By the Taiya River by Penelope Moffet

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By the Taiya River
by Penelope Moffet

I let the wind blow through me
where alder and willow
grow in sandy soil, where
light green cottonwood leaves
vibrate against the darker greens
of spruce and hemlock.
Stones pummeled by the river,
some white flecked with black,
some orange or gray or brown,
some round, some angled, mix
like curved snowtops next to peaks
that survived the glaciers. Sometimes
Taiya the golden retriever
delicately mouths a rock
and brings it to my feet,
then won’t release.
Out on the Dyea Flats
where the Taiya River pours
freshwater into salt
driftwood trees clench stones
in their stiff roots.
I’ve let the river smooth me
and the wind comb my hair,
my snowy top. I go
where the river goes
and I take it with me.

First published in Afield: Literature of Human Ecology. 

PHOTO: Near Skagway, Alaska, the Taiya River estuary and site of the former Klondike gold rush town of Dyea at the beginning of the Chilkoot Trail. Photo by Luigi Zanasi (October 11, 2005).

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NOTE: Dyea is located at the convergence of the Taiya River and Taiya Inlet on the south side of the Chilkoot Pass within the limits of the Municipality of Skagway Borough, Alaska. During the Klondike Gold Rush prospectors disembarked at its port and used the Chilkoot Trail to begin their journey to the gold fields around Dawson City, Yukon, about 500 miles away.  Dyea was abandoned when the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad chose the White Pass Trail (instead of the alternative Chilkoot Trail), which began at Skagway, for its route. Dyea is now within the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. All that remains are a number of foundations surrounded by scraps of lumber and metal, three cemeteries, and the ruins of the wharf. Visitors can usually spot brown bears, black bears, and eagles. Brown bears use the Dyea inlets to feed during salmon spawning season.

PHOTO: Dyea, Alaska, waterfront during the Klondike Gold Rush (March 1898).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In the spring of 2016, I spent just over five weeks in Alaska, two weeks in Ketchikan, then a trip up the inland passage by ferry to Skagway, followed by three weeks at Alderworks, Alaska, a creative retreat in an area called Dyea, located about 10 miles northwest of Skagway. Alderworks is right up against the wilderness, with brown bears for neighbors. When I went for walks up the mountain and by West Creek, I invited the Alderworks dogs to go with me, and when I biked to Dyea Flats I often sang, both because I was happy and to let the neighbors know I was passing by. I loved it there. I hope I can go back someday.

PHOTO:  Near Dyea, Alaska. Photo by Penelope Moffet (2016).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Penelope Moffet’s most recent chapbook is It Isn’t That They Mean to Kill You (Arroyo Seco Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in Natural BridgePermafrostLevure LitterairePearlThe Rise Up ReviewThe Sow’s Ear Poetry ReviewThe Ekphrastic ReviewVerse-VirtualThe Missouri Review, and other literary journals, as well as in the anthologies what wildness is this: Women Write about the Southwest (University of Texas Press, 2007), Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tia Chucha Press, 2016) and California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology (Story Street Press, 2020).

PHOTO:  The author on the porch of her cabin at Alderworks, Alaska (2016). Photo by Penelope Moffet.

Hamlin Lake, Michigan, 1940s by Joan Colby

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Hamlin Lake, Michigan, 1940s
by Joan Colby

A smell of damp, of mildew
Permeated the cottage, lakeside,
Built of simple unfinished planks,
Nothing polished or complicated,
Floorboards, thin walls
So every conversation could be overheard.

A red pump by the chipped sink
That groaned to expel tinged water.
A woodstove my mother cursed
As we stood dripping from our lake baths
Holding bars of Ivory, thin towels wrapped
Around our waists.

The beds were headed with bars
Like jails. Hard in places,
Sunken in others so you could spend
The night spinning from one pole to another
Like a confused explorer.

Outside, the splintery dock
Where father diving into waters
Surprisingly shallow that year
Nearly broke his neck. A rowboat
With heavy recalcitrant oars
To tug us across the lake for supplies.
The splash splash of progress.
Our spitz shuddering in the prow,
He’d fallen in once and remembered.

White birch whose bark could peel
Into testaments on which we wrote
Our having funs and see you soons
Anything with a stamp could be posted
Father contested and was correct.

