Fossil Record

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We scurried over fallen locust limbs, thorns jabbing
the water’s edge like shark teeth we used to look for.
The Potomac edged its slate gray to the ancient beach
where cliffs rise out of Miocene sands. Layers of silt
and clay etched with history: lithography in shells,
scribed bits of bone, teeth blanched, earth stained.
I’ve gone back to study at the base of those cliffs
as if a child unfolding blank pages of a great book
and reading the history I imagined there, memories
washing free with every storm.

 
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John C. Mannone has poetry in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene’s Fountain, and others. He’s a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and served as the celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He has three poetry collections, including Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing, forthcoming in 2019). He’s been nominated for Pushcart and other awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s a retired professor of physics living between Knoxville and Chattanooga, TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com

Banner image by Bob Diller / CC BY 2.0

Ano Nuevo State Park

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At year’s end we hike from a silent old creamery
siding faded to a butter yellow
down to the raucous Pacific coast.
The marine fog layer descends
on an unseen zip line running
north to south, a forbidding darkness
yielding to warm splashes of sunshine.

Using seagulls as markers,
we follow lowland until we must rise
out of grass and scrub sage
to climb dunes, and, there, first,
a young male elephant seal
asleep on sand, then an exhausted second.

When we mount the final dune

O massive snorting flesh!

O the drop-jawed awe!

struck by the colossal herd,
a thousand in congregation
in a single view, weaners motive
while mothers snore, slumber,
lumber for a free spot,
a lone bull sneezes, snickers,
squawks, his stuttering thunder
caroming off cliff walls,
a roar of loneliness, of request,
of ambition, of defeat.

 
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Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife. He works in mental health. He has work in Nature Writing, Terrene, The Monarch Review, The Nervous Breakdown, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Poetry Prize.

Wimbleball

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It’s that last day of August.
Mushrooms crown and within
hours, age. Beeches are in
suspended detonation. I’ve taken
the children on one of the walks
on which as a child I was taken:
around the brimful new reservoir,
now ringed like a half-drained
bathtub. A heron hang-glides onto
the mud-flat shore, to the geese’s
rentacrowd derision. Knowing
the children will follow me
since they do not yet know that the way
round is further than the way
back, I’ve walked a half mile ahead,
to the place where the river
spools back to its source, becomes
something like its old self. I leave
my snack-loaded backpack
on the plank bridge and walk
a few yards into the trees.
Small flies are lined up on a twig
just by my arm, but when I unfold
the map they careeen around, then land
exactly as before, scrupulous letters.
The margin we must follow is weak
and ancient grasses surround us.
I hear the children shouting.
They are thirsty, and think they are lost.
The backpack they will find is
primed and fizzing like a bomb.

 
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Giles Goodland has had recent books published by Shearsman (The Masses) and Salt (The Dumb Messengers). He is a keen walker and sometimes manages to take his whole family on jaunts. But he is also happy walking alone.

Wellfleet

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On the upland heath above Marconi, I watch a hawk
keying into prey over broom crowberry and poverty grass,
above the ocean swelling with seals and the two souls
a great white and browning storm waves took into the dark
these last weeks. Controlled fire sustains this terrain—
management by match. After small burns, a renewal
of native brush, thicket of ground shrub. Could it be the same
with us? After we’ve destroyed each other, could cinder
conjure a new start? Gutted, glutted with the casualties
of argument—bleak but burgeoning as the dawn.

 
Rebecca Hart Olander

Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry has appeared recently in Crab Creek Review, Ilanot Review, Mom Egg Review, Plath Poetry Project, Radar Poetry, Solstice, Yemassee Journal, and others. Her chapbook, Dressing the Wounds, is forthcoming from dancing girl press in the fall of 2019. Rebecca lives in Western, Massachusetts where she teaches writing at Westfield State University and is editor/director of Perugia Press. You can find her at rebeccahartolander.com and @rholanderpoet    

Marconi Beach

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Midnight moon so bright
it made night
the negative of night.

Waves, late August,
foaming, the same mistakes
over and over

until what’s left
is the flatness of things:
this black stone worn down,

the beach grasses too,
the horizontal lovers
beyond the break.

 
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Sarah Stern is the author of We Have Been Lucky in the Midst of Misfortune (Kelsay Press, Aldrich Press, 2018), But Today Is Different (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014) and Another Word For Love (Finishing Line Press, 2011).  She is a recipient of a 2018 Pushcart Prize nomination and a five-time winner of the Bronx Council on the Arts BRIO Poetry Award. You can see more of her work at https://sarahstern.me/.

