Issue Number 12, Spring 2011


Archives: by Issue | by Author Name

(for the Fukushima Fifty)

by Linda Watanabe McFerrin

Linda lives near the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay.

     from Erin Orison

Man in white — HasMat/level A —
ghostlike, moving, breathing slowly —
in my horrified dream I hear your ragged
inhalation-exhalation through the
Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)
they say will keep you safe
from radiation: particles and gas.

These could choke you, stop your already
laborious progress through a plant that men made
to fuel a lust for power.

You are anonymous, face encapsulated
by the hood, voice rattled
by the Supplied Air Respirator, pushed
into the Voice-Operated Channel — your
umbilicus to Clean-Up Operations.

You are my zombie hero, dead man walking,
while the Big Brains meet and find new ways
to slice and dice the acceptable margin
for terror.

If I could shower you in flowers, make whole
the body that you sacrifice, through some
bright communal magic, I would do it.
But you are that magic; you are the white-bright
light of courage that dares to contend with
the murderous pissing poison, the greed, the desire,
and patiently
clean it up.

An Infantry of Stars

by Tom Sheehan

Tom lives in a house built in 1742 about 200 feet from the Saugus River in the Saugus River Watershed bounding 900 acres of the Rumney Salt Marsh and 450 acres of a wetland, Reedy Meadows.

An infantry of stars
Swarms the slow sky
Wide as a Vicksburg
Field between shots.
The guidon ripples
The slow torment
Of deep passage
Just beyond Polaris.
Near giant Orion’s
Eastward shoulder,
A torchbearer pops
An impetuous gleam.
Small encampments,
Sometimes sevenfold,
Tighten their ranks
In bright bivouacs.
Others, loners and post
Guards, circle wide
Circles like the dog
Star Procyon hunting.
This vast array
Does not appall me,
Though I diminish
Before its deployment.
I have been told,
In good faith,
That many of these
Stars are dead,
But we know their shinings,
Like old soldiers,
Long-gone, cement
Themselves into statues,
Dim ribbons and old medals
Whose scriptures fade at sun
And slowly, gram by gram,
Inch toward minerals and memory.
Beneath my feet
This veteran Earth slips
Into the far side
Of another’s telescope.

At McClure's Beach, Point Reyes National
  Seashore, California

by Ann Fisher-Wirth

Ann lives in the North Mississippi hill country, about sixty miles east of the Delta and the Mississippi River, in the Tallahatchie River watershed.

I would ask my family

Wait for a foggy afternoon, late May,
after a rainy winter so that all
the wildflowers are blooming on the headland.
Wait for honey of lupine. It will rise
around you, encircle you, from vast golden bushes
as you take the crooked trail
down from the parking lot. Descend
earth’s cleft, sweet winding declivity
where California poppies lift up their
chalices, citrine and butterscotch,
and phlox blows in the wisps of fog, every
color of white and like the memory
of pain, and like first dawn, and lavender.
Where goldfinches, nubbins of sunlight,
flit through the canyon. Walk one by one
or in small clusters, carrying babies,
children holding your hands—with your eyes,
your oval skulls, your prodigious memories
or skills with the fingers. Your skirts or shirts
will flirt with the wind, and small brown rabbits
will run in and out, you’ll see their ears first,
nested in the grasses, then the bob
of fleeting hindquarters.
                        Now come to the sand,
the mussel shells, broken or open, iridescent,
color of crows’ wings in flight
or purple martins, and the bullwhips
of sea kelp, some like frizzy-headed voodoo
poppets, some like long hollow brown or bleached
phalluses. The X X birdprints running
across the scalloped sand will leave a trail of stars,
look at the black oystercatcher, the scamp
with the long red beak, it’s whizzing along
in its courtship dance. Look at the fog,
above you now on the headland, and know how much
I love the fog. Don’t cry, my best beloveds,
it’s time to scatter me back now. I’ve wanted this
all my life. Look at the cormorants,
the gulls, the elegant scythed whimbrel,
do you hear its quiquiquiquiqui
rising above the eternal Ujjayi breath,
the roar and silence and seethe and whisper,
the immeasurable insweep and release of ocean.

