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Future Earth Magazine

Volume Four:
Celebrations & Holidays

Editors
Laura Ortega, Laura Jensen,
and Travis Hedge Coke
Publisher
Daniel Rappaport

www.futureearthstudios.com
Future Earth Magazine, vol. 4: Celebrations & Holidays, compilation
copyright © Future Earth Magazine, 2010. The individual contributors
retain copyright of their own respective works. Future Earth Magazine is
published approximately twice a year and is free for download and upload,
so long as no part of the compilation file is altered in any way. No part, nor
the whole, of this collection may be replicated or excerpted, including images
and text.
The editors would like to dedicate this issue to many people worth
celebrating and a few who deserve outright holidays in their name,
including:

Amiri Baraka
Larry Hama
Marilyn Nelson
Carlos Ortega
Prince
Anne Waldman
Contents

Clive Nolan On the Pier


Lyn Lifshin North of Cotton Wood
Lyn Lifshin Arizona Ruins
Lyn Lifshin Champlain, Branbury, The Lakes at Night
Lyn Lifshin New Hampshire
Lyn Lifshin Middlebury Poem
Lyn Lifshin Thirty Miles West of Chicago
Lyn Lifshin Things That Shine in Quebec City as the Sun Falls
Lyn Lifshin Midwest
Lyn Lifshin Monet’s Le s Nympheas
Lyn Lifshin Violet Jelly
Lyn Lifshin Blue Sleighs
Lyn Lifshin September 26, 1996
Lyn Lifshin Mid November
Lyn Lifshin Late November
Lyn Lifshin Geese at Midnight
Lyn Lifshin Like a Dark Lantern
Lyn Lifshin In the Rippled Ebony Cove
Lyn Lifshin Arizona Ruins
Lyn Lifshin Late November
Lyn Lifshin Heron on Ice
Lyn Lifshin Feeding the Ducks, Grey November
Lyn Lifshin Geese on Ice
Lyn Lifshin On the Shortest Day of the Year
Lyn Lifshin Downstairs the Dark Studded
Lyn Lifshin Cherry Blossoms in Darkness
Lyn Lifshin Reprieve
Lyn Lifshin It Goes On
Tatjana Debeljacki “ momi ji gar…”
Mahdi Tavajohi
Denise Emanuel Clemen Cutting Down Trees
FEM Celebrates Marilyn Nelson!
Curtis Crisler identity
Curtis Crisler Mama Metronome
Curtis Crisler Th at Smile
Tara Betts “ M arilyn Nelson. Two words”
Tara Betts Without Marilyn
Marilyn Nelson Mohembo Road
Jee Leong Koh Hungry Ghosts
Allison Hedge Coke Yinxing
Allison Hedge Coke Consumption
Allison Hedge Coke
Allison Hedge Coke
Allison Hedge Coke
Allison Hedge Coke Inaugural Consumption
Ann Hostetler Of Mothering, Monasticism, and Creative…
Ching-In Chen Partly Blaze
Ching-In Chen Bowie
Ching-In Chen Fugue: Love Pathology
Nashira Priester THE BIG SHOW
Nashira Priester when global warming comes
Nashira Priester Wayne Shorter
Isabella Day Butterfly Christening Box/Pendant
Norm Breyfogle Freak Advice
Norm Breyfogle System shocks
Norm Breyfogle Omega Leap
Norm Breyfogle Contrary Trees
Norm Breyfogle The Primal Christ
James Cihlar Oprah: The Poem
James Cihlar The Bear
James Cihlar Engines of Our Ingenuity
Em Jollie Autumn Equinox
Em Jollie Winter Solstice, 2008
Em Jollie Spring Equinox, 2010
Em Jollie A’tugwagan
Em Jollie Celebrating the Day of Mourning
Alexandra Parsons Apolutrosis
Brett Stout
Echezona Udeze And He Laughed
Daniel de Culla And I Wonder
Daniel Parks Another Language
Eugenia Rainey Burying the Moon
Randy Gonzalez Knight Checks Queen
Daniel Rappaport Shadows
Daniel Rappaport Happy Chairs
Vivekanand Jha My poem falters and falls
Vivekanand Jha Interview with Jayanta Mahapatra
Jayanta Mahapatra Hunger
Jayanta Mahapatra Freedom
Jayanta Mahapatra Ash
Jayanta Mahapatra Her Hand
E.B. Sanders The Perfect Suicide
Rick Marlatt Seasonal Prayer
Rick Marlatt Last Sunday Night in the World
Rick Marlatt Mirrors
Rick Marlatt Deer
Rick Marlatt Driving North
Sergio Ortiz taxonomy of a desire
Isaac James Baker R2D2
Willie J. Nunnery II A Broken Verse
David Meltzer Widow Her
Angela Sestito under a full moon
Clive Nolan
On the Pier
Lyn Lifshin
NORTH OF COTTON WOOD

rose lichen
gamble oak
globe mallow

bent in rain

blue lupine

juniper mistletoe

it rains and keeps raining

these rocks
pulled from each other

two million years ago

wrenched like a woman


whose child is grabbed

on a cattle car

smashed into stone

her eyes, streaked


like tonight’s sky

a Monday, all sipapu,

a spirit entrance

into the underworld


Lyn Lifshin
ARIZONA RUINS

Past Mogollon River


the limestone ruins
scrape it with your finger
and the floor breaks

The talc
must have dusted
their dark
bodies as they squatted on these
floors grinding
mesquite and creosote

No one knows
where they went
from the cliffs
with their
earth jars and sandals

Or if they
cursed the
desert moon
as they wrapped
their dead
babies
in bright cloth
and jewels

Now cliff swallows


nest in the mud
where the Sinaqua
lived
until water ran out

High in these white cliffs


weaving yucca and cotton
How many nights did they listen
for cougar
as they pressed the wet
rust clay
into bowls
they walked
200 miles to trade in Phoenix
before it was time to leave

40 years
before Columbus

Noon in the
caves

it is summer the
children are sleeping

The women
listen to a story
one of them has heard
of an ocean

Deerflesh dries in the sun


they braid
willow stems
and don’t look up

When she
is done
they are all
stoned on what could come
from such water

It is cool and dark


inside here

This was the place

The others
have gone to find
salt and red
stones for earrings

The children

climb down

To look for lizards


and nuts he

takes the girl he


wants
for the first time

Her blood cakes


on the white chalk
floor

Her thighs

will make a bracelet


in his head

5
Desert bees
fall thru the wind
over the pueblos
velvet ash and barberry

They still find

bodies
buried in the wall
a child’s bones
wrapped in yucca leaves
and cotton

bats fly thru the


ruins now
scrape the charred
walls white

The people left


the debris of their lives here
arrows, dung
And were buried
with the bright
turquoise they loved
sometimes carved
into animals and birds
Lyn Lifshin
CHAMPLAIN, BRANBURY, THE LAKES AT NIGHT

always women in the


dark on porches talking
as if in blackness their
secrets would be safe.
Cigarettes glowed like
Indian paintbrush.
Water slapped the
deck. Night flowers
full of things with wings,
something you almost
feel like the fingers
of a boy moving, as if
by accident, under
sheer nylon and felt
in the dark movie house
as the chase gets louder,
there and not there,
something miscarried
that maybe never was.
The mothers whispered
about a knife, blood.
Then, they were laughing
the way you sail out of
a dark movie theater
into wild light as if no
thing that happened
happened
Lyn Lifshin
NEW HAMPSHIRE

wild cat in the


wood pile, deer

you can’t see.


I drift with

the poem you


sent into an

underground
river where

Indians eat
fish so old

they have no
eyes. If I

shut my eyes
I hear the

water that
flows under

the columbine.
When I touch

the chair I hear


bluebirds that

were wild in its


leaves when there

were red flowers


in its branches
Lyn Lifshin
MIDDLEBURY POEM

Milky summer nights,


the men stay waiting, First National Corner
where the traffic light used to be, wait

as they have all June evenings of their lives.


Lilac moss and lily of the valley
sprout in the cooling air as

Miss Damon, never later for thirty years,


hurries to unlock the library, still
hoping for a sudden man to spring tall from the

locked dark of mysterious card catalogues to


come brightening her long dusty shelves.
And halfway to dark

boys with vacation bicycles


whistle flat stones over the bridge,
longing for secret places where
rocks are blossoming girls with damp thighs.

Then nine o’clock falls thick on lonely books


and all the unclaimed fingers and
as men move home through bluemetal light,
the Congregational Church bells

ringing as always four minutes late,


the first hayload of summer rumbles through
town and all the people shut their eyes
dreaming a wish
Lyn Lifshin
THIRTY MILES WEST OF CHICAGO

paint chips slowly.


It’s so still you
can almost hear it
pull from a porch.

Cold grass claws


like fingers in a
wolf moon. A man
stands in corn bristles

listening, watching
as if something
could grow from
putting a dead child

in the ground
Lyn Lifshin
THINGS THAT SHINE IN QUEBEC CITY AS THE SUN FALLS

light on the ball


of glass, on
the puddles
under the Hilton.
The St Lawrence glows,
the flag poles,
edges of buildings.
A yellow car in the
salmon light.
Lights are starting to go on.
Green copper roofs glow,
shadows of clouds
over sailboats
on the water.
The smell of leaves,
cool wind blowing.
The water
a ripple of light
like a flag of glass.
Diamond ripples.
I think of Diamond Head,
light that seemed
magical in a strange
town. The only
familiar sign is
one that says
Kresge’s. Light
that will glow
when what
seems to
might not.
Green diamonds,
red diamonds,
blue diamonds
starting to cover
the hill
Lyn Lifshin
MIDWEST

all that sky


a flat black
with only a cat’s
eyes blazing

people wait alone.


Wind changes in
the cornleaves.
People hear it like

a chord augmented.
Houses chip slowly
stranded in snow.
Only the sky is fast
Lyn Lifshin
MONET’S LES NYMPHEAS

the long curved


room, the walls

starting to
shimmer, breathe

A Chinese girl
sitting on the stone
bench next to me,

dazed, smiling

The lilies moving


into both of us
Lyn Lifshin
VIOLET JELLY

picking the leaves


Monday early in
a cool rain huddled
in wet sweatshirts.
Hours in the grey,
knees and fingers
numb. Our skin
smells of violets
while they soak
in the red pan
overnight till we
boil the green.
Then the pectin
turns them lilac.
We pour them into
glass, amethyst
the sun comes thru
on the window
after snow
Lyn Lifshin
BLUE SLEIGHS

December, the
water moves
dark between the
snow dunes in ten
thousand hills
pulling light
around the
black stones, a
sound to sleep
and love by
like bells
running thru the
children’s sleep
when they dream
of blue sleighs
Lyn Lifshin
SEPTEMBER 26, 1996

this morning the pond


looks like marble. Rose
and charcoal dissolving
to dove, to guava, rouge.
Only mallards pushing
holes in the glass, so
unlike the pond, deep in
trees, almost camouflaged,
startling as coming upon
your reflection in a mirror,
just there under trees and
the wooden bar and the
driftwood benches blackly
jade with pines dripping
into it, shadows close to
my hair. What I didn’t have
blinded me so I hardly saw
the small birds, blue,
pulling out of moss and
needles as if reaching into
the dark for their color
Lyn Lifshin
MID NOVEMBER

when the black ducks come,


winter opens, a kick pleat in darkness

Eyelash fringe of ferns on shore.


Late fall thunder after a long
Indian summer.

Branches creak. Muskrat slither into


the pond like a stone the tide covers
in the glow of a stranger’s flashlight
Lyn Lifshin
LATE NOVEMBER

one minute, the sun was out, it was fall.


Geraniums under a quilt last night, a
blotch of red opening.
On the front step what looked like lint
has small pink claws and feet.
Next the sky was the color of lead.

Geraniums under a quilt last night


like a child you’ve tucked in
or a body wrapped in the earth under leaves.
In the swirl of sudden snow, what
was left of the headless fur blows west

Like a child you’ve tucked in


whatever was living, a just born
squirrel I suppose, hardly a living thing
except for feet.
In fifteen minutes, the light came
back, cars stopped sliding

Whatever was living. Or just born


must have felt the wild snow was a warning.
I thought of the lover wrapped in dark
cloth and left in the leaves while, not knowing,
I took a ballet class. The geraniums

are still under a blue quilt this Tuesday.


One minute the sun was out, it was fall
Lyn Lifshin
GEESE AT MIDNIGHT

as if a feather
quilt exploded,
a white you can’t
see in the dark
but breathe, a
wind of white
rose petals,
wave of fog
in the shape of
flying things.
Like radio
voices on
the pillow,
lulling, keeping
what’s ragged
and tears at
bay, the geese
pull sky and stars
in through glass,
are like arms
coming back
as sound
Lyn Lifshin
LIKE A DARK LANTERN

I move thru the first


floor at 3 AM, past
the cat who is curled
in a chair half made
of her fur, turning
her back on air
conditioning, startled
to find me prowling
in the dark as if I was
intruding on stars and
moon and the ripple
in water that spits
back the plum trees.
Grass smells grassier.
The clock inches slowly
toward the light. A
creak of wood and the
soft scratch on the blue
Persian rug the cat claws
gently merge with some
night bird I’ve never
seen like a poem that
goes along and suddenly,
at the end, like a banked
fire, explodes into the
wildest flame that finishes
off everything that has
come before it perfectly
Lyn Lifshin
IN THE RIPPLED EBONY COVE

Temperatures falling.
Moon slivers on the
rolling skin of water.
Geese in half light,
armada of feathers.
Wind blows them closer.
One silver band glows.
Their onyx, black flame
in a night fire
Lyn Lifshin
LATE NOVEMBER

Today in Virginia, unseasonably cold,


high only in the mid 30’s.
I think of a night drive from Austerlitz
an hour north to bring in my plants, early September.
The sky tangerine, guava and teal.
My own house strangely quiet, my
cat at my mother’s.

When I think of a night I drove from Austerlitz


to bring in the plants, my mother young enough
to swoop up suitcases, my cat,
I was looking for someone. “Aren’t you glad you
still have me?” my mother purred. The cat I
got after that one, now going on 21,
the ice yesterday a warning.

I was looking for someone. Each time I


left my mother’s rooms, drove thru
Vermont leaves there was an ache becoming myself.
When the wind tore thru yesterday, on the stairs, a
shape that looked like lint with claws.
Later I tucked the geraniums in quilts
like putting a child under flannel or leaves

That ache, a wind under my hair

My mother tucked in the earth.


The headless fur shape with its pink claws
or feet, on its back, a mystery.
Today in Virginia, unseasonably cold
Lyn Lifshin
HERON ON ICE

Pale salmon light,


9 degrees. Floor
tiles icy. Past
branches the
beaver’s gnawed,

at the small hole


the heron waits,
deep in the water.
Sky goes apricot,
tangerine, rose.

Suddenly a dive,
then the heron
with sun squirming
in his mouth, a
carp that looks a

third as big as he
is gulped, then
swallowed, orange
glittering wildly
like a flag or the

wave of someone
drowning
Lyn Lifshin
FEEDING DUCKS, GREY NOVEMBER

no swath of light,
no smell of warm
wood shavings. A
rain-coming scent.
Last leaf in wind.
Walnuts on the deck
bleeding ebony. I
think of houses of
ice where there is
no light, of men
carving snow birds,
seals, caribou,
dream llamas as geese
fly up, a cloud of
feathers skidding to
the corn that floats
on the skin of water
the color of night
Lyn Lifshin
GEESE ON ICE

frozen, perched as
if listening for some
distant code,
news of a warm

front coming in
time. Meanwhile,
alerts go out on
local stations,

schools close
early. The “partly
sunny” never came.
30 percent chance

of snow. Trees tilt


east, the ground
hardens. Geese
take root as scarves

float in wind like


strange new flags
Lyn Lifshin
ON THE SHORTEST DAY OF THE YEAR

A woman went into darkness,


past the black ruby roses
and was never heard from again.
She moved quietly past
bleached grass a December day
it moved into sixties near Troy.
It was foggy and warm, very
much like today. It could have
been today. You probably think
this woman was me, it seems
there are reasons. But listen
I’ve never seen, only imagine
those tissue thin roses and
that last minute before light
collapses. A garnet leaf
on the pond is less red than
my hair blazing, the lone
signal to guide you in
Lyn Lifshin
DOWNSTAIRS THE DARK STUDDED

with glow of
white branches,
clots of snow,
stars in clumps,
you have to bury
your face in
white. In
Syracuse, off
Comstock, the
lilacs just
starting, the
first man who
touched me
inside my
clothes pulled
me under such
white boughs
thru rain dripping.
Lacy boughs, light
filling the
dark orchard.
In this same
jeweled light
everything
opening like
these clenched buds
Lyn Lifshin
CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN DARKNESS

glow like
stars of lace,
heavy snow
clotting on boughs.
I couldn’t sleep,
the sweet white
floating up
stairs pulled me
back to the
cove of an
old lover’s
arms deep in
such white
dripping branches,
white petals
on slopes of
skin, lips
studding Tuesday
with jewels
in the sweet
grass, locked
like antlers
Lyn Lifshin
REPRIEVE

for the moment, my


cat, who turned her head
at chunks of just
cut beef, now is nuzzling
nearly empty cat food
tins, purrs thru the
night. Limp as rags,
for a week under the
bed, she claws the
rug in the sun. I say
nothing, just listen
as I do to her crunching
food, lapping water
at 2 AM. In stillness
the sound comforts
like bells or words in
Spanish or French
I don’t understand. Her
chewing, like pearls
or amber warming to
skin soothes though it
is as untranslatable
to me as the nuances
under chatter in
the streets in Montreal
or Paris. Still, for
the moment, like music
or velvet, her paws on my
eyelids are a reprieve,
like June, or roses
or lilacs in early light
before anything scorches,
goes limp or loses
its rouge, while morning
glories are a necklace
of amethyst, exotic as
gracias, si, bon, merci
Lyn Lifshin
IT GOES ON

like dreaming of
some place after
you leave it. You
wake up in a daze

rain all day


in the pines.
It goes on
like that green,

like stained glass


between a bedroom
and the hall with
the light always

burning behind it,


cantaloupe and
peach light on
the bed all night
Tatjana Debeljacki

momiji gari_________viewing the scarlet maple leaves


amatano toki wo_____collecting the numerous memories (times)
atsumeru ho_________step by step
Mahdi Tavajohi
Denise Emanuel Clemen

Cutting Down Trees

Getting pregnant was the worst thing that could happen to a high-school girl in

my town. Getting raped, hearing voices or receiving the stigmata could lead to

sainthood, but getting pregnant was a Harley ride straight to hell.

Still, my family could handle it. We belonged to the church of secret keeping.

There were secret marriages, shotgun weddings, teen-age pregnancies, children of

uncertain parentage. Sweeping things under the rug was a holy sacrament with us.

So I’m sure I hear wrong when my mother calls me up just as I’m about to be

sprung from the hospital. “Your father is thinking maybe you should bring that baby

home,” she says.

We’ve always said my father loves babies, but now imagining him as a surrogate

father for my baby, that doesn’t seem right. I don’t remember him cooing over us or

playing peek-a-boo. I remember he wanted us safe, that we worried him. Before I was

born, my sister fell off the porch and got a concussion. They say he drove her to the

hospital down the middle of the street, with his hand on the horn, sobbing so loud he

nearly drowned out the honking.

He wanted my mother to take us to the doctor immediately whenever we fell sick.

Our fevers and childhood diseases frightened him. He was afraid we’d die in a tornado.

Afraid of car wrecks on country roads. Afraid of freak accidents that nobody else’s

parents had ever thought of. He told us every Christmas about some aunt or cousin who
died of blood poisoning way back when from an evergreen needle in her foot or maybe

her thumb.

We went together to get our tree, cut fresh from a farmer’s timber, but when it

was hauled into the house, we kids had to stand back until my mother got out the

Hoover. After the carpet was clean, and my father had safely stood the tree in the corner

and wired it to the window frame through a series of screw-eyes only then could we

approach with the tinsel and fragile glass balls.

The Sunday after the Epiphany when the tree came down, he tipped its dried out

lethal-needle-dropping carcass into an old white sheet, then dragged it out the door as if it

were a body in a shroud. My mother followed behind vacuuming ferociously, saving all

of us from destruction.

So I can’t picture my father raising a baby. He is seventy-one years old, and

though he looks two decades younger, his car business is not exactly on the road to

prosperity. My brothers are still in grade school. Maybe they’ll want to go to college, like

me. Maybe our house will need a new roof. Maybe the grocery bills will keep getting

higher. And what about our secret? I managed to keep my pregnancy from everybody

but my parents for a full nine months and entered the hospital in a town sixty miles away

like it was the Witness Protection Program, and now my mother is telling me my father

thinks I should bring the baby home?

It makes me think of the old Hoover whirring over the surface of the carpet,

sucking up Christmas tree needles. All the while, underneath waiting to poke through, is

the lone sharp spine that will kill you. I can’t imagine a new baby in such a house of

worries, but I stay awake all that night considering the possibilities.
Marilyn Nelson, through Soul Mountain, through her words, through her life,

has inspired so many. I could only think to embed her tribute in a magazine that would

probably not exist without her influence, and to embed her own work in the tributes, as

great work always radiates out along the influence and encouragement of other great

work.

~ Travis Hedge Coke


Curtis Crisler
identity

i never saw
the rich
minerals in me
‘til i saw the millionaire

of you—
our eyes speaking
rivers.
Mama Metronome

Your hand
blessed the session
starting workshop,
by hitting metallic bowl
with a small wand,
all was quiet—
we sat heavy in a syrup
of soundwaves,
twelve students bruised
by silence, wanting
you to balm us…
then you spoke,
and we transformed
to butterflies.
That Smile
—for Marilyn

I owned
that noun
before, before
communication
glitch in civiliza-
tion, the divorce
of our earth’s
tectonic plates;
how I knocked
and played with
those sparse
nouns at family
barbecues, but
when I tripped
on your nouns—
in thick bloom—
it exposed I
collected all my
sorry terms
all wrong.
Tara Betts

Marilyn Nelson. Two words to describe a woman who is doing things with poetry
that I dreamed of doing years ago, and even now, encourages me to explore
poetic form and its import to carry historical content.

Fortunately enough, I was a fellow for my first year at Cave Canem in 2002. It
was there that I first heard her crown of sonnets that became A Wreath for
Emmett Till. In 2003, the fellows bestowed a wreath of flowers on Nelson in
honor of her and that crown. I had already begun working on poems for a series
about Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and her book Carver: A Life in Poems had given me
pause.

I thought I could do these poems about Ida B. Wells because I felt her resonance
as a historical figure so deeply, but Nelson’s poems about George Washington
Carver and Emmett Till were a stunning display of form and imagination. She
employed various forms to imagine what these figures from the past might
discuss, experience or ruminate upon. She used the precise music of lines in
meter and diction.

This precision led me to exploring some of her earlier work in collections such as
For the Body, The Homeplace, and The Fields of Praise, her 1994 new and
selected volume of poetry that garnered a National Book Award nomination. In
2005, I had the honor of introducing her to read at Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory.
To this day, I still refer mothers who are writers and students to Nelson’s poem
“Levitation With Baby”.

