GFAA artists were invited to submit an artwork of their choosing. No theme was provided. Submissions were juried. 30 pieces were selected by Ann Gilroy, Curator at the Thomas Center Galleries.
Authors were then asked to select a painting and “respond” in a story, poem, or reflection. The response was not to be a critique or evaluation. Without knowledge of the artist or even the title of the work, the task was to answer the question, “What comes to mind?” and “How does this speak to you?”
Please be aware that none of the matched artists and authors had any idea prior to the installation of this exhibit about whether their visions were in alignment and harmony or entirely disparate. It is hoped that, either way, the results will allow for interesting conversation.
As an exhibition guest, you’re encouraged to ask yourself, what do the paintings and responses evoke for you?
EXHIBITION WITH THE
OF GAINESVILLE (WAG)
I AM OZ
by Deborah Downes
Can you see me?
in the kaleidoscope of colorful pattern
shifting with the slightest twist
of mood or circumstance
Can you see me?
aloft on a gossamer rainbow
a breath of beauty, too brief
after the painful morph to butterfly
Can you see me?
thru the sleight-of-hand, fan dance
flickering glimpses here, there
but never the whole picture
Can you see me?
behind the moth-eaten curtain
constructing ephemeral images
to camouflage my truth
Can you see me, now?
between the unstable fault lines
broken under a burden of pretense
revealing the un-revised version of my-self
by M. L. Kite
Why am I here? I’m a good citizen. I pay my taxes, obey the law, voted for him.
And all these other people, why are they here? What did they do? They can’t all be criminals. What is going on? I know, at one time we were the crown jewel of Europe. Everybody imitated us, read our literature, listened to our music, bought our machines, marveled at how well we functioned. And we knew it. We looked around Europe, at Belgium, messy, dirty people. France, bunch of drunks. Spain, can’t get out of their own way. Italians can’t function outside the opera house. And forget those backward ignorant Russians. They’re not even European, why should we care about them?
We were superior, everybody knew it. Even those nose-in-the-air English knew it. Why shouldn’t we be the dominant power? We were the best Europe had to offer.
But now they say that Jews aren’t really Germans. When did that happen? Our blood watered the vineyards of France as much as anybody’s. We breathed that gas like everybody else. Millions of us voted for him. We saw he would stop the inflation, stop paying those millions to other countries. Get us going again.
Now we are in this camp just outside Dachau. Nice little town. My cousin Jacob and his family live there. Have for generations, good Germans all of them. Veterans too, served the Kaiser proudly.
What is that white cloud?
Behind My Walls
by Alycin Hayes
I scream, but you don’t hear me
I’m screaming with my mind
I cry, but you don’t see me
I hold my tears inside
I reach, but you don’t feel me
I touch opaque walls
I never let you know me,
and I was just as blind
My heart sends out a beacon
no one can ever see
I ache, I cannot breathe…
I am a lonely lighthouse,
trapped inside perpetually.
by Stephanie Seguin
She keeps her corner carefully, according to the latest trends on Pinterest and Real Simple magazine. She paints herself in bright colors because they remind her of her used-to-be life, golden stars hung over deepest ocean, possibilities stretched to the heavens.
She keeps her brush close, to watercolor her walls, paper her corridors, shellac her floors. She surrounds herself with reveries of solitary strolls along the shore (seafoam green with eggshell finish, accent pillows of rusty sunset orange.) Her eyes tilt ever toward that vast expanse of blue, so close it could snap shut on a hinge at any moment.
She keeps small beasts. They came to her from afar, gifts from the gods wrapped in joy and grief. Exquisitely carved and beautiful fit to crack her heart wide and puddle it on the floor, they roam room to room dismantling her universe. They dump out boxes and smear walls, spill their glory all over the rusty sunset throw pillows. They claim her, press in until she feels her ocean shrink to a sliver bare enough for an outstretched toe.
But there will come a day, she knows, for it has been foretold, when mythical creatures write their stardust hearts into epic adventures. Then, on a ship carved from wooden spoons and cracker crumbs, she will cross the expanding sea to that far away threshold. Beyond, endless blue and possibilities that stretch to the heavens.
Minority Weather, Part 2
by Reinfred Dziedzorm Addo
Onward push of chalked feet and ours are there too.
On a dry morning like this, sweep of wind
makes your elbows ashed to match the shell wash of
this plaza–the morning ushers on, making your
feet move down the way where sunlight shafts struggle to peek
through the avenue of trees to the floor. Live oak, Spanish moss...
they are reflected in one window while contemporary gallery
visitors and their contemplations are reflected in another.
Out here I'm watching one person sitting on a bench and is joined
by others, watching the benched one speak in etiquette greetings
and lifting of eyes that show a familiarity with
ivory society–how a person smiles to put
violent creatures at ease, to humor them as they claim and occupy
space they think their presence might turn from their idea of
worthless to their idea of worth something. There's speech inflection
to approximate amusement at almost every declaration coming
from bloodthirsty lips, the playing of attentive audience at their
monologues, the oh-ing and ahh-ing to make
them think even all these centuries later they still
hold command of the scene.
I feel a powdered fog and accept the temporary
nature of its presence. The mist moves to reveal
nonexistent shapes in the crowds, each
mirage a meditation chant,
"This unfolding isn't what you think it's about,
this unfolding isn't what you think it's about,
this unfolding isn't what you think it's about,
but then maybe it is."
The air warms up now, giving permission to homeostasis to ask
for a balancing drink. A sip to treat my tongue to some
nostalgia–did that sun-burned water massage the back of your
throat and remind you of lunch break
in the hilly tropics with Grandma?
