Tag Archives: poetry

August Bloom

August Bloom

William Doreski

 

The flaw begins in my left eye,
expands to warp skyscrapers
and streetlamp posts, then nestles
in the contours of her body,
having firmly established itself.

Now everything looks slightly off,
but I’m always delaminating,
shedding parts I no longer use
and reopening wounds that healed
in the dark moments of childhood.

The lies and evasions return
like army ants. Moonrise over
fly-speckled ponds in the forest.
Insincerities caught in amber.
Those trysts in glib summer dusk

when music sagged in the distance
and kisses as vacant as craters
shared themselves without shame.
The flaw expands to include
tobacco fields ripened in August

and hail peppering the long sheds
where we hung the toxins to cure.
It warps the memory of lightning
spearing the family elm tree
six months after my father died.

The general erasure of time
no longer applies. Warping
that distance, the flaw speaks for me
in pearly tones a healthy eye
would reject because unnatural.

Funereal blossoms close the season
with sighs I can’t replicate,
even though such emissions
would reduce the pressure in that eye
and save me from going blind.

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2008, New York City

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My Suitcase Is Packed

My Suitcase Is Packed

Scott Laudati

i know you’re home somewhere out there
in colorado
where the desert flowers
wait all year to turn yellow
and horses with spanish blood
whip their manes under lightening
as the snows melt down to refill
the dried beds.
somewhere where enough was enough
and you had to put a continent between me
and new jersey.
i’ve seen that land and pulled over
to swim naked where the white crests shatter
and freedom is something more than a dream.
there are no dead ends on your streets,
the rain only falls straight down
and even stray cats
come when they’re called.
i bled for you once
when the war was still far from over
and the end hasn’t gotten any closer
so i guess
i’d do it again

 

image by Benbarka,2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Fortune Teller, Miami Beach, Fla.

The Fortune Teller, Miami Beach, Fla.

Michael C. Gebelein

I was on a beach in Miami with two beautiful girls.
they were both topless and, even though I wasn’t sleeping with either one,
I counted myself as the luckiest son of a bitch on that stretch of sand
and as we were laying there, joking and laughing,
an old woman, a fortune-teller, walked up to us.
she looked me in the eye and asked if I wanted my fortune told,
but before I could send her on her way she told me that
I looked happy but, really, I was very sad,
that something was broken inside of me.
I laughed, and said that it must be true for almost everyone.
and one of the girls touched my arm and
kissed me on the cheek and told me that
no, it’s not true for almost everyone,
that there are people in this world who are content,
easy-going, satisfied with the way things are,
but that there weren’t any of them on that stretch of beach that day.

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2008, Miami Beach, Florida.

RETIRING

RETIRING

Kim Suttell

Lob wedge left at the bunker—dammit. Was
already mad for being there. Anger
ratchets to lawn sprinkler pressure when the club
is unreturned to the clubhouse. Trek back
to the trap. Re-skulk the whole damn course. Scour
the locker room. Guest relations is getting
condescending.
Glower over gimlets
to the end of afternoon, emitting patio
umbrella suspicion on every
felonious-looking foursome until
the gin, the nettlesome sun, drones of distant
trimmers, the steady sooth of polos all
soporific hues, pull the cumbersome
head down, down, aslump on the diamond-grid
tabletop mesh.
Ice settles. Men called Dude
bravado beers in the twilight. Spotlights
sputter on above the putting green. Balloon
bouquets are brought to the banquet hall where
groups collect like bagged clubs around tiny
crab cakes and lollypop drumsticks caddied
on trays. With genuine affection,
the honoree is presented with a
lob wedge. Applause lofts clean across the green.

