The Last Frontier

Sage Borja  

Swimming underwater seems closest
To dancing in the Milky Way
Knowing nothing but the amount of air
I have left in my suit
Staring into unknown charters
Not a single sound
But my breath
No longer am I fearful
I am up here
The blue planet is down there.

Heat Advisory

Susan Summers  

bleached skull rises in the east
to a morning of lifeless grey
too depleted for rosy hues
to exhausted for blue
only the white hot
of heat advisories
ozone alerts
bakes bones
to dust

The Blue Marble

Bruce Harris  

ours for the taking,
foolishly,
we took

Loons and Cranes

Catfish McDaris  

Rainbow cutthroat trout leaping
for the gnat hatch, fat frogs burping,
loons and cranes on stilts hunting.

Lines

Sandy Hiortdahl  

Some bright June morning,
Mockingbird will call you, too,
beyond the known world.

Nature Boy

Donal Mahoney  

His parents bought a special lock
to keep Nature Boy inside
but he’s mechanically inclined
and loves to go outside.

Highs and Lows

Chris Butler  

Some folks walk along
the straight and narrow road,
never rising or falling
above or below the
apathetic medium.

But I am a speedball,
shot out of a cannon
at over one zillion
light years per hour
head first into the
Grand Canyon.

February Journal: Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Don Mager  

Sky’s flattened cloudless platter slides its
short hour into the chromatic scale
of yellow’s pitches.  Overhead spreads
creamy buttermilk.  Lower west, it
edges toward pineapple.  Then lemon.
Turmeric.  As it slips away, its
eyes too piercing to smile, the half sun
glows.  Against the cold, sky holds still in
its golden Beryl moment.  It cracks
as vapor trails appear and spread.  One
lifts from the airport at the city’s
far other side.  The other streams down.
Their undersides burn.  Rise of crimson
aims straight toward magenta’s steep descent.

Descent

Taylor Graham  

A Great Horned Owl. Three hoots repeated
at intervals. A school lesson, mantra, a warning –
a message to solve. That owl's no stranger,
a local presence. We live with it like thunder,
or dynamite muffled by hills.
It stooped soundless to take our lamb,
leaving no more evidence than water
siphoned from a pond. A change in pressure,
an absence; algebra of regret. Spirit
of a lost one. A second voice joined the first,
call and response.
Then silence, the long history of night.

A Willcox Moment

David Chorlton

A slow wind on a cloudy Sunday
passes between the Dollar General
and Circle K, while Barn swallows
skim the asphalt parking lot
and loop over the Plaza Cafe roof.

No Photosynthesis Occurs

Patricia Williams  

I remember eating white asparagus
at a sidewalk café
in the shadow of Cologne Cathedral    
on an amiable day in June.

This seasonal ivory treat,
topped with sun-colored hollandaise sauce,
tastes best in the company of friends,
with glasses of pale German wine.

Recipe:
To cultivate white asparagus,
bury the shoots in dirt as they grow,
allow no exposure to sunlight.
Use this same process to produce
sterile, non-permeable minds.

I asked a cow if she wanted depression meds

Emily Ramser   

and she just shook her head,
saying she was a virgin
in sex and medicine
and that her body was a temple
for the carnivores
who'd suckled her on plastic udders
in place of the mother who'd abandoned her,

Saugus, Embassy of the Second Muse

Tom Sheehan  

He has come out of a dread silence and given himself a name; Saugus, he says. He bleats like a tethered goat to come out of that coming, to be away, dense spiral to the core of self, to the mountain call, bird arc across such slopes of pale imaginings. Saugus, he says: I am that part of you cries not for the love but intimacy of words, light touch of skin we dread and seek, owning up of self as if in another. I am that part of you named endless searcher, thirsty one, guzzler, sufferer, warred on, the starved and the wasted, that part of you you can’t turn over by yourself. I have the secrets you do not know you know. I am lodged in a far corner of mind, some fallow place at reins’ end, waiting to be routed out, turned up, to green a page again. Has it taken you so long to find me, or do you ignore me and try it on your own? You cannot avoid documented lightning, shock of metaphor, God on one knee, Saugus. I am not a stranger. I breathe with you, find shelter and warmth when you do, know the single star haunting the edge of your horizon, know best of all the magic when the sound is right, Oh, Thomas! when the sound is the music of one word  upon another, and it tears two parts of soul to four because nothing like it has been heard before, when the word dances on its consonants, slides on soft vowels, when the spine knows the word is known by every ganglia, thong and sinew of the body. The coring.

