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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 192

This issue features

photograph by Dozet,

photograph by Engin Korkmaz,

poetry by Katharyn Howd Machan, and

poetry by Diana Woodcock

 

Dozet

 

Migrants from Middle East Waiting at Hungarian Border

 


© by Dozet.

 

 

 

Rina Malagayo Alluri

 

Border crosser


You were once

a documented

citizen

with rights

a sense of identity

community member

when did you become

sans papiers

an anomaly

foreigner

you were us

then you were other


when did you 

cross the border

to become 

refugee

unsettled

nomadic


a person 

who hides

in the shadows

to survive the

unforgivable light 

of new territory


will you pass the 

threshold 

permitted to claim

your rights

to cross over

unscathed


will you float

through water

unnoticed,

or be thrown

into the fire

and left to burn.

 

Copyright © 2024 by Rina Malagayo Alluri.

 


Demarcation

 

the margins of our mobility

defined through barbed wire

armed peasants,

we were

instructed to guard a mark

drawn in the sand

by those who ruled us

dictated by divide

imposed gratitude

hate

the dissolution of monarchy

neighbours and family members

partitioned as strangers

 

Copyright © 2024 by Rina Malagayo Alluri.

 

 

 

About the Author

Rina Malagayo Alluri is a self-identifying woman of color born in Mumbai, India to a Filipina mother and Indian father, raised in Nigeria and migrated to Turtle Island, Canada. Her poetry explores (de)coloniality, identity, and relationships that form/ unform. She is a peace scholar, yoga teacher, soul searcher, and mother to two headstrong daughters.

 

 

 

Una Tarde

 

Estaba en la ciudad X y era sábado por la tarde. Acababa de comer y había llamado a casa para ver cómo estaban todos. Mi mujer me contó que mi hijo había llegado anoche muy tarde, cerca de las cinco. Le teníamos prohibido que llegara más allá de las dos cuando yo estaba fuera. Pero le daba igual. Estaba en esa edad difícil en la que se creen que lo saben todo y nada más que piensan en ellos mismos. Cuando salía, mi mujer era incapaz de dormirse hasta que oía la llave en la cerradura a su regreso. Se pasaba por eso toda la noche en vela en un permanente estado de tensión que aumentaba según transcurrían los minutos. Le había castigado con no salir más durante el resto del mes.

 

Por otro lado mi hija estaba encerrada en su habitación en un llanto permanente. Había tenido una nueva discusión con su novio y por más que su madre y yo le habíamos insistido en que ese chico no le convenía no quería dejarle. Parecía que le gustaba sufrir. A veces pensaba que era tonta.

 

Mi mujer estaba deseando verme. Según pasaban los años se le hacía más cuesta arriba las dos o tres semanas que de cuando en cuando yo tenía que permanecer fuera de casa por motivos de trabajo. La semana próxima regresaría. Le pedí un poco de paciencia.

 

No sabía qué hacer el resto de la tarde. El casco histórico de la ciudad me lo conocía al dedillo. Casi podía hacer de guía turístico. En la semana que llevaba allí debía cruzar por él para ir a cualquier sitio. A menudo me había parado delante de los monumentos a contemplar a los turistas con sus ropajes pintorescos, sus mapas en las manos y sus cámaras de fotos colgando del cuello. Ellos sí que eran un espectáculo. Eché a andar sin rumbo fijo.

 

 Pasé por delante de un cine. Ver una película era una manera como otra cualquiera de echar la tarde. Tenía tres salas y el vestíbulo estaba completamente vacío. Programaban películas en versión original. Una era china, otra sueca, y la tercera de un país del este. Observé con atención los carteles de cada una. El de la china tenía unas indefinidas figuras recortadas como marionetas sobre una sábana blanca y mucho colorín alrededor tipo jeroglífico. Era difícil saber de qué trataba. Podía ser lo peor o lo mejor. El de la sueca mostraba a una mujer asomada a una ventana a través de la que se veía al fondo, difuminado por las gotas de lluvia que escurrían por el cristal, a un hombre en una solitaria playa caminando hacia el mar. Seguramente sería deprimente. El de la tercera, la del país del este, mostraba a unos hombres disparándose parapetados tras unos coches y gente corriendo a su alrededor enloquecida. Ésta al menos parecía tener algo de acción. Podía estar entretenida.