 

image by George Jackman, Queensland, Australia, 1940. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Last Streetlight In Heaven

 

The Last Streetlight In Heaven

Scott Laudati

heaven’s filling up with diplomas from a youth
waiting single file on the will call line
listening to crows that learned a verse
when they sat above the schools,
“it doesn’t look like verona anymore” they say,
“there’s a dirt pit where the swimming pool was.”

i hope the boys can use their track marks
as road maps
and hold the hands of girls
who sold their final sacrament
on the newark streets,
where spring feels like december
where glass clogs the gutter
and no price is too high
for a whole generation to erase
some of its hunger.

these towns flood now
but the rains never come.
there are enough mother’s tears
to water the lawns.
and in every man’s poverty we
can see the origin of night.
the first syringe.
the abscene of god.
we were a town once
but nothing is left,
and there’s no sky clear enough
for the lucky ones to reckon under

a whole history of past sins
built above indian bones.
the interest keeps rising on americas crimes.
our parents lined up to vote
and hoped it would always stay the same
but the hurricane comes and the
shattered glass gets washed away
and they keep signing up fresh faces
to take its place

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2015, Cote saint Luc, Quebec

MANHATTANS

MANHATTANS

Kim Suttell

The sidewalk slips a little. I’m not worried
about it. Anybody could be my friend.
I totter forward, giddy and ravenous, gums
numb, teeth shrill. I must have onions.

Like a lurching sun I’m expansive and hot
and swirl in the distance of everything close.
Only blessed cold holds me up as curbs
loom. This is what is meant by bracing.

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2015, Montreal, Quebec

Jerusalem Upon the Plain

Jerusalem Upon the Plain

Barbara A Meier

The radiancy is of wheatfields
fed to the craw of a John Deere combine.
The green against the gold
honeyed fields and milky blue skies.
The hills outside my car window roll westward,
flattening to shorn stubbled fields
and shaggy carpets of bluestem, buffalo, and switchgrass.
The tedium of our wheels on Interstate 70-
Sylvan Grove, Ellsworth, Russell, Victoria,Riga, Ellis, Hays.
My eyes sink, fade to my cheek, resting against the hot glass:

I contemplate ….
What bliss can be found in the plainness of the high prairie?
What pastures of the sick shine with a glorious sheen?

The halls of Zion in the basement of Hadley hospital
where martyrs sleep in hospital beds,
and sticky peanut butter girls behind urine green bathroom stalls
belt angelsongs- funneling through heating ducts
conjubilant with song
a feast to shout among the ailing throng.
It is: A blessed country sweet in death, a home to the elect.
Our song of triumph resounds
‘round floors, ‘neath beds, through IVs,
in comas, and last breaths.
It is: Jerusalem upon the Plains-
a throne of golden wheat, and milk and honeyed earth,
The conquerors, faithfully brought to rest upon the Armo plains.
Blood of earth and heaven pumping through our veins.
We are little girls clothed in robes of white.

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2016, Montreal, Quebec

CACTUS

CACTUS

John Grey

I wouldn’t recommend the roadside.
And not on such a desert straightaway
where every passing car
kicks up a cloud of dust.

In a ditch of all places
and so small,
your roots get by
on water memory,
your fruit’s
a sun-scorched pebble.

But plants – not even cactus –
ask me the best place to prosper.
Seeds nestle down where they are blown
and try to make the best of it.

Besides, why else would an Australian be
on this highway in New Mexico?
A seed – an adaptation –
you have to believe
you can bear fruit anywhere.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2010

Jazz Notes

Jazz Notes

Renee Butner

This chaotic jazz suits my mood
after the frenetic day I had

Heavy on the drums
Brassy cymbals clashing
Piano pounding and lively
Scaling up and down
trying to keep up
with the beat

A lone horn sings out
Edgy and soulful
Leading the session several
golden shimmering moments
before backing off
To allow a bebop
walking bass line solo

Notes wrap around one another
Entwined in a dance
for the auditory sense

Jazz beat lines up with heart beat
I relinquish myself to
the new pulse

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, Montreal Jazz Festival, 2016

Oświęcim

Oświęcim

Ilona Martonfi

 

Sown from the teeth of a birch tree
lashed together she

lives in a graveyard
paints a poem after Auschwitz

using Zyklon B gas
medical experiments

with a bundle under her arms
never took that photograph

the ghost plaint: here
remember the crematoria

living inside barbed wire
armed SS guards.

“Where are we going?”

Those feared as the other.
Those who rode in cattle cars.

