Susan E. Lloy – She

Susan E. Lloy

She’s uncertain when she left her country as the entire process has been a blur. There had been too much unquenchable sorrow, stress, and unknowns, still they were fortunate compared to others. Others who had never set foot on dry land again wishing for something better. It was in the summer when the winds were strong and currents manic, but the precise date has now escaped her. They straddled the high seas against the wind and wild currents, which tossed their craft around like a cork in a swimming pool. Her child was one of a clutch of frightened children. A girl of six with wide open eyes and long, dark hair. A sweet and prepared face for such a young thing with all the dangers that greeted them with hungry open arms.
      Now she is in a camp, and the shelters that house her and her neighbours touch each other like a parade of soldiers, arm to arm. Her child went missing within a month of their arrival. No one saw a thing. Snatched up and taken by a gang or traffickers like so many others here. Three went missing that day while kicking a ball or playing some child’s game. The UN are interviewing with the help of the police, probing the disappearance of these three children as well as countless others in scattered camps across the country. And each time they visit they provide the same answer. No updates at this time.
      The opportunists, that plague these camps, prey on the unsuspecting. Rana waits and cries and, on occasion, has to be apprehended by others when she attempts to drown herself in the sea that is blue and inviting and constantly calling her name. And, if she just swam until she no longer could, then it would be done. But Rana can’t give in. She must be here if her daughter returns, so this exit is something she can’t consider, at least for now.
      She looks at every one with suspicion, save for her neighbours on either side. A tattered doll lies on the cot of her missing child. It stares back at her, forlorn and distant. Its round, blue eyes seem to be frozen in a shock-like state. Very much like herself. Every breath is already an accomplishment considering the misfortune and misery that has a strangle hold on her, which is unrelenting and merciless. Every day she, and the other parents whose children are also missing, get together and discuss their heartache and what can be done. They must rely on the police as they’re not permitted to walk around outside the camp. Feet and souls are confined to this place. This that has become home, yet has nothing of familiarity or comfort.
      She tries to imagine her child eating nutritious food and playing in the open air, the sun smiling down while she eats an ice cream under the shade of a tree. She wears a pretty, patterned dress with cute animals, or watches a cartoon series on television. But Rana knows this isn’t true. She’s heard the stories and whispers from people who have known such tragedies and realizes the darkness that awaits outside this enclosure. Yet couldn’t this end differently?
      She’s here now. After decades of living in another space. Territory that inhabited her every pore and memory. Her home of what seemed a thousand years. Her children said she can call this home now. Mavis looks around the single, solitary room with a bathroom off to one side and recognizes some familiar items. Her favourite recliner, framed photographs of loved ones. Some confined within squares she doesn’t quite know anymore, but they look at her with smiles and reassurances. There isn’t a stove to cook on. Just a bare counter with dying flowers in a vase and some snacks. Someone she doesn’t know asked her if she would like her to throw them away, but she replied–no leave them.
      She does remember when she was a young girl moving from one base to another. Never staying in one place long enough to plant roots, make good friends or have any degree of nostalgia to hitch a ride with the next. Yet, the flowers, she does remember. From one country to another all the lovely flowers that grew on the outskirts of the bases. How she loved to bring them home to her mother who always acted surprised and arranged them in a prominent place in different windows for everyone to see.
      There aren’t fields of flowers outside her windows. Just concrete and a parking lot. It wasn’t her children’s choice when they placed her here, but it was the only available spot. They try to make light of it when she asks why she is here. Oh, Mom, it’s nice here. Don’t you think? You don’t have to do anything. Everything is done for you here. Don’t you deserve this after all your years of doing for us?
      She stares off to unknown horizons imagining herself as a young girl again. How time has sped. Now she is here in a space she doesn’t like or understand why exactly. Everything aches and is increasingly more difficult. They won’t even let her out the front door on her own. This prison. This cage that is now hers. How life has become so small. She can’t even make a cup of tea. If she could only move around a bit. Pick flowers, go for a coffee, enjoy a glass of good wine after the cinema. Meet a man.
      It will take time to adjust to this space, but Lizzy expected this. How else could it be after so many years of cohabitation? She let him keep the house as she was the one who wanted a fresh start. Every crevice in that dwelling reminded her of him. Her new homestead is compact, but what more does she need? Lizzy won’t be inviting another in. Storing his socks and hobbies in her closets. Her friends say she can’t possibly know this at this juncture, yet she does. That part of her life is over and a singular one has begun.
      She looks out at the expanse of the sea where it all began for her, her childhood turf. It’s limitless horizon and soothing rhythm. This is something she will never leave again. Her migration days are over. She must stay anchored to this place on this shore for the remainder of her days. Even though the fog layers this stretch of land with force and a relentless grip. Footsteps must be taken with care. But Lizzy feels safe here with the cold Atlantic winds and hard, blue water. All familiar markers of her youth. Especially when she reads about the misfortunes of others. The migrants who take such peril-filled escape routes on waters such as this and the hard realities of the ones who make it. Homes where no hats are hung and lives that become absorbed into the unknown.
      Rana looks out from the refugee camp and sees a flock of gulls flying overhead and wants to leave with them. To where, she doesn’t care. Still, she is imprisoned here indefinitely with no freedom but a hope. Perhaps she will have news of her daughter soon and this keeps her feet solid on this foreign soil. A land where one is not easily welcomed. She looks out across the stretch of land that borders the east side of the camp. A grove of olive trees stands quietly in the field. She imagines picking olives and preparing simple fresh cooked meals. It’s so close she can imagine plucking one from a tree. Yet her feet are bound here. To this place that’s home now, but grasps none of its liberty. At this moment she knows it’s a good thing, for one step in any direction and her child is farther from her too.   AQ