I am Saugus and you waste me away, cast me aside. I who carry all sounds of memory, cast me aside at breast-panning, when you lose the music down in some phantom crotch, when a sweet ass ties your brain in knots. Now, just now, Thomas, feel the core wind in. Feel the word rock in you. Find the word rock. Chip at it. Let the chisel fly, the sparks dance out globally, the word broken away from the granite source in you. Don’t you know me, Thomas? I am the gate tender. I am the one who lets you find the word rock. I am the key man. I let you into that vast field of yourself where the rock grows. I am Saugus, and I tend that field where the rock lies in the sacred cairn. We meet so infrequently. I keep myself here waiting on you, the gate eager to rise, the field waiting to know your tread, the rock waiting to be beat upon by the hammer of your desire. I am lonely when you wander. It is dark and fearful without you. And yet I can make you cry when I am lonely. You don’t believe me yet… I am Saugus who makes you cry.

You can’t tease me, please me, appease me. Just use me. I am servant of servants. I am Id’s Id’s Id, ego sans ego sans ego. I am to be used, exploited, submitted. And I guard that huge rock in you, tend it, know what filled it dense as hardpan that time in Boxford field and you hurt all over; dense as the frozen earth DeMatteo dug fox holes with C-3 and it finally blew off the back of his head and Colonel Mason said, “Shit!”; dense as Vinegar Hill or Indian Rock or that rock wall outside Schenectady and you stopped to change a tire at her waving and she slid down that wall at her back motioning to you her bodily gratitude. Dense is that word rock, full of all your lore and legend bricked with every movement you’ve ever known, all sights and sounds and music of the words; that special place where the thing rings in you, that place of core vibration.

Jesus, Thomas, take my hand again! Walk in the field with me. We belong together, you and I. Dispel me of doom. Let the music of words come, let them dance first in your eye, roll on your tongue, live to die on the page. Let them vibrate on your spine, get kissed of your skin, shoot out of here in flight of geese, and mournful sound of heading home when there is no home, steaming freight train whistle calling you from a circle of blue nights, self shout at the moon still shining on a hill East of Cleveland, South of Yang-du, East again a long stretch from the Chugach given you in a word picture, West of a cliff near Kerry and rain moved as a god laughing at the rootstock of your silence, Celtic mummery, God buried in stone. If you can’t come with me, Thomas, you are the loser, lonely, forsaken. I can take you back to all the hard places,  to the adjectives and verb ends; to the quadrangle in Japan in 1951 and the cool wind coming through Camp Drake and the voice of death talking in it and calling out all your comrades’ names and it didn’t talk your name and you still felt sad and knew you were the only ear. In three weeks they were gone, all gone, and their voices went into ground, and all their words, and they built on the word rock and now they still dance sadly… such words that make you cry with music still in them, and they come long and slowly out of another time funnel, like Billy Pigg cursing as he rolled over in your arms and Captain Kay saying, “I just want to go home to Memphis for a little while and tell Merle and Andy I love them. Just for an hour or so.”  

Ah, Thomas, come home again.
  Come you home again,
    Lest dust grabs us with the wind,

makes of this pairing
  a double-down burial,
    leaves our Saugus by itself.

All names brought to fore,
   friends and comrades of the field,
     come along with us,

celebrate the birth
  of death, first part to let go,
    say they are gone, disappeared

the way departure
  happens when you're not looking
    for ways to get free.

for a last handshake,
  not having one at the start
    when it all began;

under wire and fire
  and a veteran of the wars
    teaching how to die,

one hand finger talk
  saying nothing and it all
    coming down to this.

