Volume 1: Biodiversity
IN LAYMANâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S TERMS
VOLUME 1 – AUGUST 31, 2017 \
Editors Brit Barnhouse Beck Adelante Virginia Soileau
In Layman’s Terms welcomes submissions of poetry, nonfiction, and visual art. Visit https://iltreview.com/submit for details on upcoming issues and themes prior to submitting your work.
TABLE OF CONTENTS POETRY Devon Balwit
We Observe Yet Belong to the Creatures
Cajon Del Maipo
Waters of Guilt
I’m Sorry You Aren’t the Sun
To A Fish
Charon of Autumn
My Brothers Never Took Me to See the Meerkats
The Human Animal
Korean Demilitarized Zone
On A Small Scale
The Last Farm In Mississauga
The Price of Cars and Pollinators
NONFICTION Tom Molanphy
Adaptation: Barack, Bono and Me
What Gets Lost in the Fog
Rushing Water, Seeping Stone
Paperclip: A Story of Invasive Plants
A Drop of the Ocean
Crow Tells A Story
Tiger in Paradise
(Previously published in Peacock Journal) Sarah Kohrs
A Flowerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Whisper
FROM THE EDITOR Dear Readers, What a remarkable journey this first issue has been! When I first thought up the idea of In Layman’s Terms, I was in a literary editing and publishing class taught by Abby E. Murray, PhD. Without her guidance and wealth of knowledge, this journal would have never come to fruition. After a bit of research, I realized I wanted to create a journal with a purpose. A journal that not only encouraged a passionate response about the world in which we live, but with creative writing that had a tangible connection to the real world, real studies, and real facts. More specifically, I wanted to use my skillset to combat the backfire effect—the psychological finding that when presented with more facts and information, a person is more likely to reject an idea than embrace it if it goes against their core beliefs. In fact, it’s more likely to strengthen their original beliefs. After learning about the backfire effect, I realized that this journal wasn’t just something I wanted to do, but that it was something that needed to be done. This first issue is focused specifically on the importance of biodiversity and more generally on the health of the environment. Biodiversity refers to the variety of life in a particular habitat or ecosystem, from the tiniest of microbes to the largest of whales. Species exist all around us and each provides different services to the ecosystem in which they live, even if that service may not be readily apparent. The health of ecosystems is necessary for human survival and comfort. Despite our insistence on seeing ourselves as above or apart from other species, we are very much a part of a system that connects us to all other living things. The closer you get to the line that divides humans from other animals, the blurrier that line gets. The contributors in this issue come from all around the world with a shared purpose and appreciation of the natural world. Without their thoughtful and poignant pieces, this issue wouldn’t be possible. I hope that this first issue sparks your curiosity, makes you question your place as a responsible inhabitant of earth, and encourages further exploration of the world around you. Best, Brit Barnhouse Editor-in-chief 8
LAB NOTES Scientists excise neocortex to prove rodentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; urge to play roots deep. Even with upper brain gone, rats chirrup laughter. Through frolic, they claim a place in the world, neurons blossoming. All around, our fellow creatures wrest delight from whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s at hand: a frond, a stone, a companion, inventive in pursuit of joy. Why reduce them to instinct, but not ourselves? We are but one more ape, this poem notwithstanding.
How jealously we guard prejudice, seeing what profits us, claiming dominion until our palisades exclude
even those with different speech, skin, worship. Rats laugh at a pitch beyond human perception; we must take an extra step to hear it echo. So, too, with children, near and far, who play amidst rubble. An extra step, and we can recognize the sounds they make, the shared purpose.
WE OBSERVE YET BELONG TO THE CREATURES Perhaps the wave doesn’t wish to dissipate across sand, but would rather ebb & swell in the great bowl of Earth, embracing plankton & whale, nautilus & all briny creatures until the cooling sun turns its amnion to ice, bringing an end to breakers, a terminus to tides. Before that, though, blind Rumphius will chase those tides, knowing he might not satisfy his wish. Even in the tropics, ardent veins ice with marvels still unrecorded. His powers will ebb, pages still blank in his catalog of creatures, his masterwork entrusted to another’s embrace. Before then, too, many a mother will try prolonging her embrace, ignoring the outward tug of her child’s tide, rejecting that just as the least, lowly creature, she also must face the precipice against her wish, mourning opportunities’ ebb, the indifferent touch of time’s glacial ice. In our brief moment, we envy the lake sloughing off ice, shivering free from death’s embrace, envy the Earth that, till that distant day, sees winter’s ebb followed by upwelling spring tides of bees’ hum and anthers’ golden wish, envy this whirling rock breathing through its creatures. 12
We observe & yet belong to the creatures, picturing our own exhumation as we chip ice from mammoth bones. We share the same animal wish, the same vegetal notion, held in the embrace of air or sea, hearing the soughing of our own tides & imagining what waits beyond their final ebb. Or, lost in our daily rush, we forget that pulse & ebb, denying our likeness to the creatures. We move inland from the deep tides & forget leviathan sounding amidst ice. We limit union to mere bodiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; embrace & neglect to keep kindled the great living wish. Let us, then, return to the waves with our wish, our hunger to linger all-embracing. Kin, may we sound until the coming of ice.
OYSTERS RESTORED Blue Points Saddle Rocks Rockaways used to thrive in New Amsterdam, circa 1650 available for free to oyster shuckers as well as a penny apiece for the elan, a long time now destroyed by chemical pollutants, sewage, deep shipping lanes through bivalve breeding areas, over-harvesting, not only on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, but last night in Londonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Spitalfields Old Market at Wright Brothers Seafood Restaurant: Cumbrae Jersey Rocks Dungarven Helford restored in some English inlets so we can savor them,
still a high risk of contamination everywhere including Hudson Bay despite the efforts of the high school students at the Harbor School and others to grow them. As for my grandson, Hudson, born a month ago in N.Y.C., we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want a polluted world to be his oyster, so I will fold a paper boat for him to sail the murky seas.
POLAR He was found face down, hide upon bare bone, many miles from the food that could have saved him.
Scientists tagged the five year old polar bear just a few months earlier, when he appeared healthy.
Now, a carcass where robust life had been, all because the sea ice melt altered his Arctic fishing source.
Traveling over one hundred miles until his final step and breath marked the location where still, there was no sustenance.
Much can be learned from a pile of bones. 16
CAJON DEL MAIPO Drinking warm cerveza en the back of an autobus half-way atop montañas on the outskirts of Chile. Rickety bridges connect amigos, cuatro dogs, ocho horses, companionship, and time. Skinny ribbed goats eat oats, tree leaves, y pasto (grass), imagining pasta y queso sauce. Muchos trees, pero miniscule shade. el sun tiene soul, el sol es conmovedor. the sun has soul, but is it the only sun? “hasta pronto,” says el sol. “hasta pronto.”
FALLEN CEDARS The Greeks used kedrus, the Romans cedrus to name both the true cedars and the junipers of the Mediterranean. Later any evergreen with aromatic wood was cedar. The name fallen from precision into confusion clumps trees more different than like, more distant than kin, true cedars have needles, cypress cedars, the junipers have flattened sprays instead. The true cedar of Lebanon, native to the mountains of the Middle East where the holy grove of Enlil reached to heaven that Gilgamesh and Enkidu sought and found not for pilgrimage but plunder slaughtered its guardian hacked and felled the tallest trees and rafted them downriver to build the great gate at Uruk. In retribution for their desecration Enkidu grew ill and died within days and the great Gilgamesh, felled by grief, wept and wandered in the loss of his other self.
And so began the cutting, for cities and fleets of ships, that sailed for trade and into war, for temples, stables, inns. In the Levant Victoria had a wall built around the grove called, Cedars of God, to keep out sapling-eating goats but then came World War I and the British Army, needing railroad ties, cut into that grove again. No cedars on the slopes now no roots, no shade, mountains shed soil in heavy rains, summers heating up. Dry ridges where only goats browse weeds.
