Going Home: New Orleans by Sheryl St. Germain

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Going Home: New Orleans
by Sheryl St. Germain
for my grandmother, Theresa Frank

Some slow evenings when the light hangs late and stubborn in the sky,
gives itself up to darkness slowly and deliberately, slow cloud after slow cloud,
slowness enters me like something familiar,
and it feels like going home.

It’s all there in the disappearing light:
all the evenings of slow sky and slow loving, slow boats on sluggish bayous;
the thick-middled trees with the slow-sounding names—oak, mimosa, pecan, magnolia;
the slow tree sap that sticks in your hair when you lie with the trees;
and the maple syrup and pancakes and grits, the butter melting
slowly into and down the sides like sweat between breasts of sloe-eyed strippers;
and the slow-throated blues that floats over the city like fog;
and the weeping, the willows, the cut onions, the cayenne, the slow-cooking beans with marrow-thick gravy;
and all the mint juleps drunk so slowly on all the slow southern porches,
the bourbon and sugar and mint going down warm and brown, syrup and slow;
and all the ice cubes melting in all the iced teas,
all the slow-faced people sitting in all the slowly rocking rockers;
and the crabs and the shrimp and crawfish, the hard shells
slowly and deliberately and lovingly removed, the delicate flesh
slowly sucked out of heads and legs and tails;
and the slow lips that eat and drink and love and speak
that slow luxurious language, savoring each word like a long-missed lover;
and the slow-moving nuns, the black habits dragging the swollen ground;
and the slow river that cradles it all, and the chicory coffee
that cuts through it all, slow-boiled and black as dirt;
and the slow dreams and the slow-healing wounds and the slow smoke of it all
slipping out, ballooning into the sky—slow, deliberate, and magnificent.

From Let it Be a Dark Roux (Autumn House Press). Copyright © 2007 by Sheryl St. Germain. Reprinted by permission of Autumn House Press.

PHOTO: New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by F11, used by permission.

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NOTE: In 2021, Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, February 16—and, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is closed to its usual revelry of parades and mass celebration in New Orleans, so residents are turning their homes into floats. Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning in early January on or after Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on Mardi Gras—the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. “Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday,” reflecting the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the sacrifices and fasting of the Lenten season. A number of traditionally ethnic French U.S. cities, including New Orleans, have notable celebrations. Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition with the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane, which included what are now the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and part of eastern Texas. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

PHOTO: “Purple Rain” house float, Mardi Gras 2021, New Orleans, Louisiana, by Nicki Gilbert. Photo by Nicki Gilbert, All Rights Reserved.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Sheryl St. Germain has taught creative writing at the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Knox College, and Iowa State University. Her work has received two NEA Fellowships, an NEH Fellowship, the Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, the Ki Davis Award from the Aspen Writers Foundation, and the William Faulkner Award for the personal essay.  St. Germain’s books of poetry include Going Home (1989), The Mask of Medusa (1987), How Heavy the Breath of God (1994), Making Bread at Midnight (1995), The Journals of Scheherazade (1996)and Let it Be a Dark Roux: New and Selected Poems (2007)She has also published a chapbook of translations of the Cajun poet Jean Arceneaux, Je Suis Cadien (1994).  She is also the author of a memoir about growing up in Louisiana, Swamp Songs: the Making of an Unruly Woman (2003), and she co-edited, with Margaret Whitford, Between Song and Story: Essays for the Twenty-First Century (2011), and with Sarah Shotland Words Without Walls: Writers on Violence, Addiction and Incarceration. St. Germain’s book also include Navigating Disaster: Sixteen Essays of Love and a Poem of Despair (2012), The Small Door of Your Death (2018), and Fifty Miles: Essays (2020).  She directs the MFA program in creative writing at Chatham University and is co-founder of the Words Without Walls program. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Visit her at sheryl-stgermain.com.

Author photo ©Teake Zuidema, 2017.