Tears I Shed Yesterday Have Become Rain Trees for Life, Dundreggan

Helen Moore  

in low boats of cloud harboured in the tree-ringed mountains,
in the Bracken, Ling, Bell Heather that cling to bare peaks,
in ancient Oak, Scots Pine, Aspen, Alder, Birch,
in purple Blaeberry juice staining our hands,
in a burn’s icy milk charging a gorge,
in gilded clarity of pools –
tears I shed

in boggy trickles,
red hairy Sundew, Butterwort leaves
spread like skins of small, green bananas,
in Meadowsweet, in Orchid, in dusky yellow stars
of St John’s Wort, in a Birch stump with Polypore hard
as granite hooves, in the Dragonfly perched by the loch,
in people replanting the Caledonian Forest – tears I’ve shed

in Red Squirrel, Pine Marten, Crested Tit, in spewed guts of a Toad
crushed on the road, in the tourists pedalling up the glen,
in Water Avens’ claret petals, in the Moriston’s
broad expanse, in snouts of Wild Boar
rootling on its banks, in Hare-
bell, in Eye-bright –
tears I shed

in Foxgloves
nodding by the wall, in fairy
horns of Lichen, pale as snuff, in the dawn
mists encircling the yurt on the day
of my departure – the tears
of the Great Heart
pulsing in all

Schneider Valley, September

Taylor Graham  

Outside our tent, ice on the water bucket,
old-paper tinge to the willow-thicket.
The creek that cuts this meadow never forgot
its snowmelt rush down Little Round Top,
snowbanks blocking the road till end of June.
And then the flowers came, so many
shades of paintbrush, larkspur, columbine –
a hiker might think he’d climbed to heaven.
Now lupine’s gone to pod, a cold easterly
rattles mules-ears along the trail. I can believe
again in snow. Time to break camp?
The raven says, “while you can, go home.”

A Hard Rain

Maury Grimm  

A hard rain. Łizhiní calls the girls together under the currant bush. For a while there I feared hail, but it is blessed rain.

The coop run is about finished and there is still a door to make and hang, but that will be for another day. My hands hurt incredibly from pounding nails, pulling wire. A blister forming at the base of my finger and I managed to hit my finger with the hammer once, but it is not so bad.

The wind blows the rain into some windows so I shut them, think about what to make for an afternoon meal, what is easy. Some asparagus soup in the reefer, maybe a sandwich. There is plenty to make a salad as well.

The sheep are now in part of the pasture that has been untouched. It was a sight to watch them rush in, joyful at the bounty.

The work of men, and then the work of women. And then it goes on.

Journal Entry

Stefanie Bennett

It’s no illusion:
That Pavarotti
Finch
Whistles
             While
She works
Beside an ochre
And red
Backdrop

... One octave
At a time.

Swamp Psalm of the Water Sprite

Karla Linn Merrifield  

The Fakahatchee is my shepherdess;
I shall not want for canopied swamps.
She maketh me to submerge below profligate
fronds and tendrils.
She leadeth me into still waters.
She restoreth my arid hope.
She leadeth me along slow flowing
strands of wildness for her faith sake.
Yea, though I wade through the valley
in the shadows of fishing spiders
beside alligator ponds, I fear not greed,
for thou, green queen, art with me, in me.
Thy sword ferns and ghost orchids
do comfort me.
Thou preparest a cypress stand before me
in the cool space of my heart.
Thou annointest my soul with dew.
My dream runneth over in liquid light.
Surely chlorophyll and oxygen
shall follow me all the breaths of my life
and I shall dwell in thy habitat
of epiphyte, lichen and moss—forever.

Burial for Seamen

Tom Sheehan  

Tonight I think of Jonathan Diggs and how he salts the Atlantic, how the horse of his voice shakes the water from the underneath, cracks the rocks the small fist of Nahant left-jabs in the ocean.

The dory came riding in high and free as a cracker box, the oars gone, locks ripped away as if he had broken all his muscles on them, the anchor gone as Davy’s gift, not even a handful of line left in the loop.

One inconspicuous mark gathered in the final counting: JD9. It was Jonathan’s ninth boat, and the first to outlive him, the first to come back without that oarsman.

Seventy-year old men do not swim all night, do not ride on top like debris caught on the incoming tide, do not materialize on-shore once they are that wet.

