust on a once 38
perfectly painted paradise? How could I have blamed the rhetoric of bumbling idiots on a people who'd been preyed upon? People who had been exploited, abused and misunderstood like the earth upon which they built their lives. As I found my way Home, I found, too, the realization that they would bask in the glory of my guilt. That Heath in his ways that are so "wrong," had it right in so many others. When the writers of history convince, not the world—who cares about the world—but us that we are weak, wretched and wrong, what will be left of hope? Like a battered woman living in fear of an abusive husband, convinced she deserves to be beaten. How can we change our fate if we fail to acknowledge their responsibility, and to accept our own? We are but a product of our environment—Appalachia—at once beautiful and pristine, hostile and hurt. Scarred from soul, to sky, to stream. How could I run away? But how can we stand? It can be done, though. It has been done. By a crowd of proud West Virginians who once let two young kids fight the fink that threatened their playground, their trees, their youth. And the mother who inspired their protests, who led an Army to victory over a machine known only as Mr. Pulp Mill. *** Side by side, brother and sister, defending our Home. In a picture posted proudly upon our parent's wall, Heath sports the green and brown of a West Virginia DNR uniform. Inches away, I pose in front of a West Virginia State Flag in a frame stamped with the seal of the Governor's Office. The bubble that constructs that which we call Home is still bigger for me, than Heath. His Home remains the ridge in Pliny. I now feel at Home on the Greenbrier, the Cranberry and the Williams Rivers, where my fiance catches trout and I catch the leaves of Beech Trees as the sun splits their colors. I feel at Home at Dolly Sods, having hiked her slopes for hours with no compass, absorbing every crevice and curve as a curse and a cure. At parks I've sought out, too many to name, but never forget. In small towns with folk music and the best of bluegrass: Fayetteville, Thomas, Davis, Charleston, Huntington and Cass. Sometimes even beyond the peaks of the Blue Ridge range, along the winding climbs and curves of the Appalachian Trail—I feel I belong. I certainly cannot claim to know how long these hills will contain me. I am not my brother, rooted in the ground that bore me. But I am this place, and this place is me, in all of our beauty and pain and complexities.
ÂŠ Joshua Rappeneker Flickr Creative Commons
ÂŠ photo by PearlyV on Flickr (Creative Commons)
by Sheila Webster Boneham Here on this spit of sand I kneel, south wind to my back, and watch. The wild Atlantic roars to my right, tosses remains of jellyfish and clam, oyster, fish guts, sea glass, flat-eyed gull, flotsam and wrack. And to my left a runaway thread of salt and wet murmurs its way through mudflat, grass, and sedge. I might turn east to the blue-green reach where anything can be when the language of light throws poems over the roll and heave, and dolphins leap, and cormorants dive, and surfacing sparks skip over mortal shadows, or west, to the beckoning marsh where sun-drenched rivers glide into oncoming dusk, twist gypsy skirts against the darkâ€”scarlet, tangerine, bronze, mauve. They dance and spin for a moment, and slip like quiet into rising night. Mourning dove coos, Safe harbor here, here, here in the coming night. Barred owl whoos a somewhere prayer, eyes the dove, and there in the grass a heron twists her thread of a neck. She waits, foot cocked, wing tensed, eye sharp as light, and strikes. Pie-billed grebe glides seaward, breast to the incoming tide, aware, unperturbed. She spins a notch, dark muscle on glittering chop, starts at the sound of tussle in the grass. And there, where breakers occlude the calm, she spins again.
ÂŠ photo by Peter Cruickshank on Flickr (Creative Commons)
ÂŠ Nat Wilson Flickr (Creative Commons)
ÂŠ Gusjer Flickr (Creative Commons)
by Travis Macdonald
South Dakota by Travis Macdonald
North Dakota by Travis Macdonald
by Travis Macdonald
ÂŠ Bureau of Land Management (Creative Commons)
Letter to Conoco Phillips Concerning the Upper Rio Negro, Ecuador by Zoë Mason
The river tangles herself in the organs of the forest, seeping in—green becoming of the union. Clouds shroud the summit’s corpse weight. The mountain will be strangled one way or another: from beneath, the bowels drained, from above by cloud asphyxiation. The timber will come one way or another: roads slitting the canopies, felling stalk after stalk, unwritten species, humans jumbled in the slashed. They wash off the blood and wear their scars to the city of Coca where they sit on committees, in the slime of a language they don’t understand, understanding that these suited men will polish off their jungle. Beauty that grotesque must have oil beneath. An oropendola mimics us all; her nest, a sagging breast from any available branch. Below, toe-sized ants bustle and we move for them; some say they built this hillside. I linger in one more place I cannot know, learning the language, counting the losses. Now the sun does her dying number. The breeze gasps oh! And here we are, dark embolisms. Take it all, and quickly, for the forest has barely opened her lips.
