Archives for posts with tag: Texas

kansas
Letter from Kansas
by Robert Okaji

Caro amico,
Driving the stretch to Junction City,
I look for familiar faces in the cars
we pass, but see only strange grasses
gliding by. Three weeks ago
I slept on a stone-littered hilltop
overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Now the prairie laps at our front door.
A mile from the house two corralled bison
munch dull hay thrown daily
from a truck’s flat bed, and past that
the Discount Center’s sign
spells America. What I wouldn’t give
for a deep draught of Pozzuoli’s
summer stench and the strong
yellow wine that Michele’s father
makes. We mixed it with the gardener’s
red, creating our own bouquet,
remember? And here they say
I’m too young to buy beer and wine.
Without them the food is flavorless,
like the single language spoken.
I understand it all,
and miss the difficulty. Maybe Texas
will be better. Ci vediamo. Bob

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My return to the U.S. after attending high school in Italy was, well, interesting. Junction City, Kansas was definitely not bella Napoli. This poem came from that experience, albeit a few years later, and was published in the mid-80s in the Allegheny Review, a national journal of undergraduate creative writing. It doesn’t resemble today’s work much, but I think the kid who wrote it still exists. Somewhere.

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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 two micro-chapbooks published by the Origami Poems Project, and a mini-digital chapbook, Interval’s Night  (Platypus Press, 2016). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Shantih, Posit, The High Window, Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art, riverSedge, Eclectica and elsewhere.  Visit his blog, O at the Edges, at robertokaji.com.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me with my Italian guitar, purchased at age 17. The instrument has aged much better…

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Stuck in a Stack of Furniture
by Patrick Lee Marshall

When my wife showed me pictures
shot for her photography class
and that old truck slid into view
on her computer screen,
my mind skipped back to 1952,
twenty-two moves ago

I was nearly eight years old.
My family was moving
from Munday, Texas, to Rosenberg, Texas.

On an International truck flatbed,
furniture stacked around the perimeter,
tarps tied down to cover everything,
in a cave in the middle of all our belongings,
with a tunnel leading to the back to enter or escape,
my sister and I would ride nearly 450 miles—
for two and a half days and two nights—
bouncing to a new unwanted home
far away from memories and friends.
This exciting, “camping out” experience,
became a nightmare we feared would never end.
We could not play any of our board games.
Pieces bounced at potholes and joints in the highway.
After the first few laughs, we grew frustrated
when the jumping checkers would crown themselves.
I accidentally kicked one of my boots off the truck
when I tried to see where we were during a rainstorm.
My sister threw up and we rode in the stink for hours
inside a sweltering igloo in the hot Texas sun.
We slept half awake, half scared, at Texas roadside parks.
We ate bologna and bread without mayo or mustard
at every meal, washing it down with warm water.
We quickly grew tired of the trip and each other,
relieved when Dad finally said we were there,
happy to be there, no longer caring where “there” was.

We wonder if parents today tried something like that
and were stopped by the highway patrol, would they
get in serious trouble for moving in an unreasonable
and unsafe manner?

PHOTO: The author (right) and his sister after arrival in Rosenberg, Texas, with the family’s International flatbed truck to the far right.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The move from Munday to Rosenberg, Texas, was the tenth move for my sister and me. We moved seven or eight more times before the family started moving apart.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick Lee Marshall began learning poetry after joining the Denton Poets’ Assembly (DPA) in 2011. He currently serves as a Councilor for the Poetry Society of Texas, V.P. of DPA, and V.P. of the Keller Writers’ Association. His poetry and business articles have been published in over 35 books, anthologies, business journals, and other media, including Encore: Prize Poems of the NFSPS, A Galaxy of Verse, Blue Hole Magazine, Merging Visions, Inkwell Echoes, Hunger for Peace, Silver Birch Press, NCR Healthcare Hotline, Georgia Law Review, and Texas Poetry Calendar. He lives in Keller, Texas, with his wife and three cats.

