Contrasts

I belong nowhere, half here,
half there. ― Anne Michaels, “Stone” in Miner’s Pond

The difference, if you are a river,
is whether you flow east into the Atlantic
or west into the Pacific. But you can’t flow
both directions. “The mountains are calling
and I must go.” But I waver on Marias Pass,
a mile above sea level at the Continental Divide.
East or West?

Distant mountaintops, dusted
with powdered sugar even in late summer.
At lower elevations, an even crew cut
of grey and brown stubble left over
from devastating forest fires, a delicate blanket
of green covering the base of the hills.

Narrow the focus, onto the forest floor,
where bright wildflowers stand out
against tall, blackened trunks and spindly
new trees. Hardy wildflowers return first
after a fire, animals later.

The guidebook says, “Bears
and mountain lions especially
should be avoided.” Avoiding
conflict, with yourself and others. Making
peace. Worthy goals, but how, when I belong
neither here nor there?

Views from the train: vast fields
of sunflowers followed by clusters
of small oil rigs; flowing hay surrounding
solid gravestones; the elegance
of horses on a slope, a tidy house atop
the hill, and a collection of broken-down vehicles
next to the horses; a shiny Mercedes
outside tenement housing; yachts
and pleasure boats tied up
on the Erie Canal facing abandoned warehouses,
factories, and laundry strung outside
more tenements.

A dream one night on the train:
wide, shallow steps from the shoreline up
to a manor house high on a hill, a journey,
from the Great Lakes to the mountains
of childhood. But there is nowhere—
and no way—to stop on the stairs.

Also a memory:
a selection of rocks submerged
in a pail of cold lake water, their jewel-like colors
sparkling as they did on the lake bottom
where they drew my hand down
to pick them up. Laid out on the dock to dry
they lose their appeal, the colors dull
and lifeless until I put the rocks back
in the water. There is no middle ground.

A childhood near “the river of ambush
or surprise” offered many meanings for the confluence
of rivers: a place of spiritual significance,
a center for trade, a place for a battle—or
a settlement, where there could be peace.
The middle ground. Like the colors
of the lake rocks, it is elusive, changeable,
can’t easily be had. But having
is not living.

The collective unconscious of rivers
knows where we have been and where
we are going—even before we do.
An answer, from the forest:
there will always be new growth.

By Meg Freer

 woman is sitting on top of mountainPhoto by Loganban

Note: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” is from John Muir, the Scottish-American naturalist who founded the Sierra Club, in a letter to his sister Sarah Muir Galloway (3 September 1873), published in William Frederic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir found on the Sierra Club John Muir Exhibit Website.


Meg Freer grew up in Missoula, Montana, US, and now lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where she teaches piano and enjoys running and photography. She began writing poetry in 2015. Her photos and poems have won awards both in North America and overseas and have been published in chapbooks and in both print and online anthologies. In 2017 she won a fellowship and attended the Summer Literary Seminars in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Journal entries and photos from Tbilisi may be found here.

“Contrasts” read by Meg Freer, accompanied by pianist Ian Wong (ianwongmusic.com)

 

A Dream Washed Up

She rests,
like a hundred others,
ignored and forgot.
Tricycle cradled,
blackberry wreathed
and thistle jeweled,
her complexion
blushed copper green.

Just three
slow declining miles
from her riverside home.
Face pointed away,
eyes spider blind,
she succumbs to blister and rot
as other such
ornaments rust.

A dream
from a foundered romance.
A ragged reminder
Of time drifted by.
Love locked,
by rib, plank and quarter knee,
she sinks back
to the earth.

By D L Hume

old rotten fishing boat lying at the beach trees are already growing through the hull


I am from Tasmania, Australia, having grown up in the UK. I have spent a number of years living in the Tasmanian bush, from which I have gained a deep appreciation for nature and landscape. I hold a Ph.D from the University of Tasmania – Art History and Theory- and have taught in Australia, the UK, North Africa, Thailand and extensively throughout mainland China, teaching Art and Design History and Theory, Tourism Studies, ESP Art and Design and research and study skills.

My writing ranges across disciplines, including, tourism, fine art – especially ceramic art – and education. Independence, as a writer and teacher, is one of the things I value most, which, to some extent, has caused me to keep on the move, but as a result all my work retains its integrity.