 

Pedí una entrada. Mientras me retiraba de la taquilla y comprobaba los datos correctos de la hora y el número de la sala escuché a mi espalda que alguien también pedía una entrada para esa misma película. Me volví sorprendido y comprobé que se trataba de una mujer. Como todavía quedaban diez minutos para que comenzara la película me fui al bar a tomar una copa.

 

Mientras permanecí en el bar no vi a nadie. Luego, cuando me encaminé a la sala, tampoco. Miré de nuevo la entrada y mi reloj para comprobar que era la hora correcta, ante mi extrañeza por la ausencia de espectadores que daba al cine una sensación de abandono. Como en efecto ya era la hora entré. La sala estaba completamente vacía. Me senté por la parte de atrás. A punto de empezar la película, cuando ya pensaba que iba a ser el único espectador, llegó la mujer que había sacado la entrada después que yo y se colocó unas filas por delante de mí en una butaca al lado del pasillo. Podía observarla de cuerpo entero. Vestía un traje de chaqueta beige. El pelo lo tenía recogido en un pequeño moño. Era atractiva. Cruzó las piernas y uno de sus pies se quedó balanceando sobre el pasillo. Tenía unos tobillos finos y las pantorrillas perfectamente torneadas. Sus muslos eran firmes pero desaparecían demasiado pronto bajo la falda. Mientras rebuscaba en su bolso pude observar que tenía una nariz graciosa, como de muñeca, y unos labios brillantes y carnosos. Algunos cabellos se habían escapado del moño y se arremolinaban sobre la nuca. Del bolso sacó unas gafas de patillas finas que se puso mientras empezaban los títulos de crédito. Le daban un aspecto de intelectual. Me preguntaba qué haría una mujer como aquella allí. Sabía por qué estaba yo, pero ¿por qué estaría ella?

 

La película era una pesadez. Se limitaba a largos diálogos seudo filosóficos entre distintos grupos de personas extravagantes sin un claro hilo común salvo el derrumbe implacable de un país del este que no acabé de enterarme muy bien de cual se trataba. Las imágenes del póster no las vi por ningún lado aunque es cierto que a lo largo de la película di tres o cuatro grandes cabezadas. De la última me despertó la música chirriante de los títulos de crédito.

 

En cuanto se encendió la luz de la sala la mujer guardó las gafas, se levantó y se dirigió hacia la salida. Yo esperé un poco para estirarme y acabarme de despertar. Luego me fui también. Cuando salí a la calle ya era de noche. La mujer se alejaba entre los viandantes. Me dirigí en sentido contrario a buscar dónde picar algo de cena. No tenía mucha hambre, todavía me repetía el tomate del bacalao que había comido, pero no quería irme a la cama con el estómago vacío. Encontré una taberna con un gran surtido de tapas y decidí quedarme allí. Cuando ya estaba a punto de acabar vi a la mujer del cine que se detenía en la puerta de la taberna a curiosear la carta, luego echó una mirada rápida al interior y siguió por la calle.

 

“Vaya rollo de película. ¿Perdón, cómo dice? No, decía que vaya pesadez de película. ¿No le ha gustado? Casi me duermo. Ah, pues a mí me ha parecido muy interesante. ¿De veras? Tiene unas interpretaciones magníficas. Yo es que no entiendo mucho, pero desde luego el póster de la película no tiene nada que ver con lo que es la historia, mucho disparo entre coches y luego se pasan todo el rato hablando. Pero es que esa secuencia es el punto culminante de la historia, todos esos diálogos tienen como fin último ese duelo entre los coches, seguro que esa secuencia le ha gustado. No está mal, pero tampoco es nada del otro mundo, parece que hace un poco de frío. Sí, esta brisa le deja a una helada. ¿Quiere que entremos en algún sitio a tomar algo caliente? Como quiera. Yo me llamo Ricardo. Y yo Laura. ¿Eres de aquí? No, estoy de paso, ¿y tú? También, ¿a qué te dedicas? Trabajo en el banco J y me dedico a hacer auditorías por las sucursales de provincia, ¿y tú? Soy traductora simultánea. Ah, qué interesante. He venido al congreso sobre anorexia y bulimia. Sí, lo he visto, está toda la ciudad empapelada con carteles. Sí, la verdad es que lo han acogido con mucho interés. A mí me gustaría saber qué se cuenta ahí, tengo una hija con algunos problemas. Es un tema de plena actualidad y poco conocido. Dime de qué hablan. Verás...”

