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the salal review volume 8: spring 2008


The Salal Review Lower Columbia College Longview, Washington Volume 8: Spring 2008

Marie Wise “Water Reflections #7” Pastel 


Call For Submissions The Salal Review is an annual publication of Lower Columbia College with the mission of involving student editors in the presentation of the best work available from the writers, poets, and artists of the Lower Columbia Region. To submit written work for consideration, send no more than five poems or two prose pieces, either by U.S. mail, with a stamped, self-addressed reply envelope, or by email attachment (MS Word or RTF) during the month of October 2008. For artwork, submit up to five pieces, either on paper or by e-mail attachment, during the month of January 2009. We will accept color submissions; however, black and white work is preferred. We cannot be responsible for one-of-a-kind originals, so please send clean copies. Digital images may be sent on CD or by email, but must be high-resolution jpeg files (SHQ or HQ). Please include a brief biographical note describing your connection to the Lower Columbia Region. To answer further questions regarding submissions, to receive a copy of The Salal Review, or to arrange a sponsorship donation, call us at (360) 442-2632 or contact us by email at salal@lcc.ctc.edu. Mail submissions or donations to The Salal Review, Lower Columbia College, P.O. Box 3010, 1600 Maple Street, Longview, WA 98632.




Salal Editors: Warren Cook Iulia Hanczarek Amber Lemiere Caitlin Nolan Holly Robinson

Salal Staff: Dylan Bass Lauren Mason Tawnya Munson Bonita Thomas

Faculty Advisor: Joseph Green The Salal Review Lower Columbia College P.O. Box 3010 1600 Maple St. Longview WA, 98632




Contents Poetry Andrew Boyd

Bats at Dusk

10

Descent

18

Deborah Brink

Preparing for the Wedding

26

Learning the Rules

28

Carolyn Caines

Hanging in Blue Sky

39

West of LaGrande

50

Brian Harrison

Breathing Room

36

After November’s Gale

40

Joel Ryan Langdon

Experiment in Silence

21

Irene Martin

Floods

24

Lorraine Merrin

The Devil Pounds the Door

8

Afternoon Tea

22

Patrick L. Kubin Bob Martinson

Driving Rain

43

Prayer Night

12

Harold Reeves Alex Whitman

YEEAOW!!!

52

The Harvestman

30

Prose




Art Katie M. Berggren

Focus

37

Lorena Birk

Sunstripes

41

Ivory Ghosts

51

Ray Cooper

The Muse

20

Raena Dancing

27

Lynda Keating

After Chuck Close

7

Patrick L. Kubin

Battlement

9

Eyes Wide

29

David Mielcarek

Seal Sanctuary

38

Debby Neely

Eclipse

11

Ron Nelson

Safe Bridge

19

Dehné O’Conner

Spirit of the Wolf

42

Faye Olason

Barbed Empire

53

Linda Zandi

Tug

25




Advice from the Advisor As I was walking to my office this morning, thinking about all the tasks that need attention between now and the end of the quarter, I thought of the phrase “the bitter end” and how, as far as I knew, it had nothing to do with bitterness, as in taste, but was all about endings. So I decided to look it up. A few minutes with a magnifying glass and my Oxford English Dictionary (the Compact Edition, with the microscopic print) revealed what I already knew: that it commonly means “to the last and direst extremity; to death itself.” But according to the OED, the phrase has a “doubtful” history. A cross-reference to the nautical usage includes this little passage from 1867: “A ship is ‘brought up to a bitter’ when a cable is allowed to run out to that stop. When a chain or rope is paid out to the bitter-end, no more remains to be let go.” You have to take your entertainment where you find it, and I regularly find it in words. Otherwise I couldn’t teach English for a living, and I certainly wouldn’t be advising The Salal Review. I wouldn’t have taken such pleasure in reading all the poems, stories, and essays submitted to Salal last fall, and I wouldn’t have cared about the editors’ selections. The fact is, however, that I do care. I worry about the poets and writers and artists whose work we reject. I know very well how that feels, and it does no good to say it’s “part of the game” or “goes with the territory,” or some other such thing. As the product of a community college, The Salal Review serves this community. I hope we’re serving something you can’t find anywhere else: a delicious blend of literature and art cooked up by people you might meet on the sidewalk downtown, or in the library, or right next door. If it’s ever bitter, I hope it’s also rich, like the taste of dark chocolate or good coffee. May it bring you “up to a bitter” when you feel that you’re adrift; may it reach you before you’re at the end of your rope. Joseph Green Faculty Advisor The Salal Review




Lynda Keating

After Chuck Close




Lorraine Merrin

The Devil Pounds the Door and he’ll have you, and I haven’t the power to coerce or grant dispensation for your sins. Claims of ignorance or remorse, misplaced blame— these will carry you only so far. To have a drunken father bestows no right to be a drunken father, to have a neglectful mother— well, excuses rain down until we are deafened by the clamor. I’m sorry it’s come to this, cousin, but the devil pounds the door with neither mercy nor forgiveness in his pocket and he comes for the man you are, not the man you could have been.




Patrick L. Kubin

Battlement




Andrew Boyd

Bats at Dusk Back flat on rusty leaves and black dirt. In front (or up) are gray clouds, alders, firs, and cedars. Eyes closed, I can just barely hear the echo pops like high pitched bubbles bursting. The bats have again replaced the birds with the subtlety of their song.