ADAPTATION: BARACK, BONO AND ME Joshua Tree National Park January 21, 2017 I liked to imagine that we shared the desert together. There was the selfdescribed skinny kid from Chicago, who, eight years ago, earned the The Onion headline "America Gives Worst Job in Country to Black Man." Granted, he was an hour away in Palm Springs, relaxing via the whitest of white man's games. (But don't let the lush green turf and happy chirp of sprinklers fool you - that's still desert.) The Irish lad from Dublin was here in spirit, preparing in an undisclosed location in Europe for a world tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of U2's landmark album, The Joshua Tree. The title came from the strange shrub all around me, which trekking Mormons believed resembled their prophet leading them through the desert. Me? I was at the base of the short but steep trail to the peak of Mt. Ryan in Joshua Tree National Park, my wife already fifty yards ahead. A desert gale blew her brown hair wild. We were on a quest to see all the National Parks before, well, fill-in-the-blank-with your-worst-fear. I started the climb with a bad knee and an ache in my heart, wondering how any of us would adapt to this brave, new world or scared, old one, depending on your point of view. Adaptation seemed to be the only way forward, but it was getting harder and harder to see that way. ***** "Change has come to America." Even John McCain was awed by those historic words eight years ago by Barack Obama on that cold Chicago night. Adaptation is made up of many changes, large and small, and the difference between the two is that one is permanent and one is not. To hijack Coco Chanel's famous phrase of "Fashion fades but style lasts": Change fades but adaptation lasts. For eight years, in measures large and small, the skinny kid from Chicago did his best to deliver change. But political changes rarely add up to any kind of lasting adaptation; political change involves the sausage-making process of debating, 22
grinding, and squeezing out a law. All that in the hopes that the majority in support of the law â&#x20AC;&#x201C; as well as the minority repulsed by both the law and the process by which it was made - will take up the banner of change and charge forward. Winded by the elevation gain and burdened by my thoughts, I stopped to catch my breath. My wife disappeared around a corner, but her footsteps rattled plates of shale within earshot. Unlike the panorama of a redwood forest, or the blue glint of the Pacific Ocean, or the hard true line of the Rockies, the view of the desert wasn't immediately stunning. But, aesthetics aside, the desert demanded consideration. It's where all the mountains, oceans and redwoods were headed. Only the timelessness of stars in the night sky could dwarf and engulf our human folly like the quiet expanse of the desert. Somewhere, Barack Obama was enjoying his golf, while the newly sworn-in President was promising his own changes, vowing to leave his mark like every ruler has promised since the days of the Egyptian Pharaohs. History has not been kind to iron-fisted rulers, but they keep returning, maybe to fight the deep fear that adaptation chooses us, not the other way around. And, if you believe in science, it will not choose all of us. ***** It was too much to think about, so I dove into the comfort that many in the nation had recently sought in voting booths: nostalgia. If adaptation is a series of mysterious changes that are mostly out of our control, nostalgia is the happy throwback to known times, a return to settled ground with the fond hope that maybe a past change can just be repeated. (Does a repetition of the same change then change that change into something else?) Nostalgia brought me to my fondest teenage memory, which warmed me like the sun that had finally found my cold back in that wide-open desert. Twenty-nine years ago: Ft. Worth, TX, Tarrant County Convention Center, fourth row, U2, The Joshua Tree tour. Eight of my best friends had scored the impossible tickets by camping out in front of the sales booth days before. After the first show sold out, a call came down the line that there would be no second concert. But those eight seventeen-year-olds showed a determination that, if displayed in the classroom, would have brought tears of joy to their science 23
teachers. They calculated the odds for a second show, stuck with their hypothesis while the discouraged dropped out, and were rewarded with ten fourth row tickets to U2. The insistent belief that something good was about to happen was why I now had the treasured memory of being fifteen feet from U2 on their epic 1988 Joshua Tree World Tour. Picturing that night still brings goose bumps: The Edge strumming stoically but oh so coolly; Adam Clayton bobbing his head to his bass; Larry Mullen drumming until sweat splashed off his snare; and, bouncing between them and eighteen-thousand delirious fans, Bono, the ultimate Irish crooner, wailing between joy and sadness and carrying the whole sports arena with him. Even his opening act, BB King, took time to look up from his guitar and smile at the Irishman's antics when the lead singer of U2 joined the blues legend on stage. My friends and I stared at each other as much as we did Bono, I think, just to validate that "Yeah, wow, this is happening." I was still savoring that memory years later in college when U2 released Zooropa. For that world tour, Bono donned bug -eyed glasses and slick-backed his hair, trading in the lofty themes of The Joshua Tree for Euro-disco-style hits. The change was dramatic, and Bono said as much in a 1992 Guardian interview. ""Van Morrison started off singing about girls and ended up singing about God. With us I guess it's been the other way round." Unlike the kind of political change that Obama tried to enact through laws, U2 had the artistic license to start change from within. And they went full-tilt, arguably a 180 degree turn from their Joshua Tree triumph. Instead of the almost sacred atmosphere of The Joshua Tree concert – as sacred as rock and roll gets, anyway – the Zooropa tour was loaded with techno-inspired hijinks, like delivering 100 pizzas from the stage to fans, talking to a an astronaut circling the Earth, and dialing up a telephone sex line. "We used to be terribly ascetic as a band but some of that rock'n'roll bullshit is pretty cool,” Bono told The Guardian. The band knew it had to adapt or die. ***** At the top of Mt. Ryan, the best definition of adaptation is laid out before me, as it is laid out by nature every day in every corner of the planet, just waiting for us 24
to notice. Joshua Tree National Monument was established in 1936 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, mostly because a community activist in nearby Palm Springs named Minerva Hoyt saw beauty where others saw free cacti for their L.A. gardens. Granted full National Park status in 1994, the nearly 800,000 acres protects a rare area where the high desert of the Mojave meets the low desert of the Colorado. And, as often happens when two distinct cultures meet and mix, a third, diversified and unique culture emerged. The bowl of the Colorado portion is low and sunbaked, and even in winter we understood why one particularly barren stretch earned the name Fried Liver Wash. The Colorado sustained anything that was small and hard, like the creosote bush and thin ocotillo, while the rugged high Mojave area near Mt. Ryan had enough vegetation to sustain Big Horn Sheep and the namesake Joshua Tree, which can grow to forty feet tall at only an inch a year. At 10,000 years old, this desert is quite young - as wide-eyed and bedazzled as a teenager watching U2 on stage, really. Scientists hold up the desert as the best place to study adaptation because of its extremities of freezing nights and searing days. Everywhere was a lesson: the raven that cackled above can withstand 40 degrees below zero or 120 degrees above; female Gambel's quail that hid in thick underbrush eat poisonous roots to essentially abort chicks during severe droughts; the creosote bush sends out its own poisonous roots to ward off invading neighbors when water is in short supply; and the wily kangaroo rat, the master of adaptation, has learned to live without water entirely, sucking enough moisture from the food it eats, which it can store in its large but adorable cheeks for weeks. Even plant seeds have adapted, learning how to survive for years in a dormant stage before rain offers life. Peaks tore rain clouds to shreds at a safe distance, so I shed the yellow raincoat that had trapped most of my body heat on the way up, my glasses fogging from the sudden moisture in the desert. Encyclopedia Britannica defines adaptation as the "process by which an animal or plant species becomes fitted to its environment." Thus, Darwin's term of "survival of the fittest" is not about the strongest but about what is smart enough - over time - to fit. Humanity has proved time and again that we have the capability to be strongest if that is measured by sheer destruction. From 1951-1962, roughly 250 25
miles north of Mt. Ryan, nuclear bombs were tested over and over again on the desert floor. Fear of communism and an unquestioning trust in our government kept the bombs dropping for over a decade, even though a dramatic uptick in leukemia in the affected areas was recorded for years. Not until 1980 did the U.S. House of Representatives finally admit that "All evidence suggesting that radiation was having harmful effects, be it on the sheep or the people, was not only disregarded but actually suppressed." We seem more than capable of changing the environment around us. But can we fit? When met by the discomfort of heat and lack of water in the dessert, most life chooses adaptation in order to survive. When we are met with lack of water and heat, we choose dams and air conditioning. Some might argue this is our right, based on a belief that we are the supreme beings on the planet and can do as we please, a belief that often stems from two sources: zealous faith in the Bible or absolute faith in technology. Ardent believers in either kind of salvation will defend their beliefs with surprisingly similar zeal. Whether we're escaping into prayer or tiny glowing screens, it's clear we fear change, so much so that we force everything around us to adapt to us. In nature, over long periods of time, adaptation has developed new ecosystems full of diverse and interdependent forms of life. What will our forced adaptation of the earth produce? Most evidence points towards a harder existence for everyone - including us. I can count dozens of Joshua Trees across the wash through my binoculars, imagining each one of their spindly and wild bodies as the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” but this keystone species is in serious jeopardy. A scientific report published by Nature in 2003 warned that "on the basis of mid-range climatewarming scenarios for 2050, 15–37% of species in our sample of regions....will be 'committed to extinction'." Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona, told National Geographic in 2016 that not just the Joshua Trees are in real danger. “The Desert Southwest and the Arctic are being ripped apart by climate change faster than anywhere else,” said Suckling, “because they are North America's most extreme ecosystems." ***** 26
On the way down, the earth trembled from distant booms, which we first took for thunder. Later, at a ranger station, it was explained the explosions came from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center just twelve miles north of Joshua Tree National Park. The base, one of the largest military-training areas in the world, conducts a program known as "Mojave Viper," which almost every single Marine Corps unit will undergo before deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan. The base conducts artillery, tank, and live fire exercises, basically "anything besides nuclear," according to the bearded and stone-faced ranger. The base comes complete with "Combat Town," a 2-acre faux Middle Eastern village with mosque, native roleplayers, and "IED Alley" to complete the training. We made it down the mountain. A strengthening sun made me strip down to a long-sleeved T-shirt, but the sharp breeze kept a knitted cap on my head. Somewhere, an Irish singer was getting nostalgic with his band mates, thinking about their time in the desert. A two-term President was cutting his game short because the same sharp breeze that chilled me had carried rain to nearby Palm Springs. My wife and I jumped into our rental car to escape the cold. I tried to gather my thoughts. The present is always the best time to consider adaptation because it holds a premium of the past's wisdom - as well as the closest view of the future we get before stepping into it. I turned the ignition. My wife unfolded a road map between us, and the car played songs from a 30 year-old record. We wondered where to go next.