In Nelson’s work, she reaffirmed for me that I could write about any subject I’d
like, and still be me. On the other end of the spectrum, her most recent work
speaks to an urgency to share her writing with young readers and address
overlooked, under-recognized moments in history. Carver was only the
beginning.

Nelson has given voice to a slave’s skeleton used to teach medicine by his former
owner (Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem), a school teacher who
sought fit to teach young white girls and young girls of color in the same school
(Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color with Elizabeth
Alexander), a former slave who worked to free other slaves (The Freedom
Business), and an integrated swing band of women that played until after World
War II (Sweethearts of Rhythm), and young adult novel about Pemba who leaves
Brooklyn for Connecticut to discover the story of a young girl from centuries
before in the house where she resides (Pemba’s Ghost with Tonya Hegamin).

Some might ask why these stories are important, but these were not books that
existed in great numbers when I was a child growing up in the 1970s and 80s.
Her work in this vein is reminiscent of Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush and other
works by Virginia Hamilton or even Robert Hayden’s “Frederick Douglass” and
“The Middle Passage”, but the unique element of Nelson’s work is that she is
representing the Black experience for young readers when they are still
encouraged to read, when it is most crucial for students to see images of
themselves, and Nelson conveys these stories with the craft of a veteran poet who
has mastered prosody and a broad scope of history. She does not simply come
from a rich history of her own, where her father was a Tuskegee Airman and her
siblings being accomplished artists in their own rights. Nelson is mining history
to create accessible stories that are more meaningful than statistics and today’s
news headlines.

We are fortunate to sample the growing oeuvre of this prolific poet, and to know
that she has used her skills in the service of other writers. For the past few years,
Marilyn Nelson has supported a bevy of writers of color from the African
diasporic, Latino/a, APIA, native and indigenous, and LGBT communities
through residencies in her home dubbed Soul Mountain. In 2008, I was an artist
in residence at Soul Mountain where I brainstormed ideas, wrote and read, but
more importantly I got the final push to get my first book, Arc & Hue out into the
world. In so many ways, Marilyn Nelson is an example of what poets can and
should do with the power of their pens. Hopefully, there will be many more of us
following her lead.
Without Marilyn
a rondeau for Marilyn Nelson

Without Marilyn, I can’t begin


to describe how would be thin,
a wane waif starved of ripe history.
We stand exclaiming where would be
in a world filled of empty, stark din
where we might need some aspirin
to clear our heads and smile at kin.
When she testifies, how do we see
without Marilyn?

Words strike straight as a shot of gin,


then reminisce on many a past sin
Words unbury half-covered memories
in a turn of well-plotted prosody.
Do not even try to imagine poetry
without Marilyn.
Marilyn Nelson

Mohembo Road

Meditations on a Road-trip with Abba Jacob

in Botswana and Namibia , 2008

People walking. People walking. A fringe

along the road of people on the move.

Adults flagged down rides, tattered children waved.

J. and I on the road left a wake of change.

Free-range cattle and goats – wealth on the hoof –

foraged sparse green, wary of predators

and prowling four-wheel drive self-guided tours,

catching them in digital photographs.

And donkeys, apparently eager for the chance

to enter green pastures by being killed,

thousands of donkeys. They seemed to be stoned

or grief-stunned: heads down, staring, donkeys stood

in the sun-scorched road, as if trying to recall

the one truth which makes Africa make sense.


A one truth by which Africa make sense?

The continent is the Rosetta Stone

which explains humanity’s origin.

(Though all life is star-dust drifted from long dead suns.)

Africans know this present moment is all

we have or need, past and future but a myth

invented to disguise the simpler truth

pairing oblivion and miracle.

Long, long ago, only Ostrich possessed fire.

He hid it in a pouch under his wing,

keeping the dark secret of cooking meat.

Man tricked him with a lie, and stole fire’s power.

Drummers in the villages every evening

celebrate Man’s triumph, deep into night.


We celebrate Man’s triumph over the night,

although no triumph comes without its cost.

In the light from each watt, how many stars are lost?

We devour the future, producing speed and light.

The epidemic of global progress

infects us with insatiable desire,

while decreasing our ability to share.

We spread the virus to villages we pass.

When we pick up hitch-hikers, worlds collide

between back seat and front, have-nots and haves.

Dropped at their destinations, they disappear

into our fading memory of a road.

And we drive on in our islanded lives,

travelers encased in artificial air.


Travelers encased in artificial air

look down on the planet, a jewel against the vast.

We reflect light already in the past.

Are we Gaia, one breathing atmosphere?

Are we one undulating school of fish,

or fish with individuality?

The planet clamors with our me, me, me:

my name, my pain, my dream, my love, my wish.

Can we bow to compassion? What great good

we might make if we willed a larger will,

submerging self to find ourselves alone

in full communion: each hair of each head

accounted for. I cannot be fulfilled

if you are not fulfilled. For we are one.


We are most fulfilled when we know we are one.

Though we are eight billion, and each a tree of life.

We forget too easily how we exist:

like a moving lake face dappled by the sun.

The Mohembo ferry had received five vehicles

full of white tourists, and one police van.

Last came the piled-high cart of a poor man,

pulled by two donkeys, one large and one small,

yoked together by a rope around their necks.

Seeing the river under the gang-plank,

they balked, afraid or stubborn. He went wild

with embarrassed rage, and beat them with a stick.

Braying and rearing, they fell overboard and sank.

They were swept downstream, food for the crocodiles.


Swept downstream to be food for crocodiles,

tethered by stupid human cruelty,

those donkeys died because they were not free.

Theirs was a mutuality that kills.

There is another mutuality,

which binds us together with freely chosen love,

which doesn’t kill us, but makes us more alive,

enriched by our shared responsibility.

The young Herero in traditional

cow-horn shaped headwrap and ankle-length gown,

whose swaddled infant cooed up at her face.

The Tswana with her plastic buckets full

of fruits. Boys hitching to a match in town.

Back seat and front seat: an iota whirling in space.


Our fate, on this iota whirling in space,

is to race across this bridge burning at our heels.

To cross it, or to feed the crocodiles.

Some peoples run; some take a slower pace.

Some hadn’t made the first steps, until now.

The rule is: evolve, make money, or die out.

Take the !Kung/San hunter-gatherers: without

land, they are antelope yoked to a plow.

Who will buy their runners wind, their trackers eye?

Their necklaces of ostrich egg shell and seeds?

For a reverent kill, is cornmeal a fair exchange?

If one sells a born-free heart, what can one buy?

For sale: the myth of a desert which supplies all needs,

where no one walks along the highway’s fringe.


Jee Leong Koh
Hungry Ghosts

My father took me picnicking in Hell


in Tiger Balm Gardens when I turned five.
Horseface and Oxhead flanked the door to quell

tourists, returning ghosts, recaptured live.


Small spectator of retribution’s drama,
I shuffled through the dark; I’d rather dive

in and out but the crowd before King Yama


passed as if shackled by the chains of crime.
Father explained to me the law of karma

while a mirror screened a whole lifetime


in a flash. Jostled into Court One, I balked
at heads and arms and legs, in bloody mime,

stuck out from under giant slabs of rock,


impossible to tell which limb belonged
to which gory head on the granite block

(Father said, Unfilial boys, they wronged


their parents who gave them everything);
into Court Two where sinners had their tongues

pierced by long knives for lifelong gossiping;


in Three, the greedy were handcuffed and whipped;
the tax evaders, in Court Four, drowning;

one body blurred into another, stripped


of eyes or bowel, heart torn out with a hook,
and on a hill of swords a traitor was flipped.

It wasn’t me. It wouldn’t be. I shook


as if my bones, and not that man’s, were scraped
by sharpeners, for writing a dirty book,

my butt, and not his, by a spear tip raped.


Expecting the worst horror in Court Ten,
I imagined punishments nightmareshaped.

A blue wheel, painted on the back of the den,


displayed the paths for the purged souls’ rebirth
as insects, fish, birds, animals or men
depending on each individual’s worth.
The worst are born as hungry ghosts, Father said
and strode ahead of me out from the earth.

Under a raintree’s shade, he laid out bread,


ham, apple juice. I still didn’t feel well.
Eat. Don’t waste food, Father said. We fed.

I’m turning thirtyfive today at Soul


Mountain, Connecticut, USA,
a Writing Resident on foreign dole.

Winston is coming up for my birthday.


I’m walking with a black dyke poet called
Venus, along the river’s snowpacked way.

I tell her, smiling, I must have been installed


as an emperor’s favorite boy in a past life
after I schemed to pleasure those blueballed.

I was a Taoist priest who left his wife


for Mount Tai to achieve immortal fire.
Such hunger turns fruit to flame, nuts to knives.

I tell her my book rises on dammed desire,


a book my father would have called dirty.
Last summer, tired of being damned a liar,

I stopped Father from switching on the TV


and announced to my parents I am gay.
I talked too much. He didn’t look at me.

When I wound down, he mumbled, It’s okay,


and flicked the TV switch. In bed, that night,
he consoled Mother that every family prays

a secret sutra that is hard to recite—


a crippled son, retard or laughingstock.
Mother repeated to me his insight.

He treated Winston to a satay dinner


at Lau Pa Sat and tried to make small talk.
He has not asked me about him ever.

The air nips us. Venus cuts short her walk


and retreats indoors to make a late breakfast.
I’m left standing beside the golden shock

of cattails tall as I am, gazing across


the river to trees branching spears and barbs.
A deer noses the brown scrub. Then a burst

of knocking, from the thicket, the smart stabs


of a woodpecker tapping in a bowl
of bark. I should go. Winston’s coming up.

--First published in Boxcar Poetry Review


Allison Hedge Coke
Yinxing
for Marilyn Nelson

Yinxing, ginky!,
you call, we respond
turning pages,
climbing cases,
on the mountain
made content. Oh
maidenhair, you
bring beauty
over light-winged
hard-backed creepers
come culling mist &
might. Canoe light
standing to paddle,
counting ripples never lost.

We come & go, come & go,


like night beetles popping
surface, breaking cover
in wing-tipped lift, still
burdened with bodily weight,
still earthly bound, till
some big fish bites
brainstem, tugs muse,
pulls us up out of water
into your blooming yellow fans.

Gingko, you might stand


crown colony lyme, over
a house of hope, over
some gone hopeless until now.
Yet, Quonehtacut rests you where
conifer long to belong, and you,
you send light into long hours
so sleeping might awake.
Consumption

7/87/5
Inaugural Consumption
Ann Hostetler
Of Mothering, Monasticism, and Creative Space: A Retreat at
Soul Mountain

Marilyn Nelson is the demi-goddess who has made an artist’s retreat a reality for
so many of us thirsty for a spacious solitude in which to create. To her I offer this
meditation of days from my stay as a fellow at Soul Mountain in the spring of
2007. The creative space she has offered to me and others has incubated
countless poems, stories, essays and performances, as healing, artistic
community, and even, upon occasion, bliss.

Preparation for the Journey -- April 26

Today I'm entering the adventure of planned solitude in community at Marilyn


Nelson's Soul Mountain Retreat. I will mark each day of this retreat with a
journal entry. For two-and-a-half weeks I'll be away from family and work in
Goshen, Indiana and the constant chores of the house and the old cars and the
weedy garden. This is the first time I've been away from the family for more than
a week--ever. And I've been a mother and writer for 24 years.

At Soul Mountain--a spacious house on 6 acres of woods in Southern Connecticut


that borders a nature preserve--I help with chores and cook for myself and have
my own cozy bedroom with two beautiful views. The two other women here right
now each go their own way, offering friendly advice and occasional brief
conversation, but otherwise we are all engrossed in our writing and solitude.
Harmonious parallel play. Writing, and the solitude and self-care and
contemplation that go with it, are honored in this space. Writing is not a guilty
pleasure here. It is what we do. That and eat and sleep and walk in the woods. My
writing desk and laptop face the window that looks out over a long kidney-shaped
pond with a spillway--Peanut Pond--and a wooded slope of the nature preserve
beyond. It faces southwest, so I can watch the sun set every night beyond the
computer screen to my left. During the day I can watch the clouds change the
color of the water and tree shadows root themselves deeply into the pond's
surface.

Last night, in preparation for my departure for Soul Mountain, I never went to
bed. I stayed up all night in my office at Goshen College, commenting on student
papers, organizing files, cleaning off my two desks heaped with months of papers,
sorting through stacks and stacks of papers in boxes, on the floor, under the desk.
My impetus was to clean up my office for visiting poet Rhoda Janzen who will use
it during my absence. Rhoda's a dear friend, and I will miss hosting her, but she
was a great sport and urged me onto Soul Mountain. As a writer she knows how
precious two plus weeks of solitude can be. So I am here.

In cleaning the office, I found several boxes of files I had abandoned when
Mother died two years ago during May Term while I was teaching Native
American Lit. I never finished my filing for that course, nor for the courses I had
taught the previous semester while she way dying, and I was at her place every
day and in and out of doctors' offices and the emergency room with her. Two
years' of stuff had accumulated over these unsorted piles. I read in Buddha, Zen,
Tao, Tantra by Osho that "mind is the accumulation of incomplete thoughts."
Well, one could certainly have said that about my office. Yes, there are still piles,
but small manageable ones I can finally deal with when I get home. Yes, still there
is the accumulation of incomplete thoughts. But the pressure is much less. I'm
beginning to break through the iceberg of grief and move forward in a more
graceful way embodying my life.

Somehow the sorting and cleaning and working through energized me enough to
keep my going till 3:45 a.m. when I drove home to take a shower, throw some
things in a suitcase and go with my oldest daughter

Lizzie to the airport to catch a 6am flight. Lizzie, bless her soul, had gotten up at
three to come over to the house and drive me in a drenching downpour to South
Bend Airport, 50 minutes away. When I pulled up in the driveway from my night
marathon in the office she was making me scrambled eggs. I hustled to take a
shower and throw together a few things for the trip. We loaded up her slow old
Honda Accord, Jeanie, who is filled with almost as much debris as my office was.
Her mothering and baby paraphernalia is stashed over the dried flowers and
empty juice bottles and audiotapes of her student days. In the midst of leaving I
was panicked that I couldn't find my cell phone, so I rushed back into the house
and took Julia's phone and charger so I could call home. Such wonderful
daughters I have. Lizzie's steady, calm company on the way was like a quiet
music. She looked so sweet and determined in her new glasses, the street lamps
casting a dim glow on her face. When she dropped me off I was so tired I could
barely manage getting the luggage out of the car. One more minute dawdling and
I would have missed the plane.

On the ride from Chicago to Harford I sat by a young mother from Italy and her
four-month-old daughter Alethea. The two of them made beautiful harmony and
nursed openly and happily in the plane. (Curses on that stewardess who had a
woman thrown off a plane last year for nursing a baby.) She reminded me of
Lizzie driving home from the airport to her 9-month-old daughter Willow.
Someday these babies will be driving their mothers somewhere, their mothers
who were once so young and in tune with their daughter's bodies and rhythms.

Of course, when I got to Hartford, there was my cell phone in the backpack. It
had flown with me the entire time in the overhead baggage compartment, and I
had never even turned it off in flight.

Coming Back as a Mother -- April 27

When Katagiri Roshi asked Natalie Goldberg what she'd like to come back as in
her next life, she playfully answered "a clump of white flowers."

"No, that's too simple," he replied.

"What would you come back as?" she asked him.

"A monk. I would always come back as a monk."

At least that's how I remember the conversation, as I was "re-listening" to Long


Quiet Highway on audiotape driving on one of my many mind-numbing errands
as a mother. On those long, lonely hauls to pick up someone or other from
wherever they may be, I've taken to listening to Buddhist tapes or CDs;
something soothing that stimulates calming interior monologue.

But when I asked myself this question, "What would you come back as?" I
surprised myself by immediately answering, "I would come back as a
mother." Being a monk is a spiritual path, and I never craved solitude until I
actually became a mother. The monk’s path has some appeal to me these days.
Yet it's possible to find those jewel-like moments of solitude in the midst of a
mother's life cycle. In fact, this week I am home alone in the house I share with
my family--the first time ever in 27 years of marriage and 23 plus years of
parenting. I have left home for a week, I have traveled alone, but to just stay
home alone is another story. This week I’ll get to find out just what kind of an
inhabitant I am—of my own space and my own body—when there aren’t a lot of
others around stirring the pot.

I wonder whether it's possible to find jewel-like moments of mothering as a


celibate monk. One could certainly find moments of surrogate mothering. But the
tedious, wondrous, encompassing long haul, the eternal mothering, can only be
lived. Perhaps a monastic vocation is similar in that it, too, can only be lived. My
stolen monastic moments are pure metaphor. But the holiness I have found in
walking the mother's path--including long stretches of self-suppressing, of letting
others go first, of feeling anonymous and invisible in the eyes of the professional
world—even though I also have a professional double-life as a college professor,
of despair and joy creating the texture of the daily lived commitment--has its
monastic elements, even as it has its polygamous ones--everyone piling into the
bed for a snuggle, people clamoring for intimacy, people who want or need bodily
attention only from you.

What is left of the giver, the one who finds in another's suffering her own
usefulness (to paraphrase the words of Julia Spicher Kasdorf's wonderful poem,
"What I learned from my mother,” when she is left alone for a spell? Sometimes
she finds out through tragedy, through enormous suffering of her own--forced
separations, divorce, death, war, exile, accident--to find out otherwise is a gift.
Especially on a sun-filled April morning, after a night of heavy rain, the world
dew-fresh and last years’ chives sending up new shoots that I have time to gather
and chop and sprinkle over the omelet I’ve made for myself, without having to
make several others first. A life of such self-focus would become mundane, but
two weeks of this will be as savory as the sprinkle of fresh chives on the omelet—
chives that have decided to come back as chives--because they are especially tasty
when they are the first fresh garden greens one has eaten in a good six months or
more.

Gathering In April 28

At the end of a chilly, rainy day--gathering in the harvest of things done, felt, seen
tasted, touched, even smelled . . .

Scent of drenched soil rising through a mat of wintered-over leaves

Pale green lichens spotting rocks and trees

A white-tailed deer facing me sideways across the wet driveway, fringed with
dripping newly budded leaves

The mechanical click of the battery-operated clock in the too-bright kitchen


where I write

Perfume of deeply steeped rooibos tea on my tongue

I finally figured out what rooibos reminds me of -- sweet tobacco!

At dusk, when the rain had dissipated into a fine mist, I took a walk out the
driveway and turned left on the one-lane road that passes the house. I walked
until I reached a vista of meadows and several grander but still tasteful wood-
sided houses nestled back in the breast of hills. On either side the road is lined
with low stone walls, probably of the kind Frost wrote about: stacks of large, odd-
shaped fieldstone. The woods are full of rocks and boulders competing with each
other to see who can wear more of the pale-green lichens that grow profusely
here. It must be a damp spot. Skunk cabbage is sprouting wherever running
water gathers into shallow pools. When I returned to the house I saw a full-sized
female white-tailed deer staring at me from the edge of the woods, so still. It's a
good thing deer are shy; an aggressive or even friendly deer would be a rather
terrifying creature with its size and speed. I started back into the woods again,
but when I saw another deer--or this same one again--I thought better of
disturbing her habitat at dusk. So I came back into the house and wrote this
down.

Going to Church April 29


This morning I was sitting on the porch reading Walden when Marilyn knocked
on the glass door and invited me to go with her to church. The sun had come out
through the clouds and the blossoms were tentatively opening to the warmth.
Yes, I'd love to go to church.

We drove to the First Congregational Church in Old Lyme, where a woman


stopped us on the stairs. "It was so good at nine I had to come and hear it again,"
she said of the sermon we were about to hear.

But first a word about the ambiance. The town was in full blossom--magnificent
magnolias in full magenta-lavender bloom, sunny forsythia abundant and golden,
the lawns fresh and green--all amidst quaint New England houses. The weather
wasn't anything like the winter photo of the church I found on the website and
pasted here. (Next time I'll take my camera.) Imagine the church with a white
blossoming cherry tree in front of it and birdsong in the balmy air.

Inside the church was painted white with gold trim and had old-fashioned pews:
a typical nineteenth century New England Congregational Church with a lavish
fresh bouquet of white flowers on the altar. The mostly female, mostly gray-
haired choir sang beautifully. And the organ accompanied familiar hymns--"God
of Grace and God of Glory" and "I Love to Tell the Story." The prayers were
soulful and intelligent, expressing gratitude for the spring weather and sorrow at
violence here and around the world. Usually I prefer Emily Dickinson's garden
services, with a "bobolink for a chorister," but this morning the service was worth
being indoors for. Senior pastor David C. Good gave a rousing and passionate
sermon on the Virginia Tech shootings, using a text from Wordsworth's "Ode:
Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood." His reading
of the excerpt made me want to hear him read Wordsworth aloud forever. Here
are the first two stanzas of Wordsworth's Ode:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,


The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore; –
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
II

The Rainbow comes and goes,


And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

Of course, the glory that "hath past away" became, in Good's sermon, a
description of the beautiful and talented young people, the professors, and even
the killer himself, who were shot in this twisted display of violence and mental
illness--for if each one of us is a manifestation of the creator's love, even the
young man and his fearfully shaken family are included. He also mentioned that
on the day of the shooting nine American soldiers were killed in Iraq. That they,
too, were a glory that hath passed away from the earth. And the Iraqis, too, I
thought--all those innocent civilians that didn't wish for this war--I'm sure many
others did, too.

When I teach Wordsworth's Ode, I explain that the poet feels that a "glory hath
past away . . . from the earth" because he senses he has lost the direct connection
with the power of nature he felt in childhood. As we age and are shaped by the
human world, we grow cataracts, as it were, over our senses and our souls. So it is
not just in tragedy, but also in the living of life itself, that this glory passes away.
Such tragedies at the shooting at Virginia Tech shock us into feeling briefly, but
afterwards we become even more numbed, more removed. Reverend Good
mentioned that his memories of Appalachia as a young man doing service there
would now be forever wedded to these images of tragedy. But he did not simply
offer a lament. Rather he asked whether churches, who have nobly collaborated
to create memorials and funerals for this and many other violent events in recent
times, should be content with this function, in which they have become all too
adept. He exhorted the church to:

1) Support universal health and mental health care, so that the mentally ill among
us might have treatment.
2) Support the banning of handguns, assault weapons, semi-automatic and
automatic guns.
3) Actively influence the shaping of culture by providing an imaginative vision of
what society can be, rather than allowing our children and ourselves to be
scripted by violent fantasies in everything from movies to video games, by the
polarization of the issues on which the media describes. Yes, fantasy does matter,
he asserted. The killer in Blacksburg had rehearsed his demented fantasy many
times, using a "me against them" form of thinking. This kind of thinking
underlies the "us against them" thinking all too prevalent in our sports, in our
news, in our media, in the rhetoric about the war. He mentioned that words are
powerful, and that the words of Jesus are--can be, if Christians are worthy
custodians of them--more powerful than guns. The church's mission is to live the
legacy of those words, embody the imaginative power into the world to transform
it.

