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.

December- Week 4

January 2, 2013

Scents of Christmas

Remembering briefly the scents which pervaded the Christmas Season so many years ago in our one-room sod home back in the Sandhills of Nebraska.

The scents of Christmas filled the air…
the smell of pumpkin pie,
a turkey roasting on the hearth…
with mama standing by.

‘Twas a Christmas to remember,
and enjoy once again
the many scents of Christmas past,
remem’bring way back then!


Clark Crouch
is a self-proclaimed Poet Lariat and a prize-winning western and cowboy poet, author, lyricist, and performing artist. He admits to a bias toward traditional cowboy poetic forms.

The author of eight books poetry, six of which are devoted to western and cowboy verse, he is a two-time winner of the prestigious Will Rogers Medallion Award for Cowboy Poetry and a five-time finalist in the annual Western Music Associations book award competitions. He wrote his first prize-winning poem at age eleven but never got around to writing more until 2001 when he was 73. Shortly thereafter he started writing and performing professionally.

He was inspired by three individuals: Will Rogers who was his hero during the early 1930s; Charles Badger Clark, the classic cowboy poet, with whom he was acquainted in the early 1940s; and Sherman Alexie, a Native American poet, novelist, screen-writer and performer who, in 2001, encouraged him to write his western tales in poetic form.

His poem ‘The Guardian’ was published in CPP’s October 2012 Issue- Week 2

*******

 TWO SHOTS—MAYBE

It was late Fall when Pete and I found five dead Herefords on the bank of the Ranch’s main irrigation ditch. They were gutted.

I remarked to Pete, “There’s only one animal, besides man, that kills for pleasure—the Grizzly bear. “We’ll shoot him tonight.”

We built a shelter, downwind, with a good view of the bear’s most likely path to his victims. I had borrowed a Steyr Mannlicher eqipped with a night sight and Pete, as back up shooter, had his Dad’s thirty-aught-six.

It was not a long wait. Pete spotted him—about 200 yards out—cantering towards us. My first shot was in his gut. He let out a high pitched grunt and in spite of his condition he closed on us fast. He was less than thirty yards away. On the second shot I remembered my grandfather’s dictum—lie still, bring the animal into the cross hairs, hold your breath and squeeze the trigger.

It was a perfect shot through the heart. The Grizz rose up on his hind legs, barked a piercing death rattle and keeled over. He measured out at over 10 feet and weighed we estimated, about1,000 lbs.

After he was dressed out, I visited the Forest Service to fill out a report.

Chief Ranger Bill Burns admonished, “Mike, you’re supposed to obtain permission before you kill an endangered species.”

“Bill, I know, but he’s made endangered species already of five of our cattle.” I did not say what I was thinking: we Wyoming ranchers shoot first and talk about it later. “Here are your bear steaks. I’m returning the Grizz slightly modified into Forest Service custody.”

Bill shook his head and smiled, “You do pretty good dealing with us Smokeys.”

We named the bearskin Jerome and he was placed before the fireplace. For Mary and me the pleasure of his company endured for years.

I reckon that Jerome’s second life was warmer and more stimulating than his first.

Michael J. Keyser in his formative years spent summers and other free time at the family ranch, the Diamond k located in southeastern Idaho.  He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in English.  While there, he won the John B. Wanamaker Prize for Excellence in English Composition.

Mr. Keyser served as the President of the American Cancer Society, Cuyahoga County Unit.  He was also a Park Commissioner in Hudson, Ohio.  For several years he served on the Board of the Summit-Portage County Health Systems Agency.

Mr. Keyser has published four works of fiction.  His hobbies are writing, walking and woodworking.  Mr. Keyser is very active in his church with outreach ministries serving senior health facilities.