I now live off grid in Southern Tasmania, a return to a lifestyle I first embraced over 30 years ago. There have been many developments since then, making this shift much easier now. I have also returned to a craft I enjoyed many many years before, writing poetry as an expression of place. You can find most of my writing in many genres on my website here. It is not always pretty, and neither should it be…

Photo by Rolf Schlegel

It Was the Same

There will no longer be home,
smoke from the chimney.
There will be no tomorrow.
Rotten beams
cannot withstand the pressure of time.
In the crooked house
a hunched woman
– waits.

It’s like it used to be,
out there behind the house flows a river.
Only now
the children do not have time to look at old age.

Time took away youth
– like the night takes away the evening.

There is no longer smoke from the chimney,
no chimney,
and there behind the house
still flows a river.

By Eliza Segiet
translated by Artur Komoter

mountain landscape with a village house on the river bank


Eliza Segiet is a Jagiellonian University graduate with a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. She completed postgraduate studies in Cultural Knowledge, Philosophy, Penal Fiscal and Economic Law, and Creative Writing at Jagiellonian University, as well as Film and Television Production in Łódź, Poland. She is the author of six poetry collections including Cloudiness (2016) and Thought Mirages (2017). In addition, she has published three volumes of poetry, monodrama, and drama.

River Night

We float in Rio Caliente
and consider the stars.
We swim slowly now and then,
our muscles and bones soak in warmth.
    My daughter leaves us
disapproving of older women skinny dipping,
laughing together at midnight.
we talk about Ireland and
share old stories of the troubles.
    Obsidian hills surround us here,
the jacarandra tree is heavy with purple bloom.

By Elaine Reardon

steam rises from warm water in river


Book coverElaine is a poet, herbalist, educator, and a member of the Society of Children’s BookAuthor Photo Writers & Illustrators. Her chapbook,The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, published September 2016, recently won first honors from Flutter Press as the top seller of 2016. Most recently Elaine’s poetry has been published by Three Drops from a Cauldron Journal, MASS Poet of the Moment, and poetrysuperhighway.com. Elaine lives tucked into the forest in Central Massachusetts and maintains a blog at elainereardon.wordpress.com

Photo by the author

Water Marks on Sand

Along the river bed as I walk, my left
hand leads toward water that receives sky
on its surface. Clouds and blue, wind
shivers the image. Drawn to the lightly
unfocused, I begin to understand:
I prefer the potential uncertainty gives.

River banks slope down as land gives
into the pull of water’s force, sand left
fixed as levels of surrender. They stand
in their geometry until the next storm when sky
will dump a watery flood no dirt can lightly
resist. Sand and water the playground of wind.

What stays, what goes? Weather winds
tangling tendrils around leaf and stem, gives
roots the shivers. Uncaring, it affords little light
to birches or oaks in a winter grip. What’s left
alive will not, however, be decided by the sky.
If Earth can mend its line to sun, the plant will stand.

I like a bridge, the in between, yet understand
it’s a man-made thing, a construct that wind
could eventually dismantle with years of sky
and worms and human neglect. Still, it gives
me pleasure to stand on the planks, my left
hand tracing waves as they move the light.

If allowed abundant water and right light,
aspens would form so thick a stand
I couldn’t pass through. I’d be left
needing an ax, or simply listening as wind
blew leaves into melody that would give
me reason to stay there under the sky.

I want to live in present tense, each sky
revealing my mind to myself, the way light
never grows stale. What I love is given
me the way a tumbling stream understands
there can be no holding back, or how wind
sprays mist onto my skin and I’m left,

surprised, new. Moss gives off chartreuse light,
a glow under a gray sky. What’s left for me to know?
I stand in the answer, my breath a small wind.

By Grace Marie Grafton

path with wooden bridge by the river


Grace Marie Grafton is the author of six collections of poetry, which can be reviewed on Amazon’s site. Grafton_Whimsey_CoverShe lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a redwood tree outside her kitchen door and a native live oak next to her deck. Nearby are red squirrels, raccoons, salamanders, and (never seen) mountain lions. Other of her nature poems can be found in Canary (online), Peacock Journal (online), Third Wednesday, Poecology and The Common Ground Review. Her book, Whimsy, Reticence and Laud: unruly sonnets, is rooted in her love of nature. She has taught for decades with CA Poets in the Schools, frequently taking her grade school students outdoors for their poetry lessons.

Photo by NejroN.