Lost River Winter 2017

Page 1


Cover Art By Emilie Milcarek


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Lost River Winter 2017 “Warmth and Frost”

Issue Two

Table of Contents

POETRY STEVE CAVE Killing Wolves ½2 DOUGLAS COLE Ghost Town ½3 DANIEL JENKINS The Costco Food Court as a Cathode Ray Tube ½ 4 Soundscape, Opus 36, No. 1 ½5 JAN CHRONISTER False Alarm ½6 First Freeze ½7 DEREK ELLIS Cold Reading a Month after Your Suicide ½10 Photograph of a Man on a Beach, Southwest Turkey, 2015 ½11 Dukkha: A Meditation ½12 JAMES B. NICOLA The Uses of Fur ½16 Winter Weather ½17 [After the Ice Storm] ½18 ELIZABETH UPSHUR My Girlfriend Regan Reminisces about Her Days in Band Camp as We Drive for Takeout½19 KIRBY OLSON Wife at the Gap ½22

REVIEW JAMES B. NICOLA Christmas at Rockefeller Center – Kirby Olson ½23

PHOTOGRAPHY EMILIE MILCAREK Untitled ½ 1 Untitled ½8-9 Untitled ½14-15 Untitled ½20-21 Untitled ½26-27

KILLING WOLVES Killing wolves is easy. Northern hunters Plant a knife in the snow, Naked blade up, Slathered in steaming blood. The scent carries Arousing, promising, Come and taste, just a lick Survive the cold. Whispers of life and love, Deliciously warm, With each taste fresh blood flows. The more, the more. You are my blade in the frost. -STEVE CAVE


GHOST TOWN In these streets, dust coils like snakes along the ground, I expect to see some prospector emerge, to materialize right out of the distance like a mirage, like a time traveler, because the old movie marquee, the sun-white thrift store windows, the angle-in parking spots, the slow blinking crosswalk lights and shades cruising alleyways where the coffee bums smoke in clusters outside the coffee shop— move in slow time, like a newsreel repeating. It’s like you’d have to shake the bent old drinkers hunkered down in the bar darkness to tell them the new century is here, shouting into deep well minds until you realize you’re talking to yourself in a store window, and the iris narrowing to a black pupil in the eye is blossoming white lightning coming your way… -DOUGLAS COLE


THE COSTCO FOOD COURT AS A CATHODE RAY TUBE The electricity might be breath. It needs beginning, here where behind the skin, the frantic flashes of each of them move—because they own their own blood, and the blood is what we share, all alone along a violent trail where pebbles discomfort our feet. There is sitting, examining, breathing in ones, zeroes, swallowing them quick to spit them out again. The way each talks, in convulsing lexicons arranged like the soundless rewired amoeba moving in, or moving out, beneath a microscope’s laser. One young couple, whose toddler stays in the red-crate shopping cart, sees me waiting. And though I smile, the little man tucks his head inside his jacket, then looks longingly for his parents to notice. The place smells like pizza. Someone tears up boxes by the floor samples, ten feet high. A teenager fills his cup with crushed ice. Waiting for my order, with the neuron-persons buzzing through so preeminently, what the town-crying Jeremiah for us might look like, if he would weep from a soundless, colorless womb, ringing some bell with words. Of course that Jeremiah might have a mood disorder, all his collected behaviors summarized in the DSM-V. Don’t look, a mother might say to a curious son. Leave that poor man alone. After eating my slice of pizza, the whole day of rest does not rest, being so growled out like a black bear ripping the limbs from the sinless trees in the olive groves. So we hang our dolls, burnt effigies to keep warm, become the red growl of that bear, the one whose paw bleeds red from a jaw-toothed trap. We are the universe’s television, if you believe that sort of thing, the paw prints and leftover fur of the bear lumbering over any sanity the whole of us, in a damn food court, might retain. So wonderful, blood-paw, howled free, the skin of a naked bear, defanged and dead in aisle sixteen.