They go down like Jonathan Diggs, shaking their fists at the Atlantic, shouting the final obscenity they have waited all this time to use, knowing the exact moment to employ it. They send a sound running along water lines, burst it into sea shells, sing it as a tone of surf busting all September nights when ocean listeners count for sailors.

They become the watery magnet pulling men from inland fields, in turn are magnetized by moon’s deep clutch on the rich pastures of the sea, and sleep then only in tight caves, soundless and dark in their wearing away.

within Roe Wood
by Kate Garrett

your feet pound
   streets, pavements
     bus stops – the urban

  blur heading
for bluebells

   as you slip downhill
 & into the shadow

     of leaves (curled fingers
unfurling green)

   race the brook
along its obstacle
        course:

  forgotten blue
   bicycles, lawnmower
engines & plastic

     bottles without
  a single message inside

The Buck’s Baksheesh

Maureen Kingston  

The tar lake that was once our mountaintop is now a vast fly trap, catcher and dissolver of all that passes by. “Our dues have been paid,” the mine owner says on closing day. “Let reclamation commence.” He waves a red flag. A top lander in the distance kneels at the lake’s edge, dumps a load of bait into the slag. As though on cue a buck skull surfaces nearby, offers itself to the crowd: a form of alms, a corroded coin bobbing in an earthen begging bowl.

The brandling worms go to work, lovingly bristle industrial gunk from the skull’s black planes. We watch transfixed as the coal-ash apple is polished slick, as wriggling minstrels tell tall tales of healing in spit gleam, in slime rings, their sole mission to revamp vile with splenetic sieve and shimmy. The script they leave behind unsettles our settled notions of death and decay. And for an instant we almost believe in extended warranty—that deer herds might once again browse our vale; that our gardens might grow deformity-free.

Hope spasms through us, waves of insurgent murmurs, phantom lures, the flutter of old flames we can’t help pining for. We know better. The composter’s creed’s just another in a long line—a salvage come-on—no different than the saloon god’s many promises to intercede, his prayer cards always written in gin song and bluffer’s ink. Or worse, penned the morning after, too late to save enlightenment from its shot-gunned fate. We know. We don’t want to know.

Hays Coppices

Peter Branson  

Where youth is drilled in ranks, green copse, as yet
un-thinned, or cropped at root, or pruned head height,
stands proud, where Mulch-Dick, elfric, dryad, hob-
thrush, Churnmilk Peg abide, rouse loud hosan-
nas for the lord of light, I raise this psalm.

Late autumn, dawn, a hostage to the night,
has broken bounds, line dancing wild delight
with darkness in retreat, his coppered feet
stirred embers glowing on a charging breeze,
like flick’ring pages from the Book of Kells.

Each step resolves a moving screen, sun strobe
between gaunt, pewter-clad  George Greens, wall-eyed
young squaddies on crusade, who guard, straight-bat,
defy importunate desire, this blind-
ing woodland glade, the midnight fox on fire.

A Promised Meeting by the Riverbank

Taufiq Abdul Khalid  

Bring your bigotry and your hooded hate,
And I will find us a spot on the riverbank,

Bring your usury and their collateralized tears,
And I will find us a spot on the riverbank,

Bring your religion and other excuse for hubris,
And I will find us a spot on the riverbank,

Bring your guns and trophies of the hunt,
And I will find us a spot on the riverbank,

Bring your carbon credit and other deceits,
And I will find us a spot on the riverbank,

Bring your good and your bad,
Your cloudy skies and your sunshine,

Bring all your rights and your wrongs,
To a spot I will find on the riverbank,

In the Garden of mercy
Where we all belong.

Autumn Treasure

Bubba Chambers  

Beards, mossy grey, sway to the rhythm of chilled breezes,      
trees without leaf, skeletal forms, cryptic beauty casts her spell.      
Hoary forest, aged sleep, unaware my silent trespass.
Oak and ash need repose, dare I disturb their slumber?

An old cow cranes her neck over barbed wire.
she knows where the grass is greener.
Hay field wrapped and tightly bailed,
awaiting the next harvest.

Frost tonight? Maybe, to cover autumn’s beauty.              
But white brings beauty of its own, achromatic color fleeting;
as it melts and hides inside the earth
leaving faces brown and ocher.