Birder's Last Blessing

by John Smith

John lives on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River in the Lower Delaware watershed.

Leave the binoculars behind.
What good has bringing birds closer
brought them, anyway?

Let species spring
unidentified branch
to branch

and catapult
into the scrambled alphabet
of clouds.

Let wings alone
be sufficient, a glint of indigo,
dusk’s fluted calling

spiraling to earth
like a handful of leaves,
the feathered thing before you.

May the names of all thirty-six warblers
—if you ever had them—
be the first to go.

May nothing fly from
the field guide of your mind
when iridescent emerald zipping

zips by a Kool-aid-red feeder
hooked like bait
on the neighbor’s gutter.

May you hover sipping nectar
from scarlet trumpets mid-flight
in nobody’s garden.

Published in the Edison Literary Review


by Maureen Eppstein

Originally from New Zealand, Maureen Eppstein tends a garden between the forest and the sea in Mendocino, California.

At 36,000 feet, the view
is blue above
and below the same blue
patterned with white polygons
like loosely laid paving,
large pieces, small, a fringe
like foam at the edge.

The map on the monitor
clipped to my airline seat
assigns the name Davis Strait
to this figure/ground
blue/white tesselation.
On the right is Greenland,
Baffin Island to the left.

A paradox: the plane that bears me
is a reason why the white forms matter;
its height allows a view of what before
were fragmentary snips of knowledge:
air pollution, ice melt,
ocean temperatures.

A northward current warms
the Greenland coast, where chunks
of calving glacier dot the blue
like rockfall on a highway.
A cold stream southward
skims the frozen edge of Baffin.
All winter long between the currents,
ice floes harden, break apart, re-form.

On this second day of May,
the blue is unbearably beautiful.

First published in my collection, Rogue Wave at Glass Beach (March Street Press, 2009)

Clausen's Farm

by Richard Mark Glover

Richard lives in the Musquiz Creek Watershed that flows underground through the now dry Commanche Springs and east to the Pecos River which terminates 60 miles later at the Rio Grande (Horsehead Crossing), near Cuatro Cienagas, Mexico.

We drove deeper into Clausen’s farm, the clay rocky road slick from the morning’s rain. A tart like sweetness perfumed the desert air and in the valley below, trees glossy with moisture shrouded the Rio Grande in a serpentine swath of green.

The steering wheel jiggled as I drove the rent-a-jeep across another cattle guard. Don craned his neck out of the window trying to spot Clausen’s alfalfa field. Clausen, a former insurance salesman from Dallas bought hard red land in the Big Bend and had turned farmer. He was hoping to have enough hay to bale by the end of the season but he wasn’t so sure anymore.

“Eating me out of house and home,” Clausen mumbled. He stood in the cold air and smoked. His blue jeans were creased and the sunglasses snug on his nose mirrored the mountains in Mexico.

Hungry javelinas had found the ordered green rows of his agricultural project along the river, irresistible. We had met him at Cecilia’s Store on the river road. He saw our rifles in the back seat and convinced us that thinning out the marauders would be a marked step in the progress of man. Being from Florida, we didn’t know much better and didn’t need much convincing either, having just been skunked on a deer-hunting trip we shared with a zillion other hunters in the Guadeloupe National Forest.

We had spent two hours filling out forms in the ranger’s office. The screechy-voiced guy in line behind us kept talking about his two thousand-dollar infrared scope and how unfair it was to let the bow hunters hunt a week before the bullet guys. Everything was unfair to him; the fee, the long line, the no vehicle zone. Imagine that – he’ll have to actually get out of his truck to hunt. The next morning, I shivered behind my tree in the pre-dawn opening day cold listening to bullets being chambered all around me. I expected to die in the crossfire but luck was with me, not a deer to be seen and we headed south that afternoon, alive.

Approaching another gate, I drove through a two-lane puddle and high-centered the axle of the Hertz two-wheel drive rent-a-jeep. The tires spun, whining in the still air. The once white jeep sank deeper.

“Call your girlfriend,” Don said, referring to my friend Rita who dispatched for a wrecker in Miami.