Zoë Blaylock – The Chariot

Zoë Blaylock
The Chariot

The relic rusting in the driveway doesn’t get much mileage now that the last dog has died.
      It sits uncomplaining, like each of my pups did whenever they sat resigned behind the picture window and watched as I, all dolled up, took my place in the forbidden, people-only sedan and left them home alone while I went to chase some fun.
      I suppose I should take the old heap for a spin. A mechanic told me that gasoline gets stale if it sits in the tank too long. She said all vehicles should be driven at least once every few weeks; nineteen-year-old minivans, perhaps a tad more frequently.
      But not enough time has passed since The Chariot carried geriatric Shiloh home from his final visit to the vet. It’s too soon for me to get behind the wheel dry-eyed again.
      I’m sure The Chariot understands. It’s not the only time I’ve had to take it out of commission. The first was in 2004, after Cooper, another geriatric dog, died.
      I’d bought it brand new a few months earlier. It was the nicest transportation I’d ever owned. Silver paint gleamed. Motor hummed. Even Cooper’s flatulence was no match for its rich, new-car smell.
      Given Cooper’s fulminant kidney failure, he barely had a chance to shed in it, or to leave muddy pawprints so large they could frighten the pluckiest car thief away. As brawny as that 115 lb. German Shepherd was, he was also a pacifist who loathed using his teeth when simple, well-placed evidence of his prowess could keep danger at bay.
      When I first brought The Chariot home from the dealer’s and invited him to jump in, like any jumbo-sized dog would have, Cooper wagged himself silly with joy. Years of crouching in the rear of a small station wagon must have left him feeling like he was suddenly in the heaven that all too soon would become his eternally.
      For his remaining eight weeks of life, once each morning and once each late afternoon Cooper reclined on the third-row bench as regally as a Roman emperor while we headed to and from the park. When he finally reclined forever, I could no more drive his wheels than I could drive away the memory of his emissions. I longed for them as I did for the fragrance of a jasmine bloom in spring.
      There’s no accounting for taste when you’re in mourning.
      And believe you me. We mourned, The Chariot and I. It was the laws of nature that decreed only I should do the crying, not those of the heart.


Young-adult Waldo was the one who charmed The Chariot and me toward the road again. But not without insisting that I pimp his ride first.
      A taller, lither German Shepherd, more refined than Cooper thanks to a drop or two of Irish Wolfhound in his pedigree, Waldo preferred lolling on the floor to lazing on the bench. This meant that the second-row bucket seats had to be banished to the garage, and in their stead, The Chariot was fitted with a cut-to-order black and tan carpet.
      Waldo was almost pleased. But not quite. He required further refinements. Blankets, pillows, and bottled water first, followed in his sunset years by a no-slip ramp that permitted him to board and disembark without straining his prone-to-dislocation shoulders and his arthritic hips.
      Nothing but nothing cheered Waldo more than the words, ‘Get in The Chariot.’ Not even summons to the barbecue for cheeseburgers, or an invitation to a bone china plate of Thanksgiving turkey and a side of giblets.
      I couldn’t bear to vacuum or wash The Chariot after Waldo died, much less to turn on the ignition. And if this seems unsanitary to any person addicted to fastidious hygienic pretensions, please understand that vehicles like The Chariot who live to do, rather than merely to be, don’t give a damn about looking pretty.


When, months after Waldo’s departure, a homeless Archie inherited the conveyance, the odours left by his predecessor soothed him.
      Waldo had been a gourmand with an experienced stomach. He never passed up a meal. Consequently, the flatus he had taken to expelling and that now lingered in The Chariot surely portended something good for Archie.
      However fetid the evidence, knowing that past meals had been enjoyed by other dogs in the new environ, heartened the street scrapper whose worn teeth suggested a chronic hunger so desperate that he had eaten more than his share of gravelly dirt.
      That Archie feasted on several of The Chariot’s many parts did not surprise the veterinarian. Nor did the gnawing seem to bother The Chariot itself.
      Like all beings who are lucky enough to reach middle age, The Chariot and I both knew the blush of youth would never be ours again. We were liberated by the certainty that what is beneath the hood is more valuable than the face we present to the world.
      ‘So what?’ The Chariot seemed to say. ‘If Archie noshes on my seatbelts and my armrests as regularly as he wolfs down slices of bacon stolen from your kitchen counter?’
      So what indeed.
      Archie loved his wise Chariot, although to him the minivan was simply, ‘Cha—.’ Just the one syllable set him beelining for its sliding door. The full moniker was too hoity-toity for my tough, delinquent, unrepentant dog.
      He died as The Chariot and I transported him to the emergency room at unsafe speeds, but not by accident. In fragile health since his arrival, he suddenly collapsed within a year of moving in.
      His death would have been bearable if before he went, he could have eaten enough bacon, slept in comfort and safety through enough nights, nibbled on enough Chariot.
      A year’s respite in a loving home is several eons from enough. Just ask anyone who has ever loved a German Shepherd. They’ll tell you. They know.


I could have bought new parts to replace the ones Archie had munched on, but The Chariot bristled at the mention of plastic surgery. My vehicle’s priorities have always been sound.
      So, instead I spent the money on the shell-shocked doggie named G. Shepherd Von Something Stupid who became our Shiloh. I would like to tell you that I did it because The Chariot was in need of a dog. But that would be a lie. The truth is that after an inconsolable bereavement, the greater need was mine.
      And while I’m being honest, let me also say that it wasn’t I who picked Shiloh, nor Shiloh who picked me. The fact is that the three-year-old picked The Chariot by jumping in and refusing to get out even before the unemotional breeder had transferred ownership.
      Once the money changed hands and Shiloh’s escape from the trafficker was secured, he fell asleep on the third-row bench, snoozed soundly as I manoeuvred hours of treacherous rural roads to get us home, and did not stir until we pulled up to his new residence.
      One neutering and a few seductive meals later, the only way you could get him to leave the safety of house and garden was to whisper ‘Chariot’.
      He trusted his getaway vehicle as if it were his guardian angel. Just as he should have. Dog beach. Dog supermarket. Dog playgroup. For nine years they were all a mere motorized-hop away. And after Shiloh was adequately enriched by each outing, The Chariot was at the ready to haul him home sweet home again.
      Maybe it was the medicine that helped him fight the hemangiosarcoma as the Covid years unwound. Maybe it was the menu. Or maybe he fought because he loved me as much as I loved him, and he knew what his exit would do to me.
      But then again, maybe I’m thinking too much of myself. The odds are it was The Chariot he didn’t want to leave. Or the adventures it promised when the stay-at-home restrictions were lifted. I don’t know.
      But I do know this: Lately, in the middle of the night, when I find myself missing my dogs fiercely—more, in fact, than I care tell anyone who doesn’t yet love me enough to be entrusted with such an intimate disclosure—I sneak out in my pyjamas to spend time in The Chariot. And I spill my guts.   AQ

Jim Ross – Finding Stillness in Movement

Jim Ross
Finding Stillness in Movement

After slowing to a trickle, the pilgrimage toward Santiago—along The Way of Saint James—began booming back fifty years ago as part of a global uptick in pilgrimage across faith traditions. Trails from all over Europe, four across France alone, merge to send travellers toward Santiago. For many, walking on The Way is an act of surrendering to The Way itself and letting It work Its wonders. In doing so, walkers (and smaller groups travelling by bike, wheelchair, or horseback) join the legions who, for over a millennium, walked to commune with nature and to experience revitalization and a restored perspective. Many communities, through which the pilgrims pass, came into existence a thousand years ago specifically to support pilgrims.

