Tumbleweed

Photo taken by Mindy Wilson, Kentucky, USA

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TUMBLING WEED

by Shelby Stephenson, North Carolina, USA

				I

So this little tumble was taken . . . 
So was I.
	Weed,
wiry hair in the scuds,
reflecting
in the sun.

A thimble roll of gather
licks and bucks the shells
and white caps
pointing out
plovers.
		
				II

I am a flower of awe, 
an awesome blossom of reflections

like a pledge to sand
the ocean’s goodness.

My father’s hands fumble
when he leaves my mother

nestled in the sea:
I am planted.

				III

I’m a rider
writing all night long
my parents’ enchanting whirl.

Daylight sports 
horizon clearly connecting to the sea

in different colors, tresses,
light blue, a sail of whitish wisps,
then the dark exhaust-tinged mirage

and more sludge now in the shallows:
still no birds in sight,
just the tumbleweeds,
disengaged from their parent-roots,

to move with the wind,
breathing in and out,
the tumbleweed,
as its umbilical is free from the old
and must take on 

a god or goddess 
drifting along.  The day is done.

************

TUMBLEWEED JUSTICE

By Michael Jerry Tupa

It was the summer of ‘83,
when L’il Slow Joe, last name Dundee,
appeared on the far horizon,
with the shimmering sun just risin’
smell of pancakes and sizzling bacon
lingering in the glowing dawn.

Sheriff Green and deputy were gone,
only real law left was Doc Myron Braun
asleepin’ on his small office cot,
dreamin’ colorful dreams of naught,
while into town Dundee jockeyed,
rollin’ in like a lonely tumbleweed.

Only 5-foot-4 and red peach fuzz
no one knew, or cared, who he was,
just a boy ridin’ on a high horse,
following a lonely, uncharted course,
horse stumbling down main street,
both lookin’ for somethin’ solid to eat.

Hot breakfast cost most of a quarter,
sleepy horse was stabled by a porter,
Dundee asked about a hotel room,
crawled into the white-sheet womb
snuggling in for a daylong’s rest,
sleepin’ ‘til sun was deep in the west.

Risin’ in the sunset’s grayish gloom,
Dundee emerged from his warm tomb,
strolling to the nearby noisy saloon,
seeking dinner and a pretty tune,
a perhaps a fast game of cards,
he saw the bar; he gave his regards.

Slow Joe’s money pile mushroomed tall,
while other angry players cast a pall,
one in particular, Cheyenne Pete,
a loud gentleman, most indiscreet
fingered his trigger and questioned why,
suggesting Dundee’s time might be nigh.

It’s a bitter tale to recall, dear friend.
for Slow Joe Dundee it was the end,
Doc Braun didn’t know who to notify
no one around to bid a fond good-bye —
Pete never knew he shot his brother.
(Dundee’s sad horse went to another.)

************

WE ROAMED THE SANDS

by Robert L. Penven, Vineland, New Jersey, USA

During my daily walk
by the ocean,
I encounter a curiosity.
a tumbleweed had become
mired in the sand,
close by the tide line.
I asked this strange wonder
how it got there, well knowing
it wouldn’t sacrifice
its secrets.
So, I left it behind
though not out of mind,
for others to contemplate.

Tomorrow will bring
a day of new life for me.
as for the tumbleweed,
the wind must embrace
the burden for journeys to come.
it will surely succeed
through the living world
but stop to share tribute
to those of late.
though it no longer plays
with the gulls and terns,
I will recall this curiosity
with warm thoughts.

************

BLUE ON BLUE

by Miss Cathryn Evans

Rivulets chased after the ebbing tide, sighing softly against the sand, lovers parting just as they had done that distant day.
The sea rushed forward once more to clasp the shores sandy face in a sweet embrace and kiss away the briny tears, only to leave again however fleetingly.
The never ending bitter-sweet love story of the shore.
She wondered if he would return, if he would rush to hold her close once again.
The gentle breeze seasoned her lips and inspired a tumbleweed to skip along the waters edge, a knot of mermaids hair.
The softly foaming manes of white horses lapped playfully at her feet. These gentle colts would grow to fiery stallions with the spring tides, stampeding along the coast, leaping and taking flight, their breath to fall like rain.
The shore had its seasons just like the prairie. Both were ever changing yet never changing.
The sky was a beautiful blue. Blue on blue on blue above the graphite shaded sea. It reminded her of his eyes. They showed his moods just as clearly. Were they still bright and alive or were they dead and turning milky as his body lay torn in a bloody, muddy battlefield?
She shook herself. She knew he’d return just as surely as she knew she’d still love him no matter how broken this war left him. Civil war. There was nothing civil about it. A sour taste crept into her mouth.
Turning, she walked slowly toward the path that would eventually wind its way to their small house with its few acres. Her skirts felt heavy, the bottoms darkened by the water. Heavier still was the rifle she carried. It dwarfed her small frame but she clasped it against herself with her small, pale hands. She was glad of the weight. It kept her anchored in the here and now. She’d promised him she’d always carry it. He’d worried the fighting would spread this way but so far the only action it had seen was taking a rabbit or deer by the creek.
She prayed he’d be home soon.

************

CATCHIN

by Leroy Trussell

See’in yearlin rump,tail a wavin’.             
    Horse in a lather.
Tryin’ my patience,this misbehavin’.
   Hand full of rope to gather.

