Monday, November 19, 2012

Blast Furnace Volume 2, Issue 3

The Storyteller

It starts with a bar, a drink, a map—
rapt ears, consent to stretch, to be taken
somewhere uncannily familiar, yet foreign,
a pacifying blanket with someone else’s scent.

Words in knots,
or a braid of possibility,
the particulars always
unique, riffed

on a theme. The two heroes,
father and son, friends separated
by the mysteries of age, by a sweaty glass of gin—
and a bartender who’s got a piece of the puzzle,

who’s in on the secret, who sets the adventure
in motion. A crowd precedes them, mainly waiting,
making conversation like
a beginning. The snapshot

of a childhood plotted out,
in captions, in gestures,
like pantomime,
on paper.

If we know it so well,
why don’t we tell it?

Better bearded. Expected
spit. Sighs in time.

In the story, the grandfather is somehow
superimposed on Loch Ness,
or the jungle in Congo, is somehow
as young as we are.

The story patterns itself—
different strands for changing times—
pygmies, monsters, the strange man at the counter
always stranger, newer. It interrupts

where we begin. We say,
It ends with a bar,
a next time. The storyteller is really our
favorite story of them all, collecting

tales with time—
clothing never owned,
pipes never smoked,
ships never jumped.

Every storyteller
looks like a grandfather,
spinning, singing
like a drunk.

Even the house becomes
a story, yellower
recollected. Place
as a verb. Speech,

that comforting window.
Rooms happening.

Rachel Voss' work has previously appeared in Hanging Loose Magazine (Number 85), Borderline, Work, and is forthcoming in The Prompt Literary Magazine.

Restoration of Breakwater Bridge 

Always do these rough minded fishermen
cast and sway in their dopey persistence;
and the well-oiled girls on elbows perch,
their novelettes dog-eared beside them.

You could, I suppose, imagine Poseidon
in briny robe and conch shell slippers
had just waltzed over the Atlantic;
or conjure a half-sunk and snorting sub
ushered by a fleet of dolphins, who nudge
the sorry hulk like a wounded pup
back to the safety of its amniotic harbor;
or any such cosmic shenanigans.

Knee-deep boys muscle the sea and shore;
they know by now the tides flow both ways
will later learn lighthouses welcome and warn,
shipwrecks are treasures, and old worlds
persist in the salt and bone of the fish.

The bridge rulers outward in feet and inches
each year the men leg in further from the edge
of our concaved shore to reach the bay's break-
water island which like myth seems more distant
the closer they get--halfway, then half that. 

A buoy bell rings and we end the day;
recover our pails and shovels,
collapsed umbrellas tucked like lances
beneath our arms, and seem bewildered
that not one of us has seen a fluke or a fin. 

Perhaps we’ve stared at the horizon too long,
or wished too hard for our gods to surface,
got tired of waiting and built ways of crossing
between the plenum of their world and the vacuum of ours. 

By night the workers with reason enough
leave on the lights and their labor undone. 

Michael Sukach teaches writing and literature at the United States Air Force Academy, where he administers and participates in the Air Force Professional Writers Program. His poetry is forthcoming in the 2012 Fall anthology, Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, published by Southeast Missouri State University Press.

Pine River Fishing

With floodgates back in place and water
slowed, steelhead rise from the river lows

they held like rock as waters rushed
above them. Men in waders feel their way
across the sandbar, while others row
slowly setting chains to hold.

One man says his son’s in trouble and refuses
to listen or take advice. Another nods,
then twists his line and doubles back to knot.
Others hello, offer luck, then ask what I’ve been using.
Trying to remember, I tell them wigglers and hope
they don’t find out the truth: I’ve never hooked a trout.
A few just nod, then drift to fish.

Below the coffer dam, clear lines settle into runs.
There’s little romance in November water
to the chest, but each cast’s song and drop
to bottom is a moment’s gamble and relief.

The long awaited tug. The subtle bending tip.
Both mean the chance to make things good
in a life where starts too often number one.

It’s easy to picture us seen from the bridge.
Men like dots ten feet apart and floating just offshore.
And the solitude is there, till someone hooks
a steely and jerks his rod to set the hook.
Then all those close hold back to watch
and wish such weight would ride their lines.
They offer hands for line across the boat.