Those whose voices silenced
fifty kilometres west of Kraków

Rajiya in the work camp.
Her only possession

a red knitted cardigan,
made by her Bubbe.


photo credit: Dr. Fred Leitner, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, 2012

Iris observes a sparrow at the apex and remembers

Iris observes a sparrow at the apex and remembers

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

 

Today, cold December sun streamingly rushes –
bright radiant light downpours the stone wall,
where a sparrow clings in the mist and Iris
wonders what it is holding onto. A flat wall?

No, not entirely, there is a high raised relief
an embossed concrete line which it clings to
in mourning light – much like a Mycenaean
stele marking the borderline between the
world of the living and the world of the dead.

******
Dark-cloud eyes flashed thunder; and lightning
must have struck open her chest because a sparrow
was pecking through the bloodworms of death.

Humble print of the Pietà hung and from
Madonna’s eyes tear-shaped garnets fell like
a broken string of pearls spreading hopelessness
all over the Carrara marble corridor.

Over-stretched leather covering of her heart
drummed out a faint death-beat march. Not shaking
of a rattler’s tail, but a dull-weakening beat.

The line on the monitor’s screen flattening.
And there was nothing for Iris to hold onto.

One large lethal tear slid dangerously down
rode over the high horseshoe cliff of her chin
the way a black and white movie once shown

a man inside a barrel riding over Niagara’s rushing
white waters shattering into the sudsy
foaming jaws of splintering death.

The shivering sparrow pressed against stone – Gone

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2017

Unclear

Unclear

M. A. Istvan Jr.

She would masturbate to the magazines
that she found behind her father’s workbench.
Shaved bald, the females seemed as young as her.
That made her okay with fantasizing about them.
It was easy—and helpful—to be unclear
about whether she was lusting for those bodies
or was imagining herself to be one of them.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2017

Surge

Surge

Ronelle Hart

 

Solitary and slightly apart from my twin sister and brothers and three cousins, I would slip away to the single backyard swing attached to high poles cemented into the earth in my aunt’s back yard. At first I just sat there and swayed, with feet just off the ground, but soon I tipped back to hang on my arms, holding tight onto the chains attached to the seat of the swing with sturdy bolts. From that up-tipped position, I could see the slow spidery trail made by the tips of my hair in soil scuffed to powdery dust by previous feet, the hot sun on my tender throat, in a trance until the heat and hanging upside down made me too dizzy. I would sit back up slowly, to fully feel it: the surge, a streaming sweetness in my stomach. And then I would push up, and up, and up again, my feet hard against the earth and then not, finding the exact rhythm with arms and legs and torso, swinging higher and higher. With each downward swoop, sometimes I’d sing, in my soft schoolgirl voice: “SOME-how, SOME-day, SOME-where..”, my hair, unloosed from its tight plait, a dark warm animal rushing past my face on the high backward push, and dusty from where I let it drag again as I gave my body over to the sway of slowing down.

For a while after, my sweaty palms carried the imprint of chain links and smelled of bitter iron.

Vintage image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Kick

The Kick

Cecil Sayre

 

Strange how a tree heals, its cells diverging,
creating a different path around the wound
for water to flow from the roots to the leaves,
the wound covering over with sap,
becoming a dark knot.

When I remove limbs from these wild trees,
I want them to heal into a dark knot,
but I never know where to make my cut.
Too close to the trunk, the wounds will not heal,
not close enough and new limbs will grow next summer.

Wild trees lined both sides of Ridgeview Road,
the shortcut Bryan and I walked to and from school
to avoid the older kids and their bullying.
We’d talk about our favorite kung fu movies
and attempt their kicks,

feeling we were hard to see in the shade of those trees,
and not thinking how someone could hide behind them.
But my son thinks about that, these trees outside his bedroom,
their branches smacking his window as he tries to sleep,
and for him I trim and cut them.

I hold a limb and work the saw and tell myself
I am holding one of his nightmares
and try to imagine its shadow,
the creature it becomes at night
as I tell myself again I am holding his nightmare.

In the shadows of the trees, walking home,
Bryan and I were arguing about a kung fu movie
and the hero’s amazing kick, one foot rooted to the ground,
the other smack up against the bad guy’s head,
an impossible act for any man, yet one we believed.