10


Debby Neely

Eclipse

11


Bob Martinson

Prayer Night The faint, sweet smell of horse manure mingles with the aroma from the cups of coffee in front of each bowed head. Harry Johannson leads the three women and two men in prayer. An electric fan in the propane heater that hangs from the wall clicks on against the winter chill that seeps under the door. Johannson raises his voice to be heard. It is Wednesday night at the Nehalem Bay Stable and Riding Academy. Prayer night. Wooden cable spools turned on their side serve as tables. The folding metal chairs come from a funeral home that closed, down the road in Tillamook. Johannson tells newcomers that he won the stable in a poker game. Then he laughs. Maybe the other guy was smart enough to bet the one thing he’d just as soon be rid of. Tough making money selling 20-buck rides on animals that eat hay by the ton. The men and women sipping coffee work for Johannson. Horse people. They feed or walk or groom the horses, clean stalls, mend fences, stitch together broken bridles and other leather tack that has grown thin and brittle with age. Most aren’t paid in cash. They work odd jobs elsewhere for money. Here they get a bed and meals (Johannson always has a pot of soup simmering on a hot plate next to the tack room), or riding lessons, or maybe the chance to eventually own one of Johannson’s herd. Fifty horses in the summer, 30 now, in December. Over the winter, Johannson leases out the other 20 head to families with kids. Like trying out a car. They can find out what it’s like to keep a horse on their four- or five-acre plots with a shed for the hay. No money changes hands—the families must promise to feed the animals well and have them back the first of April. Good way to find out if your kid really wants a horse, Johannson tells them. A horse ain’t no bunny. And for him it means 20 fewer horses to feed through the winter, when there’s little call for lessons or rides on the beach and a ton of alfalfa costs more than a case of Scotch. Cheap Scotch at least. The one outsider at prayer night is me. I’ve been coming here Wednesday nights for almost a month now. I sit in the corner of the room on a bale of straw and scribble notes during Johannson’s discussions and prayers. I told him I used to work for a newspaper in Indiana, which I did.

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And that now I’m working on a book, which may or may not be true. Maybe I find comfort in the familiar—pressing pen to paper.

*

Though I am in the company of people I hardly know, I have grown accustomed to them and they to me. For the first time in a year and a half, I find I can smile. On Wednesday nights, at least. Most horse people are crazy, Johannson is praying aloud, eyes closed, head bent low, voice chiseled from some ancient stone. Most of the people here are piss-poor broke. A few are drunks, most are divorced, some used to do drugs, but that’s something I won’t tolerate, he says, his voice rising. But all in all, he says to God, these are good people, and they cling to life through the love of horses, just as Johannson is sure that God himself must do. And, Johannson says, just like God, most of the people in prayer tonight are partial to Palominos. Johannson wraps up each prayer session the same way: Smile on us, Lord. Make us laugh. And if our time is up, Lord, there’s worse ways to go than bein’ thrown by a horse. Or even kicked in the head. Then Johannson laughs and everyone joins him. Over whiskey one night in a bar, Johannson tells me he was raised Southern Baptist and that he got the idea for his stable meetings from the Wednesday night services he remembered from his childhood in West Tennessee. He says he hated those Wednesday nights. But he holds these prayer nights because he thinks most of the people who work for him are a horse hair away from being destitute or crazy or dead. You won’t find them in a pew on Sunday. They don’t trust the churches in town. Hell, they don’t trust town. Even a little town like Nehalem. But you can’t love a horse and not suspect there’s a God out there somewhere. His theology is his own. He feels free to draw from his scattered research into many of the world’s major religions and several minor ones. There is indeed one God, he tells his supplicants. But that God doesn’t give a rip whether it is a Christian prayer or a Buddhist meditation or a Navajo chant that wiggles its way into His cosmic consciousness.

13


As I watch these people, their heads bent over foam coffee cups, I suspect there is an image of a horse and rider in each of their heads. And a God wearing cowboy boots and spurs. No matter, Johannson says on the night we sip whiskey. No matter. He admits to me that sometimes he has doubts. The prayer sessions are as much for him as they are for his ragged collection of horse people. He confesses his one epiphany: Most of the preachers he’s listened to over the years have it backwards. It’s not whether you believe in God, he whispers. It’s whether God believes in you.

*

I chose to come to the Oregon coast because I’d been here before. Almost two years ago. With Kathryn. We arrived on a sunny summer day, the breezes gentle, distant ships a string of penciled dots along the line where ocean met sky. We walked on a beach near Neahkahnie Mountain, a fist of basalt 1,600 feet high that juts into the Pacific on the north Oregon coast. It was my first visit to the Pacific Northwest. We were barefoot, dressed in short sleeves and shorts, and I teased her about the sweatshirts and windbreakers she’d forced me to pack. It was July, after all. You’ll see, she said. I was never without a coat for the rest of our stay. The morning mist sometimes hung on through afternoon. Or turned to a drizzle. Even when the sun broke through, the wind was hard and chilly. On its busiest day, the beach seemed sparsely populated, at least compared to the crowds I remembered from summer vacations as a kid on the Atlantic shore. Virginia. Maryland. North Carolina. Warm water, warm air. Here we call it the coast, she told me. The water is frigid. Shores are for sissies. She’d always lived in Indiana, as had I. No oceans. No mountains. The occasional tornado. Farm land as flat as piss on a plate. Her words. Her parents had taken her west on vacation the year she’d graduated from high school.

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She’d returned, on her own, every year after that to the Oregon coast. Until she met me. We’d been married five years and each year she tried to talk me into a trip west. There were always good reasons not to go. Work. Family. Complications. I’m not sure why I resisted. Maybe she understood better than I. Two years ago, I relented. We had a baby that year, premature, and she had died. We had to go to Oregon, Kathryn told me. You’ll see. It was on our third day at the coast that I realized she was different here. We’d traveled before, to places that she knew and I didn’t. But there was never this feeling. Explain it, I asked her. She stopped and turned toward me as a wave skimmed across the beach, rushing across our bare feet, curling grains of sand around our numbed toes. It’s the mountain, she said. Neahkahnie. The ocean and the sand. The wind, the sky. You. It’s life and death, ancient and now. The godhead. Can’t you feel it? Don’t go God on me, I said. The wind rippled her short, black hair, a frame for her eyes, which were the same blackness as her hair, but liquid, the secrets I coveted hidden somewhere deep within them. I loved her and wondered how she could love me. You’re a word guy and you’re afraid to talk, she said. Talking hasn’t helped, I said. I thought about making a joke. Maybe telling her that I could talk about corn. Or about people trapped by the law whose stories I would weave for the newspaper. Or football. But not about a newborn baby that for reasons I could not fathom had died. Why even put up with me? I asked her. She smiled, pressed her hands deep in her coat pockets. There was a woman once who wrote songs, she said. Lyrics, for hymns. Like 8,000 hymns. In the 1800s. She was blind. And she always said that the blindness was her gift, that without it, the music would have been impossible. I reached into one of her coat pockets, pulled out her hand, examined her fingers. So you’re making a point here, right? I asked.

