Archives for category: LANDMARKS

licensed mark skalny
Notre-Dame de Paris
by Sarah Russell

Paris is a woman because of Notre-Dame —
the center, the mother, austere, protecting.

As a student, I lived nearby on Rue de Seine,
a lapsed protestant who found peace in her alcoves
with their candles and dusty saints, her cool scent
like ancient, cherished books, my steps on her stone floor
echoing to her heights, a child in her embrace.

She nurtured my loneliness at Christmas with songs
of birth and hope, with foreign words and rituals
that somehow felt like home.

Years later, when flames rose from her ancient bones,
I became her child again, helpless, afraid no one
could save her. I wept as her spire fell, as sirens keened
in minor key.

Today, sheathed in scaffolding, she remains the center,
the mother — resilient, still sustaining me as she is healed.

PHOTO: Notre-Dame Cathedral on the banks of the River Seine, Paris, France. Photo by Mark Skalny, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Notre-Dame de Paris is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, construction began in 1160 and was completed around 1260.  (Source: Wikipedia)

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I didn’t realize how much Notre-Dame meant to me until I saw her in flames on April 15, 2019. I felt I needed to be with the throngs who gathered there, who loved her as I did. I’ve had the good fortune to travel a great deal in my life, but Paris and Notre-Dame are where I return again and again. I feel at peace when I see the cathedral. It is a touchstone for my life.

PHOTO: Interior of Notre-Dame de Paris by Ninlawan Donlakkham, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell is a Pushcart-nominated poet who has published widely in print and online. Her two collections of poetry, published by Kelsay Books, are I lost summer somewhere (2019) and Today and Other Seasons (2020). She blogs at SarahRussellPoetry.net.

licensed alexey stiop
In the Cracks in the Wall
by Elaine Mintzer

I’ve come to the Western Wall with nothing tangible,
not even a clean piece of paper
to add to the missives scribbled
on everything from the finest linen pages
to scraps from torn leaflets or bank receipts.

But I find an old shopping list in my pocket—
honey, cinnamon, almonds, milk—
and I think, but do not write Dear God,
because in my cosmology, God knows
this is for Him. I add—
peace, health, hope.

I press the note into the rock.
In my mind, God sees the list and says,
Go then, to the store. I have need
of dates, of figs, of olives.
And while you’re at it,
pick up that milk and honey.
We’re running low.
I answer, “I’m here. Send me.”

I touch my forehead to the Wall.
There is no one Voice, only the murmurs
of countless tongues in prayer.
A dust devil lifts a few notes from their crevices.
They skitter at my feet.
Heat, rain, and a cleaning crew
will take care of them.

The wind plants its own message
between the blocks of Jerusalem limestone,
seeds that sprout and flower
where no prayer has penetrated,
where without a pruning hand
the thin roots of the voiceless weeds
may someday bring the whole thing down
onto the sea of supplicants.

PHOTO: The Western Wall (Wailing Wall) and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem by Alexy Stioup, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Western Wall, also called Wailing Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem, is a place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people. It is the only remains of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.  Dating from about the 2nd century BCE, the wall measures about 160 feet long and 60 feet high. The Western Wall now forms part of a larger wall that surrounds the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine dating from the 7th century CE. (Source: Brittanica)

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have been to 50 countries on six continents, and I find the more I travel, the more pleasure I get from connecting the dots of place, history, cultures, and human interactions. I’m terrible at entering text on my phone, so notes I jot down during my trips are frequently indecipherable, though sometimes the energy of the places just radiates from the screen.

PHOTO: A woman places a prayer note (kvitel) between the stones of the Western Wall. Photo by Yoninah, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Mintzer has been published in journals and anthologies, including Beloit Poetry Journal , Calibanonline, Slipstream, Panoplyzine, Lummox, Sugarwater, Lucid Moose Lit’s Like a Girl anthology, The Ekphrastic Review, Cultural Weekly, Rattle, and The Lindenwood Review.  Her work was featured in 13 Los Angeles Poets, and her first collection, Natural Selections, was published by Bombshelter Press. Find her on Facebook.

licensed michael bednarek
Kilimanjaro
by Hana Njau-Okolo

Kilimanjaro
You are
I am
Melting.