 

Cuando iba de camino al hotel volví a ver a la mujer. Estaba cenando en un pequeño restaurante, en una mesa pegada al cristal biselado de la fachada. Un camarero le servía un poco de vino. Otro recogía las mesas. Sólo quedaba ella. Tenía la mirada perdida en la gente que pasaba por la calle.

           

Copyright © 2024 by José Luis Cubillo.

 

About the Author

José Luis Cubillo Fernández  is a Spanish writer. He has a degree in direction (Diplomado en Cinematografía (Guión y Dirección) from Spain. Some of his stories have appeared in journals in the USA, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina. He has directed:  Nijinsky: Marriage With God, premio al guión en el festival Global Motion Picture Awards (Estados Unidos, 2018), guión cinematográfico biográfico sobre el célebre bailarín ruso del primer cuarto del siglo pasado Vatzlav Nijisnky. Director of Película al estilo Jafar Panahi, homenaje al director Iraní Jafar Panahi y su película Esto no es una película.

 

 

 

Salvatore Difalco

 

Hands in a Transparent Life

        

Still sidelong beyond reasonable limits

in quiet rooms of endless content

a vague future arrived late in a mind     

scented May that had spent the day.

 

Left intoxicated turned upside down

the balcony of the fat house

scratched out sounds of voices: quick

run, don’t loom. Or looked serene as the sky.

 

Gold-lit garden paths

up the side of the mountain

with the far-off sea on the tongue 

said what sleekness it was.

 

White flags shredded silvery

humming life, a harsh destiny.

“Green,” I heard, “do give the promised.”

Then, “Green, do not trick the children.”

 

Sunlight assailed,

the secret disease died;      

the tenderest did blocks of flower

with the feel for red removed.

  

Light seeks praise from the black hair.

No friends talk flames.

The flags also died,

little light little me, too

 

Flat blocks of passed light

electric-clean world dreams,

flame delights we spoke together

in advance of the truth, its unhappy distance.

 

You pointed to death’s coldness—       

A silent grave endears me to this solitary hill

where a hedgerow obstructs the view

of an ultimate horizon watch.

 

Interminable spaces silence the deepest

quiet we verify—

windblown among leaves of infinite silence,

the voice I remember, eternal.

 

 

Copyright © 2024 by Salvatore Difalco.

 

About the Author

Poet and satirist Salvatore Difalco is the author of five small press books. He lives in Toronto.

 

 

 

Gabrielle Fillinger

 

Roadkill

 

There’s not enough time, not to stop, not to swerve, not to save him. They all know I killed him, but they make me repeat the story anyways, until it takes on a glossy sheen in my mind. The story is curated and packaged just for them, but I keep some of it to myself. I keep the memory sharp so I can reach into my mind and prick myself with it. They say it’s a miracle I’m alive. I fear that what I once held concealed within me is growing dull and so, if I cannot preserve the sharpness itself maybe I can make an imprint that will reveal what it once meant.

 

There are lights strung over the deck. The dark cord they hang on can’t be seen against the dark sky; as though the lights hang there on their own, replacing the stars. Darkness insulates the deck and the new stars bring the heavens close overhead. Tomorrow, when the sun comes up and we have all left, the cups and plates we discard will be gathered into a trash bag, but the lights will remain. The attention they demand in the day is less than the effort it will require to take them down. So, for the foreseeable future these are the stars that live over this deck, blazing during the night and unnoticed during the day.

 

As we sit at the table, the conversation moves around like a spirograph as each anecdote reminds someone of something else. Like the lines darkening with each pass of the pen, the anecdotes become more spirited, more vivid as stories are embellished or stolen. We shout over the music and in turn, the music is turned up to be heard over our shouting. I can feel the thump of it coming up from the deck through my feet. Beneath us, the deck seems to be heaving slowly. As if it might give a great sigh and collapse, pulling the lights down and leaving blind when we land.