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PHOTO: Poet Laurie Kolp with her copy of The Great Gatsby Anthology before the Battleship Texas (LaPorte, Texas). Laurie contributed her poem “Tea with a Tiger” to the collection. The Great Gatsby was her mother’s favorite book of all time, and will always hold a special place in Laurie’s heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurie Kolp serves as president of Texas Gulf Coast Writers, and each month gathers with local members of the Poetry Society of Texas. Laurie’s poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals worldwide, including the 2015 Poet’s Market, Scissors & Spackle, North Dakota Quarterly, Blue Fifth Review, and Pirene’s Fountain. Laurie’s full-length poetry collection, Upon the Blue Couch (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014), is available on Amazon and Barnes&Noble. Her chapbook, Hello it’s Your Mother (Finishing Line Press) is now available for preorder here, and is set for publication October 2015. Visit her at her website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

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Cravers Underneath the Mulberry Tree
by Esmeralda Bernal

Raymondville, Texas 1955

Underneath the berry-draped Mulberry tree
The cravers gather on a feasting spree

Amidst green foliage, doted shimmering black,
My cousins and I find common ground.

Until our craving, thicker than blood,
Makes each mouth a territory of its own.

Like opalescent, brown-feathered hummingbirds
We flit from mora* to mora sucking ebony sugar.

With indulgent beak-hands we shove into our mouths
Moras that explode into galaxies of pleasure.

In between, the eager flutter of beak-hands,
We trill a sonorous note. A bassoon, heavy with gluttony,

Oblivious to the shiny black ink, sliding down
Our chins, etching thick tribal tattoos – making us clan.

*mora: mulberry

SOURCE: “Cravers Underneath the Mulberry Tree” was first published in San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Issue 58, Spring 2013.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: I’m in front at age six; behind me is my cousin Angela Miraval, who disappeared in 1973; to the left is my sister Gloria Bernal; the photo bomber is my cousin Marcos Miraval. The picture was taken 5/22/55.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In this poem, I write about the mulberry tree in my grandmother’s garden. It was perfect, providing both sweets and an amazing playground. My siblings, cousins, and I spent our day underneath its shade, pleased with its good fruits. What else could we ask for? Life was perfect.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: : Esmeralda Bernal was born in Raymondville, Texas, spent a major part of her life in California, and currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Las Americas Review, La Calaca Review, Yellow Medicine Review, HaLapid, San Gabriel Valley Quarterly Review, MALCS Journal Spring, and anthologized in The Woman that I Am: The Literature and Culture of Contemporary Woman of Color, Cantos Al Sexto Sol: A Collection of Aztlanahuac Writings, and forthcoming in Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Anthology in Response to Arizona SB 1070. Online her poetry has appeared in Poetry of Resistance: Poets responding to SB1070 and La Bloga.

Author photo by T. Gali. 

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Animals From An Ancient Shore
by Ione Hunt von Herbing

Stretching across the ancient world,
A vast sea did exist,
Three million years ago
In places known as Texas,
And southeastern New Mexico.
Full with brittle star and coral
The sea-filled basins –
Where now resides the oil.

Here she came from other coasts,
And found to her delight,
A big blue sky, cowboy boots
Endless space, for a mind to take to flight.
An odd home for a marine explorer she thought,
But then found more . . .
For amongst the cattle and the Jimson weed,
Lived animals from an ancient shore.

The Permian Sea – they call it now,
Through oil it lives still . . .
In every car and truck,
At every station –
The world can take its fill.
So from waters of a planet blue,
To a land of bluebonnets in the spring,
This marine biologist wandered, and finally settled in.

What of the oceans she held so dear
They live here yet . . .
In white sands of ancient seas,
Once seen – never to forget.
Here, pinon jay – not cormorant,
Ride on desert breeze.
And juniper, mesquite – pine,
Hide shells from prehistoric time.

On this forgotten seabed she did build
Not ranch or fossil excavation
But oceans of her own . . .
Tall seas of glass and steel,
Which fish of modern time call home.
Each day in gratitude she kneels
To pay tribute to life that came before,
Tribute – to sea animals from an ancient shore.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Sometimes I question why I moved to North Texas — seven hours drive from the oceans I love. “For a job” is the answer — a position as a professor at a University. These jobs are hard to find and getting ever harder these days. So I am grateful for my job and for the memories of ancient oceans that lie beneath my feet, which inspired the poem “Animals from an Ancient Shore.”

