– Kierstin Bridger, Ridgway
I wipe my fingerprints from the window.
I want this house to be more than moths
and ancient architectural magazines.
I know it’s more than the view of the forest’s edge,
flies crisping in hot window ledges,
ten thousand of them too light to make a pound.
When I wind down the cherry-wood staircase,
cross my sweater snug, make my way
outside to explore the grounds again—
I spot the marred markers in the aspen grove:
topless women in long skirts, prove
lonely Basque shepherds engraved their kicks,
swiped by bear claw, almost illegible now.
Deeper in, a herd of carved stallions,
with early twentieth-century dates.
I strain my neck, the horse heads
tall on the powdery bark,
under the quaking canopy.
I’ve counted fourteen, some more crude
than others. Shepherds, cowboys,
all of us making our mark,
leaving behind signs;
we weren’t just here
but deep within.
I take my shoes off in the woods
to feel the difference
between crisp leaf and cool mulch.
It’s different than
razor to soft flesh, different
than needle to vein,
I find more than myself
in the flaming gesture of aspen
but know I could never stand with so many,
Regal though they are,
their riot is not my tribe.
If nothing else
I’m here to reclaim
a birthright of silence, reflection.
Still the pond knows me
and the sky mirrored here.
We met as particles, as dust,
when we were whim made real.
“Care-taking” was originally published in Pilgrimage, Volume 37 Issue 3: Grace—December 2013
Kierstin Bridger divides her time between Ridgway and Telluride. She is a winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, the 2015 ACC Writer’s Studio award and an Anne LaBastille Poetry residency. She is editor of Ridgway Alley Poems, Co-Director of Open Bard Poetry Series, and contributing writer for Telluride Inside Out. Bridger has published short fiction for the Smith Magazine, Porter Gulch Review, and Stripped: A Collection of Anonymous Flash Fiction. Find her poetry in Prime Number, Memoir, Thrush Poetry Journal, 3Elements, Blast Furnace, Pilgrimage, Tulane Review, Fugue and several anthologies. She earned her MFA at Pacific University. She is a writing instructor at the Ah Haa School and Weehawken Creative Arts. thepoetryloft.net/kbridger/
HOW THE INSIDES FALL
– Cameron Scott
Cutting through layers of bark on a downed birch,
gently peeling away with my fingers and a hatchet
I brush my palm against the crumbling trunk
and watch the chips fall into the grass.
There is no particular order to the way they fall.
There is no particular order to the way the wind
moves through trees. No order to the things
I have lost: a black lab, eleven trout
in one afternoon on the Madison,
all my action figures when I was a kid.
I strip away the rest of the bark as smoke
rises between birch and white pine.
Leave the fire untended and wander down
to the Brule. Fish past dark, the fire gone out,
and listen as water parts around my legs:
whole lifetimes are spent this way, submerged
in grief, not belonging to anyone or anything
though there are moments when your joy
is my joy, when your fish are my fish, and I wander
like a river with all the beauty I have left.
“How the Insides Fall” was previously published in The Fly Fish Journal, 6.1.
Cameron Scott graduated with an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona. His work has most recently appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Clerestory Poetry Journal, Rhino, Silk Road and the Watershed Review. He is a regular contributor to The Fly Fish Journal and writes a steelhead column for The La Grande Observer. His first book, The Book of Ocho, is available on Amazon.com and www.writerfish.com.
THE NIGHT RELIES
– Wendy Videlock
Beware the ones who fear the night.
We ghosts, Athena, Allah, Christ
will take our place in the dark and fuse
the father, the mother, the mountain, the muse.
In sleep, we have no face to lose.
What’s left is vague and sways the morning.
The camouflage is in conforming.
By noon we choose another word,
another myth, a lighter bird.
Between the train and bustling station
the human side of this equation:
when bathed by day or when in dream,
you are not you, nor who you seem;
the sum of what you think you’ve heard
will galvanize and will insist
a life will change inside the turn,
the night relies on what you’ve kissed—
the womb, the moon, the dream, the myth,
the rain, the dusk, this rising mist.
“The Night Relies” first appeared in Rattle.
Wendy Videlock‘s work has appeared widely, most notably in Hudson Review, The New Criterion, Poetry, ALP, Rattle, Hopkins Review, and The New York Times. Her books, Nevertheless, The Dark Gnu, and Slingshots and Love Plums are published by Able Muse Press, and her chapbook, What’s That Supposed to Mean, is available from EXOT Books. Wendy is a writer and artist living in Palisade, Colorado. To see more of Wendy’s work, please visit poetryfoundation.org/bio/wendy-videlock.
– Alan Wartes
a lone elk
crossed the river
of my window,
of one under a
i read the news
in signs she left
wild rose stalks
and, for a while,
along the trail
i have made over
many days and nights
on my own
the mirrored commas
of her signature
the imprint of
my boot heel,
then straight away
though not with
hopes held close
like the fox
or the deer
who take the
held up by ice
over silver water
on the edge
of the future
to tally the odds,
or map the depths
or sweep her eyes
up and downstream
in search of
the dark and
the way of
Alan Wartes is a writer, poet, songwriter, musician and filmmaker. His philosophy of life (and art-making) is summed up in the title track of his CD by the same name: Love is Everything. Alan presently lives in paradise along Tomichi Creek in Parlin, Colorado with his wife Issa and daughter Elle — the last of the tribe of children still living at home. His words and other work can be found at alanraywartes.com.
UPRIVER FROM THE SEA OF CORTEZ
A vulture’s shadow
ripples over river run,
while far away
a pony engine shuttles
freight from track to track,
its diesel murmur
riding the soft wind
from valley wall
to valley wall.
A heron spirals downward,
settles in a pond
by an abandoned factory –
rust, steel girders,
a fat boiler
graced by graffiti –
“shy girl y gato.”
The muddy Colorado
flows under the bridge,
lost to view
as it heads down river
towards the Sea of Cortez,
and I remember
holding my father’s hand,
while peering across
the gray waters
of a lake two thousand
miles from here,
watching the great
flocks of migrating
circling in –
like the vulture,
the “shy girl and the cat,”
the boundless cycle of time –
life to death
to life again.
The river flows,
the boiler rusts into the earth,
the pony engine completes its shunting.
but later each night
this time of year,
while the heron settles in his nest,
as we all do when evening strikes,
and sleeps the little death.
“Upriver from the Sea of Cortez” was published in The Last Matinée (Turkey Buzzard Press, 2011)
Born and raised in upstate New York, John Nizalowski moved to Santa Fe in the mid-1980’s and has ever after lived west of the 100th meridian. He is the author of three books: the multi-genre work entitled Hooking the Sun, a collection of poetry called The Last Matinée, and Land of Cinnamon Sun, a volume of essays. As well as writing for various journalistic publications, including The Santa Fe New Mexican and Telluride Magazine, Nizalowski has also published widely in a variety of literary journals, most notably Under the Sun, Weber Studies, Puerto del Sol, Slab, Measure, Digital Americana, and Blue Mesa Review. Currently, he teaches creative writing, composition, and mythology at Colorado Mesa University. His blog, Dispatches from the Land of Cinnamon Sun, can be found at johnnizalowski.blogspot.com.
BRINGING HANNAH HOME
– David Feela
Above the San Juan River
where a thick brown cord of water
surges through the Four Corners
we carried the dried umbilical cord
mailed all the way from California,
delivered by a stranger’s hand,
and brought it here
for sacred burial.
In a cloth pouch we tossed a pinch
of pollen, a pinch of sand, clay
lifted from those crosshairs
where four states come together,
mixed it all with the piece of Hannah
so she might find this place
though she had never
even to this day touched
these sacred corners.
We laid the pouch in a shallow hole
and heaped the world back in upon her.
Nowhere else could have been any better.
Nowhere else could have brought
her mother home to us too.
We heaped the earth
then pressed it flat,
scratched the letter H twice
on a nearby rock that had
for the last million years
been struggling toward the light.
