The editors would like to dedicate this issue to many people worthcelebrating and a few who deserve outright holidays in their name, including: Malcolm X Josephine S. Casillas Larry Hama Marilyn Nelson Carlos Ortega Prince Trina Robbins Allison Hedge Coke Anne Waldman
ContentsClive Nolan On the PierLyn Lifshin North of Cotton WoodLyn Lifshin Arizona RuinsLyn Lifshin Champlain, Branbury, The Lakes at NightLyn Lifshin New HampshireLyn Lifshin Middlebury PoemLyn Lifshin Thirty Miles West of ChicagoLyn Lifshin Things That Shine in Quebec City as the Sun FallsLyn Lifshin MidwestLyn Lifshin Monet’s Les NympheasLyn Lifshin Violet JellyLyn Lifshin Blue SleighsLyn Lifshin September 26, 1996Lyn Lifshin Mid NovemberLyn Lifshin Late NovemberLyn Lifshin Geese at MidnightLyn Lifshin Like a Dark LanternLyn Lifshin In the Rippled Ebony CoveLyn Lifshin Arizona RuinsLyn Lifshin Late NovemberLyn Lifshin Heron on IceLyn Lifshin Feeding the Ducks, Grey NovemberLyn Lifshin Geese on IceLyn Lifshin On the Shortest Day of the YearLyn Lifshin Downstairs the Dark StuddedLyn Lifshin Cherry Blossoms in DarknessLyn Lifshin ReprieveLyn Lifshin It Goes OnTatjana Debeljacki “momiji gar…”Mahdi Tavajohi
Denise Emanuel Clemen Cutting Down TreesFEM Celebrates Marilyn Nelson! Curtis Crisler identity Curtis Crisler Mama Metronome Curtis Crisler That Smile Tara Betts “Marilyn 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 PathologyNashira Priester T H E B I G S H OWNashira Priester when global warming comesNashira Priester Wayne ShorterIsabella Day Butterﬂy Christening Box/PendantNorm Breyfogle Freak AdviceNorm Breyfogle System shocksNorm Breyfogle Omega LeapNorm Breyfogle Contrary TreesNorm Breyfogle The Primal ChristJames Cihlar Oprah: The PoemJames Cihlar The BearJames Cihlar Engines of Our IngenuityEm Jollie Autumn Equinox
Em Jollie Winter Solstice, 2008Em Jollie Spring Equinox, 2010Em Jollie A’tugwaganEm Jollie Celebrating the Day of MourningAlexandra Parsons ApolutrosisBrett StoutEchezona Udeze And He LaughedDaniel de Culla And I WonderDaniel Parks Another LanguageEugenia Rainey Burying the MoonRandy Gonzalez Knight Checks QueenDaniel Rappaport ShadowsDaniel Rappaport Happy ChairsVivekanand Jha My poem falters and fallsVivekanand Jha Interview with Jayanta MahapatraJayanta Mahapatra HungerJayanta Mahapatra FreedomJayanta Mahapatra AshJayanta Mahapatra Her HandE.B. Sanders The Perfect SuicideRick Marlatt Seasonal PrayerRick Marlatt Last Sunday Night in the WorldRick Marlatt MirrorsRick Marlatt DeerRick Marlatt Driving NorthSergio Ortiz taxonomy of a desireIsaac James Baker R2D2Willie J. Nunnery II A Broken VerseDavid Meltzer Widow HerAngela Sestito under a full moon
Lyn LifshinNORTH OF COTTON WOOD rose lichen gamble oak globe mallow bent in rain blue lupine juniper mistletoe it rains and keeps rainingthese rocks pulled from each other two million years ago wrenched like a womanwhose child is grabbed on a cattle car smashed into stoneher eyes, streaked like tonight’s sky a Monday, all sipapu, a spirit entrance into the underworld
Lyn LifshinARIZONA RUINSPast Mogollon River the limestone ruinsscrape it with your ﬁnger and the ﬂoor breaks The talc must have dusted their darkbodies as they squatted on these ﬂoors grindingmesquite and creosoteNo one knows where they went from the cliffs with their earth jars and sandalsOr if theycursed the desert moon as they wrappedtheir dead babies in bright cloth and jewels2Now cliff swallows nest in the mud where the Sinaqua lived until water ran outHigh 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 walked200 miles to trade in Phoenix before it was time to leave40 yearsbefore Columbus3Noon in thecaves it is summer the children are sleepingThe women listen to a story one of them has heard of an ocean Deerﬂesh dries in the sun they braidwillow stems and don’t look upWhen sheis done they are allstoned on what could come from such waterIt is cool and dark inside here This was the place4The othershave gone to ﬁndsalt and red stones for earrings The childrenclimb down
To look for lizards and nuts he takes the girl hewants for the ﬁrst time Her blood cakes on the white chalkﬂoor Her thighs will make a bracelet in his head5Desert bees fall thru the wind over the pueblos velvet ash and barberryThey still ﬁnd bodies buried in the wall a child’s bones wrapped in yucca leaves and cottonbats 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 LifshinCHAMPLAIN, BRANBURY, THE LAKES AT NIGHTalways women in thedark on porches talkingas if in blackness theirsecrets would be safe.Cigarettes glowed likeIndian paintbrush.Water slapped thedeck. Night ﬂowersfull of things with wings,something you almostfeel like the ﬁngersof a boy moving, as ifby accident, undersheer nylon and feltin the dark movie houseas the chase gets louder,there and not there,something miscarriedthat maybe never was.The mothers whisperedabout a knife, blood.Then, they were laughingthe way you sail out ofa dark movie theaterinto wild light as if nothing that happenedhappened
Lyn LifshinNEW HAMPSHIREwild cat in thewood pile, deeryou can’t see.I drift withthe poem yousent into anundergroundriver whereIndians eatﬁsh so oldthey have noeyes. If Ishut my eyesI hear thewater thatﬂows underthe columbine.When I touchthe chair I hearbluebirds thatwere wild in itsleaves when therewere red ﬂowersin its branches
Lyn LifshinMIDDLEBURY POEMMilky summer nights,the men stay waiting, First National Cornerwhere the trafﬁc light used to be, waitas they have all June evenings of their lives.Lilac moss and lily of the valleysprout in the cooling air asMiss Damon, never later for thirty years,hurries to unlock the library, stillhoping for a sudden man to spring tall from thelocked dark of mysterious card catalogues tocome brightening her long dusty shelves.And halfway to darkboys with vacation bicycleswhistle ﬂat stones over the bridge,longing for secret places whererocks are blossoming girls with damp thighs.Then nine o’clock falls thick on lonely booksand all the unclaimed ﬁngers andas men move home through bluemetal light,the Congregational Church bellsringing as always four minutes late,the ﬁrst hayload of summer rumbles throughtown and all the people shut their eyesdreaming a wish
Lyn LifshinTHIRTY MILES WEST OF CHICAGOpaint chips slowly.It’s so still youcan almost hear itpull from a porch.Cold grass clawslike ﬁngers in awolf moon. A manstands in corn bristleslistening, watchingas if somethingcould grow fromputting a dead childin the ground
Lyn LifshinTHINGS THAT SHINE IN QUEBEC CITY AS THE SUN FALLSlight on the ballof glass, onthe puddlesunder the Hilton.The St Lawrence glows,the ﬂag poles,edges of buildings.A yellow car in thesalmon light.Lights are starting to go on.Green copper roofs glow,shadows of cloudsover sailboatson the water.The smell of leaves,cool wind blowing.The watera ripple of lightlike a ﬂag of glass.Diamond ripples.I think of Diamond Head,light that seemedmagical in a strangetown. The onlyfamiliar sign isone that saysKresge’s. Lightthat will glowwhen whatseems tomight not.Green diamonds,red diamonds,blue diamondsstarting to coverthe hill
Lyn LifshinMIDWESTall that skya ﬂat blackwith only a cat’seyes blazingpeople wait alone.Wind changes inthe cornleaves.People hear it likea chord augmented.Houses chip slowlystranded in snow.Only the sky is fast
Lyn LifshinMONET’S LES NYMPHEASthe long curvedroom, the wallsstarting toshimmer, breatheA Chinese girlsitting on the stonebench next to me,dazed, smilingThe lilies movinginto both of us
Lyn LifshinVIOLET JELLYpicking the leavesMonday early ina cool rain huddledin wet sweatshirts.Hours in the grey,knees and ﬁngersnumb. Our skinsmells of violetswhile they soakin the red panovernight till weboil the green.Then the pectinturns them lilac.We pour them intoglass, amethystthe sun comes thruon the windowafter snow
Lyn LifshinBLUE SLEIGHSDecember, thewater movesdark between thesnow dunes in tenthousand hillspulling lightaround theblack stones, asound to sleepand love bylike bellsrunning thru thechildren’s sleepwhen they dreamof blue sleighs
Lyn LifshinSEPTEMBER 26, 1996this morning the pondlooks like marble. Roseand charcoal dissolvingto dove, to guava, rouge.Only mallards pushingholes in the glass, sounlike the pond, deep intrees, almost camouﬂaged,startling as coming uponyour reﬂection in a mirror,just there under trees andthe wooden bar and thedriftwood benches blacklyjade with pines drippinginto it, shadows close tomy hair. What I didn’t haveblinded me so I hardly sawthe small birds, blue,pulling out of moss andneedles as if reaching intothe dark for their color
Lyn LifshinMID NOVEMBERwhen the black ducks come,winter opens, a kick pleat in darknessEyelash fringe of ferns on shore.Late fall thunder after a longIndian summer.Branches creak. Muskrat slither intothe pond like a stone the tide coversin the glow of a stranger’s ﬂashlight
Lyn LifshinLATE NOVEMBERone 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 linthas small pink claws and feet.Next the sky was the color of lead.Geraniums under a quilt last nightlike a child you’ve tucked inor a body wrapped in the earth under leaves.In the swirl of sudden snow, whatwas left of the headless fur blows westLike a child you’ve tucked inwhatever was living, a just bornsquirrel I suppose, hardly a living thing except for feet.In ﬁfteen minutes, the light cameback, cars stopped slidingWhatever was living. Or just bornmust have felt the wild snow was a warning.I thought of the lover wrapped in darkcloth and left in the leaves while, not knowing,I took a ballet class. The geraniumsare still under a blue quilt this Tuesday.One minute the sun was out, it was fall
Lyn LifshinGEESE AT MIDNIGHTas if a featherquilt exploded,a white you can’tsee in the darkbut breathe, awind of whiterose petals,wave of fogin the shape ofﬂying things.Like radiovoices onthe pillow,lulling, keepingwhat’s raggedand tears atbay, the geesepull sky and starsin through glass,are like armscoming backas sound
Lyn LifshinLIKE A DARK LANTERNI move thru the ﬁrstﬂoor at 3 AM, pastthe cat who is curledin a chair half madeof her fur, turningher back on airconditioning, startledto ﬁnd me prowlingin the dark as if I wasintruding on stars andmoon and the ripplein water that spitsback the plum trees.Grass smells grassier.The clock inches slowlytoward the light. Acreak of wood and thesoft scratch on the bluePersian rug the cat clawsgently merge with somenight bird I’ve neverseen like a poem thatgoes along and suddenly,at the end, like a bankedﬁre, explodes into thewildest ﬂame that ﬁnishesoff everything that hascome before it perfectly
Lyn LifshinIN THE RIPPLED EBONY COVETemperatures falling.Moon slivers on therolling skin of water.Geese in half light,armada of feathers.Wind blows them closer.One silver band glows.Their onyx, black ﬂamein a night ﬁre
Lyn LifshinLATE NOVEMBERToday in Virginia, unseasonably cold, high only in the mid 30’s.I think of a night drive from Austerlitzan hour north to bring in my plants, early September.The sky tangerine, guava and teal.My own house strangely quiet, mycat at my mother’s.When I think of a night I drove from Austerlitzto bring in the plants, my mother young enoughto swoop up suitcases, my cat,I was looking for someone. “Aren’t you glad youstill have me?” my mother purred. The cat Igot after that one, now going on 21,the ice yesterday a warning.I was looking for someone. Each time Ileft my mother’s rooms, drove thruVermont leaves there was an ache becoming myself.When the wind tore thru yesterday, on the stairs, ashape that looked like lint with claws.Later I tucked the geraniums in quiltslike putting a child under ﬂannel or leavesThat ache, a wind under my hairMy mother tucked in the earth.The headless fur shape with its pink clawsor feet, on its back, a mystery.Today in Virginia, unseasonably cold
Lyn LifshinHERON ON ICEPale salmon light,9 degrees. Floortiles icy. Pastbranches thebeaver’s gnawed,at the small holethe heron waits,deep in the water.Sky goes apricot,tangerine, rose.Suddenly a dive,then the heronwith sun squirmingin his mouth, acarp that looks athird as big as heis gulped, thenswallowed, orangeglittering wildlylike a ﬂag or thewave of someonedrowning
Lyn LifshinFEEDING DUCKS, GREY NOVEMBERno swath of light,no smell of warmwood shavings. Arain-coming scent.Last leaf in wind.Walnuts on the deckbleeding ebony. Ithink of houses ofice where there isno light, of mencarving snow birds,seals, caribou,dream llamas as geeseﬂy up, a cloud offeathers skidding tothe corn that ﬂoatson the skin of waterthe color of night
Lyn LifshinGEESE ON ICEfrozen, perched asif listening for somedistant code,news of a warmfront coming intime. Meanwhile,alerts go out onlocal stations,schools closeearly. The “partlysunny” never came.30 percent chanceof snow. Trees tilteast, the groundhardens. Geesetake root as scarvesﬂoat in wind likestrange new ﬂags
Lyn LifshinON THE SHORTEST DAY OF THE YEARA woman went into darkness,past the black ruby rosesand was never heard from again.She moved quietly pastbleached grass a December dayit moved into sixties near Troy.It was foggy and warm, verymuch like today. It could havebeen today. You probably thinkthis woman was me, it seemsthere are reasons. But listenI’ve never seen, only imaginethose tissue thin roses andthat last minute before lightcollapses. A garnet leafon the pond is less red thanmy hair blazing, the lonesignal to guide you in
Lyn LifshinDOWNSTAIRS THE DARK STUDDEDwith glow ofwhite branches,clots of snow,stars in clumps,you have to buryyour face inwhite. InSyracuse, offComstock, thelilacs juststarting, theﬁrst man whotouched meinside myclothes pulledme under suchwhite boughsthru rain dripping.Lacy boughs, lightﬁlling thedark orchard.In this samejeweled lighteverythingopening likethese clenched buds
Lyn LifshinCHERRY BLOSSOMS IN DARKNESSglow likestars of lace,heavy snowclotting on boughs.I couldn’t sleep,the sweet whiteﬂoating upstairs pulled meback to thecove of anold lover’sarms deep insuch whitedripping branches,white petalson slopes ofskin, lipsstudding Tuesdaywith jewelsin the sweetgrass, lockedlike antlers
Lyn LifshinREPRIEVEfor the moment, mycat, who turned her headat chunks of justcut beef, now is nuzzlingnearly empty cat foodtins, purrs thru thenight. Limp as rags,for a week under thebed, she claws therug in the sun. I saynothing, just listenas I do to her crunchingfood, lapping waterat 2 AM. In stillnessthe sound comfortslike bells or words inSpanish or FrenchI don’t understand. Herchewing, like pearlsor amber warming toskin soothes though itis as untranslatableto me as the nuancesunder chatter inthe streets in Montrealor Paris. Still, forthe moment, like musicor velvet, her paws on myeyelids are a reprieve,like June, or rosesor lilacs in early lightbefore anything scorches,goes limp or losesits rouge, while morningglories are a necklaceof amethyst, exotic asgracias, si, bon, merci
Lyn LifshinIT GOES ONlike dreaming ofsome place afteryou leave it. Youwake up in a dazerain all dayin the pines.It goes onlike that green,like stained glassbetween a bedroomand the hall withthe light alwaysburning behind it,cantaloupe andpeach light onthe bed all night
Tatjana Debeljackimomiji gari_________viewing the scarlet maple leavesamatano toki wo_____collecting the numerous memories (times)atsumeru ho_________step by step
Denise Emanuel ClemenCutting Down Trees Getting pregnant was the worst thing that could happen to a high-school girl inmy 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 ofuncertain 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 besprung from the hospital. “Your father is thinking maybe you should bring that babyhome,” she says. We’ve always said my father loves babies, but now imagining him as a surrogatefather for my baby, that doesn’t seem right. I don’t remember him cooing over us orplaying peek-a-boo. I remember he wanted us safe, that we worried him. Before I wasborn, my sister fell off the porch and got a concussion. They say he drove her to thehospital down the middle of the street, with his hand on the horn, sobbing so loud henearly 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’sparents 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 maybeher thumb. We went together to get our tree, cut fresh from a farmer’s timber, but when it washauled 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 andwired it to the window frame through a series of screw-eyes only then could we approachwith the tinsel and fragile glass balls. The Sunday after the Epiphany when the tree came down, he tipped its dried outlethal-needle-dropping carcass into an old white sheet, then dragged it out the door as ifit were a body in a shroud. My mother followed behind vacuuming ferociously, saving allof us from destruction. So I can’t picture my father raising a baby. He is seventy-one years old, andthough he looks two decades younger, his car business is not exactly on the road toprosperity. My brothers are still in grade school. Maybe they’ll want to go to college, likeme. Maybe our house will need a new roof. Maybe the grocery bills will keep gettinghigher. And what about our secret? I managed to keep my pregnancy from everybodybut my parents for a full nine months and entered the hospital in a town sixty miles awaylike it was the Witness Protection Program, and now my mother is telling me my fatherthinks 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, isthe lone sharp spine that will kill you. I can’t imagine a new baby in such a house ofworries, 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 wouldprobably not exist without her influence, and to embed her own work in the tributes, asgreat work always radiates along the influence and encouragement of other greatwork. ~ Travis Hedge Coke
Curtis Crisleridentityi never saw the rich minerals in me‘til i saw the millionaire of you— our eyes speakingrivers.