15


You’re my gift, Kathryn said. I looked up from her hands to her eyes, felt something inside me lift. Then I blurted, whispered: Beats goin’ blind, I guess. Kathryn laughed. My God, she laughed. We both turned, her hands tight around my arm, and started to walk, then run, toward the mountain, Neahkahnie. On our last day that summer, we rode horses along the beach, rented from the Nehalem stable owned by Johannson. He knew Kathryn from her past trips to Oregon—she’d taken lessons from him once. He laughed as she introduced me, but his gaze held my eyes, a silent probe. Her protector. She cantered on the beach on a golden Palomino as I bounced hard in the saddle riding something skittish with spots. I watched her glow against the gray ocean and gray sky. She was home. That night, we drank beer and ate salmon at a restaurant above the bay where the Nehalem River meandered into the Pacific. We smelled of sweat and ocean and horse. The sun, of course, broke from the clouds, spinning furrows of pink and orange and red across the horizon. A squall pelted Neahkahnie, spawning a rainbow that reached down and tried to touch the sea. I felt empty—the way you feel on the last day of something that has been more than you expected. But she said staying too long could spoil it—like making a hobby your work. Take me here again, I asked her. She nodded with a smile that now included me. You’ll bring me, she said. We devoured the fish. A few months later, home in Indiana, I walked in the door from work. As usual, we were immediately in conversation though I had yet to say a word. It was like popping a champagne cork—her stories from the day bubbling out. Finally, she asked about the story I’d been working on. A murder story. It would be in the paper tomorrow, I said. Then I noticed a frown, her forehead knuckling. Odd, she said. I can barely hear you. She slumped to the floor. I ran to her, propped her head in my arms, shouted her name, searched her eyes. Nothing. In a few minutes, she was dead. An aneurysm in her brain, the doctors said. It will be a year and a half next Wednesday.

16


*

After Kathryn’s death, when I returned to the Oregon coast, to Nehalem, Johannson didn’t remember me from the day we’d rented the horses. I was surprised, but maybe not. Next to Kathryn, I wasn’t much of a memory. It was raining when I drove up. Johannson stood under a leafless tree, its branches bent eastward by the Pacific winds, his thin, gray hair matted and wet. Everywhere, the smell of horses. He smiled and asked if I was looking to have a ride. I had a van, I told him. A mattress in back to sleep on. I told him I could maybe do something to help around his stable. He nodded. There were a few chores that needed doing. And I could take meals with his congregation. In time, I will mention that I was the husband of the woman from Indiana he’d taught to ride. I will tell him that she’d died while I tried to shout goodbye. I will tell him that this place, once, had saved us.

17


Andrew Boyd

Descent A dharma lunatic dances in my consciousness— cross-legged watching the black saw-like clock’s hour hand move. Three-sixty mind vision of life pulsing: snow falling blue, gray racing TV static, Armageddon orange windows, saw blades throwing sparks, and shadows cutting the wall. Tuning the dials to the melodies of manufactured moods: the angel song of Xstacy, self-inflicted TV boredom, adrenaline shots of exhaust, one line paradise, alcohol-crossed mumblings, and on and on. Following the lead steps of history from Columbus to the Casino. Breathing down the gills of extinction in a brain that only sees five ways.

18


Ron Nelson

Safe Bridge

19


Ray Cooper

The Muse

20


Joel Ryan Langdon

Experiment in Silence Today I interrupted the commercials with a click. I killed the piano player’s crescendo in progress in my daughter’s bedroom. I expected stony silence.  At least pregnant silence, even forceful silence or deafening silence.   There was no silence.   Blaring noises were replaced with voices normally muttering below audible. My refrigerator chattering, cars humming and growling on the street. A wet beat on my roof, my porch, my yard, the sidewalk. Voices spoke and I wrote them down here, in my notebook.   I can not tell you that the language gave any guidance or direction. I can not tell you that the babbling made me laugh. I did not hear the death count in Baghdad today.  I was not informed which neighbor was cheating with the other.   But the mantra was Life or something like it.

21


Lorraine Merrin

Afternoon Tea Let it rain, snow there will be no footprints no trace of visitors interlopers no one has come this way in days weeks Let the roads remain muddy and the ruts full of water, ice there are no boot tracks to follow to measure to cast in plaster for evidence Indeed if there were even a hint of a visitor a stranger an intruder don’t you know

22


the dogs would be beside themselves yowling for belly rubs the lamp would shine the kettle set to boil the oven lit to bake Out here in the dead of winter even an escaped convict would be offered tea if he washed his face and hands brushed back his hair and sat at the table proper

23


Irene Martin

Floods No moderation here. The field below the house is silver with water. The creeks overflow their banks. Rain gushes down, And the tide book says it’s only low water. The rising tide’s creep and surge, Abetted by the wind Will eventually maroon our house On its own island. No moderation here. Frightened elk huddle On a lump of higher ground. A panicky moth, awake at midday, Beats against the window, Trying to get in. Crows pick at worms That rise to the surface of the ground Near the edges of ever-expanding ponds. Lavish wetness. Abundant wind. “Too much, too much,” we cry.

24


Linda Zandi

Tug

25


Deborah Brink

Preparing for the Wedding Long thought an ancient variety, Cabernet Sauvignon ia a hybrid, we now know, between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc—and a wine that more often improves with age, offering distinctive black currant aroma, nuances of cedar, and violet. The typically tannic edge may soften, but know where it’s been: Grapes grown in soil too fertile, or harvested too early, or with frugal sunlight may taste more vegetative, less fruity in character. Technique matters also—how juice becomes wine, allowing crushed skins to set long enough for desired color aroma—extended maceration. Each bottle offers a new experience. Pour some into a glass. Watch as you tilt its glazing and striping down the crystal. Again tomorrow taste, but trust also those earliest impressions. You will know. The selection should be a natural process, instinctual. There is no best wine.

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Ray Cooper

Raena Dancing

27


Deborah Brink

Learning the Rules

for Veronica, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

She said the verb “to kneel” —arrodillarse— used to be reflexivo (what you do to yourself) until these past years when soldiers pointed rifles forcing men and women to get down on their knees pray for un milagro—a miracle— to save them for their children who would roam streets with no one to hold their hands. The young roaming streets of blood would learn by finding and taking not to read or count or love only to survive by night by day avoiding those who want to force them onto their knees.

