Mojave River Review Fallâ€¢Winter 2016
Mojave River Review Volume 2 â€˘ Number 1
Katherine Gehan Kenneth Pobo Cynthia Anderson Kyle Hemmings Steve Lyle Jeff Alfier Catfish McDaris Tobi Alfier Michael Hathaway Epiphany Ferrell Tim Adell Jennifer Glover
Publisher/Editor in Chief Michael Dwayne (aka MD, aka Black Bear) Smith Editor of the Editor in Chief Bonnie A. Spears Cultural Arts Editor Arlene White Photography Guy Frank Foster “This is a bird that sings at night only. So basically, this bird you cannot see, but you can listen. A little bit like God.” —Mozart in the Jungle
DECEMBER 2016 Cover and other photographs copyright © 2016 Frank Foster unless otherwise noted. Journal design by Michael Dwayne Smith. Copyrights to individual works published herein belong to the respective authors and artists. Mojave River Review is published by Mojave River Press, an imprint of Mojave River Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2016. Guidelines available at MojaveRiverPress.com when MRR opens for submission in 2017. ISSN 2373-0641
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Katherine Gehan Young Blood Maps Kenneth Pobo 10:45 p.m. After a Freezing Night Bubble Machine Break Up or Out What Steve Did on His Summer Vacation Lake Superior and Hats On Whisky: Dalmore 20 Year Old Cynthia Anderson Bird Woman of Wonder Valley People of the Sky Traveling with Owl I Remember Kyle Hemmings Paper Dolls Junkyard Dinosaurs Edie Sedgwick: Flashes of Her Childhood Are Flaky at Best Freakbeat #3 On Poetry: Skywriting with Glitter, Ellyn & Robbie Steve Lyle On Music: Joel Rafael On Whisky: Monkey Shoulder Jeffrey Alfier Yazoo City, One Last Time Sonoma County August Ballast Stones The Fence Rebuilt Union Station Landscaper
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Catfish McDaris The Beautiful Monster Playing for All the Marbles On Whisky: Blair Athol 5 Year Old Tobi Alfier Lovesick at the Border Nine A.M. to Noon Wrong Turn Ronnie Inverness Portside Blues Michael Hathaway Talking to Squirrels Cognitive Dissonance (or, probably why people love coffee) Rush Hour Traffic Tracy Pops into a Dream Two Years after the Fact Just to Let Me Know On Whisky: Talisker 8 Year Old Epiphany Ferrell Farm Accidents Silhouettes Happier Then Sacred Dance Wax On Whisky: Glenturret 14 Year Old Tim Adell Permanent Address Our Governor is Brown Upon a Delicate Leaving Home Runs Jennifer Glover I Dreamt of the Eiffel Tower Summer Church Camp
Katherine Gehan …has had her work nominated for The Pushcart Prize, Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions, and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net Anthology. She is the Nonfiction Editor at Pithead Chapel. You can find her writing at www.kategehan.wordpress.com.
Young Blood IN THE SEVENTH GRADE Carina wears a turquoise tank top to her first girl-boy party, and her hair is long and shiny and she’ll never feel so pretty again. When two boys from another school serenade her—My Girl—Carina hands over her tangy little heart. They split it between them, tear it right down the middle seam and then roll the pieces up, tuck them into the back pockets of their Levis, and hold them hostage for a year or two. Sometimes they all meet up after school on Fridays and wander the East Village for hours, woozy from hormones surging through their vessels. How prickly and wonderfully foreign it feels to Carina when the boys direct their scattershot attention at her. Carina’s mother draws blood at the hospital and likes to run her fingers over Carina’s arm. Oooh, her mother teases, that vein is nice and plump. A gorgeous vein, and then she empties the paraphernalia from her lab coat pockets onto her dresser. When she is alone Carina sneaks into the bedroom and ties the thick rubber band around her arm and quivers, disgusted. The empty vials are so light in her hand, the stoppers that plug the ends red and spongey. One of the beautiful, genius boys who sang to Carina grows up and develops a degenerative disease that kills him by forty. There is no reason to believe he ever thought about Carina as his life became a complicated mission, filled with wheelchairs 8
and activism. But he hadnâ€™t returned his half of her heart in the same condition she gave it to him, so his spirit pulls at her dreams for a while and she mourns him. In her own middle age Carina is a sedated wild thing, a trained falcon always wearing her hood. When she is free, it is a caffeine-fueled affair, a dance party in the kitchenette of a suburban box squatting among hundreds, her body pumping with a secret confidence. She indulges in these occasional love affairs with herself, hopping and writhing, joyful with her ample thighs, soft breasts. She speaks her desires aloud. Carina volunteers to assist in shark dissection for her sonâ€™s fifth grade class because in adulthood one must find ways to be brave. With a pictorial she and the children identify the gill slits and fins on the rubbery, gray body. The caudal fin is the one that propelled the shark through the water, where it was able to detect a drop of blood from a football field away. Carina pries open the mouth with a pencil to inspect the teeth and she hums a tune from a movie that her son and classmates have never seen. The children are unwilling to use the scalpel to cut into the shark. Who can blame them when they are so young and not yet ready? She looks at their perfectly smooth faces and wishes there were a way to bathe her bursting, aged heart in their young blood to shrink it to a more effective size. Lately its slow, swollen beat and habit of seizing at every stupid-sad television commercial feels like new evidence of a known design failure. Before making the first incision, Carina whispers to the shark, we will dissect your liver and brain, but I will protect your tiny heart, put in my pocket so that I will remember you.
Maps NO ONE EXPECTED A MAP THIEF to be a girl. No one expected the person who was extracting antique maps of the ancient worlds from libraries across the northeastern seaboard to be an amateur. “Have you seen that classic cat burglar movie?” she asked her boyfriend, as way of explanation. “The one with Princess Grace and that older guy who wore the hell out of a suit?” “Weren’t they jewel thieves? What about The Thomas Crowne Affair? That one seems more like what you do.” Sure, fine, she confessed to her boyfriend that maybe that other movie was a more logical inspiration. However, when she was ten years old, she had found all that nighttime scampering across the slated roofs of the Mediterranean irresistible. She dyed her hair platinum to match the princess’ blond halo and bought some black peg-leg pants. She pretended she had a partner in crime too as she snuck through dark stacks of university libraries with an Exact-O blade in her purse. “Your new look is super hot,” her boyfriend said, although he remained wary and refused to join her capers. Her brother Harry had been on one of those planes that go missing. Not officially down—just missing. Any year now, wreckage was expected to wash up on an Asian shoreline. For two years, Harry had lived somewhere uncharted, between thick cloud cover and physical evidence, and she had been searching for him. First, the headlines were splashed on red banners across her screens, above images of watery search parties, and she 10
scanned and squinted for Harry’s eyeglasses or some other representative object of his person. Then, the story moved to the newspapers where older news goes to fester, and she searched for him eight pages deep within section B, the rattle of paper so satisfying, so physical and tactile in contrast to the lack of fuselage or corpses. Finally, she looked for him in maps— nautical, aerial, topographical—she sought them all, initially focusing on modern representations of the crash area, but then she became enamored with the historical and beautiful, the gilded, encrusted with age, etched drawings made by cartographers gone for centuries. It was there, in the oldest maps, that she sometimes caught sight of Harry. There, with Poseidon, he popped up to the surface for a moment, surveyed a whale in the distance, aligned himself with the North Star, and dove back down into the Black Sea. Once she saw him up in the crow’s nest of a vast sailboat crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. He waved. Anytime Harry appeared, she collected him and took him with her. No one misses a folio page from a book of 18th century maps. It was easy in large research libraries where student body commotion and space allowed her to sneak a book to a quiet corner corral and cut. She was clever and kept to the giant atlases and left the pieces hung behind glass on museum walls alone. On the third anniversary of the plane’s disappearance, she watched a special televised documentary alone in her apartment. She lay out all twenty-three maps she’d stolen from four states and poked at circling sharks, hoping for a glimpse of Harry in any conditional at all, even half-eaten. She studied the mountains for a tiny hiking Harry, the country borders for signs of his crossing, 11
in the hopes that he had left the seas entirely. Nothing. Not a shred of the 747, not a sign of human movement. A phone call from her boyfriend interrupted her despair. “I watched your Hitchcock movie. Still looking for a partner in crime?” With her finger, she traced the O of the Oceannus Indicus on Johannes Honter’s 1542 map of Asia, where a few months earlier Harry had done a pull-up and then slipped back into the blue lines of water. “Yes,” she said, her spirits newly afloat. Doubling the size of her private search party might be just the thing. On the documentary, she half-heard tearful family members of the missing being interviewed as she began plotting visits to new rare map collections. Perhaps they’d have better luck in the south.