Eucalyptus, jacaranda...beauty was everything, beauty was sublime,
now it only rests on my shoulders when I'm struggling for a rhyme.
Sometimes, too, it rests on my shoulders when there's
music. But lately I play dirges, I'm 26 thinking about mortality.
Lately when I play an instrument it's the posthumous soundtrack
to a childhood of refuse dump-scavenging for gourds, the kind that ballooned from plants that grew amongst garbage so I could sell
to the craftsman who used them for his xylophones.
The sun and breeze play their repetitive games on my skin and
this city plaza. Come, go, shade, shine. How many weathers had
to hold silent to allow for this dominant weather's
presence? Once you said there're many particles of
dark matter that hide behind the scene
but pave the way for the glory of matter seen.
Still we relegate one lineage to the disclaimer 'dark’ and the
other is simply 'matter', canonized. A bird started chirping
its morning call as I look at you and the shuffling people. It's
not talking to me but my ears eavesdrop and warp its whistle to
tell my brain, "It's here, it's here", over and over. Over and
over in this season, when doing is having, when having is being.
Every Image is a Mirror
by Mary Bast
As a child in the white man’s world,
my military father instructed me
how I must pay attention to the rules:
be an angel yet genuflect to masculinity,
and always ascend, seek more,
be the best, never good enough.
Such smoldering in my soul:
the muted, muffled, hushed,
but not quiescent rebel
stepping through the mirror of my image
to the anarchist inside, who found
a world beyond the rules,
a universe expanding far beyond
the black and white discriminations
of the honchos still in charge,
toward whom our strength
can only be the majesty of tai chi:
Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain.
by J.N. Fishhawk
there will never
be enough for all of us
that pour-back from crenelated crater depths
of planet’s pitted flesh
to the working, wordless
shadow from the mountains down
over hills, over top of trees
to go ‘round
to go to ground
to be cleansed in suckling depths of sandy earth
sweat out of air
wrung to be flood
from out the hushed swell of dusk
sky of bruises, sky of cold, yawning dead-flesh sores
much less the koi
over each other
sucking accidental air
ever more often
at dwindling horizon
of ornamental pond
here is hunger
here is want
here is the drowned howl’s eternal pucker
outside of salt and silt
O where will you go
O shadowed sucklings?
when there is no more skyfall to swell and slick
petals of your scales?
down from mountains
down over hills
down over tops of trees
shade upon shade falls
ghost-tones of the sweetness
we’ve bled out the clouds and glaciers:
cornflower clematis iris hydrangea chicory gentian hyacinth indigo
(all your scales in the shade like stuck petals)
shadow out of mountains
shade up from underside of pond
when these meet in the middle of the sweat-less air
what world will be left for writhe and slip, for clutch, for tail-flip
of kept, of captive
by Wendy Thornton
Growing up, they weren’t allowed to blow the dandelions from their roots. This would propagate these evil plants, spread them everywhere, ruin a perfectly good perfect lawn. The children would sneak into the yards of their neighbors, steal the fluffy puffballs, and blow them away, like summer snowflakes.
When the girl grew older, she ran away to a college in the south, where dandelions dotted the paths through the woods between buildings. She brought the flowers into her dorm room and filled her windows with cuttings.
An old hippy man down the street would invite her in, make dandelion tea, and play for her his latest LP, the Beatles letting go, Simon and Garfunkel building a desperate bridge, the Jackson 5 promising to be there. He was so kind, but the tea was awful, bitter, the taste of a dead lime on her tongue.
Once she had planned to run away, to a place where real snow fell, where the people were brilliant and kind. But the longer she stayed in the land of dandelions, the more she appreciated their delicate realm.
Later, she grew her own lawn, organic, edible, free of pesticides and chemicals. She picked the weeds out by hand. At the end of an afternoon of yard work, exhausted, sweaty, she would sit and watch the bees and butterflies bless the dandelions. Then she’d rise, gather a bouquet of those snowy pollinators, and blow on the puffballs to create more.
by Nancy E. Dohn
Light from the orb above penetrates his eyelids,
a thing that never happened in the dense forest.
He squints open – hoping, but his surroundings are the same.
Rising, he lopes to the tower circle that surrounds him,
a frustrating boundary that he has not grown accustomed to.
He looks upward, a muscle tsunami rippling through his silver back, but there is no escape.
There’s a well-worn path at the circle’s base,
a result of mindless pacing.
He begins his back and forth morning ritual, longing for the trails of his ancestors.
A scraping sound catches his attention,
a signal that the small, dark square in the circle is opening.
He watches as a bucket is placed inside, recalling when the lush, green forest fed him.
The Watchers will be here soon, gathering above the pond, where
a vine-like web of shiny branches covers part of the circle.
He tried once to pull on the vine, experiencing a shock of pain that made him fall.
Snorting, he returns to the large boulder in the center of the circle,
an object unknown in the forest, that now provides cover in an open world.
He settles at its base, deep inside the protective foliage, watches and waits another day.
Horizontal Klimpt: The Gloaming of Dreamtime
by J. Elliott
The plump, familiar pillow receives my busy brain
induces the nightly ritual,
cushioning the head into
the bed of gold, element of transition
into dark of night, absence of light
sacred passage through the gloaming of the dreamtime
into the abyss of delta waves.
Yin and Yang play tag as consciousness falters,
anxiety fights rest,
Worry and Fret play jacks in the mind
scattering the barbed little bits about,
bouncing fragmented ideas
scooping up shards of thoughts.
Often the horizontal Klimpt
is verklempt: overwrought with the emotions of the day, of the past.
I-wish-I had, why-didn’t I? or just why-the-*bleep*-did-that-happen?