PHOTOGRAPH: “West Texas oil well” by Texas Raiser.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In 2007, Dr. Hunt von Herbing arrived to the University of North Texas (UNT), where she is Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the Marine Conservation Aquatic Physiology Laboratory (MCAPL), whose mission is to preserve global marine biodiversity and support sustainable aquaculture practices. Born in Canada, Dr. Hunt von Herbing carries advanced degrees in Oceanography and Physiology. As a research diver and marine scientist for 20 years, she has witnessed the collapse of fisheries across all the world’s oceans. Today her attention is on the preservation of threatened coral reef fishes and developing sustainable methods for commercial food fish culture. Dr. Hunt von Herbing is dedicated to finding ways to make aquaculture sustainable internationally and is working in Mexico to grow fish protein for a country with many poor. When not in the field, she spends her time teaching and conducting research on fish stress physiology with her students in her laboratory at UNT.

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GOIN’ POSTAL IN BASTROP, TEXAS
by LaVonne Roberts

driving out of my neighborhood, tahitian village,
past the convenience store selling lotto dreams and pork rinds,
i smile.

where else would a gravel road development have the courage to use unpronounceable hawaiian street names
in a town where the first national bank’s sign is soldered on to a bbq pit?
i wonder.

i live in a town where my currency is apple butter and cherry pie.

driving to goin’ postal to ship my ebay sales where jim, the owner, is covering for gary, who’s at home with a pinched nerve after accidentally taking his wife’s menopause pills.
i chuckle.

i ease off the gas, fearful for the tiny bernardaud limoges plates sold. jim will shake his head and say, “i just don’t get it. folks are crazy.” and,
i agree.

I live in a town where the success of a business can be measured in the size of their bbq pit.

i could share that my little plates came from versailles, but i won’t. down a villa in the south of france, but up on ebay. hmm…
i reflect.

i am the town’s citified divorcee selling off her useless luxury goods. years of regrets have been replaced with self-deprecating, straight from the gut laughter.
i think…

I live in a town where the sheriff’s in prison after building the largest bbq pit with prison labor and taxpayers’ money.

i’ve woven a story of sorts, delivering daily installments with my drop offs, like a full-length chinchilla trimmed sheared mink coat or crystal embellished lime green copacabana pants from a gay soiree. whoops.
i cringe.

my strip center schizophrenic mexican cantina of exploding primary colors, garish murals, paper flowers, sombreros and rich smells of chilies, cilantro, tequila and lime, with deep dark red Ming Dynasty arches and trim, the Buddha statue and smell of ginger still imagined is my hideout.
i am hungry.

i share that epsom salts and a tiger balm patch helped my psychosomatic pinched nerve.
i wince.

i live in a town where an affagato frapuccinio delivered to a bmw out of a window designed for a ford 350 is an event not an order.

i share that i am leasing to our toyota dealer and jim whispers, “they’re catholic; they make new orleans gumbo.”
i pretend to understand the correlation of sin city’s cuisine and a foreigner – a catholic.
i see.

jim asks if i watch the gilmore girls for the 5th time and i respond –
we are the gilmore girls for the 4th time.
i know.

i live in a town where a church sits beside “miss behavin’ bail bonds – ain’t no use takin’ a spankin’”

i talk about my canadian-obsessed daughter on full scholarship in victoria, bc who’s graduating high school early.
i say – yes, canada.

i leave out that my eBay inventory is in our town attorney’s sawdust floor garage or that i’m living in his cottage out back. locals think people downtown have too much, and hey, gotta keep that postage down.
i imagine.

i live in a town where the gas pump is always on, and my neighbors loan me their truck.

i share that i considered facing big hair, red nails and one too many cocktails, to stay with my sister-in-law, whose name is a spice
that sounds like a stripper.
i laugh, yes cinnamon, i say.

i think about my grocery list for whole foods, and a trip to my club in austin, where no one knows that i’ve left. i drive 40 miles, because it makes me happy to visit that life and come home.
i smile again – yes, i do.

