The External Soul

Weekly feature by: Catherine Fahey

I mistrust my memories, the bright ones
and the gas-lit ones. I’m waiting
for my neurons to fail, my brain
to tangle. I’m waiting to forget how
to breathe, and the start of this poem.
I read a fairy tale, or think I did, about a giant
who kept his heart in egg, and could not die.
Best practice is to have an on-site and external
backup of all data, but I’m leery
of accidental custard, so I save my mind
in multiple redundancies.

My strongest memories are cast in metal.
The silver and green earrings I got at the conference,
and the gold sun-and-moon ones hold
a dream. That bracelet was made on a dare.
When I wish to forget, I follow
KonMari, and thank
the object for its service.

I sold my high school ring for scrap
because I hated those bitches, and kept
my sorority pin, even though I de-sistered:
a charm against future bitches. My mother’s
class ring sits in my jewelry box,
its onyx stone cracked, half-missing. I can’t
bring myself to wear it, look at it, destroy it,
sell it, toss it into the sea, bury it, burn it.
So I hide it away, and keep it close.

I never got a college ring, for those years
are kept in books. Tangled together,
their plots and theses jumbled into
an impression of four years. We misname
the people we love because our brains store
all important names in the same place. When I call
you Frodo, it’s not because I’m losing
my mind, think you’re a hobbit, or
love the dog more.

Everyday memories—ice cream & dances,
bike rides & red lights, my nieces’ screams,
my sister’s hair—are planted
in a field. They grow wild there,
among rosemary for remembrance &
pansies for thoughts & rue for
fuckups, all transformed, passing
from bee to bee, becoming
honey-sweet and candle-light.

The hardest memories, the ones
I can’t stop thinking about, the ones
I can’t tell my therapist, the ones
I can’t trust in my head, or outside it,
are forget-me-nots, tattooed on my hands.

Perspective

Weekly feature by: Holly Day

I have spent every day of my life
worrying about the oil crises, AIDS, what is and is not on
the endangered species list
raw sewage in swimming pools, the drinking water
having food on the table, getting/not getting pregnant
exposure to citywide pesticide sprayings,
and I wish

it could be just about The Bomb, any one of The Bombs
something simple, concrete
a great, bloated, careless god confined
to a specific locale
entirely destructive and fear-worthy but
only if actually invoked.

Dear Utah

Weekly feature by: Tehri Parker

Dear Utah,
For the last few days I have been exploring your back roads,
moving through your landscapes,
taking in your aromas of cedar, aspen, and alfalfa fields from my vantage on the back of a motorcycle.
I have had some time to ponder you, so I hope you’ll hear me out.

I can’t speak for all travelers, but I don’t think I am unique.
I didn’t come here for your city lights (we have those back home).
I didn’t come here for your weak coffee, hidden liquor stores, or overpriced lodging (can we work on that?).
I came here for your endless unmarred vistas,
For your slick rock hiking,
For your desert pools,
For your solitude,
For rock formations that blow my mind,
For your…wildness.

Utah, my friend, you did not disappoint.

But, don’t blow it.

I know that Zinke and his pals want to “open you up,”
sell your assets to the highest bidder,
reduce the size of your grand monuments.
Does that frighten you? It frightens me. Your wildness makes me a better person. It takes me outside of my head, gives me perspective, makes me care. And I’m not the only one – so many writers have said the same, in such soaring words. I can send you books if you want…

Dear Utah,
Please save yourself. Take action. Protect the vistas, canyons, peaks, washes, hudoos, and wild lands that make you, you. Show us how to take the long view, how to be a part of the earth not outside of it. We’ve got your back.
#resist

Objection!

Weekly feature by: Erica Prather

Objection, objection – I have an objection.
Refute, refuse, disapprove, disagree, dispute.
Oppose.
I object the numbers.

1,720 untouched acres
for 6 miles of road and
48 new methane venting pads to reach
17 million tons of coal
Over 50,000 comments that want to keep it in the ground
0 methane capture regulations
the adjacent West Elk Mine is the #1 polluter in the state of Colorado

I object to the mind-numbing sound of extraction in this quiet space.
I object to finding a loophole to the Roadless Forest Act for a bankrupt company.
I object the USFS neglect of the Endangered Species Act.
I object the USFS skirting of the Environmental Protection Act.
I object because the USFS did not address climate change.
I object because the USFS said this project’s response to – ‘will this harm the Canadian Lynx?’ – was a pithy maybe, probably, we don’t really know.
If you don’t know, don’t.
Defer. Defer. Defer.