It’s Only Make Believe? by Lynn White

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It’s Only Make Believe?
by Lynn White

The little cinema was packed,
even if fictional, films about the locality were rare.
And later, in the bar there was much discussion.
The shots of the sheep blocking the road were appreciated.
Well, our sheep were famous for their techniques of blockade.
This was no fiction.
There was insider knowledge here!
It was the mass action that was shown.
It brought the occupants out of their cars
to wave their arms and shout in angry frustration.
But the individual acts of defiance by escapees
were not shown.
This was considered regrettable.
It was felt the film should have acknowledged the action
of a single ewe lying nonchalantly chewing
on the tarmac while the cars stopped
and drivers moved rapidly from
“awww cute sheep” to louder and more frantic hooting
and then to arm waving and shouting outside,
There was no discrimination, after all.
Old cars, new cars, large cars, small,
the ewe would eyeball them all impassively.
Locals just drove round her.

But the main discussion centred on the two elderly sisters
who lived up the mountain.
They drove a very old car.
One of them had learned to drive in the War
and no one had thought to check if she still held a licence.
But, no matter,
she could still drive well enough
even though blind.
Her sister could see fine.
And even though she could not drive
she was adept at giving instructions.
Well, it was only fiction!
Or was it?
The audience doubted it.
All could almost remember these women,
or similar ones.
More insider knowledge was suspected
as they argued happily
about the identities of the eccentric drivers.

First published in Politics/Letters Live, Car Poems: A Collective Vehicle, Oct 2018.

PHOTO: A sheep in front of slate mine, Gwynedd, Wales. Photo by Bernard Brueggermann, used by permission.

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NOTE: Blaenau Ffestiniog is a town in GwyneddWales, created to support workers in the local slate mines. The workforce for these quarries came from nearby towns and villages such as Ffestiniog and Maentwrog, and workers’ houses were built near the quarries. After reaching a population of 12,000 at the peak of the slate industry, the figure fell with the decreased demand for the area’s slate. Today, the population stands at around 5,000. Tourism has become the town’s largest employer. The Ffestiniog Railway and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns are popular tourist attractions, as is the Antur Stiniog downhill mountain biking centre. Recent attractions include the Zip World Titan zip-line site, which also now features the Bounce Below slate mine activity centre.

PHOTO: Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, North Wales, showing waste heaps from mining. Photo by Stemonitis, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE NATIONAL GALLERY: After the invasion of Poland on September 3, 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. In the summer of 1940, the outlook seemed bleak for the Allies in mainland Europe. The British army had been forced into retreat at Dunkirk, while France and the Low Countries fell to Germany. The invasion of Britain looked imminent, so a plan was needed to protect the national art collection. The Manod mine in North Wales was a perfect hiding place. Explosives were used to enlarge the entrance to accommodate the largest paintings and several small brick bungalows were built within the caverns to protect the paintings from variations in humidity and temperature. Special “elephant cases” were constructed to safely transport the paintings on trucks to Wales. By the summer of 1941, the National Gallery’s entire collection was in its new subterranean home, where it remained for four years. The collection was returned to The National Gallery, London during 1945.

PHOTO: Paintings from The National Gallery, London were stored in the Manod mine in North Wales from 1941-1945 to protect them from Nazi bombing raids during WWII.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem was inspired by local reaction to the film Framed (2009), which was set in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The film was based on the 2006 children’s book Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce. The book and film were inspired the true story of the removal of paintings from the National Gallery, London for safe storage in one of the chambers of the old Bwlch slate mine during the bombings of World War II.

PHOTO: The author in 1983 outside the entrance to the slate mine with one of the wagons used to transport the paintings in and out of the mines.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynn White lives in North Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy, and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud “War Poetry for Today” competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications, including Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Light Journal, and So It Goes. Find Lynn at lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and on Facebook.