WATERS OF GUILT Northern New Mexico I sip life through a straw. Forty-nine gallons of water transit the veins of my day. Less than a gallon passes my lips. I confess to planting not to eat, but joy of aspen, fir and spruce. I live with guilt of water-gilded green in a sea of drought. Inseparable, water and guilt. Lose a tree, lose years of water. Scores I dug in, scores lost. I could blame vampire winds. But who planted, if not I? Anger believing I could win seeps into days. Wind's laughter taunts sleep. Rain threads dreams. Empty clouds whisper, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Fool.â&#x20AC;? Water inspires prayer, ignites speeches, incites feuds across farm, family, tribe. Yet no words I know succor years of running dry. Snow melt overruns cisterns, wastes itself on frozen fields. Sun, I plead, let earth drink. Spirals of steam orbit unsparingly skyward. 28
HUMAN NATURE You melted in the dead of night under that cool, dim, sun, laying helpless in its wake. In your eyes, it was perfection. You chased it in circles, tracing its shape; impeccably round filled in, leaving no space for the sky. And you still called to it, even as it left you every day, slipping back under. I could feel it too, but I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t face it; the terror of the night entombed in darkness. Moonlight would never be enough. I stayed cocooned indoors, using my dull teeth to tear into what I made with my softfleshed hands, 30
burrowing in to my selfmade prison. And in dreams, I chased you, spear in hand, raw feet tasting our earth, until your soft fur could not bend to the greying movement of this world, and you forgot that your muscles could break the concrete beneath you, Until they caught you, and you joined me in this cage.
I’M SORRY YOU AREN’T THE SUN I built a ladder to the moon. I had been watching her for years, her face sunken in, fallen. I had thought, “When I get to you, I will mold you like clay, curving my hands into your grooves until you smile again.” But up close, pressing my hands against her, I was useless.
EXPANSIONS While on a walk in sync to the bounding of her leash I hear the ZZZ of the excavator mulcher next to the old-growth down my block. I think of that tangled spot and all of those marked out places hidden in a rock or trunk keeping one from the elements and how they signify a binding that says â&#x20AC;&#x153;I am here. This is me.â&#x20AC;? For I know of a raccoon in my neighborhood that competes daily with a cat for the milk. Should I happen to see him on a stroll with the dog I walk head bent so as to avoid his gaze frozen in time.
Sometimes late at night in bed I hear the screeches of bobcats fighting for food left in the bin outside. I think the animals in my neighborhood must know what the cranes and trucks are doing there.
TO A FISH In the lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla and the Nez Perce, where George Wright, that Colonel staked his claim they say that all it takes is a drop of reactor effluent in a river to disperse anywhere and everywhere that the channeling of a river cannot be controlled. It goes where it wants to go until P-32 finds its way straight to the bone of a creature be it steelhead, salmon, whitefish, trout, bass or a Pekin duck
its body painted on a plate leaving you to wonder before the waters overcrowded it: How many curies does it take?
WHAT GETS LOST IN THE FOG I. Every sharp and rough edge. Cracked sidewalks, clipped bushes, tree bark, pine needles and cones. Rain gutters on homes. Street curbs, or the rake left out on the lawn overnight. Fire hydrants and chain-linked fences. The stop sign at the corner of the street. Distinct and familiar shapes of people who seem to come out of nowhere. Animals that dart in front of you: a loose dog, a stray cat, a white-tailed deer on a lonely back road. “It will burn off soon,” my mother said, when I looked around me on foggy mornings. She misunderstood my feelings – I was not afraid, only perplexed at how the crusty wear and tear of my rough world could suddenly look so soft. I was also confused by her description of how fog disappears. Burning? I imagined my mother taking a match to the fog. I imagined my father with his Bic lighter. I imagined a candle flame or hot charcoal from our backyard grill. I imagined the fog turning black and curling at the edges, like a burning piece of paper, before disintegrating into ashes. Northern Appalachian River towns are often cradled in fog, and ours, located in rural Pennsylvania, was no different. Fog rolled through the valley, coating the river that divided my town into two, the neighborhood streets lined with parked cars, the homes and businesses, many clamped tight with For Sale signs. In the mornings, we wrote on the condensation that covered parked car windows: Wash Me! or Roger Loves Heather. We made flowers or hearts with arrows. Sometimes, we grew brave, scribbling out swear words in sloppy cursive writing before swiping the evidence away with a coat sleeve or a tissue we had stuffed deep in our pockets. At night, when I blew against my bedroom window to write, I thought I was making fog. II. Water droplets. Fog is formed when water droplets get suspended in the air. These droplets can’t really be seen, but if you are walking through a heavy fog, you will feel 39
moisture on your bare skin. The Appalachian Mountains often carry the weight of heavy fog as cool air rolls down the slopes, hitting the warm land below. Radiation Fog, which is the most common type of fog, forms at night and seldom lasts long after sunrise. The word fog is often used interchangeably with the word mist. Mist, however, often has a romantic tone, while fog is a bit more ominous. However, according to meteorologists, there is more of a difference than simple connotation. Mist is less dense, and thus, visibility is better. Mist also dissipates faster. Smog, a term coined in the early 20th century, is a combination of smoke and fog, but often refers to the fog in polluted cities. III. But not the atmosphere. Fog is a common occurrence in horror films and books. It makes its appearance in such movies from Psycho to Friday the 13th to Ghost Ship. In fact, The Fog, of a 1980 film starring Jamie Lee Curtis. In this movie, fog, acting almost as a main character, moves against the ocean wind and brings murderous figures of the past hell-bent for revenge to the doorsteps of the residents of Antonio Bay. But before it became a fixture in American horror films, it was a common presence elsewhere, especially in British literature where Charles Dickens constantly used fog as both a scene setter and a metaphor. In his 1865 novel, Our Mutual Friend, Dickens describes London: “It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark. Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritating lungs, was blinking, wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty spectre, divided in purpose between being visible and invisible, and so being neither.” A critic of industry and the perils that seem to tag along with it such as child labor, Dickens’ dismay at the Victorian world around him is clear. Later, fog would work its way into horror stories, both real and imaginary. Author Christine L. Corton explains in her exhaustively researched book, London Fog: The Biography, that “the appearance of an image of a foggy London Street, dimly lit by gas lamps, is a warning that something dreadful is about to happen.” Corton goes on to say that this scene “applies above all, to the two best-known Victorian criminal narratives, those of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper.” The case of the depictions of the Jack the Ripper murders, Corton contends, are 40
