No Headway | Cathie Sandstrom

No Headway

by Cathie Sandstrom

 

For long moments a hard breeze

off the Pacific holds aloft over

wetlands, a gull flapping yet hanging—

treading air until he feints

 

down and south along the water’s edge

looking for a doorway into the wind.

The woman watching him also searches

for a passage from here to what follows.

 

Above her, fast-moving clouds veil

the sunset, harbingers of the marine fog

she’ll wake to. In failing light she turns her face

westward, closes her eyes, lifts her chin.

 

The gull, finding no opening, glides low.

She raises her arms, stands in the wind’s indifference.

 


As a military brat, never “from around here,” Cathie Sandstrom has lived in ten states: Japan, England, Denmark, and Germany. Even though she’s lived many years now in the same house, she still expects to hear from the Pentagon any day. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Lyric, The Comstock Review, Cider Press Review, Ekphrasis, among others journals, and is forthcoming in The Southern Review. Her poem “You, Again” is in the artists’ book collection at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles: proof, she says, of the existence of poetry angels. She lives in a village up against the San Gabriel Mountains, minutes north of Los Angeles. She thinks Chopin wrote the Nocturnes just for her.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sleep is an Isthmus | Lisa Marie Brodsky

Sleep is an Isthmus

by Lisa Marie Brodsky

 

On this side, it is you and on that side,

a dream of sanity

 

waiting for you on the lake’s glassy floor

asking, will you fall through should

 

your eyes close? You needn’t worry;

snails stick to your seat

 

and make a mess, but minimal.

A minor inconvenience

 

compared to the insomnia

that glues your eyes open.

 

You might as well be fed impaled fish

& rocked back & forth by a neglectful mother.

 

Your fingers wiggle in water

like worms searching for their ancestors

 

and dream a drowning, a fall, a reflective

cloud-casket planted on land you can’t reach.

 

You feel only the night’s longing

to remain night forever

 

the same way you yearn for rest, for the moon

to give up its right to keep you.

 


Lisa Marie Brodsky is the author of poetry collections, “We Nod Our Dark Heads” (Parallel Press, 2008), and “Motherlung” (Salmon Poetry, 2014), which received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her poetry has been published in The North American Review, Mom Egg Review, Peacock Journal, Diode Poetry Journal, Verse Wisconsin, SUSAN/The Journal, Poetry Quarterly, and has work forthcoming in The Linden Avenue Literary Journal and Barrow Street. In 2016 she was anthologized in “Even the Daybreak: 35 Years in Salmon Poetry.” As faculty member at AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, Brodsky teaches classes on emotional healing through creative writing. Her web site can be found at: www.lisamariebrodsky.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Body of Water | Mary Ellen Talley

Body of Water

by Mary Ellen Talley

 

Mine keeps flowing into blood

flesh and sinew, pat-a-cake

palm of hand, firm handshake,

platelets I cherish clotting

to repair sites of my wounds.

Pump, churn heart river flow

all that channels inside me

wrapped up in crepey skin.

I call my backbone water

because I drink from its strength.


Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have most recently been published in Typoetic.us and Kaleidoscope as well as in recent anthologies, The Doll Collection, All We Can Hold poems of motherhood and Raising Lilly Ledbetter Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Her poetry has received a Pushcart Nomination. She has worked for many years with words and children as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) in Washington public schools.

 

 

 

 

 

Death by Hurricane | Margarita Barresi

Death by Hurricane

by Margarita Barresi

 

I surveyed the ocean from ten stories above through the kitchen’s plate glass window wearing white cotton panties and nothing else, my at-home uniform at age five, and willed my thoughts to project to God In Heaven. It was 1966 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Faith was imminent. God, I telepathed as I pictured an ancient bearded man in voluminous white robes sitting on an enormous and elaborately carved marble throne, If I’m going to die today, please don’t make it hurt too much. I was not one to beg in the face of the inevitable. People died in hurricanes. I’d heard the stories of the “Big One”, 1928’s Hurricane San Felipe, which destroyed the Yabucoa valley where my grandfather grew up and killed more than 300 poor souls across the island. I understood clearly what my fate could be and was prepared to courageously face the worst case scenario.