Bryan stopped by a large, white mailbox and tried it,
kicking the air beneath the mailbox.
I said, No, higher, and kicked the air above the mailbox,
neither of us seeing at the far end of the gravel driveway
the old man in the doorway of his garage.

He yelled at us, stood up, and raised his shotgun.
We ran, clearing the tree on the other side,
the wind from the shot breezing past my back,
bits of bark and wood hitting my jacket.
One could see the damage done,

a chunk of tree level with our heads, missing,
the wood blonde and bleeding, sticky with sap.
We used to laugh at the idea of anything being dangerous,
would want to touch and explore any wound,
study how it would heal, wait for the crusty darkness of a scab.

My trees now trimmed, I hope for healing,
hope for sunlight to fill my son’s window,
the shadows now dead limbs piled on the ground,
the naked space opened above them among the leaves
an emptiness only memory can fill.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, Outremont, Quebec, 2017

 

arrhythmia

arrhythmia

john sweet

 

10 below zero in the first
blinding light of a sunday morning and
they are slaughtering prophets
down on main street

air freezes in your lungs
when you try to scream

woman i love sleeps and
dreams of all the
days before we met

i am too goddamned old to keep
laughing off this pain
that has come to define us

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2017

Off the Track

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Off the Track

 Mark Trechock

 

At Creel we paid the two pesos

to see the woman living in a cave

the way her ancestors did,

soot on the walls, darkness and wood smoke,

newborn in arms and the older boy

running and running in circles.

 

We caught the train west,

saw the chasm at Barranca del Cobre

through the charcoal smoke of taco vendors,

bought a basket made from branches,

as supple and fierce as human thighs.

 

Back on the rails, we stretched

our heads from the platform between cars,

the wind remaking our faces

into shapes we could only imagine.

We thought of the Tarahumara,

somehow immune to the heat

running barefoot through the desert,

scaling the hot clay inclines,

keeping up with the deer.

 

Approaching the trestle we slowed

as if coming upon an accident,

but below, among the pines,

near the bottom of a vertical world,

the coach cars had lain for years,

positioned like disjointed limbs,

undergrowth pushing through their frames.

The Sister Between

The Sister Between

Laurinda Lind
She is like a strong
breeze layered in
sheets over old shale
& even when free to
flow she’s still brittle
& though young she’s

strung between her
head in the sky & her
feet on a line drawn
in the middle of a
road laid over a land
not yet geologically

dead to make it real
she needs to feel she’s
more solid than air yet
lighter than secrets
she’s stashed deeper
down in the strata.

Mammogram

MAMMOGRAM

Ruth Z. Deming

To please Dr Cynthia
I said I’d get a
mammogram, controversial
though it is.

The Mary Sachs Breast
Center right around the
corner fit me in
like a lost library book
assuming its rightful
place on the shelf.

Judy was my dark-haired
host. The all plastic
machine was a marvel
with Plexiglass shelves
that lovingly bore
down on each breast.

They seem to get bigger
with time, I said, making
polite conversation, to her
no reply

I helped her lay each
pliable fish-like
appendage on the
shelf, arm clasping
balance beam
and chin held high
like a Tolstoy princess

Then held my breath
one two three
one two three
until Judy, who
smelled like
Febreze, told me
to relax, like a
stiff soldier, and
finally bade me go
home.

Come round to my
house on the upward
slope of Cowbell Road.
No one feels my breasts
anymore. Let’s get
acquainted. What kind
of foods shall I
pleasure you with.
Perhaps later on
you’ll make me feel
like a college kid
on my first date.

So I’ve Heard

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So I’ve Heard

Barbara Ruth

It was fated that we meet
that we stop and speak in passing
that I reveal to you the softness
of my velvet wounds of sorrow
my mirror eyes.

And I came to dwell with you
and you showered me with jewels
you fed me what I did not know I hungered for
As you learned to dodge my mirrors, as you disciplined
your hooded eyes.

In return I showed my sign
then extracted vital essences from arteries unopened
taunted, haunted
finally caught you
in elaborate deception.

This is the way they say you’re telling it.

SISTER

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SISTER

Anne Lévesque

Perhaps she should have been
an actor – shyness not
uncommon in that profession,
so expressive is her beauty:
Wistfulness
Disappointment
That sober furrow between her brows
And then
A coy wink,
Fireworks of joy.