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Patrick L. Kubin

Eyes Wide

29


Alex Whitman

The Harvestman The harvestman is an arachnid, but not a spider. And my harvestman was not a male, but a female. A harvestwoman. This animal is distinguished from spiders in that its cephalothorax and abdomen make up one unit. Entomologists vary on determining its precise identity, so I shall settle on Pholcus phalangioides, since this is the most distinguished-sounding name. Order Opiliones, family Pholcidae. Her common name is daddy longlegs. I can’t say when she appeared, only when I first saw her. She might have been observing my comings and goings for days, testing the safety of her environment from the ceiling and two walls behind the basin in the bathroom. Her haphazard web adhered to these three surfaces and collected dust. One strand she had attached to the macramÊ plant hanger, so that when I moved the plant to water it, the strand broke away. That’s when I noticed her. The web destroyed, she scurried about and started the action characteristic of her species, which was to thrust herself to and fro, bouncing on the remaining web as if it were made of elastic, as in a kind of harvestman bungee-jumping carnival ride. Over the years I had swept away countless dusty cobwebs and all manner of spiders, dead or alive, as a matter of housekeeping. But this time, something stopped me from smashing the creature and destroying its home. Maybe the influence of my daughter, whose curiosity kindled my own. So when the vibrating stopped, the harvestwoman remained still for a moment, and I stepped up onto the toilet to take a closer look. Her delicate long legs were jointed and tapered at the toe. I watched her extend the two forelegs, raising and lowering each slowly, flexing them at an even pace, as if to measure the air in that corner of the bathroom. How graceful and deliberate were her movements, like those of a gymnast on an invisible trampoline. The measuring completed, the lady repositioned herself to hang upside-down, the tiny fibers of her toes stuck to the web. Apparently she perceived no more danger, for she rested in this position until I became disinterested and, having decided not to kill her, left the room.

30


As the warm summer days passed, I noticed her whenever I entered the room, each time becoming more comfortable with her presence. I kept the matter to myself, I realize now, as a way to maintain private ownership of something, even if only a miniscule unit of life, a shred of living flesh and parcel of consciousness. And yet I did not truly possess her, for, contrary to the natural order of things, she had entered my territory of her own will and was free to come and go as she pleased. When watering the philodendron, I was careful not to disturb the web. I went for my insect guide to learn about her and found out that she was, in fact, a female, and that she dined on the corpses of insects and other arachnids. Though her bite was poisonous, the mouth was too small to dig into the flesh of a human being, so I became even less apprehensive about her having taken up residence in my house. (I later learned that this was a myth—she was not at all poisonous.) She was pretty—the color of maple syrup, with a similar transparent quality to her body. Her six lateral legs, easily an inch and a half long, were made of five segments, that is, with four knees— one protected with a sturdy cap. From a knob on her head she peered about with two eyes, I surmised, watching for mosquitoes to become trapped in the web. I started talking to her, greeting and saluting as I entered and exited the room, then laughed at myself for presuming to commune with nature in such a place as a bathroom! Since the room had no window, I left the light on for the sake of the philodendron, turning it out at night and on again each morning. The harvestwoman seemed content with this arrangement. Once I slapped a mosquito between my palms, held it by finger and thumb, climbed up onto the commode, and stuck the insect into her web. I was delighted to see her go immediately to investigate. A tentative foreleg raked the air but did not touch the quarry. I imagined that she appreciated my attempt to feed her, but I suspected she preferred other kinds of food, for the mosquito never budged from where I tossed it. She probably ate dust mites, which fed on microorganisms and moisture and therefore provided ample nutrition. At the onset of fall, it became apparent that I should name my new pet, since I had become accustomed to holding conversations with her while attending to the various activities in the room. Lucía, I called her, a tender

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and feminine name befitting of such a lovely animal. I didn’t expect her to stay; I kept thinking that one morning I would look up into the corner behind the philodendron and find the web abandoned, or discover her body on the floor or hidden in the leaves of the plant. But three months passed, and Lucía continued to thrive, lifting her handsome long limbs and hovering overhead in my life as a queen of delicacy and patience and beauty. By the middle of December, a foot of snow lay on the ground and the log house had taken on a chill. My daughter and I were making the most of winter—chopping firewood, shovelling snow, and playing in the pink room of the old house. One morning, I went into the bathroom to find that Lucía had disappeared. For days the web was empty. I examined every possible depository for her body and realized that she had probably died and fallen into the plant, where it would be nearly impossible to find her carcass. This species usually dies when winter comes, I had read. First, I laughed at myself for feeling the sense of loss, loss of an animal I had once feared and considered a pest. Spiders, I noted, especially long-legged ones, creeping and crawling around, were most unpleasant! Then, in missing Lucía, I felt annoyance at myself, and then sorrow, for I had fabricated an attachment to an eight-legged animal that communicated nothing, shared nothing, gave nothing—not even eye contact. This was the best I could do to achieve intimacy? So be it. My lady longlegs was gone. In her death she had collapsed into a mass of transparent chitinous material so insignificant it couldn’t be seen. I pushed the broom up into the corner and ripped away the web, including the mosquito carcass, which she had rejected anyway. Insignificant. I repeated the word, thinking of myself. I could likewise bring my limbs close to my body, bend and curl myself into a shapeless, voiceless thing, dismissed as a nuisance to be swept away by a corn broom. For over a week, each time I went into the bathroom, I felt foolish, but still empty and sad. I truly missed her. Lucía, where are you? I asked each time, wishing she would emerge from the philodendron after all. Then, one night

