Mojave River Review Fall/Winter 2018
Mojave River Review Volume 4 â&#x20AC;¢ Number 2
Publisher/Editor Michael Dwayne Smith Associate Editors Carolyn Adams Epiphany Ferrell Jennifer Glover Bonnie A. Spears Arlene White Contributing Photography Editor Frank Foster “Living is no joke / You must live with great seriousness / like a squirrel, for example / I mean expecting nothing above and beyond living.” —Nâzim Hikmet DECEMBER 2018 Cover image and all other photographs copyright © 2018 Frank Foster unless otherwise noted. Journal design by Michael Dwayne Smith. Copyrights to individual works published herein belong to respective authors and artists. Mojave River Review is published by Mojave River Press. All rights reserved © 2018. Guidelines at MojaveRiverReview.com. To be alerted when MRR reopens for submission, “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.
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Cyan James We Both Like to Stick Our Heads In Everything Pointed South Put Your Will in Your Boots Cathy Ulrich Being the Murdered Teacher Kari Ann Ebert How to Make Mac nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Cheese Theory of Desire and Other Hungers This is the Poem Where I Rewrite Your Story Rogan Kelly Above the Old Cinema Wily Sonoma Tim Suermondt Easter, 2018 An Osprey We Need Come and Go, Come and Go JC Miller Tears/Griddle At the Ranch, San Mateo, CA 1960 Kenneth Pobo 1971 HELP! HELP! Thomas Hardy on a Talk Show Dave Petraglia Thin Christ FEATURED POET L.I. Henley Dana Sonnenschein Sometimes Coyote
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Bill Yarrow The Death of Bazin Scoundrel Take You Me for a Sponge, My Lord? Maximilian Heinegg Midnight Moira MacDougall On the Road to Damascus Yoga Hangover Ace Boggess Jupiter at the Poles Dial Her Number Susan Tepper Caution Horses Leah Mueller Lab Report Westward Ho Junkyard Skeleton Peycho Kanev Eclectic The Cross Linda Blaskey Three Kinds of Gone Practicing Being Dead Advice for Little Girls Who Love Horses Jacob M. Appel The View from the Curb Grandma vs. Ma Bell Bill Cook Rented Room Kyle Hemmings Upstairs, Lorca Is Bleeding Cleanliness The Three Wise Men Come to Visit Alice
Michael Minassian A Crow Can Fly in the Dark Rose Crossed the Ocean Black and Red Ribbon Gary Glauber Propagation Ginny Short Melody on the Skin of the World Lost and Found Water Pantoum Nate Maxson Cinderland Self Portrait from a Dream, Late Summer Portrait of a Night-Terror â&#x20AC;Ś Lorraine Caputo Day of the Dead Rain QueBada de Humahuaca Awaiting the Storm Michael Sikkema Body Traffic Postcard Miriam Sagan There are no people The ants that lived Before the storm Empty your mind Say good-bye Ryan Quinn Flanagan Rules of Engagement Behemoth Mitchell Grabois Squeezebox
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April Vรกzquez Suicides Soledad Dahlia, 10 Months K.W. Peery Shotgun Shack Jason Baldinger For Tammy at the Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Postcard from a Sunday Morning John Patrick Robbins Hello Bozo Jude Brigley Sheep to the Slaughter William Doreski Black in Gray America Gregg Shapiro Domestic Disturbance Because of Facebook Mark A. Fisher Highway 58 Spring Gail Braune Comorat Saying Goodbye What We Said about You In the CVS Beside the Hospital Barbara Buckley Ristine This is How She Finds Life Mac Gay Alarm System Sudeep Adhikari Geology of Spirits Marc Swan Tangier Irene Fick Off Season
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Ariel Diaz Exuviae In the Roar Cindy Rinne Raven Magic Samantha Lynn Haas Revealing Nelson Holford Requiem Mark Blickley Leap of Faith Piet Nieuwland In the Memory of Earth J. Bradley Remember the USS Flagg Rehab Cynthia Anderson The Hereafter Defying Blair Mating Season Ryn Holmes Coyote Michael Catherwood Stalled The Race after Last Call Garden Level Purgatory On Seeing the For Sale Pics of the Forgot Store Bar I Text Steve Langan Susie Gharib Snoop Susan Kay Anderson 1.AM Market (Part I) Dry Drunk Away From
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Dianna MacKinnon Henning When I Was a Deer the River Was My Cup To Cocoon Lightly Ellen Collins Counting Goodbye Mark Madigan Lost in Brussels At the Bar in Dublin Mary Cresswell Rana The Fish Question Sherri Wright Running with Joey Another Poem About Joey Jeff Santosuosso Tugs, Barges, and Cranes Dale Champlin Writing Weird I saw a horse waiting Gale Acuff Looking Alive Jonel Abellanosa Grief Pamela Miller Henry Fonda: An Erasure Biography Moving Day Larry Rogers Read The pine that killed Genevieve Betts High Desert Comings and Goings
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John Riley Ravine Sheep Gathering Chad Crossley Milk It (For What It's Worth) Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll Community Service Who Is This Stupid God January Contributor Notes
“The Girl & the Fox Pirate fills the reader’s heart with wonder and pretty, arresting little stories exploring the dreamy, the magical, the mysterious, the unexpected. Gehan is a fantastic, delightful, never-wastes-a-word writer with a knack for punchy, killer endings. A charming, keen collection of creatures and treasures where even the darkness crackles with electric lights.” —Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Every Kiss A War and Whiskey & Ribbons “Reminiscent of Jayne Anne Phillips’ Black Tickets, these are stories and poems at the same time – brief, lyrical glimpses into the richest interior worlds. Gehan’s sentences are crystals, beautiful and sharp, revealing hidden facets of ordinary people in a uniquely brilliant light. A sparkling debut.” —Jessica Treadway, author of Lacy Eye and How Will I Know You? GRAB YOUR COPY AND COPIES AS GIFTS FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!
BARNES & NOBLE
Cyan James We Both Like to Stick Our Heads In <slivers of Arctic breath under our tongues>
Heaven is a place where the ice hasn’t already stuck together That’s what I tell my Little Bear who isn’t even to double digits yet and is consequently amazed by everything, everything, everything Press-on nails that pop off, also eyelash glue, also body glitter and wigs He doesn’t yet know how many pieces a woman is composed of! Or, thank God, how many ways there are to take her apart For him we might as well just be Legos—stick us together, unstick us or just leave us lying around. All day he thinks up ways to get a piece of ice down my shirt, down my skirt—it is the funniest thing to him, wearing my tiger-print top, pinched in my heels, says he iced his crack tells me to Catch him! Falls over, spills the dry beans he’s put in my bra to fill as he tries to strut. Give it back, I say, I have to earn you a plateful! And I bare my flesh and I flesh my miniature bear and we bare, bare, bare 14
We pant as the fish sticks bake; we wallow in the blue tanning bed of the TV and we bear it, we go grizzly, grisly, toes given to little minnows in the creek skin given in huge swatches to the sun—just take it all! Skin with its shellac: gnat legs from bike riding; aloe vera for the burns; sweat from the everything some popsicle stickiness, some Chapstick smear; some sunny hairspray glow And he will be a man who watches women like me and I don’t even fight it— where’s the harm? He too has shiny patches on his thighs from the pole; he at least knows the bill for makeup and how to apply tanner so it doesn’t streak; he knows there’s more to flesh than the scoops it doles out to others; there’s more to time than the damp dollar bills peeled from cleavage and handed over for milk; He’s got it, I think: however you paw or stare, always more and more heat to us
Everything Pointed South <which I endured until I got here>
Lou, I know that’s not your name But I feel like a swamp wolf here always howling like a flesh locomotive A-whoo, Louisiana, Loooooisianaaaa sounds like wind down the corridor of the abandoned mental asylum; sounds like a taken-away child, Louloulouloooo, but now I’m not not alone, I mean. Not with anyone either; just—I finally fit in my own skin You can laugh; I like the thought of it but it’s true and all: I’m just me now somehow I’ve pulled up all that anxiety and burned it (it smelled like old hair), and somehow I’ve dusted off that film used to coat my brain, my eyes—the world is pin-sharp now I hold my elbows, wear fake glasses to stay safe from the rush so many colors, so many scents, so much chicory in the coffee, have you ever thought of that; have you ever felt the Southern sun peel back your eyelids to see underneath? like maybe a mess of grubs would climb out maybe a beetle all black and startling, or else maybe something good and round and warm with happiness, like a chick but not that yellow which is the color of when your liver quits and that’s not me either—just root beer now I like to root around, haha. If I ever get tired 16
of the sun here I’ll put stamps on my eyes, so’s they can be mailed to you, get a good look at you I imagine you would like it here I know you enjoy the getting-up-out-the-dust that is Easter; I know you like how a flour truck unloads at dawn and the sweat glistens on the dock men’s arms, and the water is like a sweat river, a stench, but honest, truly, I wouldn’t mind takin’ a swim
Put Your Will in Your Boots Do you, too, know the intimate joy when you use your body like a lever to broach a wall clearly meant to keep you out? Under these circumstances even a boarded-up grocery store in Gary, IN carries a tang and thrill Force a rotten lock or pry a 2x4 There is more inside that tungsten ruin than the pickle jar and the dog skeleton There is a constellation of want and lids There is how a hand fits to another shape and breaks in, or doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Now think of the greater ruins, the Etruscan slabs the ziggurats of Sumer, the Angkor Wats still hoarding sparks and scraps of human Think of the joy of plants as they conquer these dark places; think of the way sand rejoices to spit and roll out a new dune daily; consider the pheasants and foxes of Detroit And think of the backyard and the prairie, too as a ruin we have broken into; think of the round-the-round of how we take things over and are taken in turn by e.coli and moss
Cathy Ulrich Being the Murdered Teacher THE THING ABOUT BEING THE MURDERED TEACHER is you set the plot in motion. The children will cry when they’re told. Even Gavin Fire Crow, tallest fourth grader, with his nearly-a-man’s shoulders, he’ll cry, the tears slipping quiet down the sides of his face. The girls will huddle around Starla Mark with her uneven pigtails, drag their desks into a circle where the boys aren’t welcome. Their weeping sounds like the swirling of water at the base of a waterfall, the principal will think, standing at the front of the classroom with the substitute teacher who’d been filling in for you while they searched. The principal will have waterfalls on his mind. You will be found beside the small one just outside of town. We will be curled like a leaf husk, your cardigan torn, your shoes missing. Where are her shoes, the principal will say when the police notify him. He won’t remember saying it; he won’t have any reason for saying it other than he doesn’t like the thought of your stockinged feet in the dirt. Before the police notify the principal, they’ll tell your wife. They’ll go to your house, two of them, a short one and a tall one — Mutt and Jeff, your wife’s mother will say, peering out the front window. They look like Mutt and Jeff. Your wife will be washing dishes when she is told. When the two police say to her, would you like to stop, would you like to sit 19
down, she’ll say, no, I can’t stop, her hands covered in suds, scrub the same dish the entire time they are saying we’ve found her, we’re sorry. Your wife will rinse the dish, her back to the police. She’ll turn to face them while she dries, present them a crackling smile. Can I offer you some tea? Your wife’s mother will be standing just outside the kitchen; your wife’s mother will have heard everything. Honey, she’ll say, come rushing in, embrace her daughter. Honey, let me get the tea. Honey, she’ll say, can’t you please sit? No, I can’t please sit, your wife will say, go back to washing that same dish while her mother starts the water in the teakettle boiling. Your wife will go to the school after your death. She’ll try to guess the children from your descriptions of them, standing outside the chain-link fence, looking in at the playground. She’ll only know Gavin Fire Crow from his broad shoulders. The principal will come outside with the custodian when the teacher on recess duty reports a stranger watching the children. The principal won’t recognize your wife at first until she says, I came to get her things. Of course, the principal will say, dismiss the custodian, take your wife by the elbow. The substitute will be in your classroom, erasing equations from the whiteboard. The substitute will stay on until a full-time replacement is hired; the substitute will go home at night to her own family, make dinner like they expect, tell them about her day. It was fine, she’ll say. 20
She’ll never tell them anything more. They’ll never ask. The substitute will be there when your wife comes for your things, children outside for recess. She’ll be erasing the whiteboard, be thinking of buying pepper spray for her teenage daughter, be thinking of telling her there are wolves. Your wife will hesitate at the doorway of your classroom. Your wife’s eyes will be red from crying. I came to get her things, she’ll say, and the substitute will startle, thinking there are wolves, there are wolves, there are wolves, drop the eraser on the floor. I’m sorry, she’ll say, I’m sorry, you were just so quiet. The substitute will retrieve your things in their box behind the coat closet, press them into your wife’s arms. Your wife will curve under the weight of the box. Your things won’t be that heavy at all, but to your wife, they will feel like they are. The children loved her so much, the substitute will say. So much. Thank you, your wife will say. Thank you, thank you, prop your things against her hip, carry them out to her car. The children will be on the playground, the children will be laughing the laughter of children. Your wife will watch them from the other side of the chain link fence. She’ll see Gavin Fire Crow playing tetherball, the breadth of his shoulders, will call out to him by name. He won’t hear her, and the other tetherball players will say Gavin, hey, Gavin, some lady’s calling you, but by the time he turns to look, your wife will already be walking away.
Kari Ann Ebert How to Make Mac n’ Cheese (wearing a pink mini-skirt)
Turn on stovetop to high heat. Measure precise amount of water. Pour into (correct sized) saucepan. Add salt. Boil Add pasta from box (blue box – no exceptions). Return to full boil. Reduce heat. Stir occasionally with suitable spoon. Simmer exactly 8 ½ minutes. Dress yourself up before he comes home. Do not wear black (do not look like Morticia). Arrange hair in high ponytail. Add pink ribbons. Apply generous amount of makeup. Strain pasta (do not rinse). Return to pan. Quarter butter. Add to pasta. Melt over medium heat. Fold in milk. Blend well Greet him at door. Spin in little pink mini-skirt and matching crop top. Look young. Look innocent. Giggle at his jokes. Stir Do NOT add contents of cheese packet until butter is completely melted. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES add packet prematurely. After butter meltage confirmation, wait one (full) minute. Sprinkle contents of packet (evenly) on pasta mixture. 22
together. Stir vigorously (exactly 1 ½ minutes). Turn mac n’ cheese out of pot onto (his mother’s) serving dish. Season to taste. Garnish with parsley. Prepare hot dogs (microwaved, not boiled). Serve with ketchup (not mustard).
Pray. Be grateful. Shush children (especially daughter). Jump to fetch unforeseen extras. Be of (swift) service. Take dainty bites (do not clean plate). Serve him seconds. Rise Clean dishes (do not fend off groping). Discard leftovers (not to be reheated). Put kids to bed (alone). Fret Endure nightly ritual. Fulfill his needs (to prevent wandering). Worry Be the policeman. Shut every door tight. Sleep with one eye open. Ensure it never happens Again.
Theory of Desire and Other Hungers you crush the bloom to inhale its scent only to scrape it up save its velvet shreds staining the cement keep them in your pocket for later early in the morning I hide my want from the cold here I am sniffing the remnant of your shirt I use to practice my stitching here I am pressing remains of self-bought flowers the need to measure something a little more slick on my skin at night I crawl under covers that smell of muscle rub & lavender oil I digest myself dissolve slow as a heavy frost the weight of its tread on the small of my back I dream before I fall asleep clouds thick as the wave of your hair accumulate at the base of my neck Aglossa Cuprina the grease moth attracted to light & sugar feeds on the grease of decomposing bodies & butter forensic scientists find it useful in their work what if I lose myself flying farther into the wind here I am clinging to the underside of a branch tucked inside my body
here I am with wings
This is the Poem Where I Rewrite Your Story morning your little-boy-mouth shaped a vowel the geese couldn’t spell only sharp letters engraved into the sky your tiny fist in mine like a cherry stone tucked inside my cheek watching your Daddy returned to the dirt where he belonged you sniffed & reset your jaw abandoned my hand for a dandelion stuck underfoot so serious as you popped off its head & watched it drop evening the shelter holds so many bodies you shiver away the cold your breath’s cadence uneven rapid then slow it taps its code against my cheek as you sleep murmurs & moans transcribe the phonics of sorrow into the air how to decipher this four-year rune how to extract this narrative taken root my fingers search for truth while I trace the raised hieroglyphs on your skin dead of night if only I could crack open your sternum shake out its burdens like splitting wide the rocks and trees held together by God’s Word if only I could unravel your father’s secrets wound up inside rip out his wormwood and snakeroot planted like bitter seeds I would re-inscribe your name as a charm onto your still-growing bones
Rogan Kelly Above the Old Cinema The traffic light on Main reflected in the second-story apartment window and blanketed their bodies, while the weeklong showing of a film, played beneath them, made for a familiar muffled sound to their sex. All 5’10” of Jillian’s naked frame stood in the doorway peering out at the teenagers who languished across the lot. From her vantage, they looked small. She said, it must be the caffeine, as she sipped from a coffee mug. In the morning, he found her in the kitchen, all legs in just his tshirt, fixing him a Jersey breakfast: Taylor ham, egg and cheese. He took this as a sign she wanted to keep him fat and less desirable to other women (but keep him nonetheless). Her cat, with a bad inner ear, fell off the couch and tumbled a pile of books, recovered, and attempted to rub against him but missed—swiped the breakfast table leg, instead. She told him a story about Burning Man circa last year or the year before that, and then interrupted herself to tell him he was a pretty good lover. He took the compliment in stride, like a cat with a bad inner ear. They showered together with full bellies and kissed deeply as the room steamed up. He left the fire of her by the escape, down the immense metal staircase bolted to the brick building, which rattled and creaked with age. Hair still wet, in yesterday’s clothes, he waved to her standing behind the screen door. He pulled a ticket off the windshield, noticed a gaggle of teenagers beginning to huddle in the bright noon sunlight. 26
Wily Sonoma We fired up the coast in a lime green top-down convertible and watched the Russian River drop buckets on the Pacific Ocean. Omar and I argued the rest of the way to the Sonoma lodge where a gaze of domesticated raccoons sunbathed on a small brickkiln. We argued thru the lobby and over to the bar. Omar plopped down and I took the key to the honeymoon suite which we procured by phone in a deal hours earlier. From a heart-shaped bed, that was really a double, I watched How Stella Got Her Groove Back while, back at the bar, Omar got hit on by a man who thought he could take advantage of our quarrel. Later, we ate cheese and bread and drank local wine in silence. We rolled half the heart to the far side and wedged it between the in-room jacuzzi bath and the glass doors that emptied out the back. In the pitch-blackboom-darkness, our restless hearts in rhythm to the raccoons outside tap tapping the pane glass.
Tim Suermondt Easter, 2018 As I sit in the pew, hearing the sermon and the crying of small children, my childhood comes harking back, sharp as spikes, my personal take on a terrible beauty. “Christ is risen”—I see him in raiments majestic and threadbare, a little Spanish on his lips, his slow elevation from the altar in the church’s grand concourse to the ceiling dome. His arms are stretched wide as possible, the strong arms of a working man ready to encompass with charity all the lost altar boys, toughened outcasts, agnostics who against their will stumble into astonishment.
An Osprey We Need This one skims low on its brief flight over land, disrupting the little league game, its long feathers roaming the field like the venerable glove of Willie Mays. The boy on the verge of striking out adores the disruption and a love of birds is bornâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;this hawk beautiful as summer itself, the slow walk back to the dugout made kinder than ever.
Come and Go, Come and Go A girl riding a bike in the summer light waves to the future and to us as well, waving—the beautiful art, beautiful enough to shoot down much that we fear— the galaxies by their latest demeanor embracing the refugees of past after past, dying to tell us they’re not indifferent, “No one, no one is forgotten, completely.”
JC Miller Tears/Griddle The last breath you gave to cancer is in me. I take it to Denny’s: two eggs fried hard, hash browns, biscuits with sausage gravy, ham, toast, grape jam, OJ, coffee — Sunday breakfast so heavy, my feet stumble upon rising as yours did once the cancer spread, filling you as prayer fills amen. Who doesn’t want a life so fat-hot it sizzles. For you, dear friend, I throw down my greasy napkin.
