Howard W. Robertson

The clay side by the Kalapuya

The ineffable voices,

the living and nonliving,                                        
                                                      the animate or inanimate,

the essentially spiritual,                                              
                             the utterly mysterious,
fractally fascinating sounds that linger in the shade
here at the energetic end of summer at a time when
carbon dioxide and methane levels have started to
resemble those of fifty-five million years ago after
comparable quantities of greenhouse gases entered
the atmosphere and caused a worldwide heat-wave
that lasted over 200,000 years,                                  
                                                               of the power of the
world’s continuous beginning,                                  
                                              of the ungraspable
holiest phantom calling to us from the rapids and
causing us to reflect on the life of the universe in
these secret thoughts that run over things sacred,

                                       or grave,
                                                                         and each
without all shame or blame;                                          
                                            the ineffable voices

of the living river,

of the ceaselessly flowing entropy reduction that
generally and joyfully characterizes all forms of
       of the primal attraction to watery edges we
inherit from our origins 150,000 brief years ago
back in Africa’s Rift Valley where our ancestors
foraged along the shore for fish,                              
and mammals,        
                                             of this coming from
melted snow and ice and this flashing past dark
boulders or shadowy trout as the stream acts out
what has happened to it and what it will do in its
randomly sensitive dependence on so many initial
                   of the perpetual peace inspiriting this
ancient tumult of pristine flux;                           
                                                  of the living river

declaim so purely,

stand so phenomenally beyond,                           
                                                                and within
the passing of immediate things,                           
                                                        infuse us now so
unconsciously with inspiring bagatelles of transient
                 suggest so melodiously the immanence
that is real yet forever to be realized,                        
                                                            is the remotest
possibility and the most immediate fact,                    
                                                                that gives
meaning to everything transitory but still defies our
                         the mystical transcendence whose
conceptual expression remains our hopeless quest,

expound so profoundly on the soul’s poise,          
                                                                    on its
its sureness,                    
                   its sweetness,
                                                                its cunning
as the black river pours over the split rocks making
savage rainbows of spray,                                            
                                          remind us so reverently
of Hildegard of Bingen and of the divine sparkling
of waters,                                                                    
so magnanimously,                   
                                          so independently,
simply of the process of optimal harmonization with
the Ki of the universe and with the kami of the high
O yes!,                                            
                         extemporize so urgently of life as
it becomes in the intricate invasions of as,            
                                                                    in things
from fecund Nil created;            
                                                          declaim so purely

through ouranic forest,

through maples and ash and nitrogen-fixing alders,

through firs and hemlocks and cedars,                     
                                                              through the
miraculously improbable distribution of molecules
that connects these heliotropic woods to the entire
terrestrial biosphere or to the Sun and the River of
Stars by day or by night,                                             
                                        this analogy between the
biochemical and the astrophysical that proves to be
mathematically feasible after all,                           
                                                through all these
spirelike dendrozoic structures based on the carbon
made in stars and spread in dust and gas throughout
the interstellar medium or the whorling arms of our
own and countless other galaxies,                           
                                                        the same carbon
that provides our planetary life-forms the means to
encode and transmit our genetic instructions to our
own cells and to our varied offspring whether we be
                     or archaea by domain,
these thriving descendants of ancestors who started
three eons ago to practice photosynthesis,           
solar energy to take carbon from atmospheric CO2
and synthesize storage sugars,                             
                                                and who began 400
million years back to cooperate symbiotically on
dry land with underground mycorrhizal fungi for
nitrogen and for precious water during droughts,

through this holy and enchanted landscape where
hydrogen from the original cosmogenic explosion
rushes molecularly bonded to its derivative oxygen,

evoking Presence in Absence,                                        
                                              Essence in the Void,

the subtlest ecstasis and the memorably fugace,      
common and inseparable life of the earthly and the
          or more precisely yet vaguely something
more basic than biota,                                                
                           something beyond life and
        a universal harmony heard beside a river in
the mountains through trees;                                          
                                              through ouranic forest

and chthonic chasm,

the cleft in the Earth whose verticality now aims us
down the tilth toward the subterranean embodiment
and enactment of the vastly greater portion of the
biosphere here at this place a couple hundred yards
northwest of the junction of Oxbow Road and Three
Kings Road off of Highway 139 just past Pioneer
          this local landscape set into motion in the
invisible past when a massive clay slide slipped off
Tumtum Ridge down to where the Kalapuya River
still sluices through the volcanic mountains,        
spectacular pair of vertiginous cliffs whose steep
potential points our mindfulness down toward the
googolplexes of creatures underneath this elegant
A-frame cabin and the expansive deck upon which
Hope and I luxuriate,                                                  
                                      the endless miles of coiled-up
gossamer threads of fungal hyphae or root-hugging
mycorrhizal arbuscula,                                                
                         and all the nematodes,
the water bears,                   
                    the mites,
                                                                the countless
other arthropods,                                                            
the bacteria,    
                                            the methanogens,
the tough,                                        
                                            so adaptable microbes
          the libidinous earthworms whose cosmic
inching works and reshapes this clay soil that slid so
far so fast so very long ago,                                            
                                            clay being the aperiodic
crystal that is able to mutate and self-replicate like
double-helix DNA,                                                          
                        that is chemically reactive with
adenosine triphosphate molecules for storing vital
energy in living organisms,                                         
                                              that was formed within
the mantle at high temperature and pressure and
brought to the surface by the same churning plate
tectonics pushing the continental crusts,          
                                                                                 that during
the meteor bombardment,                                          
                                          the volcanic degassing,