David Feela, a retired teacher, is a poet and freelance writer. His writing has appeared in hundreds of regional and national publications since 1974, and over a dozen anthologies, including the 2015 Colorado Book Award finalist, A Democracy of Poets. A chapbook of poetry, Thought Experiments (Maverick Press), won the Southwest Poet Series. His first full length poetry collection, The Home Atlas, appeared in 2009. Currently he writes a monthly column for both the Durango Telegraph and Four Corners Free Press, and he produces a weekly poetry blog, feelasophy.blogspot.com. Website: feelasophy.weebly.com
– Pamela Uschuk
Wind’s so crazy in love with dust
this afternoon she’s writing her wild middle name
on the inside of ravens wings, tossing
them upside down, narrowly
believe wind is a witch
churning up earth for a mate
or a sea turtle made of glass
eating its way through the belly
of the shark that swallowed it.
This wind is gray as pudding stone matrix
and could be easily mistaken for
a steelhead’s beak flailing
to spawn in the murky shallows of a creek.
The pregnant mares in the pasture
feel wind as a pebble-stinging prod
to gallop, their muscular flanks
flexing, tails lifted and driving
the stallions nuts in the corral across the road.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXAt times wind
smells like the snow fields of a wicked god,
blasting blossoms on apple trees.
Today, walking against wind’s cold temper,
my student tells me of her husband, injured
this week in a coal mine when a boulder
smashed a detour into his side, severing
the tendons in his knee. She doesn’t know
how she’ll feed her kids, let alone stay in school.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXFor her, wind
feels like bad luck that hasn’t
stopped punishing for years.
I want to point out ravens to her, tell the story
of Leonardo, the baby raven blown
by mountain lightning out of his nest
that hovered over our back yard, how,
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXdespite his long crash to earth,
the claws of neighborhood cats
and mini-bursts of wind splitting trees,
Leonardo thrived, surviving on scraps.
When threatened, his talent was to become obsidian,
unmoving with one eye cocked heavenward,
for storm or grace, we never knew.
“Wind” first appeared in Four Branches Journal, appears in Wild in the Plaza of Memory, Wings Press, 2012
Political activist and wilderness advocate, Pamela Uschuk has howled out six books of poems, including Crazy Love, winner of a 2010 American Book Award, and Wild in the Plaza of Memory. A new collection of poems, Blood Flower, is scheduled for publication in February 2015. Translated into more than dozen languages, her work appears in over three hundred journals and anthologies worldwide, including Poetry, Ploughshares, Agni Review, etc. Uschuk has been awarded the 2011 War Poetry Prize from Winning Writers, 2010 New Millenium Poetry Prize, 2010 Best of the Web, the Struga International Poetry Prize (for a theme poem), the Dorothy Daniels Writing Award from the National League of American PEN Women, the King’s English Poetry Prize and prizes from Ascent, Iris, and Amnesty International. Editor-In-Chief of Cutthroat: a Journal of the Arts, Uschuk lives in Bayfield, Colorado. Uschuk is often a featured writer at the Prague Summer Programs and was the 2011 John C. Hodges Visiting Writer at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She’s working on a multi-genre book called The Book of Healers Healing; An odyssey through ovarian cancer.
WHAT THERE IS TO REMEMBER
– Ellen Marie Metrick
If you had been there, you would have seen
two ravens perched on the nearest telephone pole.
These were not metaphorical ravens, and the pole
was wooden, black with creosote, pungent in the heat.
This is not some urban telephone pole. It is in a pasture,
near what we here call the highway, which is really
a two-lane blacktop that goes west, and east,
stretching between peaks and desert. Really,
it is the way out, and in; the way through
weeping canyons and Paradox. It is the way
to Bedrock, salt, sorrow, old Ute and Navajo trails,
and pictures that talk. But bring your eyes away
from that distance. Center is this high mesa, circled
by mountains, hazy with distance. Come back
to these two ravens. I think they are kissing, or one is
feeding the other, and the sound they are making—
if you listen, hear the mid-range gurgle? Almost,
yes, it is laughter, I’m sure. And if you keep listening,
eyes on those two ravens, you can hear, through
the wind, the grasses; their dry instruments, an orchestra
of sighs. There, too, hear the cricket, mid-day, one
continuous yearning, or perhaps he is laughing, too.
Right now there are no cars on the blacktop.
Wind, laughter, sighs. And, look—these grasses
leaning together: green, yellow, orange, brown,
and red, purple—only blue is missing, as if the sky
has soaked it all up for itself. And the raven’s wings
steal some blue from that sky. Keep standing here,
notice how the wind feels on your cheek. It is not cold.
Not hot. September at 7,000’. Need I say more? Feel
your t-shirt ripple across your belly, the cuffs of your pants
tapping your ankles, ears hollowed out by this wind, hair
pulled back in a bandana so it doesn’t whip the eyes. Why
am I telling you all of this? I tell you because this moment,
standing beneath chuckling, inside the whispering, near
the yearning, I tell you: It is not those ravens, nor the dog
sitting next to us, nor the wind itself; it is not the absence
of vehicles, nor the smell of the decaying cat in the next
pasture, nor the dry dust in the nostrils; it is not the hot
sun on your cheek. It is none of these things. It is
all of them. They are all settling somewhere deep
in the belly, in my knees and footpads, in my buttocks
and softening shoulders, in this light in my eyes, all
settling so that suddenly I have neither skin nor eye.
I have neither ear nor nose. I am and I am not
this moment, the mountain, the bending grass,
the river I can’t see, and scrub oak I can see, leaving
green for rust, and must I tell you? I am and I am not here,
I feel you being and not being. Skin sloughing,
we become the dust underfoot, the blue wing
of reflection, the song of grasses remembering green.
“What There Is to Remember” was originally published in Teasing out the Divine (Mercury HeartLink, 2012)
ELLEN MARIE METRICK: I am who I am because of my relationships—with people, land, water, and sky, and with movement, feelings, dreams, and time. Words are one way of exploring and affirming relationship. Listening is another. Moving through time and the land, I have found myself in many places and ways: Colorado, Japan, Hawaii; guiding river trips, teaching, writing, reading, being, loving and struggling. Poetry was the way I could discover the meanings and my relationships with them. Now, I turn more to dreams than writing, and also continually dream that I find my path into poems again. For now, I teach middle school writing and reading, tend to my family, and learn. My first poetry collection pOETISATTVA (Water Woman Press, 2000) is mostly out of print, but Teasing out the Divine (2012) is available in Telluride at Between the Covers Bookstore, or online at between-the-covers.com.
– L. Luis Lopez
Mi gramma didn’t talk no English,
she didn’t even understand.
“Get water from the ditch,
de la acequia, to water the flowers,”
she told me in Spanish.
The ditch ran in front of our house,
“And don’t fall in when you get
it.” She had given me a toy
bucket to carry the water
from the ditch to the flowers.
it always took to water
the marigolds, roses, and petunias.
“And don’t get no water from the
pompe” meaning the faucet. “It
costs too much. Anyway
the ditch has, ah, ah, ah,
ah, mas nutrients.”
That’s when I found out gramma
was tricking us with no English.
L. Luis Lopez is a professor emeritus from Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado. He taught English, Latin, Ancient Greek, and Mythology. He has published four books of poetry: Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy, A Painting of Sand, Each Month I Sing (winner of the American Book Award and first place in poetry from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association), and Andromeda to Vulpecula: 88 Constellation Poems. Luis now spends his time writing, painting, and doing Spanish Colonial Ornamental Tin Work. Luis was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is proud of his 48-year teaching career. He has a Ph.D. in Medieval English Literature from the University of New Mexico.
– Haz Saïd
I wish that a kingfisher would come here.
Maybe bearing a fish, offering some part of it,
staying beside me. I don’t know why but staying
making me feel as if there must be a reason,
such a wonderment. But making it clear by some
angle in the neck and wideness in the eyes that
I was not feared or factored or really chosen
or pitied really. A kingfisher for a friend
at the end of this summer. Yes. Just, summer.
Good bird that might by its proximity be saying
something of my qualities. It wouldn’t occur
to me, rising to take the scales and skin and
clean bones away and returning to find kingfisher
still there, that he did not after all come
for me, did not after all even notice me there
nuzzling up under his light. But there he would
be. Kingfisher, at the end of this damned summer,
for some reason there beside me.
Haz Saïd lives and writes in southwest Colorado; Pagosa Springs and Durango most recently.
for Wendy Videlock
– David J. Rothman
Meanwhile, the dust,
remains a squatter
and does nothing
what it must.
“Ideas….Matter” was first published in Colorado Central in September, 2015.
