WHIRLWIND STAFF Founding Publisher Lamont B. Steptoe Founding Editor Sean Lynch Art Director Melissa Rothman Outreach Coordinator Courtney Gambrell Cover Design Melissa Rothman Lead Designer Erin Kelly ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Special thanks to Brandon Blake and Larry Robin for printing this publication. We’re grateful for Bob Zell and The Pen and and Pencil hosting our launch parties. Uche Ogbuji’s “Millenium Parent Prayer” appeared in Best New African Poets Anthology, and his “Mysteries of Harvest II” was first published in Scree Magazine. Crow J. Evans’ short story, “Incident at Hurricane Creek” originally appeared in her short story collection, Flights of Fancy. Cover Art by G. Scott. Copyright © Whirlwind Magazine 2016 All rights reserved to artists and authors. No work may be reproduced in any form without permission from the creator. All inquiries should be addressed to the editor at email@example.com or by mail to: Sean Lynch PO Box 561 Camden, NJ 08101
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear readers, thank you for opening up our 8th issue of Whirlwind, which focuses on Mother Earth. This one is personal for me, as my own mother has recently been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. A combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors are what cause this particularly dangerous form of cancer, but it’s worth noting that Ovarian Cancer is far more prevalent in industrialized countries, implicating that the chemicals (solvents, dyes, herbicides, and talc) that can cause Ovarian Cancer, are indeed significant culprits. This metaphor, of our mothers becoming poisoned by pollution, their genes being mutated in the very organs that gave life to us, is all too profound when applied to Mother Earth. We’re destroying the planet that gave birth to us, human beings, and we’re threatening the massive suicidal extinction of our own species, not to mention the already apparent extinction of too many other animal species. In this issue, like all of our past issues, we present to you literature and art that bears witness. However, this issue is more pertinent to social justice than any other topic. We can talk about our identities all we want. We can theorize about intertextuality all we want. We can apply irony to art and literature all we want. But if we don’t confront this existential threat, the threat of fossil fuels, the threat of carbon emissions, the threat of multi-national corporations destroying our planet, mowing down rain forests, killing coral reefs, slaughtering endangered animals, ripping a hole into this planet’s atmosphere, our children and our children’s children will all die. Storms and other weather patterns will become more severe. The seas will rise and flood our cities. The summers will become unbearably hot. And some scientists say it’s too late. Catastrophists say that if we would have done something in the 1960’s, then we could have saved ourselves. They say that individuals can do nothing to stop the irreversible, oncoming tidal wave. But there is still hope. In the contemporary literary and art world, hope is a dirty word. There are too many cynics who want you to give up hope. To go on with your ordinary lives and keep consuming the mass-produced gadgets. To live in the present, and to cast aside true compassion as sentimentality. But we must not give up hope for our planet and for all peoples. And yet with hope comes responsibility and sacrifice. Each of us needs to do our part to put an end to man-made climate change. What other option do we have? Succumb to nihilism? Our mothers teach us the most important lessons in life. To be caring, to be disciplined, to work hard and be unselfish. Through their womanhood, their willpower and resolve, we must find inspiration to save our collective mother, the planet we all inhabit. We need to speak up against the cranky old men who have a strangle hold on our politicians, the fossil fuel lobbyists, the climate change deniers, the 1% who only care about profits, and speak of “the market” as if it’s some living entity that needs to be endlessly served. It’s as Pope Francis has said, “worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal.” This golden calf is what’s destroying our Mother Earth. We must cast down this idol and work together to build a sustainable world for our descendants to live in harmony with nature. -Sean Lynch
TABLE OF CONTENTS Orogenesis by Ann E. Michael: pg. 1 The Exception by Barbara Ruth: pg. 3 Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Circumambiency by Julie Reeser: pg. 5 The Queen of the Southern Sea Waits and Watches by Terry Allen: pg. 6 Incident at Hurricane Creek by Crow Johnson Evans: pg. 7 Three Haiku by P.J. Reed: pg. 8 Tree Chemo by Felicia Mitchell: pg. 10 Wild Grapes Near Saltville by Felicia Mitchell: pg. 11 Within an Apple by Amanda Papenfus: pg. 13 Appleseed and A Changing of the Arms by Ann Kestner: pg. 14 Outrage by David Subacchi: pg. 16 Mysteries of Harvest II and Millennium Parent Prayer by Uche Ogbuji: pg. 17 The Magnolia and the Eclipse by Lee Nash: pg. 18 Patience of the Earth by Matthew Harrison: pg. 18 Into the Vortex by Sarah Bigham: pg. 20 Modern Birth Haiku Song by Erin Bernard: pg. 21 The Disconnect by Alexandra Hemrick: pg. 23 Summer Light by Gail Wawrzyniak: pg. 28 Winterâ€™s Boiling Point by James Feichthaler: pg. 28 Until Spring by Gail Wawrzyniak: pg. 29 400 Years by Poetzee: pg. 31 The Milky Way by Hanoch Guy: pg. 32 Voices Unheard by Mary Brucker: pg. 33
by Ann E. Michael
1. First The stone that is moon moves about her waist. She is full; a month of water or a hundred thousand years. God wades in hip boots, fishing for her skin to hook, to pull above her fluid surface. Sunburn. The moon flushes for her, a kind of empathy. 2. the mountains are speaking When we lived underwater, we had voices. We cuddled. Close. Growing. Feeling the shapes of our bodies constantly caressed, molded. Tender, the warm sea on our faces, when everything was sea. We spoke softly. We sang together. The first life clung to our skins, needing us. We had no hunger, no desires. No one judged us, measured us. When we lived underwater, we were like everything else: soft. malleable. fluid. 3. Germ Humid air holding water like tonightâ€™s gleaming scratch of moon, cradled teaspoon of elixir. Her belly holds water, sheâ€™s bloated with life. Sun provides relief. Air inhales, absorbs. Together, they create clouds. She is cooler than the sun.