My grandparents, with whom I lived, were sticking masking tape in crisscross patterns on the rest of the wide glass windows that created the circumference of our apartment. They paid me no mind. The tape was supposed to prevent the glass from shattering into the apartment if some sort of debris broke through. Apparently all sorts of things flew around in hurricanes. I hoped I wouldn’t be one of them. My grandmother pulled the putty colored tape from the roll, making a long riiiiiiiiiip sound and my grandfather attached it to the glass. Riiiiiip, PatPatPat, Riiiiiip, PatPatPat, Riiiiiip, PatPatPat. The sounds of their industry pierced the otherwise eerie silence.

No screeching white and grey seagulls, no cars motoring down the street, no tree frogs chirping their evening song of coqui coqui, and no laughter wafting up from the beach. The wildlife and humans had both hunkered down. The Atlantic, normally five different shades of blue, was a monochromatic indigo shaded by an ominous grey dome of a sky. Angry, tall waves crashed on the sand and rocks below, some even reaching the base of our apartment building. It was humid, but oddly cool. I could feel the air, seasoned with sea spray, weighing down on my skin, leaving it salty and taut.

My grandfather turned on the radio, which usually played classical music, and tuned it to a news channel. Official sounding voices peppered the air with weather updates in Spanish, completely ruining my communion with God In Heaven. I figured He’d gotten my message by then anyway. He was probably attending to a lot of people at that moment, and I certainly didn’t want to become a nuisance. I decided instead to follow my preoccupied grandmother around the apartment as she distributed candles and matches throughout every room. In the meantime, my grandfather anxiously checked the flashlight batteries and filled the tub, as well as several plastic jugs, with water. Then we waited. And waited.

We continued to listen to the weather reports, my grandparents both smoking, she her Salems and he his carved ivory pipe that scented the air chocolate and cherry. But as my 7:00 bedtime approached, I became agitated. I didn’t want to sleep through My Death! It was one thing to get sent to bed before Get Smart aired, but this, My Death, was a monumental thing to miss. I begged my grandparents to let me stay up. As a compromise, and because they thought I was inconsolably frightened by the looming storm, they agreed to let me bunk in the floor of their bedroom. I willed my eyelids to remain open for what seemed hours, but I couldn’t help falling asleep, my body slowly shutting down for the night.

I woke up disoriented the next morning: I was not in my room and I was still alive. The hurricane had skirted the island, leaving behind damp streets and little damage. Maybe all the people’s prayers had worked and God In Heaven spared us. Or maybe it was the hurricane’s name, Faith.  In any case, what luck! I went to school the day after, the candles and batteries went back into storage, and the radio once again played Mozart. For no good reason the masking tape on the windows was lazily left to calcify and fuse with the glass so that our view of the outside world became permanently obstructed by Xs.

Nine years later, Tropical Storm Eloise passed by the island. While not officially a hurricane, her extraordinarily heavy rains, 23 inches in 24 hours, caused extensive flooding and more damage than any other storm I’d lived through. Forty-four people drowned, including Luis Cartagena, a close family friend. On his drive home, while crossing a flooded bridge in the town of Caguas, he spotted a woman drowning in the river below. Those who witnessed the event say he stopped the car, jumped out, and dove into the churning water within seconds, only to be swept away along with the woman like so much debris. I don’t remember whether they found his body. He died a hero, but that was no consolation to his widow, Virginia, whose ravaged countenance is indelibly imprinted in my memory.

Shortly afterwards my grandmother hired a handyman to scrape the petrified masking tape off our apartment windows. We didn’t need a visual reminder that people die in hurricanes.