THE STAGE COACH
– Danny Rosen
In the beginning was the rock,
the word, and the man with a jug
beneath the sky with what he heard
by the hearth in his home. He thought
of wisdom and the road, the journey done,
the wrong turn, the way down, the come back,
back to thatch with its wine supply; the mountains
ahead, and all the mountains left behind.
“The Stage Coach” was first published in Fruita Pulp.
Danny Rosen comes to poetry from a background in geology and astronomy. He thinks a lot about Punctuated Equilibrium, an addendum to Darwinian evolution in which most change occurs in quick brief fits. In the flourishing moment of the current punctuation, Danny lives among dogs in Fruita, CO, where he runs the Lithic Press, and the Lithic Bookstore and Gallery. The backbone of the bookstore is poetry, the heart is science. It is a meeting place, a thinking and writing place, with a lounge-a-while-and-wonder pace. There are rocks hanging down from the ceiling and rocks hanging up from the floor -!- suspended in midair. Poem is work is art is book. Danny tends to think humans are doing remarkably well when viewed in the long frame of geologic time.
More information on the bookstore can be found here:
Books from Lithic Press are available here:
– Beth Paulson
We feel taller now, more vulnerable
two hours up when we stop for rest
after spruce forest, meadows, streams
we cross, trees grown scrawny
and fewer, earth gravelly
with gentians, moss campion
where mountain divides
between tree and not-tree.
Everything in the universe
is breaking apart or coming together.
Add up all the pluses and minuses
and you still get vast green cirque,
mute rock, distant summit,
truths I consider, urging
one booted foot in front of the
other, breaths faster, frequent.
What we call blue seems so far,
so high, all space here and beyond
nothing but force fields
we are passing through,
naming places matter masses
apple, boulder, blossom, scree.
You tell me Einstein once said
people climb a mountain
to get a better view
of what they do not know
or have not yet imagined. I answer
supernovae, black holes, forgiveness.
As trail turns to steep slope
we plod on past tree line,
our bodies’ work the day’s play
between matter and energy,
attention and earthly love,
praying the forces that push and pull us
will also bring us back down.
Beth Paulson lives in Ouray County, Colorado where she teaches writing and creativity classes and also leads Poetica, a monthly workshop for poets. She is a co-founder and co-director of the Open Bard Poetry Series in Ridgway. Beth served as a columnist for the Ouray County Plaindealer for ten years. Prior to that she taught English at California State University in Los Angeles for over twenty years. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature. Beth’s poems have appeared widely in over a hundred national literary magazines and anthologies, and she was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Beth is the author of four poetry collections, including Wild Raspberries, The Company of Trees, and The Truth About Thunder. Her newest book, Canyon Notes, was published in 2012 (Mt. Sneffels Press). You can read more of Beth’s poetry at wordcatcher.org.
— Bruce Berger
Stags from the foundry bugle the front door.
Drifts of shingle veined with chromium drainpipe
Part for the heaven-storming atrium where
Bolts from a cirro-stratus chandelier
On a timer stoke the drama of a staircase
That gyres around a ficus someone dusts.
Failing daylight cues the copper coachlights.
Well-sculpted if unlettered gapes the mailbox.
Come Christmas, braced for with a spangled spruce,
The demigods descend, luscious in fur,
Spilling gifts for caterers, the au pair,
The startled mailman. Corks and snowballs soar,
Ski boots splash the pantry, lights are switched
By rosy flesh, garage doors rise and fall,
The structure blazes like a desert casino.
Before the demigods touch back once more
Come summer, mowers call and edgers keen,
Glads already blossoming take root,
Rackets and clubs deplane, skateboards leap,
Security can relax. And here and there,
Whelmed amid the dormered embassies,
The spec palazzi and half-timbered keeps,
Heirs of the mullioned, dark, eleven-room
Pinched originals that set this pace
Way back, finding their robber baronage
Jet-setted, jettisoned and plain displaced
By its own theme, can hear their deadliest
Epithets — Conspicuous Nonconsumption,
Insider Trader Vernacular, Geek Revival —
Die among poodled shrubs as if among
Aisles of an unpopular museum,
Its rotely dusted racks of inscribed cups,
Its bodiless pronghorn gazing with glass eyes.
“Atrophy Homes” first appeared in The Geography of Hope: Poets of Colorado’s Western Slope (Conundrum Press, 1998)
Bruce Berger began veering from an academic career when, as an undergraduate, he turned down an offer from Harold Bloom to participate as a grad student in his study of Blake. He abandoned New Haven for Berkeley, then ditched the Masters for two years of slumming—and poetry writing—on Cannery Row in Monterey, followed by three years as a nightclub pianist in Spain. In 1968 he bought the cabin in Aspen he still lives in. From there he has published twelve books of nonfiction, along with poems that have appeared in Poetry, New York Times, Barron’s and many journals, and been collected in Facing the Music. In 2008 he was sent by the State Department to represent the United States as a poet at a conference in northern India, followed by a week of readings in New Delhi and Mumbai.
THE WRIGHT STUFF
— Art Goodtimes
Love it or leave it
the Rednecks say
& I’m all roots & getting redder
here at Cloud Acre
looking south to Lone Cone.
Willow buds thick
in the highway barrow ditch.
Late spring Asparagus
& bottle blue Iris.
listening for the arpeggio
whistling of tailfeathers
as the Wilson Snipes
do their loop-to-loop
keeping us Mosquito free
amid the irrigated
wetlands of Maverick Draw.
In my own kept fields
a volunteer orchard of summer
& dozens of fall varieties of
heirloom seed Potatoes.
Desiree. Ozette. Rose Finn Apple.
Winters it’s Sirius
snapping at Orion’s heel
on a rip across the milky night sky.
What better place to call
than this desert edge cloud mesa
high five rippling of the continental
plates before they slap down
fanning towards the Coast?
Let others take the Plains
The Great Basin.
The indolent urban grids
where most our specie
Mountains. Impossible cliffs.
Cedar. Piñon. Sage
& the silvery blue Juniper.
Give me vistas
free of rooflines.
Give me Sun
in the window.
Water in the pond.
What works for the Wolf
works for me.
Food in the winter.
Range to roam in
& miles & miles of
the more than human
“The Wright Stuff” originally appeared in As If the World Really Mattered (La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, 2007)
A fifth-term Green Party county commissioner, Art Goodtimes has won numerous awards for his political activism and served on countless boards and commissions on the local, regional, state and national levels. He co-founded the Sheep Mountain Alliance, Telluride’s environmental group, has been poet-in-residence of the Telluride Mushroom Festival for 35 years, and was named Western Slope Poet Laureate from 2011-13. A former newspaper editor, he continues a weekly column “Up Bear Creek” in The Watch and a monthly column in the Four Corners Free Press. He co-directs the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds poetry project, is poetry editor for Fungi magazine, and co-hosts the Sage Green Journal on-line lit zine. His latest poetry books are As If the World Really Mattered (La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, 2007) and Looking South to Lone Cone (Western Eye Press, Sedona, 2013). He performs his poetry widely in the region.
— Alya Howe
Rainbows expire and I remain here; A fleeting spiritual substance.
Truth soaked sleeping beauty’s wilderness of misunderstandings
Those truths manifested love and redemption.
As the rose of ambivalence pricked and permeated the fabric of the rock star’s heart beat.
Underneath Prince’s purple rain is cracked and fracked.
Above synthesizers singing of air, light and raindrops
The rhythm blasts and birds drop desire.
Desire takes a taxi home.
UK-born Alya Howe is co-curator of the Justice Snow’s Salon. An award recipient for her performance art both nationally and internationally, she has performed with companies and in her own works through out the USA and Europe. Dancing with modern dance greats (the Jose Limon Dance Company and Kei Takei) and an improvising artist for tabla legend Zakir Hussein, Alya has been a part of the tradition of Salons since childhood, performing piano. Alya was a member of the famous Salon, 689 on Kings Road, London and on relocating from teaching at the State Ballet School in Greece to Philadelphia Alya met Andrea performing at Andrea’s Salon. Upon moving to the Roaring Fork Valley to raise her daughter and transition from a hectic performing career, Alya was thrilled to be invited as a performer by Andrea at the first Aspen Salon and now as co-curator. Alya is the founder of Aspen’s Poetry Brothel and program director for the new storytelling slam WRIT LARGE.