“That’s funny.”

“I’d call my wife but she’s probably busy.”

“You don’t have a wife.”

“I didn’t tell you? I married a Colombiana.” He laughed and the rolls of fat on his three hundred pound frame jiggled.

“You been holding out on me,” I said. “Did you consummate?”

“Of course not. She’s a friend,” he looked at me with a quirked eyebrow. “Needs the green card. Sends half of what she makes to Medellin every month.”

Tattered white plastic bags caught on a barbed wire fence fluttered in the light wind. I looked out over the desert puddle.

“Come on, this aint Okeechobee. What’s a little water to a couple of Florida tipos?”

“Ride on,” Don said. His eyes narrowed. Camouflage mascara covered his face and caked on his long lashes. “Pigs-ho.”

“They’re not pigs. They’re javelinas.”

“Have a que?”


We stepped out of the jeep and stood shin deep in water. A yellow butterfly flapped in the air and landed on the barrel of my rifle. Don tapped his finger in the air gesturing toward the river. Our soaked boots mucked and crunched across the red rocky dirt, piercing the desert silence as the pale orange rays from the late sun spiked behind the mountain peaks.

A coyote appeared from nowhere, fifty yards away and squatted. Don turned and lifted his rifle but the animal vanished.

The sweet smell of alfalfa crossed our path and we marched toward it. We passed through another gate then walked between two trailer homes, the roofs caved in, the rusty sides bent and door-less. We walked across an island of shredding carpet and through patches of purple cactus and legions of tall gray spiny shoots with tiny red flowers that grew between old mattresses and a grayish ’71 Grand Prix.

In the east, a nearly full moon glowed between the jagged peaks. Overhead a buzzard circled. Don jerked his barrel up and aimed.

“Don’t shoot,” I said.

He tapped his thick finger on the stock and glared.

We marched on.

We stopped in front of another cattle guard. “Lopez” was welded in rusty iron on the center of the gate. “You sure we got the right place?” Don whispered. “The guy’s name was Clausen, wasn’t it?”

“We got the right place. A long time ago a guy named Lopez owned all the land around here. General Santa Anna de Lopez,” I said.

In the distance, just beyond rusting black and red oil drums, the alfalfa patch flaunted a strange green in the dying light and the tractored rows reflected oddly against the wildness of the desert. The plants staggered in height, some stalks without leaves. I chambered a bullet into my 30.06, leveled the barrel atop a cedar fence post and peered through the scope panning the field.

POW, POW, POW! Don’s 50 caliber semi-automatic fired. The sulfurous taste of spent gunpowder filled my nostrils and my ears rang as the blasts echoed.

“Colombiana?” I asked.

“Three, I think. Did you?”


“Bonita?” Don stared. “What’s wrong with you, man? Shoot’em up. The more the merrier, the bigger the better – this is Texas, remember?”

We stood silent in the twilight. The moon climbed higher aiding the sun’s dimming light. Ten more minutes and my scope would be useless. It wasn’t an infrared type but still provided plenty of cheat. Down by the river a diesel pump clicked on bellowing black exhaust and sucking stagnant water out of the Rio Grande to irrigate the already soaked alfalfa.

I panned the field again. Nothing. Then a dark image appeared in the crosshairs. It blurred through the barbed wire toward the first row of plants. The animal lowered its snout and began to munch. I fingered the dial on the scope. The magnification pinpointed the head. POW!

We trudged alongside the leaking irrigation pipe that led to the far corner of the alfalfa field. Four javelinas lay dead, one on its side in the wet dirt, head missing, another with half its back and all the choice meat blown off and the other two, too bloody to tell. In the dark beyond the fence the remaining javelinas snorted.

I dropped the rifle and the scope hit a rock. The metallic clang hung in the air as if the central kidney of the earth winced from its dark chamber at filtering such blood. I spit, then picked up the rifle and slammed the scope into a rock, smashing the lens.

“What are you doing?” Don asked.

“Nothin’,” I said.

I pulled my knife out and sank its sharp tip into the soft belly of the headless javelina, slitting the hide down the inside of the front legs to the anus. I reached my hand into the dead animal and pulled the hot steaming guts out of the cavity.

