Archives for posts with tag: traveling

carl ballou licensed
Once Upon a Time in Detroit
by Gary Glauber

At 24, I took invincibility in stride,
drunk and still driving a rental car at midnight
into a town I’d never been to before,

heading the sixty miles I needed to cover
in record time and never once worrying about it.
Pointing the sedan in the right direction,

I ate up that random highway’s asphalt miles
like I had been to the feted Motor City
a hundred adventurous times before.

I was driving American, feeling every inch
a patriot of horsepower privilege, a Mitch Ryder song
appropriately blaring from the car’s radio.

I was to be shown how nice this town
with the less-than-stellar rep
could actually be. The gray-haired

officials in their fancy tailored suits
showed up to ensure me major improvements
were currently in the offing.

The impeccable politicians included me
like some wealthy insider, privy to their racist,
anti-Semitic jokes in conversational passing.

They treated me to a superb lunch at
their private dining club, featuring all
the spoils of the automotive patriarchy.

The Super Bowl is coming, they assured me.
The first ever to be held in the northern U.S.,
further evidence of the coming turnaround.

Once, in the 1950s, Detroit had been
America’s wealthiest city, hands down,
back when the auto industry was booming.

Since then, there had been myriad problems:
arson, crack cocaine, urban decline, race riots.
But I saw no signs of any of that.

I saw the shiny new urban renaissance.
Here is where it was all happening.
Life was damned good, they swore.

While this inside society of old guard elite
were busy moving mountains, I was being
housed in the fanciest new downtown hotel,

assigned the loveliest young woman
from the mayor’s office whose sole duty
was to make sure I was entertained.

She called up an equally fetching friend
and next thing, we were out in Greektown,
breaking plates, downing ouzo, shouting “Opa!”

Bottle after empty bottle fell like
things shot down in a carnival sideshow,
and still they urged me to have another.

They took me to the DIA museum
with its impressive antique cars
and beautiful Diego Rivera murals.

We visited the Henry Ford Museum
and the Edison Institute in nearby Dearborn:
the history of cars elevated to exquisite art.

They made me feel important,
rather than the pretender I was,
an up-and-coming trade mag editor

staving off cockroaches and loneliness
in a small excuse of an apartment
back in Park Slope. Not quite Mr. Bigshot.

But in Detroit I was being escorted around
like visiting royalty — a whirlwind treat
for the senses, a rollicking frenetic joyous time.

All this in exchange for a nice write-up
in the glossy “meetings and convention” trade mag,
to help them drum up some sizable business.

Hangover encroaching, I returned to
the hotel’s penthouse Presidential Suite.
An incredible array of floral arrangements,

gift baskets, and a Steinway grand piano
awaited in a space 15 times the real estate
of my tiny Brooklyn studio.

I spent the ironic night alone in a giant bed.
No piano accompanied the stupor
that the alcohol and luxury provided.

Detroit unsafe? Detroit ugly?
From my perspective, it had been
one of the best nights of my life.

Wanting money and respect again,
they’d invested millions on lipstick
and band-aids for the American Dream.

Meanwhile I promised to deliver the goods,
which I did enthusiastically, dutifully.
I loved the carefully curated Detroit I saw.

It was a treat for the senses,
fun and fantastic, a promising destination
for any future Fortune 500 convention event.

I believed it because I experienced it,
and, yes, the Super Bowl came to cold Pontiac
but the renaissance never seemed to take.

When Detroit later declared bankruptcy,
18.5 billion was owed to some 100,000 creditors,
all of whom believed the same story

I took with me in my heart to print:
that the Motor City was coming back
bigger, shinier, fully resurrected.

But Cinderella’s coach turned back to a pumpkin —
no matching glass slipper was found;
not all stories have a happy ending.

PHOTO: Detroit, Michigan, skyline and the Detroit River (shot from under the MacArthur Bridge) by Carl Ballou, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I read that July 23, 2020 was the 53rd anniversary of the start of the 1967 Detroit riots. My visit to Detroit happened in 1981 or 1982, and my personal history was far removed from that event. Still, I will never forget that trip.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 1967 Detroit Riots were a series of violent confrontations between black residents and various law enforcement bodies that lasted for five days and resulted in 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. For more about these events and their effects, watch a 2017 PBS report here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Glauber is a widely published poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. He champions the underdog while negotiating life’s absurdities. He has three collections — Small Consolations (Aldrich Press), Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), and Rocky Landscape with Vagrants (Cyberwit) — as well as two chapbooks, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press) and The Covalence of Equanimity (SurVision Books), a winner of the 2019 James Tate International Poetry Prize.  Another collection, A Careful Contrition (Shanti Arts Publishing). is forthcoming soon.