Kenneth Pobo â€Śhas a new book forthcoming in 2017 from Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. He won the 2014 Blue Light Press Book Award contest for Bend of Quiet, which they published in 2015. He teaches creative writing and English at Widener University in Pennsylvania.
10:45 p.m. Jeff and Jerry sit on the couch after a long day. Silence, beautiful in its way, like a glass filled with artificial snow, shaken. Or a horse that lies down in a field. Some days itâ€™s best to send words out to play, the world slipping into pajamas and going to sleep.
After a Freezing Night In the garden I expect to see death everywhere. Death puts a coat rack in every home, a coat for all. Just a month earlier, penstemons had red and white blossoms— surely they’ll be goners. Instead they’re green, as if spring’s river ran through stems. Death had walked right by overlooking each one, for now.
Bubble Machine I’d run out of the house looking for friends whose folks watched The Lawrence Welk Show too, the “lovely” Lennon sisters looking like lemon meringue pie, no calories, the bubble machine, the real star, Champagne minus a buzz, old folks dancing, their love like North Dakota meeting South Dakota for a diner Pepsi. Mr. Welk wouldn’t have let Stan and I dance. It wasn’t that kind of show, the machine churning up no lavender bubbles.
Break Up or Out While I took a shower, I heard a car door slam. When I came out you had gone. What to do? I fed the birds some berry-laden suet, joyful for their jumping. In, out, so quickly to the feeder and away, breaking through a giant wallpaper sky hung between clouds.
What Steve Did on His Summer Vacation In high school, Erich and I said that someday we’d take the greatest vacation ever. I suggested Charon, but he asked why not dash over to a more private moon like Kerberos? Dorothy had ruby slippers to work magic. All we’ll pack is imagination. It gets you everywhere, no jacket required. We’ll speed past Neptune and soon Kerberos will show us frozen fig trees, a dark little place despite a movie-star sun posing for pictures that get plastered all over the Kuiper Belt. We’ll forget about Earth steeped in wars and religion, a darker world, ruined.
Lake Superior and Hats Put your foot in briefly and it comes out blue. Still, it offers grandeur too, Valhalla before it went under. I hear ghosts, ships that sank with screaming people, trees mocking them. Cries bubble up from the bottom, a slate moon too busy to listen. Winter scratches you, burns your face, an ice match. In spring tiny gaywings open, a lavender blanket on the forest floorâ€” the Lake thaws, looks almost vulnerable. Islands fit inside a young fernâ€™s curl. Lapping water, thousands of blue fedoras, float to shore.
On Whisky: MD Smith Just finished work for the night, and the temp is dropping outside like it’s December or something. I’ve set my cap at enjoying a dram of Dalmore 20 Year Old 1995 Single Cask (cask 91121). This is a “Dun Bheagan” (Ian Macleod) bottling and 669 bottles were produced. “The Dalmore” is a classic Northern Highlands distillery, established in 1839, located in Alness, North of Inverness, and sits on the banks of Cromarty Firth. It’s owned and operated by Whyte and Mackay Ltd. The stag emblem that adorns Db releases is a clan crest bestowed according to a 13th century legend. Tasting Notes— Freaking delicious. Nose: Buttered cinnamon toast, honey, and a generous helping of chocolate cake. Palate: More chocolate cake, but now with a bonus slice of Christmas cake right next to it. Spicy mid-palate... think black pepper and nutmeg. Finish: That pepper cools, lingers, and then... pecans! Elegant medium finish. Overall, a standout bottling.
Cynthia Anderson â€Ślives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her poems have appeared in Askew, Dark Matter, Apercus Quarterly, Burnt Pine, and Split Rock Review. She has six collections: In the Mojave, Desert Dweller, Mythic Rockscapes/Barker Dam, Mythic Rockscapes/Hidden Valley, and Shared Visions I and II. She co-edited the anthology A Bird Black as the Sun.
Bird Woman of Wonder Valley Her morning ritual begins with breathâ€” the steady rise and fall of her chest, then a flutter of eyes as the eastern sky reddens. Naked, she descends from her rooftop bed to the wild ground of her oasisâ€”a stand of palm, tamarisk, and mesquite she anoints with water too brackish for drinking. She opens a bin and scoops seeds, scatters them wide for sparrows who nest in her trees, who sing all day unless a hawk scares them to silence. Years ago she stopped trying to be the right bird, took refuge among the creosote, liked being alone so much she removed the passenger seat from her truck. Her favorite time
of day is dusk, when quail shoot up to the treetops, disturbing doves already settled behind dry, rustling fronds. In starlight, she dreams of gold talons, hears wingbeats that mimic her heart.
People of the Sky They came before us with songs in their bones from a crucible of star-fire. They taught us how to greet the sun, dances of courtship, rituals of grief. They revealed the arcana of speechâ€”sky, rainbow, sagebrush, stone. They sacrificed their bodies so we could be like them. We ate their flesh, wore skirts and crowns and capes of feathers, strung talons round our necks as talismans. Our clans took their namesâ€”Eagle, Snow Goose, Raven. Watching them come and go, we came to know our place. We scattered their down to cure the sick, bring rain, douse wildfires in the hills. 24
We made their hollow bones into flutes, shrill whistles calling the spirit-realm. Elders, dream helpers, they bore us on their backs all night, flying without rest to their home in the stars.
Traveling with Owl Past dusk far star-pointed hour of the hunter white-winged light-beater swoops in close head an anvil eyes steel hammers to drive out ciphers seize and feed hard upon them— falling back, shapeshifter culls dark need stalks crystal rocks geologic feathers carry off echoes arc of pinion’s fiery trajectory returns to follow me flashing above my headlights briefly— sharp veer towards the open ghost or totem— 26
I Remember Eons ago I commanded the sky, no natural enemies to stop me. Four-leggeds ran when they heard my thunder. I slept with my eyes open, stalking the slightest crack of twig, rustle of grass. My claws gripped the cliff, my gaze burned earth like lava. I would erupt, swoop and tear, wings beating death in my wake. I owned that bald crag you now see rounded and green. It was agony to leave my skin of feathers and let my bones be scattered. Iâ€™ve been reborn more times than I can count, seeking a form where I might feel again the rush of air, the soaring, the hungerâ€” and its end.
Kyle Hemmings â€Ślives and works in New Jersey. Heâ€™s been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Blaze Vox, and Matchbook. His latest collections of poetry/prose are Future Wars from Another New Calligraphy and Split Brain on Amazon Kindle. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies, manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s.
Paper Dolls YOU HAVE REDUCED YOUR EX-LOVERS to paper dolls. Each one has a name inked over the heart or where the heart should be. You glue them together and when that doesn’t work, you try masking tape. Now they are holding hands. With a little imagination, they can almost stand up. You wash your pots and pans, meticulously scraping off bits of meat, but you can’t forget your paper dolls. Do paper dolls get hungry and why do you starve them until they are paper-thin. This love is wasteful and sad. You can’t even fuck a paper doll. At night, you sleep with them. They are snug next to your pillow. In dreams, in dreams of empty rooms, the paper dolls follow you wherever you go. They need instructions. They never complain of how you once cheated them out of love, dirty love, the exquisite feel. They are still, perhaps in a deep trance they cannot recover from. You ask them if they can still feel something. They ask you if you ever felt anything. But you have a premonition that they will fall apart like so many traumatized girlfriends who will remain folded for life. You awake. Brush off that dream. You let your paper dolls stay on your bed because nothing matters. You notice that at least one is crumpled, another, almost shredded; perhaps, you tossed and turned too many times during the night. Perhaps you reached out and attempted to grasp and 29
grope. Perhaps during a dream, you spoke to them and they wouldn’t listen and you attacked. You take a cab to work and no matter how many times you look in the rear view, you cannot see the whole of the driver’s face. His accent reminds you of crossed borders, refugees who left too much behind. You leave a generous tip. Because you’re still able to work up a dollop of pity. You take the elevator to the 13th floor where you network with three law partners. In the office, several women with legs crossed, faces expressionless as stone, are waiting for you, all claiming that you’re the father.