We fashioned a harness out of a branch and bailing wire. Don dragged the javelinas across the rocky wet dirt while I studied the blood splattered ground, then followed, marching behind with the rifles.

Don stopped. “You drag’em for awhile.” He dropped the harness and looked at the carcasses. “You sure we can eat these things? Clausen said they’re nasty.”

I stared at the slots of his eyes.

“I say leave’em,” Don said.

“No!” I said. “We’re gonna eat’em – cheeks, ribs, heart – everything.”

I set the thick branch across my shoulders, and with arms spread wide, I dragged the dead stinking animals with the cross-like contraption. The pig-smell deep in my nostrils - I couldn’t breathe it out. Snorting, the other javelinas followed, watching from the periphery of dark brush, as I dragged their brothers and sisters over the rocky dirt, in the light of the moon, toward the stuck rent-a-jeep on Clausen’s farm.

Dawn in Monterey

by Meryl Natchez

Meryl lives overlooking coast live oaks that line the canyon of Cerrito Creek as it flows into the San Francisco Bay.

This morning it is dark
when I hit the beach.
Black willets skitter at the edge
of black foam, seals a condensed
blackness against black water.
As I run eastward, a hint of gold
against grey, grey sand, grey sky.
By the time I turn back
color has gently returned
to the world, the sea
grey gold, the sand
the color of sand,
a dawn palette, softened
by pink and golden light.
And in the sheltered channel
between dock and seawall
an otter bobs
asleep on its back,
front paws clasped
beneath its chin, the fur there
a downy brown.
It breathes
as we breathe—
belly moving slowly in and out—
curled on the palm of the water.

Eyes of the Universe

by Irene Hays

Irene lives in the semi-arid shrub steppe near the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima Rivers in southeastern Washington State.

If, as Thoreau says,
we are the eyes of the universe,
to whom do we report our findings?

We gather data for years, lead with the heart,
as natural as hunger or breathing.
Each day opens new,
the smallest bits a kaleidoscope of hope.

Who needs to know
when everything comes home at last,
into the arms of wildness,
deep as forever.

Fire and Water

by Derrick Paulson

Derrick lives among the pines forests and placid lakes of the Crow Wing watershed in central Minnesota.

Below a hill, beside a river,
a grove of old growth
bent doubled. In a graying gust
fingers and toes tested—
as though the waters were the Jordan.
On the far bank, young birches
beckoned—waving in the wind.

A mighty, solid rock downstream,
firmly given to the earth,
counseled the current quickly
as the heat swept down.

All at once flames flecked the ridge,
and as if they had simply
increased their receptivity1
to majesty they came down
into the trees. They rushed down
into the trees crackling as their limbs
hissed to ash in the flood.

Acorns and cones fluttered or fell,
each to their own design, into
the waiting waters. Reaching the rock
the embryos divided toward either shore.

Taken from Daybreak by Galway Kinnell: “and as if they had simply/ increased their receptivity.”

In Orange

by Alicia Vandevorst

Alicia lives in the Yuba River Watershed.  The window above her writing place faces south, through an opening between Ponderosa Pines.

I do not know how to grieve
what has not been lost completely,
only the slow dying of the breed
and the remote responsibility.
Too much cannot be archived.
The cave where she slept,
the white snow leopard, the condor
wings, the cresting back, long and slick,
of the humpback, the swift leap of dolphins
beside the ship, the gently-lined elephants
who caress, the lion mane, the roar, the howl,
the silverback gorilla’s quiet eyes,
the birds and the bees.

I cannot find the answer and circle
like a songbird who misses the light
of a faint, perfect guide; that remains so
perfect, out of sight in the orange,
stagnant maze. And they die
of exhaustion, the songbirds.
Our need for illuminated night
creates a vortex of star-birds
with throats ample and free, delivered
to music but they fall, their light bones
are small matted wastes in the city and the
absence of song is an assassination of peace.

Sotto Voce

by David Oestreich

David lives just beyond the 100-year high-water mark of the Blanchard River in Northwest Ohio, where he photographs the local reptiles and amphibians.