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close to Christmas, in the middle of the night, as I sat on the commode, I looked down into the narrow space between the water heater and the wall, and saw her. She had set up housekeeping in a more confined space only inches from where I sat, her newly spun web silky white, nearly invisible but for a few fibers and particles of dust. There was Lucía! Were it not Lucía, who else could it be? I speculated she had not died, but instead merely moved to a warmer, darker, and safer place, where her web would catch plenty of dust mites. Of course I imagined that she had chosen to reside closer to me, where I could see her and commune with her, enjoy her beauty and delicacy, and told her so. She had attached her toes to the silvery filaments and was hanging characteristically upside-down. In a moment, she scurried away to hide behind the water heater, obviously nervous at my presence and ignoring my affection. Smiling, I turned out the light and left the room. I peeked into my daughter’s bedroom to see her sleeping, and went back to my empty bed, wondering if this was, indeed, Lucía, and feeling quite happy at the probability that it was. After that night, the harvestwoman appeared regularly, but only during the night, suspending herself upside-down in the darkness of the bathroom. After that first incident, she no longer sped away when I came into the room. During the day she hid behind the water heater, but she stayed on her web every night, attaching segments of web to the wall, the floor, and the water heater, until the structure came within inches of the commode and I accidentally broke a piece of it. I tried to clean the floor underneath but found it was generously draped with webs, the soft threads touching the back of my hand. I apologized and enjoyed the touch, but Lucía began her vibrations and bounced up and down until I explained that I meant no harm. Sorry! I said. One night, well into January, I caught her at work: A common house spider had become stuck in her web, and she was using several legs to roll the thing into a tight little package, until it was a mass of white silk. For how long would she hoard this treasure? For how long would it feed her? Would she unwrap the thing, a bit at a time, for feasting, only on harvestwoman holidays? Or did it have some other purpose I didn’t understand? (After all, she had once rejected a fresh, full-bodied mosquito.) The package remained for another day

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and then disappeared, probably having been transported into the dark cavern behind the water heater. Whatever became of this morsel, I never knew. As February brought dark days and deep snow, Lucía continued to bring me solace. I wondered whether or not this was, in fact, the original Lucía who hung from the philodendron during the summer months, the animal whose life I had spared from the doom of the broom, or simply another daddy longlegs that appeared, characteristically, out of nowhere. She died tragically, and at my hand. One night, I entered the bathroom heavy with sleep, to visit the latrine. After turning on the light, I looked down to greet her. I was not disappointed, for she was in her normal place—suspended upside-down on her web three inches from the floor, expecting, I imagined, some cordial interaction with her mistress. I reached to the top of the water heater for a fresh roll of toilet paper and, in my drowsiness, fumbled and dropped the roll. It landed directly on her, severing one leg and sending her scrambling toward the darkness of her safety zone behind the water heater. But she was too badly injured, and could not continue. Her body was thrust into spasms, the legs quivering. I drew in my breath. Oh, Lucía! I whispered, and watched her die, powerless to help her. I reached down to collect the roll of paper and watched her final efforts. She drew her seven remaining limbs into herself, into irregular angles, experienced a final contraction, and moved no more. Oh, Lucía, I whispered again. I’m so sorry. In desperation, I looked at her body and shook my head, wondering at my profound sadness at the loss of a living being that had become so important to me. How could her death have happened at my hand? This time I didn’t laugh at myself, but instead allowed the tears to fall. Sitting on the commode, I doubled a square of tissue, slipped it under her weightless body, and lifted it to my knees. I questioned my own life. If hers was a mere trifle, why should mine be more? By what does one measure a valuable life? Size, weight, intellect, productivity? Perhaps tenacity, beauty, delicacy?

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I could not toss the carcass into the wastebasket. I found a paper box my daughter had made from a greeting card, one of those treasures that mothers keep. The box had been folded by her hands one night by candlelight at the kitchen table, as the two of us waited out the evening together. Now I carried Lucía’s body into the kitchen, found the box, and, with a square of tissue for bedding, dropped the lady into her coffin.

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Brian Harrison

Breathing Room In a room a stone’s throw from where I was born my mother sits in her chair, the one she always uses, and dozes during a conversation. I watch her chest rise and fall to make sure she is breathing, to make sure she is still alive. I used to watch my father in that corner chair his last year, the brief rise and slower fall of his chest as he napped. Someone watched his chest, someone watched hers, rise and fall, then rise and fall, in their childhoods before the Great War. As infants in an innocent time they took in dusty farm air, then breathed out that sweet perfect milky baby smell. I suppose I did too—took slow deep child-breaths, and they did too, keep watch I mean, keep watch as I slept.

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Katie M. Berggren

Focus

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David Mielcarek

Seal Sanctuary

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Carolyn Caines

Hanging in Blue Sky Children who draw in kindergarten picture people with bodies, faces, hands‌ mostly circular and see-through. Arms, legs, fingers are spidery threads sticking out ‌electrified. Pin dot eyes that barely blink float above licorice rope smiles and small, piggy noses. Hair, like hay tossed by a farmer, is nesting on a round, empty head. No need for shoes, or clothes, or even feet on most days. Kindergarten people, rarely grounded, are left hanging in blue sky.

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Brian Harrison

After November’s Gale Our apple tree’s leaves abruptly fell last night. At once the brown branches lay bare but for patches of lichen in paint-by-numbers gray. They did not fall in alder’s lemon or the scarlet blush of maple, but ceding their sickly green to a cankered dirt-brown hue dropped as one to the trodden mud. There is no wrinkle-faced fruit to store for later, when we might taste summer sun in February’s watery half-light; no fallen apples skirt the trunk to tempt the black-tail deer. The silent despair of autumn landscape offers only wet promise of a long and lonely winter.

