-- for Ryan Ingebritsen

So that was the summer 
I stood on the park’s idea
of a minimalist bridge--
seven slabs in the river--
and listened to wet syllables 
in an aria of falling and going around-- 
lyrics of riffle, inflected with watercress
punctuated by striders.

The song was repetitive, mostly about longing
for dissolution. There was a distant lover
in some estuary; she smelled of mud and salt.
To get to her, the singer ran headlong
into the earth--scouring and scouring
fat volumes of limestone
until at last he looked up
at the brows of cliffs--
he had dug an amphitheater
on every curve, his bright voice
rang to a shadow audience.
Under green drops, he deployed
an orchestra of birds.

That was the summer I climbed 500 steps
to the top of the bluff,
past cedar and sumac,
leaned over the fragrant balcony

and added my voice to the evening--
my echo returned, sounding like someone 
lost and concerned, far off, perhaps a bit panicked--
the tone the voice finds in distance.


*   *   *   *

James Armstrong met sound artist Ryan Ingebritsen in 2010, when Ingebritsen was an artist-in-residence at the Banning and Whitewater State Parks in Minnesota. Armstrong wrote "Song Path" after going on a hike led by Ingebritsen -- on World Listening Day 2010Click here to find out more. You can listen to "Gooseberry Falls Song Path," recorded by Ingebritsen, below --

James Armstrong is a Midwestern native: he grew up on the sand plains of southern Michigan and went to Northwestern University as an undergraduate. He has an M.F.A. from Western Michigan University and a Ph.D. in American Literature from Boston University. Armstrong's scholarly essay on John James Audubon appeared in Animal Acts: Configuring the Human in Western History (Routledge 1997). Armstrong has taught creative writing and American literature at Northwestern University and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Writing Program.

He has published poems and essays in TriQuarterlyRHINO, Porcupine, Gulf Coast, OrionPoetry East and other journals. Armstrong received the PEN-New England Discovery Prize for poetry in 1996, and he has been awarded both an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in poetry and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in poetry. He was an artist in residence at Isle Royale in 1994 and on Grand Island National Recreation Area in 2004. His first book of poems, Monument in a Summer Hat, was published in the fall of 1999 (New Issues Press). His latest book, Blue Lash, came out in April, 2006, from Milkweed Editions.

His poem, “The Wreck,” was anthologized in Where One Voice Ends, Another Begins, a collection of Minnesota poetry published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press (2007). In October of 2007, he was appointed Poet Laureate of the City of Winona. Armstrong lives in downtown Winona with his wife, Laura, and their two daughters, Dot and Pippa.
 
 
Nights, when I can't sleep, I listen to the sea lions
barking from the rocks off the lighthouse.
I look out the black window into the black night
and think about fish stirring the oceans.
Muscular tuna, their lunge and thrash
churning the water, whipping up a squall,
storm of hunger. Herring cruising,
river of silver in the sea, wide as a lit city.
And all the small breaths: pulse
of frilled jellyfish, thrust of squid,
frenzy of krill, transparent skin glowing
green with the glass shells of diatoms.
Billions swarming up the water column each night,
gliding down at dawn. They're the greased motor
that powers the world. Shipping heat
to the Arctic, hauling cold to the tropics,
currents unspooling around the globe.
My room is so still, the bureau lifeless,
and on it, inert, the paraphernalia of humans:
keys, coins, shells that once rocked in the tides--
opalescent abalone, pearl earrings.
Only the clock's sea green numerals
register their little changes. And shadows
the moon casts—fan of maple branches--
tick across the room. But beyond the cliffs
a blue whale sounds and surfaces, cosmic
ladle scooping the icy depths. An artery so wide,
I could swim through into its thousand-pound heart.


*   *   *   *


Ellen Bass's poetry books include The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press) and Mules of Love (BOA Editions). Among her awards are the Lambda Literary Award, New Letters Poetry Prize, the Larry Levis Prize from Missouri Review, and the Pablo Neruda Prize fromNimrod. She teaches in the MFA poetry program at Pacific University.