At the Ranch, San Mateo, CA 1960 (for Russell Paul)
He let them shoot on his land. Where deer grazed. It was hunting season. At sundown, a shotgun, an accident they said as if shadow were to blame for the law they broke, as if that pardoned them. My uncle shut his mouth, his eyes and sent them off. The doe had thought it safe here, let her fawn feed from our hands, its black nose soft as cloth, a spray of white freckles on its back. The neighbor girl, who grew up to be sheriff, took the orphan in. My uncle, who long ago had lost his only child, was comforted.
Kenneth Pobo 1971 While drinking root beer my high school creative writing teacher popped into my head. He talked a lot. I wished he were a transistor radio so I could change stations. It’s not like he was mean or unfair. A generous guy, he’d write words like BOFFO if he liked a sonnet. Much of what he said has gone dead. Too many years not only turned the dial but sold the station. It’s now talk radio where everyone talks loudly. Like clothes on a line on a windy day, flap flap flap. He did say one thing that stuck: Be deep. You can’t go deeply enough in a poem. I lived under that lie for decades, trying to dig deeper until I dug my own grave and had to call for help to get out. A sparrow isn’t all that deep. But how many poems fly off of those wings? A dahlia is much more interested in being a rock singer than a philosopher. Let it rock! Shallow world, enter my poems. Eat a banana. Kiss me like you mean it.
HELP! HELP! To get to a dahliaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s basement, I slide down red and yellow petals, hear a door lock behind me. Stairs give way. I fall and fall. Thousands, millions of miles? Have I entered Jupiter, no floor, just gas? But that will poison me and far from being ill, I want to stay there, maybe forever, which often ends in October. A freezing night. Basement walls cave inâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; I clutch the legs of a dead ant, beg Spring to please hurry up, knowing Spring sleeps deeply and is deaf.
Thomas Hardy on a Talk Show I’m interviewed after a cooking segment, spicy chicken, applause. The man calls me Tom as if we’ve been friends for centuries. He says my work is dark. Do I agree? Maybe. The woman says we’ll be right back and breaks for commercials. Someone sells real estate to a happy family. The more they grin, the less relaxed they look. Afterwards, both hosts give me a praise bath. The woman says her daughter read The Mayor of Casterbridge in school and found it hard. I laugh. I’m supposed to, right? Lights off, I’m tired. Death welcomes me with a big hug. I savor early blossoms of silence.
Dave Petraglia Thin Christ THE SOFT FLYING DISC SLAPPED DOWN over Father Joseph’s head. For a moment, the Lord was calling. Then darkness faded as room lights came up through the perfectly window-paned dough. He was alive yet. He poked a hole for his mouth, and laughing still, pinched holes for his eyes. In the mirror, he was...a cartoon…Casper! Father Joseph had thrown his first pizza dough to the heavens and but for his big, graying head getting in the way, almost caught it. He was witness to endless births, deaths, and redemptions. But that first, delicious moment the dough left his hands by some unseen spirit and energy, was just as miraculous and baffling as any of life’s mysteries. It was an ‘Immaculate Ejection’, he’d tell Father Martin: the dough spun off, up, and away from his knuckles in an instant, fluttering at the top of its trajectory in defiance of all earthly bounds, preordained. As a child, he haunted the pizzerias of Roosevelt Avenue. Legions of young war veterans in crisp white t-shirts showcased in storefront kitchens their hand-eye virtuosity, flying discs of dough and landing them like sweet, obedient doves. These were displays of virile competence, the creation of a celebratory Eucharist for the palate, and its benediction, all rolled into one. Like a Stromboli, if you’d prefer. 37
These were impossible skills, an assignment by the Almighty gifts of touch and balance and coordination so divine that mere mortals could never possess them. Like those of the otherworldly baton-twirling majorettes in town parades, or the spectral jugglers of Ringling’s. Hand-eye was never Father Joseph’s strong suit. But he lusted for it like that one pure and chaste penitent. The hands of this stocky, broad-grinned priest had done nearly fifty years of the Lord’s work, almost all of it at Our Lady of Eternal Comfort Church in Corona, Queens. These were hands that lit votives for souls in need, plunged toilets, baptized in the name of the Father, held spurting wounds shut, swept floors, met palms together in prayer, changed tires in the Parish lot, sifted the Rosary, held a junkie’s head clear of his puke. Hands that would never hold a wife’s face, or an infant daughter’s bottle, or to a young son toss his first baseball. But that didn’t stop him from dreaming of a few things he could do yet, always wanted, but never got around to really trying. Or likely had no aptitude for. He wanted to see his pasty ecclesiastic hams command the Wii Classic Controller just once past ‘Rookie’ in NBA Jam. He longed for his fingers to dance the neck of a Gibson Dreadnought, like Father Jose, and accompany himself in his own cover of ‘Me and Julio’. And he wanted to master the art of tossing pizza dough, to have it leave his hands and fly to Heaven a sweet dove, a yeasty Holy Ghost of his bidding, to win a new adulation from the parish Sisters in the small dining room of the Rectory on Pizza Night. Prideful, yes. A sin? Eh. 38
But he could finally nail that perfect thin, New York style crust for his friends. Add that sauce of Sister Mary Margaret and the homemade Mozzarella of Father Benny? Mangia bene! Emboldened by that short first flight, Father Joseph rehearsed what he’d begun, in every free moment that he had. And then there was a baker’s strike, and one week’s delivery of altar bread never arrived at the church. For the moment, it was not rescheduled. Father Joseph cleared the prep table in the Rectory kitchen and rolled up his sleeves. By the time the Crocus in the parish flowerbeds announced the start of spring, the numbers of parishioners, old and new, taking the Eucharist at O.L.E.C. were breaking all records for the Diocese. Lines had extended out the front doors of the church to the Lemon Ice King on 37th. Father Joseph had to call in priests from other parishes to hear confession. Traffic jams were a new blight on neighborhood Sunday mornings. The Diocese sent the Vicar General for a visit. Soon after, the Vatican called the Bishop. Sometimes, late at night if he can’t sleep, Father Joseph can be found alone in the soft shadows of the nave, and with a mighty heave, send a dough spinning high and away, out of the light, a tiny yeasty Eucharist disappearing up among the rafters where the harmonies of the choir land and the doves are. “Body of Christ”, he hums.
Mojave River Press & Review Fall/Winter 2018 Featured Poet To Protect What is Wild within Ourselves L.I. HENLEY was born and raised in the Mojave Desert town of Joshua Tree, California. She’s the author of two chapbooks, Desert with a Cabin View, and The Finding (Orange Monkey Publishing). Her second full-length collection, Starshine Road, won the 2017 Perugia Press Prize. She is the recipient of The Academy of American Poets University Award, The Duckabush Prize in Poetry chosen by Lia Purpura, and two prizes through The Poet’s Billow. In addition to the poems that follow, you can find her work at Glass, Rhino, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rust + Moth, River Styx, DIAGRAM, Waxwing, and Entropy. Her newest poetry collection, Whole Night Through, will be available in October of 2019 from What Books Press of Santa Monica. She edits the online journal, Aperçus. We asked her some fun questions, and she had some intriguing answers—plus (lucky you!) she gave us two poems from her latest collection, Starshine Road, as well as a superb batch of new poems for us to read. We’re especially proud to feature a sublime poet from right here in the Mojave Desert, so please sit back with a nice cup of whatever you please and settle into the interview, the poems, and the artistic vision of L.I. Henley… 40
A Conversation with L.I. Henley Mojave River Review: Your work draws so very much from the Mojave Desert, a richness of image derived from both verisimilitude and nuanced use of language. Can you say a little about how this desert/poetry relationship started and has grown throughout your writing life? L.I. Henley: I like that you use the word “verisimilitude” as I think that any writing about plants, animals, and terrain should come from direct experience with those things. Too often people settle for a mediated wilderness encounter or some other simulacrum. Richness of image, I believe, is born of richness of experience. Step on a real goat head thorn and a flood of real descriptors will enter your mind. Priceless. As the only child of divorced parents growing up in the remote towns of Joshua Tree and Landers, I had a lot of alone time. I also had the freedom to roam in the desert landscape without the watchful eyes of a parent. The desert was my first and best teacher, mostly on the subject of cause and effect—and I really can’t think of a more important concept for a developing mind. If I touch something sharp, it will hurt. If I take a hike without water, I might die, or at least be very, very thirsty. If I can sit alone on a dark, dry, lakebed, I can hear an owl hooting; I can hear my own heart beating to keep me alive. Those cause and effect lessons provide readily accessible experiences that can serve a writer later on to say nothing of the immediately acquired street-smarts. I can’t speak for other writers who write about place, but if I say in a 41
poem that I saw a hawk devour its meal or felt the slice of a cactus spike in my big toe, I mean it. MRR: There are many vibrant poems in your book Starshine Road, which is a superb collection, but I’d like you to talk a little about two in particular which I’ve chosen to include with this interview: “Sometimes Three Hawks Sitting on a Fence Post Means What You Want It to Mean in Victorville, California,” and “The Road a Silver Ladle.” What’s the story with these in terms of origin and process? LH: These are two poems about my father and mother, respectively. I have gotten several questions about “Sometimes Three Hawks,” and I can understand why. I try to walk that line between mystery and mystification in all of my poems, but the details that root a reader in reality are particularly intriguing in this poem, and I only give a few. Earlier drafts of this poem were too indulgent—they fed my ego through the divulging of family secrets. I take it as a compliment that people want to know more about the situation that sparked the poem, but I’m also very careful not to say much about the poems besides that it was a thoughtful exercise in writing about personal family dynamics, and that it might serve as an example of a poem that gives just enough information to keep a reader from becoming befuddled. The second poem you ask about is also based on a real event—a flashflood or rather a compilation of flashfloods that my mother and I found ourselves trapped in at one time or another. This one repositions flood not just as potential danger but as renewal, relief, new beginnings. Really, it’s a celebration of my 42
mother’s decision to begin a new life come hell or high water, and it is one of the more feminist-leaning poems in the collection. MRR: Let’s talk some about news, and I don’t mean the NEWS news. I mean odd stories stumbled over in quirky information outlets, or maybe surprises you come across in research, even stuff overheard at a diner or a bar. Do coincidental facts or things you hear work their way into a poem, or even become the poem? Can you give us an example or two from your books? LH: As a writer, it’s so important to listen, to observe. Many of my poems are inspired by people, animals, and places that I have my given attention to. I believe that attention is love and love is attention. The serial poem, “Dollar for a Funeral,” was inspired by watching a woman ask strangers for cash or change to pay for her son’s funeral. Her family was washing cars behind a fast food restaurant while she went around to individuals or held a sign by the highway. It was the saddest, strangest request for pocket money I’d ever witnessed, and it haunted me. What I hoped to show in this poem, however, was not a singular story about this woman in particular, but about the condition of being a mother—the constant fear that something will happen to your child, the grief when something inevitably 43
does happen, the guilt. I also wanted to show the way our supposed Christian society both loves to celebrate (commercialize) the mother figure while simultaneously blaming/shaming/ignoring mothers who can’t take care of children on their own, especially immigrant mothers. I use dialogue—some of it borrowed from real life—to add texture, to characterize people and places. Furthermore, I am constantly inspired by odd bits of information I come across, from science to fashion and everything in between. It’s so important for writers to read widely, to listen to the radio, to watch documentaries, and ultimately to be curious about everything. MRR: Now the NEWS news. How do you keep from getting dragged down and distracted from your work when the daily news seems so dark? Do you incorporate, ignore, write in spite of, become more or less political in your writing? LH: The daily news IS so dark and I’ve certainly done my share of ugly crying alternated with bouts of staring off into space for prolonged periods of time. However, Plato warned us long ago about the unexamined life, and we must resist the tides of distraction. The role of the artist is to foster the interior world, which she cannot do if she is constantly refreshing her newsfeed to catch a glimpse of the latest disaster. I’m not saying that creatives should bury their heads in the sand—and really, no one I know is at risk of doing that. It’s the other end of the spectrum we must defend against; we must be careful not to let our outrage make us average in our devotion to craft…let’s not dull the tools of our trade. 44
I think that 45th would be glad to see the arts go away for good because the arts hold a mirror up to society and right now it’s not too pretty of a sight. We have to protect wild spaces, yes, but we also have to protect what is wild within ourselves. Personally, I write just as much if not more than I did two years, and I write what I’m moved to write just like always. To borrow from a personal literary hero, David Sedaris, I try to remind myself that just because an event is significant, it doesn’t mean writing about it will be. If there is a reference to a current event that finds its way into one of my poems or essays, I didn’t strong-arm it in there just to be relevant or to virtue signal. Some people want to write explicitly political poems, and I say more power to them. As for myself, the quality of the work is the most important thing— my loyalty is to the work itself. MRR: What was the biggest mistake you’ve made as a poet and/or what was the most important lesson? LH: Oh, boy! Where do I start? How long do you have? Well, I’ll just pick a few that I think are most helpful for other people to hear about. One mistake is certainly in publishing. I regret submitting poems to online journals while I was still in my MFA. If I could go back in time, I would tell my young self just to cool my jets and that publishing something online is forever. Furthermore, I’d have pumped the brakes on publishing my first full-length collection and waited until I was absolutely positive it was ready. The lesson here is to slow down; as I said, nothing is more important than the work itself. We live in an era of immediate gratification—we do 45
something and want praise for it right away. That’s a nasty habit, and I partially blame Facebook, which I’m no longer on. Going back to what Sedaris said, I relearned recently that just because an experience in my life is significant, it doesn’t mean the writing will be. Meaning, just because I suffered something extreme or had a unique experience, it doesn’t mean that my telling of what happened will actually have an impact on readers or even result in a piece of literary art. That’s a hard knock on the old ego there. Sometimes we have to settle with having witnessed our own happening and understand it may not ever be properly conveyed to another. Sometimes a tragedy is a tragedy and affords very little translatable wisdom while an average trip to the grocery store provides a story with enough wisdom to last a lifetime. MRR: When and why is writing difficult? If you are having trouble, what’s usually the cause? LH: While there are certain topics that are more challenging to write about, usually memories that are painful to recall, writing has never been difficult for me in the sense of not having something to write about. If I’m still having an emotional reaction to an event, I know to proceed with caution in regards to writing about it; 46
maybe I need to jot down some private thoughts in a journal that I can use later. Another challenge for me is having so much I want to write about that I freeze up due to indecision (i.e. poet-deer in the headlights). When that happens, I just have to slap myself or jump into an ice bath (not really—but you get the idea). My writing time is precious to me—I protect it with the kind of fierceness usually reserved for mother Grizzlies protecting their cubs or animals that defend their territory with scent. The same goes for my mental and emotional energy. The only way to be my friend is to know that I probably won’t be seeing you very often, and that I’m not going to stay up partying with you all night (Oh, gee, look at the time—What is it? 10pm already?). I want to be in my work every day, even if that just means reading over something I am working on. It’s too easy to come up with excuses not to write—you can clean your house and wash your car and call your granny later. Netflix will be there forever, but how long can you hold that specific image of the old, family farmhouse in your mind before it disperses and someone else writes it for you? MRR: For many (most? all?) of us, writing is part of identity— it’s not what we do, it’s who we are. If you, by some odd twist of fate or in an alternative universe, were not a poet, what would you be? Is there some other calling you faintly hear?
LH: Yes! What a fun question. I used to do theater, improvisational comedy, and dance on a regular basis. I would probably put that all together and be a performance artist of some kind. I love to lift weights and try to stay pretty buff, but in this alternate universe I would be as muscular as naturally possible and that would be part of my performance art. I also think it would be fun to be a playwright. I think there is still time for me to write plays, but not sure I’ll ever go the performance artist route. MRR: Where is the work going from here? Can you give us some hints as to where your next collection is headed? LH: My fifth book, Whole Night Through, comes out from What Books Press in October, 2019. It’s a lyrical novel of sorts, and it’s also set in the Mojave Desert. The book is so dark in content and tone that I can barely believe I am the one who wrote it. I’m currently collaborating on manuscripts with two women poets, and we hope to have those manuscripts ready to start sending out after summer. I am also working on a kind of eco epic, though this early in its formation I’m hesitant to call it that; it’s certainly my most lyrical, my most surreal and bizarre work I’ve done. I also write essays, mostly memoir, and I’m sending those out to journals. My husband and I are in the early phases of a collaboration as well. Despite being an independent writer and part-time hermit, I guess I’m really drawn to hybridity and teamwork right now. I think if we’re going to stay bright in all this darkness, we’ve got to put our heads together, raise each other up, and form a “Super Imagination” that can tackle any problem. 48
MRR: A thousand thanks for spending this time with us! Our readers should note they can visit lihenley.com and read your lyrical essays on environment, the body, love, and the poetics / politics of autoimmunity, but right now we have your sublime poetry to enjoy. We’ll start with the two poems mentioned earlier, from your current collection, Starshine Road (which we at MRR highly recommend), and then we’ll be treated to new works (here’s where we all turn the page)… Starshine Road is available from Perugia Press via this magic link.
L.I. Henley Sometimes Three Hawks Sitting on a Fence Post Means What You Want It to Mean in Victorville, California (from Starshine Road) Sometimes
during the usual months
it is spring in Victorville
But you will not find the ordinary nest with the ordinary eggs all speckled & warm but a half-eaten peach instead As you would not touch a bird’s egg do not touch a bird’s peach *
Sometimes we need to be chosen even though we are a sideways vine with a backwards bloom My father a cop a white man found his second mother She was the granddaughter of Black Elk worked Citizen’s Patrol in Victorville She called him my son He listened to her the way young boys drink water both hands around the cup gulping 50
Seeds in the garden do what they want Is it a bad seed because it didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t please us? Try to find the sense that is not You will happen across three hawks sitting on a fence post & take it as a sign But no
Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m telling you
those are black chickens
The Road a Silver Ladle (from Starshine Road) My mother & I in the Buick trying to get to her new apartment when the clouds swarmed she was trying to explain separated even after the car in front of us stalled & the water rose swallowed the tires Now we could drown for all time separated together from everybody for all time & her hands stayed so loose on the wheel A drought & then
a walk across the Mojave
water like thick honey from the comb Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll know when itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time she said to go out the window
Integratronâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Landers, CA When I walk past the white wooden dome I say the names of the nameless girls Marlene
The Father said the man from Venus told him the plans in perfect English the dome must be wooden because you see metal buildings block interplanetary-thought-transmissions their knee-high dresses their best years spent in the 1950â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s holding down cotton hems against blowing sand I think of the eldest Marlene who is rumored to still live here Did she say to herself We live here now We live in this desert We live by the seven-story rock the rock where my father meditates and on the other side of our camp is Goat Mountain 53
Between the rock and the mountain is where we live And did she sometimes bury her feet to the ankles stand against the wind practice for the landing of the ship? With only her sisters around she must have hoped this Venusian friend of her fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s was single had the regular nose and mouth two eyes On her loneliest days she must have reasoned that scales would be acceptable She had trapped and held many lizards and when one would grip her finger it was enough to keep on going
I admit I have buried my feet to the ankles I have lusted after a shape that might not have bones 54
Wonder If you’re going to be a bird of prey and choose our soft shale as a place to keel the man of the house will cut off your feet If a poisonous snake then your head will meet the shovel’s edge In that shed where the dog sleeps honeyed cans of shellac You can almost feel wind loosening its jaw before the drop See? Wonder can feel glamorous even out here Wonder at moonset in a rose-colored slip oh wonder what will blow down? *
The woman of the house can’t get 55
a damn thing to grow Lily bulbs are burned out 40-watts she buries in radon sand Despite wiggly isotopes we still think filaments will do as crickets rub together but instead of chirping or light a green shoot The things we want to arrive hardly ever do Yes it used to be a landing strip for private planes that road I walk Sometimes it is a two-seater comes rattling our windows bones shelves of glass uranium *
I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t trust you much I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like your kind hanging a red haze around here whole October long Shapes you take Hatchet man Bark scorpion Carpet moth What I would give to have only one door the shape of me One door
The Other Kids Under the streetlights they shot each other with water guns and cap guns or with their hands and cried out bang and kissed with tongue Once in the schoolyard they formed a circle around me a fairy-ring they wanted to know where I’d go when I died why I didn’t know their god they jabbed lunged burned my hot skin with cold light they kept in glass bottles is this love I wondered to enclose surround bring to the knees it must be so wet in my ear so tender the pleas so close it could be a kiss and how would I love’s captive endure such an ambush the rough twine binding my soft salted wrists? 58
When I was a Tumble Weed I had that carnival-ride whorl topsy-turvy undone and grateful Oh how I loved to snap death a gambler’s gain
Nothing loneliness could do that I hadn’t done to myself the pulling away so easy Back then I could really flounce a dried up lupine shrugging off all hint of magenta crispy husk of desert lavender freed of fine hairs a ball of skeleton bouncing like it was a joke In the end I let the wind catch my body throw me up against a chain-link fence winner of the game chest-first and broken and all the friends I’d never met the ones I thought were dead they tumbled in from miles away piled up behind me 59
When I was a Miner’s Wife I. Do I talk about the incident that put my husband away? Or how life has changed? How I’ve stifled the wind chimes with a rubber band? I’ve grown tired of the clang. The winter of ’48 the lake froze, and the children skidded around in their shoes. Junie could almost make it look pretty, her long right leg up behind her, a swan in the desert on a frozen lake—wearing worn out Buster Browns. The visiting miners would come and watch. What are you writing down, dear? All of that I said? I always wondered what they’d write if they ever wrote about me. I think I’m tired now. Something I ate has got me feeling sick. A duck egg. I went so long without one, I fell out of practice. They stopped laying when my husband was taken away in handcuffs. Either that or I stopped checking the roosts. I let a lot of the birds go to the coyotes and bobcats. For those six years, 60
I fed the desert well. He just shot the man who would have shot him first. Is it a sin to want more life? But the man he killed was a sheriff—that’s that. II. This is where I come and sit. It’s a fine workshop for a man who made all of his own tools and what he didn’t make he pilfered from the miners who failed. Borrowed, he said. He sends me the cards he makes. The warden even gives him scissors to cut hearts and snowflakes. The boys were barely walking when he had them in here. Jacob blackened his tiny thumb swinging a man-sized mallet. I wasn’t allowed to be angry. Each boy had a hammer to grow into. The dust has got you now, dear. You can go any time. I’m used to it. A dust all over the gears and makeshift plows, the axels hanging from the rafters. A dust on my shoulders. My gnarled hands. All these years. Look how he can make a tool of anything.