Mama MetronomeYour handblessed the sessionstarting workshop,by hitting metallic bowlwith a small wand,all was quiet—we sat heavy in a syrupof soundwaves,twelve students bruisedby silence, wantingyou to balm us…then you spoke,and we transformedto butterflies.
That Smile—for MarilynI ownedthat nounbefore, beforecommunicationglitch in civiliza-tion, the divorceof our earth’stectonic plates;how I knockedand played withthose sparsenouns at familybarbecues, butwhen I trippedon your nouns—in thick bloom—it exposed Icollected all mysorry termsall wrong.
Tara BettsMarilyn Nelson. Two words to describe a woman who is doing things with poetrythat I dreamed of doing years ago, and even now, encourages me to explorepoetic form and its import to carry historical content.Fortunately enough, I was a fellow for my first year at Cave Canem in 2002. Itwas there that I first heard her crown of sonnets that became A Wreath forEmmett Till. In 2003, the fellows bestowed a wreath of flowers on Nelson inhonor of her and that crown. I had already begun working on poems for a seriesabout Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and her book Carver: A Life in Poems had given mepause.I thought I could do these poems about Ida B. Wells because I felt her resonanceas a historical figure so deeply, but Nelson’s poems about George WashingtonCarver and Emmett Till were a stunning display of form and imagination. Sheemployed various forms to imagine what these figures from the past mightdiscuss, experience or ruminate upon. She used the precise music of lines inmeter and diction.This precision led me to exploring some of her earlier work in collections such asFor the Body, The Homeplace, and The Fields of Praise, her 1994 new andselected volume of poetry that garnered a National Book Award nomination. In2005, 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’dlike, and still be me. On the other end of the spectrum, her most recent workspeaks to an urgency to share her writing with young readers and addressoverlooked, under-recognized moments in history. Carver was only thebeginning.Nelson has given voice to a slave’s skeleton used to teach medicine by his formerowner (Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem), a school teacher whosought 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 ElizabethAlexander), a former slave who worked to free other slaves (The FreedomBusiness), and an integrated swing band of women that played until after WorldWar II (Sweethearts of Rhythm), and young adult novel about Pemba who leavesBrooklyn for Connecticut to discover the story of a young girl from centuriesbefore 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 thatexisted 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 isrepresenting the Black experience for young readers when they are stillencouraged to read, when it is most crucial for students to see images ofthemselves, and Nelson conveys these stories with the craft of a veteran poet whohas mastered prosody and a broad scope of history. She does not simply comefrom a rich history of her own, where her father was a Tuskegee Airman and hersiblings being accomplished artists in their own rights. Nelson is mining historyto create accessible stories that are more meaningful than statistics and today’snews headlines.We are fortunate to sample the growing oeuvre of this prolific poet, and to knowthat 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 Africandiasporic, Latino/a, APIA, native and indigenous, and LGBT communitiesthrough residencies in her home dubbed Soul Mountain. In 2008, I was an artistin residence at Soul Mountain where I brainstormed ideas, wrote and read, butmore importantly I got the final push to get my first book, Arc & Hue out into theworld. In so many ways, Marilyn Nelson is an example of what poets can andshould do with the power of their pens. Hopefully, there will be many more of usfollowing her lead.
Without Marilyna rondeau for Marilyn NelsonWithout Marilyn, I can’t beginto describe how would be thin,a wane waif starved of ripe history.We stand exclaiming where would bein a world filled of empty, stark dinwhere we might need some aspirinto clear our heads and smile at kin.When she testifies, how do we seewithout Marilyn?Words strike straight as a shot of gin,then reminisce on many a past sinWords unbury half-covered memoriesin a turn of well-plotted prosody.Do not even try to imagine poetrywithout Marilyn.
Marilyn NelsonMohembo Road Meditations on a Road-trip with Abba Jacob in Botswana and Namibia , 2008People walking. People walking. A fringealong 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 predatorsand prowling four-wheel drive self-guided tours,catching them in digital photographs.And donkeys, apparently eager for the chanceto enter green pastures by being killed,thousands of donkeys. They seemed to be stonedor grief-stunned: heads down, staring, donkeys stoodin the sun-scorched road, as if trying to recallthe one truth which makes Africa make sense.
A one truth by which Africa make sense?The continent is the Rosetta Stonewhich explains humanity’s origin.(Though all life is star-dust drifted from long dead suns.)Africans know this present moment is allwe have or need, past and future but a mythinvented to disguise the simpler truthpairing 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 eveningcelebrate 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 progressinfects 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 collidebetween back seat and front, have-nots and haves.Dropped at their destinations, they disappearinto our fading memory of a road.And we drive on in our islanded lives,travelers encased in artificial air.
Travelers encased in artificial airlook 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 goodwe might make if we willed a larger will,submerging self to find ourselves alonein full communion: each hair of each headaccounted for. I cannot be fulfilledif 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 vehiclesfull 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 wildwith 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 traditionalcow-horn shaped headwrap and ankle-length gown,whose swaddled infant cooed up at her face.The Tswana with her plastic buckets fullof 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: withoutland, 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 KohHungry GhostsMy father took me picnicking in Hellin Tiger Balm Gardens when I turned five.Horseface and Oxhead flanked the door to quelltourists, returning ghosts, recaptured live.Small spectator of retribution’s drama,I shuffled through the dark; I’d rather divein and out but the crowd before King Yamapassed as if shackled by the chains of crime.Father explained to me the law of karmawhile a mirror screened a whole lifetimein a flash. Jostled into Court One, I balkedat heads and arms and legs, in bloody mime,stuck out from under giant slabs of rock,impossible to tell which limb belongedto which gory head on the granite block(Father said, Unfilial boys, they wrongedtheir parents who gave them everything);into Court Two where sinners had their tonguespierced 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, strippedof 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 shookas if my bones, and not that man’s, were scrapedby 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 mendepending on each individual’s worth.The worst are born as hungry ghosts, Father saidand 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 SoulMountain, Connecticut, USA,a Writing Resident on foreign dole.Winston is coming up for my birthday.I’m walking with a black dyke poet calledVenus, along the river’s snowpacked way.I tell her, smiling, I must have been installedas an emperor’s favorite boy in a past lifeafter I schemed to pleasure those blueballed.I was a Taoist priest who left his wifefor 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 TVand 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 praysa 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 dinnerat 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 walkand retreats indoors to make a late breakfast.I’m left standing beside the golden shockof cattails tall as I am, gazing acrossthe river to trees branching spears and barbs.A deer noses the brown scrub. Then a burstof knocking, from the thicket, the smart stabsof a woodpecker tapping in a bowlof bark. I should go. Winston’s coming up.--First published in Boxcar Poetry Review
Allison Hedge CokeYinxing for Marilyn NelsonYinxing, ginkyō,you call, we respondturning pages,climbing cases,on the mountainmade content. Ohmaidenhair, youbring beautyover light-wingedhard-backed creeperscome culling mist &might. Canoe lightstanding to paddle,counting ripples never lost.We come & go, come & go,like night beetles poppingsurface, breaking coverin wing-tipped lift, stillburdened with bodily weight,still earthly bound, tillsome big fish bitesbrainstem, tugs muse,pulls us up out of waterinto your blooming yellow fans.Gingko, you might standcrown colony lyme, overa house of hope, oversome gone hopeless until now.Yet, Quonehtacut rests you whereconifer long to belong, and you,you send light into long hoursso sleeping might awake.
Ann HostetlerOf Mothering, Monasticism, and Creative Space: A Retreat at SoulMountainMarilyn Nelson is the demi-goddess who has made an artist’s retreat a reality forso many of us thirsty for a spacious solitude in which to create. To her I offer thismeditation of days from my stay as a fellow at Soul Mountain in the spring of2007. The creative space she has offered to me and others has incubatedcountless poems, stories, essays and performances, as healing, artisticcommunity, and even, upon occasion, bliss.Preparation for the Journey -- April 26Today Im entering the adventure of planned solitude in community at MarilynNelsons Soul Mountain Retreat. I will mark each day of this retreat with ajournal entry. For two-and-a-half weeks Ill be away from family and work inGoshen, Indiana and the constant chores of the house and the old cars and theweedy garden. This is the first time Ive been away from the family for more thana week--ever. And Ive been a mother and writer for 24 years.At Soul Mountain--a spacious house on 6 acres of woods in Southern Connecticutthat borders a nature preserve--I help with chores and cook for myself and havemy own cozy bedroom with two beautiful views. The two other women here rightnow each go their own way, offering friendly advice and occasional briefconversation, but otherwise we are all engrossed in our writing and solitude.Harmonious parallel play. Writing, and the solitude and self-care andcontemplation that go with it, are honored in this space. Writing is not a guiltypleasure here. It is what we do. That and eat and sleep and walk in the woods. Mywriting desk and laptop face the window that looks out over a long kidney-shapedpond with a spillway--Peanut Pond--and a wooded slope of the nature preservebeyond. It faces southwest, so I can watch the sun set every night beyond thecomputer screen to my left. During the day I can watch the clouds change thecolor of the water and tree shadows root themselves deeply into the pondssurface.Last night, in preparation for my departure for Soul Mountain, I never went tobed. I stayed up all night in my office at Goshen College, commenting on studentpapers, 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 useit during my absence. Rhodas a dear friend, and I will miss hosting her, but shewas a great sport and urged me onto Soul Mountain. As a writer she knows howprecious 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 NativeAmerican Lit. I never finished my filing for that course, nor for the courses I hadtaught the previous semester while she way dying, and I was at her place everyday and in and out of doctors offices and the emergency room with her. Twoyears 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 thereis the accumulation of incomplete thoughts. But the pressure is much less. Imbeginning to break through the iceberg of grief and move forward in a moregraceful way embodying my life.Somehow the sorting and cleaning and working through energized me enough tokeep my going till 3:45 a.m. when I drove home to take a shower, throw somethings in a suitcase and go with my oldest daughterLizzie to the airport to catch a 6am flight.Lizzie, bless her soul, had gotten up at three to come over to the house and driveme in a drenching downpour to South Bend Airport, 50 minutes away. When Ipulled up in the driveway from my night marathon in the office she was makingme scrambled eggs. I hustled to take a shower and throw together a few things forthe trip. We loaded up her slow old Honda Accord, Jeanie, who is filled withalmost as much debris as my office was. Her mothering and baby paraphernaliais stashed over the dried flowers and empty juice bottles and audiotapes of herstudent days. In the midst of leaving I was panicked that I couldnt find my cellphone, so I rushed back into the house and took Julias phone and charger so Icould call home. Such wonderful daughters I have. Lizzies steady, calm companyon the way was like a quiet music. She looked so sweet and determined in hernew glasses, the street lamps casting a dim glow on her face. When she droppedme off I was so tired I could barely manage getting the luggage out of the car. Onemore 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 herfour-month-old daughter Alethea. The two of them made beautiful harmony andnursed openly and happily in the plane. (Curses on that stewardess who had awoman thrown off a plane last year for nursing a baby.) She reminded me ofLizzie driving home from the airport to her 9-month-old daughter Willow.Someday these babies will be driving their mothers somewhere, their motherswho were once so young and in tune with their daughters bodies and rhythms.Of course, when I got to Hartford, there was my cell phone in the backpack. Ithad flown with me the entire time in the overhead baggage compartment, and Ihad never even turned it off in flight.
Coming Back as a Mother -- April 27When Katagiri Roshi asked Natalie Goldberg what shed like to come back as inher next life, she playfully answered "a clump of white flowers.""No, thats 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 thats how I remember the conversation, as I was "re-listening" to LongQuiet Highway on audiotape driving on one of my many mind-numbing errandsas a mother. On those long, lonely hauls to pick up someone or other fromwherever they may be, Ive 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?" Isurprised 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 actuallybecame a mother. The monk’s path has some appeal to me these days. Yet itspossible to find those jewel-like moments of solitude in the midst of a motherslife 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 haveleft home for a week, I have traveled alone, but to just stay home alone is anotherstory. This week I’ll get to find out just what kind of an inhabitant I am—of myown space and my own body—when there aren’t a lot of others around stirringthe pot.I wonder whether its possible to find jewel-like moments of mothering as acelibate monk. One could certainly find moments of surrogate mothering. But thetedious, wondrous, encompassing long haul, the eternal mothering, can only belived. Perhaps a monastic vocation is similar in that it, too, can only be lived. Mystolen monastic moments are pure metaphor. But the holiness I have found inwalking the mothers path--including long stretches of self-suppressing, of lettingothers go first, of feeling anonymous and invisible in the eyes of the professionalworld—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 itsmonastic elements, even as it has its polygamous ones--everyone piling into thebed for a snuggle, people clamoring for intimacy, people who want or need bodilyattention only from you.