Nothing is secret from the worm;
its ear is wide as the world. ~Unknown

I’m not giving up, even if it means
going back to the beginning,
holding my fingers to each
articulation of the tulip bloom,
fondling the coarse Braille
of tree bark, counting the cricket’s
hi-hat rhythm until I catch myself
beating it absently; going back,
tracing the rise and fall
of earth’s every heave, learning
so completely I could walk them
any midnight by new moon.
I will climb into my crawlspace
and nuzzle mold. The nymphs
beneath the river’s stones will be
my alphabet. In summer I will parse
the mist and conjugate the rain,
in winter, contemplate the pines’
declension. All this I will do
until, finally, I can speak,
not the names of things, but things
themselves; until my every word
admits a universe.


by Bethany Reid

Bethany lives in the Puget Sound watershed.

What could the Bible mean
when it says no sparrow falls
without God's notice?
They do fall.
"The Bible": that's too impersonal.
It was some writer of the New Testament,
some Hebrew poet turned Christian
who chose "sparrow," a metaphor
for the least things, the small
and innumerable mouths
at the breast of the world.
Maybe our poet had a daughter who carried to him
in her cupped hands a baby sparrow.
Maybe they tried to keep it alive
on sugar water and cat food,
and when they failed, he wept,
not knowing how to teach a child
that life is worth the trouble, and the grief.
This morning, at our house,
the sparrow hopped in his shoe box, chirping,
and my daughter leaned over him,
her hair the same brown as his feathers.
"He thinks I'm his mom," she told me.
I am her mom. When the baby sparrow dies,
I'm the one she brings him to,
the life now seeped from him,
his body no more than a clod of dirt.
Black beads of his eyes dulled.
Wings stilled. Feet stiff as twigs.
We bury him in the backyard
beside the old cat and a mole we found last fall.
And God only knows
why commending his body to the earth
should comfort us,
but it does.


by Michael Day

Michael lives at the eastern foot of Big Rock Ridge in the Miller Creek watershed of Marin County, California.

          I spend a lot of time firmly in my boots on Big Rock Ridge, and when I get tired, I squat sometimes to stretch my back and look at things. Today I was looking at a callous on the bottom of my foot, when out of the stony dirt of the fire road, from a dozen exit-ways across the road around me, termites came flooding from their tunnels.

          They were crawling, half-inch puzzles of dull gloss wings and small dark heads. They pushed up into one another from below, nuzzling themselves into heaps, first a thousand, then two thousand more. What stirred them to boil into the gray light of this day’s rainy world? What started them after each other, all these males and females?

          As they softly swarmed into the size of hats, I marveled at their tactile love for one another. Antennae, faces, feet, and wings bumping and threading, licking and tasting. Glands exuding molecules of this-is-me, that-is-you, where-is-she? Then a piece of cloud

          broke loose, a gleam of sunlight struck the road, and all the startled nerves of all the waiting wings arose at once and instantly into the air. I stumbled up to watch the flying world go glittering away. They were such ghostly lights, the earth-born, back-lit hopes of termites.

The Other Economy

by Barbara J. Genovese

Barbara lives on 35 acres of protected wetlands in the Fanno Creek Watershed in Portland Oregon, with about 640 other people cleverly landscaped into their houses. The area is home to a variety of wildlife species, most commonly those that can tolerate a wide variety of habitat and the disturbance usually associated with residential and commercial development, and some of the critters come in close!

We’ve all grown up hearing about ‘generation gaps.’ Chances are you’re part of my generation – the Baby Boomers, because we’re a big part of the U.S. demographics. Many of us had parents who survived the Great Depression or served in World War II. My inheritance is that I still darn my socks, sew buttons back onto my shirts, or dye clothing if it’s wearable and there’s a stain I can’t remove. When growing up, we were taught to use it up; wear it out; pass it down or along (to a sibling or neighbor); make do, or do without.