But never self-pity
Not even when she told me
“I guess we were too happy” he said
Words still solace then
He could summon none
That day I called
After the treatments had begun
She upstairs in the dollhouse cabin
The girl and boy playing some quiet game
At the table
Beside their empty soup bowls

And never on those Friday nights
Her face bleached tight
The week of chemo in Halifax,
The four hours in the car,
And still ahead, that long hill home

Only once did I see her cry
Her hair was as thick gold again
As long, as straight
As the perfect rows of her garden
Shiny as the pale scar
Below her neck

Our house was cold that day the floors muddy
The furniture in the truck
We were leaving her and she was late
Almost too late
To say goodbye

artwork by Adrienne Carrier

new tourist

new tourist

milt montague

 

manhattan
new york city
a hot summer day

people galore
crowding the streets
museums shops restaurants

all the sidewalks
bulging with tourists
cameras always at ready
logging their future memories

on this day
I play the visitor
in a very cool coach
gliding down fifth avenue
gawking at the store windows

disdaining
muggy sidewalks
bursting with sightseers
jostling for breathing spaces
expropriating my stomping grounds
my gilded carriage an air conditioned city bus

ALEXANDRA IN ISTANBUL

ALEXANDRA IN ISTANBUL

Carl Boon

New to the city,
she spends afternoons
rehearsing the shapes of clouds.

One day, they’ll reappear
in a notebook
with names of friends

she’ll have forgotten.
She swears the city
won’t swallow her, leave her

paralyzed, strangers
unconcerned if she’s the will
to get up, go home. I was

Alexandra, and walked
through Taksim Square
in the rain in November.

They sold me poison sandwiches,
seats for movies
that never played.

I am waiting to go home.
But the tangerines this fall
on Ergenekon Street

have just begun to sweeten,
and the bonito for sale
on the Bostanci sea-road

glisten in the morning.
Alexandra will put these away
for later, images of a lost world

when the calm of Gdansk
grinds her and the Long Market
on the Baltic becomes shadow.

-photo from creative commons zero

Whale Gate

Whale Gate

Casey FitzSimons

Cowell Ranch State Beach,
south of Half Moon Bay, California

Once an entrance to Aldo Giusti’s
many-acred field of brussel sprouts. Now
the twelve-foot metal gate’s chained shut, holds
back the headland fennel, canes
clawing damp air, rising lumpy with snails
climbing in slow, mute panic.

It couldn’t open anyway, without the chain:
bumpy ox-tongue thistle
and frilly poison hemlock clog
the gate’s swing-arc. On its face, wrought
in iron, a huge blue whale painted white, not blue
—rusted iron spoiling through,
flaking. From his blowhole he spews
an iron fountain, dribbling rust, raises
his curly fluke high into stylized waves
that surge along the upper rail, his tiny
dorsal fin submerged below them.

His throat grooves are
what I like best, rendered by the welder
like a Caddy Eldorado’s grille—rods of iron
parallel, criss-crossed by plowed crop rows
you see between them. Like me,
the whale heads seaward, ocean
half a mile out the gravel track.
An information plaque, pulpit-wide, erupts
right there in hemlock, pedestal flecked
with delicate wild-radish flowers.
It tells, though, about agriculture, how Italians
brought the artichokes, how brussel sprouts
began in 1909, now the coast’s
most lucrative crop.

What I wanted, of course,
was a whale story, perhaps a story
of a particular whale who liked
to breach, whose lobtailing fluke
inspired the gate, how he filtered krill
through his comb-like baleen and didn’t
need teeth, how he was warm-blooded
and had a four-chambered heart.

-photo http://www.everythingcoastal.com/2010/12/december-exploring-on-california-coast.html

To Orayvi

To Orayvi

Michael Anthony

Like most Hopi, my great-grandfather, Wilson Pentiwa, expected to spend his entire life on Third Mesa near Orayvi, but a doctor from Jersey City who would visit the reservation each summer, offered to repair the failing heart of his infant son, the man I now call grandfather. That was how Wilson, his wife Elizabeth, and their boy, Alban, came to live on Dudley Street where the old Morris Canal met the Hudson River.