Rainy afternoons on the porch,
The screens plinging with out-of-tune
Instruments, we played Sorry,
The colored jacks marched on the board
In militant steps or landing badly
As paratroops were sent back
The way a child was sent to bed
Too early, sleepless, listening
To the mysterious things they said.

IMAGE: Vintage postcard, Hamlin Lake, Michigan.

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NOTE: Hamlin Lake is a manmade lake in Michigan enlarged due to the Hamlin Lake Dam backing up the Big Sable River before it reaches Lake Michigan. The lake, which covers 5,350 acres, is 12 miles long and two miles wide. The western section has a maximum depth of almost 80 feet, while the eastern section is 34 feet deep. The first dam was built in the 1850s for a sawmill. Ludington State Park lies along the entire western shore of the lake while the eastern tip of the lake is in the Manistee National Forest. Sand dunes separate the western shore of Hamlin Lake from the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. 

PHOTO: Hamlin Lake, Michigan (July 8, 2005) by Kevin Daniels. 

MAP: Location of Hamlin Lake within the State of Michigan. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby (1939-2020) liked to say that she worked “anywhere a poem would strike”—that it was so important to capture a poem in the moment, “like photographing a bird before it flies away.” During her long career as a poet, she published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Her awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). Her poems are winners of the 2014 and 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She also was selected as an International Merit Award Winner in the 2015 Atlanta Review contest She published 25 books, including  Selected  Poems, which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize, and Ribcage, which won the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her collections include Her Heartsongs  from Presa Press, Joyriding to Nightfall from FutureCycle Press and Bony Old Folks from Cyberwit Press. Her collection from The Poetry Box, The Kingdom of the Birds, was published in September 2020, one month after her passing. 

Survivor Tree by Joan McNerney

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Survivor Tree
May 2011
by Joan McNerney

There in core of the
World Trade Center
this pear tree stands.

It grew from ash of bodies
clasping hands falling in air.

Cared for by those who
believe in life.

Now reaching for heaven
despite the hatred of men
screaming in streets.

Look how sunlight touches
each leaf. Think of
every leaf being
completely unique.

There are none so blind
who will not see all that
has been given to us.

PHOTO: The Survivor Tree at the National 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan, New York City, with World Trade Center Tower One in the background. Photo by CPenler, used by permission.  

NOTE: A Callery pear tree became known as the “Survivor Tree” after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center.  In October 2001, a severely damaged tree was discovered at Ground Zero, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival, and rebirth. (Source: 911memorial.org)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines, such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days, as well as in four Bright Hills Press anthologies, several editions of the  Poppy Road Review, and numerous Spectrum Publications.  Her latest title, The Muse In Miniature, is available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net. She has four Best of the Net nominations.

Anacapa Island by Jonathan Yungkans

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Anacapa Island
by Jonathan Yungkans

The island is Eneepah to the Chumash Islanders, meaning ever-changing or deceptive

or perhaps mirage. Like the picture of California’s best view I saw online—

the spine of Santa Monica Mountains rising from the Pacific, grey against deep blue,

clouds purple bruises above them and the distant sunset gold. Nothing about

thousands of squawking Western Gulls that descend for Spring mating

and were everywhere the day I landed. Glaring and squawking and flying straight

for the tallest person in the tour group—me—while I was doing my best

to tread soft around brown puffballs baby-stepping toward trails. Nothing

about the overcast that hovered above us, a wet concrete shroud

the sun pulled off us an hour or so before we were to leave—just long enough

for fog to hide the scene. As if water were a mirage

that became a couple hundred dolphins leaping alongside our boat to the mainland,

a pod the size of which the captain said he’d never seen—

an eneepah before my eyes, the ocean ever-changing but anything but deceptive.

Previously published in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Issue 6 (Jan 2021).

PHOTO: Lighthouse on Anacapa Island, Channel Islands, California. Photo by David Mark.

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NOTE: Anacapa Island is a small volcanic island located about 11 miles off the coast of Port Hueneme, California, in Ventura County. Composed of a series of narrow islets six miles long, the island is oriented generally east–west and five miles east of Santa Cruz Island. The three main islets, East, Middle, and West Anacapa, are collectively known as The Anacapas. All three islets have precipitous cliffs, with steep drop-offs to the sea. Anacapa is the smallest of the northern islands of the Channel Islands archipelago, and is within Channel Islands National Park. 