At the end of the sermon the congregation gave him a hearty round of applause,
which is not something, Marilyn told me, they usually do. His words are so right,
yet the situation seems so hopeless. But to have someone continually articulate
the "right things" that must be done is at least an encouragement. If David C.
Good were running for President, I’d vote for him. I noticed the church has a
website and posts the sermons, so I’ll look forward to reading it again.

When we came back to Soul Mountain, I read through the Sunday Times and
pored over an article on Boy Soldiers in Africa--over 300,000 now--and another
on the weakening of the influence of the US Saudi connection with Prince
Bandar. Wrapped up together with the sermon, these thoughts found their form
in a poem I've been working on: "Why We Fear the Self" that uses a rap rhythm to
question the ways in which our complicity with violence is fueled by our fears of
facing and being our true selves.

Economy (with a nod to Thoreau) – April 30

In my rush to leave home I forgot the cash I'd meant to bring with me to Soul
Mountain. Besides a credit card and a slender checkbook with just a few checks
left in it, I had only a few dollars stuffed into the side of my purse. Or so I
thought. But after two days of settling in and unpacking at my leisure, cleaning
out my pockets and my purse, I've found 39 dollars and a large fist full of change.
What might have seemed meager before is riches now. The wealth I carried here
and didn't even know it! That's my hope for these few weeks--to find the riches
I've brought with me and didn't even know it. So far I've not been disappointed.
This afternoon is the first time I've been able to sit down for an extended period
of time to push beyond journaling in my writing, and already a sort of poem has
broken through the matted leaves in my brain, years of bloom pressed down and
composted for later . . .

Skunk Cabbage

At first a pair of leaves unfurls


one shaped like a tablespoon,
one a butter knife
of brightest green,
and as they take in light
they spread their girth and curl to face each other:
the tablespoon becomes a trowel in size,
the butter knife a tablespoon.
When they've grown tall as leaves of young romaine,
they spread again and this time curl apart
to make a space for new twins birthed
between them from the mother root:
another tablespoon of green,
another slender butter knife,
which in their turn
will curl again then spread,
admitting space for other shoots,
and so the family's large embrace enlarges
to make room for newest members
yet still preserves an outer layer that gives
it bulk and shape.

Beside this plant a dozen hundred others


spring up and birth
their inner leaves
before the trees have greened.
This emerald extravagance
beneath bare trunks and spindly branches
a marching band of green
in scattered rank and file
proclaims that spring
has taken roo
despite the frequent rain and chill.

My first writing of this season--as cheap and gaudy as skunk cabbage, perhaps--
but hey, something's poking up through the compost.

Offering May 1

Today is Sunday and I spent the morning at Soul Mountain, meditating and
writing on the screened in porch. Bees were beginning to hum about the corners
of the porch as words began to hum in my mind. In the afternoon I walked down
the road past a farm where a woman named Jane keeps a menagerie of sorts in a
well-groomed meadow. It has been two years since Mother’s death, and I
thought of her today as I walked. A Jahrezeit is a Jewish ceremony that takes
place on the anniversary of someone’s death—a blessing and a celebration of their
life and a releasing of their spirit from earthly cares.

Jahrezeit

Morning mist rises.


Behind the trees clouds dark as mountains
edge their way elsewhere. Two yeas ago
today you left us, your heart winding down
as I sat at your feet. Where is
your spirit now?

I fall back into a deep sleep.


When I wake I have no idea
what time it is. The sky is still overcast
but leaves have come out on one— no two —
trees at the edge of the yard. I open
the window to birdsong.

Morning coffee on the glassed-in porch


where bees have wakened to Jasmine.
The porch is warm as a green house, but outside
April wind rattles the panes and stirs
the treetops, tosses the prayer flags
on their string tether.

In late afternoon I finally go out


to discover air warmed by golden sun,
much warmer than the shaded house.
Up the lane there is a woman who keeps
a menagerie--the Peaceable Kingdom she calls it:
horses, goats, llamas, an emu, guinea hens.

Her greyhounds are friendly and want


to follow me, but they are too polite. Perhaps
they sense your reluctance in me. "They're such kind dogs,"
Jane, their owner tells me. "You couldn't
race them if they weren't so kind. Otherwise
they wouldn't do what you ask."

On the way home I see


the first orange butterfly of the season
chasing a honeybee around a blossoming
shrub. Somewhere in flight, on the wind,
you are blessing me as I carry on, looking for signs
and wonders in the world you have left behind.

Setting Aside the Book May 2

I have abandoned Thoreau this morning for the pond. The woodpecker trills from
across the water and songbirds join in a symphony, celebrating the blush of green
in the underbrush. Overhead three geese fly abreast, announcing their presence,
and further away the drone of a plane and the revving of motors remind me of the
inescapable human presence. What is it I want to know, capture in words, as I sit
here in the Adirondack chair, notebook in my lap? "Surely some revelation is at
hand." Is it the human names for the birds and their rhythmic cheeping and
twittering that could be charted in musical notation or poetic meter? Is it a term
from physics that could name the ripple patterns on the pond's wind-stirred
water, or describe the contrasting pattern set off by a duck's entrance into the
pond? Perhaps it's the constant variation within a predictable range, or the sun's
steady warmth--steady at least for now--that holds me here, each day, each
moment, a variation in beauty, a shimmering, whose larger pattern I anticipate,
whose minute particulars I can't predict. Or perhaps I am a voyeur of nature,
longing for binoculars, to pry into privacies I have not been invited to witness.
Yes, and there's that expectation from reading the Bible or centuries' old poetry
that a blade of grass will hold a prophecy, that a stubborn dandelion sprouting in
the crotch of an old tree will provide the text of a sermon, that the lazy surrender
of thought will clear the mind of spot or blemish--that I will feel myself a member
of the family of nature.

Field Trip May 3

Marilyn invited Ching-In Chen, the other resident with whom I share this wing,
and me to accompany her to the Governor's Awards for Culture and Tourism. She
was going to introduce William Meredith, a wonderful poet and winner of both
the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. So we all took a field trip into
New Haven and attended a lush reception at Branford College, then the Awards
Ceremony at the Schubert Theater across the street. Sadly, Meredith had just
been rushed to the hospital with congestive heart failure, but at the ceremony his
partner read several of his poems. It was so moving--Richard could barely make
it through. Clearly he loves Meredith, around whom his life centers. Vincent
Scully introduced Robert Stern, both legends of architecture. My favorite was Dr.
Robert Ballard, who is an oceanographer with a lab at the Mystic Aquarium. His
specialty is underwater archaeology, and he estimates that 50% of America is
actually under water. He's the one who found the Titanic and discovered
hydrothermal vents. And he's from Kansas (once an ocean bottom, I've been
told). All three of us poets thought his profession was amazing. But then again,
we realized, we do underwater excavation all the time in the metaphorical realm.

A river runs through the Nature Preserve behind the house. Eight Mile River it's
called, designated "Pristine" by the Wild and Scenic River System of Connecticut.
Shaded by large old hemlocks, it reminds me almost exactly of a stream in
Central Ohio that I discovered on a walk with a friend, Buck Sanford. Thirty-three
years ago that was, but the rushing water in the river and the scent of the
Hemlocks bring it back so vividly it could have been last year. The flood of
memories triggered has prompted me to write an essay about nature and
discovery and longing. Back then Buck taught me to pay attention to plants and
to look and listen for birds. He's a wildlife biology professor now at the University
of Denver. And I'm still paying attention; I was an artist then, I'm a writer now.
But the memories give me a hankering to pick up my pencil and draw. So far my
visual impulse has been expressed through photographs--the river, the trees, the
newly budded leaves, the blossoming pear.
Symbols May 4

Draped in a daffodil yellow shawl Tonya Hegamin comes walking down the path
from the woods towards the house, carefully carrying a goblet with both hands.
"You're carrying a cup of sun!" I greet her. Tonya’s a writer who is helping
Marilyn with the administration of Soul Mountain.
"No, it's river water," she tells me, as though carrying a goblet of river water back
to the house is the most normal thing in the world.
It's a perfectly clear and sunny morning, the sky blue and high above us. A day to
bottle for posterity. I ask if I can take her picture carrying the river water. We talk
about the birds, the pond, and gardening, her passion. It is she who has planted
the bleeding hearts in front.
"I wanted to put one plant by the Buddha," she tells me, "because it is a symbol
for Christ. I like the mixing of the two dogmas," she says. "They seem to resonate
with each other." And indeed the bleeding heart she planted by the Buddha is
four times as large as the other bleeding hearts she planted in the same garden.

A Community of Women May 5

Our Eyes Are on Our Dreams

(for Marilyn, Tonya, and Ching-In, with thanks to Zora Neale Hurston)

In this garden there's a blossoming


pear tree for each of us – Janies all –
but these trees are taller, older
than Janie's pear--there's no need
to lie down in the grass to see the wonder
of blossoms creaming to the hum of bees,
no need to risk the ticks of Lyme disease
in exchange for ecstasy. These trees are generous,
they lower their branch tips trained by years
of bearing heavy fruit to the height of our eyes
and hands, so we can stand beneath them,
grasp their branches, hold the flowers
to our faces. Though their fragrance is faint
the cascade of blooms is abundant
as a waterfall, bees ecstatic as ever.
To any Johnny Taylor who walks towards us
from the verigible woods
we'll languorously wave
and keep on writing,
keep on dreaming.
Turkey Medicine May 6

Today marks my halfway point at Soul Mountain. The time has gone so fast. Once
one enters a deeply meditative space with comfortable people and total control
over one's time, it's like being in another zone all together. I've gone deeply in,
loving the pond and the river as daily touchstones for writing. I want to stay as
deeply available as I have been for writing during this next week. I was feeling a
bit lonely for the family yesterday. Knowing I will go back to them makes the next
week seem more poignant and the work more necessary.

Yesterday, while I was writing my woman in the woods essay, I was castigating
myself for not being adventuresome enough when it came to exploring my
environment. I've done a lot of walking here, but in "designated" zones, especially
since this is the crucible of lyme disease. But yesterday I decided to venture
beyond Baker Lane to perhaps find a public access entrance to the Nature
Preserve behind the house. I walked along 156, the highway at one end of Baker
Lane, towards a bridge over the Eight Mile River. Just before the bridge, I saw
some dirt tracks off to the left. I followed them past a wooden bridge in a wooded
clearing and continued towards what looked like a large open meadow. As I
neared the meadow, I saw rows and rows of large black birds. At first I thought it
must be someone's shooting range, with decoys. But then one of the large birds
slowly turned its head towards me and lifted its large wing. I turned and fled. I
felt outnumbered, as though the whole army of birds might advance on me.

"Turkey Medicine" Tonya called it. She says she has turkey medicine and that I
must, too, if so many turkeys appeared to me. When animals appear to you, they
have "medicine" or teachings for you. I am still pondering what I should learn
from these turkeys. Tonya said that they could be aggressive, but mostly if they
feel threatened, or if they are nesting. She told me that it was probably a good
idea that I turned around and high-tailed it out of there, even if they did have a
message for me.

In the afternoon Marilyn took Ching-In and me to the Florence Griswold


Museum, where we viewed the house and the exhibit, including a display of
poems written by Marilyn about Venture Smith, and accompanied by landscape
paintings from the collection that inspired her. Afterwards she took us to Venture
Smith's grave in Old Lyme.

Vision May 9

I used to see 20/20. Now, without my glasses I can't discern the exact lines of the
fiddlehead's curve but the stalks glow against the mottled earth. Spring leaves
appear as tiny green lanterns hung on the branches, as red confetti strewn among
the treetops, dappled shade in motion shaping the light.

Visitors May 10
Yesterday, Rosemary Starace drove down from Pittsfield, Massachusetts to have
lunch with me. I showed her around Soul Mountain, and then we drove to Old
Saybrook for lunch at an outdoor cafe where we both picked up a bit of a tan
sitting in the brilliant sun. I met Rosemary on the WOM-PO (Women's Poetry)
Listserv. She's a visual artist turned poet, and she has been instrumental in
putting the WOM-PO anthology into physical form. I've proposed a panel for next
year's AWP on the creation of this collaborative anthology in cyberspace and have
actually been trying to meet as many members of the editorial group in person as
possible. It turned out that we have many things in common, not the least of
which is the art backgrounds we bring to writing. Rosemary developed her work
as an artist when she attended the New York Feminist Art Institute. She told me
their motto was "Where art making arises from self-understanding and content
inspires form." She's taken several writers’ workshops with Jane Hirshfield, one
at Tassajara. We both have the Tassajara bread book, and shared that memory as
well as many others about our journeys in art, cooking, and poetry. It was good to
meet a soul mate, and I bought a box of paints on our walk around Old Saybrook.

After Rosemary's visit, I took a quick field trip to New York on the Shore East
Line from Old Saybrook to New Haven, then on the Metro North from New
Haven to Grand Central Station. Trains are a smorgasbord for people-watchers
like me--eavesdropping on families, businessmen, and high school kids dressed
for the prom. I also love reading on trains, and today read all of Linda Gregg's
"Chosen by the Lion" and Mary Karr's "Viper Rum," along with her essay
"Against Decoration" on the long journey into the city. My destination was a
poetry reading at the Brooklyn Historical Society in honor of the publication of
"Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn," an anthology edited by my friend Julia
Spicher Kasdorf and fellow poet Michael Tyrell. Unfortunately, my memory
slipped, and I ended up all the way down at the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern
Parkway, instead of the Historical Society. So by the time I'd taken the subway up
to Brooklyn Heights, I'd missed the reading. However, I didn't miss Julia, and I
had a pleasant evening out with her and Michael and a few friends, listening to
funny stories about the readings and celebrating the great labor of love--
sometimes unrequited--that anthology-making is.

A Recollection of Time Past May 11

River Spirit

While I sit on this rock in the river


and write, a fisherman casts his reel
from the opposite bank. I look up
and we exchange smiles. Has he guessed
how I'd almost entered the body
of my younger self, long dark hair flowing
over slender shoulders, shifting back and forth
on my perch to claim the full scope
of river views: Upstream so I can see
what's coming, then downstream to measure
the liquid speed of time. A turn of the head
and thirty years have passed.

Return to Solitude May 12

A relief to be back in the writing groove at Soul Mountain. Every day I walk out to
the river and then return to my room, take out my computer kayak and paddle by
myself through the rapids of thought. The writing is beginning to accumulate, the
shape of the imagination emerging in language.

The week of fragrances is in full bloom. Apple blossoms and lilacs have opened
and the air is full of their scent. It's a heady time; when the body wants to step
out, break into blossom. Every day as I look into the trees around the pond I see
and recognize more birds. It feels as though my eyes are growing sharper, that
soon I'd be able to gaze up into the green and see into the life of birds without
binoculars. The pond is a bird's playground in spring, as full of courting, pairing,
and mating as any college campus in the same season. Geese, ducks, a pair of red-
tailed hawks, catbirds, warblers, robins, sparrows, finches, swallows. The hawks
and snapping turtles add an edge of drama to the scene of nesting, bringing out
the protective behaviors of the parent birds. A few days ago I sat at my computer
before the pond window and looked up every so often to see two Canada Geese
strolling with their fluffy little gosling as it learned to peck in the soft earth
around the pond for food. One would stand tall and keep a lookout, while the
other pecked at the grass, and the baby toddled after it, imitating every move.

Today we saw a whole flock of turkey vultures roosting in the trees on the road to
Soul Mountain. They are the clean-up crew. After something nasty and predatory
happens, they come around to clean up the leftovers. Tanya stopped the car in the
middle of the road and called up to them, but they stayed in the trees, shy of us
and our big shiny white bird of a vehicle.

Decrescendo May 13

Sunday Morning. Woke from a long deep sleep to bright sun, a clear blue sky, the
pond's eye open, everything in clear focus. Last night I finished a typed first draft
of my story, now called "A River Tale." It took a long time to type it, basically
because I was still writing as I typed, adding whole new passages. My motivation
now at the end of the residency was a deadline that Ching-In, the other resident,
and I had given each other to finish drafts of our work so that we could read each
other’s writing and give feedback. I'm really looking forward to both reading and
being read. A fitting finale.
If mind is the residue of incomplete thoughts, perhaps this story I've come back
to numerous times in my writing life is a very large, incomplete, undigested
thought, and working it through will remove the "carbuncle" from the passage of
my creativity, the deep underground reservoir from which the voices emerge.
(Metaphor borrowed freely from a legend about the Moodus, a place of
underground voice, near where I am staying.) Listening to the spirits.

Legends of Place May 14


One of Connecticut's most mysterious phenomena is the "Moodus Noises,"
seismic tremors that occur near the place in East Haddam where the Salmon and
Moodus Rivers flow together. The Pequot, Mohegan and Narragansett
inhabitants of this region considered these noises to originated from the god
Hobomoko, who sat below Mount Tom. The Indian word for the noises was
"Matchemadoset" or "Matchitmoodus," which means "Place of Bad Noises," and
the local tribe had special interpreters for the noises.

Of course, when the Puritans came to the area in the mid-1600s, they attributed
the Moodus noises to Satan. Connecticut at the time was also very active in Witch
Hunting. There must have been a lot of cultural chaos, and natural phenomena
seemed to be interpreted in terms of the settlers' and the Indians' fears. Today, it
seems to me that these noises are far more benign--especially for those listeners
who wish to hear the rumblings of mother earth.

This afternoon Tonya drove us to Moodus, and we searched for the place where
we might hear the spirit voices. We stopped in the town of Moodus at a gas
station, and I asked people about the noises until I found a woman who seemed
to know something. She said that they were all around the area, but that there
was no one place where we could go to hear them. She directed me down the hill,
to a boat landing, and we set out in the car to follow her directions. We wound
down a long, curvy road towards the water. Finally we found the entry point
labeled "Salmon River," and drove into a huge clearing ringed by cottonwoods
next to the wide mouth of the Connecticut River where we found a few fishermen.
We all agreed that there was something special about the place, and felt a tingle
in our bellies. My imagination heard whistling noises, but then again, it's
impossible to tell, with the background hum of airplanes and vehicle motors from
the highway exactly what is a Moodus noise and what is noise pollution. The river
view was broad and full and lovely, and the cottonwoods whispered tales from
times past, when they were deemed sacred, lodge poles for an invisible tent above
us.

As of tonight, Ching-In and I have completed our reading of each other’s work.
Her reading of my essay was so helpful last night, that I finished another one this
morning, and then went back and wrote a new, stronger ending for "A River
Tale." I finished critiquing her poetry manuscript this afternoon, and she
responded to mine this evening. It is affirming to be read and understood by
another. Both of us are writing about women characters/speakers who strive to
break through the myths and stories and losses they've allow to define them in
order to become creators of themselves, at peace and poised for deeper
adventures as an integrated person. It will be a thrill to see each other’s books in
print.

Farewell May 15

Woke early to watch the sky through an eastern window, a drama of dark clouds
sweeping across a pale gray background. I opened my eyes again to streaks of
rose, then to patches of celestial blue. Time to rise and pack, carry home
memories of this time and place.

At mid-morning rain spatters the pond outside my writing window. I'm nearly
packed and am just putting a few finishing touches on this journal before I leave,
knowing that another world will engulf me when I return. But I hope to
remember the co-ordinates of this soul place in soul space.

Coda: A Return to Mothering May 28

Cottonwood seeds drift through the air on their parachutes of fluff. Gravity tugs
them down, but they are light enough that the air currents bat them about on
their way down, sometimes sending them up again for a spin. Large, dry, warm-
weather snowflakes.

It's been 2 weeks since I've returned home from Soul Mountain, still holding onto
the determination to make writing space here amidst the family, which also
means space for contemplation, and permission to enter contemplative realities
without feeling like I should always be doing a hundred thousand other things
first. I've found a good perch in an upstairs bedroom, used by Jonathan, my older
son, when he's home from college, and across the hall from David’s room, the
youngest of our four children. Gradually I'm taking over this room, shifting Jon’s
bedroom/guest room to my smaller, darker study downstairs, which is good for
sleeping, but not very good for writing. I want to keep a space for him, too,
because I want him to feel that he can always come home. Yet, I need space to
write in. He’s always been generous; I hope I have his blessing as he embarks on
the next phase of his life, and I on mine.

At Soul Mountain I realized how important a morning view of the day and the
world outside was to my writing and meditation. Otherwise, I'd never pause to
see the cottonwood seeds, or the dark green shadows in the fully leafed trees. And
this upstairs bedroom has a view of sky and trees and lawn, and the neighbor's
house, which does not suggest more work to be done, as a view of our yard would.

I fear disorientation, drift, as yesterday I misplaced my journal--my faithful


companion at Soul Mountain. The cottonwoods seeds, aimless and graceful as
they appear, sooner or later reach or don't reach their target soil--only one in a
thousand will actually take root and produce a new tree. So I am driven back to
this journal and a search, again, for a lost space, some fertile ground in which to
root daily words, some of which may eventually grow into something more.
Ching-In Chen
Partly Blaze

I don't know who


the teacher in me
[a flame green snail perched on the head of a psychedelic Buddha]
lit to start the forest
but we all burned down
without yelling fire
Bowie

Storytellers I’ve been


embedded in your
unwritten, my workaday
cardinal sin ---
I’m a turncoat.

My materials forged
from a volcano
in my brother’s furnace.

You think an upright


calibration, live forever.

I’m just a pigeon gone


lucky, entering a world
of pain. Cicada husk
with some mileage.

Told them I was a


risky Locomotive,
an aluminum fire.
Fugue: Love Pathology

You ask me to skin


your letters.
I capture the bleach from its guard-
tower terrace. Unfastened
to fence and unraveled the route
of the thread.

Mother, father, loved to bare stone.


Mother, father, place oranges on
the burning stove.
Mother, father, empty money
to light the path.

I sub-divide. Do not explain any


rituals. All muddy candles

of dead sparrows.

I will get over my skin.


My nutrients to the ground. Tether to you
though you do not want to be
the lonely teeth.
You do not want when I spill, but
approve.
We, of Future Earth, as that you find someone, at this moment, to celebrate, someone to
whom you would like to pay tribute, and then, of course, you can get back to reading the
magazine, which continues below.

