Page 1

The

Vol.3 Issue. 1

Wayfarer ISSN 2169-3145

A Journal of Contemplative Literature

Nocturne: Nebraska

by Sheila Webster Boneham

6 Questions with Poet Amy Nawrocki

Feature Poet Clinton Inman

Men Grow Beards by Matthew Jurow

In the Book Spotlight

Call of the Sun Child by Francesca G. Varlea

Poems from the Camino de Santiago by Michael Mark

Featuring the poetry of Karina Lutz, Mark Goad, Doug D’Elia, Gray, Jessica Van de Kemp, Barrett Warner, Cambria Jones, Kaveri Patel, Matthew Kirshman, Sally Nacker, A.W. Partin, David Loope and Steven Petersheim. As well as Somebody Showed It To Me & I Found It By Myself by Jonathan Neske. And a preview of To Live in Paradise by Cindi McVey.


The

Wayfarer

contents

A Journal of Contemplative Literature Vol. 3 Issue. 1

Somebody Showed It To Me & I Found It By Myself by Jonathan Neske 2 The Poetry of Karina Lutz

9

The Poetry of Mark Goad

10

The Poetry of Doug D’Elia

12

The Poetry of Gray Tolhurst

12

The Poetry of Jessica Van de Kemp

14

Nocturne: Nebraska by Sheila Webster Boneham

16

The Poetry of Barrett Warner

25

Poems from the Camino de Santiago by Michael Mark 27 6 Questions with Poet Amy Nawrocki

28

The Poetry of Cambria Jones

31

Feature Poet: Clinton Inman

32

The Poetry of Kaveri Patel

34

The Poetry of Matthew Kirshman

35

Men Grow Beards by Matthew Jurow 36 The Poetry of Sally Nacker

41

The Poetry of A.W. Partin

43

The Poetry of David Loope

43

In the Book Spotlight Call of the Sun Child 44 The Poetry of Steven Petersheim

49

A wayfarer is one who chooses to take up a long journey on foot. The journey we chronicle within the journal is that of our path across the inner-landscape of our own being, as we reach for answers to the central questions of our existence. Spirituality is the culmination of the individual’s desire to understand the deeper meaning in life. The works found within The Wayfarer are those small truths we gather while traversing the breadth of our days; shared in a belief that through an exchange of insights we help one another move forward. The Wayfarer is a quarterly journal distributed by Homebound Publications that explores humanity’s ongoing introspective journey. About Homebound Publications It is the intention of those at Homebound to revive contemplative storytelling. The stories humanity lives by give both context and perspective to our lives. Some old stories, while well-known to the generations, no longer resonate with the heart of the modern man or address the dilemmas we currently face as individuals and as a global village. Homebound chooses titles that balance a reverence for the old wisdom; while at the same time presenting new perspectives by which to live. © 2014 Homebound Publications All Rights Reserved. All rights to all original artwork, photography and written works belongs to the respective owners as stated in the attributions. All Rights Reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and publisher. Except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Homebound Publications holds a fervor for environmental conservation. We are ever-mindful of our “carbon footprint”. Our books are printed on paper with chain of custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. This ensures that, in every step of the process, from the tree to the reader’s hands, that the paper our books are printed on has come from sustainably managed forests. Furthermore, each year Homebound Publications donates 1% of our annual income to an ecological or humanitarian charity. To learn more about this year’s charity visit www.homeboundpublications.com. Front Cover photo by © Mayo.Me Creative Commons | Interior Cover Photo by © Ben Grey Flickr Creative Commons


Somebody Showed It To Me & I Found It By Myself by Jonathan Neske


M

y buddy

We

Todd

had been in

Korea

for ten years.

had gone four-wheeling on the forgotten

dirt roads in the hills that rose behind the village we lived in.

The plan was to drive, explore, After many hours, we were coming down one of these dirt roads. By chance we found ourselves far out on a road he knew. On the way back, there was a steep hill with a barely paved road going up it. At the bottom, there was a sign. I was intrigued, and asked him about it. "Ya, I tried to go up there on the scooter once. Didn't quite make it all the way up, and had to walk the rest of the way,” he said. The scooter was now mine; Todd sold it to me after he bought his truck. "You should go up there sometime,” he told me. The sentence worked on my imagination. Clearly, he didn't want to go, at least not that day. How worthwhile would it be? But there must be something to see, something at least partly interesting or else he wouldn't have encouraged me. This and the memory of the steeply ascending hill tugged at my imagination for a long time. Ascending to where exactly? To the unknown. And that was enough as far as I was concerned. Though it would be many months before I made my way back there, and spring had turned to summer. The wind rushes past me as the scooter speeds along the road. The wind generated by the moving scooter cools the heat and relieves some of the humidity of early July in Korea. The road follows a large stream for most of the ride. Ahead, I see one of the many places where the road crosses over the stream. and not return the same way.

When it does passing over the bridge provides a few seconds of cool air, but then heat returns on the other side. The road goes on and on like this until I am at the sign at the bottom of the steep hill. I park the scooter off the road at the bottom of the hill. No one will bother it there, and I have already been told the scooter probably won't make it to the top. That is not the only reason I leave it behind. One of the things that I like about temples in Korea is that, often, visitors have to climb up to them. They are accessible, but it takes effort. Beliefs are like this. The path we pursue in exploring a belief is more valuable if it challenges us. The path to the temple and the practice of belief both require intention and work to get to where we want to go. The climb is steep, and I ascend slowly. There is no rush. The cicadas are singing their summer chorus of "meem, meem, meem" like a crazily tuned mouth harp. The air hangs thick with the humidity of the day and the smells of summer. I stop more than once to catch my breath and drink from my water bottle. Condensation covers it. In July, even the plastic sweats. The road twists as it climbs, then turns a final time to level out near the top. The way is steep but not too long. It has only taken fifteen or twenty minutes to hike up. The first thing that comes into view is a small shrine about the size of a guard booth. It is a simple, almost ramshackle, post and beam construction. At each corner, weathered bare-wood posts make up the frame. White walls fill it in. It has no windows, only a pair of double doors. The right one is open, and the

The monk smiles and nods and continues to look at me. His eyes are very kind. Suddenly I don’t know what to do or where to look, so I try looking back at him and do my best to smile as well. I imagine it looks more like a nervous smile than a ‘I-am-happy-to-be-here’ smile.

3


The stupa is about two meters high, and made of two different kinds of stone shapes: blocks and squares of stone that curve up at the corners – like the roofs of the temple buildings. I think of them as ‘roof pieces’ because of the similarity. The stupa starts on a broad, block base. The second story is a much smaller block; a sitting Buddha has been carved into the middle of each side. Facing out from the stupa, these bas-relief Buddhas look upon the surroundings. A roof piece rests atop of this second level. The roof piece extends further than the block below it, sheltering it. Then another block, a roof piece, another block, a roof piece, and finally the top. There are eight levels in all. At the top, a circular and domed nub points to the sky. It is graceful, and there is something about the stupa's shape—the space and the structure of it. It is an object disappearing into the heavens as it grows, and seems to convey a secret of balance at once architectural and mystical. A sign identifies this as a memorial stupa erected to honor the life and teachings of a Buddhist monk who died in the year 630 CE. The air about the stupa whispers its age, as if it has been there forever and everything else either has grown or been built around it. One of the buildings is a prayer hall, the other is a living quarters. I make my way to the prayer hall that houses the altar and the Buddha statue. I climb up to it using a short series of stone steps. Purple wild

© yeowatzup (Flickr Creative Commons)

darkness inside looks cool, inviting, and a little mysterious. A carved beam and a long flat stone make a kind of stair up to the double doors. The white paint of the doors contrasts with a lattice of exposed, faded wood, just as the white walls contrasts with the exposed wood of the posts. Outside, a square, glass lantern sits with several lit candles burning; it is bright even in the daylight. Near it, a dead tree has been stripped of its branches, topped, and affixed with an electric light; a strange street lamp that decided to grow, gave up, died, and stands withered. I study the scene while I rest from the climb. It is intriguing and beautiful in its own way. In addition to the shrine, the temple consists of two small rectangular buildings. The tiled roofs of the two buildings curve up at the corners. The position of the buildings makes it seem as if the upturned corners of the two roofs are reaching out to touch one another. Placed as they are, the buildings form half of a small, rectangular courtyard. The other half of the courtyard is defined by forest instead of buildings. The trees on the opposite side have been cut back and the plants cleared. In the middle of this space, a stupa stands by itself. Most of the courtyard floor is packed dirt where nothing is allowed to grow, but this rule is relaxed near the stupa. A dome of grass rises up to it, and flagstones pave its perimeter. Some plants and wild flowers grow around the base.


flowers grow from the cracks between them. Green moss carpets the steps where there are seams or shadows, but is shy of the areas that receive more sun. It is a green, growing mortar holding the fractured pieces of the stone steps together. Outside the doorway of the building, I take off my shoes and put them against the wall. I step over the raised threshold into the cool darkness of the prayer hall. I turn to face the Buddha in the center of the hall, put my hands together at my heart, and bow from the waist three times. No matter what temple I visit, the insides of these halls always seem quieter than they have cause to be. Perhaps it is true for all places of worship, for I have had similar experiences in churches and cathedrals. A specific hush pervades and lives in them; it quiets them as if they are somehow a small distance away from the world—inhabiting their own space just a step away from the tumult of our everyday lives. I become aware of how hot the day has become as I step into the cool hall. Perhaps the day combined with the climb has heated me more than I've realized, but in the dark of the prayer hall it seeps away. I approach the altar and bow again before lighting some incense and leaving some money as an offering. I cross to pick up a cushion from a small pile stacked against an inside wall. Hardwood planks make up the floor. The cushions are for sitting on or for those who come to perform full prostrations wherein you kneel and bow with your head touching the floor and your hands out before you. My purpose is just to sit, and so I place the cushion on the floor and sit facing the Buddha. The world and everything in it

drops away until the only thing left in it is my breath. Coming in: how it comes in, what it feels like. Settling down: feeling as if it gathers and pools down beneath my diaphragm. Reactions: the tip of my head extending up, my shoulders (where I hold a lot of tension) relaxing, spreading, dropping down from where I've been unconsciously holding them. Flits and flashes of thoughts come, and are let go, as I guide my attention back to my breath and the experience of breathing. The Buddha on the main altar in the prayer hall isn't particularly interesting. It is covered in fake golden paint, and seems more storebought new than old. I've seen a lot of these in the smaller temples. However, a lot of the smaller temples have interesting paintings on the walls both inside and outside the prayer halls—scenes from stories of the Buddha. But there are no murals here. Just as the outside of the prayer hall is plain white, the inside is bare as well. It is merely a humble temple with an ancient stupa. Eventually, I stand, bow a single time from the waist, and return the cushion to the pile. I walk to the door, turn and bow three times, then I step over the threshold back outside. As I sit to put on my shoes, the heat of the day settles into my skin and the "meem, meem, meem" of the cicadas rushes in where the quiet of the prayer hall was just a few moments before. I finish tying my shoes, stand, and begin to walk one more time around the courtyard and stupa before leaving. As I do a monk, comes out of the building making up the other side of the courtyard. I'm surprised by his sudden appearance, but quickly put my hands together at my heart

The tea tastes of jasmine. It is served hot despite the heat of the day. I pick up a piece of

sliced pear from the tray and eat that, too.