 
 
All spring
on the bottom
of our rainboots,
on the backs
of our slickers

the daguerreotypes
drizzling down the red tulips,
the hyacinths
like sistrums
making a march on the Flexpart,

the stores of seaweed
like gnarled hands,

the amber bottles of Iodine
lifting their monked hoods
from shelves of the pharmacy,

the empty rows
of Vibrant Greens
announcing their absence
at Shop N' Kart,

while the grass grows ever longer
undeterred, and the weeds denser,
on the invisible cut of the loom.

*   *   *   * 

Julie Weber is the author of The Cantor Set (Love's Body, 2012) and Resin (Love's Body, 2012). She was the winner of the 2011 Dana Award for Poetry. Julie was a Lambda Literary Fellow for the year 2010, and has been a finalist/semi-finalist in the Tupelo Snowbound, Oscar Wilde, Chroma, Orlando, Joy Harjo, Alligator Juniper and Lexi Rudnitsky competitions. Poems appear or have appeared on the Oregon Poetic Voices site and in Alligator Juniper, OCHO #22 and Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly, among others. 

 
 
You have made
this place sacred
by your presence
and your intention of holiness.
When you left
for the winter
as snow began to fall
you said to yourself
“I’m sad not to be able
to come again till spring”
and then words appeared
in your mind as if by magic
“you are not alone in your sadness
my friend”
and then you knew
beyond a shadow of doubt
that we are not alone on the planet:
the earth, the trees, the animals
the flowers, the birds
and the all and the every
once thought mute can speak.
“The trees weep for your return”
is what was really said to me
that day on flower mountain
and my heart knew
this to be true;
it is such a small world
when consciousness
goes only one way.

 
 


O N E

Miss Carson’s Book


Late in the summer of 1962, extreme weather visited both ends of the United States. In the West it was so hot that women wore swimsuits on the streets of San Francisco, and the smog levels in that city were the highest ever recorded. On the East Coast, Hurricane Alma churned northward, interrupting a pleasant spell as it neared the tip of Long Island. On August 28 the edge of the storm ended play at Yankee Stadium one inning after Mickey Mantle blasted what proved to be the game-winning home run to right center field through a driving rain. The next morning it was sunny and warm in the nation’s capital, where the Washington Post’s weather section reported daily radiation levels of just three micromicrocuries per cubic meter of air—unchanged from the day before and not bad given the recent pace of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests by both the United States and the Soviet Union.

That same day, President John F. Kennedy appeared at the State Department at four in the afternoon for the forty-second press conference of his year and a half in office. The president began by announcing Felix Frankfurter’s retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court. He then fielded questions about farm policy, tensions in Berlin, and whether he would meet with Nikita Khrushchev during the Soviet premier’s upcoming visit to the United Nations. Kennedy also answered several vaguely portentous queries about an apparent increase in Soviet shipping traffic to Cuba. Near the end, Kennedy took an unusual question. “Mr. President, there appears to be a growing concern among scientists as to the possibility of dangerous long-range side effects from the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides. Have you considered asking the Department of Agriculture or the Public Health Service to take a closer look at this?"

If he was surprised, Kennedy did not miss a beat. “Yes,” he said quickly, “and I know that they already are. I think, particularly, of course, since Miss Carson’s book, but they are examining the issue.”
In this brief exchange something new came into the world, for this was a cleaving point—the moment when the gentle, optimistic proposition called “conservation” began its transformation into the bitterly divisive idea that would come to be known as “environmentalism.” Kennedy’s promise of a government investigation into the contamination of the environment by a widely used and economically important class of products had no precedent. And because the government itself used pesticides extensively, any such inquiry necessarily had to look in the mirror. Compared with the other matters Kennedy had discussed that day—policies that would evolve, situations that would change and fade away—a problem with the health of the environment became by definition a problem with the totality of human existence. At issue was humanity’s place in the natural order of a world increasingly subservient to the human species. Who but us could devise so perfect a way to contend with ourselves?
On a Farther Shore launch party
Click here to listen to the audio of William Souder's talk during the launch party.