 

 Every sense is only feeling. Looking down, into darkness and looking up, into the light my pupils contract so fast they ache. They are straining to take in what little light touches people’s faces. I can feel the electrical impulses trying to translate what I see; to make sense of the deep shadows formed under brow bones and noses, under cheekbones and jaws. I feel my mind sifting through information to match these gaunt faces with the people I know. I can feel the sounds of music and conversation, but my eardrums can’t keep up with the vibrations. Instead of hearing them, I feel the constant pressure of their force. Even when I leave the stimuli behind its physical manifestations remain. As I walk down the long gravel driveway, the sound fades behind me and my shadow is cast out before me, so my path is dark. My ears ring stuck in the posture of hearing. Dark spots appear before me as I blink; shadows are being cast in my eyes.

 

My throat feels scratchy. The muscles strained from trying to make my story heard over the cacophony that surrounded me. I’m aware of the physicality of my own voice. Despite the great effort I have gone to be heard, I have not truly spoken; the story I told is over, but it is not finished.

 

I unlock the door and it snaps. I throw my bag onto the passenger seat where it makes a quiet thump. I slide in and the fabric of my pants rustles against my seat. I close my door, thud. Another snap, and I lock it again. A wheeze and a roar, a click and I put the car in gear. I do this a thousand times. No matter the iteration, it is one memory. A memory that is two dimensional, every repetition exists simultaneously on a flat plane. I am not committing the act of getting in my car and pulling away so much as I am reenacting the memory of it.

 

I have been driving on the interstate long enough to feel as though I always have been; long enough to forget the labyrinth my GPS lead me through like Ariadne’s thread. White lines jump out of the darkness in front of me. Leaves and branches take shape, suspended over the shoulder, as they’re caught in my headlights. A shadow moves across my vision. I stomp my foot; I lurch forward and my breath is pushed out of me. My eyes are closed, and the back of my head hits the seat. For a moment there is stillness. Then I can feel the precariousness where I rest.

 

I feel like a child in a rocking chair. I am pitching backwards but my legs are too short to reach the ground and stop me. My heart aches. My chest burns. I touch it but there is no damage. I am having a heart attack. I am not having a heart attack, but I will. My hands shake too violently to undo my seatbelt. I need to breathe so my chest stops hurting. I need to get out. I’m stuck.

 

I stare into the darkness as the dispatcher asks me where my emergency is, “I’m on the interstate, heading north, just past exit 162.”

 

“Can you tell me the nature of the emergency?”

 

I consider which emergency to report, that I hit a bear or that my car is stuck on top of it? Maybe it’s that I’m worried the impact has caused some terrible damage and my car will explode, or that I can feel the weight in my head of an approaching panic attack. “I hit a bear.”

 

“Are you hurt?”

 

I look at a light on my dashboard and close one eye at a time. When the light does not disappear, but dances left to right, I switch the phone from my right ear to my left and ask her to repeat the question. If my eyes and my ears have survived, then no damage has been done to the irreplaceable things I would miss most. I tell her no.

 

The dispatcher asks if I can move my vehicle out of the travel lanes. But I tell her that I can’t. I change the nature of the Emergency. Hitting the bear is now the Accident while the true Emergency is that I am sitting atop a live bear.

 

“I’m on the bear. I think it’s still alive.” She tells me an officer will arrive shortly.

 

The lights from the emergency vehicles shatter the darkness. Lights and sirens like thunder and lightning as though they share a causal relationship. Flashlight beams bounce around until one is steady on my window. It illuminates a thin layer of dust and grime that has accumulated on it. There are a couple clear spaces where something has brushed against the glass. I should know if I have touched my window, but the marks are there and I have no recollection of touching it. I roll down my window and I can hear the officer, but their voice is disembodied, they are veiled in light.

 

They say the bear is dead and it is safe for me to get out. It seems foolish to disagree or even question this, so I follow the officer over to her cruiser. She gestures for me to sit, then pulls out her laptop and begins typing. She asks first for things I can easily give, my name, my driver’s license, the address of where I want my car towed. But then she asks for something that I’m not sure I can give her; I’m not sure it belongs to me.

 

“Can you describe what happened?”

 

White lines flew out of the darkness, like bats fleeing a cave. The trees were black. No, they did not look black, they were black and turned green only for a moment. Their greenness relies on the existence of light; they are only green when they reflect light back to the world. So, as I drove the trees were black. From the darkness something appeared. Maybe I saw it because my headlights illuminated it or perhaps, I only saw the edges of the shape. Maybe it was not even the shape that I saw but that I did not see the road in front of it.

