Art Fair by Jeannie E. Roberts

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Art Fair
by Jeannie E. Roberts

—near the shores of Lake Pepin

Down Great River Road
past the family cottage
and clear-cut memories of lighthearted days

a train whistle blasts
and Saturday shines as only the third
Saturday in July can.

At Stockholm’s Village Park
artists / musicians / and fair-goers
merge
fuse
with the unity of gathering
lighten
with the poetry
of place.

CREDIT: “Art Fair” appears in Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015) and was first published in Goose River Anthology (Goose River Press, 2012).

PHOTO: Lake Pepin by Jeannie E. Roberts, all rights reserved. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Pepin and Stockholm are villages within Pepin County, Wisconsin, USA. Great River Road (Highway 35) is a Wisconsin state highway running north-south across western Wisconsin, USA. 

NOTE: Lake Pepin is a naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River on the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is located in a valley carved by the outflow of an enormous glacial lake at the end of the last Ice Age.  Lake Pepin is now a corridor for water, highway, and rail transportation. Known as the birthplace of water skiing, it hosts a variety of recreational activities. For over 40 years, artists have been filling Stockholm Village Park overlooking Lake Pepin on the third Saturday each July for the Stockholm Art Fair. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books,  including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children (Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019). Her work appears in North American and international online magazines, print journals, and anthologies. She is poetry reader and editor of the online literary magazine  Halfway Down the StairsWhen she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings.

Belief by Laura Foley

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Belief
by Laura Foley

Walking the endless Meseta, we turn to see
yellow broom flowers, orange poppies going by—
the only way to know these pilgrims’ progress.

Each night, an ancient town new to us,
steps closer to our journey’s end—
we feel no mystic pull toward Santiago,

but we believe in the awe of those who do,
as Gregorian chants pipe through a darkened church,
and a friend we meet weeps freely at a café table.

We leave Castrojeriz in the graying dark,
before dawn, before cafés open, our shoes
tapping a slow rhythm on quiet streets,

and though at this moment they’re empty of all but us,
we know the road, the path we’ve chosen,
takes us somewhere many have gone before.

We feel them all in the hard-packed trail,
in our aching feet,
in our will to keep going, a mysticism we can believe.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: This photo was taken near Castrojeriz, Spain. We had walked about 200 miles and still had another 300 miles to go. It was springtime, it rained often, and the wildflowers, especially the poppies, were magnificent. (Photo by Clara Gimenez)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My wife and I walked five hundred miles, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Santiago Spain, on El Camino, an ancient pilgrim’s path.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Foley is the author of seven poetry collections. Why I Never Finished My Dissertation received a starred Kirkus Review, was among their top poetry books of 2019, and won an Eric Hoffer Award. Her collection It’s This is forthcoming from Salmon Press. Her poems have won numerous awards, and national recognition—read frequently by Garrison Keillor on The Writers Almanac; appearing in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Laura lives with her wife, Clara Gimenez, among the hills of Vermont. Visit her at laurafoley.net.

The Spirit Weavers by Nancy Lubarsky

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The Spirit Weavers
by Nancy Lubarsky

The woman sits on a stool outside the local tourist
shop. She splits the dried and bleached palm leaves
into thin strands. She blends dyes from complex
recipes of flowers, roots, and berries to interweave

tribal tales, wildlife, or patterns from the earth’s
geometry. She begins the basket at the base, in a spiral.
She bends the reeds, loops, and tightens—one row over
another. This basket may take months or years to finish.

We had just a week with you, our guide. We are on your
journey—your tightly woven story. Not the city where
you were born, not the tall skyscrapers, or the locks of
the canal, but the countryside. You want us to know real

Panamanian life: a one-hotel town with only the day’s
catch on the menu; the force of a waterfall we push against
just to stay upright; the tree frog’s green shimmer in the
rainforest after dark; a steep sunset hike, not to see the sun,

but the breadth of the valley; the still Caribbean waters
above, the coral and sea life metropolis below. For just a
brief time you unravel these fibers for us—the ones in
your heart, the ones that protect your country’s spirit.

Previously published in the author’s poetry collection The Only Proof (Kelsay Books, a Division of Aldrich Press, 2017).

PHOTO: Clouds dropping over mountains of Cordillera Central and Santa Fe National Park, north of Santa Fe, Panama. Photo by Mark Poplawski, used by permission.