Take it all: take green, take water, take tear-drop nests, take banana leaves, take the underground, take ancestors, berries, graves, the blind grandmother (she sees), black-eyed dolls, the bamboo bridge, blow darts, the guava tree, the dung-brick school, that shore across, chicha drink…. Take everything and don’t give any back; it won’t fit then.
© Larry Jacobsen (Flickr) Creative Commons
Ode to a Ponderosa Cone by Zoë Mason
i. This is not a game of playing dead. This is competing for the damp underground, for the moisture that breaks dormancy. ii. And when the pinecone burst and the seeds flew— to what tune did they whirl down the staircase of scales? iii. I’ll tell them! The hawk stole the arc of the pinecone’s barb for its fish-slick bill.
iv. Show me a forest of sweet smells, caramels. v. The cone’s devoutly wooden. vi. The pinecone isn’t the least bit modest: splayed and split, spat with sap, the conelets prick. vii. If fists and humus make buds, then humus and buds make fists. the fists cling to the high branches. viii. Sweet strobilus I strum, I take— bloody thumb harp! 49
The Ends of Desire
by James Grabill
Sun branches through the cells in almonds and shade, as through the shock of hips caught in soundless rings of Ice Age bells or muscular Brazilian canopies dragging out their disappearance. When quick heel clicks echo in marble basements downwind from anyoneâ€™s sea of lessers and betters, the stealing away in night-blinding muds commences. Ennui polices socioeconomic succession with flat-out torque from the core of coal-swollen costs. Agility sways, as blue intensifies behind blood-bearing flags that followed Magellan around the global horn. Feathering off melts in the saucering galaxy, root heart heat in a roar flows over, behind red curtains in the theater of opposites. Hard-wired displays of impermanence shatter around animals from before words.
ÂŠ pfly (Flickr) Creative Commons
All the while, the blue bowl holds open for steaming soups, or the brush of tiniest ribs of a feather. Reaching the lip of the event horizon around emptiness, the bowl has shared the unpronounceable once a spoon in the remote future dips into soup and goes away filled.
Resurrection by James Dott
after the equinox the big leaf maple wakes from winter’s skeletal slumber, when thrashed in gales neighbors fell, branches torn off, and rot began deep in its heartwood, sufficient light and warmth arrive sap is lifted swollen buds spill flowers, yellow-green pagodas dangling earthward their tiered lanterns briefly lit, their incense enticing flies, beetles, bees, “come fertilize, it is time for sex and resurrection,” robins chase in crazed courtship, crash into leafing brambles, flickers tap territories, crows strip moss and lichens from the maple’s limbs, so soft for lining nests, last year’s spin of seeds push aside stones and arise from the soil leaf buds split slowly unclench fists, relaxing fingers open perfect palms of joyful green untorn, unscarred, unaware of the incipient rot, unfold to gather the light summer’s lush incarnation growing darkness, the fall another lifetime
Kierkegaard’s Thunderstorm by Francis Daulerio
The thoughtless rain washes dew from my early-morning window screens. I wait for the day when I can simply do as the Earth rains for want of rain.
Reincarnation by Francis Daulerio
I’ve taken to writing poems on small, wrinkled papers and dropping them from my bedroom window to dance with the drifting snow and take root in my garden. In the spring they will sprout and blossom with grape tomatoes and fresh basil and grow into something I could never create alone.
—A selection from Crow Feathers, Red Ochre, Green Tea It takes time to listen to spring walk among the trillium, lamb’s tongue in the woods large red tulips in the garden to eat oatmeal for breakfast drink brown rice tea, honeyed amber-light of early sun. Then the rain very heavy, a weight of vernal equinox weeks past— what is not yet though the hyacinth, violets, cherry blossoms swath the air with moist scent as longing sometimes does, the desire to be unrestrained, to show up, even dance salsa or merengue the fluidity of limbs, music blood shimmering as the petals of these enormous tulips in the unexpected birth of light death of shadow.