Jim Ross, Burdens Left Behind by Directional Sign, photograph, 2010. Many pilgrims symbolically leave their burdens behind as they trek. This pile is above one of the many red-and-white directional signs along The Way.

      Most people find it difficult to carve out of their frantic, fractured lives the six to ten weeks needed to walk the entire route. Many instead plan to walk for, say, two weeks now, picking up the next time where they left off. Daily, pilgrims walk for hours, often over challenging terrain. Most pilgrims carry their immediate possessions on their backs. In arriving at new places daily, some hardly pause except in sleep. Most interrupt their walking whenever the spirit says it’s time to hear the enveloping stillness. In moving, they discover a stillness that the disquietude they experienced prior to the pilgrimage blocked. And that stillness opens the door to moving in directions they couldn’t previously fathom. As I talked with other pilgrims, it became clear that nearly all sought healing, realignment, and/or direction; some, forgiveness.
     When I first arrived in France, I spent time with friends who questioned whether my embarking on the pilgrimage was wise on the grounds that I hadn’t trained adequately, didn’t speak French, and had no hotel reservations. I said I’d been training all my life, two people who had the will to communicate could do so despite language barriers, and pilgrims historically travelled without making reservations, trusting that The Way would provide. But after setting out, I wondered, were they right? When day was done, would I be able to find an inn? Would there be room for me? Would the trail be marked clearly enough that I’d be able to follow it? Would potable water be readily findable? Were warnings about vicious dogs over-stated? What about claims that each day walking on The Way would be more difficult than any day in our pre-pilgrimage lives? Would I hold up walking 15 miles per day when I’m accustomed to a third of that and have no backpacking experience?

Jim Ross, Pont d’Estaing, Estaing, France, photograph, 2010.

      I’d be walking through the French midi-Pyrenees on a rolling path that periodically dips down to villages built along rivers. Those dips require steep descents on arrival and ascents at departure. My intent was to restore balance, not by ruminating, not by over-planning, but by letting the act of movement over a place with deep history work its wonders. I had to trust that every night I would find dinner, shower, and a place to rest my head.

Jim Ross, Grazing Sheep, photograph, 2010. Grazing animals provides reassurance, company, entertainment, and role models.

Getting Lost
      Ordinarily when I travel, I let myself get lost deliberately because it leads to surprises. On The Way, I couldn’t get lost and stay on the prescribed path. Still, I got lost.
      Perhaps in reading guidebooks I skipped over sections on signage. I knew that a white-over-red stripe painted on a tree, rock, fence, barrel, or rusted-out tractor meant, ‘Go this way.’ It took me too long to discern that a red-and-white X means “Not this way” and a hooked white-over-red symbol means turn right or left depending on a hook’s direction. For a while, I walked on instinct, almost oblivious to signage. As a result, I sometimes found myself miles off course. In my defence, sometimes the ‘Go this way’ symbols weren’t readily visible or suggested ambiguous courses of action. And, because it was October, I often went hours without seeing another soul.

Jim Ross, Pilgrim Directional Signs, photograph, 2010. The red-and-white bars, barely visible in the middle of the tree trunk, often suggested ambiguous courses of action.

      There were advantages too of accidentally walking the road less travelled. I also learned there were ‘variants’, meaning segments of trail that weren’t considered the main path, but were recognized as alternate routes. Veering off course opened the doors of possibility. I saw my first porcupine in the wild. I chanced upon a village where every home was half in ruins, where a woman wearing a red sweater greeted me in French with, ‘Has God ever given us a more beautiful day?’ Another time, I came upon the 11th century chapel of St. Hiliarian. A cemetery adjoining the chapel had potable water. I came to realize that cemeteries are reliable sources of drinking water.

Jim Ross, St. Hilarian’s Chapel and Cemetery, photograph, 2010. The 11th century chapel of St. Hilarian taught me cemeteries usually have potable water.

      I resisted creating an itinerary of where I would stay each night because it violated the notion I was surrendering to The Way. Since it was October, I figured I’d have little competition in finding places to rest my head.
      One of my first days, as the sun sounded its final trumpet, I began doubting I’d reach the convent where I hoped to stay. I came upon a doorless, dirt-floored,17th century shepherd’s shelter. It had a concrete bench with a rustic wood-slat top, which looked like a tolerable bed. I had a space blanket for warmth. Then I remembered another warning: ‘Vipers come out to play at night.’ I resumed walking. Then, after sunset, my right foot caught on a root and I began falling. I flipped 180 degrees, touched down hard, rolled from left to right, and nearly slammed my head on an ancient stone wall. When I finally reached the convent, a 500-year-old nun let me in and led me to dinner. The simple pilgrim’s dinner was over so I was brought to a more elaborate dinner of all the pilgrimage coordinators from the region, all thirty of them.

Jim Ross, Doorless Shepherd’s Shelter (inside), photograph, 2010. I decided this doorless shepherd’s shelter wasn’t where I would pass the night.

      That became my signature: Approaching the next destination after dark, with no clear plan of where I might find dinner and lodging. Strangers plucked me out of the darkness. Still walking, stiffly, even feverishly, not thinking clearly. In one instance, I was walking unsafely after dark on a heavily-trafficked road. A Dutch woman pulled over in her Beetle and drove me to the village’s official pilgrim shelter. While I extricated myself, she ran inside, shouting, ‘I have a pilgrim,’ as if she just found one of Peter Pan’s lost boys. Another time, well after 10 p.m., I was rescued and brought to the priest’s house, where I was given a sheet of bubble wrap in which to cocoon myself on the visitor’s kitchen floor. This was the price I paid for taking in the path at my own pace and paying little attention to where I might spend the night. To make matters worse, many shelters close for the winter in October, reopening in April.

Jim Ross, Abandoned Shepherd’s Shelter, photograph, 2010. Shelters that once housed shepherds punctuated the landscape.

      I hadn’t slept in a dormitory-style room since I was 17. I didn’t exactly mind sharing but I tend to be restless during night, emit a cacophony of sound effects, and am up and down to the bathroom. My sharing a dormitory wouldn’t work for anyone. I began inquiring about availability of single or double rooms. An incidental advantage of getting a private or double room was not having to compete with my roommates to recharge camera batteries, cell phones, and other devices. Most dorm rooms weren’t designed to allow multiple people to charge their devices simultaneously.