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NOTE: The Wounaan Indians of the Darien Rainforest in Panama are some of the finest basket weavers in the world. Using the Chunga palm and other plant materials, they weave utilitarian baskets, ceremonial pieces, and the most beautiful and intricate basketry depicting plants and animals, fish and flowers, insects and geometric patterns. The Wounaan translate their belief in the harmony in nature by transforming organic materials into baskets. They see “spirit” and “nature” as inseparable. (Source: Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art)

PHOTO: A basket the author obtained during her visit to Panama.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  This poem was written about my trip to Panama several years ago. While most people just see the canal and move on to other places, our guide showed us another side of Panama (really several sides) that were unique and beautiful.  This picture depicts a sunset hike in Santa Fe, Panama.

LubarskyABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nancy Lubarsky writes from Cranford, New Jersey. An educator for over 35 years, Nancy has been published in various journals, including Exit 13, Lips, Tiferet, Poetic, Stillwater Review, and Paterson Literary Review. Nancy received honorable mention in the 2014 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards and again in 2016 and 2018. She is the author of two booksTattoos (Finishing Line Press) and The Only Proof (Kelsay Books, a Division of Aldrich Press). Nancy received honorable mention from The Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Contest (2018).  She has also been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.

This Afternoon in London by Larry Pike

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This Afternoon in London
by Larry Pike

I stood in the museum’s Manuscript Room
long enough to hear the grave whisper
of the gimpy Lord’s soul as it pressed
against the leaded glass. Was it an alien

tongue or simply muffled sound indistinct
about my ear? Its swelling sigh did not arouse
the sentry who spared an indifferent look
at me leaning across the restraining rope,

my shadow spreading over the heavy pane
preserving Byron’s frail pages—there and
there and there where I could not discern
his rapid hand on the brittle sheets.

The chill casement received my reckless touch
like a busy confessor eager for some original sin,
and discharged a meager static spark
through the window on the dead.

PHOTO: British Museum, main entrance, London, England (2018).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In August 1973, I traveled with nine friends on a two-week tour of England. During one of our days in London, we spent most of the afternoon in the British Museum. I was a rising college junior and had recently declared an English major, and I was eager to visit the Manuscript Room. The Magna Carta, among other rare documents, is there, but I was keen to see the pages on display by some of the poets I’d studied the previous semester—Wordsworth, Shelley, and Byron. I stood for quite awhile trying to decipher Byron’s penmanship. That trip with my friends was a great journey and a memorable time together, but that afternoon was the highlight for me.

IMAGE: Don Juan’ Autograph draft of stanza of the Dedication and of Canto I, stanza 220 (circa 1818). Find more information at the British Library. In 1973, the British Library Act 1972 detached the library department from the British Museum, but until 1997 it continued to host the now separated British Library in the same Reading Room and building as the museum.

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NOTE: The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, England, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art, and culture. Its permanent collection of about eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence. The Museum’s holdings document the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. The first public national museum in the world, the Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the Irish physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. It first opened to the public in 1759, in Montagu House, on the site of the current building.

PHOTO: The British Museum Reading Room (2006).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Larry Pike’s poetry has appeared in a variety of journals. He has work forthcoming in River and South ReviewBetter Than Starbucks, Saint Katherine Review, and Cape Magazine. His collection Even in the Slums of Providence will be published in October 2021 by Finishing Line Press.

Author photo by Bryn Chapman.

Camelback Road, Scottsdale, Arizona by Rafaella Del Bourgo

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Camelback Road, Scottsdale, Arizona
by Rafaella Del Bourgo

Sunday, seven a.m.,
before the unbearable heat.
This six-lane highway almost empty,
the double line down the center
white as bone.
I am running toward the small lake
near my mother’s condo,
pumping my body clean
with air and speed
and coursing blood.

To the west, Camelback Mountain
pushes up out of the ground,
double humped.
At the hospital
Mother lies in her
new, astonished state—
an open-eyed still life
of woman and machine.

Across the lake, a few small boats
float in the morning calm,
barely leaving a wake.
Close to the water’s edge
a duck waddles toward me
with her fantail of young.
I have remembered my offering of oats
and, both palms extended,
drop to my knees.

PHOTO: Arizona desert, Phoenix/Scottsdale area, Arizona. Photo by Rosemarie Mosteller, used by permission.

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NOTE: Camelback Mountain, a prominent landmark of the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area, is a popular recreation destination for hiking and rock climbing. The name is derived from its shape, which resembles the hump and head of a kneeling camel. The mountain is composed of a geologic unconformity between two separate rock formations. The higher part of the peak is Precambrian granite (ca. 1.5 billion years old). The head of the camel is predominantly red sedimentary sandstone from the Chattian stage of the Oligocene epoch (ca. 25 million years old).