Those patterns etched into your face
Are tears carved under my eyes
Draining through the mask.

A glacial screen
The landscape of my life
Frozen into the familiar.

Snowcap
Washing away
As men in their folly
Plunder the spoils of the earth.
Face-to-face you say
Do not weep for me
Weep for yourself
And for your children.
For the Sahara
And its spreading.

For your soul
Marooned on an
Island of dreams
Unfulfilled.

PHOTO: Mount Kilimanjaro at sunset, view from savanna landscape in Amboseli, Kenya, Africa. Photo by Michal Bednarek, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired after my visit to the home of my late grandparents after two decades of living in the U.S.  I was saddened by the lack of snow on Kilimanjaro, and the lack of acknowledgement of global warming. I also pondered on what I had accomplished in my years of living away from home.

PHOTO: The author at the Nairobi National Museum next to a statue of Dr. Louis Leakey, a British paleoanthropologist and archaeologist whose work was important in demonstrating that humans evolved in Africa.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Hana Njau-Okolo is a Kenyan-Tanzanian born writer who lives with her husband in Atlanta, Georgia. The mother of three adult children, she is a writer of short stories who blogs at mamashujaa.blogspot.com. Her short story “The Shady Taxi Driver” was published in the 2012 African Roar anthology series out of South Africa.

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Crossing Sunda Strait By Ferry
by James Penha

Krakatoa puffs smoke rings off port gently
intimidating like the Times Square Camel Man
I loved in my youth, and so how to imagine
the little mountain’s father exploding into dust
roiling these waters like flames of hell leaping,
devouring shores and towns and thousands
of innocents. Turner had painted such conflagration
through a cold East Cowes smog borne
of Tambora, that once majestic volcano
three islands east of here. I might as well imagine
airplanes crushing New York skyscrapers into plumes.

Fifteen years ago this strait swelled
insouciantly as if it had not known or felt
the tremblor off Sumatra’s north that smashed fists
of the seas into the faces of Asia and killed them
as surely as a lifetime of Camel cigarettes drowned
my father. Oh, how blameless is this earth I sail!

PHOTO: Boat near an eruption of Anak Krakatoa, a volcanic island in Indonesia. Photo by Byelikova, used by permission. Editor’s note: On December 29, 1927, Anak Krakatoa (“Child of Krakatoa”) emerged from the caldera formed in 1883 by the explosive volcanic eruption that destroyed the island of Krakatoa.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have crossed the Strait from Java to Sumatra many times over the last decades. Before December 26, 2004, I looked at the smoke rising from the “child” of Krakatoa and imagined the destruction of both islands’ shores in 1883. Still can’t get that out of my mind. But added to it now is the even more horrible Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that decimated again these same shores and so many others. COVID-19, as I write this, has killed more than twice as many human beings worldwide as that 2004 disaster. We live on a very demanding planet.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On December 26, 2004, at 7:59 a.m. local time, an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Over the next seven hours, a tsunami triggered by the quake reached across the Indian Ocean, devastating coastal areas as far away as East Africa. Some locations reported that the waves had reached a height of 30 feet or more when they hit the shoreline. The tsunami killed at least 225,000 people across a dozen countries, with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives, and Thailand sustaining massive damage. Indonesian officials estimated that the country’s death toll exceeded 200,000, particularly in northern Sumatra’s Aceh Province.  (Source: Brittanica.com)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived in Indonesia for the past quarter-century. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work has lately appeared in several anthologies: The View From Olympia (Half Moon Books, UK), Queers Who Don’t Quit (Queer Pack, EU), What We Talk About It When We Talk About It, (Darkhouse Books), Headcase , (Oxford UP), Lovejets (Squares and Rebels), and What Remains (Gelles-Cole). His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. He edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Find him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My author’s photo frames me against a different Sumatra volcano.

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Tacoma to Portland in Two Hours
by Leah Mueller

Uncle Sam billboard near Centralia
hovers above I-5 traffic,
a hose of relentless verbiage
spraying letters at passing cars.

Xenophobic word balloons:
rants about Democrats, immigrants,
social program funding. I should
look away, but instead I crane my neck,
read every word at 70 MPH.