Sorrow, Regret, Confusion stop by like mourners paying respects
Should-have and Could-have will have to wait.
It’s too late now.
Now I lay me down to sleep
Divine Universe, protect me, bless me.
Please come, Sleep.
Thoughts encroach, memories drop in like
bitter chocolate chunks in cookie batter,
voices, colors, emotions, and codes, vie for expression and domination.
Mind and body letting go, sinking.
But there is something there, wanting attention.
It hovers and snickers, undulates, fades, reforms.
Kick out, cry out against the sharp cramp in the calf.
Now I lay me down to sleep.
The niggling something, hovers still.
Do I know you?
You might, it snickers. I don’t care about the covers. I want to steal something else.
I’m not listening, I think, rolling over and mushing the pillow.
I won’t go that easily, it goads.
Is it otherworldly or a chemical phantasm?
Cold Medicine Monster?
They can make for some turbulent,
hold-onto-the-mattress vertigo dreams.
Now I lay me down to sleep
Absinthe, the famed “Green Fairy” makes the heart grow fonder.
Sounds clever, but it’s not true; it just makes the mind absent.
Staring at a wall becomes all absorbing, fascinating.
Heart and mind off to the void
better than Calgon could ever take me away.
I had the chance to try the real wormwood stuff once.
Conversation became too complicated, tedious,
but that wall and I shared an extended, intense knowing.
Alcohol: loutish, snoring bedfellow…
No. None of these.
Oh, fine time for a hot flash, good grief…
Fumble for the fan switch, bump it to high.
Now I lay me down to sleep
Oh, you think? it asks, mocking.
Will not listen to you.
I banish you
Be gone. I will not give you strength or power.
Surround myself with mirrors of protection.
I summon peace.
Golden bed, honeyed dreams?
Sunny yellow, bright, childhood crayon color,
stay in the lines
guide me, protect me. Let me rest in peace.
Hypnos and Erebus I am here, receive me.
Ahh, Serenity. Relaxation. The bed receives the body entirely.
I break free from the murky green tormentor.
Weightless, I take flight.
by Jenifer Dearinger
I lay on my back gazing through the portal above.
Dark leaves twisted through tangled vines. The dome above warped the rays of sun.
Sunshine engulfed the panes of glass. Birds nested in the tree branches and sang songs of tranquility.
I lay on my stomach staring down the hole below.
The light distorted as if I were looking through a ship’s periscope. Black water prevented me from seeing into the depths. Decayed leaves dusted the ocean floor.
Just on the other side of the windowed floor swathed in a blanket of kelp floated an angelic starfish.
I stood at the entrance looking through the tunnel ahead.
A deep, dark void stretched between me and the light.
The pinprick of light surrounded by vines of lush leaves and flowers beckoned me to new beginnings.
Perspective in art is created with line, illusion, and shadow. The artist has used line, illusion, and a lack of shadows to deliberately set a stage where the viewer must decide where he is in relation to the work of art. Simple shapes make repeating patterns in series of threes. Psychologically, odd numbers create interest through disharmony. The brain is constantly trying to create symmetry and odd numbers oppose that concept.
Each person brings their own history, outlook, and imagination to the study of the piece of art. A person’s emotional reaction to art is always from his/her point of view.
I guess it all depends on your
by Sara Pedroni
Our home place is peeling apart
That which we are trying to sew together
is coming to not
Set in the vastness of universal space
the planet burns hot
The fissure grows……..
temporary and feeble repairs
will not hold
The First Orange Persimmon Leaf
by J. Elliott
Autumn in Florida is so muted, I planted pear and persimmon trees to contrast the oaks and evergreens, to remind me, ironically, of my youth. I’m in the autumn of my life but each year, that first orange persimmon leaf transports me to:
Halloween costumes, shh-shh-shh sounds of feet through leaves, flashlights, voices, laughter, the mulchy, woodfire air, the pillowcase dragging with candy Tootsie Roll pops, Chuckles gummies, Almond Joys, my favorite! I’m freezing, tired and frustrated with my costume failure – my mask is falling over my eyes again. Where are we going? Yes! That house looks promising! I hope they have Reese’s peanut butter cups.
My first semester on the Cumberland Plateau where my ears took weeks to adjust to the altitude. My heartbeat and breathing louder than people’s voices. What if my body can’t take this place? Will I never adjust? Leaves so glorious yellow against the azure sky, against the oranges of the next tree and the ruby reds of the next all waving together celebrating the season of Samhain. I ache with the beauty. Mountain of Majesty indeed! Divinity is here. October, Homecoming—bands in frat houses, campus writhing with activity, need more party beads? Groups of drunk people staggering on the sidewalks laughing, music pumping, magic, darkness, exhilarating, scared. Feel so alive.
New York City Gingko trees so yellow, so exotic, so happy line my street, flourishing out of the concrete Central Park! Truly magnificent! I have my Sony Walkman on. Free from college. Me! Laverne in the Apple! I love my short boots made for walking, perfect heels, I strut and dance to Cat Stevens because I gotta let it out! Best hot cocoa ever on a snowy night in the Village in a coffee shop called Dante’s watching flakes fall on bundled passers-by. Fireplace reflects orange and red on the ceiling like an impassioned aurora borealis.
Kyoto in autumn. Vermillion torii gates and orange leaves. Orange fruit dangle like ornaments from bare branches. This, dear, is a kaki: persimmon. To this day, kaki comes to mind first. Sweet beyond peach or mango. How had I never had one before? Sunday temple hopping and hikes. Feet so cold my toes get chilblains! How can leek and chicken soup taste so exquisite?