SOUNDSCAPE, OPUS 36, NO. 1 The noise,

the ambient hiss in the ear, paints me with sound. The muted bass from someone’s trunk. Not a drum, not tribal, not the palpitation of an awkward heart. A car door shuts behind, a muted thump, the air strong enough to carry

boring out cirrus holes,

two blackbirds somewhere cackling—and a child laughing. A screaming jet above roars out breath, breaks up the clouds,

and someone talks about the game. As the wind dips down and blows a white plastic bag across the lot, a student turning up the radio— NPR, the program host’s lilting voice the monotone welcoming all,

saying, we’re all in this together, blah, a broken bottle, blah, diversity, global community, blah. Broken bottle again shrieking, don’t drop me,

and I wonder if— a clanking chain, a door closing hard, a baby bird somewhere chirping for a mother, any mother, any moving thing or breathing thing to love her. The baby bird has a beak, and the beak makes a hungry shape, and the leaves: they’re scraped across the asphalt. The leaves aren’t dead yet, and the grass is still green. Then a cough, then a dull moan—a muffler from a V-8, screaming brakes, then more, repeated, submitted to the audience and its unforgiving machines, the bored audience, a maestro, a persistent evil. -DANIEL JENKINS


FALSE ALARM I awake at four from a dream of fire tasting smoke smelling panic night sky glows with a lover’s blush. I walk the house listening for the source of the low moan I hear. Somewhere flames climax, heat melts snow off a roof. Our house is cold dark, celibate. -JAN CHRONISTER


FIRST FREEZE Bees barely move hug the last golden pollen. Cold wind shakes leaves off trees like debris from doormats. Gods sprinkle ice pearls on the deck glaze zinnia leaves frost the fields. I perform mortician’s duties— drain rain barrels bury bulbs close the lid. Vase of cosmos on the table warms the chilly room. -JAN CHRONISTER


COLD READING A MONTH AFTER YOUR SUICIDE For C.D. Incongruous, the jawbreaker in a cigarette tray— found yesterday on your desk. Loomed in: the light fell surefooted, cut remarkably into shafts that congregated around your bed: at which end should I place my head? Like the singular curtain being beaten by the breeze; shakes itself white again, then yellow in the sun, then white, always. It’d been here on your room’s brown carpet where you’d shown me the boot knife you’d kept hidden inside the small army footlocker under the crook of your desk—something to put your feet on, you said, whenever they’d go numb from being seated in the metal chair for too long. I told myself I would not come here again— that I would not stare at the patch of carpet that did not match the brown around it after being cut away in squares from your departure. You’d always asked why transparency was the gift you’d never received; that you felt like paste all year, always chained to that chair with your neck craned up— when we were younger your mother warned us before we’d toss a jawbreaker into our mouths, to take our time with it, allow our tongues to taste each and every flavor. But they all tasted the same to me: chalky, like the outer white coating. So I trained myself, after many years, to swallow every feeling whole. -DEREK ELLIS


PHOTOGRAPH OF A MAN ON A BEACH, SOUTHWEST TURKEY, 2015 He sits on his knees, soaked, shirtless, except for an orange life vest, his jeans, once blue, now a slick black to match a head of uncut hair—mouth open in a gasp, hands splayed upon the sands, fingers filling the footprints left behind by the others. He’s just swum back from the ocean in the dark after failing to board a boat to Kos, the few lights of Bodrum in a haze behind him. Perhaps he has just given up his seat for someone younger, a man who looks about twenty-eight, his spry arms taut and locked at the elbows holding himself up. His eyes clear and open; his face smooth, calm, just as the ocean’s surface as it settles into a black sheet, communicates nothing and everything: he could be tired or frightened, he could be wondering where he’ll go— when the next boat will arrive; when it will launch—he could believe he is resting inside the bottom of an hourglass, suspended, for a moment, before time will sand over everything. What war started, the water will sift, as the man stares into the sands of a beach he may never have visited until now, unconcerned with the white light washing his head, held above him by something unseen. -DEREK ELLIS