What is left of the giver, the one who finds in anothers suffering her ownusefulness (to paraphrase the words of Julia Spicher Kasdorfs wonderful poem,"What I learned from my mother,” when she is left alone for a spell? Sometimesshe finds out through tragedy, through enormous suffering of her own--forcedseparations, 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 worlddew-fresh and last years’ chives sending up new shoots that I have time to gatherand chop and sprinkle over the omelet I’ve made for myself, without having tomake several others first. A life of such self-focus would become mundane, buttwo 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 tastywhen they are the first fresh garden greens one has eaten in a good six months ormore.Gathering In April 28At the end of a chilly, rainy day--gathering in the harvest of things done, felt, seentasted, touched, even smelled . . .Scent of drenched soil rising through a mat of wintered-over leavesPale green lichens spotting rocks and treesA white-tailed deer facing me sideways across the wet driveway, fringed withdripping newly budded leavesThe mechanical click of the battery-operated clock in the too-bright kitchenwhere I writePerfume of deeply steeped rooibos tea on my tongueI 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 thedriveway and turned left on the one-lane road that passes the house. I walkeduntil 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 linedwith 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 eachother to see who can wear more of the pale-green lichens that grow profuselyhere. It must be a damp spot. Skunk cabbage is sprouting wherever runningwater 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. Its agood thing deer are shy; an aggressive or even friendly deer would be a ratherterrifying 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 ofdisturbing her habitat at dusk. So I came back into the house and wrote thisdown.Going to Church April 29This morning I was sitting on the porch reading Walden when Marilyn knockedon the glass door and invited me to go with her to church. The sun had come outthrough the clouds and the blossoms were tentatively opening to the warmth.Yes, Id love to go to church.We drove to the First Congregational Church in Old Lyme, where a womanstopped 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--magnificentmagnolias in full magenta-lavender bloom, sunny forsythia abundant and golden,the lawns fresh and green--all amidst quaint New England houses. The weatherwasnt anything like the winter photo of the church I found on the website andpasted here. (Next time Ill take my camera.) Imagine the church with a whiteblossoming 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 lavishfresh bouquet of white flowers on the altar. The mostly female, mostly gray-haired choir sang beautifully. And the organ accompanied familiar hymns--"Godof Grace and God of Glory" and "I Love to Tell the Story." The prayers weresoulful and intelligent, expressing gratitude for the spring weather and sorrow atviolence here and around the world. Usually I prefer Emily Dickinsons gardenservices, with a "bobolink for a chorister," but this morning the service was worthbeing indoors for. Senior pastor David C. Good gave a rousing and passionatesermon on the Virginia Tech shootings, using a text from Wordsworths "Ode:Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood." His readingof the excerpt made me want to hear him read Wordsworth aloud forever. Hereare the first two stanzas of Wordsworths Ode:
IThere was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,The earth, and every common sight,To me did seemApparelled in celestial light,The glory and the freshness of a dream.It is not now as it hath been of yore; –Turn wheresoeer I may,By night or day,The things which I have seen I now can see no more.IIThe Rainbow comes and goes,And lovely is the Rose,The Moon doth with delightLook round her when the heavens are bare,Waters on a starry nightAre beautiful and fair;The sunshine is a glorious birth;But yet I know, whereer I go,That there hath past away a glory from the earth.Of course, the glory that "hath past away" became, in Goods sermon, adescription of the beautiful and talented young people, the professors, and eventhe killer himself, who were shot in this twisted display of violence and mentalillness--for if each one of us is a manifestation of the creators love, even theyoung man and his fearfully shaken family are included. He also mentioned thaton 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, Ithought--all those innocent civilians that didnt wish for this war--Im sure manyothers did, too.When I teach Wordsworths Ode, I explain that the poet feels that a "glory hathpast away . . . from the earth" because he senses he has lost the direct connectionwith the power of nature he felt in childhood. As we age and are shaped by thehuman world, we grow cataracts, as it were, over our senses and our souls. So it isnot 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, butafterwards we become even more numbed, more removed. Reverend Goodmentioned that his memories of Appalachia as a young man doing service therewould now be forever wedded to these images of tragedy. But he did not simplyoffer a lament. Rather he asked whether churches, who have nobly collaboratedto 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 tooadept. He exhorted the church to:1) Support universal health and mental health care, so that the mentally ill amongus might have treatment.2) Support the banning of handguns, assault weapons, semi-automatic andautomatic guns.3) Actively influence the shaping of culture by providing an imaginative vision ofwhat society can be, rather than allowing our children and ourselves to bescripted by violent fantasies in everything from movies to video games, by thepolarization of the issues on which the media describes. Yes, fantasy does matter,he asserted. The killer in Blacksburg had rehearsed his demented fantasy manytimes, using a "me against them" form of thinking. This kind of thinkingunderlies the "us against them" thinking all too prevalent in our sports, in ournews, in our media, in the rhetoric about the war. He mentioned that words arepowerful, and that the words of Jesus are--can be, if Christians are worthycustodians of them--more powerful than guns. The churchs mission is to live thelegacy of those words, embody the imaginative power into the world to transformit.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 articulatethe "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 awebsite 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 andpored over an article on Boy Soldiers in Africa--over 300,000 now--and anotheron the weakening of the influence of the US Saudi connection with PrinceBandar. Wrapped up together with the sermon, these thoughts found their formin a poem Ive been working on: "Why We Fear the Self" that uses a rap rhythm toquestion the ways in which our complicity with violence is fueled by our fears offacing and being our true selves.Economy (with a nod to Thoreau) – April 30In my rush to leave home I forgot the cash Id meant to bring with me to SoulMountain. Besides a credit card and a slender checkbook with just a few checksleft in it, I had only a few dollars stuffed into the side of my purse. Or so Ithought. But after two days of settling in and unpacking at my leisure, cleaningout my pockets and my purse, Ive 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 didnt even know it!Thats my hope for these few weeks--to find the riches Ive brought with me anddidnt even know it. So far Ive not been disappointed. This afternoon is the firsttime Ive been able to sit down for an extended period of time to push beyondjournaling in my writing, and already a sort of poem has broken through thematted leaves in my brain, years of bloom pressed down and composted forlater . . .Skunk CabbageAt first a pair of leaves unfurlsone shaped like a tablespoon,one a butter knifeof brightest green,and as they take in lightthey spread their girth and curl to face each other:the tablespoon becomes a trowel in size,the butter knife a tablespoon.When theyve grown tall as leaves of young romaine,they spread again and this time curl apartto make a space for new twins birthedbetween them from the mother root:another tablespoon of green,another slender butter knife,which in their turnwill curl again then spread,admitting space for other shoots,and so the familys large embrace enlargesto make room for newest membersyet still preserves an outer layer that givesit bulk and shape.Beside this plant a dozen hundred othersspring up and birththeir inner leavesbefore the trees have greened.This emerald extravagancebeneath bare trunks and spindly branchesa marching band of greenin scattered rank and fileproclaims that springhas taken roodespite the frequent rain and chill.
My first writing of this season--as cheap and gaudy as skunk cabbage, perhaps--but hey, somethings poking up through the compost.Offering May 1Today is Sunday and I spent the morning at Soul Mountain, meditating andwriting on the screened in porch. Bees were beginning to hum about the cornersof the porch as words began to hum in my mind. In the afternoon I walked downthe road past a farm where a woman named Jane keeps a menagerie of sorts in awell-groomed meadow. It has been two years since Mother’s death, and Ithought of her today as I walked. A Jahrezeit is a Jewish ceremony that takesplace on the anniversary of someone’s death—a blessing and a celebration of theirlife and a releasing of their spirit from earthly cares.JahrezeitMorning mist rises.Behind the trees clouds dark as mountainsedge their way elsewhere. Two yeas agotoday you left us, your heart winding downas I sat at your feet. Where isyour spirit now?I fall back into a deep sleep.When I wake I have no ideawhat time it is. The sky is still overcastbut leaves have come out on one— no two —trees at the edge of the yard. I openthe window to birdsong.Morning coffee on the glassed-in porchwhere bees have wakened to Jasmine.The porch is warm as a green house, but outsideApril wind rattles the panes and stirsthe treetops, tosses the prayer flagson their string tether.In late afternoon I finally go outto discover air warmed by golden sun,much warmer than the shaded house.Up the lane there is a woman who keepsa menagerie--the Peaceable Kingdom she calls it:horses, goats, llamas, an emu, guinea hens.
Her greyhounds are friendly and wantto follow me, but they are too polite. Perhapsthey sense your reluctance in me. "Theyre such kind dogs,"Jane, their owner tells me. "You couldntrace them if they werent so kind. Otherwisethey wouldnt do what you ask."On the way home I seethe first orange butterfly of the seasonchasing a honeybee around a blossomingshrub. Somewhere in flight, on the wind,you are blessing me as I carry on, looking for signsand wonders in the world you have left behind.Setting Aside the Book May 2I have abandoned Thoreau this morning for the pond. The woodpecker trills fromacross the water and songbirds join in a symphony, celebrating the blush of greenin 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 theinescapable human presence. What is it I want to know, capture in words, as I sithere in the Adirondack chair, notebook in my lap? "Surely some revelation is athand." Is it the human names for the birds and their rhythmic cheeping andtwittering that could be charted in musical notation or poetic meter? Is it a termfrom physics that could name the ripple patterns on the ponds wind-stirredwater, or describe the contrasting pattern set off by a ducks entrance into thepond? Perhaps its the constant variation within a predictable range, or the sunssteady warmth--steady at least for now--that holds me here, each day, eachmoment, a variation in beauty, a shimmering, whose larger pattern I anticipate,whose minute particulars I cant 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 theres that expectation from reading the Bible or centuries old poetrythat a blade of grass will hold a prophecy, that a stubborn dandelion sprouting inthe crotch of an old tree will provide the text of a sermon, that the lazy surrenderof thought will clear the mind of spot or blemish--that I will feel myself a memberof the family of nature.Field Trip May 3Marilyn invited Ching-In Chen, the other resident with whom I share this wing,and me to accompany her to the Governors Awards for Culture and Tourism. Shewas going to introduce William Meredith, a wonderful poet and winner of boththe Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. So we all took a field trip intoNew Haven and attended a lush reception at Branford College, then the AwardsCeremony at the Schubert Theater across the street. Sadly, Meredith had just
been rushed to the hospital with congestive heart failure, but at the ceremony hispartner read several of his poems. It was so moving--Richard could barely makeit through. Clearly he loves Meredith, around whom his life centers. VincentScully introduced Robert Stern, both legends of architecture. My favorite was Dr.Robert Ballard, who is an oceanographer with a lab at the Mystic Aquarium. Hisspecialty is underwater archaeology, and he estimates that 50% of America isactually under water. Hes the one who found the Titanic and discoveredhydrothermal vents. And hes from Kansas (once an ocean bottom, Ive beentold). 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 itscalled, designated "Pristine" by the Wild and Scenic River System of Connecticut.Shaded by large old hemlocks, it reminds me almost exactly of a stream inCentral Ohio that I discovered on a walk with a friend, Buck Sanford. Thirty-threeyears ago that was, but the rushing water in the river and the scent of theHemlocks bring it back so vividly it could have been last year. The flood ofmemories triggered has prompted me to write an essay about nature anddiscovery and longing. Back then Buck taught me to pay attention to plants andto look and listen for birds. Hes a wildlife biology professor now at the Universityof Denver. And Im still paying attention; I was an artist then, Im a writer now.But the memories give me a hankering to pick up my pencil and draw. So far myvisual impulse has been expressed through photographs--the river, the trees, thenewly budded leaves, the blossoming pear.Symbols May 4Draped in a daffodil yellow shawl Tonya Hegamin comes walking down the pathfrom the woods towards the house, carefully carrying a goblet with both hands."Youre carrying a cup of sun!" I greet her. Tonya’s a writer who is helpingMarilyn with the administration of Soul Mountain."No, its river water," she tells me, as though carrying a goblet of river water backto the house is the most normal thing in the world.Its a perfectly clear and sunny morning, the sky blue and high above us. A day tobottle for posterity. I ask if I can take her picture carrying the river water. We talkabout the birds, the pond, and gardening, her passion. It is she who has plantedthe bleeding hearts in front."I wanted to put one plant by the Buddha," she tells me, "because it is a symbolfor Christ. I like the mixing of the two dogmas," she says. "They seem to resonatewith each other." And indeed the bleeding heart she planted by the Buddha isfour times as large as the other bleeding hearts she planted in the same garden.
A Community of Women May 5Our Eyes Are on Our Dreams(for Marilyn, Tonya, and Ching-In, with thanks to Zora Neale Hurston)In this garden theres a blossomingpear tree for each of us – Janies all –but these trees are taller, olderthan Janies pear--theres no needto lie down in the grass to see the wonderof blossoms creaming to the hum of bees,no need to risk the ticks of Lyme diseasein exchange for ecstasy. These trees are generous,they lower their branch tips trained by yearsof bearing heavy fruit to the height of our eyesand hands, so we can stand beneath them,grasp their branches, hold the flowersto our faces. Though their fragrance is faintthe cascade of blooms is abundantas a waterfall, bees ecstatic as ever.To any Johnny Taylor who walks towards usfrom the verigible woodswell languorously waveand keep on writing,keep on dreaming.Turkey Medicine May 6Today marks my halfway point at Soul Mountain. The time has gone so fast. Onceone enters a deeply meditative space with comfortable people and total controlover ones time, its like being in another zone all together. Ive gone deeply in,loving the pond and the river as daily touchstones for writing. I want to stay asdeeply available as I have been for writing during this next week. I was feeling abit lonely for the family yesterday. Knowing I will go back to them makes the nextweek seem more poignant and the work more necessary.Yesterday, while I was writing my woman in the woods essay, I was castigatingmyself for not being adventuresome enough when it came to exploring myenvironment. Ive done a lot of walking here, but in "designated" zones, especiallysince this is the crucible of lyme disease. But yesterday I decided to venturebeyond Baker Lane to perhaps find a public access entrance to the NaturePreserve behind the house. I walked along 156, the highway at one end of BakerLane, towards a bridge over the Eight Mile River. Just before the bridge, I sawsome 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 Ineared the meadow, I saw rows and rows of large black birds. At first I thought itmust be someones shooting range, with decoys. But then one of the large birdsslowly turned its head towards me and lifted its large wing. I turned and fled. Ifelt 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 Imust, too, if so many turkeys appeared to me. When animals appear to you, theyhave "medicine" or teachings for you. I am still pondering what I should learnfrom these turkeys. Tonya said that they could be aggressive, but mostly if theyfeel threatened, or if they are nesting. She told me that it was probably a goodidea that I turned around and high-tailed it out of there, even if they did have amessage for me.In the afternoon Marilyn took Ching-In and me to the Florence GriswoldMuseum, where we viewed the house and the exhibit, including a display ofpoems written by Marilyn about Venture Smith, and accompanied by landscapepaintings from the collection that inspired her. Afterwards she took us to VentureSmiths grave in Old Lyme.Vision May 9I used to see 20/20.Now, without my glassesI cant discern the exactlines of the fiddleheads curvebut the stalks glow againstthe mottled earth.Spring leaves appearas tiny green lanternshung on the branches, asred confetti strewnamong the treetops,dappled shade in motionshaping the light.Visitors May 10Yesterday, Rosemary Starace drove down from Pittsfield, Massachusetts to havelunch with me. I showed her around Soul Mountain, and then we drove to OldSaybrook for lunch at an outdoor cafe where we both picked up a bit of a tansitting in the brilliant sun. I met Rosemary on the WOM-PO (Womens Poetry)Listserv. Shes a visual artist turned poet, and she has been instrumental in
putting the WOM-PO anthology into physical form. Ive proposed a panel for nextyears AWP on the creation of this collaborative anthology in cyberspace and haveactually been trying to meet as many members of the editorial group in person aspossible. It turned out that we have many things in common, not the least ofwhich is the art backgrounds we bring to writing. Rosemary developed her workas an artist when she attended the New York Feminist Art Institute. She told metheir motto was "Where art making arises from self-understanding and contentinspires form." Shes taken several writers’ workshops with Jane Hirshfield, oneat Tassajara. We both have the Tassajara bread book, and shared that memory aswell as many others about our journeys in art, cooking, and poetry. It was good tomeet a soul mate, and I bought a box of paints on our walk around Old Saybrook.After Rosemarys visit, I took a quick field trip to New York on the Shore EastLine from Old Saybrook to New Haven, then on the Metro North from NewHaven to Grand Central Station. Trains are a smorgasbord for people-watcherslike me--eavesdropping on families, businessmen, and high school kids dressedfor the prom. I also love reading on trains, and today read all of Linda Greggs"Chosen by the Lion" and Mary Karrs "Viper Rum," along with her essay"Against Decoration" on the long journey into the city. My destination was apoetry reading at the Brooklyn Historical Society in honor of the publication of"Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn," an anthology edited by my friend JuliaSpicher Kasdorf and fellow poet Michael Tyrell. Unfortunately, my memoryslipped, and I ended up all the way down at the Brooklyn Museum on EasternParkway, instead of the Historical Society. So by the time Id taken the subway upto Brooklyn Heights, Id missed the reading. However, I didnt miss Julia, and Ihad a pleasant evening out with her and Michael and a few friends, listening tofunny stories about the readings and celebrating the great labor of love--sometimes unrequited--that anthology-making is.A Recollection of Time Past May 11River SpiritWhile I sit on this rock in the riverand write, a fisherman casts his reelfrom the opposite bank. I look upand we exchange smiles. Has he guessedhow Id almost entered the bodyof my younger self, long dark hair flowingover slender shoulders, shifting back and forthon my perch to claim the full scopeof river views: Upstream so I can seewhats coming, then downstream to measurethe liquid speed of time. A turn of the headand thirty years have passed.
