Saturday, June 13, 2015

June 13 -- Civilization Pushes Its Way in


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19 comments:




  1. The Giants

    It was the seventies, before we knew how the Earth would die. The meme was nuclear war and they had us doing drills in public school. I can remember hiding under my desk and protecting the back of my neck with my fingers. They warned us that the glass would act like shrapnel. Fifth graders.

    That was the first summer that we vacationed in the Sequoias, a five hour journey. We left the LA basin far behind, driving hours through the San Joaquin Valley before climbing into the Sierra Nevadas and disappearing into a dreamworld of trees that were wide as a house and reached up out of sight. There was no top to it--a sense of limitless scale. It was a place where time stood still. There were only tent sites and rustic cabins with wood stoves.

    This was before our minds had formed the concept of a cellphone or a laptop. There were no TVs, no thirty minutes of cold war at night to sublimate, but there were still SALT II headlines that we didn’t read but couldn’t not notice in the morning walking past the metal newspaper dispenser outside the charming rustic café where we went to carb-load guilt-free stacks of waffles before hiking up away from the sounds of cars and other people, high high high upon the side of a hill until the trunks separated enough to let through some blue and it felt as though we were about to touch the sky.

    It was the third day and the adults had lost their taste for exertion, resigned to drinking wine from boxes, laughing in small circles, and reviewing the mundane. Free, I meant to test the limits of my endurance, mapping in my mind the forest paths, exploring the extent of my ability and courage, venturing beyond the proscribed as I set to work in an organic mental grid pattern to claim the slopes, discover every shadowed crevice and stone formation unknown to those with dimmer spirits.

    At the zenith of morning, I came out in a clearing beneath the kneecap of a hill, a massive slab of white granite protruding from the earth like the stone bone of a giant. The bed of dusty forest soil glowed with rust tones under the beating sun, released the spice of redwood scent in waves. I climbed the jutting edifice of solid rock believing in a world designed specifically for me, and at the top I looked up to realize that I stood yet beneath the tips of the of the surrounding trees.

    I stood there breathing thin air and drawing metaphors from the situation, penning another page in my literary life that would be read in chapters with lessons well-defined, challenges each overcome like the great round shape of that hill. But as I stood there, the air filled with a shattering thunder, the deafening scream of incoming engines, and reality was torn as my life in that instant was reduced from eternity to seconds.

    Why would they strike us here?

    I found myself grasping the earth, surrounded by mind-numbing silence, my terror gratefully exchanged for the imagination of a single pilot’s morning exhilaration, a crystal view under a cloudless sky across a forest of giants, pushing out along a mountain range at the speed of a god.



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    1. Okay this is a great poem. Love the moment and the adults and how they've checked out and the narrator's response to that. Fantastic. Also, I think I remember this moment too and the conversation we all had about it. It was on Sunset Rock. Big moment that terrified all of us.

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    2. yes we were actually at the campground next to the cabin when this happened. I fused this with a hiking memory for the poem.

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    3. Fantastic poem man. It really brought that memory back for me and I think all of us who lived through that time can feel it.

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  2. Where are the Butterflies?

    While the wagons roll west and technology thrives there are concerns I have, even while there are always augments on the horizon, I have come to know the truth through the eyes of the tiger. There are many environmental issues plaguing humanity, yet the one shining the brightest to me is the earth and climate change heating up the ocean and melting the arctic as the polar bear drowns, and exclaims, "where is my habitat", while she paddles for miles looking for a meal. "Where is my forest", says the tiger, as the landscape is tortured and raped from under its claws. There has always been concern from the smog days of summer to the ozone holes of today's understanding. As the tiger is hunted by poachers, as the whales of unknown reasoning beach themselves in apparent mass suicide, we as humanity scratch our heads, being in a community of nature, where all suffer, we have to ask the begging question, "why do we do the things we do?". We are burning the rain-forests, for economic reasons? For the wood? For the profit? We are using the oceans as a container for our oil spills, as the coasts get clean with the swabbing of rocks and cleaning of animals with dawn detergent. But to change is the hardest course any one can bear. Can you save every bottle jar and can and can you give a damn about any environmental issue? I could pull a few out of the hat and by waving a magic wand make them disappear, or some may have that kind of mentality. There is nuclear waste in terms of long damaging effects. There is the deforestation and oil spills and poaching, I could sink my lines into any one of these causes to persuade you to care. Why should you care what state you leave the world once you are gone? Because, the planet, though we may not agree, is the only one we have! The generations after ours deserve a better place then when we were here. Like a campground, after you stay a day or a week, you will try to make it better for the next camper, better than before, better than when you got there, that is the campground code. Or the Native Americans who have a seven generation decision as the elders choose to see how it affects those in seven generations before and how it affects those seven generations after making their minds up. Something the west never thinks to consider.