The president’s reference to “Miss Carson’s book” would now be opaque to the several generations of Americans who have come of age in the intervening years—Rachel Carson is unknown to almost any one under the age of fifty. But in 1962 no elaboration was needed. Carson was the bestselling author of three books about the oceans and by any measure one of America’s most respected and beloved writers. Or so she had been. The new book to which Kennedy referred, Silent Spring, was a bristling polemic about the indiscriminate use of pesticides. It was unlike anything Carson had previously written. Although not yet actually a book—it wouldn’t be published for another month—in June three long excerpts from Silent Spring had appeared in consecutive issues of The New Yorker. By the time of Kennedy’s press conference, The New Yorker articles had raised public alarm in the United States and abroad and prompted the chemicals industry to launch an angry and concerted effort to discredit Silent Spring and destroy its author.
The woman at the center of this firestorm scarcely seemed capable of becoming such a polarizing figure. Now fifty-five years old, Rachel Carson had spent most of her adult life in the company of her mother—writing, bird-watching, and visiting the seashore. Petite,soft-spoken, and nearly apolitical, she lived quietly in a leafy suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, with a cat and her orphaned ten-year-old grandnephew, Roger Christie, whom she had adopted. Carson had earned a master’s degree in zoology at Johns Hopkins University but had never worked as a scientist. In the gloom of the Great Depression, she instead found a job as an information specialist with the federal government’s Bureau of Fisheries, an agency later merged with the Biological Survey to form the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 1951 her book The Sea Around Us made Carson’s literary reputation—it stood atop the New York Times bestseller list for thirty-nine weeks and won the National Book Award—and she left government service. Every spring Carson and Roger drove north to Southport Island on the Maine coast, where she owned a cottage on a rocky bluff overlooking Sheepscot Bay. Here Carson passed her summers in reflection, gazing at the ebb and flow of the sea, collecting marine specimens in the tidal pools along the shore, and visiting, often deep into the fog-shrouded nights, with her neighbors Dorothy and Stanley Freeman. In the fall, she went home.

William Souder 
photo credit: Dani Werner

This excerpt of On a Farther Shore by William Souder has appeared here with permission from the publisher. Click here to read more of the excerpt. 

Click here to read Elizabeth Royte's review of On a Father Shore -- in the 9/14/2012 edition of The New York Times

Click here to listen to the interview with William Souder on The Diane Rehm Show.

Click here to read "On a Farther Shore: William Souder on the Legacy of Rachel Carson" -- on the Milkweed Editions blog. 
 
 
Bad Chemistry with a Half-Life

mercury
mirex
sulfuric acid
DDT
PCBs
If I do not mutate
from his radioactive toxins,
I will swim the lake home.


 



Not a Pretty Picture

Call them the purloiners of good rain,
the ushers of ulcerous sprawl;
call them the Torquemadas
of the Everglades;
call them the South Florida Water
Management District because
the Devil has to have a name.

With Him, we have made a Hades
of this young 15,000-year-old place,
a place spanning a scant 9-million-square acres
that ladles its 40-mile-wide River of Grass
slowly into the cradle of the sea.
Florida Bay now receives
but 1/10th of its historic flow.

Paddle into Satan’s Dead Zone
in the bay through 100 square miles
of moribund sea sponges.
Motor over 100,000 acres
of dying sea grass, manna of sea turtles.
Smell the reek of the dead.

Every accursèd day 600 people
adopt Florida as their home.
In the last 60 years, we’ve lost
¼ of our forests, ⅔rds of our wetlands;
and, at the end of the peninsula,
117 species risk extinction.                 

We count the iniquities:
1,074 miles of canals
   720 miles of levees
   250 primary control devices
    25 locks
    18 major pumping stations

and the wanton creation
of pathogenic levels
of mercury, nitrogen,
phosphorous, and pesticides.
The landscape hungers and thirsts.

                                                                    A rant for Campbell McGrath






Precipitating “The End”

The diminutive soul of a mid-winter
raindrop in the Everglades
can be induced to confess her
pitiful story of a long journey
to the face of your windshield,
to the eye of your telephoto lens.

It was a silvery piccolo voice
such as that willowy woman might
have had, had I stopped to visit
the nonagenarian hippie from New York
zipped into her one-person pup tent
at Long Pine Key.  Instead,
the small wet bead murmured:

By all rights I shouldn’t be here,
this is February, height of the dry season.
This system’s all messed up, all
messed up these days in this region.
I wasn’t due to depart Lake Okeechobee
until April, bound for a resurrection fern
on a cypress up by Pah-hay-o-kee.
Sure, I’d like to blame it on the current
South Florida Water Management District,
but I’m old, like that hardwood hammock
over at Royal Palm, first cycled through
what’s now the national park when
old  Nap Broward was in the governor’s
mansion in Tallahassee following
the dreams of industrialists the likes
of Hammy Disston, two cottonmouths
spitting drainage & dredging venom wherever
they slithered across the Sunshine State.
The hydroperiod hasn‘t been the same since.