Junkyard Dinosaurs THERE YOU WERE back in '72 sitting Twiggy-cross-legged under acrylic mini, easy care, wearing Paco Rabanne’s body jewels, your thoughts like cars with locked windows. You claimed you hid hairstreak butterflies in your foam mattress. I lectured you about how one can never get off the ground without a jack. We lost touch. The broken bridges of years. Later, you started small explosions in the lives of married men. An unclaimed blast. Disfigured in Tunisia. Died D.W.I., your soul reduced to chassis and rear axis. I died from a faulty transmission, blue smoke in a Paris bathroom. In the junkyard, we hang tough now, memories in heaps, speechless in the sun. A scavenger will steal your parts, piece by piece: the wipers— the rhythm of your apologies. He will use your flattened butterfly wings for a sunroof. If I could speak, I’d say We never did travel that far. And if you could feel anything under the world’s weight of scrap metal— you'd smile.
Edie Sedgwick: Flashes of Her Childhood Are Flaky at Best AS A CHILD WITH FIVE PAIRS of black buckle shoes, Edie had a parakeet she named Jimmy Durante. It was given to her by an aunt who complained of hearing helicopters over her neighborhood every night. One day, Jimmy Durante became very sick. Edie believed this was due to the fact Jimmy Durante wanted to talk but his beak was too sharp for long vowels. He chirped like a child halfchoking on hard candies. This happened around the time Edie’s father was having an affair with a Beverly Hills foot doctor who kept finding bugs in her bed sheets. Edie took Jimmy Durante to the veterinarian, an old man with a squeaky voice and floppy ears. At home, Edie dutifully fed Jimmy Durante nutrients through an eye dropper. Neither her parents nor her brothers took much interest in Jimmy Durante. Edie feared he was slowly being poisoned by her father, who adored caged silences. Jimmy Durante died. Edie called it murder. At the dinner table, Edie placed feathers on each of her family member’s plates. They sat stiffly, folded their arms, and flapped their elbows, breaking out into laugher as they did this. Edie cried for two years. After she left the crazy nest of her home, she searched for fame. In New York City, she found Andy Warhol. She said, “Andy, make me 100 reproductions of a bird.” 32
When Andy couldnâ€™t pay for her work in his films, she thought of Jimmy Durante. When a lover said that this is quits, she thought of Jimmy Durante. So many things reminded her of Jimmy Durante. He had flown back into her life without actually leaving it. She refused to shave her legs. She slept alone.
Freakbeat #3 I MET HER ON THE JAPAN TOUR, late in '66, a diminutive smiling girl called Ali. I couldn’t pronounce her last name, so she wrote it across the back of my briefs, laughing like a child inventing myths. On plum wine, we were limitless. She said she had aspirations to be a pop singer but she hated her own demos. She gave me some. Mostly songs of love and loss in Japanese, she said. Well, what songs weren’t about love and loss, I thought. One night in her apartment, over a crowed Meiji Street, she handed me what she called John Lennon’s left shoe. She said he and I had similar shoe sizes—an intuition on her part. I asked her what if he returns and wants it back. She said he would never come back, a gut feeling. When I told her my band would soon be leaving for the States, she said we must not say good-bye abruptly. It’s better if we part by expanding distances. It’s how she was able to cope with her grandfather’s death, until he became completely inarticulate. We stood and gazed at each other across a wood bridge, from opposite sides of a stream, or with her behind a tree and me gazing up, so many deceptive branches. With each distance, she grew progressively smaller. I imagined fitting her in my palm, protecting her from the rain, from people who pretended to be John Lennon. Until I shouted good bye over the ocean. But I had her voice on tape and I hired a translator. While playing the recordings, I would open my mouth during the chorus. The translator kept saying You are so far away.
On Poetry: MD Smith
Skywriting with Glitter, Ellyn & Robbie I love Ellyn Maybe. As much as someone can love another someone through that someone’s work, that’s how much L O V E. I’ve crinkled and crimped the pages of The Cowardice of Amnesia, scavenged any and all printed material, and then there’s Rodeo for the Sheepish played in the car and at home, YouTube videos, any and all poems or interviews or snippets from this that or the other internet archive, so now I am just giddy as all git-out because as much as I love all of that Ellen Maybe, oh my, now love has exploded into flowers and fire and myth and parachute in the newest audio release, Skywriting with Glitter. Ellen Maybe poems on paper alone are wonderful, but guess what? There’s nothing like hearing Ellen be Ellen, nothing like it. So there’s that next level, and of course if you know Ellen then you know everything kicks up a notch when she performs with a band (a la Rodeo, and for goodness sakes hit YouTube to view all available Ellen + band videos), but what the hellfire is this… ? It’s Ellen and the soaring range of Robbie Fitzsimmons’ piano and voice. These two are meant to be as perfect as they are when the words, voices, and melodies intermingle with Ellen being Ellen, being Poetry! Poetry! Like, dig these images… 35
“There is ash falling from the broken wood on a tree people shook / Waiting for answers escaping in the wind / Time racing through our hands” (from Marathon) “You live twenty years away from Richie Havens turning up at a café. / I watch the liner notes of your wrists like a fortune teller. / Jerome Robbins choreographs your neighborhood with a pale peony.” (from Myth) “My parachute is in a library and in a house and in a cheese sandwich / and in the words that avalanche / like a skier in love with cocoa and snow.” (from What Color is Your Parachute) But you have to hear Ellen and you have to hear the album because this album is a true collaboration. Robbie is seamlessly integrated into Ellen’s Ellen Maybe-ness. These poems are music heard through piano and voice. Image skipping stone to stone on melody. Poetry crashing into the dark void of the universe and coming home with a lovely yellow wildflower. Skywriting with Glitter is highly recommended. You can download it at CDbaby.com and Amazon.com and if I knew which one made Ellen the most moolah I’d tip y’all off. Just buy it, enjoy it, thank the stars for it. I did, and I do. I thank you, Ellen, because your poems are those stars.
On Music: Steve Lyle Steve Lyle is a blogger, dormant poet, and recovering journalist who spends weeks each year observing leaf-fall in the iconic City of Trees, Sacramento. In his spare time he enjoys Seinfeld reruns, endlessly viewing the same fourteen old movies, and diligently studying “Trump: the Unabridged Vocabulary.”
Folk musician and Southern Californian Joel Rafael is an earnest man who stands up for his beliefs. As one of his Facebook followers I learned that first-hand earlier this year (last year), during the Democratic primary for president. He made it known he was resolutely for Bernie Sanders even after the outcome was plainly apparent. I got a little frustrated. I was a Clinton supporter and found it difficult to understand why Rafael wouldn’t pivot and get behind the nominee. Perhaps he saw Sanders as a natural extension of Woody Guthrie. Rafael is possibly our greatest interpreter of Guthrie’s work standing up for the common man. The Rafael albums Woodeye (2003) and Woodyboye (2005) make Guthrie’s infectious songwriting accessible to all with modern production values and Rafael’s distinct western authenticity. The standout track on Woodeye is actually a Rafael original, ‘Talking Oklahoma Hills,’ a spoken-word story of his journey to a Guthrie festival in his birthplace, Okemah, OK. Other highlights are ‘Ramblin’ Round,’ ‘Dance a Little Longer,’ and ‘Pretty Boy Floyd.’ On Woodyboye, my favorite tracks are ‘Way 37
Over Yonder in the Minor Key,’ ‘Sierra Blanca Massacre’ and ‘Rangers Command.’ I have sampled a few other Rafael albums over the years but recently discovered what I feel is his best work, 2015’s Baladista. It’s a perfect mix of acoustic and steel guitars, harmonica, and Rafael’s weathered, melodic voice. There are 10 tracks, all excellent. My personal favorite is ‘Old Portland Town,’ which, for me, recalls a family history in the northwest. Joel Rafael offers modern folk music that preserves its connections with the past. He takes you there while satisfying you here. If you’re unfamiliar with Rafael and enjoy Americana music, he is well worth your time.