Caught up in the slack.
   Uh’ chasen yearlin bones.
Just a comin’ off Cedar Back.
   Sure’nuf a flyin’and kickin’ up stones.

My ol’ horse,breakin’ brush.
   In a weed eatin’ style.
A airy downhill thrush,
   Over a Cedar Back rock pile.

Stickin’ low in the saddle.
   On the heels of this-here critter.
Thorn’brush,cactus,and mesquite ta’ battle.
   But ain’t no fancy greenhorn quitter,

Ol’ bronc still between my knees.
   Throws my loop.
Catchin’ them bawl’lin horns with ease.
   Then tryin’ ta’ recoup.

Now the catchin’ get’in tougher.
   An the Sun,is get’in low.
Somehow a little rougher.
   Than this old Cowpoke us’ta know.

************

 

A TUMBLEWEED ON THE SHORE

by Smokey Culver

Did it drift in from the sea, or roll in from the plain?
	that tumbleweed knows only where it's been 
It travels on its journey where it stops along its way 
	for just awhile, then rolls away again 

It wanders down the sandy shore as salty breezes blow
	for miles  and miles not caring where it's bound
Like some old driftin' cowboy never staying in one place
	no roots to keep it anchored to the ground 

A tumbleweed's a symbol of the freedom of a time
	before the barbed wire fences came along
An image of the roving lifestyle, sleeping 'neath the stars
	a life we hear about in cowboy songs 

It rolls along to music that's created by the sound
	of waves as they come splashing in the sand
Of dry winds 'cross the desert or the thunder of a storm
	that soaks the ground in fields and pasture lands 

If that ol' tumbleweed could talk about where it has been
	the places that it's passed along its way
I'd sit and listen closely to its stories one by one
	about its travels every night and day 

That spirit of an old time cowboy in a brushy heap
	that moves along, takes little time to rest
It never settles down, and I know that it never will
	that tumbleweed, an icon  of the west...

************


SALT OR SAND

by Andy Kerr-Wilson

Comes a time
when we all
are tried and tested.
Comes a time
when we all
are measured up for bigger things.

Past paths and footsteps
bring us to it.
Decisions, avoided or postponed,
made in haste or agony.
And now,
all distractions and delays exhausted,
we stand on the edge of things,
confronted.

Comes a time
when we all
are alone with our own hearts.
Comes a time
when we all
are faced down by ourselves.

A journey’s end or its first acts.
A leap of faith or a final chapter.
Fresh starts or the last loose ends.
And now,
whether the dark unknown or the too familiar,
we are asked to find the courage,
within.

Comes a time
when we all
are up against it.
Comes a time
when we all
taste salt or find sand.

Time’s currents swirl,
and we choose.

************

TUMBLEWEED

by Arthur Davenport, The Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Red sun was born this morning,
I rose to watch through the peachy haze.
As the wind blew, I heard her calling,
For today, we are one,
You and me, summer is our name.

Tumbleweed, rumbling, tumbling,
knows the wind, she’s a friend.
Wild and free, just like me, tumbleweed, tumbleweed.

Don’t mistake me for somebody,
somewhere, somehow, that you once knew.
I’m not your daddy, or your old boyfriend,
or anyone who put you through,
the lover’s grindstone, fighting dust storms,
chasing ghosts that you once knew.
Didn’t you? Tumbleweed?

Tumbleweed, rumbling, tumbling,
knows the wind, she’s a friend.
Wild and free, just like me, tumbleweed, tumbleweed.

Woke up feeling lonely this morning,
Thinking about roots and a room with a view.
A hometown boy, with the simple joy
of settling down with a girl like you,
Yea you, you tumbleweed.

Tumbleweed, rumbling, tumbling,
knows the wind, she’s a friend.
Wild and free, just like me, tumbleweed, tumbleweed.

More than I can express to you
lies sleeping, dreaming, drowned.
The well is deep, eternal spring,
drink deep this life you found, tumbleweed.

Tumbleweed, rumbling, tumbling,
knows the wind, she’s a friend.
Wild and free, just like me, tumbleweed, tumbleweed.

December Issue- Week 3

December 16, 2013

There will be no Week 4 this go round. It’s the holidays and frankly we need a few weeks to recover from all the reading we are doing for the launching of our Red Dashboard LLC Publishing company and its new books. If you are interested in sending us your manuscript to consider for a Summer/Fall 2014 publication, email us at editor@reddashboard.com with a query letter and 5 pieces of poetry, or 10 pages of your short story/desert dime novel material/work.

MarkTwainSelection3

Yuma Arizona foot hills, taken by our Managing Editor EAS while on a quest for water…

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Boots Crunching on Gravel

“You-all been washing gold along the creek,” I said, “but you never stopped to think where those grains of gold started from. Well, I found and staked the mother lode, staked her from Hell to breakfast, and one day’s take will be more than you’ve taken out since you started work. I figure now I’ll dig me out a goodly amount of money, then I’ll sell my claims and find me some friends that aren’t looking at me just to see what I got.” ~From “The Courting of Griselda” – Louis L’Amour

We started at daybreak with two rifles and plenty of ammunition. We rode out of there with the stars still in the sky. We rode across country with no dust in the sky. All of a sudden two men rode up. Nobody had anything to say but by the looks of it – the pans, the picks, the sacks, they were hunting gold. I looked over at my buddy his name of Jeb and I gave a slight nod. He stared straight ahead eying the men his fingers crawling slowly to his holster. If we had time for words, I’d know what he’d say: “Colt, there’s no such thing as a gunman’s crouch. Might make you less of a target but you need to hold a gun so’s it’s comfortable to you.” The men held their heads high and nodded towards the creek. I softened the grip on my rifle. The odor of stale whiskey lingered in the air. Finally the older of the two lifts his hat up off his head and nods. The younger follows suit. Then Jeb. Then me. And we pass along the trail, everything unguarded.

