Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Altar-ed Reality

Nature Worship
by Johanna DeBiase

         She folded her knees beneath her and hung her head over her praying hands, “Please, please, Mother Nature, not now, I'm not ready.” She made the altar in art class when she decided that she did not believe in God anymore. Without proof of a kingdom in heaven, she was unwilling to be part of the hoax. Instead, she decided to believe in Mother Nature because there was proof of her all around. She used old wood scraps for the base and glued on pictures of plants. In the center, she glued a silver fairy to represent Mother Nature. She was pleased with her project and so was her teacher who gave her an A.
        At night, she knelt at Nature's altar and promised to be good if only Desomnd would fall in love with her, for she learned in school that love was just hormones and hormones were part of Nature. When Desmond kissed her under the bleachers, she knew her altar had worked so she asked for more. And Desomnd called her his girlfriend and Desomnd asked her to the dance.
       But the night of the dance, Nature betrayed her when blood, red as the plastic chili peppers she glued to her altar, ran down the inside of her thigh. She cursed Nature, throwing her altar across the floor before begging God to make it stop.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ralph Lauren

Riding High
by Charles Clayton

It had been a hard road. Hostile takeovers. Congressional hearings. A bit of pay to play down in Jefferson County, and the constant threat of investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Things looked bleak for awhile, but he pulled through, just like always. Even Madoff and Kennyboy Lay had dropped the ball when things got too hot. Not him. Not ever. He was tough. He was a maverick. He was a goddamn cowboy banker, and nobody could ride out the storms the way he did.

But he’d had enough. He claimed his bonus, cashed in his impressive stock options, and headed west. If I can make it in New York, he laughed to himself, then I can make it anywhere, even in the rugged Colorado mountains. He picked up the ranch for a song—35 million, with water rights and a 10,000 square foot ranch cabin—and settled into his new life of fly-fishing and horseback riding.

The property itself was perfect, and not too far from the Koch place—now there’s a fellow who knew how to wheel and deal a good land swap with the Feds. His love life was good, now that his lawyers had finally settled things with his ex-wife. No serious health problems now that he’d cut back on the cocaine. Back in touch with his daughter too, something he thought might never happen. All seemed well, yet something wasn’t quite right. Something was missing. One final piece of the puzzle.

It was the trip to Aspen that did it. A bit of window shopping with the new missus—a hot piece of ass he’d met through the realtor who handled the ranch sale—and there it was: the mother of all belt buckles. Rugged yet classy. Rich yet down to earth. A perfect combination of high finance and high mountain living that symbolized his success…Outlaw Chic. He had arrived.

Buckle Under
by Johanna DeBiase

        He decided to retire to Ecuador because he had spent the last thirty years of his life working in a cubicle, because his pension was measly and he had no savings, because it sounded exotic and his life had never sounded exotic.
       He did not realize until he arrived in Ecuador (after selling all of his belongings) that everyone spoke Spanish.     He felt stupid for not thinking of this. He did not speak a lick of Spanish. He could have taken a class but he was cheap and instead he moved into a neighborhood referred to as Gringolandia and frequented ex-pat bars and cafes like Inca Bar, Cafe Austria and Eucalyptus. He went to the mall and ate at KFC and Burger King.
       One day, he went to the market where a man was selling leather belts. He saw a buckle with a silver bull encrusted in diamonds. At closer look, he saw that it said Ralph Lauren. He knew the name of the designer because his ex-wife coveted his clothes in fashion magazines though they could never afford them.        Fortunately, the buckle was labeled with a price since he did not know how to ask. Forty-five dollars seemed extraordinarily inexpensive for a fancy brand name. It was a lot for him, but he bought it anyway and felt like a king. If only his ex-wife could see him.
       That night at the Inca Bar, he talked with fellow chain-smoking Americans about life in Ecuador. One over-weight woman commented about the unfortunate high-expense of imports.
       “What do you mean?” he asked, “Everything seems so cheap here.”
       “Well, yeah, groceries or services like taxi rides or Spanish tutors, but anything you want to buy that was imported like electronics or clothing has been taxed the hell out of.”
       He began to sweat nervously. When he returned to his room, he immediately took out his new belt buckle and smiled at the sparkle and shine that entranced him into buying it in the first place. But as he fitted it onto his favorite belt, his smile turned around. He noticed something peculiar that he did not see before, the spelling: Ralf Lauren.