Giardini di Villa Melzi by David Del Bourgo

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Giardini di Villa Melzi
by David Del Bourgo
                               Bellagio, Italy

His white marble eyes
seem more curious than ours,
overlooking the intrusion
of two hundred years.
A fantastic arrogance
survives casual indignities:
rain-cragged shoulders,
a mustache chipped
by a childish hand.

His wife sits opposite
in the gazebo, admired
by everyday men like myself
brushing fingers across her smooth
chest, testing the finely
carved pearls that appear
so real. I can imagine
him stepping off to the side
to kiss her small mouth,
when he, she and the sculptor
walked along the newly planted
paths, discussing plans
for importing trees from the Orient.

As if he lived his life
in the time it takes
to wander across the main
walkway on these slate slabs
which were probably laid
on a day just like this
with the sun
sparkling off Lake Como.

PHOTO:  Busts in the Moorish Pavilion at Villa Melzi with view of Lake Como, Lombardy Region, Italy. Photo by Saint Antonio, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Giardini di Villa Melzi” was written during a trip to Northern Italy’s lake district. I visited a large house with lovely gardens that had become a tourist destination. Out front were stone busts of Mr. and Mrs. Melzi, who had owned the house in the early nineteenth century. About a hundred yards away, inside a small chapel, were stone carvings of the couple laid out in their coffins. I was stunned by that quick passage of time from them being young and beautiful to becoming old and dead. This was a difficult poem because I wanted to tell the whole story about the young couple’s busts compared to statues of them after they had died. Yet I found that I could not capture the passage of time writing about both places. I remembered Aristotle’s continuities, and how one was about remaining in one place. In the end, I whittled the poem down to the one scene of the couple’s young busts, and attempted to capture the passage of time in that one place.

PHOTO: The author on the grounds of the Giardini di Villa Melzi, although not in front of the statues he writes about.

IMAGE: Map of Italy showing the location of Bellagio near the border of Switzerland.

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NOTE: Villa Melzi d’Eril was built in Bellagio, Italy, by Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Duke of Lodi, vice president of the First Italian Republic and personal friend of Napoleon, who wanted a summer residence as elegant as the Villa Reale in Monza and other villas on Lake Como. The project was entrusted to architect Giocondo Albertolli, with construction from 1808 to 1810, while the park was the work of Luigi Canonica and agronomist Luigi Villoresi, creators of the Park of Monza.

PHOTO: Villa Melzi, Bellagio, Italy, Lombardy Region, Italy, with Lake Como and the Alps in the background. Photo by Janos Gaspar, used by permission.

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NOTE: Bellagio is a municipality situated on the land mass that divides Lake Como. The city center occupies the tip of the promontory, while other districts are scattered along the lake shores and up the slopes of the hills. Along the banks are many old patrician houses, each surrounded by parks and gardens. Some, like Villa Serbelloni and Villa Melzi d’Esti, are open to the public.

PHOTO: Bellagio, Italy., on Lake Como with the Alps in the background. Photo by Tomas Novatny, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Del Bourgo has published over a hundred poems in literary journals such as EposCalifornia Quarterly, and The Tiferet Journal. His work has also been  featured in anthologies, including Sephardic Voices, The Literature of Work, and Three Los Angeles Poets, a Spanish translation of American poetry. Two books of his poetry have been published through small presses.  Elie Weisel wrote the cover note for one of those books. He is also a member of Squaw Writers. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he is presently working on a novel about the feminine divine.

The Ghost of Mazama by Marianne Brems

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The Ghost of Mazama
xxxxxxxxxxxCrater Lake, Crater Lake, Oregon
by Marianne Brems

The Rim Road around Crater Lake
with a dusting of snow beside it
is nearly all mine.
In temporal sunlight
I ride on two slim tires
around a lake without tributaries,
deeper than a skyscraper.

My core swells in warmth
pushing heat out my arms
as I ascend,
receding again during descent
when fierce wind imposes.
The swing from one to the other
like a trapeze as Watchman Outlook
nods in acknowledgment.

Where glacial blue and shale gray meet
below a thin white blanket,
I am a tiny traveler
following a concrete cut
in the pine dotted flank
of once molten Mount Mazama.