~ Your Friendly FEM Editors


Nashira Priester
T H E B I G S H O W

Republicans and insurance companies conservative Democrats


excise taxes no one knows the origin of, disrespecting our black President
lowlifes cretins
the Karma tax falling on the Haitians & God is near God is near and on the side
of the righteous. Robertson and Limbaugh have the pimps
love for their puppet mammon for no one else for no one else
the bill however corrupted must go through
the testy vigor of our President rumbling
the walls of the lost bureaucrats padded room

Republicans mutter insurance companies dissemble conservative


democrats pay Caesar’s back another visit
Republicans mutter their poison venom dripping from prevaricating maw
insurance companies in the counting room
faxes fix us obstructionist palaver nobody knows the origin of
skanks liars
the Karma tax falling on a tiny baby
like a clutch of tumbling white boulders
dust settling in board rooms in the cloak rooms
blindfolded chief executioners come back to see in mirrors
shadows of culpable face don’t take it tooooo far

Sichuan, Mexico City the Philippines people live there


Haiti Mogadishu Darfur, DRC, hideous slave colony x’s people live there
Brooklyn, Detroit Michigan El Salvador people live there
Rwanda, Uganda Bosnia Hercegovina Sudan people live there
not just a certain sort people live there
Senegal fishermen deprived of a living hustler hotshots buy fishing rights to our seas
borderline friend of mine born to do schemes

palin drone beck shreck bobble head sons limp bough shall it break
in conscience-less disintegration poverty of spirit of spirit become skeleton
in hatred shall we sleep part of US as you is
o say Am I hurtin o heck yes i’m is
with this buliding sitting on top of my pulverized bones
here in the basement of the subway stop graveyard here in the collarbone
grim reaper’s wine cellar Sichuan Pinatubo Lijiang Peru late great Italian villages

abandon the land mass jump in any ship heading to


crossroads of a philosophy
baseless as it’s uncivil premise the cold shoulder
give you my back show you the door here’s my fergit-you all this time at this time
you’re poor you’re black you’re nothing chinese "over populated" worth
my opium trade not quite up to snuff
this led us here the gates of hell open and waiting

Republicans, shapeshifters insurance companies conservative hypocrites


excise taxes no one knows the origin of, disrespecting our black President
lowlifes cretins
the Karma tax falling on the Haitians & God is near God is near and on the side
of the righteous. heretics and nazi-eugenics pastors have the pimp’s
love for their puppet mammon for no one else for no one else
the bill however corrupted must go through
the testy vigor of our President rumbling
the walls of the lost bureaucrats padded room

Butterfat moguls repooplicants mutter insurance companies dissemble


born to live above the law king spaniel rapacious overlords
shallow heretics back another visit to the moon
cowards of the tent border kingship mutter their poison venom dripping from
prevaricating maw
insurance companies in the counting room
faxes fix us obstructionist palaver nobody knows the origin of
skanks liars
the Karma tax falling on a tiny baby
like a clutch of tumbling white boulders
dust settling in board rooms in the cloak rooms
blindfolded chief executioners come back to see in mirrors
shadows of culpable face don’t take it tooooo fa - a- a- a -a - a - a r f- a-a - a -a -a r
f-a -a -a a - a --a -a -a -a a a- a- a- ar.
when global warming comes
when global warming comes it won’t be conflagration
the sea will scalp the shoreline
carefully
having brought the earth
to her knees fairly peeling back
to the brain of man
revealed under its cap of
of snows

when global warming comes


much more like a melting slow
catastrophic oozing will surge
then slide and shift gliss and thunders
wash without compromise can opener hiss - minus
the can we thought we could
get away with it but
we couldn’t

when global warming comes


forests and castles will shut down
shops closed down on the Sabbath
shut down -- a heart whose valve is clogged
as a globe with a hitch in the giddy-up
of it’s tilted syncopated dance
ambitions squelched
in ever moving mud-streams

when global warming comes


your loved ones could go screaming
if a plan has not been formulated
somehow to highest ground
territory yields to forces ancient
as the blood more so than oldest
known invertebrates oldest known
oldest known bones thrown

global warming comes when our impulse


to feel others subsides to trickling
only ‘the things’ to matter the winds
leave just ambitions objects curiosities
medallions meat
already consumed in some storehouse
reawakens next‘ seeking life to lead
medallions meat that’s been hunted
to extinction in past lives of the peacemakers

when global warming comes when I want i covet


i want . . . i want i need you baby want you . . mean . . . it
want it, you . . . you . . . the land your land terror Tory
want love . . . want it . . . want you . . . want power
control more stocks i’m stocking more crops shoes overcoats
hoarding bluefin tuna
want everything want this love . . .that . . . it . . . you . . . this
mine want every thing MY MY MY my family. more time . . . luxury goods luxury
evils
everything crumbles in the seed of cosmic dust

who sets the rules ?. . . the science standard the rules about the rules ?
the academy false falsetto academy professional disqualifications
cooked up by magistrates of malice monolithic mind bog
bogus science court jesters academic freedom you pay with your soul for.
when global warming comes you’ll be already lulled into thinking it will come
when it is already been and gone silly earthlings pirates of our own tongue
our bellies swollen warm bodies drenched with variable rains
captivated as we are with nonsense.
W A Y N E S H O R T E R
Wayne Shorter’s

music does something to me

nobody else’s does

cerebral cortex meets poitrine

mystery. cloche. clot of memory

claustro-awareness of universes

clam beating of hearts-in-love someplace

female voice, the soprano, swings in

tops the parapet a girl plunges

to her . . . life

lofting up currents of air rescues her -

self dive-bombing cups kilotons of uncertainty

a miniscule refusal of some librettist named

Vishnu check in by midnight check out

by eight thirty ecstatic ghouls laugh

& drool with gladness standing . . . I’m

awestruck by your glands

Wayne Shorter

makes Men cry

I will dance . . . in

aftermath of kisses
do pois do amor o vazio

breathing on the outside locking in

Wayne Shorter.

who knew horns could do plucking ?

tugging at vegetation

coiled inside yet

speak no evil . . .

Wayne Shorter

demons beneficent

joy in trinity

reverent me. fried you.

Wayne’s saxophone

casual strokes

stacks of Mara

scatter on linoleum

surrounding me with perfumes

Wayne Shorter

beams of light showing

beatitudes

gospels in torrents

waterfalls in Brasilia

clamoring for uncommon

fullness
chant . . . and we are won over

a lamb

goat

mystic

riddles nobles

further to the north motions

divinity

Wayne Shorter

death-life war

repeated mistakes of homo sapiens

longings inside Supernovae

bomb blasts

pyroclastic clouds

so feminine

my heart wails

the hearing

Wayne Shorter

out-soul strings

flung out like freshwater pearls

breathing on

outside.

moving to see

wires

. . . exasperating control
hymns - I’m deforested

loving them lungs

Wayne Shorter

your song crop

yields me

mystic refusals

melting melting

nobles pessimists

arrested

in the coffee cup belly

of holiness
Isabella Day
Isabella Day & Magnus Stokoe
Norm Breyfogle
Freak Advice

With butt plug and leather husks,


kevlar, spandex, tights,
my muscles, mask, and mammal musks
were swinging through the night.

Then, suddenly, in bleak alley


I chanced upon a bum
who’d had a bit too much to drink
and felt his life was done.

“The time has come,” the street freak said,


“To speak of many things;
of shocks I barely dare reveal;
of butt plugs and batwings.

“Make sure of your accouterments.


Don’t strap them on so tight
that blood won’t flow and bruises show
in prowess-plenty fights.

“And, momma used to tell me,


‘Don’t crash a car with shorts
which, soiled, reveal incontinence;
clean rep you’ll thus abort.’

“So, if you're out about tonight


and if you’re fighting crime,
do not forget your butt plug;
serve justice without grime!”

Finished with his keen advice,


the freak’s life ebbed away.
With rush of breath and scrape of plug,
he died at break of day.

But still his teachings haunt me,


and still I yearn to learn
the further secrets of the night
from those whose sphincters burn.
System shocks

pole-shift sorcerers mix alchemical transmutations in the sky

cosmic flipflop

the consternation of forces transmogrified

God fallen

Satan transfigured

the first last, the last ahead

everything you know is wrong

another millenium arrives


Omega Leap

my love
separated from you by a chasm of illusion
I’m not yet fully conscious of your existence

but

nonhuman friend
horrific enemy
unconscious shadow
stupid and beautiful brute force
source of my most intimate passions and fears
matter inexorable
see how far we’ve come in fourteen billion years
behold miraculous consciousness transcendent
your shining opposite number
imagine what we can next achieve
perfectly entwined

my insentient dark twin


let us create the future together
make it beautiful
heal all wounds
surmount time and space
attain our unitive transfiguration
our impossible marriage

do not fear
the moment approaches

a pause before the abyss


a profound whisper
an uproarious laugh
a final kiss
a war cry

a stupendous leap
Contrary Trees

Nothing stops them.


Weep for man;
the time has arrived to reclaim the land.
Freed is flotsam!
Contrary molds unite!

All gadgets fail.


Laugh at man;
his feeble affronts gain no upper hand.
Green will prevail.
Contrary bushes roar!

Turn back the soil;


bury man.
Biosphere sirens resurrect Pan
in a new coil.
Contrary trees attack!
The Primal Christ

“The modern quantum mechanic faces a viciously inscrutable learning curve, so just
trust me when I tell you that I was there, at the trunk of the timetree, before the original
archetypes branched off into their watered-down retellings in later universes. I was there
when the very first universe witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection of possibly the only
true Christ in all of the infinite Multiverse.
“Forgive me for making you wait until now to hear my story. I was exhausted last night
when I returned to this universe, but I’ve bathed, eaten, and slept, and I’m now ready
and able to tell you of my adventures.
“Yes, the Quantum Mirror worked; yes, we were able to view alternate universes. Yes,
we saw in its lens our own fractally fractured counterparts ad infinitum. Yes, the Mirror
also functions as a time machine through adjustment of the lens’ electrogravitic
frequencies.
“My friends, peering through that multidimensional window, we found alternate
universes in which the Arthurian legends of Camelot were more than just legends; they
were real history, Excaliber and magic included! There were universes with Paul
Bunyans, some as much as twenty feet tall from the looks of them. We found elves and
gnomes and ogres and many different kinds of fairy folk. There lay Bigfoot, Tarzan, and
Zorro was not just fiction, either. The pantheon of Roman and Greek gods existed too, as
well as did Achilles, Hercules, and Odysseus. Buddha existed, and so did Doctor
Frankenstein and Beowulf and extraterrestrial UFOs and Santa Claus and his elves. Yes,
even Santa Claus exists in many of the innumerable universes flanking ours. Everything
and everyone else you could imagine can be found somewhere in that nearly infinite
smorgasbord of universes ...
“But listen to this: very, very oddly, there was no Jesus Christ of Nazareth, nothing that
looked like his miracles or resurrection in all the alternate universes we witnessed.
Peculiar, right? I mean, if we could find Merlin in all his magical glory, and Odin and
Zeus, and yes, even evidence for the existence of Jehovah himself (we witnessed Moses
parting the red sea and bringing plagues down on Egypt, by the way), why then could we
find no Christ?
“Oh, sure, there were many first century Roman crucifixions of Jewish rebels and
would be Messiahs in all the universes we searched, but none we found performed the
miracles reported of the Jesus in the Gospels.
“So we decided to search farther, to see just how rare the physical manifestation of this
particular myth really is. Understand that we’re scientists, not religious fanatics. The only
reason we sought out the Christ was because of his anomalous absence from all the
universes we catalogued, a fact we stumbled onto accidentally. The strange and universal
lack of any physical manifestation of only this one particular archetype out of all the
noosphere’s greatest tales ... ! Well, it perplexed us, so we radically increased the power of
the quantum mirror and probed even deeper into the structure of the Multiverse.
“As a result we learned that alternate universes aren’t distributed randomly in
hyperspace, but are in fact branching out from earlier versions throughout time, not
unlike the branching of a tree. Behind us is less branching, and in the future, more.
“What we didn’t expect was the discovery of a root universe in the past! Yes, ladies and
gentlemen, we’ve actually proven the existence of a Primal Universe––the mother of all
later branching universes––wherein the events which occur there are all occurring for the
very first time in their perfect originality. Yes, yes, I know it sounds incredible, but it’s
true; I was there! Furthermore, we discovered that this mother universe was the only
universe in which the Christ really existed!
“I know; many, many questions. But all the details will be answered in my written
report. For now allow me to continue to simplify, please.
“We had a minimum amount of time and energy for viewing that far back up the time
stream, so I was selected and sent to witness only the story of Christ and his resurrection,
to find out the core truth of that matter and ignore all other historical distractions. After
my nanoimplantations and conditioning, The Quantum Mirror sent me back to the
Primal Universe to view and participate in that seminal series of events.
“Well, my friends, I can tell you that the Christ does indeed exist. I’ve met him! I’ve
spoken with him in his native tongue, and he’s the real thing, by gum. Immediately,
without asking, he knew who and what I was and where I’d come from. With no
prompting from me he told me that the reason there’re no alternate versions of himself in
the Multiverse is because his father only required his sacrifice once in order to save all
sentient creatures everywhere from sin. During the three years I spent with him, he
healed the sick, raised the dead, and performed all the archetypal miracles, right before
my eyes!
“He really is the only perfect incarnation of the one true God, if anyone is. But you
don’t have to take my word for it; you can see and question him yourselves, because ...
I’ve brought him back here with me!”
Everyone in the convention hall froze in silent shock. Professor Aaron Shroude stood
on stage, literally seeming to milk the excitement right out of the air as his astounding
revelation slowly sank into the stunned minds of his colleagues.
Finally, he spoke again.
“But don’t ask for any miracles unless you’re sick and pure of heart,” Shroude smiled.
“It’s a ‘don’t tempt the Lord thy God’ sort of thing.
“Oh, and there’s a couple of other things you all should know, too.
“One: looking backwards into the Multiverse’s branching, we find more simplified
realities, simplified on all levels, the psychic through the physical. The original Primal
Universe is composed mostly of strange protomatter and what can best be called fully
manifested archetypes. I safely interacted with this mother universe via the shapeshifting
and translating capabilities which my nanoimplants provided me, and you’ve all been
implanted as well, before you entered this hall, so you’ll be able to understand our Lord’s
words. He, of course, can read all your minds at will without the need for an implant, nor
need he shapeshift to survive in our universe, for he is God’s son, after all, and is, in fact,
the only incarnation of the Highest.
“Two: the human organisms of the Primal Universe are, like everything else in their
realm, simplified and quite different from us, but they are, nonetheless, entirely human.
So don’t be surprised by the Lord’s appearance. Spiritual value has little to do with
physical parameters. I know you haven’t been given the psychological conditioning that
was provided me while in preparation for my visit to the Primal Universe, but such
conditioning takes far too long, you all have very busy lives, and I have every faith in your
educated ability to transcend simple bigotry, anyway.
“And now, my colleagues, give a good show, for although you’re the elite masters of
your fields, living at the very peak of human technological civilization, remember that
there are infinite numbers of each and every one of you in the vast sea of the Multiverse,
but there is only one version of this man, this totally unique being, this radiant,
metahuman incarnation of the eternally conscious, designing force of the universe. Ladies
and gentlemen, I give you ... Jesus, who is called Christ.”
Professor Shroude gestured toward the edge of the stage curtain where a wet,
gelatinous mass was pushing its way into view. Someone in the audience gasped and a
woman stifled a scream as the Lord Jesus Christ––a huge, hideous slug––slithered
forward on numerous pseudopods and spoke, his slippery, guttural utterances translated
into English by the audience’s implants.
“I am the way, the truth and the life ...”
James Cihlar
Oprah: The Poem

When I retire from summer


I plan to take Magazine Road.

Stuff your shirt next to me


and unchange.

Lox, sprocket, oxygen,


we all need a fit as a fiddle.

A quick pointing stick.


To us the world is its own talk show.

Compunction, order, dirigible.


I’d rather fight than switch.

Scratch this.
Perfunctory, clad, cobble units.

The formidable Zasu Pitts.


Conning into Hebrew.

Chasing a drink of water.


Leave into me.

Mezzanine, intermezzo, philosophobia.


Broke the spell.
The Bear

The first time the bear lied to me,


I told the owl.
She said,

Try
To understand
her.

The next time the bear lied to me,


I told the owl.
She said,

Try
To ignore
Her.

The last time the bear lied to me,


I told the owl.
She said,

I agree
With
The bear.
Engines of Our Ingenuity

The office building of the torso keeps working, productivity upticking


with the fresh squeak of a rubber eraser against blue-lined paper,
the crumbs of salmon removed with a breath, a brush of the hand,
or the summer wound down to just my mother and me in the car
heading out to buy school supplies, cold chalk of white milk in waxy cartons,
one week before the precipice, the maw of the great unknown.
Even on the brink, we are never completely at rest.

Four days sick with the flu, I have ransacked every corner of memory,
no opportunity left unturned. Plenty of flubs and fiascos,
an air of embarrassment surrounding a place where we lived, let’s say Iowa,
like the odor of Camembert. How I’ve wanted to offload projections,
false impressions, snarky asides, the effects of gazes. Stripped away to nothing,
the trenchant power of notions throbs like an obscene vein,
and the cat remains both alive and dead until we open the box.

We remember the park for the argument there. My stepmother told us


nothing was ours, it all belonged to our father. The energy of words
determined ownership. Confidence is no longer an issue when you are down to one.
Not cast in a role, the mind turns comfortably in the brainpan, the body
a megalopolis along the Adriatic shore. We can choose who to read and what to see.
My flu is nothing to yours. I always wanted to live in the future,
with hovercraft and transporters, to live every block of the city at once.
Em Jollie
Autumn Equinox

I just keep turning, I just keep re-turning


to the ritual of water –

holding out my hands as it


falls
always down
from the faucet the rocky mountain top
the sky

I dreamed
last night that Sister Flying Horse
and I were walking in an airport
I don’t know where we’ve come from
or where we are about to go.
I do know we are happy,
surrounded by smiling faces.

What I mean to tell you


is that the ancestors left
the same way they came:
through the soles
of my feet back into the soil
and their own souls’ worlds. They left me
in the world I have chosen:

Most humans are sick with sleepiness.


And this is not Macondo. This is Turtle Island.
The Equinox is almost here again,
and we are learning to awaken
on Earth as she sleeps for a season.
This, this here, is a Sacred celebration
called real life. Life
requires flowers,
songs, flowing movement,

beautiful choreography, pirouettes.


So I just keep turning,
I just keep re-turning
to the ritual of water –

letting my spirit climb its


rushing bubbling constancy
into the Autumn sky
& back again to the solid ground.
Winter Solstice, 2008

Held aloft,
vials of seed-beads are multi-hued flecks kaleidoscoping
themselves against canvas of newly fallen snow just past

my windowpane. Solstice storm’s fury continues its clear cold


darkness late into the evening, piling soft light layers on
and on through this night

I celebrate with sweetgrass. Feathers of flame lick


and lick at the ancient wounds
of my sacred blackest hours,

whisper: hold the brightest bits of yourself aloft


kaleidoscope yourself against
these newly lengthening days

in which possibility is open


to dreamwork.
Spring Equinox
March 2010

Patch of Purple Crocuses


peeking out near the Creek
came two Snowstorms
after

we met by that little Tree,


stood side by side
listening

Patch of Purple Crocuses


speaking out near the Creek
by the downed Maple trunk

while River says to the humans:


why hear only
the songs you have made?
Radio blaring band music, car door slamming,
clang of truck parts.
There are other voices.

Here, this Creek is talking of the past and the future.


The birds tell you what it is you truly need,
which is not very much:
A’tugwagan (or An NDN Story, or Salving the Myth of
Thanksgiving)

A heart has its own autotelic beat, angelic thread of light


with which to weave a web like Spider Thought-Woman’s.
And from that same rhythmic spring laughter bubbles up,
salving Arachne’s shame with Anansi’s grace. Look:

We are all in this story together.


We are all Thought-Woman, Arachne, Anansi,
holding time immemorial in our bellies.

It was you, wasn’t it, standing on that bluff with me, overlooking
the sea the morning we saw the White sails,
awaited harbinger of a terrorizing change in worlds?

And wasn’t it also you, standing on the bow


of the ship next to me, conscious of only our own

dark dreams? I know it isn’t possible, but I also know it’s true.

And Look: Thought-Woman is in her room again.


Over Thanksgiving Turkey
Herbie Littlecreek told me he heard her weaving
while he was holding a bottle of blue sky

colored spray paint,


covering cold city cement
with lively images.
Celebrating the Day of Mourning

Columbus Day 2008


finds me protesting but not
in the usual fashion:
I begin by reading Winona’s Recovering the Sacred
while sitting on a bench in front of an artificially constructed
waterfall, then decide I need something wilder.
I drive to Skinner State Park on Mount Holyoke,
forgetting for a moment the state-sanctioned holiday
and as my gasoline powered vehicle conquers the summit
I hear a trooper telling ten tourists
The view today is terrible.
My artist’s eyes scan the hazy horizon,
absorbing hues fit for a Fall watercolor
before coming to rest on the land nearest me.
There are 23 other cars, and I can hear
three separate cell phone conversations as I park.
Trash of all shapes and sizes is strewn
about the grounds like confetti. A sign
tells me I must leave the park
by 6 pm. The view today is terrible.
I want to walk up to the trooper & say:
it isn’t the haze that necessitates apology.
My ancestors walked these hills. This Mountain,
she always takes me back and welcomes my prayers.
She belongs only to herself. She misses her solitude
and our songs.

But I will let go of the ancestral grief, the shame, the rage.
I will hold onto the beauty
of being this much closer to the Sun.
This is my favorite genre of protest,
this making poetry of the worst.

Soon I will descend the slope,


meet Renee for dinner,
and we will play our cedar flutes
as the full Moon rises,
her beams whispering
that every minute brings us that much closer
to dawn
and the next world,
a world of light & balance.
Alexandra Parsons
Apolutrosis
Drag the tip of the familiar
along my compliant belly,
from the once-dependent funis to the os pubis.
The pathways are strangely familiar;
They call to me,
welcome me.

T-h-i-s cannot be my pelt.


I have failed it
once again.

I relish the
coppery fragrance,
inky texture,
emblematic color.