the cataclysmic rainstorms and intense ultraviolet
irradiation of our globe’s raw first eon utilized the
potent thermal energy from the radioactive magma
of the deep subsurface to provide the basic stardust
components of our planet the means to re-organize
themselves against the threat of the thermodynamic
disorder and evolve into a complex design of living
           that served as a crystalline template for the
sequencing of simple proteins and genes,            
pairs of amino acids or nucleotides into the proper
orientation for the biosynthesis of macromolecules,

that can incorporate nucleic and amino acids into its
own structure to initiate the replication or synthesis
functions of those earliest living microbial obligate
anaerobes from which we all descend,                       
                                                                that provided
capacious electrostatically charged surfaces to serve
as primitive enzymes,                                                  
                                        that likely became embedded
by RNA-like single-stranded nucleotide chains,      
eventually taken over by them and finally replaced
altogether for biocatalytic purposes,                       
                                                                that formed the
scaffolding with which the bridge of life was built,

and that swarms with miracles ultra vires scientiae
in its electrochemical interiors;                             
                                                  and chthonic chasm

whatever Gaia feels,

metaphorically speaking of course,                         
                                                            using an ancient
anthropomorphic eidolon for our little locus of the
Illimitable that novelist William Golding suggested
to his neighbor the chemist James Lovelock in the
early 1970’s in their quiet Wiltshire village where
the country folk found it obvious that the biosphere
was a self-regulating system keeping all conditions
favorable for life over improbable periods of time,

the scientist and the literatus thereby collaborating
to resurrect an ancient goddess also known as GA,

an irresistible divinity personifying the biosphere
with its strange property of keeping itself always a
fit and comfortable place for living things to affect
and inhabit,                                                                
                   with its stable recycling of energy and
materials among its components at rates controlled
by feedback systems,                                                  
                             with its Gestalt greater than
the sum that we question while it works,            
                                                                with its
elemental composition similar to the universe as a
whole in which hydrogen,                                          
carbon are by far the primary ingredients,            
                                                                               with its
eight levels of intricate self-organization from the
organelles to biotic entirety,                                        
                                              with its abundant flow
of energy characterized by a tendency to form itself
as it consumes,                                                              
                       with its extremely exotic subsurface
ecosystems of vast microbial metabolisms powered
by the Earth’s inner heat independently of the aging
      with its visceral biological forces in an intimate
union with the many fluxes and pools of the global
exchange of water,                                                  
                                              and nutrients between
the sunlit surface and the depths,                         
                                                           with its Paleozoic
stromatolite fossils over three billion years old that
were left by the archaic photosynthesizers,            
                                                                             with its
fossilized arbuscular mycorrhizae from 400 million
years ago that resemble miniature etched trees,      
its green chloroplast organelles that originated in a
primordial symbiosis between the cyanobacteria
and the eukaryotic organisms,                             
                                                with its microbial
majority of life that would and will survive if and
when all of us large creatures became or become
extinct but not vice-versa sadly,                         
                                                        and with its truly
awe-inducing effect on this couple of us vociferous
advocates and voracious consumers who have been
inspired to love and respect the Earth because we
are part of it and cannot survive without a healthy
planet as our home,                                                  
                           who have dedicated ourselves
to replacing that destructive reductionist thinking
with this holistic compassion,                             
                                             to integrating our
socio-economic well-being with environmental
                 to changing specifically to accredited
green power options for household electricity,   
installing solar panels on the roof and a solar hot
water system,                                                              
                    to using energy-efficient appliances
and light bulbs,                                                            
      a triple-A showerhead,
                                                                  and a tiny
fuel-efficient car,                                                          
to walking,  
                                                                             or taking
public transportation,                                              
                                         to calculating our own carbon
            to conducting a workplace sustainability
          and to writing to our politicians about climate
change and the right response,                             
                                                 we two who lounge
on this raft-like deck temporally afloat and marvel
at the hummingbird-sized sphinx moth flitting from
blossom to bloom while chipmunks snatch roasted
unsalted peanuts from Hope’s lap and vine maples
so imperceptibly continue to turn red at this twist in
the scenery that civilized people admire where birds
and small animals withdraw and return to observe
    perhaps knowing in their bones that eternity is
beautifully pointless and that the brute facts are
more than truth enough;                                        
                                        whatever Gaia feels.