—A selection from Crow Feathers, Red Ochre, Green Tea turn five stones over count grackles six glossy blackness stack kindling fire burns sapphire claret-red spill wine on the counter place hand on your temple touch nighthawk wings finger smooth round shells reminisce closed fingers sugar-glazed rhubarb wild cherries mandarin oranges a clear dish of water throw an apostrophe over your shoulder like salt hope bracketed between truth sew with silver needles aqua thread antique buttons the toaster-cover your grandmother quilted open six jars of jelly gooseberry apricot plum prisms of light in your white strands of hair wait for luck pray for rough-legged hawk
Now available fRom HiRaetH PReSS
Carrot, Rabbit, Clay
â€”A selection from Crow Feathers, Red Ochre, Green Tea make a pinch pot paint it turquoise add small red beads, silver smudge with yellow cedar white sage form a rabbit of porcelain clay sculpt a bowl in its back add sacred objects small gemstones, coins, feathers dried carrots, blue corn meal, wishes
GWENDOLYN MORGAN learned the names of birds and wildflowers and inherited paint brushes and boxes from her grandmothers. With a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College, and a M.Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary, she has been a recipient of writing residencies at Artsmith, Caldera and Soapstone. Her poems appear in: Calyx, Dakotah, Kalliope, Kinesis, Manzanita Quarterly, Mudfish, Tributaries: a Journal of Nature Writing, VoiceCatcher, Written River as well as anthologies and other literary journals. She is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Community Ministries and is a board certified chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains. She serves as the manager of interfaith Spiritual Care at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. Gwendolyn and Judy A. Rose, her partner, share their home with Abbey Skye, a rescued Pembroke Welsh Corgi. | Photo by Kim Campbell-Salgado 53
Now Available from Hiraeth Press How We Can Change Things
—A selection from Searching for What is Not There
“Listen to this poet ‘say what is not easy to say,’ and say this in ways memorable and jolting enough ‘to bruise the stone of any heart.’ Martin Willitts Jr seems to me heroic as his life deepens into his vibrant poetry, and vice versa.” —William Heyen, author of Shoah Train and Confessions of Doc Williams and Other Poems
Too often, I am aware of the land beneath my feet and how it came to be. How it was here first, and, how it will be here last. As a healer, I am connected to the earth. I feel what the earth feels. And it does not feel well. Where has the Eastern Rosebud gone? The passenger pigeon was hunted out of existence. Where, too, are the scimitar leaves of the Honey Locus? It used to litter the fields as reminders that things are supposed to return. Life is as fragile as lawn full of Baby’s Breath. What survives us? We need to be better caretakers. We do this forgetting as if reality was star-shaped leaves from Sweet Gum tossing themselves into the air. Instead, change is a river of wind with music, flapping tremendous wings of hope, taking me to where I belong over the curve of regret to a place solemn filtered as light, fresh as forsythia in winter, its yellow bugles making its song of settling, waiting for me.
Searching For What Is Not There is a meditative and spiritual quest by a Quaker organic gardener trying to restore and heal the earth throughout the four seasons, from planning to planting to harvesting. In this world everything is connected, interconnected, and if one thing fails, the whole world could suffer including the heavens. Tiny voices reach out and beg for listening and repair. If we could re-visit Eden, this is the kind of care-taking that would be necessary. In many of the poems, there is almost-prayer, almost-lamination, and at other times in awe and amazed by all of creation. These poems become ecstatic and mystical beliefs. Martin Willitts Jr is a quaker, organic gardner, and retired librarian living in Syracuse, New York. He provided a work shop How to Make Origami Haiku Jumping rigs at the 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. He won the William K. Hathaway Award for Poem of the Year 2012. He was nominated for 5 Pushcart and 4 Best of the Net Awards. Martin has published 4 full-length and over 20 poetry chapbooks. 54
Winner of the Nautilus Gold Medal, the USA Book Award, the IPPY Bronze Medal and the IPPY Gold Medal!
