Herman, The Sturgeon by Tricia Knoll

FunWithFish_HermanSturgeon

My palms press against the thick glass wall
between me and Herman. I nudge in
next to three young girls with ponytails.
Herman glides, a profile of fossils.

The sign to my left:

Species: acipenser transmontanus (Pacific Sturgeon) –
the largest freshwater fish in North America
Age: 70 plus years, born during World War II
Eyes: Steel gray
Length: Ten feet
Weight: 450 pounds
Genealogy: Species to 175 million years ago
Residence: Bonneville Fish Hatchery on the Columbia River –– since 1998 captive in a man-made pool fed by Tanner Creek and groundwater.
One Herman or another has circled this pool for over sixty years.

The blonde mother distracts her kids with goldfish crackers.
I’ve got the window.

Does Herman see my hands splayed on the glass?
Am I as irrelevant to him as barnacles
crusted on the container ships on the Columbia
heading through Bonneville’s locks to Lewiston?
Does his brain sense how near his river is?
How high the wall to the upper Columbia?

I lean in as if to weigh the theft
of his wild identity, this land-locked fish.
Does he always swim clockwise?
Ignoring cycles of spawning?
His eyes give away nothing.
Bottom dweller. Four barbell sensors,
armored scutes. Yet – a brain that integrates.

My blessing to this fish
through my hands, through the glass.
Bless his terrible beauty.
Does he feel how my laying-on pulses the water?

 

First published in Song of Eretz.

 

 

Tricia Knoll moved from Oregon to Vermont in 2018 – two places that underscore the importance of eco-poetry holding up beautiful places in transition due to climate crisis. Website: triciaknoll.com

#Mountains: The Path by Stella Pierides

dd

At the top of the stairway snaking up the hill, a white-washed chapel and an olive tree. Blinding sunlight. Some way to go yet. The stony stairs are narrow, a couple of hands-width before the cliff falls steeply into the sea.

Slow down, there’s no hurry. Take a deep breath. Feel the rough warmth of the rock. The wind beating against it raises the fragrance of sage, of thyme and marjoram to the skies, erases the silence.

marble wings—
in the distance
windmill ruins

Feel the salt on your lips, the urgent wind tussling your hair.
This history book under your arm, so well-thumbed, leave it here, against that rock, someone coming after you might linger, take a look.

pillars of salt—
propping her foot
on a stone

And the pebble from Amorgos you kept in your pocket all those years, add it to the cairn over there, where the path widens. Let it go. The trail is moments like this, following the light, teetering on the edge of your desires, of your sorrows.
That bench at the top, see it now, under the olive tree? This is your goal. You can rest there. Wise, gentle Persephone will hold your hand.

embalming my tongue
I rest in the shadow
of the silver-leaved olive

 

 

Stella Pierides is a poet and writer born in Athens, Greece, now living in Neusaess, Germany and London, UK. She is the author of three poetry books: Of This World (Red Moon Press, 2017) and In the Garden of Absence (Fruit Dove Press, 2012), both of which received a Haiku Society of America merit award; Feeding the Doves (Fruit Dove Press, 2013). Her work has also appeared in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. Currently she manages the Per Diem: Daily Haiku feature for the Haiku Foundation.

 

Painting by Jenn Zed.

Thistle-Down By E. Pauline Johnson

Thistledown

Beyond a ridge of pine with russet tips
The west lifts to the sun her longing lips,

Her blushes stain with gold and garnet dye
The shore, the river and the wide far sky;

Like floods of wine the waters filter through
The reeds that brush our indolent canoe.

I beach the bow where sands in shadows lie;
You hold my hand a space, then speak good-bye.

Upwinds your pathway through the yellow plumes
Of goldenrod, profuse in August blooms,

And o’er its tossing sprays you toss a kiss;
A moment more, and I see only this –

The idle paddle you so lately held,
The empty bow your pliant wrist propelled,

Some thistles purpling into violet,
Their blossoms with a thousand thorns afret,

And like a cobweb, shadowy and grey,
Far floats their down – far drifts my dream away.

 

 

E. Pauline Johnson, 1861-1913.

 

Photograph by 3268auber.

 

#CampFire: Particulate Matter by Molly Fisk

800px-Woman,_Smoke_(Imagicity_717)

Untitled 11

 

First published in Rattle, Poets Respond

Molly Fisk: “So many of us live near enough to Paradise, CA to have been under the pall of smoke its burning created. I’m in Nevada City, a Sierra foothills town equally likely to burn, equally hard to evacuate. Like many others in CA, we were wearing N95 masks and staying indoors, and talking to each other about what was in this particulate matter. A phrase we didn’t think of much ten years ago, and now everyone knows.”

 

 

Molly Fisk is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Nevada County, CA. She’s been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and is widely published. Her poetry collections are The More Difficult Beauty and Listening to Winter. She’s also a radio commentator for KVMR in Nevada City and NPR, and works as a radical life coach. Reach her at mollyfisk.com

 

Photograph by Graham Crumb.

#CampFire: What became ash by Jan Haag

47575393_2084682301553849_8366234304174358528_n

For Alma, who escaped the Camp Fire with her life but not her home.

Porches, steps and all, except some concrete ones
left blackened, broken off like old teeth,
not to mention flower pots and the last gasp
of roses settling in for winter, garden hoses
crinkled like charred snakes on what used to be lawn,
door frames and window frames,
front doors painted in a particular shade,
windows blasted into shards,
easy chairs, TVs, refrigerators and the art
magneted on them made by childrengrandchildren
niecesnephewsthatcutekiddownthestreet,
their toy firetrucks and dolls incinerated, their
bike frames and swingsets rendered skeletal.

How many photographs, cherished memories,
diplomas, licenses, bills, tax documents,
check stubs, notebooks, journals, novels, poems,
screenplays, love letters lie in the cinders?

How many toothbrushes and dentures, housecoats
and sport coats, bridal gowns and work boots,
bathing suits and raincoats, baseball caps and
wool scarves?

An open-mouthed deer with fire-puckered skin
pressed into the ash, along with uncountable
burrowing creatures, rabbits that could not hop
fast enough, birds, singed, then downed,
not to mention those with eyelashes and lips,
crying their last, consumed by what they could
see coming at them.

Paradise, Magalia, Nimshew, North Pines,
Morgan Ridge, Concow, Yankee Hill, Coutelenc,
South Pines, Mesilla Valley, Fir Haven, Berry Creek.

Under it all:
bones and bones and bones and bones.

And finally, after the flames did their job
consuming everything in their path—
the 85 counted and the still-uncountable souls
of the formerly two-legged and four-legged,
the winged and those that crawled and slithered—
the much-prayed for rain arrived, the day before the day
of gratitude, quenching the last of the hot spots,
muddying the ravaged earth, further entombing
the dead, clearing the air for hundreds of miles.

Those of us left downwind took deep gulps,
raised our faces to the blesséd drops, grateful
to no longer inhale the particulate of people,
their towns, their possessions, their lives,
those we may not have known but whose
molecules circulate in our bloodstreams,
who lie embedded in us.

They are ours now, we who breathe under
fresh, blue skies.

 

 

Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she advises campus publications. Jan is the author of a book of poems, Companion Spirit, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads weekly creative writing workshops in Sacramento, has written two novels and had work published in many journals and anthologies. She is also the co-publisher of River Rock Books in Sacramento.