As the autumn sun passes midday,
a forest ready to host hibernation,
lures me on
around this ancient caldera,
the ghost of Mazama
hovering near my sternum.

First published by Willows Wept (June 20, 2020).

PHOTO: Crater Lake, Crater Lake, Oregon. Photo by Caryle Barton on Unsplash

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NOTE: Mount Mazama is a complex volcano in Oregon, in a segment of the Cascade Volcanic Arc and Cascade Range. Most of the mountain collapsed following a major eruption approximately 7,700 years ago. The volcano is in Klamath County, in the southern Cascades, 60 miles north of the Oregon-California border. Its collapse formed a caldera that holds Crater Lake. The mountain is in Crater Lake National Park. Mount Mazama originally had an elevation of 12,000 feet, but following its eruption was reduced to 8,157 feet. Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep, the deepest freshwater body in the United States. Post-caldera activity has included the production of the Wizard Island cinder cone volcano in Crater Lake.

PHOTO: Crater Lake, Oregon, showing the Wizard Island cinder cone volcano. Photo by Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I cycled around Crater Lake in early October 2019.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianne Brems’ first poetry chapbook is Sliver of Change (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her second chapbook Unsung Offerings is forthcoming in 2021. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, including The Pangolin Review, Nightingale & Sparrow, The Sunlight Press, and The Tiny Seed Literary Journal. She lives in Northern California. Visit her at mariannebrems.com.

Meditation: Galápagos Seas by Lorraine Caputo

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Meditation: Galápagos Seas
by Lorraine Caputo

Surrounded by
xxxxxxxshattered coral
xxxxxxx& sea-burnished lava
I sit in the warm
xxxxxxxlate-afternoon sun
xxxxxxxlistening
to the tide rising, waves
xxxxxxxleaping over fractured
xxxxxxxboulders, waves rising
translucent green-blue
xxxxxxxto break, frothing, arriving
xxxxxxxto shore, before
relaxing

Red crabs cling
xxxxxxxto those black crags,
xxxxxxxthe surge breaking &
xxxxxxxfoaming over them
& out yonder
xxxxxxxtwo boobies skim
xxxxxxxthe waters, back & forth
xxxxxxxalong this ragged coast
one flies near, its
xxxxxxxturquoise feet tucked
xxxxxxxagainst its white belly

 Previously published in On Galápagos Shores (Chicago: dancing girl press, 2019).

PHOTO: Blue-footed booby on rocks with Sandy Lightfoot crabs in the Galápagos Islands. Photo by Mcwilli1, used by permission.

NOTE: The Galápagos Islands, part of the Republic of Ecuador, are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean surrounding the centre of the Western Hemisphere. Located 563 miles west of continental Ecuador, the islands are known for their large number of endemic species that were studied by Charles Darwin during the second voyage of HMS Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In my stays in the Galápagos Islands, I would often go to the beach after a day’s labor to do tai chi and to meditate. There I could escape from the human population and immerse myself in the native and endemic species.

PHOTO: Galápagos Islands. Photo by by Pen Ash, used by permission.

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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.

Slieve League by Christine Gelineau

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Slieve League
County Donegal, Ireland
by Christine Gelineau

Cliffs draw us, as margins must: that limitless curiosity limits excite.
It’s exactly the 600 meters of granite verticality that insinuates

closer, let me show you. Our thirst for clarity runs that deep.
The glittering little lake at Bunglass Point observes unblinking

as tourists and family groups head off along the ridge; there
at Amharc Mor, “the good view,” a sketchy fence suggests

but well beyond, the man and boy stroll, and a girl sits leaned
against a stone, turning the pages to her book, rehearsing nonchalance.