LB Sedlacek’s poems have been published in publications such as “The Broad River Review,” “Third Wednesday,” “Heritage Writer,” “Circle Magazine,” “Scribe and Quill,” “The Hurricane Review,” and others.

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clowning 2

Behind The Grease Paint

Another performance over and his work is done
Most of the grease paint was gone from his face
His life as a rodeo clown has just begun
It’s this new role he must now embrace
Many years ago he was in the cowboy protection
Making himself a target for fallen bull-riders
Each outin addin bumps,and bruises, to his collection
He’d shuck, and jive as if his feet were on gliders
His movements have been slowed by injury and age
He now walks at a much slower pace
It’s different as a clown takin centre stage
His new life is all about props, pranks, and fillin in space
No more will he be dodgin bulls, and makin saves
Instead he tells stories trades jabs with the announcer
He can no longer do what he craves
Dancing around the arena as if attached to a bouncer
The life of a rodeo clown in the sport that he loves
Is about making people happy with antics and a story.
He plays with audience and a barrel he shoves
It’s not the same as bullfighting you don’t get the glory
Without the grease paint he’s just like me or you
Not the one making them laugh
He’s turned the page on the life he once knew
and found new meaning in his rodeo path.
Behind the grease paint he lives as a clown
And the chance to make people laugh he’ll never turn down.

Geoff “Poppa Mac” Mackay is a storyteller, entertainer, and rodeo clown (as seen in photo above). His poetry and music has been seen and heard- June 2013 Performed Pincher Creek Gathering; June 2013 Performed Manitoba Stampede July 2013; Performed at a CD Release party Palomino Club August 2013; Chosen to Clown Heartland Rodeo Finals September 2013; Performed Souris River Bend Trail ride September 2013; Performed Maple Creek Gathering September 2013; MC’d and Performed Quinton Blair CD Release Party October 2013, and Competing Columbia River gathering, Cowboy Idol- April 2014.

************

Ambling With My Companion

Trails intersect,
the criss-crossroads
made us bury
pictures of youth—

hooves of plain-spoke
language, stomped our
dead fallen tracks.

We’re ripping a
part of the land—
are no longer
frequently lost,

free-questrian,
elegant—we
always arrive
somewhere near our

forsaken home.
My ground and yours,
what we lived for—
poems in crowns,

adorned four-fold,
each season’s form
maintained between
forlorn borders.

Summer Is A Hot Kiss Of Death

I felt the crisp wind
take hold of my lips
transforming them into
the desert surface.

It also turned my face
a chronic cold of blue,
like poisoned horse lay
flat under oil-waved sky.

I only cried once.
I stared the two times
you held my grazing body
under white-washed sun.

Courtney Leigh Jameson recently graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California with an MFA in Poetry. Her work has appeared in *Similar:Peaks*<http://similarpeakspoetry.com/2013/06/05/two-poems-by-courtney-jameson/>and is forthcoming in *Clockwise Cat, FLARE, *and *Danse Macabre*. She currently resides in Arizona and is the The Bowhunter of *White Stag Journal*.

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December 2013- Week 2

December 10, 2013

MikeHudson

Michael Hudson is a poet/preacher in Arizona, and is our resident ranch hand and roper sends us these great photos from time to time! He is the rider, but not sure who is down on the ground, but they do this from sun-up to sun-down, every day.

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MY CHARISMATIC COWBOY

Observe brash
imminent intimidation
every part of.
Like pauses in the flow,
we listen.
Inclusionists

crouched over this.
Our knowledge acts withered
slow to resist.
Faint lips
subjective in the telling.
Now willing to present

the kiss.

Thank you for traveling through time.

Passive histrionics
levitating beneath a rock.
Servitude’s meandering cracks,
where did I put that’s.
Forever and ever or
a horizon of stoics.
Impractically industrious.
I witnessed a fellow spirit
materialize without a comma

within the here is.

Colin James has a chapbook of poems available from Atlantean Publishing, and has been published via other journals and on-line lit magazines.

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Stage Coaches

Cowboy songs command the throng.
One falls off his hobbyhorse.
Some miss marks.

The sheriff stage-whispers cues
from a casting couch,
Hands up. Drop your drawers.

Unstellar heroine in the dark
— cut to black,
nothing but crickets.

Gerard Sarnat is the author of two critically acclaimed poetry collections, 2010’s “HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man” and 2012’s “Disputes.” His pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in over seventy journals and anthologies. Harvard and Stanford educated, Gerry’s been a physician who’s set up and staffed clinics for the disenfranchised, a CEO of health care organizations, and a Stanford professor. For “The Huffington Post” review of his work and more; visit GerardSarnat.com.