Listening for the Myna

Listening for the Myna

Listen
My grandfather would say 
As I rode the hills on his shoulders –
Waves of green hills bisected by bubbling streams
and meandering terracotta roads;

Terraces of rubber trees in crooked rows,
and jackfruit, palm, and teak
amidst vines, amidst blue-violet wild flowers
angling to the sun. 

He’d draw me into 
the songs of the myna and quail
and owl and woodpecker
And the myriad chirps and calls of insects. 

The birds were always fleeting silhouettes to my young eyes.

We had been on our way to gather mushrooms…
They always crop up after a good crackle of lightning
He was always right—
we always came home with our hands full.

Every vacation back home I’d walk the hills
with grandfather and hear the stories
of the land and sky and water—
so many trees, so little time.

Later—after he passed away in peaceful sleep,
and we buried him on a damp Friday,
I remember thinking that he would be happy now,
to become one with earth, nourishing his beloved trees—
becoming those trees. 

They have cut down all the rubber trees now,
and planted something more economical—something 
that has robbed the hills of their majesty, their dignity.
So, too, of the birdsongs—they are still there,
but far fewer. I can still make out a few
as I strain to hear the myna.

 
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Hailing from the beautiful southern Indian coastal state of Kerala, steeped in green and poetry, I am a spiritual vagabond still trying to figure it out. I am presently working as a piano teacher in Mumbai. Some of my works have appeared in Café Dissensun, Oratoria, Wild Word and EntropyMag

Banner image courtesy the poet.

Being at Indian Canyon, Agua Caliente, CA

Being at Indian Canyon, Agua Caliente, CA

Rocks rest
like tilted pillows, behemoth beds.
Birds rest, no breeze ruffling their feathers
or the pleats of skirted palms.
I rest, too, prop an injured foot,
trying to put disappointment aside,
needing a good swig of cactus juice
to let the day be what it will 
beyond my hunger to devour the place,
trek off and scramble every nook, crack
and slab.  Instead, I gobble up the view:
mouthfeel of almond olive honeycomb,
toasted flax, gingersnap—
for once, not trying to control how
the desert would go on without me,
why I’m splayed like a lizard
beneath the lemonade sun.

 
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Pamela Ahlen is program coordinator for Bookstock Literary Festival held each summer in Woodstock, Vermont.  She organizes literary events for Osher (Lifelong Education at Dartmouth) and compiled and edited Osher’s Anthology of Poets and Writers: Celebrating Twenty-Five Years at Dartmouth.  Pam received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the author of the chapbook Gather Every Little Thing (Finishing Line Press).

Main image courtesy the poet.

Girl Scout Field Trip to Bluespring Caverns

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If viewing on your mobile phone, please rotate your phone to landscape mode to see the poem formatted as intended.

I didn’t mind the wet echoes or the tonnage
of limestone hovering heavy above my body.
I didn’t even mind when the guide warned us
about the river’s murky paintbrush water—
how the cave snakes devoured little girls’
fingers, especially ones with sparkly nail polish,
so we should keep our hands in the boat.  

For an hour, we floated. Stalactites like fangs
above us. Sharp enough, if they fell, to pierce
our proudly badged vests. We were earning
Outdoor Adventurer that day—a squirrel
with a telescope to sew beside last month’s
crimson cross: Brownie First Aid. A hush fell over us
when the guide briefly killed the boat’s only lamp.

Like a sleepover séance, we honored the dark.
But there in the cave, I feared it. Water dripped,
struck the stone around us, and small tongues
smacked the boat’s rocking edge. I was too
aware of my lungs—the air thick as it struggled
to move between my body and the black hole we were in.
The darkness a blanket that didn’t want me to breathe.  

The light switched back on. When the guide 
asked who’d been able to see without it,
many sparkly fingernails shot into the air.
He laughed, his teeth glistening as he
called us liars: It’s absolute darkness in here.
But how was he to know little girls’ vision is only half
what they can see? In all his seasons guiding tourists 

through that cave, maybe he hadn’t wondered
about the people who’d come before, not considered
the stories they’d left behind. For little girls,
there was always more: something to sense
in the dark as we earned our adventure badges.
Something to see without seeing. Warning signs that were
in our blood—or did we have to be trained?—to recognize.

 
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Mary Ardery is from Bloomington, IN. Her work appears or is forthcoming in RHINOKettle Blue Review, and Gravel. She is currently pursuing an MFA at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Visit her at maryardery.com.