DUKKHA: A MEDITATION I remember reading somewhere of a Buddhist word: dukkha, which means entirely too much to be translated properly— a mixture of pain, regret, & death all for a pan-flash life tanned and stretched after walking up and down in the earth. Like hide over a drum & beat morning after morning until worn thin—almost transparent— revealing a hollowness. Why are there so few words for this thump of pain? Perhaps instinct is necessary after all, like a country fog at 5 a.m. after quietly building up its shape all night, felled by the first shimmering axe of early light, cloud by cloud, until the day is left clean & composed— An inner space I bricked up so well, watching the ceiling rising: morning, the steam of my coffee as it cools, the early whistles of birds waking, strutting their music, boiling it up into the rafters of my little room— Why are there so few words to express this? The dew on a sole blade of grass, will be gone in the evening, either taken into the earth or taken up into some realm of clouds only to come back again in another form— * And there are other stories of this: one night a friend called & said he’d labored on his feet for a week, motionless,


his back slouched into a question as he stared solely into a mirror across his room wondering if he was actually a person. All I could do was drink and smoke and think— I couldn’t speak, he told me. And the next day, when I went to visit him, his apartment was littered with beer bottles arranged in a small circle filled with piss & butts of cigarettes— he was shirtless and had cut a small circle into his chest; To be sure… he said, that I wasn’t faking it... that I could still feel myself. Or another friend who sold all of his belongings and took to the road in his Volvo searching for something—he didn’t know what. But when he came back he was changed: shingled with thoughts—told me he felt as though he’d lost something; he couldn’t say what: It was as if I was on one road that kept circling back to the very place I started. Perfectly. * And I considered that dukkha might mean too little to be translated perfectly— like attempting to remember when you were born or asking my father, torn from a coma, what he saw in that blackness: the face of God? A different, deeper, kind of dark where he sat, quiet and alone? All he could do was sigh and say it felt as though he’d been shut up inside a locked room with only a mirror humming each syllable of his life back to him— as if he’d been put on hold and had to wait for someone to tell him: he needed to try again. -DEREK ELLIS


THE USES OF FUR I haven’t woken, and I am not here, I said to myself. It was like a dream in which I hardly am, or hardly was. That’s what sleeping in Alaska can be sometimes, it’s so dark, so cold, you cannot see nor feel yourself, and some time in the middle of the night you grab the quilt only to lose it to the floor, and toss all the more. That’s what it was like one night when all of a sudden, what was that, was it saliva at my cheek? Then two wet, hard nostrils that snort, then a furry muzzle, then two huge eyes—when focused, two huge friendly eyes, thank goodness, like the familiar of consciousness. Slowly, I re-became conscious that the family I was staying with in Juneau had a furry hulk, a “Bernize Mountain,” that passed for a dog, and that the night before he was all over all of us, slobbering his slime, so eager was I to join him on the floor as his surrogate for missing children. The panting swelled as if to say I see you see me. And in a sloppy bound the fur mass joined me, and my world made room, and gradually the day began to warm at the foot of a living mountain in Alaska. -JAMES B. NICOLA


WINTER WEATHER I don’t know who invented winter weather but I would just as soon it stop right now. My toes are numb, my fingers turned to leather, and beads of frost are brimming on my brow. My trusty auto’s automatic heater is choking: wind chill rimes the insides blue. It doesn’t help that it’s the old two-seater I used to ride around downtown with you. -JAMES B. NICOLA


[AFTER THE ICE STORM] After the ice storm, through which you traveled, the willows in all the front yards leaned closer, their tingling ears agape, on my sunny, freezing, sparkling morning walks, and heard all I couldn't keep from cogitating and coming up like invisible confetti. They looked like they would crack before nightfall with the weight of my crystal breaths added to their deceptively attractive winter coats. Together we reflected what little light was available. But as days got warmer the willows and I, so connected—my feet to their roots, my head to their barren branches through the bracing air and liberated vapors of water, my heart through the pulsing fire that laced our common atoms, charged and small— the willows and I, I say, became as one, I, suspended and stuck in soil as they, they, ambulatory as I, and both of us bussed by the breeze of a gelid January; and as such, as each other, we endured. Now, spring reveals, as the prism of thaw turns the pristine crystal of pure ice to speckled rainbows of flora reborn, a resilient joy wherein we see, walking these lanes together now, that the willows must have told the hibernating neighborhood all our confidential, lurid secrets. -JAMES B. NICOLA