Leave the rose and buttercup to those who love the spring.
Naked landscape cold and barren, bring to us delight.
Sometimes things treasured least, conceived through frosted pane
muted colors of the fall, attendant once again.

A Word

Linda Golden

Terebinth, it echoes as it bounces off his tongue
Pulling an ancient memory from the marrow, hiding
Under the wings of forgotten prayers, cascading through
Channels of genetic magma, scorching incarnations
As if they were mere in and out breaths instead of whole
Lifetimes
Dotting the hills of Judea, framing the structure of living
Warming in winter, providing shade in lengthening days
Naming a tree, how far back does that go
Who thought such sounds to go with such a being
Whose rough bark and sinewy roots drink holy water
Holding forever secrets of what they have seen

Niwa, The Garden (for NT)

Ed Hack  

Niwa, she says. The garden always waits
for you, is there inside the silence you
long for. The path will lead you to a gate
where Bamboo chat in dialect the news
the wind conceals. And round into the sun
you'll walk as light leaps into emptiness
where everything is born. There is no sum,
no calculation there, no need to guess,
no right or wrong. There's just the path that flows,
the boulders where the kami live, the stones
that are the water's secret self that glow
in ocean glints and shimmer into foam.
Be still and you'll be there, she says. It waits
for you to walk the path, come through the gate.

A Trip to the Ocean

Julie Ramon  

Wind and seagulls make everyone else
seem far away, and the near, only passing
headlights. Here, it rains in the morning.
Waves bring shells and crabs to the shore.
It accepts everything we don’t. Feet are placed
carefully. We have sticks to poke things
we don’t understand. One morning, we found
a horseshoe crab and rolled it over. It’s legs moved
like a typewriter and made us jump.
Without understanding, you picked it up
and chucked it into the water breaking the smooth
surface between waves, understanding
that certain things don’t belong in certain places,
like us. And, you took my hand
worried it would come back and knew
you would be alright if I was there,
and we were walking towards Missouri.

West Side Canal, Freeborn Intake

Don Thompson  

The fog has held off, so far,
clinging to the hills
until it thins to commonplace haze
an hour after dawn.
It’s not quite the season.

But soon, when the oyster white sun
is too feeble to resist,
the fog will close in, will inundate
every solid thing we need
to make sense of ourselves—

blurring our certainties
until we know
how ancient seafarers must have felt
coming at last to the end
of their flat earth.

Ancient Ash

Terrence Sykes  

ancient ash
along the banks
silent Loire
brambled blackberries
greenbriars

fortress of solitude
hedgehog
peers contentedly
having never
visited Paris

Earth Day 2015

Sarah Frances Moran  

Calbuco decided it was past time to make love to the sky
and with a violence reserved for Gods,  she did.

How the clouds matured for her.
How they responded with an equal fury.
How the crackle of that spark lit up the world.

Illuminating eyes with a blanket of ash,
she stroked out a picture and put on a dance
for all us devils below.

Calbuco decided it was time to show off the Heavens

How the Earth can reach up to kiss the atmosphere
How the lightning soaked offspring of dueling lovers toss in the wind
How commanding love can be

Distributing glory over a multitude of medias,
She woke and she warned us.

Calbuco decided
It was time for this awakening.

What I Hear Late Summer 2014

Maury Grimm  

I hear the mockingbirds scolding
the dart of hummingbirds, a whir
the engine revving, a horses’ snort
Robins returned for ripening fruit

I hear the ripening of currants
a buzz of bees
the horses’ hoof hitting ground
I hear the shift of clouds

I hear the shift of clouds, that high murmur
broken mare’s tails adrift
the cumulus foaming
against the Sangres

I hear the pattern of leaves
the quelites flowering
the earth holding roots of parsnips
daucus and salsify

I hear the wings of butterflies
the hummingbird moth
lighting on the radish blooms
I hear the long probe

The sand moves when I walk
I hear it like doves
I hear the limbs of trees
these old Salix nigra finger
the summer sky

Not only do the bird songs vary
I almost know each one.
I hear how each wing resonates
species to species
I hear their spectacle in flight