Return to Solitude May 12A relief to be back in the writing groove at Soul Mountain. Every day I walk out tothe river and then return to my room, take out my computer kayak and paddle bymyself through the rapids of thought. The writing is beginning to accumulate, theshape of the imagination emerging in language.The week of fragrances is in full bloom. Apple blossoms and lilacs have openedand the air is full of their scent. Its a heady time; when the body wants to stepout, 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 Id be able to gaze upinto the green and see into the life of birds without binoculars. The pond is abirds playground in spring, as full of courting, pairing, and mating as any collegecampus in the same season. Geese, ducks, a pair of red-tailed hawks, catbirds,warblers, robins, sparrows, finches, swallows. The hawks and snapping turtlesadd an edge of drama to the scene of nesting, bringing out the protectivebehaviors of the parent birds. A few days ago I sat at my computer before thepond window and looked up every so often to see two Canada Geese strolling withtheir fluffy little gosling as it learned to peck in the soft earth around the pond forfood. One would stand tall and keep a lookout, while the other pecked at thegrass, 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 toSoul Mountain. They are the clean-up crew. After something nasty and predatoryhappens, they come around to clean up the leftovers. Tanya stopped the car in themiddle of the road and called up to them, but they stayed in the trees, shy of usand our big shiny white bird of a vehicle.Decrescendo May 13Sunday Morning. Woke from a long deep sleep to bright sun, a clear blue sky, theponds eye open, everything in clear focus. Last night I finished a typed first draftof my story, now called "A River Tale." It took a long time to type it, basicallybecause I was still writing as I typed, adding whole new passages. My motivationnow 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 eachother’s writing and give feedback. Im really looking forward to both reading andbeing read. A fitting finale.If mind is the residue of incomplete thoughts, perhaps this story Ive come backto numerous times in my writing life is a very large, incomplete, undigested
thought, and working it through will remove the "carbuncle" from the passage ofmy creativity, the deep underground reservoir from which the voices emerge.(Metaphor borrowed freely from a legend about the Moodus, a place ofunderground voice, near where I am staying.) Listening to the spirits.Legends of Place May 14One of Connecticuts most mysterious phenomena is the "Moodus Noises,"seismic tremors that occur near the place in East Haddam where the Salmon andMoodus Rivers flow together. The Pequot, Mohegan and Narragansettinhabitants of this region considered these noises to originated from the godHobomoko, who sat below Mount Tom. The Indian word for the noises was"Matchemadoset" or "Matchitmoodus," which means "Place of Bad Noises," andthe local tribe had special interpreters for the noises.Of course, when the Puritans came to the area in the mid-1600s, they attributedthe Moodus noises to Satan. Connecticut at the time was also very active in WitchHunting. There must have been a lot of cultural chaos, and natural phenomenaseemed to be interpreted in terms of the settlers and the Indians fears. Today, itseems to me that these noises are far more benign--especially for those listenerswho wish to hear the rumblings of mother earth.This afternoon Tonya drove us to Moodus, and we searched for the place wherewe might hear the spirit voices. We stopped in the town of Moodus at a gasstation, and I asked people about the noises until I found a woman who seemedto know something. She said that they were all around the area, but that therewas 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 wounddown a long, curvy road towards the water. Finally we found the entry pointlabeled "Salmon River," and drove into a huge clearing ringed by cottonwoodsnext 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 tinglein our bellies. My imagination heard whistling noises, but then again, itsimpossible to tell, with the background hum of airplanes and vehicle motors fromthe highway exactly what is a Moodus noise and what is noise pollution. The riverview was broad and full and lovely, and the cottonwoods whispered tales fromtimes past, when they were deemed sacred, lodge poles for an invisible tent aboveus.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 thismorning, and then went back and wrote a new, stronger ending for "A RiverTale." I finished critiquing her poetry manuscript this afternoon, and she
responded to mine this evening. It is affirming to be read and understood byanother. Both of us are writing about women characters/speakers who strive tobreak through the myths and stories and losses theyve allow to define them inorder to become creators of themselves, at peace and poised for deeperadventures as an integrated person. It will be a thrill to see each other’s books inprint.Farewell May 15Woke early to watch the sky through an eastern window, a drama of dark cloudssweeping across a pale gray background. I opened my eyes again to streaks ofrose, then to patches of celestial blue. Time to rise and pack, carry homememories of this time and place.At mid-morning rain spatters the pond outside my writing window. Im nearlypacked 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 toremember the co-ordinates of this soul place in soul space.Coda: A Return to Mothering May 28Cottonwood seeds drift through the air on their parachutes of fluff. Gravity tugsthem down, but they are light enough that the air currents bat them about ontheir way down, sometimes sending them up again for a spin. Large, dry, warm-weather snowflakes.Its been 2 weeks since Ive returned home from Soul Mountain, still holding ontothe determination to make writing space here amidst the family, which alsomeans space for contemplation, and permission to enter contemplative realitieswithout feeling like I should always be doing a hundred thousand other thingsfirst. Ive found a good perch in an upstairs bedroom, used by Jonathan, my olderson, when hes home from college, and across the hall from David’s room, theyoungest of our four children. Gradually Im taking over this room, shifting Jon’sbedroom/guest room to my smaller, darker study downstairs, which is good forsleeping, 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 towrite in. He’s always been generous; I hope I have his blessing as he embarks onthe next phase of his life, and I on mine.At Soul Mountain I realized how important a morning view of the day and theworld outside was to my writing and meditation. Otherwise, Id never pause to
see the cottonwood seeds, or the dark green shadows in the fully leafed trees. Andthis upstairs bedroom has a view of sky and trees and lawn, and the neighborshouse, 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 faithfulcompanion at Soul Mountain. The cottonwoods seeds, aimless and graceful asthey appear, sooner or later reach or dont reach their target soil--only one in athousand will actually take root and produce a new tree. So I am driven back tothis journal and a search, again, for a lost space, some fertile ground in which toroot daily words, some of which may eventually grow into something more.
Ching-In ChenPartly BlazeI dont know whothe teacher in me [a flame green snail perched on the head of a psychedelic Buddha]lit to start the forestbut we all burned down without yelling fire
BowieStorytellers I’ve beenembedded in yourunwritten, my workadaycardinal sin ---I’m a turncoat.My materials forgedfrom a volcanoin my brother’s furnace.You think an uprightcalibration, live forever.I’m just a pigeon gonelucky, entering a worldof pain. Cicada huskwith some mileage.Told them I was arisky Locomotive,an aluminum fire.
Fugue: Love Pathology You ask me to skinyour letters. I capture the bleach from its guard-tower terrace. Unfastenedto fence and unraveled the route of the thread. Mother, father, loved to bare stone. Mother, father, place oranges onthe 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 towhom you would like to pay tribute, and then, of course, you can get back to reading themagazine, which continues below. ~ Your Friendly FEM Editors
NashiraPriesterT H E B I G S H O W Republicans and insurance companies conservative Democratsexcise taxes no one knows the origin of, disrespecting our black Presidentlowlifes cretinsthe Karma tax falling on the Haitians & God is near God is near and on the side of the righteous. Robertson and Limbaugh have the pimpslove for their puppet mammon for no one else for no one elsethe bill however corrupted must go throughthe testy vigor of our President rumblingthe walls of the lost bureaucrats padded roomRepublicans mutter insurance companies dissemble conservativedemocrats pay Caesar’s back another visitRepublicans mutter their poison venom dripping from prevaricating mawinsurance companies in the counting roomfaxes ﬁx us obstructionist palaver nobody knows the origin ofskanks liarsthe Karma tax falling on a tiny babylike a clutch of tumbling white bouldersdust settling in board rooms in the cloak roomsblindfolded chief executioners come back to see in mirrorsshadows of culpable face don’t take it tooooo farSichuan, Mexico City the Philippines people live thereHaiti Mogadishu Darfur, DRC, hideous slave colony x’s people live thereBrooklyn, Detroit Michigan El Salvador people live thereRwanda, Uganda Bosnia Hercegovina Sudan people live therenot just a certain sort people live thereSenegal ﬁshermen deprived of a living hustler hotshots buy ﬁshing rights to our seasborderline friend of mine born to do schemespalin drone beck shreck bobble head sons limp bough shall it breakin conscience-less disintegration poverty of spirit of spirit become skeletonin hatred shall we sleep part of US as you is
o say Am I hurtin o heck yes i’m iswith this buliding sitting on top of my pulverized boneshere in the basement of the subway stop graveyard here in the collarbonegrim reaper’s wine cellar Sichuan Pinatubo Lijiang Peru late great Italian villagesabandon the land mass jump in any ship heading to crossroads of a philosophybaseless as it’s uncivil premise the cold shouldergive you my back show you the door here’s my fergit-you all this time at this timeyou’re poor you’re black you’re nothing chinese "over populated" worthmy opium trade not quite up to snuff this led us here the gates of hell open and waitingRepublicans, shapeshifters insurance companies conservative hypocritesexcise taxes no one knows the origin of, disrespecting our black Presidentlowlifes cretinsthe 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’slove for their puppet mammon for no one else for no one elsethe bill however corrupted must go throughthe testy vigor of our President rumblingthe walls of the lost bureaucrats padded roomButterfat moguls repooplicants mutter insurance companies dissemble born to live above the law king spaniel rapacious overlords shallow heretics back another visit to the mooncowards of the tent border kingship mutter their poison venom dripping fromprevaricating mawinsurance companies in the counting roomfaxes ﬁx us obstructionist palaver nobody knows the origin ofskanks liarsthe Karma tax falling on a tiny babylike a clutch of tumbling white bouldersdust settling in board rooms in the cloak roomsblindfolded chief executioners come back to see in mirrorsshadows 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 comeswhen global warming comes it won’t be conﬂagrationthe sea will scalp the shorelinecarefullyhaving brought the earthto her knees fairly peeling back to the brain of manrevealed under its cap ofof snowswhen global warming comesmuch more like a melting slowcatastrophic oozing will surgethen slide and shift gliss and thunderswash without compromise can opener hiss - minusthe can we thought we couldget away with it butwe couldn’twhen global warming comesforests and castles will shut down shops closed down on the Sabbathshut down -- a heart whose valve is cloggedas a globe with a hitch in the giddy-upof it’s tilted syncopated dance ambitions squelchedin ever moving mud-streams when global warming comesyour loved ones could go screamingif a plan has not been formulatedsomehow to highest groundterritory yields to forces ancientas the blood more so than oldestknown invertebrates oldest knownoldest known bones thrownglobal warming comes when our impulseto feel others subsides to tricklingonly ‘the things’ to matter the windsleave just ambitions objects curiosities
medallions meatalready consumed in some storehouse reawakens next‘ seeking life to lead medallions meat that’s been huntedto extinction in past lives of the peacemakerswhen global warming comes when I want i coveti want . . . i want i need you baby want you . . mean . . . itwant it, you . . . you . . . the land your land terror Torywant love . . . want it . . . want you . . . want powercontrol more stocks i’m stocking more crops shoes overcoatshoarding blueﬁn tunawant everything want this love . . .that . . . it . . . you . . . this mine want every thing MY MY MY my family. more time . . . luxury goods luxuryevilseverything crumbles in the seed of cosmic dustwho sets the rules ?. . . the science standard the rules about the rules ?the academy false falsetto academy professional disqualiﬁcationscooked up by magistrates of malice monolithic mind bogbogus science court jesters academic freedom you pay with your soul for.when global warming comes you’ll be already lulled into thinking it will comewhen it is already been and gone silly earthlings pirates of our own tongueour 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 RWayne Shorter’smusic does something to menobody else’s doescerebral cortex meets poitrinemystery. cloche. clot of memoryclaustro-awareness of universesclam beating of hearts-in-love someplacefemale voice, the soprano, swings intops the parapet a girl plungesto her . . . lifelofting up currents of air rescues her -self dive-bombing cups kilotons of uncertainty a miniscule refusal of some librettist namedVishnu check in by midnight check out by eight thirty ecstatic ghouls laugh& drool with gladness standing . . . I’m awestruck by your glandsWayne Shorter makes Men cryI will dance . . . in
aftermath of kissesdo pois do amor o vaziobreathing on the outside locking inWayne Shorter. who knew horns could do plucking ?tugging at vegetationcoiled inside yetspeak 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 perfumesWayne 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 divinityWayne Shorter death-life war repeated mistakes of homo sapiens longings inside Supernovae bomb blasts pyroclastic clouds so feminine my heart wails the hearingWayne Shorter out-soul strings ﬂung out like freshwater pearls breathing on outside. moving to see
wires . . . exasperating control hymns - I’m deforested loving them lungsWayne Shorter your song crop yields me mystic refusals melting melting nobles pessimists arrestedin the coffee cup belly of holiness
Norm BreyfogleFreak AdviceWith butt plug and leather husks,kevlar, spandex, tights,my muscles, mask, and mammal muskswere swinging through the night.Then, suddenly, in bleak alleyI chanced upon a bumwho’d had a bit too much to drinkand 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 tightthat blood won’t ﬂow and bruises showin prowess-plenty ﬁghts.“And, momma used to tell me,‘Don’t crash a car with shortswhich, soiled, reveal incontinence;clean rep you’ll thus abort.’“So, if youre out about tonightand 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 learnthe further secrets of the nightfrom those whose sphincters burn.
System shockspole-shift sorcerers mix alchemical transmutations in the skycosmic ﬂipﬂopthe consternation of forces transmogriﬁedGod fallenSatan transﬁguredthe ﬁrst last, the last aheadeverything you know is wronganother millenium arrives
Omega Leapmy loveseparated from you by a chasm of illusionI’m not yet fully conscious of your existencebutnonhuman friendhorriﬁc enemyunconscious shadowstupid and beautiful brute forcesource of my most intimate passions and fearsmatter inexorablesee how far we’ve come in fourteen billion yearsbehold miraculous consciousness transcendentyour shining opposite numberimagine what we can next achieveperfectly entwinedmy insentient dark twinlet us create the future togethermake it beautifulheal all woundssurmount time and spaceattain our unitive transﬁgurationour impossible marriagedo not fearthe moment approachesa pause before the abyssa profound whisperan uproarious laugha ﬁnal kissa war crya stupendous leap
Contrary TreesNothing 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 Panin a new coil.Contrary trees attack!