Thunder. Bumping their hips together. Lightning. Misunderstanding or a love affair.
Kiss me. Don’t kiss me. Your breath is so hot. Your body so heavy. Roll over. Move your arm. No—that arm. Each of them with a hundred arms caught in tangling storm, a thread of light pricking ocean’s skin. Electricity. Nighttime, preceding the lighthouse beam. They anchor themselves together by their waists. Moon watches from behind earth’s shadow, then disappears, embarrassed at this new and necessary intimacy. 4. Genesis 1:9 when our ears first appeared above sea we learned what deafness is our voices are so low only water can carry them now we whisper to ourselves or erupt with steaming sighs wind abrades our senses—an unerring plague— raw against which we harden ourselves 5. Impressions We are pushed. Our mother’s lips recede from around us. Shrouded in fog, a caul we keep near & put on at night to pretend we have not been born, to feel wet, protected. We stand still as mountains trying to strain from air some memory
of a sister’s voice, towering strong & still as mountains with only the small comfort of snow to grace pleasant fantasies: foaming whitecaps—
the gentle pulse we once lived with, daily.
6. Song Ages have called us mutes, uncompromising. Unjust!—in our molten hearts passion is mobile and sings to itself. Like anything, we were born of love. Watch: the moon kisses our hands. We lie on our backs, lovers to sky’s excesses. On humid nights when all is still as mountains, hear us singing to our selves. 2
THE EXCEPTION by Barbara Ruth I am Kasuraela Forest rainbow serpent spins the Dreamtime monotreme, marsupial I am the cliffs of Labrador by northern sun I flash chatoyant, peacock-blue I am Malagasy jungle ring-tailed lemurs swing prehensile in my tamarinds I am Vanuatu growing kava kava in shamanic limestone I am Honshu Island Buddhist snow monkeys follow their young into my thermal streams I am the atavistic: place names in forgotten tongues I am the exception: on a water planet, outcroppings of land.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE by Julie Reeser
by Julie Reeser
The oceans stand to meet me. They have heard about my work:
Arteries of the dogwood bared and raw against the flaking bent-shouldered thistle shards needling dog-eared blades slicing snow melt atop chipped hearts bloodless furred mountains shoulder the sun softly feathering her rigid Winter womb.
The gases toxic and perfumed Inhaled mass, bottled essences. Hexagonal, honeyed catacombs Glittering wings, restrung. The desert sands swept into tombs Blown glass, candied acquiescence. Ivory bells, ringing death knells Moaning bones, sung. And so the waves clamor at my feet as I bend down to suck and swallow, crunching fish scales and spitting shoals, until the eyes of the islands peek out of the meridian; trees streaming green sharks and seaweed. I bow my head and take my leave to the denouement of whale song.
Lungs of the lilac round and tight purple held breath exhaling bright-eyed stings fading green bruises peeking yellow blooms mozy fruit swelling drenched bucking of jane does as daylight plaits her silver atop the Spring moon.