especially interesting since each of the Ripper crimes were committed on nights without fog. Still, fog can bring more than terror. Fog, because of the way it masks the world around us, suggests uncertainty. The famous ending scene in Gone with the Wind shows Rhett departing through thick fog, leaving both Scarlett and the audience wondering when and if he will ever come back. IV. Or death The most famous killer fog emerged from London, which was known for its so-called “pea soupers” fogs, a name that was bit misleading as it suggests that thick fog that clogged the city was green, when in fact, the fog was yellow, mostly from coal burning furnaces. This fog seemed to stalk the streets of London for well over a century before the infamous tragedy of the Great London Smog in December of 1952 that lingered for five days and killed 4,000 people. Indeed, some research suggests that the fog actually killed 8,000 more, bringing the total to around 12,000 deaths. This thick fog was especially lethal to the elderly, to the very young, and to those who already suffered from respiratory illnesses. Other fogs were notorious for doing damage. Years before, Belgium suffered through a three-day smog, caused by factories that spewed gaseous fluorine into a heavy fog that refused to disappear. Estimates say that 60 deaths are attributed to this fog. But Belgium and London were faraway places – places I could barely find on my globe that I spun around beneath my fingers. Donora, Pennsylvania, was much, much closer to home. I was an adult before I learned about a killer fog in a town that was located only a few hours from my home. One late October morning in 1948, the townspeople of Donora, Pennsylvania, located in the Mon Valley of Pittsburgh, woke to a yellow haze of fog that blanketed their town. This type of fog was not unusual as U.S. Steel’s zinc and steel mills spouted out polluted puffs of smoke every day. But this fog would not lift, and it seemed at first, that life would try to move around in the deep haze. Kids marched in a Halloween parade, and a Friday night football game was held – two events that I could easily relate to as they were the types of events that were always deemed important in my little town. 41
But this fog lingered for five days. On doctors’ advice, some residents fled the town to get away from the toxic fog, while others bolted themselves inside their homes and didn’t venture outside. The end result? Twenty people dead, and it is now estimated that almost one half of the population of Donora was affected in one way or another and another 60 people died as a result of the respiratory problems caused by this disaster. Lukasz Musial, the father of the great baseball player, Stan Musial, may be considered the most famous causality of this tragedy. In a 2010 article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, writers Don Hopey and David Templeton review the Donora Killer Fog and explain that U.S. Steel was sued by over 100 Donora residents. The case was eventually settled out of court. Still, U.S. Steel never took official responsibility or blame for the tragedy and never turned over archival research of the incident. So what was the official cause of the smog that killed so many people? Temperature inversion which is where warmer air traps cooler air, (and in the case of Donora, polluted air) so that it can’t escape. Years later, Devra Davis opens her book, When Smoke Ran like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution, with an exploration of the Donora disaster. Davis herself, a native of Donora, once asked her mother about the disaster. Her mother responded, “Look, today they might call it pollution. Back then, it was just a living.” V. Or the paper mill smell. On foggy mornings, we knew the smell as soon as we stepped out our front doors. “It’s Johnsonburg,” we all said, running down the front porch steps. “Johnsonburg,” we told one another at the bus stop. We wrinkled our noses frowning, sometimes even making gagging noises. “Johnsonburg.” We didn’t say it was the paper mill that was located seven miles upstream in a little town of Johnsonburg. We never said paper mill – the smell was “Johnsonburg.” Damp mornings were part of life, and the fog drifted in, just like the almost clichéd lines from the Sandburg poem, “on little cat feet.” Except these cat feet 42
brought in the smell of the paper mill, a smell so strong that it sometimes felt like it would cling to us all day. Like fog, the Johnsonburg paper mill was a staple in my childhood, or at least the smell was. The paper mill originally opened in 1890, but when I was growing up, the mills were owned and operated by PennTech. The smell of a paper mill is often likened to rotten eggs, although for me, I automatically thought of my mother’s sauerkraut and the one time she somehow managed to burn it. Later I would learn the real smell of a paper mill described as sulfur. Still, we never made fun of the smell of the paper mill in front of adults. Those working at the mill made good money, my mother once said. When I recently read a newspaper article in The Virginian Pilot about a small town surviving on the industry of a paper mill, I thought of my mother’s words. In this article, local resident was interviewed about living with the paper mill smell, and he simply said, “It smells like money.” On those foggy mornings, from my perch at the bus stop, I sometimes saw my father come in from his night shift at one of the local factories. I recognized his pickup truck from the gargling muffler. I recognized his figure, even in the fog. He walked slowly, trampling the dew with his steel-toed boots. He always had his lunch pail in hand. Sometimes, he carried a copy of the local newspaper. I would breathe in, taking in the Johnsonburg paper mill. Even now, I’m not really sure what money smells like, but I know that on those foggy mornings, I wasn’t smelling money.
Dmitry Blizniuk (translation by Sergey Gerasimov)
CHARON OF AUTUMN
November tastes like a gulp of cold coffee. Artificial light tickles the stone throat of the avenue. The golden ulcers of streetlights give a sinister, glimmering light. The Charon of Autumn has taken all the fallen leaves to the palaces of humus, to the floating castles, and now he's calmly smoking under a lean-to. A boy in a bright raincoat takes a soft and juicy walk around the puddles â&#x20AC;&#x201C; sort of a growing messiah in high rubber boots, messiah still small for the world. Everybody doesn't need somebody. The wind bends the trees to all sides; they are like a hungry fish that swallowed several hooks. A harsh puppeteer puppets the world, bending the showers, shaking their cold, nasty spines, emptying giant wells on the asphalt, turning inside out stone sacks of bad water. Juicy blackness oozes from all cracks; the blue, mixed with neon, blood of the evening burns like poisonous boiling broth. The empty square with a monument to the leader is a looped message to aliens: Hello, you have reached the Earth. No one is available now Please try to phone later.
Dmitry Blizniuk ОСЕННИЙ ХАРОН
Ноябрь на вкус - глоток холодного кофе; першит искусственный свет в каменной глотке проспекта, вдоль дорог зловеще мерцают золотые гнойники фонарей; осенний Харон перевез все опавшие листья на барже к чертогам перегноя, к плавучим дворцам. И теперь спокойно курит под навесом. А мальчишка в ярком дождевике мягко и сочно гуляет по лужам этакий спаситель в резиновых сапогах – мессия на вырост. Каждый человек кому-то не нужен. А ветер гнет, рвет деревья в разные стороны, как жадную рыбу, которая проглотила несколько крючков, жесткий кукловод марионетит мир, и вновь выгибаются ливни – трясут холодными, мерзкими хребтами; великан вытряхивает колодцы на асфальт, выворачивает каменные мешки с тухлой водой, из всех щелей сочится апельсиновая чернота; синева вечера с примесью неона обжигает, как ядовитый кипяток: и пустая площадь с вождем - гигантский автоответчик зацикленное приветствие инопланетянам: вы позвонили на Землю, но сейчас никого нет дома, все ушли в себя и не нашли дороги обратно.