In 2009, however, one of the things I couldn’t do without was a computer because I was looking for a new job. Unlike Gen Next (born in the late ‘70’s or early ‘80’s, also known as the Net Generation, Echo Boomers, and Millenials) -- I didn’t cut my teeth on a computer keyboard. I used a typewriter and witnessed its transition to a computer with word processing software. This is where one ‘generation gap’ comes in: the one between using something up -- and the alternative of replacing it with something new without ever diagnosing the problem. I call this “The Other Economy.” It’s contributing to the present recession, as well as deepening the ecological crisis. This is when I began seriously to rethink my priorities.

Energy is expensive. So I began to pile the bed with blankets so I didn’t have to turn the heat on. I tried not turning on lights when I went into a room. Didn’t I know where everything was? I imagined that this strengthened my night vision. If I needed something, I started training myself to look through what I already had and improvise where I could.

At first I felt like a Robinson Crusoe on my own island of self-sufficiency. It’s been a revelation what I’ve been able to do without; it’s also thrown me back onto childhood and what I remember, though sometimes painfully, from those years: My mother made us tear paper napkins in half, even when neighbors or relatives came to visit. My father paid cash when he bought a car and drove it forever. My own car was 27 years old before repairs were no longer cost effective. In anticipation, I’d taken a second job for three years so I too would be able to pay cash for a new one.

But when my mentality of conserve and re-use came up against what I thought was my five-year-old computer’s swan song -- I lost all rational thought: I succumbed to the siren song of the four-letter word “sale.” Further, I was swayed by the longer sentence: “Computers aren’t made to last five years.” It spawned a strange and angry drop down the rabbit hole.

In hindsight, I look upon it all as an adventure, an exploration of my fears, and -- what I subscribe to when I’m in “need” of a thing. Here’s what I remember:

My computer screen had begun to repeat itself. When it started to happen with great frequency, there also happened to be “back to school sales.”

I explained my computer’s problem to five different salespeople, two at one store, and three at another. They all were from Gen Next. They all said my computer had a speed issue; they all reminded me that the computer was five years old and way past its usable years, and interestingly -- all said it was a video card problem (an expensive fix). Interestingly, not one asked for the model or whether my computer even had a video card. I found out later it didn’t.

Each, not surprisingly, advised me to buy a new computer. After I listened to all these diagnostic wizards and asked numerous questions about computers in my price range, I went home and did some research (though not the right kind). The next day I returned to the store, asked more questions (convinced myself that it was a speed issue and that I had an old computer) -- and I bought a new computer. I paid extra to have the staff transfer data and waited two hours in the store beyond when they had told me it would be done. When I got my new computer home, email wasn’t set up (as promised), and a disc had been left in the computer!

The rabbit hole became darker and deeper. Suffice it to say that after three days with customer support, 800 numbers, and three trips to the store, the technical wizards could not get my email to work. I was back to Square One. I’d lost valuable time looking for work, and still didn’t have a working computer. My solution? I returned it, got my money back, and then I started from where I should have started in the first place.

I emailed a networking group I belong to and asked for names of computer shops that people had personal experience with. I made a handful of calls and found a shop that didn’t talk down to me. They had my computer working in 24 hours. The problem? My computer was trying to make too many updates simultaneously, thus the repeating screen. The technician, a man in his 40s, fixed a few things, removed a few things, gave me the option to say yes or no to updates, and my computer was as good as new. He made a revealing remark: “This is a well-made model and was built to last.”

When I need something now, I notice my consumer-based impulse when that voice says: Put it on the list and we’ll pick it up next time we’re at the store. Then, another voice, just as strong says: Do you absolutely need it? What do you have already that performs the same function but perhaps looks different?

I want to find that balance in my life where my spending doesn’t exceed either my means or the Earth’s sustainability; where, if I don’t have something, I put on my explorer’s boots and search among my “things” for a substitute. After all, my “things” aren’t busy all the time being the “thing” they were designed to be.

I’ve collected a few revelations and epiphanies along the way, and while looking for work:

1) We don’t live in a disposable world. It might be easier to toss than to find out what the problem is, or to fix it -- but buying isn’t always the solution. Buying may save you time, but then you have the old “thing” which may still work -- to dispose of -- which takes up space, and which you’ll have to make a decision about anyway. Or your estate will.