Margarita Barresi writes memoir pieces about growing up in Puerto Rico in the 60s and 70s, as well as parenting essays set in modern day. Her work has appeared in Acentos Review, Pink Ink, Boston Accent Lit and Your Teen Magazine. She is currently working on a historical fiction novel set in Puerto Rico during the first half of the 20th century and was selected for a writer’s residency at Noepe Center for Literary Arts in Martha’s Vineyard.

Issue # 2: Encounters with Nature!

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Editor’s Note | Tiegan Dakin

 

Nonfiction

 

Waste Not | Terry Barr

Black and White | John C. Mannone

Dragon Tales, Household Hobbies: How the Family Search for Shark Teeth Made Us Find Each Other Instead  | Casey Cromwell

Cycle of Life | Alice Lowe

Of Moss and Men | Paul Hetzler

True Tales From the Wild Heart Critterarium | Albert Lannon

Street Fruit | Danusha Goska

Art

 

Evening Waterfall Reflections | Joseph Norton

4 pieces | Gwen Wilkinson

2 pieces | Terry Bailey

Words On Sand | Ray Zimmerman

3 pieces | Thomas Terceira

Words On Sand | Ray Zimmerman

 

Words on Sand by Ray Zimmerman.jpg
Words on Sand

 


 

Ray Zimmerman is the author of First Days (Finishing Line Press) and Executive Editor of Southern Light: Twelve Contemporary Southern Poets, Ford, Falcon, and McNeil. He serves as producer of the Little Owl Music and Arts Festival, now in its fifth year at Audubon Acres. Ray’s photographs have appeared in the Tennessee Conservationist and the Photographic Society of America Journal.

Waste Not | Terry Barr

Waste Not

by Terry Barr

“Take him down by the vacant lot on the corner,” Dad said, “That way no one will mind what he does.”

The thought of cleaning up after Sandy never entered our heads, and so I’d lead him by the leash to this open area and watch as the poor guy nervously did his business. He’d leave an impressive mound and sometimes Jim Terry, the bird dog who lived across the street, would join us. If my brother were with us and saw either dog hunched over and defecating, he’d point and laugh at them. The dog in question would then shake all the more, as if he knew to be embarrassed. Upon completion the dogs would proceed to scratch up some earth, believing as dogs do that just a few scratches of soil will cover their solid remains. I would then lead Sandy back home, back to his dog house where he’d spend every night – rain, sleet or snow – huddled in his blankets.

The vacant lot was way at the end of our street, and at ten years old I was a little terrified at the overgrown bushes and what could be lurking behind them. So I’d walk only a little ways and let Sandy do his pooping in the McEniry’s yard, or the Bruce’s. It was dark, I figured no one would see and in the morning, who was to say which dog did it? I confess to feeling a little guilty at my laziness, my fears. I knew that I’d made work for these elderly neighbours, that they would have to clean the mess up themselves or have their “yard men” do it. Whatever guilt I felt, however, did not stop me from encouraging my dog to fill their yards with his waste.

Sandy died when I was a junior in college from a fast aggressive cancer. My parents had him put to sleep before they even told me he was sick. I knew he had been losing weight, but being away, I didn’t see him often or much at all. My parents kept up with his daily routine. They knew what he was consuming and producing and dealt with it as they saw fit. I remember my Dad saying too often to my dog, “You stink,” but no one guessed the cause of this stench, the one that smelled like poop even when there was none.

I didn’t wonder then, but very much do so now, about what we fed our dog (the same meal of Purina Prime every day) and if whatever went into that food caused his cancer. I wonder, too, about his poop. Did it affect anyone else? What could or should we have done differently? I so loved my dog, yet I let him eat unhealthy food. I let him be blamed for soiling other people’s space.

What sort of owner was I?