PHOTO: Middle and West Anacapa Islands from Inspiration Point on East Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park, California. Photo by Steve Hymon.

MAP: The Channel Islands (in dark green) relative to mainland California.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I saw an article and pictures of Anacapa Island on the KCET public television website and found I could travel there free from Ventura on my birthday. Once on the island, you’re there all day. The gulls were hostile and did not let up most of the time we were there. The dolphins made the trip worthwhile.

PHOTO: Dolphins in the Pacific Ocean, with Anacapa Island, Channel Islands, California, in the background. Photo by Sandi Jiloranch.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach, while working as an in-home health-care provider. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti,  West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach Publishing.

Stone Upon Stone, Soul Upon Soul by Ken Hartke

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Stone Upon Stone, Soul Upon Soul
by Ken Hartke

For good or for ill, they left their mark.
Rich in their vow of poverty;
at least by local standards.
They had their cigars and their chocolate.
They had their music and their books.
They had their Faith.
They had untold riches
in willing backs and upturned faces.

Stone on stone. Wooden crosses.
Beams and candles. Silver chalice.
True, the graveyard was filling up
but there was God’s work to be done.
They were here on a mission;
called by the Assisian of long ago.
Soul upon soul. Tally and count.
Blessed waters all poured out.

Carry your burden. Stone upon stone.
Eyes to heaven. Soul upon soul.
Recall your lessons. No room for doubt.
Strange faces watch from the shadows.
The “Holy Office” keeps the peace
in these lands west of the Pecos,
in this province of sand and salt.
Scores are settled by Godly force.

See the women tending the graveyards?
Their faces looked away. The cost too high.
The flesh was less willing, the spirit, weak.
Some days the raiders came.
Voices raised—a stone thrown in anger.
An arrow. Brother, the fields are on fire!
The burden weighs on fewer willing backs.
Brother, tell us again about Heaven.

Over the pass, it was a long slow walk.
First one mission and then another
left crumbling in the sun.
Stone upon stone. Soul upon soul.
A vow of poverty is for living,
not dying in the hot sand and salt.
So brothers, pick up the pace!
There will be other missions, but not here.

PHOTO: Abo ruins at sunset, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, New Mexico. Photo by Sumiko Photo.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Salt Missions, three Franciscan Missions, were established between 1622 and 1635 among the Pueblo people in the traditional salt producing area of central New Mexico. The missions—Quarai, Gran Quivera, and San Gregorio de Abó (and the entire region)—were largely abandoned by 1670 as the friars and the surviving Indian population sought refuge in the Rio Grande Valley. The pressure from nomadic tribes, the Spanish encomienda system, drought, and growing conflicts within the mission population proved to be too much. The ruined missions, comprising the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (near Mountainair, New Mexico) stand as stark reminders of the earliest Spanish colonizing efforts before the successful Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

PHOTO: Gran Quivira Pueblo, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Near Mountainair, New Mexico. Photo by Rinus Baak.

MAP: Location in New Mexico of the Salt Missions (Salinas Missions).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ken Hartke is a writer and photographer from the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico, but was originally planted and nourished in the Midwest’s big river valleys. Always a writer, his writing was mainly work-focused until he landed in New Mexico in 2013 seeking a new second act. The state has been very welcoming. His New Mexico photography now inspires much of his writing — and sometimes the other way around. The great backcountry continually offers itself as a subject. He has contributed work for the Late Orphan Project’s anthology, These Winter Months (The Backpack Press), Silver Birch Press, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. He keeps an active web presence on El Malpais.

Rafaella Del Bourgo, Goanna on Kangaroo Island

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Goanna on Kangaroo Island
by Rafaella Del Bourgo

A six-foot-long lizard
like a log obstructing the rutted road,
muscular tail, and claws for shredding,
two hundred million years old.

His tongue flicks out into the air.
As he swings his head toward me
and lifts his body,
I hurry into my car and slam the door.

This hot afternoon, his gait is lazy,
lone king of all the island,
of the bush and small towns,
the farms following the shoreline.

The attack to the tire—so fast—
a dialect of flashing teeth.
Even locked inside a Chevy in this foreign land,
I understand every word he says.
That mouth speaks the language of blood, of bone.

PHOTO: Traffic sign, Kangaroo Island, Australia. Photo by Patrick Cooper.