When I was a Minerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Daughter My ice skate was a shoe lifted high behind me. Mother thought me a swan, but I was a folding knife, ivory handled, a wild rose unmistaken inside the bend. See now why I raised so high in my arabesque? It was not to be beautiful or full of grace, though I opened to the point of pain, refolded, pushed forward, my fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s crew resting on their shovels for a glimpse, I surged headlong on the frozen pond, chest burning cold, unfolded again. You can still see it way down there, a rose in the fold of bone floating over the ice of a nowhere planet. That arabesque was for me. 62
After the Quake Now it’s hard to tell a threat from a fork, a fire from a smoke tree, a man from a carved wooden bear. I end up dancing with anything that moves, spoon a Green Mojave, shoot my foot instead. Willow trees shake out lions from their dusty skirts when I arrange wet dresses on an unseen line, wooly manes shake out turquoise, willow-dust, my bare ankles lustrous, porcelain chickens. A fine snow trembles from the troposphere and doesn’t melt, isn’t cold, but traps light in tiny coops, the guns loaded for whatever may arise from the dream or the real, and who could tell the difference? The lions salivate, step closer, I sing for them a sleeping song, sing for my life, surely this is a sorrow I can name, sorrow like a wooden door that warped in the summer and will not stay shut.
Notes from the Horizon On a desolate planet of milkweed, I stand at the corner of Juniper and Reche all winter long waiting for a snowflake. When it touches me, (Oh, oh) and when I melt, I do it glacially, hold in the smack of pleasure, tongue the machineries of six singular arms, labyrinthine, flavor everlasting, fish my gums for pollen traces, that sensation of falling cuts clean, makes of my trunk an arithmetic, ribs a rosette-bullet in the drop. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s true, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t return phone calls, but shove off in a glide from this sandstone cliff at the timbre of my name or any vibration that catches. 64
L.I. Henley I am a desert poet, which means that I am willing to stare long hours at a space that seems desolate, and do the work of seeing. It means that I am content within arenas of hushed limitation, because I recognize this hush as the one that comes before the buzz of scrappy invention. Typically set in isolated, shifting terrains, the narrators of my lean yet lyrical poems are often witnesses to the underside of rural life. Through intensely vulnerable persona poems, I try to expose all angles of the flawed, splendid human animal, without flinching. In my work, you are not likely to find a field of star thistle without a rusted junk pile in it, nor will you find a rusted junk pile void of some treasure. There is an antique marble in that oxidized beer can thereâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a Ribbon Lutz in blue glass. See it? Beyond endurance in observation, it is my hope that my poems raise the question of how we are to live our lives in the face of fear, darkness, and stark aching beauty. And more importantly, how do we live our lives when no one is watching?
Dana Sonnenschein Sometimes Coyote trots right behind a park ranger’s back as he’s bugling at tourists to stay away from the wildlife, elk can be dangerous. Sometimes coyote slinks through the middle of a prairie dog colony as if he might be mistaken for a tawny dust devil. He isn’t. Ever. But sometimes coyote is wily. When wolves first came back to Yellowstone, he and his kind dug their dens near the figure-eight of the park road, and coyote pups clowned safely beside that roaring promise of eternity. And now, when the wolves are busy with their own hole in a hillside, sometimes coyote comes out to play. At first you think he’s a wolf, he looks so big. But it’s a trick of perspective; gray or not, his ears give him away. The acme of ears! Head high, tail plumed out behind him in the sweet-grass, he strolls the meadow beside Soda Butte Creek, leaps to pounce stiff-legged on hapless mice, scrabbles at a gopher hole for the sheer joy of digging, howls once to hear his mate howl back and then the chorus of yipping pups. Sometimes coyote is song dog indeed. And when his mate appears, she rolls and rises and licks his face, and they are lords of all they hear and see and scent, she with her nose to the dirt, he poking into a clump of sage until the raven hidden there squawks and stalks out the other side. Unabashed, coyote moves on, padding out a sandbar to roust the wild geese. Then he wades into the water, toes spread on pebbles, until he’s moving with the current, crossing at an angle, head and tail above the shimmering surface. Sometimes coyote is just a coyote, swimming until he’s lost in light. Nothing to see here now but the stone remains of a geyser melting back into the ground. You make sure you haven’t lost a lens cap, pack your cameras, and drive off. Miles away, you discover you dropped a glove somewhere in the gravel. Coyote stumbles on it—just the thing for pups to tug on. 66
Bill Yarrow The Death of Bazin The death of Andre Bazin in 1958 marked the beginning of the French New Wave in cinema. And so it happens: The literal pain in the theoretical ass recedes and the world steps into the moonlight of the new, though the bourgeois ghosts in clarityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mirror become, perforce, a little harder to make out. Identity dies but not identification. Pascalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bones keep pumping out blood. His splashy information overflows its banks and floods my fields. The dead are spigots to keep our produce moist. Who are these fiscal nutrients? you ask. The absentee landlords of art. The recalculators. They who solicit no approbation. Those who remand no remorse.
Scoundrel A scoundrel is someone who asserts something to be true that he or she knows to be false. Politicians are certainly scoundrels as are theorists, salespeople, teachers, religious leaders, and financial advisors. But also, and foremost, writers, writers of every stripe and personality. Writers, uniformly liars, are notorious scoundrels. Writers? you say. Those vocational slugs? Those harmless drudges? They are not harmless! Far from it. Invidious imaginers! Corrupters of mind and soul! They make pudding of our thinking, line our souls with lies. Without writers we would not be the dupes we are of ideologues, hawkers, priests, and elected rapacious poltroons! Calm down, Plato! Take a Xanax. Have two.
Take You Me for a Sponge, My Lord? says Rosencrantz to the Prince. Idiot! Mistaking Hamlet’s figurative language for literal. Who does that besides Kafka, Arreola, and Steven Wright? Take you him for a rake, my lord? Yes, he’s a rake, surely, scooping up the sweet leaves of womanhood and setting them all on fire. Take you him for a snake, my lord? Yes, he’s a snake, surely, slithering across the public eye, poisoning with malice the rabble-hearted many. Take you him for a weasel, my lord? Yes, he’s a weasel, surely, sneaking into city burrows and suburban nests, lying while smiling, for recompense. Take you him for a pigeon, my lord? Yes, he’s a pigeon, surely, cooing sweetly for favor, moaning for promotion, singing open the secret pains we cherish.
Maximilian Heinegg Midnight My simplest routines become ritual: sleeping to Giant Steps for accompanied dreams, shaving naked as the tub fills, suddenly awkward with Midnight’s approach— our ancient black cat with a white belly who leaps by me onto inches of sill. If I could borrow her balance, I would not be lingering in my old room, plotting escape. With her, there is no lucky— the swagger in how skillfully she snags the morning light to gift it to me, as natural as Dizzy Dean, who said It ain’t bragging, if you can do it.
Moira MacDougall On the road to Damascus not another camel in sight, your nostrils twitch in the slackened air as you step off-stage and carry me out of the SĂźreyya Opera House nestled between your breasted-humps. Your steady gait, the lurch and grate of the leather saddle, your rank coat wafts assurance as we set sail over the dunes. (Even my horoscope urged me to camel-up before embarking). And as we ride, the frozen archipelago of fleshâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;not me, but all of me that is left - softens. I thread the needle of my eye, weave and scissor a tapestry into your bristled-coat, a map we trace for water, for light; perhaps a treasured carpet our offspring will fly through desert nights.
Yoga Hangover It was only an hour. Single shots of dog, caterpillar, eagle, cow, camel and pigeon – not one too many unless of course you are out of practice. Me, pinned like a butterfly by the sacrum to the bed. Dread’s weight – coiled around my ribs – dismantled one animal at a time as they parade, kneading lungs, liver, my over-active mind. No churning stomach, no headache threatening to crack the skull: lost in a cloud of sheets. Eternity tiptoes.
Ace Boggess Jupiter at the Poles inked spiral galaxies around a central nothing mandala of hurricanes photos from Juno—God that metal eye— we sent a probe to bring us beauty we sent a goddess to mock the Roman Zeus & his many lovers we sent a prism to bridge angles of unbelievability I want to hang Jupiter on my wall like a modest nude its passion might ease me into colorful sleep dreams that haven’t found me drawn by the gravity of my eye
Dial Her Number to hear her speak the horror, the horror, taking in another dread, resentment like an orange cap pleading in dark woods, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t shoot, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t shoot. to hear her say nothing: anger times silence is silence, grief times silence is silence, frustration time silence is silence. to hear her laugh at the hourâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chiming, pendular shift (things sound better in mad light). to hear her breath a city distant, its promise like a dollar bet on any random dog running the track.
Susan Tepper Caution Horses WHEN SHE DRIVES UP in her old Chevy truck, the sun has started to fall in the west dappling the corn. It’s not much of a big deal, that cornfield, just a couple acres roadside. My granddaddy planted it sometime after he came back from the Korean War, when land out here sold cheap. The North Fork being too far east for most folk, but for the local fishermen and clammers, and the New York City artists who could get a house and barn for a pittance. Times change. It costs bucks to live on those streets near the ocean or The Pond. The fat cats that pit-stop here in their Beemers and Benz’s, out for the long weekend, steal a few ears for the barbeque. Most know it’s shitty behavior ‘cause they wheel out fast in a dust cloud. Usually I’m inside the wooden shed, sitting back with my feet crossed resting on the hassock, listening to vinyl, a little buzzed. Through the sliding double window facing the two-lane road I can see just about everything. Sunoco, and Dairy Queen on the other side, and the beach grass that waves in the wind leading to the bay. I assume Granddaddy, selling his corn to the locals, used to collect at this window. Slide it open, take the money, shut it. Cut and dried. A beat-up white van is hitched to the back of her truck. Black lettering spells out: “Caution Horses”. Normally, it’s just her and the truck, packed with fertilizers, weed killer and other types of lawn and shrub products she sells. 76
I step out of the shed taking my time walking toward her, hands low on my hips. “Caution Horses?” She grins jumping down from the seat, light on her feet, showing off those pretty pink gums, swinging her ponytail. This is a woman who knows how to use her stuff. I suspect it beefs up sales for the out-of-date shit she peddles to illegals who mow the big lawns and keep the gardens manicured. Sniffing, I’m smelling nothing horse in the general area. “You really got horses in there?” Still grinning, she runs a hand down her auburn ponytail. Both of us aware. “Just one. Chocolate Tina. My sister’s brown mare.” A stumpy snake breed I don’t recognize slithers past my sneaker. My eyelids twitch. She has that affect. “Why?” “Why the horse?” I nod, and she laughs. “It’s a gimmick.” She’s got on those deliberately ripped jeans that sell for about 85 or higher. Business must be brisk. Usually she wears cheap and tight: LEE from the Army/Navy. “Nice jeans. What’s left of ‘em.” “Yeah.” She sits on the stump that used to be an old chestnut tree before a storm cracked it almost to the ground. I’d sliced it horizontal with my saw to make a little outdoor table. Gives the field a homey touch. A few people used it for snacks, but mostly it gets ignored. “New wood,” she says lighting a cigarette. “I like fresh wood.” “Yeah, most everyone does. It’s clean. People can look like crap but then they take a shower. For the most part.” 77
She squints and drags long on the cigarette. “Huh?” Her tanned skin is freckled. Low lying sun gives her this overall golden sheen. “So what’s your horse gimmick?” Arms crossed, I’m looking down on her. “How’s it work?” “I find having Tina onboard spikes business like crazy.” She laughs again flicking tobacco off her tongue. Throaty-sounding. Too many cigarettes. She’ll pay for that. She’s saying, “You have no idea how guys just cream over the whole cowgirl thing.” Oh, don’t I? I look around, shove my hands in my pockets jingling loose change. “You parade the horse around the streets then sell your stuff to day laborers? You know what?” “What?” “Fertilizer can be used to make bombs.” “Since when?” She’s gotta be bluffing, she’s gotta know this. I give her my own low lid squint. “I don’t ride the horse,” she’s saying. “Don’t be idiotic. I just keep her nearby. Like you might walk a lion on a leash. It sparks interest.” “I see.” “Do you?” “No.” “I figured as much.” She huffs a bit, I hear the word paranoid. She stares at me a moment longer then grinds the cigarette into the dirt. “I don’t have a granddaddy who left me a fucking cornfield.” Ah ha! Of course this is more than just about corn. She means I got the house, too, plus a tidy inheritance. That I don’t 78
need to work. That the Queen Anne Victorian, with its gingerbread porch, is very much to her liking. Very. That for me the corn is icing on the cake. “It isn’t the point,” I say. “It very much is the point.” She stands up quickly brushing off the ass of her designer jeans. “Your only pair?” “I have others!” Business can’t be that good. “You hate me for my cornfield,” I say. “I don’t hate anyone.” “You sure about that?” But now she’s pissed and she’s pouting, which makes her all the more inviting. “Do you want to come inside the shed for a beer?” “That smelly ole shit hole? No, thanks.” “Well how about the horse van?” “Honest to Pete, you can do better than that.” “Well, I can’t leave here yet, I’m waiting on a truck. Plus it is a double and you only got one horse in there.” Annoyed, at least pretending to be, she’s rolling up the sleeves of her tight plaid shirt. I can see her nipples pressed into the material. Small breasts, big brown nipples. I can see my mouth on them and her thinking about this, too. Both of us thinking the same thoughts. “OK. But first we take Tina out.” “Sure. Fine, baby. However you want it.”
Leah Mueller Lab Report You are not the scientist you think you are. I take better notes. The reason why we’re enemies is clear. We can’t be friends. Bound to competition, single organism with one desire: devour itself, keep swallowing until the center disappears. They say matter can’t be destroyed, but they never saw us in action. They never watched our spasms while we ate each other like yeast inside a jar. You were a test tube orphan, trapped inside the glass, left to cry alone for hours. I was four dimensions, a hologram for your distraction. In every experiment, it comes down to ingredients. Be sure to check the labels. Shake contents well before opening. 80
Your slap across my ass. Your voice demanding why. The formula yet unproven, experiment without conclusion. Chemicals replaced inside the jar, lid screwed tight so they canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t escape. We pull the blinds, lock the laboratory, step outside. The night is organic, filled with noise. You order a drink, search the crowd for a new experiment.
Westward Ho The forests of 1600s Belgium overflowed with my relatives: gentlemen sporting carousel collars and grim-faced dames who stood in line, choosing vegetables from market stalls. In the distance, the castles were already old. No light or sound. Just wind against the stones. When France called, many ladies chose to leave the farm for cafes, where brooding gents at tables wore new shoes and drank liquor from glasses. Some Frenchmen preferred the reservation women to the proper, enjoyed dubious union with Natives who had names like Boss Woman and Theresa of the Sioux. These men may not have made good husbands.
Renoirâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s great-uncle found his way into the river, had his turn in the waves. Finally, the entire family made a mass exodus to Wisconsin, for reasons no one could understand. Maybe it was the cheese, or it might have been the weather: just like home, only less comfortable.
Junkyard Skeleton The human body has built-in obsolescence, cheap parts born to fail. You drive through forests of nicotine, beer, and microwave nachos, with failing brakes and bald tires on twenty dollarsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; worth of gas. When the car dies, there is no trade-in. After a while, you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t afford the payments. A stealthy vehicle arrives in the thick of night, sinks a hook under your hood and tows you away, leaving a dark rectangle that used to be your body. The virtuous will be sold for scrap, and live on elsewhere, in pieces. 84
The weak evaporate, but slowly, cling to light until they disappear. Survivors visit the junkyard four times a year with flowers, stand in the rain, remembering, then exit when the gates close for the evening. Drivers illuminate headlights and turn on the radio, happy for another chance to put a few more miles on the engine, until itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s their turn to surrender. You wait, vacant and windowless for their return.
Peycho Kanev Eclectic The moment before the moment of painâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; for example her gaze becomes deep as a lake after the autumn rains, full of drowned men. We walk alone in the park and the leaves fall, fallâ&#x20AC;Ś Empty beer melancholy, we only have this life to live.
The Cross In the darkness your white name appears. It rises above my world. The voice whispers, the dark thickens. Small legs walk on white land; small hands pick up from the snow a crown of barbed wire, with absolutely nothing under it.
Linda Blaskey Three Kinds of Gone My boys are gone from my house and I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want them back (this has everything to do with love). My parents are gone gone and I miss them at times (which has to do with the order of things). My husband is here though when interrupted in my reveries I strongly desire him gone â&#x20AC;&#x201D;then a sip of his chicory-brewed coffee served in my favorite cup and I want him here (which has to do with both marriage and combustion).
Practicing Being Dead I’m lying on the couch, head propped on the arm like they do with the heads of corpses in a morgue. My hands are crossed demurely on my chest. I let the skin of my face sag, which isn’t a hard thing to do. I pretend not to feel my sleeve bunched under my arm or the rivet in my Levi’s digging into my back —after all, the dead don’t feel these things. This practice came to mind when a friend asked if it was bothersome that she writes so much about death. And because another poet has said he has practiced walking like a heron. And someone else has talked about her practice of meditation, which seems a do or don’t do kind of thing to me —like what I am practicing. I read a poem this morning in which a man tugged the wedding ring from her lifeless finger. My hand twitches. I hadn’t considered this; the loss of jewelry. Maybe it’s time to open my eyes.