My body is a temple.
Each drop shed is
relief, rejuvenation, redemption.
All three are mine now
as one
but they are just on loan.
Brett
Stout
Echezona Udeze

And He Laughed

There is someone who knows humanity’s inner core. He is as silent as a good set of ear
plugs, a true mute. I cannot hear him so I watch him in silence, we catch each other’s eyes and I
believe we have an agreement in the silence in which he drowns. He will never feel me unless he
wants the fury of a brash woman’s tongue. But that is because I am afraid that what he says of
humanity is true. That I am as bad as the next. What exactly does he do he feels like you. No
physical metamorphosis, just a feeling, covering his face. He knows all your personality traits,
color of eyes, sexual promiscuity, age, all off a little feeling. But what he does when he has these
feelings is a mental metamorphosis. I have watched and mentally recorded his exploits, a choice
few have landed him in his current hole … so you want to hear them, fine I will tell you a few
tales.
There was kid named Pat at our illustrious school. Pat was loud mouthed and obnoxious,
few noticed. The women swooned, they thought he shat butterflies from his ass crack, and the
men, the men! They hinged on his every word, they emulated the way he cut his toenails, they
followed him around yes siring at his orders and guffawing at his bad jokes. Why? He was a star
athlete, extraordinarily handsome, ( even though I never fell for that), and he was dumb. (People
love idiots). Still the entire school including teachers thought he had bought the world and made
it sing to his tune.
They made eye contact. As if a falling leaf had made a temporary impression on his
psyche. I watched him begin to walk like the most popular kid in school. The entire school
watched him as if they were expecting him to fly off to heaven, or win the Nobel prize. But no, he
slapped a girls butt deftly, tilted his head far upwards and proceeded with the same walk. When
he got to Pat’s mindless army he began giving high fives like he had just rounded the bases after a
world series game winning home run.
When he later went to the bathroom he used the same confident strut. He was heard
around the campus, what a mighty roar, it registered at least a 6.6 on the Richter scale, the floor
seemed as if it were dancing. He left the bathroom laughing and everyone thought it was funny,
everyone except Pat. The whole school knew exactly who was being mocked and the receiver of
the humiliation was not happy. Still he went on through others.
There was also a girl at our school who wore elaborate, expensive out fits, well you can
shine shit all you want! She was far from beautiful, annoying, and once again dumb, but people
can’t get enough of idiots. They made eye contact, impressions of rain on your face, a slight kiss.
He had her walk then and his ass was high in the air. He chicken strutted like a rooster’s special
hen. Doing nothing but talking about the undesirables, eating like a bird, and behaving like his
shit don’t stink. When an unpopular kid asked him about a homework assignment he said, “as
if,” like he had been offended ass high as if giving a high five. Around Pat all he did was
compliment him on his last game.
He mimicked them and everyone except he himself knew. A blind wise fool. Everyone
was waiting for his opportunity to strike while he stole as them, lied as them, was proud as them,
basically evil as every one of them. They were waiting, they made him believe they liked him,
they had girls smile at him in the hallway, they showered him with compliments while he
possessed their demeanor. All the while he absorbed it as them, basked as them, believed he
deserved it as them. No one can ride this train too long, they devised a plan.
Nearing his last day of school they gathered around him and slung mud, blaming him for
the wrong doings he committed as them. Trying to be humble the most elaborate liar in the
school stepped up like a mouse, “why did you lie to me,” this person lied so much she lied to
herself without knowing. “Why do you steal,” because she did, and she behaved as if she didn’t
know that. She ignorantly flipped her blonde locks and said, “I know you need it.” One by one
they blamed him then formed a circle and began pushing him around, making eye contact since
they were sure this was the key to unlock his secret … and it was.
He fell to the floor. I liken it to glass being shattered. He hit with a load thud, the earth
shook as if a hundred people had fallen. He was being a composite of all of them and when he
stood up they glanced at themselves, no one there believing it was them.
He began by using every curse word he could think of. With vehemence he spouted, as if
a fountain, these ugly epitaphs, saying to each other what they said to him in secret behind each
others backs. For they only made believe they were friends. He then became aware of what he
had been doing all along and … he laughed. People thought he had gone insane, this laugh that
seemed to reach the farthest heavens was beautiful to me. He left laughing as if they hadn’t got
the better of him.
For the rest of his time there he was alone and happy.
Daniel de Culla

And I Wonder

I want to see You smoking laughing


Smoking dancing all around
Inside my head
And I wonder.
Each puff each an Is
Each space-scape for human Being.
Haul the smokes
Have one’s heart in one’s Porro
I mean
And I wonder.
I’m barking up the wrong tree¡:
Grass is listen & talking
As the news possible consciousness
Of the Earth.
The interesting thing
About natural Science
Is that the Grass
Is the centre of the attention
Not another manipulation of it.
Not that anybody
Got anything wrong
But I think the Wo/Man
May have a point.
Summits of Passion, Sinsemilla Marijuana
From the Otto Peep.
We are of a Time-Smoking
Wherein all-species has been joined
Coming to Act
With the necessities of all the living
With the multiple voices-human
Voices-animal
Voices-plant
Voice- life of Earth.
Who’s Earth?
I am the Green of Love.
Daniel Parks
Another Language

Patterson kept perfectly still and tried to ignore the shadows that were cast by his
frustrations. Occupying the dark corners of his bedroom were shapeless and chaotic
things desperately waiting for his guard to fall. He shut his eyes tight against the blindly
searching fingers that were crawling across the floor toward his bed"reaching and
probing and silently reminding. It was a mistake to close his eyes because now the
reassuring reality of his bedroom was gone and the dark things held at bay were suddenly
unchained. He could feel the smoking heat of their breath as they swarmed out of the
corners and from under his bed and began to press down upon him. A shudder rippled
across the surface of his blankets as his thin body started to shake. His lips cracked apart
revealing teeth fiercely clamped shut and the moonlight coming through the window was
caught and reflected in the wetness on his cheeks. He imagined a swift and deafening
gunshot that would pierce the night through with warmth and light and frighten all such
reaching fingers of perdition back into the cracks and corners. He opened his eyes and
cautiously sat up. “I’m sorry,” he spoke into the darkness. He moved slowly with shock
and awe as he laid aside the covers and walked to his bedroom door.
Having escaped the livid contemplation of his bedroom, Patterson began to softly
drift down the hallway like a ghost toward a faint white light that was coming from his
bathroom. He had recently taken to leaving the light on in the bathroom at night because
he was not getting much sleep and he knew that at some point he would have to get up
and get a glass of water or splash his face. He continued down the hallway and then into
the bathroom where he abruptly stopped moving as if the life had been swept from him.
He stood there rooted to the floor and staring into the mirror over the sink, amazed and
frightened to discover that it was not his own reflection which was staring back at him.
He was a sixteen year old boy with an oval face and high, sharp cheekbones. He
had a hawk’s beak for a nose and cold, translucent eyes. It was his misfortune to have
been born with a face that was incapable of ever truly communicating empathy or
clemency. What he usually saw when he looked in the mirror was error and confusion.
Now he did not recognize the face in the mirror at all. It seemed to flicker and change
with each breath and heartbeat. He suddenly recalled lying on the floor as a small child
and staring at the ceiling while imagining what it would be like to have been born as
someone else. He had been greatly delighted and bewildered when struck all at once with
the notion that he could have been born as someone else, or never even have been born
at all. It was exciting to him as a child to fully realize that he had been counted among the
lucky ones to have received the breath of life and he began to think of the world as a long
road of possibilities with unknown wonders hiding and waiting for him to come along and
discover them. Now he stood staring into the mirror with that same realization of the
jarring juxtaposition of soul and body. And while he saw the connection he also felt a
tremendous disassociation in the discovery that he was not really his face and body at all,
but rather something which pears out from behind the eyes. He did not recognize the
face in the mirror because he was not looking at himself; he was looking at the face and
body he just happened to have been born into.
Patterson was very tired from holding the weight of these thoughts and wished
that he could go back to sleep, but he did not want to face the dark and the shadows in
his bedroom. He left the bathroom and walked further down the hall to his parent’s
bedroom door where he stopped and stood waiting for his heart to slow down. He took a
deep breath and opened the door.
“Dad…Mom…I don’t feel well…I…”
He walked over to his parent’s bed and started to lightly shake his father’s
shoulder.
“Dad?”
“Huh? Whassamatter? What’s uh…?
“Dad?”
“Yeah? Whassamatter son? What’s going on?”
“Can you come sit with me in my bedroom for a few minutes? Please?”
“Whassammater? You OK?”
“Yeah, I just…can you come sit with me in my room? I’m sorry.”
“Uh…yeah. Sure son, just uh…just a minute. Let me get my robe here…”

Patterson sat on his bed with his knees pulled up to his chin and his arms wrapped
around his legs. His father sat on the edge of the bed slowly waking up and trying to
understand what was bothering his son. Patterson had always been somewhat of a strange
and sensitive boy but that was alright he guessed. Everybody is a little different, right? At
least the boy had a few friends that weren’t delinquents and he had finally found himself a
cute little girlfriend. And it was to be expected that he would be acting a little bit strange
after…well, after all that had happened this year and… he just worried about the boy was
all. When Patterson was about seven years old his father began to notice that he would
sometimes start crying for apparently no reason at all. Sometimes his father would come
home from work and find Patterson sitting on the floor in the middle of his room with his
toys all put away and just quietly sobbing to himself. He had asked the child on these
occasions what he was crying about but Patterson didn’t seem to be able to answer. He
would just shake his head and say, “I don’t know Daddy. I don’t know. I’m just sad.” He
was embarrassed and confused and completely frustrated with his inability to express the
thoughts and ideas that were too big for a child of his age.
“What’s going on son? Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you worried about
something?’
“No Dad, I’m…I’m not worried about anything. I just…” He was trying very
hard to keep the tears back but there was a wave rolling through his body and he could
feel the room starting to shake back and forth.
“What is it son? You can tell me. You know you can always tell me anything.”
Patterson wanted to scream, “Don’t you know? Can’t you understand?” but it was
not his father’s fault. He just shook his head and said, “I don’t know Dad. I don’t know.
I’m just…sad.”
His father hugged Patterson to his chest and held him there for several minutes,
struggling to understand and wanting to say something to comfort the strange boy.
“You can always talk to me and your mother. You know that.’
“I know.”
“Are you going to be OK?”
“Yeah.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah.”
“I’m gonna head back to bed now but you just come and get me again if you need
me, alright?”
“OK.”
“Love you son.”
“Love you too Dad.”
The bedroom door closed and the shadows crept out of the corners. Patterson
quietly let the waves roll through him as the room became blurry and broke apart.

When Patterson was sure that his father had gone back to sleep he again got up
from bed but this time he took off his pajamas and put on a pair of blue jeans and a t-
shirt. He laced up his canvas shoes and went as quietly as he could out the front door. It
was about two in the morning and there was no one else walking the streets of his
suburban neighborhood. He began to softly drift down the sidewalk like a ghost toward a
faint white light that was coming from a bus stop. There were no buses running at this
time of night even if he had wanted to catch one, but there was a bench that he could sit
down on and try to clear his thoughts.
Patterson sat down on the bus stop bench and leaned his head back against the
glass of the shelter. He closed his eyes and slowly started to calm down. When the young
girl sat down on the bench beside him he was not surprised or startled. She looked to be
about his age and she had the same cold, translucent eyes. Contrary to Patterson,
however, hers was a face that radiated pure empathy and clemency. She was just a little
shorter than Patterson and she had chestnut hair that cascaded down her shoulders and
her back all the way to her waist.
“Hi,” she said without looking at him.
“Hi,” he replied without opening his eyes
“What are you doing out so late? You look like someone who could use a good
night’s sleep. Besides, you never know what kind of weirdoes you might run into at this
time of night.”
“Very funny.”
“Patterson, why do you keep torturing yourself like this?”
“You know why. I was at the party. I could have kept you from getting in that car
with him. I almost did. I almost said something. I’m such a chicken-shit. I can never say
something when I really need to.”
“I know the things inside you Patterson. I know that you would have stopped it if
you could. It’s OK. It’s not your fault. We can’t change life we can only learn how to
move through it.”
“You know how I felt about you?”
“Of course. But listen, Patterson, you have to learn how to say these things to the
people around you while you still have the chance.”
“Why is it so hard? Why aren’t we able to understand each other better? God isn’t
the one who lets all the bad things happen to us; we let the bad things happen to ourselves
because we don’t know how to communicate. It’s like, there’s all these other languages
that we haven’t created yet because we’re not smart enough to figure out how to do it.
There’s all of these things inside us that we need to say to each other but we don’t know
how.”
“I don’t know Patterson. I don’t know. I only know that you have to try.”
“I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”
“I know that. It looks like my bus is coming.”
A faint white light was drifting down the street like a ghost toward them. The bus
eased to a halt without a sound and the young girl got up from the bench. She walked to
the bus steps and then turned to face Patterson before getting on.
“You have to try, OK?”
“OK. I will.”
“See ya later, Patterson.”
“Really?”
“Of course.”
The doors closed and the bus continued down the street before disappearing
around a corner. Patterson opened his eyes. It was morning now and the sun shone warm
and bright through the bus shelter. He stood up and walked back home.
Eugenia Rainey

Burying the Moon

I didn’t notice it at first. Not till late in the morning, hell I think it was afternoon. I

got up, got the kids off to school. I had a diet coke and a pop tart because it was way too

snotty to make coffee for myself. I was puttering around the kitchen as I chewed and

coughed, gathering their breakfast dishes and unloading the dishwasher of yesterday’s

dishes only to reload it with last night’s dinner and the morning’s breakfast, mostly

avoiding the yard, I’d let it go. The wrong thing to do in a swamp, but things were so

busy with getting the kids ready for the school year and Artie and I were fighting, I was

kind of depressed about it all. He said I let him down and I kind of believed him. Then I

figured I was letting the landlord down, too, and soon I’d let the kids down and Artie

would take them to his mother’s. She always wanted them with her anyway; even though

they were nearly as dark as me and she would never know what to do with their thick

kinky hair, even though she thought they never should have been born. The more I

thought about it the more depressed I got, and the more it rained, and the more the yard

grew. I did scrape the cat’s claw off the cement piers though. The landlord should thank

me for that. Man if that vine gets a hold it will grow under your siding and out the

rooftop and swallow up your whole house. You’ll be living in a mound of leaves and vines

and thorns. It’s easy to pull out when it’s new, just a little sprout hugging a wire fence, or

a cement pier. Really it was one of my better days, at least one of the better days I’d had

in months, and I think that’s why my gaze kept gliding over that pale white thing floating

in the dark water of the pond I’d neglected for six months. That and the smell.
There were cats in the backyard, feral cats, lots of them. Every time I looked out

my back door they were pacing, staring at me, like they knew something I didn’t.

Sometimes I would bang on the window or open the door and say, “beat it.” They would

go, but not very far. My neighbor feeds them. She has aluminum roasting pans full of dry

cat food on her front steps and in the front yard, all twenty inches of it; she has bird

feeders and bird baths, too. It’s cruel, I say.

She also has dogs. But I don’t think she believes in the food chain, nobody gets

eaten, at least I never saw it happen. She should live on a farm, not in a shot gun on a

crowded block with twenty inches of front yard and windows that look directly into the

next door neighbor’s. Trust me, the neighbors don’t even look small from that distance,

you could reach out and slap them.

No, that morning I was happily puttering, glad that I didn’t have to work the

night before and blocking out the fact that I would have to work again in seven hours or

so. I planned on taking the bath that lady at the Voodoo temple recommended. She said I

was hazy, my spirit, my thoughts, the confusion made me bitchy and defensive, and the

bath would help me to clear it up. That’s what I keep telling Artie, I get hazy, and, in his

nicer moments, he’ll say I’m a masterpiece, just unfinished. He doesn’t understand how

overwhelmed I get: the kids, the bills, trying to decide what I want out of life, of him.

Sometimes I just can’t take it and I need something to remove me from it all. It’s not like

he doesn’t have his crutches; he just thinks more of them because he does them with other

people. It’s okay if you’re socializing. But I don’t think he’s wrong, it’s not that I think

he’s wrong. I just think he’s mean and impatient.

So the bath the Voodoo lady told me to take was something like milk and flowers

and perfume and cocoa butter and white powder. She said goat’s milk was the best and
that was easy because there’s a grocery store near the kid’s school. It’s a pricey one, but

that’s because it’s got fancy stuff. I got the milk, powdered, along with a stick of cocoa

butter the day after I saw her and was all ready to go. But I’d been putting it off for a few

weeks now because I didn’t really know where you got white powder or what exactly that

was, and there are so many types of perfume, and I didn’t know if I should get roses or

carnations and what difference that would make, and I didn’t really have the money for

fresh flowers or perfume since nobody was tipping at my job. It goes along like that: for

weeks you’ll have good tippers and then they will all disappear into some void and all you

get are cheap fuckers who never wondered where their next meal was coming from or

just never had to serve anyone. I hate those weeks.

But I bit the bullet that morning I was going to do it. I figured the milk and the

cocoa butter would do and hoped the rest of the ingredients were just lagniappe. I took a

glance into the backyard, in my bathrobe, with the water running. I think it was the first

time all morning that I admitted to myself that there was something in the pond. But I

just said, hey, the kids must have left a toy in there or something. Although I couldn’t

imagine what white toy they had. Anyway, I just shrugged and went to the bathroom,

figuring everything would have to wait until I had that bath I’d been putting off for weeks.

It was crazy climbing into that white abyss. I never felt so dark as I did then. Really I am

dark, in my family people range from those who a snotty Creole wouldn’t even take the

brown paper bag out for, to those who they wouldn’t even bother to get it out for; that’s

the side I was on, the darkies. But I never minded because I loved my daddy so much and

he was dark. I didn’t get to see him much because he was a musician, and a rolling stone,

and all that that implies. But he loved me, and I loved him, and for some reason that

always made me want to work things out with Artie, even when he said something I
didn’t think I could, or should, forgive. I thought of my daddy, and I wanted my kids to

love their daddy like I love mine, even if neither one really deserves it.

When I climbed down into that white abyss the first thing I noticed was the lumps

of powdered milk I’d missed mixing in. Then I stared at my dark knees wondering what

the hell I was supposed to do next. How was I suppose to free myself of this haze that

Voodoo lady was telling me about? Not that I didn’t believe her, I believe in all that stuff,

and all that she told me was mostly true, at least I could see where she was coming from. I

was excited to take this bath but I was wondering if the sky would fall, or the house would

shake, or blue lightening would hit me. Mostly nothing seemed to be happening, so I shut

my eyes.

I don’t know how long I was out, but I was sinking and the water was almost to

my lower lip. Everything seemed pretty clear when I jumped out of there and for a

moment I imagined that Voodoo lady had been pushing me down. But I get paranoid,

it’s one of the things Artie wants me to get help with. Probably it would help; paranoia

can get pretty overwhelming at times. At that point I was just mad. I’d been having a

good morning and now I felt stressed; it was getting late and I had laundry to do and I

really should do something with the yard before I took the bus to pick up the kids at

school, then wait for Artie, then go to work. I threw on some old sweat pants and got a

laundry basket. I stood in the little hallway between my bedroom and the bathroom. I

hovered over the hamper sorting a few loads of laundry, a pile in the basket, a pile on the

floor, and a pile left in the hamper. Then I lugged the basket to the back porch banging

into the walls and doors along the way, did I mention I have a narrow little house?

Out on the back porch I shoved the clothes into the washing machine and turned

it on, and then I trudged out to the pond. As I got into the yard I had to lift my legs to get
through the tall grass; I had to slow down. From the middle of the yard that white thing

didn’t really look like a toy, it didn’t really move like one either. So I told myself that

maybe it’s some sort of melon someone pitched into my yard. That was my best guess, at

first. A melon that had been there a while and had time to get slimy and soft, I still felt

safe, just hesitant. I finally reached the pond and I looked down at it for a while,

bewildered, what was white and slimy and soft and floating in my pond, like a sullied

moon in a dark malleable sky? Then I saw the face.

I think it registered that it was a face but it didn’t register what that meant,

because nothing was that white, until I saw the black fur and it all came together. The

cats, the countless feral cats, the high pitched meows I would hear below my feet in the

bedroom, the cries. Sometimes when I was really tired, or had fallen off the wagon, I

thought they were my own children. Then I would stumble over to their bedroom and

hear the same sound coming through their floors, those floorboards with a crack here and

a hole there, openings where you could see down to the ground beneath the house. A few

times I expected to see kittens, expected their little paws to peek through the holes in the

floor, trying to get in and be mine, clueless as to what a mistake that would be.

What happened next I can’t explain, only it seemed like the most natural thing at

the time and sometimes, when I tell the story, I make the excuse that I wanted to clean

the pond, but I don’t really remember that ever going through my mind and it doesn’t

really matter because no one believes this story anyway, but really, I just climbed in. The

craziest thing about it was that I was terrified of that dead kitten, and what is really to be

terrified of? It can’t hurt you, but it is death, you’re looking into the face of death, and

that can be pretty fucking scary, I say. But still I did it, and everything made sense at the

time. I climbed in and I sank down into that murky black water with small brown slimy
leaves and palm fronds and twigs. Some of the slimy rotten kitten flesh brushed my

shoulder and soiled the sleeve of my tee-shirt and it did make me shiver, but I kept going.

As if you have a choice when you’re falling, but at the time I would swear to you that I

did have a choice. Down, down, I went in that black water until I landed in a dry living

room with a big plaid sofa and when I looked up from the floor I saw Katie.

Shit, I wasn’t expecting to see her. Part of me wanted to ask if she had a white

rabbit with her, but then I remembered her family kept her away from animals, afraid she

would have a reaction to them. She was dying. Dying from the day I met her, dying from

the day she was born. I don’t know what was wrong with her, but every year it got worse.

Below the pond I saw her the way she was before she died, the last time I visited her, back

when I was trying to be best friends with Yvette, that little bitch. She was too good for

everybody and she tolerated me so long as I admitted that I was too dark and that I

would go get a bleach treatment when I grew up. Artie’s mother is just like her. Yvette

passed the paper bag test with flying colors, her whole family did, at least the ones she

told me about.

Katie was in her black wheelchair with her head propped up on some sort of

armrest that was elevated to support her head. She had this round white face and it

glowed more than I remember. I was so happy to see her: she was dead, but now, she

wasn’t. I said, “Katie, wow, you look good. Let’s have a cup of coffee.” So I turned and

went into the kitchen and somehow she followed me, even though I don’t think she could

control the chair; she would have to blow into a tube or something, and I didn’t see a

tube. Still, there she was, and boy was I happy to have her in the kitchen, it felt like the

right place for us to be. But I looked around the kitchen and I didn’t see anything to make

coffee, just a sauce pan. So I filled it up with water and a scooped some coffee into it, and
I put the fire on. Then I turned to Katie. I never did know what to say to her; her mother

said she could hear and it was good to talk to her, but she never reacted at all so I was

never sure if her mother was jiving me, or what. But hey, what the hell, so I said “How

have you been?” And she looked at me, her eyes were all goopy, and I said, “I’ve been

okay, I guess. Gosh, it sure has been a long time, Katie.” And she looked at me. But then

I realized she wasn’t really looking at me but sort of over my shoulder and I remembered

her mother said that she was mostly blind and slowly I started to remember before she

died. Before she died I was the little bitch; I was the one who looked away and didn’t

acknowledge her; I was the one who did whatever Yvette told me to, and Yvette didn’t

much like Katie. Once Yvette had even told me to go up to Katie in her wheelchair

sitting on her lawn and tell her that I hated her, that or Yvette wouldn’t be my friend

anymore.

I did it. I told myself she really couldn’t hear me, or she didn’t understand what it

meant, what I was doing, bullshit. Her people were Yankees who knew me and liked me.

I was the black girl on their block whose daddy was a hip musician, and whose mother

was an educator, and who liked their daughter and everybody was all about loving one

another. They lumped all black people into one liberal bag and they didn’t know

anything about the old Creoles. All children were innocent to them. When I stepped onto

the lawn, her mother stepped outside her front door and said, “Hi, Lena, where y’at.”

And I smiled at her and replied “Hello, Mrs. Amee, I’m good.” Then she went in the

house and I went up to Katie and leaned over, the sun overhead like it was leaning over

my shoulder to see what I was up to, and I said, real close to her ear, “I hate you.” And I

never meant it, which was why I figured it was okay, because there was never any venom

in me, but when I think back it makes my stomach turn. Looking at her now doesn’t help.
“I hope you like café au lait, Katie. I’ve been working on it, now it’s my job to

keep the restaurant stocked. All the other wait staff they bug me to make it for their

tables, like it’s too much for them, but a piece of cake for me. It kind of is, though.”

I never went to her funeral. Yvette did. She cried and carried on just like her

mother. It was a tragedy, they said. I couldn’t go, by then all my excuses for being a little

bitch had disappeared, evaporated in the bright sunlight and all there was was me, a little

darkie whispering mean, vicious words to the moon, drowning it in my betrayal. I told my

mother I was sick. My tall bronze-colored mother never pressed us to go to funerals, not

ones for children anyway. I guess she thought they would scare us somehow.