Racing the Geese

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(Lisbon, NH Clark’s Farm)

A precise V bisects my vision
and I gaze upward into a cloud,
a pale shaft of sunlight:
backdrop for an annual migration.

Distracted by driving, I glance:
corn stubble
withered vines
a bright flash of
pumpkins

I think of absence, of elsewhere,
of times gone by, and for a moment,
I am racing the geese.

 
Carlene M. Gadapee

Carlene M. Gadapee is a high school English teacher and part-time wordsmith in northern New Hampshire. She shares her small New England home with her husband, a bossy Chi-pin dog, and a few beehives. Carlen is a devoutly sports-addicted bibliophile and her work has been published in The Henniker Review, the Aurorean, Postcard Poems and Prose, the Northern New England Review, and Sojourn (UT-Dallas).

Main image courtesy the poet.

Shrinking Territory

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Words stuttered in his mouth
When he tried to pronounce 'Machli' - A fish, 
holding yesterday’s newspaper, 
fresh to school, curious and enthusiastic, reciting Hindi rhyme,
'Fish - queen of water, water is her life,
scared off when you touch it, dies when taken out'
then suddenly stopped and asked, showing me a picture
'Machli - isn't she in water, why is she dead then?'

I had no answer - 
to my atrocities and to my being a man
No answer to my invading the territories
or, shrinking their province, 
forcing them to die or walk along with us - 
the beasts. 

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Gaurav Verma, is a native of Dehradun, India and earned his MBA degree from IIT-Delhi. He started writing accidentally when few of his school assignments turned out to be so good that teachers started to believe he is either copying or someone in his family is a writer. He has been published in few of the anthologies. https://silentdreamz.wordpress.com

Destruction Bay, Yukon

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Fog fills the water,
it’s hard to see the mountains,
we’ve been camped here for days,
your body so familiar it feels
like my own skin, ordinary, warm,
the surprise of no surprises,
we swim through nights without
darkness, wake to 
eagles down the beach,
bear prints around the tent,
we hang our food from tree branches,
drink dirty water,
sit on the shore until we lose
our capacity for words,
mouths, meanings,
out here with the wind,
the waves,
the long cool stretches,
and wild.

 
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Cinthia Ritchie is an Alaska writer, ultra-runner and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee who spends a ridiculous amount of time running mountains with a dog named Seriously. Find her work at New York Times Magazine, Evening Street Review, Sport Literate, Rattle, Best American Sports Writing, Mary, Into the Void, Clementine Unbound, Deaf Poets Society, Forgotten Women anthology, Nasty Women anthology, Gyroscope Review, Bosque Literary Journal, The Hunger Journal and others. Her first novel Dolls Behaving Badly was published by Hachette Book Group and her memoir will be published this fall by Raised Voice Press. www.cinthiaritchie.com

Rafting the Truckee

Rafting

Set upon blue pontoons 
that twitched like dousing rods
we went spinning down 
over deep pools where the river slows
marshy fescue and clotted eelgrass along the banks
water clear over silted boulders 
and waterlogged pines
went spinning past guys 
stomach-flopped on inner tubes
past fishermen knee-deep casting into pools
rods pulling red lures against the green
past ducks scurrying toward us begging 
diving for thrown wafers 

we slid over brown gravel 
where water ran swifter in narrow runnels
into the little thrill of white water 
gasps in the rapids
nudging rocks and swirling around them
not quite making the angle we aimed for 
hitting all the obstacles 
rocks   low bridges   brushy 
margins with their hidden sticks
bumping over the scrape 
and crunch of the shallows 

we wanted the center
but the rudderless tube would not hold it 
and toward the end 
when the wind came up 
our forward strokes did nothing
we spun lazily or furiously 
until the river caught us in its line–- 

even in the last long rapid
pulling hard for the takeout
what carried us 
was relentless 
clear water moving 
all the way down

 
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Alicia Hokanson’s first collection of poems, Mapping the Distance, was selected by Carolyn Kizer for a King County Arts Commission publication prize. Two chapbooks from Brooding Heron Pressare Insistent in the Skin and Phosphorous. She was named the River of Words Poetry Teacher of the Year in 2003. Now retired after a long career teaching English, she devotes her time to writing, tutoring, and political activism in Seattle and on Waldron Island, Washington. 

Written in Stone

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The durability of Estrada sandstone
seeps into me.

My arms swell into immovable vermillion arches
framing infinity.

Feet form fixed monoliths atop
evaporite basin.