On Whisky: Steve Lyle When it comes to Scotch whisky, space on retail shelves looks about as attainable as the British aristocracy. The perennials are immovable, like Stonehenge. You know them from memory: Cutty Sark, Dewars, Chivas and the many shades of Johnny Walker. The single malts tend to be Glenlivet, Macallan, and something from Glenmorangie. It’s clear that progress in Scotch is measured archaeologically, so it’s a little surprising to see a relatively new contender on the scene, a delightful blend of three single-malts (Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Kininvie) called Monkey Shoulder, offered by William Grant and Sons. That parentage helps explain why it was able to penetrate the market. I first encountered Monkey Shoulder a couple of years ago at a hotel bar in San Francisco. The catchy name drew me in and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s smooth and mildly sweet. The label boasts of flavors of “zesty orange, mellow vanilla, honey and spiced oak.” Okay, if they say so. I don’t have the palate for it. All I know is that it tastes good and doesn’t have the chunkiness of some of those higher-end single malts. More good news— Monkey Shoulder is quite affordable. I recently picked up a 750 ml bottle on sale for $28. Sure, I realize you can find 1.75 liters of Old Smuggler at Rite Aid for about half that price. Good luck with that. If you're still trying to figure out the name “Monkey Shoulder,” it goes back to whisky-making tradition, referring to a 39
condition workers developed during long shifts turning barley by hand. It caused their arms to hang down like a monkey’s, and that became ‘monkey shoulder.’ Good story. I must say, though, in the end a fine Scotch could be called Zebra Balls and I’d quaff it. And now a word of advice… be careful. Drink Monkey Shoulder too fast and you’ll soon be braying at the moons of Endor, whether they’re out there or not. At least that’s what I’ve heard….
Jeffrey Alfier â€Śhas new chapbooks entitled Bleak Music, a photograph and poetry collaboration with Larry D. Thomas (Blue Horse Press, 2016), Southbound Express to Bay Head (Grayson Books, 2016) and The Red Stag at Carrbridge: Scotland Poems (Aldrich, 2016). Recent credits include Cold Mountain Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Hotel Amerika.
Yazoo City, One Last Time for Sarah Cochran Kudzu plots the overthrow of this town. Why’d you bother saying you’d never return? You knew long miles of rutted pavement waited. Those one-lane roads meld to interstates now, threading cypress and water tupelo near the rotting porch of the clapboard house that bore your thirst for a farmer’s daughter. Her hair was as red as this soil is black. When her ‘74 Plymouth Duster spit rancid smoke to a mother’s hard glare you believed dashboard saints kept you alive. Sliding AM dials, her hope for ballads made poverty in summer something real. Peanut mills and tractors dispensing dust shadowed her wry smile and the failing farms that left no map; any grain silo’s height could be hewn down to strip malls and fairways. That old motor lodge is bleached to tinder. There, your rotgut bribe failed to buy a room just to have an hour alone with her breasts. Instead of keys, the clerk gave a bible, 44
said, You best be changin’ your wicked heart. But he hardly disguised the wistful glance he cast beyond you to her anxious stare. Seems you could recite the worst lies that year. But your laughter couldn’t cheat her of scorn, and any chance paled like a Choctaw ghost. Why’s memory here always summer nights, nothing to swear it all happened your way? It’s November now. Early signs of sleet.
Sonoma County August I spent early hours wending byways off Stony Point Road through far Sonoma, stopped at Martinâ€™s Market Deli, and bought a Pabst from a one-arm clerk. Took my change, didnâ€™t count it. Tried not to stare at that space the limb went absent. Leaving, I watched a Dodge muscle car nail its tach into the red zone. Fine dust settled over the lot. Combines geared down to take a hill, their sound dropping into distance. The clerk appeared in the doorway, a broom in his fist like a spear. Heading back inside, thin streaks of dust lingered behind his sweep. His foot propped the door open with a stone.
Ballast Stones Nightfall, I loiter the platform at Red Bank station, watch the late trains come in. Glass and plastic empties dispersed along the tracks, most of them cheap whiskey— brands I’d often welcomed myself. They settled on the ballast stones between north and southbound rails, caught up in the gusts of trains that didn’t stop.
The Fence Rebuilt Train station coffee, and I stumble into morning, pass a drifter Iâ€™d named The Winter Man five Decembers back, when the edge of a blizzard snowed his field jacket, and he entered a poem. June now, familiar streets. I glance between houses: a ladder, toppled into ivy, has given up on walls, a Christmas candle stands unlit in a window, the blinds buckled as if gripped by a shut-in ghost. Further on, a red balloon says Welcome Home. It drifts past a thrift shop, as if all that needed saying was finally cut loose. Now the sign on a liquor store, shuttered seven years, still claims I'm under surveillance. Yesterday, dad and my brothers finished the garden work, rebuilt its fence. Whatever it takes, he said, to keep the goddamned animals out.
Union Station Landscaper Sanders too I was blessed to have known, his realm the plots of overgrowth and failing flowers on Alameda Street, the 101 off-ramp his truck screams down late each morning, arms full of rakes and trowels in textbook labor, resolute in his stint but far from flawless, his eyes numbering the homeless strewn like effigies along the stationâ€™s grass, coffee shaking in his fist from a thermos cracked from falling out of the truck bed, lunch breaks with malt bottles and deli meat on black rye, dayâ€™s end the grime and glory of an aching body he takes home over the First Street Bridge, tossing bottles in the L.A. River, browning below, where castoff blossoms always find their way to sea.
Catfish McDaris â€Śwon the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. His work is at the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Wisconsin. He is listed in Wikipedia. His ancestors were related to Wilma Mankiller from the Cherokee Nation. Currently heâ€™s selling wigs in a dangerous neighborhood in Milwaukee.