The monk eats nothing. He sips his tea,

and continues to look at me. The soft smile never leaves his face.

5


and bow. He smiles and waves me to follow him, gesturing to the door he just appeared from as he quickly leads the way into it. I remove my shoes again and follow him through the doorway. Inside is a long rectangular room. The whole wall to my right is a window with a view of the many hills green with summer foliage. To the left is a low table; it is only tall enough for a person’s legs to fit under it as you sit on the floor. The monk, already sitting and facing the window, is behind the table. He waves me down gesturing for me to sit across from him. I sit and he smiles at me, not saying anything, but evidently waiting for something. Though I have visited more than a few temples since coming to Korea, this is my first significant contact with a monk at a temple. My mind races: What is happening? How am I expected to act? Am I supposed to speak first? I manage a mediocre "Annyong Haseyo." A relatively polite greeting that makes up a significant portion of my Korean vocabulary. The monk smiles and nods and continues to look at me. His eyes are very kind. Suddenly I don't know what to do or where to look, so I try looking back at him and do my best to smile as well. I imagine it looks more like a nervous smile than a 'I-am-happy-to-be-here' smile. His traditional gray robes fall around him. He is older, maybe in his early sixties. His face and posture are very calm as if this is all there is. There is no worry or a need to do anything for the rest of the day except look at me and smile. As I am working out a polite way to stand up and leave, the tea comes. A woman in her sixties comes through the doorway with a tray and sets it down on the table that separates the monk and me. She is dressed in the same grays as the monk, but not in the same robes. She sets the tray down without a word. Then, with a bow to the monk, she leaves as quickly as she came. Centered on the tray is a simple, white, ceramic tea pot. Also on the tray are some small cups, fruit, and rice cake. The monk pours tea into the two small cups and gestures to the contents of the tray. The whole service is carried through with the air of the completely ordinary. It makes me think it happens all the time. That this is a common event, not a special courtesy. I taste the tea first. I don't want to appear too casual, so I hold the small cup with two hands. It seems more polite; although, I don't know whether it actually is or not, but many things in Korea are done with two hands to show politeness. Everything I don't know is staggering; I try to not think about it; I fail at it at least half the time. Who knows what kind of impression I am making, or if it even matters to him. It matters to me. The tea tastes of jasmine. It is served hot despite the heat of the day. I pick up a piece of sliced pear from the tray and eat that, too. The monk eats nothing. He sips his tea, and continues to look at me. The 6

soft smile never leaves his face. I cannot look back at him with the same ease. He is bald, of course, shaved. I wonder if he shaves his own head or has someone help him. I try to imagine his day, his life. I would ask him if I had the language to. I sip more of the tea and my cup is refilled. The monk pours it with one hand. I take a piece of rice cake and eat that while I drink my second cup. In the center of the rice cake there is a red bean paste that I especially like; it is a little sweet without being overly so. I even know the Korean word for it. For awhile, I debate saying it to show that I like it, but the monk is already smiling more at seeing me eat the rice cake. I don't have to say anything. He already knows. I eat and drink modestly as the monk continues to watch me. As I study him, I recognize my own discomfort in contrast to his complete lack of it. I think back to just a short time ago when I was alone in the prayer hall. I felt none of the self-consciousness while paying attention to my breath. I think about us sitting with each other with tea and fruit between us. What difference is there between sitting alone in the dark and sitting with someone for tea? I am filled with the differences. What do I have to do to let go of these trepidations? Am I holding them as they are holding me? I have long grown tired of people, the media, the government (or what have you) telling me what to be afraid of. I have come to the conclusion that when someone is trying to convince me to be afraid, what they are really trying to do is to control me. These are people I can safely ignore. Yet here I am, conflicted and worried about having tea! This time it is some part of me telling me to be afraid. It is telling me to be uneasy about something as simple and non-threatening as tea. All these worries I have been having since I entered the room are all from some part of me worrying over tea. Worrying over tea suddenly seems very silly, very inconsequential. However, it is one thing to decide to let go of something, and another thing altogether to let it go. An item, an attachment to a physical thing is perhaps easier to let go of. But what exactly am I hoping to let go of here if not some part of myself? And how do we begin to let go of that? Across the table the monk smiles, enjoys the day, enjoys the tea, perhaps even enjoys my company at his small temple. Jonathan Neske is a freelance writer and poet. Born and raised in New England he has traveled extensively throughout the world. From 2006 to 2013, he lived in South Korea where he taught English as a Second Language. He is a practicing Buddhist, and has studied meditation in America, South Korea, and Thailand. He currently lives in Ningbo, China. Note: (The title is originally from a line in the poem “Wobbly Rock” by Lew Welch.) | Photo on previous page by © chutme on Flickr Creative Commons/


Winner of the 2013 Homebound Publications Poetry Prize

HAVING LISTENED Gary Whited POEMS “In Having Listened, Gary Whited guides the reader to a time and place that evokes the very essence of his experience growing up on the prairie of Eastern Montana. Through his eloquence and imagery, Whited brings the reader to a deeper understanding of the spiritual beauty and sorrows of that life and thus a deep universal connection to it.” —James T. Powers, author of Saving the Farm “Gary Whited is that rare philosopher who digs deep enough to strike the wellsprings of poetry. Here we enter a stillness so profound it changes the way we see the world.” —Dan Veach, editor Atlanta Review, author of Elephant Water “For those of us who have known for many years the pleasures of Gary Whited’s quiet, prairie-steeped poems, it is cause for celebration to finally see his work collected and in print. We have waited a long time for this haunting, elegiac book.” —Aimée Sands, author of The Green-go Turn of Telling

Now Available Wherever Books are Sold


Deer Path Karina Lutz A quiet road, dirt well packed by tractors, bicycle lines in the soft parts swerving back and forth. The stillness, greyness, black branches straining upward. A hint of spring in a scent on the wind. Still cold, bundled and alone. The alone that loves to be alone, that breaks away and moves along a deer path through the birches, and is fascinated by each red-budded branch tip and cautious piece of green pushing through the old wet leaves. The alone that lingers with sorrow, that rides grey clouds to the past, and loves to yearn; for the spring, for the past for a love that was shared and now is chased away by the lover of being alone.

A Craving Karina Lutz Please silence me. Speak to me that way you do, with no words. Overwhelm my noisy mind with your huge, hollow heart, with your enveloping, your echoing, your simple, bliss-inducing smile. No promises do I need, but oh, do I need you in all your absent glory in all the mysterious power of your silence, I will surrender.

Karina Lutz is a writer, editor, teacher, and sustainable energy advocate. In 2013, she received honorable mention from Homebound Publications Poetry Prize for her manuscript, Preliminary Visions. Her poetry blog is at www. karinalutz.wordpress.com. | Photo by © Bureau of Land Management (Flickr Creative Commons)

In solitude I crave: Please put your finger to my lips. The silence you touch in me is love so big my body and soul fall agape hungry or swallowed full of emptiness— We fall as onto a feather bed to a stillness so deep, it connects us to something infinite —a stillness you awaken by your presence, your absence, your immediate and always and never 9


The Bible Would Really Be Something Mark Goad What if the Bible— I’m just supposing now— were not a jumble created by men but a wondrous mysterium, a poem communicated to humankind on behalf of every created thing? And what if all the critics were told to kindly shut their mouths so that the poem could be spoken in celebration—though with some inevitable confusion of meaning? And what if that meaning were feeling? Feeling again the soul-housed body’s long-lost longing for that which is immeasurably greater than itself? And what if that than which no greater can be imagined imagined all things into a delirium of delight awaiting merely remembrance? Then—wouldn’t it?—the Bible would really be something.

Metaphysics 2014 Mark Goad Shakespeare is one man; another sells me a used car. This is, is it not, the great metaphysical question? Not “why is there something and not nothing?” which is merely a matter of mechanics. Nor “is God or is God not?” because God is indifferent to the outcome of our suppositions. Not even “she loves me, she loves me not,” which is heartbreak reduced to simple binary code. How can one man write of the downfall of kings and another reach for his cell phone before Claudius has even gone cold? Like Grandma’s quilt, we are fraying at the edges, patchwork, piecemeal, never meant to last forever.