This high up, the breathing of the sea is barely audible.
Watchers cross and re-cross the glass distance to the waves,

imagining the release, almost welcome in the manageable
summer air. Daydreams. Less than vapor. Assume instead

the composure of the heather. After the cliff walkers
return to their domestic suppers; after the noisome

cars reload and wend back, sunset stains the stones
mortal red and shadowed ambergris. In the mobile dark

of borderland the sea repeats without complaint
the siren song of its remorseless loyalty.

© Christine Gelineau, 2006. From Remorseless Loyalty, Ashland Poetry Press.

PHOTO: The Slieve League cliffs, County Donegal, Ireland. Photo by Holzauge222.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Slieve League cliffs, located in County Donegal, Ireland, are nearly three times the height of the better-known Cliffs of Moher. On a trip to Ireland to see the birthplaces of my mother’s parents, we traveled up to Donegal to visit the poets Joan and Kate Newman, who live in sight of Slieve League and who took us to that unforgettable site. The poem is included in my collection Remorseless Loyalty, the book that won the Richard Snyder Publication Prize from Ashland Poetry Press and was published in 2006. 

PHOTO: Sunset, Slieve League cliffs, County Donegal, Ireland. Photo by Johny Goerend on Unsplash

MAP: County Donegal indicated in green on map of Ireland.  Map by Ireland101, All Rights Reserved. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christine Gelineau is the author of three full-length books of poetry: Crave (NYQ Books); Appetite for the Divine and Remorseless Loyalty (both from Ashland Poetry Press).  A recipient of the Pushcart Prize, Gelineau teaches in the low-residency MFA at Wilkes University; after 26 years, she has just retired from Binghamton University. Her poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared widely including in Prairie Schooner,  New Letters, The New York Times Opinionator, Green Mountains Review, and others. Gelineau lives with her husband on a Morgan horse farm in the Susquehanna River Valley of Upstate New York. Visit her at christinegelineau.com. Read an interview with the author at readwritepoetry

The Cemetery at Tuscarora, Nevada by Robert N. Coats

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The Cemetery at Tuscarora, Nevada
by Robert N. Coats

A weathered plank with wooden cross affixed:
Sacred to the memory
of our daughter M.B. McNamara
Age 7 days
Died Dec. 27, 1893.

Outside the barbed wire, grazing Herefords
huff and munch, gazing
at tall brome growing between the graves.

Enclosed by an ornate iron fence,
a monument of white marble:
L.J., wife of P. Snyder
Died Nov. 23, 1875
Aged 17 years.

Thunderheads bloom and coalesce,
sparse raindrops moisten
the graves, the thirsty earth.

Headstone of gray granodiorite festooned
with sun-blanched plastic flowers
and a small faded flag:
Pfc. Andres Ynchausti
1949-1968.

Petrichor rises, and the scent of sagebrush.
A breeze rustles the grass.
Purple shadows creep across the valley floor.

A simple slab of pink granite:
Robert R. Coats, Geologist
Born Nov. 27, 1910
Died Jan. 23, 1995.

PHOTO: The cemetery at Tuscarora, Nevada, 1970.  Photo by the author.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Tuscarora began as a mining camp following the discovery of placer gold in 1867, and grew rapidly after a rich silver deposit was discovered nearby in 1871. At its peak, the town boasted of a polytechnic institute, two skating rinks, a ballet school, a theater and high school. The population of its Chinatown was second only to that of San Francisco. By 1886, the silver was mined out, the mines were flooded, and the most of the miners had fled. Since 1966, the ghost town has been home to the Tuscarora Summer Pottery School. Petrichor is a distinctive scent, usually described as earthy, pleasant, or sweet, produced by rainfall on dry soil. 

PHOTO: View of Tuscarora, Nevada (2012). Photo by Famartin, used by permission.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert N. Coats has been writing poetry for more than 40 years. His poems have appeared on the Canary Website, in Orion, Zone 3, Windfall, Song of the San Joaquin, in two anthologies (Fresh Water: Poems from the Rivers, Lakes and Streams and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and in his book The Harsh Green World, published by Sugartown Publishing.  He is a Research Associate with the University of California Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

Corona Hopelings, Morro Bay, CA by Jeanie Greenfelder

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Corona Hopelings, Morro Bay, CA
by Jeanie Greenfelder

Birds reclaim their beach,
lounge in the sun or set up
umbrellas for shade. Some
picnic, others watch waves.

