She slices the flesh across the star
at the heart, cuts it into the pot,
tosses core and seeds into the pail
where they rest for a while on their way
back to the dirt. Not quite a crone yet,
nor a hag, though also on her way
back to the dirt, she is bent, but quick
and sure with her short black-handled knife.
Up from her kettle full of the fruits
of knowledge and death there hisses
the cinnamon-sweet steam, whispering
like escaping souls; she stirs and blends
as fumaroles smack up thick apple-
bubbles and suck them back. These atoms’
path from sunfire to mold is almost
finished. Before they’ll be young again
they must sink into this slow brew, stew
together, make their way into dark
animal bellies and so on down
into sand and soil, down into earth-
fire, dirt-sugar, lava-juice, until
root hairs pry apart each grain to drink
them up once more into glistening
blossom to feel that newness again,
re-learn all the words of earth fresh
as petals, minnows, fingerling salmon.
The apples are almost ready
to go. They cringed from the seething pot
at first, but now they know what she is
doing, what she is making of them,
how they will be lost and forgotten
and transformed and reborn from the black
cauldron, the hot clear jars, the stove-fire
at the heated heart of the whole world.
Catherine Carter lives with her husband near Western Carolina University, where she is a professor in the English Education and professional writing programs. Her most recent collection of poetry is Larvae of the Nearest Stars (LSU Press, 2019); her work has also appeared in Best American Poetry 2009, Orion, Poetry, and Ploughshares, among others, and won the 2018 James Applewhite Prize for poetry.
In addition to Catherine Carter’s “Applesauce, Equinox,” her poems “Blasting in the Pass” and “Shine” will appear in Speckled Trout Review’s Fall 2019 issue.
When your mouth craves
a black skillet
of fresh creamed corn,
when sweet corn
has dried up,
and money’s scarce,
then pick the ears
of tough field corn,
shuck them clean,
take your knife,
a butcher knife,
and score the kernels,
right down each row,
until the white
corn milk oozes.
The nutty husks,
the bland white gravy
if you love corn.
and Grandpa ate
until the tough corn
dried up too.
Charles A. Swanson has recently retired from teaching dual enrollment English in the Academy for Engineering and Technology, serving the Southside region of Virginia. Frequently published in Appalachian magazines, he also pastors a small church, Melville Avenue Baptist in Danville. He has two books of poems: After the Garden, published by MotesBooks, and Farm Life and Legend, from Finishing Line Press. He is a Frequent Contributor to the online poetry magazine, Songs of Eretz.
Charles Swanson’s poem “A Million Silver Lizards out of Snow” will also be published in Speckled Trout Review’s Fall 2019 issue.
SOL DUC TO HIGH DIVIDE
Imagine walking here without a camera
leaving home with no means of capturing
the clarity of these mountains we live beneath.
Around us, a tantrum of crickets, frenzied
ground squirrels intersect the space between stars
and us, a line of stitching puckered in places, loose
where we need it taut. Imagine life outside of
this purse of fir and granite, whistling
marmot, horned goats and black bear fattening
on larvae and berry. See, I am a hive
of bees, and you are the knotted wasps, a wisp
of smoke alarming the balance
we seek. We wedge a foot between rocks
in river’s shallow eddies, find purchase
beneath sky’s inky skin. Early this morning
elk circled Heart Lake. In the evergreen
meadow they shone under a frozen moon –
twenty hulks huffing into the damp. We
keep our boots warm at the foot of our bag,
pull a new story of night into our veins
as we sleep, a new version of the horned
lark’s song. Beyond the unzipped window,
bear fingers the food sack’s brassy fabric, finds
that even this isn’t enough to quell the deepest
hungers. Morning, you hang a strip of bacon
over water, watch yellow jackets nibble
and drown, drunk on fat, while I make routine of
lingering on my back, determining each small
root and stone beneath my spine, each tiny panic
rising to the surface before breaking.
Poet and photographer, Ronda Piszk Broatch is the author of Lake of Fallen Constellations (MoonPath Press, 2015). Ronda is the recipient of an Artist Trust GAP Grant, and her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart prize. Her journal publications include Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, Sycamore Review, Mid-American Review, Puerto del Sol, and Public Radio KUOW’s All Things Considered, among others.
Ronda Piszk Broatch’s “Beyond McCurdy Point, the Singed Mountains Smolder” will also appear in Speckled Trout Review’s Fall 2019 issue.
The porch opened up beneath her
like a fun-house floor
and down she crumpled―
a heap next to the barbecue,
a pile of laundry, arms and feet
in all directions.
I stood and watched,
waiting for the moment just before
to reappear―my mother ambling,
chattering, admiring the azaleas.