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NOTE: Kangaroo Island, is Australia’s third-largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island. It lies in the state of South Australia, 70 miles southwest of Adelaide.  The native population of Aboriginal Australians that once occupied the island disappeared from the archaeological record when the land became an island following the rising sea levels associated with the Last Glacial Period around 10,000 years ago. During the early 1800s, the island was intermittently settled by sealers and whalers, and from 1836 on was a permanent base during the British colonization of South Australia. The largest town, and the administrative centre, is Kingscote. The island has several nature reserves to protect the remnants of its natural vegetation and native animals, including Flinders Chase National Park at the western end.

PHOTO: Goanna, Kangaroo Island, Australia. Photo by Terri Sharp. NOTE: A goanna is any one of several species of lizards of the genus Varanus found in Australia and Southeast Asia. The goanna features prominently in Aboriginal mythology and Australian folklore.

MAP: Kangaroo Island, indicated in the red box, relative to mainland Australia, with the island shown in the inset at bottom.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My husband and I were visiting friends in Adelaide and took a ferry south to Kangaroo Island where we stayed in a ranger’s hut in a national park.  Across the front door was an iron gate about two-and-a-half feet tall. We found out what it was for the first morning when we opened the door and discovered kangaroos, wallabies, and geese patiently waiting for breakfast. “Don’t feed them,” I said to my husband as he searched for food to give them. There were so many, it was hard to get away. We drove around the island and down the dirt road to the Remarkable Rocks at the beach and, upon returning, saw this large log across the road which turned out to be a goanna, a relative of the Komodo Dragon. Both are types of monitor lizards.

PHOTO: Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, Australia. Photo by Bernard Gagnon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing has appeared in journals such as Nimrod, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, The Adroit Journal, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Caveat Lector, Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, Spillwayand The Bitter Oleander. She has won many awards, including the Lullwater Prize for Poetry in 2003, and in 2006 the Helen Pappas Prize in Poetry and the New River Poets Award. In 2007, 2008, and 2013, she won first place in the Maggi Meyer Poetry Competition. The League of Minnesota Poets awarded her first place in 2009.  In 2010, she won the Alan Ginsberg Poetry Award and the Grandmother Earth Poetry Prize. She was awarded the Paumanok Prize for Poetry in 2012, and then won first place in the 2013 Northern Colorado Writers’ Poetry Contest. Finally, she won the Mudfish Poetry Prize for 2017. Her collection I Am Not Kissing You  was published by Small Poetry Press in 2003, and her chapbook, Inexplicable Business: Poems Domestic and Wildwas published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press. In 2012, she was one of 10 poets included in the anthology Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish IdentityShe has traveled the world and lived in Tasmania and Hawaii.  She recently retired from teaching college-level English classes, and resides in Berkeley, California, with her husband.

Isla Negra by Lorraine Caputo

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Isla Negra
by Lorraine Caputo

Sunset
On the pale jade horizon
            clouds shield a retreating sun
Nebulous rose brushes the still-
            blue heaven above
In this dying light shimmers
            a mother-of-pearl sea

She swells sea-green
            heaving         leaping
                        over boulders
Thin fingers of water reach between
            leaving their prints of
                        golden foam

Then the water swiftly
            streams through fissures
In those left-behind pools
            zebra-striped shells anchor
                        to the wave-worn granite

Early Morning
Upon a many-fractured boulder
            the eternal lovers embrace*
                        their eyes upon the retreating sea
The chilled wind rustles
            Matilde’s spirit hair

They watch me
            a lone figure in this
                        reborn light
My slow steps print
            the sand washed smooth
                        by the night’s high tide

I search among the pebblets
            placing shells in a matchbox
I flee from the waves
            that wet my not-
                        quick-enough feet

In a tidal pool
            a deep-red anemone sleeps
& higher upon the tumbled rocks
            limpets, shells & barnacles still cling
Salt lakes lefts in basins
            begin to crust in this
                        strengthening summer sun

Mid-Afternoon
The midnight-blue sea
            rises into translucent green waves
Far up on this golden beach
            they wash       leaving behind
                        a paler print of foam

The day ages
            greying with clouds gathering
                        over the ocean
This frothing tide grows
Spray leaps higher
Watery fingers reach deeper
            between boulders
Curtains of seaweed resilient
            in the crush of surf

& once more these salten waters
            caress the zebra-striped shells
                        anchored to worn granite

Previously published in Blue Fifth Review (Spring Quarterly, May 2017).