Advice for Little Girls Who Love Horses Begin the begging early. Demand a lariat and a red, fringed vest for every birthday. Watch Roy Rogers on Saturdays with the volume turned loud. Pretend your friend is the The Cisco Kid and you, Lash LaRue. Ride as often as possible on stick ponies (trot through the house). Perfect the art of neighing. Read The Black Stallion, The Island Stallion, and Misty of Chincoteague (even Brighty of the Grand Canyon). Draw pictures of palominos rearing and give them as gifts, especially to great aunts (who will frame them and hang them by their beds thus, making your heart swell). From the back seat of the family Studebaker imagine galloping white stallions keeping pace with the car. Doodle horses in the margins of schoolbooks (the teacher will notice and tell your parents). Never get caught dancing naked within the cowboy-papered walls of your room (certain ecstasies must be hidden). 90
Jacob M. Appel The View from the Curb Let’s say it’s April, a Sunday morning Somewhere a wailing infant sets a dog yowling But not at this address Somewhere a delivery truck honks at a paving crew But this block lies quiet: The house secure and stolid as a steamer trunk Indifferent to the rising day A bald willow limb where someone has sawed, But no saw A scent of fresh grass where someone has mowed, But no mower Look closely: This is all that there is And it will not last forever And what of the people— Elsewhere or displaced or dead But most likely just elsewhere Or maybe sleeping Imagine them happy or unhappy Or both Or somewhere in between Imagine them as they imagine us So little happens to them And so much
Grandma vs. Ma Bell In hindsight we pitied the man From the telephone company— A boy, really, hardly a scaffold For that shapeless polyester suit With its artery of plastic buttons. He was merely following orders, Reclaiming outstanding chattels American Telephone & Telegraph Had bitterly forfeited to NYNEX: Namely that rotary-dial canary Bakelite telephone my grandma Had rented since the Nixon era. Hers was the last, the very last, In the whole county, maybe— He could not be sure—in the state: Who still rented a phone in 1997? But grandma refused to surrender. Against all odds she’d held onto Her savings passbook at the bank, Sent my dad down to Canal Street When her sewing machine needed A new treadle belt. The poor kid Cajoled, pleaded, warned. He even Offered to buy her a replacement On his own dime. No soap. Call The city marshal on an eighty-two Year-old widow, why don’t you? But he didn’t. And when my dad Finally relinquished it that autumn— The first of so many treasured objects 92
Accrued through a lifetime that left Her apartment over a single weekendâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; He packed it inside the original carton With its blue bell logo. She had even Saved the Styrofoam packing peanuts.
Bill Cook Rented Room HER HUSBAND STOPS BY where I work. His nose is altered from the accident. He has a pained smile filled with bright teeth, a pocketed stubborn face from childhood acne. He's from Chile. A traditional man his wife says. I ask what he needs. I'm nineteen and am employed at the local hardware store. We sell bolts, pipe cutters, and alfalfa hay out back. Not the bullshit this guy is about to give. “I’ll let you know,”' he says. He’s a little slow. He strolls through the store, nods that I follow. Outside, we lean against towering hay bales. I light one of my hand-rolled cigarettes. Squint at the black birds fluttering erratically over our heads like miniature helicopters. The man steps closer, placing his hands on my shoulders, shakes me half-assed. It doesn't hurt. I don't care if he roughs me up. “Yeah, man,” I say not stuttering, “I’m not fucking your wife!” The man begins bawling. I offer him the last of my smoke, then trod back into the store. I have more customers to attend. The next day his wife calls. “Let’s meet at the motel,” she says. “Okay,” I say. They rent rooms by the hour though we never have sex. We just share coffee and talk. Still, I guess, if I were married and some young stud was hooking up with my wife in some motel 95
room, I’d find it a little worrisome. Though our meetups are innocent. Me and this woman, were like two discarded street kids in need of listening, of some basic human interaction. We belong to the same grieving group. We meet once a week at a local diner. They have a carpeted-room upstairs; they serve us hazelnut coffee, sweet rolls, and Bakelite ashtrays as old someone’s chain-smoking grandmother. When I arrive at the rented room, her face is bruised, powdered to hide. She wears dark gold-framed glasses for extra cover. I lead us into the single-bed room. My first reaction is to leave her here and go throttle that sonofabitch with my pony league favorite. But I relent my emotions and stay put. Against one wall, is a battered color Zenith slanted on a brown dinette. I fumble through the Gideon pilfered from the bedside drawer as she showers. Rip out Corinthians: 11:9 “for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake”. I light the candle with the thin paper, toss its remains into the toilet. Leah’s slacks, button-up shirt drape across the shower rod. ``Hold on,'' she says. I flop onto the stiff bed and stare up at the dusty ceiling. She's out of the bathroom, standing in front of me nude; watermark freckles splatter her chest, her middle-aged belly. She looks surreal as the sun slices through the parted curtain. She has a raised pink scar that bisects her sternum. She’s always doing this sort of shit: standing before me butt-ass naked. It’s how we bare our souls, our anguish. Though she’s more fearless than, I’ll ever be. 96
“Open-heart surgery after the car crash that killed my daughter,” she says. First time we meet, at the elongated plastic table with the carafes of hot coffee and condiments, I vaguely recognize her daughter in the drawn, suntanned creases of the woman’s sodden profile. Her daughter and I were in the same drama class. We would pass one another in the school corridor, our heads down, darting our glances. I don’t know why, but I had stopped thinking of her until I met her mother in my introductory group meeting. Now her mother stands bare before me like a sacrificial offering. I guess I was in denial. “She would be a year older than you,” she says. Her hair fans across half her face. “Yeah,” I say not sure what else I can do. Or say. The man’s wife, the dead daughter’s mother, lights a slender brown cigar. Alluringly flings her cropped dyed-hair. Blows smoke from her pinched lips into my mouth. “Here.” She clasps my hand against her chest. “Feel it,” she says. “Doesn’t it feel weird?” I let my fingertips move excitedly along the raised pink ridge. I feel as if I’m floating. I gaze upon the black-plum bruise on her face. The eyeliner smeared from crying or a washrag. The bottom of the world falls out below. Something unfurls inside my chest, surprising to me. Remembrances of her daughter infest my brain, and I can’t shake it off. I scuff my Lace R’s across the natty carpet for distraction. “It's like a demarcation,” I say to her mother, to this broken woman, “splitting you in two.” “No,” she says, and pushes me down onto the bed. 97
She pulls at my tee shirt as a couple moans from the room next door slamming against the wall dividing us from them. So close is the desecration I want to say. Straddling my chest, the woman forces my torso into the starchy bedding. “It’s more like they excavated a hole in the center of me,” she says and violently thrusts her pelvis into me. At first, I know I should tell her to stop. Make her stop if she won’t. But all I can do is lie here, thinking about the touch of her daughter’s mouth to mine. About the time we met under the football bleacher’s after school. Sunrays rippling through the slatted seats. Her waistlength hair draped over me and her, protecting us. Her father or mother waiting in the simmering school parking lot, so they could take her home. I’m saying, “Don’t go. Not yet…” as she disappears in the shimmering sunlight.
Kyle Hemmings Upstairs, Lorca Is Bleeding No matter how many times Alice applied fresh dressings, he was still losing blood from somewhere. She said she must get him to a doctor. He said, “No, the soldiers will recognize me and shoot me again.” There was a knock at the door. The soldiers asked permission to search the house. They announced that there was a dangerous surrealist posing a threat to the future regime’s stability. Lorca, they muttered, as if a curse, a runaway horse. Nonsense, she said, he's as apolitical as a star. They trudged upstairs. Alice held her breath. She heard doors slam, the starts and sudden stops of quick footsteps. Downstairs, one soldier, balding with a sexy cruel twist to his lips, stared menacingly into Alice's eyes. “He's in this village,” he said, and the soldiers stomped out. Upstairs, Alice opened the closet door. “How could they not find you?” she asked. Lorca, clutching his chest, looking feeble, 99
emaciated, said â&#x20AC;&#x153;I held my breath. And the world sucked me into its great void, gave me sanctuary for a while. All you need is an island of imagination.â&#x20AC;? And with that, Lorca, smiling, collapsed at her feet.
Cleanliness She rinses her hands in bleach and water. She scrubs porcelain bowls until her reflection can stare back at her. She’s taken this job to punish herself. She was caught, you see, with the cranberryapple scent of a woman, who remains a phantom in Alice’s closets. When and if they meet now, it’s carefully plotted, hush-hush, foxes in the night hunting for light in the scrub and the thick. When they meet, they empty their pockets, offer the other a spare subway token home. They step into each other's dusk-stained skin.
The Three Wise Men Come to Visit Alice They stood before her looking world-weary behind their beards. There were new winkles since the last time they appeared. They implored Alice to give up the rings she stole from her dead grandmother. The white diamonds, the gold and the emeralds. “They were blessed by Jesus,” they said. “They belong to Him.” The Wise Men spread apart as if to ambush her. They told her that if the rings were not returned, no son of a star would be named after her. Her dogs would be born blind. She would wander endlessly in the desert and never find warmth.
Michael Minassian A Crow Can Fly in the Dark At the world’s first rodeo in Pecos, Texas, lacking cash or prizes, a young girl’s dress was cut into strips and presented in place of prizes— blue ribbons with tattered edges like a bird’s fallen wings. The winners’ names recorded for all of history— cowboys covered in glory— but the girl’s identity never mentioned— her nakedness forgotten. (I wonder if her parents and the visiting farmers and ranchers turned away, protecting the modesty of all mothers and daughters.) Some say she hid among the crows scavenging in the cattle pens— covering herself with feathers and dung before flying off the earth, disappearing into the clouds and dust as night’s curtain fell under a crescent moon. 103
Rose Crossed the Ocean After the Turks wiped out her village and she marched through Dier-ez-Zor Rose crossed the ocean from Lebanon to Boston Harbor drinking glass after glass of water, salting the sea with her tearsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; without her crying, fish could not swim, and the moon could not float on the waves. When she gave birth to her children, she named each one for a flower that bloomed in the desert without sand or rain skeletons of love without bones or blame.
Black and Red Ribbon When I woke up this morning, my feet walked around the house by themselves, the rest of my body only along for the ride. Outside, I saw blue jays circling the backyard, carrying parts of a sentence in their beaks, the smallest one with only random punctuation, a seed, I thought. Back in the house, I imagined a typewriter next to the bed, a black and red ribbon trailing out the door, another obsolete opinion like postcards and letters to the dead. Writing down your name, I used words I could not pronounce, then blindfolded myself against the approaching avalanche of acoustic accusations, my imagination painting over the blank spaces in the night unscrewing the moon from the sky.
Gary Glauber Propagation Disappointment slows her down, knocks her off that perch of high desire. So she turns to nature first, seeking solace in reciting a liturgy of fancy flower names like hot Latin whispers in the night. Sweet bougainvillea glabra, azaleas to span a noisy rainbow. Next she prays on her rosary, lights the votive for selfish gain, contrary to its higher purpose. Another sin added to her tally. This is ignorance, I tell her. With benefits, she corrects me. There is nothing simpler than an array of arrogant beliefs. She seeks lengthy apologies, divine intervention as retribution. I admire colorful clusters traversing the quiet long corridor. 106
Ginny Short Melody on the Skin of the World A layer of air as thick as hot tar lingers long into the night. Springwind dust shimmers an apocalyptic haze across the valley, the sun a red silhouette on the dust-curtained sky. Clouds pile up â&#x20AC;&#x201C; thunder upon thunder on lightning stilts, haloing the valley with flashing crowns. Electricity sparks and dances rumble-melodies on the wind. Dusk casts its shadows, dark upon darker, until astronomical twilight turns on full night. The skin of the world comes alive. From burrows and caves they emerge under the starlight that flickers in the moon-dark sky, drawn by a midsummer song that hums almost below perception. Moth and spider eyes gleam in the light thrown from my torch. They wink. I shiver. My shiver. Their winking eyes. The spider spins. A sphinx moth licks the air with its long proboscis: on the other side of the world a coral reef trembles off the coast of Madagascar. The night is filled, then, with the sound of wings on nocturnal drafts, snakes across sibilant sand, clicking of bats in an insect sky, shrilling of cicadas, chirping of crickets, collegial howl of a coyote pack, thump of mice, kangaroo rats and squirrels capering across the dunes, coughing of a cougar, soft chirruping of sleeping finches, the ripple of leaves in waves of starlight-wind. Across the shadows the illusion is that nothing changes. A sea turtle flicks its flippers in the Indian Ocean and a smoketree under my window shivers in response. And there, on the back of the animal wind, the earth groaning. Deep. Piteous. Subliminal. Turning in its own grave. Weeping. Lost. Losing ground. The demand on it too much for it to bear. Its 107
rhythm under beat. Its tone off pitch. Bats fly off kilter, hearing the sound. Nightjars wait for the signal to fly south, confused by its absence. The polar icecaps shift under the weight of its loss. The rains shift on the equator. Bobcat kittens come too soon, coyote cubs too late. The night wind, the sound of people sleeping, the music of the earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s song, both elegy and paean.
Lost and Found Desert night skies were once a shimmering mass of stars so bright you could walk with ease across the hills. Even the full moon could not blind my desert stars. Now, people light up the nighttime sky with artificial lights and the stars fade to memory. I will never know the darkening of the sky with the convergence of migrating passenger pigeons or hear the hammering of the ivory-billed woodpecker or the ruckus of Carolina parakeets in the morning sun. My great-grandparents saw all of these in their homestead cabins. Did they think, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Will my great-grandchildren ever know this ecstasy?â&#x20AC;? Could they have known that we would not? I remember the beating of the desert skies at the winter solstice, pulsing softly in the inky darkness, but our children only rarely see that panorama: it is disappearing under urban light shows. This is a sorrow I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t crawl out from under, a sorrow for all we have lost, are losing. crisp starlight etches bleak boundaries of mountain and memory with silver light I was told a story about a couple who got lost on Edom Hill. This is a hill near my home, a small, barren hill on the flat valley surrounded by communities, some small, some large. If you could see this hill you would think there is no way to get lost: it is close to everything. No matter which way you walk you would hit a road, a house, some sign of civilization. But, they got lost. I understand 109
this: it is easy to get lost even when everyone else seems to know the way. Getting found, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the hard part. immensity of sky incomprehensible distance infinite silence
Water Pantoum Salty sweat on freckled skin Rain falls torrents in the right season Downpours that carve grand canyons Long drizzles with nowhere to go but wet Rain falls torrents in the right season Flowing watersheds that run to oceans Long drizzles with nowhere to go but wet And rafts of waterbirds like scattered leaves Flowing watersheds that run to oceans Rainbow drops and crystalline snowmelt And rafts of waterbirds like scattered leaves Like dancers move without regard to boundaries Rainbow drops and crystalline snowmelt Virga that paints the sky 100 shades of wet Like dancers move without regard to boundaries Then paints the earth 100 shades of dry Virga that paints the sky 100 shades of wet Extended drought that marks the passing of the days Paints the earth 100 shades of dry Sand gushes forth from wells instead of water Extended drought that marks the passing of the years Wells drilled so deep thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nowhere left to dig Sand gushes forth from wells instead of water The aquifer retreats and then subsides
Wells drilled so deep thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nowhere left to dig Downpours that carve grand canyons The aquifer retreats and then it dies Salty sweat on freckled skin
Nate Maxson Cinderland I would prefer to leave the mystery open, like a beating wound (a doorway) Like a furnace that sings to the fields in daylight Let us consider the miraculous from a distance Like the time between the first photograph of the earth from space And the first man to make a crop circle in his cornfield and then call the media Perhaps the way theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d demand an exorcist from the church during plague-years A hunger for somewhere other, just elsewhere, the rain Here, one night a long time ago: when they shut down all the mental hospitals and let everyone go Doors open to the full moon benevolently silhouetting escapees shuffling through the trees Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re free to go The wet grass greener than it had ever been The perfect blue of swimming pools
Self Portrait from a Dream, Late Summer Call me Medusa as a boy, even after Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve cut my hair A halo of snakes circle and whisper around my head A flashscape of city projects and ticks on my face in silver when I blink or look away My preternaturally red lips and the sunlight sway together like the leaves and the wind and the land beyond them Like a hall of mirrors reflecting the unchanged blue sky: each one a filament of curling time and fire Dreams behind my heavy eyes: A presence, a fairytale that hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t yet hit the collective bloodstream The Watchmaker and The Rosegarden He carries it on his back as it sprouts beyond his hands, Green seed of wounds while he flies across the water (descending with the effort to the foam and tide) Finite movement and the twining of thorns
Portrait of a Night-Terror Holding an Instrument, Age 9 The violin is strung with deer gut: soundtrack to a fire All the wild animals panicking in the unbulbed lamplight To take as wide an angle as I can: the universe is a bullet flying at a body it hasn’t yet struck Somewhere in the maze of my combinations, I am creeping to the bathroom across the house at night A child afraid of the dark Here, where you can swoop and dive but may want to stay low on account of the smoke This is not the place for that, for proof of held flight Like dragging an object across tangles of bone and string and bramble: a body, a cello, a dream My hands on the walls, one ahead of the other: night vision not so good, what to do in case of fire and what to take with you When I was capable of seeing between, I shut my eyes as tight as possible That’s the paradox I suppose, suspended in the air or formaldehyde What’s left of memory is memory, because there is no wholeness, only hoof beats
Only the piecing together, light stitched like a wreath of babyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s breath and forget-me-nots gathered and then dropped (but by who?) on a desert hill where they did not grow A clean break All I want The peace of blue skies before
Lorraine Caputo Day of the Dead Rain Rain falls off the roofs in cascades, Rain moves across the street like ocean waves. A yellow dog stops in the middle of the road, looks around bewildered. Beneath a bright green umbrella, a mother cradles her child on her hip, carries a plastic bucket with flowers. The wind dies for a moment … the scents of marigolds mums, gladioli drift by … Three piglets trot across a dirt lot seeking shelter from storm. Signs swing, their hollow tin-clang is carried away. Children huddle beneath the roof eaves of the tortillería. The smell of fresh tortillas is lost on the strong wind. Lightning slices the sky like disappearing scars … This morning I found a dead scorpion in the bath water. Today Families will carry the buckets filled with gladioli, mums & marigolds to the cemeteries. They will pull the weeds from the graves, carefully place wreaths of paper & those flowers. 118
Tonight The brujos will wander these streetsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; everything will be closed against their presence. Teenage students will disguise themselves stop anyone out, demand moneyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;or assault them. Two teenage girls, huddled under a yellow tarp, their sandals kicking up rain from the road, carry home hot tortillas wrapped in pink paper.
QueBada de Humahuaca I. (Humahuaca) Marbled mountainsides, white bands brilliant in sunlight. Desert flows around them, sparsely forested with candelaria cactus. II. (Tilcara) This afternoon the winds are rumbling with thunder, shuddâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ring with lightning. & rain falls upon dulled polychrome canyon walls, the sun breaking free of clouds, filling a valley with a brightening rainbow. III. (Purmamarca) Mountain of Seven Colors â&#x20AC;&#x201C; maroon, silver-green & deep green; white, rose; gilded tan, pale yellow in the light of new-risen day. IV. (Paseo de los Colorados) Beyond the Mountain of Seven Colors strata swirl gold, green, orange, white & scarlet. The road climbs, winds through a narrow passage. Below wash seas of emerald fields between wind-battered crags, their earth twilight-indigo, tarnished-copper & dried-blood ochre. V. (Purmamarca) A barest sliver moon above these multi-colored hills muted by dusk. Tattered clouds are dyed goldenwhite & magenta. VI. (Purmamarca) This morning clouds low on summits pool in valleys. 120
Mountain of Seven Colors lusterless in the threat of early-season rain. VII. (to Jujuy) For a moment the sun beams & mist falls, casting an unseen rainbow. Through the Quebrada fog descends, obscuring the canyonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s walls & its pallet. The rain greens pastures, rushes red-silted rivers.
Awaiting the Storm I fall asleep listening to the wind rattling the tin roof & when I awaken charcoal clouds have mounded to the east A rainbow forms above rust-colored hills Amidst the lightning tearing the sky thin rayos striking the ragged earth & then the rain falls large drops ping upon the roof & streaming pooling on the terrace
Michael Sikkema Body Traffic Their hands full of skulls recently separated from Helmeted Hornbills, the lovers wear feathery masks in the photos, pose otherwise nude in front of their stock. An apple cake bakes upstairs, the family cookbook open, lightly dusted in flour. Everyone they know is a Protestant. Miss Jewell, a Catholic, was the talented seamstress who invented a form of smuggler’s underwear. A padded pocket, with the addition of a well-placed strip of flannel, could hold and protect 6-7 macaw eggs. The willow tree in her still living grandparents’ backyard has branches that reach the ground, creating a sacred secret place for Hannah, her daughter. Ice forms on planets that no one’s ever heard of, while a young man 3 cities away from you orders a hoodie online. It looks exactly like a strip of raw beef steak. In Lincoln on Saturday, Alexander the embalmer provided lifesaving tissue to 90 patients after having pirated a single cadaver. Faster please, bias a masterpiece. Alexander dreamed only of a hand on his throat, tall grass, and smoke. Everyone bats past their rovers til they pass out with the landowners after all.