Mark Goad is a poet now living in the Boston metro area (USA). Born in Ohio, he has lived and studied in Chicago, Geneva, Switzerland and Boston (with sojourns in Connecticut and rural Nebraska). Undergraduate and graduate studies have been completed in English Lit., German language, theology and philosophy. His work has been published previously in journals such as Assisi, BAPQ, Epiphany, bluepepper, Decanto, Big River Literary Review, Extracts, Crannóg, Ayris, The Wayfarer, Contrary, Turbulence, and is soon to appear in Concho River Review, Christian Century and Poetry Salzburg Review. If poetry is, as he believes, subversive by nature, the question is: Subversive of what? | Photo Right: The Dormition of the Mother of God Photo by Francisco J. Gonzalez Flickr Creative Commons

10


Origin Gray Tolhurst my hands cupped half full of water and a big dead sky full of winter. words give form to the shape that is not there it elaborates itself clockwork as the window and the still life it contains a grid spread across the desert becomes a city, is becoming a city… in every naked moment some limit is reached a door is opened or closed and someone walks in or out of a picture where they were the subject my body, my words, my name are just a symbol for something they’ve lost in the corners of their ancient washing machines. I want you I want a framework that I can string my poems on a thousand broken bulbs of color. I’d like an illness or a flower something that blossoms and dies like the thought that created this thought.

12

Crossing Midnight Doug D’Elia What if you had sight for just one hour of each day? Would you choose the morning? When you awake to your lover’s smile, or the children’s faces fresh with excitement. Would you sit on the beach, captivated? By the mist, swirling slowly above the ocean like a thousand wind blown wedding veils? Would you gather seashells? From among the debris washed clean in blue-white foam. Would you walk in the moss damp woods? As wary birds warn and reckon your approach? Would you choose midday? When sunlight nourishes the garden, and clouds wander slowly across the sky disguised as dragons and teapots. Would you prefer dusk? When the vibrating sun turns red, and casts fleeting rays across the landscape, where photographers gather at the rim attempting in vain to capture nature’s blessings. Would you choose the night? Black as pitch, when the restless stir, and others seek solace. Would you choose the hour that c rosses midnight? Holding tight to your beloved, her eyes reflecting the flames of the fireplace, and the love of your heart. Your lips whispering words of gratitude for the day past, and the day ahead.


Doug D’Elia was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He served as a medic during Vietnam from 1965-1969. He is the author of “A Thousand Peaceful Buddhas,” poems and stories inspired by Vietnam, and has been published in journals as diverse as Evergreen Review, Contemporary Haibun, O’Dark Thirty, and H_ngM_n Press. | Photo above by © bachmont Flickr Creative Commons

Gray Tolhurst is a writer/artist currently based in San Francisco,CA. His works utilize a synthesis of outmoded and modern technology in order to bridge the past and the future through the medium of the present. In this way, the works are both memories and premonitions. More information can be found at www.graytolhurst.com


How Thin, The Veil Between Worlds Jessica Van de Kemp There are days when even the water is awake and dreaming—you feel something loosen in your mouth and check to see if your teeth are still there. There are too many crows on the roof. You weren’t expecting black Death for another few years. Your hair like gold leaf folding fan on the rock. There are days when you’re the grainDemeter, trying to conceal your divinity. You hide among kings like horses. Old magic in you, ascending.

Crow-Talker Jessica Van de Kemp 1. No one lives in dreamscape better than Stephen Dedalus. Except for you. You know how to tunnel like a train through darkness. 2. How many good hours are there really?

You spin the crystal ball on the cube stand.

One lover? Maybe two? 3. (Did it ever occur to you that we exist Jessica Van de Kemp (MA, B.Ed, BA) is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. Her work has appeared 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, and The Mackinac (forthcoming). Her bonbon chapbook, Four-Coloured Memory, is forthcoming from Bitterzoet Press. | Photo on Right by © Nezih Durmazlar Flickr Creative Commons

14

so the universe can experience itself?)


Nocturne: Nebraska by Sheila Webster Boneham Now as the train bears west, Its rhythm rocks the earth, And from my Pullman berth I stare into the night While others take their rest. —Theodore Roethke

T

Fourth of July rolls in just east of LinThe train is on time and aims to race the sun for eight hundred eighty-eight miles from the Missouri River west through Nebraska in the dark hours of early morning. If all goes well, the light will catch us at the Colorado line. he

coln.


B

y the time we reach Denver, we’ll have gained more than four thousand feet of elevation, a slow warm-up for the climb across the Continental Divide. The clack of iron wheels on track Is muted here in my upper-level roomette. The dirty window above my narrow bed opens to a surreal vista of distant lights scattered against what I cannot see but know was, less than two centuries ago, the tall grass prairie, where a man on horseback could disappear in a sea of big and little bluestem, switchgrass, indiangrass, sunflowers. The tall grasses of the relatively well-watered eastern plains once gave way west of here to a mixedgrass buffer zone and then the short grass prairie, where buffalo grass, blue and side-oats grama, purple threeawn, and more sprawled in the rain-shadow of the Rocky Mountains. More than a hundred nongrass flowering species splashed color through the native grasses in the centuries before they were turned out by the plow. The domesticated cultivars of many of these prairie wildflowers have become mainstays of our gardens – coneflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed susan, blazing star, verbena, cranes bill, sunflowers of all sorts. This is a simplistic view of the prairies, of course, and when settlers moved in they discovered what the Native peoples knew well. The area is a mosaic of environments that vary in their plant and animal life, their geology, their store of water. I can barely wrap my mind around our forebears’ view of this lavish land as a hellish void to be endured en route to the promise of the far West. Steven Long, explorer and government surveyor, dubbed this place the Great American Desert in 1823 because it was, in the words of his fellow explorer, geographer Edwin James, “wholly unfit for cultivation.” Theirs was an archaic usage that mistakenly defined a desert as a wild, uncultivated, and uninhabited region. Wild and uncultivated, perhaps, but this place was not uninhabited. As I gaze out my window into the dark I find it easy to imagine the prairie as it once was in high summer. Despite the nineteenth-century perception, this place bustled with life. Bison by the millions. Warblers and larks. Eagles, owls, hawks. Coyote and fox. Wolves. Small furry creatures by the gezillions. Snakes and lizards, bugs and butterflies. Flowers for every season–wild strawberries and pussytoes in spring, and in summer a color-wheel explosion, yellow coreopsis and cup plants, purple gayfeather and ironweed, blue sage, white boneset. And people–Omaha, Ponca, Pawnee. *

*

*

The blue skies and birdsong that fill a summer morning can turn to muscular fury by afternoon here in the heart of tornado alley. Twisters regularly rip out

anything that tries to stand in their way, and what they miss, hailstones big as a strongman’s fists can flatten in a single round. Nor are storms the only cosmic violence known here. Fire has been part of the grasslands ecology for thousands of years. Without the wildfires set by lightning and “controlled burns” set by the Plains tribes, the prairies would not have existed. Native Americans across the continent used fire to control vegetation and enhance what biologists call an “ecological edge effect,” an area where dissimilar ecosystems bump up against one another and create a synergy of biological diversity. Here, the primary edge was where grassland met woodland. Diversity offers practical benefits. It ups the odds that people and animals won’t starve in hard times because if one edible species dies off or departs, another is still around. On the prairies these anthropogenic fires cleaned out dead plant matter and stopped trees from invading the grasslands. Grasslands, in turn, invited grazers, and bison in particular followed the people and the grasses east until they filled the landscape. The native grasses thrive in fire ecology; most non-native invaders do not. Modern prairie restoration programs still use periodic spring burns to “clean up” the population of grasses and flowers, cull saplings and other invaders, and make way for sun and rain to work their magic in the soil. What these programs are restoring is arguably not the natural flora at all, but one shaped over millennia by people and animals. *

*

*

The interior of the train is quiet. Seth, just out of chef school and on his way to study sustainable farming in Oregon, is wired up to ear buds and laptop in his roomette next door. In the one across the aisle, Bill, a computer engineer from Monterey, is downloading images from his camera. It rides on three legs and peers out the window, recording an image every sixty seconds as long as we have daylight. He plans to turn the pictures into a movie of sorts, once he cuts out the shots of tunnels and sandstone walls and blurs of track-side trees. I find a pen and calculate that he’ll have more than two thousand pictures to screen. I’ve given him my email address in hopes of seeing the finished product. Ours are the only compartments in this car with lights on. Most passengers on these long-run trains withdraw to sleep as soon as the last turquoise light leaves the horizon, and most are up early. The coming day—the middle day of the California Zephyr’s two-day transit from Chicago to the Golden Gate— is the one most passengers come for. The viewing car will begin to fill when the sun is still low in the eastern sky. People will stake out territories for what Amtrak calls “one of the most beautiful train trips in 17


all of North America.” Daylight will escort us for five hundred miles across the backbone of the Colorado Rockies, through remote canyons and high passes, through twenty-six tunnels, through the mountains and into the red rocks of Utah. For the umpteenth time I read the pages I’ve printed from the railroad’s website and study the fine print in my pocket atlas, determined to understand where I am, to speculate on where I’m bound. This car is the train’s tail, so the engine’s whistle announcing our arrival in Lincoln is almost a dream. I wonder if I’ve imagined it, then hear it again. Folk songs from my long-haired days echo in the night, songs about loneliness and freedom. Can you really hear this whistle blow five hundred miles? If you can, what does it say to you? We rattle slowly into the station. I haven’t pulled my curtains – I rarely do on trains – and I flip off my reading lamp and let the lights from the station platform filter through dust and glass into my nest. This is a quick stop, six minutes by the timetable, an odd precision for a mode of transportation notorious for being off-schedule. Why six? Why not five, or ten? Does it matter when railroad time is elastic, trains arriving early here, late there? But six is the magic number, and the handful of passengers who board and disembark here move with some urgency. Lincoln, Nebraska, has been home to Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, Hilary Swank, and the Salt Creek tiger beetle. Cicindela nevadica lincolniana is a halfinch-long green-brown predator and one of the rarest insects on earth. A University of Nebraska survey in 2009 estimated that fewer than two hundred adults—down from an already small population of almost eight hundred nine years earlier—were still stalking other insects in the saline wetlands of Lancaster County just north of Lincoln. Aside from its rarity, the Salt Creek tiger beetle is important as an indicator species whose presence attests to the health of the saline marsh it inhabits, and by extension the wider environment. In an effort to protect the remaining population, Nebraska declared it an endangered species in the 1990s and halted development of its critical habitat; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t follow suit until 2005, and by then the number of sites known to harbor Salt Creek tiger beetles had fallen to only three. Voices murmur in the luggage area on the lower level and someone bumps a bag up the narrow stairs and walks the other direction. The door to the outside world slides shut and the train’s joints groan with the effort to move on. I punch my pillow into shape and take a last peek out the window, recalling the final lines of “Night Journey” in which Roethke writes, “I stay up half the night/To see the land I love.” Before I close my eyes, I click on my iPod and read the poem again. Vibration and sway from the car around me infiltrate my own joints and sinews. Like Roethke before me, “Full on my neck I feel/The straining at a 18