PHOTO: Portion of Pablo Neruda’s house, Casa de Isla Negra, with view of the Pacific Ocean. Photo by Mandy Pirch.

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NOTE: Isla Negra is a coastal area in central Chile, about 70 miles west of Santiago. Isla Negra is best known as the residence of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who lived there at Casa de Isla Negra (with long periods of travel and exile) from 1939 until his death in 1973. The area was named by Neruda, after the dark outcrop of rocks just offshore. Isla Negra means “black island” in Spanish. The Casa de Isla Negra is now a museum. Every year on Neruda’s birthday, July 12th, there are celebrations, both at the house and in the artisans’ square nearby, with poetry readings, music, and picnics on the beach.

MAP: Location of Chile within South America. Isla Negra is located in the central part of the country, about 70 miles west of the capital city of Santiago.

PHOTO: Shoreline with rocks at Isla Negra, Chile. Photo by Gabo.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  In the poem, “the eternal lovers” refers to Neruda and his wife Matilde; Pablo Neruda was a lover of the sea, and his favorite house was here, at Isla Negra, Chile. Both are buried on the grounds of their once-home. Despite its name, Isla Negra is not an island, but rather a small coastal village west-northwest of Santiago de Chile.

PHOTO: Pablo Neruda and wife Matilde Urritia on the rocky shore at Isla Negra.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator, and travel writer. Her work appears in over 180 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, as well as in 12 chapbooks of poetry – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017), and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). She also pens travel pieces, with stories appearing in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and Far-Flung and Foreign (Lowestoft Chronicle Press, 2012), and travel articles and guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. She has done over 200 literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia, and journeys through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. You may follow her Latin America Wander travels on Facebook and at latinamericawander.wordpresscom.

Impressions en Plein Air by Andrena Zawinski

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Impressions en Plein Air
(From Flight 2199, regarding Monet)
by Andrena Zawinski

Far above the street scene graffiti of Paris,
I think of you, Monet, from the air up here
flying this sea foam sky, a shelf of waves
against a floor of mist breaking open
in patches of blue and white.

And I, like some devotee of impending
collisions in texture and transparency, dapple
words as Giverny expatriates might have once
on palettes a harvest of light, cultivating
a poetry of space en plein air.

I have looked, Monet, into the mirror into which
you must have many times glanced or long gazed,
your Orient prints awash in blue flirting the glass
with the constant movement of the sea
in which little else has changed.

You grew big bellied with age, tousle of hair thick
with gray, sight on the wane, canvases growing,
you padding through the long yawn of rooms
painted blue as lichen, yellow as sunflowers,
reflecting lilies afloat between the sky and the water.

But in your garden, beyond the rose blanketed fence,
those flowers brown now in a wilted July. I have looked,
Monet, into the mirror into which you must have
glanced or long gazed recollecting those lilies for me,
yet another tourist here.

They tell me the best part of your life was inhabiting
these gardens. And as the light fades, I cannot help
but wonder where it is next that I will go, and of my words,
what will they become stretching there
en plein air.

First appeared at Adirondack Review and in the author’s collection, Something About.

PHOTO: Water garden at Claude Monet’s home and garden in Giverny, France, by Gilles Bizet.

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PAINTING: Claude Monet, Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1899, Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey.

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NOTE: Giverny is located on the right bank”of the river Seine at its confluence with the river Epte. Situated 50 miles west-northwest of Paris, in the province of Normandy, the village is best known as the location of Claude Monet‘s garden and home. In 1883, Monet and his family rented a house and gardens in Giverny. In 1890, he had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Monet lived and painted in Giverny from 1883 to his death, at age 86, in 1926.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Giverny, a lovely train ride from Paris, is a favorite destination for many to see Monet’s home and gardens as it was for me. To walk where he walked during the most satisfying part of his life was to witness not only his Impressionism on canvas, but to imagine his everyday life “en plein air.” This poem was written on the plane ride home leaving Paris, incorporating qualities of the painting style through color and texture of words.