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell…”

I found the way to this place. It holds intrinsic value for me. It does not have a number.

Public lands (we found our way there)
Public lands (the aspens flirted with the sky that day)
Public lands (no motorized vehicles! the signs are in all capital letters you know)
Public lands (this means you)
Public lands (I didn’t see a keep out sign)
Public lands (I was transfixed by the golden grove)
Public lands (from California to the new york island)
Public lands (metallic waste rock in the stream)
Public lands (arsenic in the rivers)
Public lands (mercury and lead in our veins)
Public lands  (where will all the methane go?)

Public lands are in the hands of the generation that grinds the hourglass sands

I object on the grounds that the USFS did not address the ESA or utilize NEPA to its fullest capacity. Outdated Biological Assessments dating from 2010 are not an acceptable source of information on which to judge the irreparable damage that will pockmark the landscape – just as the journey to the Sunset Roadless area attests. You can see these drainage pads from a satellite image. This is the message that we send to the rest of the world, to the universe, like an etching in rock – see what we value? It is spelled out in neat little squares. Anything orbiting earth can see.

One more number: 10
10 years of coal left in adjacent West Elk Mine. It is more than enough.
Will we fill the hourglass with soot? I object.

A History of Minor Miracles

Weekly feature by: Adam Snavely

While I convince myself I’m not dying,
I stretch out the pain in my chest,
swinging my arms around
like an idiot
before feeling under my armpits
for any lumps of wisdom
to be found. Nothing.
So I flip on the tv,
put on a re-run of Chopped
and think about how
when I go, it’ll be like this:
a twinge
under my right arm
which I ignore
because Chef Tonya
is frying her lamb chops
in a sherry reduction, which
is a disaster.

The first miracle Jesus ever pulled
was turning water into wine,
which they call
a minor miracle.
“Not bad, Jesus,”
says Peter,
drinking miracle juice.
“But I saw Criss Angel
put hooks into his eyes last week.
Thomas saw it, too.
Can you top that?”

My mother is three years old
and does not speak English yet.
Her husband is already ten
in a different hemisphere,
throwing rocks at cop cars.
My heart
turns
again and
again.

Chef Sanchez dabs the lamb
in its own juice, turned oxblood
by the sherry.
“It’s dry!” I yell.
“She should’ve seared them separate!”
He puts it to his lips.
The trumpet sounds.

“The lamb is perfect.
The sherry caramelized,
and when that happens the meat
can get tough and chewy in the
middle, but you controlled the heat
perfectly.”

“What about the vintage, Jesus?
Do you even know what year it is?”
Jesus smiles,
sips his wine,
knowing Peter will now not contract dysentery tomorrow,
knowing Peter will now not die next week.
He will die a few years from now,
a few miles from here,
hung upside down,
blood rushing to his swollen eyes
in praise of Christ.

I see the van
put its turn signal on
and get into the turn lane.
I look right as I pull out
onto the street.
I look left one last time
and hit the brakes
as the van takes my front bumper off.
My heart
turns

“Hello? Earth to Jesus?”
The party laughs.
Jesus wipes his eyes.
Peter will not die next week.

I turn the tv off
and wander outside.
The sun flies over me
as I stretch into its warmth.

Again
and
Again.

Investing Heavily in Chicken Fat

Weekly feature by: Tommy Paley

I spent a lot of time in my 20s admiring bark.

My teachers in elementary school often confused me for someone who was taller, flatter and often used as a chalkboard and, who was I to argue, as I always aspired to be a chalkboard.

On advice from a friend, I am putting all my eggs in one basket and investing heavily in chicken fat.

I often go downtown on Mondays so I can swing around accountants or, as my dad oddly calls them, street lamps.

As a young boy I often peppered my mother with questions until she figuratively “put me out in the yard.”

In an effort to be a “numbers guy” I gave up letters for a solid week, only to come crawling back after being pelted with under-ripe tomatoes. It was December.

I once jumped over a small pond and, let me tell you, those ducks were super-impressed.