Settling back against my headrest,
I scan the crowded interstate.
Everyone wants to go to Portland,
or San Francisco, or perhaps all the way
to Los Angeles. I pass the remnants
of the Winlock monument, with its
sad discards of spiritual tokens.

A gargoyle once lit the way,
crouched inside its glass case,
eternally glowing beacon.
now darkened. The owner dead,
hubris scattered like litter to the gods.
Metal shards still point towards gray sky.

I can’t roll by the Winlock exit
without remembering the defunct motel
I stayed in with my ex, when
our van broke down on the freeway.

Illuminated sign flashed “TEL” as
we bickered about our flat tire.
Long night spent with our light on,
fearing an attack by roving maniacs.
Motel since razed, broken
sign permanently extinguished.

Behold the splendid Mattress Ranch:
gaudy, dancing barnyard animals
advertise beds for humans.

Vancouver Hooter’s clock once read,
“Waddles, time to eat.” There was always
time to eat at Waddles, until there wasn’t.
Old neon now replaced by cheap replica.

Finally, the iron bridge
and welcome to Oregon sign.
Red Lion on my right, $69.00 on Priceline.
Paul Newman partied in the hotel bar,
gazed out at the Columbia River
while clutching a cocktail in one hand.

I plan to follow suit, after a shower.
Portland extends weird but loving arms,
as it has so many times before.
Neon deer sign glows in the distance.

PHOTO: Portland, Oregon, downtown and Mt. Hood at dawn by Free Billy, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pictured above, Mount Hood is a potentially active stratovolcano located about 50 miles east-southeast of Portland, Oregon. The highest mountain in Oregon, Mt. Hood offers the only year-round lift-served skiing in North America. (Source: Wikipedia.)

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve made this trip from Tacoma to Portland more times than I can count. I always enjoyed passing the time on road excursions by taking stock of landmarks along the way. They reassure me of how far I have gone, and how many miles still remain. These objects are always waiting for me in the exact same spot. The sense of permanence is comforting, even if I don’t care much for the actual landmarks. Recently, I moved away from the Pacific Northwest and bought a small house in southern Arizona. It’s disconcerting but exciting, because I have to assemble a whole new series of familiar sights whenever I travel anywhere.

PHOTO: Portland’s White Stag sign at dusk. Built in 1940, the sign was designated a landmark by the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission in 1977. Photo by Steve Morgan, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Bisbee, Arizona. She has published books with numerous small presses. Her most recent volumes, Misguided Behavior, Tales of Poor Life Choices (Czykmate Press), Death and Heartbreak (Weasel Press), and Cocktails at Denny’s (Alien Buddha Press) were released in 2019. Leah’s work appears in Blunderbuss, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and other publications. She won honorable mention in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest. Visit her on Instagram and Twitter.

licensed Mahmoud Masad
Tales of the Mohawk Valley
by Eleanor Lerman

The old are cities coming back to life again: Oneida, Utica,
            Syracuse, Ilion
Their motto of service and industry has replaced even the
extremes of upstate weather as the topic of conversation on
            everyone’s lips
Brickface has been repointed, geraniums snapped into
            new window boxes
and the papers have added food columns and sections on the arts
The spirit is municipal, the worship, Presbyterian, and everyone
is busy, busy—even prayer is jobbed out for a purpose
Keep the frost off the asparagus, the trout eager for
            the sportsman’s hook
In the summer, contented people fall asleep in Adirondack chairs
and their dreams are scented by valley crops and hilltop flowers

But in your mother’s house on Eller Street, with Canada
            in the window,
the wind sweeps in, already thinking about winter. This is
the Leatherstocking wind that closed the old factories, that
brings the headless horseman and blows the witches into the yard
            to steal our housecoats from the line
And in your mother’s house, progress has not reached us:
I sleep too much and you have managed to remain unemployed

Every afternoon, the pots and pans bang out their grief: who will
            make our stew?
Who will pour out the batter for our flapjacks? Every night
the house weeps and refuses to be sold. Every morning,
I try to make it to the store, and every street is like a bridge
            across a mill basin
and the mill wheel is turning and we are the labor of its years,
            the poor grist

So come. If the house will not join with the community, just
            lock the door and walk away
We can cross the Mohawk Valley while the seasons are
            still turning,
walk beneath the waterfalls, across great table of broken schist
to where the earth has cleaved open and peer into its iron heart,
            its silver veins
At the end of the valley there is a lake with a monster who lives
            in a deep, cold pool
That can be our destination: we can buy a guidebook and
            some chocolate
and picnic on the shore. Thus will we partake of the bounty
            of the state,
participate in its rejuvenation. We will blend in with the
tourists, be indistinguishable from people with money and
            plans and things to do

We will ride a boat that glides above the monster’s house and
speculate with strangers: How do you think he makes his living?
How has he survived so long, unknown, unseen, and free?