The Heights

Eighty years ago, the State commission dammed a river
their study judged too slow to overflow. Then,
to the respect of every owner, it backed its way
to Roger’s Heights and leveled off at flood stage.
River lots plotted by local bankers replaced most shacks
and spare wood cabins, where trappers and the local
roughs were once the only life.

Now, it’s the kind of place
where one man docks a motor boat he christened “Little Tug”
and chainsaws pines that block his view. His neighbor’s
sled dogs bay at full moon and whenever their owner
plays all-night poker with his cousin from the north.
A half-wrecked pickup, abandoned off the road, reminds them all
what waits outside and peers from stands of towering pines.

In 1910, the Red Spot epidemic killed every child under three.
but no one claimed it was the devil’s work. They knew the Spot
was simply one more thing that modern medicine failed to stop.
Local bloods trace ways to a man who cleared the land of oak and pine
only to find what couldn’t grow in acid soil and ash.
Most worked then as independent loggers, while other sat
closer to home, grinding stones for sides of beef.

When spring rain pounds the river, fish gum worms
and water climbs higher than anyone expected,
undercutting acres of sandy bank. Then all the owners,
regardless of loan or loss, shovel tons of sand into burlap bags,
tie them tight with nylon rope and stack waist-high
their makeshift walls as the current whips and sucks its muddy fill.
They gather by the banks and watch the river rise.

John Cullen's poetry has appeared in The MacGuffin, Controlled Burn, and the Cincinnati Poetry Review. The two pieces represented here are poems of place from a collection of Michigan poems on which he is currently working.

Woman in the Garden

She kneels down under the array of the sun’s rays,
Tending to the treasures of her garden.
Soft radiance coolly bounces off her shoulders,
Smooth recalcitrance of the summer solstice

What pangs, what woes, she might or might not have come to know
Are banished from her aquiline shoulders
As her circumambient twice-bloomed begonias
Restore the timeless order of beauty

And its simple divinity, whom but woman
Could harness the western rays of the sun,
Then breathe photosynthetic nurture into her blooms
So effortlessly from the windows of her room

Humming a quiet coda, she takes one last view
Of her violets, yellows, and incandescent blues.

John Elliott's short story, "The Song of Sirens," is published in the October edition of The Bacon Review.

New Delhi Power Strike (or "Bijli")

The power went out again
In the bleak slew of the afternoon-night;
I was afraid.
Here and there was every man
Asleep upon the veranda

Sipping pepper-water on the roof
Tossing about in the dust.
Gossiping women, gossiping children
Gossiping ghosts.
Wearing rubber sandals
Speaking in tongues, listening to fantasies.

Outstretched by the gated doors I lay,
Listening to the sound of a pearl

Rudrani Sarma is a new voice from Colorado—a freshman at Bryn Mawr College—whose poetry centers around Indian culture. She said that this poem depicts the terrifying yet utterly poetic days without electricity in the city of New Delhi, India.

I used to call him Grandad

Seamus Rimer lived alone
at 84
  A door ajar
            to let in light

Reminiscing chip-pan air:
an infant dances in, to chant
“Grandad, only me”

Mirrored invite in the kitchen:
shufflecoughing, rasped benignly
“Love, I’m only here”

Hazy days would dance away
on chatterwaves
of rainbow stripe
and honey tea
Tutoring a forward roll;

telling tales taller
than the comic books allowed
Feeding fierce hunger to debate,
delight, to light a fire
with imagery, embellishment;
a his-story in wonderment

August brought surprises
wrought in rusty iron coils
Mattress turned to trampoline;
a summertime of jumping round
and learning how to whistle
Seamus sat to smoke
and smile
illuminating all
the lonely shade

No relation, kith or kin,
but how significant a man
to seven-year-old me
Dignity was diamond-like,
precious as respect
Seamus treasured love and light,
laughter and equality;
weaving magic wrapped in words
from ancient mariners
for little girls

Seamus Rimer lived alone
at 84
   A door ajar
             to let in light

Award-winning poet Laura Taylor is a regular festival and open-mic night guest performer throughout the North West of England. She has been writing and performing for two years, and has been widely published.

LuLus Cafe

A blue cheese burger at LuLu’s Café
is theater for me, a play my son won’t let me watch.

Each time I gaze at the head waitress,
tattoos mapping her body, he nudges me.

Embarassment, death for him.

So when he’s gone for a while in the bathroom,
I drown in her drama.

She mouth-kisses the blond waitress
who saunters in to relieve her.