Skin crinkles along anticlines,
austere, permanent.

I transpose into inert, unyielding rock. 

Yet, underneath the adamantine composition time corrodes:
arid heat cracks through sedimentary layers;
wind abrades lithic fragments;
rain seeps into fissures,
freezes,
gnaws through feldspar grains.

I too am transforming:
sloughing off epithelium and vanity,
shedding muscle and hubris,
eroding bone
and ego.  

My disintegration written in stone.

 
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Atreyee Gupta is a writer exploring the liminal spaces in which humans interact with society, geography, and nature. Atreyee is the creator of Bespoke Traveler, a digital alcove examining travel’s transformative power. Atreyee’s work has been published in Main Street Rag, Rigorous, Shanghai Literary Review, and Still Point Arts Quarterly, among others.

Banner image by Amy Beth Wright.

Sunken Forest, Sailor’s Haven

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Limbs fall off
leaving knotted eyes
looking out from the forest.
The ecology of this sandy island
was always preparing
for a future
in which it didn’t exist. Is that
what I’m doing, too?
I grab the baby’s hand 
to keep her beside me
while I can. The thick holly canopy 
is surprisingly high.

 
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Emily Hockaday is a Queens-based poet and editor. Her newest chapbook, Beach Vocabulary, is forthcoming from Red Bird Chaps. She is author of Space on Earth (Grey Book Press), Ophelia: A Botanist's Guide (Zoo Cake Press), What We Love & Will Not Give Up (Dancing Girl Press), and Starting a Life (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, most recently Newtown Literary, The Maine Review, and  Salt Hill. She is Associate Editor of Analog Science Fiction & Fact and Asimov's Science Fiction, and she can be found on web at www.emilyhockaday.com and @E_Hockaday.

Banner image courtesy the poet.

Hiking to Red Pass

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Late summer, almost fall, it's like I’ve found my childhood
tucked under these cedars —   

and I am ten and lazing on hot stone, watching ants.

For the first time in a long time I feel safe,
now I know the old granite wall always

waits for my remembering, somewhere at my physical center,

available, with you on this hike, or even at my city desk
as I scrounge for perfection

(click sites for research, recheck links and spelling

as if these secure a famous future where you hear me,
and everyone gathers to listen to my wisdom).

The past is contained in our dark insides,

coded in chemicals which replace daily. Somehow they flow
the known channels.

The way sentences store a truth even if unwritten.

All day, anywhere, we may dive back to then.
At the pass we gaze north and south.

We see into spaces where time is slow to round mountains. 

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Commonwealth Basin, Washington.

Pamela Hobart Carter

Pamela Hobart Carter loves how close the Cascades are to Seattle. Summers she hikes in them, winters she skis in them. She saw the Grand Canyon for the first time only five years ago. This spring will mark her fourth visit there. She has always been interested in rocks and has two geology degrees, from Indiana University and Bryn Mawr College. www.playwrightpam.wordpress.com

Banner image courtesy the poet.

 

Asset Protection

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Let us secure our assets:
Bright, laundry-day air
Water we can drink
A place to walk and daydream
The rush of water, the quiet pulse
Of the earth and those who share it:
Ants and otters, earwigs and eagles,
Birch and aspen, lichen and seaweed,
Ourselves and one another.

Let us manage our wealth:
Land that can keep giving
To all who come to receive,
Creeks that meander and deepen
Sedge at their margins knitting
Them into place, trout
Dreaming in their shadows,
Forests that mature and decay
And spill their dividends to the future.
They will only grow in value.

Author's note: This poem was written during a period when western lawmakers were insistent on taking public lands away from the public. This cycle reached its peak a couple of years ago and has since retreated in the face of citizen opposition, but it waits like a troll under a bridge, always hungry to abscond with what belongs to us all. I was inspired to write it after seeing yet another ad from a lawyer who specializes in asset protection.

In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the National Elk Refuge make up 97% of Teton County. A few state legislators consider this an outrage, while the rest of us call it a gift beyond all imagining. The photo that inspired the poem (at the top of the post), titled forest-refuge-park, was taken from the national forest looking across the elk refuge to the Tetons beyond.    

Susan Marsh lives with her husband, cat, and dog in Jackson, Wyoming. Marsh’s writing explores our human ability to discover the secrets within the land and ourselves through encounters with wild nature, and how we change as a result. Marsh worked for over 30 years as a public land steward in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Her poems have appeared in Clerestory, Dark Matter, Manzanita Review, and other journals.

Banner image courtesy the poet.