PHOTO: Scottsdale, Arizona, desert landscape at sunset, with Camelback Mountain in the background. Photo by Artisan, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was staying in Scottsdale while my mother was ill and in the hospital. I was very worried about her, of course, and this anxiety seemed to infect my entire body. Only by running hard and sweating hard could I externalize it. Then, at the end of the run I was rewarded by the sight of the cool water and by the duck and her ducklings.  Feeding them gave me a brief moment of pleasure, before I turned around and ran back to shower and go to the hospital for visiting hours.

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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 and one spoiled cat.

Paris Stories: Two by Diana Rosen

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Paris Stories: Two
by Diana Rosen

On our way to somewhere else, noon time
Gregorian chants draw us into Notre Dame
another mystical moment possible only when
you leave the guidebook in your hotel room.
We light candles, “just in case,” then visit
Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation
the cryptically named homage to 200,000
martyrs deported from Vichy France
to the Camps of Cruelty to The Other.
It’s silent, somber, as stark and simple
as a shroud. Stepping down the narrow
hallways, we find irony everywhere:

in the chilling floor plaque:
“They descended into the mouth
of the earth and they did not return”

in the land under the monument:
that once supported a morgue

in the exit sign:
“Forgive But Never Forget”

in the names of those camp, but
no mention of who was sent there:
not the Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses,
political dissidents, the disabled,
homosexuals, Resistance fighters,

nor Jews.

PHOTO: Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (Paris, France).

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NOTE: The Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (English: “Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation”) is a memorial to the 200,000 people who were deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. It is located in Paris, France, on the site of a former morgue, underground behind Notre Dame on Île de la Cité.  Designed by French modernist architect Georges-Henri Pingusson, it was inaugurated in 1962 by the President of France, Charles de Gaulle.

PHOTO:  Interior, Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. Photo by Morbilli, used by permission. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diana Rosen is a poet/essayist/flash fiction writer with credits in Tiferet Journal, RATTLE, Existere Journal of Arts & Literature, among more than 70 publications in Canada, the UK, Australia, and the U.S. She is also the author of 13 nonfiction books on food, beverage, and lifestyle topics in the U.S. Find more of her work at authory.com.

Stone of North Circle, Near the Cove, Avebury by William Doreski

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Stone of North Circle, Near the Cove, Avebury
by William Doreski

Am I more impressed by the stone,
a notched and corrugated haystack,
or by the neighboring oak embraced
by two dozen ivy vines thicker
than my thigh? The oak itself
boasts a four-foot diameter trunk
and looks sturdy enough to brace
an Anglo-Saxon Parthenon.

Here everything’s suspect, houses
cringing inside the great circle,
overlapped by the central and south
circles, ditched and surrounded
by a white chalk bank. Anything
could happen within this space,
in this timid whitewashed village.

Look at the sheep, grazing fearless
in flat and ordinary pastures.
Note the sheep dog. He’s happy
to see me, dashes over for pets
and praise, so proud of himself
for keeping his flock whole and fluffy.

The rotund stone looks dreadful
as some prehistoric monster’s skull.
The crease across its middle
suggests a toothless scowl. It’s watching
the huge oak tree, waiting for it
to die and fall, the vines tearing loose
and dangling like severed nerves.

The village hunkers down and hopes
the stones aren’t as sentient
as they appear. The tree and sheep
don’t care, but don’t realize
the big stones define this circle
to dominate, not to share.

PHOTO: Part of the South Inner Circle of Avebury in Wiltshire, England. Photo by Traveling Light, used by permission.

NOTE: Avebury is a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles, around the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England. One of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain, it contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities and retired after three decades at Keene State College. His most recent book of poetry is Stirring the Soup (2020).  He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.

Author photo by Keene State College

Ghosts of The Great Hunger by Thomas A. Thrun

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Ghosts of The Great Hunger
by Thomas A. Thrun

In Ennistymon, County Claire, Ireland
the River Inaugh at The Cascades
falls o’er bedrock in its wild rush
in its hurry to the hungry sea
for all the souls lost upon The Burrens
the poor unfortunates wasted away
buried nameless in mass graves
or in the countless small graveyards
beside the small churches abandoned
for want of any living still left
who hadn’t yet given up all hope
their fortified walls thus in ruins
that their limestone blocks be used
as headstones, each moaning with the gusts
that blow harsh across the emptied fields
of the children orphaned and adults
taken by The Great Hunger
the potato blight famine of 1845
because there was nothing left for them
no food nor coats nor even means to
buy the wee boy Michael a proper stone.
And the River Inaugh yet roars in vain
still now to drown the anguished cries
from the ghosts in all those crudely marked
and unmarked graves, as well as
even now our own salty tears.