RUSHING WATER, SEEPING STONE My son has a thing for the Yin Yang symbol. A song from a Disney movie has him, at the age of six-and-a-half, trying to get a handle on this idea of balance– of day needing night, cold needing warmth. So on this hike to Timpanogos Cave in the Wasatch mountain range of Utah, he’s talking about Yin and Yang and I’m struck by the irony of hiking a thousand feet into the sky to penetrate deep into the earth. The path to the cave is a mile and a half of switchbacks carved up the side of Mt. Timpanogos. It’s mid-spring in the valley, but the year is younger up here. A couple of snow slides still lean against the Depression-era work-project retaining walls along the path, shards of shale and chunks of quartzite and tree trunks trapped in the snow’s flanks. American Fork Creek at the bottom of the canyon is swollen and dangerous, and its roar rings off the cliffs on both sides of the canyon. A month ago, my son and I had come to this canyon for some fresh air on an afternoon when being indoors became too oppressive. The creek had been much tamer then. The cave was still closed for the winter, but we hadn’t come for the cave; we’d come for a taste of springtime. We’d parked our car and wandered the trails that wound around deserted picnic areas. Sun dappled the path before us–new leaves were just barely reaching out, trying their luck at casting shade. We looked at butterflies and song birds, tree rings and animal tracks, deer scat and snail shells. We talked about rattlesnakes and how logs rot from the middle out. I gave him my camera and let him snap pictures of whatever caught his fancy– leaves, sticks, the stream, and the sun pouring through branches. He announced, “I want to take a picture of animals.” As if on cue, three deer bounded across the trail in front of us. We wrinkled our noses and grinned at the odor they left hanging in the air. The deer were so quick and we were so surprised, he didn’t get the picture. But he consoled himself with taking pictures of a Steller’s Jay who flew into a nearby tree and posed and preened just for him and his lens. 47
As we walked on between the trees, the scent of evergreens slowly warming back to life stopped me on the path. “What does the air smell like here?” I asked him. He stopped, considered the question, then answered, “Cherries mixed with strawberries.” I’d expected him to say “pine trees” or maybe just “nice” but the best scents he could imagine were his two favorite flavors. To say something smelled like both of them mixed together was the highest compliment he could think of. It dismayed me, though, that after a winter of living indoors, he’d grown unfamiliar with the scents of trees. For months, all our conversations, experiences, and trials had revolved around school, work, chores, and television. Electricity, pressure, noise. Straight lines and hard surfaces. We’d slanted out of balance. Now we’ve come back to this canyon a month later, and we’re climbing the path to the cave. At a point where the thunder of the creek below is matched in volume by the sound of snowmelt trickling off a thousand rock faces above, my son begins talking about Yin and Yang. I stand still, listening to the water crashing above and below me on this mountainside, trying to catch my breath and wondering why he’s brought up the concept of balance at this very moment. What is it with balance? Why is it so hard for us to find balance in the things we do, the things we ask of others, the things we expect from life? Perhaps it’s because balance isn’t what we think it is. We desire balance as some sort of smoothing out of life’s issues. If something is balanced, surely it must be level, and unsurprising, and homogenous. But balance isn’t about being consistent. It’s about contrasts. And we human beings don’t like contrasts. We want balance to mean constant daylight, unfailing warmth, and no dissenting opinions. We don’t want balance to mean accepting opposite forces, let alone embracing them. Each canyon along the Wasatch Front has its own personality. The way the ridges pile up and the cliffs fall away, the shadows that pattern ravines and chutes, even the aromas of pine and brush and water and stone vary subtly from canyon to canyon. 48
This particular canyon welcomes light. It is wide open and expansive. Its pale, rough-hewn slopes are young and raw, and the Douglas fir and white fir trying to fill in the ridges have their work cut out for them. Sunlight fills this canyon, but it’s the darkness of caves we are here to see. As we climb, we find ourselves hanging over the edges of cliffs, and I’m the only one trying not to reel as we stare into the deep bottom of the canyon. Then we’re ducking our heads, avoiding the overhangs that drip water onto us. The contrasts are everywhere, and the more my son talks of Yin and Yang, the more I see them. Mt. Timpanogos rises from an arid valley, but water is dripping all around me. It’s a young mountain, as these things go, yet the rocks we’re touching are more than 350 million years old. We are skirting the surface of the mountain, but here and there, the inside of the mountain has leaked out, it seems. Small caves were opened when the trail was cut, and now those inside walls are outside, their calcite coating fossilized in mid-drip like frosting on a cake. There are seashells up here, so far from the sea both in height and time—tiny shells in stone, their little ridges and smoothed-away profiles tickling my son’s thumb. From the trail, we scan west across miles of open sky and see a green valley of civilization through the notch at the canyon’s mouth. We see the shapes of buildings and roads, but from here we can’t hear the noise that goes with them. From here, we hear birds, and wind hushing through trees, and the ever-present roaring of the creek. But we cannot see the shape of this mountain we stand on, its Indian princess profile completely obscured by our proximity. When we reach the entrance to Timpanogos Cave, we leave the mountain and the light and walk into a fault in the earth. The three caves that make up the Timpanogos Cave system bear a strange history. Eons have passed since they began as a crack in layers of rock. Eons to carve out voids in the rock. Eons to fill in the faerie shapes of calcite. Then in 1887 began 35 years of being found, plundered, found, plotted against, forgotten, re-found, and finally preserved. It was designated as the Timpanogos Cave National Monument in 1922.
Inside the cave, the contrasts continue. No permanent living creatures make the cave their home. Instead, the cave itself is “alive.” Oils from our fingers will kill the stalactites and stalagmites and precious helictite crystals, halting their millennial growth and turning their fragile, albino surfaces a dull, dead gray. The rushing water outside is completely foreign to the unnervingly still water pooled in the filigree chambers of the caves. The stalactites reach down, while the stalagmites stretch up, once in a million years touching. And once in an instant destroyed. The caves became public property to protect them from the marauding public. But even the preserving was damaging: tunnels were blasted to connect the caves together. A floor was paved and lights were strung to make the cave easier to navigate so that people were less likely to hurt the formations. Without the planned damage, more damage would have occurred. Balance, always balance. Light and dark. Damage and preservation. Intimacy and distance. A mountain of tumbled rocks and rumbling water contains a heart of still water and frozen crystals. A vast arid landscape holds tightly to its traces of seashells. The Yin and the Yang are strongest when they are entwined. I don’t try to explain balance to my son, as he runs ahead of me on the trail. I let him explain it to me. In my life of high-paced speed through cement landscapes, I crave the contrast–and balance–of a slow walk through woods. I need to contrast intensity with peace, human places with wild spaces, closed minds with open doors. Community is better when spiced with solitude. On the downward journey back to the car, we pass three Buddhist monks. Dressed in their autumn colors of yellow and orange, they create their own contrast hiking from the depths of spring in the canyon bottom up to the remnants of winter caught in frozen stone. I’m confounded by the odds of meeting Buddhist monks on a day when my son has been talking about Yin Yang symbols. There must be a reason we sought balance here today. I doubt my son has ever seen a Buddhist monk before, so I look to see if he will stop to wonder what kind of men these are. But he doesn’t. He is no 50
longer pondering the mystery of balance. Instead, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s splashing a small rivulet of melted snow, watching only to see where the drops fall.
THE NET With each breath we take, the ranger said, another animal somewhere goes extinct, and she spoke the word extinct crisply, as though she were sharpening something with her teeth. She looked at us, one by one, through her dark glasses. And what can we do about it? Breathe less? Hardly. The trees bordering the small field were gleaming in the early morning light. There was dew in the grass, and birds whose names I didn’t know flickered up and around us, here and there. The vultures already rising on thermals surveyed the vast swamp we’d come here to lose ourselves in to find ourselves alive again, we hoped. I’d long realized extinctions work inside the body as well as outside, in the world; I’d mourned my own lost species, as creatures that had once lived inside me had walked to the edge of what I was to step off into forever. I’d woken every morning with slightly less wilderness inside, less river-mind and dream-time. And as she spoke on, this ranger, as she started to lead us toward the trees,
I remembered one autumn afternoon skipping stones with my father, across a pond in the woods, when a boy approached us with a net and a frog he’d caught there. He grasped the frog firmly and leaned to examine its belly and eyes. He held it out for us to look at, smiling, then he deftly pinched a fishhook and twisted it into the frog’s back, which made the frog spasm. He’s fine the boy said with a shrug, grunting as he cast, then waiting for the nerve-twitching frog to catch a fish as we turned away. But wouldn’t we both have been happy to feast on whatever that boy caught, if someone had boned it, and fried it up just right? --for Steve Kowit (1938-2015)
Watt Burns MY BROTHERS NEVER TOOK ME TO SEE THE MEERKATS
My brothers never took me to see the Meerkats. They questioned why I poemed in dirt, in sand, in trees. They swung amongst the breezy leaves, I wrote with the sloths and bees. My brothers made banana mash And traded it with baboons. They’d try to bribe the Gorillas, But the Gorillas never took bribes— even the Lar Gibbons knew that. I always told them to save the mash For a rainy day or two. But they’d say I was italics, They were underlined in bold, I was young and they were old. My brothers sneered at the Meerkats, They snickered at the Spider Monkeys. I’d read them stories, they’d nod and mmhm, Then scratch their face and jump into the wind. My brothers were doers, I think I was a thinker. They itched off impulse, I pitched for plausible. My brothers never took me to see the Meerkats, But I loved them just the same. 54
THE ANTHROPOCENE Age of man. After twelve thousand years, the Holocene ceased— humanity did it in the blink of an eye. Now, we must exist in the world we’ve created, shape-shifters world-sifters. We’ve molded a new nature in every grain of earth, every drop of water, every particle of air, mass extinctions, fire and ice. How will humanity end? To live, we must remember how to die— while we contemplate other things of great importance. 56
THE HUMAN ANIMAL Is not so sure as the rest of nature, looking to each other for assistance, our existence dependent.