Jim Ross, My Monastery Cell, photograph, 2010. My cell at the monastery necessitated effective use of space.


Jim Ross, The View from my Monastery Cell, photograph, 2010

Sustenance and Hydration
      Every place I stayed fed me well. Nearly all served multi-course dinners with freely-flowing wine, either as part of the lodging cost, which was nominal, or for a small extra fee. Breakfasts consisted of breads, coffee, and fruit and sometimes fruit juice, cheeses, and/or meats. Discovery: soft cheese is a dead-ringer for yogurt. Some places served coffee in bowls, following local custom. While walking, I nibbled on dried blueberries and hard cheese.

Jim Ross, My Monastery Breakfast, photograph, 2010. A typical breakfast consisted of breads, juice, coffee, and fruit (here cherries).

      When I came upon pear or apple trees heavy with fruit, I usually picked up freshly-fallen fruit from the ground. If a tree grew wildly in a forest, I took my pick. I found plenty of fig trees, but most figs had dried up and/or turned mouldy.
      Many people left out drinks (water or tea) or fruit (apples, pears, plums). Some villages served drinks and snacks under a roof. Some even incorporated bathrooms, community bread ovens, and/or resting areas.
      When I saw that one family left out baskets of large, shapely pears, I assumed they were meant for pilgrims. They must have laughed at the sight of me trying to bite through their thick, furry skin and chew their sour, hard flesh until swallowable. Anyone in France, whom I told about this experience, laughed uncontrollably while repeating, ‘You fool! That was quince. You have to cook it.’ Widely used in jams, quince or marmelo is the root of the word ‘marmalade.’ If I can teach anyone anything in the time I have left on earth, it’s that you can’t eat quince raw.

Jim Ross, A Basket of Quinces, photograph, 2010.Quince resembles hefty pears but are nearly impossible to eat raw.

      Staying hydrated presented greater challenges. To travel light, I carried relatively little water. I ran out daily except for sips kept in reserve. I stayed vigilant for “eau potable” signs. In the absence of a sign, I refused to assume water was safe unless the setting clearly implied it (e.g., public water fountains). Being dehydrated toward day’s end increased anxiety about reaching the next destination and probably made me a tad delirious. I kept my eyes peeled for cemeteries. In my next incarnation, I plan to invent concentrated water.

The Most Difficult Day
      One guidebook I read before leaving home claimed that every day on the pilgrimage would be more difficult than every day in one’s prior life. Once I began walking, I quickly rejected that claim. There were hard days when I had to concentrate intensely on every moment, hoping as I hopped from rock to rock that my instincts in using my walking sticks would fire timely to restore balance. But, there were also days when it felt like I was walking in paradise.
      I met two women from Provence who, at their final stop, shipped home all their clothes so they could fill their backpacks with precious cargo: chestnuts. While I love chestnuts, I didn’t love them on the pilgrimage because they often blanketed the trails, with this year’s joining remnants from prior years, making footing unpredictable.

Jim Ross, My Name in Chestnuts; photograph, 2010. After hearing me complain, another pilgrim wrote my name in chestnuts to welcome me.

Attack Cows?
      The small herds of deer that roam my suburban neighbourhood at home sometimes accidentally bowl people over. More often, they surge suicidally into traffic and cause fender benders. Once, I was bitten by a neighbour’s dog. Should I fear dogs along The Way? I was more worried about feral cats. Friends warned my real nemesis could be cows, and if they charge at you and mean business, barbed wire won’t hold them back.

Jim Ross, Attack Cow, photograph, 2010. Barbed wire won’t hold them back!

      Most of the cows I met wore impressive horns that cause naïve cow-gazers to believe they’re bulls. Idyllic-looking creatures, they often play melodic bells and in May are crowned with wildflower garlands. Evidently, they’re not always mild-tempered. I learned that when I snapped a photo of a mottled cow that wasn’t going to let a little barbed wire keep us apart.

Jim Ross, Zita, Pilgrim’s Companion, photograph, 2010.

      Fortunately, hours earlier, I was picked up by a kind-looking German shepherd named Zita, who led me to the chapel of St. Roch, the patron saint of dogs and dog lovers, and led me inside. Over the next eleven hours, she shielded me from oncoming traffic, counter-charged that fussy cow and chased her away, and used her night vision to guide us through a forest after nightfall. I also rescued her from cars speeding on a busy road. I hated parting with my Zita, but that was a condition of the priest’s taking me in for the night.

Jim Ross, Aubrac Cows, photograph, 2010. Aubrac cows have long horns that result in being mistaken for bulls.

Experiencing the Sacred
      Notions of what pilgrims considered ‘sacred’ varied widely. Some embraced traditional Christian beliefs. For many, communing with nature or experiencing villages we passed through was ‘sacred’. I think nearly all considered the ground we walked on ‘sacred’ because millions came and walked before us in search of healing and balance.
      I learned a little about the profane side of sacredness. A thousand years ago, villages sought to get on pilgrimage routes because it meant big business for the Church. In addition, visiting pilgrims would need shelter, food, and hospitals and could be persuaded to buy indulgences and fake relics. To earn a spot on a pilgrimage route, a village had to have holy bones (i.e., the relics of saints).
      How did villages lacking holy bones procure them? Absent other options, they stole them. For example, a 9th century monk from Conques went under cover for a decade at a monastery in Agen to get close enough to the relics of 4th century Saint-Foy to steal them. Spiriting away Saint-Foy’s relics made Conques a competitive pilgrimage site. As the pilgrimage routes to Santiago formed, Conques already had status and investors. The profane history of pilgrimage positioning suggests we re-think, ‘What makes something sacred?’

Jim Ross, Gate at Abbey of Saint-Foy, photograph, 2010. A gate at the Abbey of Saint-Foy incorporates an extreme form of barbed wire.