I heard sizzling behind me and turned to see the coffee pot had boiled over. Wet

black grounds were pooling in the gas burner, drowning it. I jumped up and turned it off.

Still I could smell the gas. There was a drawer beside the stove and I opened it to pull out

a cheese cloth, like a sock on a wire ring with a wooden handle. I set the sock over a

pitcher and poured the coffee grounds and water through. It was slow and I looked back

at Katie more than once, watching her stare at some point in the distance. I began to

wonder if she even knew I was there at all. But I kept pouring and draining the coffee,

delighted with my own patience. I certainly did have patience, even if I got overwhelmed

at times.

When the coffee was all drained I washed out the pot and refilled it with milk

from the icebox. We hardly talked at all that time. I watched the pot to make sure the

milk didn’t boil, wishing I had a whisk to make it extra foamy. I found people don’t like

the hot milk when it boils over, something changes in the chemistry of it and they turn up

their noses. I was real careful about that. I might have mentioned it to Katie, but I was

mostly talking to myself. What I know, I really know.


The milk got hot pretty quick and I stirred in some sugar. I know some people

don’t like sugar in their coffee, but I do, and I doubt that Katie really knows the

difference. I’m not so sure her taste buds work. So I got some cups and I poured the

coffee and the milk in, just right, so that there was a little foam at the top, and I put a cup

in front of Katie and one at my place and I took a seat. “I hope you like it,” I said. And

Katie never moved her eyes from that point, wherever it was. I took a few sips from my

cup and then I looked down. I was going to have to do something. It wasn’t like she could

move her arms to lift up the cup. Slowly I got up and took a paper towel from the

counter. I lifted the coffee cup and brought it to Katie’s lips. When it touched her she was

still, but I said to myself, “Oh shit, it’s hot.” So I blew on the coffee and then blew some

more. I touched it to my lip and blew even more. Then I just said “fuck it” and I got a

spoon. I put some of the coffee in the spoon and brought it to her lips. Then I don’t know

what came over me, I just blurted it out as the coffee slid down her throat, “I’m sorry, I

said, I hate you. I never meant it.”

I’m sure this whole story sounds crazy, but it gets crazier. She swallowed. It wasn’t

just that the liquid flowed down her throat, she swallowed. Then she looked at me, not at

the dot in space, but looked at me. I’m not kidding, it’s true. And I felt warm inside; I felt

okay. It was a feeling I forgot I could have it’s been so long. We sat there, over our coffee,

for sometime, and I don’t think she looked at me for very long. I think she went back to

that dot in space. But I finished my coffee and I stood up. “Katie, I’m so happy that we

got to have this visit. I’m so glad I got to see you.” And I went over to her and I gave her

a hug; the cold metal chair nearly froze the insides of my elbows white. Then I went back

into the living room and I jumped up through the water. Only it wasn’t black when I

jumped up, it was clear now, like a pond should be, a pond you can see gold fish in. And I
came up in my own backyard, and the dead kitten was still there, I brushed its slimy

rotten flesh on the way up.

Sitting in my yard, I felt good. I felt that sunshiny feeling hugging Katie had left

me with. I went to my shed and got a shovel. I came back to the pond and I started

digging a hole in the ground for the kitten. The dirt piled up on either side, high and

mighty, like it was preparing to take back what rightfully belonged to it.
Randy Gonzalez
Knight Checks Queen

A small boy squealed with joy a helium filled balloon. The smile held its place across
his thin lips. The boy’s mom, embarrassed, attempted to recover from the sudden
attention. She was good looking he thought. He recovered too and fantasized. His hand
relaxed and reached for the coffee cup. Just then, the potential target of his mission
moved. She had just exited an expensive women’s clothing store. The shop,
like Victoria’s Secrets, specialized in extraordinarily expensive lingerie. Body guards
followed from a discreet distance. He continued to make mental notes. Her every
movement in body and expression were recorded. Tall, blonde, trim and attractive, she
radiated a sensual quality.
“Base, this is Lookout, over,” a body guard said into his cuff sleeve. “All units alert,
U.S. Queen is on the move.” The officers hovered around her and moved quickly.
“Move the car to the main entrance.”
“Roger that, over,” the base station’s human voice echoed in the body guard’s ear
piece.
“Base, Lookout here, over,” the body guard radio back. “Standby, U.S. Queen is
entering another store. We’ll be a few more minutes, over.”
“Potentially inept, inattentive, distracted. They’re nervous. Typical. They must be
new to this assignment,” again Payne whispered to himself. His mind calculated time,
distance, cover, spatial alignments and so on. “Their security detail could be comprised
he thought. She would’ve insisted on junior security officers. Probably all single good
looking young men. I’ll bet hubby number four gets sent on business trips frequently.”
He carefully watched the woman, making mental notations. “Always go with maturity
and experience. Hire professionals.” He smiled confidently. “Any minute, I should be
receiving a phone call.” On cue, his cell phone vibrated. He slowly took a sip of his
espresso, showing no hurry to answer. Time, talk tactics. Patience requires fortitude and
stamina. “I’m listening,” he said with a devilish grin, after flipping open the phone.
“Black knight,” the gruff officious voice said. “You have a green light. Suspicious are
confirmed. The business deal must go through before another incident. Recovery is
essential.” There was brief pause, as the owner of the voice breathed into the phone. A
heavy sigh echoed. “Transaction’s complete. The usual amount for special services.
Your account in Geneva’s been upgraded. Continue as per agreement. No loose ends.
We were never here and this never happened. Good bye.” Click and that was it. The
other end was silent.
“Done,” he replied and closed the phone. Cold, quick and deadly. Objective not
personal. Again, to himself, he said, “Knight checks queen. Green light the sanction.
One less politician and traitor to worry about. One less leak in the governmental
bureaucracy. The alleged checks and balances are frail. The ends do in fact justify the
means. Moral imperative are situational at best.” He glanced at his watch, “Too early for
a martini. To the car we go. A quick drive to the country to visit a mansion.”
A maze of electronic countermeasures interconnected with data relays. Secret
Satellites in geo-sync orbit received and transmitted scrambled information. Uplinks and
downlinks spoke to each through multidimensional communications grid. At the other
end of Payne’s encrypted conversation, two men sat in a darkened room. The corner
office was large, ornately furnished and comfortably official. Illuminated by one small
19th century style desk lamp, one man sat behind a huge oak desk.
Dim lighting kept intentional shadows in place. Cloak and dagger mysteries were
fully operational.
Two men spoke knowing the room had been sanitized earlier. Even at the heart of
the intelligence community, no one took any chances. At Langley, Virginia, the CIA case
officer and supervisor discussed
their project.
“Can we trust him on this one?” one asked the other. He was sitting in front of the
desk in brown
leather overstuffed chair. “I mean, I know he’s good and reliable. But, this project is very
sensitive. In fact, it’s very dangerous for us all. Failure is absolutely no option.”
“Are you kidding me?” The one who spoke on the phone answered. He was sitting
behind the desk.
“He’s the best. Used to have your job, head of covert operations. Now, he’s a rogue
warrior, a ronin, and he’s on our side, thank God. He’s gotta gun, superbly skilled, and
will travel anywhere anytime for his country. Naturally, he’s paid well for services
rendered. No family, few friends, he’s an island unto himself.” He thought for a moment.
“It’s not him I’m worried about. I don’t trust the President.”
“I don’t either,” the other answered. “He’s interfering with the Intel ops. Yet, a rogue
knight may ultimately figure this out. Much rests on a lone gunman. Operation Check
Mate cannot fail.”
“I understand that all too well,” the man behind the desk replied. “In the last
operation, we lost ten million and three agents died. Vital information to the war on
terrorism was comprised. Troops in Iraq have been comprised. The leak came from the
Ambassador’s office in London. An investigation was conducted. The mole has to be the
Ambassador. Everything points to her.”
“We better be right,” the other answered. “We’re sending an assassin against one of
our own. The President really blundered on this appointment. He wasn’t thinking with
the head on his shoulders. I sure hope his liaison with that movie star was worth it. The
cost to our intelligence operations has been severe.”
Exiting the mall to the parking area, Payne produced a brown briar pipe. The ritual
of pipe lighting followed. A black leather pouch held a smooth aromatic cherry blend.
The gold plated lighter had an insignia. It bore the image of a medieval knight bearing a
sword and shield. The knight was slaying a dragon. He pressed the blue-green butane
flame to the tobacco in the pipe’s bowl. His quarry was a politician and a diplomat. To
him, politicians were basically useless. He lit his pipe, puffed a few clouds of bluish
smoke, and visually searched for his Mercedes. A few spaces away, there she was, a
Mercedes McLaren SLR. One of the fastest cars on the highway. The SLR’s shiny
black surface glistened with rain droplets. She could do two hundred miles an hour with
little effort. Special accoutrements of bullet resistant material protected the exterior body
and windows. Naturally, the windows were tinted.
Paladin Payne was the hunter stalking his prey. No amount of pompous
grandstanding, political backstabbing or bogus promises to continuants, would protect
this politician. Didn’t matter whether they male or female. Matters of national security
justified the means. Regardless of what it took, at the end of the game, who won
mattered the most. Cautious, careful and clever, Payne knew exactly who he was after.
His email had already contained a dossier on the target. Formerly of the U.S.
Army Special Forces, he retired from the Central Intelligence Agency. During the week,
in the U.S., he taught psychology at the local community college. He consulted for the
local police, profiling criminals.
During the weekends, he sometimes disappeared for days at a time. Going to exotic
places, he plied his special talents. And, at a place called the Farm, in the remote woods
of Virginia, he taught new recruits how to kill. Still, on other occasions, he carried out
contract assignments for his previous employer. For Paladin Payne, life was a chess
game. He enjoyed playing immensely. The game had been very profitable. A knight is
another word for paladin. This solider of fortunate was akin to the Japanese ronin of
ancient times. A master less samurai, Payne had no connection to the complexities of
bureaucratic organizations. Thus, he shared no loyalty to those in power. He was loyal
only to himself. A loner, he was a stranger to long term relationships. Paladin knew pain
throughout his entire life, personally and professionally. One jagged edge after another.
Shards of broken promises stuck to him. Yet, such experiences had honed his
senses and strengthened his skills. He knew how to clean up the messes politicians
created. There were times, for the sake of national security, he brought that pain to
others. Today was no different than many other days that preceded this one. The retired
colonel was about to exact justice in the special way he knew how. One loud mouthed
pompous elected official said the wrong thing at the wrong time. As a result, people in
another part of the world died torturous deaths. They just didn’t get it.
He sat in his Mercedes a discreet distance from the wrought iron entrance. Flipping
through the data file in his cell phone, pictures flashed on the screen. Winfield House was
the first picture. Located in Regent’s Park, this was the home of the U.S. Ambassador to
the Court of St. James. The mansion sat on twelve acres of pristine forest land. A fifteen
foot iron gate protected the main entrance. Surrounding the
compound was huge stone fence. Electronic surveillance systems did most of the work in
providing on site security. A police detail of two cops stood watch at the gate.
“What’d you think, Jade?” He said to the beautiful Eurasian woman net to him. She
was his cover companion in London. They’d worked together before and shared more
than assignments. Long black hair hung down her back. A short tight black dress clung
to her lean taut figure. He liked the matching stiletto heels with straps around the ankles.
And, he relished in knowing Jade Neko was every bit as professional as he. With her, he
could forget about painful things. He longed for the orient. “Your thoughts?”
“I think,” she answered in a thick British accent, “she’s easy. Security is lax. Too
much confidence. She’s arrogant, decadent and careless with herself.” She enjoyed his
warm hand on her thigh. His fingers tracing the outline of a dragon tattoo. “Poison in
champagne would be my preference.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain was Golda Edge. She was a famous movie
star. Her legend, somewhat fading, carried her into the political arena. Outspoken, she
lashed at oil companies while she drove gas guzzling expensive cars. Payne thought
movie stars should stay out of politics. To him, they were naïve celluloid manifestations
of the public’s hidden fantasies. They knew nothing of the real world outside of
Hollywood. In his mind, Tinsel Town was a plastic world of make believe.
Ambassador Edge went by Goldie to her friends. She was flamboyant, wealthy and
highly opinionated. She never allowed the facts to confuse her version of the truth. Her
appointment by the president was a dicey decision. But, in the world of politics,
symbolism over substance was often more important.
“The business of government,” Payne said to Jade, “makes for strange bedfellows.”
“Were you talking about me or you?” She was quick to respond. They smiled and held
hands.
“Neither,” he replied, putting his arm around her toned shoulders. “I don’t consider
either of us strange. We fit nicely together. And, I enjoy our assignments.”
“So do I,” she breathed a sigh of pleasure. Rubbing his thigh in return, she added,
“Now, how do you want to play this out? Stealthy, or up close and personal?” Her cat-
like reflexes, competent capabilities and deadly precision had always impressed him.
And, he couldn’t forget her other skills as a woman.
“Up close and personal,” he answered, leaning closer to her. They kissed. Her
smooth soft lips were succulent and dangerously seductive. The smell of her was
intoxicating. He thought of cherry blossoms in full bloom. Delicate petals of the flower
opening down the center, revealing a secret place. “I want to move in close. I want to
see her face when I do it. Poison sounds good. I have a small supply of an untraceable
substance. Instant cardiac arrest. We’ve field tested a newer version. Quick, silent and
deadly.
A medical examiner’s worst nightmare.” He reached inside his coat. A gold colored
envelope slid across Jade’s lap. “How would you like to go to a party?”
“U.S. Embassy seal,” she commented, her voice laced with British inflection. “How
nice. We’re going somewhere? Thank you.” She teased. Almond eyes spoke of
Japanese heritage, commingled with English upbringing. Long slender fingers opened
the envelope. Red lacquered nails knifed the edge of the flap. “A reception. A splendid
thing to do. Black tie. At the mansion. What shall I wear? Decisions, decisions. I’ll
have to go shopping you know. Something daring? Or, something discreet? Let’s see,
this is a business expense, right?”
“Absolutely, a business expense of course,” he agreed. Another kiss. “How about
something daring? We need distractions. Here, use mine.” He pulled a slim black
leather bi-fold wallet from his jacket. An American Express card appeared.
“Lancer Lovejoy,” she read the name on the card. “Haven’t heard that one in a
while.” An eyebrow rose over perfectly applied green eye shadow. “Always like that
name. The implications provoke the imagination. Do we have time for a leisurely lunch
at my place, Lancer?” She taunted him with a darting pink tongue.
“I certainly hope so,” he said, refusing to discipline his inclinations. “Some day, I
want to run off and disappear with you. Maybe an uncharted desert island.”
“I wish you would,” she answered, stretching in feline fashion and wrapping herself
around him. “You better drive fast. Hope you’re hungry.” He was hunger and he drove
fast.
The stately mansion was ornate, historically reflective and bedecked for the party.
Ambassador Edge often went over-board for such festive occasions. In Hollywood style,
she was outlandish, catering to every possible culinary taste and fashion. Music carried a
thumping beat and demand people dance. Champagne flowed freely, and the food was
extravagant. From head to toe, the ambassador wore a golden gown that trailed the
floor. Her blonde hair was pushed high on her head. The fingernails were gold as well.
Her husband, as usual was nowhere to be found. She probably sent him out of the
country so she could party all night. Dignitaries of one sort or another mingled in the
crowded grand ballroom.
“Given my seven day rule,” Payne explained, as he and Jade danced. They cuddled
close. Their cover mysteriously fabricated as foreign journalists. “Surveillance, study and
strategy, for seven days. After careful analysis, if everything’s still the same, I do the
sanction.”
“In this case?” Jade flashed a sensual gaze. “You’re not certain are you?”
“No,” he whispered close her ear. She tingled at the feel of his warm breath.
“Something’s not right. This is Friday. A death occurs. An assassination turns into
martyrdom. Followed by a resurrection and the imagery of a fallen heroine. A lot of
news coverage. Washington’s got it wrong. Bad Intel. If we play
this out, we’re not the knights in the game. The moves are all scripted. A deception
within deceptions. Langley’s being manipulated. We’ve become pawns.”
“By whom? And, for what ends?” The words dripped from her mouth. “Her
husband?”
“Yes,” he breathed heavily. They spun on the dance floor, gripping with clutching
motions. Their tango was alluring to envious eyes. “The jilted king. A devious wife with
wanton proclivities.”
“This is a domestic dispute,” Jade grinned devilishly. “Her death gets headlines. The
President gets coverage in the mourning process, along with the husband. This is about
the business of politics and the politics of business.”
“You’re deliciously correct,” he sighed holding her arched back, timing the music with
precise rhythmic thrust. “He’s a major contributor to the re-election campaign. The
President’s down in the polls. They’re both manipulating the intelligence reports. Each
gets what he wants. A husband scorned, a politician embarrassed. Dangerous
combination with a simple solution. Instead of knight checks queen, the pawns
decide the divorce settlement. She’s worth more dead than alive. The husband pays out
nothing, but gains everything. The President covers an indiscretion and climbs in the
polls.”
“Imagine that,” Jade quipped. “A husband who can’t be trusted, with a wife who can
never be trusted. Go figure the relationships between men and women.” She ran
fingernail daggers up and down his back.
One of her fingers tapped the golden signet ring on his right hand. A black onyx inlay
portrayed the knight of a chess piece. Underneath, a crystalline quantity of special
cyanide rested. A simple direct twitch of the finger opened the tiny compartment. Slight
of hand movement was required to execute the
maneuver. He had done it before. So had she. They were a remarkable team and
noticed the graceful movement of the waiter. Two champagne flutes on a silver tray
moved toward the ambassador and her husband. Music increased in tempo. Paladin and
Jade swirled in the direction of the intended couple. The waiter crossed near the dance
floor. Paladin and Jade danced around him in fluid motion. No one ever saw the
movement. Not even the waiter. A wave of a hand, a feint and subtle gesture. The white
powder fell into the golden liquid. Bubbling, the expensive champagne accepted the
intrusion. Cloaked by its chemical nature, the deadly microscopic granules mixed with
the fluid. Traces vanished. Submerged, waiting and ready to strike, the poison strained
in cocked anticipation.
“How do you know he’ll drink the right one?” Jade kissed him lightly on the neck.
Their dancing slowed to a waltz. “It’s a gamble if the wrong move is made. The knight
checks the queen, instead of the king. A sure and certain check mate is required.”
“Watch carefully,” he answered, holding her momentarily at arms length. Her
breathing increased with the tempo, while her body tensed in readiness. “The husband is
right handed. She sits to his right. He will present the champagne flute closest to her
with his right hand.” Paladin rotated Jade in a clockwise fashion. Like a feather to his
touch, she moved with graceful elegance. “Playing the gentleman, he’ll serve her the
glass, assuming the game is in play.”
“The king attempts to check the queen.” Jade traced the outline of his face with a
long finger. “Yet, he will drink his last toast to her, his intended victim. Two knights
checkmate the king instead. Game over. No longer pawns, but rogues whose gaming
was a gamble.”
“We work so well together,” he answered. “Later, the male knight and the female
knight, once again, become as one.” He turned her in the direction of the target.
“Watch this.”
“You’re right,” Jade answered. Her voice always alluring and enticing to him. “The
husband’s hand grips the slender moistened flute and offers it to his wife. He chose as
you predicted.”
“Her lips touch the edge of the potent vessel,” he sighed, looking into Jade’s eyes.
“They toast each other. She drinks. Swallows. Her eyes dart to a handsome young man
nearby. She scans him up and down. A smile breaks over her face.”
“But,” Jade continued their joint observation of unfolding events, “he hastens the
conclusion. In a rush, he gulps his own refreshment. Content with his own hurried
revenge. Satisfied he has won. His honor restored, he fails in making his move too
quickly.” Paladin kissed her small hand and held it in his.
A hush fell over the crowd, as a look of horror came over the ambassador’s face. She
screamed. Her husband, shocked by the pain, clutched his throat in horrid anguish. He
tried to speak, but the poison was instantaneous. Both his hands dug at shirt collar.
Buttons flew off. With a gasp, followed by gurgling sounds, his body convulsed. A
ghostly expression filled his face. He smashed across the dinning table. Glasses, cups and
dishes shattered. A few quick spasms and he was dead. Chaos ensued. Cell phones
came out of pockets. Calls were made. Security personnel panicked. Sirens blared in the
distance.
The next day, in the darkened office at Langley, Virginia, an email would be opened.
The senior case officer would read it. The message would say, “Original moves based on
false assumptions. Game reconfigured. Knights checkmate king. Awaiting new game.”
He rotated to one side in his swivel desk chair. With a smile, he said to himself, “He
figured it out. He’s good.” His hand reached for the mouse. The cursor found the delete
button and the message vanished.
“So, darling,” Jade began, “what was this game about?”
“All games we play,” he answered, “are about love or money. This one was about
love. The kind that gets distracted and out of control because we get selfish.”
“Fascinating how things come to an end,” she replied. “Game over until next time.”
“How about trip to Tokyo?” Paladin asked Jade. The powerful engine of the
Mercedes roared as they left the mansion. “We could visit the family. What’d ya say?
You be the queen in our game.”
“Sounds wonderful, let’s do it,” Jade replied with excitement. Her hand stroked his
face, tracing the handsome features. Her head fell to his shoulder and she rested.
“Knight checks queen?”
Daniel Rappaport
Shadows
Happy Chairs
Vivekanand Jha
My poem falters and falls

I write with ink of blood


To testimonialize and give
A touch of eternity to it
But my poem falters and falls
In the poetry of the world.

I pluck words from


A flowry and ornated garden
And weave a garland of them
To adorn the world
But they trample it
Under their feet
Like they crush the stub
Of the cigarete to prevent it
From catching the fire.

I discover the words


Hidden in the unhaunted
Recess of the mind
And juxtapose them
Like an ideal couple
Of bride and bridegroom
At bridal chamber
And turn my poem on new lea
But they tilt their stony eyes
And turn deaf ears to it.

I infuse my heart and soul


Into the poem
Thinking it would be
The best and the last of my life
But they simply say:
Since it is the beginning
You would learn by mistakes.
Interview of Jayanta Mahapatra with Vivekanand Jha

Jayanta Mahapatra needs little introduction. There are many features which
make him distinct from his contemporaries like: the most prolific poet in the history
India English Poetry, belongs to poor and middle class family, a scholar from science
background, first poet to receive Sahitya Akademi Award in the Indian English
Poetry, a poet who commands more respect overseas than at home, and profundity of
images and symbols in his poetry. It was the morning of 15Th Nov 09; I have an
opportunity to visit the residence of Jayanta Mahapatra. As we all know Jayanta
Mahapatra is in his nineties and he has been chronic patient of asthma and recurrent
migraine. Because of chest heaviness and breathlessness he doesn’t prefer, at all, to
talk in the morning hour. So I returned empty handed in the morning but in the
evening I have a talk with him in cordial and friendly atmosphere. Moreover after
passing of his wife Late Runu Mahapatra last year, he is internally shaken and
weakened, as they were an ideal and exemplerary couple. After meeting with him
when I came out of his room I spoke to his maidservant who has been serving them
for years regarding how Jayanta Mahapatra feels the absence of his wife. She said he
wept bitterly when his wife died and even now he brusts into tears occasionaly in her
loving memory. Let us share the excerpt of conversation:

V Jha: In the book, “Door of Paper: Essays and memoirs”, all the essays
and articles written by you are available.