curve;/My muscles move with steel,/I wake in every nerve.” I have read about the route we will traverse tomorrow, have traveled parts of it by car, and anticipate now, through the poet’s words, a new way of being here: “We thunder through ravines/And gullies washed with light.” After sunrise and beyond Denver we will twist and climb our way over the Rockies and descend into eastern Utah. I’ve already stayed up half the night, but now, as we leave the outskirts of Lincoln behind, I crawl under the blue blanket to dream the dreams of travelers as we roll west across the prairie. We push across Nebraska while I sleep in fits and starts. I wake every hour or two and peer out the window at distant lights and sleepy towns, then drop back to sleep. Dreams take me away from the prairie, but somewhere in the dark it strikes me that there is no better day to be crossing this stretch of American ground than today. It’s the Fourth of July, and in the wee hours we stop in Hastings, Nebraska. If you got off the train here and drove south for a bit more than an hour, you’d find the geographic center of the forty-eight contiguous states. At least that’s what the marker at Latitude 39°50' north, Longitude 98°35' near Lebanon, Kansas, claims, and although geographers quibble about the accuracy of the measurement, it’s close enough. If you traveled north again to resume your journey, US-281 would run you through Red Cloud, Nebraska, where Pulitzer-winning novelist Willa Cather lived as a child. Her prairie trilogy is set here, and I make a mental note to reread my favorite of the trio, Song of the Lark, when I get home. We pass in the pre-dawn darkness through the region once known as mixed-grass prairie, the transitional strip where tall and short grasses met and mingled. Early in the nineteenth century the U.S. government declared this “empty” area to be Indian country, generously granting to Native Americans a homeland they already had. But by mid-century the economic potential of the land became clear. Promises were broken. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 gave settlers free access to the Nebraska Territory, a tract that reached from the Kansas-Nebraska border north to Canada, and from the Missouri and White Earth rivers west to the Continental Divide. I awaken, sit up, gaze out the window at feedlots filled with cattle. Thousands of them. I am at once thrilled and appalled at this bovine sea, lit here and there by bug lights that tinge the night with a jaundiced air. I can taste the acrid dust rising from beneath thousands of hooves. I can smell the thick muskiness of the cattle, I swear I can, but wonder later whether I made that up. This mass of marketbound animals conjures the great herds that once ruled here and formed the heart of the plains tribes’ economies. By the mid-1880s the American bison had been hunted nearly to extinction, cattlemen had replaced them with longhorns, and the newly planted


railroads were carrying beef to the growing Eastern markets. This is cowboy country, and I’m as much a sucker for the romanticized icon as anyone, but I confess to my own ambivalence. I love traveling by train, and being able to move in comfort around this country of ours. But the truth is that trains and the influx of settlers and livestock devastated the land and the people and plants and animals who lived as part of it for millennia. How do we open our eyes and become responsible without losing hope? I turn away from the cattle, try to sleep, but random thoughts bang and rattle until I can’t tell them from the night sounds of the train.

vermin, and snakes in the walls. In dry weather they were dusty; in wet, they leaked and turned mucky. In my sleeplessness I surf the Internet to learn about Nebraska and come across a photograph in the Library of Congress collection. It’s the Sylvester Rawding family posing in front of their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska, just north of the Zephyr’s route. Sylvester and his wife are relaxed as they sit at the ends of a table set with a tablecloth and a halved watermelon. A young woman sits to Sylvester’s left. Three young men stand to her left and a collietype dog flanks one of these sons. Two horses in harness attached to a plow fill the far right of the image, and a milk cow stands on the roof of the house where it merges into a hillock. This is probably not their first sod house, for this one is fancy. It has glass in the windows, and curtains. I love this photo. I would like to know more about these people. The notion that some people are driven to pick up and move of their own volition has always been part of my world view. Both my parents were born to such people. In 1912 my mother arrived in Alberta, Canada, at the age of seven. Her

We push across Nebraska while I sleep in fits and starts. I wake every hour or two and peer out the window at distant lights and sleepy towns, then drop back to sleep. Dreams take me away from the prairie, but somewhere in the dark it strikes me that there is no better day to be crossing this stretch of American ground than today.

When Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law in 1862, settlers followed the lure of free land, and by 1870 Nebraska’s non-Native population had swelled from a few thousand living mostly along the Missouri River to a hundred and twenty thousand spread across the state. Lumber was a luxury on the prairies, so settlers relied on houses built of sod wrestled from the prairie floor to shield them from rain and sun and the never-ending wind. Sod houses were notorious for harboring bugs,

19


father had left Scotland a year earlier with surveying skills and two sets of clothes. Economic opportunity was the acceptable explanation, but my mother’s stories of her dad make me think that a daring escape from boredom was the real siren song. For my mother, childhood among immigrants from across Europe was a wild adventure. So too for my father’s father, who responded to Canada’s offer of free land by moving his wife and three young sons from a settled urban life in New Hampshire to a homestead in eastern Alberta in 1905. Their stories were not so different from the stories swirling in the dust outside this train. For the women, the bright lure of a new life was often dulled by loneliness, backbreaking labor, and lack of medical care. Men, too, exhausted themselves with physical work and were always at risk of injury or disease, but for women the risks were compounded by biology. Caring for a family, especially young children, involved a never-ending round of hard labor by hand or with basic tools. Pregnancy and childbirth were frequent and dangerous. Babies and children died easily. Grief was a constant specter. My dad was too young to remember, but my Uncle Art spoke of how their mother melted snow in winter to scrub their clothing and bedding in a galvanized tub with a washboard. My mother lived mostly in mining camps where her dad worked as a surveyor, and in small towns east of Calgary, but she had stories of hitching up the horse, milking the cow, caring for the hens and running from the rooster, working in the household garden. These scenes played out all across the prairies of North America. The homesteaders of Nebraska were a motley bunch. They were tenant farmers from the eastern states tired of working someone else’s land. They were newly arrived immigrants from central and eastern Europe—Czechs, Germans, Russians, Swedes, Danes—tired of war and out-dated economies of oppression. They were single women, families, children. They were Irish fleeing the Great Hunger and east-European Jews fleeing the great pogroms. They were former slaves and former soldiers. They were people with hearts on fire for free land and a free way of life. They learned quickly that the land and the life were not free at all. They were purchased at the cost of isolation, disease, privation, loss, and bonebreaking work and, although they didn’t see it this way, the destruction of ecosystems, species, and peoples. The prairie grasses did not give up their holdings without a fight. John Deere’s cast steel “grasshopper plows” were a technological boost for sod-busting settlers, hardened for blade-to-blade combat with the grass, but they could not drive themselves. Draft animals—horses and, more often, oxen—were essential equipment. In some places it took as many as twenty beasts in harness to rip the prairie open and expose her fertile soil. These were 20

tough, determined people. Still, it’s difficult from where we stand now, with history’s view of the Dust Bowl to come, not to see the rape of the Great Plains as an environmental disaster. *

*

*

Some people itch when settled too long in one place, or in the wrong place. This was certainly true of the people who scattered across North America during the past four hundred years. Even before they saw the agricultural potential of the Great Plains, people came through here on their way west. Pioneers on the Oregon Trail passed just south of Hastings, an estimated half million of them between 1843 and 1868. Those who traveled the whole route packed all their worldly goods into four- by ten-foot Prairie Schooners and slogged two thousand miles from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon. My roomette is nearly that big and I feel crowded with my suitcase and laptop. I am carrying more clothes for a week away than whole families owned on the trail. I do not have to carry food to last for weeks, nor the tools to begin a new life, and my journey will be faster and infinitely more secure. In a good day a team of oxen could haul the covered wagons fifteen miles, and the length of Nebraska, which we cross tonight in five comfortable hours, took them a month if all went well. Often it did not. The Oregon Trail has been called “this nation's longest graveyard.” One in eight pioneers died along the way, mostly from accidents and disease. A world-wide pandemic of cholera followed settlers along the trail, spreading from one group to the next through garbage left in camps. Infant and child mortality was high, and many women died in childbirth. Accidental shootings, often self-inflicted, were not uncommon, nor were injuries from working with large animals. With no antibiotics or clear notion of what causes infection, cuts and scrapes that we think minor could be fatal. Many medicines were themselves questionable. A typical kit might hold patent medicines that were often just alcohol or sugar, along with castor oil and peppermint oil for intestinal and skin problems, rum or whiskey to clean wounds and treat illness, and quinine for malaria. Hartshorn, made from the antlers of deer, was used to treat snakebite, but was useless if the snake was venomous. Laudanum and morphine were used as painkillers and sedatives. They didn’t cure anything, but might at least ease pain. The road west took many victims over a quarter of a century. Some lost their minds; some sixty-five thousand lost their lives. My family did not travel the Oregon Trail, but I grew up on stories of immigration into a wild, unsettled place. Alberta at the start of the twentieth century offered some advantages over Nebraska a half century earlier, but the two were similar in many ways. Opportunity was tempered by risk. Crops and livestock could be wiped out by weather or fire, pestilence or drought. Whole families died within days of diseases we never


hear of in the U.S. or Canada today, although some are making a terrifying comeback. My mother’s parents survived typhoid fever, my mother scarlet fever and whooping cough. She spoke of a woman she knew who lost seven children to a diphtheria outbreak, and, eight years later, three more. When he was two years old, my father lost his mother and a baby brother in childbirth. So it was with settlers throughout the continent. I continue to read and feel a mental shift, an attitude adjustment, a new perspective. Threads of regret and blame and deep respect tangle themselves in my mind. This is not the first time I’ve read about how things were, of course, not the first time I’ve wrestled with my own gentle complicity in changes for good and for bad. Nor is it the first time I have traversed this wide stretch of land. But in the past I have done so by car, by the glare of the modern world. To the day-lit eye, this place is vast, tough, uncrowded. Night draws the past in closer, and as I gaze into the dark outside my window, the shadows of people and animals and plants that passed through here before me. These plains are a place of spirits, no more empty now than they were when the tall grasses waved. A wayfarer in her writing as in her life, Sheila Webster Boneham prefers to follow where the words take her. She writes across genres, and most of her work concerns nature, place, and animals, ourselves included. She has written extensively about companion animals, and is often accompanied in her wanderings by her dogs. Sheila has ridden long-distance trains in North America, Europe, and Egypt, and is currently working on a series of essays about trips by rail. Sheila holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Creative Writing Program and a Ph.D. in folklore from Indiana University. | Photo below and on page 20 by © MT_Image Flickr Creative Commons