Theodore Richards Author of the award-winning titles: Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism and the Birth of a New Myth, Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto and The Crucifixion. Look for Theodoreâ€™s forthcoming novel The Conversions October 2014. www.hiraethpress.com | www.homeboundpublications.com | www.theodorerichards.com 55
Now Available from Hiraeth Press Wild Life is both a celebration of wildlife and an exploration of the human animal. Ultimately, it is a testament to what becomes possible when we see ourselves as a part of, rather than apart from, the natural world. What can an owl, a salmon, or a bear teach us about becoming a better person? What if we re-claimed our animalness? What if we surrendered to the wild life? “What if..?” asks the poet. “I am taken back by the brilliance of Jamie K. Reaser’s poetry. She draws you into the wilds of the land and her heart and deep wisdom steps out to take you home every time. Her love of the natural world and weavings of spiritual truth are akin to Mary Oliver. Thank you, Jamie, for the superlative gift of your poetry.” —Mare Cromwell, award-winning author of Messages from Mother…. Earth Mother
Wild Life also features a foreword by Edward E. Clark Jr., Ed is President of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Hiraeth Press will be donating $2.00/book to support the WCV’s environmental education and wildlife medicine programs!
FAWN Is any human heart naïve to the texture of abandonment? Here I am snugged in tall grasses and sunspots, Still but for my newly-boned rib cage and the short-bodied flowers that play flower games in exhalations. I could be here all day; What joy there is in bird song, and the tremendous leap of shiny green grasshoppers, and soil—how it smells. I am of this place and its daily-recounted secrets. I ask you: “Please don’t save me.” I am busily laying in this meadow, saving you. —Excerpt from Wild Life
New Wasichu, Crossing A Review
few years ago, I met Gary Lindorff when his wife invited me to be a guest speaker at a class where she taught at Green Mountain College. Gary and I, both being poets and writers, hit it off. He asked me if I would be willing to read his book, New Wasichu, Crossing: Our Story is Just the Beginning. I quickly agreed, curious to see what he had cooked up. New Wasichu, Crossing is a difficult book to define. Throughout it, Gary articulates a worldview (or, as Gary prefers, Weltanschauung) that is both old and new and lays out how we might make such a “crossing.” Unlike many such books, Gary’s touch is literary and he infuses the work with his poetic sensibilities, peppering the text with italicized passages full of memories, dreams, and archetypes. There is a touch of Carl Jung’s Red Book in such passages. He is charting a journey. 58
Gary’s skill is in weaving a large tapestry, full of motifs from a variety of disciplines and cultures, which range from Jungian psychology, dreamwork, shamanic practices, alternative medicine, and Native American and Celtic cultures. He does this all toward a goal that deeply concerns me: re-imagining our social, cultural, and spiritual or religious traditions into an ecologically viable worldview. Admittedly, I am not the target audience for this book. These days, if I have anything approaching a spirituality it has more to do with mountains, rivers, and how to pay careful ecological attention both to the world and to my own mind than it does with any spiritual metaphysics. In light of this, my review must begin with a confession: I spent at least half of the time while reading this book arguing with it, throwing my hands in the air, setting the book down to think before taking it back up. I know why Gary asked me to read it and share my thoughts. I wrote The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality, which approaches many similar topics. The trouble is that the printed word does not evolve even while our thinking does. I have changed since I wrote that book. It feels now like something I physically removed from my body and put into the world. It isn’t a part of me anymore and were I ever to re-read it I have no doubt that I would argue and throw my hands up at it more than I ever did while reading New Wasichu, Crossing. While I wouldn’t count myself among the materialists that he decries as representative of the old worldview, the one we must “cross” away from, neither do I subscribe to most of the spiritual metaphysics that he is keen to replace it with. I would in fact argue that such partisanship toward one worldview or another as our salvation creates more problems than it solves. The world would be a better place if we could get Deepak Chopra and Richard Dawkins to stop respectively calling each other quack and reductionist and start finding out what is interesting about the other’s outlook without the need to become a convert to that worldview. I tell you all of this for a reason, because it is some of the highest praise that I can give to Gary: his book helped me more consciously confront my own archetypal “crossing” into a new worldview. This is at the heart of New Wasichu, Crossing. Throughout the book, Gary suggests that the roots of our current ecological crisis are embedded in our Weltanschauung and that we are now, whether we are aware of it or not, all of us engaged in a culture-wide crossing into a new worldview. What is required of us is a change in our patterns of