J Mahapatra: Not all, but most of them are available.

V Jha: Your theme of poetry is oriented on that only.

J Mahapatra: Yah, all my childhood

V Jha: Who is the contemporary you like the most?

J Mahapatra: Can’t say like that.

V Jha: You have somewhere talked about A K Ramanujan.

J Mahapatra: Yes, he was idealistic and very good writer.

V Jha: It is he whom you like most!

J Mahapatra: Yes.
V Jha: In the book, “History of Indian English Literature” authored by
M. K. Naik, he mentions that contemporary Indian poets, who made name in
the Indian and world English poetry, have got his first book published by P.
Lal only. Is it true?

J. Mahapatra: It is true because all these people were published by P. Lal.


He also has done a very good job, very good humanitarian job. We can’t deny
it. Giving encouragement to new writers is something not many people have
done. The poet like Ezekiel, even this man who made a name, Vikram Seth,
he was also published by P. Lal. Kamala Das, all these people were published.

V Jha: Sir you express your dissatisfaction over the absence of constructive
criticism on your poetry especially in India. They include only ugly aspects of
your poetry. What kind of criticism you want to have on your poetry?

J Mahapatra: I don’t read criticism. I haven’t seen those books. I don’t


want to see criticism because that doesn’t help me much. Unless it is positive
criticism but one writes for one write. One doesn’t write because the critic tells
to write like this.

V Jha: The very title of your book of poetry bears significance of bleakness
and barrenness. Is there vested interest in doing that?

J Mahapatra: No, It came own its own.

V Jha: What are the works you are at present busy with?

J Mahapatra: At present I am writing my autobiography in Oriya. At


least one part I want to publish latest by June, if I am living (smilingly). After I
finish it, I will publish a new book of English poems. So let me see what
happens.

V Jha: Have you decided the title of your new book of poetry?

J Mahapatra: No, no, not yet.

V Jha: How many poems will be there?

J Mahapatra: I don’t know. I have still not decided.


V Jha: Your autobiography is available up to 1989. Are you
planning to write or have written about yourself after that?

J. Mahapatra: I have written small portion of my autobiography because


an American Encyclopedia wanted it for living contemporary writers but now
I am writing autobiography in Oriya. It’s being serialized in a magazine.

V Jha: It is after 1989.

J Mahapatra: No, no, no, it’s about my childhood and early days.

V Jha: Has it been published?

J Mahapatra: I am just writing it now. Only three has come out. Next will
come out soon, one by one in series. I am trying to write. I don’t know I will
pull on. I can’t tell of tomorrow (Kal ki baat to ham nahin bol sakate). But I
am trying to do whatever I can. It’s all about my childhood, my youth and my
days at Patna.

V Jha: What would be your advice to the budding poet?

J Mahapatra: Write whatever you feel, feel from your heart, from your
inside. One thing will also help you. Just you write from the level, tilt a little
higher level. If we can go somewhat towards God in the guise of writing (Thora
eshawar ke taraph, thora sa, aagar hamlog ja sakate hain likhake).
If we can that should be our goal. Don’t you think so? Your conscience and
soul search good things. And when you go about writing a poem as a priest offers
the God by picking and choosing the flowers so we should do with words. (Jaise Poojari
phool chun-chun kar chadhate hain to hamlog Pooja ke
tarahshabad ko aik-aik kar ke banana chahiye. Mera to yahin
khyal hai)

V Jha: To whom you want to dedicate your success as a poet.

J Mahapatra: It’s my wife. She has been very co-operative. She has been
giving me freedom. If your wife doesn’t give you freedom how can you write?
Somebody should be there, you take the time also and also worries, no worries
from other things, household things and all like that. So if you have time and
then she gives you freedom also to live and we want to live to help the people,
not to help the people.

V Jha: I would like to know about your reaction on the talk of your being
the father of the modern and post-modern Indian English poetry.

J Mahapatra: No, no. I write what I can. I don’t think about it

V Jha: Can you recall the moment and instant which had inspired you to
compose maiden verse?

J Mahapatra: Actually I was writing story in the beginning, but this story
were not published, they were all rejected. So I didn’t write for long day. I did
research I Physics and still photography I also had a interest. Then later on I
began writing. I don’t know it happened, very late it happened.

V Jha: Is Chandrabhaga still publishing or not?

J Mahapatra: We are not publishing it know. I didn’t have time. I didn’t


have the money involves for publishing. All these sorts of problems to take
over. That’s why we stopped it.

V Jha: In a country of more than one billion people, a magazine


Chandrabhaga had come to cease the publication. In your view what is the
fate and future of Indian English poetry?

J Mahapatra: Graphic magazine, fashion magazine, movie magazine, you


can only get funding. Otherwise nobody is purchasing a literary periodical.
Not only in India, I think this is the case of every where in the world but
especially in India we have too much emphasis on film and fashion.

V Jha: I have read your various interviews, articles and essays and
found that you were never mentioned the great name like Shakespeare,
Wordsworth, Keats, T.S. Eliot, and Y. B. Weats. Does it make you something
orthodox and unconventional?

J Mahapatra: I didn’t know. I didn’t study them. I studied science you


know. English literature I didn’t read.

V Jha: What was your main source of inspiration?


J Mahapatra: Main source of inspiration: my land, my people, my
place, what I see, what social injustice I see, and political injustice. I
should like to write about the hunger. I think Orissa is the one of
the very, very, very, very poor state, very poor. You go inside the
villages you will see they don’t have the place to live in. They don’t have
roof over their heads. They don’t have one meal a day. They don’t have rice
also to eat. And only politician can find out which things are there.
During election time they do visit the villages once and next five years nothing
happens. The same poverty, they sell their children to keep their own
stomachs. Mothers sell their daughters, fathers sail their daughters. Even
today it’s happening. Especially in Orissa and interior of India.

V Jha: In your autobiography you have talked about a beautiful girl.

J Mahapatra: Irene! Irene! It happened just in the class. But this is in


Oriya I have talked about other girls also, so that I could enjoy more priority.
In English you can’t do that. In your own mother tongue you can talk about
those things that you can’t talk about in English. What we have by virtue of our soil
and local air that we can’t have any other way. We have with our mother tongue. I have
one and only religion that if I couldn’t help anybody why should I harm. (Apani
mitti se, apani hawa se jo hoti hai wo bahar ke raste se nahin.
Apani maa ke juwan se hoti hai. Mera to ek hin dharma hai ki kisi
ka kuchh harm mat karo. Ham to kisi ke liye kuchh kar nahin
pate hai to kisi ko dukh kyon pahuchayen). If you can’t help
somebody let us not harm somebody. That should be the religion of
everybody. Religion has no concern with temple, church or mosque.

V Jha: Are your madam surviving or not?

J Mahapatra: No, she is no more.

V Jha: In which year she expired?

J Mahapatra: Last year.

V Jha: I came to know from your autobiography that you have performed
your M. Sc. from Patana.

J Mahapatra: That’s right, from Patna, Patna Science college.

V Jha: As I am from Bihar, I would like to know about your experience


of staying there during the course of post graduation at Patna University.
What was the positive aspect you had found there?

J. Mahapatra: Those days were much better than today. And Patna
University was one of the best universities of India. I was living in a small
mess, small verandah and small rented building. We were about ten students.
We are rented small rooms of the professor of engineering college, Prof Ojha.
The building in which we were staying was near to the Mahendru Ghat and
law college.

V Jha: In which year you have done your M. Sc.?

J Mahapatra: It was in the year 1949-50.

V Jha: For how many years you had been Bihar?

J Mahapatra: I had been there for three years.

V Jha: That time P. G. course was of three years!

J Mahapatra: I didn’t appear in final examination. I came away home.


Again I went and appeared in the examination. That time riots were there. I
didn’t feel secure. All sorts of things were there.

V Jha: You have talked about some emerging poets from the North-east
region.

J Mahapatra: There are some good and young poets specially from
Meghalay, Mizoram and also in Arunachal Pradesh.

V Jha: Earlier such talents were not there in that region. How now such
things happen to see?

J Mahapatra: See, there is tension there in North-East. If you have no


tension you can’t write well. If you have tension you can bring about your
feelings well. Unless you have failure, suffering and sorrows in your life how
can you write? If you have enough to eat, enough money, a good house and a
car, why will you write? What will you write about? You have no problems to
write about! If you have got problems, may be racial problems, religious
problems, hunger problems and social problems. Problems will lead you to
think, unless you think you can’t write, ideas will not come in your mind. For
ideas you need the images to supplement your ideas. So all things make a
certain cycle that is necessary. It begins only when you have certain problems
in your life to start writing poetry. Is it right Vivekanand?

V Jha: You have talked about one poet from Kolkota.

J Mahapatra: You talk about Rudhra Kinshuk.I like this poet. Young boy
and he makes good use of new images. I like when you put a new type images
in the poem.

V Jha: what do you mean by new images? Innovation it should be extracted


from the new invention, science and technology

J Mahapatra: New images mean you try to bring about something that
never happened or done by some other poets before you. There was a great
Urdu poet from Allahabad side, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, he used to write, “I want to
drink through eyes not by lips” ( Lavon se nahin Main peena chahata, main
ankhoon se peena chahata hoon). Something new like this.

V Jha: Your son is at Ahmadabad. Isn’t it?

J Mahapatra: No, no. He is at Singapore. He has gone outside.

V Jha: Only writing is your main sort of engagement.

J Mahapatra: I read also a lot. When I can’t read, I write. When I can’t
write I read

V Jha: What is your source of entertainments?

J Mahapatra: I like to watch TV.

V Jha: Which program do you like most?

J Mahapatra: I put it on and just think of other things.

V Jha: Do you like news channels?

J Mahapatra: No, no they are very, very sensational news. Even now
cricket also I don’t see. Earlier I used to watch each and every match without
fail. Last year I have stopped it. Cricket has degraded now after the rising
importance of T- twenty Matches.
Jayanta Mahapatra
Hunger

It was hard to believe the flesh was heavy on my back.


The fisherman said: Will you have her, carelessly,
trailing his nets and his nerves, as though his words
sanctified the purpose with which he faced himself.
I saw his white bone thrash his eyes.

I followed him across the sprawling sands,


my mind thumping in the flesh's sling.
Hope lay perhaps in burning the house I lived in.
Silence gripped my sleeves; his body clawed at the froth
his old nets had only dragged up from the seas.

In the flickering dark his lean-to opened like a wound.


The wind was I, and the days and nights before.
Palm fronds scratched my skin. Inside the shack
an oil lamp splayed the hours bunched to those walls.
Over and over the sticky soot crossed the space of my mind.

I heard him say: My daughter, she's just turned fifteen...


Feel her. I'll be back soon, your bus leaves at nine.
The sky fell on me, and a father's exhausted wile.
Long and lean, her years were cold as rubber.
She opened her wormy legs wide. I felt the hunger there,
the other one, the fish slithering, turning inside.
Freedom

At times, as I watch,
it seems as though my country’s body
floats down somewhere on the river.
Left alone, I grow into
a half-disembodied bamboo,
its lower part sunk
into itself on the bank.

Here, old widows and dying men


cherish their freedom,
bowing time after time in obstinate prayers.
While children scream
with this desire for freedom
to transform the world
without even laying hands on it.

In my blindness, at times I fear


I’d wander back to either of them.
In order for me not to lose face,
it is necessary for me to be alone.
Not to meet the woman and her child
in that remote village in the hills
who never had even a little rice
for their one daily meal these fifty years.
And not to see the uncaught, bloodied light
of sunsets cling to the tall white columns
of Parliament House.

In the new temple man has built nearby,


the priest is the one who knows freedom,
while God hides in the dark like an alien.
And each day I keep looking for the light
shadows find excuses to keep.
Trying to find the only freedom I know,
the freedom of the body when it’s alone.
The freedom of the silent shale, the moonless coal,
the beds of streams of the sleeping god.
I keep the ashes away,
try not to wear them on my forehead.
Ash

The substance that stirs in my palm


could well be a dead man; no need
to show surprise at the dizzy acts of wind.
My old father sitting uncertainly three feet away

is the slow cloud against the sky:


so my heart's beating makes of me a survivor
over here where the sun quietly sets.
The ways of freeing myself:

the glittering flowers, the immensity of rain for example,


which were limited to promises once
have had the lie to themselves. And the wind,
that had made simple revelation in the leaves,

plays upon the ascetic-faced vision of waters;


and without thinking
something makes me keep close to the walls
as though I was afraid of that justice in the shadows.

Now the world passes into my eye:


the birds flutter toward rest around the tree,
the clock jerks each memory towards
the present to become a past, floating away
like ash, over the bank.

My own stirrings like the wind's


keep hoping for the solace that would be me
in my father's eyes
to pour the good years back on my;

the dead man who licks my palms


is more likely to encourage my dark intolerance
rather than turn me
toward some strangely solemn charade:

the dumb order of the myth


lined up in the life-field,
the unconcerned wind perhaps truer than the rest,
rustling the empty, bodiless grains.
Her Hand

The little girl’s hand is made of darkness


How will I hold it?
The streetlamps hang like decapitated heads
Blood opens that terrible door between us
The wide mouth of the country is clamped in pain
while its body writhes on its bed of nails
This little girl has just her raped body
for me to reach her
The weight of my guilt is unable
to overcome my resistance to hug her.
E.B. Sanders

The Perfect Suicide

It was time for Allen to die. His wiener no longer worked.

“When your wiener no longer works,” Allen said, “It’s time to move on.”

His buddy told him to take Cialis. “Doc has me on these Cialis things, thirty-six

hour boners. I drop one of those and I have to apologize to my poor wife. She’s seventy

eight, she can’t handle that.”

“Neither can I!” said Allen. “Besides, what am I to do with a thirty-six hour

boner. Mary’s with the Lord and I’m too old to go chasing around a new girlfriend.

Besides, I couldn’t do anything once I caught her.”

“You could if you had Cialis,” Tony reasoned.

“Yeah but she’d have to be twenty-four to handle a thirty-six hour boner. What

twenty-four year old girl in her right mind wants a shriveled old man with a permanent

hard-on. No way, when your wiener goes, that’s life telling you to move on. If we were

still living by the rules of nature, where only the strong survive, we’d of been eaten. Just

because we have medication to give you boners for a day and a half, and nurse you along

‘til you have to wear diapers and can’t remember the names of your own children,

doesn’t mean we have to. No sir-re bob, I’m going out on my own terms, not like some

dirty old man with a fabricated, permanent hard-on. I’m going out with dignity, I’m

going out in a blaze of glory.”


All Allen had to do now, was decide what, “a blaze of glory”, meant. He thought

of doing something really crazy, like robbing a bank. No, wait, a series of banks! He’d go

on a cross-country robbing spree and end in a hail of bullets. But Allen was no criminal.

He was just an old man, an old man with a wiener that no longer worked. Besides, he

didn’t want to hurt anyone. He didn’t want to scare the poor girl behind the desk, give

her a heart attack and leave her children orphaned. Allen wasn’t a bad guy. He was a

good guy. He lived a good life, it was just his time to die and if it was his time to die, by

God he was gonna die with some dignity. Now how to die with dignity, that was the

question.

Allen contemplated the old stand-bys; shooting oneself in the head, but eww, how

messy. There’s nothing glorious about having your brains all over your carpet. Mary

loved that carpet, she had it put in right before she died.

Allen thought of hanging himself, but he heard you peed and pooped your pants

when you did that. What’s so dignified about soiled britches?

There was always jumping off a bridge. He’d been told to do that a number of

times over the years; but Allen was scared of heights. He’d never bring himself to do it.

He’d just be standing on the edge for hours and hours with everyone standing around

watching him, half of the people trying to talk him down and the other half silently

waiting, wishing for him to do it. Allen was not going to go down as a sideshow.

He could drive his car off the bridge. That was very possible since he couldn’t

really see at night. Just take a nice little drive and veer to the right. The problem was

there’d been too much veering and they had taken away his damn license.

There was always pills. Lord knows he had enough of those to get the job done,

but Allen hated his medication. The doctor prescribed them due to his multiple ailments.
“I only have one ailment,” Allen said, “I’m old!” Still he took them, but they made him

feel like a cactus; sun-baked and prickly. If a few of those made him feel that bad, he

couldn’t imagine what a whole bottle would do.

No, none of these old faithfuls were going to work. He needed something novel,

something with a little pizzazz! He’d lived most of his life without pizzazz. He worked, got

married, bought a house, raised children and out lived his dog Rosco. Even if Allen could

get another dog he’d probably keep on going; but he was too old even to get another dog.

It wouldn’t have been right. He was too old to give it the proper exercise and just as the

dog was truly attached to his master, the master would fall over and croak. Then the dog

would be alone in the house, unfed and unable to go out to the bathroom. The dog would

just hang around Allen’s corpse, pooing and peeing. When someone finally came over to

check on the old man, they’d find a rotting corpse surrounded by dog excrement. No, it

was time to go. When your wife’s dead, your dog’s dead and you’re too old to get new

ones of either, it’s time to go. How to go however, was still the question.

He had ruled out a hail of gun bullets, a single bullet to the head, hanging, and

pills. There were a few other dreary options but they were quickly eliminated. He could

put a plastic bag over his head, but that seemed impossible. He’d just take it off. With

pills, by the time you realize the consequences, it’s too late. But no one in their right mind

would go through with something like a bag over the head. You’d either have to be crazy

or really depressed. Allen was neither; he was just old. His wife, his dog and his wiener

were dead. It was just time to go. Allen was fine with that. Everyone had to go sometime,

this was his time. He just had to figure out how.

There was always Carbon Monoxide poisoning, but it’d be the same as with the

plastic bag; he’d push the button on the automatic garage door opener and be alive, only
with the worst hangover in the history of hangovers. Allen had survived some pretty bad

hangovers in his time, hangovers so bad he felt like dying; he couldn’t imagine a hangover

from actually almost dying.

He could slit his wrist but, there was nothing glorious about all that blood. All that

blood would be disgusting and Allen didn’t want a disgusting death. He wanted a grand,

honorable death, something fantastic, something glorious. Allen wanted a hero’s death, a

warrior’s death. That was it! Seppuku! The death of the Samurai! When Samurai were

defeated in battle but survived, they’d put on their best ceremonial garb, write a poem,

take their sword, and plunge it into their gut. But Allen couldn’t even sit in his car with

the garage door down, how the hell was he ever going to stab himself in the stomach.

Allen knew he was no Samurai. He was just an old man, an old man whose time it was to

die. How to die was the question though, a question to which the answer was proving

immensely evasive.

Allen had tried everything, or at least thought of trying everything. Nothing was

working. The extreme ideas, such as Seppuku and a hail of police gun bullets, was beyond

him. Those were the deaths of warriors and criminals. Allen was neither. The old faithfuls

however: bullet to the brain, hanging, jumping off a bridge, pills, those were just sad and

boring, not to mention not always fatal. Something could easily go wrong with any of

those. Allen wanted a glorious death, not a sad, boring and non-fatal one; but…and a

thought came to him, what if he combined a few of the old faithfuls. What if he combined

all of the old faithfuls! What if he combined all of the old faithfuls with a touch a pizzazz?

What if he shot himself in the head, while jumping off a bridge, with a noose around his

neck and a stomach full of pills? What if he he shot himself in the head, while jumping off

a bridge, with a noose around his neck and a stomach full of pills, while on FIRE! Now
that was glorious! That was exciting! That was world class pizzazz with guaranteed

success. There was no way he was going to survive that. This was it, this is how Allen was

going to die.

Now he just needed supplies.

First however, he needed a shot of bourbon, not to still his nerves, but to

celebrate. He went to the cupboard, drew forth his finest bourbon, poured a double shot

into a highball and lifted his glass, “Gentlemen,” Allen said, addressing an imagined

audience, “Today is our day to die. Well actually it might be tomorrow, we’ll see, I have a

lot of supplies to get. But still, it is our time. We’ve lived a great life. We

have…done…great things, and now it is time to meet our maker.”

Without further ado Allen began gathering his supplies. He refilled his glass and

walked upstairs. He took a shoebox from the top shelf of his clothes closet. Inside was his

gun, a .38 revolver he’d taken from a dead Nazi Commander. Allen kept the bullets in a

separate place, so he walked back downstairs, through the kitchen (where he refilled his

bourbon) and into the garage. There he found his bullets and filled his pocket with them,

he also found there a length of rope, his old army canteen and a satchel bag. In the

recycling bin he found an empty bottle and he filled it with gasoline.

Allen had everything he needed from the garage, so he went back inside the

house, and stopped by the kitchen. There he got his Bar-B-Que lighter, filled his old army

canteen with water and got another refill of bourbon. Then Allen made his way to the

bathroom and fumbled through the medicine cabinet for his pain pills and muscle

relaxers. The doctor had prescribed them for the pain in his left shoulder, an old war

wound. That pain was gone now, as well as the fatigue of old age. Allen felt better than he

had felt in years. He felt so good he almost wanted to go on living, and really living, get a
dog, a girl, the whole nine yards. But then Allen became depressed when he remembered

he couldn’t get a dog or a girl, which is why it was time to die. When he thought of his

impending and timely death he became happy again, so happy that he went back to the

kitchen and refilled his bourbon. He placed his bourbon in the bag as well; why not,

there’d be no hangovers tomorrow.

He was all set then, all set to die, both literally and figuratively. He was literally

ready, he had his gun, bullets, rope, pills, canteen, gasoline, lighter and bourbon. He was

figuratively ready as well, he was old, happy, he had lived life, raised children, loved a

woman, defended his country, been to Paris, London and Disney World. It was time.

Allen made sure the lights in his house were off (old habits and all) then he went to

the door, opened it, and turned around to take one last look at the house which held so

many fond memories.

It was a glorious march to the old estuary bridge. Allen had fished there many

times over the years, caught flounder, stripped-bass and hung crab traps over the edge.

There was a million little memories like this. Allen’s wealth of memories flooded back to

him during the six mile walk to the bridge. Allen toasted individual memories every time

the bottle was lifted. He lifted his bottle to Mary, his lifelong love. He lifted his bottle to

his children, his three beautiful girls. He lifted the bottle to his grandchildren and was

grateful their last memory of him would not be of a stumbling old man in diapers,

muttering about the war. Allen lifted his bottle to the friends he lost along the way: in the

war, on the job-site, over time. Allen lifted his bottle into the air and cried, “I love you

Mary! I’m coming home, I’m coming home!”


Allen then realized he was on the bridge, right smack dap in the middle of the

bridge. This realization sobered him up a bit. The realization that he was sobered up a bit

made him take another shot.

Allen set the bottle on the guardrail, then he reached into his satchel and drew out

his gun. Loading the gun was a difficult task to execute through the bourbon’s blur, but it

got loaded all the same. He laid the gun on the railing, then pulled out his pills, canteen,

gasoline and lighter and placed them in a nice neat line beside the gun and bourbon.

Allen drew out the rope, tied one end around the guardrail and made a noose with the

other end. Between the bourbon and the arthritis, the noose proved difficult to tie. For a

second he thought of scraping the whole noose thing all together, but then he

remembered his fear of heights, so he kept trying until he got it.