The Primal Christ “The modern quantum mechanic faces a viciously inscrutable learning curve, so justtrust me when I tell you that I was there, at the trunk of the timetree, before the originalarchetypes branched off into their watered-down retellings in later universes. I was therewhen the very ﬁrst universe witnessed the cruciﬁxion and resurrection of possibly the onlytrue Christ in all of the inﬁnite Multiverse. “Forgive me for making you wait until now to hear my story. I was exhausted last nightwhen I returned to this universe, but I’ve bathed, eaten, and slept, and I’m now ready andable 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 Mirroralso functions as a time machine through adjustment of the lens’ electrograviticfrequencies. “My friends, peering through that multidimensional window, we found alternate universes in which the Arthurian legends of Camelot were more than just legends; theywere 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 andogres and many different kinds of fairy folk. There lay Bigfoot, Tarzan, and Zorro wasnot just ﬁction, either. The pantheon of Roman and Greek gods existed too, as well as didAchilles, Hercules, and Odysseus. Buddha existed, and so did Doctor Frankenstein andBeowulf and extraterrestrial UFOs and Santa Claus and his elves. Yes, even Santa Clausexists in many of the innumerable universes ﬂanking ours. Everything and everyone elseyou could imagine can be found somewhere in that nearly inﬁnite smorgasbord ofuniverses ... “But listen to this: very, very oddly, there was no Jesus Christ of Nazareth, nothing thatlooked 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 andZeus, and yes, even evidence for the existence of Jehovah himself (we witnessed Mosesparting the red sea and bringing plagues down on Egypt, by the way), why then could weﬁnd no Christ? “Oh, sure, there were many ﬁrst century Roman cruciﬁxions of Jewish rebels andwould be Messiahs in all the universes we searched, but none we found performed themiracles reported of the Jesus in the Gospels. “So we decided to search farther, to see just how rare the physical manifestation of thisparticular myth really is. Understand that we’re scientists, not religious fanatics. The onlyreason we sought out the Christ was because of his anomalous absence from all theuniverses we catalogued, a fact we stumbled onto accidentally. The strange and universallack of any physical manifestation of only this one particular archetype out of all thenoosphere’s greatest tales ... ! Well, it perplexed us, so we radically increased the power ofthe quantum mirror and probed even deeper into the structure of the Multiverse. “As a result we learned that alternate universes aren’t distributed randomly inhyperspace, but are in fact branching out from earlier versions throughout time, notunlike 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 alllater branching universes––wherein the events which occur there are all occurring for thevery 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 universein which the Christ really existed! “I know; many, many questions. But all the details will be answered in my writtenreport. 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 timestream, 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. Aftermy nanoimplantations and conditioning, The Quantum Mirror sent me back to thePrimal 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’vespoken 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 noprompting from me he told me that the reason there’re no alternate versions of himself inthe Multiverse is because his father only required his sacriﬁce once in order to save allsentient creatures everywhere from sin. During the three years I spent with him, he healedthe 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 youdon’t have to take my word for it; you can see and question him yourselves, because ... I’vebrought him back here with me!” Everyone in the convention hall froze in silent shock. Professor Aaron Shroude stoodon stage, literally seeming to milk the excitement right out of the air as his astoundingrevelation 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 simpliﬁedrealities, simpliﬁed on all levels, the psychic through the physical. The original PrimalUniverse is composed mostly of strange protomatter and what can best be called fullymanifested archetypes. I safely interacted with this mother universe via the shapeshiftingand translating capabilities which my nanoimplants provided me, and you’ve all beenimplanted as well, before you entered this hall, so you’ll be able to understand our Lord’swords. He, of course, can read all your minds at will without the need for an implant, norneed 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 theirrealm, 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 withphysical parameters. I know you haven’t been given the psychological conditioning thatwas provided me while in preparation for my visit to the Primal Universe, but suchconditioning takes far too long, you all have very busy lives, and I have every faith in youreducated ability to transcend simple bigotry, anyway.
“And now, my colleagues, give a good show, for although you’re the elite masters ofyour ﬁelds, living at the very peak of human technological civilization, remember thatthere 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 awoman stiﬂed a scream as the Lord Jesus Christ––a huge, hideous slug––slithered forwardon numerous pseudopods and spoke, his slippery, guttural utterances translated intoEnglish 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 BearThe ﬁrst time the bear lied to me,I told the owl.She said,TryTo understandHer.The next time the bear lied to me,I told the owl.She said,TryTo ignoreHer.The last time the bear lied to me,I told the owl.She said,I agreeWithThe bear.
Engines of Our IngenuityThe ofﬁce building of the torso keeps working, productivity uptickingwith 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 carheading 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 usnothing was ours, it all belonged to our father. The energy of wordsdetermined 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 bodya 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 JollieAutumn EquinoxI just keep turning, I just keep re-turningto the ritual of water –holding out my hands as itfallsalways downfrom the faucet the rocky mountain topthe skyI dreamedlast night that Sister Flying Horseand I were walking in an airportI don’t know where we’ve come fromor where we are about to go.I do know we are happy,surrounded by smiling faces.What I mean to tell youis that the ancestors leftthe same way they came:through the solesof my feet back into the soiland their own souls’ worlds. They left mein 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 awakenon Earth as she sleeps for a season.This, this here, is a Sacred celebrationcalled real life. Liferequires ﬂowers,songs, ﬂowing movement,beautiful choreography, pirouettes.So I just keep turning,I just keep re-turningto the ritual of water –letting my spirit climb itsrushing bubbling constancy
into the Autumn sky& back again to the solid ground.
Winter Solstice, 2008Held aloft,vials of seed-beads are multi-hued ﬂecks kaleidoscopingthemselves against canvas of newly fallen snow just pastmy windowpane. Solstice storm’s fury continues its clear colddarkness late into the evening, piling soft light layers onand on through this nightI celebrate with sweetgrass. Feathers of ﬂame lickand lick at the ancient woundsof my sacred blackest hours,whisper: hold the brightest bits of yourself aloftkaleidoscope yourself againstthese newly lengthening daysin which possibility is opento dreamwork.
Spring EquinoxMarch 2010Patch of Purple Crocusespeeking out near the Creekcame two Snowstormsafterwe met by that little Tree,stood side by sidelisteningPatch of Purple Crocusesspeaking out near the Creekby the downed Maple trunkwhile River says to the humans:why hear onlythe 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 ofThanksgiving)A heart has its own autotelic beat, angelic thread of lightwith 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, overlookingthe 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 bowof the ship next to me, conscious of only our owndark 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 TurkeyHerbie Littlecreek told me he heard her weavingwhile he was holding a bottle of blue skycolored spray paint,covering cold city cementwith lively images.
Celebrating the Day of MourningColumbus Day 2008ﬁnds me protesting but notin the usual fashion:I begin by reading Winona’s Recovering the Sacredwhile sitting on a bench in front of an artiﬁcially constructedwaterfall, then decide I need something wilder.I drive to Skinner State Park on Mount Holyoke,forgetting for a moment the state-sanctioned holidayand as my gasoline powered vehicle conquers the summitI hear a trooper telling ten touristsThe view today is terrible.My artist’s eyes scan the hazy horizon,absorbing hues ﬁt for a Fall watercolorbefore coming to rest on the land nearest me.There are 23 other cars, and I can hearthree separate cell phone conversations as I park.Trash of all shapes and sizes is strewnabout the grounds like confetti. A signtells me I must leave the parkby 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 solitudeand our songs.But I will let go of the ancestral grief, the shame, the rage.I will hold onto the beautyof 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 ﬂutesas the full Moon rises,her beams whisperingthat every minute brings us that much closerto dawnand the next world,a world of light & balance.
Alexandra ParsonsApolutrosis Drag the tip of the familiaralong 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 thecoppery fragrance, inky texture, emblematic color. My body is a temple.Each drop shed isrelief, rejuvenation, redemption.All three are mine now as onebut they are just on loan.
Echezona UdezeAnd He Laughed There is someone who knows humanity’s inner core. He is as silent as a good setof ear plugs, a true mute. I cannot hear him so I watch him in silence, we catch eachother’s eyes and I believe we have an agreement in the silence in which he drowns. He willnever feel me unless he wants the fury of a brash woman’s tongue. But that is because Iam afraid that what he says of humanity is true. That I am as bad as the next. Whatexactly does he do he feels like you. No physical metamorphosis, just a feeling, coveringhis face. He knows all your personality traits, color of eyes, sexual promiscuity, age, all offa little feeling. But what he does when he has these feelings is a mental metamorphosis. Ihave watched and mentally recorded his exploits, a choice few have landed him in hiscurrent 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 andobnoxious, few noticed. The women swooned, they thought he shat butterﬂies from hisass crack, and the men, the men! They hinged on his every word, they emulated the wayhe cut his toenails, they followed him around yes siring at his orders and guffawing at hisbad jokes. Why? He was a star athlete, extraordinarily handsome, ( even though I neverfell for that), and he was dumb. (People love idiots). Still the entire school includingteachers 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 onhis psyche. I watched him begin to walk like the most popular kid in school. The entireschool watched him as if they were expecting him to ﬂy off to heaven, or win the Nobelprize. But no, he slapped a girls butt deftly, tilted his head far upwards and proceeded withthe same walk. When he got to Pat’s mindless army he began giving high ﬁves like he hadjust 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 washeard around the campus, what a mighty roar, it registered at least a 6.6 on the Richterscale, the ﬂoor seemed as if it were dancing. He left the bathroom laughing and everyonethought 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 throughothers. There was also a girl at our school who wore elaborate, expensive out ﬁts, well youcan 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 yourface, a slight kiss. He had her walk then and his ass was high in the air. He chickenstrutted 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 askedhim about a homework assignment he said, “as if,” like he had been offended ass high asif 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 madehim believe they liked him, they had girls smile at him in the hallway, they showered himwith compliments while he possessed their demeanor. All the while he absorbed it asthem, basked as them, believed he deserved it as them. No one can ride this train toolong, they devised a plan. Nearing his last day of school they gathered around him and slung mud, blaminghim for the wrong doings he committed as them. Trying to be humble the most elaborateliar in the school stepped up like a mouse, “why did you lie to me,” this person lied somuch she lied to herself without knowing. “Why do you steal,” because she did, and shebehaved as if she didn’t know that. She ignorantly ﬂipped her blonde locks and said, “Iknow you need it.” One by one they blamed him then formed a circle and began pushinghim 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, theearth shook as if a hundred people had fallen. He was being a composite of all of themand 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 hespouted, as if a fountain, these ugly epitaphs, saying to each other what they said to himin 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 hehad 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 CullaAnd I WonderI want to see You smoking laughingSmoking dancing all aroundInside my headAnd I wonder.Each puff each an IsEach space-scape for human Being.Haul the smokesHave one’s heart in one’s PorroI meanAnd I wonder.I’m barking up the wrong tree¡:Grass is listen & talkingAs the news possible consciousnessOf the Earth.The interesting thingAbout natural ScienceIs that the GrassIs the centre of the attentionNot another manipulation of it.Not that anybodyGot anything wrongBut I think the Wo/ManMay have a point.Summits of Passion, Sinsemilla MarijuanaFrom the Otto Peep.We are of a Time-SmokingWherein all-species has been joinedComing to ActWith the necessities of all the livingWith the multiple voices-humanVoices-animalVoices-plantVoice- life of Earth.Who’s Earth?I am the Green of Love.
Daniel ParksAnother Language Patterson kept perfectly still and tried to ignore the shadows that were cast by hisfrustrations. Occupying the dark corners of his bedroom were shapeless and chaoticthings desperately waiting for his guard to fall. He shut his eyes tight against the blindlysearching ﬁngers that were crawling across the ﬂoor toward his bed―reaching andprobing and silently reminding. It was a mistake to close his eyes because now thereassuring reality of his bedroom was gone and the dark things held at bay were suddenlyunchained. He could feel the smoking heat of their breath as they swarmed out of thecorners and from under his bed and began to press down upon him. A shudder rippledacross the surface of his blankets as his thin body started to shake. His lips cracked apartrevealing teeth ﬁercely clamped shut and the moonlight coming through the window wascaught and reﬂected in the wetness on his cheeks. He imagined a swift and deafeninggunshot that would pierce the night through with warmth and light and frighten all suchreaching ﬁngers of perdition back into the cracks and corners. He opened his eyes andcautiously sat up. “I’m sorry,” he spoke into the darkness. He moved slowly with shockand awe as he laid aside the covers and walked to his bedroom door. Having escaped the livid contemplation of his bedroom, Patterson began to softlydrift down the hallway like a ghost toward a faint white light that was coming from hisbathroom. He had recently taken to leaving the light on in the bathroom at night becausehe was not getting much sleep and he knew that at some point he would have to get upand get a glass of water or splash his face. He continued down the hallway and then intothe 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 andfrightened 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. Hehad a hawk’s beak for a nose and cold, translucent eyes. It was his misfortune to havebeen born with a face that was incapable of ever truly communicating empathy orclemency. 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 changewith each breath and heartbeat. He suddenly recalled lying on the ﬂoor as a small childand staring at the ceiling while imagining what it would be like to have been born assomeone else. He had been greatly delighted and bewildered when struck all at once withthe notion that he could have been born as someone else, or never even have been born atall. It was exciting to him as a child to fully realize that he had been counted among thelucky ones to have received the breath of life and he began to think of the world as a longroad of possibilities with unknown wonders hiding and waiting for him to come alongand discover them. Now he stood staring into the mirror with that same realization of thejarring juxtaposition of soul and body. And while he saw the connection he also felt atremendous 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 bodyhe just happened to have been born into. Patterson was very tired from holding the weight of these thoughts and wishedthat he could go back to sleep, but he did not want to face the dark and the shadows in hisbedroom. He left the bathroom and walked further down the hall to his parent’s bedroomdoor where he stopped and stood waiting for his heart to slow down. He took a deepbreath 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’sshoulder. “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 wrappedaround his legs. His father sat on the edge of the bed slowly waking up and trying tounderstand what was bothering his son. Patterson had always been somewhat of a strangeand sensitive boy but that was alright he guessed. Everybody is a little different, right? Atleast the boy had a few friends that weren’t delinquents and he had ﬁnally found himself acute little girlfriend. And it was to be expected that he would be acting a little bit strangeafter…well, after all that had happened this year and… he just worried about the boy wasall. When Patterson was about seven years old his father began to notice that he wouldsometimes start crying for apparently no reason at all. Sometimes his father would comehome from work and ﬁnd Patterson sitting on the ﬂoor in the middle of his room with histoys all put away and just quietly sobbing to himself. He had asked the child on theseoccasions what he was crying about but Patterson didn’t seem to be able to answer. Hewould just shake his head and say, “I don’t know Daddy. I don’t know. I’m just sad.” Hewas embarrassed and confused and completely frustrated with his inability to express thethoughts 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 aboutsomething?’ “No Dad, I’m…I’m not worried about anything. I just…” He was trying veryhard to keep the tears back but there was a wave rolling through his body and he couldfeel 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 wasnot 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 needme, alright?” “OK.” “Love you son.” “Love you too Dad.” The bedroom door closed and the shadows crept out of the corners. Pattersonquietly 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 upfrom 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. Itwas about two in the morning and there was no one else walking the streets of hissuburban neighborhood. He began to softly drift down the sidewalk like a ghost toward afaint white light that was coming from a bus stop. There were no buses running at thistime of night even if he had wanted to catch one, but there was a bench that he could sitdown on and try to clear his thoughts. Patterson sat down on the bus stop bench and leaned his head back against theglass of the shelter. He closed his eyes and slowly started to calm down. When the younggirl sat down on the bench beside him he was not surprised or startled. She looked to beabout 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 littleshorter than Patterson and she had chestnut hair that cascaded down her shoulders andher 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 goodnight’s sleep. Besides, you never know what kind of weirdoes you might run into at thistime 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 carwith him. I almost did. I almost said something. I’m such a chicken-shit. I can never saysomething when I really need to.”
“I know the things inside you Patterson. I know that you would have stopped it ifyou could. It’s OK. It’s not your fault. We can’t change life we can only learn how tomove through it.” “You know how I felt about you?” “Of course. But listen, Patterson, you have to learn how to say these things to thepeople 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’tthe one who lets all the bad things happen to us; we let the bad things happen to ourselvesbecause we don’t know how to communicate. It’s like, there’s all these other languagesthat 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 knowhow.” “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 buseased to a halt without a sound and the young girl got up from the bench. She walked tothe 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 disappearingaround a corner. Patterson opened his eyes. It was morning now and the sun shone warmand bright through the bus shelter. He stood up and walked back home.