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Horse, pony, colt, filly waiting for a cowboy

Horse on the trail
waiting for a cow
waiting for a cowboy
traveling a trail
pony at a fair
waiting on a kid
waiting for a rider
traveling a circuit
colt born wild
colt waiting to run wild
colt waiting for a mustang wild run
colt traveling a wildness trail
filly born wild
filly in the wildness running wild
filly waiting for a drink of water
filly running in a wildness trail
cowboy tell me this
cowboy tell me that
cowboy tell me a horse tale
cowboy waiting on a cow trail
Working with a cow
working for along time on the cow trail
fencing the wild trail
gone wild are the horses
gone are the ponies
gone are the colts
gone wild are the fillies
how sad are the cowboys with fences

Clinton Seagle as a kid grew up on Cracker Box Route Fallon, Montana area. Worked a bit in Ekalaka Montana where one can see the end of the world is just a step away. Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Bolivia an other end of the world stepping stone. This is his first attempt at publishing his work.

December Issue- Week 1

November 30, 2013

WesKnappCowboy

‘Rough Rode Cowboy’

Wesley Knapp is a retired technology innovator and entrepreneur whom now spends his time cavorting with his life-long love of photography in Hanibal, MO. Knowing that it’s never too late, at age 54 Wesley is studying to earn his Masters Degree in Fine Art Photography. Wesley, along with his high school sweetheart wife Rhonda live in Hannibal, MO with 3 dogs, 4 cats and 2 chickens.

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Imagining My Father in Texas, 1960
“Well, the honky tonks of Texas were my natural second home.”–Waylon Jennings

Stetson pulled low over his twenty-something green eyes,
a cowboy-soldier who parts a saloon’s wooden, swinging doors,

his leather rancher boots, freshly shined,
conspicuous against the sawdust bathed floor–

a silver dime slotted in the fistfight-battered juke,
commanding Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours’
“Walkin’ the Floors Over You”

for a green-eyed a girl he bedded in El Paso,
the cattle rancher’s daughter he broke in Corpus Christi.

Mounting a three-legged bar stool horse,
a Lone Star beer in his right hand,
the same calloused hand

in which he’d grasped Ol’ Upshot’s reins–
the bronc who catapulted him days before
on a longhorn ranch outside Brownsville.

Nicole Yurcaba hails from a long line of coal miners, Ukrainian immigrants and West Virginian mountain folk. She is an adjunct instructor of English and Developmental Reading, substitute teacher and farm hand hailing from West Virginia currently pursuing her Master of Humanities in English at Tiffin University. Her work has appeared in print and online journals such as VoxPoetica, Referential Magazine, Rolling Thunder Quarterly, Decompression, Hobo Camp Review, The Camel Saloon, Jellyfish Whispers, Napalm and Novocaine, Floyd County Moonshine and many others. In life, she enjoys taking the unbeaten path, and usually exits the scene pursued by bear.

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Brenham

Roaming in indigo blooms
that encapsulate springtime,
grazing at leisure in meadows
emergent with life-force,
Jerseys and Holsteins abound
in the blue-jeweled grasslands
blanketing hillsides awash
in a radiant sun soak.

dl mattila is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University. Her work has appeared in *Blast Furnace, Foothill: A Journal of Poetry, Lowestoft Chronicle, *and* Shot Glass Journal*, among others. Her poetry also displays on the Maier Museum of Art Ekphrastic Poetry webpage and at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

************

Cowboy Boot Clocks

whenever I see one of those stupid cowboy boot clocks
the ones where the leather is so heavily shellacked
they look like they’ve been carved out of wood
or molded in cheap, shiny plastic, I think of
my grandfather, the last real cowboy in my family
and especially I think of that time he came in
from working the horses with my dad, his socks caked with cow shit
and mud, swearing because some asshole had stolen his boots
probably to make into a couple of those stupid cowboy boot clocks.

He had been warned by Earl-down-the-way that
some asshole was stealing cowboy boots right off the roadside fence posts
probably to make into those stupid cowboy boot clocks that tourists love to buy
and Earl told him that if you take a nap after working the horses
don’t put your boots on the fence post because some
asshole’ll steal them, but grandpa didn’t want
snakes crawling into his boots while he was sleeping

so he put them on the fence post anyway
and some asshole drove by and stole them
probably to make into a couple of those stupid
heavily-shellacked cowboy boot clocks
the kind tourists always have to get at least one of
whenever they pass through this state
and grandpa had to come in from the fields in his stockings
he was real mad.

Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis, Minnesota who teaches needlepoint classes for the Minneapolis school district and writing classes at The Loft Literary Center. Her poetry has recently appeared in Hawai’i Pacific Review, Slant, and The Tampa Review, and she is the 2011 recipient of the Sam Ragan Poetry Prize from Barton College. Her most recent published books are “Walking Twin Cities” and “Notenlesen für Dummies Das Pocketbuch.”

************

The Heroes

A billowing cloud rose out of the West
And out of it rode two of the best
One clad in buckskin, the other in white
Blood brothers fused in friendship and fight.

With silver bullets and a mysterious mask,
A Ranger and his sidekick together in task:
Side by side to save the day
And when it was won the Ranger would say
In a hearty voice, “Heigh-ho Silver, away!”

There was Wild Bill, Cisco and Hopalong,
With Gene and Roy to sing us a song.
There was Champion, Trigger and Buttermilk:
White felt hats and scarves of silk;
Sidekicks like Gabby, Andy and Frog,
And don’t forget Bullet, the Wonder Dog.

Nobler men were not again to be seen
Upon this earth or on the screen.
And bolder deeds would never be done
With pearl handled Colts that flashed in the sun.

We knew right was right and wrong was wrong,
And that wrong would never win;
And all of the words to every song
Like “Back in the Saddle Again”.