21


Forthcoming April 2014

S

et amid the magic and struggles of Africa, To Live in Paradise is the poignant memoir of a young American woman who finds herself swept up in an intriguing new life in zimbabwe, just as this paradise country takes a critical turn in its history. As the idyll unravels, the nation applauded as Africa’s success story plunges into a lawless land where tyrants rule. In a clash of humanity and earth, an unparalleled wilderness and a distressed nation both fight for survival. Her adventures include a cheetah attack, rioting crowds, inspiring safaris, and eye-to-eye snake encounters, shared with endearing characters who are her friends. Within this tale of an American’s affair with a vibrant yet imperiled land, also unfolds a story of loss for one of Earth’s last Edens.

WWW.HOMEBOUNDPUBLICATIONS.COM

|

WWW.CINDIMCVEY.COM


“While reading Cindi McVey’s incredible narration, I felt as though I, too, was living in paradise. I could hear it, smell it, see it, and also felt a part of its loss. This book is a living adventure and cannot be put down!” —Dave Barr author of Riding The Edge and Riding The Ice


Walking Home from City Dock

The Red Eye

Barrett Warner

Barrett Warner

I glance up to track the progress of waterless planets. Their orbits so large each year may last a dozen. Where is that kestrel flying for its ratty supper? Sometimes temptation falls from the sky.

Who wants to arrive at dawn, drowsy and hungover, three thousand miles from home? I’m the only passenger tonight, sixteen rows behind the cockpit. Why did they give me the middle seat. I’m waiting for my tomato juice and feeling blue for my luggage in the swollen cargo bay, a simple black dress of a bag festooned with green ribbons, all alone, with no other checked bags to turn for company.

If I see her coming I’m quick to dodge left or right, to miss where a small crater has formed in the shape of someone lovely and hungry, overwhelmed and alone. I don’t stop, not even to throw coins into the gaping shadow to wish for something different. No, I keep moving and maybe I’ll buy gladiolas and wine to go with a half-shelled night of oysters. Here I am, leaning over the faucet, cutting stems on the bias. Here is my wife, popping and pouring the grape shots. Here we are, sailcloth mitt and shucker, saying nothing when she sees once again something has bashed my head, leaving a lump.

At least I have Kooser, the pilot, who’s run out of ways to describe altitude—our climb and soar— and so drones over the loud speaker about North Dakota, top to bottom, and veering now, he describes a place ten thousand feet below where he went to elementary school. If any children are waving back at us from the last century, we can’t see them in the prairie dark, but just in case, I lean to the window and wobble my hand.

Barrett Warner’s stories and poems have recently appeared in Passager, Gargoyle, Slipstream, Southeast Review, Pembroke Magazine, and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbook Til I’m Blue in the Face (Tropos Press). For the past 25 years he has managed his family’s farm, “An Otherwise Perfect Farm.” It is located 12 miles from where he was born. He hardly goes anywhere. | Photo on Left by © Chinni Wong Flickr Creative Commons

25


Poems Inspired on the Camino de Santiago I search

One path Michael Mark

Michael Mark Sun knows where to light Rain knows where to fall Flower knows where to grow River knows where to run Wind knows where to blow I search for my path

Listening

Look at the stones and see the river Eyes on the dirt to take in the sky In the sand is the hawk above Miss the mud, miss the clouds Each pine needle shows a view of the mountains Every step Every thing One path

Two hearts Michael Mark

Michael Mark The rustling leaf is the wind teaching us how to listen when spring comes

The The The The The The The The The

rock’s heart is rock. gardener’s heart is muscle rock’s heart is rock. gardener’s heart is earnest rock’s heart is rock. gardener’s heart is his wife rock’s heart is rock. gardener’s heart is never still rock’s heart is rock.

Michael Mark writes to break things so he can look in and be further mystified. He is the author of two books of fiction, Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum). His poetry has appeared and is scheduled to appear in The New York Times, UPAYA, Awakening Consciousness Magazine, Sleet, Empty Mirror, OutsideIn, Elephant Journal, Everyday Poets, Forge, Angle Journal, The 2014 San Diego Poetry Annual as well as other nice places. He takes long walks—the last one, 580 miles throughout Spain. | Photo on Left by © Fresco Tours on the Camino de Santiago, Flickr Creative Commons 27


6 Questions with Amy Nawrocki, author of Four Blue Eggs

1. What books are on your nightstand? The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts and Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson. 2. What book are you an evangelist for—what book do you feel that everyone needs to read? Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I’m ashamed to say I just read it a few months ago. Essential reading. 3. If you could sit down with one author living or dead who would it be and why? I’d really like to introduce Gertrude Stein to the semicolon. We have a few other things to discuss, too. Besides she has a lot of connections. It would be a full dinner party. 4. Tell us a little about your own creative process. On my good days, I have an idea already in my mind. Sometimes it’s a line, an image, an experience that I want to capture. If it’s a really good day, I know where I think I want the poem to go. On the best days, the poem takes me somewhere unexpected. On an average day, I just jot down a lot of phrases or words or prose it out in my mind. On a bad day, I forget what it was that I had so perfectly in my mind and end up watching Japanese baseball on ESPN.

28

5. At what point did you feel you crossed the line between “hobbyist” writer and “author”? I never really thought of myself as a “hobbyist” (maybe amateur), but then again, it’s hard to think of myself as an “author.” When I decided to go to graduate school, I committed to doing more than just “dabbling.” When I started to get publications and even when my first chapbook was in my hands, I don’t remember thinking, “Now I’m an author.” Actually, when I write prose I feel like an “author.” When I write poetry, I feel like a “poet.” That isn’t to say poets aren’t “authors” or that poetry is a “hobby.” It’s just the strangeness of word associations. At one point, I decided that I never wanted to be at a dinner party some day and say “I used to write poetry.” That was my invisible line. 6. What are you working on now? I’m promoting Four Blue Eggs; I just finished Literary Connecticut, my third collaboration with my husband Eric D. Lehman. I want to get back into villanelles which I had a lot of fun with while vacationing this summer. I like the meditative quality of the form. Amy Nawrocki is a Connecticut native, raised in Newtown and now living in Hamden. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas. She has received numerous honors for her poetry, including awards from the Litchfield Review Poetry Contest, the Codhill Chapbook Competition, The Loft Anthology, Phi Kappa Phi, New Millennium Writings, and the Connecticut Poetry Society. Finishing Line Press published her three chapbooks: Potato Eaters, Nomad’s End, and Lune de Miel. With her husband, Eric D. Lehman, she wrote A History of Connecticut Wine, A History of Connecticut Food and Literary Connecticut. She teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Bridgeport and is mother to two cats, Maple and Django.


Four Blue Eggs “Like Whitman, Amy Nawrocki gracefully ex tols the beauty of nature while subtly lamenting our detachment from it. Her elegant writing lends transcendence to our everyday world...” —Lisa Schwartz, The Newtowner Magazine

finalist in the 2013 homebound publications poetry prize


Sun and Thunder Months Cambria Jones We thread our fingers with these brief weeks so intimately, despite lusty eyes already turned toward hibernation. Nine months through we claim a passion for three of sun and thunder; but our hearts, in the end, require rest, a thick lining.

Paradise Cambria Jones

Stand with me for a moment in paradise with a golden road but no gate; let’s walk off the path just because we can and nevermind it’s longer going. Here where the incoming edge of the wind proves the wildest, let’s cast our dreams out because they won’t hitch—nothing stands between me and the horizon but sweet water. And if you were Jesus, you’d take a walk right off the end of the earth; we’ve both heard it’s just another field there, maybe brighter green, but bearing the same name. And this magic is the sun behind your head.

Cambria Jones was born in Minneapolis, MN, and currently resides outside the Twin Cities. She dabbles in history and writing, always enjoying a good cup of coffee and people watching. Her most recent embarrassment involved setting off alarms at her favourite art museum by falling into a sculpture. | Photo on Left by © Javier Vidal Flickr Creative Commons

31


Feature Poet Clinton Inman

Invited Clinton Inman It was no accident my coming here For they must had known long before I wandered to their farmhouse near That soon I would knock upon their door And wait until the storm would clear. Call it more than a good neighbor’s sense In snow to leave a porch lamp lighted Or post the sign upon the picket fence For those in need are all invited As fate had found no better coincidence.

Fireflies Clinton Inman They glitter and glow like stars The fireflies we chased under summer sky Appeared as if they came from fairy-land To show more than we could understand What power made them glow and why The ones we caught and placed in jars Would not shine as if somehow to refuse Until we opened the jars and turned them loose But just like us whether a fly or a kid No light shines under glass or lid.

