Ideas are like fish, says David Lynch (Catching Big Fish).
If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water.
But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.
I have been mulling over the quote from David Lynch’s book on mediation and creativity for a few weeks now. Part of the thrill for me of the turn to autumn, blue skies breezing through to cooler evenings, is the pull to go in. We are turning towards the dark even as we pick the last of the blueberries, peel the apples, or put up the pears—a last ramp-up of activity, the harvest, before the quiet of winter. We stock the larder to prepare ourselves for the turn.
Perhaps this collection of poetry will serve in a similar manner. It, too, represents a harvest and a kind of “putting up” for those pieces that call you back for another read.
Within this issue, where Sam Siegel crowns each series of poems with his whimisical magical landscapes inspired by his sojourns into the natural world of Vancouver, BC, you will also find that Arianne True’s “Seattle Sonata” struck a chord with several contributors—the many ways to think of home as well as the multiplicity of circumstances that can make it irretrievable. Maybe Thomas Wolfe was right when he said you can’t go home again. Or is home something you carry with you, no matter the changes in geography, a constant thing like a resonance in your core that can’t be removed? Is it, as Arianne suggests, a matter of blood—that as living organisms within the organism of a community, we are part of the life blood of any place we inhabit? For Ry Cooder (“3rd Base, Dodger Stadium”), home is “just a place you don’t know, up a road you can’t go.” Colonialism, gentrification, or so-called progress have repeatedly and radically altered the landscapes many have called home. Enjoy the thoughtful explorations on these pages and see which voices most strike a chord within you.
As you dive into this issue, I hope you, too, can go deeper, and catch the Big One–that big idea that sets your creative world on fire.
Happy as a Clam
They say you get used to
forgetting what you’ve forgotten
feeling something spreading ear to ear
and hoping it’s not fatal.
Maybe your teeth are clamped shut
to keep from filling the room with moans
and they mistake rictus for joy.
When she called ten or so years after we parted
I tried to reminisce about how I dumped her
and she said you mean how I dumped you
and I realized that young as I was
I could no longer trust any of my memories
so I nodded and she assumed
I’d hung up so she hung up
and I knew that it might have been
just a wrong number
and I couldn’t be sure I even had a phone.
You say sometimes it’s too on the nose
and sometimes it drips off the chin.
Oh a metaphor I say
but I’m saving my allowance
for a Schwinn that’s a Schwinn that’s a Schwinn.
After all racing towards the finish line
similes don’t feel like wind whipping through my hair.
I’m trying to find my way back to the clam
but I seem to have gotten my head
stuck in a sleeve hole
and I’m going to push on through
till I see the light.
Wisteria With Kayak
On a memory-shrouded Puget Sound island
draped in wisteria she looks back over her shoulder
flashes her devil-may-care chipped front tooth
and tells me that together we’re going to haul
this damned kayak up the sheer cliff face
and that finally I’ll understand
what a near death experience is.
I chant Old Church Slavonic all the way up
count all of her chickens
before they’ve hatched
and wonder about my guardian angel.
He’s threadbare after so many lifetimes
and I should trade him in
on a shiny new cherub or seraph,
young enough to get off his ass when I need him.
When she asks how I’m doing
I wheeze that I’m dying,
but then aren’t we all.
I lean down and buff up my patent leather pumps
with my frayed lace sleeve.
Rick Adang was born in Buffalo, New York and graduated from Indiana University with a BA in English and a Creative Writing Honors thesis. He worked for many years as a teacher of English as a foreign language and is currently living in Estonia. He has had poems published in Chicago Review, Paris Review and other literary magazines.
of a tree, my waist is a measure
of my life, which, as anyone can see,
has proved a generous, if too solicitous Mom.
In many ways, I’ve been well fed.
Now some take half and half
in their coffee. I take cream. I haven’t wallowed
in sensuous pleasure, mind you— ripe
as I am. My weight is a willing fate,
and the sweet padding
of amorous memories
has kept me warm
on many a winter night, though I must admit
the nostalgic load my old heart lugs
may wear it out.
for market, friend, but what’s more thrilling
than a lifelong field
of worker bees reeling
in the wind?