December- Week 2

December 10, 2012

Call The Fire Joe

Cookie, I know your dark drinkin’ secrets
But you got no notion of mine
So we can talk around this dying campfire
While the moon limps down like a three legged coyote.
I don’t care if some fruity song writer
From New York City claims out here we call the rain Tess, the fire Joe and the wind Maria,
The embers of this fire is burning out nameless
While we hang this last bottle of whiskey
And rehearse our eulogies for its funeral.
Our campfire don’t need no name
Not like our buddies
We drove with on yesterday’s trails
And who are the dust we choke on today.
Cookie, you got even more grey whiskers and fewer teeth than I do
These young bucks snoring away in their bedrolls
Couldn’t handle the whiskey or the truth under this clear black sky
Nor are they even going to appreciate that some of the stars is missing
Since they can’t see yesterday’s sky.
That Jimson boy rides frisky and free reminds me
Of my pardner Joe just after the war
Same strawberry blond hair and easy laugh
We shared many a bottle and many a hard dirty ride
And many a lady at Miss Lucy’s sporting house
But we could only share feelings up to that line
That a real man draws
For fear he will be less of a man.
There was them two ladies
Miss Susan and Miss Elspeth
That Joe and I would pass back and forth
Neither was any great looker
Not like some other younger slim fillies Miss Lucy kept in her stable
I’d go upstairs with Miss Susan and Joe with Miss Elspeth and next payday we would trade across
Older and a bit stockier
They still looked perfect after the whiskey started playing the piano.
They conversed about more than the coins
And the arrival of the next stagecoach
They could see the magenta in the sunset and puce in the cactus blossom
If we weren’t cowboys and needin’ to drive the herds up this Goodnight Loving trail
We might have ridden with them on a good night lovein’ trail of our own
A few cows and an couple quarter sections
Miss Susan could almost see the lace of the sins in my soul
And loved me anyhow
Cotton Eyed Joe
Where did you come from?
Where did you go?
I know where my Joe rode off to
We buried him in Wyoming
Too far from a town to carry his body
I’ve always wondered if I knew then
What I learned in all those starry nights
Silent except for the dust and the voices of the cattle
That there ain’t no great eye of God watching us
Or even if he was
Would even care how close Joe and I could have gotten.
Fearing mostly the scorn of the other young men who was thinking they was going to live forever
And the whuppings from our daddy’s
We high tailed it from any feeling that a silk dress is something purdy
Not just the body of the lady that’s wearing it
After all these years of hard saddles and even harder women
I just wonder if there was some soft place we was missing
Where we might want to bed down for a while
Some place near cool water
Before I sleep with Joe under this hard prairie soil.

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.

December- Week 1

December 4, 2012

Wild Onion

John H. Dromey was born in northeast Missouri. He’s had a byline (for brief, humorous items) in over one-hundred different newspapers and magazines. Once upon a time he had light verse published in Grit, Hoofs and Horns, Light, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. His cartoons have appeared in Bowhunter and Farm Antiques News (no longer published).

*******

Crossing The Bar

Walt Blake’s foreman Bill Kelly advised Jake McCarthy that Walt wanted to see him.

Jake inquired, “How’s he doing?”

“Not well. Molly’s doing a great job of nursing, but it’s a race against cancer and it is winning.”

“Thanks, Bill.”

Jake drove his F 350 fast down US 50 to the Blake Ranch (the Lazy B). Molly greeted him warmly and brought him in to see Walt.

He barely sat up in his rocker, “Amigo, how goes it?”

“It’s fine with me Walt, but how about you?”

As customary Walt was to the point, “I’m dying Jake!”

Jake reacted naturally, “Oh, I’m so sorry Walt.”

“Don’t be. We owe God a death and mine is coming up.”

Jake shook his head—already incredulous that this fine man would soon be gone. No more hunting, no more fishing, no more wise counsel and no more Jack Daniels on Walt’s back porch. It was time to shrug off his morbid mood—try to cheer Walt up.

Jake grinned, “Walt I’m missing you already. Will you send me a letter about what it’s like on the other side of the bar?”

Walt laughed with some difficulty, “Same old Jake. Sure young amigo, the letter will come by turtle doves, or still smoking.”

“Well my friend, the Almighty is getting a damn fine man.”

“Thanks Jake for the compliment. I hope the Almighty will be forgiving.”

Molly was listening as Walt declared, “I know that I’m hard to replace, but I’m sure she can find a young stud.”

Molly remarked with a grin, “He’s out in the barn now dear.”

Walt declared, “You see why I’m better off on the other side
Let’s seal our business deal with a bit of Mr. Jack. You too Moll.”

Molly protested, “It’ll kill you sweetheart.”

Walt riposted, “Better now with friends than tomorrow alone.”

They all had two shots—neat.

Walt Blake died ten days later.

Michael J. Keyser in his formative years spent summers and other free time at the family ranch, the Diamond k located in southeastern Idaho.  He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in English.  While there, he won the John B. Wanamaker Prize for Excellence in English Composition.

Mr. Keyser served as the President of the American Cancer Society, Cuyahoga County Unit.  He was also a Park Commissioner in Hudson, Ohio.  For several years he served on the Board of the Summit-Portage County Health Systems Agency.

Mr. Keyser has published four works of fiction.  His hobbies are writing, walking and woodworking.  Mr. Keyser is very active in his church with outreach ministries serving senior health facilities.

“Crossin the Bar (primarily a 19th century phrase) in the Tennyson poem (last stanza) means dying.  To navigate over the bar, which could be sand, rock, etc.,  requires a pilot and good tidal conditions. Spiritually dead and once over the bar, he hopes he’ll meet his Pilot (God) face to face.”