MY GIRLFRIEND REGAN REMINISCES ABOUT HER DAYS IN BAND CAMP AS WE DRIVE FOR TAKEOUT Here’s how to have sex with American women my music teacher says “cheekily” He’s going to be fired in a few weeks but he doesn’t know that. He holds the drum phallic-like right fingertips spanking around the perimeter you tell her she’s pretty, prettier than... prettiest His head starts bobbing clockwise pounding, lips start to edge back in a grin, and you take her out for Italian his palm loops inwards tracing some invisible nautilus bring her flowers so she can brag surprise her with Godiva, and then he draws his arm back and slams it into the drum center, you BANG her -ELIZABETH UPSHUR


WIFE AT THE GAP She’s trying on clothes. It’s hard to believe. She is slim & blonde like a movie star that fell like a snowflake into my life. -KIRBY OLSON


REVIEW: Christmas at Rockefeller Center CW Books, Cincinnati Fall 2015 88 pages ISBN 9781625491565

A self-styled “Christian” poet such as Kirby Olson, by assuming his readers’ familiarity with Scripture as well as with poetics, has an extra way to say a lot with a little. Through allusion and literary device both secular and sacred, sparse words can evoke either realm and poems get deeper all the faster. Christmas at Rockefeller Center arranges its architecture, for instance, after the church calendar. One enters through the title poem, a pastiche of Marianne Moore’s famous “Poetry,” starting with her “I, too, dislike it” and ending with her discovery of “a place for the genuine”—here, through a bag lady whose “berth” of “stench” is congruent to the radius of the giant Christmas tree as the lady is discovered across Fifth Avenue in a St. Patrick’s pew with all her bags, like a “department store that failed.” “Pew” and “berth” evoke their homonyms, and Saint and Saks sit side-by-side, just as the sacred and profane cohabit the verse. Such connections are moments “when the particular coincides with the infinite,” as Olson says in “Kairos.” Their witness is a God-fearing, existence-questioning soul—or vice versa. In “Decades,” when he compares watching “a person/quiver open” to “nervous/prayer with You,” the upper-case Y identifies the addressee as God. “At the Museum” bubbles with such references, first to “the Magician,” then with a roster of miracles performed by “Him on the Cross” as the “lowly carpenter,” trusting we have heard of His deeds and day job. Like capitalization, the use of rhyme might suggest a belief in the deity—at least in a harmony to the Cosmos—even as unstructured free verse, in our post-Holocaust Nuclear Age, has conveyed the absence of faith. Some of these poems’ use of a single rhyme echoes Olson’s own


literary procession from the Beats in Boulder, where he studied with Ginsberg, back to Christ in the Catskills, where he teaches at SUNY-Delhi. In “Choice,” “a woman/with a triple nose piercing . . . waits while her 18-year-old boyfriend” tries to buy cigarettes but comes up “thirteen cents short.” She “then feeds . . . /. . . the baby she couldn’t bear/to abort.” (My emphases.) The shock of this poem arrives at its last word—and first end-rhyme—as if the mother’s Choice made a ring in the universe as well as in the verse. And note the effective line ending: In the end, it’s not that she couldn’t bear— give birth—but “couldn’t bear/ to abort.” Through both the mother’s and the poet’s Choice, the divine is manifest: God has become an active verb. In the volume’s penultimate poem, “Thaw,” our poet’s “car door froze shut” at the end of the workday. After . . . a bucket of warm water on the door, the lock clicked open, and I drove home again through infinity, took off my gloves and said hello to my loves. The “warm water” salts the icy weather here-below while, in the presence of “infinity,” the rhyme of “loves” with “gloves” evokes a harmony that approaches the Celestial. My favorite poems arrive in the book’s “Time After Pentecost” section (characterized by the Holy Ghost’s presence among the Apostles). The opening of “Diamonds are a Boy’s Best Friend”— “The sphere is thrown/ and its threads revolve”—sounds like a poetic recasting of the Creation story, but actually refers to the world of baseball, a similarly ordered universe where “The world spins, orbs shine//in endless complexity./To infinity and beyond!” The ordinary invokes the infinite, the secular is rendered sacred, by being poeticized. In “Pax Americana,” Olson exploits grammatical ambiguity to wonderful poetic effect as tourists from Oklahoma take in Paris and the cathedral of Notre Dame: “They looked at the great


