vintage-postcard-greetings-from-texas-lone-star-state-us-680x459
Summer 1966: After France & Remembering Bobby,
Who One Day Would Learn to Multiply and Divide,
Write Love Poems, Define Home, Fight Unfairly and
Live with as Much Gusto as a 7-Year Old. Perhaps.
by Robert Okaji

From left coast to right, or the wide arc between,
which place claimed you? In New York you marveled
at the building’s backs scratched by clouds, and all your
pale cousins in Baltimore spoke strangely and couldn’t fathom
your nuclear family’s private lingo, while the drive to Texas
and its red ants and iced tea blossomed into adventures between
pages in the back seat of the VW bug. By the second week you
learned that Texans sweat as much as the French, and swear even
more, that you couldn’t fight one twin without taking on the other,
sometimes both at once. There was no question of fairness then,
just brotherhood, but the librarian would slip you the choicest
donated fiction, and you played baseball every day in the vacant lot
until sundown called the players home to black and white body
counts and cigarette commercials on the three channels received.
Sometimes you lay in bed under the half-light of the whirring
fan blades, and dreamt of heroes and ornithopters, zebras
and the scent of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Other nights
you wondered how words could rest so calmly on one page yet
explode off the next, or why a man would climb a tower in Austin
to kill fourteen people when opportunities for mayhem and murder
burgeoned across the sea. Wasn’t living a matter of simple
subtraction? One by one the days parted and you walked through
that dwindling heat, eyes squinting, questions in hand, emerging
fifty years later having suffered additions and division and the
cruelties of love and success, honor and truth, still asking why
and how, home or house, where it went, your shoulders slumping
under the heft of those beautiful, terrible summers stacked high
like so many life-gatherings of unread books awaiting a bonfire.

SOURCE: A version of this titled “Bonjour, Texas” appeared on the blog A Holistic Journey.

IMAGE: Vintage Texas postcard.

Okaji

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Okaji lives in Texas. A self-described military brat, he moved many times over the course of his childhood. He is the author of the chapbooks If Your Matter Could Reform (Dink Press, 2015) and The Circumference of Other, which is included in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks (Silver Birch Press, 2015), as well as a micro-chapbook, You Break What Falls (Origami Poems Project). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glass, Hermeneutic Chaos, Panoplyzine, Steel Toe Review, riverSedge, Eclectica, and elsewhere. Visit his blog, O at the Edges, at robertokaji.com.

PHOTO: The author with his Italian guitar, purchased between moves in 1976.

johnston

Baptism
by Joseph Johnston

The death of my dreaming renaissance during the great migration east was summarized in a puny, beeping box called Wesclox and it was time to get up for my first day of high school in a city I’d only arrived in the day before.

My parents were 1,200 miles west trying to sell our house, and I was holed up in my uncle’s old bedroom back east at Grandma and Grandpa’s. I snoozed the alarm and turned on a bedside lamp in the bicentennial decor common when my uncle slept there. The patriotic lampshade illuminated a bookcase, and I grabbed what would be my scripture for the following three months until my family joined me in this unfamiliar land. The book was Charles Schulz’s Happiness is a Warm Puppy and at that moment no one in history had written a more peaceful tome.

I couldn’t eat breakfast. My stomach was closed. It was on Mountain Time, two hours prior, and used to summertime sleeping-in besides. Grandpa dropped me off at school and told me to ask for the registrar.

I was unregistered. Anywhere. No one knew where I was. No one knew who I was. Nobody in the world was accounting for me.

I walked right on by the high school and headed for the woods beyond the ballfield. I heard cicadas for the first time and thought it was the sound of electricity traversing the high-tension power lines above. There were no aspen trees but plenty of maple. The yards had green grass instead of yucca arrangements. No mountains but a sea of corn. And a lake. Not a reservoir; a natural lake.