THE QUEEN OF THE SOUTHERN SEAS WAITS AND WATCHES by Terry Allen
on the coast of central Java mallets beat a percussive skeleton melody on bronze metal bars, punctuated by gong chimes, bamboo flutes and double-headed barrel drums as a single female vocalist rises above an insistent male chorus accompanying ritual dancers in vibrant batik sarongs she looks up to watch bird-nest gatherers descend a sheer cliff face to an overhung rickety bamboo platform thirty feet above the churning water awaiting a wave then leaping out from the sharp rocks plunging through salt spray caught for an instant in the watery updraft swept beneath the crag into dank caves groping in total darkness reaching to fill bags with sea swallow nests careful when going back not to misjudge the tides not to fall into violent sea foam waves slamming into jagged rocks not to dishonor the Queen of the Southern Seas who waits and watches
INCIDENT AT HURRICANE CREEK by Crow Johnson Evans It’s Saturday morning and we hear them coming, laughing with each other as their feet snap fallen branches and swoosh through the forest floor of crisp brown leaves. There could be a dozen or more, bold and brazen. I whisper a disappointed sigh to the small group of kin and dear friends with me. “They’re coming. Brace yourselves. Hold your ground.” These encounters can go either way, ending up a bloody disaster or an uneasy temporary truce. The different generations haven’t been that different. The feud is passed along with mother’s milk. This bunch justifies their pursuits just like their ancestors: their “God given rights,” the rush of adventure, the adrenaline high of danger, images of domination and the victory of survival. The flow of life juices through their limbs and the breathless pounding of their hearts is their height, that’s how they try to reach the sky. They see themselves as warriors; we see them as thugs. They view our most sacred ground as an amusement park on the edge of their superior high-tech world. To us, these modern ways are folly, just another natural infestation threatening the Ozarks. It will strengthen us if we survive it. It’s a hard lesson: as different as children with the same mother raised in opposing clans, we are made of the same stuff and yet face these recurring deadly conflicts. Apprehensive, I whisper-shout up the hill, “Remember they’re not all bad. This might be okay. Hey, Rudy, can you tell who they are yet? You’ve got an advantage from up there. What are they carrying? Are they armed?” Rudy was a good sixty feet above me. “Nope, can’t tell yet, Annie. They might be moving a bit west of us. It’s hard to tell.” I watch a playful breeze blast the leaves above me. I feel their quivering in my core. My fear is justified. I wear two nasty scars from past conflicts. One was from a year ago. The other from thirty-five years back still causes me trouble. My great-grandfather said that when the Native Americans held sway on this patch of Ozark Mountains there was more respect—more give and take. We would talk together. We don’t do that anymore. “They’ve got dogs!” Seconds after Rudy’s whispered alarm, we can all tell. A doe and two spotless fawns bolt east, over Hurricane Creek and toward the steeper hillside. A big black panting, slobbering dog is dashing toward us, snapping at a rabbit that zigzags through the Devil’s Walking Stick and Witch Hazel bushes. The dog is too distracted to notice us, but his people will follow. They always do. We may be discovered.
The first two that arrive spot us immediately and signal to the others. They spread out and move cautiously closer, encircling our group, keeping a distance of twenty yards. Knowing it’s my responsibility as the oldest to stand up and reassure the others, I begin singing softly. Then, building strength like a raging wind in
the treetops, I get louder and louder. This tactic might work, my size could intimidate them and make them question their invincibility. It happens slowly. About forty feet away, they lay down their bags of weapons and begin speaking to us as they move cautiously closer. “Well, look at you,” one of the leaders says. No axes, shotguns, chainsaws, crossbows or controlled burns. Yet. I and mine stand firm. We stand together in silence to face whatever comes. One by one, they reach their arms around our trunks, fingering the bark, caressing the scars and pressing their warmth against us in full embraces. They listen and hear the sweet song of these woods rustling in our leaves. They feel the flow of our sap and sense our roots reaching deep in rich soil. For a few moments, we breathe together, made of the same stuff and joyously alive on a tiny planet spinning through space. This incident at Hurricane Creek will become part of our clan history—a story to tell saplings, sprouts, and acorns on the worst stormy nights when tornados rip down this valley and the air screams like a freight train.
THREE HAIKU by P.J. Reed the earth lies darkened even timid winter sun is lost to the clouds broken tree unleafed stands ivy wrapped in comfort a cold wind blows white the tired birch speaks of past winter’s angry gales to releaf no more
TREE CHEMO by Felicia Mitchell Three to six years. Thatâ€™s the prognosis. Three to six years after a wooly adelgid lays its eggs and they grow, two generations a yearâ€” parthenogenesis as crafty as cancer, moving into its host and sucking green life out of one hemlock tree and then another, the goal to keep growing until all the trees are gone. But the end of this story does not mean extinction. Sometimes, walking the woods, you will see a plastic jug rooted to the ground, its plastic orange stake almost the color of dormant nymphs nestling in leaves as tubes deliver chemicals from jug to moss-covered tree, their poisonous infusion rising like spring sap.
WILD GRAPES NEAR SALTVILLE by Felicia Mitchell Sometimes I have to pick the grapes growing on a train trestle near Saltville across from the Superfund site, and I have to eat them too, as if they are all there is to eat. And maybe they are all there is to eat on a Sunday afternoon in summer so many birds removed from soldiers who dug salt nearby, for the war, that war, and even more birds and deer removed from wooly mammoths that roamed here, right here where I can pick grapes and eat them too, grape by grape, as I watch a turkey fly across the fence and land there, there where grass grows where once so many chemicals spilled that fear fell off our trees like acorns. The people whose land this was, before usâ€”before the factory workers, the farmers, the soldiers with bayonetsâ€” would have picked the grapes and eaten them, without thinking about toxic chemicals or how I would one day be here too, picking grapes as if there is no tomorrow and thinking there might be no tomorrow. These people would have eaten the grapes.
WITHIN AN APPLE by Amanda Papenfus “Look, Ma-ma. This one is mine,” she says, holds an apple up for her mother to see. Her mother nods, smiles, kneels down on the floor, skirt flowing around her.
“Nothing could exist without the Elements.” The girl is silent for a moment, letting the knowledge make its own weight known. “And which Element am I, Mama?”
“Let me show you something,” she says, slides cool steel through waxy flesh, holds up the bottom half, points at the exposed inner core. “Look.”