Human Contact and Getting Home
      I went on the pilgrimage to get lost in a dark forest and breathe solitude into my lungs. After ritually exchanging ‘Bonjour’ with others I often remind myself, ‘I’m merely a pilgrim, by definition I’m only passing through.’ The break from solitude came at dinnertime, when most dinner conversations took place in French. Still, I came to feel part of a fabric. And every morning, I left solo as did nearly every other pilgrim.
      By the end, on the eve of a National Strike, I began reaching out to villagers. One village had been in the throes of a pre-emptive National Strike for five days. I found myself reverting to my professional behaviour by interviewing activist students, noncommittal students, teachers, residents, and striking railroad workers. On my first attempt to catch a bus (to begin my journey home), a high school student sat beside me and offered to split her ham baguette in exchange for conversation. After this distraction caused me to miss my bus, I went back into town and spent three more hours with the students and railroad workers, who shared cheese, bread, and wine with me. In turn, I helped tend to their little children. The high school students offered me a coke. An older protest junkie offered cannabis. (I declined).
      At the airport, I heard the National Strike might delay my flight home. I began rooting for the National Strike to keep me there. I decided I would go back to find Zita. Then my flight managed to get out after all. Nine months later, I went back and found Zita.    AQ

Angela Williams – Moving On

Angela Williams
Moving On

My spade cleaves the hillock of soil.
Deranged worker ants scramble
across her headstone
their rhythms disrupted, beats broken.
They must move on, build a new colony.
My hands flatten the ground, robe it in grass.
Plant primroses, join with the earth.
Grave dirt under my nails, drawing closer.

Red tractor mud oozes
onto the road. Splatters a minibus
full of itinerant pickers.
Gangmasters run the potato harvest
now no locals will bow low
to dig England’s buried treasure.

Kestrels wheel in the sky
above my old home.
Summer guests have fled.
The kissing gate closes behind me.
I’m already on my way,
walking along a street,
red earth stuck to my soles.

AQ37 – On the Move

Bryan R. Monte – AQ36 Spring 2023 Book Reviews

Bryan R. Monte
AQ36 Spring 2023 Book Reviews

Donald Gardner, New and Selected Poems 1966-2020, Grey Suit, ISBN 978-190300625-2, 227 pages.
Amlanjyoti Goswami, Vital Signs, Poetrywala, ISBN 978-0-99-702544-1, 121 pages
Susan E. Lloy, Nothing Comes Back, Now or Never Publishing, ISBN 978-1-989689-48-6, 128 pages.

The old adage, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover,’ is certainly a wise piece of advice. However, an attractive cover can certainly draw a potential reader to pick up a book and start reading it. This is the case with the three books I am reviewing for this thirty-sixth issue of Amsterdam Quarterly. They all have stately or creative covers that reflect the quality of the work within. Unlike the two other writers whose work is listed above, I will spend the most space on Donald Gardner’s New and Selected Poems 1966-2020 as his poetry collection spans his sixty-year career.
      New and Selected Poems’s simple grey cover, with a Grey Suit Edition thistle logo below, certainly reflects the dignity, the summing up of a poet’s writing over more than half a century. It contains selections from Gardner’s seven published poetry collections (along with a few unpublished, early poems) which capture the sweep of his life and the spirit of the intervening decades—from the hippie, globetrotting era of the ’60s and early’70s, to the moneymaking ’80s and ’90s, to early 21st century pre-Corona pandemic work. Also, unlike many poetry books, it features an honest, contemporary photo of Gardner, by Amina Marix Evans, opposite the second title page, not one from thirty years ago, as many ‘mature’ poets are want to do. In total, the book has nine sections including one with previously unpublished early poems.
      According to the poet at a 31 January reading at Waterstone’s in Amsterdam, on the advice of two friends, Mary O’Donnell and Mary Sawkins, Gardner kept his early poems down to a few. And the nineteen poems included in New and Selected Poems’ first five sections exhibit this care. In the first section, ‘Uncollected Early Poems (1966-1969) are four poems: the first two are about young wanderlust, ‘In Mexico City, In Villahermosa’, the third, ‘Man in Disturbing Mirror’ about art and nudity, the last, ‘The Boys of Kensington School’, about blind, adolescent sexual passion.
      The second section contains five poems from Peace Feelers (1969). The first, ‘Passavia’, is a tale about an odd dog, that hangs around in the village with no outward desire to mate or help hunters, but at a distance, fed by tourists, that is eventually stoned by the villagers, one of whom tells the poet its story. Perhaps this wandering, aimless dog is an extended metaphor for the poet, who in many poems later, seems to find himself comfortably on the periphery of society. ‘Night Thoughts’ is a five-part, humorous poem about a couple who dress for sleep appropriate to their dreams: the man with ‘his thickest sweater, climbing boots, and snow goggles’ for his ascent of ‘Mount Everest from the Chinese side’ and the woman in a ‘red polka-dot bikini’ for her ‘Pacific’ beach dream.
      ‘Climbing the Eiger in Our Sleep’ is another poem about a couple dreaming, only this time their dream is shared. Each only has half of the dream, so they must work to piece it together. The short lines float down the page perhaps to replicate the gentle yet partial knowledge of their dreams about tree or mountain climbing and swimming in a pool or a mirror. These lines remind me of William Carlos Williams’s short, metrically-varied poetry. They include lines about ‘fumbling / late-night love-making, // clinging // to each other // like swimmers // drowning or // treading water’.
