The Bull Who Bars the Gate to Heaven

Zella Christensen

The bull who bars the gate to heaven

remembers you from an instant

ago, when he stepped onto a New Mexico road

and you failed to hit the brakes.

You’re still adrenaline-charged as you confront

him again: flesh so hard it crumpled

your sedan’s hood, a skull that made

glass snow of your windshield,

and horns that pinned your hand

to the leather seat. Nobody but him

is fit to weigh your heart,

but he only stands at heaven’s gate, still

as he stood on the lonely road,

daring you, now and then, to make a move

and knowing you can’t help but barrel on.




Krista Hoeppner Leahy

A curvy-topsy tornado funneled up, not down

uprooting the sky-trees from the cumulus-sea-above


dumping them on the ground where they are all

dying from lack of clouds and too much media attention.


Greenpeace has converted several transport slings

designed for beached whales but the sky-trees keep


falling through the canvas no matter how much

water the volunteers eye-drop onto gravity-bitten bark.


Several have melted completely into the ground

leaving behind no trace but an ineffable sense of loss


nearby if you’re walking barefoot, with or without an Iphone.

Some, arboreally brave, linger even as they disintegrate—


branches split, leaves torn, roots weeping past reflection

puddles that do not splash as more volunteers march toward


the storm, unaware of limbs and leaves permanently earthed.

The worms try to help. Sniff a cirrus frond, they urge, lick a bog


of too-blue sap, finger cerulean bark. Breathe thru your cloaca.

There is no app to map a sky-fallen forest. Choose: Empty


urns into sky-plashets or self-immolate. What? Ashes cry

the worms, water them with ashes so their sap may rise, fly.


All of us belong to the sky.




Pepe Rojo




I am a writing machine. Scratch that. My memory’s not keeping up with me. Let’s start over. I am a counting machine. I count the days, I count the numbers. I count the money, and I’ve even counted the  years.  You  gain  some  you  lose  some. Dollars, I mean. Money too. Typing counting machine. One, two three, A, b, c. I type what I count. I count what I type. I type on my count. I count on my type. Can you count on yours?  P l e a s e , p l e a s e , p l e a s e   c o u n t   o n   m e . T y p e   a n d   c o u n t   o  n    m  e   .   P  l  e  a  s  e    t  y  p  e    p  l  e  a  s  e    c  o  u  n  t    p  l  e  a  s  e    t  y  p  e    p  l  e  a  s  e      p    l    e    a    s    e      t    y    p    e        p      l      e      a      s      e        p      l      e      a      s      e








Don’t mind if we stare. It’s perfectly understandable. We like to look. Don’t worry. We won’t skin you. We won’t flail you. We know you’re curious. And we like to look. Why don’t you come closer. Maybe you want to touch us. It’s perfectly allright. We love visitors. Come and join us. We’ll take care of you. Just join us. Don’t be shy. That’s it. You know you want to. Come closer. Closer. Even closer. That’s it. You know you like to look, you know you want to feel. Closer. Now. Just touch us. With the tip of your fingers. That’s it. That’s better. Now stay. Here. Stay. Yes. Yes.






You sick fuck. You fuck sick. Dick my suck. You brick. You pitch. Duck my sick. You suck. You fuck. You frick. You sick suck. Sick sick fuck.


am  i  mad?  i  am  mad.  i  am  mad.  i  am  dam.  i  am mad mad am i i am mad am mad am mad am i am a dam am i a mad mad am mad am i mad am i madamadammadam am   i   mad   dam   madam   am   i   mad   mad dammm   damm   damm   damm   damm   damm   damm damm    damm    add    mad    madaddamaddamaddam dam    mad    madmadmadammadmadmadammadam    i







All photos were shot at different so-called visionary environments, usually built over a long period of time by untrained and unschooled artists. Part landscape artists, part architects, they usually decorate and modify their dwelling spaces without a definite plan and scavenge their materials from their surroundings, giving them a second life as part of their architectural inventions. Their work usually involves deeply personal visions and religious-aesthetic experiences, problems with neighbors and near family, and usually ends with their death.

They are unofficial cathedrals of our strange times.


Photos 1 and 4 were taken at Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens, Pennville, Georgia, 2010.

Reverend Howard Finster worked for almost 40 years (1965-2001) in his Paradise Gardens, focusing mainly on religious outreach. His production, besides the Garden, was enormous (more than 10,000 drawings). I visited Paradise Gardens almost a decade after his passing, and as it usually happens with these kind of places, when the artist’s death keeps them from working on the place, his environment was being over-run by (or maybe returned to) Nature.


Photo 2 taken at Vince Hanneman ‘s Cathedral of Junk, Austin, Texas, 2012.

Vince Hanneman has been building his cathedral out of 60 tons of junk on his back garden since 1988, mainly because it was fun. He had to tear down his 200-TV pyramid due to building inspectors’ recommendations, but he turned it into a “zen garden of TVs”.


Photo 3 taken at Haw Par Villa, Singapore, 2012.

Built in 1937 by the Burma-born Aw brothers, creators of the medical ointment Tiger Balm, Haw Par Villa is a mythological theme park containing more than a thousand sculptures, drawing from both the Buddhist and the Chinese tradition. The main attraction is the gruesome “10 Courts of Hell”. This photo was taken right at the entrance of the ten courts.


Photo 5 taken at José Gómez Hernández’s La Casa de los Monos, 2016.

Pepe Gómez spent more than ten years pasting and hanging discarded toys on his house after his wife died, and became a local legend. He even says that some of the toys used to speak and make noises. He left the house in 2012, but the ruins remain. Time and minor fires have made them even more uncanny in sadder ways.




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.


third world problems

Tai Allen

when rainwater becomes our source of bathing

and the rest fills a gallon of semi-clean plastic

humble roofs turn tin & rust

suddenly the word enough

rhymes with barely

the clothes we will sleep in are also living in the daylight

and the days are then measured in loss and love

humble roofs become tin & rust

we will discuss enough

but only find barely




Read Michael’s interview with Tai about “third world problems”.


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.


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


from Concrete Jungle

Travis Macdonald

New Jersey


New Hampshire







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”.




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.


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



the creek indians had

many different delicious dishes

made from corn one of which is



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




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




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




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




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



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





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


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.