In truth, on this cloudy morning,
one gull almost hits me with a clam
as he flies and drops it over and over
until it cracks. Then he gorges.

Only two cyclists and one surfer
dot the distant shoreline as
Harbor Patrol trucks watch for
people too close to one another.

And me, I’m with willets,
terns, godwits, and gulls.
Free from germ concerns,
I inhale birdsong.

Previously published in Bracken, 2020

PHOTO: Morro Bay, California, with Morrow Rock in the background. Photo by roy zeigerman on Unsplash

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NOTE: Morro Bay is an incorporated waterfront city in San Luis Obispo County, California,  on the state’s Central Coast. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 10,234. The town’s most striking feature is Morro Rock, a 576 foot high volcanic plug at the entrance to the harbor that in 1968 was designated a Historical Landmark. The area around the base of Morro Rock is open to visitors, with parking lots and paths. Climbing the rock is prohibited except with a permit, due to risk of injury and because it is a peregrine falcon reserve. Morro Rock is one in a series of similar plugs that stretch in a line inland called the Nine Sisters.

PHOTO: Dawn at Morro Bay, California (November 2011). Photo by Fred Moore, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeanie Greenfelder’s poems have been published at American Life in Poetry and Writers’ Almanac; in anthologies: Paris, Etc., Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems; and in journals: Miramar, Thema, Askew, Persimmon Tree, and others. The San Luis Obispo County poet laureate, 2017,2018, Jeanie’s books are: Biting the AppleMarriage and Other Leaps of Faithand I Got What I Came ForTo read more of her poems, visit jeaniegreensfelder.com.

Pawleys Island by David Bachner

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Pawleys Island
by David Bachner

Traveling north, up from Saint Augustine and Savannah,
I stop for the night at Pawleys Island, the South Carolina
resort community where my in-laws used to rent a beach
house for a week every summer. I look out over the sea,
remembering a day nearly forty years ago.

The beach and the weather are perfect today, just as they
were then. The water is calm, the waves blown into low
white crests by slight westerly winds. The sand is clean
and clear of seaweed. Pieces of driftwood seem arranged
by a painter. Pelicans skim the Atlantic’s surface. The humps
of dolphins are visible a hundred yards offshore. Perfect.

Several of the beach rentals lining the coast today were here
all those years ago, including the second house from the end,
where I was in the living room reading while my in-laws sat
drinking coffee on the porch facing the sea. So peaceful,
until the shouts.

I ran to the porch, then down to the sea, then into the water.
Our neighbor jumped in beside me, pushing a canvas raft.
By the time we reached the swimmers only their hands
were visible above the surface. We managed to put them
both onto the raft and get them to shore. We began CPR,
my neighbor on one of the men, I on the other.

The next morning I sat on the porch, vacant of feeling.
“Here it is,” my mother-in-law said, pointing to an article
in the local paper.

–August 29, Pawleys Island, SC.
Two men drowned off the beach yesterday when
a rip tide pulled them out. Two residents of nearby
rental units tried to save the swimmers, but they
were dead by the time a rescue squad arrived.
The drowned men were…

I stopped reading and went down to the beach, avoiding the
section where the two men died. I walked to the channel
dividing Pawleys from DeBordieu, the next town to the south.
Sunbathers tanned. Fishermen cast lines. Seagulls swooped for
bait. Swimmers snorkeled and rode waves. Children gathered
sand dollars. Toddlers and dogs splashed in shallow tidal pools.

Countless storms have altered the beach and widened the channel
since then. Infinite generations of new granules have realigned the
shore. Today, though, is as perfect as that other day. Waves roll in.
Pelicans skim the sea. Dolphins glide by, past Pawleys, past the channel,
past DeBordieu on their way south, towards Savannah and Saint Augustine.