Noon Fishing Report
by Robin Powlesland

Tommy H on tennis socks
and lobster flattened between
kraut and miracle whip
road sign become water way signs
and we drive up and down
back and forth - two lost fronds
slipping between the palms

Monday, October 1, 2012

Love in Ruins

The Whole Town Cleanse
by Ned Dougherty

because the gardens are beds of straw blanketing
rows of garlic and onion in hibernation
there is a run on
kale and rainbow chard in the produce aisle

the corn stalks are brittle beige, and the ears
all husked and buttered

but there is no more dairy
only ancient grains and steamed broccoli

the hunter’s moon’s come and gone
the crimson stained stone of the slaughter

steaks trimmed and frozen in the meat locker
but the body isn’t primed for stew

just cabbage and pale carrot
parsnip puree with cubed jicama

the beautifully bone-dull hued meals
and the transparent bottles of vodka for the liver screaming just in case

all shedding excess as the days wane into winter
see them skin and skeleton
before the holiday party plump
when they sip spiked ciders along the farolito redbow wreathed streets

Painted Face
by Gary Feuerman

There might be some beauty out there. It’s hard to tell where it is when everyone’s in face paint. The haunting of this darkening and deadening time of year is upon me. Despite the sun shining relentlessly as October turns into November, the fields are mute and matted, the stiff stalks ready for the sudden changeover to snow and ice. Darkness now descends before 6pm and my limbs are heavy, resenting the responsibility to do anything. The ancestors are around. I have had the hollow of my belly filled with their tugging presence, importuning me to stop and acknowledge the unseen, or even the seen which I’ve not been seeing. Dancing with the dead, in my head, on the dance floor, on the road that leads to the gorge, I am avoiding their message, yet wishing for their blessing. Painted faces are all around, heads swaying, music luring me into the dark. I don’t know who they are, but I’m curious. I’ll walk with them into the broken yard, but first I have to finish some stuff.

Modern Love
by Eric Mack
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I'm Feeling Romantic
by Robin Powlesland

I’m feeling romantic
reading romantic things
about edna st. Vincent millay
reading renaissance out loud
having read this book before
on my twenty first birthday
and I feel so new
yet that I haven’t begun
is it that I’m taking so long
or that certain things begin awkwardly
and join hands along frail lines
there is very little about where I am at now
that could have been set down
when I first read this book
and possibly I hungered then
for things I am just now slowly beginning
and yet I don’t know what is most important
where the starving flower lives
that needs my certain attention
I can’t seem to discover what question
is voiced loudest or
with that tinge of desperate impatience
I would I think go to him – if I could
even if he would not have me
I would try to lay quiet pride and misgivings
feel only his nearness – his solidity and heat
but in all the not knowing
in the letting the years go by
I angle also towards far away places
and remote islands
where I can keep busy
and still this constant need for change

by Charles Clayton

It was a shotgun wedding. Sort of. Neither of them knew it at the time, but she was pregnant. Morning sickness gave it away—nausea during the honeymoon, and not, as he thought at first, from the free-range beef tacos at the reception. There was definitely a baby on the way.

The life plan had been to keep doing what they’d been doing: writing poems, painting canvasses, traveling, with a bit of carpentry and waitressing now and then to pay the bills…the slacker dream, extended well beyond reason, with the added bonus of wedding rings. The love plan had been straight out of Kahlil Gibran—filling each other’s cup but not drinking from the same cup, spaces in their togetherness, that sort of thing. But the hand of Life intervened by fashioning a noose out of cloth diapers and hanging the couple’s nearsighted visions and high falluting philosophies from the nearest playground slide.

They stood at the altar together, unaware that the moment was one of the last that would be solely about them. The wedding was the beginning of the end. The end of avoiding a real job. The end of restful nights. The end of long days of coffee and books and long nights of wine and sex. The end of their lives as they knew them…and the beginning of something better than either of them ever could have imagined.