Morning sunlight slipped through a stand
of misted slash pines, an abrupt end to the shower
& my elderly neighbor, still abed, dreamed
this improbable dream I had as I strained
to listen, drained my mug of campground coffee –
no time to lose attention, to stray from the gist of things.

So much has changed in the past century:
widespread muck, fresh saltwater intrusion
in ancient sweet aquifers, fewer than
one thousand snail kites left, pond apples
just about gone &, a number of years ago,
one of fifty-some remaining panthers was discovered
dead, from mercury concentrations in his liver, etc.
Trees are merely timber, animals are game
& the earth is only so much subsiding soil
for those rapacious sugar barons with such deep pockets.
Truth be told, I’m afraid
I won’t be back.  Don’t count
on seeing me again.  I’m all washed up,
all washed up….





*   *   * 




A seven-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had nearly 300 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has eight books to her credit, the newest of which are The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica (Finishing Line Press) and Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology: 99 Poets among the 99%, which she co-edited for FootHills Publishing. Forthcoming from Salmon Poetry is Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North. Her Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills) received the 2009 Eiseman Award for Poetry and she recently received the Dr. Sherwin Howard Award for the best poetry published in Weber - The Contemporary West in 2012. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye (www.centrifugaleye.com). Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com. 
 
 
she said ‑ "like dry ice
this weather feels like dry ice
      cold but not cold
                an eerie chill"

& it is February in NY & well
into the 50's & it's been this way
for over a month  
& i heard a whisper extend
his cheeks & blow a vacuum of air
into the room & a screamer did the
same & the globe became a bit
more fried & the sea a bit higher
& the globe became a bit more tired & the 
air a wee bit crueler

the post man delivered the letter of death
                                                       & announced thru his mask ‑ 
                                         “you cannot beat the toxic drum
                                                 you cannot eat the crutch ‑ 
                                   throw away the new made holes
                                           & smother the seasons”

“dry” she muttered annoyingly     thru her cracked mouth ‑   “dry ice”

the world is collapsing like a musical scale
& was always collapsing ‑ 
there are no corners to hide things in –-
or closets
no words to compensate & deeds will never  
suffice

                  there is only the humble heart to apologize &
                  beg forgiveness for his brothers for the madman
                  thrashing the brutal lamplit nite ‑ for the park torn
                  up to prevent the homeless from resting for the forests
                  filth & the hole in the sky for hatred for the damaged metal drums
                  bleeding into all our backyards ‑ for the
                  poet's feeble attempt at apologies & false awareness
                  for  the very root of modern extinction for...you know
                  the list goes on & on

but apologize to  
whom?  to what?  to the  
brutal nite? to the dry ice chill?
to the warming globe?
to the profile in the mirror?
to the final smile?
the sad & sorry   
sax o phonist?                                                                                                   

                                         like a malevich
                                         square we are here
                                         & defined & flat
                                         & simple & unbound