“Your body is Earth, and Water; you breathe in the Air, and live with a Fire that only you have, and Spirit, for Spirit is in us all,
The girl peeks, looks perplexed. “Ma-ma?” “Look harder. What do you see?” “A...A...star?” the girl says, unsure. “Yes, a star, a pentacle.”
And in everything that lives.” Another slice, and a piece is passed from mother to daughter, to lips, to tongue, “Thank you, Mother,” she says,
“Pentacle,” the girl repeats. “Pentacle.” “Yes, the symbol of my faith. Each point represents an Element, a part of Nature.” The girl nods her comprehension.
Not just to her own, but to the Mother that is everyone’s in the world, even Mother to the apple, now part of the girl, nourishing, helping the Old Ways live on.
“This top point here is Spirit, the force that watches over us. The one on the top right is Air, and next to that one, Water. “The right one on the bottom, stands for Earth, and next to that is the final element, Fire. Of these five Elements, everything is made.
APPLESEED by Ann Kestner Sometimes I wish I were Johnny Appleseed crossing America spreading seeds to feed her, doing something useful, needed, loving, generous. Some days I dream of planting tomato seeds in the dusty corners of the alleysâ€”they grow like weedsâ€”and we can pick their red fruits and eat them delicious while we wait for busses and taxis and trains. Sometimes, I wish I were Johnny Appleseed, wish there were still places in this city where his apple trees could grow.
A CHANGING OF THE ARMS by Ann Kestner
I remember the arms of oil well pumps dotting the grassy horizon as we drove through another state, making another move, going where the work was. Miles and miles of varied roads and changing landscapes in an old station wagon with the family dog sitting between my brother and me in the back seat. Years later, I drive my hybrid car alone down the same road, across the same state, making my way to where I hope to find work. And while I drive I watch the arms of wind turbines spin across the grassy horizon and a little hope hits me that maybe, just maybe, we will someday love this land as much as she loves us.
OUTRAGE by David Subacchi Penetrated in every way known to man Deep mined, shafted, open casted Blown to hidden fragments By test nuclear explosions Bombed from the sky To pulverise your surface Your gentle fertility polluted By sprayed poisons From angry warplanes. Not a moment of respite In over two centuries Still they scratch And rip mercilessly Mechanically violating Your peaceful innocence This morning a sad headline Summing up our outrage â€˜Will Bolivia frack mother earth?â€™
MYSTERIES OF HARVEST II
MILLENNIUM PARENT PRAYER
by Uche Ogbuji
by Uche Ogbuji
Renew, Ahiajioku, our once pursuit Of leg-long yam thatched into barns to mark Well-honored compounds, goddess-blest tasked with stark Display, bounty for faith in toil and fruit, For sweat miracles blooded on matchet blades As starch-powdered sap, white flesh, grey rind, And green of close-crop ugu set for soup sign, Spread at New Yam fêtes, our triumphal parades.
Beloved Àlà bless us with your crown graces: Children plus their yam and palm oil for feed, Then grant us leave to settle other places. Oh gracious Gaia, let your sacred seed In all its many manifestations Impart us tools fit for cosmic export. Oh great mothers of all worldly stations, Anoint your human children as a cohort So we might slip into galactic ways And make your motherhood a thing of fire Among the sterile alien fires which blaze Through father physics’ cold and grim empire. One prayer: lend my children for my own worth A glimpse of home in space, beyond your earth.
Till Christians came–Ijaw and Aro thrust Through Abriba, through Ohafia that cult Of chains and blood. Thus Àlà in her rage Brought blight to yam where blighted wars were waged. Cassava, bastard lord still reigns, dark result Of loam corrupted into red, red dust.
Notes: Ahiajioku—Igbo goddess manifestation of agriculture, especially yam cultivation (true Discorea yams, not sweet potatoes, are bedrock of Igbo culture) ugu - Nigerian pumpkin leaves used for rich soups, often planted alongside yams for Nitrogen fixation Ijaw, Arochukwu, Abriba, Ohafia - Southern Nigerian peoples and towns which became involved with the trans-Atlantic slave trade Àlà—Igbo Earth Mother goddess, shares elements with Gaia and Demeter
THE MAGNOLIA AND THE ECLIPSE by Lee Nash The school sent a note saying our children will stay inside during the solar eclipse. Reading between the lines their retinas will not be in danger. Itâ€™s raining; the rare obscuring is obscured, yet the light has a strange quality as though some other lines have been lifted from the spectrum. Despite the partial sun everyone carries on with their day, withdrawing cash from ATMs, pushing their bodies over zebra crossings and avoiding each otherâ€™s umbrellas, though one or two notice the magnolia on the cusp of anthesis, its buds pale and changeable as moons.
PATIENCE OF THE EARTH by Matthew Harrison There was a time when a hill need no more Than slip its rain-drenched cloak to send the shacks Sliding in loose red mud along the tracks To tumbled ruin on the valley floor; When a gale was enough to sweep up ships And throw the jumbled wrecks along the sand; When a simple fever, conceived inland, Could with a cough separate straining lips From life. Now tall towers are rooted too deep In rock, container ships, vast with their freight, Too wide for wind to sway, while drugs abate The cruellest disease into wholesome sleep. Yet what is a hundred years to a hill, A wind, a miasma that bodes man ill?