i live in a town, rich in main street stories, selling salvation on the mega church’s bumper sticker, where tequila runs like holy water.

i wonder, i worry, i hope, but mostly,
in and out,
i breathe.

i live in a town where we have a chicken sanctuary street, where the chickens have the right of way. Seriously – yes.

i miss my children, but i don’t miss the fear.
i miss high-rise manhattan life, soundproof windows looking out on a world i can’t hear, but i don’t miss the screaming
i miss sunday night dinners, children bickering, being a family, but i don’t miss the lies.
i miss my turkish harman, cocktail decided trips to unknown places, sunsets overlooking the mediterranean, the freedom to choose, but i don’t miss the prison.
i miss paris, a life without lines, an assistant who knew me better than me, a black card, and i miss never hearing no, but i don’t miss the noose.

Hell, I miss it all, but I don’t miss “that” me

Going’ Postal – that’s ME

PHOTOGRAPH: “Main Street, Bastrop, Texas” by Nv8200p

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: LaVonne Roberts is a social entrepreneur best known for her role in the formation of XOOM, where she was a founding shareholder. After participating in multiple public and private financing totaling almost $400M pre-IPO, XOOM merged with GE’s NBC Internet assets, resulting in the formation of NBC Internet, the first global integrated media company. Today LaVonne uses her design, technology, and entrepreneurial skills where she is most passionate, helping at-risk youth, especially supporting the population of youth in foster care aging out without family. After a very glamorous, but suffocating shallow life, Ms. Roberts decided to find her voice in a lifelong passion – writing. She is known for her home-canned tomatoes, her ability to throw a Moroccan dinner party for 20 — complete with pomegranate martinis and frozen lemon-mint soufflés, and her ability to send you home with a joint venture. She is most passionate about being a mom to her two incredible children, writing essays and a memoir and helping orphans who have aged out of foster care find their voices through higher education.

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          LOVE OF HOME SPREAD THIN
          by Christa Pandey

          My heart was diagnosed with leaky valves,
          a sign of leaky love spread thin?
          Yes, as this German immigrant
          loves country and her childhood home.
          My husband’s family in yet another continent
          takes up heart space as well. I live there
          simultaneously, though more when visiting.

Mine was the war-torn country of cathedrals,
of narrow streets in charming medieval towns,
of siblings leaving one by one, of next-gen families.
A yearly week of home immersion is my treat.
My husband’s country, that of Taj Mahal,
Himalayas, a family so vast we stay
with relatives in many towns and relish
family we don’t have ourselves.

But after almost half a century I must confess
I do belong to the US, though not as gushing
“brought up right” flag-waving white old woman,
but as one who has seen the world and picks
her likes, reserves the right to criticize.
We spent more years in southern states
and shudder at the mounds of snow up north,
yet wish it could be piped down here
for our summer drought, when lack
of washing rain turns trees as dusty
as the Indian ones before monsoon sets in.
But wildflowers in spring make up for it,
fall is so long, it often slides to spring,
a tiny skip of winter in between.
Broad streets, nice houses are the benefits
          of growing towns in land-rich Texas,
          though if the drought persists, our land will starve
          and immigrants will have to leave.
          We love the richness of the world cuisine,
          can pick and choose from music, Broadway, poetry,
          eclectic offerings to fill each day, if one so wished.
          We chose to spend our end of life
          in Austin, have said “yes” to it.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My love of nature has resulted in the poems collected in Southern Seasons. An intense study of the Mahabharat (India’s grand epic) and the Bhagavad Gita led to my other two chapbooks. But I often put my critical thoughts about society into poems which might be called poems of witness. They are reserved for open mics, as there are few print outlets for such poems. The above poem has no “sense of place,” as Southerners call these attachments to their homestead. Mine bombed when I was five years old, and I have had to wander ever since.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Wildflowers” (Austin, Texas) by Christa Pandey.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christa Pandey has lived in Austin, Texas, for almost nine years, where she has delved into the vibrant poetry scene not available to her earlier. Individual poems have appeared and are forthcoming in numerous anthologies and journals. Her three chapbooks, Southern Seasons (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Maya, and Hummingbird Wings are reflective of the many themes she likes to approach in her poetry. She blogs at http://karmawings.wordpress.com.