The Beautiful Monster INDIA WAS A ROMANTIC DREAM FOR SPANIARD. He’d met several writers on line from Kolkata and they had translated and published some of his work. Spaniard was studying the word, chimaeras which led to chimaeriformes; it included the ghost sharks, rat fish, spook fish, and rabbit fish. His plant study of the schisandra berries, known as the dragon herb; it had the five Chinese flavors, salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and bitter. Sometimes one word can open your eyes to endless possibilities, like a death row meal in Alcatraz. Spaniard used his scientific mind for the good of humanity. He had no need for riches, he considered money a filthy habit. Spaniard planned to develop an injectable serum that would cure all contagious diseases related to sex. At one touch of his device, a person could determine if another had an STD and they could take a shot or pill for an instant cure. Spaniard’s cure worked well from his extracting DNA from many rare fish, hyenas, Komodo dragons, Tasmanian devils, plus many herbs from all over the world. He wanted to explore the Sundarbans and extract DNA from many of the animals found there. The Sundarbans, the world’s largest coastal mangrove forest, stretches for almost 6,000 square miles across India and Bangladesh, a natural barrier against tsunamis and frequent cyclones that blow in from the Bay of Bengal. Squeezed between 52
the jungle and thousands of expanding shrimp and tiger-prawn farms, at least 100,000 villagers risk tiger attacks to fish, cut trees and gather honey in the Sundarbans forest. Honey collectors are known as mouals. Many villagers enter the protected forest to cut trees for fishing boats or to supply factories that make hardboard for furniture and buildings, and other wood products. Fishermen gather crabs, shrimp, and other sea creatures. Honey hunters often have the most treacherous job, searching for beesâ€™ nests in vegetation so dense that the only way through is on hands and knees. Each spring, the honey hunters go deeply into debt to rent boats for their journey through a vast warren of muddy saltwater rivers and channels that meander around thousands of jungle islands. They stock up on food and supplies for trips that last up to three months, and they grease the palms of corrupt forestry officials. The honey hunters wager everything, including their lives, against pirates and the whims of wild animals, including pythons, king cobras, crocodiles, and the man-eating Bengal tigers. The lure of liquid gold is stronger than their fears. Spaniard flew into Kolkata; he knew the name had changed in 2001 from Calcutta. His writer friends, Nali and Sab met him at his hotel. He needed to make sure they wanted to risk their lives in one of the most dangerous places on earth. They drank some Haywards Whisky, it tasted and smelled like sweet paint stripper. The chillum came out and some keef blizzys. They smoked several kinds of hash and looked out at the Hooghly River. Spaniard explained his ideas, theories, and reasoning. First, he told them of his studies of the prostitution situation in Kolkata and he asked if either of them could add to his knowledge. They 53
slept and woke and drank Flying Horse and God Father Beer and watched the room disappear in blonde Lebanese hashish clouds. “Once we learn more about our journey into the mangrove forest, we can proceed with our mission to liberate the prostitutes,” Spaniard said. Nali and Sab went in search of honey hunters and expert men used to dealing with the dangers of the forest like swamp. Spaniard worked with his Shadow knife, it was extremely dangerous. Nali and Sab returned the next day with two experts. “Human flesh is sweet. Once a tiger has tasted it, it always prefers to prey on humans,” said Mohammed Abdul, a forestry official from the dense mangrove jungle of Bangladesh’s southwest coast. “One tiger killed 87 people in the ‘90s. Finally, we... shot the beautiful monster.” “We don’t have any other way out,” said Mohabbat Mali, a honey hunter for more than 30 years. “We are poor people in a crisis and we have to depend on the jungle for our survival.” “The beautiful rainforests are filled with diverse landscapes, one-horned rhinoceros, deer, elephants, barking deer and bison, racket-tailed drongo, hornbill, green pigeons and woodpeckers. There are plenty of trees such as akashmoni, eucalyptus, siris, sal and simul open-bill stork, with egret, pond heron, night heron and little cormorant, royal Bengal tiger, Malayan giant squirrels, fishing cat, hog deer, pythons, wild buffalos, blackbucks, spotted deer, fox, and jackals. Pintails, whistlings, teals, black hooded orioles and white bellied treepie. The wet grasslands, complete with rain trees, common teak and shimul trees, are home to several tropical orchids, India rhinos, peacock, brahminy duck, Indian shag, egrets, and lapwings. The 54
estuarine Sundarbans, led to the first ever saltwater crocodile in the mangroves. The clouded leopard, black panther are among the chief predators in the Sundarbans. Asian elephant, hoolock gibbon, Asian black bear and oriental pied hornbill, Chital deer are widely seen in southwestern woodlands, black giant squirrel, capped langur, Bengal fox, sambar deer, jungle cat, king cobra, wild boar, mongooses, pangolins, pythons and water monitors, Irrawaddy dolphins and Ganges dolphins.” Even Spaniard the fearless inventor and mad adventurer was impressed with the variety of species inhabiting Sundarbans. “When can we start our journey?” Spaniard asked. “This is the absolute worst time of year,” replied Mohammed. “The crocodiles are laying their eggs and guarding them. They become ferocious now for at least three months.” “It has to be now regardless of the risks. The extractions of DNA and blood I need will save lives immediately. We must go now. Who’s with me?” The tiger and crocodiles waited, but not for long. The men never had a chance.
Playing for All the Marbles Spaniard blew some luck into his palm as he tried to rattle a seven or eleven from the red and white bones. He let them fly up against the wall, seven. Three more passes before he crapped out. Dice wasn’t his game, seven card stud was his pleasure. Spaniard knew he was slowly sinking in a quagmire of gambling quicksand. The house always won in the long run, but he wasn’t playing in a casino. Billy was a construction boss and pal of Spaniard’s. He asked him to go to Moscow, Kansas to build a grain silo for the Butler Corporation. He’d worked on a few silos in Texas and New Mexico. Moscow was just a tiny town north of the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma. The concrete work was finished, the galvanized steel work was left to do. The building itself was basically simple. You set up a crow’s nest steel pole, then built the slanting roof on the concrete apron of the fifty-foot concrete concave funnel. Jacks were installed all around the roof and the walls were built on the ground and lifted slowly into the air. Each section of the circular building was bolted on with rubber grommet bolts and nuts. Everything was waterproof, to keep the grain dry. Billy forgot to mention to Spaniard the silo in Kansas would be the biggest in the world. Besides their eight-man crew, there would be crews from Texas, Kansas and possibly Oklahoma. Billy knew of Spaniard’s gambling fever and he warned him to watch himself. There were some nickel, dime, quarter games, Spaniard watched to see who seemed interested. One half assed cowboy 56
with biker tattoos and some blue tear drops next to his eye, supposedly signifying three men he’d killed in Huntsville Prison watched everything. An older guy watched the watchers, Spaniard heard he was Amarillo Slim, the famous card shark. He didn’t even look at the game, pocket change obviously held no interest for him. The eagle flew on Friday, that bird screamed down from the sky and filled all the workers’ pockets. Booze, weed, and wild women seemed to flow like the Rio Grande. The dice came out, the serious card game started. Spaniard was playing his game, seven card stud, High Chicago style. Seven stud meant two cards down four cards up and the last card down. High Chicago meant the high spade down or in the hole took half the pot. Spaniard was ahead close to a thousand dollars on the table, not counting the six hundred he’d slipped down his boot. He twirled his parakeet skull good luck piece. He’d been waiting for the right pot to clean up— Spaniard got the queen of spades in the hole. The ace came up, then the king, so half the pot was his whether he won or not. Spaniard slowly raised each bet. Amarillo Slim knew what was happening. Slim flashed a sign to his jailbird pal, Jocko, who then misdealt, giving Spaniard two cards at once. It had been a set up all along and Spaniard knew his goose was cooked. He tried to get his coyote knife from his boot without the money. Spaniard heard the pistol cock and felt it shoved in his ear. Jocko said, “Your balls aren’t big enough to mess with Texas, boy. Do you know who we are? Do you have any idea?” Spaniard said, “You’re El Chapulin Colorado or the Birdman of Alcatraz and he is Harry Houdini.” Spaniard got up 57
slowly and backed out of the room. He got in his old Buick and turned on the radio, to an FM station, KOMA from Oklahoma City. They were playing a song he knew, so he sang along. “She caught the Katy and left me a mule to ride,” a song he thought Taj Mahal wrote. A few months later Spaniard was told Jocko and Slim were in Amarillo, Texas spending green like John D. Rockefeller. He called a lady friend. She shot Jocko in the face while he was eating a hamburger. Her bullets drove a pickle in his eye and lettuce up his nose. Amarillo Slim didn’t do well either, his brains were stuck to the wall. They resembled a Valentine’s Day box of candy with night crawlers trying to escape. She gathered forty-two thousand, some pinky rings, and other fancy jewelry. As she left, she took out a playing card. It was the queen spades. She flicked the card between their bloody corpses.
On Whisky: MD Smith Another rat day at the mill, so tonight a lovely single cask dram from Blair Athol, a 5 Year Old “Càrn Mòr Strictly Limited” release (870 bottles). This is a young Central Highlands whisky. Blair Athol has been working since 1798, so they know a thing or two about distilling the water of life. And since we’re talking water, they draw theirs from the Allt Dour Burn in Perthshire. Blair Athol’s usual bottling is a 43% abv 12 year old single malt. This cask is bottled at 46%, on the lighter side of the single cask spectrum, but I expect a flavorful experience nonetheless. Let’s see! Tasting Notes— Well balanced. Nose: Citrus and tobacco, and of course (being young) a little grist. Palate: Fresh cream, cut grass, very sweet sherry. Finish: Medium, juicy apple dusted with cinnamon and pepper. Overall, very bright. Cheers!
Tobi Alfier â€Śis a multiple Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Her latest chapbooks are The Coincidence of Castles from Glass Lyre Press, and Romance and Rust from Blue Horse Press. Down Anstruther Way is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press. She is coeditor of San Pedro River Review (www.BlueHorsePress.com).