But, of course, the sun kept climbing
across empty sky. No clouds.
Only my reflection in the window
toting up the times I failed
to save her. What she taught me
all my life: do both at once―
keep my distance but be there
in time to catch her when she falls.
Now she sits in a wheelchair
transfixed by her lap, the wrinkles
of her pale and swollen knuckle-skin.
She’s rummaging through dusty
files of wrongs she has endured,
polishing her Purple Heart.
Between us, a bloodline of sadness.
If I began, the list would loop and
lengthen―an umbilical of blame.
Kathy Nelson (Fairview, NC), recipient of the 2019 James Dickey Poetry Prize, is the author of two chapbooks―Cattails (Main Street Rag, 2013) and Whose Names Have Slipped Away (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Asheville Poetry Review, The Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, Broad River Review, Southern Poetry Review, U.S. 1 Worksheets, The Practicing Poet (Terrapin Books) and It’s All Relative: Tales from the Tree (Stone Ivy Press).
Kathy Nelson’s poem “Rose Dorothea” will also be published in Speckled Trout Review’s Fall 2019 issue.
After the accident, someone else drove him
to the emergency room. She found the note
scrawled in his loopy hand, her name, the words,
where are you? Good, she thought, he’s on the ground
before she knew about the nail slammed through
his boot, impaling his right foot’s arch.
All summer he spent days twelve stories
up, walking beams while she worked two jobs,
scraping crumbs from white damask, arranging
silver and goblets, sweeping floors. She wore
sensible soft soles, imagined the man she loves
living in air, disappearing like the dust he showers
away each night while her hands wring water from
his curls, letting summer slip through her fingers.
Careless, the way they built the scaffolding, leaping
from unsecured planks before tightening bolts.
Pat Riviere-Seel is the author of three poetry collections, including Nothing Below but Air and The Serial Killer’s Daughter,which won the Roanoke-Chowan Award. She teaches in the University of North Carolina Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program. Pat received the “Charlie Award” from the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in 2017. Before earning her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, she worked as a newspaper journalist, an editor, a publicist, and a lobbyist. She lives in Burnsville, NC. Pat Riviere-Seel’s poem “Reclamation” will also appear in Speckled Trout Review’s Fall 2019 issue.
Directions to the Hard Edge of this World
To get there, time-travel to 1960, take the Crewe to Burkeville road
for twelve miles, turn right at the turnoff for Mr. Dixon’s farm,
and head down the dirt road that passes the sawmill across
from the pasture where Dixon’s bull ambles around in his red halter.
Then you’ll have to walk about a quarter mile through stands of loblolly
pine before you’ll see the rusty gate that leads to seven
acres of tobacco, which, since it’s late August is yellowing with heat
and nicotine. My grandpa’s horse, Billy Buck, is pulling a sled up
and down the long rows of yellow-topped plants, the heavy beads
of sweat glimmering on his brown flanks like diamonds and these are the
only precious things to be found in this memory of the old man’s
sharecropper life, the hard work that will lead to a trip to the tobacco auction
in Richmond where weary men with callused hands and creased brown
faces sell their crops for less money than it takes to pay the rent and feed
their families. This field resides in memory now, a place where the poor
labored, so, as my grandpa said, the rich could get richer and the world
could continue its gritty business of grinding down the poor into shadows
on a summer field, who lifted ladles full of well water out of an aluminum
pail, and sometimes, I swear, as spilled water fell like rain, as grown men
steadied themselves in the Virginia heat, as crows flew over the metal roofs
of nearby barns and outbuildings, as the fields shimmered in waves of heat
rising—as all of this happened, I would pause from stringing tobacco leaves
to sticks and wonder about the mean, hard edge this world had found.
Jesse Millner’s poems have appeared in Steam Ticket, The Split Rock Review, The Comstock Review, The South Florida Poetry Journal, The West Texas Literary Review and have been included in Best American Poetry, 2013. Jesse teaches writing courses at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida.
Jesse Millner’s poems “The Endless Rain of Nights” and “Kin” will be published in Speckled Trout Review’s Fall 2019 issue.
Hank, During and Afterwards
I never wanted to do anything
But let God write my songs and allow me
To sing them for folks around Montgomery.
That’s before the whole world called me Hank when
I was drunk or sober and mortal sin
Was staged as my subject after Audrey
Took over my life so gradually.
And she thought she could sing. I did not care.
She sounded like her voice lodged in a screen
To me, a rusty door-screen soaked with oil.
I always drank more, too, go on a binge
To free feeling her control over me.
If I had not met Audrey Mae Sheppard
I am sure my fans would miss “Cold Cold Heart.”