PHOTO: Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Photo by Scott Davis, used by permission. 

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Pawleys Island is a three-mile long, quarter-mile wide sandy barrier on the Atlantic coast. It’s a popular tourist spot in summer, when the year-round population of 100 or so swells dramatically with an influx of vacationers who rent the homes lining the beach. Residents from the surrounding area frequent the public beach at the southern end of the island, where the house my in-laws rented was located.  

MAP:  Beaches along the Southern Atlantic Coast of the United States. Map courtesy of livebeaches.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Bachner is a retired college dean and professor, most recently at American University’s School of International Service. His research, teaching, and program administration focused on international education and intercultural relations, career-long specializations that were deeply influenced by his experiences as a university student in Japan and Peace Corps volunteer in Korea. David lives in Washington, DC, and is a frequent visitor to upstate New York, where he participates in an ongoing poetry workshop sponsored by Bright Hill Press and Literary Center of the Catskills. His recent publications include Capital Ironies: Washington, DC Poetry and Prose (Woodland Arts Editions, 2020) and four poems selected for Seeing Things: An Anthology of Poetry (Woodland Arts Editions, 2020).  Several of his haiku will be published in Sequestrum in 2021.

Wambaw Creek by Krikor Der Hohannesian

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Wambaw Creek
                    Santee River Delta, South Carolina
by Krikor Der Hohannesian

draped over the knobby knee
of a majestic cypress,
a cotton-mouth dozes
wrapped in a blanket
of cozy April sunshine

astride the far bank a young doe
hesitates, eyes us warily, spindly
legs on tremulous alert, nostrils flared,
before bounding off apace
through the swamp grove,

flushing a wild turkey
from its morning bath
amid the cat-o-nine tails
in a wild flail of wings

we, the intruders,
paddle ahead quietly,
feather oars with great care
to mask the ripples
of our trespass

PHOTO: Kayak on Wambaw Creek, Francis Marion National Forest, South Carolina. Photo from hugenotsociety.org, All Rights Reserved. 

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NOTE: Wambaw Swamp is located northeastern Charleston County, South Carolina, within the Francis Marion National Forest, and consists of 4,755 acres designated as a wilderness area. This forest wetland is a mix of river-bottom hardwood and pine. To the southeast lies the Little Wambaw Swamp Wilderness, a 4,967-acre wilderness area managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Wambaw Creek Wilderness protects 1,832 acres of the watershed along the Charleston and Berkeley County line as it leaves the swamps and empties into the South Santee River. Wambaw Creek is a blackwater tidal creek that meanders through the Wambaw Creek Wilderness Area. Kayaks can run either upstream or downstream using the tide direction.

PHOTO: Wambaw Swamp, Francis Marion National Forest, South Carolina. Photo by C. Van Dyke, used by permission. 

MAP: Location of Wambaw Creek within South Carolina, about 55 miles northeast of Charleston. 

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Wambaw Creek is a tidal estuary in the Santee River Delta country in South Carolina. I rowed the creek for a full day with friends—the vegetation and wildlife were abundant. One could reach into the creek waters and pull up shrimp and crabs for that night’s dinner.

PHOTO: Kayaking on Wambaw Creek, Francis Marion National Forest, South Carolina. Photo by gopaddlesc.com, All Rights Reserved. 

Krikor photo Copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Krikor Der Hohannesian’s poems have appeared in over 175 literary journals, including The South Carolina Review, Atlanta Review, Louisiana Literature, Connecticut Review, Comstock Review, and Natural Bridge. He is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, author of two chapbooks, Ghosts and Whispers (Finishing Line Press, 2010) and Refuge in the Shadows (Cervena Barva Press, 2013) as well as a full-length book, First Generation (Dos Madres Press, 2020). In 2011, Ghosts and Whispers was a finalist for the Mass Book awards poetry category.