Winter Quarterly – Landscape (February 2014 / 14.4
Artist, Lorraine Caputo has exhibited her art in Ohio, Alaska, Galápagos and Peru. Her works are in private collections on five continents and in the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Chachapoyas, Peru). Additionally, her drawings and photography appear in literary and travel publications, and her writings in over 90 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, and Europe.
Venice in July
We take the long walk to the Guggenheim
and enjoy an air conditioned lunch.
Later, prosecco on the square,
and jazz quartets in white tuxedos.
In St. Marks’s, carpets are thrown
over tiles for safety, the force
of even a gentle wake
upends the preciously set mosaic floor.
In the dark grandeur here
and the frescos in the Doges Palace,
I expect tears. But it’s a glance
to the east that smarts my eye.
Rose-colored structures on near islands,
shimmering in the Adriatic’s blue water,
dwarfed and broken
by a sparkling cruise ship,
like a white wolf, wet nose poking
in the chicken coop, slathering, soundless,
yet causing uproar, spewing heavy
surf on worn and fragile walkways,
the convenience of tourism breaking
away irreplaceable ground.
I wonder at this tender strip of land,
begin to understand Shakespeare,
why the merchant’s daughter
could simply slip away unnoticed
with all the family’s gold.
Jeanine Stevens has graduate degrees in Anthropology and Education and further studies in the Creative Writing Program at UC Davis. She is the author of Sailing on Milkweed, Women in Cafes, and five chapbooks. Poems have appeared in Red Poppy, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poesy, Quercus Review, Poet Lore, and Alehouse, among others.
Grains of Sand
With the three seed drills and tractors the sowing took only a few days. Then the fields were still dark, but full of hidden, secret life, which would germinate during the winter and become sustenance, income, and a bulwark against starvation, what countless people in the world must be desiring. Seed banks and grain stores had been mentioned more and more frequently in the news. The word “stockpiling” hadn’t been used yet, but he assumed that by now most countries were refilling their grain and seed stores, as well as recalculating their annual yields from food and plant production given the new numbers for yearly average precipitation and temperature. Several nations had started rationing water for private use to ensure that the industry had the water it needed. There were rumors on the internet that some countries were pumping water that had already been used once by industrial facilities into municipal water networks, still full of heavy metals and other toxic compounds.
It was at least clear that the food prices had increased alarmingly and that an international race to purchase arable land and sources for water had been going on for quite a while. He assumed that corporations and individuals who could afford it would not only stockpile resources, but create gated enclaves, like revelers in the stories about the plague, to ensure their access to the most vital resources. He also wondered whether his own move from the city to the cabin, and the neighbors’ tilling and seeding, could also be regarded as such. But he thought not. It was safeguarding the future, taking active measures. Neither he nor the farmers were keeping anyone out or preventing them from leaving.
At first he enjoyed the idea of the seeds growing in the dark soil all around his new home and turning the ancient nutrients of the earth and air into food. He dreamed of yellow fields and the wind whispering in the grain, but when he realized that the first green stalks might soon peek like stubble through the substrate, he thought the freedom he had gained away from the apartment, away from his social obligations, had vanished, and that he hadn’t searched far enough to procure a home in the wilderness.
The cabin was nevertheless just as isolated, and the nights and days as silent, as before. No additional road had been built, nor had any of the neighbors erected new buildings or created any constructions that imposed on his land. Worse yet, he had willingly accepted the tilling and sowing, and signed the farmers’ agricultural project. As when the plans had first been presented to him, he couldn’t see any drawbacks to it, only advantages. It would bring food, security and the possibility for a steady income. But he disliked looking at the now cultivated land so much that he turned the sofa, the mattress, and the treadmill away from the panorama window and towards the deck and the forest and the sky that was visible through the glass in the kitchen and the front door.
To further distract himself from the new and unsympathetic view, and although he usually feigned disinterest in the culture of his father’s country, he ordered pale sand for the hearth especially selected and sieved by traditional craftsmen near the city where his grandparents lived. The sand originated from a beach where a historical battle had taken place and was flown to his continent of residence. When the bag of ridiculously expensive sand arrived, he immediately walked to Eloise and Mark’s farm to borrow a clean shovel, and emptied the hearth of the old and dark sand. Then he hiked through the heather to the post office, carried the new sand home, and slowly poured it into the square pit in the floor.
Like a vampire finally in possession of soil from his ancestral lands to rest in, he eagerly spread the pale grains out into the hearth with his palms, and when that was done he spent half the night digging his fingers into the dry and fine-grained sand, picking it up, and letting it fall through his hands, again and again.
Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have or will appear in SmokeLong Quarterly, Unstuck, Birkensnake, and other places. Her short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, was published by firthFORTH Books in 2012, and her novel, Une Ville Vide, by PublieMonde in 2013. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the British Science Fiction Award. It has also been included in the Wigleaf top 50 longlist. ‘Grains of Sand’ is an excerpt from the novel Landscapes, Fragments. More at http://beritellingsen.com.
Dear Mountain Man—
When I see climbers on K2, I think of you alone
in ice and snow. I think of crampons and carabiners.
What are you reading? Are you still married?
You must be old now—wiry and hard—like that place
inside you. Still, you proposed and proposed.
Are you all right? Why, last week, did you try to call?
I see beauty so harsh it severs breath, and you in
a treeless crevasse of blue shards, cells losing oxygen.
Who am I? Where am I? Where am I going?
The choices we make are stress fractures in glacial ice,
deep and threatening: no mistake without consequence.
And how do I reclaim the me you carry in your pack?
Susan Terris’s books include The Homelessness of Self, Contrarwise, and Fire Is Favorable to the Dreamer. Her work has appeared in many journals, including The Southern Review, The Journal, and Ploughshares. A poem of hers from Field appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. She is the editor of Spillway Magazine and poetry editor of In Posse Review and Pedestal. In recent years, she has won both the George Bogin Award and the Louis Hammer Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2013, The Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems was published by Marsh Hawk Press. Her book MEMOS will be published by Omnidawn in 2015. Read more information here.
Leaving the Farm at Nine
She is nine, standing with her left hand on the green gate to the yard of the farmhouse that she will always consider Home, the same way that her parents always referred to their lost homes in Hungary and Poland as Home, a home faraway from and inaccessible to her, seized by the Nazis. This Home, her farm home, is their accidental post-war placement, a place disconnected from their hearts. But to her, this is where her heart will always live.
Her family waits in the car to carry her to their new house in the suburbs of Boxwood, New Jersey, to their little square house in a square little fenced-in yard like prison to be “in a Jewish community”. She is looking around her, at the rustling trees and meadows where deer come out as dusk, where white geese swim in the river, the gray shingles of the house with green window trim, her grandfather waving good-bye. Like a camera her eyes snap pictures, focusing her concentration as a light beam through time to remind her future adult self.
Remember me as a child, she thinks. Don’t let me disappear into adulthood, like the children all the adults around me once were. Memorize me at age nine, standing by the gate saying goodbye to my childhood farm Home, looking down at my white Keds sneakers, listening to the hundreds of chickens clucking in the coops, watching the ducks waddling in the pond, the geese following the tractor in single file for lunch. Don’t forget me the way that they have forgotten their child selves, like the light of a firefly that flickers so briefly in the dark.
Gloria Garfunkel has a PhD in psychology from Harvard University and was a therapist for thirty years. She has since been writing flash fiction.
Crickets Bring Spring
Crickets bring spring with them,
unpacking songs, under garden shadows,
near fieldstones and strawberry leaves.
Their pillow-songs are tiny
and unsure at first –
it takes a while to warm up.
Their music is hung up like laundry,
although it is not seen for all the searching,
but it is there, in the somewhere.
Not even the rain refusing to let up
can deter their serenade,
which the stars repeat, chirrup,
an empathy, in a round chorus
of weaving voices
as a surprise of night.
My neighbor tries shouting for silence.
The peepers, bullfrogs, and crickets join
the rill of childhood we left behind.
Above, the quarter moon sail
follow the current of music
to both shores of the endless skies.
When I was younger, I pitched a tent
not too far in my backyard,
but enough distance to feel grown-up.
I would lie on my back, tracing meteor showers.
I’d make up stories about the Cricket Constellation,
pointing, right there.
It was reliable, season after season,
dependable as night, singing summer to fall,
planting memories, like seeds.
If I could go back to myself,
I’d tell myself,
make a map of childhood
so I could find my way back
anytime I wanted to.
In fall, they leave.
I never see them going.
They just take their music, and go.
I do not know where they go.
I have to image they hibernate.
I worry they will never return.
They were not here when I first arrived.
There was a silence bigger than the sky.
I had to invite them with rich soil,
dark place to hide
under stretches of plants.
It took a year to convince them.
When they leave, the silence returns,
heavier than snow cover
when nothing moves.
All dreadful winter, the loss of green
is the absence of cricket songs.
I become restless as a moon,
waxing and waning, grief-stricken,
among the rill of stars
like a map back to yesterday.