Originally published in Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds (Sarabande Books, 2005)

PHOTO: Aerial shot of the city of Utica, New York, by Mahmoud Masad, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I work in the early mornings. For the past 20 years, my office has been a purple couch and there is always a little dog sleeping next to me as I work. This poem is a remembrance of time I spent living in the Mohawk Valley in Upstate New York.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eleanor Lerman is the author of numerous award-winning collections of poetry, short stories, and novels. She is a National Book Award finalist, a recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for poetry and the New York Foundation for the Arts for fiction. In 2016, her novel, Radiomen (The Permanent Press), was awarded the John W. Campbell Prize for the Best Book of Science Fiction. In 2018, her novel, The Stargazer’s Embassy (Mayapple Press), received an American Fiction Award. Her most recent novel, Satellite Street (The Permanent Press, 2019) has been named a finalist for both the Montaigne Medal and the Eric Hoffer Award. Visit her at eleanorlerman.com.

PHOTO: The author sitting on the steps of The Limelight cafe in Chelsea, New York City.

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The Very Large Array
by Barbara Crary

The plan: casual, a site suggested
on the internet, a way station just off
the interstate, something to do while
on our way to more interesting things.

The Very Large Array, a designation
to which everyone responds, “What on Earth…?”
And I have to admit my own uncertainty —
Radio telescopes? Big white dishes with antennas?

All searching the heavens for unexpected patterns,
disruptions, anomalies light-years away. Now
I’m no stargazer, and maybe I can find
the Big Dipper on a good night, Orion too.

So why am I here? Perhaps the long stretch of highway,
an adventure on the open road, a morning spent exploring
someplace new, even if only a barren plain of
scrub and wiry grass, a few cows and fewer people.

As we drive, we search the horizon until at last
the telescopes come into view — we think —
tiny white dots against impossibly blue sky.
expanding almost imperceptibly as we approach.

Driving for a half hour or more before arrival,
we should have realized the surprising truth —
the dishes are huge and spaced miles apart,
a shock as we enter the gates and get our bearings.

It was the clash between expectation and reality.
Science, yes, but not just science, technology and the
raw beauty of stark white machines looming against
the bright blue sky of the high desert plains, the synchronized

movement of twenty-seven mechanical behemoths
creating powerful synergy in the unforgiving sun, forever
searching for our place among the stars, stars now obscured
by daylight, but still present, waiting for us to awaken.

The combination of the known world of mechanics and
science with the vast unmapped reaches of space, the
human desire to explore, drawing you down a two-lane
desert highway to a place to make sense of the seen and
the unseen.

PHOTO: The Very Large Array (VLA) near Socorro, New Mexico, by Kevin Berry, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Very Large Array (VLA), comprised of twenty-eight 25-meter (82-foot) radio telescopes, is designed to allow investigations of many astronomical objects. Astronomers using the VLA have made key observations of black holes and protoplanetary disks around young stars, discovered magnetic filaments and traced complex gas motions at the Milky Way’s center, probed the Universe’s cosmological parameters, and provided new knowledge about the physical mechanisms that produce radio emission.The first antenna was put into place in September 1975 and the complex was formally inaugurated in 1980, after a total investment of $78.5 million. (Source: Wikipedia)

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My husband and I visited the VLA as part of a trip to New Mexico three years ago. Although we visited many landmarks in the state, including Carlsbad Caverns, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe and the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument, we are most likely to reminisce about the unexpected and awe-inspiring delight of these space explorers in the western desert.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My husband at the Very Large Array in New Mexico (2017).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Barbara Crary is a retired school psychologist who lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She started writing poetry several years ago and often writes in short forms such as haiku. She also enjoys the discipline of creating found poetry using words selected from existing texts. Barbara was a contributing poet to the collection, Whitmanthology: On Loss and Grief and shares her work on her blog ravenredux.wordpress.com.