Eugenia RaineyBurying the Moon I didn’t notice it at ﬁrst. Not till late in the morning, hell I think it was afternoon. Igot up, got the kids off to school. I had a diet coke and a pop tart because it was way toosnotty to make coffee for myself. I was puttering around the kitchen as I chewed andcoughed, gathering their breakfast dishes and unloading the dishwasher of yesterday’sdishes only to reload it with last night’s dinner and the morning’s breakfast, mostlyavoiding the yard, I’d let it go. The wrong thing to do in a swamp, but things were so busywith getting the kids ready for the school year and Artie and I were ﬁghting, I was kind ofdepressed about it all. He said I let him down and I kind of believed him. Then I ﬁguredI was letting the landlord down, too, and soon I’d let the kids down and Artie would takethem to his mother’s. She always wanted them with her anyway; even though they werenearly 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 itthe more depressed I got, and the more it rained, and the more the yard grew. I didscrape 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 andswallow 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 cementpier. 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 darkwater 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 outmy 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 wouldgo, but not very far. My neighbor feeds them. She has aluminum roasting pans full of drycat food on her front steps and in the front yard, all twenty inches of it; she has birdfeeders 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 getseaten, at least I never saw it happen. She should live on a farm, not in a shot gun on acrowded block with twenty inches of front yard and windows that look directly into thenext 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 nightbefore and blocking out the fact that I would have to work again in seven hours or so. Iplanned on taking the bath that lady at the Voodoo temple recommended. She said I washazy, my spirit, my thoughts, the confusion made me bitchy and defensive, and the bathwould help me to clear it up. That’s what I keep telling Artie, I get hazy, and, in his nicermoments, he’ll say I’m a masterpiece, just unﬁnished. He doesn’t understand howoverwhelmed 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 likehe doesn’t have his crutches; he just thinks more of them because he does them with otherpeople. It’s okay if you’re socializing. But I don’t think he’s wrong, it’s not that I think he’swrong. I just think he’s mean and impatient.
So the bath the Voodoo lady told me to take was something like milk and ﬂowersand perfume and cocoa butter and white powder. She said goat’s milk was the best andthat was easy because there’s a grocery store near the kid’s school. It’s a pricey one, butthat’s because it’s got fancy stuff. I got the milk, powdered, along with a stick of cocoabutter the day after I saw her and was all ready to go. But I’d been putting it off for a fewweeks now because I didn’t really know where you got white powder or what exactly thatwas, and there are so many types of perfume, and I didn’t know if I should get roses orcarnations and what difference that would make, and I didn’t really have the money forfresh ﬂowers or perfume since nobody was tipping at my job. It goes along like that: forweeks you’ll have good tippers and then they will all disappear into some void and all youget are cheap fuckers who never wondered where their next meal was coming from or justnever 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 thecocoa butter would do and hoped the rest of the ingredients were just lagniappe. I took aglance into the backyard, in my bathrobe, with the water running. I think it was the ﬁrsttime all morning that I admitted to myself that there was something in the pond. But Ijust said, hey, the kids must have left a toy in there or something. Although I couldn’timagine 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 amdark, in my family people range from those who a snotty Creole wouldn’t even take thebrown paper bag out for, to those who they wouldn’t even bother to get it out for; that’sthe 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 thatalways made me want to work things out with Artie, even when he said something I didn’tthink I could, or should, forgive. I thought of my daddy, and I wanted my kids to lovetheir 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 lumpsof powdered milk I’d missed mixing in. Then I stared at my dark knees wondering whatthe hell I was supposed to do next. How was I suppose to free myself of this haze thatVoodoo 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. Iwas excited to take this bath but I was wondering if the sky would fall, or the house wouldshake, or blue lightening would hit me. Mostly nothing seemed to be happening, so I shutmy eyes. I don’t know how long I was out, but I was sinking and the water was almost tomy lower lip. Everything seemed pretty clear when I jumped out of there and for amoment I imagined that Voodoo lady had been pushing me down. But I get paranoid, it’sone of the things Artie wants me to get help with. Probably it would help; paranoia canget pretty overwhelming at times. At that point I was just mad. I’d been having a goodmorning and now I felt stressed; it was getting late and I had laundry to do and I reallyshould do something with the yard before I took the bus to pick up the kids at school, thenwait 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 thehamper 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 anddoors 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 turnedit on, and then I trudged out to the pond. As I got into the yard I had to lift my legs to getthrough the tall grass; I had to slow down. From the middle of the yard that white thingdidn’t really look like a toy, it didn’t really move like one either. So I told myself thatmaybe it’s some sort of melon someone pitched into my yard. That was my best guess, atﬁrst. A melon that had been there a while and had time to get slimy and soft, I still feltsafe, 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 sulliedmoon 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. Thecats, the countless feral cats, the high pitched meows I would hear below my feet in thebedroom, the cries. Sometimes when I was really tired, or had fallen off the wagon, Ithought they were my own children. Then I would stumble over to their bedroom andhear the same sound coming through their ﬂoors, those ﬂoorboards with a crack here anda hole there, openings where you could see down to the ground beneath the house. A fewtimes I expected to see kittens, expected their little paws to peek through the holes in theﬂoor, 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 atthe time and sometimes, when I tell the story, I make the excuse that I wanted to clean thepond, 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 craziestthing about it was that I was terriﬁed of that dead kitten, and what is really to be terriﬁedof ? It can’t hurt you, but it is death, you’re looking into the face of death, and that can bepretty fucking scary, I say. But still I did it, and everything made sense at the time. Iclimbed in and I sank down into that murky black water with small brown slimy leavesand palm fronds and twigs. Some of the slimy rotten kitten ﬂesh brushed my shoulderand soiled the sleeve of my tee-shirt and it did make me shiver, but I kept going. As if youhave a choice when you’re falling, but at the time I would swear to you that I did have achoice. Down, down, I went in that black water until I landed in a dry living room with abig 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 whiterabbit with her, but then I remembered her family kept her away from animals, afraid shewould have a reaction to them. She was dying. Dying from the day I met her, dying fromthe 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, backwhen I was trying to be best friends with Yvette, that little bitch. She was too good foreverybody and she tolerated me so long as I admitted that I was too dark and that I wouldgo get a bleach treatment when I grew up. Artie’s mother is just like her. Yvette passed thepaper 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 ofarmrest that was elevated to support her head. She had this round white face and itglowed more than I remember. I was so happy to see her: she was dead, but now, shewasn’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 couldcontrol the chair; she would have to blow into a tube or something, and I didn’t see atube. Still, there she was, and boy was I happy to have her in the kitchen, it felt like theright place for us to be. But I looked around the kitchen and I didn’t see anything to makecoffee, just a sauce pan. So I ﬁlled it up with water and a scooped some coffee into it, andI put the ﬁre on. Then I turned to Katie. I never did know what to say to her; her mothersaid she could hear and it was good to talk to her, but she never reacted at all so I wasnever sure if her mother was jiving me, or what. But hey, what the hell, so I said “Howhave you been?” And she looked at me, her eyes were all goopy, and I said, “I’ve beenokay, I guess. Gosh, it sure has been a long time, Katie.” And she looked at me. But then Irealized she wasn’t really looking at me but sort of over my shoulder and I rememberedher mother said that she was mostly blind and slowly I started to remember before shedied. Before she died I was the little bitch; I was the one who looked away and didn’tacknowledge her; I was the one who did whatever Yvette told me to, and Yvette didn’tmuch like Katie. Once Yvette had even told me to go up to Katie in her wheelchair sittingon 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 itmeant, what I was doing, bullshit. Her people were Yankees who knew me and liked me. Iwas the black girl on their block whose daddy was a hip musician, and whose mother wasan educator, and who liked their daughter and everybody was all about loving oneanother. They lumped all black people into one liberal bag and they didn’t know anythingabout 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 wentup to Katie and leaned over, the sun overhead like it was leaning over my shoulder to seewhat 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 whenI 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 tokeep the restaurant stocked. All the other wait staff they bug me to make it for theirtables, 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 hermother. It was a tragedy, they said. I couldn’t go, by then all my excuses for being a littlebitch had disappeared, evaporated in the bright sunlight and all there was was me, a littledarkie whispering mean, vicious words to the moon, drowning it in my betrayal. I told mymother I was sick. My tall bronze-colored mother never pressed us to go to funerals, notones 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. Wetblack 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 outa cheese cloth, like a sock on a wire ring with a wooden handle. I set the sock over apitcher and poured the coffee grounds and water through. It was slow and I looked backat Katie more than once, watching her stare at some point in the distance. I began towonder 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 overwhelmedat times.
When the coffee was all drained I washed out the pot and reﬁlled it with milkfrom the icebox. We hardly talked at all that time. I watched the pot to make sure the milkdidn’t boil, wishing I had a whisk to make it extra foamy. I found people don’t like the hotmilk when it boils over, something changes in the chemistry of it and they turn up theirnoses. I was real careful about that. I might have mentioned it to Katie, but I was mostlytalking to myself. What I know, I really know. The milk got hot pretty quick and I stirred in some sugar. I know some peopledon’t like sugar in their coffee, but I do, and I doubt that Katie really knows thedifference. I’m not so sure her taste buds work. So I got some cups and I poured thecoffee and the milk in, just right, so that there was a little foam at the top, and I put a cupin front of Katie and one at my place and I took a seat. “I hope you like it,” I said. AndKatie never moved her eyes from that point, wherever it was. I took a few sips from mycup and then I looked down. I was going to have to do something. It wasn’t like she couldmove 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, butI said to myself, “Oh shit, it’s hot.” So I blew on the coffee and then blew some more. Itouched it to my lip and blew even more. Then I just said “fuck it” and I got a spoon. Iput some of the coffee in the spoon and brought it to her lips. Then I don’t know whatcame over me, I just blurted it out as the coffee slid down her throat, “I’m sorry, I said, Ihate you. I never meant it.” I’m sure this whole story sounds crazy, but it gets crazier. She swallowed. It wasn’tjust that the liquid ﬂowed down her throat, she swallowed. Then she looked at me, not atthe 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 tothat dot in space. But I ﬁnished my coffee and I stood up. “Katie, I’m so happy that wegot to have this visit. I’m so glad I got to see you.” And I went over to her and I gave her ahug; the cold metal chair nearly froze the insides of my elbows white. Then I went backinto the living room and I jumped up through the water. Only it wasn’t black when Ijumped up, it was clear now, like a pond should be, a pond you can see gold ﬁsh in. And Icame up in my own backyard, and the dead kitten was still there, I brushed its slimyrotten ﬂesh on the way up. Sitting in my yard, I felt good. I felt that sunshiny feeling hugging Katie had leftme with. I went to my shed and got a shovel. I came back to the pond and I starteddigging a hole in the ground for the kitten. The dirt piled up on either side, high andmighty, like it was preparing to take back what rightfully belonged to it.
Randy GonzalezKnight Checks Queen A small boy squealed with joy a helium ﬁlled balloon. The smile held its place acrosshis thin lips. The boy’s mom, embarrassed, attempted to recover from the suddenattention. She was good looking he thought. He recovered too and fantasized. His handrelaxed and reached for the coffee cup. Just then, the potential target of his missionmoved. She had just exited an expensive women’s clothing store. The shop,like Victoria’s Secrets, specialized in extraordinarily expensive lingerie. Body guardsfollowed from a discreet distance. He continued to make mental notes. Her everymovement in body and expression were recorded. Tall, blonde, trim and attractive, sheradiated 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 earpiece. “Base, Lookout here, over,” the body guard radio back. “Standby, U.S. Queen isentering another store. We’ll be a few more minutes, over.” “Potentially inept, inattentive, distracted. They’re nervous. Typical. They must benew to this assignment,” again Payne whispered to himself. His mind calculated time,distance, cover, spatial alignments and so on. “Their security detail could be comprisedhe thought. She would’ve insisted on junior security ofﬁcers. Probably all single goodlooking 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 maturityand experience. Hire professionals.” He smiled conﬁdently. “Any minute, I should bereceiving a phone call.” On cue, his cell phone vibrated. He slowly took a sip of hisespresso, showing no hurry to answer. Time, talk tactics. Patience requires fortitude andstamina. “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 areconﬁrmed. The business deal must go through before another incident. Recovery isessential.” There was brief pause, as the owner of the voice breathed into the phone. Aheavy 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. Theother end was silent. “Done,” he replied and closed the phone. Cold, quick and deadly. Objective notpersonal. 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 governmentalbureaucracy. The alleged checks and balances are frail. The ends do in fact justify themeans. Moral imperative are situational at best.” He glanced at his watch, “Too early fora 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. SecretSatellites in geo-sync orbit received and transmitted scrambled information. Uplinks anddownlinks spoke to each through multidimensional communications grid. At the other
end of Payne’s encrypted conversation, two men sat in a darkened room. The cornerofﬁce was large, ornately furnished and comfortably ofﬁcial. Illuminated by one small19th century style desk lamp, one man sat behind a huge oak desk. Dim lighting kept intentional shadows in place. Cloak and dagger mysteries werefully operational. Two men spoke knowing the room had been sanitized earlier. Even at the heart ofthe intelligence community, no one took any chances. At Langley, Virginia, the CIA caseofﬁcer and supervisor discussedtheir project. “Can we trust him on this one?” one asked the other. He was sitting in front of thedesk in brownleather overstuffed chair. “I mean, I know he’s good and reliable. But, this project is verysensitive. 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 sittingbehind the desk.“He’s the best. Used to have your job, head of covert operations. Now, he’s a roguewarrior, a ronin, and he’s on our side, thank God. He’s gotta gun, superbly skilled, andwill travel anywhere anytime for his country. Naturally, he’s paid well for servicesrendered. 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 rogueknight may ultimately ﬁgure this out. Much rests on a lone gunman. Operation CheckMate cannot fail.” “I understand that all too well,” the man behind the desk replied. “In the lastoperation, we lost ten million and three agents died. Vital information to the war onterrorism was comprised. Troops in Iraq have been comprised. The leak came from theAmbassador’s ofﬁce in London. An investigation was conducted. The mole has to be theAmbassador. Everything points to her.” “We better be right,” the other answered. “We’re sending an assassin against one ofour own. The President really blundered on this appointment. He wasn’t thinking withthe head on his shoulders. I sure hope his liaison with that movie star was worth it. Thecost to our intelligence operations has been severe.” Exiting the mall to the parking area, Payne produced a brown briar pipe. The ritualof 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 asword and shield. The knight was slaying a dragon. He pressed the blue-green butaneﬂame to the tobacco in the pipe’s bowl. His quarry was a politician and a diplomat. Tohim, politicians were basically useless. He lit his pipe, puffed a few clouds of bluishsmoke, and visually searched for his Mercedes. A few spaces away, there she was, aMercedes McLaren SLR. One of the fastest cars on the highway. The SLR’s shinyblack surface glistened with rain droplets. She could do two hundred miles an hour withlittle effort. Special accoutrements of bullet resistant material protected the exterior bodyand windows. Naturally, the windows were tinted. Paladin Payne was the hunter stalking his prey. No amount of pompousgrandstanding, political backstabbing or bogus promises to continuants, would protectthis 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 wonmattered 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. ArmySpecial Forces, he retired from the Central Intelligence Agency. During the week, in theU.S., he taught psychology at the local community college. He consulted for the localpolice, proﬁling criminals.During the weekends, he sometimes disappeared for days at a time. Going to exoticplaces, he plied his special talents. And, at a place called the Farm, in the remote woodsof Virginia, he taught new recruits how to kill. Still, on other occasions, he carried outcontract 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 anotherword for paladin. This solider of fortunate was akin to the Japanese ronin of ancienttimes. A master less samurai, Payne had no connection to the complexities ofbureaucratic organizations. Thus, he shared no loyalty to those in power. He was loyalonly to himself. A loner, he was a stranger to long term relationships. Paladin knew painthroughout his entire life, personally and professionally. One jagged edge after another.Shards of broken promises stuck to him. Yet, such experiences had honed hissenses and strengthened his skills. He knew how to clean up the messes politicianscreated. There were times, for the sake of national security, he brought that pain toothers. Today was no different than many other days that preceded this one. The retiredcolonel was about to exact justice in the special way he knew how. One loud mouthedpompous elected ofﬁcial said the wrong thing at the wrong time. As a result, people inanother 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. Flippingthrough the data ﬁle in his cell phone, pictures ﬂashed on the screen. Winﬁeld House wasthe ﬁrst picture. Located in Regent’s Park, this was the home of the U.S. Ambassador tothe Court of St. James. The mansion sat on twelve acres of pristine forest land. A ﬁfteenfoot iron gate protected the main entrance. Surrounding thecompound was huge stone fence. Electronic surveillance systems did most of the work inproviding 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. Shewas his cover companion in London. They’d worked together before and shared morethan assignments. Long black hair hung down her back. A short tight black dress clungto 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, hecould 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. Toomuch conﬁdence. She’s arrogant, decadent and careless with herself.” She enjoyed hiswarm hand on her thigh. His ﬁngers tracing the outline of a dragon tattoo. “Poison inchampagne would be my preference.” The U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain was Golda Edge. She was a famous moviestar. Her legend, somewhat fading, carried her into the political arena. Outspoken, shelashed at oil companies while she drove gas guzzling expensive cars. Payne thought moviestars should stay out of politics. To him, they were naïve celluloid manifestations of thepublic’s hidden fantasies. They knew nothing of the real world outside of Hollywood. Inhis mind, Tinsel Town was a plastic world of make believe.