Recent vivid dream. Autumn in Japan again. Dark tree bark accentuates the explosion of gold and vermillion foliage. A simple wooden hut. I approach. Up steps, turn right, entrance through the gift shop. Dust covered display of religious trinkets: statues, amulets, bracelets, prayer beads. To my right, a smiling elderly obasan in an ocean-blue kimono waits for me. A ticket turnstile behind her. Beyond, an immense, glistening, golden amusement park that reaches to the heavens. I hear distant music, cheers, and laughter. I don’t have a ticket. This. Is Nirvana. Heaven. I am at the gate. I weep with the impact.
“May I go in?”
“Not yet,” she smiles.
I woke with wet eyes.
by Connie Biddle Morrison
I have a friend in Oregon. We parted on unfriendly terms, but now I think of her whenever the fires are on the news. I think of what a good artist she is and how I wish I had been a better person and was still in touch with her so I would know what is going on, that she is safe, or not.
I see the flames the reporter says are near. I smell the toxic smoke that could be curling under her door. I feel the heat of fire, and my face reddens at the thought of my last words, words I wish I could take back. When we met, she came on strong like a fiery blaze, her reeling from a divorce, me fresh into widowhood. My private side got overwhelmed. I snuffed out her enthusiasm with unreturned calls, the coward’s way.
I have a friend in Oregon.
by Fern F. Musselwhite
Where is Kenna?
What do you mean?
She was here a few minutes ago. I told her to pack her things. The fire is coming, and we need to leave. Her bag is half packed but I can’t find her.
Thea runs through the kitchen and out the back door. The smoke is waiting in ambush to fill her nose and eyes. Kenna, she thinks, she screams. Where have you gone?
Behind the cottage, the yard opens up into meadow. The tall green blades of summer sway in the wind, like worshippers entranced in their fervor, arms raised toward heaven. The sunlight falters, the blue of afternoon favors darkness, as smoke begins to gather. Underneath the thickening sky, through the lush grass, the trail winds away into the forest beyond.
Where is my child?
Thea runs through the open field, gasping for clean air. For clarity. In her mind she sees Kenna. Strands of auburn hair loosening from her ponytail. A freckled cheek shiny with sweat. Running shoes caked with mud. She knows her daughter will have run these trails one last time. Searching for animals to shepherd, for brambles to harvest for replanting. For any life to save from what man has wrought. What man has destroyed.
She pictures Kenna running into the woods. Running toward the flames. Running until she is gone.
My child. Please God, my child. I will walk into your fire if you save my girl inflamed.
The Green-Eyed Spotted Cat
by Persis Granger
In the days of our beginning, life teemed from the earth. Every manner of beast, bird, reptile and insect erupted from the soil as if to take over the world. Chaos ruled, each fighting for dominion, and none succeeding. It was the elephant who spoke first. He trumpeted, “Silence!” and in the flutter of a gnat’s wing, all were silent.
The elephant went on. “We all want to inhabit this paradise, and we can, but first we must cooperate.” The animals did not know what “cooperate” meant, but the elephant was very large and very loud, so they listened. He continued. “If we fight with one another, we will fail, but if we make a plan, we can succeed.”
The animals’ bellies were empty. “We need to go find food, right now,” said the largest lion. “That wildebeest over there would suit my fancy.” They all grumbled. A king cobra, coiled and stretched his hooded head high. “Sssssssssupper!” he hissed. The animals all began to raise their voices, shouting for food.
“QUIET!” shouted the elephant. He twitched his trunk, thumping a jackal on its head. “I have a plan. We will divide up our world, and each kind of animal will have dominion over one part in which to live and forage. I will select a ruler for each group. Once you have your share, all must agree to obey the rules; no cheating.”
The other animals, eager for a chance to fill their bellies, chorused agreement, and went their separate ways, some to the prairies, some to the forest, some to the skies or to the lakes and rivers. And they saw that it was good to make their homes among kindred creatures.
One sharp-clawed, green-eyed spotted cat didn’t agree, not at all. No one, not even the loud-mouthed elephant, would tell him where he could hunt, or what prey he could take. With his lightning speed he went where he wanted, ate what pleased him, and moved on to whatever place struck his fancy.
He roamed the forests and plains, often lurking in tall grass, seeking delectable prey to chase down and devour. He frequented the ocean, river and lake shores, stealing fish and small shellfish. He played not by the rules, but instead sneaked into the territories of others, stole what he wanted, then skulked away to bask in the sun or play ball. No rules applied to this green-eyed spotted cat.
It then came to pass that the other beasts called a council meeting to complain to the elephant. One after another bore witness against him.
“He invades the dominions of others to steal food!”
“He lies and pretends he doesn’t.”
“He watches other animals, follows them on hunts, then jumps in to steal their prey.”
“What kind of beast is this despicable cat?” bellowed the elephant.
The aardvark spoke. “We know not. He does not play fair like leopards and tigers. We call him a ‘Cheetah’.”
Applause for the Puppeteer
by Leo Hines
We all are puppeteers,
Hiding behind our public demeanors,
To share our innermost feelings
With friends and foes or sometimes
The man in the mirror.
Lamb Chops and Howdy Dowdy,
Kermit the Frog and out-spoken Ms. Piggy
Are our kindred spirits on Life's revolving bright stage.
Joe New Jersey
by James W. Harper
“I’m not crazy, you’re crazy.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! I’m crazy to be sitting here with a brainless fool.”
A few cackles echo off martini glasses.
“Sam, you keep doing the same thing, expecting a new voice to come out of my head? Want me to sing a song?”
“No, Volley, no. I think the people have suffered enough.”