Although thousands of miles lie between our family home in the shadow of Manhattan and the land of his birth, great-grandfather made sure each generation learned, and more importantly never forgot, our Hopi heritage. As I sat with him beneath the grape arbor he had built in the small yard behind the three-story brick tenement, he turned to me and whispered, “It is my time to return to Orayvi.” When I told my father, his face lost all color.

My father and grandfather gathered the family around the kitchen table and prepared us for the old ones’ departure. Grandfather asked which of the young ones would travel with him to Orayvi. My brother and cousins were more interested in baseball and the girls of St. Aloysius School, so he turned to me and said, “Would you honor my father?”
I agreed and it was set.

Grandfather steered the old Ford van out onto the New Jersey Turnpike, but long before we reached the Delaware River, he exited and followed what he called a blue highway.

When I asked why he left the faster road, he smiled. “This journey is not about speed, but passage.”

I sat in the front, holding frayed maps and watching gas stations, diners and billboards slip past my window. In the back, great-grandfather sat silently next to his wife of seventy-four years. With the river that separates New Jersey and Pennsylvania just beyond trees that lined the steep bank, great-grandfather asked his son to stop. Once we were parked on the gravel shoulder, great-grandfather stepped slowly from the van and stood with his arms outstretched and palms upturned.

“What is he doing, grandfather?”
“He is thanking the spirits who inhabit the land through which we travel for their generosity.”

Never having been west of Philadelphia, I was taken by the breadth of America and the varied landscapes that filled the windshield: forested mountains, grassy mounds followed by endless wheat fields, then wide prairies, and finally red rock spires. Somehow, great-grandfather knew just when to pay homage to the spirits of each; the Lenape in New Jersey, the Monongahela in Pennsylvania, the Miami in Ohio, the Osage in Oklahoma, the Cheyenne in Texas, and then, the Comanche in New Mexico. But, with each stop he seemed to weaken until we neared Shungopavi, where he could barely leave the van.
Nothing prepared me for the sight of those flat top mesas rising from the desert floor like great tables on which massive white clouds perched. Though unable to describe it, I felt a primal connection that at once was completely new, yet strangely familiar.

We arrived at Orayvi late in the afternoon as the sun sat low in a western sky that stretched from horizon to horizon. Great-grandfather led the way to a small adobe just beyond the others. “That is the place of my birth,” he said in a weary voice.
Though it looked abandoned, the old building had been swept free of cobwebs and dust. Shelves had been stocked with fresh cornmeal and lard and eggs. Neatly folded blankets and laundered sheets lay atop the wood frame beds.

“Grandfather, did you tell them we were coming?” I asked.
“They knew.”

Great-grandmother prepared a meal of mutton and black beans. Afterwards we sat on a wooden bench along the outer wall of the adobe and, while bathed in gold, watched the sun slowly fall behind Howell Mesa. We said nothing, but became a single unit in that aurulent glow.

A final glimmer of sunlight reflected in the tired eyes of great-grandfather who, to save the life of his son, walked away from everything he held sacred, including his standing as a leader of his clan. Not once did I hear him utter a word of regret.
Indigo shadows climbed the mesa and shrouded us in their dark grip. Great-grandfather reached out and took hold of great-grandmother’s hand. Then, he turned to me and said,

“We are again part of this place. You, grandson of my son, will come here and take my place.”

Knowing nothing but the streets of Paulus Hook, I dismissed his words as the addled ramblings of an old one. But, I did not sleep well that night. My eyes would blink open when there was only silence. Then, the rhythm of great-grandfather’s shallow breathing from across the darkened room soothed me. In the soft gray of early morning, I heard stirring about the small adobe; then, “Edward, get up.”

I leapt from the bed, afraid of what had happened during the night. There was great-grandmother standing by an old black cast iron woodstove, making a breakfast of speckled eggs, blue corn pancakes and fry bread. Great-grandfather sat at the table smiling and motioning for me to join him. We ate in silence. The melancholy of the previous night was gone; replaced by a new serenity.