Ambassador Edge went by Goldie to her friends. She was ﬂamboyant, wealthy andhighly opinionated. She never allowed the facts to confuse her version of the truth. Herappointment 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 heldhands. “Neither,” he replied, putting his arm around her toned shoulders. “I don’t considereither 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. Hersmooth soft lips were succulent and dangerously seductive. The smell of her wasintoxicating. He thought of cherry blossoms in full bloom. Delicate petals of the ﬂoweropening down the center, revealing a secret place. “I want to move in close. I want to seeher face when I do it. Poison sounds good. I have a small supply of an untraceablesubstance. Instant cardiac arrest. We’ve ﬁeld tested a newer version. Quick, silent anddeadly.A medical examiner’s worst nightmare.” He reached inside his coat. A gold coloredenvelope 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. “Hownice. We’re going somewhere? Thank you.” She teased. Almond eyes spoke of Japaneseheritage, commingled with English upbringing. Long slender ﬁngers opened theenvelope. Red lacquered nails knifed the edge of the ﬂap. “A reception. A splendid thingto do. Black tie. At the mansion. What shall I wear? Decisions, decisions. I’ll have to goshopping you know. Something daring? Or, something discreet? Let’s see, this is abusiness expense, right?” “Absolutely, a business expense of course,” he agreed. Another kiss. “How aboutsomething daring? We need distractions. Here, use mine.” He pulled a slim blackleather 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 awhile.” An eyebrow rose over perfectly applied green eye shadow. “Always like thatname. The implications provoke the imagination. Do we have time for a leisurely lunchat 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 wantto run off and disappear with you. Maybe an uncharted desert island.” “I wish you would,” she answered, stretching in feline fashion and wrapping herselfaround him. “You better drive fast. Hope you’re hungry.” He was hunger and he drovefast. 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 athumping beat and demand people dance. Champagne ﬂowed freely, and the food wasextravagant. 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. Herhusband, as usual was nowhere to be found. She probably sent him out of the country soshe could party all night. Dignitaries of one sort or another mingled in the crowdedgrand 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 andstrategy, for seven days. After careful analysis, if everything’s still the same, I do thesanction.” “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 intomartyrdom. Followed by a resurrection and the imagery of a fallen heroine. A lot ofnews coverage. Washington’s got it wrong. Bad Intel. If we playthis out, we’re not the knights in the game. The moves are all scripted. A deceptionwithin deceptions. Langley’s being manipulated. We’ve become pawns.” “By whom? And, for what ends?” The words dripped from her mouth. “Herhusband?” “Yes,” he breathed heavily. They spun on the dance ﬂoor, gripping with clutchingmotions. Their tango was alluring to envious eyes. “The jilted king. A devious wife withwanton proclivities.” “This is a domestic dispute,” Jade grinned devilishly. “Her death gets headlines. ThePresident gets coverage in the mourning process, along with the husband. This is aboutthe business of politics and the politics of business.” “You’re deliciously correct,” he sighed holding her arched back, timing the music withprecise rhythmic thrust. “He’s a major contributor to the re-election campaign. ThePresident’s down in the polls. They’re both manipulating the intelligence reports. Eachgets what he wants. A husband scorned, a politician embarrassed. Dangerouscombination with a simple solution. Instead of knight checks queen, the pawnsdecide the divorce settlement. She’s worth more dead than alive. The husband pays outnothing, but gains everything. The President covers an indiscretion and climbs in thepolls.” “Imagine that,” Jade quipped. “A husband who can’t be trusted, with a wife who cannever be trusted. Go ﬁgure the relationships between men and women.” She ranﬁngernail daggers up and down his back. One of her ﬁngers tapped the golden signet ring on his right hand. A black onyx inlayportrayed the knight of a chess piece. Underneath, a crystalline quantity of specialcyanide rested. A simple direct twitch of the ﬁnger opened the tiny compartment. Slightof hand movement was required to execute themaneuver. He had done it before. So had she. They were a remarkable team andnoticed the graceful movement of the waiter. Two champagne ﬂutes on a silver traymoved toward the ambassador and her husband. Music increased in tempo. Paladin andJade swirled in the direction of the intended couple. The waiter crossed near the danceﬂoor. Paladin and Jade danced around him in ﬂuid motion. No one ever saw themovement. Not even the waiter. A wave of a hand, a feint and subtle gesture. The whitepowder fell into the golden liquid. Bubbling, the expensive champagne accepted theintrusion. Cloaked by its chemical nature, the deadly microscopic granules mixed with
the ﬂuid. Traces vanished. Submerged, waiting and ready to strike, the poison strainedin 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 knightchecks the queen, instead of the king. A sure and certain check mate is required.” “Watch carefully,” he answered, holding her momentarily at arms length. Herbreathing increased with the tempo, while her body tensed in readiness. “The husband isright handed. She sits to his right. He will present the champagne ﬂute closest to herwith his right hand.” Paladin rotated Jade in a clockwise fashion. Like a feather to histouch, she moved with graceful elegance. “Playing the gentleman, he’ll serve her theglass, assuming the game is in play.” “The king attempts to check the queen.” Jade traced the outline of his face with along ﬁnger. “Yet, he will drink his last toast to her, his intended victim. Two knightscheckmate the king instead. Game over. No longer pawns, but rogues whose gaming wasa gamble.” “We work so well together,” he answered. “Later, the male knight and the femaleknight, 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. “Thehusband’s hand grips the slender moistened ﬂute and offers it to his wife. He chose as youpredicted.” “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 mannearby. She scans him up and down. A smile breaks over her face.” “But,” Jade continued their joint observation of unfolding events, “he hastens theconclusion. In a rush, he gulps his own refreshment. Content with his own hurriedrevenge. Satisﬁed he has won. His honor restored, he fails in making his move tooquickly.” 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. Shescreamed. Her husband, shocked by the pain, clutched his throat in horrid anguish. Hetried 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 ghostlyexpression ﬁlled his face. He smashed across the dinning table. Glasses, cups and dishesshattered. A few quick spasms and he was dead. Chaos ensued. Cell phonescame out of pockets. Calls were made. Security personnel panicked. Sirens blared in thedistance. 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 onfalse 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, “Heﬁgured it out. He’s good.” His hand reached for the mouse. The cursor found the deletebutton 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 theMercedes roared as they left the mansion. “We could visit the family. What’d ya say? Yoube the queen in our game.” “Sounds wonderful, let’s do it,” Jade replied with excitement. Her hand stroked hisface, tracing the handsome features. Her head fell to his shoulder and she rested.“Knight checks queen?”
Vivekanand JhaMy poem falters and fallsI write with ink of bloodTo testimonialize and giveA touch of eternity to itBut my poem falters and fallsIn the poetry of the world.I pluck words fromA ﬂowry and ornated gardenAnd weave a garland of themTo adorn the worldBut they trample itUnder their feetLike they crush the stubOf the cigarete to prevent itFrom catching the ﬁre.I discover the wordsHidden in the unhauntedRecess of the mindAnd juxtapose themLike an ideal coupleOf bride and bridegroomAt bridal chamberAnd turn my poem on new leaBut they tilt their stony eyesAnd turn deaf ears to it.I infuse my heart and soulInto the poemThinking it would beThe best and the last of my lifeBut they simply say:Since it is the beginningYou would learn by mistakes.
Interview of Jayanta Mahapatra with Vivekanand Jha Jayanta Mahapatra needs little introduction. There are many features whichmake him distinct from his contemporaries like: the most proliﬁc poet in the historyIndia English Poetry, belongs to poor and middle class family, a scholar from sciencebackground, 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 imagesand symbols in his poetry. It was the morning of 15Th Nov 09; I have an opportunityto visit the residence of Jayanta Mahapatra. As we all know Jayanta Mahapatra is inhis 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 themorning hour. So I returned empty handed in the morning but in the evening I have atalk with him in cordial and friendly atmosphere. Moreover after passing of his wifeLate Runu Mahapatra last year, he is internally shaken and weakened, as they were anideal and exemplerary couple. After meeting with him when I came out of his room Ispoke to his maidservant who has been serving them for years regarding how JayantaMahapatra feels the absence of his wife. She said he wept bitterly when his wife diedand even now he brusts into tears occasionaly in her loving memory. Let us share theexcerpt 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 worriesfrom other things, household things and all like that. So if you have time andthen 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 beingthe father of the modern and post-modern Indian English poetry.J Mahapatra: No, no. I write what I can. I don’t think about itV Jha: Can you recall the moment and instant which had inspired you tocompose maiden verse?J Mahapatra: Actually I was writing story in the beginning, but this storywere not published, they were all rejected. So I didn’t write for long day. I didresearch I Physics and still photography I also had a interest. Then later on Ibegan 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’thave the money involves for publishing. All these sorts of problems to takeover. That’s why we stopped it. V Jha: In a country of more than one billion people, a magazineChandrabhaga had come to cease the publication. In your view what is thefate and future of Indian English poetry?J Mahapatra: Graphic magazine, fashion magazine, movie magazine, youcan 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 butespecially in India we have too much emphasis on ﬁlm and fashion.V Jha: I have read your various interviews, articles and essays a n dfound that you were never mentioned the great name like Shakespeare,Wordsworth, Keats, T.S. Eliot, and Y. B. Weats. Does it make you somethingorthodox and unconventional?J Mahapatra: I didn’t know. I didn’t study them. I studied science y o u
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, m y place, what I see, what social injustice I see, and political injustice. I should like to write about the hunger. I think Orissais the one of the very, very, very, very poor state, very poor. Yougo 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 whichthings are there. During election time they do visit the villages once and nextﬁve years nothing happens. The same poverty, they sell their children to keeptheir 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 i nOriya 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 aboutthose things that you can’t talk about in English. What we have by virtue of our soiland 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 rastese nahin. Apani maa ke juwan se hoti hai. Mera to ek hin dharmahai ki kisi ka kuchh harm mat karo. Ham to kisi ke liye kuchh karnahin pate hai to kisi ko dukh kyon pahuchayen). If you can’t helpsomebody let us not harm somebody. That should be the religion ofeverybody. 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 performedyour 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 experienceof 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 PatnaUniversity was one of the best universities of India. I was living in a smallmess, 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 andlaw 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. Ididn’t feel secure. All sorts of things were there.V Jha: You have talked about some emerging poets from the North-eastregion.J Mahapatra: There are some good and young poets specially fromMeghalay, Mizoram and also in Arunachal Pradesh.V Jha: Earlier such talents were not there in that region. How now suchthings happen to see?J Mahapatra: See, there is tension there in North-East. If you have notension 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 howcan you write? If you have enough to eat, enough money, a good house and acar, why will you write? What will you write about? You have no problems towrite about! If you have got problems, may be racial problems, religiousproblems, hunger problems and social problems. Problems will lead you tothink, unless you think you can’t write, ideas will not come in your mind. Forideas you need the images to supplement your ideas. So all things make acertain cycle that is necessary. It begins only when you have certain problemsin 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 boyand he makes good use of new images. I like when you put a new type imagesin the poem.V Jha: what do you mean by new images? Innovation it should be extractedfrom the new invention, science and technologyJ Mahapatra: New images mean you try to bring about something thatnever happened or done by some other poets before you. There was a greatUrdu poet from Allahabad side, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, he used to write, “I want todrink through eyes not by lips” ( Lavon se nahin Main peena chahata, mainankhoon 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’twrite I readV 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 cricketalso I don’t see. Earlier I used to watch each and every match without fail. Lastyear I have stopped it. Cricket has degraded now after the rising importance ofT- twenty Matches.
Jayanta MahapatraHungerIt 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 wordssanctiﬁed 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 ﬂeshs sling.Hope lay perhaps in burning the house I lived in.Silence gripped my sleeves; his body clawed at the frothhis 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 shackan 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, shes just turned ﬁfteen...Feel her. Ill be back soon, your bus leaves at nine.The sky fell on me, and a fathers 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.
FreedomAt times, as I watch,it seems as though my country’s bodyﬂoats down somewhere on the river.Left alone, I grow intoa half-disembodied bamboo,its lower part sunkinto itself on the bank.Here, old widows and dying mencherish their freedom,bowing time after time in obstinate prayers.While children screamwith this desire for freedomto transform the worldwithout even laying hands on it.In my blindness, at times I fearI’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 childin that remote village in the hillswho never had even a little ricefor their one daily meal these ﬁfty years.And not to see the uncaught, bloodied lightof sunsets cling to the tall white columnsof 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 lightshadows 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.AshThe substance that stirs in my palmcould well be a dead man; no needto show surprise at the dizzy acts of wind.My old father sitting uncertainly three feet awayis the slow cloud against the sky:so my hearts beating makes of me a survivorover 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 oncehave 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 thinkingsomething makes me keep close to the wallsas 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 towardsthe present to become a past, ﬂoating awaylike ash, over the bank.My own stirrings like the windskeep hoping for the solace that would be mein my fathers eyesto pour the good years back on my;the dead man who licks my palmsis more likely to encourage my dark intolerancerather than turn me
toward some strangely solemn charade:the dumb order of the mythlined up in the life-field,the unconcerned wind perhaps truer than the rest,rustling the empty, bodiless grains.Her HandThe little girl’s hand is made of darknessHow will I hold it?The streetlamps hang like decapitated headsBlood opens that terrible door between usThe wide mouth of the country is clamped in painwhile its body writhes on its bed of nailsThis little girl has just her raped bodyfor me to reach herThe weight of my guilt is unableto overcome my resistance to hug her.
E.B. SandersThe 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-sixhour boners. I drop one of those and I have to apologize to my poor wife. She’s seventyeight, 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, Icouldn’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. Whattwenty-four year old girl in her right mind wants a shriveled old man with a permanenthard-on. No way, when your wiener goes, that’s life telling you to move on. If we were stillliving by the rules of nature, where only the strong survive, we’d of been eaten. Justbecause 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’tmean we have to. No sir-re bob, I’m going out on my own terms, not like some dirty oldman with a fabricated, permanent hard-on. I’m going out with dignity, I’m going out in ablaze of glory.”