Like wasps do not sound like bees
nor even the pesky fly
not one has a similar buzz
even the broad bumble bee has its singular sound

I hear the truck going by
laden with bee hives
an airplane overhead
and the sheep nestling
into the afternoon shade

I hear the yellow roses fading
pentstemons and jump-ups now overtaken
by hollyhocks, rudbeckias
I hear the rain settling into the dry earth

I hear the red-tail hawks, all ways on time, circling above
a fly bumps into the screen, another train
passes through town
I hear my neighbor return
gravel bitten by tires

I hear my heart
my pen across this paper
my eyes struggle to see and make
heeded the words I hear

I hear the follicles of skin the wind raises
that stand on my arms, my face
the truck with its hitch rattling
the distant wanting dog

I hear the heart wanting
the heart, if it could be overheard
with its stories of loss
with stories of hope, the dreams

Wanting to hear the birds
the soft shuffle of hooves
that do not want to eat the milkweed
I hear the jasmine-scented blossoms fading
pods forming seeds

The seeds of shepherd’s purse and amaranth
that come up all summer if I let them
I hear them in places
bursting the ground

A siren, I hear the crows
a conversation between the magpies
and in the night, sometimes a yelp
coyotes or dogs or both

I hear the heat on my toes
when my blood flows too hard
when the heart is quiet
I hear the heart when it pounds

I hear the click of a grasshopper
in the afternoon heat, clatters
grass breaking underfoot
or on the teeth of the sheep

I hear the flies
more restless in this late afternoon
I hear the manure and smell its sweetness
the hay being cut

I hear the sheep
watching me through the fence
and the thunder coming
in this afternoon’s storm

And now the rain
in all its blessings
beating on the windows
my skin, onto leaves
I hear it through nostrils
the leaves sucking this sparse moisture

I hear the smell of ripening currants
the amaranth and purslane winding around old bricks
and the old church, not far
its old bricks empty, decomposing
into the old and overgrown yard
I hear the rust of the old Studebaker
where it rests

I hear the well pump click on
the measure of time like clicks
the hearts’ desire denied
the many times leaving, the many times returning

I hear the presence of the beloved
the child, the lover, the parent
gone, but never gone, I hear them
voices that fill memory

I hear the dust
the demise of rock
ground by water
air and time

And I hear the water
a roar, a pounding over rocks
the crash and then thin vapor
when it returns to cloud

And clouds, I hear the air
its sky colors
from white to black
azure to crimson

I hear the wind in a breeze, the howl

And time
I hear its muffled drive from then to now
to where
to all that is my history

I hear my legs split apart
the birth of my children
my mother’s last breath
my father’s stern voice
grandmothers' lessons

And I hear nothing
only my body moving
through the water
through air, through time

And this morning I hear the poet
breathe then gone voiceless
a hole in the wind
where words once stood.

Black-headed Ibis

Ion Corcos  

Stands on a ridge
in a sodden rice field,
its long, downcurved bill
probes into mud

sifts out
worms,
frogs,
insects

staunch body
soft like a cloud
black legs anchored
in the bog.

At dusk it flies
to roost
flaps its wings
white against the blue-black sky.

The Word Nursery at New Year’s

Tricia Knoll  

Five words she scratches
in a dusting of snow-frost
below the gorge waterfall
pointing shards of ice –
 
    breath
    patience
    compassion
    endurance
    merging

One word the old woman
will choose as her touchstone
for next year, to notice, grab onto
each instance it appears before her,
repeat before sleep.
Past choices – simplicity, love,
witness, and resilience –
guided her bones.

The cold canyon wind
pulls tears and teases silver strands
from her green knit hat.
Sun floods
the low rock bowl
of the canyon,
edges toward her.

She steadies
her scuffed boot
above the frosted cedar duff.
She decides.
Leaning, her fingertip erases
four possibles,
her slate melting, merging.