Engines Clinton Inman

Clinton Inman was born in Walton-on-Thames, England in 1945, graduated from San Diego State University in 1977 BA in philosophy and have been an educator most of my life. Currently he is am a high school teacher in Tampa Ba area where he lives with my wife, Elba. | Photo on Right by Š USFWS Pacific

32

Under a carbon sky In gray sands Engines lie Rotting and rusting Scattering no more Flocks of birds To the sounds Of freedom.


33


Equanimity Kaveri Patel There is a canyon of painted rocks Where the sun always rises Where the sun always sets Sometimes the cliffs are covered in snow Sometimes they are wet with rain Sometimes wildflowers grow in dry crevices Sometimes I keep company with family and friends Sometimes I feel lonely among familiar strangers Sometimes I am alone Sometimes the sun rises and sets inside my own heart As I disappear into painted rocks and silence Becoming the space for life to occur

Wound Care Kaveri Patel Keep it closed for the first few days, months, sometimes even years bandaged against the oxygen of consciousness. The cut’s too deep, not ready for the sting of alcohol wipes or saltwater tears. You’ll know when the time is right, when the wind that once rattled your bones with thoughts of lions, tigers, and bears, oh my becomes the breath that can save you, when the wound is ready for full exposure to the depths of its darkness and the edges of healing light.

Kaveri Patel is a poet, mother, and healer diving into each wave of experience to hear The Inner Voice. She has published poetry books, a guided meditation CD and believes in gifts from the sea. wisdominwaves.com

34


“My Wife is Swimming in her Sleep” Matthew Kirshman My wife is swimming in her sleep—the hair Upon her cheek lies matted and moist; Her parted goldfish lips breathe double life, While dreamer’s drool pools upon the pillow. The quilt is twisted, twined about her shins And thighs, and swells wavelike o’er her hip. One silken breast shows, one arm bent o’erhead; She skims through billows, woman in water, Poseidon’s favorite daughter, strong and profound. Her form it seems has carried me to shore, Has rescued me from drowning solitude. When young, yet unbegun youth felt done, No love-begot comfort to a sad, lone teen, I dreamed an artificial life, a maze Of symbols—teeming, sublime, transcendent —A wheel of myriad spokes, Venus’s kiss The hub, whose self-engendered bliss was mine. A hungry animal and pious mind— My limbs consumed the female myth: I kissed Embodied in my adolescent flesh Her through the intellect and met her in The poetical womb, whose sound, whose sense, (Her nascent figure was my familiar) Called siren-like through pretty high school girls. Whose present tense bespoke the tune of Time. A voice alone could stir my love, or hair I spent myself upon her Goddess shape. That haloed rainbow in the sun, or eyes Is Woman rhythm, tone and rhyme, her name That sexily sparkled fire or sweetly glowed, Spontaneous sign? If so, so am I. My female half—for whom I longed as both Or lacy bra through careless buttons glimpsed. It’s 5 a.m. when I awake to work, And stay a minute, watching Kiersten sleep, To think how lonesome memory resolves Within the heart’s hidden waterways. She’s not yet turned to occupy my spot, Where nuzzled I against the night, touching Her warmly from behind, a boy drifting Through hypnotizing waves, no longer lost, But home, though darkness did surround him. How strange to know myself through this woman’s Matthew Kirshman lives in Seattle, WashSerene buoyancy—my tendency to sink, ington with his wife and two daughters. He is an English teacher, but before that has had a And desperately dwell upon abstract varied career--telephone repairman, bartendSalvations. Kiersten’s spirit stirs; it speaks er, and cook, to name a few. Writing since the Of naked love: the fluency of souls early 1980s, his publication credits include: AltIs mirrored by their bodies, bit by bit poetics, Charter Oak Poets, Dirigible: Journal of Absorbed unto each other, he and she Language Arts, Futures Trading, Helix, Indefinite In flesh and mind sublimely twine through cells Space, Key Satch(el), Mad Hatters’ Review, Phoebe: The George Mason Review, posthumous paAnd synapses, pools and shadows gather quick pers (NothingNew Press), Vangarde Magazine, To taste a daily metamorphosis. Xenarts, and Z-Composition. 35


Men

Grow Beards

by Matthew Jurow

I

X

cannot present rigorous scholarship about the dates and degrees of the reentry of the beard into the current fashion.

One of the reasons I like writing about things like beards is because I don’t have to ground my arguments in fact, so for the presentation of opinion as dogma I will not apologize. I do know that my current beard coach, who also happens to be my brother, had a beard since some time in high school and declared at some point before 2010 that he was going to “bring the 70’s back”.

36


cidedly ironic, although surely flourishing. It is from Sure, in hindsight that seems like an easy one, this period of beard flux that I have drawn the followbut I recall some shrill declarations from girls who ing philosophies of beards. were attending tight and bright parties that such a My own personal voyage from an un-rough recent feat was impossible. college graduate My father has to a lightly beardhad a beard since ed graduate stubefore I was born dent to a reasonand inspired my ably well bearded beard coach to scientist follows a develop his first The first step in the journey is traditional path, beard. The Freud and touches upon fans in the audithe same for everyone. some, but cerence are welcome tainly not all, of to do with that inthe milestones formation whatStop shaving. and facets which ever they like. affront a person So with rigorOften this first barrier can during their transous timing and formation. It is the exact gauges of tension between take years to overcome. beard accelerathe uniqueness tion, defined as of each case and the second time From the other side, the commonaliderivative of the ties of the journey percentage of once a man has glimpsed which makes the men sporting process of beard more than one growth so mystemonths’ growth in the serenity and sheer development rious and powerthe US, lost to the ful. fog of youth we invoked by owning a beard, The first step in can surely agree the journey is the that at, lets call same for everyit is somewhere between amusing, it four o’clock PM one. Stop shaving. eastern standard Often this first time on Octoshocking, perplexing and frustrating barrier can take ber 12th, 2011 we years to overwere at a tempoto see the reaction of a clean shaven male come. From the ral local maxima other side, once a of beards in the man has glimpsed US. An inflection to the suggestion that he stop shaving. the serenity and point. Since that sheer developday the tide has ment invoked by turned back toowning a beard, it wards a pseudo is somewhere bebeard behind tween amusing, shocking, perplexing and frustrating which even finance employees can hide. Roughly to see the reaction of a clean shaven male to the a 4 on a standard beard trimmer. Before that moment Beards were still often experimental and de-

___________________________________________________ (left) Beard Graphic Š LHF Graphics (Shuttershock)

37


suggestion that he stop shaving. The objections will be boundless and often times ferocious. I cant. My boss wont let me. No. It wouldn’t look good. These excuses pour forth but hardly scratch the surface of the discomfort which seethes beneath the words. The panic and anger often cannot be concealed. This tantrum reveals ego, wrapped up in its concept of self-image, brought directly out into the open in a rare display of petulant truth. But it is this very process that gives the beard its overwhelming value. Lengths, styles, colors are all minor details compared to the transformation of mind required to Put Down The Mach 3. Most people will need close to a month before their facial hair situation can be considered a beard.

ents a trap into which all first time pilgrims should be wary. It is currently possible for some to come very close to having a beard without every having to leave the comfort of the current vogue. This will not do. The beard is to be used to break free. It is not a jack spade day bag. It is not a long-on-top-short-onsides hair cut. It is not Lagunitas IPA. Similarly, if you can grow a glorious beard in three days you may be masquerading as a lion when in fact you have the soul of a mangy alley cat. Or perhaps, I cannot speak from experience but I have always suspected, that those blessed with regal facial hair requiring minimal time and upkeep are just naturally superior. Closer to Him from the start. The miraculous transformation occurs when you

The miraculous transformation occurs when you develop faith in your beard. W hen you accept that the outcome will be. You will give up control, as if you ever really had it, and realize that whatever is, is fine.

There are some tricks to make it easier, shaving your neck line comes to mind, but one way or the other, the grower will be faced with that cynical reduction of his entire being into a toothpaste flecked image that is his reflection in the mirror multiple times each day. He will stare into his own eyes and marvel that his entire consciousness is presented to the world as a simple person even though his internal experience is boundless. And he will have doubts. He will blame itchiness, interviews, aesthetics—anything to end the experiment and revert back to the comfort of the facial presentation he has known for so long. There is no shame in doubt. It is overcoming this doubt that transforms the bearded. Without suffering there is no gain. The unfortunate fashionable middle ground of the not quite scruff but certainly not a beard pres38

develop faith in your beard. When you accept that the outcome will be. You will give up control, as if you ever really had it, and realize that whatever is, is fine. Inevitably the experiment will falter. It may take a week, a month, a season, but eventually the newly bearded will shave. And it is at this moment that the illusion is shattered. For once clean shaven the man will see himself in the mirror and know fear. That isn’t him. If he successfully persevered he will no longer find comfort in his unrough presentation. There is no going back. He has seen the alternative. Now facial hair is a choice. He understands that the inner being which composes his soul will remain intact. The furious denials will recede and he can now make a choice as to how to proceed after spending another four to six weeks developing enough of a canvas to fairly plot his path.