All Allen had to do now, was decide what, “a blaze of glory”, meant. He thoughtof doing something really crazy, like robbing a bank. No, wait, a series of banks! He’d goon 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, hedidn’t want to hurt anyone. He didn’t want to scare the poor girl behind the desk, give hera heart attack and leave her children orphaned. Allen wasn’t a bad guy. He was a goodguy. He lived a good life, it was just his time to die and if it was his time to die, by God hewas 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, howmessy. There’s nothing glorious about having your brains all over your carpet. Mary lovedthat carpet, she had it put in right before she died. Allen thought of hanging himself, but he heard you peed and pooped your pantswhen 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 oftimes 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 aroundwatching him, half of the people trying to talk him down and the other half silentlywaiting, 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’treally see at night. Just take a nice little drive and veer to the right. The problem wasthere’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 himfeel like a cactus; sun-baked and prickly. If a few of those made him feel that bad, hecouldn’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 Allencould get another dog he’d probably keep on going; but he was too old even to getanother dog. It wouldn’t have been right. He was too old to give it the proper exercise andjust 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 someoneﬁnally came over to check on the old man, they’d ﬁnd a rotting corpse surrounded by dogexcrement. No, it was time to go. When your wife’s dead, your dog’s dead and you’re tooold 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, andpills. There were a few other dreary options but they were quickly eliminated. He couldput 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 mindwould go through with something like a bag over the head. You’d either have to be crazyor really depressed. Allen was neither; he was just old. His wife, his dog and his wienerwere 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 theplastic bag; he’d push the button on the automatic garage door opener and be alive, onlywith the worst hangover in the history of hangovers. Allen had survived some pretty badhangovers in his time, hangovers so bad he felt like dying; he couldn’t imagine a hangoverfrom actually almost dying. He could slit his wrist but, there was nothing glorious about all that blood. All thatblood 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, awarrior’s death. That was it! Seppuku! The death of the Samurai! When Samurai weredefeated 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 withthe 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 todie. How to die was the question though, a question to which the answer was provingimmensely evasive. Allen had tried everything, or at least thought of trying everything. Nothing wasworking. The extreme ideas, such as Seppuku and a hail of police gun bullets, was beyondhim. Those were the deaths of warriors and criminals. Allen was neither. The old faithfulshowever: bullet to the brain, hanging, jumping off a bridge, pills, those were just sad andboring, not to mention not always fatal. Something could easily go wrong with any ofthose. Allen wanted a glorious death, not a sad, boring and non-fatal one; but…and athought came to him, what if he combined a few of the old faithfuls. What if hecombined 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 noosearound his neck and a stomach full of pills? What if he he shot himself in the head, whilejumping off a bridge, with a noose around his neck and a stomach full of pills, while onFIRE! Now that was glorious! That was exciting! That was world class pizzazz withguaranteed success. There was no way he was going to survive that. This was it, this ishow 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 ahighball 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 ofsupplies to get. But still, it is our time. We’ve lived a great life. We have…done…greatthings, and now it is time to meet our maker.” Without further ado Allen began gathering his supplies. He reﬁlled his glass andwalked upstairs. He took a shoebox from the top shelf of his clothes closet. Inside was hisgun, a .38 revolver he’d taken from a dead Nazi Commander. Allen kept the bullets in aseparate place, so he walked back downstairs, through the kitchen (where he reﬁlled hisbourbon) 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 therecycling 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 thehouse, and stopped by the kitchen. There he got his Bar-B-Que lighter, ﬁlled his old armycanteen 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 musclerelaxers. The doctor had prescribed them for the pain in his left shoulder, an old warwound. That pain was gone now, as well as the fatigue of old age. Allen felt better than hehad felt in years. He felt so good he almost wanted to go on living, and really living, get adog, a girl, the whole nine yards. But then Allen became depressed when he rememberedhe couldn’t get a dog or a girl, which is why it was time to die. When he thought of hisimpending and timely death he became happy again, so happy that he went back to thekitchen 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 literallyready, he had his gun, bullets, rope, pills, canteen, gasoline, lighter and bourbon. He wasﬁguratively ready as well, he was old, happy, he had lived life, raised children, loved awoman, 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 wentto the door, opened it, and turned around to take one last look at the house which held somany fond memories. It was a glorious march to the old estuary bridge. Allen had ﬁshed there manytimes 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 tohim during the six mile walk to the bridge. Allen toasted individual memories every timethe bottle was lifted. He lifted his bottle to Mary, his lifelong love. He lifted his bottle to hischildren, 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 thewar, on the job-site, over time. Allen lifted his bottle into the air and cried, “I love youMary! I’m coming home, I’m coming home!” Allen then realized he was on the bridge, right smack dap in the middle of thebridge. This realization sobered him up a bit. The realization that he was sobered up a bitmade him take another shot. Allen set the bottle on the guardrail, then he reached into his satchel and drew outhis gun. Loading the gun was a difﬁcult task to execute through the bourbon’s blur, but itgot 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 theother end. Between the bourbon and the arthritis, the noose proved difﬁcult to tie. For asecond he thought of scraping the whole noose thing all together, but then heremembered 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 andsaid, “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 hiscanteen, 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 thesea. 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 thebridge. The noose twisted his neck something awful but he had bigger concerns, he wason ﬁre, hanging off a bridge by his neck; good thing he had a gun in his hand or thismight hurt. He lifted his gun and while swinging wildly in an inferno of licking ﬂames, hepulled the trigger. Amidst all the chaos of ﬁre, ﬂailing and swinging, it isn’t surprisingAllen missed his head. The bullet whizzed by his head but it hit the rope. The rope splitand Allen began falling. “Good thing I thought this out,” Allen told himself referring to his threeremaining backups: the fall, the ﬁre and the pills. Allen however forgot that it was a springtide during the fall equinox, which meant it was the highest tide of the year, thirty-eightfeet higher than a normal low tide. It was only a ﬁfty-foot drop, high enough to hurt likehell but not high enough to kill you. Allen landed in the water and sizzled as the ﬂames were extinguished. He hadn’teven 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 andbald, his head was ﬁne. Just as Allen thought, “I still have my pills,” the shock of it all: the hot ﬂames, thecold 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 thesurface, he knew, he had survived the perfect suicide.
Rick MarlattSeasonal PrayerWhat 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 scowllisten, 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 kneesgutted jagged by green sky tooth minnow sprinkle gums cubescent tearsgreasy sweat blood shattercane swirls in prairie worlds reﬂected time in manure lovespa 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 wirewrenched and wrapped tight like varicose veins around skull hard handsand blue wingspan. What is this spirit wave this cottonwood trance?
Let the pasture creek call in ﬂoods of forever divide and disperse all motionall time et it run here l 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 gloryto 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 WorldThere’s no debatingthe ritualistic notion, for it,life begins at birth.For it, being carved & liftedfrom the gut of circumstanceis no random occurrencebut the sign of godly introspection.Suspended in the voice mail’sexemption of purposeyour mouth was titlinga particular version of my impressionsback into lonely left-handedwind currents at the footof ﬁve mountains ﬂoatingsomewhere in the void of late thirties. Inside the mountain a voice is reciting childhoods.Locusts are losing an edgeon their buzz & sheddinglives abruptly outgrown.Tires scream for no reason.Through the storied window I seea small ﬁre burn in the tree. Fires are burning in the trees.This is the last Sunday nightin the hazy world.Each leaf I inspect is brownedwith another season of whathave you been up to man,lifelines indicate differentcapsules of you & other waysof saying if only I had
a poetry machine to put your words into,if only the sun didn’t stainwith such profundityif only we were sixteen again,stealing haughty laughterfrom your parents’ fridgethere’d be more sky to blazenew diameters, there’d bemore time to scream green forevers,there’d be more momentsto seal inside bottles& watch explode blue clustersat 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 interestedin alternative forms of foolishness.Tell me you can’t see the ﬁresfrom your garage windowwhere you mount a mufﬂeronto your desperation. Tell me you’re cozy in the nook of acceptance.Funny, isn’t it, how glaringhalts a planetary wobble yet doesnothing for years for freckles.
MirrorsMy 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 thekids, but the carvings under my eyes usually squelch my appetite anyway.When eye scrape Solzhenitsyn’s frost from my windshield in the chill of blueblack morning the reﬂection that’s revealed ﬁlls the vacant air with ghosts gusting fromhis 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.
Deerﬁrst author’s note: though the title suggests otherwise, this poem is mostly about humansand starts with a latte.FADE IN.INT. IROC Z-28. WESTBOUND. EVENING. FLY-OVER COUNTRY.Sunset stretchesout in ethereal waves as he ﬂies down Interstate 80 its smooth grey track is wing folded over breast of winter prairiesoft breasts of his companion in the passenger seat expand contract in quick ripples which stiﬂe frustrated festered angerthe tired echoes of argumentvibrate between them juggle quake puddles splash inside covered coffee cup one sip then disregardedEXT. FLY-OVER COUNTRY. CONTINUOUS.to the south a herd of speckled white tails slow dance meditation, lifelines dabbedserene canvas pink sunset sky backdrop breathe in pristine muscular stillness perfect round wet snow splashes trail behindlead back to some forest green secret space world of pines sleep peace under white blankets dipping tongues sip from cold streams prickly snoutsnavigate 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 communicatebeasts gnaw and swallow you can’t even look at me when I’m talking to youﬁrm 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 peacefulforest 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-lawpurchased for the unborn child. You may have seen it or are at least familiar with thestory.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 naturalHIS POV. as he speaks he sees her sigh stare blankly out her window he begins to formulate his apology he’ll offer not nowbut in a mile or two his eyes still lock with the creatures whonow are dust specks in his rearview mirror like childhood ﬂashes in memoryhow he longs to stop the car turn around return to silence he sees in the deer silence a world that makes sense perfect natural senseHER 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 espressothird author’s note: you may have experienced an unbearable silence. This phenomenonor 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 sleepFADE 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 skeletalﬁngers onher bare, brown shoulder?Colors of half-sleep ignite one side of her face in sunlight’s ascent. But you’ll only seethe 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 thisgoddamn vastness.Remember, we were once among them. We were of the earth. Kissed scorched groundwith lipschapped 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 Ortiztaxonomy of a desireﬁrst, there is my secret’ssecret torment setting ﬁreto what i see.i rise out of the wreckage,the mathematics of thirst stripped,touch and listenfor the cruelty of our silenceto take me in your mouth.in your dream, there is voltageand water, and nothing slowsdown. in my dreamthere is dry bone marrowand the ghee you rubbedon my eyelids.
Isaac James BakerR2D2 He wasn’t really a bucket-shaped Star Wars robot, that’s just what my brother andI called him. He was a man, an old man with his baggy eyelids, scraggly eyebrows andwindswept gray hair. R2D2 combed the sand between Belmar, New Jersey’s 14th and 16thStreet 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 withhis 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 Ialmost always saw old R2. But I never saw him talk to anyone and I don’t think he evereven looked up or waved at me. He was always too busy ﬁddling with his metal magicwand, his eyes ﬁxated on each little sandy ridge, each footprint left behind by thebeachgoers. 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 toshade his face, which was splattered with age spots. His eyes burned down toward thesand with the intensity of a brain surgeon in the middle of a risky procedure. Thescanner started to squeal. R2D2’s hunched frame stiffened up and he reached down intothe sand with his scooper, taking a big bite out of the beach. The man shook his handﬁrmly 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 thebottom of the colander until they caught whatever treasure was hiding down there. Theman 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, whowas 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’sgot.” “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 realone. Only read about them.” “Exactly,” Zeke said, ﬂicking a green wad of seaweed into the sand beside mytowel. “Betcha he hasn’t seen one either.” R2D2 unzipped the faded yellow fanny pack that clung to the underside of hisgut. He placed his prize inside with care, like it was an egg that could break with theslightest tap. Then he moved on down the beach, his steady right hand guiding hisdetector 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 severalfeet 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. Theysparkled 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,” heanswered calmly. His gaze fell back to the beach and he clicked his detector back on. Hemoved on over the sand mechanically, searching for more, his wand beeping regularly ashe went. I turned and walked back to my towel without an answer, or at least without theanswer I was looking for. I lay down on my stomach, baring my bronze skin before thesun. “What did he get?” my brother asked me. “He said he didn’t ﬁnd anything.”
Willie J. Nunnery IIA Broken Verse The bullets barked sparse sporadic hymns deep into the still midnight air as ourcommander’s coarse calls got lost, echoing between a past, long since absent, and apresent, merciless, blurred by pain, and a future, unnamed, unmanned, drifting away.And everything smelled musty; starless, the sky seemed to be getting closer, closersmothering everything in an unstained darkness and we’d all forgotten how to cry or whatit 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 brothof 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 likesirens. I was shaking, quick and acute spasms. Move. Go, my partner said to me, our trembling bodies weighed down by thecold 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 secondof stupidity, he stood up, popping his neck like a deer or an antelope. But, looking backthrough 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 thelead, as his eyes hurricaned to the back of his head, expand, like ink in water, through hismushed 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 thatnobody was to hear. Move.
I wanted to. I really did. You probably don’t remember but you wrote me a letter. It seems forever agonow. Your handwriting was scribbles, barely readable, but your sentiments rang throughmy rattling head, high-pitched, like xylophone tones, and sang life into my decaying andslowly to beat heart and as the letter crinkled in my hands, sounding as sweeping wavessloshing upside a young boat’s pearly surface, I looked up. Saw nothing. I thought of aswing set—I don’t know why—swaying, a grandfathers clock’s golden pendulum, in themiddle of some people-less playground I had yet to but knew then I probably never wouldbe and, in submission, I dropped my head and prayed. I prayed for you. On the otherside of the world maybe staring at that same sky. Hopefully not. Not that sky. I prayedfor that swing. I don’t have a clue why but for some reason I thought that that swing setwas something that desperately need to be prayed for. Hours; hours and hours and hours, I sat, crunched into a rickety wooden desk thatwas cowering under the heart-shaped carvings of latent lovers, my pencil pressed againstthe yellow lined paper, its graphite not moving, not knowing the words to etch. You wereyoung and had yet to realize the world and I didn’t want to ruin it for you, didn’t wantyou scarred of the ride before your height was even measured. So I said nothing. Wrotesomething bland like: “see you soon” and “I miss you” and put my pencil away. But nowas I sit here, in this room which seems to be souring with every sunrise, and as you, myson, sit here, both of us older than we need to be, with wrinkles we should not yet have, Ican’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 thesun was winking at the world, shining through a mound of Kleenex-colored clouds andyou were smiling and you had a beard and a mustache. However, I could see, swimmingin the undercurrents of your eyes, something I knew all too well. Overjoyed, your motherhugged you, wrapping her arms around your body as if she’d never done it before, andshe kissed you and I did the same. You acted like a new man, sticking your hand out forme to shake, talking in a deeper voice, laughing at jokes you wouldn’t have laughed atbefore, ones you hardly understood. But I knew how much over there makes its visitors intomen --or something of the sort-- shuddering spastically in the wiry cage of their own frailskeleton, and I didn’t say anything, not to you or to your mother. Especially not yourmother. Because for some incomprehensible reason I thought it might not havehappened to you. The sun was setting, a magniﬁed ball of light sliding to the Earth’s edge andeveryone was wearing black and the cofﬁn, a shiny maple brown, stretched as the ghost ofall 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 somegood 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 insidesand 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 desolateand 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 thatseemed odd. We’d say things like, “so good to see you,” and, “it’s been a while,” and likeC.L. we’d try reminisce but that was useless, like seeking comfort in the furnace’s ﬂurryingﬂame and our eyes would begin to stroll, strangers in an uncomfortable situation, lookingfor 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 thecasket, two men dressed in black, wearing red ties. Put him in the ground. And we allleft, a decimated congregation marching its separate ways. As though it were a kitten, you petted my ego and it purred, a soft and rollingpurr. You said something like “Dad I’m going to join the army. I want to be just likeyou,” and, against my instinct’s better judgment and with a grin waltzing, as though forDebby, 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 insome dust covered relic that used to be yours. She still cries. A calm and stale and vacant wind howls, with a fragile pianissimo, namelessmelodies 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 alwaysstaring. Bags are under my eyes, bottomless and heavy and black. In our living room, I’msitting in this familiar chair, its rocking axial squeaking and squabbling with age, and itshand-carved wood rubs, a rough gradient, against my back and I’m reading. Your mouthis twitching and I’m reading. Not a book, for ﬁction and fantasy and all that the tworepresent are, like rats and rodents, exterminated from my life, no longer existent. Unableto 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, Bibleverses, 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 MeltzerWIDOW 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 grieves -- mourns, suffersgreaves -- 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 Widow herIn no placew/out yrbreath & heata winnowfancy ﬂippingdown the sink drainsad & stuckalert & uprightWith herwas in placew/out heram nowherewaiting for her to returna dream of realtouchor a sounda tone shaping song’s heat •
separateddraped & shaped bywidower’s weedsholds my bodywrapped in algaedrowningwhich is whatmourning is •weighed down w/wisdomdeath revealsa living burdena pulsationmemory pulls towards& away fromany sign of her beinghere once as you are now •Oppressed by grief ’sblack gaulleft solitaryin memorymoving onbackwards •‘be empty’wideweOld Englishemptied outanother tossed bouquet ofwidow’s weeds& black humorrumors of other worldsI sit before Ouija
moving mouseinto limbo’s chargedunknowable •How to imagine youto know youwithout youwithin meon the surfacelike a snapshotin deep closedemulsion