FOG OVER THE MONUMENT
— Jill Burkey
Precipitous cliffs and pillars of rock
blend into one unbroken slab
that blocks the horizon and western beyond,
but when fog rolls in and drops into gaps
or snow speckles and clings to crags,
our vision is deepened and boulders come clear.
Contours and canyons abruptly appear.
When your soul is troubled and steeped in gray,
the cracks in your heart easily give way.
The absence of light lets us see who you are,
your internal canyons that carry your scars.
Though it might be unpleasant to reveal such things,
perhaps it will give you sturdier wings,
so try to accept your lonesome stones
so you can float like freedom above tendrils of bone.
“Fog Over the Monument” was previously published in Grand Valley Magazine and Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
Jill Burkey’s work won the 2015 Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, the 2009 Denver Woman’s Press Club Unknown Writers’ Contest and received honorable mention in the 2009 Mark Fischer Poetry Prize Contest. Her poems have appeared in Pilgrimage Magazine, Paddlefish, Soundings Review, Grand Valley Magazine, IMPROV Anthology of Colorado Poets, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, in downtown Grand Junction’s “Poetry in the Streets” project, and aired on KAFM 88.1 Community Radio in Grand Junction. Two of her poems were included in The Untidy Season: An Anthology of Nebraska Women Poets by Backwaters Press, which received the 2014 Nebraska Book Award for anthology. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry, Between. Jill grew up on a ranch in western Nebraska and currently lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, with her husband and two children, where she is office manager of a law firm and teaches poetry to elementary and high school students. Please visit www.jillburkey.com to learn more.
TONGUES, TEETH, KNUCKLES
— Mark Todd
Fastened sleet sashes panes
and window-worlds outside,
where horses confront worse.
All night, their manes gathered
slush, wind-dreaded to hold
ice like tongues suspended
in syllables tinkling
bitter chill. A raw-boned
gelding lifts one front hoof
to batter into snow
while his other feet clamp
legs in narrow shadow.
The herd waits, enduring
winter teeth zippered tight
to February cold.
Behind them, breezes strafe
magpies, pushed against trees,
gusts strong enough to count
black knuckles on willow
phalanges, clench by clench.
“Tongues, Teeth, Knuckles” was previously published in Tamped, But Loose Enough to Breathe (Ghost Road, 2008)
Mark Todd teaches creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He has performed his poetry and given fiction readings across the country and in Europe. His books include two collections of poetry, Wire Song (Conundrum, 2001) and Tamped, But Loose Enough to Breathe (Ghost Road, 2008). He is author of the science fiction novel Strange Attractors (Write in the Thick, 2012) and co-author with wife Kym O’Connell-Todd of the paranormal comedy/fantasy trilogy The Silverville Saga: The Silverville Swindle (Ghost Road, 2006), which was reissued as Little Greed Men (Raspberry Creek, 2011), but now also includes All Plucked Up (Raspberry Creek, 2012) and The Magicke Outhouse (Raspberry Creek, 2013). Their most recent book is Wild West Ghosts (Raspberry Creek, 2015), a creative nonfiction book about hauntings in frontier mining towns of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
ON THE DEDICATION OF THE SVALBARD GLOBAL SEED VAULT, FEBRUARY 26, 2008
— Jennifer Rane Hancock
In Norway the sons of Vikings in orange hard hats
sing folk songs behind an ice sculpture—
a polar bear defying extinction—and seventy thousand
varieties of rice rumble by in carts—the very potatoes
Incan kings feasted on—a cowpea collection in jars
three deep—enough to feed the African continent—
and didn’t we all press flowers as children—the columbine
your mother said was a sin to pluck—the stigmata
in the passionflower vine—didn’t you blow out
dandelion seeds like birthday candles—measure
the weight of pinto beans in your palm as you sifted
out the Texas dirt—weave Indian corn into wreaths
and plant tomatoes in Styrofoam cups—you imagined
climbing all the silos pointing their missile noses
at heaven—and the chessboard wheat fields and fractal
rice paddies seen from an airplane—their patterns broke
your small heart—you finally understood the cans
of peaches hiding in your grandmother’s cupboard—
they were on sale—there might be an event—a shift
in the political reality or the weather or a disruption
of some global kind—and it made sense to save
something—although choosing this over that
stopped you cold—you couldn’t possibly—who could
possibly choose what to put in a plastic tub in the garage
or a bomb shelter outside Salt Lake—but someone had to
do something crazy—decide to take it all in and hang
the expense—to catalogue it all as a prayer against rising seas
and—shall we call it retribution—and you gratefully cede
the selection of what endures to the tundra—a concrete
Frigidaire for the planet—the steel-hulled audacity of an ark—
Jennifer Rane Hancock’s work has appeared in a number of journals, including Crab Orchard Review, Ecotone, Puerto del Sol, and Spoon River Poetry Review. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and a PhD in Creative Writing and Modern Literature from Oklahoma State University. She is on faculty at Colorado Mesa University, leads the monthly Poetry Night at the Mesa County Public Library, and serves on the City of Grand Junction’s Commission on Arts and Culture. Her first book, Between Hurricanes, is forthcoming from Lithic Press (December, 2015).
— Kyle Harvey
The soil is soiled by the blood of a child,
the soil is soiled
the soil is soiled by blood,
a flower blooms, reborn in the musty breaths
of layered gray, in the musty breaths
of mountain caves, in the musty breaths
from the west near Thrace.
In the comfort of angels a child has starved,
in the comfort of angels
in the comfort of angels a child,
the last of his soprano muffled by a rush,
a clash of altos in the winds of green,
roots held down by first and second priests,
in the rush of wind a child has starved.
The child is laid upon a bed
of ash and willow, dirt and leaves,
under a blanket, the black leather of night.
To mourn at the end and in the shortness of days,
to mourn in the weary corners of grief,
to mourn in darkness, hour after hour
in the black tar mastic,
cold whore moan
of lonely nights,
we mourn, we mourn, we mourn.
When the hot sick panic begins to boil,
when the hot sick panic
when the hot sick panic begins,
nothing but emphatic Holy static
nothing but Holy static
nothing but Holy
The days grow longer and the weight shifts,
the hell of night begins to lift,
spring’s firstborn spills from blue,
bulbs upturned at the ends of their stems.
The Holy static slowly fades away,
the Holy static slowly
the Holy static slowly fades,
piles of cold dry bones near the mouths of caves
brought back to life by the will of the wind,
brought back to life by the will of his breath,
to the west in vanished layers,
layers and layers and layers of gray. Still
every year we mourn in darkness,
every year we mourn the blood of a child
starved in the comfort of angels, every year
we mourn for Hyacinth
in the tight black leather of night.
“Hyacinth” was previously published in Hyacinth (Lithic Press, 2013)
Kyle Harvey is the editor of Fruita Pulp, an online poetry journal. He was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award (Hyacinth, Lithic Press 2013), as well as the winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in American Life in Poetry, Electric Cereal, Heavy Feather Review, HOUSEGUEST, New Bile, Pilgrimage, SHAMPOO, Think Journal, and The Wallace Stevens Journal. Lithic Press recently published his serial poems July and Farewell Materials. His new work, The Alphabet’s Book of Colors: Supplemental Notes for Philipp Otto Runge’s Die Farbenkugel, is forthcoming from Reality Beach as a package of broadsides.
NELSON, DR. KING, MALCOLM, MR. PRESIDENT, MR. TUPAC, MR. DYLAN
— Charles Braddy
It’s just you & me,
under the streetlights
after the press, after the sidewalks are washed,
after the noise, after the bottles & bricks,
just you & me,
on our street, in our town.
Charles Braddy, has been writing poetry since the early 1990s. His poems have appeared in the Aspen Daily News, Long Road Press and Aspen Poetry Society’s current poetry anthology, A Democracy Of Poets. He has also performed in numerous readings throughout the Western Slope of Colorado.
— Karen Glenn
Lantern scans, a searchlight
over water. My father and I
are floundering. I am twelve.
He’s just returned from war games
in Japan. We walk in Neuse River water,
metal gigs in hand, searching
for the tell-tale shapes of flounder.
For camouflage, they bury themselves in sand.
Still their outlines give these fish away,
like a girl’s small breasts
against an outgrown sweater.
