Papa Bois and the Boy

Brandon O’Brien

I startled you the first time.

You spilled bougainvilleas deep violet

from your lap, bursting all around

us. The whole forest was staring

 

at me, waiting to see what came next.

You ran before I could finish

calling your name.

I sympathized, you know.

 

The iron devils had already

moved in, their teeth marking your trees,

splitting rocks with their toes

in search of something more golden-black

 

than freshwater clear.

I looked like a devil’s-heart, no?

And how could I see you?

But fear makes special senses,

 

desperation is its own sight.

You never stopped me laying

my head in your heaven— “but

that is what it here for,” you

 

say. “For rest.”

You’re a charming

king of a more dazzling domain.

I’m as afraid of the outside as you;

 

look at us, you a god with horns,

me a man who ran and tore the city’s dress off me.

The mimosa pudica closes her doors

with each tremor of modernity drawing close.

 

You bring mockingbirds to our dinner

tables soon, dare to kiss a boy so

future-scented, tell me I don’t

need to apologize. “The city does

 

forget easy. The woods can’t.”

I want to live as long as you do,

hand over hand, be a pleasant memory,

‘til the city steps on the very last green.

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Kill or Be Killed

Aozora Brockman

On hands and knees between two rows of dry

potato plants, I sweated far from the rest.

Otōsan had dug the ground for me with two

great sweeps of the tractor, up and back, so that

the roots of all came loose at once and made

simple the task to fill my red pail heaping.

No rain for weeks made cracks appear that sliced

the soil into great slabs, heavy as rock,

and those I moved—teeth grinding slow to keep

from thinking of the rays of sun that lit my back

ablaze and how my fingertips felt ripped

open each time I dug at the coarse soil,

in search of smoothness. But when I lifted that mound

of earth, I saw a swarm of black and beady ants

who, caught off guard, looked up at light in fear.

Some ants with creamy eggs clenched in their mouths

burrowed back down into the dark for safety,

and still a few brave souls rushed up my arms

to bite: kill or be killed. I could not help but smash

them dead—to stop the pinching pain perhaps,

but more so because my mind forgot to care.

I watched one crumple off my forearm,

and there where it fell, on an overturned clump,

a crusty cocoon shone silver and large—

asleep, curled like the moon. It was as big

as a tomato worm, which is why I thought

Otōsan would want it gone before it could

lay eggs. So taking its body between thumb and

forefinger, I squeezed and saw milky liquid

spurt out. And then I sat, eyes wide and hand drenched

in the sticky white blood, chilled by the hot air.

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Sidelong Catastrophe

Chloe Clark

I’m not sure who the sky is

when it’s not the sky

 

but I think I know this river

was once a beautiful woman

 

viewed from above all bodies

of water look like someone

 

you once loved and the color

of the trees only matters

 

when there are trees at all

and sometimes I imagine

 

that we can solve everything

design cities that fit into

 

the Earth instead of making

the Earth fit into them

 

but mostly we sit at drawing

boards and paint scenes

 

of decay because that is what

we know and sometimes I think

 

I can see the sky but

it might just be a person

 

and I’ll miss the sun most

when the clouds weep the ghosts

 

of rivers for days on end

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from Concrete Jungle

Travis Macdonald

New Jersey

new-jersey

New Hampshire

new-hampshire

Wisconsin

wisconsin

Montana

montana

skull_green_scenebreak

Over the course of a couple of years, I have managed to catalogue the most commonly listed invasive species for all 50 states using the USDA National Agricultural Library as my primary source. The difference in font size is directly dependent on the number of invasive plant species categorized as such by each state agency and, of course, the geographical shape and area of the given territory. The only significant variation in that pattern arises due to the fact that many variant plant species differentiated by their Latinate names in fact share a folk or colloquial name.

Read an Interview with Travis MacDonald about “Concrete Jungle”.

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Agapostemon

reckoning-1-cover-200x300

Blythe Woolston

She is green in the sunlight

standing at the brink of her little home

little because she is little.

We are an odd direction life took

because life takes all odd directions

the little ground-dwelling bees,

they carried pollen when plum trees and apples

bloomed early,

a direction odd to honeybees and bumblebees.

I have a chickadee in my plum tree;

plums by the grace

of the ground-dwelling bees:

those solitary little green sisters

who live with one another

in their tiny tunnels,

but aren’t of one mind.

They are independent thinkers,

the ground-dwelling bees.

I guess that’s why they could read the weather

and rise up to meet the plum blossoms early.