A man named Mark (whose father had often spanked him for feeding stray dogs) spent the morning packing giraffe-skin bibles into a large crate, which he would mail to a woman named Mary. Mary’s family name implies a fortune in barrels. While cash withdrawal and bank robberies are down, the theft of owl eggs and orchids are up and Donald’s bathtub is full of glass eels. He is completely unaware that his Bassett Hound Scamp has been hit by a logging truck 5 miles out of town but Scott and Lina are all on fire for the cure, discount or no. Joel likes feel good rock music on the box as he makes the circuit between the cadaver hubs. He’s halfway through the Harry Potter series and his second divorce. His freezer truck idles as he receives a $20 blowjob behind the Tim Horton’s near the dumpster. The person holding the stop/slow sign spins it like a baton right in a bike path full of swans. Overhead on the International Space Station, the Phantom Torso lovingly absorbs radiation. Joel, at home later, dreams of the bonus check he’ll get for dropping three sets of human knees and a head at the Disney Convention Center. There are a lot of photos of Tim holding fish. Nice men in suits paid for his cremation, and the ashes of his right hand were given to Sharon, his mother, still grieving his suicide. The rest of his body was covered in biosensors, placed in a Humvee and blown up. Notes were taken.
Angela, Joelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sister, informed Byrd, their cousin from back home, that they could get him human heads for $300 a piece plus shipping. This little piggie, market and home. Eyes like a rifle, red sand boas make the backpack breathe. Fine is what money makes it.
Postcard Darkness refused to fall on Middletown. It just hovered about a hundred feet above the ground, forming a sort of sloppy cloud seventy-five yards across or so as Reverend Ronald Cleerbook sat in his motel room at the New Fall Inn, fondled his quartz collection, pictured a fine fluffy cloud forming in the open space between the tv and the coffee station on the fridge. Cleerbook watched the cloud form and grow, and he drifted off to sleep. When he came to, his seeing self was in the cloud, being blown along by the window fan. Quickly enough the reverend and the cloud drifted through the wall into the next room where a park ranger, first name Barbara, had a 30-something year old man, name unknown, bound face up on the bed. Barbara was spraying her breast milk onto unknown’s face while he recited the names of every river in Alabama. Unknown had only rattled off 3 or 4 when the cloud slid through the wall into the next next room where a forklift driver named Marv sat in a crappy chair, staring at mold on a 2-week-old slice of pizza. A bird, Goblin, was sitting on Marv’s head, whistling along with a jingle for oven snacks and Marv didn’t even seem to notice as the cloud, moving faster now, passed through the neighboring bathroom where a child was submerged in the tub breathing through a crazy straw, then the cloud pushed through another wall into the room of an accountant named Jessica who had mounded up 50 pounds of sand on the bed nearest the window and put a baseball hat on it. The cloud was lighter then, rose up through the ceiling and out into the light of day, where it burned off like fog.
Miriam Sagan There are no people there are no people without dogs the obsidian projectile has a tail like a comet pierces to the bone enters the Americas no selfâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;without what? the ribcage of the mother? or maybe we simply emerged out of the subway on the streets of Manhattan no cities without grain and no granaries without the cats of Anatolia who make themselves at home itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quiet here in the RV 127
sunrise in the basin land the view of three mountain ranges when I step out the black dogs greet me with as much joy as if Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been goneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; forever
The ants that lived the ants that lived behind the tiles of the bath were sleeping the solar lights had burnt out and the house centipede in the drain was also asleep I dreamed of a snake chipped into a rock and a real snake rattling past midnight an ambulance blaring red and blue and white sat at the curb of the corner neighbor who sometimes called me drunk and yelling because a guest had parked on “his” side of block by morning I still didn’t know what had happened I still don’t know 129
but I do know I never liked him but Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll miss him
Before the storm thunder just at the edge of the neighborhood blank sheet of paper (this is not the self) often water will take you home, river swimming pool laps recreate the bodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wriggly origin raindrops are you listening to me as I am to you? often Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll wait beneath the portal before the storm
Empty your mind (that is called the Mohave) or compress Sodom and Gomorrah into an enormous blinking sign (Las Vegas strip) and call it… I don’t know samsara Jacob wrestles the angel here by the boundary stone and trading post Cameron, Arizona in every Gideon Bible in every drawer in every motel and we also wanted to mark what had happened to us tag the freight car carve the glyph in desert varnish light in neon—pink and blue— some sound seed but what word? 132
Say good-bye say good-bye to my inheritance to wanting something money, love, approval, a glass honey jar shaped like a hive it made me feel close first child of my mother and father to be promised “you can have this when I die” thank you, grandpa George— we used to say that paying the bill at the nice Chinese restaurant; he’d left us all money and we spent every penny even when the tax accountant yelled at me from Miami for being a hippie and so I’ll say ciao, adios, I hope we don’t meet again I now possess all I’ll ever inherit: fear, a crooked smile, a fedora, what my father called 133
â&#x20AC;&#x153;the Yankee dollarâ&#x20AC;? what now seems just a breeze in the evening from land to sea.
Ryan Quinn Flanagan Rules of Engagement Back down in a bar and you may as well never come back again. Word will spread of your reluctance to engage and every third rate drunk and hustler in the joint will take you for an easy mark. Whores will hit you up for a round without even showing leg and the village idiot will engage you in debate trying to move one wrung higher on the proverbial ladder. The bartender will cut you off and 86 you after one drink just for kicks and it will be open season on your ass each time you return from the crapper and your seat is taken. Even the bag lady outside who pushes a shopping cart back and forth in menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dress shoes all day will feel she is entitled to your digs even though theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re three sizes too big. 135
If you back down in a bar your ass is grass and the whole world becomes a lawnmower. Make an example of the first dry humper you see in there and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re good to last call.
Behemoth The behemoth drinking beside me would not be fun to dance with. One a few weeks back fractured my cheekbone over some unflattering comment about his mother. Now, I am stuck drinking beside one twice his size and all I can think about is how his mother fucks horseshoes and double-sided leprechauns on the weekend for good luck. One more swig before I say something. Here I go.
Mitchell Grabois Squeezebox 1. HE LIES ON THE BARE WOOD FLOOR, accordion on his chest, and plays a tarantella, the same one he performed last week for the Merida Symphony Orchestra. He’s a round man with a florid Slavic face, the kind that warns: Step back! Heart attack! He sweats like a pig when he plays, even in an air-conditioned hall, as if his body is only attuned to the humid world outside, with its slice of moon. 2. Sally wants to watch my downfall in 3D, see every one of my pores emit fear, see the fear transform into pain. She wants to sip a sloe gin fizz as she watches. She’s like a victim’s father watching an Oklahoma execution, in which three chemicals combine to create death. Sally wants to toss kernels of popcorn at the screen of my demise 3. The natives call him “the Waterfall.” His wife never sweats. She is afraid to, afraid that if she starts she will never stop and will run away like a river to Argentina or the South Pole. 4. A Russian court will determine my fate soon. It’s all been fixed, well in advance. Sally has connections.
I put on my bright pink dress and matching baklava and hope I will not be judged too harshly. I am a man. I am not even a homosexual, so you may ask: why is he dressed so? Sally did this to me. Sally betrayed me. 5. Their friends celebrate him, the way he lies on the floor and pulls the bellows in and out. He’s a local novelty. Through association, he enhances their status. He was a chemist, but now he’s returned to the love of his youth, the instrument his Rumanian grandfather taught him. He’s forgotten all the chemistry now. He’s a lot older than his wife. She’s chronically depressed, but it’s not his fault. Her brothers live in northern woods like animals and sometimes she thinks of them, in Idaho and Minnesota, and wonders how they got that way and what she’s doing so far from them, in the Yucatan. 6. My father risks looking weak if I walk free. My father is dead. Figure that out. I am no hooligan motivated by religious hatred, though I hate religion. I am vilified by the state media, though I use ivory soap and am always clean, even in my jail cell. Sally always used fancy boutique soaps, scented with lemongrass and patchouli.
April Vázquez Suicides Women just don't kill themselves like they used to. Back then, it was never mental illness, clinical and antiseptic, it was madness— stark and/or raving. Or despair. Take Dorothy Hale, jilted by her lover (rich because who throws herself off a building for a poor man?): she threw herself a going-away party first. Wore her best dress. Back then women drank poison; or drowned, rock-heavy— methods that required planning, effort, and (more often than not) suffering. 141
Of course, they never lacked for reasons: pregnancy, abandonment, ennui, yellow wallpaper, dreams deferred, no room of their own. Merriam-Webster specifies because you do not want to continue living but what if they did (just not like that) ? What if they put so much into their deaths because death was the single greatest creative act they would -couldever achieve?
Soledad Dahlia, 10 Months I didn't know you could happen. When Janice went for IVF they told her, no viable eggs, at 38. I was 39. I look down now, and here you are, miraculous, grinning, not sleeping milk-drunk and toothless. (The teeth are there, beneath; I run my fingers over them, as white and same as eggs in a carton. Soon one will sprout, a tiny white bud in pink soil.) Or you're upâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; head-heavy, teetering and plunging, your hand a fat starfish washed in on a clumsy wave, breaking your fall. Pon-Pon, your daddy sings in his native tongue. You tap out the syllables, an index finger in the opposing palm, haphazard Morse code, 143
or sing a bright string of sounds (was that mama?). His face punctuated by my nose: Sol, our Sunshine in size 3 diapers.
K.W. Peery Shotgun Shack There’s an old shotgun shack... near the railroad tracks in New Madrid... where you can hear Miles Davis play Sketches of Spain... while waitin’ for the Mississippi to run in reverse again and wash away The Trail of Tears
Jason Baldinger For Tammy at the Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Dan says it’s an hour and a half wait for an oil change Dorsey and I walk perimeter dream of snack bars and people watching we are out of luck though this Wal Mart has random park benches, but nowhere to congregate in the tire and lube waiting area, like the bullpen like we’re handcuffed to desks waiting to be taken in for a line up, for intake we make the best of it telling road stories her daughter dances circles in newly purchased light up sandals, Tammy on the phone tells someone that they’ve been through hell together, but they’ll make it through stronger the attendant comes in tells Tammy they can’t patch her tire, its more patch 146
now anyway, a new tire is fifty-eight dollars, her face sags, a broken heart can’t be patched, there is no way left to stretch when the bottom closes in. Tammy’s face snaps, her voice breaks as she toughens again she claims there’s nothing wrong with the tire, they’re trying to rip her off, the attendant shakes his head, this is a stalemate where no one gets an even break
Postcard from a Sunday Morning the only cashier under sixty at the rite aid looks hungover I remind her I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need a bag as her chipped gold enamel fingers fumble to open plastic men wear reimagined star wars t-shirts in the laundromat looking sunday morning rough, riding some nostalgia trip they rush through try to complete their task, before mothers and feral children take over my left turn signal spasms, doing its best to remind that the bulb is out I still forget I play the same song from 1993 over and over, it was a hit then, I dunno if its nostalgia or a conjuring Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m looking for 148
John Patrick Robbins Hello Bozo It was a birthday party for a small child. My best friends’ daughter to be exact. It was a cookout— they had a fully stocked bar. And an odd clown entertained the children. I swore never to get drunk at a child’s party again. A parent of one of the kids called me and asked if they could book me for next weekend. It didn’t pay much but there would be a fully stocked bar and plenty of food. I believe I have found a new career path.
Jude Brigley Sheep to the Slaughter A SHEEP HAD BEEN KNOCKED OVER by the Brewer’s bus on its route down from Caerau mountain into town. She could not help but think how odd it was that the driver had avoided all the sheep wandering the country roads, and hit this one at the top of her terraced street. The bus had continued to its station, leaving the sheep sitting in the middle of the road outside Spracklen’s garage. Its piteous bleating had brought gaggles of children, playing out in the summer heat, to the roadside, while a few passing adults stopped to scrutinise what had happened. An occasional car would approach and swerve around the woolly mass, for it was a quiet, late afternoon, the Valley catching sound in its net. Everyone kept at a respectful distance. Not even the boldest boys approached. Instead the pavement was lined by children watching the sheep’s struggling breath. From its ripped side an intestine trailed, but still the sheep did not close its eyes. It piteously looked around as if expecting rescue, bleating its plaintive song. Everyone agreed that the sheep must have drifted down from the hill, finding a gap in the fence, crossing the railway line and wandering through terraced gardens. Paul Warwick swore that he had seen a whole parade of sheep earlier in the afternoon. No one corroborated his story. They viewed the lone sheep with the cold scrutiny and curiosity of childhood. Apart from a few timid bleats, the stoical sheep endured the stake-out of eyes, as her entrails emptied themselves like 150
bloody sausages onto the gritted road with its sticky tar, reminding her of black treacle in the late afternoon heat. A strange silence had fallen on the crowd and street as if in reverence for a ceremony. Even the traffic seemed to have held its breath. Then the bus returned for its reverse journey, passing the sheep without a glance, and Paul Warwick and his friend Robbie Richmond both jeered and gave rude signs to the driver. Still no one approached the animal, although its distress was clear. The midges which had plagued the town all day now swarmed around its head. She felt that she should do something but was slightly horrified by the sheep’s wounds and baleful eyes. “Has somebody phoned the police?” she asked no one in particular. Rosie Spracklen spoke up and said that her father had called them already. What to do? Earlier, a plague of midges had covered the town. With her brother, she had tried to escape from the heat and the bugs by going to the swimming baths. Having changed into their bathers, they had been alarmed to see the blue waters covered with dead midges. They had still gone in the water. They felt hot and bothered by the little nuisances flying around their heads and spotting their white T-shirts. They had simply swept the dead bodies aside. Over tea, which had been hot and airless, as the windows were securely closed, her mother had said, “I’ve never seen a cloud of midges like this before in the valley. It is like a plague of Egypt.” “I hate them,” she had replied. Her brother had just tucked into his pie without comment, but she had told them about the Armageddon of the swimming baths. 151
Her father laughed at her, “There is a season to everything,” he said. “The midges won’t last long. It’s as natural to die as it is to be born.” She pondered those words and then added, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want anyone else to die.” Her parents exchanged a look as if her words were amusing or precocious. She couldn’t work them out. What did it mean to be natural to die? She had not had much experience of death. She was too young to remember her grandmother dying, and so could only think of the bird that they had found on a walk with her father. He had let her bring it home, made a nest for it and tried to feed it. Her mother had been cross, “Why have you let them bring it home?” she had asked. “It will die.” She had remonstrated with her mother about saving its life and so had her brother in his way. But the bird had died. There had been tears and drama, but they had taken the box and buried it on the mountain and her father had said a few words about returning to the earth. The sheep was now breathing in starts, its eyes were glazed and the bleats further apart. Then Mr. Spracklen came out and waved them away, calling his own children in, and telling them, “Away with you all. Leave the poor creature.” “How can we leave the sheep to die on its own?” she had said to her brother, as they walked down the curved, red terrace to home. He nodded but seemed less concerned. “I know,” she said, “let’s go upstairs and look out of the bay window.” They scuttled up there, pushing each other to get the best view but because of the street’s curve, they could not see the sheep, 152
but only the police car which had now arrived. Frustrated, she flung herself onto her bed, but her mother shouted out “Laramie is starting.” It was their favourite Western and the music could plainly be heard. The next morning, on the way to Sunday School, they took the long way around so as to pass where the sheep was injured. It was gone. There was just a dark stain where the sheep had lain. “We should bow,” she said, “in respect.” So they did. Solemnly. Then they hurried off to their own day.
William Doreski Black in Gray America You recalled a city of stinks: the shabby breath of yellow teeth, filthy socks on crusty feet, blood-spill dried on the sidewalk. The dirt-floor basement room your mother tried to sweep clean rustled all night as rodents named and renamed you in dreams. The sorry carcass of Baltimore coughed up feverish gases that drove you north to Boston where you rewrote Richard Wright in tough black-letter alphabets even the shyest child could read. When I met you in the Booksmith I knew that inhaling the pointed dark and exhaling crystalline spores wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t your aesthetic mode. Over whiskey we bent our brains to map wood and tarpaper shacks filled with timid barefoot children in the gulch between Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. We offered ourselves on the bloody fields of lower education, our ties strangled and flopping like tongues.
You understood the gangsters lurking in the corners of our eyes. You spoke the lone upholstered word that opened books without cracking the most fragile, dried-glue spines. You laughed in the tones of those for whom the bell tolls, peppering the streetscape with dust and ashes Later, after the children flew to asbestos-shingled coops, you cooked by pouring bourbon into spaghetti sauce and tainting the mess with the hottest peppers the inmates of insane asylums in the Yucatan dared to grow. More comfortable in the dark despite the books that lit your lair, you scrawled plats of the city of stinks on the backs of your hands. Farrell and Wolfe, favorite authors, along with Wright and Baldwin, enlivened your dullest moments. When you threated to run away with a famous white woman poet I realized how intersected your world was, how thickly paved. When you slammed yourself against the walls of a house in Wayland and shattered a hundred egos I clenched myself with remiss. 155
You knew what you were living. Being black in gray America deranged itself while you leaned back and let movies and comics wash away the debris, leaving something I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t identify, stainless and bold and placed exactly where no one expects a monument.
Gregg Shapiro Domestic Disturbance Is it possible to feel affection for a bed? After almost 20 years of gay wedded bliss and a vast assortment of mattresses – full, pillow-top queen and standard queen – a super-firm king-size mattress has brought renewed tranquility to our home and rest. There is room enough for the pack to sleep, perchance to dream, without disturbing one another. Fidgety and golden Dusty still prefers the floor rug, where she can mutter and run in her sleep without waking us. But when she finds the strength to lift her less limber 11-year-old body onto the bed, she’s aware that there is a place for her. Red and white k.d. has a newfound respect for her spot at the foot of the big bed where she no longer has to dodge Rick’s restless legs or my alternately hot and cold feet, seeking and shunning cover without warning. Does a dog’s bowel or bladder troubles belong in a poem? In our post-sleep study slumber, Rick’s breathing apparatus provides him sound sleep while filling the bedroom with resonance of silent snoring and measured white noise. If Rick could sleep through virtually anything before, including his lack of breath intake and release, then nothing short of a massive earthquake or his alarm clock can wake him now. It falls to me when Dusty or k.d. experience any kind of bodily function anguish, in the hours between when we lay our heads on our plumped, respective pillows and when we awake. It’s not unusual to see me, in flannel pajama bottoms or track pants and a sweatshirt, flip-flops or Adidas shower slides 157
speedily walking one or both of the dogs down the sidewalk or in the passageway between the buildings heading east or west towards or away from one of the parks in all kinds of weather in the predawn hours, with one or two full and knotted poopbags in hand. Tonight, the alley between our street and Argyle is free of the raccoon duo who once appeared out of thin air at two a.m. to remind us that, at that appointed hour, the turf and the night belong to them. We hurried inside when we saw them, slammed the door, latched the bolt, listening from the safety of the garage to hear if they would come sniffing or scratching, or if they were satisfied to see us startled and running away. Perhaps they kept their distance because of the blood-rattling shouts and screams emanating from the half-open window of the multi-unit dwelling across the alley. Fury-fueled accusations and declarations, threats of violence, physical injury. Witnessed from a distance, it colors the night darker, whips the air like frost. Back in bed, I dream of stray bullets piercing brick and mortar, wood and sheetrock, finding my spine or chest, Rick’s skull or thigh. Clouds in the shape of numbers – 911 – hover just out of reach. Blankets transform into camouflage Kevlar vests. The dogs sleep unaware.
Because of Facebook Your mother knows more about what you do in your personal life than you would ordinarily share with her. You know more about her social and romantic exploits than you ever cared to consider. However, learning about ex-lovers’ pursuits has not proven as disturbing as you thought it would be. Politically conservative cousins and acquaintances praise and throw their support behind homophobic and racist politicians and pundits. Instead of unfriending them, you religiously follow their posts. It’s better to know what your enemies are saying about you than to suffer the consequences of ignorance. A former gradeschool classmate apologizes for not coming to your defense when you were getting your ass kicked on a daily basis during recess or gym class dodgeball games. High school bullies gone to seed and their formerly cheery, now dreary, cheerleader girlfriends, who wouldn’t urinate on you if you were set ablaze in front of your locker, are now all up in your junk. You say, “You already took my lunch money.” You ask, “What more do you want from me?” 159
Mark A. Fisher Highway 58 Spring driving east of Bakersfield the scent of oranges-yet-to-come fills the almost clean air the moon not yet risen from behind those worn-down mountains not yet green â&#x20AC;&#x201C; not yet smeared with wildflowers still weeks away though the dream of them drifts through the hills like a tule fog
Gail Braune Comorat Saying Goodbye A month from seventeen, clad in an oxford shirt the color of lemon chiffon pie and plaid Bermudas, I lean against a boy inside his father’s Chrysler. I slide even closer. Vinyl seats suck at my legs. August. He’s leaving for college. We’re parked half a block from my family’s split level, a bucket of buttered popcorn, cardboard from the drive-in, spilled at my feet. A whisper of jasmine enters through windows cracked just enough to vent the car’s interior heat. His fingers wander my bare arm, come to rest at the inner fold of my elbow. All summer he’s mapped my body. Radius— he traces the bone of my forearm, heads north to rest at the pulse of my throat. Clavicle, he says, then touches its twin with a hand that will soon reach to turn the keys dangling from the ignition. Five minutes until my curfew. The boy’s hand smoothes my cotton shirt. On the radio, Donovan sings the song that 161
will become ours for those remaining minutes. Through the hazy windshield, we watch the slow rising of a moon luscious and ripe enough to be consumed.