Lovesick at the Border Silence wells around us, clouds muscle back the midday heat. It ain’t right, you leaving now, me—sunblown, windblown, light-shot, gut-shot. You—lone lamp in an attic window. Bar patrons prattle inside. The jukebox plays “I’m Not in Love”. Why now, this slipping away from grace while the brick and mortar of memory calls you liar. Your face an unreadable mask, mine red like the scent of cinnabar. I sip truck-stop coffee like self-pity. You order a Bud and a bourbon. The miles between us increase as the desert breeds that silence I’ve long learned to need.
Nine A.M. to Noon People touch her. They pet her and pat her. Sometimes they rub the swelling globe of her baby-to-be, sometimes they don’t even know her. Only once at a conference did she want to be touched by someone she didn’t know. She followed a man with her eyes, for three days she watched as his charisma filled the room, knew where he was, knew when to have a brandy in the bar—this was two years ago. She remembers the moment they passed in the aisle, he slid his finger down the side of her hand, kept on walking. They have not been in the same places since. What would have changed if she’d followed him? Nine a.m. to noon, the time between getting sick, and getting sick again. Every day she is punished, and touched. Don’t touch her. Ginger ale, candied ginger, ginger colored hair, 62
spiral of hair on a newbornâ€™s back, newborn neediness, needing the slight touch of his finger, still thinking about the aisle dance. What would have changed if sheâ€™d followed?
Wrong Turn Ronnie Rain lacquered streets rise and fall in cracked pavement. My weed-addled skull takes a wrong turn off Route 66, ends at Willie Mac’s House of Spirits. I do a double-take, a high-school friend selling crystal ice in the lot, his life an anthem of money and malt liquor. He never could hold his rot-gut and decided to cut out the middle man. An uneven sun smokes creosote off the asphalt, lights the oxidized red of my ‘71 LeMans, lights the rust of a half dozen junkyards and railcars. The hooker leaving Willie Mac’s pulls down her shades, half to hide the bruise from some idiot who didn’t know she’d once offed a john with a splintered pool cue, half to shield sub-glacial eyes so dead, yet sensitive to light and going blind. I’ve been in love with her for half of forever, she just works hard at swearing she owns me. The hour leans into a limbo of where the hell am I’s? Mussed hair, torn shirts all over town. 64
Throwing my horse-piss of warm beer out the window, I opt for pancakes and a hangover Bloody Mary, pray Sister Sweet and Self Righteous ainâ€™t at the communal table, pray that the hooker is. Iâ€™ll be home soon. If I can face it.
Inverness Portside Blues I. Crows plague this street. They startle us from out of the trees, from rooftops, the dead branches of palms. As each morning rises they start, do not stop till the sun flashes green over the horizon and falls into the sea. II. They appear and disappear, shadows dragging trash and squirming lawn-fauna like the gypsy knife grinder drags his wagon—up driveways, over ruts and cracks, to have tea with the ladies, whiskey with the gents. He sharpens it all—John next door has a crisscross shredder, the cost of sharpening is a full bottle of Jack, a Coke chaser, and a story, about anything other than this street, this town, where Moses from down pierway drives a ‘58 pickup with column shift—a city auction relic, to pick up scrap, sell it for dimes, buy the right to light a candle on Sundays and call his life good.
III. He makes more charging folks three bucks to take a picture but he don’t care, when he hears those damn crows at dawn, it’s his time to shine, to uncoil from night’s half-sleep. With a sandwich, a plaid thermos and his route, he waves to us, waves to the knife grinder, keeps watch on the crows. Another day, backbreaking, trash talking, spare change and a smile.
Michael Hathaway â€Śwas raised in central Kansas where he lives on the edge of a very small town with 41 cats, all spayed/neutered and current on vaccinations. By day he is Keeper of History for Stafford County, by night he edits and publishes Chiron Review literary journal which he founded in 1982. He also works part time for his veterinarian.
Talking to Squirrels I let the kitties out to play & sat outside to enjoy what I love most about rural Kansas– the serenity. It was short-lived, interrupted by an unholy caterwauling. Charlie, my fat fluffy orange & white cat ran past me with a baby squirrel in his mouth. I seldom interfere with my cats’ hunting. Dad taught me when I was a little boy & would get upset when Mom’s Siamese killed birds or mice– “It’s Nature, you shouldn’t interfere.” I chased Charlie around the front of the house, where the baby squirrel struggled loose & ran. He huddled at the side of the house… four more cats surrounded him, eyes gleaming. I defied Dad & Nature & scolded Charlie. I shooed the other cats away, scooped the baby up in a bucket, & returned him to his home in the crook of an ancient elm. He scampered up the tree, then right back down. He clung to the tree upside down, eye-level with me. 70
He stretched his neck toward me, chattered furiously & scolded me up one side & down the other. I said, â€œI know, cats are fucking assholes.â€?
Cognitive Dissonance (or, probably why people love coffee) for Anthony Some nights misery piles on misery, decades of loss and grief, cruel and chronic depression, tectonic plates of existential angst. A country bumpkin in Sam Brownback’s rural Kansas has no business even knowing what that is. Then there was that little quest for wisdom– it really opened up a can of worms– I eagerly & naively popped the top right off The Void, peaked into the nihilists’ abyss. It’s too late to unsee it now. I’m that Looney Tunes character free-falling endlessly, seated at a bistro table, legs crossed, calmly enjoying a nice dessert, reading a good book while everything never stops falling. But all is well. Time & age teach All this silly horror dissipates with the morning sun, chores, & hot, black coffee. 72
Rush Hour Traffic Just past Spareâ€™s farm, a dozen wild turkeys loiter & meander across Old Highway 50 as if they own it. As far as Iâ€™m concerned, they do.
Tracy Pops into a Dream Two Years after the Fact Just to Let Me Know I loved him since 7th grade, & it wasn’t just puppy love. My first sight of him made my heart skip beats, struck me stupid, speechless, weak in the knees– the very best feeling life ever offers– it continued way into my 30s. But the life I chose was too tame for him. He was discontented, always a lost boy who couldn’t find his way. We disconnected, he, to find excitement, always looking for a higher high, me, for self-preservation. The morning after that dumb out-of-blue dream, I was devastated to find his obituary online: dead at 49, two years before. I hadn’t seen him in 22 years, but I loved thinking about him out there somewhere, surely handsome as ever at forty-something, his face wizened just enough to make him even sexier, his steely hazel eyes softened with the wisdom of age & experience. Maybe he had a wife & children, maybe even some grandkids? But I should have known 74
when he dropped by one last time in that dream, all squeaky-clean & dressed up in a suit & tie, it was not to tell me heâ€™d gotten his shit together; it was not to tell me he was on his way to a good job, or that he was on a date still making girls & guys weak in the knees, still making hearts skip beats with his sly but innocent grin. He was dressed up for church, on the way to his own funeral.
On Whisky: MD Smith Another dram in my December single malt, single cask quest for whisky deliciousness, and a real treat tonight from the Isle of Skye: Talisker 8 Year Old 2008 (cask 12657), an “Old Malt Cask” (Hunter Laing) bottling. Aged in a single refill hogshead, distilled in April 2008 and bottled in June 2016 at 50% abv, with an outturn of 151 bottles. Talisker was founded in 1830 and is the only distillery on the isle. They produce a wide range of well-regarded expressions, aged from 10 to 30 years, not to mention specialties like this one. Tasting Notes— A delight. Nose: Chocolate and vanilla, fresh apples and pears, and generous tangy peat. Palate: The peat develops a light sweetness that coats the coastal flavor, ushering in a hazelnut cream. Finish: We get (yum) Golden Delicious apples and an ever-so-slightly-sweet lingering smoke. Overall, thoughtful (though not transformative) balance and development. It's the surprisingly sweet tang of peat and apples that makes it memorable for me. 76
Epiphany Ferrell â€Ścheerfully writes dark stories from the cozy isolation of Resurrection Mule Farm, named for a mule that survived a lightning strike. Her stories appear in several journals, including Ghost Parachute, The Potomac, Prairie Wolf Press Review, DarkFire, Cooper Street, and A Quiet Courage.