Lost River, New Hampshire
by Barbara Bald

Moss-covered giants, pushed askew by glacial forces,
form a gorge fifty-feet deep.
Like emery boards on fingernails, cascading waters
tumble rock, scour edges into potholes.
Boulder caves, eons old, beckon visitors,
entice them into black holes of unknown depth.

A challenge for some — biceps ready,
chests puffed into a make-my-day attitude.
Unloading pockets, leaving backpacks trailside,
adults push, pull, contort bodies into crevices
their children scramble through.

Remembering when sleek frames fit through easily,
some come face-to-face with bellies, love handles,
pounds they meant to shed last spring.

Grandparents, like pack mules, carry water bottles,
shades, keys, cell phones, extra layers.
They tag along holding hands with
agile memories
that wear their faces.

At the Lemon Squeezer entrance:
dressed in hiking boots or flip-flops, convertible pants
or mini-skirts, some visitors rally to Mommy you can do it!
Others, eyes wide, palms sweating, ignore all pleas to enter.
Some, simply pass by, intimate
with their limits.

Here, people from all nations, languages, and backgrounds,
worried over being stuck or fear-struck.
laugh in a common language.
In shapes and sizes as unique as rocks,
people of all races agree
to help each other’s children through the caves.

Together they challenge the same adversaries —
time, age, change,
fear itself.
Cameras flash, locking hope in place.

PHOTO: Paradise Falls, a 35-foot waterfall at Lost River Gorge, New Hampshire (

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For several summers, I worked at Lost River Reservation in Kinsman Notch, just west of North Woodstock, New Hampshire. Lost River is a series of caves that visitors can crawl through and listen for the sounds of a river that makes its way under boulders and boardwalks. My job was to light the candles that lit their way underground, hold their cameras and belongings and test their body frames through a gauge to be sure they could fit through The Lemon Squeeze. Besides being in a scenic natural area, it was a place that engendered peace and excitement. It was an amazing job mostly because I got to see people of all nationalities, not only getting along, but helping one another. It surely convinced me of our oneness.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Bald is a retired teacher, educational consultant, and freelance writer. Her poems have been published in a variety of anthologies, and her work has been recognized in both national and local contests. She has published two full-length books, Drive-Through Window and Other Voices/Other Lives. Her chapbook is entitled Running on Empty. She has written articles for Heart of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Magazine, and other local magazines. She lives in Alton, New Hampshire, with her cat Catcher and some very personable goldfish.

PHOTO: The author at the Bretton Woods Ski Area zip line, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

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Framed by a Rainbow
by Ken Gierke

A thundering roar overwhelms the senses, and a refreshing mist on my face and arms brings relief from the heat of an August day. Niagara Falls is a wonder to behold, from the rapids leading to the edge, each crashing wave a character holding the briefest of poses for my camera, to the American Falls, that edge that tempts so many to know its height in their final moments, to the grand Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, best experienced from the Maid of the Mist as it pauses mid-river, drenching its passengers in a deluge of exhilaration that has no equal.

An afternoon could easily be spent here. The Observation Tower, like a bridge that seems to extend partway across the river, offers a view that includes the American Falls at its side and the Horseshoe Falls a half-mile upstream, taking its shape from a ninety-degree bend in the river. A walk across a bridge over the rapids takes me to Goat Island, which separates those two great falls, to the delight of Bridal Veil Falls at its near edge, separated from the American Falls by Luna Island, and then to a view of the horseshoe from Terrapin Point at its farthest edge.

Any visit, whether on a sunny or a gray day, could result in hundreds of photos. This beautiful day under blue skies is no exception, and the tourists recognize that. Some locals will avoid the Falls when those tourists number in the thousands, but I enjoy seeing the excitement on their faces. Some days, I take more photos of people taking photos of people. Niagara Falls offers so many reasons to return, again and again.

seagull on the wing
poised above the mighty falls
framed by a rainbow

PHOTO: Niagara Falls at sunset by Saptashaw Chakraborty, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls that span the border between the province of Ontario, Canada, and the state of New York.