 

This confusion is not unique to retrospection. It seemed to take an inordinate amount of time for my eyes to say “shape” and my brain to say “stop.” Even then, there were miles upon miles to go before “stop” could travel down to my legs and translate into pressing my foot on the brake. Time moved quickly within my body but not fast enough to accommodate the speed with which I was approaching the shape. The steering wheel turned slightly either in a subconscious attempt to swerve or an involuntary spasmic reaction. But this description would not suffice. She did not want me to describe what happened; she wanted me to tell a coherent story to explain my current predicament.

 

“As I was driving, I saw a shape moving in the darkness. When I got closer, I saw it was a bear. I tried to brake then swerve when I realized I couldn’t stop but I hit it. Once I came to a stop, I could tell I was on top of it. I was scared so I called for help and waited inside my car.”

 

The officer tells me what’s going to happen, but I just nod dumbly. She says that considering how fast I was going and the size of the bear, it’s a miracle I didn’t die. I’m too tired to figure out what to do with myself, so I just continue to nod. When she asks if there’s someone who could come get me, I continue the same motion until she leaves me to make my call.

 

Before I dial my mom’s number, I take a deep breath. I hope she doesn’t hear the tension in my voice before I can reassure her that I’m safe. As soon as she picks up, I start to speak. “Sorry for calling so late but I’ve had some trouble with the car, and I was wondering if you could come pick me up?”

 

She asks, “Is everything okay?” But it feels as though the true question does not exist in her words. It is as though she is tugging on a cable then letting go so it hums as it settles back in place as a means to test its tension. An ache sits in the base of my throat and creeps up the side of neck into my ears and temples until it reaches my eyes. If I speak, I will cry. If I cry, she’ll worry; if I don’t speak, she will also worry.

 

“Yeah, I hit a bear. I’m not hurt but the car looks pretty bad, so I need you to come get me.” She tells me she’s on her way and will be here in about 15 minutes. Later, she will want more of the story; for now, what I’ve given her is enough. But when she gets here, she goes over to where the officer is standing.

 

 The officer explains what happened, she asks questions, they answer, I corroborate. They have been working to move my car, but the bear is still there. The officer gestures at the carcass of the bear as she speaks. I watch my mom as she looks at the officer then I look at the officer. I watch both of them as they look over at the bear; I can barely make myself look in its direction, but they look unabashedly. Over and over I watch their eyes and what their eyes watch until my mom is satisfied with the story she has heard.

 

“Based on what the officer said, it sounds like it’s a miracle you didn’t die.”

 

I go over to her car and pull the handle, the sound it makes is agonizingly familiar. A thump, the sound of my pants sliding on the leather, then a thud as the door closes, the hum of the seat belt being pulled, the click of the buckle. The same sounds repeat with the same cadence as my mom gets in the car. The engine turns over and hums followed by a whoosh as the fan begins to blow. It is so similar it seems the memory should fade into the sounds of my own car. Instead, it sounds like a favorite song that has been played ad nauseam then forgotten. Hearing it again is like a homecoming, like stretching a muscle that has been long sedentary.

 

We move away from the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles and the air is whole again. I try to look up at the stars again but there is a dark patch in the sky. I bear a physical sign of the light although the darkness has eaten up the spaces it recently occupied. I wonder if the flashlight beam is strong enough to have burned my retina. Maybe after all this it will be what came as help that really hurts me.

 

I have not lied but I have concealed. Perhaps that is just as bad. It seems insufficient that I’m merely trying to absolve myself from guilt. My memory was concealed from itself; I had no guilt until I wound back through my mind and tripped over it. My hands are scraped when I reach them out to catch myself and I can recall the blood on my hands. But the memory is wearing down, the path it takes through my mind will disappear and new paths will be laid over top. If I give it away the edges will be sanded down so it can be held more easily.

 

My eyes are closed, and the back of my head hits the seat. My mouth is dry and growing dryer as I breathe open mouthed. I open my eyes, but they are looking at the sky. My headlights too, are pointing straight at the stars so the light dissipates into darkness. I try to unbuckle my seatbelt, but I can’t push it hard enough to get it to disengage. I try again and my fingers slip down the edge of the buckle. My whole body feels as though it has been filled with water and I don’t know how to accommodate the way the weight shifts around. It causes me to fall onto the pavement when I climb out. My hands sting but my legs are numb as I run to the side of the road.