That billowing cloud is now faded and gone,
But the lessons of the Heroes still linger on
With the voice I’ll remember to my final day,
Ringing out clearly, “Heigh-Ho Silver, Away!”

John Strickland TBA

TwainRedSized

Cacti photo property of Red Dashboard LLC

MARK TWAIN IN OUTER SPACE

i. I arrive on the planet surface—am immediately disappointed—my battle against gravity—a digression concerning the naming of constellations

By the look of things, I had arrived too late for the planet’s funeral. The soil had already been cremated, and set back on the geological shelf. I was disconsolate. I had hoped for a better vacation spot, nothing fancy mind you, just a garden to stroll around in, with a swimming pool, and some interesting animals to name. And—if it wasn’t too much to ask—maybe a lonely siren, and a reasonably priced saloon.

Now I realized, sadly, that I had been done in by my own greed. For, gentle reader, the planet had hung for me like an apple for me in its distant, tantalizing orbit. And I had coveted it—coveted it over a span most humans can only dream of sinning across.

My coming had created quite a stir of things. For the longest time, I could see nothing but the dust clouds that had heralded my arrival. As for myself, I soon discovered I would have no more trouble with gravity on this planet, than I did on Earth. This was disheartening also. Because even if I couldn’t have my garden, I might have been able to comfort myself by turning the planet into my wild gymnasium and soaring about it in fifty- and hundred-foot leaps. For fun, I could have lifted my ship over my head, tossed it hand to hand, or bounced it up and down like a child’s ball—I could. Or perhaps I might have played the evil alien from outer space and stomped out a few Lilliputian villages for my own amusement. I choked to think how I had been cheated out of doing all the wonderful things my imagination conjured up for me.

In vain, I tried to stride across the planet’s surface like a colossus, succeeding only in wrenching my legs. In vain, I leapt around, flapped my hopeful arms, and thought lofty thoughts, but did not find myself elevated in any way.

I blush to think of the spectacle I must have made of myself, performing all of these actions in ridiculous slow-motion. I can only find consolation in speculating that any intelligent being watching might not have possessed arms or legs, to know how better acquainted with mine I ought to have been. Or if he had, perhaps he would have taken some pity on me and offered his assistance—as I was apparently in considerable distress, having forgotten my limitations as a featherless biped.

It was a bad poet’s sun: the color of a five-ball. So little out of the ordinary, that I set it down here for the scientific rather than the literary record. To compose a panegyric upon it would be like sticking a peruke on the town drunk and declaring him a district judge.

I observed, after all the destruction and turmoil that I could modestly attribute to my landing had subsided, that a steady sirocco was blowing. It might become significant to note here that I was struck by the impression that this was just the sort of breeze to have blowing on your side if you were carrying on an argument with your neighbor across the street.

I also thought I might have caught sight in the distance of a small shape rolling and bouncing by. But at the time, I dismissed this evidence of my eyes. I was feeling tired and somewhat dizzy from my recent attempts at levitation, which had re-taught me the old lesson that my humanity was a burden I must carry.

I looked again, but all I could see for miles around was the ashen sand—well, and a couple of cacti. But there was no sign of life that I could see.

I considered an immediate return to the ship, where I could read all about hacking through tropical jungles or trudging across desolate plains without having to experience such pleasures firsthand: for such is the wonder of the novel. But in my heart, I knew that once back in space, I would only fidget and toss my books aside, then pace up and down in front of the viewer screen, upon which each star would take on different personalities as my cabin fever set in—appearing, at first, as a novelty—then as a breathtaking firework—then as a beautiful woman—then a terrifying eclipse—then a member of the family.

My imagination would run wild, seeing individual stars as part of yet-to-be charted constellations. It was a childish habit of mine to sketch such constellations, connecting the dots on paper, then standing back to determine whether the tracery resembled anything to me.

During the past week, however, there had been a growing dearth of stars on the screen, and my opportunity to make connections became more infrequent. It had gotten to the point where I had begun to just doodle, drawing lines from the dots to nowhere in particular. I apologize for any harm I may have caused future explorers who may attempt to navigate by my charts—but as the universe is endless (so far as I can tell, anyway), these patterns could eventually turn up somewhere; in which case, my ready-made constellations might be put to good use.

I hate to digress any further—especially from myself—but as any writer worth his salt must have as his goal the universal edification of mankind, perhaps a further observation may be tendered here.

The fact is, my scribbles are really no less outlandish than the everyday constellations with which the indulgent reader is already familiar. It is impossible to guess what could have possessed the minds of the poets who went about naming the stars—excepting, of course, that simple genius who christened “Crux” and “Triangulum.” All one need do is to look at other star configurations, to see that through no stretch of the imagination can most of these be reconciled with their names. “Ursa Major” and “Ursa Minor,” for example, look more like a cuttlefish and a pig, respectively, than a matching set of bears.

In the course of a diligent study, I have examined this problem further. I am convinced that the proper names of the following constellations should be as follows: “Bootes”—the Kite; “Acquila”—the Teepee; “Perseus”—the Peacepipe; “Pegasus”—the Courthouse; “Leo”—the Golf Course; and “Draco”—the Deathmask of Ramses II.