After polite applause, Sam the ventriloquist put away his puppet and ventured home. He heated up a few hot dogs and settled into a greenish couch to catch the last bit of Johnny Carson. The TV’s noise dampened the chortles of Atlantic City.
That night, Sam dreamed a new dream. His 262-pound frame slimmed to 179, his hair returned, his right hand sported a red boxing glove. Gliding above the boardwalk, he commanded the clouds to change colors. With a flourish, he conducted the seagulls into a flying circle. Petite flowers spouted from his footprints.
“All aboard for Chestnut Hill,” cried a loudspeaker, and Sam followed the voice to a garish train station. Throngs cheered as he performed a dance number worthy of Gene Kelly.
Then the woman in the red dress appeared – her face hidden, her limbs long. She moved both rapidly and lugubriously, and Sam longed to save her from approaching thunderclouds. He snapped, but the clouds only thickened. He whistled, but no birds appeared on the wind. All colors drained and the station became silent.
Now Sam stared at a black and white photograph. Between blurs of rushing passengers was a facial still life – was this Helen? – and he knew that she was gone.
The next morning, Sam sauntered through a casino where he used to work, searching the gaudy atmosphere and listening to the “ching ching ching” of slot machines. He crossed paths with a familiar bartender.
“Hey Sam, you still cooking at the Caesar?”
“Nah, doing shows at the Palisades. You?”
“Nothing much, just tipping ice at the Cardinal.”
As the two men parted, Sam turned and saw a glamourous woman smoking from a long black cigarette holder. She eyed him briefly, then leaned into the blackjack table.
“I don’t belong here,” he thought.
That night, he tried out some new dialogue with Volley the dummy. The audience sparse, the spotlight bright – “what the hell,” he thought.
“Volley, have you ever tried boxing?”
“Boxing? You know I can’t! My arms are made of cotton. But, I might like to try.”
“That’s the spirit Volley. Just imagine yourself in the ring with some other bozo.”
“I don’t have to imagine, take that!”
At that moment, Volley swung violently towards Sam and knocked both of them to the ground. It was so funny that five people laughed.
But Sam didn’t hear them. He hit the stage with his temple, closed his eyes, and soon his left ear released an unblemished rivulet of blood.
Space, Time, and Astronomy
by Wendy Thornton
Oh, you can say that men going into space in their own vehicles are like phallic passages. You know, old white guys finding young girls, balancing them on their knees, building silos and pseudo-penises to celebrate their once-remembered glory days.
And yes, all that money could go to so many important purposes. People are starving in the midst of a pandemic. They’re afraid to work, to leave their children alone at home as the schools close, and businesses close and pathways disappear. They live in fear, in the world’s richest country, wondering where their next meal is coming from.
Or the super star money could go to climate change, to help those (this week) in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California. More? Who can keep track? Hurricanes and floods and fires, oh my! Why would we not want to address this?
But then I think of my children, and then their children, and then their children and the beauty of a million molded conglomerates of humanity, melded into one, with one compulsion – to find a home where all can live peacefully, free of fires and floods and hurricanes, fighting for the right only to be okay.
And there’s a girl out there – she looks a bit like me – though much prettier. She could have picked the orange landing zone circled by rings like those of Saturn, but she liked the green planet better. She has black hair and eyes so brown they reflect the green-ringed planet discovered on the edge of the solar system which just happened to have water, wind, and solar options.
She grows crops on the open plains, her long thin fingers digging in the green dirt that just happens to grow food so well; no one knows what it is or how it works. But each day, a new ship comes in and she gives lessons on how to grow food, how to harvest and cook the unique plants that flourish wherever she goes. She is my great-great-however-far-into-the-future grandchild.
But so much more energetic than me, she likes to leap in the low gravity environment from one tree to another, grabbing the fruit and juggling, showing off for the new citizens. All are welcome here where the fear of climate catastrophes is just a mere memory of days gone by, mitigated by science, exploration, and the showboating arrogance of some old dead guys.
by Art Crummer
Our eyes meet
No frame clasps you
No poem holds me.
You see into me
and I in to you
spirits gaze grateful
song in soul.
No box locks you
No frozen frame
I dream I can fly.
Our fear and love No our love and fear
see me through appeal
muscles await your call.
Vulnerable strong I feel your shield
take me in
you may see through me.
I see through you.
Go Into the Light
by Mallory M. O’Connor
“Go into the Light,” she said. “It’s there for you.”
But it wasn’t that easy, was it?
Maybe I wasn’t as ready to let go as I had thought.
Suddenly, there were a million things holding onto me—people, places, ideas. My cat. Yes, the light was beautiful and yes, I could feel its pull. But I resisted. Clenched my teeth. Stiffened my arms.
The wind whipped through my hair like a solar storm, and I was lifted out of my body and flung into the vortex. My nightgown flared out behind me like a cape.
It was then that I remembered:
I am seven years old, and I am riding in the back seat of my parent’s Plymouth. It is twilight. I get up on my knees and look out the back window. The valley is spread out all the way to the western horizon where the wavy blue line of the Coast Range marks the edge of the world. The landscape is soft, covered with a lavender haze. A few lights blink on like stars.
But then, I feel myself moving slowly up into that twilight sky. The horizon bends as I rise higher and higher until I can see the whole earth before me—an exquisite crystal orb. And there is no line between us. I am one with the earth. And the sky. And the eternity of space.
I look once more at the light, and I no longer want to resist its magnetic pull. I remember now where I am.