Ken Anderson (Atlanta) has two poetry books: The Intense Lover (Star Books 1995) and Permanent Gardens (Seabolt Press 1972). Recent publications include Café Review, Hole in the Head, London Grip, Lotus-eater, and Orbis. Currently, he is looking for a publisher for a book of personal poems entitled A Sweet Oblivious Antidote.
–after William Stafford’s “The Way It Is”
I’m hard on things. I wear them out.
So I worry about Stafford’s thread.
It might break as I trip through life,
making turns, not letting go.
It needs to be more substantial,
say a steel chain,
the kind with pleasant tinking
as it’s dragged around,
not shackles, though.
I would count the links,
each one, a day,
sunrise to sunset,
then dusk to dawn,
hold it like a rosary,
trace back and forth
across the links
like Hansel and Gretel,
reviewing where I’ve come from,
the white house with green shutters
in the graying neighborhood
of my memory.
I must confess I hurried
through a lot those days,
looking ahead like youngsters do.
Just like I said the rosary as a child,
my hands barely touching each bead,
praying like a motor to get on with living.
Verde and Becky at ninety two
still travel the sagebrush sea,
Oregon and Idaho,
to bluegrass festivals where they jam in camps,
sometimes, literally ‘til the sun rises.
Tonight: Fossil, Oregon, population 471.
Verde picks on mandolin, Becky rides guitar.
Lanterns placed on dusty ground
in the center of a circle
light only some of the musician’s faces
like the way spokes radiate
from the center of a wagon wheel.
Verde moves in and out of the light
as he wanders the arc, plinking.
This is not wild foot-stomping brouhaha,
but music that crossed the plains
soothing settler’s evenings on the trail,
wrapping a blanket of calm
around the listeners who hold the circle.
Becky stands very still when she strums.
All the music flows to her fingers.
Her eyes dance with the stars.
Dust makes the lights glow.
Some sit in chairs, instrument in their laps,
many stand, dancing with their knees.
Not much singing, just a dulcet melody
travelling from star to star.
This sound belongs to the night.
Frank Babcock lives in Corvallis, Oregon and is a retired Albany middle school teacher and owner of a bamboo nursery. He writes poetry to share the strange thoughts that rattle around in his head and to get them off his mind. He started with an interest in the beatnik poets, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. He has a long way to go and much to write before he sleeps. Poems published in the local Advocate, Willawaw Journal, and Panoplyzine.
Tumbling to Spring
As a passenger, I fell out of the car onto the lawn,
talking. You must have known that casual conversation
exploding from mute behind glass and metal.
Follow it. It’s a jangle of cross-bred quips and
the final gurglings of a plowed fallow. Love
makes us sit in place rewired, takes women
from the world one by one. So, love, leave
us alone. You will. The conversation was Abercrombie
or, like the words you heard, tumbling us to spring.
We’ll play snakes, looking for a greener patch
knowing the dominion of days is our blank page.
Back to sky. Just sky and leaves. Glass
stratosphere. Enchantment below. We’re quiet.
Solid at our backs, leaping against the pull.
There is Nothing a Hungry Animal Won’t Do
It is just wilderness and fear.
You finger the explosives.
It’s cold. The cherry bomb if bear,
then CRACK, a twig, nearer,
the matches, fuse, then BOOM,
the distant cheer and a car
barreling away in the quiet
of the last echo.
Silently, resisting the reality of being stalked,
hair and nails growing like silly string,
fragrance shining like tender
morning light in a mood of wonder for us,
those blind to scent.
When you bashed the weasel
he itched his arm
unconsciously. Still, you wake,
beating the animal in your camp
to death. Stop
at nothing to zipper the itch.
No sleep. The animals return.
Repeat the mayhem till birdsong.
Lawrence Bridges‘ poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Tampa Review. He has published three volumes of poetry: Horses on Drums (Red Hen Press, 2006), Flip Days (Red Hen Press, 2009), and Brownwood (Tupelo Press, 2016). You can find him on IG: @larrybridges