Cliffs of Moher Sean Lynch
INTO THE VORTEX by Sarah Bigham
a steel wall in the sky separates sun from dark glamorous reds become ominous browns liquid reflections of light losing ground blistered and falling, poised at the brink floating for moments, then anchoring down all awaiting days of green glory
MODERN BIRTH HAIKU SONG by Erin Bernard Birth colonized by epidural, pitocin. Still, my babe’s awake?
Mother-body urged to push, to groan, then release! …up to heaven.
Oversized needle, my back punctured-- six six six. Stubborn, I am still walking.
My ‘White Wave’ comes in and She sings without needles her eyes bright. She drinks, she blinks.
‘God is my strength,’ he was drowsy and cone-headed; push my nipple to his mouth,
And now, sweet mothers hear my cry to you, avoid the Man’s birth technique.
strip him, blow his feet, more milk every two hours to fight the jaundice.
Ever again, say Ever again, say Ever again, say Ever!
Writhing mother, back aches of the punctures, I burn unnecessary. Never again, say Never again, say Never again, say Never! Agency is mine; I have autonomy of body, my Second. Meditate and Melt in water hot, Squat, Sweet with midwives and father.
THE DISCONNECT by Alexandra Hemrick Categorizing is her mission. The more efficiently she puts things into boxes and labels them, the easier the analyzation and improvement. For example, the cries of a baby must be studied and categorized by intensity, by assumed cause and by tear output if you want to then hypothesize ways to reduce said crying. A twinge or a pang in response to the test subject might disrupt the integrity of the observations, and ultimately the goal is amelioration for the test subject, so she must desensitize herself. That fluttering, inefficient organ residing inside her chest infuriates her. The heart is a waffling creature, and she needs to be rational, researching anything and everything without any attachments whatsoever. Never you mind that this business of categorization is a self-imposed task; it’s a very important job. Someone needs to do it, and she’s decided to be that someone. Thus, she foremost engages in a series of ethically questionable experiments involving her own person during which that troublesome pump inside her ribcage continues to get in the way. Despite its uncooperative halting, stalling palpitations she uncovers groundbreaking methodologies involving heart transplant. Through the utilization of robotic surgery, she painstakingly performs median sternotomies whereby the robot makes the incision down the chest wall and subsequently saws open her sternum each day. During the procedure, she is numb but awake. With the assistance of various cameras and mirrors placed strategically around the surgical suite, she meticulously goes about replacing the faulty organ with a robotic one much better suited to her purposes. She is surprised. The process of replicating and replacing this pulpy pump is more difficult than she had imagined, but she persists. Little by little, glistening red arteries and valves find their replacement in surgical-grade materials. When she is finished, it is a masterwork. Stainless steel glimmers from beneath the chest wall and silicone tubing loops here and there. Already things become clearer and less complicated. All that stands before her are bottles, test subjects and implements with which to perform her research. Having overcome the impetus to her very important work, she plants the bloody, still beating, muscle in the yard where it will no longer interfere. Marking it with a small, white picket, she writes, “Faulty Heart,” and below inscribes the date. She doesn’t expect it to grow so quickly-the tree, that is. In one week, it’s grown thirty-feet high. Neighbors are curious, having seen its exponential development on their morning walks by her back lawn which had always drawn attention due to its incredibly varied collection of flora, diligently named and tagged, of course. Quite a crowd starts to emerge and finally camera crews begin documenting the tree. Categorizing the stages of emotional and physical responses to various stressors paired with sleep deprivation (beginning with, but not limited to, colicky babies and marital strain) had taken up much of her week so she does not notice the hullabaloo outside her back door. At night, she performs the necessary daily tasks relating to each test. Then she watches her trials run their course until drifting off into a dream state in which she is still half awake, blinking lights and humming noises ever present in some portion of her mind. At times, a test subject will require attention or a procedure will need to be redone, sometimes for an hour or more during the single digit hours of the night. Other times, she wakes from her sleep just to make sure that nothing has gone amiss while her eyes were shut. 23
By the eighth week, she’s knee deep in an experiment involving the human response to different physical tasks of endurance. For example, how many hours can a parent walk around rocking her child until she passes out from exhaustion? How long can she hold her crying baby until she starts to cry herself ? How long can she nurse a screaming baby until her body stops producing milk out of physiological frustration? How many times can she stand up and sit down on her still healing lower half until she bleeds out through her stitches? How many mistakes can she make despite the best of intentions before she starts to damage her child’s psychological and physical development? Understandably, she’s too busy with these experiments to shoo onlookers away from the tree or to deal with their questions, so she locks her door and observes the phenomenon through the window of her laboratory. It seems inexplicable to her that people would waste time hanging around an otherwise average tree. They sit in its shade, climb it and hug it while ignoring the exciting studies taking place only feet away. Between glances out the window, she organizes and reorganizes her supplies. With scrupulous care, she cleans all of her research materials and ensures they are in excellent condition before each day. Two months go by, and the tree becomes the tallest in the world at a staggering 400 feet. Most of the camera crews already have enough B-roll to last the next few years and have left the premises. However, people who share a disturbing number of her own physical characteristics and mannerisms will not leave. They begin living in the tree along with people whose familiarity she can’t place, but she’ll arrange them in their respective boxes eventually. A series of ladders, footholds and pulleys have been erected to carry them up and down the trunk to various branches. They host parties complete with cake