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    1. Fantastic Daryl. I really love this line especially "the smog days of summer to the ozone holes of today's understanding." Great poem!

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  3. The Witches Brew of 1982

    Amber rays of an October sun peeked shyly over my plain white house. A lazy cool breeze caressed my face as I bolted down the steps into the yard. I tromped past the east wall, dotted with yellow and green tree frogs. Those amphibians always took over the yard, like a plague that persisted from spring until fall. I only had two hours till dinner, so I had to hurry. It was time once again to work my magic. I was ready to create the most potent of potions. .. one that would bring all of the neighborhood beasties to their knees.
    MUUHA-HA-HA!
    In a shaded corner of our yard, near the chain-link fence, I had assembled the perfect witches den. An old wooden sawhorse served as my counter, though it wasn't level and creaked at the slightest touch. In a nearby ash tree, hung a screen mesh bug cage I gathered from the garage. Inside, a massive green grasshopper fluttered in fury, searching for means of escape. (And probably plotting my downfall for his imprisonment)
    I had gathered two 4ft lengths of bamboo, that grew behind the house like a forest of spears. They were jammed into the ground on either side of a rusted rain bucket that served as my cauldron and catalyst of my power. Atop each stake rested a sun bleached skull. One was a cat skull I found in an abandoned house. The other was a gopher skull I discovered while collecting the bamboo.
    With a faded red sand shovel, I stirred my witches brew. It was slimy mixture of perfectly peeled garden snails, macerated lawn clippings, and a scant cup of salt I had swiped from the house. With every turn of my shovel, flecks of brittle plastic blended in. The gooey concoction foamed and bubbled, turning shades of toad green and dust gray. I added water to my potion just as mom announced it was time to eat... and boy was I famished!
    Through the evening, I carried on with my usual routine, not letting on to the dark horrors I was cultivating in the backyard. Oblivious, my family settled off into dreamland, with thoughts of tomorrow and all of its promise. I however, drifted off relishing in my make-believe craft.
    the next morning, a thick layer of stench hung like a cemetery fog in the yard. Overnight, my magic potion had fermented into a foul gelatinous sludge. The sticky substance pulsing in my cauldron was a putrid success.
    MUUHA-HA-HA!
    The smell burned my nostrils and nearly turned my stomach.Everyone would be powerless against my devious dark magic. Everyone that is... except mom. The acrid aroma had crept into the house through an open kitchen window. Every room reeked of rotten snails. Red faced and shaking, my mom invoked magic powers of her own. I was forced to dump the blasphemous bucket, "away from the house!"
    In the end, mom was grateful that I had rid the roses of snails. But, she said I could never again use my powers for evil. Yes, I gave up witchcraft that Autumn, and instead, became a pretend purveyor of mud pies.
    MUUHA-HA-HA!

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    1. That's great. That's hilarious! I hadn't thought of humor for this poem, but you nailed it!

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  4. En Memoria

    It was just sand when my father bought the land. It was across a canal from a clump of colorful hills along the fault line. With a thoughtful mix of chemicals the sandy soil was coaxed to yield 80 acres of citrus trees that bloomed sweetly in spring and trimmed themselves by Christmas with orange and yellow baubles of fruit. But across the gravel road the desert, raw and veined by winter rain, sprouted spindly smoke trees, creosote, and in spring, purple verbena. In time, other farms – grapes, tomatoes, vegetables – appeared in the sand surrounding ours, and beyond those farms sometimes were dumping grounds. Old mattresses sprouted rusted wire coils. Bald tires rotted in the sun. Baby strollers lost their wheels and dried, along with cribs and bicycles without tires. Doorless ovens gaped. Leather boots folded in the summer heat. A dog’s paw reached up from the sand. Rattlesnakes left their tracks as they crossed to simpler lands. Once I came upon an oval of stones headed by a cross made from fence pickets. En memoria read the faded hand-drawn sign; time had erased anything written below. The oval seemed small to me, maybe about five feet long, surely not much more. A farm worker, surely, no doubt from Mexico. I imagined a little man, sun-brown, with an Aztec nose. How did he die? Flu? Snake bite? A disease no one knew he had until it was too late? Murder? A farm accident? I wondered if anyone had notified his next of kin, and I thought of him there, wrapped in nothing but a blanket and laid in the dirt like a dead dog. I thought of him every time I went by there, a nameless arrangement of bones in a cemetery of discarded effects. At night the stars were so bright you could almost hear them crackle. By day the sun punched the desert like a thug, rotting the mattresses, ovens, tractor tires, and work boots; this nameless immigrant just lay there among them while buzzards circled overhead, unaware that he had ever lived or died.