      ‘Indirections’ is a much more humorous poem about falling while trying to get out of a bathtub, trying to answer the telephone to not miss a date. However, the poet philosophises his falling naked on the floor and injuring his hip. He compares his body to ‘that whale the seventeenth-century Hollanders admired so much’ reasons that if he got there in time, he’d probably been electrocuted’ and concludes ‘You learn to take things slowly or fall flat.’ something I know only too well from years of falls due to my multiple sclerosis.
      ‘Bread and Stones’ is about youthful problems—being poor in the big city—and philosophising with two street people ‘I like the freedom of the individual; my life to live’ The poet tells them his ‘head if full of skyscrapers, projects for the ideal city, an empire if the mind // where Plato is vastly entertained by Bridget Bardot and / St. Francis loosens his girdle.’ These are lines in the spirit and perhaps a little bit of the voice of Frank O’Hara.
      His poem, ‘Let’s All Make Love Tonight in London’ is a delight because it composed of a list of disparate things that make London, London. The poet mentions: ‘boys boarding schools, bad plumbing, the accent on virtue,’ ‘The rich of the rich and the poor of the poor,’ and ‘Burnt toast, Indian teas, transport cafes, families’. In just thirty-one lines, Gardner mentions memorable London sights and smells, ending, of course, with the royal family.
      He also mentions globetrotting with a political awareness. ‘A Guide to Greece, 1970’ is a sort of ‘Tourists in Dictatorland’ during the junta years. Gardner begins the poem with ‘The Greek people have vanished behind their faces’ then mentions ‘olive groves’ that are ‘cancelled’, Mount Hymettos … ‘invisible’ and the Parthenon … ‘a stone life-size copy’. Even the wine tastes of water, the water of air, and the air tastes of nothing. The only thing real in this country are a man’s shouts as he is being beaten by a policeman, or Yannis Ritsos, 61. In prison. / On Samos. Coughing up blood.’ and ‘tourists taking photos of each other.’ seemingly unaware of the political situation.
      Another poem, which I think reflects Gardner’s social and political awareness, is ‘The Unwelcome Dinner’ in ‘The Wolf Inside’ (2014), which book I will only mention briefly because I reviewed it in AQ9 and my review can still be read at This poem gives insight into Gardner’s disinterest in status and networking. In it the poet decides not to go to a posh university alumni dinner in The Hague: ‘five courses, two glasses of wine, seventy euros’… ‘to meet some people he would never normally see.’ In the end, the poet decides that even though he’d ‘Paid for dinner.’… (he’d) ‘Paid for not going. // It was worth the price.’
      The next section, from Gardner’s book, ‘Early Morning’ (2017), contains many poems about Amsterdam, writing challenges, and love and death. In ‘Windows on the World’ the poet loses and miraculously finds his glasses in the gutter outside the Posthoornkerk, their lenses ‘reflecting Cuypers spires’. ‘Blind Side’ is about a cyclist colliding disastrously with a truck, her bicycle ‘its front wheel ripped off, the rest— / you could still see it was a woman’s bike— / flung across the road’ ‘Amsterdam Aubade’ is about an morning delight. All three poems clearly take place in Mokkum.
      The poems ‘Room Where I Write My Poetry’, ‘Pushing the Envelope’, ‘Sweet Muse of Poetry,’ ‘Out of Sorts’, and ‘April in August’ all reflect the poet’s difficulty in writing poetry. ‘Toilette De Femme’, ‘Steep Yearning Curve’ (clever title) and the above-mentioned ‘Amsterdam Aubade’ are all about attraction and/or love. They are an interesting combination with three other poems about death such as ‘Little scuffling sounds late at night’ in ‘Crawl Space’, ‘occupied by a few people gone underground in the last war.’ ‘Shorter Than I Thought’ where death ‘has a tailor’s shop in Hackney’, where he measures up Gardner for a suit and ‘Arnold Talking’ about a seriously ill relative on a morphine drip. They, along with a few other poems in this section, create such as interesting combination—Amsterdam, history, sex, death, and writer’s block.
      The last section in this collection, entitled ‘New Poems (2017-2020)’ is about negotiating with death, the poet’s own and others, while still yielding to the desire to explore and write. In addition, two of these poems reflect the poet’s awareness of climate change. In ‘Snowdrops and Daffodils’, for example, Gardner writes: Spring comes in a tight package now. / One perfect day / followed by weeks of / hurrying clouds, high winds / and downpour then, / just as suddenly, / the dustbowl of summer.’ Also, in ‘Little Weight’ he writes: ‘An afternoon in late September / unseasonably warm / but what’s seasonable now?’ One of his favourite metaphors in this section is a stormy or unsettled sea. It’s mentioned in three poems ‘Suddenly It Is Evening’, ‘A Revenant’, and ‘Daymare’. In ‘Suddenly It Is Evening’, the poet imagines ‘suddenly a cyclone / … whips up out of nowhere / .. the vestiges of yourself / wreckage dispersed / over a sleeping ocean’. In ‘A Revenant’ he describes: ‘pushing my own boat / … into darkening waters / Waves rolling toward me / … White foam bearding the midnight sky.’ However, in ‘Overspill’, love brings him ashore, ‘stroke after stroke /from a far place / amidst the tossing waves.’
      In all, Gardner’s New and Selected Poems is quite an impressive book filled with memorable poems and images, many of them rooted in Amsterdam. It is a well-edited collection.
      Amlanjyoti Goswami’s book, Vital Signs is part family history, part biography, part tribute to Hindu cultural figures, gods, and festivals, and to food, the body, and jazz. The book’s cover is very a simple photograph of three brown fingers curled around a light blue door on a dark blue background. The book itself is formally divided into three parts entitled ‘Life’, ‘Belief’, and ‘Fellowship’, all containing epigraphs from a poem in each of the respective sections.
      The epigraph for ‘Life’ is ‘Every breath is a birthday’ which is the terminal line of ‘seeing it new’. This poem’s first two lines are: ‘The old year is leaving through the window / The new year waits outside the door.’ This theme of time is repeated in other poems such as, ‘How to peel the perfect potato’, which seems at first to be about cooking but, which like many of the culinary poems in this volume, actually seems to be also about meditation. It addresses the concept of time as follows:

          The trick is, make time wait at the passing door.

          The trick is: there is no trick, no perfect chef

The poem, ‘Shapeshifting’, also begins with the concept of time:

          The old ones have left
          And the young ones hide behind shadow.

But the most extraordinary poem in this section is Goswami’s poem about his mother, entitled ‘At the end of the day’. The poem portrays a tough, confident, self-sufficient woman, who checks herself out of hospital to walk home:

          My mother will shrug off
          The oxygen cylinder, tubes on her nose
          Take out those pin pricks from wrists and arms …
          Dodge the guards who ask where she is going…
          And downstairs even pay the bills,
          The ones insurance won’t allow.

After all that, once she arrives home, all she wants to do is ‘enter her own room’ and ask ‘Where was I so long?’ to return to herself.
      The themes of time, transition, and the mixing of the old and the new are repeated throughout this collection, especially in the second and third sections, entitled ‘Belief’ and ‘Fellowship’. They include poems about ancient Hindu gods and modern Indian writers, doctors and bookstore owners, and ceremonies, such as a wedding, (‘A Wedding in Kushinagar’) held at a historic site.
      The second section, ‘Belief’, begins with the quote: ‘One must also make it float’, from the poem ‘Art Lessons’, which is about concentrating on what the artist sees. ‘Even if the canvas remained empty. / You will learn something About flowers he said.’ This philosophy is also reiterated in the short poem ‘Zen’ in which Goswami says he only found something once he ‘Forgot what it was / I was looking for // And found it / Looking for me at the door.’ This section also includes the title poem,‘Vital Signs’. In it, Goswami reaffirms ‘I haven’t lost my faith / In the body.’ He enumerates this through his diet which things are good for his body: ‘Make(s) brain from walnut, kidney from bean’ and states his philosophical belief ‘It is to the body we return / After many a cartesian turn.’ Included also in this section are poems about augury. ‘At the butcher’s’ (first published in AQ28), and ‘Healing’ where a list of opposites added together seem to balance each other out.
      The last section features some ekphrastic poems such as ‘Woman of the High Plains’ about Dorothea Lange’s photo of the same title. In it Goswami describes ‘a woman /Scorched by the sun.’ whose smile / Turns her into an emblem, / Fortitude against the elements.’ In ‘Dr. Bordoloi decides to stay back’, an anti-war poem, Goswami writes about a physician who released imprisoned mental patients. In ‘The Bookshop’, he writes about KD Singh, owner of the above, whose near extinction he predicts ‘early 21st’ (century) like ‘A bird in the Pacific. Last seen 19th circa.’ Other poetic tributes include ones to Manglesh Dabral in ‘For Manglesh Dabral’, Dr. M.K. Bhan in “Midnight’s Child’, Nipjyoti Barua in ‘What Nip Da taught me’, and there’s one to beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in ‘Our First Ferlinghetti’.
      Vital Signs provides an interesting and revealing look at Goswami’s religious, historical, musical, and culinary roots—a literary feast for the senses.
          Frequent AQ contributor Susan E. Lloy’s short story collection, Nothing Comes Back, provides a dark, sometimes humorous, look at the Sid-Vicious-and-Nancy, baby bust generation as they struggle with insufficient funds to cross the retirement finish line. Lloy’s stories have a unique mix of characters and conflicts sometimes including alternative sexual arrangements. These include polygamous Mormon soft-porn out West, the perils of a poorly-chosen Nova Scotian real estate nest egg, marital jealousy/infidelity, café and bar pickups, and mayhem on the high seas. Lloy’s stories are surprising and entertaining, many with unexpected twists and endings.
      The cover of Nothing Comes Back features a clockface unwinding into a downward spiral, similar to some representations of Einstein’s concept of space-time. The first and title story of this collection is about Sybil, who ‘doesn’t have money socked away’ as some of her contemporaries do, for extensive travels, but enough socked away for one special trip.’ She travels out to the American West’s colourful canyons and river valleys. Then she wins and shortly thereafter loses big at a Nevada casino. Almost broke, she meets and falls in love with a man who turns out to be a Mormon polygamist, who persuades her to join his ‘big’ family. However, later she discovers that he has attempted to drain her remaining savings account without her permission. For the time, she decides to let it ride, plotting her next move, in typically Lloy narrative fashion, beyond the actual story.
      Lloy’s stories’ characters, and their almost unbearable or impossible situations, are her narrative hallmark. Plot and nicely wrapped up endings in general are unreal in her fictional world. People striking out late in life on their own, with what little they’ve saved, finally pursuing their dreams, is commonplace.
      Unconventional living situations, including polyandry, are common in Lloy’s stories due the protagonists a lack of money. In ‘The Wayward Collective’, a woman named Wanda finds herself taking in housemates to pay for her house’s renovations. Perry, ‘an artist who used to work with marble, but has recently changed to fiberglass resin, is taken in first for this money. Then Dot, when the plumbing goes bad and Japamala, ‘who has ‘spirited blue eyes’ and ‘travels the world visiting yoga retreats’. Lastly comes Ethan or ‘Taffy as he is often called, always tanned a creamy bronze the colour of the chewy candy.’ He ‘a former roofer, who uses a cane subsequent to a fall and who was on disability until his pension kicked in’. Everything starts out well: the house’s residents eat one communal meal together per week. However, with this batch of steamy characters, it’s hard not to predict the intramural action, rearrangements and falling outs that soon happen.
      In this collection, the short stories are sometimes interspersed with much shorter, sometimes barely page-long vignettes, such as ‘Lingerie’, ‘Skin’, ‘Proost’, and ‘What’s What’. In ‘Lingerie’ a man in a laundromat notices an older woman who reminds him of ‘an aging actress’ with ‘a certain elegance’. ‘Skin’ is about an older woman, who’s skin she thinks looks like ‘tired lace’, who watches young people walk by. ‘Proost’ is about an older woman practising her Kegels and eyeing an attractive, older man who returns her interest and ‘invites her to his place.’ ‘What’s What’ features unnamed narrator who complains about the tourists who frequent his/her town, and about ‘That bully is still in office, tweeting and ranting, spewing maniacal commentaries like some just released sociopath.’, placing this excerpt firmly in the Trump era. All four are suggestive, short sketches, with the rest of the story left up to the reader’s imagination.
      Another story about Lloy’s retirement-poor characters taking their fate into her own hands is ‘Finders Keepers’. Here, the daughter of artist whose father was killed in a car crash, takes revenge on the people who bought her father’s studio, but will not share her father’s ‘two hundred paintings’ they later discover concealed ‘beneath floorboards’. This character describes her situation as:

‘Rape. That’s what it feels like. Sadness and are anger are the initial responses. Vengeance follows soon after. ‘I procured a good lawyer only to be told … “Finders, keepers.” … The only thing I managed to salvage was copyright control. The collector can’t reproduce any images of his sleazily acquired collections in the form of books of anything that will make a profit.’

And the plot thickens from there.
      Lloy stories are also about down-and-out characters, who don’t always win even pyrrhic victories. ‘La Chambre’ and ‘Final Sentence’ feature people who once were well-off or at least well taken care of, who have lost everything either by hook or by crook. Both of these stories involve inheritances. In ‘La Chambre’ a woman foolishly liquidates her inherited estate (including a very large home) for her new husband. He invests this in his shady holding company and ends up losing it all. After legally clearing her name in the matter, the woman ends up in a halfway house, then on assistance in a one room flat and ultimately working as a maid in the upscale neighbourhood where she formerly lived. In ‘Final Sentence’ a male writer and gambler, whose mother had saved him many times from debt, finds that she has left the bulk of her estate to ‘Friends of Save the Forest’ and left only her Lexus to him. He cashes this in, and soon loses this money gambling. These are real stories populated with real people with real foibles, with no artificial, happy endings.
      There are a few stories, such as ‘Flipside’ or ‘A Weed in the Canyon’, in which things end well even after the characters have been betrayed, whose protagonists accept their lot and hopefully with make the best of it. However, these stories are rare in Nothing Comes Back. Most are filled with dark secrets and/or betrayal. In ‘And then’, another story about an inheritance, a cryptic message is left by Hugo before he commits suicide. After his funeral and wake, three long-time friends, Augusta (his wife), Lola, and Frankie, confess to serious criminal mistakes. Frankie, an attorney, reveals that after a night of drinking, he drove into and seriously injured a woman, then left the scene of the accident. Lola reveals she slept with Hugo, got pregnant, but kept her son’s patrimony a secret. Lastly, Augusta admits to ‘milking one of their’(her late husband’s joint) ‘savings accounts’ to help a needy family who turned out to be ‘grifters’. Lola suggests that that might have been the reason why Hugo killed himself.
      ‘Synthesis of a Dream’ and the collection’s last story, ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’, are about couples who go out in sailboats, the former a yacht on the Mediterranean and the latter, a smaller training craft on the Canadian Atlantic Coast. Let it be said two people go out, and only one (perhaps) makes it back. You’ll want to read these stories yourself to find out who survives—and why.   AQ