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THE BRAZOS
by Sarah Frances Moran

My mother and grandmother told vivid
horror stories of the Brazos River.
They were tales ripe with superstition.

One of them involved seeing the devil jump
from the bank,
into the murky water; laughing maniacally.
Just a red elbow going in as the splash went up.

I consider this river and this small central town
my home.
A transplant to a land ripe with religious innuendo.

This is the river I kayak.
The river that runs through the city where
my love is rooted.
The river that takes my breath away at sunset.

If the devil swims these waters,
he must consider me a friend.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I live in Waco, Texas. I’m a native Houstonian, but have quickly fallen in love with my surroundings here. One of my favorite parts of Waco is the Brazos River. It’s beautiful. It’s majestic and it’s slightly frightening. Kayaking the river is one of my favorite pastimes. My poem pays homage to the stories my grandmother and mother use to tell me. In fact, the first time I ever kayaked the river my mother was horrified and worried. Superstition is a powerful thing.

PHOTO: “Brazos River” (Waco, Texas) by Sarah Frances Moran (taken from her kayak).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Frances Moran began writing in the ninth grade out of a desire to help others, and her writing has evolved into full-blown insistence on changing the world. Her aim is to poetically fight for love and harness the type of tender violence needed to push love forward. She strongly believes that words have immeasurable power. Originally from Houston, Texas, she moved to Waco pursuing love. She was recently chosen as the featured poet for the Waco Poet’s Society and The Word Gallery.  Her work has appeared in Catching Calliope, The Bitchin Kitsch, Harbinger Asylum, Digital Papercut, eFiction India, The Boston Poetry Magazine’s online zine and will also be featured in their Spring 2015 issue. Her work is equal parts frustration, hope, anger, advocacy, and love. At the heart of it, she’s a stick-a-love-poem-in-your-back-pocket kind of poet. She’s a huge advocate for animal welfare and works daily to combat pet overpopulation. She resides in Waco, Texas, with her partner and their menagerie of four-legged critters. You can reach Sarah on her website or on Facebook.

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Soft Reverberations
by Michael Aaron Casares

Echoed steps on empty downtown streets
no soul or body visits or walks around
strong gust from down the alley shivers
a sudden embrace tense to pass
distant motors run
a distant horn is honking
rippling the crisp air
footfalls among the puddles
and the trash
dirty walls and faded paint
rehabilitate ancient concrete
replete with silent memories
locked inside the ebbing minds
of birds gray as street stone

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The photo and the poem are a memory of empty streets in early morning downtown San Antonio, Texas — my hometown.

PHOTO: “Success at the Dawn of the Millennium” (San Antonio, Texas) by Michael Aaron Casares.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Aaron Casares writes poetry and fiction. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he edits the online poetry journal Carcinogenic Poetry, and operates Virgogray Press, a publishing house that shares primarily poetry. His collection, This Reality of Man, is available. Visit him at macasares.wix.com.

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MY GREAT AUNT SPEAKS OF NIGHTS IN HARDIN COUNTY
by Jeffrey C. Alfier

Preachers said God made Texas nights this dark.
That’s no comfort to girls home by themselves.
She could hear tongues and praises loud outside;
old wives, children, men of coal or lumber —
lots of folks shouting and carrying on,
given more to water-witching than prayer
come first light. It’s how folks fought loneliness.

 
Beyond the plank steeples rising in swamps,
this fur trader’s daughter spent nights alone,
her father trudging forgotten dirt trails 
impassable to anything with wheels.
Bound for some reclusive trapper’s cabin
he’d return by way of any roadhouse,
stumbling past the decay of tenant shacks.

 
She recalls those nights squinting through windows
waiting for his shadow to reemerge
soaked with rain and pelts — a feral hunter.
The last time I paid her a call, blindness
was slowly dimming her central vision.
Sometimes a stray voice makes her turn and look,
rain tapping glass like a startled stranger.
***
…”My Great Aunt Speaks of Nights in Hardin County” appears in the Silver Birch Press release The Wolf Yearling, a collection of poems by Jeffrey C. Alfier, available at Amazon.com.