    -- Tamara Madison

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    1. That was beautiful. And what a wonderful way to honor the anonymous. Well done♡

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    2. nice, and you can write long ones.

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    3. this is a very unique expression of civilization pushes in on nature.

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    4. Tamara, that's wonderful. That's really powerful!

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  5. Orange Groves

    La Verne had a long history of packing and shipping oranges. When we moved there in the sixties that history was long past. The orange groves were still there, still part of the landscape, but waiting to die. They were a place for a young teenage boy to explore, a place of refuge. It was a forest with jackrabbits, and birds. A quiet place to explore, to meditate, to have your first cigarette in peace. I found two broken orange branches, brought them home, cleaned them up, painted them with varathane, and made two walking sticks, so I could have a piece of the orange grove with me always.

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    1. That's great Tom! Yeah, this was my West Covina except that it had just disappeared. Really a wonderful memory!

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  6. Alien

    Wandering the desert floor alone, to the right is the rendezvous point, maybe five miles away. There’s an abandoned mine above it. I should make it in three hours or so. I am an alien. The landscape is vast and covered with a carpet of tiny yellow flowers that smell strange for the natural world. They have a pungent almost chemical odor that says don’t get comfortable, surrounding barrel cactus and Joshua trees.

    I can see the mine through the glasses, all grey timbers and ruin, and I keep moving. There is a wind starting from the end of the valley, a massive shallow canyon really. It rolls through every half an hour. I can hear it beginning to form like an ocean wave. I feel like no one. I feel like an echo.

    In front of the mine I stand alone, waiting. There is rust and tailings, a few tin cans even. I crouch with the ghost of the desert and surrender my humanity. It’s the only way really.

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  7. Track Homes

    A lovely furry of peach, white and tan.
    Flows ever hurriedly into all the land.
    Every city touched by its new grace.
    More coveted now than anything of lace.
    Blocks and blocks of peaches and cream dessert.
    If ever absent, a young mind can't help but revert,
    To a depression, an American third-world kind,
    Where pain so strong is caught in a most lacking bind.

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  8. Driveway

    The gravel of our new driveway in coupeville washington is so pristine I can step on to it with my indoor moccasins and go back inside and just shake the perfect pebbles from the soles of the shoes and proceed with my indoorness. The driveway is fresh and cuts a good swathe through the pine trees and the other junky plants like nettles that we’ve had to clear out. The driveway is good for driving on, which might be surprising but isn’t if you know how driveways can be, full of dirt and broken cars and old refrigerators and aging swing sets and garbage cans. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But sill the driveway makes the ferns look greener by contrast and makes the japanese maple look redder in the fall which isn’t right now but I can remember and look forward. The drives way helps me imagine. Most importantly the driveway keeps me off the landscaping where already the tiny baby pine trees grow, so many sprouting from the pine cones that fell last fall. Many won’t make it, but I sense already that many will and from the driveway I imagine a forest rebirthing alongside the gravel of tiny silver stones.

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  9. Driveway

    The gravel of our new driveway in coupeville washington is so pristine I can step on to it with my indoor moccasins and go back inside and just shake the perfect pebbles from the soles of the shoes and proceed with my indoorness. The driveway is fresh and cuts a good swathe through the pine trees and the other junky plants like nettles that we’ve had to clear out. The driveway is good for driving on, which might be surprising but isn’t if you know how driveways can be, full of dirt and broken cars and old refrigerators and aging swing sets and garbage cans. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But sill the driveway makes the ferns look greener by contrast and makes the japanese maple look redder in the fall which isn’t right now but I can remember and look forward. The drives way helps me imagine. Most importantly the driveway keeps me off the landscaping where already the tiny baby pine trees grow, so many sprouting from the pine cones that fell last fall. Many won’t make it, but I sense already that many will and from the driveway I imagine a forest rebirthing alongside the gravel of tiny silver stones.

    ReplyDelete