Framed by a Rainbow

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Before moving from Western New York to Missouri in 2012, I never tired of going to Niagara Falls, sometimes visiting several times a month to take photos. The Falls are beautiful from both sides of the border, and I always plan a visit there when I travel that way.  Hopefully, COVID-19 will be just a memory and the border will reopen before my next visit.

PHOTO:  Rainbow and gulls at the American Falls by Ken Gierke.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ken Gierke started writing poetry in his forties, but found new focus when he retired. It also gave him new perspectives, which come out in his poetry, primarily in free verse and haiku. He has been published at Vita Brevis, Tuck Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, Amethyst Review, Eunoia Review, and his poem “Unwound” is featured in Pain & Renewal: A Poetry Anthology from Vita Brevis Press. His work can be found at his blog, where this poem first appeared.

PHOTO: The author and his wife during a recent visit to Niagara Falls, New York.

philip barrington photo
by Massimo Soranzio

Do you remember the time,
well before Covid-19,
and before 9/11—
what’s with those figures: 1, 9…
What makes them so ominous?—
Can you still remember when
we could climb the steps to the
Albert Memorial? The Prince
still black, golden times for us,
and we would sit on those steps
and play a board game, I mean,
a real one, with a proper
board, and plastic counters, too,
and we’d pose like the authors
of the game, in the picture
on the back of its fine sleeve,
which looked just like an LP?
One of the things we would do:
play the game right in the place
it was named after, adding
an extra dimension to
our sequence of moves on the
Victorian flowerbed-like
board. And we’d get lost in the game,
because it was just like that:
what other cares could we have,
two naïve 19-year-olds
whose 1 and 9 meant nothing
and whose dreams and hopes were still
in bloom, like the flowerbeds
of old Kensington Gardens.

PHOTO: The Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens, London, England by Philip Barrington, used by permission.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I used to spend all my summer, spring and winter holidays in London when I was younger, in the summer often with friends. In the early ’80s, my friend Marino and I used to play board games all the time, and one summer we were all taken by this new game, Kensington, which we bought in London (each one of us still treasures his copy) and decided to play on the steps of The Albert Memorial, one of the most iconic Victorian monuments in town. The Albert Memorial underwent massive restoration in recent years, so today you will see the statue covered in gold leaf, and they restored the original gates around the steps, too, so we would not be able to take a picture there today like we did then.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Albert Memorial was commissioned by Queen Victoria (1819-1901) in memory of her beloved husband and the father of her nine children, Prince Albert, who died at age 42 in 1861. The monument took over 10 years to complete, at a cost of £120,000 (the equivalent of about £15,000,000 in 2020). (Source: Wikipedia.)

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: With my best pal Marino on the steps of The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, London, in 1982. I’m the one on the right, with the blue sweater.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Massimo Soranzio is a teacher and translator living on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy. His poems have appeared online and in print in a few anthologies, including Silver Birch Press’s Nancy Drew Anthology. He blogs at, where he wrote mostly about his lockdown for NaPoWriMo, in the month of April 2020.

Glorious Opulence
by Munia Khan

It was all about the luxury of death
The tomb was the centerpiece of a 42-acre-complex
It was a massive mesmerizing marble structure on a square plinth
guarded by a symmetrical building with an arch-shaped doorway
topped by a moony finial and a large dome —

The eternal resting place
of the Mughal emperor’s favorite wife!

I was standing at one of the balconies
of that 16th century ivory white marble house
by the Southern bank of river Yamuna,
taking pictures of the river
not as a tourist, but as an avid thinker who came from another country
thinking about the cultural diversities of that land
where the murmuring vein-like rivers
glittered by the ashes of the leaders’ dead bodies
and at the same time decorated with the love story
of legendary ruler by framing his wife’s grave on the river bank.

Today we, the travelers from all over the world
are indebted to Shah Jahan for leaving behind
this magnificent architectural dynasty
which reminds us, the mortals, of the immortality of love

Photo of the Taj Majal, Agra, India, by Jovyn Chamb on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During my first visit to India in March 2018, I traveled alone to see the Taj Mahal. This historical landmark is indeed one of the world’s architectural splendors — and this reminded me of the transitoriness of life, power, and wealth.