for special occasions and even knock on the door to see if she would like a piece. She regularly invites them in to show them her work, and they humor her, coming in and smiling at it, sometimes picking it up in their hands, babbling incoherent things. They ask if they can take it with them, maybe they can figure out the problems she’s trying to solve if they just had some time alone with it, but she explains that they have to watch her experiments to understand. It infuriates her that they, who have not lived side by side with this work, would assume to know how to solve the complex problems she attacks every day just in an hour or two. Besides, an hour or two without her test subject and materials could drastically impair her tests, would definitely stall her progress. How would they know which dropper goes where and when? Would they take copious notes and log all the pertinent times of this and that? In the end, they do not care to watch the experiments night and day with her side-by-side, and she has no need of their cake. After six months, their presence is too much. They carry on with their celebrations at all hours, too loud, disrupting her analyzations. They smile and wave at her through the window and motion for her to come out as if she isn’t doing very important work, as if she could just step outside any time she pleased and leave her tests to run themselves. Nonsense. Because her brain needs to explain unexplained phenomena, she walks over to confront the tree people, who at the moment dance and take pictures with it, to ask them why they find this tree more fascinating than her work. She carries in her arms various bottles and implements along with a test subject with which she plans to explain the research as well as she can. In her sidebag are various books and papers upon which she has constructed her ongoing examinations. A man she’s seen more than often with, objectively, attractive features heads in her direction and asks, “Are you the owner of this tree?”
“Why?” she asks, struggling with her research equipment. He gestures towards the many things in her arms as if to ask whether or not he can take them off her hands. She’s hesitant to part with them, but they are very heavy so she concedes, saying, “Be careful. It’s my life’s work.” He handles it with expert care, and she is surprised. He says, “This is just as precious to me.” “It is?” “Of course, but it seems to be coming along just fine. You appear to be doing a great job,” he pauses. He is the first person to recognize the progress she’s made. Then he looks at her, hesitant, and says, “I’m more concerned with the tree I’ve come to love.” “That must mean you know my faulty heart also.” “I’m surprised you’re willing to admit that. According to the tree, you’ve forgotten all about your heart,” he says. She ignores, for the second, this man’s silly personification of this tree. He is the only one who has taken an interest in her work, after all, but she starts to despair; the heart is yet again interrupting her one chance to explain her research to a sympathetic ear. “I can’t function in my work with emotions. The heart simply didn’t fit. Now, please explain factually why this tree is so interesting.” His smile is unusual as he asks, “My dear, have you not yet run experiments on the tree?” “I have avoided it thus far because the ephemeral emotions from which it springs are impossible to categorize.” “Try again. I understand it’s crucial to your research that you categorize anything and everything.”
Despite her distaste of the distraction this tree has created, she must pursue all pertinent knowledge. Unwillingly, she spends months sitting beneath the branches to categorize the shade it offers at various points during the day. She notes the various benefits that those living in and around the tree seem to gain from its presence. She hypothesizes that with the extra weight of the people and the homes they’ve made there (a number growing each day), weak spots could be present threatening to crack and break, tossing all of those people guilelessly trusting it to their deaths. But observations are made, measurements are taken and the strength of the tree’s branches is more than adequate. Its limbs, with supple curves, seem to indicate a natural readiness to hold people and things. Yet, she still has doubts about the stability of this massive tree, so she inspects the roots. With a special technology she scans the ground and picks up images of the system below. A complicated, yet efficient web is revealed. Nutrients are carried, seemingly impossibly, to the places where they are needed. None of the roots are damaged or infected as she had expected. Only one other indicator which could hint at any deficiency in the tree remains. She goes about collecting samples, but the fickle creature refuses to yield its fruit. She tugs it from the branches, but the fruit clings hard, obscured by
leaves with waxy tops and velvety undersides. Frustrated, in a last ditch effort, she hits the trunk forcefully in hopes of releasing the specimen. In doing so, she inadvertently presses a button which exposes a hole. Inside, a note reads, “Fix Me,” and behind it lie red fibers and what appear to be valves and arteries sticking out incongruently. In all her research, she has never seen a tree like this. The similarity to the heart from which it sprung does not shock her; it seems to have inherited the same problems. Distance from it has made things clear; she’s amazed the solution to fixing her old heart had been so simple. She asks the man to help her in connecting the necessary parts and hands him the required tools, explaining how and where exactly to make the connection. He is gentle, yet precise in his execution. She’s doubtful their actions will revive it, but in an instant, syrupy, red sap starts pumping. The tree yields the fruit it had guarded until now. For the pursuit of science she grasps it, pulsing to the beat of a familiar metronome, and reattaches it in place of her robotic heart. She smiles and realizes it has been a long time since she last did so. The problems she has been working so hard to solve seemed to have solved themselves while she was busy trying to fix them. The heart had not been strong enough for the emotions within her, but with a few adjustments, it grew exponentially with extra arteries and valves to carry them around. She turns towards the man to ask him what special trick he must have performed when he connected those vessels to get it working again, but her husband just returns her smile and says, “You’re back.” He returns to her arms their baby, smiling and cooing. Her life’s work looks up at her with slightly upturned eyes and a partially-toothed grin so much like her own.