Before taking issue with any of my replacement names, the astronomer and general reader alike must bear in mind that I have seen all these constellations recently, up close.

ii. I spot another movement on the horizon—make camp for the night—an introduction to the Free People—some personal reflections

Instead of moping about, I decided to head for town. I was monarch of all I surveyed, but the time seemed ripe for abdication. The poetaster sun had risen to its most sublime zenith and was waning melodramatically; the cacti refused to do anything but stand at attention; I had seen more activity in empty museum cases. Out of the goodness of my heart, I kept giving the ashen sand its freedom, rubbing it from my eyes and releasing it from my mouth’s clamped Bastille.

Imagine my surprise when, about a mile from the ship, I saw several shadowy shapes racing across the horizon. My eyes blinked open—my jaw dropped—I drew in a lot of sand. Then the shapes were gone!

My first inclination was to duck back into the ship immediately. Then I heard an inner voice that was either science or foolhardiness calling me, and I found my courage.

Thereafter, I put my courage away, wiped my lips, and did the only thing a rational creature could do in such a situation: I drew my gun.

A mile or so onwards, and I had just about convinced myself that the long confinement in the ship, combined with the afternoon in a torrid climate, had sautéed my brains.

My exhaustive struggle with the elements was about over, as far as I was concerned—on the one hand, my sojourn on this planet had borne no relationship whatsoever to a romantic adventure tale. On the other hand, I had easily gathered enough material to return to the ship and make one up.

Ahead of me, I saw what appeared to be a few scattered tumbleweeds. One of them rolled in my direction a little. With a start, it occurred to me that these must have been the rolling shapes I had seen before on the horizon—the objects of my long chase.

Well, I’ll bet I was disappointed then. To relieve my fury, I pulled out my gun and fired off several shots at one of the tumbleweeds, which burst into flames and vaporized.

I thought it only my imagination when I heard a noise like the one a table makes when dragged across the floor—a wooden screeching.

I decided to take a nap before heading back to the ship. There was a brackish pool of chemicals off to one side, but I did not trust the water qua water. I took a few gulps from my canteen instead. Then I curled up next to a tumbleweed that didn’t look like a snorer, and promptly fell asleep.

I must have dozed for hours. My sleep was enhanced by a gentle crackling noise that seemed to emanate from a congenial distance away from me, like a campfire.

My translator was in my breast pocket, and at one time or another during the course of my nap it must have switched on, because gradually the campfire noise began to sound like several whispering voices.

Is it sleeping?

It is restless.

Will it burrrn us?

It is sleeping.

We must kill it!

I looked around me but could see nothing my canteen and the tumbleweed, and since mistrusting my senses had become almost second nature to me on this planet—sort of a way of keeping myself company, you might say—I fell back asleep.

A little later, I had a dream that I was hiking through a forest and the vines were whipping against my arms. Shortly afterwards, the impression of pain seemed to take upon a distinct vivacity, though I still believed the forest was only an idea in my head. Gradually, however, the distinctness of the agony I ventured to say I was feeling, grew acute enough so that I believed I had support for a tenable hypothesis—namely, that the source of my torture was in the external environment! I yelled aloud in my excitement over this important metaphysical discovery.

“Stop! No more!”

I was surrounded—oh yes, I opened my eyes now. Around me my ring of tumbleweed attackers rolled and bounced away.

I relaxed, considerable. The tallest of them was only knee-high to me, and besides, I still had my gun, which could end the game quickly if I ever got tired of punting them across the terrain.

I pulled it out, now, and began to woo the bushmen with a little advanced technology, firing at a nearby cactus, which sizzled and vaporized.

I now held the floor, and began to address the frightened sagebrush assembly.

“My friends,” I said, “fear not. I come in peace, from a planet up space quite a ways. Now, I don’t intend to hurt you boys, but I do recall having more pleasant awakenings in the past, and a man can only stand so much. So if you are rational creatures, like myself, I beg you to kindly forbear from such physicality in the future.”

Well, I’ll bet the bushmen were sorely penitent then, asking me over and over if they had hurt me. They had a peculiar way of talking, always inviting a yes-or-no answer to their questions, but never answering my own, instead rolling away from the subject, true to their contour, and to my great exasperation.

It was only by exercising a good deal of patience (and such exercise does not come naturally to me) that I learned that the tumbleweeds would come around to my question if I plied them with general statements first, such as “You are dry”—to which they might reply, “We have roots”; or, “You seem happy and free”—to which they might bemoan the fact they had no politicians.

Upon learning this trick, I was subsequently able to find out a good deal about their way of life. Their name for themselves is the “Free” (in the sense of “free-moving”) people, or the “Rollers.” Their lifestyle is a peculiar nomadic one. The Rollers do not eat or photosynthesize; their only nourishment is obtained through groundwater. About once a month or so, for a stretch of six or seven days, they must “put down roots” to refuel. During this interim they cannot readily extricate themselves, for the water table is extraordinarily low, and the taproots sunk into the ashen sand run deep.

Despite their name, the Free people exercise little actual control over their own trajectory. They tire easily of turning more than a few somersaults during a single sally, preferring to blow with the wind when making trips of any substantial distance. Though by the same token, the greatest fear of any Roller is being seized by a mighty sirocco and “blown away” forever.

The Rollers—if the reader considers their spare lifestyle, and the limited say they have in steering themselves toward a destination of their own choosing—are surprisingly selective of company. They often jockey for the same refueling spots and play a spirited game of “poison” trying to bump undesirables off a claim. It is not at all uncommon for a Roller to starve to death by eradication rather than spend an entire week refueling next to one of his unloved brethren.