Lisa Nickerson

Tom said "Frank O'Hara will plant a poem in your head"

The gnats plastered to the purple, slanted ceiling
in the upstairs bathroom
remind me
it is summer, Frank O'Hara.

Tom said you'd plant a poem inside my head
Tom said, yes he did.

The toilet paper is run out on the roll hanging
the windows are open to their bones
though you, Frank O'Hara
wrote of Cohasset and Provincetown
and well heeled Boston summering
in plaid pants on the croquet courts
all wrapped in green and blue whale belts

or wait
that might be me
you forgot the lace-top hydrangeas Tom spotted
on the road
to the beach where we had a picnic and the battery in the camera died just
before sundown but the children didn't
die. They ran like sandfleas licking
at cold Cape Cod bay
dart dart go their toes like baby flea tongues.

Tom didn't take any pictures and the chicken was honeyed
I sliced the the jalapeno flecked cheese with a plastic knife
and we brought the peach tartlet and lemon squares home.

Matt Dennison

Naked in the Wrong City

Can I ever be clean again, he wondered.

Young and free and all that.

Can I shake off these rags.
Can I ever again.

Naked in the wrong city he waved his hand,

naked and wrong.

I Say, Darling

I say, darling, this is quite a fine
bag of garbage that you have
here and it certainly

is ripe.

I’m sure the shy

eating machine will

find it most

Let’s put it out tonight

for you know how they
like to eat in the morning

when no one is there.

Jed Myers

At the Cupid Club

One heart’s wires light white neon—
the thorax cabaret
night begins, a one-act play
scored for cigarettes, gin,
accordion (no piano
fits between the ribs).

One heart’s fibers hum by starlight
inhaled through translucent skin,
a blue tint bathes a shadow
swinging from a high trapeze
by bent knees, singing
minor key to accordion’s wheeze.

A pulsing fist against
its hardened chest plots reddened
lips the next act. The pulp
of jealousy contracts to black
behind thick velvet. Each squeeze
a more contorted chord.

The music shifts, a march-like
major drift—hypnosis
spreads like wisps of some white film
out from the sound-box. The keys
depress themselves, as a ghost
of love passes—one heart sees.

Smoke and moonlight meet inside
the foggy window. Cupid leans
against the glass, sips Bourbon neat,
tips his Fedora with one finger
to the dancer, singer, madman,
memory, the accordion player…

Shane Jones

The Water Troth Horses

After the third day of dumping hot water by single buckets, the muscles in our forearms became stretched bruises, barely able to handle the turning of a doorknob. Caldor Clemens was the one who came up with the hot water troth system which would change the course of the war forever. Clemens spent two days building a long wooden troth from thick trees he chopped down by hand and carried on his shoulder from the woods. When he was finished, the wooden troth was three times longer than the house. Then Clemens instructed us to stick pieces of glass to the bottom of the troth with the sap he had collected from the trees. This way the troth itself won’t catch fire, he said, testing a small fire beneath the troth. On the morning Clemens wanted to test the troth system, he walked up the hill towards the house with six horses who he then harnessed to the troth which was bubbling with hot water. On his command, the horses tipped the troth, sending a massive wave of hot water rushing towards the town, melting snow until it became slush. We continued this attack until the falling snow melted on the warm soil like a tongue. The sky became a rippling sail. The holes in the sky went black. The war effort pointed to the sky shouting for the death of February.

George Fortier


Poppies I gave called lilac
your thigh’s bruise called persistent you said
wait until the shower nothing washed
your eyes still called blue lips
called red here your lips called base rosette
called triangle under
your brunette nails called plum called mint
chintz on the tips of fingers we licked
meat called blackened silver
wine called Dolcetta over flameprince peaches
seed called pit inside salt and alkaline
called sweet soil
we bolted back to front again called saddle
called thus spread called gloss
called your skin shown through
cups called my hands held
to the waved loss and gain called angle
called bronze time
stung called ash pushed to the dusk’s sheet’s
dark across poppies that were never lilac.

Brad Hatfield

The Comfort of Your Emails

Resigned to the island,
His universe in hand --
Economies settled --
Crusoe checked daily

The curve of the ocean
For the tip of a mast --
A puff of color --
In the static white sky.

Sarah Seybold


My mother knelt, coatless in the snow, trying to suck gas from the broken-down Chevy’s tank and siphon it to the Dodge, while I found a five in my jacket pocket, magic I didn’t know I had, and we coasted on fumes down icy roads to Jiffy Mart. “Let’s use a couple bucks and get some McDonald’s to celebrate our luck,” she said, finally taking a breath.