August Issue- Week 3

August 12, 2012

THE PIONEER SONG

You hid the rum bottle in the shed east of the outhouse.
Since sixteen her waist — narrowest in the township — widened with her anger
Five boys surly budding whiskers could till this Ohio dirt without you
She tells you so daily.
Sharp yellow faced wasps that chew weathered boards of the outhouse
To build above your bottle’s nest
Sting not so sharply as her tongue.
You can no longer sip young buck rum
Under lush palms and succulent vines
Immersed in blossoming laughter of great black ladies
Lacing the Kingston night
The Ohio river dreams west
Forgotten freedom flowing on water
Westward lies a Wyoming, gold in Dixie, Idaho, vast Montana skies
Never real unless you touch them.
Old Thaddeus cut your graying hair
Shave the Amish beard dress a bit of the dandy
Ringo or Liberty or Bat will disembark the Cincinnati packet boat in St. Louis
Childless widower on a wagon train westward
Into a yarn tempered with campfire flickers
Burnt whiskey brown in the unshaded sun
On a plain whose trail flows beyond sight—unswallowed in lush green forests.
Fancy made flesh to stride tall into dusky saloons
Meanwhile back at the ranch
A mythfinity in
The big bang from a silent and singular farewell.

Tyson West 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.

John H. Dromey was born in northeast Missouri. He’s had a byline (for brief, humorous items) in over one-hundred different newspapers and magazines. Once upon a time he had light verse published in Grit, Hoofs and Horns, Light, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. His cartoons have appeared in Bowhunter and Farm Antiques News (no longer published).

WORDS SPOKEN BY SPOKANE GARRY
AT THE DEDICATION OF HIS MONUMENT
SPOKANE, WA August 25, 2011

Proud am I that you
Children of my children
Stand here today honoring
Our stiff necked resolution
To fancy dance and wail to pounding drums
Carry our feathers and totems
Against the white fangs of Mickey Mouse and Barbie.
You have not forgotten bones of our ancestors
Line trails from the northwest.
Buffalo soldiers following yellow haired men with shoulder straps
Hanged a few of our braves
Who died like warriors – slaughtered our horses
These slaps were nothing
To crude tribes of peasants fiercely fleeing
Dandy dukes and counts and princes
To ravage and reshape our mother
Dam up her rivers withhold the red ocean fish
And turn the canyon where I died into 18 smooth grassy stretches for a German farmer’s son
To chase a hard white rubber ball
In a put put cart
Smiling whiskey on his breath.
May this construct of basalt pillars and metal work magic medicine
Reserve our dry ground
Cold swift rivers so we may
Breath cool mountain air
Over tongues speaking Salish words that
Ancestors entrusted to us.

Tyson West 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.

June 2012- Week 3

June 19, 2012

JOHN TWOGUNS’ MEDICINE

When my people come I will rise up,
hard eyed, hard armed, hard bellied,
in the colors of war,
in the markings of a warrior,
with the weapons of a man.

The sun has set in my eyes.
Winter has settled in my hair.
My belly hangs over my belt
like a crest of old snow.
I smoke white cigarettes
and cling to my plastic cane.

But, I have seen my people come.
And I have risen up,
hard eyed, hard armed, hard bellied,
in the colors of war,
in the markings of a warrior,
with the weapons of a man.

Edna Running Elk wakes me,
her thin arm across my chest,
her brown eyes shadowed by sleep,
murmuring, “It was only a dream, John.
Only a dream. A dream…”

H. Edgar Hix is a Minnesota poet who has been publishing poetry for around 40 years. His work has appeared in over 100 journals, including recent appearances in bear creek haiku, Waterways, Time of Singing, Priscilla Papers, Crack the Spine, Mutuality, FutureCycle, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal . He has published one poetry chapbook, The Saint Cloud Café and Motor Inn . You can also find his flash fiction ‘Mary Had A Big, Bad Wolf’ in Z-composition, April 2012 Issue.

The Trials Of The Messenger

If you follow the canyon trail down,
the blunderbusses will pick you off.
There is absolutely no cover
save for a few pomegranate bushes.
All is visible through the branches.
If the pragmatic blasts
can reach across this divide,
you’re connected to your apprehension.
Any litter you’ve collected won’t save you.

Colin James has poems forthcoming in Pyrokinection, Nazar Look and Eudice. He has a chapbook of poems
available from Thunderclap Press. Formally of the UK, he now resides in Massachusetts.


THE EARTH WITCH

It is the right time of year to search for the Earth Witch. I once found her lair. It is past the subdivision with its orbit of builders’ waste and tires. Past a ring where teens throw beer cans and cats abandon litters. Past a fisherman’s trail, where two old lawn chairs face each other, holding conversation in the woods. Beyond the green briars curling from the soil like cruel whips. At the lakeshore,
you get the feeling of being watched. Time is remote–you can feel the swell of the earth. I once spotted tall figures walking along the far shore. It was the Crane People. I watched them awhile silently, until early darkness surprised me. Then I cut across the thickest part of the woods, parting the vines with a stick. The forest opened up ahead. Before me, an ancient oak stood covered in ciphers.
A zigzag arrow: snake. Eight-rayed circle: spider. Many Xs and markings I can no longer recall. Hanging from the branches were knotted cords of small skulls– opossum, rabbit, skunk. I crossed a circle of stones blackened by ceremonial fire. Stepping quiet, knowing an Earth Witch received her visions here–once, long ago.

M.V. Montgomery is a professor at Life University in Atlanta. His third book of poems, What We Did With Old Moons, will be released by Winter Goose Publishing this November.

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