I am going home.
by David DeKay
I lay dying upon an unnamed mountain on the fourth planet from the Sun. Oxygen bled from my suit, pierced by the compound fracture of my leg. The blush-drenched landscape reminded me of my grandmother's strawberry milk on our special Sundays. Church, then brunch. Bowling or cards with her knitting circle always concluded with a cold glass of milk on her porch. I could hear the first few revolutions of Nana's antique sterling silver spoon clinking off the Waterford crystal. I closed my eyes. The nostalgic ringing sounded like the environmental warning chiming in my helmet, subdued but urgent. The blood-red syrup would seep slowly into the milk and sink to the bottom until insistent pinging slowly integrated it in layers. Nana would hum to herself and stir until the sugary concoction became a uniform Amaranth pink. She served it to me on a wicker tray with a cloth napkin and a smile.
I felt a violent crimson snap as I contorted beneath the loosened rocks to reach my emergency repair kit. I wasted valuable oxygen to allow myself a muffled moan of agony as I forced my broken body into another unnatural position to spray self-healing nano-foam rubber into the jagged tear in my suit. A tear born of pain and frustration and, yes, finally fear, rolled down my cheek. I slumped my gaze back to the horizon, back to the hill in the distance, and wrestled my respiration back under control. The cheery voice in my helmet told me that my excruciating heroics had extended my viability window by three minutes and nineteen seconds. I’d also punctured my left lung. Nana had warned me about going into space. "No air out there," she told me with an austere look. I gasped out another white-hot sob that started life as a chortle—time to die, one hundred and forty million miles from home.
My onboard computer started a two-minute countdown to end my life as our rover crested the far-off hill. I could see the backward American flag next to where Beatrice painted a cartoon Martian wearing a green helmet with a ruby red horsehair crest and brandishing a 1950's raygun. The dirty white buggy tore across the crimson wasteland sending up vast plumes of gritty dust into the dull yellow sky. Yellow like Nana's porch on an autumnal Kansas afternoon with the Sun cool and low. My approaching salvation became little more than an off-white blotch as my vision faded and blurred before washing out entirely into a milky-red haze. I could only hear my shallow, ragged breathing and my Nana's spoon. My rescue tasted like blood from my lacerated lung, but it smelled like strawberry milk.
by Marie Q Rogers
She sat on the ground. The earth was cool. Grass tickled her bare legs. She closed her eyes and breathed in air scented by surrounding vegetation. The sun warmed her back.
Looking within, she centered herself amid the gyrations of thoughts and strove to bring herself into balance. Monkey brain flitted hither and thither, caught by worries, flashes of inspiration, solutions to problems. Set them aside.
A shudder vibrated through her, every nerve cell and fiber in her body, resetting her systems. Melting into the earth, she found peace. Her pores absorbed minerals. Her blood became living, flowing rock. Eons passed.
A flash of light! She burst forth with ecstasy, lungs taking in a substance lighter than air which filled the hollow of her bones, buoying her. No longer bound by earthly restraints, she rose into the air. Released from doubt and pain, she hovered above the earth. The blue dome of heaven stretched to infinity, welcoming her with open arms. She was flying!
She dared not look down. The earth below was but memory, a collection of stories, their pull like gravity. Air filtered through her pores. Wind scattered her molecules to the corners of the sky. A realm previously unknown to her opened. She relaxed into the possibility.
“Don’t look up.” No longer alone—the voice interrupted her reverie. “Just keep flying.” To where? A wisp of cloud brushed across her eyes. A hand reached down and clasped hers. She felt no pull but was immediately surrounded by translucent beings.
“What are you? Cloud people?”
A musical twittering like the bubbling of a brook.
“Who are you? Where did you come from?”
“You know us. We are always with you.”
“In the clouds?”
A chorus of twitters. “All around you. All the time. You need only pay attention. We are your angels and ancestors, your dragons and unicorns. Always ready to give you guidance.”
She sat on a cloud and discoursed with them. Time meant nothing.
But space? She looked up. The noonday sky was filled with stars. Nothing weighed her down. She rose toward them. But, alone again. The beings were gone. Disappointed, abandoned, she began to sink. “Why have you deserted me?”
The only reply, a faint, “Don’t look down.”
But look down she did. Below her, the earth stretched beyond the limits of vision, green and brown and blue. Above, clouds occluded the stars. She was still flying. How long can I remain in this state?
At that moment, the tremendous height astonished her conscious mind. How do I get down? For the first time, she felt fear.
Something within her woke. “I am dreaming. I can’t die in a dream.” Released, she began to fall. Too fast! The earth’s arms opened. Breathing in lighter-than-air, she settled, softly, onto the ground, wrapped in a cocoon of mist.
“Don’t worry,” the voices whispered. “We are always here for you.”
Opening the Curtains
by Connie Biddle Morrison
The moon is bright and full tonight as its rays draw me to the covered window. I caress the old wooden frame with one hand and wiggle the fingers of the other between the delicate lavender sheers. Using both hands now, I gently part the curtains to gaze out upon a miracle of moon flowers, tiny pink and white petals shimmering in reflected light.
The night is calm and still with no noises, no strife, just peace and tranquility as the mirrored radiance reaches me, me among millions who may be staring at this same moon in this same quiet moment of reflection.