Some people have patches, missing connections between moustache and beard, uneven neck lines, extremely high cheek lines, rogue hairs at the back of the jaw, under the ear. Only after you have grown your second beard can you even begin to believe that your self-assessment may have a grain of truth. For the first few decades it is strongly recommended that you seek the council of an experienced beard coach. Coaches can be found in unlikely places. It is hard to describe the qualities which make a beard coach an appropriate guide. Having a beard for a long time is a good sign but far from a prerequisite. Avoid females. They know not what they do. If you disagree with your beard coach from a stylistic perspective seek out a new one, but never shave in haste. That will be a mistake. A fleeting taste of a universal truth. In mere seconds you can destroy months of work. There is no back button. There is no second chance. The 0 setting on that beard trimmer holds awesome power. If you have the luxury of a qualified and trustworthy coach, and you have your second beard, you may choose to contemplate style. Instead of observing the thin hair of your cheeks however, begin to see that God may have destined you to have a naturally sinister chin strap. If you can only grow a moustache? Congratulations you can be a guy who has a moustache. My jealousy is substantial. What’s important is that you accept your natural endowment. You cannot fight your nature. And furthermore, why would you? What is to be gained by artificially creating an image of an unctuous and cowardly clean shaven reptile? Why do you need to separate yourself from your own nature? Denying your mortality will lead only to suffering. You are human. You will die. You should have a beard until then. After entering the realm of the bearded, the fraternity of the fully formed, you have arrived only at the beginning of a journey. A journey which derives its beauty from its very lack of destination. You may now set out on adventures of style and length and attempt to see how many different you’s can be presented to the world. Each different stop along the road will require a transformation similar to the original, although never with the same potency of the initial transformation. Experiences of that depth are given to each man only once. It is unfortunate that the original gift is not given in cataclysm. There is no thunder. There is a gradual realization that you were awakened some time in the past. When? You cannot say. There is no vivid memory. You cannot put your finger on grace. You will push through awkward lengths in search of new frontiers. Each man must question the purpose of his beard. I suspect that no bearded man can possibly believe that it is purely an issue of vanity. The enduring question, to which I am all but certain there is no answer, where do we go from here? What is the purest form of the beard. These haunting metaphysical concerns can be easily avoided by matters of convenience and image. If my beard gets any longer it will get caught in my zipper. My moustache gets in my mouth. I keep getting searched at the airport. But these are paper screens behind which only a smooth faced child would hide. We must continue to explore the farthest reaches of the beards power to loosen the grip of self and image on reality. We must appreciate that walking the path may be the only real destination. ______________________________________________________________________________________ I dedicate this exposition to my stalwart beard coach—my brother, Jonathan. And to Grant that he may some day heed these words. Matthew Jurow is a research scientist with a Ph.D in chemistry and a strong interest in the intersection of religion, philosophy and reality. His work often attempts to elucidate the ephemeral fingerprints of the divine on the mundane.

39


Sally Nacker received her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Fairfield University in January, 2013. Shortly afterwards, she was selected as one of four finalists for the Fairfield Book Prize for her poetry collection, Vireo. Her paper on Amy Lowell, “Wings and Windows: My Letter to Amy Lowell,” was praised by poet Annie Finch on Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Blog. She has two poems forthcoming in the June, 2014 issue of Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women. Sally resides in Connecticut with her husband and two cats and is privately carving out a life in letters. | Photo Above by © goingslo Flicky Creative Commons


My Father’s Eighty-fifth Birthday Sally Nacker

That day, I walked beside you, held your cane, watched you push the mower across the wide, May lawn. Thin, straight lines were made, as in a poem. The shorn grass flew back to the ground, where it once grew; now cut from, yet so at rest with, what it once knew. Father, I loved the grass that day.

The Naturalist Sally Nacker for Edith Holden, 1871-1920 With her umbrella, in her white dress and from the river bank, the naturalist reached for the chestnut buds resinous across the Thames backwater. She had not brought her paints that day, had not gone out for art, but to clear a complaint from her head.

A Preponderance In Spring Sally Nacker Early evening exudes the same greenish-yellow light I witnessed as a fevered child. Today, a friend writes of a friend’s ill wife dying. Two months ago, his own life hung in the balance. In leafy branches, lively warbles rise from the house wrens’ throats. Asleep, the cat twitches on the sill. A complete wonder, my quiet life. The sour light deepens, eerily. I refuse to ponder my own demise. Perhaps, I should go out and make a round around the garden where the flowers rise: emperor tulip, grape hyacinth, trumpet daffodil.

She left with a headache, her husband said, when they found her floating like a flower.

41


Worship A.W. Partin This quiet place, this pulsing life of green awakens in the dawn, cool and clean. Broken, lichen-mottled boughs are raised in blissful reverence while the ferns uncoil, prayerful and serene. The pheasant lifts his coarse and clacking song with a chorus of rivulets that weave along through rapturous brush and push through primrose loam till they merge with the humming river. A throng of dragonflies stutter while they sing about the hands of their lily-crowned King, the Creator of vine and stone. Homely assemblies of morel and moss request I kneel in their cathedral and bring forth my praise—my offering.

A.W. Partin was raised in Pennsylvania, received a BA in English from Malone University in Ohio, and currently lives in Georgia. When she isn’t writing, she’s browsing through antiques and spending time with her husband, James.

Great Dismal David Loope The edge of the wilderness Slip-slaps moccasin quick through Eras of sedge: Rustle and naught. On the canal, The barge that brought Judge Barefoot’s bench, The sheriff’s Enfield, Sawyer’s overseer— Aged by the sweat of Norfolk stevedores through Ten thousand sweeps of callused Feet, brogans, ropes— Rots candid in its repose. Hands of tea Smooth the sand, Finger the wreck. In this peat, Time births irony. Narratives blossom Among the reeds.

David R. Loope is Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of Humanities at Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia. He and his family live in Norfolk, Virginia, at the confluence of the James and Elizabeth Rivers. Photo on Left photo by © Antony Stanley Flickr Creative Commons

43


Book Spotlight

Inspiration for Call of the Sun Child by Francesca G. Varela

T

here was a time when anyone could look up at night— anyone, anywhere on the entire planet—and, if the clouds were absent, see the sky in its entirety.

I have always I haven’t always found to Canis Major, to Ori-

looked for the stars on clear nights, but them.

44

I’ve

stood outside, tilted my chin

on, to Bootes, to Lyra, and felt a great sadness in my chest. This is not it, I thought. There’s more. There’s the Milky Way’s veiling ribbon, the cool shadows of shooting stars, the whole sky lit to fire… but not here. Not anymore. Even with light pollution, the moon still waxes and wanes. It pulses between orange and blue light. It both dominates and shrinks away from the expanse of the sky; it climbs above the sun yet at other times refuses to surface above the tree line. All this, and still the moon is reliable. When I look to the moon, I feel the same way as I do when I sit next to my favorite cedar tree, or when I see Mt. Hood’s blue and white face. It’s the comfort of feeling a connection with something ancient, immutable, and nearly eternal. It was a full moon in August, just before my senior year of high school, when the idea came to me. I went outside to greet the moon. The light was bright enough to read a book under. As it cast a thin and colorless glow over my hands, I began to wonder what it would be like to live in a nocturnal society. I wrote the idea down in my notebook, but I didn’t begin to write Call of the Sun Child for another year. At the time, I was writing other things, so I let the idea of a nocturnal people revolve in my mind. It’s a good thing I waited, because in that time, I refined my beliefs about the world, I learned to think independently, and, most importantly, I discovered what I wanted to say. Inspired by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, I started really looking around me. As a child I had played in the forest around my house, but after I read Emerson’s Nature, the forest transitioned from an imaginary kingdom into a tangibly sacred place. As I took up studying the natural world, I also began to notice what I didn’t like about modern society– the wastefulness, the destruction of Earth’s beauty, the disregard for what truly sustains us in favor of the imagined importance of money! It made me angry, hearing the cars on the highway as I knelt next to the creek. I hated the overly large houses blemishing the hills. The concrete covering the dirt was a dull, grotesque replacement for the true earth. I craved the wild places beyond the city. I craved a life that wasn’t ruled by made-up things. Some were okay, like the arts, like music, like literature. But, more and more, it seemed like everyone was forced to work their


lives away in order to make money, in order to watch television, to buy things. And then I realized that it hadn’t always been that way, nor did it have to continue being that way. For most of human history, all people lived simply, and respected the Earth’s life-giving processes. In my helpless juvenile state, there was only one thing I could do to rekindle in other people this desire I had found myself—or to at least convince them to love the natural world again, and to recognize that we can’t live without the sun, the river, the trees, or the air. So I wrote Call of the Sun Child. I wrote it passionately and impulsively, hoping more people would mourn the loss of the stars, and be thankful for the moon.

Enjoy the First Chapter

H

e turns and looks at me with gray slanted eyes, reaching out one hand.

Let

me help you.

I hear They plead, they echo off his pink, outstretched palm. His features are blurry. Behind this man is a light that hisses and spits with great tenderness. It grows brighter. I think I’ll never see again. Then the light swallows the man. I tell Mom about the dream the next night. She takes a pert sip of water, gulps back her Vitamin D pill. There’s a clang as she sets her glass down on the metal kitchen table. We’ve just woken up and this act is too loud for the empty apartment. Now the refrigerator seems to hum louder, the newscaster on the TV wall is screaming wildly, the antique clock ticks relentlessly down the hall. All sound is bounced out of place and stretched into every quiet corner. I swallow my own pill, carefully avoiding the cold brush of metal against my bare elbows. “Sounds almost like the sun,” Mom tries to smile at me, then seems to remember how tired she is. They haven’t even turned the light on yet. She pours us some cereal. “I think we’re almost out of milk tablets.” “How do you know what the sun looks like?” I eye the TV wall warily. A blonde haired reporter is interviewing Kern Bradley, the opponent running for president of our facility. They sit stiffly beneath white walls and stainless steel. Kern clears his throat roughly, nodding his head. Everyone knows he won’t win. He wants to allow in new outsiders. the words before his mouth moves.