I feel lost. He’s been gone two years;
he’s as strange to me
as the metal poles we carry,
poles designed to stab.
The wind is hot. The stars
outline the sky in constellations.
I am afraid. I don’t want to find the fish.
I would not have the heart
to lift the gig. I scuff through water,
My father sees. He starts to sing.
He kicks up sand like I do.
He takes my hand. We splash, we shuffle
through the swirling water.
The fish are safe. And I am safe.
The moon shines. The lantern shines.
The water shines. My father and I
are going home.
“Night Fishing” first appeared in Poetry Northwest.
Karen Glenn lives in Carbondale, Colorado. She is the author of the poetry collection, Night Shift. She read the title poem on NPR’s All Things Considered. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Chattahoochie Review, Denver Quarterly, Verse Daily, North American Review—which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize—and dozens more. She served on the board of the Aspen Writers Foundation and ran its poetry reading series at Town Center Books in Basalt. She judged the teen poetry contest in the Roaring Fork Valley as well as a national teen poetry contest sponsored by Parade Magazine. She has been a poet-in-the-schools and co-founded the San Diego poetry magazine, Antenna. Berkley published her feminist gothic novel, Master of Greystone, and Scholastic published two of her mini-novels in its READ 180 program. She is also a photographer.
THE SERMON ON COLD MOUNTAIN
— Jose Alcantara
Blessed are the poor in spirit for they are heavy
with flesh – the wild grass pendulous with seed
the pregnant moon, the gibbous cloud–
even the squirrels are fat with feasting.
And though it were easier for a grizzly to pass
through the eye of a salmon, than for a rich man
to enter heaven, the roses keep shouting their riches
and the mornings are a glut of song.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit
the blackgilled fungi bursting up through gravel
the white flowers keeping watch in moonlight
the cloud shadows hunched like cows in the grass
the gray green glow of aspen trunks at four AM
the silhouette of clawed wings outside a window
the night like a bolt of tattered black cloth
giving way to a soft blue blanket.
Blessed are they that mourn the fallen petals
the brittle leaves, the silenced songs of morning
the hummingbird’s flight, the plummeted plum
the raspberry’s untimely demise
the sun’s southward plunge
the ice at the edge of the pond.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst
after equinox sake, for they shall see spring.
“The Sermon on Cold Mountain” first appeared in Clerestory Poetry Journal.
Jose Alcantara is a high school math teacher and father who began writing poetry six years ago in response to promptings both sacred and profane. His recent poetry is influenced by, and continues to fuel, an increasing drift from the rationalism of his youth. His poems have appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, Sixfold, Palimpsest, and 99 Poems for the 99%. He was a 2013 Fishtrap Fellow and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He hopes to survive the current school year so that he might reclaim his soul, and his poetry, before the planet goes up in a ball of flame.
— Peter Waldor
A boy looks at the night sky
one old light
took thirteen billion years
to pass the fence
of his eyelash
lifting at just
the right moment
to let the old light in
Peter Waldor is the author of four collections of poetry, including The Unattended Harp (Settlement House, 2015), Who Touches Everything (Settlement House, 2013) which received the National Jewish Book Award in Poetry, Door to a Noisy Room (Alice James Books), and The Wilderness Poetry of Wu Xing (Pinyon Publishing). His book-length poem “Leg Paint” appeared in the on-line magazine Mudlark. The Poet Laureate of San Miguel County, Colorado, Waldor works in the insurance business and lives in northern New Jersey and Telluride, Colorado.
OLD PEOPLE HAVE FUN!
a response to the kids next door
— Jean Bower
Today I took a walk in falling snow,
the big, soft, melt on your skin kind,
black butterflies against a grey sky.
And I was utterly alone in the cold, cold air.
I applauded the ducks in the arollo
who protested noisily at icy conditions
and deposited their objections on the bike path.
Avoiding their votes
I did a jig of sorts with my cane for a partner—
just like Fred Astaire.
(footnote: He was a star in black and white movies.
It was said he made the cane look good on the dance floor.)
I thought of myself as a figure in a snow globe.
No, I didn’t feel young again nor did I wish to be.
I am happily old.
I like being me in the minty air
and walking, walking until
I reach my Compostela.
(footnote: a pilgrim’s destination in Santiago, Spain.)
Fun is so much simpler now.
I’m permitted to stop in the middle of a path
to laugh out loud at squawking ducks,
dance when and where I can,
be a meditation on old age.
There is no expensive equipment,
no special clothing
no tickets, no reservations.
It’s so direct, so all encompassing.
I am a native Coloradan, born in Denver when it was notorious for being the capitol cow town. I did undergraduate study at an all-girl’s now-defunct college in Denver and graduate work in Akron, Ohio, as a member of the Teacher Corps. I have three children, all boys, and two grandchildren, boys. My influences are chiefly western, having lived most of my life in Montrose, Colorado, but I am lucky to have lived in the state of Washington, in Ohio, for a short time in New Mexico and Hawaii. I came late to writing poetry, as it is a scary medium, I think, if it is to be meaningful. Laying bare one’s soul is not what most of us do easily, and especially on paper where it is forever on view. — Jean Bower
REASON TO BE
— David Newton Baker
riding a random wind
the seed fell in the wrong place
alone in the mud behind the abandoned farmhouse
it had no chance of joining a bouquet
little chance even of sprouting in the hot sun
here and there were the remains of others who had tried
cracked and broken stems turning to dirt
yet like all seeds this one had no choice but to try
taking every molecule of water that arrived
yearning toward any hint of warmth or light
fashioning a root to reach whatever it could
in the dark, dry earth below
focused only on the one thing
with nothing in the universe paying attention
it pressed with mysterious strength
determined to find a destiny
between it’s windy past and dusty future
broke into the airy days
felt the sun and rejoiced
no one knew there was another blossom on the earth
but there was!
David Newton Baker spent his first career writing and producing music for film and television, airing on ABC, PBS Kids and The Disney Channel. He also produced two studio albums as a singer-songwriter (Angels Dance in the Afternoon, iTunes) and played his music for many years here in southwestern Colorado before embarking on a writing career in essay and poetry. David is working on his first book of short poems, entitled Word Windows, and was recently featured in the online journal, Happy Few. He lives in Ridgway, Colorado where he often reads his work at Ridgway’s well known Open Bard poetry event at the historic Sherbino Theater.
— Noah Sanders
In the dirt
And look around
Scrape blue from the sky
Blue falling between clouds
To lakes and rivers
Running free and wild
Curving and cutting through
See one flake
Then the entire slope
Tumble, roll, and slide
Explode over a cliff
White and powerful and
See the sun
See the moon
See how everything has a place
In your land
See how everything has a place
See how you must make
With your hands
Even the freckle on
Your right pinkie toe
Where are you?
Where are you?
Carried by the wind
Away from this place
Noah Sanders is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He moved to Lawson Hill in November of 2015, where he now lives and writes (among other things). He studied English and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania and has never had any of his poetry published before. Noah thinks the only thing keeping Telluride from perfection is the absence of a Taco Bell.
— Samantha Tisdel Wright
They say that a liver cell
takes six weeks to regenerate
Red blood cells? About four months –
while the white ones wage war
against disease and invaders
for a year or more before
fresh legions march forth to replace them
Skin cells live for three weeks at most
And we reline our stomachs and colons
Every four days, thank god
Those busy sperm cells cash in even faster –
And our eye cells blink out, renew,
and let us see with a fresh
perspective every other day
But consider the cardiomyocytes!
They replicate slowly, my love
Research shows that the heart
of a woman who lives until age seventy-five
Still beats with half its original cells
I figure I’ve still got three fourths of mine
As we drive toward the airport
In the black of dawn
Every one of them filled
with the lopsided moonglow of memory
teaching that part
of the heart that is new
to ache in the same,
same sweet old way
Time’s engine pulls us away
into the darkness and on toward day
at sixty-five miles per hour
You and I, in physical bodies
that are space-time events
Streaming into the next moonlit moment
that in an instant becomes
the mile we left behind
Streaks of dawn already scratch the sky
And mountains jitter on the horizon
Remember where you came from
When you fly toward your dreams
at five hundred miles per hour
Your ten trillion cells suspended
between earth and sun
Venus swallowed by the pale blue sky
A vast delirious field of light
stretching in all directions
Independent journalist and poet Samantha Tisdel Wright writes and raises two redheaded children with her husband in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, dividing her time between Silverton and Ouray. She has won numerous awards for her writing, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists, one of the highest national awards in journalism. She is also a two-time runner-up for the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, taking Honorable Mention in 2012 and 2nd Place in 2013.
