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Four Poems: Janette Schafer

Wonderfully dark visions. Glad to see that we share space in the Nasty Women & Bad Hombres anthology.

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Elegy for the Great Auk

Do not give yourselves the trouble
of killing them.  Pluck the best
feathers, turn it adrift half-naked,
skin torn off, to perish at its own leisure.

There is not wood on this island.
Their bodies, being oily,
soon produce a flame.

There was no help at the end. Even the
Museums gave them up, collected the Great Auk
to display skins separated from the carcass.

On Geirfuglasker, the final pair
huddled over a nest before being strangled,
their last egg smashed beneath a boot,
turning the dead birds into gold.

It walked like a man…I caught it
close to the edge—a precipice
many fathoms deep.  I took him by
the neck—he flapped his wings.

He made no cry—I strangled him.

(Poem incorporates paraphrased quotes by Aaron Thomas of HMS Boston from 1794 and Sigurour Isleifsson, who was the killer of the last great auk in 1830.)

Letter to Scarecrow

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Patricia Youngblood: Two West Virginia Poems

Vox Populi

five hundred mountains  

over 500 mountains in Appalachia have been leveled by

mountaintop removal mining, more than 1,000 miles

of streams poisoned and buried in mine waste

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the girl at ten felt more than saw how the

mountains commandeered air and space, pressed

horizons onto car windows, thrust massed color

and form into streams or to the very edge

of thin roads between towns, crazy roads

where the young uncles died on motorcycles.

 

she fell and fell into mountain opulence, as if

there were no coal mines or company towns

harsh and diminished even to her child’s eyes;

understood beyond language how the mountains

defined everything around them, especially

the contradictions.

 

distant relatives remain, rooted and still in thrall;

the mountains she remembers are magisterial,

numerous as dreams but actual. she has no heart

or vocabulary for the death of mountains,

stumps so defiled that even…

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Sam Hamill: Of Cascadia (text and video)

Another strong voice silent now. How quickly it goes.

Vox Populi

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Of Cascadia

I came here nearly forty years ago,
broke and half broken, having chosen
the mud, the dirt road, alder pollen and
a hundred avenues of gray across the sky
to be my teachers and my muses.
I chose a temple made of words and made a vow.

I scratched a life in hardpan. If I cried
for mercy or cried out in delight,
it was because I was a man choosing
carefully his way and his words, growing
as slowly as the trunks of cedars
in the sunlit garden.

Let the ferns and the moss remember
all that I have lost or loved, for I carry
no regrets, no ambition to live it
all again. I can’t make it better
than it’s been or will be again
as the seasons turn and an old man’s heart

turns nostalgic as he sips his wine alone.
I have lived…

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Sherry Hamby: Resisting technology, Appalachian style

Vox Populi

When people hear “Appalachia,” stereotypes and even slurs often immediately jump to mind, words like “backwards,” “ignorant,” “hillbilly” or “yokel.” But Appalachian attitudes about technology’s role in daily life are extremely sophisticated – and turn out to be both insightful and useful in a technology-centric society.

Many Americans tend to view Appalachian life as involving deprivation and deficit. This can be particularly pointed regarding technology: Rural residents are frequently neglected in research on technology use, and where they are included, the data usually focus on the lower rates of ownership and use of smartphones and laptop computers in rural areas. Articles can come across as scholars and reporters saying something like, “Poor rural Appalachians – they don’t even own the newest iPhone!”

It’s true that many rural areas aren’t served with the fastest broadband and the most robust cellular coverage in the U.S. But in the wake of the

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Doug Anderson: Household Gods

I wonder if the final phrase, “just as I am,” is a conscious quote from the old hymn. Very apt, if so.

Vox Populi

I am lying on my back inventing my pantheon,
not the major Gods and Godesses,
but the minor ones that do all the work,
while the greater ones sit around
with a smug gravitas listening
to all their worshipers. I want the ones
who get their hands dirty and are exhausted
at the end of the day like,
Our Lady of the Compassionate Fuck
or, The God of Dumb Luck.
I want to know them by dim lantern light,
see the whole of them darkly as they hold me
to them with their legs, and see their faces
so when I pass them on the street next day
I only sense them as when in a sacred grove
one knows their presence
by the atrial fibrillation they cause.
And the God of Being Happy as I Am,
without striving, without the will to perfection.
As for the God of Dumb…

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Abby Zimet: With a Rod of Iron

If I hadn’t seen the photos, I couldn’t have believed this was real.

Vox Populi

AR-15-Toting So-Called Churchgoers Renew Their Commitment To the Blood-Soaked Lunacy of Our Nation Amen.

“Church” “Leaders.” Reuters Photo

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At This Point Why Not Dept: Amidst the fiery debate about our murderous national landscape comes this: The trooping of about 250 white-clad brides and dark-suited grooms, wearing crowns often made of bullets and clutching AR-15s unloaded and aimed for the sky (whence their God was presumably watching them with some consternation) to the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary of Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, a Moonie-flavored church that also calls itself the “Rod of Iron Ministries” for the Bible’s vengeful “rod of iron” in Revelations: “He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels.” There, the worshipful couples drank holy wine, exchanged or renewed wedding vows, and received a blessing for their “religious accoutrements” – aka weapons of mass murder – because…

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