I’d deal with my locker room fear tomorrow. I missed my family. My house. I didn’t need school. I needed baptism in that lake.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I don’t have any pics of myself from that move, but this is the cover of my uncle’s Peanuts book that provided me such solace during that time. One page in particular, indicating happiness was walking across the grass in your bare feet, remains a kind of mantra.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was 14, my family moved from Colorado to Michigan in truncated fashion: my little brother and I arrived by air so I could begin high school on the first day, my father followed a week later to begin his new job, and finally after two months my mother and the rest of my siblings arrived and things gradually got back to normal. It was a bizarre time, rife with a disjointed homesickness that was evidenced perfectly when I realized no one in school authority had any idea who I was or where I’d come from or where I was supposed to be.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Writer and filmmaker Joseph Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parent’s living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, and Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where is working on a documentary and book about the history of boxing in Detroit.

Little League 1957 All-Stars_Page_1_Image_0001
Moving In The Flood Of ’57
by G. Louis Heath

     The rain teemed over the Feather River in 1957
when I was thirteen and my brother eleven. It
was a storm for the record books. It went on for
days. We lived downtown near the river that
threatened to breach the levee. My Dad, a brakeman,
could not get home through the canyon to Oroville.
The Western Pacific Railroad was stymied by
washed-out tracks. My Mom, in a panic of distress,
called our Aunt, who lived on high ground, said
we were coming over till the storm passed. We
hurriedly packed boxes and a couple suitcases with
clothes and a few other belongings. Mom drove
our family Chevy away from the levee, through
water rising in the streets, up to our Aunt’s. (The
song writer who later wrote the line “…drive your
Chevy to the levee” was definitely not in Oroville
at this time.) For a week we stayed with our Aunt.
My stay with her, and her kind eyes and hands, in
loving service to us, is one of my fondest young
memories.

     The water topped the levee. It flooded our street, filling
our basement, which collapsed, threatening to swallow our
home whole into a subterranean tunnel built by Chinese gold
miners. TV news, in its teething days, grew up a bit covering
Oroville, foretelling for sure doomsday was near.

     The levee did burst, but not in Oroville. It broke through
downriver. My Mom and Aunt did what they could. They bought
linen and blankets for a family who took refuge in Oroville and
prepared several meals for them.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR/PHOTO CAPTION: A recent summer storm and tornado watch filled me with a similar sense of imminent disaster that I experienced during the 1957 flood. I had that summer played on the Oroville Little League All-Star team that advanced to the California State Little League playoffs in Santa Monica. Soon after I returned home, I went back to school and turned 13, about two months before the floods began. Recently a friend on that team sent me a photo of our team. It brought back memories not only of a team that won 8 straight to get to the championship game for the state, but also strong memories of the flood as several others on the team were flooded from their homes. And shortly thereafter, our shortstop, Amos Robertson, died of leukemia, my first experience with death and a funeral after the traumas of the flood. Since all these disparate memories got wrapped up in the flood of ’57 for me. I am second from right, front row. Amos is in back row, last to the left. Incidentally, the name of my hometown, Oroville, is a portmanteau of the Spanish word for gold, oro, and the French word for town, ville.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: G. Louis Heath, Ph.D., Berkeley, 1969, is Emeritus Professor, Ashford University. Clinton, Iowa. He enjoys reading his poems at open mics. He often hikes along the Mississippi River, stopping to work on a poem he pulls from his back pocket, weather permitting. His books include Leaves Of Maple, Long Dark River Casino, and Redbird Prof. He has published poems, fiction, and nonfiction in a wide variety of journals including The Nation and The Progressive.

buchinger
Foreign
by Mary Buchinger

                    :: a cement-block house down a grassy lane in the campo,
a shy woman, Rosa, who’ll hand-scrub and iron our underwear,
her fierce child, the youngest, naked, except for a torn t-shirt
slung caveman-style across one thin shoulder, but mostly this bed
—our bed—in the middle of their main room, humming
beneath a canopy of flies—the only language we all can follow
—and these next few months in this, our second year of marriage.

Children appear from nowhere, crowd around us, eagerly await
the unclicking of the suitcases. We say hola, one of a dozen words
we know in Spanish, and our audience titters. The bed is smaller
than the scored dining table it has replaced, narrower than
the two of us side by side. We’ll spoon in desperation, our feet
sticking out the end like Li’l Abner’s, but in three dimensions,
tangled flesh on a bony bed, corporal fight over real estate.