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Lorena Birk

Sunstripes

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Dehné O’Conner

Spirit of the Wolf

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Patrick L. Kubin

Driving Rain “You don’t know how good you’ve got it,” my dad used to say. He was one of those post-Depression guys, growing up in the after-years of WWII, when things were scarce and people got by with very little. He didn’t express himself a lot either. He was frugal with his words, speaking only if there was something important to be said. He didn’t prattle on the way I do, just talking about what I see, and think, and plan to do. Dad just did things, thought things, and saw things, and kept them to himself. Growing up the son of a successful doctor with a nice house, imported sedans, vacations, and all the rest, I guess I took it all for granted. I recall complaining about my shoes one time. My old shoes weren’t the latest style, and I wanted the newest ones. Dad briefly glanced at my “old” shoes and said they were adequate. “No they’re not,” I said. “They are ugly and scuffed up.” “You don’t know how good you’ve got it, Scott,” he said. I scoffed and sulked off to my room. Only now, when my own kids are in their teens, do I realize how unreasonable and spoiled I was. Almost as unreasonable and spoiled as my own kids are now. It was winter in 1975-76. I was a senior at Astoria High School in the wettest, rainiest part of Oregon. When Lewis and Clark camped there 170 years earlier, they got stuck in a two-month rain storm. Their canvas clothing and leather moccasins literally melted off their bodies in the incessant rain. I showed some promise as a basketball player, so my dad started me off in the YMCA rec league when I was little. I got pretty good and played in junior high and the next three years. In my junior year, I met Danny Craddock. He was a tall, lean kid who transferred in from another town, down the coast. He was nothing to look at but played pretty good ball. I tried to talk with him a couple times, but he kind of kept to himself, so I gave up. He ended up in most of my classes, which is how the trouble started, I guess. I was an above-average student, but my grades always hovered around a 3.5, despite my Mom and Dad yelling at me all the time to work harder. I tried, but 3.6 was about as good as I ever got.

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In Math, Mr. Scattergood gave me a 95% on an algebra test, which was pretty damn good for me. Then he made a big deal out of Danny getting a 96%. Monica Crown giggled over her shoulder at me. I don’t know why that bothered me, but it did. I mean 95% was the best I’d ever done in Math, and this new kid had beat me. It kind of pissed me off, although I don’t know why. I hardly knew the guy. I turned out for basketball in October. Coach Foley looked happy to see me and all the other guys back. Coach was one of those tall, gaunt, leathery guys with a voice like a bull moose. He yelled at us to run wind sprints, then broke us into groups for assessments. Danny was in my group. Coach asked him his name and he sort of stammered it out. I have to admit I snickered behind his back. Boy, was he in for it, I thought. Coach had us run the 100 yard dash and timed us. I did it in 12 seconds, within a second of the school record. I had a reputation for speed back then, before I put on a few pounds and had four kids. I strutted back to the line and high-fived the guys. We were elbowing each other and goofing off when the coach barked at us. We quit screwing around and looked over. Coach was talking to Danny. “Mr. Craddock, that was 11.8 seconds on the 100 yard dash, eight tenths of a second from the school record. That’s pretty good.” I felt the other guys looking at me and Danny. I kept a grin on my face, in spite of the slap. I was the fastest kid in my class, and now the new kid was faster. That’s one of those moments in life where a guy develops a perspective on the world, and learns that there is always someone who is faster, taller, stronger, or smarter. It’s hard to learn that lesson in high school, especially in a small town. It sort of knocked me off my pedestal. I never did tell my dad that. After all these years, I sometimes wonder why. The rest of the tryouts went okay. I got eight out of ten free-throws, and ten of ten lay-ups. On the drills I was hot! When it was Danny’s turn he got nine of ten free-throws and all ten lay-ups. My only consolation was on the drills. He didn’t know all the drills we’d worked on last year, so he was a little clumsy, missing a pass for a lay-up. I got some satisfaction out of that. When coach posted the team on his office door, we all crowded around to see. I was stunned to find I had been “demoted” from first guard to second

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guard. Danny was first guard. The guys gathered around and whooped and pushed and shoved. Someone asked me how that had happened. I forced a laugh and said, “Hey, the guy’s fast. Coach is gonna give him a chance.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw Danny. He looked relieved. I later realized it must have been a tough time for him, being at a new school and all. At the first game both my parents sat in the stands, Dad in his suit and tie from work, Mom in her dress and coat. Mom didn’t notice anything, but I saw my dad scowl when they called us out, and they called Danny first. I didn’t see Danny’s parents, though. In the first half, I scored 12 points, one of my best showings of all time. Danny scored 13, and a free-throw with 18 seconds to go. I poured it on in the second half with three steals, and 14 points, for my “career” high of 26 points for the game. Danny had 27. We trounced Warrenton 76 to 38. On the way home, Dad said, “That Craddock kid is pretty good, huh?” “Yeah,” I admitted. “He’s from Depot Bay. Just moved here this year.” “Well, you had a great game, too. Keep working on it.” It didn’t help, having my dad hardly notice my game. After that it became a real competition. I don’t know if Danny was in on it or not, but I watched everything he did and tried to beat him. It was funny, too. I just couldn’t do it. If I got 88 out of a 100 in History, he got 90. If I made four free-throws, he hit five. In P.E. they made us do the track and field stuff. I even went out running for a couple weeks to get in shape and stretch out real good. I did the 100 yard dash in 11.2, a new record for me and close, so very close, to the school record. Danny tied the school record, and got his name in the school newspaper. The guys hassled me. I was able to keep up a good face, but it really did piss me off. I usually walked home after practice, since I lived only eight blocks from the school, on the hill. “Snob Hill,” they called it. Sometimes my mom would pick me up if it was really raining. Once in awhile my dad would be off work early enough to get me. It was one of those rare days that sticks in my memory—late January, in the middle of the wettest, darkest part of the winter, when the sun came up at 7:30 and went down at 4:45. When the temperature held at a steady 45 degrees, day and night, and the rain fell in a constant, gray curtain for days

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and weeks at a time. The mossy trees dripped from their bare branches and everyone wanted to stay inside. I came out of the gym after practice and found my dad there in his BMW, engine running, defroster going full blast to keep up with the humidity, and National Public Radio on. He turned it down when I got in and asked me how practice had gone. All right, I guessed. The intermittent drizzle increased to a steady and robust rain as he turned the car around, and drove out the south side of the parking lot. He turned left onto Maple Street and we headed toward home in silence. I saw a dark figure walking in the rain on our right and peered at him. “That’s Danny Craddock,” I said. My dad looked at me for a moment, then slowed down. “Do you want to give him a ride?” I nodded. “Yeah, sure.” Astoria is pretty small, and almost everyone lives within ten or fifteen blocks of school, but the rain was coming down hard now, and it seemed like the right thing to do. Dad lowered the window on my side, and I called out, “Hey, Danny, ya wanna ride?” He paused a moment, looked up the street at the rain falling at a 65 degree angle under the street lamp, then nodded. Dad popped the electric lock on the rear doors, and Danny hopped in. His coat was soaked, and he looked relieved to get out of the rain. “How far you going?” my dad asked. “Out the East Side Highway,” he said, but if you could just take me to the intersection I can walk from there. I know you guys live here in town. I don’t want to take you out of your way.” “That’s all right,” my dad said. “I don’t mind. It’s pretty rainy out.” “Yeah, it sure is. “ Danny looked around the back of the car. The burled walnut trim shone under the passing streetlights as if it were wet. “Nice car.” Danny ran his hand over the dark leather seat. “Thanks. I’ve had it a couple years,” my dad said. We rode on in silence until the intersection with East Side Highway. “How far out do we go?” Dad turned left on the wet, slick pavement. “You turn off at the Lone Fir Market.”