What We Said about You mother said you were a boy alone in a field crying wolf comfortable in your own pessimism I said you were nobodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hero/nobodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s villain friends said you were vodka-voiced by your holy thirst
you said you were an uprooted tree a boat with no oars your ex said you were all the empty bottles from the museum of your pleasures I said you were hard to hug nana said once you were made of orchard grapes of lemon pie & fireballs you said you were a knot in a shoelace dad said you were capable of flight you were a guppy cupped in his hands but you said you were all the lesser fairy tales the wrong Jenga piece to dislodge 163
& I said you were jangled brilliance someone who spoke a language of gravity & green tides a boy naked & shaking in a field
In the CVS Beside the Hospital I’m searching the beauty aisle for a miracle to fix crow’s feet, reading a package that says Corrects and Reduces All Signs of Aging when I realize I’ve teared up, and I wonder if it’s because of the headline on a nearby journal proclaiming THE DEATH OF BUMBLEBEES with its close-up of a bee in mid-air. I wipe my eyes, search the label seeking retinol and amino peptides, key words to make me believe and I know I’m a fool to worry about my appearance when my friend is losing her hair in clumps, buying wigs she can’t afford and already mourning the loss of lashes and brows. This same friend who urged my bids on a Wyeth remarque at a museum auction, who convinced me to buy my first summer house, my darling friend who conned me into taking a test drive in a BMW baby blue convertible. Each time she said, Do it. Don’t we all deserve beauty in our lives? Suddenly I hate the bees and those doomsayer forecasts, and I don’t see how what might happen to them affects me, but my eyes are burning and I can barely see, so I make my way to the exit, where I trigger an alarm and the woman behind the counter glares at me until I realize I’m still holding a box of Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum, and she’s asking, Are you gonna pay for that, hon? I root through my purse, grab bills, push them at her, not caring the cost. I’m sobbing, the salt of my tears drying my mouth, and I’m certain the cashier thinks I’m crying from guilt, that I’m crying from shame and I want so much to tell her that I’m just crying for the goddamn bees. 165
Barbara Buckley Ristine This is How She Finds Life I DRIVE HOME, my body still warm and light in post-yoga tranquility. Pale morning light filters through new spring leaves; hyacinth-scented breezes fill my lungs. The morning news intrudes; I turn to an oldies station. Jim Morrison is urging me to light his fire when the squirrel barrels into the street. I brake and swerve, but when I look in the rearview mirror, the squirrel lies motionless in the road. All the calmness of the morning rushes from me, and I pull to the curb. I kneel beside the tiny mass of gray fur. The squirrel is still alive, its eyes wide and watching me. I reach out my hand to soothe the creature, feel its chest heaving rapidly under my touch. I’m not too late this time. I was twelve, riding shotgun beside my father in the family Rambler. A sickening dull thud. A gray-striped cat lying in the roadway, its fur stained scarlet. I pounded on his arm, forced him to pull over, screamed he was cruel, that he didn’t care, but he seemed unaware of what he'd done, unfazed by my cries. I haven’t thought of that day for years, the memory banished when I forgave him for this, the first of many clues to the slow unraveling of his brain, the first signs of his dementia. I open the car trunk and pull out a faded blue picnic blanket and a battered pair of winter gloves I keep for emergencies, although this isn’t the sort of emergency I’ve imagined. I kneel and timidly lift the limp body, place it on the blanket. I’m surprised by 166
how light the squirrel is, like holding a balloon. The squirrel’s face is relaxed as if sleeping, its body slack. I stroke the velvety brown and gray fur between its ears and the squirrel's eyes open, pleading with me. I gently wrap the blanket around the squirrel and lay it in the car. I can’t take it to the vet, the office isn’t open yet. I scroll through my phone until I find the address for a twenty-four-hour animal emergency room. Text my husband that I have to run an errand, hoping he won’t ask—he’ll say I’m too sentimental, it’s only a rodent. At the emergency room, I tell the tech to do whatever he can to save this life.
Mac Gay Alarm System Raising her arrow ears, our couched Chihuahuaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chemicals concoct into dynamite awaiting detonation. The mailman lights her fuse, her cacophony conscripting our catatonic other cur who concurs in an instant, the dead-to-the-world raised like a loud-mouthed Lazarus lashing out at a Bethany that wrote him off as done. Push the envelope and pull back a nub, they bark, these roiling, little-but-loud dust devils beneath the doorknob, wee allies of the rain and the heat and the snow.
Sudeep Adhikari Geology of Spirits I love the scars on the stones, the way they draw the shape of starry eyes on their chest; burying millennia old disembodied rumbles, and the fossilized microscopic deaths alloyed with their own crystal lattices. A piece of rock laying there on the bank, with a fractal-like line of encircling quartzite, probably witnessed the first breath of the cosmos and all the inevitable deaths that followed etching all the pains and raptures of our multiple pre-lives on its molecular hard drive. Maybe there are reasons people worship pieces of stone; their timeless disenchantment amidst the recurrent cycle of never-ending transformations, reminds me of a bodhisattva meditating under the bodhi tree; aloof, yet connected infinitely with an ecosystem of pain.
Marc Swan Tangier “Tangier is one of the few places left in the world where, so long as you don’t proceed to robbery, violence, or some form of crude, antisocial behavior, you can do exactly what you want.” –William S. Burroughs When I say Tangier, a small bell rings; I hear a call to prayer in a language unknown to me, think of Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Ferlinghetti— peripatetic Beats who frequented those dusty streets, narrow alleyways, crowded thoroughfares slipping into the mix, doing what they wanted to do, no permission asked, no red tape, just getting there was all it would take.
Irene Fick Off Season Winterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge. The glut of snow. My dog didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know the vet would be ready with the needle. He waited for his watery kibble, hind legs giving way as he ate. It was January, and each morning, I hoped to find him dead, a silent, sympathetic slide into the void, absolving me of what I had to do. But he was always there, waiting to be fed, to be carried out to pee, and we would muscle our way through the deep snow. I would wait as he sniffed, squatted, both of us quaking. Later, I entered through the back door, hovered over his body in a metal room. And I, who never think to pray, began to pray for his tired soul, pray, too, for all the others, for the caged, the scarred, the ones who pace behind bars, the mill pups lying in their shit, the research dogs who never see light, the downed cow kicked again and again, the slaughtered horse, the chained and bull-hooked elephant, the bear gone mad at the roadside zoo. Who can save them? It is off season. So much snow. I drive home, clutching his collar. I watch Hallmark for hours, crave those sure and fortunate endings. I crawl beneath quilted covers, listen to the hiss of the white noise machine that hides the absence of his serrated, sour breath. 172
Ariel Diaz Exuviae The husk of the cicada, called exuviae, meaning “things stripped from the body,” cleaves to the windowsill outside my aunt’s hospital room. Already she has lost toes, fingertips, her right heel. She demands a third slice of birthday cake, extra frosting, as though she could split open her back, climb from the chitin of her body, unfurl wings, sing.
In the Roar I stand, watch the flames flick— ash on my tongue like snow. The oak catches, the windows burst. My mother, hidden behind an oxygen mask, slumps in the ambulance. My brother is still in the house. I live here, in this moment— plucking scabs like the face of the moon, reflecting the other’s light. The tree stands alone, burning.
Cindy Rinne Raven Magic Two trees lean in the same direction, soft left curve of peeled skin. Messages in the water and the wind speak of time before time when Raven created a dark world of humans, plants, animals. Raven flew to retrieve the sun, moon, and stars. Now Queen Anneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Lace reaches tall to rays burning orange hose coils and clinches the nail. Red flags hold warning, caution tape blazes a yellow boundary of rocks wrapped in roots that would catch my fall. Eager squash blossoms vine across arid ground. Train whistle blows its warning. I cannot see the excursion, but feel the rumble. Homeless bundle on station benches. Ravenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shadow intertwines, wraps, spikes, loops. Parking meter flashes in two directions. As Raven calls, I wonder if anything is left at the origin of my family tree.
Samantha Lynn Haas Revealing Nelson Holford Ten years gone, and no oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s noticed. Tulip-yellow covering lily-cream bones in the room with the rose-red seal. I am anemone crying for white clover. The other body is waiting somewhere in this house, white cereus aching to bloom. One day soon after, our skulls will smile to each other from across the marigold room.
Requiem for s. m.
I still think about you and the cradle of the bathtub showing off your sharp edges. I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t forget that moment I realized youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never let yourself be kept.
Mark Blickley Leap of Faith Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a dead frog and I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t say this with any pity or understanding or shame itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just an observation that people seem to like us, like us a bit too much because they like to push hooks through our jaws and cast us out to sea, as well as amputate us for fine dining and draw us as a cartoon shuffling cigar smoking smart ass, and they like to blame us when they choke on the phlegm in their throats, and they swear that some of us give them hideous skin infections while the evil ones enjoy tossing us into their steamy potions as the younger ones imitate us with a game of leaps and crashes, perhaps because we abandon our young and we larger ones like to eat the smaller ones, and some of us are poisonous and have arrows dipped in our blood for killing others, and snakes like to slide along with our swallowed bulges straining inside their bellies, and we are stunned and frozen and sliced alive by school children with sharp tools, yet we still swim and splash and smile because the sun warms our cold blood and reflects our moist green that gives summer its most vibrant color, and the Chinese believe there is a toad in the moon not a man, and the Japanese consider us good luck, and that luck includes the growing of long legs to hop away from dinosaurs which is why we are the best leapers on earth and millions of years ago became the first animal with any backbone to live on land, and Shakespeare wrote that we wear a precious jewel in our head, and best of all, beneath the summer stars, the sky is filled with our clucks and clicks and croaks of romance and camaraderie, sprinkled within a flying feast of buzzing wings and microscopic swimmers, and so this is what dead frogs will do just given the chance, a chance that will always destroy us.
Piet Nieuwland In the Memory of Earth Night is only a dress Wet with the friction of lips On the river bank in bubbles of breath Through the harmonicas sinister slow distant ache Of bit flips and bergy bits, crevasses that vanish And every day is another day Where the rhythm tilts away Over valleys stretched beyond the lucid moon Intimate water eclipsed with yellow Cacti buds on crushed feldspar gravels Geckos luminous as mercury black eagles in solar flow When suddenly In a confusion over Black Mountain a conflagration Of shadows, turbulent vermillion and frenzied ashen waters Spill from the whole vivid sky Violet castanets echo the slow scent of red eagle laughter Upon pyramidal sisters Upon lovers of the pagoda And carillon bells ring Over bloodshot Indian hills
J. Bradley Remember the USS Flagg THE SAILOR’S SHELL-SHOCKED. I tell Jim to triage him where we’ve got all the other survivors waiting for medical attention. What’s triage, he asks. Jim picks his nose and then eats his discovery. Something I heard on that medical show mom likes to watch on Thursdays. Just get him over there. Jim picks up the sailor like he’s god. I grab Jim’s wrist. Not like that. Jim lets go as I steady the sailor. I take a packet of ketchup I stole from the sauce drawer out of my pocket, tear away one of the corners with my teeth, and pour it on the sailor. I take my index finger and smear the ketchup on the sailor’s face, chest, the parts of his arms not covered by his uniform skin. I show Jim how the wounded should move for a step or two before letting him take over. I watch the sailor stagger for a few steps under Jim’s supervision before getting up and heading over to my closet. What are you doing, Jim asks. Add some moans. Jim moans in the sailor’s voice: help, my god, mom, help, uhhhhh, why. I grab the yellow stethoscope from the closet floor and talk into it to make sure it’s still working. I look for my bathrobe I use like a lab coat but it’s not there; it must still be soaked in blood from the last time I had to tend the wounded.
Rehab JOEY TRIES FOR A FIFTH TIME to convince Mr. Ren that he’s trapped in the wrong body but Mr. Ren shuts it down with a glare. I don’t understand why we’re here, Joey says, throwing off the tutu he traded three of his rarest Magic: the Gathering cards for. You’re here because you don’t understand why, Mr. Ren says. *** Mom reported me after she found the weekly Target ad next to the bathroom sink. It was folded over so I could get a better look at the top half of a woman wearing only a bra. When they came, my father had a choice: his guns or his son. This is for the best, mom said, hugging me tight. My father growled at them as they escorted me into a black windowless van. *** Steve Urkel brags about wearing Laura down again before running out of frame to work on whatever wacky invention he was working on this episode. Mr. Ren pauses the DVD. What’s wrong with this picture? That dude’s a fuckin' nerd, Ryan says. Mr. Ren crosses his arms and waits for the laughter to stop. What’s wrong with this picture, he asks again. Laura said no again but Steve keeps persisting, I say. Why is that wrong? He should respect her and should’ve backed off after the first time she said no. Mr. Ren walks over and puts his hand on my shoulder. There’s hope for you. 181
*** The first time I saw Mr. Ren was on TV back when I was still living with my parents. He’s a good kid, Mr. Ren yelled as the police took away his son. Other officers followed with evidence bags, some bloody. It’s not my fault he turned out this way. The other men here are like Mr. Ren: fathers who thought their sons were also good until their sons proved they weren’t. *** Mr. Ren has to fix 17 of us before he’s allow to leave. Mr. Harris’s quota is 32. Mr. Jones only has 3. Mr. Trask has it the worst with 42. We shouldn’t know these things but we have nothing better to do stuck here away from girls until we prove we can be better than what could be.
Cynthia Anderson The Hereafter One day in junior high— that excruciating crucible of destiny—my best friend took me aside and said, Close your eyes. Don’t ask why, just do it. She followed with, You’re walking and you come to a hill. What’s on the other side? I hesitated, sensing a trick, venturing only, I don’t know. When I wouldn’t budge, she gave up and offered, I see a meadow with birds and flowers. Whatever you picture is your life after death. So-and-so said she saw a coffin. With that, the wind knocked out of me, I couldn’t imagine a thing.
Defying Blair Queen of the blacktop, champion of four square, she’d out me with a flick of her wrist when I dared play. Stoic, I went back over and over, faced her dark scowl as she finished me off, the guffaws of the other girls, their rolling eyes. I hardly ever passed square one, which made my lucky day even sweeter—somehow I trapped her killer serve, dropped the rubber ball into a corner she couldn’t reach. Those mocking jeers turned on her—bested by a nobody, a skinny shrimp from a lower grade. She kept her eye on me after that, never let it happen again. But I learned what I needed to know: Anything is possible. I can still see her taken by surprise, the biggest baddest girl on the playground, standing there with her mouth open.
Mating Season These days, I can’t always see what I hear— a roadrunner out front, then out back, baying for a mate like a lonely dog— all that commotion, yet my weak eyes can’t track his sprint through the rocks. Or, when my ears ring with bell-like calls bouncing uphill, deep as an owl’s hoot— I search and search before I finally spot a quail and his intended under a juniper. The doves I can’t miss, fluttering all over themselves to their nest in the eaves— a site too exposed, every year a failure, yet the next season some try again. It’s the again that grabs me— the new wave of bodies doing what they must, because they can— while indoors, the old and long married still dream, still spoon when sun strikes the bed in mid-afternoon.
Ryn Holmes Coyote Racing the moon he looks around, slinks into town alone carrying a shabby bag of solitude. A lean, loose-limbed character, he shows his teeth, shifty brown eyes shadowed behind sunglasses. He’s footloose, all lanky tumbleweed and high shaman sniffing out a few new prey, a flexible trickster spouting reels of be-bop blather. He laughs, chases his tail ‘round and ‘round to shake off urban grit, admiring a once fine pelt. Rambling down dark alleys, he leaves behind only mystery and history of rough scratches on red-gloved hearts.
Michael Catherwood Stalled We stand by the highway sign on the shoulder where wind gathers across the fields. There, silent starlings slip downward like switchblades. The sunlight hums and now the evening’s corners stall in the highway’s rumble. A scarecrow’s overalls tangle above the ground; starlings swarm in thin clouds and resolve in a private square of space. The empty pockets of the horizon shine and crawl across the road then into the ditches. Far off an angry machine groans alive again. A hearty laugh rises in the fields where we walk under a crucifix of wires.
The Race after Last Call Jimâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bar closed up at two am sharp one slow night when Pink and me decided to race our motorcycles, his Bonneville against my Lightning. The wager, Some future cocktails. We rode down Pershing Drive then sat idling under the Mormon Bridge as the temp dropped. On five, Pink shouted, as we twisted the throttles and we both dumped clutches in the damp air. My BSA pulled slightly ahead, the dull headlight jumped like a rabbit in the dark tree line, then a slight turn came on and I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t negotiate the curve and my bike ran off the road, and as I looked over at Pink, my bike found a hard, deep tire rut and the front wheel guided me through as fast as it had gone off the asphalt. Back out on to the road, we pulled
over in the dark, ambushed night, put down our kick stands, let our bikes idle, while we both took a piss in the shaking headlights.
Garden Level Purgatory My friend Mike came back from Mexico with gifts: a pair of sandals and a cute six pack of Mescal seasoned with worms. The Mescal sat on my coffee table for a month till one afternoon I was between girlfriends and feeling sorry for myself so I opened a bottle and sipped on the fire then ate the worm and felt rather proud and empowered. I staggered up to the Ginn gas station bought 2 packs of Winstons then sat in my garden level smoking cigarettes 191
drinking all the Mescal and worms. In the middle of the night I woke up in bed with flames two feet above my head, heat burning my hip. Dragging the burning mattress into the living room, I poured pitchers of water on the black stain the size of a manhole cover where springs and stuffing showed. I threw a wet rug over the black crust. I left the mattress there steaming and climbed on the bare box springs and sat a pitcher of water by the bed just in case, turned on the fan, pointed it out the only window 192
of the garden level and tried to sleep off the whole near miss while the mattress died in the other room.
On Seeing the For Sale Pics of the Forgot Store Bar I Text Steve Langan Hey, where did we go? In the staged pictures of the bar the stools are empty and the stick-on mirrors are glossy with neon rouge. But I think I can hear the jukebox scratch out Kitty Wells and Oasis― “Champaign Super Nova” then right into “Makin' Believe,” The kiss of pool balls punctuating the noise. Steve says, “The rez fellows know how to pick ‘em.” Maybe we walked out back to the gravel lot and are smoking a twist in Rains Plenty’s crew Pontiac station wagon, the rear end inches from the ground, our eyes red as blood. Maybe it’s Sunday, the only bar open this side of the state, a friendly bartender, the chaos almost dangerous but slowly winding down like a quarter wobbling down the worn bar.
Susie Gharib Snoop Our shepherd dog was named after the illustrious, notorious Snoop-Dog, my brother declined to name him Lucky after who had been murdered with poisoned food, he still remembers the corrosive tears with which we children mourned. Snoop dwells with us and has the license to roam in every room. He devours half of my breakfast, my lunch, and whatever his eyes bewitch. I always wander about the sad looks with which each dog beholds the world. On winter nights he conjures up Emily Brontë’s “Keeper” on the Yorkshire moors which neither he nor I have in this part of the globe, only a city’s littered slope. It grieves me to think that when I am dead and Snoop has outlived me a little bit he won't be like Keeper allowed to attend 195
my funeral prayers at the parish church simply because on this Middle-Eastern side of the planet Snoop is just an “it”.
Emily Bronte’s dog Keeper attended her funeral prayers behind a church pew.