PHOTO: Monument to An Gorta Mor (The Great Famine) in Ennistymon, County Clare, Ireland,. This is first memorial in Ireland to honor those who suffered and were lost during Ireland’s Great Famine (1845-1852). It is located across the road from Ennistymon Hospital, built on the grounds of the local workhouse, where an estimated 20,000 Irish died, and a mass graveyard for children who perished and were buried without coffins. The memorial shows a mother’s ghost, wringing her hands as she watches her starving orphan son from Heaven’s Gate. 

Photo by Steven Cukrov, used by permission.  

MEMORIAL’S INSCRIPTION READS: Gentlemen, There is a little boy named Michael Rice of Lahinch about 4 years being an orphan, his father having died last year and his mother has expired on last Wednesday night, who is now about being buried without a coffin! Unless ye make some provision for such. The child in question is now is at the workhouse gate expecting to be admitted if not he will starve. (Robs S. Constable)

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NOTE: The Great Famine was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland from 1845 to 1852. The most severely affected areas were in the west and south of Ireland, where the Irish language was dominant. During The Great Famine, about one million people died and more than a million fled the country, causing Ireland’s population to fall by 20-25%.  The Great Famine had many causes and contributing factors that remain a source of controversy. Read more at theirishstory.com.

IMAGE: Map of Ireland, with County Clare indicated in dark green. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas A. Thrun, retired in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, is a former weekly newspaper editor.  An English/ Journalism graduate of University of Wisconsin-Platteville, he edited both the campus newspaper and literary publication, before editing weekly newspapers in Wisconsin and Washington State.  Influenced by Robert Frost and his Wisconsin farm heritage, Thrun most recently was published in Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets anthologies. He claims no Irish heritage, but did go for a week’s vacation to Western Ireland.  Though the tour bus stopped only for 10 minutes at the memorial described in “Ghosts of The Great Hunger,” he was deeply affected.  Thrun comes from a third-generation Wisconsin farm family of German heritage.  He, too, has hoed potatoes.

Barcelona, June 26th, 2007 by Julia Klatt Singer

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Barcelona, June 26th, 2007
by Julia Klatt Singer

Somewhere between late-night and early morning
it is the sound of breaking glass that fills the air—
not the call of the cooking-oil man

with six orange barrels strapped loosely
to his dolly with bungee cords. He taps and rolls
them through the cobblestone streets, metal

on metal, the din of drums enters
through her window
my mother’s sleep.

She does not dream of needles,
her body grown wild,
organs she has lost.

Now she is present tense. Her past
she has flown out of, her future she left at home,
next to the stack of books on cancer

written in a language no one speaks here.
The sound of breaking has us standing
on our balcony, mother and daughter

four stories up
as a woman curses, smashes another bottle
on the stone wall of the building across the street,

a wine bottle in one hand
she flips off the neighbor, who, three stories up
stands on his balcony, clutching

the empty bucket.
The water perfectly aimed—
angry drunken crazed woman

does not mind, decides, instead, to pull
her wet shirt off, wave it to the gathering crowd,
then pour wine from the bottle on both of her breasts.

I have not seen my mother naked. Just
X-rays of the tumor, her bruised forearms, a quick
glance at the scar that tracked the progress

the tumor made. Her skin is a blueprint,
her body altered so deeply, I feel the urge
to draw a new map, one that will lead me to her.

We watch now as the woman’s mother
in her heavy black shoes that pin her to this night
White haired and bony, dressed in hose and a shift

Takes her daughter by the elbow, opens her purse,
and takes a dry shirt from it, that her daughter refuses.
We watch as the daughter holds the bottle high,

watch as her mother tries to reach it.
She cannot. Her daughter swings
the bottle.

It slips from her hand, drops
slowly, strikes and splinters on the sidewalk.
We follow the river the wine makes, notice

it flows to the sea. My mother and I
find ourselves drawn to the scene, to the sounds
as if they are here for us. Require us.

We both know the red pool of blood
even the tiniest prick draws, know too
its irreversibility, its clarity, the surprise,

both intimate and ordinary. Know that beauty,
like the memory of this night, is broken
in pieces and shards, jagged and sharp.

PHOTO: Barcelona, Spain, with the Basílica de la Sagrada Família designed by architect Antoni Gaudíin the center background. Photo by Michel Jarmoluk, used by permission. 