In fact, I learned that I was somewhat of a hero to the tribe I had just encountered, as the tumbleweed I had shot earlier turned out to be an irrepressible old gaffer who was keen on the filibuster. This proverbial long talker kept all the boys (they numbered twelve or thirteen, if memory serves me correct) writhing and straining at their roots for five solid days with a few tomes of autobiography, plus a travelogue revealing how that part of the country had looked in his younger days, back when a tumbleweed was a tumbleweed.

All major altercations among the Rollers develop out of unfortunate circumstances such as these. I held it as a high mark of their sage ingenuity, that the Rollers have actually invented methods of killing one another other despite their ridiculous shape. Crude is their technology in comparison with ours—and wholly lacking in any advanced weaponry with which to mercifully speed up wars—but I shall refrain here from glorious ethnocentrism.

Roller wars take a great deal of patience, and choreography. I was lucky enough to be witness at one of these contests. It had arisen when five Rollers camped at a prime watering spot held by five members of the opposing party. The two sides lined up, as if for a square dance.

Next, one at a time, a member of each contingent rolled out into the middle of the desert floor, colliding as zestily as possible with the enemy. He would return to the line after that. The governing rule was that whoever sparked first, lost. I do not think it likely that the Rollers were evolved from asbestos.

The Roller war was not designed for the spectator, if I may editorialize for just this once. I began to drowse off as the combatants took turns at each other for hours, trying to get the sparks flying. I did not complain, though. Even if my fingers were aching from having to rewind my wristwatch—and I am not one prone to exaggeration.

Finally, my patience was rewarded—doubly, in fact—when two of the combatants began to spark and smoke at the same time. Then I watched, in great surprise, as they both returned to their sides and set the whole convention on fire!

At this time, I was informed by a companion of mine, who had noticed my astonishment, that such an outcome was not uncommon in a Roller battle. The casual tone in which he disclosed this fact to me alarmed me a little, and diminished my opinion of his species’ shrewdness somewhat. Because what good could a war accomplish, if both sides were annihilated? I thought to myself. Who would be left holding the real estate?—to claim righteousness?

I shook my head—it was all beyond the understanding of a miserable creature such as myself. To me, the square dances appeared to be nothing but turkeys, and straw.

Stay tuned next week for iii, and iv…

M.V. Montgomery is a professor at Life University in Atlanta. He is the author, most recently, of the short story collection Beyond the Pale (2013). This and ‘My Fair Zombie’ which appears on the Flash Fiction page are part of his new collection ‘Night-Crawl’, forthcoming via Red Dashboard LLC, Oct 2013. He is also regular submitter to Red Dashboard LLC Publishing companies selection of journals- Cowboy Poetry Press, Z-composition, and Annapurna Magazine.

June Issue- Week 4

June 24, 2013

Dromey - Drawing 3 (5-31-12)by John H. Dromey

**********

A Poet-of-Place Observes Early Signs of Spring During a Night of Drinking

by Ray Sharp

1. Standing far below the stars with a south breeze on his face, he feels his sap rising and his ear lobes swelling.

2. Behind the din of the neighbor’s sled dogs yapping, he thinks he hears coyote pups barking. Their mother calls them back into the den, where they pull at her chapped teats.

3. When he makes a piss hole of melted snow on the driveway snow mat, he can almost see down to gravel.

4. The snow is soft enough that it doesn’t hurt at all when he falls.

 

Under an August Moon

by Ray Sharp

Coyote, wise old trickster
shuffling across the road
under an August moon,
you look a little shaggy,
a little grayer,
but you and I know
the best blueberry patches,
the way across the swale,
how to step light
over a thin crust of wind-packed snow,

when to chase
and when to lay in wait.
The moon casts
reflected sunlight
on the old familiar trails,
as the summer night
gathers memories
of distant, bygone loves,
and traces a crooked path
upon my dark betrodden heart.

 Previously published in vox poetica, September 1st, 2009

************

Old Dog

by Laura Jean Schneider

 

“Got ’n old dog needs shot,” the man says, shuffling in from the cold. The porch door slams shut behind him.  He trails the father and son into the kitchen where the cook stove casts a dry heat, the chipped enameled kettle on the stove top diffusing clouds of murky water. “Sit,” says the father. The man sits, his bony frame disappearing in his loose trousers.

“I won’t shoot no dog for you,” says the father.

The son glances down at the filthy linoleum.

 “Don’t have to, I kin do it.” The man bobs his lopsided head earnestly, ears bright red from the bitter winter wind, ancient skin flushed.

“He needs a gun, Da,” says the son, looking at his father.

“I need a gun,” says the man. “He’s right. I hate to do it, but he ain’t gonna make it through to Christmas.”

Tomorrow, thinks the son.

“Well’s long as I ain’t doing the shooting, I s’pose you can use this,” the father says as he slides a .22 revolver out from behind the toaster oven. He pops open the cylinder, slips six cartridges inside, hands it to his neighbor.

The old man traps tears behind his watery blue eyes, rough lips wobbling. “Thanks,” he says. “It’s fer the best.” He raises a gnarled hand, steps carefully down the icy steps, walks toward his pickup. Then he stops; turns. “Merry Christmas,” he hollers.

“Same t’ you,” the father calls back.  He walks into the kitchen, to his son and the wood fire and the game of crazy eight’s, the news droning on the three-channel television set, and the smell of elk roast rising from the oven.

Uncle stops by on New Year’s.  He sips whiskey on the rocks with his brother, asks if he’d heard about old Smith.

“Nope,” the father says.