In fact almost all of the songs I wrote
Come right out of my ups and downs with her.
The line, “The light shines bright from your window,”
Comes straight out of our lives, that ever blur
Of whiskey and fog, fed by her desire
For a bigger house of gold and glitter.
I had a gun once. I pulled the trigger.
“ Mansion on the Hill ” – that was the song.
Things just come to me now, how my daddy
Did serve our country in the first world war.
He came home, changed man, not a lumberman
Like he was before. My mother, Lillian,
Made him move away from her boardinghouse.
It seems like she never needed a spouse.
17 September, 1923,
Born. And death: first day, 1953.
I know this because Fame took over me.
I was an alcoholic at sixteen.
Think where could I go but to the bottle.
It would pick me up, then let me hang down,
When the quack doctor tossed me pills around.
I needed help. All producers wanted
Was to prop me up at a microphone
And make me sing. And then I was haunted
By gossip and rumors, breakups, unlike
Any lyric I could possibly write
To say what bad shape I was really in.
The Opry fired me. The Hayride shunned me.
So I died in the backseat of my Cad.
It was baby blue – museum somewhere
In Montgomery. And that’s not all bad.
I just did not wake up in that backseat.
My driver kept driving toward Canton,
Ohio. Ray Price told the audience
I was dead: hear me now – that’s obvious.
My son, Bocephus, carries on my name.
I cannot name his wives, though I can hear
Hank 3’s outlaw-country in honky-tonks
Across the land – Hilary, Holly too.
And Jett Williams: I made sure Mama knew
About. How glad I am she got to tour
With Don Helms and all my Drifting Cowboys.
Photo credit: Kate Whittington
Shelby Stephenson served as Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 2015-2018. Recent books: Elegies for Small Game (Press 53), winner of Roanoke-Chowan Award; Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl (Bellday Books), the Bellday Prize; Our World (Press 53); Nin’s Poem (St. Andrews University Press), Slavery and Freedom on Paul’s Hill (Press 53). Recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Achievement Award, English Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina-Pembroke, serving as editor of Pembroke Magazine from 1979 until his retirement in 2010.
In addition to “Hank, During and After,” Shelby Stephenson’s poems “What Happened to That Lonesome Whippoorwill” and “Audrey, Afterwards” will appear in Speckled Trout Review’s Fall 2019 issue.
Who wouldn’t laugh at the sight
of a crowd of smallish porters
with doglike lack of expression
toting a pair of sumo wrestlers?
They’re fording the Yui River
against a background of sand beach
and a clutch of sailboats wafting
like butterflies. The wrestlers
look placid and even wistful
as a pair of Zen philosophers.
Their blue kimonos shield them
against any possible reproach.
The porters are almost naked.
Their loincloths sag to expose
their tender bellies as they slog
and shiver in the knee-deep stream.
An outcrop of volcanic rock
leers at the passing troupe while
a couple of pines scratch critiques
into the lemony pulp of sky.
William Doreski has published three critical studies and several poetry collections. His poetry, essays, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent books are A Black River, A Dark Fall and Train to Providence.
William Doreski’s “Okitsu,” “Hakone,” and “Ejiri” are about Ando Hiroshige’s (1797-1858) wood-block prints known as The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido. The Tokaido, or “Eastern Sea Route,” is 320 miles long, extending from Tokyo to Kyoto. Hiroshige around 1829 began the horizontal-format landscapes for which he would become famous.
Syria Mosque, Oakland, Pittsburgh
Photograph by W. Eugene Smith, 1955
A close-up shot of the Mosque: one of a pair
Of sphinxes bookending the stairs,
Her languorous lion’s body, eyes lidded shut,
Pre-Raphaelite features lifted to the sun.
Her big paws and headdress-covered breasts.
A sash of “Shriner arabesques”
Bands the wall behind her. A fretwork turret.
The lattice of calligraphy the light
Could be writing.
Cast in that basking metal
She’s almost purring—a cat on a windowsill—
Who never failed to transfix me as a child.
Nor did the names below her,
After the Armistice from lists of casualties,
Setting the stage for the rest of the century.
Robert Gibb’s books include After, which won the 2016 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize and Among Ruins, which won Notre Dame’s Sandeen Prize in Poetry for 2017. Other awards include a National Poetry Series title (The Origins of Evening), two NEA Fellowships, a Best American Poetry and a Pushcart Prize. A new book, Sightlines, has won the Prize Americana for Poetry 2019.
Robert Gibb’s poems “Coal Stove,” “The Sorrowful Mysteries,” and “The Fossil Record” will be featured in Speckled Trout Review’s Fall 2019 issue.