thinking and being that allows for a more reverent attitude toward the Earth, an attitude that will change our behavior from destruction to communion and participation. What we need, Gary writes, is to move from the perspective of “Nature exists for our sake to Nature exists for her own sake to We don’t know why Nature exists” (163). Such a crossing is an important component of re-inventing our culture to one more consonant with the dynamics of the ecosystems we are embedded in. Where I must part ways with Gary is with the details of that worldview and in my skepticism that a crossing to the Weltanschauung that he outlines is enough. The worldview that Gary presents in New Wasichu, Crossing is difficult to encapsulate. Popularly it might be described as New Age, but I think describing it thus would be a disservice. It is a thoroughly Jungian worldview, overlaid with Gary’s shamanic sensibilities (he draws on both Native American and Celtic cultures), and various other standard tropes of alternative spirituality (the soul, spirits, homeopathy, chakras, the healing power of crystals, and the appropriation of the jargon of quantum physics all abound). Beyond any of these things, though, I think what Gary wants is for us to love the Earth. But I recall some words from Gary Snyder: “It is not enough to ‘love nature’ or want to ‘be in harmony with Gaia.’ Our relation to the natural world takes place in a place, and it must be grounded in information and experience.” Throughout New Wasichu, Crossing, Gary (we’re back to Lindorff ) focuses on information and experiences, the ontology and epistemology of which are intuitive, feeling-centered, metaphorical, and spiritual. Such is no doubt a viable path to falling in love with nature, but tells us little about the empirical realities of our ecological communities. Gary suggests that our culture has leaned too far toward logic. This critique is consistent with his tendency to background scientific knowledge as part of the “old guard” worldview of materialism. He is right, to an extent—there is a great need, I feel, to balance logos with mythos, thinking with feeling, science with art. But I would argue that more than chakras and homeopathy (and, to the point, more than a worldview that can accommodate such metaphysics), we need both better scientific knowledge of how ecosystems function coupled with a subjective relationship with the wild. Such knowledge of and relationship to the world is as achievable by atheists, materialists, Baptists, and Muslims, as it is by pagans, shamans, and New Agers. Whether you believe in a soul, the spirits of your ancestors, or even Jesus Christ, all seems beside the point. The
accoutrements of any worldview, including those that are entirely naturalistic, might serve as pathways for coming into right relationship with the Earth. What I think Gary is really doing in New Wasichu, Crossing is offering a path toward grounding the metaphysical worldview he is presenting back into reverent feeling and responsible action toward the Earth. That is the importance of this book. He recognizes that, “Often spiritual people lack grounding, and spiritual disciplines become a way of escaping or padding reality while the woes of the middle world continue to monopolize our collective intelligence, consume Earth’s resources and stress the land” (197). This I agree with wholeheartedly, and much of New Wasichu, Crossing is spent grounding his spiritual beliefs and practices in such a way that they cease to be co-opted by an egoic search for distraction but instead let a person engage with and confront their own humanity in relation to the Earth. In the opening lines of the book, Gary defines Wasichu as “Lakota for those who take the fat,” explaining that “for me it evokes those who are closed to seeing spirits, who don’t experience all things as related and fail to comprehend how magical thinking can be normal” (i). Gary hopes for his book to shepherd the crossing of the Wasichu to a more spiritualbut-grounded Weltanschauung. To me, the key line is “experience all things as related.” It is, I think, an ecological imperative that we reacquaint ourselves as relational beings in the context of the Earth and to recognize the repercussions of how we carry ourselves in this relationship. Gary shows the way to those who share in his worldview, but other’s might feel themselves on the outside of his vision. His work is an important part of an on-going dialogue, one that ought to be occurring throughout every institution, whether spiritual/ religious, political, or social: How do we restore our relationship, and re-invent ourselves in the context of the Earth and its ecosystems? Perhaps with Gary’s book at their side, a new generation of spiritual seekers will find their grounding in a love for the Earth. May that love guide us all toward a more sane, more knowledgeable, more wild relationship with our ecological communities. New Wasichu, Crossing: Our Story is Just the Beginning is available from Northshire Books. The book is available from Amazon and other retailers. He writes poetry for thiscantbehappening.net. ________________________________________ Jason Kirkey is an author and editor of Written River. 59
ÂŠ Drnantu (Flickr)
In the Brain’s Forest by Michael Salcman
In the forests of the brain salt water sweetly flows ventricle to ventricle, forms pools where a white stag dips its neck to drink and axons hang like vines above its head. Here the self may bathe itself, its toes feeling the pulse of a beat, a wave that lies deep below the skull's basement until memory rises like sap in the arboretum of our youth. There’s no interlude in the brain from solitude, no intermediate death; what’s gone is forgotten as certain as yesterday's sunrise or a childhood summer. And just over that hill a convolution might contain a map of the world or a hemisphere swell with obsession
The Rhode at Night
always hoping the brain will catch its breath before another memory bursts like a balloon over Pogo's head.