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NOTE: Barcelona is a city on the coast of northeastern Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighboring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the fifth most populous urban area in the European Union. Barcelona is a major international tourist destination, with numerous recreational areas, one of the best beaches in the world, mild and warm climate, and historical monuments, including eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Map courtesy of mapsoftheworld.com.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem takes place in the old town section of Barcelona, where buildings are close and everything is made of tile and stone. Sounds travel, feel as close as they are. I have been traveling with my husband and two young sons. My mother has joined us for a week. She is between chemotherapy sessions and in a rare move, decided to join us. Rare, because my mother has always been supportive, but never wanted to be a burden, or get in the way. It was a delight to have this time with her. And like the drama of our own lives (her cancer, year four) we were willing to be swept up in someone else’s drama, for a few moments. And yes, every drama, feels connected when you are traveling; you pick them up, carry them, like souvenirs.

Photo taken in Barcelona, Spain, by the author. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julia Klatt Singer is the poet in residence at Grace Nursery School. She is co-author of Twelve Branches: Stories from St. Paul, (Coffee House Press), author of In the Dreamed of Places, (Naissance Press), A Tangled Path to HeavenUntranslatable, (North Star Press), and her most recent chapbook, Elemental (Prolific Press). Audio poems from Elemental are at OpenKim, as the element Sp.  She’s co-written numerous songs with composers Craig Carnahan, Jocelyn Hagen, and Tim Takach.

Photo of the author taken in Barcelona, Spain. 

Somewhere Near the Medicine Wheel by Ken Hartke

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Somewhere Near the Medicine Wheel
by Ken Hartke

It was somewhere near the Medicine Wheel
that we knew our lives had changed.
A commitment had formed, a bond unspoken,
that remained that way for months to come.
Unsaid but forged strong for a lifetime. Silent.
We were afraid to spoil it in those days of wonder.
Now, those are hazy days in my memory,
as are many things as I look back. It seems that
for a while we were younger than our years.
But we were on the edge of uncharted territory.
The Bighorn Mountains were almost empty, then.
Things were different those forty-five years ago.
The mountains belonged to us that summer.
Miles and days passed with no intruders.
She was my morning sun and golden sunset.
I was her hero and pathfinder. We laughed
at ourselves. Who did we think we were?
I led her onward and upward with M&Ms.
I turned to help her cross a stream. She stomped
right through — splashing water — making rainbows.
We had a very close encounter with a Mule Deer.
I remember trout rising to a fly. They were so small
that we roasted them on sticks, like hotdogs.
Cloud Peak rose above us, but we were high enough.
I remember the mosquitos — she would too if
she was still here. We camped on the crest of a
hill over Mirror Lake. The breeze kept them at bay.
I recall our night visitors — polite, not destructive.
Another deer, an Elk, or Big Horns? Large animals.
One or twenty? We did not want to know.
Lost Twin Lakes and the high cirques were
not far above us on the trail. There were
horsemen heading up one day. I wanted to go
rambling the trail and the lakes — but she
was happy reading a book. She was content
just to hear my tale. That was her quiet way.
The Medicine Wheel, arrayed on the hillside
for centuries, stands as a landmark in my memory.
We went back decades later to see the place again.
It was not the same — all fences and parking lot.
It was confining — not expansive. We told our
daughter the story but she could not see it.
We have those markers in our lives: milestones.
Those are signs, and we are pilgrims. There are
places where paths diverge or come together,
depending on your perspective. It was there
that our paths joined, at a different place
and time. But my memory holds it close.
How do we get through life? Are there traces
showing us the way? Sometimes we get lost.
Sometimes someone finds us. We leave cairns
for those who follow after us: like Medicine Wheels.
They show we have come this way and
and how we got this far.

PHOTO: Cloud Peak Wilderness, Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming (courtesy of usda.gov).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Somewhere Near the Medicine Wheel” is about the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming and the ancient Medicine Wheel, a sacred Indian site laid out in stones and cairns on a hillside and aligned with the stars. The Bighorn Mountains are an uplifted and glaciated range that straddles the Wyoming-Montana border near Sheridan, Wyoming. The Medicine Wheel is something of a mystery but has been spiritually important and revered by local tribes for hundreds or possibly thousands of years. As things commonly happen, it has been “discovered” since 1975, and visits to the site have increased, requiring modern conveniences and safeguards. Our experience then was solitary and quieting. The poem centers on an often-remembered backpacking trip through the Bighorn Mountains in the summer of 1975 when my future wife and I were in our twenties. This same trip was a spiritual journey, of sorts, that cemented our years and life together next 30-plus years. The Bighorns, and the Cloud Peak Wilderness,  were not a formidable mountain challenge but quite welcoming that summer. The Medicine Wheel was a spiritual landmark of that trip.

PHOTO: The Bighorn Medicine Wheel,  Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming (Wikimedia Commons via wyoshpo.wyo.gov).

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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.