PHOTO: The author during her visit to the Taj Mahal in 2018.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Taj Mahal is a marble mausoleum on the southern bank of the river Yamuna in the Indian city of Agra. The monument was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who reigned from 1628 to 1658, to house the tomb of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The construction project employed 20,000 artisans and cost 32 million rupees ($916 million in 2020 U.S. Dollars). In 1983, the Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” (Source: Wikipedia.)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Munia Khan is a poet, author, and editor of multiple books and anthologies. She has authored seven books, which include collections of short stories, articles, poetry, and a nonfiction inspirational book titled Attainable. Her works have been translated into many languages, including Japanese, Romanian, Urdu, Italian, Dutch, Croatian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Albanian, Finnish, Greek, Indonesian, Turkish, Hindi, Bengali, and Irish, and have been published in anthologies, literary journals, magazines, and newspapers around the world. Visit her Amazon author’s page and find her on

What Runs Through
by Patrick Connors

We went to the Blue Jays game one Saturday
to see that damn Yankee Derek Jeter one last time.

Actually, it was also the first time
we saw him play in person,
at least together.

We participated in a standing ovation for Jeter—
something I never thought would happen.

Best of all, or almost best of all,
Jose Bautista hit a home run, and
our Blue Jays were victorious!

In the days of our youth, rarely did a week pass by
without attending at least one game.

The two of us would meet at Eglinton GO Station,
and, after a short wait, quickly get away from
what we didn’t want to talk about.

We would talk about Moseby, Barfield and Bell—
and Dave Stieb and Dr. Henkenstein—

and whether this would be the year
we would finally break through—

while we passed by the factories and vacant lots,
subdivisions and shopping malls of suburbia.

We would arrive at Exhibition Stadium,
already a monument,
more historical than functional.

We knew guys who worked there—
they said rats ran
’round the bleachers
just before batting practice.

Where did the rats go during the game?
Was it safe to go to the washroom,
especially on a cold day?

After the game we would go back to Eglinton,
and, being underage, use creative means to acquire beer.

Shortly after dark, we would enter
the forest inside McCowan Road Park
to drink.

Every time we dug a new fire pit
or post holes to support a log to sit on,
we always uncovered decades of garbage.

The forest, the park, and the public school
were all built on a dump.

Purple poles positioned throughout the park
allowed pungent methane gas to escape

preventing mini-earthquakes from happening—
at least most of the time.

The creek, basically sewage,
running through McCowan Road Park
originates in the Don River.

We drank the beer complaining that it cost
nearly twelve dollars for twelve bottles.

We talked about the game, who was pitching
the next day, and when we would go again.

Or, we might plan to go to the video arcade,
or to play burby, if circumstances allowed.

We would nurse our last beers,
even talk about things rarely talked about,

in an effort to stay out long enough,
for everyone at our homes to fall asleep.

Now, we don’t go to games much anymore,
although we are as close as ever.

Maybe it’s because we can’t spend
as much time with each other.

Maybe it’s because we no longer
innocently believe in baseball’s ability
to take us away from our problems.

Maybe it’s because we don’t have
anything at home to run away from.

PHOTO: The Toronto Blue Jays play the Chicago White Sox in Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium on April 8. 1977 in the second game of the Blue Jays’ inaugural season. The initial game, on April 6, 1977, was played in a Toronto snowstorm. During the three-game series, the Blue Jays won the first game 9-5, lost the second game 3-2, and won the final game 3-1. (Photo by Robert Taylor, Stirling, Canada, via Wikipedia.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick Connors’ first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was published by Lyricalmyrical Press in 2013, and charted on the Toronto Poetry Map. He is grateful to Silver Birch Press for their genero(u)sity in broadening his audience in 2015. Other publication credits include Spadina Literary Review, Tamaracks, released in spring 2019 by Lummox Press, and Tending the Fire, released spring 2020 by the League of Canadian Poets. His first full-length collection is forthcoming.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY
Hall of Fame
by Steven Deutsch

We were not
a wayfaring

My dad drove
a taxi nights
while mom worked days

at a discount store
How is it

no one speaks
of the weariness
of the poor?

A six-block trip
to the local
chop suey joint

after a double
was quite a night.

But the summer
I turned 12
dad announced

a vacation
to Cooperstown
at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There was not
a boy in all
of Brownsville

that didn’t envy
me that trip.
And, yes I milked it.