Ghosts go down in the river at night, gaping mouths, cauliflower ears, their soundings silvered eddies, their glowing copper eyes lit like jumping fish.
by Michael Salcman
The rushing river shoves them up, cold fingers prickling against my naked back; I hear them singing of rising wind and current. Beneath a glaucous moon the mind drowns in phantoms, they ripple and sigh of Mediterranean harbors of my foot fall landing softly on a foreign quay. Each night the ghosts go down in the river ‘til the mind turns blank, the water silver.
ÂŠ Aristocrats-hat Flickr (Creative Commons)
photo by ÂŠ peasap Flickr (Creative Commons)
Contributor Biographies Milton J. Bates has lived on Lake Superior near Marquette, Michigan, since retiring as an English professor. When he’s not paddling or fishing nearby lakes and rivers, he’s often writing about them. His most recent book is The Bark River Chronicles: Stories from a Wisconsin Watershed (2012). His poems have appeared in magazines such as Midwestern Gothic, the O-DarkThirty Review, Stoneboat, and the Wallace Stevens Journal. Kristin Berger is the author of a poetry chapbook For the Willing (Finishing Line Press, 2008), and former editor at VoiceCatcher. She has been awarded Writers Residency-Fellowships from The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest and Playa at Summer Lake, Oregon. Recent poetry and non-fiction has appeared in Camas, Cirque, Terrain.org, Forest Log (Spring Creek Project), Windfall, and online at Slipstream. Kristin lives with her family in Portland, Oregon, and co-hosts a summer poetry reading series at the local farmer’s market. Sheila Webster Boneham currently writes from the complex coast of North Carolina. Her work, which tends to be grounded in place and populated by living things of all kinds, has appeared recently in Red Earth Review, The Wayfarer, and Museum of Americana. She is the author of 17 books of nonfiction and four novels. Although much of her education has come from wilder quarters, she holds a PhD in folklore from Indiana University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast Program. Susan Bruce has an MFA from NYU. She was an actress in NY for over 20 years. Performing in Angels In America on Broadway Susan was inspired to write poetry by Tony Kushner. Since then she has studied at Breadloaf, The Fine Arts WorkCenter and currently takes classes at The New School. Her poems have been published by Barrow Street, Other Rooms, 34th Parallel, Women's Studies Quarterly, Finery and Minerva Rising. Robin Chapman is author of nine books of poetry, most recently the portfolio Dappled Things (Paris: Revue K, 2013) with Peter Miller's photogravures, and One Hundred White Pelicans (Tebot Bach, 2013), poems on climate change. Cory Collins is a behavior therapist, artist and writer. His work has appeared in The Island Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Lemon Hound, Off the Coast and rabble.ca, Canada's leading independent news site. He has won three Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards and was specially commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition. He lives in St. John's. Francis Daulerio is a poet and teacher from the Philadelphia suburbs. He graduated from Arcadia University with his MFA in Creative Writing and is currently working on finishing his first full-length manuscript, which will feature his poetry and the art of Scott Hutchison, singer/guitarist of the band Frightened Rabbit. His work has been featured in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Crack the Spine, Escarp, The Fictioneer, Poetry Quarterly, The Shot Glass Journal, and Whiskey Island. More information can be found at www.FrancisDaulerio.com James ( Jim) Dott has been an elementary educator for over 30 years, he has taught in Oregon and Malaysia. He lives in Astoria, Oregon near the mouth of the Columbia River with his family, one cat, and five chickens. He is a programmer at the local community radio station and has been an actor in community theater productions, and co-host of a monthly poetry open mic. His work has appeared in Rain, Hubbub, Poetry Midwest, Turtle Island Quarterly, Stringtown, and Fireweed. James Grabill’s poems have appeared in numerous periodicals such as The Oxonian Review, Stand, Magma, Toronto Quarterly, Harvard Review, Terrain, Seneca Review, Urthona, kayak, Plumwood Mountain, Caliban, Spittoon, Weber: The Contemporary West, The Common Review, and Buddhist Poetry Review. His books include Poem Rising Out of the Earth (1994) and An Indigo Scent after the Rain (2003). Wordcraft of Oregon will publish his new project of environmental prose poems, Sea-Level Nerve: Book I this summer, Book II next summer. He teaches 'systems thinking' relative to sustainability. John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in Slant, Southern California. Review and Skidrow Penthouse with work upcoming in Bryant Literary Magazine, Natural Bridge and Soundings East. 65