Caldera is a Cauldron-like Volcanic Feature Usually Formed by the Collapse of Land Following an Eruption.
by Johanna DeBiase

She first noticed it in the car, on the way home from a party where she spent the last hour sitting on the couch and pouting because he was ignoring her pleas to go home. A small chasm existed between them that wasn't there before. She knew then that their relationship would not last. Just as any rational person suspects that love can not last forever, that the myth of growing old together belongs to the religious or a long gone era.

Ecuadorian folklore suggests that even the volcano gods, rising up from the earth together, laughing ecstatically as their lava ceremoniously burns the pastures below, even their love will decease. On cold nights, Volcano Imbaburra leaves his mistress Cayambe snowcapped as his betrothed Cuicocha watches on.

The road rose up the mountainside. Shifting gears, he seemed oblivious to the distance that now settled between them. How much longer? she wondered. Shivering, she rolled up the window.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blue Moon

A Triangulation of Images Over the Course of One Weekend
by Johanna DeBiase

1. I noticed the approaching ambulances did not have their sirens on. Three firemen stood around the wreckage of an SUV, upside down in the middle lane of the highway. Even in the rubbernecking traffic, there was an eerie silence as we passed just a few feet from the accident. I wondered how it happened. Only the front portion of the roof was crushed. The window was rolled down. And then I saw it, a sight that still haunts me, a sleeve of a plaid shirt, much like the one my husband beside me was wearing, a torso folded over itself.

2. It was watching us as if it heard our old truck coming from way down the dirt road. It just stood there staring, its eyes following our path along the bend. “Stop the car. What is that?” “A dog? A fox? A coyote?” “I've never seen a coyote that wasn't running away.” A minute passed in that long pause before it turned and ran back into the forest. “Yep, that's a coyote.”

3. The blue moon rose over the mountains. My daughter and I laid in the river, the water rushing over us, cooling off from the hot baths, giggling. “Mama, why does the moon follow me?” “To watch over you.” “Why does it watch me?” “To keep you safe.”

the sound wing makes on air
by Robin Powlesland

coconut husk 6ft away 
from compost barrier
crow sucks air above head
an ant crawls across dirt
in front of concrete where 
I sit in front of sitting
there is a distance between words
and what crawls where
there is a distance
between what crawls in mind
and what crawls green
egg shells on dirt
and dried husks of what was
metal piles of drying string
empty and unstrung
the spot where the old Chilean
hammock hung
has only dried thread
and half broken clothes pins
the crow makes known
#22 Jose Pacheco
and distance streaks
between the branches
it's home wherever
we/I go
this place outside of
my skin itches
with the insects
and my breath hardens
with the air
I can go wherever
I want to

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hurricane Morning Clouds

Untitledby Charles Clayton

Soon, Man, Soon
It’s as predictable as the weather. June rolls around, the sun shines bright, and everybody starts complaining about how hot and dry it is.
The refrain: “We really need the rain”.
Of course we do. We always need the rain because we live in a DESERT. But don’t start whining about the lack of rain in June because IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO RAIN IN JUNE…not in our neck of the woods anyway.
June is hot and dry.
I once lived in Northern Utah, where the entire summer season was hot and dry. Creeks disappeared. Meadows turned brown. Forests burned. They really did need the rain up there, but they never got it, not until Autumn.
So relax. The rains will come to New Mexico, more than likely anyway. The interior of our continent will warm, thanks mostly to that blazing June sunshine, and that heat will literally pull moisture up from tropics. Towering cumulus clouds will form over parched mountains. Thunder will rumble. Rain will fall.
Of course, our reliable monsoon rains will one day fail, as they have in the past. Just ask the Anasazi.
Things can happen:
A subtle shift in ocean salinity off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Deforestation in the Amazon Basin.
The eruption of a mega-volcano in Indonesia.
And quite suddenly the monsoon stops, and it doesn’t return for many centuries.
Give thanks for crops that aren’t failing.
Give thanks for cities that aren’t abandoned.
Give thanks for cannibalism that isn’t happening.
Be glad for the rains of July and August.