The three of us made
a week of it.
meandering through

the back roads
of New England—
admiring all that green,

while my dad
spoke of Ty
and Babe—

Honus and Christy
and Walter as if
speaking of old friends

and my mom
told me of my grandfather—
a man I never got to meet.

And the Museum?
Well that was
wonderful too.

PHOTO: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York by Kenneth C. Zirkel, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I read the prompt, I thought immediately of our trip to Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  I hope the poem captures the essence of that trip and of my parents. The details of the poem are not historically accurate—they never are in my work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After a glamorous childhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, Steve (and his wife, Karen) settled in State College, Pennsylvania. They have one son—the guitarist for the avant-garde group, Gang Gang Dance. Over the last two years, his work has appeared in more than two dozen print and on-line journals. He was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the current poetry editor for Centered Magazine. His chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published by Kelsay Press in 2019. His full length poetry book, The Persistence of Memory, has just been published by Kelsay.

20183892 - mount sneffels range, colorado, usa
Mount Sneffels
by Ann Christine Tabaka

The mountain stood before me,
staring me down,
with arrogance and pride.
I would conquer him today,
or die trying.
Ice axe in hand
I began my ascent,
one chilling step at a time.
Wind was his ally
as it forced against me,
fracturing my will,
blistering my flesh.
Sun beat down with vengeance,
blinding glare obstructing view.
Fighting for my hold,
creeping inch by inch,
I rose to new heights,
I had never reached before.
Had hours, or a lifetime passed
before I reached the summit?
14,158 feet of rock,
snow, and ice lay below.
Joy overtook exhaustion.
Outstretched arms towards the sky,
I stood above the clouds.
The mountain stood below me now!
Mountain was real,
mountain is a metaphor.
I have defeated my own fears.

Published by Impspired, January 2020

PHOTO: “Mount Sneffels (Colorado)” by Don Yanedomam, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Mount Sneffels is the highest summit of the Sneffels Range in the Rocky Mountains of North America. The prominent 14,158-foot “fourteener” is located in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness of Uncompahgre National Forest, 6.7 miles west by south of the City of Ouray in Ouray County, Colorado, United States. (Source: Wikipedia.)

PHOTO: The author (center) in 1992, when she and companions climbed Mount Sneffels (Ouray County, Colorado).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry. Winner of Spillwords Press 2020 Publication of the Year, her bio is featured in the “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020,” published by Sweetycat Press. Internationally published and the recipient poetry awards from numerous publications., her work has been translated into Sequoyah-Cherokee Syllabics as well as Spanish. The author of 11 poetry books, she has recently been published in several micro-fiction anthologies and short story publications. She resides in Delaware with her husband and four cats. Visit her at and on her Amazon author’s page.

Petrouske_Front of Post Card copy
Cloud Peak
Lake of the Clouds, Silver City, Michigan
by Rosalie Sanara Petrouske

In an antique store, I find a 1952 postcard of Lake of the Clouds. The front shows a couple standing on the Escarpment looking down at miles of virgin timber and the ribbon of the Carp River winding 300 feet below. Today, most people observe this panorama from the opposite end where boardwalks make it easier for those of all stages of mobility to enjoy the scenery. In the 1950s, the vista stretched, immense and breathtaking, and the couple stood at its very edge. As the back of the card proclaims, “The view of untouched wilderness is magnificent.”

On a sunny day in May 2014, I hike to Cloud Peak with park naturalist, Bob Wild, as my guide to find the exact location where the couple stood sixty-one years ago. Instead of taking the marked path, we follow a sloping hillside covered with trillium and the speckled leaves of thriving blue bead lilies. When we reach the top, I step out. Beneath me unfolds Lake of the Clouds against a brilliantly green landscape, and a hyacinth blue sky that boasts streamers of cirrus clouds sailing across its surface. Nothing is more beautiful.

Contemplating that road less traveled and the postcard couple who followed it, I wonder what they would think of the changes technology has wrought in our world and the challenges experienced from climate change. They might have believed the verdant earth before them would remain untouched for many generations. In some ways, here in this slice of wilderness, it has. Yet, as we return, winding our way slowly down the mountain following the traditional path, I am more conscious of my environment and my role in keeping such treasures as Lake of the Clouds here for future generations and beyond, and wonder if the effort of those of us who care will be enough.