Kids, cats, pigs, wander in, dogs chase across our shared pillow.
Somehow, this isn’t foreign. No, we are. We become someone else
as we take turns changing clothes beneath the sheets, sheets stained
with fleabite blood, our eyes vigilant watching doorless doorways.
We must say something, I plead, as if we had the words, if not a door,
at least a curtain, it must be in the dictionary. Sleep’s private kingdom!
Ya mismo, Soon, is what we are learning in this country of Mañana—

Tomorrow—a sky of promise where everything may change. Mañana
splashes freely, laps up the warped legs of our little bed, threatens the    fleas
drunk on my blood, pledges a clean blanket, a room with walls, maybe    even
a bed that fits us. Sick of mañana, I turn on you, oh husband, you foreign    sore.
I knock on your heart, suspecting fleas, a font of fleas, whose bite I    attract,
bites that inflame. I dream in a language neither of us understands of a    marriage
turned spider—menacing, strange—legs so fragile, frantic with webs.

SOURCE: “Foreign” first appeared in Homesickness and Exile Anthology (Eds. R. Piercey and E. Wright).

PHOTO: The author washing clothes at Sra. Rosa’s house, Ecuador, 1986. (Photo by Stephen Bodwell)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem, “Foreign,” published in Homesickness and Exile Anthology, (Eds. R. Piercey and E. Wright), is about my time as a Peace Corps volunteer and moving into the home of a family in Ecuador for three months during our training. My husband and I didn’t speak any Spanish yet, and for our first week a small bed was set up for us in the dining room that doubled as a saloon. Anyone or anything — kids, pigs, goats, dogs, etc., entering the house had to go through our room, which had no door inside and no curtains; my husband and I were in our second year of marriage.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Buchinger is the author of two books of poetry, Aerialist (Gold Wake, 2015) and Roomful of Sparrows (Finishing Line, 2008).  Her work has appeared in AGNI, Cortland Review, DIAGRAM, Gargoyle, Nimrod International, PANK, Salamander, Slice Magazine, Massachusetts Review and elsewhere. Visit her at MaryBuchinger.com.

Adriano
Arpeggio
by Reina Adriano

In preparation: the mind quick enough
not to linger on anything, but to simply

understand. It’s been eight years since
dust unsettled on these keys. What piece

was last played before we left? It was Chopin,
I think. Cadence through the black and white

of memory: the pacing, going back to the first
note, the first dissonance of silence. How unperturbed

distance may seem when the echoes start
subsiding along these walls, forgotten.

Father would shout at Mother who cursed
at every wrong thing. Every evening such noises

through the playing. Then we would enjoy
the pretended solitude of the piano.

Gradations of difficulty: staccato undone,
my hands cannot force anger in themselves.

The piano could not be brought with us. The anticipation,
the longing for return. What to miss more — the music

or the silence? There seemed to be less of
the former. It’s exhausting; the mind or

the body restrains itself but nevertheless relents
to the exercise. How do we master the silence?

The noise followed us wherever we went.

PHOTO: Photo of the author by Ria Panis (Quezon City, Philippines, 2013).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Arpeggio” is the interspersing of music and silence in the walls of an old home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Reina Adriano is a double major in Applied Mathematics and Creative Writing at the Ateneo de Manila University. She was a fellow for the essay in the Twentieth Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop and the Fourteenth Ateneo National Writers Workshop and was also selected as a participant in the 2015 Iowa International Writing Program for Nonfiction. Her works have been published in the previous issues of Heights, transit, and Plural Prose Journal. She currently lives in Quezon City.

j jefferds
Love in a Land Apart
by Jorge Jefferds

I woke up at four o’clock in the morning on June 9, 2012. I was happy that finally I would meet Chris again after several months of being apart; happy that I made the challenging decision of moving with him to his country. Tears, worries, and fear seemed to be part of the past, of my life in Chile, my motherland. Through the window of the airplane, I looked down at a conjunction of endless lights that formed a mass of stars. Over the speakers, someone announced that  we were flying over Miami, Florida. It struck me how little we human beings are compared to the sky, how insignificant we are in the galaxy.