Zachary Hester currently resides in Louisville, Ky after brief stints in Lexington, Ky and Boulder, Co. In 2010 he graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in English and in 2014 will begin his candidacy for an MFA degree from the University of Arkansas. Karina Lutz is a lifelong activist who currently writes for EcoRI News, teaches yoga, global studies, and sustainability, and facilitates deep ecology workshops with SpiralEcology. She received honorable mention from Homebound Publications Poetry Prize in 2013 for her manuscript, Preliminary Visions. Even though Zoë Mason was raised in the Maine woods, somewhere along the way she got on a plane and off she went. She’s somewhere between Greece and Turkey these days, writing as she goes. zoetravelwrite.wordpress.com Julia McCarthy is originally from Toronto, ON. She spent a decade living in the U.S., most notably in Alaska and Georgia. She also lived in Norway and spent significant time in South Africa before moving to rural Nova Scotia, Canada where she now lives and writes. Her poetry has appeared in magazines/anthologies in Canada, the U.S. and UK. She is the author of two poetry collections: Stormthrower (Wolsak & Wynn, Toronto, ON 2002) and Return from Erebus (Brick Books, London, ON 2010) which received the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Award. She lives in rural Nova Scotia and is at work on a new collection. Timothy P. McLaughlin is a poet, teacher, and co-director of the We Are The ONE Choir of Song and Poetry. He founded the Spoken Word Program at the Santa Fe Indian School and he and his students received numerous awards and were featured in many media publications and programs, among them The New York Times and The PBS New Hour. He is the editor of the award-winning book Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School and the producer of a poetry CD and documentary film both titled Moccasins and Microphones: Modern Native Storytelling Through Performance Poetry. McLaughlin received a Lannan Writing Residency Fellowship in 2011 and his writing has appeared in a variety of journals. He recites his poetry often in diverse settings and is dedicated to the sacredness and significance of moving poetic texts through the human voice. McLaughlin lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife, Madi, and their two children: Anjamora and Tadhg. Heather Miles holds a B.A. from High Point University and recently completed an M.A. in English from Marshall University, where she also taught English Composition. Her passions for Appalachia and the environment have recently become intertwined in both her creative and scholarly endeavors. Heather presented an article titled "Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer: A Commentary on Silent Spring" at the 2014 Appalachian Studies Conference and currently works in Communications for the state of West Virginia. Michael Salcman, poet, physician and art historian, was chair of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland. Recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, Ontario Review, and Rhino. Poetry books include The Clock Made of Confetti, nominated for The Poet’s Prize, and The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011); Poetry in Medicine, his anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors and diseases is forthcoming (Persea Books, 2014). Robert Sassor combines his twin passions for sustainability and creative writing as a Director at Metropolitan Group, the nation’s leading social change agency and one of B Lab’s 100 “best for the world” corporations. Rob is best known for his work with the Jane Goodall Institute, where he led the team that developed the conservation plan for the greater Gombe ecosystem of Tanzania and its famous chimpanzees. Rob has also conducted research and ghostwritten about a range of social and environmental issues, contributing to more than 150 works and two books. Jessica Van de Kemp (BA, B.Ed, MA) is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. Her poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in: Haiku for Lovers (Buttontapper Press, 2013), The Danforth Review, Vallum, Branch Magazine, The Steel Chisel, Ditch, The Fieldstone Review, Halcyon, In Parentheses, Bitterzoet Magazine, Mint Magazine, Gravel Magazine, The Studio Voice, Wilde Magazine, Cactus Heart, The Mackinac, Miracle E-Zine, The Wayfarer, Found Poetry Review, Hermeneutic Chaos, and Hello Horror. Her bonbon chapbook, Four-Coloured Memory, is forthcoming from Bitterzoet Press. Amy Wright is Nonfiction Editor of Zone 3 Press and the author of four chapbooks. Her work is published in Bellingham Review, Brevity, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Drunken Boat, Kenyon Review, Quarterly West, and Tupelo Quarterly. 66
photo by © Marisa Pérez Flickr (Creative Commons)
Published on Jul 21, 2014
Featuring the Poetry of John Grey, Robin Chapman, Cory Collins, Kristin Berger, Kristin Berger, Jessica Van de Kemp, Susan Bruce, Milton Ba...