With the meal finished and the dishes cleaned, we walked outside and made our way to the eastern edge of the mesa where we sat on mother earth. The evening before, we bid farewell to the setting sun; but this day we welcomed the warmth of another as it lit the wide plateau beneath First Mesa. Long morning shadows shrank as the sun climbed high into a cloudless turquoise sky.

Great-grandfather spoke softly, “Son, today take Edward to Kykotsmovi. Tell the council he will assume my place. They will know what to do. Go now, before the rain.”

Though I spun in every direction, I saw no clouds overhead, only two distant puffs sitting like dandelion blossoms on the southern horizon.

Grandfather rose, signaling for me to accompany him. I wanted to stay; to have more time with the old ones. Great-grandfather asked me to kneel beside him. “Edward, you make me proud. You will be wise like few men. Embrace your great-grandmother; then, go with your grandfather. Remember, let the eagle guide you.”

Great-grandfather coiled his arm around my shoulder and pulled me close. I felt his hot breath on my neck, his leathered skin against my own and recognized the scent of sage in his shirt. I held him tightly until grandfather called again.

Great-grandmother looked at me, smiled; and whispered, “Your time is nearly here.”

Then, she pressed into my hand a small silver disk bejeweled with cabochons of turquoise, obsidian and jasper. It was the medallion great-grandfather had made and given her the day they married. I stroked her downy hair one more time. On my way to the van, I stopped. “Wait, grandfather, please.”

“Edward, don’t make this harder than it is,” he cautioned.

I ran back to the small rock ledge on which they sat. Crouching between them, I gathered both in my arms and forced out what had burned in my throat since the day we left Dudley Street, “I love you, my teachers.”

Our barter was now complete: they had given me wisdom for my journey, and I, my love for theirs.

Grandfather and I rode to Kykotsmovi and met with the tribal elders. They shared stories of my great-grandparent’s marriage ceremony in Orayvi; the birth of their first child, my grandfather; and, what they had done to help the Eagle Clan. Even though two thousand miles separated my great-grandparents from the people of the village, they somehow knew all that had transpired in their lives back east. We remained with the elders until midafternoon and my head swam with the tales they told. Then, in a sacred ceremony, I was welcomed as Wilson Pentiwa’s heir to his position in the clan. We returned to the adobe, but finding it empty we walked around back.

Great-grandfather and great-grandmother still sat where we had left them that morning; but now they leaned against one another, like a young couple planning their future. Grandfather circled around them; knelt; and, gently placed his hand first on great-grandfather’s eyes, then on great-grandmother’s. He called, “Edward, please help me. Hold great-grandfather.”

I cradled his cool body in my arms as grandfather eased his mother down next to sagebrush nearly as tall as I. Great-grandfather fell back into my arms and I rested him alongside his wife. Grandfather prayed aloud for them in the language they had taught him.

I peered across the plateau below us to see an eagle and its mate soaring on an updraft along the mesa cliff. No more than thirty feet from us, they arced to the right and climbed high in the sky, disappearing into the glare of the white-hot sun.

Two menacing dark clouds approached from the south. Large raindrops began hurtling to earth and exploded in bursts of dust at our feet. In minutes, the rain fell steady and hard.

Grandfather said the old ones’ earthly bodies were being cleansed while their spirits were being lifted on the wings of those eagles.

Seven years later I left Jersey City for good and made my way back to the village. A pair of eagles circled high overhead as I drove the final mile up the gravel road to Orayvi.

-photo Creative Commons Zero

Graying in My Life

IMG_2393 - Version 2Graying in My Life

Michael Lee Johnson

Graying in
my life
growing old
like a stagnant
bucket of
rain water with moss
floating on top-
Oh, it’s not such
a bad deal,
except when
loneliness
catches you
chilled in the
middle of a sentence
by yourself-
ticking away
like an old grandfather clock,
hands stretched straight in the air
striking midnight
like a final
prayer.

-photo Harry Rajchgot

When a night is named

When a night is named

Arlyn LaBelle

This is how I will keep you,
wrapped in Christmas lights.
Above me, you shiver like kite skin.
My young body is vanity
I thought I could be a home for anyone

But you, like light, are swelling
in a place I can’t touch,
you are rolling like the shadow
of a cloud.

We are both, so completely
lost to me.Winter window view

-photo Harry Rajchgot