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My dad looked back in surprise. “That’s more than two miles,” he said. “Yeah.” Danny looked out the window. “Do you walk every day?” Dad asked. “My neighbor works at the mill,” Danny said, “so I catch a ride with him in the morning.” “The morning shift starts at 7:00,” Dad said. “You come in that early?” “Yeah, he drops me at school at 6:45.” “What in the world do you do for an hour before school every day?” “Oh, they let me sit in the library and do homework and stuff.” I felt my dad look at me in the dark. He didn’t have to say anything. I knew what he was thinking. I got up at 7:00 and ate breakfast and walked eight blocks to school at 7:30. He was thinking “You don’t know how good you’ve got it.” “How do you get home at night?” “I walk,” he said simply. “Sometimes someone gives me a ride.” We rode along in silence for awhile. “What brought you to Astoria? Your parents get a new job?” “No, I live with my grandpa. He’s retired.” Dad was too diplomatic to ask the next question, and since he was in the car, I didn’t ask it either. We came to the Lone Fir Market and Dad turned left. “How far up?” “About a mile,” came the answer from the back. We rode in silence again till we saw a reflector on the right. “You can drop me here,” Danny said a little too quickly. “Oh, that’s okay,” Dad said, “I’ll drive you up.” He turned onto a muddy driveway. “No, really. It’s alright. This road’s got pretty bad ruts.” There was a new tone in his voice. A tone of fear. Fear of what, I wondered. “You don’t want to bottom out your nice car,” Danny said. “Don’t worry,” Dad laughed. “That’s what insurance is for.” Danny wasn’t kidding about the road. It was muddy, and the grass and weeds down the center looked like they didn’t get much traffic. A couple times the bottom scraped as we rocked our way down. Dad had to put one wheel on

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the center hump a time or two to keep from high-centering. We rounded the last turn, and the high beams swept across the house. I suddenly understood Danny’s fear. An old mobile home, sagging on one side. A huge blue tarp draped over one end, obviously to keep the rain out. The front window had no curtains, and with the light on inside, it was fully lit up. An old man sat in the only chair I could see, watching what appeared to be a black and white TV perched on a cardboard box. I wanted to turn around and look at Danny or my dad, but I couldn’t. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing. A broken-down truck from the 1950s sat in the yard, one wheel up on blocks, and moss nearly covering the windshield. Blackberry brambles grew over the mobile home on one side, and threatened to consume the whole place. Dad pulled up and stopped. Danny opened the door, activating the dome light. While he collected his backpack and stepped out, then turned to say “Thank you,” I had about ten seconds to look at him. It’s a funny thing—time. You can see a guy every day for a year or better. You can talk to him, look him in the eye, watch him walk down the hall, watch him talk to other people, and sit with him at lunch for a whole hour every day, and never really see him. Then, in ten seconds, illuminated only by a dome light, you can see him again, and see everything. Your brain can capture the picture of who that guy is, in a few seconds, better than all the other looking you did. And that’s exactly what I did that rainy January night at Danny Craddock’s house. I saw that he wasn’t wearing his good basketball sneakers. He must have put those in his backpack. He was wearing old Converse canvas shoes. His jeans, which I had always taken to be late-1970s cool, and stylishly worn looking, were in fact hand-me-downs, almost completely worn out. There was a big tear sewn closed with blue thread on the hip, and one pocket barely hung on. His pack was a patchwork of repairs, and like his coat, it was soaked all the way through. But it was his eyes that told the story. The eyes of a man in a boy’s body. A man who struggled every day to make ends meet. I’ve seen those same eyes many times since I grew up and got a job and became a man myself. They were the eyes of a man who hadn’t had any breaks in his life, but who went

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to work every day without complaint or regret, who didn’t really know any better. At least, that is, until he rode on the leather seats in the posh interior of a BMW. And in those eyes was the pain of a man who knows. Who knows that I know. That I know his secret, and that he knows my life. It was painful for me to look in those eyes, and equally painful, I am sure now, for him to look into mine. He said thanks and goodbye, and went into his house. Dad turned the car around and headed down the rutted driveway. As he did he punched the odometer trip meter. He didn’t say anything at all. For the entire ride home I watched that meter roll off the tenths of a mile. We passed one and then two miles, and were closing in on three when we reached the intersection for town. We hit three and a half when we passed the high school. Dad was silent. I sat in the dark and calculated in my head: three and a half miles walking home from school was one and a half hours of walking every day. And that was after a whole day of school and basketball practice. And when he got home, what kind of supper did he find? What kind of bed did he sleep on? Who got him up at 6:00 each morning to catch his ride to school? If he missed his ride, he faced that awful walk in that awful rain, both ways. I knew what my dad was thinking. He didn’t have to say, “You don’t know how good you’ve got it.”

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Carolyn Caines

West of LaGrande The steep hillside looked like a giant hand resting palm down, its brown, gnarled fingers reaching out to comb through the midget pine forest that lay like an old shag carpet against the highway. We crept breathlessly around at his fingertips, hoping the sleeping giant would not awaken and decide to play cars.