2) Take time to investigate. Ask the right questions. Be willing to crawl around in the belly of the beast.

3) Neither Time nor Money is as valuable as maintaining a connection with the things you own and use and depend on.

I’m from a generation and a tradition in which hand-made was prized. My grandmother was a seamstress who sewed for the Catholic Church and the Barnum and Bailey Circus. She sewed unique dresses for me and costumes for school plays, and I wore what my grandmother made with great pride. Her clothes were like blessings in my girl’s eye. I felt a fierce dignity in being able to wear my clothes and use my things until they were either unwearable, or unusable. It stretched my imagination, creativity, resourcefulness and Yankee stubbornness -- all these were ‘muscles’ for me as I grew. All these were part of the fiber of my grandparents’ immigrant mentality.

It’s also important to me to respect the things that work for me because, after all, they do work. Maybe it was knowing that the clothes on my back were hard-earned that made me able to make them last. To this day I hate to part with a piece of clothing.

I’ve also collected a few questions:

Q: Where has my ingenuity gone? Not too far down the road I hope, for I can still catch sight of its coattails swinging in the breeze. My mother, while she embarrassed me when neighbors and relatives came to visit, also taught me an important lesson: Maybe you can get by with only half a napkin to wipe your mouth (unless you have a really big or dirty mouth or have to wipe a baby’s gooey face).

Q: What kind of lives do we have if we have to keep topping ourselves, to wit -- how many different models of mobile phones do we need to live fulfilled lives? What price are we willing to pay to miss our inner landscape?

Q: Why am I not dancing with life rather than trying to outrun it?

Q: Why am I letting the advertising world create my world? What happened to me creating my own world?

Q: And -- my mind dreams into those places of energy conservation linked with consumerism that asks: What if we diverted some of that energy and money into inventions to benefit the planet and ourselves?

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Television
  (apologies to Wallace Stevens)

by Rebecca Payne

Rebecca lives where the Red Cedar River watershed meets that of the Grand River in lower central Michigan.

Among twenty snowy mountains
the only moving thing
the flicker of television.

I am of three minds
like a store window
with three televisions.

The laugh track mixes in the autumn winds
a small part of the symphony.

A man and a woman
are one.
A man and a woman and a television
are one.

I do not know which to prefer:
the pleasure of sound
or the pleasure of solitude,
the television sounding
or just after.

Icicles fill the long window
with barbaric glass
flicker of television
casting its blue-green glow.
The mood
traced in the shadow
an indecipherable cause.

O thin women of Hollywood
why do you imagine golden awards?
Do you not see how the television
stills the feet
of the children about you?

I know noble accents
and lurid inescapable rhythms;
but I know, too,
that the television is involved
in what I know.

When the sound of the television fades
it marks the edge
of one of many circles.

At the sight of televisions
flickering their green light
even the bawds of euphony
cry out.

He rides over Los Angeles
in a glass box.
Once a fear pierced him
that he mistook
his face
for a television.

The river is moving.
The television must be unplugged.

It is evening all afternoon.
It is snowing
and it is going to snow.
The television drones
past the cedar limbs.

This Breaking Wave

by Molly Fisk

Molly lives in the south fork of the Yuba River's watershed, about 50 feet from Rush Creek, which does rush in winter but is illegally funneled into a neighbor's pond in summer. This provides her with opportunities for activism, conservancy, and compassion in her literal back yard.

this salt curling foam,
the pounding and fast slish
up a wet shore, bare
hesitation until the receding,
folding back into what’s blue
and endless, the stones
turning and turning, a cracked
dollar bleached white
and churned, end over end,
shadow of seal and gull,
fountain of pelican, delicate
toe prints of whimbrel and plover
lacing unblemished surface,
everyone’s life will be nothing:
migrating ladybugs caught
in an offshore wind, the brown
dog who tomorrow will stray
into the road, my father’s
footprints erased so many decades
ago, all that we say and wish
forgotten, tatter of kelp,
driftwood, torn leaf of beach plum,
the twinned purple mussel
shells broken.

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