 

In the dim light I can see only a large shape and the suggestion of fur. But I stand still as my eyes adjust to the darkness. Something begins to appear in the darkness, the shape of a paw with the leathery pads reflecting the light. Its face appears. It seems far too small for the great mass of its dark body. Its nose shines a little and the fur on its snout is a light brown, so it appears to be the only things three dimensional against the two-dimensional mass of its body. My gaze moves up and I see the eyes.

 

They seem to be entirely black, like a great cavern but they do not look empty. They shine and reflect with light and life. The area between his eyes seems to be wrinkled, like he is furrowing his brow in concern. The movement is small, and it takes too long for me to understand it. His face relaxes and his eyes close, only for a moment, and he opens them again. I don’t realize he has blinked until his paws begin to stir under him and he tries to push himself up. The movement is slow and futile, and he stills again only adjusting his head slightly. My chest begins to ache again as we stare at each other. Something is choking my heart; it must be fear. My eyes are wide as they try to take in the image before me with the little light present. When my eyes begin to burn my consciousness comes back to my body and I run to the car.

 

I am reeling and the car seems to be rocking slowly. It is balanced precariously but the rocking I feel is the slow heaving breath of the bear. I move slowly up and down but it is the ebb and flow of his life that I am feeling. Every movement alights a new terror in me, but I dread the thought of the motion stopping. I have seen and I have been seen. I am burdened with the terrible knowledge of life; of the oscillation between life and death. Although my grasp on life is firm, I am overcome. I need to call for help but what will happen to him? If he is not dead, will they kill him? Maybe I care more about whether they will kill him in front of me. I do not know if I am committing an act of mercy or cruelty and I do not know if I am committing it for myself or for him. I dial 9-1-1

 

I was not only part of the accident that killed him, I was the perpetrator. It feels as though I have violated something terribly intimate by watching his life leave him. I know that I hit the bear and that there was a vast series of events before and after, but my memory is only the moment I stared into his eyes. The memory is fading. I had to go back and unspool the thread as I picked my way through so I can find my way back. Memories are easily misled, so I need a map to guide me. If I have stolen a life, I can’t lose it as well.

 

Copyright © 2024 by Gabrielle Fillinger.

 

About the Author

Gabrielle Fillinger is an undergraduate studying History and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. When she’s not writing, she is either at a baseball game or exploring the Shenandoah Valley.

 


Engin Korkmaz

 

Aerial View of the City of Marseille on a Sunny Winter Day

 

 

© by Engin Korkmaz.

 


Katharyn Howd Machan

 

Light

 

                        It’s different here, southern France, winter

                        somehow wider, paler, far

                        from Connecticut snow of a woman

                        pregnant now, thinking of childhood

                        and how she tunneled through deep white

                        sure the world would be safe forever

                        no matter where she chose to go.

 

                        Short days, struggling with words,

                        the man beside her a stranger now,

                        no welcoming hand but a clenched fist

                        threatening her if she dares to be

                        different from what he thought he knew

                        in August, afternoons of sun,

                        twin waterfalls where blackberries

                        delighted her spirit with touch and tongue.

 

                        Marseilles now, not Calviac’s

warm lavender and ouzo’s burn:

                        she walks where day is almost done

                        along the edges of the harbor

                        and knows she’ll have to leave here soon,

                        fleeing what she thought was love,

                        his voice disappearing fast

                        as she drives away in cold dawn’s dark.

 

                       

 

Copyright © 2024 by Katharyn Howd Machan.

 

 

 

Nights, and Sometimes Mornings

 

                        When she sleeps, she dreams blue

                        heads arise from her open palm,

                        faces she can’t recognize

                        but is sure they hold the secret smiles

                        of lovers who refused to tell her

 

                        why they had to leave when they left.

                        Beds, couches, even the paisley chair

                        where her moon-eyed cat curls up to purr:

                        always the blue—so many shades!—dark

                        and light, sapphire, turquoise, sky

 

                        once a rainbow has disappeared

                        and sunlight brightens her eyes.

                        Chamomile flowers for her tea?

                        Deep breathing, yoga, counting slow?