But not so the wolf or deer, they fear the human animal, their instincts certain and reflexes designed for survival.
We think we are fittest.
Walking upright to extinction.
TOUCAN It flew in at the kitchen window, scruffy with adolescence. For a while it perched on my hand, shat pink watermelon on the tablecloth, cawed and cawed, waiting to be fed. Then from across the river came a call, a manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s voice, that made it hop to the windowsill, pause, fly low to where he waited. It was no more than a pet.
We returned to our meal disappointed, having thought ourselves selected, that nature had seen in us something that could tame what should be wild simply by wishing. .
PAPERCLIP: A STORY OF INVASIVE PLANTS They appeared slowly at first from the neat container in my backpack: a thin one clipping assignments, a heftier clip to bind poems browsing students’ associative minds of simple objects. They grew in numbers, spilling over, forming silver nets in my pockets. They claimed the covers of notebooks, fish-hooked the seams of my blouses, embroidered shirt cuffs, collars, I even found one fastened to my watch band, pinching a riverbed into the mud-brown leather. They swirled like good ideas in the washing machine, spreading like unfortunate pop songs, transforming each aspect of myself into clipped wings. They became invasive. A naturalist and an ecologist walk into a bar. The naturalist says I’ll have a tap beer, then sighs, watching the golden stream of lager languish in the glass, tracing drips of beer down the drain into a swirling world of fluids in the sea. The ecologist sits down, her stool wobbly, and says let me fix this stool. She notices the floor is in disrepair and gets out the sanding stone. After examining the slant of the floor for some time, recording angles and the certain geometries of light, she says I’ll have a whiskey. Make it a double. In the subtle hills of Vermont I took a walk with a naturalist and an ecologist. The morning’s mist dampened the spirits of the black flies that had swarmed us a day ago, leaving us porous ground to walk on and perching wood toads to discover in the resident ponds. Every aspect of the forest felt like a resident, the moss resting on the lichen resting on the spruce roots, an ear of oyster mushroom listening to the cacophony of this place through its scalloped underbelly. Every aspect felt resident except for us. We agreed that though the golden honeysuckle was invasive, its sweet drop on the tongue made it neutral. We shifted our sights instead to kudzu, nowhere to be found here in the Green Mountains.
The naturalist, Gary, sang the wonders of kudzu, its medicinal value for the skin, the liver, how as a tonic it eases allergies and the nervous system. To hear Gary talk about kudzu was to hear a stone monastery of voices chant to Lakshmi, the stone humid with their voices. He said a field overgrown with kudzu is a gift to land, a bandage necessary to repair what has been broken. Leave it alone. Julianne, the ecologist, zipped her fleece a little tighter, asked questions at first. If something is broken, and you broke it, don’t you feel responsible to repair it? Isn’t it our responsibility to fix the ecology of land and water? Paperclips create order by binding together sequences or holding stacks of similar pages together. They epitomize constraint in the tough, flexible metal that traps papers between their rounded teeth. Paperclips are problem solvers, more subtle than binder clips, less bulky than folders, far more flexible than a staple permanently etched into a corner. Paperclips are useful until you yourself are bound. A poet walks into the bar carrying five dollars and a single paperclip. The poet sits at the bar, places the paperclip on the uneven, sticky wood. As they repeatedly stick and unpeel the paperclip from the drying orb of alcohol and cola, they begin to describe the paperclip’s curve; how it bends twice so perfectly, how one bend is slightly longer than the other, how the metal is pliable, like their childhood, unbending and reshaping to meet their geography, their mother’s moods. They reflect how they can never quite find the paperclip’s original shape, their shape; just an echo of its natural form. The bartender buys them a beer. A dark one.
THE CONTRACT Save me your grimace, Song Dog, Coywolf, Whatever You Are, lurking under street lamps, in back alleys, within tunnels. Forget the forest corridors designed to funnel your kind my way, to be on display as you pass to somewhere else, but alas you can’t stay. Go East, instead, Young Canine, or at least to Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, or swim to Staten Island. It’s not going to happen, Coyote, Sleekest of Limb, nothing personal. This is a NIMBY issue, that is, Not In My Back Yard. Besides, urban space is pricey—it’s not all parks and tidbits and rabbits and rats— not a lot to yip, yip, yip about. You with your hidden den and sharpest of snouts should no doubt be aware even when you do not howl or growl, your prowling around, Wild Hound, has an uncanny command to call out the shadows of colonial fears—the woods never mattered as much as the mind. But because you’re still here, I can only assume you have room for a sense of pity. Why else would you lend an ear, large as it is, 64
and listen attentively, or so it seems, to such anthropomorphic chatter, a woman in taking out the trash. Oh, I almost forgot, hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s your scrap, a little fatty tonight, but who will tell?
KOREAN DEMILITARIZED ZONE Beauty detests a vacuum, defies ruin and loss. Between raging regimes the standoff ground littered with burnt-out shells and shells buried live. No-manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s land re-taken, wreckage overwhelmed by virulent green strung with barbed vines and lit by bursts of bell flowers and cannonades of orchids, where the massive moon bear swivels like a gun turret, where hordes of musk deer brawl with stiletto tusks, where flickers of Amur tiger glint and catch fire.
INVASIVE Carp know nothing of the laws of nature. All they do is swim and eat. Swim and eat. Swim and eat. Heavy bodies churn over and over, dredging up mud and pouring out shit. They are simple machines. Everything in. Everything out. Beasts of water and want. Do they move, from moment to moment, wondering, as I do, why their bodies go on? When the apple trees bloom, they swarm off of the shores and engage in a salsa of slime. Sisters swirling and squirting; they ooze a new generation of feeders. The water becomes black, and jellied eggs wash ashore in sticky clumps. A female carp can lay 300,000 eggs in a spawn. In this way, she is dangerous. More destructive than any other creature in the lake. Her babies can grow and starve out the whole ecosystem. Themselves included. I fear her as I fear for her. Carp are an invasive species. Not of this place. Stinky fish making muddy waters. We do not want them. In the spring of 2016, the City of Round Lake, in southwest Minnesota, purchased an electric fence and placed it in Illinois Lake to stop the carp. The fence surged, killing hundreds of fish. Floating, white bellies up, we ignored them. Let them liquefy. Plugged our noses on hot days and prayed for wind from the north. Why bury bodies of blame? Leave them to bloat. Leave them to rot. Leave them to learn a new law. To be invasive is a subjective position. To be invasive is to be useless, unwanted. A mistake. Pheasants are not native to the prairie, but no one complains. They are not invasive. Carp were purposefully introduced in the U.S. as a food stock. They became invasive when no one wanted them anymore. I think of all the people in my life who eventually decided they didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want me around. My exboyfriend comes to mind; he had found richer meat. My grandparents, too, haunt me; I was more efficient than my cousins. I required less care. Maybe I am an invasive species. For months, I drive by them on Jackson County 4. I want to peel back their scales and peer into their bones. Maybe, behind the white curve of their ribs, I can 69
see the worlds they’ve devoured. Learn contentment from destruction. But their liquid black eyes make accusations at me. Who am I to ask for their secrets? I want to poke them with a stick back down to their muddy homes. They are not of my world. But their bodies persist for weeks, for months. The whole summer. Hundreds of live carp still remain. I see them trying to swim up the creek from Illinois Lake to Round Lake. They fight the current, fleeing their dead brethren. Returning when the rivulet gets too low. A man with an ambulance converted to a flatbed truck plucks them out of the stream and throws them on the ground. Their bodies hit the earth. Thud. Thud. Thud. They flop on the ground. Still trying to swim. Still trying to eat. As I see the pile grow, I marvel at how many survived. How many there must be that I can’t see. There are surely thousands—a number that seems impossible for this tiny lake. How long will it take them to eat the lake clean? As they start to die off, taken by starvation, will we collect their bodies then? Or leave them as we did before? Watching the silver scales sparkle in the back of the old ambulance, I once again contemplate carp. What do we owe our mistakes? The living beings that only know to survive. One day, when it’s us starving ourselves and grasping at mud, will we consider ourselves invasive?