Soon, I will be trying to live my life in a different place, with a language I barely learned in college for three years, submerged in a culture so strange to me. If it weren’t for my boyfriend’s love, compassion, and company, I wouldn’t be landing in these new horizons. Romantic meet-ups can happen anywhere. You don’t choose the one to govern your heart. People come to your life at anytime and from unimaginable places. He was born in Pennsylvania, and we believe we were siblings in another life.

For love, there are no boundaries, no countries, no divisions. Yet, there is always something to sacrifice. Moving is the first step to bring pain. I left my mother, my brother and sister, my nieces, friends, relatives, and my beloved dog behind for one who touches my soul: Chris, the man I married two years ago. I replaced my roots, my Chile, for this land apart, for America, for the love of my life.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The airplane photo was taken on a Delta flight from Santiago, Chile, to Atlanta, Georgia. June 8, 2012 was my last day in Chile, and the beginning of an adventure of love, romance, pain, and commitment. Settling down has not been easy. There was so much homesickness in the very first month — I  especially missed the long summers, and the family parties. I moved from my native country for just one purpose:  The tremendous sense of unity I’ve felt with my other half.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jorge Jefferds was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1971. He started to write short stories before he moved to the United States in 2012. He published his first novel, Paradise-Ville. Volume One: Sanctuary of Death, in 2014. He is currently working on the sequel and on short stories. His passion is writing, because he thinks that his characters understand him as well as anybody can. Currently, he lives in Pennsylvania, in the wilderness that surrounds the Allegheny River.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author introducing his latest title Paradise-Ville, Volume One: Sanctuary of Death, during a reception and signing event in June 2015 at the Coudersport Public Library.

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On Being New
(Jenna Himber song)
by Lee Parpart

For years after I left town, your name roped along vines to reach me, its sturdy quatrain slinking back to our grade-eight selves.

Who are we now if not those same twiggy teens, camped out in your kitchen on a Friday night, diluting your father’s brandy like clumsy thieves?

Bits of our union still burn through the decades. A dance floor in your living room, no boys allowed. Twenty painted toes lost and twisting in deep red shag.

At school, we smuggled cursive confessions across aisles and through locker slats.
Each folded message a looseleaf prayer to permanence.

With so many hearts atop our i’s you could not have guessed how quickly I would will myself to forget.

Our blood pact drying to dust before my plane left Logan.

Promises to write trailing like vapour behind a girl who had already been called to newness once too often.

All those goodbyes a faint scatter of cirrus crystals from one who had learned to leave.

PHOTO: The author in Andover, Massachusetts, shortly before moving to Durango, Colorado (1980).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I moved 15 times before graduating from high school, and at some point, I became a little too good at saying goodbye to the people I met along the way. I’m working on it, and really needed to write this poem about my dear friend Jenna, who I treated so abominably after moving from Andover, Massachusetts, to Durango, Colorado, for Grade 9.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lee Parpart is a Toronto writer and media studies researcher who returned to poetry and prose in 2015. Her poems have appeared on Silver Birch Press and her prize-winning short story “Piano-Player’s Reach” will be published soon on openbooktoronto.com. She won an emerging writer award in 2016 as part of a “What’s Your Story?” contest organized by Open Book: Toronto and the Ontario Book Publishers Organization.

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Sherry
by Joan Colby

Up on the rimrocks,
in the airport restroom
we say goodbye, best friends,
only a death will hurl me skyward
and you are weeping, perceiving
I won’t return even as I promise to.

I’m fifteen, such decisions are beyond my will.
Slag from the mills glows across the street
from my grandfather’s house. So small
all those children must have used up the air
huddling around the parlor stove before
grandfather jacked the place up and dug a cellar
where the boiler I remember rattled that heat upwards
to the blazing radiators. They were old
and always cold, always wearing sweaters.