Farm Accidents I JUST NEED TO SIT A MINUTE and write this note to the grocery boy. I’ve got dirt under my nails and it mixes with the sweat and smudges the paper, I hope he can read it. The corn is up all the way around the house and down to the road. I could run around the pond naked and there’d be nobody to see. I can do whatever I have a mind to do with the corn up taller than me. There’s corn in all the neighbors’ fields too. The farmers plant as close to the road as they can. The farmhouses are islands in the corn and it’s easy to believe nothing ever happens here at all. When the corn dries and goes brown, the barest breeze sets it to rustling and it does put one in mind of bones moving together. Sometimes the corn gets to whispering even when the air is still and calm, and it seems most alive then. It doesn’t bother me. I like to be here alone. I came here to live with Grandpa when I still a little girl. People talked, said he was a strange old man. They said I ought to be in a home, and I still don’t know what that means because me and Grandpa, we were a home. None of that talking in town mattered to my sweetheart Bob. We got married in the courthouse on my 18th birthday and not even Grandpa came. He was old then and frail as a corn stalk. 78
Bob loved the farm, he loved farming, it was all he ever wanted to do and it was a shame his parents sold their farm without giving him a chance to do something with it. It was good he had ours to farm, and it was a full house with the three of us. And then later it was two of us again, me and Bob. And then it was just me. The boy from the grocery store brings my groceries all the way out here now so I don’t have to go into town. He’ll sometimes stay and talk a minute, if I can’t find my checkbook right away. My grandpa’s lawyer used to come every few months, but mostly she just calls now to let me know the insurance money is still there and with me renting out the acres if I’m careful I can live a long time on that money. She told me once people think I’ve gone odd and I should go into town sometimes. I tell her I will and she sighs because she knows I won’t. Some nights, when the moon is shining bright like day, I do get to missing Bob. He loved this farm. He’d dance with me in the moonlight when the corn was up and no one could see. It was always better when the corn was up. I believe him now. I didn’t believe him then but years have a way of making a person remember things differently. I believe now it was an accident. When he threw that pitchfork he didn’t mean for it to hit me, surely not to stick in my foot. We were quarreling, and he was angry and so was I, but throwing that pitchfork, that was an accident. And I’m sure he’d understand if I could tell him I never meant for anything to happen like it did. It was just a little shove. I sure didn’t mean for the combine head to grab him like that. 79
It grabbed him and it chewed him while he screamed. Everyone in town said it was a terrible thing I saw it happen. They said a thing like that could drive anyone mad. I do miss Bob. I used to sit and talk with him on nights like this after the accident. He’s in the family plot back the other side of the pond between those two little hills. Grandpa is there too, and Grandma, in graves shallow because of the clay. I’m not sure Bob can hear me with dirt in his ears. I want to tell him I know now he didn’t mean it, it was an accident. I want to tell him I didn’t mean it either. I know if I could just see him again, if I was sure he could hear me, I’d tell him and it’d be better between us. If I could just see him, that’s what I was thinking. Bringing him into the corn was hard work, but I’m a farm girl all my life and my hands are calloused. Bob’s skin is dry as the corn stalks and nearly the same color. He’s like paper. He rustled and the corn answered as I brought him home. When I got there, I noticed his arm is gone. I don’t know what else. I wonder if it’s still in the funeral home these years later, his arm, or if they burned it up or what happened. I don’t like to think about him without his arm, he’d sure hate for people to see him not to his full self. I’ll nurse him back. I nursed back a kitten out here in the whispering corn, the fruit of our lives. There’s something in this field near the house. I don’t feel it everywhere in the corn, only here. If I sit still long enough, ignoring the spiders’ long legs as they crawl across me, if I sit and smell the dirt and the sun and look up past the corn blades to the sky, I can feel it. I can feel 80
growing and I can hear the whispers and I know if my need is great, the answer is here. I know I can nurse Bob back to himself. My need is great. I need to tell him about the combine, that it was an accident. And then it will be ok again.
Silhouettes SHE HADN’T KNOWN THE BOY. When the police officer told her mother there’d been an arrest, the name meant nothing to her. She looked at the mug shot and realized they had history together, and maybe something last semester too, she couldn’t remember what. Her mother held the 8x10 the police had brought by the edge, as if the image it contained would burn her fingers. “My God, he’s just a boy.” Marissa’s mother and little brother cried through the whole funeral. Marissa crumpled a dry tissue in her hand and stared straight ahead. They charged Ryan Phillips as an adult because of the serious nature of the crime. Because of the pre-meditation. He’d been 16 for a week when he did it. There was no trial. Ryan Phillips pled guilty. It was a blind plea, her mother told her, explaining how “that murderer,” was throwing himself on the judge’s mercy rather than making a deal with the prosecutor. The prosecutor told them the judge would likely add the case to the docket quietly, to reduce the media presence– because of the alleged motive, he said. “That’s a mercy, at least,” Marissa’s mother said. “Fewer people will know.” “Everyone knows,” Marissa said. Everyone in her world did. Marissa turned 16 before the case went before the judge. She and Ryan Phillips were the same zodiac sign. She dropped out of school and began the GED program at the community college. She couldn’t stand all the whispers. 82
She didn’t know how Ryan Phillips had known. She didn’t know, even, that he knew her. She wasn’t someone boys got to know, or girls either. She didn’t want friends. She wanted invisibility. Ryan Phillips was on the football team but he wasn’t a star. He was on the bench most games. Marissa didn’t know he regularly cut through the woods behind their house on his way home from football practice. She didn’t know that he changed places with a boy to sit nearer her in history class, that he wanted to talk to her but didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know that he’d seen her silhouette through her thin curtain as he walked the edge of her backyard one night after football, how he’d seen her sitting on the edge of her bed and the silhouette of her stepfather coming into the room. She didn’t know he’d seen the two shapes, like an horrific puppet show, as her stepfather embraced her and then pushed her down onto the bed. She didn’t know that he’d not believed his own eyes at first, that he’d been sure he was wrong, that it was just silhouettes after all. The third time he saw it, he had his dad’s hunting rifle with the scope. “Son, why didn’t you document what you allege was happening some other way?” the judge asked him. That was the only time anyone mentioned what her stepfather had done. No one asked Marissa anything about it. Not even her own mother. The judge gave Ryan Phillips 20 years. Marissa’s mother wanted the prosecutor to object. “20 years? That’s nothing!” 83
Marissa did the math. He’ll be 36. It was a crushing number. It was the heaviest number in the world. As the police put the handcuffs on him, Ryan’s eyes locked with Marissa’s. They were large, brown eyes, like a deer’s. Marissa wanted to mouth at him, “Thank you.” But her lips wouldn’t move and she stared at him, open-mouthed, as if she were waiting for a kiss.
Happier Then WE LUNCHED in the aquarium café so she could watch the sharks. She said, “I was happier then. When I was a shark, I leaped from the water to catch a seal.” When I was a seal, a shark caught me just that way; I still bear the scars of its jagged teeth.