IF YOU KNEW SEPTEMBER
— John Nelson
I wish you knew September
from a trail up near the sky,
and knew the thrill and splendor
of a Colorado high.
Oh, you should know September’s
slopes blessed by aspen trees,
partake the mountain’s medicine
as heart and mind it frees.
I wish you knew the power of
this hardened dapple gray
strengthened by the golden glow
of a cool crisp autumn day.
You should know September’s sun
as it bathes your cares away
astride a sturdy mountain horse
with gentle rocking sway.
I wish you knew the coyote’s verse
of the old time siren’s song,
felt the pack’s camaraderie,
knew the urge to sing along.
Oh, you should know the passion
of the bull elk’s shrill reply
that tugs at the vestige of your ancient soul
lost to time gone by.
How I wish you knew September
from times spent near the wild,
and knew life close to a place
where God and nature smiled.
For if you knew September
in the way it’s meant to be,
you’d leave convention far behind
to be riding here with me.
John Nelson of Gunnison, CO has often felt at home on horseback leading a pack string in the Colorado wilderness or down a remote Four Corners canyon. He is in his 39th year of operating the Gunnison Country Guide Service.
John originally came to Gunnison from Arizona in 1966 to attend Western State College on a football scholarship. He graduated in 1970 and taught school and coached in Karval, CO until 1974. In 1974 he returned to Gunnison to teach and coach football and wrestling at Gunnison High School. He started his outfitting/guiding career in 1978 from Tin Cup, CO in Taylor Park.
He began (in the late 1980s) writing and reciting cowboy poetry to entertain guests and wranglers in the backcountry. Since then, he has performed for numerous gatherings, other events, guest ranches, radio and TV, and has had his work published many times.
— Erika Moss Gordon
Hand in hand,
our breaths freeze
into the shape of laughter
and the moon
is smiling too,
suspends the last light
of the setting sun.
We buy magnetic bingo
at the Thai place,
where we take too many mints
and wink at each other
each time we pass
the bowl. At home,
we crunch the candies
between our teeth
in a pitch dark room
to watch the sparks fly,
a trick your grandfather
left for us, you tape
to your arms and flap
your bluebird wings
into my room,
I watch you fly,
and we are in the middle,
you and I,
not quite what we were,
nor what we will
become, and lingering
Erika Moss Gordon lives in the mountains of southwest Colorado with her two beautiful children, where she writes poetry, works for a film festival and teaches yoga. Erika’s writing has appeared in Mountain Gazette Magazine, Fungi Magazine, Telluride Watch, Telluride Magazine, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Salmonberry Arts and 99 Poems for the 99 Percent, a collection of poetry. Her most recent book, Phases, was winner of the Fledge Chapbook Award – published by Middle Creek Publishing in 2016. Her first chapbook, Of Eyes and Iris, was published in 2013 (Liquid Light Press).
ON MY WAY TO TAKE A PHOTO OF THE FENCE POST I GET DISTRACTED
— Rebecca S. Mullen
Retracing my steps, I knelt
each pellet left by the deer who lives
in my barn. I noticed
each whisper of frost glimmering
in the sun, now rising over the shadowed hillside,
I was captivated by tiny crystals of frost
and how they were kissing
each and every piece of neatly
Precious gems of ice
are created when the temperature drops
Captivating the dew point frozen
I left for the field and was surprised
by the frost kissed poo
just after abandoning
the heat of NPR and reports of Paris
A cousin’s husband died on 9/11.
She kissed him goodbye
that day and he never
came home. I am aware
that more mothers of children
suffered that fate anew.
It is tempting for me to investigate
the hate I have for people who plant
But instead “Wait, Wait” comes on the radio
as I return inside and I hear the host
offer hint after hint
to this octogenarian.
While she takes the quiz I relax
because he practically gives his guests the answers.
It is such human decency
and my bottom lip quivers in the face of this generosity.
She doesn’t take the bait
however, and answers incorrectly.
What motivates his parting assurance?
“But you can stand tall
as you introduce yourself in restaurants.”
Perhaps he thinks about how she will hear
herself if ever she listens
to a replay of this show? Just plain grace?
These meditations are more mysterious
than glittering frost on poo.
Back in my field, where I shiver
a single blade of sun drenched grass
stands up against the horizon line of day’s break.
A black shadow is hiding much of the hill.
I crawl, sacrificing my belly because
the photo is crucial
when the news about Paris
A tender host, the sun
and frosty deer remnants
when the hillside looms
so very dark.
Rebecca S. Mullen tiptoes toward poetry from her education as a theater major, the trenches of life as wife-mother-daughter-sister, and the delicate work she does talking one on one with clients as a coach. She blogs at www.altaredspaces.com.
— Daiva Chesonis
At a party to which neither was invited, a mermaid met a unicorn.
She hung out in the punchbowl while he told ten million stories.
By night’s end, she’d laughed at every whinny and he’d brayed at every splash.
In the days that followed, they scampered and swam along shorelines of hope. Months in, stymied by the grind of attention, they yawned at exactly the same time,
neither responsible for the onset of the others’.
He wondered aloud “I am so handsome, I should have what I want!”
She countered “And I am so beautiful, I too should have what I want!” “What DO you want?” they demanded of each other’s reflection.
Silence fell like a dead seagull between them.
It bounced off her scales and fed a scavenging crab.
They had no answer and the muteness continued for two or three centuries. They lived like friends and loved like widows.
But comfort grows like moss, covering cracks in fantastical facades.
He had once thought he was mythic,
and she assumed she could breathe under water. The truth revealed in layers of make believe.
It’s never as it seems,
even between a mermaid and a unicorn.
Daiva Chesonis is a fiercely proud former Baltimoron, transplanted to Colorado half her life ago to build Telluride’s gondola transportation system. Although birthing chairlifts was not part of her initial goal after a Cold War-era B.A. in Russian Studies, she quickly decided to bed down in the box canyon to see what would unfold. A quarter century later, she is the co-owner of Between the Covers Bookstore with stints in between as snowboard instructor, owner/operator of Vision Design, Art Director at Telluride Magazine, and a traveling minstrel for Mountainfilm on Tour. In 2005, she earned an M.A. in Diplomacy and International Conflict Resolution, mostly for fun. In her spare time, this equally proud Lithuanian mom of one can be found writing poems and a book on walls, putting on the Literary Arts Festival, playing tennis, and hunting mushrooms. She’s also a pro at finding herself lost in neighboring deserts.
IF I COULD JUST STOP STRUGGLING AGAINST THE CURRENT
— Kyra Kopestonsky
They poured over the rock like dark water,
two otters swimming down the river
liquid bodies dissolved in icy water
effortlessly flowing around boulders and ice chunks,
so fluid and graceful.
Sleek glistening bodies
slipping in and out of the current
What if I could just let myself
be carried by life’s currents
like those otters,
trusting where the river takes me,
flowing beyond the obstacles
with grace and ease?
Kyra Kopestonsky is a pianist, cellist, and artist who has also worked as a goat herder, field biologist, and scientific illustrator of cicada genitalia. After coming face to face with a crouching mountain lion 15 feet away for half an hour during a hike, she has become even more determined to actively engage in her life even amidst fears and uncertainties. Her newfound practice of writing poems is part of her renewed commitment to creative expression.
— Nate Pierce
The San Juan Mountains are a band of thieves.
Surrounding me, they scrape me for my ideas about contour
like I’d had an earthquake.
They break into my horizons and put my mind in a sack, saying,
“Forget where you’ve been, you aren’t going back.”
Then they take me further than a streaking meteor.
Planting in me a seed of, “To be free,”
It grows another arm from my chest;
I use it to climb higher than my best
Like my best is on fire.
I now know only this for sure:
Grace? is busy
And has already moved on
From the things I’ve done.
Nate Pierce used to live in Telluride and now lives in Ridgway.