Later, all the bees gathered

in the herbs and roses—

all the bees

even honeybees

who had probably arrived by truck.

I have sympathy for those bees.

the honey bees;

they do hard work

and get paid lesser sugar.

I have sympathy for them

making a middle passage

chained in the dark,

hidden from the stars

and the the angle of the sun.

Do you remember that wreck of the bees

somewhere on the Interstate highways?

The horrific loss of life

hives spilled open

like a rural schoolbus wreck

or when the logging truck hit a herd of ponies.

The acceptable losses

escaping through the nets

left behind like ghosts

drowning in the traffic currents.

Read an interview with Blythe Woolston.

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Four Found Poems

Reckoning 1

James Treat

These found poems are drawn from interviews with elderly citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation recorded in 1937-38 as part of the Indian-Pioneer History Project sponsored by the federal Works Progress Administration and archived at the Oklahoma Historical Society and the University of Oklahoma.

 

Older and Very Sour

1

 

the creek indians had

many different delicious dishes

made from corn one of which is

osafke

 

it is not intoxicating

as some white people believe

 

very few know how to make osafke

the old indian women are

especially learned in making it

it must be made right

or it will not taste good

 

vce cvlvtwe is the indian name

of the corn from which

osafke or safke is made

the corn is used when it

has dried after it has ripened

it is shelled by hand

 

the corn is put in the

mortar keco while wet

then the

pounder kecvpe is taken up

by hand about the middle and

the pounding begins

 

2

 

the corn is then placed in a woven

birch skin basket with small spaced holes

which separates the flakes and dust

from the corn

the corn grits are then emptied into

a kettle of hot water

when the water reaches the boiling point

one half cup of a lye solution is added

to taste and soften the safke it is then

boiled from three to four hours

 

safke is placed in an earthen jar and

kept about four or five days until it sours

 

safke is used as a drink and as a food

the indians raised white corn

which they called safke corn

when the corn matures it is

about twelve to fourteen inches long

 

3

 

safke corn is a flint corn hard

and smooth

 

the proportions are

three buckets of water in washpot

one gallon of grits

and one cup of lye

 

most people dont like it when

it gets sour i think its better

when its two or three days old

 

4

 

i liked safke when it was

first made and sweet

and i liked it when it was

older and very sour

nobody will like the

sour safke when he first

tastes it you have to

get used to it

 

5

 

i have heard a story about an old woman and how she

made the first safke a drink which is a great

favorite of the indians

 

there was once a young man who lived with his old

grandmother the young man would often go off into

the woods on hunting trips and be gone all day

 

every time he left he came home to find that the

grandmother had prepared the safke the young man

began to ponder over this because there was no corn

around the place

 

he finally decided to stay near the place and find

out what the old grandmother did

 

 

the old grandmother said since you have found out

the secret now you take me to the old corn crib and

lock me up in it close all the openings and

cracks after four days you look in and look at

what there is

 

that is why some people say that the corn is an old

woman and it was best not to provoke it

 

all old ladies are easily provoked and are cranky

 

if you do not care for the corn you will lose it

 

 

Jefferson Berryhill, b. 1909

Sarah Fife, b. 1861

Martha Scott Tiger, b. 1890

William Baker, b. 1868

Robert Thompson, b. 1888

 

 

The Power of Medicine

the indians have always had faith

and been the strongest believers in

the power of medicine men and their

powers when using the medicine for

personal or tribal protection in

illness

 

it was the older leaders and

medicine men who were noted and

gifted for their power of preparing

the strong and effective medicine

that would enable any of the indians

to escape any harm

 

any group of indians out hunting or

on travels were never without their

tribal medicine man it was the

medicine man who knew of the best

ways of saving his people and he was

much respected by his people

 

the white meal hompetv hvtkē was the source and

basis of the secret power

the white meal consisted of special foods taken by

the prophets

medicine men

and other leaders

it was made up of mostly corn the pounded corn

meal made into bread pounded corn prepared as a drink

of which the indians are very fond and one or two

articles of food

all this had no seasoning

 

the greatest enemy to the indians was in the use of

salt

fat

flour

sugar

or anything else sweet

 

although the indians had never used these things

they began to realize how very necessary they

were to them and how the added flavor made

many of their meals very delicious

 

the power of medicine

was not so effective

from that time on

 

 

Wilburn Hill, b. ca. 1909

 

 