Storm of Give and Take
by Nancy Jasko
wicked he rides dark
clouds of anger
feeds air with proud shouts
anoints sinner with spittle-fly
from angry lips his angry mind
feels world tilt in his favor
so slings more pain
steals her fight pressing
message of shameful disgust
broken she wields sharp
tears of anguish
breathes vow of new doubt
bathes in prayer she whispers
from desperate lips her weakened mind
feels the world tilt in his favor
still, she believes
so slides to her knees
shrinks from his words braving
silence against the tempest
furrowed his brows parked
on black eyes
grown in new hatred
sharpens fangs on new pet names
to drive home guilt with aim to hurt
waves roil in his favor
so he thunder-drums
hammers away throwing
more stones of loathing
dogged she rushes through
swayed by her impulses
whets her courage she bolsters her will
to even the score to tit-for-tat
never, she affirms
behind tightly closed eyes
his love now jetsam she soaks
up nothing spoken
she thinks of him
as she bends like a plant in the rain
in the storm of give and take
The Way It Works
by Skipper Hammond
Almost 2:00 pm. Almost ready. Two cans of beets. One more box of rice. A bag of chips. All ready.
The door opens and the young white woman with her ten-year-old enters. First in line. The nice ten-year-old smiles and says, “Thank you.” The mother touches her shoulder. The nice ten-year-old says, “ma’am.”
Failed Species Abortion
by Kaye Linden
Barbed wire fog layers hide shredded fish aftermath of bubble- headed grenades explosive-ready tied with round filaments chicken hair horse feathers pleading eyes hopeful humans ensnared in-between twilight descent in- between worlds tendrils trap limbs knee-deep in bog grip wire cling to breath cleaved branches rain orange agent burnt lungs retch in-between purple napalm cloud folds overlay bedrock roiling mists spew slime plasma spinal shivers splinter fevers in-between death layers stop inhalation stop exhalation stop struggle scuffle hold vapor stop breath stop poisonous atmosphere stop remains pink haze noxious nebula
but earth remembers
when one fruitful human gravida labors easy in miasmic stench
her fingernails claw into rock
newborn flesh wheezes primeval wet
crawls from fallen forests
digs under barbed fences
whimpering misshapen survivor
stands bent over
balances on twisted feet
reaches a tentacle towards the light
by Cynthia D. Bertelsen
Dazzling morning sunshine swept it away. Alone under Grandma’s crazy quilt, she struggled to patch the dream back together. Tracing the red velvet triangles and golden embroidered squares with shaking fingers, as if blindly working a jigsaw puzzle with no box, no pattern. Like the quilt, yes, the dream. Many shapes, many hands, many threads. Phantom hands reaching upward, yes, she remembered, hands of every shade. Beseeching, imploring. Hands scaffolding a kaleidoscope of colors, walls lunging toward infinity. Four butterflies, pink, yellow, pale lime green. Metamorphosis, one state of being transposed into another? A grinning skull, too, memento mori, precious relic of the Church. And that seductive apple, polished in hues of sparkling rubies and fresh-spilled blood. Original sin, yes. Terra firma blazing, vermillion, hellfire flames licking an onyx sky. Black-garbed, headless silhouettes emerging from chaos. Brains bursting into flowery nothingness, gazing eyeless at the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve? Or something else, something eternally sinister? Tuxedoed hands cradling innocence, a child, naked, dead. At the apex, two more hands, well-manicured, raised in prayer. Namaste! And then, hands besieged by tiny rubescent orbs, horned, demonic. Invisible to the naked eye. Pestilence, prophets droned on the nightly news, warning of the Pale Horseman riding ever closer. And three others, too, unseen, unnamed. But there, yes, waiting, their steeds pawing, snorting. She shook her head. Everything now only air, mirage. Was it a dream? A nightmare? Or reality?
Pater, dimitte illis: non enim sciunt quid faciunt.
Minority Weather, Part 1
by Reinfred Dziedzorm Addo
This city where we learned our knowledge is also where storms
of mystery flood our heads, an atmosphere is clouded and the
sky is raining on a sunny day; my jubilation at fruits sprouting,
a "hallelujah" because I know the sun pulled up the tree, but
maybe there is a necromancer, maybe the soaked soil underfoot
and its skeletons and compost pushed up the tree into the sky.
Long ago you told me the tree brushes the air and makes
our field of vision its canvas, making vibrant art of
the firmament; beauty was in everything, beauty was divine. I think
about that canvas now as it looks at us, and it knows we're sure
we know what it's all about just because we get the clearest view
from this city's high-rise balconies. This canvas speaks and it's
a metronome for the seasons' changes, an orchestra director for
time's stay. Branches sway-paint the air, each creak turning
the skyline into a statement,
"This piece isn't what you think it's about
this piece isn't what you think it's about,
this piece isn't what you think it's about,
but then maybe it is."
This city taught me many knowings, like what to wear to what event,
how to approach strangers, how to court romance. Yet I don't know
the mysteries of things diametrically opposed, I think it's the same
for you too; like why the highest leaves of a tree depend on
the lowest roots, like how rain clouds let the sun
have its say most days, like how the dew lets vapor drive it
into exile except when it's night and there's no audience
to see the summoning of glistening water beads.
You will hold your palms out and touch this city's mist, you'll
wait for the wind and remember your two fair and cradling palms
felt things at the expense of the many outstretched black hands
that couldn't touch blossoming flowers; shine your eye and be alert
for what the weather brings, peer into the horizon for the unknown
and the unknown hour at which it'll come. Revel in the understated,
like the duality of a sunny rain, like the infinity of
the horizon's edge, like the irony of expecting a surprise.
by Susie H. Baxter
My name is curlytopus and I live on the planet of Spartanea. Our star Celesty plays a role in photosynthesis as does your sun on earth. But Celesty burns so brightly she would blind me if not for zillions of plankton that drift about my fluid underworld.
I am unique in this space, thanks to the DNA inherited from my mother, who is a rich cobalt blue, and her mate, who blends with the waving eelgrass. He caught her unaware one evening. They had only a one-minute encounter—totally unromantic, she said—but long enough to produce me. So, far be it from me to complain about my dad’s slyness.
