The boy returned twice
to the orphanage
is my father, waiting
at the window for Papa
in too-tight cowboy boots.
Quiet one, no words
for his new mother,
her rosary, clicking teeth
in the darkened bedroom.
He is tall as the Winchester M70,
propped in each family photo—
cold muzzle, walnut stock.
He wakes to wet sheets.
Older, caught smoking,
he’s made to take a carton,
light one after another,
inhale until he heaves,
knows then that father
sees everything; love
reigns with the tool
you receive—belt, boot,
fist, full as his mouth,
busting with silence.
Sarah teaches English at Chico State and serves on the literary committee at 1078 Gallery. Though she’s been published elsewhere, this is her first time entering the CN&R’s annual poetry contest. When she saw her daughter Sylvia (winner of the teen division) working on her entry, she decided to give it a try. We’re glad she did! Clearly, poetry runs in the family.
A warrior is outside the city
by definition, even if
he’s holed up in a half-
flattened house in the center.
A warrior outside the city walls:
that, we can understand—
two armies with war machines
a child can understand
and copy in balsa wood
while his father is
in the mountains bearing arms
made by the enemy
or approaching his brother
over a ruined road
in a truck open on both
sides, over land mines
A child can understand
no one now cares for cities—
in his capitol and others, walls
drive through the city’s heart
Sally Allen McNall
Sally is a retired Chico State sociology professor whose most recent book of poetry, Where Once, was published by Main Street Press after finishing second for its 2010 Poetry Book Award.
Shreddings of documents lie on the floor
Like shrapnel from some forgotten war
Articles written to document events
Later deemed irrelevant
Concealed for years in their manila jackets
Now carelessly ripped from them and stuck in a machine
They once gave clues to the life I used to lead
A collection of snapshots from my childhood
Answers to the persistent question “why”
Shoved in big plastic bags piled high
Doomed for recycling to help the environment
Cartons made from these lost words
Depicting a missing person on the inside
And a printed picture of another on the outside.
Jennique has been writing poetry since she was a teenager, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, who writes and performs Cowboy Poetry. She wrote “Recycling” about five years ago, editing it down for the word constraints of this contest, and it is now her first published work.
Just cut them all down—
Civilization is persistent progress.
Relocation is too expensive—
We are tree rich.
Who will remember
In five years?
Build that much
Needed concrete construction—
Natural Beauty is over-rated.
Five hundred feet of lane extension;
Shaving precious seconds off
The morning commute—
Well exchanged for a few
Ignore the chain fences that
Outline the stump graveyard.
Ignore the silent song of man
And the ballad of landscape undone.
Who will remember these
Fallen goliaths in five years…
Another August. The slant light breaches
blue-black magpies. Backs brusque
become slack at dusk.
The birds huddle over unpicked peaches—
a lug at least. I should shoo them instead
I hunch on the porch, watch
dragonflies dip their red husks
in drying culverts while sterilized mason jars
yawn on my kitchen counter.
When Hamlet Found Ophelia
The morning Hamlet found Ophelia
he was sitting on a rock
skipping stones across a wintry creek
he was halted mid-throw
by the sight of her
locks fanning out behind her
with precise anguish
when he dropped the stone
it stopped the current
which in turn stopped
if I had known
you could be so lovely
I would have let it
as he waded into her copper strands
& the other ghosts drifted downstream
Between North and South Korea
155 miles of DMZ slumber coast to coast.
Surrendered for 57 years, it has blossomed
as a safe habitat—mammals, birds, plants.
A conserved environment,
this war-less place was extracted
from both sides as an enforced harmony.
Now, white-naped and red crowned cranes—
birds of peace—can rest, nest bound,
procreating, settling these empty miles
with an unpeopled stillness—voices
softly murmuring beneath the silence.
i dream the body electrified
in this most bitchy month
white pillows in a giant purple sheet
my uncle jack
on a bad
the lightening through the wire in his hat
his border collie scratching
at the back door
and genevieve and billy in a clutch
October in Idaho
A thin north wind whips sycamore leaves
down the empty, shadowed lane.
Leaves dressed in fall
skitter across cracked asphalt
like crackling fire,
a tumble of ochre, copper, brown.
Dry grass the color of summer wheat
skins the foothills
on the outskirts of town;
pale stalks flatten, rise, and flatten again
in ancient ritual.
The tang of onions, abrupt, crisp,
scent the afternoon air.
Trucks, full of harvest,
trundle across the Payette River
as the cold north wind ripples
its turquoise surface.
There must have been a time when
those fantastically hopeful Fathers
came to the end of some Article
or other, and doubted. Feared
something could make the few
grind down the many here, too,
our proud citizens (not including slaves
or bondservants or even but I digress).
There must have been a moment,
a pang of foreboding, some rattling
in their dark, around “mob,” “faction,”
to them not the least
of dangers. They couldn’t quite
see themselves, could they?
Much less those outside the room,
or the land to be, and the generations.
He had cut wood enough
to finish the cabin in the meadow,
but not the fence, which he built anyway,
with great gaps in it — an act of whimsy, perhaps,
but not entirely useless, for neighbors now
understood what boundary he implied,
smiled kindly at this social grace,
assured no hard barrier would
deter their casual visits
for a cup of tea.
The lamp glow
glides on your back
like the rain on the glass.
Your back is wet with light.
One of the dogs
talks to himself in his sleep.
Beyond draped skies,
rehearse the next design.
This little room holds still.
Crash to stand still
You drift like smoke
from a stale cigarette.
Chances fall all around you,
flash brilliantly then fade
ashes leaving you with nothing
to light your way home.
You’ve taken on speed
and it’s been the greatest thrill
way past slowing down
You’re crashing to stand still.
All that doesn’t matter has taken it’s toll
Wounds, salted and misunderstood
are chains that have grown
like vines around you.
I’ll not choose
the last breath rising back
to the surface light.
High altitude dreams seem clearer.
The stars are so many
and my soul
nearer the sky.
At the Gas Station
You give your weight to chain-link
and stand there, shifting
gravel from one indifferent location
to the next with your lingering left boot.
Your right hand fills its corresponding
Your eyes sink into your face
like craters into the moon:
deep and gray and dry.
Your left hand pinches
a cigarette, from which you
pull and pull and pull
for something, anything.
Elliott A.S. Haught
Will you be my Valentine?
Will you be my Valentine?
You’ll know you’ve asked before its time
If the answer’s conversation
Or a lengthy thoughtful explanation
A convoluted explication
Or nuanced Freudian meditation
A simple word is what’s required
An affirmation that’s inspired
A joyous hoped for affirmation
Of shining hope and inspiration
If you’re not sure of that word
Don’t bother to ask the question
Andrew P. Hanson
Autumn wind rustles leaves, and I walk past
a buckled drunk. Knobby haunches bend
concrete comfort—papers tucked fast
as army sheets. How much time did he spend
scouting this doorway, scavenging old news
from the curb? How did this skinny frame lend
the idea of walls, home? Bagged booze
bedfellow. He sleeps. And dreams. Autumn leaves
me restless. Heels click corners, avenues.
I round blocks, wear my soles thin as thieves.
Autumn wind rustles, but nobody grieves
for hours badly spent, for days, years we bear
like drunk hope in doorways. Our crumpled prayer.