Susan Kay Anderson 1.AM Market (Part I) Me and Dave were the ones to go get refreshments and that’s when Dave flew off the handle all righteous. Want it need it love it he said. Like a vacation, even at home. Less work, more leisure. Mine was sugar pink paisley, I told Dave, lying. Dave preferred a northern pine tapestry floral. Dave, what’s the matter, I asked. He said something about this that and the other. His tone of voice, his water lily shadow floral, was making me real nervous now. I was all lime green. We had a little scuffle, nothing big, but I broke his nose. His blood, purple beet floral. His response, after all that: antique moss. Don’t threaten me! I gave him something of my mind. A big piece. It was desert khaki white. Please don’t see it so steeple gray, I said, setting boundaries in Bavarian crème dot. Drawing a line in the sand. We were crossing the old highway now, the one running through the middle of town. Vintage violet. Riviera blue. The store faded to a celestial blue ivory jacquard distance. A jet-black mélange hush fell over part of it. What was still alive limped along into tomorrow. I was glad to see it disappear. I had hung onto it for far too long.
Dry Drunk Missoula not caring whether I lived or died. The feeling its old stale coffee smell in a little cupboard where a paper bag served as the trash. Dickinson Street and the unpaved part reaching up the flank of Mt. Jumbo where our landlord lived. Our house still there but the fence I used to sit on is gone. My white halter top borrowed from Mom is gone, our horse, Bree, gone now I look and see the trouble I got myself into that girl drunk even when dry.
Away From So it was said of the trapeze artist falling he knew when the swing would be back above the darkening glitter. Yes there are so many stars calling into the floating humility
mostly blinking their winks no other words.
In another few light years this will all be memory even now memory waits to leap to hold to grasp. Tangling impossibly in the ropes the net is an ache. Clearly a repetition passing between what life keeps letting go.
Dianna MacKinnon Henning When I Was a Deer the River Was My Cup Water song spilled through my ears until I was empty. Ponderosas sang through the pine needles busy sifting wind, and everywhere around my emptiness sat the fullness of the forest which set free its moss scent, its rain-soaked duff. Rushing downstream, the mighty Truckee carried trout on its back; my hooves at the edge of an eddy massaged in the swirling and holy was the moment of my forest sabbatical.
To Cocoon Lightly The rooms we die in are made of Papier-Mache, their windows thin, nearly stretchable. Oiled door hinges swing between here and there, no squeak in their hardware. And that obstinate light, like a moon above the death bed, flickers ever so faintly. People come and go, but really, only one is going anyplace significant. There are whispers, How much longer? Muffled sobs in a corner, a child asks, “Where’s she going?” That singular room, its scent of roses; someone, a daughter perhaps, spreads honey balm on the dying’s lips—her exhale like the first opening of a spring daffodil. Everything surreal. What’s beautiful is the soul, its cocoon, as it flutters above bed-posts.
Ellen Collins Counting one thousand children three hundred priests do the math one thousand divided by three hundred is more than three and less than four is in fact a repeating decimal that will never come to zero I imagine each childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s face on a piece of paper filling its 8 Â˝ by 11 borders and the name below in cursive scrawl maggie jeff juan alice sofia arnie beau marisa eddie patrice diane bud twenty-six letters rearranged in an infinity of combinations each one a breathing heart the papers stuffed behind an unnamed tab in a file cabinet I want to take those papers and fold their edges into petals 202
gently launch them on a river an ocean any flowing stream so that they cover the water like lotus blossoms and their faces look up to the sun and everyone who spots them can count one two six hundred a thousand and will see how beautiful each one is and how carefully the water holds them
Goodbye After his death, after the funeral, after the ham sandwiches and coffee back at the house, after the acknowledgement cards have been stamped and mailed, the suits in the closet bundled for Purple Heart, after the lawyer reads the will, the desk drawers are emptied, the phone disconnected, but before a red For Sale sign sprouts on the lawn and the front door lock is changed, before filling out the Post Office forwarding slip (just in case), there is the laundry still in the bathroom hamper, what you forgot in all those busy weeks, and maybe it is the last thing, hanging the dress shirts on the backyard clothes line, pinning them by their damp shoulders, and seeing that one blue-striped sleeve, the one missing the cuff button, wave on a gust of wind, toward you, just once, then falling still.
Mark Madigan Lost in Brussels A little too drunk on a business trip, I walked home from a great Greek dinner burping up lamb & baklava only to discover how lost I was without enough Belgian Francs still left to flag down a cab. As I looked around that misty night for something familiarâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; a storefront window or a neon signâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; I saw what looked like a branding iron searing an image on the dark skyline: the silvery-blue Mercedes star. It stood, I knew, on a rooftop across from my hotel, but as I stared at its cold eye I sensed that commerce had become my god &, drunk though I was, I knew heading home what treacherous steps I took walking towards it.
At the Bar in Dublin Though he seldom told stories of the years at war, once, as we sat sipping pints of Guinness & a wind-tossed rain slapped in sheets against a tall glass pane at our back, he spoke in low tones of his last days there & an unlucky chopper ride taken with Jim. Their mission complete, as the helicopter lifted & hovered above the scrub grass rippling away in wavesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Dad bent down, straining to catch a faint orange flame cupped in his handsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; when a single stray shot zipped into the chopper. Standing the next day at a service for Jim Dad felt a chill through his shoulders & spine when three of the oldest 206
villagers there began singing in English Jimâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s regimental song. He knew, at that moment, forgetting the cost of lost sleep to their lives, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d just spent the night learning to sing in the dead manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s language.
Mary Cresswell Rana I crouch on the bank in the roil and tumble – flattening grass – dumping rocks and sticks and bones. Freshets fall from slithering hills. It’s raining frogs. My shouts fill gutters that croak and collapse in this week’s monsoon, useless in rains that gobble up lean-tos and shacks, bures and breeze-blocks, and meet in a filthy black river racing streets and gutters down to the sea of plastics. It’s coming faster. Back in the day I ruled the hillside: green-growth home to beloved headwaters, greyed-out moons as night bled away, fluent streams who knew their own banks, a glue of eggs ready to hatch. I gather my legs and wait. Extinction’s more monstrous than drowning – leftover thoughts of tomorrow collect and converge in all the bent and jagged spaces, promising little, commemorating less. After I jump, remember my name.
The Fish Question First off they will talk to the nautilus, the ammonites and the trilobites â&#x20AC;&#x201C; they will question the bulk of the fossils and they will say, where do you go now when the spray covers the trees and the birds fly away? What rainbows must you wrap around you to make you red against the sunset, to make you disappear into the west? Green light trickles across the grass. A faint outline shows us where to put our heads down, where to look along the ground just so, where to enter the age of coal. In the evening the purple eels will arrive, unseen and unremarked. They will ask for nothing, say nothing, before heading across the fields for home. Only the fish are left to ask what makes the stream whole. The lake is seen as wide as the sea. The swimming is silent sharp and electric blue against the black deepness of the underwater valleys. The boundaries melt into air and rock. The answer plays in the currents and ripples against the feet of the islands before it breaks against the shore. The blue starfish on the reef know the answer. The crown of thorns move onward and outward, leaving their bleached dead footprints for the rest to follow. The fish are too deep to ask. In the world with no color, they are pale and blind, and their voices fade away to nothing. They have forgotten rainbows. 209
Sherri Wright Running with Joey WHEN JOEY SEES ME putting on my running shoes, he wags his wispy black tail, stares earnest brown eyes and waits. For three months he’s chewed up shoes and chairs, torn through the house and flopped his sloppy chew toys into my lap every time I sit down to read the newspaper. I start taking him running. My arthritic hands molded and folded into his leash, I hang on and try to steer at a pace faster than any race I’ve ever run. At the bridge I yell “stop” and plant my feet catch my breath. I usually linger on this bridge to search for red eared turtles, giant carp, and occasionally the enormous snapper with beady eyes and a pink snout. I’ve watched mallard babies grow from fluff balls into iridescent feathered creatures. Great Blue Herons stalking the shore, bald eagles perched in the crowns of these trees. Joey lurches sharp left yanking me off the bridge after a squirrel. So fast! So strong! What kind of dog is this skinny puppy we adopted from the shelter? And why did his first mother abandon this beautiful black baby with a white cross chest and one white paw who tonight will lick my face and curl his wiry body into my lap? I force him back to the path and break a fast pace to lure him on the last quarter mile to the ocean. Joey tugs me at top speed onto the beach until the fragrance of a fish or a sand crab turns him in a circle. He digs. He tunnels. He spews wet sand into my face, my shirt, my legs, my running shoes. 210
How will I teach Joey to slow down, watch turtles under the bridge, birds in the trees, taste salty air, listen to the pulse of the surf, behold a red orange sun as it rises out of the sea. To run my run. To be my child. To lead me and these old blue running shoes back home.
Another Poem About Joey Dear customer we are sorry your puppy chewed through our bullet proof K9Ballistic dog bed in just three days we received the before and after photos of Joey and the bed sometimes dogs are able to get through our beds if they get through ours they most definitely will go through many more however since we offer a 90 day warranty we will send you one more and only one more bed cover perhaps you need to supervise your puppy more carefully perhaps you should not take a nap while he is on his bed certainly it sounds like he needs to go to behavior training class and you may wish to do the same when you receive the new cover please spray it with bitter apple, diluted cayenne, clear vinegar or sour cherry and stand over Joey at all times sometimes it takes a little bit of experimentation to find the right deterrent we have also found that most of the time dogs do grow out of destroying beds again we do apologize for the inconvenience Sincerely K9 Ballistic PS how old were you when you adopted this puppy
Jeff Santosuosso Tugs, Barges, and Cranes I see the tugs churning, roiling the waters weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll overpass, some white tornado of noise separating the sea from itself, great maritime sweat and grunt, earth-moving equipment in the fluid world, engines straining and heaving, barges moving smoothly into place. These flats, these slabs, defy by floating laden with burden and castings, the work of Man, vision, strength, muscle, and fire. Great stanchions lift us up. More barges weighed down by machinery and forge works, welded beams hoist tonnage to the sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s glint, sea as foundation. Blunt force slams cores as footings, pylons driving down, down, down through the water to the bottoms that have never touched sunlight. Canoe and paddle, wave runner, kayak, the swerve and slice of slaloms trail thin white wake, 213
dwarfed by diesels and freight rolling over concrete slabs perfectly laid and fitted together, fashioned as roadway on air after more mighty lifting. Derricks like the hand of God, something dexterous, place them neatly like puzzle pieces north to south, in sequenced engineering, mathematics, pressure, and smelting from far off foundries and rock piles. What we learned in the Stone Age, the Iron Age, great human thunder and lightning, sets us free in these waters, on these waters, across, above, and beyond these waters.
Dale Champlin Writing Weird Since you left I’ve been writing weird. In my effort not to crawl back, I starved myself to a whisker moon. Alone in lostness, with my new Barbie body, I teeter across the four-lane, in six-inch stilettos, without a blink of my swimming pool-blue eyes. All four lanes screech to a stop. It must be that my waist-length bleached-blond tresses blind those attention-starved drivers. I remember our camping trip to Reno in my bubblegum-pink convertible camper with its cabana awning and fold-up recliners. We called route 66 a river, squatted in the motel and swilled dry martinis. We didn’t care if the beer nuts were stale. We’d cashed in our chips, sold our condo in Malibu and put the twins in foster care. Where are you Ken? I miss your square jaw.
I saw a horse waiting horse-god of the prairie close by the black eel of water still as a penumbra of light a shadow cast downstream I see under his thatch of lashes an unblinking horizontal pupil the crystal-ball eye glistens reflecting each drop of water I wonder at the dark cast of his thoughts when he dies will he lie down by the channel a feast for red-headed vultures his glorious skin pierced but no longer suffering under a filigree of starlight on his bed of thistle burrs and lupines his flesh seeps back into the riverbank while a small wren pulls the threads of his still perfect mane and later that same baking summer his bleached ribs will rise unprotected like staves of a barrel and the hard plates of his magnificent head will no longer shelter a foraging tongue by then the sweet earth will smell green as duckweed the river will race over chattering stones with the sound of teeth gnashing grass
Gale Acuff Looking Alive Father helps me bury my dog, killed on the highway sometime last night. I slept through his death and he's sleeping now. At least he’s dead. That much I know. He still looks alive, eyes opened and tongue out, but I touch him and he’s stiff. But he can’t be sick—his tongue is cold. If I were heartless, I’d say that out loud. It’s cruel—I’m torturing myself. We freed him from the road—heavy traffic on our highway these days, linking the sticks with the big city of Marietta, big for 1968. Father won’t let me rescue Caesar. I'll go fetch him, he says. You stay here. I’m dazed, as if I’ve been struck myself. Stay there. And I obey. I’m a good boy. Father removes him from the opposite shoulder and, looking both ways, brings him back in his arms to my side. We have the wheelbarrow handy. Father places him in. Now for the final procession. Up the drive. Around the back of the house. Down one terrace. The garden path. Over one more terrace. Here lie pets gone years ago--budgies and rabbits and cats and dogs. And a couple of snakes. It’s an underground menagerie now. I help Father dig the hole, in the shade 218
of privet trees. The ground is soft, like loam. We take turns though I want to do it all. Father doesn’t want me to tire myself to death, I suppose. Ouch. That hurt. Again. I help him put Caesar in the grave and push the dirt back in and he disappears a shovelful at a time and the last of Caesar I see is just his muzzle and then I’m gone forever. He’s gone, I mean. Forever. We’re both gone forever. Forever to each other anyway, and if that’s true then maybe it’s true too that he’ll remember me as much as I will him. I still have this life here and he has his life there, even though it’s a life of death. If I’m dead to him, I mean, then he will miss me, too. That’s like religion, which doesn’t make much sense. Father insists that I attend church, but he never does and I guess that’s a kind of sacrifice. Or it’s only logical, which also, in another way, doesn’t signify, which means that I’m left just with me. Caesar, too. What does God know that we don’t know, much less Preacher? They’ll never catch me crying, not while I’ve got this mystery doped out. Father leaves first, wheelbarrow and shovel gone with him. I stand in the shadow but it’s cool. It’s a kind of grave made by the sun 219
and the trees. It’s swaddling clothes for a man. Father calls me to come wash my hands. Yes, I say, but not so loudly he can hear. And I’m not talking to him anyway. The trick is not to question, nor obey, but to get on with it, whatever it is—no one knows truth, not even Father. Maybe Caesar does. He’s a smart old dog.
Jonel Abellanosa Grief In the patch of light the ant line I long for fallen leaves, smells of mud and rain mound as home My black dog asleep on my bed (my other dog Who died) In my yearn for a barking ghost I see only the light and the line tracing down 221
the bedsheet fortitudes into my heart
Pamela Miller Henry Fonda: An Erasure Biography Henry Fonda’s hat lulled his laurels. The stern actor discovered the Republic of Aristocratic Hands. Fonda was a newspaper. Born grand, Henry attended the University of Becoming. The jobs he held included shooter, telephone, and the whole course of his life. He was persuaded to join the movement of well-known technical details. He expanded 150 sizes. Fonda attacked General Tallulah Bankhead but the audience never appeared. He was signed for the role of a wayward fly. He reasoned with a long, hot bombshell. Exceedingly popular with office boys, Fonda refused wooden clothes. Fonda is thick and blue. Among his “favorites”: gardenia pudding and chocolate pictures. Favorite color: arguing. He is grateful to British wings and his broken daughter and son. When the children grow up, they will destroy Rhode Island. Ten percent of Fonda is my darling. Source text: Fonda’s official 20th Century Fox studio biography, 1947
Moving Day When it’s my day to die, I won’t languish in bed like the last drops of an evaporated ocean. I’ll still be a woman, dammit, not a nightgown filled with sand. Why should I merely vacate this body when I can striptease it off, fling it away, and do the ectoplasm squirm in some man’s lap? When my life’s eviction notice arrives, I’ll take my mementos with me: peonies big as beach balls, buckets of sunset, mauve and gold, that luxurious queen-size comforter woven from my lovers’ moans, all my years of giddy whoop-de-doo stacked neatly in boxes like heirlooms. When my soul whispers “Time for the next world,” I’ll hurtle up the sky’s rungs ten at a time, but who’ll be there to greet me? A pearlescent priest with seven penises of light? A mile-high Mary Magdalene, demure in a robe of ice? And what if God refuses to rent His mansions to howler monkeys like me? Aaaah, who gives a microbe’s muff! If Heaven’s snooty doorman slams the gates in my face, I’ll just drift through eternity’s back alleys like a cloud of exuberant perfume.
Larry Rogers Read Once a month to keep the pig trail open that connected us with the other world a road grader rumbled past our trailer followed by a bookmobile. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what is sadder, watching illiterate folks ignoring a bookmobile or watching literate folks walk away from a bookmobile without a book.
The pine that killed the spinster 2 miles down the pig trail from our trailer was later mauled and wedged into a cord of firewood. It had crushed her trailer while she watched Queen for a Day on a TV crowned with rabbit ears.
Genevieve Betts High Desert
“Still, everything that is singular / has a name: / Stone, song, trembling, / waist, & snow.” —Larry Levis Even the single-legged crow hopping across the road and down the dry arroyo. Aspen leaves rattle and clack while bumblebees zigzag a maze of lavender. Today I name this place home though it is so unlike my last one, no neon bodega glow or rush hour foot traffic, no train rumble and stink rising from grates in the street but a pueblo-built city, gloom stuffed in an effigy and burned annually. Piñon and hatch chiles sold on the side of the road, Chamisa burning gold, all of the singular names I marble in my mouth become a new kind of tongue. 227
Comings and Goings Some old men said the buffalo disappeared into whiskey and perfume and smoke. We absorb their comings and goings into our bodies, their rhythm into our bones. Tranced in a blue haze, a buffalo drinking cold blood and cream the exact mute pink as the inside of a cat’s mouth. Nobody had seen a buffalo for years. If the rabbit is snared, it will reach right into a man’s chest, make out in dreams where to find the animals— past limits, boundaries, to where the rousing synchrony of bells, rattles, deer clackers cutting through the night would persist into our small forever. *All lines taken from Louise Erdrich’s novel “The Roundhouse.”
John Riley Ravine For days I have wondered what my mind offers me. I have watched thoughts curl around one another until the bottom one gasps for breath from bearing the weight of the others. Somewhere in the pile is the image of my son boarding a plane, his head full of ambition. I watch him still not knowing what my head contains. I can only remember years ago when a crow was shot for target practice. I walked out onto the manure-filled pasture and picked him up and did not know why. I felt the last of his heart and then, so young and tender I could almost fly, I placed his body in the ravine where the sick cows went to die.
Sheep Gathering No one has ever seen such rain washing away the rows just plowed. Coyotes live in the once dry hills hidden inside the thick wool cloud. We've been given this chance to push the sheep uphill toward the swinging light. One bell sounds through the sheep's complaints, a trouble I'll hear about tonight, when we new shepherds all assemble a moment inside the corral shed, our elbows resting on the pasture gate. I'll listen, even nod my head. There is no tale I'll want to hear more than the one of bawling sheep and the historical wind and crashing rain driving coyotes from their keep.
Chad Crossley Milk It (For What It's Worth) Behold, with warmth, the morning soon too breaks, Thy bovine’d grin shines bright for all to see. For thee, beloved sweet, my milk doth shakes— A frothed cup, overflowed, eternally. Whole, skimmed, low-fat, organic (as thou please). No falsehoods, nor sins, are therein to blame; A joy matched only by the noonday breeze— Such skill, thy pathway to unblemished fame. Oh spotted calf, that the kind world may know The depths of mercy in thine upturned eyes; Through the days of sunshine, rain, wind, and snow— A heart as flowing as the boundless skies. Divine, it is, for mortal eyes to view, For man’s ears to hear: your resounding moo.
Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll Community Service Hello town drunks beside the highway in your yellow mesh vests, wielding trash pickers like blacked-out light-sabers. Are you someone I used to love? Hello dozens of plastic six-pack rings, can we inter-link, each to the next, reach back to when we clung to roofâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s peak, spied on folk below stepping purposely on every sidewalk crack between themselves and surf? Hello briny raw, casting fractured spectrums at the sky, hello all you people drinking shots at the funeral of your friend who got drunk and shot himselfâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; do you know this song?