Jim Ross – Fridays for Future: Ambassadors of Conscience

Jim Ross
Fridays for Future: Ambassadors of Conscience

Jim Ross writes: ‘I used a Panasonic Lumix camera (an entry-level SLR) from a fifth-row aisle seat, right next to the scrummage of reporters, who piled on top of each other in the aisle to take this photo. The event took place on 16 December 2019 in the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University in Washington DC. It was sponsored by Amnesty International to honour the 2019 Ambassadors of Conscience, Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future Movement.
      The Ambassador of Conscience award is Amnesty’s highest honour. Its purpose is to “celebrate individuals and groups who have furthered the cause of human rights by acting on their conscience, confronting injustice and using their talents to inspire others.” Given annually, it has honoured individuals such as Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, and Alicia Keyes. Occasionally, it has honoured movements, such as the Indigenous rights movement in Canada.

Jim Ross, Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award Presentation 2019, photograph, 2019

      Amnesty’s initial intent was to give the 2019 award to Thunberg as the founder of Fridays for Future. However, at her insistence, Amnesty agreed to give the award to Fridays for Future at a more grassroots level. These awards were given simultaneously to Fridays for Future in cities around the globe as Thunberg received her award in Washington DC. Five other American students and one Canadian student received the award on stage alongside Thunberg. Pictured here are Kallan Benson, who was greatly involved in coordinating Fridays for Future in the United States, Thunberg, and Kumi Naidoo, then Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
      Upon receiving the award, Thunberg said: “This award is for all of those millions of people, young people, around the world who together make up the movement called Fridays for Future. All these fearless youth are fighting for their future, a future they should be able to take for granted. But as it looks now, they cannot.”
      My reporting of this event led to a major article, accompanied by 15 photos, in the December 2019 issue of Friends Journal and another in the March 2020 issue of UU World.’   AQ

Adrienne Stevenson – Too Many

Adrienne Stevenson
Too Many

we have already tipped, have you noticed yet?
violence escalates through nature, led by us
denial cannot make us unnatural—merely blind

take any population:
      a dish of bacteria
      a cage of rats
provide food, allow to multiply
observe the crash when food gives out

extrapolate to humanity
solve for how many planets we need
      to satisfy endless appetite and growth
divide our population by double that
(we deign to permit other species)
subtract the industrial age
      to calculate a stability point
aim for that

if we don’t act, we will be acted upon
our planet will slough us off
like so many dead skin cells
disappearing down the shower drain

Monique van Maare – Engulfed

Monique van Maare

I built a shelter on the island’s highest point. It’s not much for comfort, but it keeps me dry. When I moved up here, I could still see the reefs and the other atolls in the distance. Gulls would screech and brace against the strong East winds, swooping in to forage in the scattered bays. Now, there’s just water everywhere.
           I am the last one here. When the tourists stayed away, the young and adventurous among us packed their bags and sought out the cities. Then, when the first terraces flooded with sand and seashells, families gathered up their young and headed for the mainland, too. Slowly, the frothing white web lines connecting our little islets faded, as one by one the fishing boats and water taxis were left behind at their wooden docks.
           I stayed, out of a deep love for the turquoise of our waters, and the giant sea turtles that stop here every year on their long journeys to nest. Perhaps, too, out of love for the wind-beaten shape of her palms, the long empty stretches of her windswept dunes.
           She was always our provider. Pine, coconut and figs featured richly on our plates, and hollow coves protected the crops of hatching fish. Even now, there are hibiscus flowers growing up here that I can braid into wreaths, like we used to do on festive days. We’d dance on the stony beaches, and honour all her winged, leafed and finned species. I made one yesterday, but it unraveled from my head with my first sway, translucent yellow petals raining softly on my leathered skin. I can sense the day getting closer. I must remember to collect those nervine herbs I saved.
           The day the water reached the old graveyard, I cried until the purple dawn. I thought of the bones of our great-grandfathers and -mothers, our uncles and nieces and the little ones that died too young, roused roughly by the incoming waves, their spirits roaming the outstretched peninsulas and lifting angrily into the sky. Will they find peace again? Will the wind remember their stories, and strew them to our scattered hearths?
           Soon, porpoises and dolphins will nibble in her valleys. Sharks will mate in the shallow hollows of her ponds, which will no longer fill with lilies. The waters will get darker and wider, and the fierce pull of the currents will be deeply foreign to her soil. The nereids, with their bleached coral crowns and white silk robes, will swarm in and laugh at her discomfort, and at our hubris, our folly, our devastation.
           I feel I owe her this, to be with her as she is consumed by the waves. When the time comes, and my last sanctuary here disappears in the waves, I will grind my feet into the shifting sand of her last dune, and hold on to her with my curled-in toes as long as I can.
           When the cold water reaches my knees, and the gales pick up, the bones of our ancestors will call my name, tell me it is time to let go. I will remember how Perseus came for his sweet Andromeda, perched on her rock in the sea, but I know that he never held such promise here. My body will be thrown off the sand by the bashing current, and she and I will become one. Even if, against all odds, the wind guides his winged Pegasus to these waters, what else will he see but an endless blue-grey expanse of deeply heaving sea?     AQ

Joe Cottonwood – She grows bristlecone pines

Joe Cottonwood
She grows bristlecone pines

as house plants, drops little seeds
into paper cups with harsh soil
from Sierra mountainside,
sunburnt seedlings frosted,
parched, neglected for weeks
fitting nature’s plan,
her windowsill a forest
growing with the speed
of centuries.

Her bedroom is cramped.
She sleeps by the door.
Her love is prickly, remembers
wooly mammoths, survived asteroids.
She gets angry when I suggest orchids.
The landlord wants her out,
wants to build condos, turns up
the heat.

In cups her love grows
for grandchildren to transplant
to faraway years, unfriendly soil,
to ever struggle, never thrive.
Please, may they survive.