EARTHWORMS I bring earthworms to the first grade class some plunge fingers in extract the squirming worms from the pile of castings others hesitate but all soon have worms crawling through their hands what we touch we learn “Can I pet it?” “Why are they slimy?” “Wow! Do they really have five hearts?” a six-year-old’s knowledge of animals framed by experience with dogs and cats rabbits and gerbils, perhaps a canary or a chameleon “How do they eat without teeth?” “How can it be both a boy and a girl?” A chicken sees an earthworm as a tasty bite grabs them up like trick-or-treaters taking candy moles can grab and swallow one faster than the eye can see squeeze them between their paws to clear their guts before eating keep underground pantries a slowly writhing masses of hundreds of worms Darwin was awed by how much stuff they could pass, the dead becoming dirt such a humble help to gardener and farmer
For northern forests where there were no earthworms they are now scourge have moved in from anglerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bait cups and the root balls of transplanted plants so quickly removing leaf mold that nutrients are leached away and native saplings starve The lesson for today: no matter what our innocent intentions hooking a fish with a tasty worm, bringing a flower you grew in southern soil to your grandmother up north the unintended, the unforeseen occurs
ON A SMALL SCALE I cannot assume malice, although one never quite knows; my lessons of tolerance may extend in many directions, but this is different. They just don’t look like they can be trusted in any sense imaginable. Strangers, they’re too dark and shadowy, alien, eyes looking suspiciously sideways at me as if they want me to think that I’m in the power position when, really, there are so many, in fact, too many of them—these others. Yet, for all that breeding, they lack parenting skills and, by nature, are not particularly social, coming together, anyway, in large aggregations to dwell in impoverished places, scavenging through garbage. Some even use sewer tunnels as shelter. And they’re fast. Even if they were to do wrong—say, trespass in my home when it’s dark, they are beyond being caught, suddenly gone at the switch of a light, upon detection, 74
which brings me to the most irritating aspect of themâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;intelligence. They have had a long history to develop it, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in their cells, in their chemistry, with an uncanny capacity for anticipating my prejudice against cockroaches. .
THE LAST FARM IN MISSISSAUGA
has a big brown barn built on a field rippled like a shore has weather-beaten boxes of bees living and dying in colonies and a camper van parked on its rusted stand surrounded by acres of dewy land. The last farm in Mississauga has round-baled hay stacked next to our highway is fenced by three-story clone homes though no animals wander.
THE PRICE OF CARS AND POLLINATORS They float across sunflower highways, meadowlark flyways, where fading pale purples and golds hold the hues of late summer. Hum-buzzing wheatland wildflowers, leg baskets brightly filled with vermillion yield, they flutter from field to field and sometimes over hot, black road into moving windshields that steal the air space of our hardest workers. I watch each wasted essence clutter the glass and reflect on the price of so many little lives.
SAFFRON The pistils stand on endâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;thin red reeds in a tiny glass bottle. When dropped into boiling water with rice they turn yellow and suffuse the rice with sunlight and the fragrance of lotus petals. Who among us knows the origin of saffron? The price in man-hours, the tedious work of Mediterranean fingers. Four thousand flowers for one ounce. Seventy thousand stamens hand-picked from the heart of the crocus to make one poundâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the dearest spice in the world. Where does it all come from the spices in our kitchen cabinet, the food stocking the fridge, the shirt on your back?
CONTRIBUTORS Adina Turkonje Adina is a fourth year English major student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada.
Amelia Rogers Raised amid the insolent beige of every Midwestern winter, Amelia has become an explorative photographer and amateur wanderer that scampers through as many back roads and state lines as possible. The truest thing that she has found is her own incessant need to find color in the natural world.
Chelsea Brown â&#x20AC;&#x201C; chelseabrownstudio.com Chelsea is a recent graduate from the University of Washington Tacoma, with a degree in Arts, Media, and Culture. This program gave her the freedom to take several poetry courses during her time there, helping her find her creative voice. Chelsea is a local artist who incorporates poetry in to her visual artwork. Her artwork has been displayed at the 253 Collective in Tacoma, WA, where she was highlighted as the featured artist. Other pieces are showcased at local businesses in Tacoma, such as Crown Bar and Grill. 82
Cheyenne Marco Cheyenne Marco grew up on a Minnesota poultry farm and finds inspiration for her writing in her rural upbringing. She teaches at USD, works on the South Dakota Review, does outreach for Friends of the Big Sioux River, and fantasizes about sleep. Her works have appeared in Lake Region Review, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Turk’s Head Review, and Prairie Winds. In her spare time, she enjoys finding adventures on lakes and rivers. This passion led her to a part-time job with a non-profit that focuses on water quality.
Dan MacIsaac – danmacisaac.com Dan MacIsaac is a third generation lawyer who served for 10 years as a director on the board of the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre. His poetry, fiction and verse translations have been published in a wide variety of literary magazines, including The Malahat Review, Arc, and Stand. In 2014, one of his poems received the Foley Prize from America Magazine. In 2015, his poem, “Sloth,” was short-listed for The Walrus Poetry Prize. His debut collection of poetry will be published by Brick Books in the fall of 2017.
Devon Balwit Devon Balwit is a teacher and writer from Portland, OR. She has two chapbooks forthcoming in 2017: How the Blessed Travel from Maverick Duck Press, and Forms Most Marvelous from dancing girl press. Her recent work has found many homes, among them: The Cincinnati Review, Red Earth Review, Noble/Gas Quarterly, Peacock Review, Sweet, The Stillwater Review, Oyez, Timberline Review, The Bookends Review, and Kindred.
Dick Altman Dick Altman lives in New Mexico. He first appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review in 2009, and won the first place prize for poetry in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s 2015 writing competition. A number of publications, including the American Journal of Poetry, have featured his work, as well as Vine Leaves Literary Review in Australia this year. Studying for an MA in English at the University of Chicago “put him in poetry’s grip, and it never let go.”
Dmitry Blizniuk – stihi.ru/avtor/fkfyn1 Dmitry Blizniuk lives in Kharkive, Ukraine. His most recent poems have appeared River Poets Journal, The Courtship of Winds, Dream Catcher, Reflections, and The Ilanot Review. He is a finalist for the 2017 Award "Open Eurasia".
Ed Meek – @emeek Ed Meek is the author of poetry and short story collections What We Love, Spy Pond, and Luck.
Harshal Desai – email@example.com Harshal is an artist, entrepreneur, and writer that loathes the typical 9-5 existence. After quitting his business, he now documents his thoughts through writing and photography as he takes on society’s norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm. His work is published in Verbal Art, Phenomenal Literature, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, National Geographic, FineFlu, The Type Image, 805Lit, Door is a Jar, Asian Signature, Spark, and SickLit Magazine.