“I’ve seen it in old movies. They used to show us in school. Don’t they do that anymore?” “No. They don’t. I guess they don’t want us to know what we’re missing out on.” “Please, don’t start with that again. Just remember how lucky we are to live here. Would you rather be on the outside and have to fend for yourself? There’s nothing left out there.” She turns to me, her spoon halfway to her beige lips. “I know, I know. Sorry.” We eat staring at the wall. I avoid looking at the empty third chair. Mom puts her bowl in the dishwasher just as the light is turned on. At first it’s a muted red glow that drips through the window. They turn the light on gradually for comfort, so it feels natural. At least, that’s what they tell us. Who knows what a sunrise is really like. The dense, silver ceiling encircling us has always been closed. Solar panels on the facility’s roof bring us the sun’s power. Water comes from a distant sea before the salt is taken out. Food and clothing are made in an industrial facility, then shipped here on the underground trains. No one goes to the outside, and no one enters the sloping walls of the Circadia Stable Living Facility. Our home. Our world, really. I’ve always wanted to go to the perimeter. There are rumors that there used to be a secret window where you could watch the outside world. It was only a crack in the wall, a flaw in the government’s design. An old man supposedly covered up this hole with a worn gray cloth. He only let certain people look through it, and the brave would reach their hands out to caress the moving air. The government could never track down the window. Some say the old man died of skin cancer from the radiation that leaked in during the day. Others swear that one night an outsider came and stabbed him through the hole with a knife. All agree that he’s gone. It’s brighter now. Yellow light falls down from the domed ceiling. I hurry to the bathroom, splash my face with water and brush my teeth. Sometimes I wonder what I’d look like if I painted my face like the ancients did. Would I be prettier with rings of black around my brown eyes, with red dust on my cheeks? No, I’d just get weird looks, walking around like a photo from our history text. Mom’s already dressed in her white polyester work outfit. She touches the wall in the kitchen to turn off the TV. I shuffle past her into my room to change. We 45


shove our phones in our pockets and leave. “You see,” Mom says as we go down the elevator, “if we lived on the outside we would have to have locks on our doors. There would be criminals walking around everywhere.” All the government has to do is claim that you’re unfit for the facility. Then they open the steel, bolted door to the outside, the only door, and shove you out. The air purification systems are always buzzing on full blast for a few days after that happens. We don’t have a jail. The government feels that banishment is a proper penalty for any offense. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” A man and a woman are singing in the middle of the street. The woman sits on a plastic chair, towering over a small black bowl for money offerings. Her hair is bright red and shining. I can hear them before we’re out of the lobby, wailing the wordless rhythms that are so popular right now. They lean in towards each other, the man closing his eyes passionately behind thick glasses. Several people bend down and toss a few coins in the bowl. No one stops to listen. Clouds of whiteclothed people rush down the concrete path, ghosts against the square gray buildings behind them. The tallest building is six stories tall. If you stand on the roof you can reach up and touch the screws that hold together the ceiling, and smell the burning heat of the lights. Mom and I follow the crowd to the thin silver train that slices the facility in half. The smiling doorman waves us on as we show him the passes on our phones. It takes only two minutes to travel the thirty miles to the business district. I study the other passengers. Their light brown faces are tilted to the floor, their delicate fingers wrapped carefully around the handles on the wall. They are cleaners, grocery dispensary owners, hair stylists, scientists, students like me. A man with clear eyes glances up at me, and I jump, remembering my dream. The train glides quietly to its destination. Mom kisses me on the cheek before we walk in opposite directions; she goes to her job at a clothing dispensary, and I go to school. There’s only one school in the facility, which ranges from kindergarten to the fourteenth grade. Only the rich kids move on to the exclusive college down the street because only they can afford it. They’re the ones who grow up to wear bright colors, who 46

become the government. My friend Alden says that the government wants it that way so the upper class will always stay in power. He must be right. One of the only requirements to run for office, or to even work for the government, is to be a college graduate. “Hey, Sempra,” Alden says as I sit down beside him in the accelerated tenth grade classroom. He’s very thin and his ears are slightly pointy. No one ever talks to him but me. The teacher, Ms. Morgan, sits stoically at the head of the long rectangular table, wrapped in painstakingly white robes. She’s one of those people who are employed by the government. I once overheard Ms. Morgan ordering the elderly custodian with a missing finger to clean the room twice a day, at break and after school. The sharp smell of disinfectant emanates from every classroom, but it’s always strongest in ours. We take out our phones and huddle in towards the table we share for better communication ability. My eyes dart to the little round window in the corner, overlooking the near-empty street below. I wonder what it would be like to not have to go to school. “Let’s resume the history lesson from our last class. Please bring up the text on your phones,” Ms. Morgan’s voice is high and crisp, but her square face is lined and chubby, sagging at the chin like melting ice. I’ve had my black touch-screen cell phone since I was a little kid. Everyone has. We’re issued the standard model on our sixth birthdays, and keep the phones for most of our lives. To lose or damage your phone is grievously frowned upon. Natalia’s purple, sparkle covered phone shines gloatingly from across the table. She’s the daughter of the current president of the facility, Harmond Nielson. Only the wealthy update their cell phones. Natalia’s smooth, caramel skin is framed by stringy black hair with purple streaks. When we were kids she told me that her goal in life would entail following in her father’s footsteps, becoming president, and making sure that I was thrown out her first day in office. I shrugged and ran off to play with Alden, but Natalia’s lips never quivered from their straight, smug line. In the hands dangling above the elbows leaning on the table are mostly standard model phones. Only Karen, Bret, Natalia, and Greg hold colors and higher memory and enhanced durability. “Now, we talked about how the ancient races of


man were assimilated over time by hundreds of years of interbreeding, resulting in the mixed form we are today. Prejudice has thus been eliminated.” We follow along with the e-books on our phones as she talks about the ancient times of waste and pollution; of the great change, of how they hastily tried to remedy their mistakes, of how it was too late; of the creation of the facilities, and the way the founders only allowed in the people who could pay, so only productive citizens would lead the way to the new world. “It was dangerous,” Ms. Morgan keeps repeating, “the way they used to live in the open, under the burning sun. Skin cancer became as common as a cold. With the depleted ozone layer and the sun growing stronger, the ultraviolet rays were just too damaging. That’s when society became nocturnal.” She hollowly explains how climate change made the world a desert, how the rising oceans buried entire cities and islands, how immense storms ravaged the land. How famine and drought left millions of bodies decaying in the sun. How mass extinction forced life out of balance, and death became more common than life. Nothing we haven’t heard before. “They had to run for their shelters when the sun came up, closing their steel shutters. They started living in windowless huts. That’s how the outsiders still live. Like animals, having to fear something bigger than them. “The old countries and governments of the time lost hold of society. A few world leaders stepped in, the founders, and saved humanity from chaos. They were geniuses. They constructed the facilities; seven for living purposes and five for industrial purposes, along with the underground train network connecting them. “Our founders managed to create a safe, stable, and sustainable living environment in the midst of desolation. Not only have we functioned flawlessly for one hundred and fifty years, but we have managed to thrive and achieve a remarkably high standard of living on the limited resources available.” I look over at Alden, who is staring ponderously at the wall as though it is all of eternity. He sighs, locking his sad black eyes with mine. Then we learn about calculus and persuasive essays and the periodic table of elements, all from the mouth of Ms. Morgan and the minds of our phones. When the final bell buzzes we upload our work to the teacher’s server and leave. “Sempra,” Alden stops, tugging on my arm when we’re halfway to the train, “have you ever read the

book The Call of the Wild? By Jack London?” “No. I don’t think that’s on our reading list.” “No, it’s not. It’s not even on the e-book store. But look,” he pulls a small, old-fashioned bound book from his pocket. “Where did you get this?” I look around to make sure no one’s watching us. The street is deserted. “You know we’re not supposed to have paper. That should be in a museum or something. It’s probably banned. If the government found out—” “I just… found it on the ground. It was sitting beside a trashcan on my street. I already read it.” “What’s that on the cover?” I point to a picture of a furry four-legged animal with its long snout turned up in the air. “That’s a wolf. I think they’re extinct now. The story’s about how a dog—I think dogs are probably still around somewhere, on the outside—um, it’s about a dog that goes to the north when it used to be frozen, and he returns to the wilderness and lives with the wolves. Because dogs used to be wolves before humans domesticated them thousands of years ago,” he gestures excitedly at the book as he talks. “The wilderness. With the sun.” I haven’t read much fiction. In school we only read modern books. The protagonist always has a steady job and spends their money on things that don’t use up resources, like a new hairstyle. We only talk about the time before the facilities for history. “Can I borrow it?” I ask quietly. “Yeah, but don’t show it to anyone. They might take it away. And give it back to me by tomorrow,” he hands me the tiny hardback novel. I open it up and press my nose to the page. It smells musty. I run my finger over the stitches binding it, over the yellowing paper. This came from trees, I tell myself. This came from the outside and from long ago. “I’ll take good care of it,” I promise as we drift slowly towards the train. __________________________________ Call of the Sun Child is now available in paperback, Kindle, Nook and Kobo editions or you can ask for it in your local indie bookstore! Visit us at www. homeboundpublications.com for more information.

47


Fasting

To be Whole

Steven Petersheim

Steven Petersheim

No I want Hotcakes Sopping syrup Party food Fat Tuesday I want

That day saw light on a world of shrieks and cries, fevers and seekers, and a man with disease who wouldn’t be quiet, who wouldn’t stop his heart from wishing, who wouldn’t stop his wish from speaking, who wouldn’t stop his speech from stopping another in his tracks.

Know I want Blessing Spirit shape Providence Easter Day I want Now I want It’s true Sodden soul Praying yes Yes it’s true I want

When will a sabbath day come, breathing health into sickened bodies, into ailing souls that sense unwholeness, into spirits crying with confused alertness before one whose clothes cascade grace on those about him? This day we look, we wish, we pray, our fevered minds, lepered hands, unholy cries, quivering bodies stained with bloody straining to be made whole.

Steven Petersheim is a poet who teaches literature and creative writing at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. His poetry frequently expresses for happiness, for justice, for peace, for the good life in all its fullness. He is currently working on a prose and poetry memoir of his Amish childhood. | Photo Left by © Andrew Malone Flickr Creative Commons

49


Make the journey with us.

Visit our bookstore today!

Homebound Publications

an independent publisher of contemplative titles

www.homeboundpublications.com 51


www.homeboundpublications.com


The Wayfarer Vol. 3 Iss. 1 (Spring 2014)  

Feature Articles: Nocturne: Nebraska, by Sheila Boneham; 6 Questions with Poet Amy Nawrocki; Feature Poet: Clinton Inman; Men Grow Beards by...

Advertisement
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you