by Eric Mack

It seems important to at least mention that there are no hurricanes in New Mexico.
I haven't even seen the drink around here, save for in a few "bayou-themed" restaurants marooned in oceans of pavement on Albuquerque's north flank.
But there are the refugees who fled here following Katrina. Those that packed up what they could and pointed west, headed for higher ground, didn't stop until they'd traversed the entire length of Texas, just to put a few state lines and a few thousand feet in elevation between themselves and the destruction.
The summer after the levees broke, I met one of these refugees. She smiled from behind a weathered face when she spoke of her odyssey from the land of crawfish to one of chilis. She had set up a table at the local flea market in Taos where she hawked numerous items from what she now referred to as a "former life."
"Never going back. Never again. One storm too many," she said. Her flight was to be permanent.
Many of the items on the table sported water damage. I asked if she had gone back to retrieve them after the hurricane flood waters had receded.
"What, this stuff? Oh no, these got damaged when the floods hit my storage container down in Albuquerque."
Weeks before, flash flooding inundated some of the lower-lying areas of the Duke City. 
A slight grin betrayed her recognition of the irony, but returning the expression seemed too cruel.
"Wow. Well, welcome." 
She smiled wider. "Uh-huh."

Shifting Breeze
by Johanna DeBiase

She is the weather. A soft rain that feels refreshing and adventurous at first until I have to shield my face from drops plopping on my lids like fingers poking. I say, “Not the face,” and “What did I tell you about the face?” When I say the latter one, I sound like my mother. She is also a lot like sunshine, shaking off the chill, welcoming a new day, creating possibilities for fun, growing things. But, sometimes sunshine can be too much fun. Sometimes, I just want to stay inside and read while it beckons me out. As a child, I broke out in a rash when I played too long in the sun. Red splotches itched from my second knuckle to my shoulder tops. Nowadays, I slather my child with sunscreen and watch her brown. She can also be like a storm – a dirt devil or a torrential. I can not control the weather. I must take it as it comes. So I have learned to come prepared. Instead of a rain coat, I pack a sturdy array of patience. Instead of snow boots, I bring crayons and paper. Instead of gloves, I pack time-outs. I wait for the perfect days when the sun and wind feel just right, the sky an azure blue, showered with nothing but love.

just to talk to you
by Robin Powlesland

 - everything would be right
during the days and nights I do not talk to you - for real
I keep talking to you - all these window dressings to share
pacings and insights I want you to take on as well
and it’s just like it always was
you are far away and our love is a story I tell myself
in the afternoons - the storm comes
the storms keep coming
even having had you here recently
even knowing that I am going to see you soon
even amidst all this planning
it’s a story I’ve told myself
I am going to cut open
more orange fruit today
pull out the pits - leave them to the goats
you are far away
to bring us together again
seems too big to know
wash sheets and tear up
old ones for scrap
wipe down shelves and pack your clothes
between the words - spoken
I want you to understand - know me
even if we can't know the distance

I wish I could take my red wagon
all the way to california like I was walking down the road
to play with a friend
I need to feel that words are important to you
that these are to you
my words
empty hard backed suitcase - moss green
light blue train case - little bottles of whiskey
haven't even told you what my name will be
talk everything could be easily clean and right
keep talking - days and nights I have not talked to you -
for real

Thursday, May 31, 2012


According to Google, on June 11, 2012, "Eclipse" refers to (in order of algorithmically determined relevance/importance):
by Eric Mack

1. A film in the "Twilight" series.
2. A project aiming to provide a universal toolset for (software) development.
3. An astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured.
4. A manufacturer specializing in car navigation and audio systems.
5. The most efficient jet on the planet.
6. A novel in the "Twilight" series.
7. A small recording company
8. A special edition 2-disc DVD set of the film in the "Twilight" series.
9. A Blu-Ray version of the film in the "Twilight" series.
10. A regular edition, single DVD of the film in the "Twilight" series.