                        Sleep comes—she easily falls

 

                        away from wherever her body lies—

                        but then comes blue and blue and blue,

                        perfect heads she can hold in one hand,

                        always the mouths, sad and distant,

                        that no longer murmur her name.

 

                                                                     after “On the Couch,” a 2022

            acrylic and pencil drawing

by David Humphreys

 

Copyright © 2024 by Katharyn Howd Machan.

 

 

About the Author

Katharyn Howd Machan’s most recent published collections are Dark Side of the Spoon (Moonstone Press, 2022) and A Slow Bottle of Wine (Comstock Writers, Inc., 2020). A professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College, she lives in Central New York with her beloved spouse Eric Machan Howd. After many years of coordinating the Ithaca Community Poets and directing the national Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, Inc., she was selected to be her county’s first poet laureate. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, textbooks, and stage productions, and she has edited three thematic anthologies, most recently a tribute collection celebrating the inspiration of Adrienne Rich.

 

 

 

Diana Woodcock

 

 

Destroyers of the Amazon

 

How do they sleep at night –

the ones felling trees, killing

the ones defending the Amazon?

 

Surely their dreams are filled

with their victims’ screams, with

thick vines entwining around

 

their throats, leaf-cutting ants

sawing off chunks of their skin –

their habitat stripped of all foliage,

 

they’ve resorted to flesh for nourish-

ment. In their dreams, to appease

the gods, they turn their machetes

 

and machines on themselves – hack

off their own limbs. But first they

plant seeds and let rapacious mosquitos

 

feed on their blood. They will never

            Find . . . tongues in trees,

books in the running brooks . . .*                  

 

But will they be spared – the grunt workers

from the ranks of the poor, victims of

insecurities and indignities? Perhaps,

 

but surely not the ones in higher places,

barking the orders. And what about

their dreams? If you could get inside

 

their heads, you’d hear the anguished

cries for help: Someone, please,

lift up the coffin’s leaden lid!

 

Can you pity them, buried                             

alive, suffocating, guilt-

ridden before the eternal?

 

 

*Shakespeare

 

Copyright © 2024 by Diana Woodcock.

 

 

 

Becoming Smooth

 

Settling into a groove,

I feel it happening – becoming smooth

as a river rock. All I had to do was stop,

notice the presence of an Eastern hemlock,

Eastern phoebe, the floral essence of

rhododendron wafting all around me . . .

            . . . a shower is forever falling, vapor ever rising . . .*                     

 

And so I learn to love

the mountains’ lifeblood –

rain, clouds, mist – to kiss the dampness,

accept the insects – each one with its role to play

in this temperate rainforest. I praise

the bluish haze – wave lengths made visible

as light, passing through the vegetation’s

hydrocarbons, scatters. A fine mist catches

in a spider web, etches its designer’s

intricate work. I dare not lift rocks in search

of salamanders as I linger by creeks and falls –

content to know they’re here, at least

twenty-five species going about their business.

 

Becoming smooth as a river rock,

I take stock of the sounds,

let them wash over me – thunder

showers, laughter (flowers),

             The earth laughs in flowers.**                                             

Birds singing and calling, water falling

over boulders. I let the patterns and shapes

of deciduous leaves, colors, textures

of rocks and trunks, lichens               

and mosses penetrate and liberate,

air and water intoxicate. When a curious

unknown insect lights on me, I respect her

right to life – give her my full attention.

When she lifts off, I offer her my wish

for her safe-keeping all this live long day.

 

And I turn my attention back

to the exquisite fern ally, shining

clubmoss, within reach this one

hypnotic moment, this summer

afternoon as I’m becoming smooth,

daring not to move beyond these

grey-blue Great Smoky Mountains.

 

* John Muir

**Ralph Waldo Emerson

Copyright © 2024 by Diana Woodcock.

 

 

About the Author

Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and six poetry collections, most recently Heaven Underfoot (winner of the 2022 Codhill Press Pauline Uchmanowicz Poetry Award, Holy Sparks (finalist for the 2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award) and Facing Aridity (finalist for the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature). She is the recipient of the 2011Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women (for her debut collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders), a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and a Best of the Net nominee. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where she researched poetry’s role in the search for an environmental ethic. For nearly eight years, she lived in Tibet, Macau, and on the Thai-Cambodian border teaching and working with refugees.

 

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