PHOTO: 1952 postcard from the L.L. Cook Co. Back text reads: “In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula…Located in the Porcupine Mountains State Park, the Lake nestles below a 450-foot escarpment, from which point the view of untouched wilderness is magnificent. The Lake of the Clouds is 1,080 feet above sea level. Numerous trails winding thru huge stands of virgin timber are available for hikers.”

Petrouske_Lake of the Clouds_Traditional View_2
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located three miles west of Silver City, Michigan, on M 107.  It is home to 60,000 acres of wilderness that includes 35,000 acres of old-growth forest, numerous wild and beautiful waterfalls, miles of rivers and streams, as well as 90 miles of hiking trails, located along the Lake Superior shoreline. Some of its most popular tourist attractions include Lake of the Clouds (with an ADA accessible viewing area), the Summit Peak Observation tower and the scenic Presque Isle River corridor. ¶In 2008 and 2014, I served as Artist-in-Residence in the Porcupine Mountains AIRP program. The Artist-in-Residence Program is open to artists and artisans whose work can be influenced by this unique northern wilderness setting. It offers writers, composers, and all visual and performing artists the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the “Porkies” and express it through their particular art form.  For more information, visit or email  ¶This story is part of a longer piece “Lost in Solitude” that explores what it was like living for two weeks in a cabin in the wilderness without electricity or running water. On this particular day, I climbed up to Cloud Peak where I could see Lake of the Clouds from a different perspective. Years ago, this was the original path to the top.  Today, an ADA accessible area exists for tourists to enjoy the spectacular view.

PHOTO: The author at Lake of the Clouds, Silver City, Michigan.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosalie Sanara Petrouske received her M.A. in English and Writing from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan.  She is a Professor in the English Department at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan, where she currently teaches Freshman Composition and Creative Writing.  She has had poetry and essays published in many literary journals and anthologies, including, Passages North, The Seattle Review, Red Rock Review, Third Wednesday, American Nature Writing, and Lunch Ticket. The author of three chapbooks of poetry What We Keep (Finishing Line Press, 2016), A Postcard from my Mother (Finishing Line Press, 2004), and The Geisha Box (March Street Press, 1996), she served as Artist-in-Residence in the Porcupine Mountains in 2008 and 2014.  Find her on Facebook and find her books at Finishing Line Press.

Author photo by Eric Palmer. 

city of albuquerque photo
the faux of July (Albuquerque, NM)
by Richard Vargas

this year the Rio Grande
is a brimming artery
pumping life into the
heart of this high desert land
where coyote scat dries
hard on a dusty dirt trail
in the late morning sun

at the water’s edge
i set to fire the bundle
of sage carried in my hand
gently wave sacred smoke
around me through me

i turn to the west
where an ocean almost
dead spews up whales
with bellies full of plastic
and fish with glow-in-the-dark tumors
as radiation from across the sea
drips into the water and
it’s old news

i turn to the north
hear the cracking of ancient
glaciers retreating while
floating ice caps break
into chunks clung to by
starving polar bears so lean
we can count their ribs
as we show our concern
by posting frowning emojis
on our Facebook

i face east where today
machines of war will be
displayed as a reminder
we are governed by those
who mock compassion
and good will towards
those in desperate need
governed by those who sow
seeds of hate and flaunt the sword
so the egos of the rich
can gleam and shine
like the golden calf
they worship

facing the south
i can only weep
seeing the floating corpses
of a father and daughter
holding onto each other
together fleeing the horrors
and atrocities taking
over their homeland
fleeing into the hateful
clutches of an ugly people
ruled by fear who rip children
from the arms of parents
locking them up in cages
of genocidal dreams
and the toxic gasps
of a dying empire

you can keep
your beer and hotdogs
your fireworks and
parades dripping
with phony flag waving
and citizens who don’t
know the words to
their precious anthems

today i will mourn
hang my head
heavy in shame
with tearful eyes
watch gray smoke
drift on currents
of wind rising into
an unforgiving sky

dropping the sage
into the brown water
asking the Rio Grande
to accept my humble offering

the river spits
it back

PHOTO: Rio Grande River, Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Sandia Mountains in background. (Courtesy of City of Albuquerque, NM, used by permission.)

vargasABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference, and facilitated a workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. His three books of poetry are McLife, American Jesus, and Guernica, revisited. He edited/published The Más Tequila Review from 2009-2015. Currently, he resides in Monona, Wisconsin.