SUMMER LIGHT by Gail Wawrzyniak A single, long pine needle could illuminate the back yard, but when thousands are sunlit, at that angle, just so, in late afternoon, the long pine needle no longer cares that the cicadas sing.
WINTER’S BOILING-POINT by James Feichthaler The old crank heard the talk of late of “ozone this” and “Global Warming that” and decided to clarify his hate for the gossip-mongers and their worthless chat. He sat upright in his rocking-chair, sucked back the venom in his icy breath; then blew a frosty kiss into the air -the world became like death.
UNTIL SPRING by Gail Wawrzyniak
It is the frog, caught in lake ice, wholly suspended in clear, strong water; And it is the eagles at the lakeâ€™s center, gathering to fish the last open waters; And it is the Dakota winds, drifting a crust of late season snow that blankets summer memories. Someone has lain in a chaste plot of snow and now lingers there, a grounded angel, until spring.
400 YEARS by Poetzee Dear Mother, My eyes are tired from the torture I have seen I miss your warm smile and the West African breeze Brother and sister are near, but they too fear The chains were sore around my ankles and wrists Packed on the ship, we cried for you When we arrived it was dark, we waited until morning All night I could hear, the heavy beat of hearts By sunrise we were awakened, the young girl at the back was taken Iâ€™m not sure of my fate, Mother I will try to shield sister and brother Home waits, I whisper to them We will unite with family and friends Mother, I will thank god for life when we return I will never hurt another or fight with brother I will learn hard at school, build with fathers tools If I could dream 400 years from now, Iâ€™d ask that somehow We would be free 400 years I dream
THE MILKY WAY by Hanoch Guy Lana love. You are ten years old. Youâ€™ve never seen the Milky Way. Every evening for twenty years I strained my neck on roofs coughing fumes from toxic sites. I ventured to Bucks and Montgomery counties and saw an obscured moon and stars, few and far between low brown skies. We took you to your birthplace in Sichuan China. The sky was nonexistent between polluted rivers. I promise you I will seek the Milky Way in deserts and on mountains but I donâ€™t have much hope. The butterfly bush and red rose have bloomed again. Raccoons are shrieking mad on warm October nights. The creek climbs up the hill. Dry leaves fly back to trees.
VOICES UNHEARD by Mary Brucker If an Amur tiger could speak our language, what would he say? Would he strike out in anger, finally having his say? Or would he yowl in tears, in grief for its species and for all animal kind? Or would he say nothing, knowing he wouldn’t be heard anyway. Would he know his words of anger, or his yowl of grief fall on apathetic ears? And if the passenger pigeon once shielding the sky, blocking the sun, rises from the ashes of extinction. Laughing at us “so you think you rule the world!” Plop! on the heads of its murderers. And the low land gorilla with all her kind. What would she say, Her life so close to ours children loved, like ours, needing encouragement, like ours. What would the low land gorilla say if we could speak “her” language? How soon will their unheeded warnings place “us” in the same dire circumstances?
BIOGRAPHIES Ann E. Michael is writing coordinator of DeSales University and is a poet, essayist, librettist and educator. Author of four chapbooks of poetry, her work has been included in many anthologies. Her full-length collection, Water-Rites, is available from Brick Road Poetry Press. She blogs at www.annemichael.wordpress.com. Barbara Ruth has not had her own home for over a year. This is not the only reason she’s a housing justice warrior in the Valley of the Silicon but it is the main one. She’d rather edit her writing and take photographs than battle bureaucracies and hunt for houses she can’t live in. Most days she does both. Terry Allen lives in Columbia, Missouri and is an Emeritus Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he taught acting, directing and playwriting. He directed well over a hundred plays during his thirty-eight years of teaching. A few favorites include: Candide, Macbeth, Death of a Salesman, and The Threepenny Opera. He now writes poetry and has been published in Fine Arts Discovery, Well Versed, I-70 Review, Freshwater Poetry Journal, Boston Literary Magazine, Garbanzo Literary Journal, Bop Dead City and Third Wednesday. Julie Reeser lives in a stone bowl in Montana. She has published in Black Denim Lit, NonBinary Review, and Timeless Tales Magazine. Crow J. Evans has a degree in Zoology/Environmental Sciences with a minor in Philosophy. She lives in the woods of NW Arkansas and toured internationally as a performing artist. This 600+ word story was published in a collection of short stories (Flights of Fancy 2013) and has been read (locally) on NPR. The incident is told from the point of view of the trees. P.J.Reed is a writer and poet from England. She holds a BAEd from Canterbury Christ Church University and an MA from Bradford University. She writes speculative fiction, haiku and dark romantic poetry. Her work is found in many anthologies, prefaces and speculative writing guides. She has been published in a variety of international poetry reviews including the Hourglass, cattails, the Haiku Journal, Five 2 One and Zapp magazines. Felicia Mitchell lives in rural southwestern Virginia, where she teaches at Emory & Henry College. Waltzing with Horses, a book of poems was published in 2014 by Press 53. Website: www.feliciamitchell.net Amanda Papenfus recently returned to the States after four years in Germany and is adjusting to life in Texas with her husband and two rambunctious dogs. She enjoys travel, nature, arts & crafts, and taking a ridiculous amount of photos. Her poetry has appeared in The Burden of Light, The Montreal Review and other publications. Her fiction has appeared in Two Thirds North, The First Line, and elsewhere. Ann Kestner is the founder and editor of Poetry Breakfast. For over 20 years, her work has periodically appeared in various publications. She spent most of her life in Virginia at the edge of the D.C. suburbs. Ann now lives in New Jersey along the Raritan Bay. David Subacchi was born in Wales (UK) of Italian roots and has four published collections of poems. ‘First Cut’ (2012), ‘Hiding in Shadows’ (2014), A Terrible Beauty (March 2016) and Not Really a Stranger (due in May 2016). 35