As a youngster, I wanted to be the same color as my grayish friends, instead of my unusual hue. I wished to have myself completely tattooed as I hear humans do on earth. Now that I am mature, though, I am proud to be uniquely turquoise. I’m quite handsome, don’t you think?
Three years ago, I moved out and away from my mom’s strong tentacles and found this new place of my own. Nobody yells at me here. All night long if I wish, I can bounce off the walls of my room, once painted maroon. And I can blow as many bubbles as I like, just for the fun of watching them float upward and tap my companion Ceilia on the cheek. Sometimes when my bubbles burst in Ceilia’s face, she sneezes. So I am now in the process of making her a mask in case Covid comes our way.
Tangerine Sunrising #1
by Leo Hines
That ole morning sun,
Brimming like a Sunkist orange
And chicken cackling
Brings back memories
Of visiting Our grandma's
Little red tiled home
In the turpentine quarters.
Granny earned her living
As laundress to the owner.
I can hear her feisty roosters
Competing in a crowing contest,
For Top-Cock of the backyard.
No sleeping with all their ruckus.
Granny has biscuits in the oven,
And bacon sizzling on the stove-top,
While we eagerly assist her,
Feeding Her noisy brood.
The sun beams down brightly,
Almost blinding our young eyes,
But we couldn't be happier,
Spending time at Granny's.
by Skipper Hammond
Pebbles on a tile floor.
Leopards on a glass ceiling.
The flute twists and bounces.
Sand sweeps across the floor, stops.
by Ronnie Lovler
Years ago, they had hung out in this neighborhood together. As boys they had run through here with other youngsters, often ending up at Sr. Velasco’s corner grocery store when they would unfurl a dime for their fingers and buy themselves a treat. They would while away many an afterschool afternoon near this lot and often find themselves meeting up here on a Saturday when there was nothing else much to do.
Both grew up and had moved on to other cities, other towns. As so often happens, they lost touch with each other, but from time to time when they reflected on the “good old days,” they would think of each other fondly. Neither of these two men had family here any longer, but from time to time, nostalgia would pull them back to their old stomping grounds. But they had never bumped into each other until this day. Although running shoes and t-shirts were part of their regular attire, for both, their running days were behind them. Both separately, had decided to go out for a walk.
After the men hugged upon seeing each other, they stopped to talk, and to remember, what for them were simpler and less complicated times. But after a half hour they still weren’t ready to say good-by. They walked off in the direction of Sr. Velasco’s store, surprisingly still there. They stopped in to say hello to Sr. Velasco, who himself was surprisingly still there. But a brewery had opened down the street and so, they rightfully concluded that the occasion called for a nice cold beer or two in what ended up being a very special Florida day for both.
Turning Into Flowers
by Wendy Thornton
Praise for the friend who told me
not to throw away old pots of plants,
plants that someone gave me,
a gift for a birthday, a holiday, a kindness.
My black thumb was so assured.
But they’re dead, I said.
She laughed, then put the impoverished plants
directly in the sun, watered them lightly
patted the pot like a puppy and said,
You never know. They may still grow.
And so they did.
Through the Depths
by Marie Q Rogers
I lost count of the times the shaman invited me into the mountain. My first answer—a categorical “No.” He persisted. His stories told of seekers who’d undergone wondrous transformations. He wore away my resolve like water wears rock.
I followed him to the dark edges of my mind but lacked courage to proceed. What lurked in those shadows? Sins long buried, not forgotten? Actions, thoughts, intentions too shameful to bring into the light? Memories, poignant, painful? And more beyond consciousness. Or vaguely in the margins of consciousness, thus unspeakable.
“Why focus on the dark?” he asked. “There is also light.”
The light lured me into the gloom. He lit a torch. I followed.
Squeezing through a jagged cleft in the rock, we entered a limestone vault that absorbed torchlight. Shades flickered on pale gray walls. The fissure through which we’d arrived was swallowed by a fold of stone. No light betrayed its presence. There was no going back.
I sheltered my head with my arms and folded in on myself.
“Come,” he said.
“The other side of the mountain. The only way.”
The shaman’s torch bore on, into a place as tight as a womb. Darkness engulfed torchlight.
Memories and hints of memories, pain and guilt, stretching back to childhood, assaulted me. I clenched my fists to keep from touching them, but one soft dark thing broke through. I caressed it. The warmth of my hand dissolved its foulness.
“See?” said the shaman. “Your mind creates monsters that don’t exist.”
He slipped through a narrow crevice that began to close behind him. The torch dimmed. “Don’t abandon me!” I shed guilt and followed to another chamber.
Torchlight barely reached the walls. Shapes emerged to half form in the gloom, phantasms bearing faces I’d wronged. I cowered against condemnation. The faces softened. Was I forgiven? A face before me transformed to one I saw daily in the mirror. Every face, my own, smiled.
“It’s hardest to forgive yourself,” he whispered.
Our path intersected with a stream whose course led ever downward, to the very roots of the mountain. Crushed by its weight, I moaned.
He lifted me. “It’s not your burden to bear alone.”
Climbing, each bend in the path brought new trials. Passages led off I knew not where. The torch burned low. Would we wander, lost forever, our bones crumbled into limestone?
The expiration of hope births a certain freedom. A mantle I’d worn through memory slipped away and laid me bare. The torch flickered. The shaman dropped it into the dust, extinguishing it.
Darkness no longer threatened. He shone with light brighter than the torch. I reached for him. He motioned toward me. “Behold the source of the light.”
His was only a reflection. I looked upon myself and found it—the light was I! Up the path, sunshine emerged from between two rocks. At the exit, I turned back to him, but he was gone.