She secrets a glance at her new boyfriend
bent over his matte black Harley sportster.

She frets over something undone,
someone untouched, a mother leaving her brood.

The other women restless for the rush
scan the October schedule.

Their month cast here. Their other lives open now.
All delicious surprise.

Angel story

I fall in love that day with sequined leotards
and the girls from Marcia’s School of Dance.
Hands arch forward, as if for a kiss.
Arms curve the air at their sides.
Sparks of light flutter off their chests,
off my upturned face,
the hot curb, my perch for the parade.
My face warms with the first summer sun,
my first glimpse of what I could be.

In their smooth shadows, a Corvette convertible follows
with two crowned queens, their silken torsos
rotate east to west, west to east.

And then jagged light everywhere, sudden drum thunder.
Tubas and trombones jerk this way, that way,
mocking the sky, the street,
the red, white and blue in every window.
Behind the band, a platoon of green and yellow
John Deere tractors lumber,
their thick rubber-veined wheels taller than my dad.
I wince at the firetrucks’ screams,
I clench my eyes shut to the red-faced cub scouts,
the rifled men who freeze for their signal,
their ready

My smile is wooden as I wander onto my great aunt’s porch.
My grandma and her siblings sway on the porch swing
and sidestep old arguments.
A homemaker, a bookkeeper, a shop keeper.
A butcher, a fireman, a cop.
Schooled in hand-work and fearlessness.

Inside the clapboard house, porcelain angels shoulder
harps and flutes and rosaries.
They dance and sing and pray on polished pine shelves.

My mother finds me cross-legged on the oval rag rug,
my body stiff with doubt and longing,
her rigid with rage at my fragile silhouette.
When I stand, she hisses, “Don’t move

too fast or touch

The screen door creaks
and my great aunt glides past my mother,
holding an emerald glass of Kool-Aid.

My heart opens to her angel stories,
this one from Germany, this one from Spain.

Before we leave, she opens a crystal
cabinet door and lifts one small angel to me,
golden stars on her sage gown,
a candle cupped in her outstretched hands.

After pounding out poems on her toy typewriter as a child in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Lora Keller went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in poetry and creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. For several years, she earned a living as a scriptwriter and public relations executive in Milwaukee, New York and Kansas City. After, she taught college business writing and composition for several years. For the last 15 years, Lora has owned and run three small businesses and turned again to writing poetry. Her work has been published in local publications, including The Shepherd Express and the Appleton Post-Crescent.

kneeling by the window

Kneeling by the window, she's looking for that blue
argyle sock Puppy Doc was worrying around.
She pushes the curtain and dotted sheer aside:
there is a light, there, where light shouldn't be
across the valley. Rising like a truck stop
down the interstate, rising over Walden's
Ridge: an orange, a ferris wheel, a neon blur.
She blinks her contacts into place. The moon!
Carrot-bright. Pumpkin broad. It fills the waist
between two hills, and bulges like a popover.
A spectacle too fine to contemplate alone.

A dormant, wistful, vain desire to share
kicks her belly hard and she reels. But,
there's that big wheel moon, still expecting
she’ll put her tennis shoes on, and ratty
pea coat. Dutifully, she sets that pang aside
and the early evening depth of winter, sharp
and crisp as ice, takes her breath. Gasping
light in place of cold air, she all but runs
down the road toward the ridge, needing
a better, longer, closer look at the moon.


He threads the knot and clabber of heroes
to warm his blind hands at their bonfire.
The one who guides him has black slits for pupils,
and a tangle of serpents rasp in its hair.
With the voice of a well-behaved child
it describes for its master the scene:
the color of firelight the shape of the stardust
the number of gods looking down from the sky
the play of the flames across new-sharpened blades
and the bones in the tempest that burn incandescent,
the knob of a femur the arc of a rib.
The cracked bowl that had been a delicate temple
glows in the sparks like the low blood moon;
the lines of fracture that were etched by a stone
are spider thread rayed rings dyed by fire.

the twitch of a finger
the guide kneels
the snakes hiss
the bones of the day return, in new dress.
The gods and the heroes lean forward
to hear the blunt deeds of the brawl grow
immense, and words of a poet
replace the battle of errors with myth
that even the gods will come to believe
before the fire has grown cold.

Barbara Young is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. She has two cats, one husband, and, she says, a pile of drafts in need of revision.

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