A Farmer Collects Plants for Louis XVI

Andrea Wyatt

visiting settlements along the tidal reaches of the Chesapeake

André Michaux sketches patches of tiny pale flowers in moss
with bumpy sweet potatoes at the edges

yellow bees in the chestnut tree leaves

“we cannot sett down a foot, but tread on
Strawberries and fallen mulberrie vines,”

he writes in a small pocket diary stained with saltwater and bear grease

meets men & women who trade beaver skins

roast fat red kernelled ears of corn, dry spicy dark tobacco leaves

gather sea lavender & eat oysters till they keel over

as the canvasbacks and mallards obscure the sun

fly through the wet November sky

they have no idea it is past time to leave

as Louis pushes himself away from his royal table
filled with empty oyster shells & corn.

Black Mountain

Matthew David Manning

It's called Black Mountain,
because of how it looked at night:
a void you could climb
and look out at the city
mirrored by still water.

Some made the mountain home.
Their houses filled with the dark,
slipcovered in moonshadow.
Young couples drove access roads
up the mountain in the evening

to speak, listen, and understand.
Their favorite songs glowed soft
on their faces. Sometimes, in winter,
when they could see their breath,
people from the bottom swore
they saw ghosts finding each other.

Catamount, Late Summer

Joe Cottonwood

Come with me. Here’s
the secret trail. At the edge
of the potato field, crouch through
the barbed wire fence. Pass the stone
foundation of an old homestead.
Enter the maple forest, the green oven.
Bake, slowly rise like a gingerbread figure.
Follow, it’s fine (there’s no witch).
Release rivulets of sweat.
This is nothing, the foothill.

Listen: the purr, the burble, the rush,
the small canyon of Catamount
Creek. Remove boots, splash yourself.
Splash me. Cup water in hands
to pour over the face. Let water dribble
inside the shirt, drip to the shorts.
Relish the shock of cold
against hot parts.

Work uphill now, at last
out of the trees into the land of
wild blueberry. Pluck, taste
tiny tight nut-like explosions of blue,
so intense, so different from store-bought.
Gorge, let fingers and tongue
turn garish. Fill pockets.

Climb with me now among rocky
outcrops like stair steps to the Funnel,
a crevice where from below
you push my bottom, then from above
I pull your hand. Emerge to a view
of valley, farmland, wrinkles of mountains
like folds of flesh. How far we’ve come.
This is the false top.

Catch your breath, embrace the vista,
then join me in a scramble up bare granite,
farther than you’d think, no trail marked
on the endless stone but simply
navigate toward the opposite of gravity,
upward, to at last a bald dome
chilled by blasts of breeze.

At the top, sit with me, our backs against
the windbreak of a boulder.
Empty your pockets of blueberries. Nibble,
share — above the rivers,
above the lakes, above the hawks,
among the blue chain of peaks
beyond your outstretched tired feet.
Appreciate your muscles
in exhaustion and exhilaration.
We have made love to this mountain.

Hear a sound like a sigh from waves of
alpine grass in the fading warmth
of a lowering sun. Rest.
After this, the return
is so easy.

The Clearing

Ryan Harper  

Each morning walk reminds Elijah he forgets
how many trees grow in his town—how covered, groved,
and leaved the passages, the hiking trails, the yards.
Always he starts early enough to be almost
alone in the morning, sharing passages and paths
only with the joggers, the bodies he has come
to know as well as voiceless passing will allow:
the man who wears shorts all year round, the small
flourescent woman he supposes is his age
who breathes like an alarm clock—A in summer, B

or B flat in winter.  In autumn he slides to the side of the trail,
the thorny side, when he hears someone striding through
the leaves, predicting who’s approaching from behind
by the pace, the running foot’s brush stroke.  Your ear is strange,
Lorraine had told him when he noted in passing one day
the small caesura in her breathing as they lay
in bed.  He was the first to notice.  He forgets
to think about the thickness of the growth, each walk,
until he finds himself in the clearing in the midst
of the pine grove north of his house some half a mile.  The light

falls on him as new despite his daily visitations,
despite his knowing this is the open space at which
his usual trail ends—grassy, warm, nothing to hear.
Routinely lit with absence, remembering shadows, here
Elijah looks up—only when there is nothing
to see except a blue vacuum, an ancient sun
that will not be engaged directly, and scabs—
white vapor trails flaking from flights that may as well
be all departing.  Every morning, Elijah stops,
weeps here a moment in full light, then turns around,
walks back through the grove, listening behind him for footsteps.