MEDITATION LESSONS I: SLEEPINESS
— Renee Podunovich
of this sleepy mind,
the instructing Lama says:
“keep your eyes open,
set your intention to be present” !
yellow walls and the smell of incense,
silence run over by traffic and rain,
XXXXXXXXXthe ending ring of the meditation bell.
(yet I’m shy in front of this bareness)
XXXXXXXXXwhere even the winter branches
XXXXXXXXXwith their lingering red berries
XXXXXXXXXunder a microscope
XXXXXXXXXbecome cells of water
XXXXXXXXX then electrical impulses
and then nothing but the space in between
Renee Podunovich, MA , is a psychotherapist and freelance writer sharing time between Dolores, CO and Salt Lake City, UT. Renee’s “earthship” home in Colorado is an alternative energy, green design that is “off the grid” in Montezuma County. She has published two chapbooks of poetry; “If There is a Center No One Knows Where It Begins” (Art Juice Press, 2008) and “Let the Scaffolding Collapse” (Finishing Line Press, 2012), which was selected as a finalist for the New Women’s Voices contest. Her writing has been published in Ruah, Mississippi Review, Argestes, Arts Perspective, Boston Literary Magazine, White Whale Review, RATTLE and other publications. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2010 and 2011. Renee believes that poetry is a language that encourages us to transcend our constricted sense of self and connect to our essential nature within and the spirit of the world around us. She writes about human experience in relation to a living planet, looking for interconnections that are clear yet numinous, just beyond the reach of language. Her work has been described as merging science, nature and soul. Renee facilitates writing workshops in person and online that are designed to use creative writing as a tool for centering, reflecting and for personal growth. www.ReneePodunovich.com
— Amy Irvine
Beneath this full moon rising,
cloak of supple, silver skin,
red riot of fur,
Away I go
from this shallow singing bowl
its earthen exhales
and bison bellows.
Un lobo solo.
You liked me there—in your lens,
object of your Scenic Turnout gaze.
But this ground is now too trodden,
Too precious. Others
claim the elk feast.
Inner arrow tugs sinew—flies!
Pulls me south. I
trot reptilian ridgelines, lope carnage of canyons.
This, my odyssey. My own ship to wreck.
Nose to ground, I seek:
Turf. Meat. Mate.
But…nearly, I fall
Into the grandest chasm of them all,
to Hades met only
with its own return.
So I go.
In Utah, your lens is
now a scope.
Can you even see,
this mere shadow of me?
This trick of light?
The signs are faint. This fact, intended.
But this hunger
draws me out, has me shapeshift
what I believe will be:
alpha tongue on muzzle
gizzard-gnashed breath in ear
And that growl, when you have smelt my pelt…
Oh, how I love to be loved like that.
Now I’m begging:
Mount these haunches,
bite this scruff,
make me bay
at that starry belt!
And then… please, please, Orion,
You hot, heaving hunk of a constellation,
take it off and put it to me!
Oh, I read wrongly,
this need of mine.
your barrel’s blueblack glint.
This body beckoned.
These paws betrayed.
I misstepped, squarely
into the cross-hairs
of your projection, this voice
now a banshee wail
that no one answers.
Until you do.
With a .223 Winchester.
What you desire in me is
the very thing you want to tame.
What you lust for in me
is the very hide you want to hang.
You fail to understand
how I live on.
How I will echo
in your penthouse of bones, and
in shadows cast by your own frame.
You’ll look over your shoulder
tremble like a rabbit.
This will happen
long after I have sailed away
into grit-filled dreams, where
all other collateral damages
of the Mad Max campaign
have been assigned
your own extinction.
Amy Irvine lives and writes in the box canyon of Telluride, CO, although her heart remains in the red rock of Utah. She is the author of the memoir Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, which received the Orion Book Award, the Colorado Book Award, and the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award. She teaches nonfiction in an MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University and is currently completing a collection of essays about the collision of personal and environmental issues. Irvine is also the founding director of Telluride’s Literary Burlesque Show, in which she performs annually.
— Robyn Cascade
My sunfish sails
over drowned helicopter.
I am the only crew member onboard,
the solo skipper,
no first mate
This is no myth.
This is the real thing.
The thing for which I came.
Submerged propeller cocked.
Two blades partially exposed
like dragons’ heads peering
out of the blue green tapestry.
Two others buried deep like this pain,
Calm beneath the breakers,
frightening in that tranquility.
I sail on by to escape that fear –
under full spinnaker, jib sheet extended,
then tack back and gaze fathoms,
from unsettled curiosity,
that feels like destiny.
As I skim across the flooded cockpit,
I search again, deeper this time
as if I will see some part of life
some answer, some mystery
Perhaps I hope to see you,
drowned, cold, done.
Wrongs you committed
Lies you told
All the truths kept secret.
Truth by wreck.
With tiller in hand,
my skin bears the wind, the spray,
the scorching sun.
I steer my schooner to safety,
to shore where shadows
cast light on solid ground.
Robyn Cascade: I am grateful every day to live in the Northern San Juan Mountains with my beloved in an amazing community. I am passionate about growing local food and promoting peace and social justice – especially for women and girls. I love to be outdoors – hiking, camping, paddling, bicycling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, watching wildlife, swimming, diving … whatever connects me to nature and those who adore things wild. Earth is my home and I tend to her health through land stewardship projects, advocacy and activism. In keeping with this commitment, I coordinate a local chapter of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. My creative endeavors include writing poetry and singing informally with friends and with our local Threshold Choir – Singers of the Shining Mountains. Since retiring from elementary education (and how I adored those third graders!) I volunteer in my community helping to make a great place even better. Watch my TEDx talk, The Art of Changing Metaphors: TEDX Rosemerry Trommer
— Frank Coons
the kestrel keening
over the bracken and fen
a harsh and metallic urgency
disturbs our walk south
side of the marsh—
caught us in the blue
lateness of the evening,
this late stage of our lives
with a passion only for stillness
the bird demands an audience
how can we take umbrage
with intensity, fervor, ardency
we who have fanned such flames
in previous lives how could we
pretend not to remember
Frank H.Coons is a veterinarian and poet in Grand Junction, Colorado. His work has appeared in The Eleventh Muse, Fruita Pulp, Malpais Review, The Santa Fe Literary Review, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize in 2011 and 2014. His first collection of poems, Finding Cassiopeia, was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. He lives with his wife, Teresa, and two dogs.
— Rose Griffin
How do you catch a falling star?
That is tumbling toward earth, body
Writhing in air rush?
In a net, where it continues to struggle to shine,
To streak across the sky – yet, is caught,
Star points entangled in rope-net squares
Like a rigid old starfish or worse yet, an abandoned shell,
The star does not want to be caught.
Yet, to plunge headfirst into icy water
Is certain instant boil/steam death
Rather a live lobster than a boiled one.
Or, worse yet, plummet directly into a piece of ground
Plume of dust rising, then settling over the wreckage
Unless your molten core is found; a treasure!
The net is best. Wrangled in like an old horse.
Perhaps there is a home for old fallen stars.
Rose Griffin has been singing all of her life, but it wasn’t until she came out west in 1984 that she met a trickster coyote who gave her an old guitar, saying “Keep this, you should have it.” And have it she did. She has been writing and playing in regional bands ever since. Influences are : World and ethnic music, Paul Winter Consort, Airto and other Latin Jazz, Santana, Talking Heads, Dylan, blues. She lives near Paradox.
WHEN DID GIDGET GIVE UP THE BEACH BLANKET?
— Melinda Rice
and buy herself a board,
tuck the bikini into a wet suit
and paddle on out? It’s a rough
crowd she’s running with, shooting
the curl, ripping
waves. She’s quick
to case the set, grab
the best wave and take off.
Look for her hot pink board
as she cuts
leaving them to wonder:
How did I miss that one?
Melinda Rice has lived on Morrisania Mesa outside Parachute in western
Colorado since 1978. But although she thrives on sun and the beauty of
our state, she has a soft spot for the sea. Her childhood vacations at
the beach in California and fishing experiences in Alaska are a big part
of who she is and inform much of her writing. A poet since childhood, it
seems fitting that her first collection, Sea Fever, should explore her
relationship to the sea.
DON’T WAIT TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD
— Corinne Platt
At the checkout counter
my friend says to the woman behind us,
“I bought your soda.”