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Lorena Birk

Ivory Ghosts

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Harold Reeves

YEEAOW!!! He leered wickedly, vibrated from head to toe, went bug-eyed, then dropped to his torn jean knobby knees and went to work. The tattooed left arm slid the hand over the long shaft of the instrument with alternate smooth and spasmodic movements. The right wrist arched. Flailing, bony fingers pulled, slapped, coaxed, and literally wrung every god-awful noise known to humankind from the funky bowels of his electric Fender. “Hey! . . . past, present and future . . . it’s right here, baby!” The sounds oscillated between demonic wails, angelic supplication, and sheer melodic abuse. Decades of unkempt hair and beard, vacant eyes with the animation of stagnant swamp water shored up by sandbags said he had been everywhere, seen and done it all. Suddenly there issued an obscenely long tongue, flicking like an agitated serpent. “Oh yeah? This is what’s goin’ down, man!” He let out a blood-curling YEEAOW!!! . . . smashing the guitar to splinters over one upraised knee. He knew all the tricks. This always brought the house down. Except there was no house. No crowd. No guitar. Just a burned out rock musician whose brain had been scrambled and fried over the span of a quarter century and couldn’t let it go. Some nice old lady in the Wal-Mart parking lot threw him a quarter.

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Faye Olason

Barbed Empire

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Contributors Katie M. Berggren studied graphic design and illustration at Central Washington University. Her passion for art requires that she paint daily in her Kalama studio. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two small children, walking, reading, watching movies, and learning about art and business. Lorena Birk has lived in Longview for her entire life and attended LCC for her higher education. She is a member of the Broadway Gallery and currently teaches classes there in drawing and sculpting. She has been drawing for 20 years and painting for fifteen. Andrew Boyd is either reading Bukowski or recovering from reading Bukowski. In a former life, he was an LCC student, making his way with poetry. Now he’s just making his way with poetry. Deborah Brink traveled through Central and South America, studying Spanish and learning from the people and the places, while on a year-long sabbatical from teaching. Her poem “Learning the Rules” happened in response to a conversation with her Spanish teacher in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Her other poem found her after a visit to a winery in Eastern Washington. Carolyn Caines is a third-generation resident of the Longview-Kelso area. She has had more than 80 poems and a dozen short stories published, and has written a novel about her grandparents coming here from Finland in the early 1900’s. Ray Cooper says, “Art is.” He should know; he teaches it at LCC. Brian Harrison says, “After a career as an Anthropology instructor at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, I am more or less put out to pasture, where I teach fencing and scribble notes to myself. I enjoy drinking coffee and watching the river flow.”

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Lynda Keating moved to Longview in 1974 to teach mathematics at R.A. Long high school, and retired in 1997. One artist that interests her is Chuck Close because of his personal story and his labor intensive portrait technique. She has illustrated this technique using a 1998 photo of her husband, Patrick. Patrick L. Kubin lives with his wife and four children. He is a lawyer and mediator. He has written two courtroom thrillers and numerous short stories. He finds inspiration in his work, travel, and photography. Joel Ryan Langdon is a former LCC student, pizza cook, and deli clerk, now working in the paper industry. He is so proud of his daughter that he whips out his cell phone to show off his pictures of her whenever he gets the chance. Irene Martin, born in England, and raised in Canada, and has lived on the Columbia River for some 35 years. Her latest book is The Flight of Bumble Bee: 100 years of the Columbia River Packers Association. Bob Martinson worked at The Daily News in the 1980’s and helped cover the eruption of Mount St. Helens. He and his wife, Suzanne, lived in Pittsburg for almost 20 years but moved back to the Northwest when they retired. Lorraine Merrin’s world is full of green trees and desert skies. Voices tell her stories, sing lullabies. She wanders in and out of different countries, and speaks to ghosts, in dreams that surely belong to other people. Then she writes it all down. David Mielcarek enjoys drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, and many other types of art. His belief is that no one is better than anyone else, just that we each have a different way of expressing ourselves. Debby Neely is a member of the Broadway Gallery, in Longview, and teaches at LCC and Clark College. Her woodcuts have appeared in previous issues of The Salal Review.

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Ron Nelson has designed numerous bridges and even built a few, but unlike many quasi-engineers who toss any kind of flimsy artifice up into the air, safety has always been his primary objective. DehnÊ O’Conner is a student at LCC. She enjoys making pictures in different media, such as charcoal, colored pencils, acrylic paint, and scratch board. Faye Olason resides in Kelso with her wonderful family and too many pets. Her latest travels took her to New York City to visit family and take some photos. Harold Reeves lives alternatively in Longview, Washington, and Athens, Greece. His hobbies include playing guitar and piano, hanging out with his Dalmatian, writing poetry and short stories, and hiking. He would like to write a novel when motivation permits. Alex Whitman teaches in the Language and Literature department at LCC. She wasn’t lying about the harvestman; she brought it to the office so that we could see it in its little paper box. Marie Wise has lived in Kalama for more than 25 years. She is the new Web Marketing Coordinator at LCC, and when she is not working she is at home painting in her studio overlooking the Columbia river. Painting gives her great joy and peace. Linda Zandi is a full time LCC student. This is her first experiment with the joy of watching the image develop on the page.

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Sponsors Elizabeth Austen Deborah Brink Charolette J. Conklin Thomas Deschner Peggy Gill-Mottet Marquita Green James Hanlen Myrna J. Hustoft Susan A. James Lynn Lawrence Judy Madden Jim McLaughlin To be among the sponsors listed in the next issue, make a tax-deductable donation of $10, $25, $50 or more to: LCC Foundation: The Salal Review.

Acknowledgments The editors wish to thank the Associated Students of Lower Columbia College and the LCC Foundation for continuing to fund Salal, the LCC Office of Instruction and Department of Language & Literature for supporting the Magazine Publication course that makes Salal possible, the LCC Publications and Purchasing offices for their invaluable assistance, Coprintco for their help with layout and their care and skill in printing the pages, The Peasandcues Press for making its hand bindery equipment available, and our individual sponsors for their financial support.

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Katie M. Berggren Lorena Birk Deborah Brink Carolyn Caines Ray Cooper Brian Harrison Lynda Keating Patrick L. Kubin Joel Ryan Langdon Irene Martin Bob Martinson Lorraine Merrin David Mielcarek Debby Neely Ron Nelson DehnÊ O’ Conner Faye Olason Harold Reeves Alex Whitman Linda Zandi

Profile for Lower Columbia College

2008 Salal Review  

Award winning literary and arts magazine of Lower Columbia College.

2008 Salal Review  

Award winning literary and arts magazine of Lower Columbia College.

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