“Old Smith, he done offed hisself.” 

The father looks over at his son. The son stares back, silent.

“Yep, over’d the community center.” The uncle mashes an ice cube between his teeth. “Christmas Eve.” 

“That’s ’mpossible,” says the father.

“He was over here,” says the son.

 “When?” the uncle asks.

“‘ ’Bout four. Four, huh?”  

The father stares at his son.

“Sure, four,” the son nodded.

“Well, this was ‘bout seven, sheriff said.”

The uncle reaches for the bottle, unscrews the cap, and adds three fingers to his water-spotted glass.

“Done shot hisself in the head with a .22 pistol.”

The father and son say “an old dog” at the same moment.

 

June Issue- Week 3

June 18, 2013

SockIt-1

by Laura Jean Schneider

************

at the campfire’s edge
where light falls into silence    
we cherish our dark
that gives life to your secret
and leaves mine forever dead

Tyson West is a is a traditional western poet whose aesthetic continually shape shifts. He watches the Northwest with veiled and hooded lynx eyes, broods among the conifers and quarrels with Coyote. He has a degree in history, but writes a variety of poetry styles, and has written a series of poems around Spokane Garry who is our local magical Indian. One of Tyson’s Western poems was published in Spoke Magazine called “Floorshow”, which is based on a picture of a 1922 floorshow in the Davenport Hotel which photo you can find on line. He lives in the middle of Eastern Washington, which is definitely cowboy country. There are two Washingtons, Eastern and Western, and they are as different as a Mocah Mint Latte with organic goats milk and black boiled coffee at a chuck wagon fire.

************
Who We Are

1.
We are the Wampum Belt-
Open at both Ends –
Still
Weaving Our Story.

We are the Sacred Drum.
That- Resilient Beat-
Pulsating
Within Mother Earth.

We are the 7th Fire-
Ignited by our past -Carrying the
Light
For our Future.

We are the Cedar Basket,
Sewn from the Roots of the Universe-
Forever
Expanding Our Spirit.

2.
We are the Survivors
& Revivers.

The Relations of the Forest-
& Educated by the Sun.

We Rise- like the sturdy Green Cornfields –
That Kiss the Cranberry Dawn.

We are the Deep Red Ocean-
Flowing within the Arteries –
Of Turtle Island.

3.
And-Yes.

We Swam through the Blood Soaked Tears-
Traversed the Wave over 500 Years.

The Unmarked Graves have Scarred our Dreams-
Long Walks & Trails- across the Icy Streams.

Those Boarding Schools and Reservations-
Malefic Schemes to encourage Limitations.

Mountains of Pain Shielded by a Smile-
Sometimes Surviving – means living in Denial.

Lethal Storms- Rain down like Shattered Glass,
Broken like Treaties – Amnesia of the Past.

Hair & Language- detached by foreign Hands-
But they both Return –as should Usurped Lands .

Our History & Journey- Carved from a Shell-
They do Not spill Oil-only Mark our Life’s Trail.

The tribe of Human Beings -is Who we Are-
Because All of Us- Revolve around the Same Star.

A Ceremony of Condolence –Is how We All Must Begin-
This is life’s Round Dance – a Circle with no End.

Larry Spotted Crow Mann
is a writer, performer, Nipmuck cultural educator and citizen of the Nipmuck tribe of Massachusetts. He serves as the Drum Keeper of the Tribe which is a sacred trust. Their group is known as the Quabbin Lake Singers. He travels throughout the United States and Canada to schools, colleges, pow wows and other organizations sharing the music, culture and history of Nipmuck people. He has also given lectures at universities throughout New England on issues ranging from Native American Sovereignty to Identity.

************

Cowgirls Factory Blues

Rising before the electric rooster crows,
Before the sun hugs the earth,
Ella slides out of bed
With an aching hip
Giving old Whiskey Breath a nudge
As he grunts and swears
In the same ritual every morning
For the past forty years as
She sets the chipped porcelain kettle
On the flame
To brew a morning cup
Sweetly reminding Larry
To fetch his own damn vittles, dear,
Feeding her leftover biscuits and bland gravy
To the little doggies
Before riding away in a dusty Mustang
To that brick and steel hold
Where she lassos washers and bolts
Head counting and time keeping
To the beat of her own twang
Until the workers in the factory embrace
Mosey out of the gate, single file,
Roaming free through the night,
While Ella stretches and cracks and creaks,
Thankful for her short journey home
After a wearisome day
On the urban range
That trounces too many spirits
Before the final ride off into the sunset

Denise Janikowski-Krewal is a Midwestern poet and writer of short fiction. She currently lives in the Milwaukee, WI area, and can be found at “the lost beat”where she collaborates with her cousin and fiction writer Tom Janikowski.

************

Retreat From The Willamette

by Rodney Nelson

a family I knew began to go apart

when mother and daughter moved to Cascadia

                     dark little mountain hamlet

                     of woe in the rain oh woe

 

father and son remained at what was left of home

and in the bowling alley no one had to talk

and the river was up and had to get higher

but what did it have to do with the family

who reunited every weekend in a

                     dark little mountain hamlet

                     of woe in the rain oh woe

 

a Mormon-redneck town or just redneck-Mormon

of work and no chatter where the pine trees were high

and still growing on yew-ess twenty all the way

and the family had nothing to add either

as they waited out the fall of Sunday in that

                     dark little mountain hamlet

                     of woe in the rain oh woe

 

 

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