PHOTO: The author at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

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Ode to the Happy Chef Outside Omaha
by Joseph Johnston

The Continental Divide isn’t a ridge atop the Rocky Mountains. That’s Colorado propaganda. The actual Continental Divide is the Happy Chef restaurant on Interstate 80 outside Omaha, Nebraska. It cuts clean through the fiberglass colossus of the Happy Chef himself in the parking lot, right between his giant legs. Press the button at the base of his feet and a speaker hidden in his mammoth wooden spoon declares, “HELLO, PARDNER! COME ON IN AND JOIN THE CLEAN PLATE CLUB!” Take a look at the license plates and the bumper stickers and bear witness to the continent, divided. Out on Interstate 80 heading east are dreamers and kayaks. The only vegetarian offering on the Happy Chef menu is the deep-fried vegetable tray with two cups of dipping ranch. They order milkshakes and leave. The cars on Interstate 29 south are curious about the Clean Plate Club and pester the waitstaff with particulars surrounding the free Pudding Pop for finishing their cheeseburger. Northbound are cattle hustlers in the form of giant grasshoppers. They can go anywhere with those legs. Hard to explain their antennae at Thanksgiving but that only comes up once a year. West? On the Interstate? We screwed up the west. Manifest density, as seen on TV. All highway sojourners should retreat to the Happy Chef outside Omaha. Press the button at his feet. Eat a cheeseburger and join the Clean Plate Club. That free Pudding Pop is sweet relief in sweltering summer. At midnight, with the continent divided, the Happy Chef restaurant closes and the colossus puts down his fiberglass wooden spoon. With two lumbering steps he crosses the median toward the Best Western on the other side of I-80. He jumps in the pool. The American Elohim. No lifeguard on duty.

PHOTO: Postcard from Happy Chef, Greenwood, Nebraska — I-80 at Greenwood exit — featuring the world’s largest talking chef.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Happy Chef is a family restaurant founded in 1963 in Mankato, Minnesota by the Frederick Brothers, Sal, Bob, Bill and Tom. The location on US HWY 169 was the first and is the last Happy Chef. The restaurant serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner all day, every day. The iconic statue is still in front of the building and speaking again! At one time, the chain had 57 restaurants in the Midwest.

PHOTO: The original Happy Chef in Mankato, Minnesota. (Photo by Jona Thunder, used by permission.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Michigan is my home, but due to my Dad’s job we relocated to Colorado during some of my formative years — from 1st through 8th grade, coinciding with the Reagan administration and the peak/end of the Cold War. Just about every summer the whole family would pile into Dad’s Econoline and drive back home to visit our extended family. Halfway through the lengthy drive, we’d stay at the same motel cluster outside Omaha and eat at the Happy Chef restaurant. I can’t think of anything more Americana than the statue of the Happy Chef dancing a jig in the parking lot, and the speaker hidden in his wooden spoon. On those trips east and west through the plains and the heartland, I kept myself busy looking at the license plates and the billboards and the people in the cars going who knows where, left and right, up and down. It boggled my young mind how huge this country is, and how different its citizens must be. Twenty-four hours driving through the crossroads and I never once saw an Econoline similar to ours. Every little car, truck, RV, or camper was its own little microcosm of America, heading toward something or from something. I had a difficult time connecting what I was witnessing on these highways versus the Cold War propaganda I was reading in the Weekly Reader. As I think back on it, those long hours in the van were probably as close to mindful meditation as I’ve ever approached. This prose poem is an attempt at dealing with those disparate microcosms.

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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 parents’ living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Atticus Review, Matador Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where he is working on a feature-length play about a dystopic suburban road rally.