by Charles Clayton

There was a solar eclipse when I was in the first grade. It must have been wintertime because we stayed in our second story classroom and watched quietly as the morning sky darkened and the clouds turned fiery orange and red. The entire experience exists in my mind as a single moment in that room, gazing through the window panes at a kind of light I'd never seen before: Ashen and gray, yet strangely luminous.
Our teacher told us that solar eclipses happened every few years so I expected to see one again, but never did. Seems you have to be in the right place at the right time to witness the spectacle. Eclipses came and went, and I read about them in the newspaper or saw clips on the television, but the experience eluded me.
33 years later, the stars aligned—or one star, and one planet and its moon, and the life trajectory of a single human on that planet—and I found myself at the proper latitude and longitude at the proper time of year. The setting couldn't have been better: The first days of summer vacation, on a front porch with my wife and child, surrounded by friends, right at the foot of the Southern Rocky Mountains.
Everything was in place, and before we knew it the eclipse was happening. Golden rays radiated through scattered puffs of clouds. The orbs lined up and the light faded into that crisp, ashen hue….the exact same light I remembered from my childhood.
Near the peak of the eclipse, I walked into the backyard and gazed at the mountains as they silently basked in the ghostly light. The mountains had seen it all before, and would see it again. I'd like to think I'll be around next time too, but I might not. That moment on the porch may be the last memory I'll ever have of that otherworldly light—the rare light of a moon shadow.

by Johanna DeBiase

I am the sun.
I spin in the world of rays --
rainbow prisms across nursery walls,
glares from pinwheels on garden posts,
beams stretched through rain clouds.

I am the mid-afternoon light
that reminds them why they live here
that makes the plein air painters sigh
and the poets toast.

At twilight, I put on a show, paint the
clouds with shadows, steal the
promise of June flowers,
splatter their faces with impermanence.

I am the sun. I grow them like
eager buds, but I can burn them, too.
I know the spot, between their
shirt hem and waistband,
or the place behind their ears
where their spine ends its traverse
across their neck.

I am the sun. They will not
stare into me. They hide behind
brimmed hats and dark glasses --
rims around their eyes
where I colored their faces.

Only once (per season)
do I disappear from them
a little trick I do with the moon
and they laugh and dance, but
they also remember.
The earth. The earth is their
humming sphere and they
labor for it – their sheltered souls,
their juvenile antics.

I am the sun
the way they see in the light,
the way I am blind in their night,
yet the galaxy burns for me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Southwestern Ambrosia

by Charles Clayton

The longer I live here the more depressing it gets. The murders, the rapes, the gangs, the heroin, the corruption...a cauldron of darkness that simmers just below the happy surface of art galleries and organic espresso. It's always there, probably always has been, and nothing here seems to get any better or worse—just more of the same. So don't expect bike paths any time soon, or quality public schools, or an end to the nepotism and cronyism in the halls of power. Not now. Not maƱana. Not ever.

 It can be frustrating, but occasionally that centuries old inability to change is a thing of beauty. A slaughtered pig bouncing in the back of a pickup truck. Huge mounds of firewood outside of so many homes. Grandmas plucking chokecherries from neighborhood trees. Battered old trucks and cars held together by bailing wire and necessity. Families gathering pinon nuts each fall. The throng of women in front of Super Save at the end of summer, their shopping carts lined up and overflowing with burlap sacks of green chiles begging to be roasted.

Green Chile
by Johanna DeBiase

I lived life as a rancher in a small village along the banks of the Rio Grande, the same village that I was born in. I never married or had any children. I was shy and unfortunate in love. All my nieces and nephews moved away to the city and never bothered to visit me after my parents died. I loved my horses, but they were poor company, always keeping to the pasture. I spent everyday in the same way, repeating the same tasks over and over until I was like a machine. They may have replaced me with a machine after they buried my stack of bones in the cluster of graves behind my house. A lapsed Catholic, I always suspected I would float away to some place not quite as dull.

Instead, I came back as a chili pepper, a green hatch strain, raised in the greenhouse of some bohemian types where I shared space with their pot plants. At first, I was not sure what to make of it all. They chopped me up and fixed me into a mean salsa. They tossed me on everything from tacos to enchiladas to eggs. They savored me with every bite and I was finally alleviated. 

taos springs life-like
by Robin Powesland

the smell of rain on sage
I tell him is special

it's why we are here

I think he gets it
what's special

small in-decisions
dirt in rows waiting

there is always a leaving
coming from inside

it's why we are here

I think he gets it
why we love each other

that the sun is a stronger friend
one that stammers shamelessly

days are open shortly
and I already see the waves

washing us ashore this new kind
of desert