*    *    *    *

steve dalachinsky was born in 1946, Brooklyn, New York right after the last big war and has managed to survive lots of little wars. His work has appeared extensively in journals on & off line including; Big BridgeMilkTribesUnlikely StoriesRatapallaxEvergreen ReviewLong ShotAlpha Beat SoupXtantBlue Beat JacketThe Brooklyn Review,. He is included in such anthologies as Beat IndeedThe Haiku MomentUp is Up But So is Down: NYU Downtown Literary Anthology, the Unbearables anthologies: Help YourselfThe Worse Book I Ever Read and The Big Book of Sex (of which he is a co-editor) and the esteemed Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He has written liner notes for the CDs of many artists including Anthony Braxton, Charles Gayle, James "Blood" Ulmer, Rashied Ali, Roy Campbell, Matthew Shipp and Roscoe Mitchell. His 1999 CD, Incomplete Direction (Knitting Factory Records), a collection of his poetry read in collaboration with various musicians, has garnered much praise. His chapbooks include Musicology (Editions Pioche, Paris 2005), Trial and Error in Paris (Loudmouth Collective 2003), Lautreamont's Laments (Furniture Press 2005), In Glorious Black and White (Ugly Duckling Presse 2005), Dream Book (Avantcular Press 2005), Christ Amongst the Fishes (A book of collages, Oilcan Press 2009), Insomnia Poems (Propaganda Press 2009), Invasion of the Animal People (Propaganda Press 2010), The Mantis: collected poems for Cecil Taylor 1966-2009 (Iniquity Press 2011), Trustfund Babies (Unlikely Stories Press The Veiled Doorway & St. Lucie (Unarmed Press 20012) and Long Play E.P. (Corrupt Press, 2012). His book The Final Nite (complete notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook, Ugly Duckling Presse 2006) won the 2007 Josephine Miles PEN National Book Award His most recent books are Logos and Language, a collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp (Rogueart Press 2007), Reaching into the Unknown, a collaborative project with  French photographer Jacques Bisceglia, RogueArt 2009). His latest CD is Phenomena of Interference, a collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp (Hopscotch Records 2005). He has read throughout the N.Y. area, the U.S., Japan and Europe, including France and Germany. He is a contributing writer to the Brooklyn Rail. His book A Superintendent's Eyes (Hozomeen Press 2000) is being reissued by Autonomedia/Unbearables in an expanded/revised edition in late fall 2012. His latest cds are collaborations with saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Joelle Leandre and an experimental French rock Group the Snobs.
 
 
A response to the photographs of Laurie Tümer

The child, relaxed, languishes in the star
of her mother’s arms. Take one step. Everyone shifts into stars.

Oh Holy Mother, your sideways glance
as if you can’t bear the child who is the moment’s star.

Mother of Progress, Father of Casualties, turning your arms
into altars of commerce, your face its falling star.

The prophets spoke. Nobody listened in the Fifties, Rachel.
The air downwind. My garden. My babies. Three wishing stars.

Once your family dumped milk in the Fifties.
The cow’s four stomachs chewing stars.

Stamp an expiration date on my hand.
Make it be August please, under catastrophic stars.

Farm worker, back float in gas mask and goggles.
What wonder among the sacrificed stars?

Masked but not carnival, small ghosts of fear.
Hands offering and receiving disorganized stars.

Orion, Big Dipper, Pleiades, constellations I know.
This dye traces new frightened stars.

In poisonous moments of the mind, the heart escalates.
My grandson begs for blue Legos of The Death Star.

Joanie says, Laurie, thanks and no thanks. I barely bear this
minor key. Sing Earth, Holy Earth, more fragrant than stars.


*    *    *    *

Joan Logghe has served as poet laureate for Santa Fe, NM 2010-2012. Her most recent books are Rice (Tres Chicas Books), Love & Death: Greatest Hits, with Renée Gregorio and Miriam Sagan, wonnder of a New Mexico, and The Singing Bowl, finalist in New Mexico Book award, Bennington University Milt Kessler Poetry Award, and WILLA Award. She has lived in La Puebla, New Mexico since the early 1970's. 

As a high school student she was interested in biology and very aware of the burden on pesticides. As a grandmother, organic gardener for decades, she is even more concerned.
 
 
Saint Rachel, pray for us.
Forgive us, though we know
what we do.

Here on the edge
of small-town America
in the heart of “God’s Country”
on the outskirts of the one universe
we claim to know
women drop used diapers
in the Wal-Mart parking lot,
wanna-be fishermen leave beer cans,
plastic bottles and Styrofoam worm boxes
on riverbanks. Here, neighbors
put plastic bags of trash on the edge
of the lawn where every stray dog and cat
scatters the contents up and down the streets.

Here on the edge
of small-town America
in the heart of “God’s Country”
on the outskirts of the one universe
we claim to know
a man wearing lime-striped tennis shoes,
a yellow shirt and clashing off-yellow hat
spends Sunday mornings wielding
his home-made stick-with-a-nail-in-the-end-of-it
picking up our trash.

Saint Rachel, pray for us.
Can you forgive us, since we know
what we must –
and what we must not do?
 
 
Click on the link below to download an excerpt from In the Garden of Live Flowers, a play by Lynne Conner and Attilio Flavorini. This excerpt from In the Garden of Live Flowers appears on this website with permission from The Dramatic Publishing Company.
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