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“On the road again…”
by Stephanie J. Morrissey

As a child I’d sing;
when the rubber
hit the melting asphalt;
the muggy city air
caressing my face.
We happily, hot and sweaty,
embarked to the Sunshine State
to see “Pots” and “Granna.”
We’d arrive irritated,
still hot and sweaty,
nonetheless relieved, three days later
at “the house in Florida.”
ENGAGE vacation whirlwind of:
Disneyland; Epcot; Splash Mountain;
Typhoon Lagoon; Boardwalk and Baseball;
Universal City; Busch Gardens;
Silver Springs; Cypress Gardens;
Vero Beach; Ron’s Surf Shop;
Kennedy Space Center; the golf course.
I had summer vacations
kids wished they had.
The All American Dream,
just like the Griswolds,
but without most of the chaos.
When I was little I loved it.
As I grew older I began to hate it,
the monotony; the idea
of what these places represented these icons
of what being an American meant.
The false American Dream
they all perpetuated.
I always hoped
to have the lesson at the end
that all that really mattered was
our family spending time together
Sadly, those amusement parks
were an attempt to fill a void.
I don’t enter amusement parks
of my own volition as an adult,
I just don’t have the time
to spend with them anymore.

PHOTO: Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida, by Vivaltours, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My creative process deviated from my normal process for this poem. This time I prepped by looking at some recent vacation photos, talking to my kids about past vacations we had, reflecting on my vacations as a child, watching National Lampoon’s Vacation, and jamming out to some tunes we listened to on road trips as a kid while brainstorming with one of my best gals.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie J. Morrissey is currently riding out the wave of the pandemic in Austin, Texas. Since she’s devoid of the ability to travel, she has spent her summer at home with her partner enjoying their birthday month playing video games about being on an island. Since last writing for Silver Birch Press, Stephanie has released her first book of poetry titled The Heart, A Precious Organ through Hercules Publishing, available for sale through her Facebook poetry page @theconcretelabyrinth or on Amazon.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken on my birthday when my kids, my now ex-husband, and I went to Ocean Beach in San Francisco, California (July 6, 2009).

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Visiting Ulli
by Cheryl Levine

I boarded the train at the Santa Lucia station in Venice and headed north, towards the city of Trieste, to visit Ulli. We had met in an on-line forum on Italy and, in particular, the Italian language. She was learning English; I was studying Italian. We wrote long emails to each other in the languages we were hoping to acquire more fluently. She would correct my Italian, and I her English. Through these communications, we shared our love of art and architecture, good books, and tagliatelle with wild boar sauce.

When Ulli learned I was traveling to Venice, she urged me to take the two-hour train ride to visit her in Trieste. She was waiting for me at the train platform, smartly dressed in a slim skirt and blouse, handbag hanging from her folded arm. “We’ve lots to do in a short amount of time,” she declared as we left the train station. I told her what my daughter said before I left home: “Let me get this straight. You’re getting on a train alone and traveling to a city you don’t know to meet some stranger you met on the Internet. If I told you I was doing that, you would kill me.”

Ulli threw her head back and laughed. I felt like I had known her forever.

We had prosciutto, mozzarella, and melon for lunch at Trieste’s well known cafe, Buffet da Pepi. We walked the streets of the city, admiring the Classical architecture, so different from the Baroque and Rococo present in other parts of Italy. For our last stop, we hopped in her little Fiat and drove along the Adriatic Coast to visit the grounds of the stunning Castle Miramare, a famous landmark with sweeping views of the sea below it.

If not for Ulli, I would never have visited this beautiful castle in this beautiful city.

PHOTO: Miramare Castle, Trieste, Italy by Lev Levin, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Miramare Castle is a 19th-century castle on the Gulf of Trieste between near Trieste, northeastern Italy. Built from 1856 to 1860 for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, it was designed by Carl Junker. The style reflects the artistic interests of the archduke, who was acquainted with the eclectic architectural styles of Austria, Germany and England.  (Source: Wikipedia)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I enjoy the challenge with travel writing in finding an angle to what the traveler is seeing, hearing, experiencing. In that way, one is not merely stating the facts but digging deeper into the true meaning of travel.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cheryl Levine is a former newspaper columnist and freelance editor. She has had essays published in Dreamers Creative Writing Magazine, 24PearlStreet blog, and Silver Birch Press, and has read for Grub Street’s Tell All Event in Boston. She is currently working on a memoir dealing with a range of intersecting topics from her Italian-American heritage, to parental abandonment and its effects on identity, to scary medical diagnoses. She lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

PHOTO: The author during her travels.