PHOTO: Claude Monet with some of his water lily paintings. Source: History in Color by Dana Keller

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrena Zawinski’s poetry has received numerous awards for lyricism, form, spirituality, and social concern, several of them Pushcart Prize nominations. Her latest book is Landings from Kelsay Books; others are Something About from Blue Light Press (a PEN Oakland Award) and Traveling in Reflected Light from Pig Iron Press (a Kenneth Patchen Prize), along with several chapbooks. Her poetry has previously appeared on Poetry and Places. 

Gjirokastër Stroll by Norma Wightman

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Gjirokastër Stroll
by Norma Wightman

Workmen hammer the limestone chunks,
fitting them tightly into a new walkway.
Wheelbarrows of stone and sand stand
helter-skelter among workmen as they
bend to their labors. They scarcely take
notice as tourists weave around the
construction to reach shops beckoning
with carpets, crochet work, and carvings.

I watch the men sculpting the stones
to fit snugly against each other; admire
their deft handling of the weighty rocks.
I ask our guide how much these men might
earn each month—the answer comes first in
Lekes, then Euros. The amount would barely
pay for the smallest carving a nearby tourist
just decided to buy.

PHOTO: Gjirokastër, Albania. Photo by Ervin Gjata.

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NOTE: Gjirokastër is a city and in southern Albania, in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino River. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate.”

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I toured Albania in 2019, Gjirokastër struck me as the most picturesque of Ottoman-era cities carved from stone. Stone masonry is a major craft in the city, but the pay is poor and many masons travel to Greece to ply their skill for better pay.

PHOTO: Tourist shops and stone streets in Gjirokastër, Albania. Photo by Ervin Gjata.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Norma Wightman is a retired teacher who has lived on the California Central Coast for 30 years. She travels widely with her husband, but when at home leads interpretive walks for California State Parks.  No surprise that her favorite poetry themes are related to nature. Her poems have been published in Echoes Poetry Journal, Your Daily Poem (online), and in chat books.

The German Hotel by Charles Bukowski

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The German Hotel
by Charles Bukowski

the German hotel was very strange and expensive and had
double doors to the rooms, very thick doors, and it over—
looked the park and the vasser tern and in the mornings
it was usually too late for breakfast and the maids
would be everywhere changing sheets and bringing in
towels, but you never saw any hotel guests, only the
maids and the desk man and the day desk man was all
right because we were sober during the day but we had
trouble with the night man who was some sort of snob
and not very good with getting the corkscrews and ice
and wine glasses up to us and he was always phoning to
say the other guests objected to our noise.
what other guests?
I always told him that everything was very quiet,
nothing was going on, that somebody must be crazy, so
will you please stop ringing?
but he kept ringing, he became almost like a
companion to us through the night.
but the day man was very nice, he always had little
messages of importance that either meant money, or a
good friend coming to see us, or both.
we stayed at the hotel twice during our trip to
Europe and each time we checked out the day clerk
bowed ever so slightly, he was tall and well-dressed
and pleasant and he said each time: “it was nice to
have you with us. please come here again if you return.”

“thank you,” we said, “thank you.”

it’s our favorite hotel and if I ever get rich I am
going to buy it and fire the night clerk and there will
be enough ice cubes and corkscrews for everybody.

NOTE: Charles Bukowski wrote “The German Hotel” in 1979, the year following his first trip to his birthplace, Andernach, Germany.  The poem appeared in Wormwood Review, No. 81, 1981.

PHOTO: Andernach, Germany. Photo by Yakari-Travel.

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NOTE: Andernach is a town with a current population of about 30,000 in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.  Located on the banks of the Rhine River, it is one of the oldest towns in Germany, tracing its origins to a Roman settlement in 12 B.C.

PHOTO: Birthplace of Charles Bukowski, Aktienstraße 12, 56626 Andernach, Germany. Photo by Smalltown Boy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Quintessential Los Angeles poet and novelist Charles Bukowski was born on August 16, 1920 in Andernach, Germany, where his parents met a few years before. Bukowski’s German-American father Henry was a sergeant in the United States Army serving in Germany after the country’s 1918 defeat during WWI.  Henry had an affair with Katharina Fett, a German friend’s sister, and she became pregnant. Charles Bukowski claimed to have been born out of wedlock, but Andernach marital records show that his parents married one month before his birth. On April 23, 1923, the family sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Baltimore, Maryland, where they settled. In 1930 the family moved to Los Angeles, where Bukowski lived most of his life. He died of leukemia in the Los Angeles community of San Pedro on March 9, 1994.