#

Thirty years passed and I never owned another dog. Once, when my daughters were seventeen and thirteen, they found a stray dog in our yard. He looked liked some sort of Labradoodle, a dog someone wanted. So we kept him overnight in our basement, and the next morning I walked him through our neighbourhood, hoping he would lead me to his home. I had no sense of the right direction, and the dog seemed convinced that the streets to our south pointed homeward. It was an early Sunday morning and I hoped that people going to church might pass and recognize their pooch. Looking back, it seems silly and futile that I would go walking aimlessly, trusting on the dog and fate to relieve me of a burden I wasn’t ready for.

Of course the girls asked if we could keep him, and I might have considered it if we didn’t already have three cats. And if, when I saw this confused but happy dog poop that morning, I didn’t see him shake and strain to produce an enormous mound full of white squiggly living things: tapeworms, I assumed.

We kept the dog another night, and then rigged a stake and a rope in our front yard the next day and tied him there with a bowl of water nearby. We went to school and work, and later that afternoon my wife called to say that the dog had been found by his owners who lived just up the street from us in the opposite direction from where he and I had wandered the day before. He’s rescued, I thought, relieved. Yet I kept thinking about that shaking poop and those worms: a clear sign that the dog wasn’t being well taken care of. As well as I would have taken care of him if he were he mine. I didn’t clean his poop up that day even though I knew bagging had become the popular, eco-friendly and neighborly act. I didn’t want to get any nearer to those worms than I already had, so I left the poop to sit, the worms to crawl, and I wondered about all those others crawling inside that friendly dog, the one I never saw again.

#

For the past two years my wife has clamoured for a dog. She’s never owned one before and, in karmic preparation, she puts pictures of “her dog” around the house.

“I’m gonna find him,” she kind of threatened.

This past May, my wife got serious. We fenced in our yard and finished remodelling our house. “The time is right,” she said, and so she began haunting our no-kill Humane Society. I’ll confess that every time she came home empty-handed, I breathed more deeply.

Then one late Friday afternoon, I got the call:

“We found him [she and my younger daughter Layla, that is]. Do you want to come see?”

“No, if he’s the one, that’s fine with me.”

It was Layla who saw him first, a white Lab-looking six-month old puppy, exactly what my wife was looking for. My wife named him Max and recently I discovered that his true breed is American Dingo, or at least I’m as sure as one can be that he’s got dingo in him.

When we walk our Maxie, I don’t laugh and point at him when he poops; but I do I pick up his poop in our plastic bags, double-lined for maximum protection. Like all the neighbours I see doing likewise, I hold onto the bag until I reach a garbage can at our local park and toss it away, and when we go to the dog park at Conastee I do the same. My wife stands at the spot where our boy has relieved himself amidst the clatter and clamor of breeds and half-breeds, and Heinz 57’s, and we clean his poop in the baggies supplied by the park and throw them right away in the cans nearby. The cans that someone else eventually disposes of.

I have two questions: the first, as far as I know, is unanswerable. Why does Max immediately poop every time we enter the dog park? Or, as I’ve discovered lately, whenever we take him on a play date to his friend Fin’s house? I know that marking territory with urine is very much a doggie thing, but with poop?

My second question is: Where does the dog park poop go? The city dump? And then what happens? It biodegrades with the rest of the poop accumulated there, all buried in safe, sacred ground?

Another question I ask my wife is what she does when she scoops up Max’s poop from our backyard:

“I throw it over the fence into the wilder part of the yard. Or, I put it in the holes he’s started to dig and cover it. They say that keeps him from digging any deeper.”

Perhaps so, and that seems very responsible of her. In our own yard, I’ve mainly left the poop alone. I figure that when it finally returns to the soil, it will be good for the land, adding richness and cyclical nourishment to our ecosystem. Maybe, however, I haven’t been thinking so clearly. Maybe I haven’t exactly kept up with the latest trends in poop control:

Recently, a number of environmental activist groups have been trying to raise the guilt level of dog lovers because of the faecal matter that their pets produce. We are not only talking about the smelly stuff which gets on your shoe when some inconsiderate dog owner fails to pick up after his pup, or the possible contamination which such waste matter might produce when it gets into water supplies, but rather the larger issue of whether dogs contribute to global warming by producing greenhouse gases. So says Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia:

An average dog will produce approximately 0.75 pounds of faecal matter each day, which, summing across all of the dogs in the city would be approximately 187,500 pounds of dog poop passed in every 24 hour period. Summing the output across an entire year, we reach the astonishing total of 68,437,500 pounds of dog waste per year for this one metropolis.