With the noose complete, so was Allen’s preparation.

It was time.

It was time for Allen to die.

He lifted the bottle again and saw it was almost done.

“Might as well finish it off,” Allen told himself and set to doing so, shot by shot,

carrying out elaborate toasts before each one. Before the last shot he lifted his glass and

said, “I love you Mary.”

Allen awkwardly climbed over the guardrail, he was old, drunk and a little scared.

Allen placed the noose around his neck. Then he opened his pills, unscrewed the lid of his

canteen, and downed them all. He took the gasoline and poured it over his body.

Allen gingerly turned around and looked out across the water which ran into the

sea. He took a deep breath, picked up his gun in one hand, and the lighter in the other.

Allen took one last breath and then ignited into flames. He flailed wildly and fell off the
bridge. The noose twisted his neck something awful but he had bigger concerns, he was

on fire, hanging off a bridge by his neck; good thing he had a gun in his hand or this

might hurt. He lifted his gun and while swinging wildly in an inferno of licking flames, he

pulled the trigger. Amidst all the chaos of fire, flailing and swinging, it isn’t surprising

Allen missed his head. The bullet whizzed by his head but it hit the rope. The rope split

and Allen began falling.

“Good thing I thought this out,” Allen told himself referring to his three

remaining backups: the fall, the fire and the pills. Allen however forgot that it was a

spring tide during the fall equinox, which meant it was the highest tide of the year, thirty-

eight feet higher than a normal low tide. It was only a fifty-foot drop, high enough to hurt

like hell but not high enough to kill you.

Allen landed in the water and sizzled as the flames were extinguished. He hadn’t

even been on fire long enough to burn through the gas, his clothes were barely black.

Even if he wasn’t bald, at least his hair would have been singed, but since he was old and

bald, his head was fine.

Just as Allen thought, “I still have my pills,” the shock of it all: the hot flames, the

cold water, the fall, the fear, made him vomit explosively. Even while still underwater,

two full bottles of bourbon and pills poured out of him. By the time Allen made it back to

the surface, he knew, he had survived the perfect suicide.


Rick Marlatt
Seasonal Prayer

What is this creek


this pasture
this river valley world?
It’s the salty cow skull in afternoon sun crack space black eye holes open portals
to old songs sung in vowels of grief-
the prophets of sandhill spring who saunter out to do us another dance-
the palatable distance in the Herring’s wingspan sky blue wide tracing heaven in looping
brush strokes
listen to the land.

It’s a dancing secret on the breath of the morning fawn-


a boy with buffalo grass at the root of his marrow born all over to become a man-
child to father to clod to corn to dust to blue wingspan
listen to the land.

What is this cow skull creek bed breathing bull frog vocal sac
trailing tears of black ants marching what is it’s sunflower burden?
It’s bovine esophagus
gushing chemical run-off
to charcoal spits under sycamore scowl

listen, it’s the old man driven by allegiance to land like a lime oak leaf bleeds November
stays ahead of the first snow’s surge-
it’s a place panting to keep up stay productive proficient worthwhile.

Listen to the pasture creek’s braided brain whisper as it crawls on four generation knees
gutted jagged by green sky tooth minnow sprinkle gums cubescent tears
greasy sweat blood shattercane swirls in prairie worlds reflected time in manure love
spa cool morning majestic midnight carries the weight of me.

Who is this boy with buckled knees ready to cross to the other bank?
Whose hands are these that bleed ether steel weather the wind?
He’s the man you’ll become.

It’s the hoarfrost that’s called


in December crystals
that star barbed wire
wrenched and wrapped tight like varicose veins around skull hard hands
and blue wingspan.

What is this spirit wave this cottonwood trance?

Let the pasture creek call in floods of forever divide and disperse all motion
all timelet it run here die here be born all over here
rush wave rush ripple ripple zippergrass dip.

Who is this boy rising from buffalo grass marrow in June columns of glory
to wingspan heaven blue?
It was you the morning fawn whispers
as you drench the father’s hands with the son’s soaked soil clod.
Locked eyes join the banks over whippoorwill waves that drown anhydrous hiss and rattle
with old prairie oceans belted in vowels of grief.

Let it run let it roar let it bleed let it sing let it rollover
listen listen

listen to the land.


Last Sunday Night in the World

There’s no debating
the ritualistic notion, for it,
life begins at birth.

For it, being carved & lifted


from the gut of circumstance
is no random occurrence

but the sign of godly introspection.


Suspended in the voice mail’s
exemption of purpose

your mouth was titling


a particular version of my impressions
back into lonely left-handed

wind currents at the foot


of five mountains floating
somewhere in the void of late thirties.

Inside the mountain


a voice is reciting childhoods.

Locusts are losing an edge


on their buzz & shedding
lives abruptly outgrown.

Tires scream for no reason.


Through the storied window I see
a small fire burn in the tree.

Fires are burning in the trees.

This is the last Sunday night


in the hazy world.

Each leaf I inspect is browned


with another season of what
have you been up to man,

lifelines indicate different


capsules of you & other ways
of saying if only I had
a poetry machine to put your words into,
if only the sun didn’t stain
with such profundity

if only we were sixteen again,


stealing haughty laughter
from your parents’ fridge

there’d be more sky to blaze


new diameters, there’d be
more time to scream green forevers,

there’d be more moments


to seal inside bottles
& watch explode blue clusters

at the finger of a trigger,


inversion of an eyebrow,
the ignorance of speculation.

Dark matter is screaming


speculation against blue clusters.

So tell me you’re good.

Tell me you’re interested


in alternative forms of foolishness.
Tell me you can’t see the fires

from your garage window


where you mount a muffler
onto your desperation.

Tell me you’re cozy


in the nook of acceptance.

Funny, isn’t it, how glaring


halts a planetary wobble yet does
nothing for years for freckles.
Mirrors

My students are the same age eye was when my friend took a four-wheeler to the face.
Eye try to remember that they aggravate me by applying makeup during class,
their little capsules held so close no unborn pimple can ever be a secret.

Eye keep the microwave timer set to forever so every snack is a one button affair,
& less tings means eye don’t have to worry as much about waking up the kids,
but the carvings under my eyes usually squelch my appetite anyway.

When eye scrape Solzhenitsyn’s frost from my windshield in the chill of blue
black morning the reflection that’s revealed fills the vacant air with ghosts gusting from
his insides, rises high over the silver yellow stars lying on the snow like tiny cities.

Through the window, watching winter haunt the indifferent streets, on the fireplace
doors, in the onyx pool of coffee, in the front temporal tube of the computer screen,
autonomy blistered by relentless clones, life multiplying, multiplying.
Deer

first author’s note: though the title suggests otherwise, this poem is mostly about humans
and starts with a latte.

FADE IN.

INT. IROC Z-28. WESTBOUND. EVENING. FLY-OVER COUNTRY.

Sunset stretches
out in ethereal waves as he flies down Interstate 80
its smooth grey track is wing folded over breast of winter prairie
soft breasts of his companion in the passenger seat expand
contract in quick ripples which stifle frustrated festered anger
the tired echoes
of argument
vibrate between them
juggle quake puddles splash inside
covered coffee cup
one sip then disregarded

EXT. FLY-OVER COUNTRY. CONTINUOUS.

to the south a herd of speckled white tails


slow dance meditation, lifelines dabbed
serene canvas pink sunset sky backdrop
breathe in pristine muscular stillness
perfect round wet snow splashes trail behind
lead back to some forest green secret space
world of pines sleep peace under white blankets
dipping tongues sip from cold streams prickly snouts
navigate lowest levels of deep snowpack
like silent vacuum that runs on world’s tilt
frost grass slumbers undiscovered for months.
so still so quiet at once they raise focused heads
silent communion channel universal consciousness we deem soulless
thoughtless instinct.

INTERCUTS BETWEEN INT. AND EXT. CONTINUOUS.


(She speaks now…)

we don’t communicate
beasts gnaw and swallow
you can’t even look at me when I’m talking to you
firm hoof punctures ice fresh trickle to drink sting throat refresh
look at those deer
red tailed hawk swoops down in neighboring field rips open field gopher flesh
gnaw swallow gnaw sip swallow
they’re so peaceful
forest siren song lullaby soon time to return
why can’t we just be like that?

second author’s note: at this time, he thinks of the Disney film his mother-in-law
purchased for the unborn child. You may have seen it or are at least familiar with the
story.

INT. IROC. CONTININUOUS.


(He speaks now…)
He
Take Bambi: Deer don’t cry
when their mothers die
don’t develop Oedipus complex
later in life after enduring
absent, indifferent father.
Though Bambi falls hoof over crown
for Feline he’s destined
to prince the forest
mate with legions of does (he thinks of mating with her)
this is his nature
you call that disgusting
polygamist or worse, bachelor
we can’t be content like the deer
because happiness is a natural feeling
we are not natural
HIS POV.

as he speaks he sees her sigh stare blankly out her window


he begins to formulate his apology he’ll offer not now
but in a mile or two his eyes still lock with the creatures who
now are dust specks in his rearview mirror like childhood flashes in memory
how he longs to stop the car turn around return to silence
he sees in the deer silence a world that makes sense perfect natural sense

HER POV.

He
(eyes glistening)
Deer don’t discriminate
they aren’t petty
don’t rage to war over words
don’t contemplate their mortality
and don’t have nervous breakdowns when
some teenage girl working for minimum wage
mistakenly adds pumpkin spice flavor
to espresso

third author’s note: you may have experienced an unbearable silence. This phenomenon
or something very similar is occurring at this time.

I’m sorry about the coffee


I ordered gingerbread! Gingerbread! Is that so hard!
Slow blinks heavy breaths pillow crunch dried sycamore leaves
dark green secrets perfect sleep
FADE OUT.

final author’s note: this poem is experimental and may not even be finished at this time.
Driving North

Leave your spirit behind.

For as we soar through her open valleys, rape her gutless with blood lust talons,
our flesh splashing beaks drive flag holes in her chest. Bare. Breathing. Blood.
Hurry now, before Sun blinds us in wicked dust, before we lose our way.
Wings are our escape. That’s it. Flap faster. Harder.
Swipe at their w r e n c h i n g r e a c h e s and clenchedfists. We can see our way home.
Forget her snake black eye her bloodless lips. Forget the others.
Home calls us back-
Never lose your wings.

When we roll upward through her jagged hills,


surge through sage sprinkled crests, sky stepping plateaus,
look closely. Not there.
Deeper in cool shadows hovering over ancient cavern halls,
pockets of people like ghosts breathe the swirling dust we leave behind.

There. Do you see the little girl, nestled close to rocks, comforted by skeletal
fingers on
her bare, brown shoulder?
Colors of half-sleep ignite one side of her face in sunlight’s ascent. But you’ll only see
the other side. She hides in darkness.
She’s like the others. Not like us.
They know no past. No future. Feel only the world’s tilt, sweetened by bitter sunsets in
this
goddamn vastness.

Remember, we were once among them. We were of the earth. Kissed scorched ground
with lips
chapped lifeless, bled our souls in furious streams.
I too, held this girl. My pulse once thumped with her sacredness.

But alas, the day is gaining.


I see the tear sweat trickle in your squinting eyes,
The people will see through our disguises.
Time to take our leave.
Mind you forget her as she slips by,
Less she haunts your dreams until you die.

Never lose your wings.


Sergio Ortiz
taxonomy of a desire

first, there is my secret’s


secret torment setting fire
to what i see.

i rise out of the wreckage,


the mathematics of thirst stripped,
touch and listen
for the cruelty of our silence
to take me in your mouth.

in your dream, there is voltage


and water, and nothing slows
down. in my dream

there is dry bone marrow


and the ghee you rubbed
on my eyelids.
Isaac James Baker
R2D2

He wasn’t really a bucket-shaped Star Wars robot, that’s just what my brother
and I called him. He was a man, an old man with his baggy eyelids, scraggly eyebrows
and windswept gray hair. R2D2 combed the sand between Belmar, New Jersey’s 14th and
16th Street beaches almost every day. The metal detector he waved over the sand beeped,
buzzed and whirred just like that little robot. R2D2 always gripped his clunky device with
his right hand and held a worn tin colander in his left.
I went surfing every day during the summer, and coming in or out of the water I
almost always saw old R2. But I never saw him talk to anyone and I don’t think he ever
even looked up or waved at me. He was always too busy fiddling with his metal magic
wand, his eyes fixated on each little sandy ridge, each footprint left behind by the
beachgoers.
I was thirteen, sprawled out on a big beach towel after a surfing session one day,
watching R2D2 sift through the sand as usual. He wore a white long-brimmed sun hat to
shade his face, which was splattered with age spots. His eyes burned down toward the
sand with the intensity of a brain surgeon in the middle of a risky procedure. The scanner
started to squeal. R2D2’s hunched frame stiffened up and he reached down into the sand
with his scooper, taking a big bite out of the beach. The man shook his hand firmly and
clouds of fine-grained sand drifted from the scoop back down onto the beach. I heard a
jingling sound and the man’s face lit up with joy. His bony fingers trawled the bottom of
the colander until they caught whatever treasure was hiding down there. The man held
up the piece of metal close to his eyes like a jeweler examining a precious stone. I couldn’t
tell whether he had found a penny, a beer cap or an antique golden ring.
“R2’s got something,” I called out to my seventeen-year-old brother, Zeke, who
was sitting on his surfboard next to me picking strips of seaweed off his tanned skin.
“Maybe that little metal detector of his is good for something after all. Wonder what he’s
got.”
“Look out!” my brother joked. “He just made ten cents!”
“Never know,” I said. “It could be a whole quarter. Maybe one of those JFK fifty-
cent pieces.”
“When’s the last time you saw a JFK fifty-cent piece?”
“Hmm…” I said, trying to remember. “Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a
real one. Only read about them.”
“Exactly,” Zeke said, flicking a green wad of seaweed into the sand beside my
towel. “Betcha he hasn’t seen one either.”
R2D2 unzipped the faded yellow fanny pack that clung to the underside of his
gut. He placed his prize inside with care, like it was an egg that could break with the
slightest tap. Then he moved on down the beach, his steady right hand guiding his
detector just inches above the sand.
I pushed myself up from my towel and walked up the beach toward R2.
“What the heck are you doing?” my brother called out nervously.
I didn’t answer. I skipped up to the sand near the dunes and stepped out several
feet in front of the man. I waved at him. The man looked up from the scanner with
curious eyes. His sunburned lips peeled back to show two gold teeth in front. They
sparkled in the piercing summer sun.
“Excuse me, sir,” I asked. “Can I ask what it was that you just found back there?”
R2’s detector cried loudly as he flicked the off switch. “Buried treasure,” he
answered calmly. His gaze fell back to the beach and he clicked his detector back on. He
moved on over the sand mechanically, searching for more, his wand beeping regularly as
he went.
I turned and walked back to my towel without an answer, or at least without the
answer I was looking for. I lay down on my stomach, baring my bronze skin before the
sun.
“What did he get?” my brother asked me.

“He said he didn’t find anything.”


Willie J. Nunnery II
A Broken Verse

The bullets barked sparse sporadic hymns deep into the still midnight air as our

commander’s coarse calls got lost, echoing between a past, long since absent, and a

present, merciless, blurred by pain, and a future, unnamed, unmanned, drifting away.

And everything smelled musty; starless, the sky seemed to be getting closer, closer

smothering everything in an unstained darkness and we’d all forgotten how to cry or what

it was to cry or why, exactly, anyone would ever feel a need to cry.

On my knees, I was crouched; they were both scarred and scabbing and the broth

of my blood had combined with the ground’s chalky dirt, a brown and red and pebbled-

filled, soup-like swirl. Bombs were sinking from the sky, in surround sound, whistling like

sirens. I was shaking, quick and acute spasms.

Move. Go, my partner said to me, our trembling bodies weighed down by the

cold and burly steel of death’s dull ammunition.

I couldn’t. I wanted to move. Really, I did. But I just couldn’t. Then, in a

second of stupidity, he stood up, popping his neck like a deer or an antelope. But, looking

back through time’s lens, examining it now, maybe it was an act of brilliance, an escape.

Painlessly, a shot captured him between his bushy blond eyebrows and I could sense the

lead, as his eyes hurricaned to the back of his head, expand, like ink in water, through his

mushed brain and he started to fade and I reached out my hand in a naïve effort,

unsuccessful. Since it was noisy, falling, he didn’t make a sound, the forested tree that

nobody was to hear.

Move.

I wanted to. I really did.


You probably don’t remember but you wrote me a letter. It seems forever ago

now. Your handwriting was scribbles, barely readable, but your sentiments rang through

my rattling head, high-pitched, like xylophone tones, and sang life into my decaying and

slowly to beat heart and as the letter crinkled in my hands, sounding as sweeping waves

sloshing upside a young boat’s pearly surface, I looked up. Saw nothing. I thought of a

swing set—I don’t know why—swaying, a grandfathers clock’s golden pendulum, in the

middle of some people-less playground I had yet to but knew then I probably never would

be and, in submission, I dropped my head and prayed. I prayed for you. On the other

side of the world maybe staring at that same sky. Hopefully not. Not that sky. I prayed

for that swing. I don’t have a clue why but for some reason I thought that that swing set

was something that desperately need to be prayed for.

Hours; hours and hours and hours, I sat, crunched into a rickety wooden desk

that was cowering under the heart-shaped carvings of latent lovers, my pencil pressed

against the yellow lined paper, its graphite not moving, not knowing the words to etch.

You were young and had yet to realize the world and I didn’t want to ruin it for you,

didn’t want you scarred of the ride before your height was even measured. So I said

nothing. Wrote something bland like: “see you soon” and “I miss you” and put my pencil

away. But now as I sit here, in this room which seems to be souring with every sunrise,

and as you, my son, sit here, both of us older than we need to be, with wrinkles we should

not yet have, I can’t help but think of the words, I regret not saying, the lines, I regret not

writing.
When we picked you up from the airport it was a windy May afternoon and the

sun was winking at the world, shining through a mound of Kleenex-colored clouds and

you were smiling and you had a beard and a mustache. However, I could see, swimming

in the undercurrents of your eyes, something I knew all too well. Overjoyed, your mother

hugged you, wrapping her arms around your body as if she’d never done it before, and

she kissed you and I did the same. You acted like a new man, sticking your hand out for

me to shake, talking in a deeper voice, laughing at jokes you wouldn’t have laughed at

before, ones you hardly understood. But I knew how much over there makes its visitors into

men --or something of the sort-- shuddering spastically in the wiry cage of their own frail

skeleton, and I didn’t say anything, not to you or to your mother. Especially not your

mother. Because for some incomprehensible reason I thought it might not have

happened to you.

The sun was setting, a magnified ball of light sliding to the Earth’s edge and

everyone was wearing black and the coffin, a shiny maple brown, stretched as the ghost of

all the memories, all the images, I thought I had since shed and had accepted as gone,

forgotten. It was Ben’s funeral. You didn’t know Ben but I believe it would’ve done

some good if you had. You were going to be named for him but your mother ruled

against it. They said, alcohol had destroyed his liver, a tapeworm, nibbling away at his

body’s insides and he died. But really, and anyone there with the flag, red, white and

blue, stitched to the lapel of their jacket would attest and knew: it was the stark discovery

of that desolate and dreary unknown, standing firm, planted across the ocean, a revolving
illusion, hemispheres away. That’s what got him and none of us cried and none of us had

cried. Throughout the evening’s course, our hands, globs of loose gelatin, would

interlock, attempting to do something of familiarity and protocol, a simple shake, but

even that seemed odd. We’d say things like, “so good to see you,” and, “it’s been a

while,” and like C.L. we’d try reminisce but that was useless, like seeking comfort in the

furnace’s flurrying flame and our eyes would begin to stroll, strangers in an

uncomfortable situation, looking for a way out.

The funeral was long. Full of things that didn’t make sense to those who knew;

plot holes noticed only by the cast that had seen and been backstage. They closed the

casket, two men dressed in black, wearing red ties. Put him in the ground. And we all

left, a decimated congregation marching its separate ways.

As though it were a kitten, you petted my ego and it purred, a soft and rolling

purr. You said something like “Dad I’m going to join the army. I want to be just like

you,” and, against my instinct’s better judgment and with a grin waltzing, as though for

Debby, across my face’s floor, I said, “O.K.” and you left. Your mother cried for weeks,

anytime she saw your picture, smelled your scent, heard your voice’s reverberation in

some dust covered relic that used to be yours. She still cries.

A calm and stale and vacant wind howls, with a fragile pianissimo, nameless

melodies into the small crevices life leaves behind and into the even smaller ones of lives

left behind and you are sitting next to me, silent, staring. You are always silent and

always staring. Bags are under my eyes, bottomless and heavy and black. In our living

room, I’m sitting in this familiar chair, its rocking axial squeaking and squabbling with
age, and its hand-carved wood rubs, a rough gradient, against my back and I’m reading.

Your mouth is twitching and I’m reading. Not a book, for fiction and fantasy and all that

the two represent are, like rats and rodents, exterminated from my life, no longer existent.

Unable to leave and come back completely, I’m glancing at some body count. A week

old. Maybe. Matthew, 21, Luke, 23, John, 20. Their names, their ages, cemented now,

inseparable statistics, bellowing from the ruffled pages, testaments, not old but new, Bible

verses, broken; and, now, I gaze over to you, still alive, still breathing, silent, staring,

always and wonder how many more still-alives and still-breathings should be included,

remembered, missed.
David Meltzer

WIDOW HER

'Opressiveness' is the link between modern English grief and Latin gravis (source of
English gravity). The Latin adjective meant ' heavy, weighty,' and it formed the basis of a
verb gravdre 'weigh upon, oppress.' This passed into Old French as gever, from which was
'cause to suffer, harass' (source of English grieve, from which was derived the noun grief
or gref , suffering, hardship.' In its modern sense, 'feeling caused by such trouble or
hardship, sorrow, 'developed in the 14th century.
-- John Ayto. Dictionary of Word Origins [1990]

grieves -- mourns, suffers


greaves -- cracklings often used as dog food or fish bait;
armor for the legs from the ankles to the knees

-- Elizabeth Kirtland: Write it Right: A Handbook of Synonyms [1968]

Widow her
In no place
w/out yr
breath & heat
a winnow
fancy flipping
down the sink drain
sad & stuck
alert & upright

With her
was in place
w/out her
am nowhere
waiting for her to return
a dream of real
touch
or a sound
a tone
shaping song’s heat


separated
draped & shaped by
widower’s weeds
holds my body
wrapped in algae
drowning
which is what
mourning is

weighed down w/
wisdom
death reveals
a living burden
a pulsation
memory pulls towards
& away from
any sign of her being
here once as you are now

Oppressed by grief’s
black gaul
left solitary
in memory
moving on
backwards

‘be empty’
widewe
Old English
emptied out
another tossed bouquet of
widow’s weeds
& black humor
rumors of other worlds
I sit before Ouija
moving mouse
into limbo’s charged
unknowable

How to imagine you


to know you
without you
within me
on the surface
like a snapshot
in deep closed
emulsion
Angela Sestito
under a full moon