violet halo of the North Transept.//How they looked!” The tourists are both looking at the cathedral and looked upon by the narrator—and by us, now, as well. In “Stars in the Early Morning,” Olson opines Jesus was able to find humanity in the faces of the obscure people who lived in byways. But the poet himself has been doing this finding since the bag lady in the first poem, though it is undoubtedly the spirit of the Christ within him that looks upon the world, abhorrent or absurd as it may be, with eyes of kindness. In the last poem, “The Mercantilization of Christmas,” Olson brings both calendar and collection full circle. “Capitalism,” he tells us, is “the parable of the talents.” And yet “our present” is “His presence.” Again, the H implies God; but the word might just as easily have been scored with a lower-case h, and referred to the poet himself. -JAMES B. NICOLA


Poetry STEVE CAVE is a student in the Stonecoast MFA Program in Maine, while he lives in Seattle. For the rest of his time, he is a substitute teacher. He has published an interactive text game app called Mobile Armored Marine and won Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. JAN CHRONISTER lives and works in the woods near Maple, WI. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, most recently Rat’s Ass Review, Binary Journal, and OVS. Her chapbook, Target Practice, was published in 2009 by Parallel Press at the University of Wisconsin. DOUGLAS COLE has published four poetry collections, and his work appears in anthologies such as Best New Writing, Bully Anthology, and Coming Off The Line, as well as journals such as The Chicago Quarterly Review, Owen Wister Review, Slipstream, Red Rock Review, and Midwest Quarterly. More is available online in The Adirondack Review, Ithaca Lit, Talking Writing, as well as recorded stories in Bound Off and The Baltimore Review. He has been nominated for two Pushcarts and a Best of the Web, and he received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry, the Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House, and First Prize in the “Picture Worth 500 Words” from Tattoo Highway. Interviews and publication links can be found at douglastcole.com. DEREK ELLIS lives in College Park, MD where he is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Maryland. He is an avid 90s music fan (R.E.M being one of his favorites), a typewriter and vinyl collector/appreciator, as well as a lover of craft beer and coffee. When he’s not writing, he’s busy reading or playing music. DANIEL JENKINS is a graduate of the University of Virginia (SCPS '16) and currently studies poetry in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. His work has appeared previously in Thieves Jargon, JMWW, Personae, Mosaic, and The Potomac. Daniel has tutored writing at the Northern Virginia Community College, Loudoun Campus, since 2010. He lives in Herndon, Virginia. JAMES B. NICOLA's poems have appeared recently in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, Rattle, and Poetry East. His nonfiction book, Playing the Audience, won a Choice award. His two poetry collections, published by Word Poetry, are Manhattan Plaza (2014) and Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016). sites.google.com/site/jamesbnicola. KIRBY OLSON's work has been in First Things, Poetry East, Exquisite Corpse, South Dakota Review, and some 200 others. He once read his poems with Tom Hunley at the St. Louis Museum of Contemporary Art. This was in 2002 or something. ELIZABETH UPSHUR is a first-year MFA student studying poetry at Western Kentucky University. She plans on pursuing her Ph.D in Comparative Literature after graduating and is obsessed with comparative mythology. She loves reading modern memoirs, watching Buffy, and crafting in her spare time. When she grows up she wants to be a Waterbender.


Photography EMILIE MILCAREK is a visual journalist. She truly fell in love with people and their stories when she took a job taking school portraits for children of all ages and all types 6 years ago. Emilie worked long hours and drove for a good portion of the day, but she loved it because she knew what would be greeting her when she got there. The only thing she didn't like about the job was that Emilie didn't get to spend any significant amount of time with the kids she was taking photos of. She would only get a small sentence about their lives. That's when Emilie knew she wanted to tell people's stories. You can find her at http://www.emiliemilcarek.com.