Uche Ogbuji was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived, among other places, in Egypt and England before settling near Boulder, Colorado. A computer engineer and entrepreneur by trade, his poetry chapbook, Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press, 2013) is a Colorado Book Award Winner , and a Westword 2015 Award Winner (“Best Environmental Poetry”) . His poems, published worldwide, fuse Igbo culture, European classicism, American Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences. Among other editing projects he runs the @ColoradoPoetry. A selection of his poems was included in the Best New African Poets anthology. Lee Nash lives in France and freelances as an editorial designer for a UK publisher. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the UK, the US and France including Angle, Black Poppy Review, Brittle Star, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, The Dawntreader, The French Literary Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Journal (UK), The Lake and The World Haiku Review. You can find a selection of Lee’s poems on her website: leenashpoetry.com. Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from to literary to science fiction and he is currently writing poetry. He has published pieces in all of these genres. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong. Sarah Bigham reads, teaches, and writes in Maryland where she lives with her kind chemist wife, their three independent cats, and a rather unwieldy herb garden. Erin C. Bernard is a public historian, artist, curator, writer, and mother living in South Philadelphia. She is the creator of the Philadelphia Public History Truck, a mobile museum which creates interdisciplinary exhibitions with people who live, work, and play in the city through oral history and community connections. She is increasingly interested in raising questions about the marginalization of women in history through her multidisciplinary artistic practice. She is a Senior Lecturer of Museum Studies at the University of the Arts and Adjunct Professor of History at Moore College of Art and Design. Alexandra Hemrick is a former Visual Arts Instructor from Atlanta, GA. She temporarily resides in Tel Aviv, Israel with her husband and daughter. Her creative non-fiction has appeared in Fanzine and her fiction in eFiction and Comb Magazine. Gail Wawrzyniak writes poetry, fiction, plays, short stories, and essays. Her writing is found in publications such as San Diego Reader, Amsterdam Quarterly, Halfway Down the Stairs, Yellow Medicine Review, and the anthology Stories Migrating Home. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and can be found online at www.gailwawrzyniak. com. James Feichthaler is co-founder of a group of poets called The Dead Bards of Philadelphia. He runs a poetry series at Venice Island Performing Arts Center in Manayunk. Quite a few of his poems have appeared in respectable E-zines and lit-mags, and quite a few of them have not.
Poetzee is a lyrical poet who encompasses super-strength of the mind and invulnerability to life’s bullets. She is a master of disguise taking on many forms throughout history. Armed with passion and a pen, Poetzee embraces the spirit of her ancestors. With their guidance, she writes to the rhythm of the beat. Her mission is to create a motivating soundscape for others to enjoy, a poetic package of poetry, music and video. Her arch enemy is an army named the ‘Unconscious’, a group of brain dead, dummies who spread a wave of insomnia amongst the living.
Hanoch Guy spent his childhood among cacti and citrus groves He is a bilingual poet in Hebrew and English, He is professor emeritus of Hebrew and Jewish literature at Temple University. He has published extensively and won awards in Poetica, Mad Poet society, Poetry matters and Poetry Super HighwayHanoch’s books: The road to Timbuktu/Travel poems, Terra Treblinka; Holocaust poems, We pass each other on the stairs, Sirocco and scorpions-Poems of Israel and Palestine. Mary Brucker has been writing poetry since 2001. Brucker has had poems published in Tookany Review and Fox Chase Review. Mary performs poetry around the Philadelphia area and on occasion she sings and plays guitar. She has recently become involved in Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, a group dedicated to fighting climate change. You’ll often see her with her faithful companion, her Black Lab, Garland. G Scott’s images and subjects are interpretations of how he views his culture, his Dine (Navajo) heritage. His subjects are the high southwest desert landscapes, traditional basket, the traditional homes known as, “Hogan.” He also likes to paint geometric designs that Dine rug weavers are known for. Scott has also incorporated the open vistas of the plains landscapes. Much of his work was featured throughout the 7th issue of Whirlwind Magazine.
Our Mother Earth issue focuses on environmentalism and feminism.