Sacred Dance THE MOON IS REFLECTED in the pool-water, and sounds of the fair, drifting on the breeze, come over the hedge in fragmented screams and midway ride rushes. With them come faint aromas of cotton candy and funnel cake. Dancing is solace. At the office, where she doles out rental car insurance, she is one way. Here, dancing in the moonlight, she is another. She doesnâ€™t hear the man who walks the sidewalk, himself escaping the fair, looking for nothing, the solace of nothing, under a moon corrupted by carnival light. He sees her through a gap between fence door slats. He stops to listen to her music, but there is none for him to hear. She listens through wires and buds and a tiny rectangle of technological magic. He watches her serpentine twists and pivots, the graceful reach of her arms and beckoning fingers, her mouth moving as she sings silently her private music. Lawless, she twirls and reaches to the moon, sweeps away from it with a boneless torso twist, the bend of her leg. Her tall moon shadow stretches, arms twining, a silent ritual of dance. A voodoo loa. But then she comes to a finish, and sheâ€™s just a young woman again, in sweat pants and a t-shirt, white wires hanging from her ears. He waits, not breathing, needing her to begin again. She does not. He moves away from her spell, down the sidewalk. Inside the fence, she hears his uneven gait, and it sets her hounds to baying. 86
Wax THE FIRST TIME WE KISSED, okay the only time, we were both wearing wax lips. It was a thing at church camp. The wax lips, not the kissing. Okay, the kissing too. Yours were bubba with buck teeth, mine were sultry with vampire fangs. We pressed our wax lips together, arms around each other on the sofa in the common room. We moved like an accordion, apart, together, squeeze, squeak, apart, together, squeeze, squawk. I put my hand on your thigh to trace the square patches of denim in your cool hippie jeans. And then Jeanie came in, banging the screen door, and you jumped backward like you’d seen a roach on the toe of your shoe. Jeanie didn’t even notice, but you said, “God, Trish, what would my mother say?” You ought to have asked me to lunch when you were in town. We could have talked, caught each other up on our lives now. You could have told me about your minivan and kids’ traveling soccer league, your husband’s affair and how you believe in forgiveness. I loved you, you know. You did know. All of us, when we are young, experiment. I was yours. You thought it was funny. You laughed about it. I did, too, to save face. You were afraid even to taste me. I went to my bunk and buried my head under the bedcovers and pillows and cried that night. Cried with the embarrassment of rejection and discovery, cried with the emptiness of realization, cried with fuck if I know, hormones? I still taste wax when I think of you.
On Whisky: MD Smith Lastly, a Glenturret 14 Year Old 2001 “Highland Laird” Single (port) Cask. Bartels Whisky bottled this, 712 to be exact. A Central Highlands distillery (since 1775), mature Glenturret can be described as “Christmas-y,” with raisin, almond, clove, plenty of wood spice prominent. I’ve become more a fan of late, as have folk at The Black Grouse, who have smartly added it to their already tasty blend. The extra flavor layer coming from 14 years in a port barrel make this particular bottling special. Tasting Notes— Inviting on a cold evening! Nose: Cooking spices, sultanas, licorice, a touch of damp wood... and a whiff of port. Palate: Big hit of oak spice (bourbon lovers, take note), which shows off well in this cask… black pepper, ginger, clove. Layers of orange keep the spices moderated, and then (hurrah) there develops a luscious sweetness from the port pipe. Finish: Long and warm, not aggressive, with holiday flavor essences, raisins and leafy fruits, 88
diminishing into more light port sweetness. Merry Christmas, indeed.
Tim Adell â€Śis an English professor at Victor Valley College who has lived and taught in three countries, four if you count Texas. He loves golf, soccer, and working out when the mood hits him. He prides himself on having no more than a reasonable number of grudges.
Permanent Address Once I thought I would live the heroic uncluttered life of ART. Stand the good, unfettered stand. Fight the fight, et cetera. Well, surpriseâ€”I sold out. To teaching, to bills, to the effluvia of such comfort as exists, to whatever solace flops on bourgeois love seats. So this is just a note to inform all creditors, Death, Disease, Pestilence, Responsibility and Love. This is my wife. Here is my son. This is our house and the double mortgage for which it stands. Here are our friends, kith and kin, and loved ones. If any of you lame dicks want a fight, you know where to find us.
Our Governor is Brown How perfect our governor is Brown here in the Great Ungreening. Did John grok it thus in his fever dream on Patmos? Not bang, not whimper, but the slow nag of undripping off the Sierras, forlorn as a polar bear adrift? Nah this is not God’s final judgment on Hollywood, the whole of us crumbling like a Malibu cliff house in an apocalypse of five-minute showers and tragic, climate-appropriate landscaping; barely even the Four Horsemen of El Niño spurring Priuses into some anti-climax grand as what we pray was the final season of Entourage. More like Fate still working her slow thighs in some exurban 24-Hour Fitness, feeling just a modest burn. We may long for an Old Testament deity, ALL CAPs and pissed, ready with locusts, frogs, flooding and hailstones the size of Oscars, the old-school reboot for iniquity. But that dude clocked out after Hitler, could barely lift a middle finger at Al Qaeda. No, we have the Eternal Grouch, tsking about our Delta Smelt, guilting us about having golf courses (or people) in the desert. Maybe if we had sinned more, better, or with some pizzazz, we could rate proportional annihilation, a proper rage. Must this alone suffice? No fire or even ice? No Beast slouching from the waves up the PCH, misting death worse than an herbal cleanse at every off-ramp over our malls, schools, bars, colleges and seeker churches? The Old Guy’s doddered off, left the faucet dribbling, dribbling, until, well, it doesn’t anymore. 92
Upon a Delicate Leaving Yes, sometimes when it was good, Dear Heart, loving you was an Amazon cruise, with live extras: a pit of cobras, every touch a tingling fear that touch might never matter so much again. Though in the end it has come to apologies over a Big Mac and no recriminations or blame. Bad timing, thatâ€™s allâ€” nothing personal. More like placing my head heroic and tremulous in the lionessâ€™s maw, daring the worst, then finding the worst is a toothless lioness, declawed, with only mild halitosis. Better to see real, brown teeth, hear the closing jaw and feel my neck wrenching that absolute wrong, vital inch. Better to spray the ring with blood, cause the circus a malpractice suit and be dead than to sit with you here and survive this polite gumming. Darling, if you ever really loved me, don't you dare forgive and forget. Splatter me with your soft drink. Storm off and leave me like a man worth humiliating in public. Let me hate you so much now I will fear ever to hate again. 93
Home Runs I want to hit a home run. Maybe the soaring Mickey Mantle kind that bounces off the top of the scoreboard in dead center or busts the window of a Volvo out in row W-14 of the parking lot and makes for a lazy, somehow senatorial jog around the bases. Or the heart-in-your-beer kind that has the left fielder racing back-back-back-back, thinking Mine! I got it!â€” up to the instant it squeezes over his glove, down into a piranha swarm of souvenir-hunting kids. Although in the end Iâ€™d settle for something messy and inside the park... a blooper dropped in right field then booted out of play, my base coach shouting me around first, and second, rounding as the rushed throw clears everything and bounces off the rain tarp, shouting me around third, legs churning, the sense of a ball out there somewhere, screaming my way, catching me red hot in the small of the back as I dive with my last breath into the plate. Iâ€™d rise with my elbows scraped and my face still red, dazed at the miracle of errors that has brought me home safe.
Jennifer Glover â€Śis a teacher and writer in San Jose, California. Most recently she edited Emmanuel Cervantes Mejiaâ€™s debut novel, Soledad and the Sea (Chusma House 2016). She is active in the Poetry Center San Jose and Willow Glen Poetry Project, and regularly haunts the Winchester Mystery House Victorian Gardens.
I Dreamt of the Eiffel Tower At night. I was dreaming at night And my dream was at night. At first I could only see the feet of the tower through a keyhole Of trees. They were black against the black but illuminated In gold. I walked through the keyhole and stood at the foot of the feet And looked up. For a moment I could see the twinkling lights Of the hours all the way up The spire. The lights of the tower reflect The cathedral candles Of Sacre Coeur Where priests have prayed Perpetual adoration for peace Twenty-four hours a day For over a hundred years without success. 97
Now, the flickering Tower sends out Prayers that can be seen In Space. While Iâ€™m sleeping I write a poem at night.
Summer Church Camp I dreamed of going to summer camp My 15-year-old body carrying My 40-year-old brain Into the woods for redemption The counselor asks the children Are you saved? All around me hands go up I keep my hand in my pocket Raise your hands for Jesus he cheers To a youthful chorus of believers A busload of eyes turn toward Me and my sinful pocket hand
Mojave River Review Volume 2 â€˘ Number 1
Bless you for peekingâ€”
Look for us again in 2017
This special issue belongs to the longtime MRR poet/writer friends who inspired and created it: Katherine Gehan, Kenneth Pobo, Cynthia Ander...
Published on Dec 18, 2016
This special issue belongs to the longtime MRR poet/writer friends who inspired and created it: Katherine Gehan, Kenneth Pobo, Cynthia Ander...