The city he’s referring to is Chicago. I live in Greenville, SC, a city a tenth the size of Chicago, so maybe our town produces only six million pounds of poop a year. Still, what do we do with all this mess?

Now you might already know this, but when Max’s poop, Jim Terry’s poop, and my old dog Sandy’s poop breaks down, it produces methane gas, a gas much more toxic for our environment than carbon dioxide. In Chicago, this means that the amount of poop-infused methane gas each year totals 102,000,000 cubic feet. I’ve always been sketchy about what a cubic foot looks like, but I’m pretty clear that 102 million of anything is powerfully impressive.

Apparently, Mathew Mazzota is also impressed. A conceptual artist and grad student at MIT, Mazzota wondered whether a by-product so bountiful might not have a productive use. He proposes that this dog-sponsored methane could be used as a power source. He received a grant from MIT to run such a test, called his project “Park Spark,” and installed it at a park in Cambridge, MA. The exhibit is actually two tanks; when your dog poops, you take the already-provided biodegradable bags at the exhibit, place the poop inside, and then insert that by-product into one of the tanks. Wheels turn, microbes begin digesting the poop, and before you know it, methane gas results, which is then burned off somehow.

Since I barely passed high school chemistry, I can’t explain it any better. But if you’re unclear about your own scooping bags, you can try http://www.poopbagclub.com and for a nominal price of $10-12 per month, you can get two lavender-scented rolls of vegetable based bags. Will your dog love you for this? Actually, Max doesn’t care for lavender himself; when my wife applies her nightly oils and creams, he flees. Then she has to use some other calming oils on him to get his mind off the lavender. What all this might be doing to his bowels, I’m not sure.

As glad as I am about Mazzota’s experiment, I think back with wonder and longing for those days when Jim Terry roamed the streets of our neighbourhood. When I directed Sandy to Mr. Bruce’s yard and stood there long enough for my dog to get both the message and the urge. In that era, some fifty years ago, dogs came and went, some good and some bad, their poop landing wherever it would. Sure we stepped in it. Sure it stunk, and sure we ingested its fumes.

To be honest, my wife and I complain when neighbours let their dogs do their business in our yard. That is, we complain to ourselves. We haven’t yet placed signs at the curb begging dog owners to “scoop the poop,” and I hope such a sign is not in our planned future. Maybe it’s just my relationship with dogs, but their shakily produced poop has never offended me. Most dogs try to cover their waste by scratching the ground around it. Then they wander off happy, believing they’ve done their best.

We can’t see the other things we’re breathing either, nor can I stop the poop from coming, so I choose not to see it as that big of a problem. There is too much anger in our society anyway. How can we love our environment, the earth, when we get so offended and irate at the way others legally express their love?

It makes me wonder, though, about the hearts of those owners. Are they like I was as a kid: happy to be relieved of my dog’s waste at any cost? Are they simply irresponsible people like I sometimes still am? Or is it worse: one of those problems that cause me to lie awake at night? If someone is so thoughtless of this aspect of his or her dog’s life, what else do they refuse to clean up? What else do they neglect?

What else do they inflict?


Terry Barr‘s essay collection, Don’t Date Baptists and Other Warnings From My Alabama Mother, is published by Red Dirt Press. His work has also appeared in Blue Bonnet Review, Quail Bell Magazine, The Bitter Southerner, South Writ Large, and 3288 review. He lives in Greenville, SC, with his family– and the dog, Max, mentioned in the essay. He has a cat, too, but cat poop isn’t such a problem.