Lives of the Fish

first of all

the fish killing is a bit out of the picture

for the indians of today due to the fact that

the occasion has been outlawed by the white men

 

during the days of fish killing

the streams were full of

various kinds and sizes of fishes

and the indian killed only

that which he needed

 

the thing that figures mostly in

the indian fish killing is a weed

called the devils shoestring

the root of this weed is

very bitter

it is this nature of the weed

that causes the fish to rise

to the surface of the water

 

digging the strings is about the

hardest part of the whole affair

it takes brain and muscle

to be able to get your quota

 

if it is a flowing stream then

the medicine is scattered into

the water in one place

if the kill should be in

water that is stationary then

the medicine must be scattered or

applied all over

 

before any of the participants

or anyone in the group

looked into the chosen water

a ceremonial was in order

the one with the power of

medicine paints a color on

the cheeks of everybody

 

it was a splendid reputation

to be called a good shot with

the bow and arrows

it was an honor to kill the

biggest fish during the occasion

it took skill to be able to

look for and find an arrow that

has been lost in the water

one must know how to shoot

the fish

 

thus ends the story of fish killing

the longing in the hearts of the old indians

who watch the modern day oil wells and salt water

become a menace to the lives of the fish

continue to ache

and they wish to know just why

an honest mans hunt for the fish for his use

to strengthen his body that he may live longer

is more detrimental than to kill a fish without

thinking at all

indian killed that which he needed

oil men kill because they must have heaven

on earth with the money that he accumulates

 

 

Jefferson Berryhill, b. 1909

 

 

The Deep Fork Bottoms

it might have been back along in

eighteen eighty and up around in

the eighteen nineties

that there was a great demand for

walnut and pecan wood

i think it was some foreign

country germany it was that

was buying great quantities of

this wood to manufacture it into

gun stocks

 

many walnut and pecan trees were

cut down in the deep fork bottoms

as there were more of that kind of

trees there than anywhere else

the trees were sawed down and

cut up first and the stump was

later uprooted and trimmed off

because it was said that the stump

part made the best kind of gun

stock

then it was loaded and hauled

to eufaula where it shipped off on

the katy railroad

 

i think that the timber that was

shipped to the foreign country

was received back in bullets

during the world war

 

 

Toney Carolina, b. 1875

Read an interview with James Treat here.

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Rivers Lament

Mohammad Shafiqul Islam

Rivers lament over why they were born, they

Question their existence, ask their maker if any

The rivers weep copious tears no one can see

For the loss irreparable. Clinically dead, they

Seem to wait for a time when news echoes in

The air: the wasteland returns. Cuckoos will

No more sing to declare the advent of spring

Deadly and ear-piercing cries of humans and

Animals will break stones. O agonized rivers

You don’t shout like human beings absolutely

Vacuum within! You’re calm like trees gifting

Nature with gentle breeze. Desperate and evil

Land grabbers ravage banks extending gluttony

To the rivers, eating out life, destroying beauty

And disturbing cadence like Grendel. The rivers

Had golden days with stream of water as a force

To create rhythmic sounds as if celestial music

And petite white flakes made many a shoal of

Small white fish swim, jump and fall in between

Giant boulders to have a flower nearby blossom

Rapidly and feast the eyes of travelers. Children

Would bathe in a group, young girls would swim

Together, farmers wash mud after plowing their

Fields to sow seeds for golden crops. Toxic water

In different colors spawns fetor making distance

Between humans and rivers—to touch water now

Is to catch incurable diseases! O rivers, you do not

Inundate fields to bring silt for healthier crops and

Bountiful harvests anymore! The soil has already

Begun to crack, trees stopped growing and a new

Form of epizootic is imminent. Ether couriers your

Valued missives: don’t kill water, let your life flow.

 

 

Read the interview with Mohammad Shafiqul Islam here.

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Transition

Erin Hoffman

Reckoning 1Like coronary occlusion, it began small,
spiral shell and Sierpinski gasket, a vibration
amongst the strings rippling outward into
rising sea levels, Pacific
hurricane, the exhalation of universes, sublime
and terrifying–
and then we were gone.
Love and strings; they go together.

I poured into him my rivers
with their poisons, my plains and valleys
parched; his acrid exhaust burned the air
between us. Fertilizer we fed into tributaries
bloomed algae where it should not have been;
the glaciers of our filial strength
dissolved from below, slipped
beneath 34 degree indifference;
birds lost their way.

Now we return to the beginning.
We go below, realign Fibonacci
series, retune strings, pray
for rain.

When the first green appears,
luminous leaves, one then one
then two, we will cherish it, clarity
arrived at last with oceanfront property in Sacramento:

in the end there is only life;
in the end there is only life.

Read Michael’s interview with Erin here.

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