The woman, puzzled,
doesn’t know what to say,
so I blurt out, “She bought my soda too,”
as if that might explain this random act of kindness.
What I don’t tell the woman is that
my Pepsi is half diet, half sugar,
as if the poison in one,
might cancel out the poison in the other,
and that this convenience store is
like a visit to a foreign country for me.
Together on the couch, you ask
if I’ve read the latest Trump piece,
holding up the New Yorker,
My response, a hardening
felt by the girl lying aside me.
Tears slide from her eyes,
like lilies when they drop their petals,
“What does it mean if Trump is our president?”
she asks, so innocent.
A lion’s night stalking,
thunder rolling across the plains,
we are just beginning to understand
the depths of our daughter’s heart.
In her favorite second hand store,
she chooses a ceramic turtle,
her father’s day present to you.
On the bottom, where a cork might be,
somebody has wedged a $5 bill.
And like a strawberry moon
rising in front of the summer solstice,
our daughter learns that it is safe to grow up,
to believe in magic,
the kindness of a stranger,
the honest song of the world.
Corinne Platt moved to Telluride in 1987 with a plan to ski for a year and move on. Almost 30 years later she still lives and works from her home in Ophir, where she recently undertook her second term as mayor. She is the recipient of the Colorado Book Award for nonfiction. Her poems are unpublished, though she has somehow mustered the courage to perform in Telluride’s Literary Burlesque show the past two years.
HOW TO SIT AT BUS STOPS
— Nicole Stanton
I cut off my hair & tangled up the kitchen
I filled the sink & out crawled spiders
I cut off the spiders & seeped in the stench
I opened my window & the door closed
I locked the door & he found the spare key
I killed the houseplant & weeds grew
I tied my shoe & my hair fell loose
I lit the candle & heard Marvin sing
I turned up Marvin & heard the streets wail
The streets fell quiet & the snow fell
I listened to snow fall & let the world sleep
I voted with my fists & out grew claws
I peeked thru claws & wrote a poem
I read my poem & put on eyeglasses
I looked thru eyeglasses & my lashes fell off
I made some words & held them in my palm
I stayed quiet & the man at the bus stop ate the words
I tried again & he burnt his tongue on them
I brewed a remedy & opened my sister’s mouth
She swallowed my words & now I will sleep
I made this instruction manual & tomorrow I will start again.
Nicole Stanton is the Program Coordinator for Aspen Words, a literary arts nonprofit in Aspen, Colorado. Prior to living in Aspen she attended Wesleyan University, graduating with a degree in the College of Letters and Hispanic Literatures and Cultures. Her Honors Thesis focused on the study of female performance art in the Spanish-speaking world. Nicole lives in Carbondale, Colorado. She is working on her own full-length poetry collection when she is not devouring books or spending time in the outdoors.
BUMP AND GRIND
— Carol McDermott
I hit a bump and grind the gears
Ease off the clutch and give her gas
We rumble down the road again
Best pull aside and let us pass
The coupe, she’s old, but so am I
Our greying hoods show signs of wear
Our worn-out clutches slip and slide
I grip the shift and start to swear
I mash the gas for power bold
And race downhill for all I’m worth
But up the slope – abandon hope
On worn-out shocks we crash to earth
The tubeless tires’ traction slips
And danger lurks on a rain-slicked street
For her – I’ll buy new radials
For me – track shoes encase my feet
Her headlights dim, my eyesight, too
Our plugs misfire, spit and spark
We’ve gone so far, so long, so well
But as we fade, we need to park
Suspension springs give up their bounce
My gait is awkward, wobbly, slow
We both take time to warm our hearts
Still, we get to where we want to go
Some think I’m dumb, without a brain
I drive a car without one, too
No light declares the oil’s low
No voice tells us what we can do
I love my Nash, she’s lots like me
With beetle profile you can’t miss
We’re hard-shelled broads who bump
In standard operating bliss
I hit a bump and grind the gears
Ease off the clutch and give her gas
We rumble down the road again
Best pull aside and let us pass
I was born in Peal Harbor, Oahu, HW, daughter of a submariner and a beautician. Following high school graduation, I attended Colorado State College in Greeley, where I graduated in December, 1969, with a degree in both English and history, a minor in journalism, and a Colorado Teaching Certificate. I arrived in Montrose in the fall of 1971, and retired from the school district in 1999. I also taught graduate classes for Mesa State and Adams State. As a retired person, I volunteer with Magic Circle Players and the Valley Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. I also volunteer with the Golden Circle Seniors Meals program. I write Artist Profile features for the Montrose Daily Press, and freelance articles for The Delta-Montrose Beacon Senior Newspaper. In 2015 I published, Bits and Pieces, a collection of poems I’d written over the last half century.
— Barbara Ford
not to mark the first crack,
it’s far more likely
we’ll note the second —
a slow widening
of what was once
quite solid, until
the result must be
termed a gap.
Caulk, putty, mortar,
glue, some of it works,
some of it won’t,
depending on surface,
tilt, and substance,
the unknown quotient
of unknown quirks.
Unless it’s a friendship
as a glacier glides
through the polar ocean —
leaving us frozen,
words at our feet,
like wounded birds
with a song unspoken,
unable to mend
a bone that’s broken.
Barbara Ford lives and writes at the big windy feet of two mountain passes in a striped armchair that once sat in the lobby of the Broadmoor Hotel. It is slightly more inkstained now. She claims the far flung poets of Colorado as her tribe, whether up slope, down slope, east or west, and thrives on hearing their near and far voices. Her poetry chapbook, Once Familiar, was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press. Her radio show, Poets and Minstrels, will soon celebrate its eleventh year on KHEN in Salida. It can be streamed live on khen.org on Thursdays at 5 pm.
— Mike Olschewsky
I saw a picture of Einstein
walking towards us in an empty field
on the Princeton campus in 1953
off in the background were academic buildings
one leafless tree in the mid ground
had its hand raised with a question
the good professor never heard
it was a winter scene
gray mustache with gray shaggy hair
sticking out from a dock worker’s cap
a long wrinkled wool coat
an unhurried gait
shadows of late afternoon
the smile of someone who knows something
could have been any old man but it wasn’t
the photograph captured in black and white
the question unanswered
a back turned on a lifetime
of burgeoning questions
an old man walking away
in the space of an empty field
an old man walking
Mike Olschewsky left Cleveland in 1975, wound up in Nucla.Cleveland – you’ve got to be tough ; Nucla too… He has a MS in Physics. He taught math and science for 11 years in Kayenta, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. Later, he taught for 20 years in Nucla/Norwood on the White Person’s Reservation. He has been writing poetry since high school with only one poem in print on the wall of an abandoned barn on the outskirts of reality.
WHILE BUTCH ROBS TRAINS
— Claudia Putnam
Josie makes whiskey, scorching
Hearts. A man who came searching
For gold but settled for copper
Plays viola at dusk, while the garnet
Bleeds from the walls of the canyon.
Tonight she’ll make love to him—
They both know he’s a stand-in.
Not yet diseased, the elm
Deepens the dark of the cabin.
“While Butch Robs Trains” previously appeared in Switched-on Gutenberg and in the chapbook Wild Thing in Our Known World.
Claudia Putnam Claudia Putnam grew up in New England, but went native in Colorado 35 years ago or so. She lives in Glenwood Springs with her husband and a rescued sled dog. Her work appears in dozens of journals; a chapbook, Wild Thing in Our Known World, is available from Finishing Line Press.
— Ruth Duffy
what now, my darling, now
that the elbow resists each
bending that shoes
no longer remain little birds question
the seed that tumbles
inexplicably from the eaves
what now on this stark day
with folded sky descending
with unremarkable fatigue
what marvelous tale dissolves
into a coffeepot of hours
those tidy narrows ahead where
fashionable thugs assemble
placid and impervious what
news, then, my lovely, what dim
renderings we bring the table
clothed and ready
A descendant of dairy farmers,Ruth Ann Duffy was born in the north country of Wisconsin and raised in Beer City where she attended the University of Wisconsin, earning a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing. Hitchhiking west, she landed in Nucla, Colorado, fell in love, married, moved to the Navajo Reservation and learned to be an English teacher before returning to the uranium belt of southwest Colorado. She has published rarely and sporadically but continues writing small poems and strange short stories that she stashes in the bottom drawer of her Goodwill desk.