Airbone, I contemplate none of this. We’ve encountered
a storm that bounces the prop plane
like a tennis ball. Some passengers are vomiting
but I think it is exciting as a roller coaster.

Dawn, when we land on the tarmac,
here’s my family anticipating tears
I’m taken by surprise, later, at
the cemetery, when as the coffin lowers
they appear, choking, my nose running.

But prior to that, I’m composing
a letter to you; how we’ll be cheerleaders
next year, you’ll illustrate my stories,
we’ll ride in the foothills and scorn your mother’s
warnings about boys and liquor.

I can’t imagine over the coming years
and the letters flying cross-country
like the DC-8 that we won’t soon
meet again. But we never do.

PHOTO: “Shadow of DC-8 flying over frozen Bering Sea” (NASA, 2008).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. She is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.

Hindu wedding ritual in india
The Reminder Ritual
by Prerna Bakshi

Twenty-one bangles on each arm,
red and white in color,
to be worn for at least a month,
usually a year – a signifier
of a newly-wed bride.

Given by the bride’s maternal uncle and aunt
on the choora ceremony, just before her wedding,
one by one the women in her family
would slide those bangles
onto her fragile wrists.

From this point on, she has to wear them, and
get used to their weight,
until such day when they could
finally be removed,
by her husband.

My husband never
had to remove those for me.
The Australian Customs official did that job,
when she said in a loud, stern voice:
Take those things off! Put them down here!

As I took those off one by one,
saw them going through the screening machine.
The last time they made their jingling sound.
Australia will never
hear them jingling again.

All good migrants
need a reminder, and so did I.
They all have to go through
the national initiation ritual.
The reminder ritual.

This is not your country anymore.
This is Australia,
the lady officer reminded me.
It was then when I truly knew,
I had arrived.

SOURCE: First published in Peril Magazine: Asian-Australian Arts & Culture.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Writing this wasn’t easy. It took me almost a decade to write about this experience.

PHOTO: “Wedding, India” by Prashant Zl, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Pushcart Prize nominee, Prerna Bakshi is a writer, poet, and activist of Indian origin, currently based in Macao. She is the author of the recently released full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, long-listed for the 2015 Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in the UK. Her work has been published widely, most recently in The Ofi Press MagazineRed Wedge Magazine, Off the Coast, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism, and Peril magazine: Asian-Australian Arts & Culture, as well as anthologized in several collections. Find out more at prernabakshi.strikingly.com.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author in Brisbane, Australia.

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Twenty-Eight Boxes
by Virginia Lowe

John had already left
our rural city
for his new job in Melbourne.
I waited with the toddler
and my parents
in the empty house.
Everything packed
and ready to go
Food, nappies
Nothing was left

A moving van
pulls up outside
Driven five hundred miles
from Melbourne
and overnighted
somewhere I presume
Right on time, but so small

Two jolly giants bounced in
ready to begin
Their faces dropped
as they surveyed
our possessions
They could clearly see
that as we feared
the furniture, the crockery
clothing and ornaments
just would not fit

Turned away shaking their heads
We knew no one could have
That many books!
But John, a librarian, had
just moved his library
to a new building
he knew exactly
and had filled it out
on the form

Two double beds
One sofa, one dining table
one cot, one washing machine
So it went on
And our two book collections
together made up
only twenty-eight boxfuls

Crestfallen
they set off back to Melbourne
to return two days later
While we set to unpacking
the bedding, the food
the nappies
To survive living
another two days
in a packed up house.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The toddler and her parents on the veranda of the house we were moving from.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  When I was a child, we moved house every two years. I have lived in the present house for 42 years. We hope never to have to move, but in the first four years of our marriage we moved four times – moving here to Melbourne was the fifth and last. And who knows how many books we own now? Not only no more bookshelves, but no walls to put them on, either! It must be time to cull!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virginia Lowe has been writing poetry for about 50 years. She has a PhD in children’s literature and her thesis has been published as a book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell (Routledge 1996). For 20 years she has run the manuscript assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, adult grandson, two Devon Rex cats, and seven Isa Brown hens.

AUTHOR PHOTO:  The author today with a wild friend.

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