Sandra Hosking – sandrahosking.webs.com Sandra Hosking is a professional editor, writer and playwright based in Spokane, WA, USA. Publishing credits include The Spokesman-Review, Journal of Business, Glass International, Inland NW Homes & Lifestyles, Down to Earth Northwest, Insight for Playwrights, Joey, 3 Elements Review, West Texas Review, Edify Fiction, Literary Salt, Redactions, and the Midwest Book Review. Her plays have been performed in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Canada, and elsewhere. Hosking holds an MFA.in theatre/playwriting from the University of Idaho and an MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University.
James Dott – jamesdott.com James (Jim) Dott is a retired elementary teacher living in Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River. He taught in Oregon and overseas and still volunteers in a first grade classroom teaching science. He has co-hosted a spoken word open mic, acts in community theater productions, and is a volunteer community radio programmer. Jim's poetry has appeared in Green Linden, Written River, Turtle Island Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Squid, and Rain. His poetry collection, A Glossary of Memory, was published in 2015.
Jan Ball Jan Ball has had poems in appear in Atlanta Review, Calyx, Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Nimrod, and Phoebe, in Great Britain, Canada, India, and the U.S. Jan’s two chapbooks: accompanying spouse (2011) and Chapter of Faults (2014) were published with Finishing Line Press. They will be publishing Jan’s first and forthcoming book, I Wanted to Dance with My Father, as well. When not working out, gardening at their farm, or traveling, Jan and her husband like to cook for friends. 84
Jenny Miller – amiabelle.com
Jenny is a photojournalist, lover of the outdoors, and a mother of two teenage boys. She believes life is always beautiful—Even when it’s not, it is, and you just gotta go find it. I'm a photojournalist, lover of the outdoors, and a mother of 2 teenage boys. Life is always beautiful... even when it's not it is, you just gotta go find it.
JM Miller – jm-poet.com JM Miller is a queer/trans/human poet, essayist, instructor, and healer living Washington, USA. They have one poetry collection, Wilderness Lessons, and a chapbook, Primitive Elegy (alicebluebooks). JM won the Grand Prize for the Eco Arts Awards in 2014 and was a finalist for Terrain.org’s 2013 poetry contest. They teach poetry and creative nonfiction writing at the University of Washington in Tacoma and are an instructor at Richard Hugo House. Their essays and poetry can be found at Tupelo Quarterly, Poecology, Bellingham Review, Terrain.org, Cimarron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, CURA, Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics, Five Fingers Review, Whitefish Review, and others.
Karen Jennings – @jenningssoutbek Karen Jennings was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1982, but now lives in Goiania, Brazil. She holds Masters degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town, as well as a PhD in English Literature from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her debut novel, Finding Soutbek, was published in 2012 by Holland Park Press (UK) and was shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for African Fiction. In 2014 her short story collection, Away from the Dead, was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International short story competition. Her memoir, Travels with my Father, was published in November 2016 by Holland Park Press. Karen is currently a Miles Morland scholar and is working on a fiction manuscript. Her poetry has been published in various journals.
Karen Weyant – karenjweyant.com Karen J. Weyant's poetry and prose has been published in Caesura, Chautauqua, Cold Mountain Review, Copper Nickel, Poetry East, Spillway, Storm Cellar, River Styx, Tahoma Literary Review, Waccamaw, and Whiskey Island. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Stealing Dust (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt (Winner of Main Street Rag's 2011 Chapbook Contest). She teaches at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York. When she is not teaching, she explores the rural Rust Belt of northern Pennsylvania and western New York, and indeed the rural Rust Belt is what influences her writing the most.
Karen Quevillon –@KarenQuevillon A graduate of Northwestern University, Karen Quevillon was originally educated as a philosopher before making a linguistic turn. Her poems are often highly visual, crafted with attention to position, structure and context and are inspired by the modernist poets Mina Loy, Marianne Moore, and Dorothy Livesay. Quevillon has won awards for her poetry and fiction and has been published in several of the best Canadian literary journals including Geist, In/Words, Fieldstone Review, and FreeFall. For the past six years she has instructed and mentored adult learners in creative writing and literature courses at Ontario colleges. Quevillon lives in Hamilton, Canada with her two children and their two guinea pigs.
Kelly Lindberg – KelleyLindberg.com When freelance writer Kelley J. P. Lindberg isn’t writing, reading, hiking, or sailing, she’s traveling as far and as often as she can. If there’s still time left over, she’s blogging on her website.
Kristine Steddum Kristine Steddum is a poet, writer, and artist residing in SW Missouri. She earned a BA in English, Creative Writing, from Missouri Southern State University and is pursuing an MFA from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Her poetry is currently driven by environmental issues and their relationship to humanity, the human animal. She says she has a responsibility as a poet to create works that express the importance of addressing the pivotal time we’re living in and how critical it is that we understand and take action as a human race.
Michael Hettich – michaelhettich.com Michael lives and teaches in Miami. His previous book of poems, Systems of Vanishing, won the 2013 Tampa Review Prize and was published by U of Tampa Press in 2014. Other books include The Animals Beyond Us (2011) and Like Happiness (2010). A new book, The Frozen Harbor, is forthcoming. He spends a good amount of time in the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp during the winter months and at least a few weeks in the woods and hills of the north during the summer.
Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis is an associate professor at Saint Martin’s University and has published poetry in OccuPoetry, Social Policy, Penny Ante Feud, Dark Matter, and That Literary Review. She is passionate about issues related to climate change and nuclear waste. Half French-Canadian, Nathalie speaks French and is an ardent traveler, having lived in Quebec, Japan, and the Czech Republic. 86
Ruth Meharg – ruthmeharg.com Ruth Meharg is an artist and illustrator who loves painting both the world around her and the world she dreams of seeing. Animals are one of her favorite subjects to paint, and she enjoys adding a bit of the surreal to her images of nature. Her work is sometimes inspired by the fragility of our world, sometimes by its strength, and sometimes by the unique connections that humans have with the planet they inhabit. In every case, Ruth's paintings are inspired by beauty, and Ruth's primary goal is always to spread and share beauty through her illustrations.
Samantha Fortenberry – samanthafortenberry.com Samantha Fortenberry is a photographer from a small town in Northern Alabama. She previously studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. She loves to photograph a little bit of everything, from up close and surreal to conceptual portraits.
Sarah Kohrs – senkohrs.com SENK is a photographer, a poet, a potter; a Latin & Visual Arts teacher who homeschools her three sons, director of Corhaven Graveyard— a slave cemetery in VA, managing editor of The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, and more.
Sarah Walko – sarahwalko.com Sarah Walko has a BA in studio art practices from the University of Maryland and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. For the past twelve years she has curated for institutions, non-profits, and independent projects. She served as director of two arts organizations and is a contributing writer on contemporary art, literature, and film for numerous publications including Hyperallergic, Eyes Towards the Dove, and Drain Magazine of Arts and Culture. She is currently writing a book of essays on contemporary art practices and cultural theory.
Tom Molanphy Tom Molanphy's journalism has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, SF Weekly, USA Today, Travel.com, and 7x7. His short story, Of Subareas and Public Bathrooms, was included in the California Prose Directory (2013). Loud Memories Of A Quiet Life, his latest book, is available through OutPost19 Press. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. Tom teaches journalism, creative writing, and composition at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Watt Burns Watt Burns is a poet, playwright, teacher, and activist from Milwaukee, WI. His work has been published in the United States, Spain, and Chile. He received his BA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and he enjoys blues music and basketball.
Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb Yvetteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has appeared in Depth Insights Journal, Watershed Review, Kudzu House Quarterly, Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, the anthology Talking Back and Looking Forward: An Educational Revolution in Poetry and Prose, Science Poetry, The Blueline Anthology, and many others, with work forthcoming in Weber: The Contemporary West, Green Hills Literary Lantern, and others. Yvette holds an MA in Ecosemantics (with an emphasis on Speciesism) from Prescott College and two BAs, one in Poetry (with an emphasis in Linguistics) from Sonoma State University and the other in Wildlife Studies from Prescott College. In addition to past Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations, Yvetteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work received recent Honorable Mentions in 2016 from both Port Yonder Press and Erbacce Press. She has been an educator, a researcher, and an editor, and is co-founder of Native West Press, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit natural history press.
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