To make my little sister happy, I would often spend hours pretending I was a teddy bear. Why this made a 36 year old so happy I was a little scared to ask.

After careful consideration, I ceased using the letters “r” and “w” for a full year. I never felt more alive.

Seeking revenge, I once ate 25 apples in one sitting. As I clutched my stomach the rest of the afternoon I decided to either let go of my desire for revenge or stop taking suggestions from my friend, the apple farmer, or both.

Friday afternoons used to mean three things: buying shaving cream, laughing at kites and reading poetry. Then I got a second job and was too busy.

I have to restrain myself from climbing up flights of stairs to the top of buildings and then looking down at all of the people on the sidewalk and shaking my head at how puny and small they are. If only they knew what I knew.

No matter how much fun it sounds, “tickling the geese” is rarely a good idea except with particular geese.

When I ride my bike, I like to pretend that I’m being chased by a pack of rabid dogs which partially explains my high-pitched screams and my frantic offers of unlimited doggie treats as I race through the streets. The other reasons have been sealed by the judge who, strangely, usually smells like a combination of wet dog and bike grease.

No one and, I repeat, no one comes to my home before the cows do.

I don’t care what others say, but from now on I’ve decided to live as if each day is Tuesday.

Every six months I go visit this woman who is always going on and on about dental hygiene and brushing and flossing. Others tell me she is my dentist, while I vehemently claim that she is fictional.

My impassioned toast at New Year’s was called “an affront to everything we stand for,” “a call to arms,” “funny?” and “evidence that long-term exposure to industrial-strength soap is a bad idea.”

I used to live by the following motto “one can never have too many shirts” until I did.

One spring morning, I got up, got dressed and went for a walk in the woods. Some say I never returned. I’ve had to ask them multiple times to “stop saying that already.”

Another Slow Sunday

Weekly feature by: Mark Young

The car park is full of conspiracy theorists. There is also a large swimming pool

Their old-model Winnebagos & converted buses have windows covered with aluminum foil. Passersby are convinced they’re disguised hydroponic gardens on wheels. They think the swimming pool is there to provide the water the cannabis plants need.

A continuous loop of the moon landing is projected onto a large popup screen at one end of the car park. At the other, Bugs Bunny cartoons are projected on to the back wall of the local bottle shop so the children have something to watch. The cartoons are regularly interrupted by drunks jumping up & saying either “What’s up Doc?” or “One giant leap for mankind.”

Many of those present wear a 40 badge = FourT = Trump Tells The Truth. Others wear 40+ badges: it represents their age, not that they are more fervent believers in the President. Passersby believe the badges — of either kind — are overstating the IQ of those who wear them.

The Earth is flat, not just as far as the eye can reach but beyond that, right to the edges. At least that is how the people in the car park see it. To the outsiders, it’s just another example of how shortsighted these people really are.

Irreverent Melanin

Weekly feature by: Catie Hajek

The bees are my sisters
The crows are my brothers
Despair is my father
And the moon is my mother
Immortalize my soul
This beauty in me – it must be remembered
Unmake man
Remake him as me
I am entirely too divine
Part my wings
Come between me and the sky-
me in the sky
The tears I shed are glittering like precious gems;
Like stars spotting my sweet brown skin
Irreverent melanin
Oh, I can feel the red sun rising
Its burning up inside my chest
It feels just like a Texas summer
Can’t sweat this out of me
Can’t untie my knotted mind
Please
Please
You keep saying you’ll fix me
Leave my waywardness alone
These scars aren’t yours to touch
Fretting again
Pettiness and vanity bloom
Chewing gum on the pavement
On my shoes
On the fancy white shag rug in your living room
This is what you care about?
Me
Me
Me
I will scream it at the top of my lungs
I will stomp out all your embers
Girls, listen your mothers
There is no love in the water
Steadfast ignorance
Spread the sickness
This is all I get for my trouble
Undone again
Indifferent apologies
Round down your accomplishments
Listen closely
“One time they-”
“Well my cousin told me-”
“I read this article-”
Bleached out propaganda
Reduced, abused and nothing
Lips
Hips
Dicks
Thighs
Give it all back and then some
Memorials on the news
Something closer to humanity
Up and up
On your knees again
And up some more