Who is this stupid God the president of the Philippines asks the NY Post, as if he is having a panic attack like me standing guard at my nephewâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s marker at the World Trade Center Memorial. Four hundred swamp white oaks stand too, and fountains weep into the North and South Pools. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s okay to question, everyone does: is God fraternal twin, second cousin, nephew of Allah to whom those five men prayed before they hijacked Flight 175 and flew themselves and 51 passengers, 9 crew into the South Tower that day of Not-God-Not-Allah? Did both good and evil stream between the hijacker seizing the yoke and my nephew and his co-workers staring out their window at the building beside them burning in midair? Is God-Allah-Universe a trinity of all matter, space and energy, or just one small particular sphere for each small one of us? Church for a minister perhaps, temple for an imam, memorial for someone standing in grief. 233
January He drags the Christmas tree out the door to the woods’ brink, leaving a wake of needles and tinsel. Reverse-Santa, at breakfast he’d told her he wanted to divorce. The tree splays where he drops it. She strangles her own hands, flashes back to a great twister that rampaged once down her grandfather’s mountain gorge, oaks and firs prostrated by its skew. Help me to know, she prays without sound, I am one leaf of millions that bide in the forest, all of us shaken by wind but canopy for each other.
CONTRIBUTOR NOTES Ace Boggess is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. April VĂĄzquez is the winner of the William Van Dyke Short Story Prize and a Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Orison Anthology award nominee. Her work has appeared in many journals, and anthologies, including Salon, The Missing Slate, and Cleaver. More writing can be found at AprilVazquez.wordpress.com. Ariel Diaz works in a landfill. Her work was included in Weaving the Terrain, published by Dos Gatos Press, and in the special edition of UMKCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s student literary magazine, Number One, honoring the late Michelle Boisseau. Barbara Buckley Ristine started her professional life as an attorney but eventually discovered that writing was more enjoyable and paid less. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bards & Sages Quarterly, The Meadow, Magnolia Review, and Literally Stories, among others. She lives with her family in northern Nevada. Bill Cook lives and writes in the Sierra Pelona Mountain Range. He has work published in Monarch Review, Juked, The New Flash 235
Fiction Review, Smokelong Quarterly, The Summerset Review, Great Jones Street, Dzanc’s anthology Best of the Web 2009 and elsewhere. Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and an editor at Blue Fifth Review, is the author of Against Prompts, The Vig of Love, Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and five chapbooks. Cathy Ulrich never remembered to do her homework in school, but her teachers still liked her okay. Her work has been published in various journals, including Passages North, Pithead Chapel and Cleaver Magazine. Chad Crossley has an MFA in fiction from Chapman University and is the recipient of the 2013 Robert H. Wormhoudt Memorial Graduate Poetry Prize. His work has been published in Enjambed, Calliope, East Jasmine Review, the 1888 Center’s Why We Write Project, and Z Publishing’s New Mexico’s Emerging Writers Anthology. Cindy Rinne is the author of seven books: Mapless with Nikia Chaney (Cholla Needles Press), Listen to the Codex (Yak Press), Breathe in Daisy, Breathe Out Stones (FutureCycle Press), and others. Her poetry appears in Birds Piled Loosely, Home Planet News, Outlook Springs, The Wild Word (Berlin), Storyscape Journal, Event Horizon Magazine. Cyan James holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was awarded three Hopwood Awards. Her work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and has been published 236
in the Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Arkansas Review, New Mexico Review, Harvard Review, The Account, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Salon, among others. Currently she is revising a novel about B-52 bombardier-navigators and the Mojave Desert. She loves fiddles, falconry, long road trips, old front porches, and Laphroig. Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she is the author of seven collections, the most recent being Waking Life (Cholla Needles Press, 2017). She co-edited the anthology A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens. Find out more at CynthiaAndersonpoet.com. Dale Champlin is an Oregon poet with an MFA in painting and photography. She has authored a book, Doggerel; twelve dogs and one cat (2017), and a chapbook, Twisted Furniture (2017). She is the current editor of Verseweavers (the OPA anthology) and codirector of Conversations with Writers. Her work has been published in Social Justice Poetry, VoiceCatcher, North Coast Squid, Willawaw Journal, and is soon to be published in Moments Before Midnight. Dana Sonnenschein is a professor at Southern Connecticut State University. Her publications include creative nonfiction and books of poetry (Bear Country and Natural Forms) as well as two chapbooks of prose poems (No Angels but These and Corvus). Work has appeared in or is forthcoming at journals such as Into the Void, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Matador Review, Measure, Feminist Studies, Algebra of Owls. 237
Dave Petraglia, a Best Small Fictions 2015 Winner, has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, bohemianizm, Cheap Pop, Crack the Spine, Chicago Literati, Five:2:One, Gambling the Aisle, Gravel, Hayden's Ferry, matchbook, Medium, McSweeney's, Necessary Fiction, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Popular Science, Razed, SmokeLong Quarterly, Up the Staircase, and others. His blog is at DavePetraglia.com. Dianna MacKinnon Henning holds an MFA from Vermont College. Published in, in part: The Moth, Ireland; Sukoon, Naugatuck River Review; Lullwater Review; The Red Rock Review; The Kentucky Review; Blue Fifth Review; Clackamas Review; California Quarterly. Three-time Pushcart nominee. She taught through California Poets in the Schools, received several CAC grants and through the William James Association’s Prison Arts Program. She runs the Thompson Peak Writers’ Workshop. Henning’s third poetry book, Cathedral of the Hand, published 2016 by Finishing Line Press. Ellen Collins is a writer, teacher, and artist who lives in Vienna VA and Bethany Beach DE. She has published two books of poetry (The Memory Thief, and Invitations: Poems of Yoga and Meditation). Her work has appeared in several anthologies and journals as well. She is currently working on a novel. Gail Braune Comorat is a founding member of Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, and the author of Phases of the Moon (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, Grist, Mudfish, Philadelphia Stories, and The Widows’ Handbook. She’s a long-time member of several writing groups in Lewes, Delaware. 238
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Poem, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives. Gary Glauber is a poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. His works have received multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. His two collections, Small Consolations (Aldrich Press) and Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), and a chapbook, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press), are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from the publishers. Genevieve Betts is the author of the poetry collection An Unwalled City (Prolific Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in The Tishman Review, New Mexico Review, Hotel Amerika, The Literary Review, and in other journals and anthologies. She teaches creative writing for Arcadia University's low-residency MFA program and lives in Santa Fe. Ginny Short is a graduate of the Regis University Mile High MFA program. Her day job as an ecologist in the field of conservation and plant and animal ecology takes her into the extreme conditions of the deserts of Southern California, where she finds ample inspiration. Her poems have appeared in Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of 239
California, Minerva Rising, Cholla Needles Press, The Avocet, Plum Tree Tavern, and Silver Birch Press. Gregg Shapiro is the author of More Poems About Buildings and Food, forthcoming from Souvenir Spoon Press in 2019. His chapbook Fifty Degrees (Seven Kitchens, 2016), was selected by Ching-In Chen as co-winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, South Florida Poetry Journal, The Gay and Lesbian Review, and the Anhinga Press anthology, Reading Queer. An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of LGBT and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco. Irene Fick’s second chapbook, The Wild Side of the Window, was recently published by Main Street Rag, and her work has also appeared in various journals, including Gargoyle, Poet Lore and Philadelphia Stories. J. Bradley is a two-time winner of Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions. He’s the author of Neil & Other Stories (WhiskeyTit Books, 2018). He lives at jbradleywrites.com. Jacob M. Appel is the author of three literary novels including Millard Salter's Last Day (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, 2017), seven short story collections, an essay collection, a cozy mystery, a thriller and a volume of poems. He currently teaches at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. More at JacobMAppel.com. 240
Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has three recent books: This Useless Beauty (Alien Buddha Press) and two split books, The Ugly Side of the Lake with John Dorsey (Night Ballet Press) and Little Fires Hiding with James Benger (Kung Fu Treachery Press). You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp on LPs by bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds. JC Millerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s poetry has appeared in the Iron Horse Literary Review, Summerset Review, Watershed Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review and elsewhere. Awarded a fellowship from the DDOA, Miller has been nominated for Best New Poets and Best of the Net. She was a finalist in the 2017 Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Contest and the 2018 Florence C. Coltman Award. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware with her husband, son, and dog. Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and award-winning poet living in Pensacola, FL, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Panoplyzine.com, an online journal of poetry and short prose. Jeffâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in San Pedro River Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, The Lake (UK), Red Fez, First Literary Review-East, Texas Poetry Calendar, Avocet, and other online and print publications. John Riley is the founder and publisher of Morgan Reynolds, an educational publisher located in Greensboro, North Carolina. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Fiction Daily, ConnotationPress, Willows Wept Review, Dead Mule, St. Anne's 241
Review, Sliver of Stone, and many other anthologies and journals both online and in print. John Patrick Robbins’ work has been published with In Between Hangovers, The Red Fez, Spill the Words, Ramingos Porch, Your One Phone Call, The Outlaw Poetry Network, Horror Sleaze Trash, The Poets Community, and read online at Hello Poetry. Jonel Abellanosa resides in Cebu City, the Philippines. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Rattle, Poetry Kanto, Anglican Theological Review, and Star*Line. His fourth chapbook, Songs from My Mind’s Tree, has been published in early 2018 by Clare Songbirds Publishing House (New York), which will also publish his full-length collection, Multiverse, in late 2018. His poetry collection, Sounds in Grasses Parting, is forthcoming from Moran Press." Jude Brigley is Welsh. She has been a teacher, an editor, a coach and a performance poet. She is now writing more for the page. K.W. Peery is an Americana songwriter and Kansas-City-based storyteller, author of seven poetry collections: Tales of a Receding Hairline; Purgatory; Wicked Rhythm; Ozark Howler; Gallatin Gallows; Howler Holler; Bootlegger’s Bluff. His poems are forthcoming in journals such as Chiron Review, San Pedro River Review, Mad Swirl, and Ramingo's Porch. Kari Ann Ebert’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, cahoodaloodaling, The Loch Raven Review, and The Broadkill 242
Review, as well as the Aurora anthology. She was selected to attend the Delaware Division of the Arts Seashore Writers Retreat (2016), and have a forthcoming collaborative project with the Delaware Humanities Forum. She was recently named the winner of the 2018 Gigantic Sequins poetry contest. Kenneth Pobo is the author of the book Loplop in a Red City from Circling Rivers and the chapbook from Grey Borders Press called Dust and Chrysanthemums. Forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Press is a book of his prose poems called The Antlantis Hit Parade. Kyle Hemmings is a retired health care worker. His flashes, poems, and photos have been published in [b]oink, Burning Word, Right Hand Pointing, Matchbook, Gravel, and elsewhere. His latest collection of genre stories, Paper Girl and Other Tales (formerly Phantasizer from Hammer & Anvil for Kindle) is available from CreateSpace. He is also co-editor of Yavanika Press. He loves street photography and obscure garage bands of the 60s. Larry Rogers is a poet/singer-songwriter. His poems have appeared in Pearl, Rattle, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, The New York Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, Kentucky Review and The Denver Post. A full-length collection titled Live Free or Croak was published in 2017 by Golden Antelope Press. Leah Mueller is a writer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of two chapbooks and four books. Her most recent book, a memoir entitled Bastard of a Poet was published in 2018 by Alien Buddha Press. Her work appears in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, 243
Outlook Springs, Crack the Spine, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and many other magazines and anthologies. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival. Linda Blaskey is the recipient of two fellowship grants from Delaware Division of Arts. She is poetry/interview editor for The Broadkill Review and is coordinator for the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. Her work has been selected for inclusion in Best New Poets and for the North Carolina Poetry on the Bus Project. Originally from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, she now lives on a small horse/goat farm in the flatlands of southern Delaware. Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator, and travel writer. Her works appear in over 150 journals internationally; 11 chapbooks of poetry, including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017); as well as 18 anthologies. Follow her travels at Facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer. Mac Gay is author of 3 chapbooks: Dearests by Federal Poets Press, Physical Science by Poems and Plays, winner of the Tennessee Poetry Prize, selected by Gaylord Brewer, and Plutoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Despair from Kattywompus Press. A full-length collection, Ghost Hunt, is forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing. His poems have appeared in many journals including Ironwood, Cutbank, Poems and Plays, Plainsong, Atlanta Review, and Snake Nation Review. He teaches at Georgia Perimeter College of Georgia State University.
Marc Swan is a retired vocational rehabilitation counselor; poems recently published or forthcoming in Windsor Review, Gargoyle, The Broadkill Review, Verse Daily, among others. His fourth collection, today can take your breath away, was published in 2018 by Sheila-na-gig Editions. He lives with his wife Dd in Portland Maine. Mark Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center as well as the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Scholarship Award for Drama. He is the author of Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press), Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes from the Underground (Moira Books) and the forthcoming text-based art chapbook, Dream Streams (Clare Songbirds Publishing). Mark A. Fisher is a writer, poet, and playwright living in Tehachapi, CA. His poetry has appeared in: A Sharp Piece of Awesome, Dragon Poet Review, Altadena Poetry Review, Penumbra, and Elegant Rage: A Poetic Tribute to Woody Guthrie, among other places. His first chapbook, drifter, is available from Amazon. His second, hour of lead, won the 2017 San Gabriel Valley Poetry Chapbook contest. Mark Madigan received his MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. His poems have appeared in The American Scholar, The Broadkill Review, The Louisville Review, Tar River Poetry and other magazines. His chapbook, Thump and other poems, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. 245
Mary Cresswell is a New Zealand poet. Her two latest books are 'Fish Stories' (a collection of ghazals and glosas; Canterbury University Press, Christchurch, 2015) and 'Field Notes' (a satirical miscellany; Makaro Press, Wellington, 2017). She’s a retired tech writer and natural history editor. A California native, Cresswell attended UC Riverside and Stanford back in the day. More info available via this link. Maximilian Heinegg’s poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, December Magazine, Free State Review, and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. He’s also a singer-songwriter and recording artist whose records can be heard at MaxHeinegg.com. He lives and teaches English in the public schools of Medford, MA. Michael Catherwood’s second book of poems, If You Turned Around Quickly, was published by Main Street Rag in 2016. His third book, Projector, is from SFA Press. He has published poems, reviews, and essays in various magazines, including Agni, Aethlon, Black Warrior Review, Georgetown Review, Kansas Quarterly, and Pittsburgh Quarterly. He is the editor at The Backwaters Press. His awards include an Intro Journals Award for Poetry from AWP, two Lily Peter Fellowships, the Holt Prize for Poetry, and National Finalist for the Ruth Lily Prize. Michael Minassian is a Contributing Editor for the online magazine Verse-Virtual. His chapbooks include poetry, The Arboriculturist (2010), and photography, Around the Bend (2017). For more information: MichaelMinassian.com. 246
Michael Sikkema is the author of four full length collections of poetry, around a dozen chapbooks or collaborative chapbooks, and can be found most often in West Michigan, migrating northernly in the summer. Miriam Sagan is the author of 30 books, including the novel Black Rainbow (Sherman Asher, 2015) and Geographic: A Memoir of Time and Space (Casa de Snapdragon), which won the 2016 Arizona/New Mexico Book Award in Poetry. She founded and headed the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College. Her blog is at MiriamsWell.wordpress.com. Mitchell Grabois has had over 1,400 of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He was awarded the 2017 Booranga Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Centre (Australia) Prize for Fiction. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, is available for Kindle, Nook, and in print. He lives in Denver, Colorado, USA. Moira MacDougall is published in Canadian and American literary journals. Bone Dream, (Tightrope Books, 2009), was her first collection of poems. Her second manuscript, Vanishing Acts, is to be published, March 2019, by Pedlar Press. This past year she was a semi-finalist in the Naugatuck River Review (Issue #19), Narrative Poetry Contest with judge Kaveh Akbar. She is the current Poetry Editor for The Literary Review of Canada.
Nate Maxson is a writer and performance artist. The author of several collections of poetry, he lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Pamela Miller is a Chicago-based writer who has published four books of poetry, most recently Miss Unthinkable (Mayapple Press). Her work has appeared in RHINO, Blue Fifth Review, Olentangy Review, Nixes Mate Review, Peacock Journal, MAYDAY and elsewhere. She is currently completing a new collection, tentatively titled How to Do the Greased Wombat Slide. Peycho Kanev is the author of four poetry collections and three chapbooks. His poems have appeared in Rattle, Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Front Porch Review, Barrow Street, Sheepshead Review, The Adirondack Review, The Cleveland Review, and many other journals. His new chapbook titled Under Half-Empty Heaven was published in 2018 by Grey Book Press. Piet Nieuwland has poems and flash fiction appear in journals published in New Zealand, Australia, United States of America and Canada. He edits Fast Fibres Poetry and lives near Whangarei. His work appears in recently launched BONSAI Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. Rogan Kelly is a writer and educator. His poems have recently been featured or are forthcoming in The Citron Review, Diode, Edison Literary Review, formercactus, Hobo Camp Review, Mojave River Review, PIVOT, and Shrew Literary Zine. He is a recent finalist for The Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition. 248
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Horror Sleaze Trash, In Between Hangovers, The Dope Fiend Daily, and The Oklahoma Review. Ryn Holmes is an award- winning photographer, including first prize for Art on Paper in San Francisco’s inaugural “Art in the Park” event. She is a partner at K & K Writing Services and an editor at Panoply, a literary ezine of poetry and prose. Her work has been published in many journals, and her most recent book is Gulf Streaming. Samantha Lynn Haas is a Kentucky-native currently pursuing her MA in English at Northern Kentucky University. Her poetry has previously been published in Pegasus Poetry Journal. Sherri Wright is a member of the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild and the Key West Poetry Guild. She practices yoga, runs, works out, and volunteers at a center for homeless all of which figure into her poetry. Her work has been published in Clementine, Panoply, Rat’s Ass Review, Creative Nonfiction, District Lines Volume IV, and several anthologies. Sudeep Adhikari is a structural engineer/lecturer from Kathmandu, Nepal. His recent publications include Beatnik Cowboys, Chiron Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Midnight Lane Boutique, 249
Occulum, Silver Birch Press, Eunoia Review, and Utt Poetry. He has been nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. His fourth poetry-book, Hyper-Real Reboots, is forthcoming from Weasel Press. Susan Kay Anderson, 2010 National Poetry Series Finalist, was the poetry editor of Big Talk in Eugene, Oregon, a free publication in the early 1980s which showcased up-and-coming NW punk bands. Her recent work appears in Beat Scene, BlazeVox Journal, Concis, Caliban Online, Guernica, Oregon East, Prairie Schooner, and Tom Clark Beyond The Pale. She blogs at Hawaii Teacher Detective. Susan Tepper is the author of seven published books of fiction and poetry. Stories, poems, interviews and essays by Tepper have been published worldwide. She is a 16-time Pushcart Nominee, shortlisted in the Zoetrope Contest for the Novel (2006), Second Place Winner in Story/South, with a Pulitzer Nomination for the novel What May Have Been (Cervena Barva Press, 2010. She lives in the NY area with her husband and her dog, Otis. Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a Ph.D. on the work of D.H. Lawrence. Since 1996, she has been lecturing in Syria. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Grey Sparrow Journal, the Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and The Blotter. Tim Suermondt is the author of four full-length collections of poem, most recently The World Doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Know You published by Pinyon Publishing in late 2017. His fifth book, Josephine Baker Swimming Pool, will be released in 2018 by MadHat Press. He has 250
poems published in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, Bellevue Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, december magazine, Plume, among others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong. William Doreskiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has appeared in various online and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (2018). Wendy Elizabeth Ingersollâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s publications include her book Grace Only Follows (National Federation of Press Women Prize); two chapbooks; poems in Poetry East, Naugatuck River Review, Connecticut River Review, Cahoodaloodaling, The Lyric, and others. She was a Finalist for the 2015 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. She serves as reader for The Delmarva Review. (wendyingersoll.com)
Mojave River Review Volume 4 • Number 2
Fall/Winter issue, December 2018 To catch our next submissions period, “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter. To read previous issues, visit us at MojaveRiverReview.com. To purchase books by our writers, visit the Mojave River Press online store, which includes MRR editor Michael Dwayne Smith’s Roadside Epiphanies: Jeffrey Alfier, Kithara Book Prize winner, writes: “There is much to admire in the depth and breadth of Smith’s lines. His striking and eloquent control of language and image make this collection of poems a delight to behold.” Susan Tepper, author of Monte Carlo Days & Nights,” writes, “This new book of poems is an intense yet down to earth read, infused with mysticism, love, humor and the search for what is crucial to decent existence. A highly recommended book.”