Publishing the Best Writing We Can Get Our Hands on . . . since 1973.

Issue # 69/70

June 2020
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AR-69-70 cover (ver 1)--Jpeg.jpg

Art: Linda Hall, "Cake for Dinner"

Featured in this issue


James Kimbrell 



Questions from My Daughters



I. Why Do We Need Sadness?

--Alli, age 14


I think of Son Thomas, bluesman, grave digging understudy

of a one-armed gravedigger. He’d drive down from Leland

and play for us on Fridays when not sculpting human skulls


with river bank clay, sticking in loose teeth from a deep jar

he kept on a shelf, shaping a new look for sadness. Sadness

builds the juke joint. Joy cuts the rug. At the Lebanese


rib-joint in Clarksdale at the crossroads, joy and sadness feast

on the same pecan-smoked pork, then wait by the ditch

for a dude to roll down the window of his Cadillac at midnight,


pedaling glory. But nobody waits for sadness, let alone

with a weirdly tuned guitar and a black cat bone stitched inside

their coat pocket. Why do we need sadness? We don’t.


Like weather, sadness just is. Like weather, sadness is what

we’re working with, the mojo, the adios, the unforeseen

logos, the tightrope anti-dope for a snake-bit Mississippi.




II. Is It Scientifically Proven That Dinosaurs Said “Roar”?

-- Sofia, age 13


Not unlike the river that separates

     Vicksburg, Mississippi from Delta,

          Louisiana, home of Daiquiri Stop,


there’s a swift gap between Hollywood

     and reality, and yet another between

          what’s perceived and what exists


beyond our limits, and this further

     jeopardized by the many-layered

          obfuscations of dust. My guess:  Giganotosaurus,


ole Claw, ole Three-Finger, coo’d

     like a ten-ton pigeon, a throaty

          welling up from early earth, notes


of root and cave river. A sub-woofed

     ululation so righteous it made the horizon

          twitch the way a cow’s back


shakes off horseflies. Or maybe its cry

     was in proportion to its brain, the kind

          of refined frequency that steers


bats to mosquitos, turns a lost

     hound home. Like Chagall’s violin,

          like chickens and rain in Patterson,


New Jersey, so much depends on

     distance, how you bridge it, how you climb

          into an ancient  skin, sniff  around


creek banks and tree tops with a snout

     three feet long, scanning  valleys

          through eyes the width of footballs.


How round the day in its pre-fossil

     mist and leafiness, free of drink

          machines and Teen Vogue. Where


to go with each star a pilot, each

     corner a cornerstone? Sure as rain,

          sure as the ache for dinner


and friends and home, you have to

     find your register, the sound

          you make, your call, your song.




III.  Why Don’t We Just Talk about Politics?

--Darbi, age 11


Not the question to ask over family reunion dumplings,

though she means to steer talk away from the Baptist

vs. Episcopal Church. Not wanting to juju the potluck,

I keep my mouth shut.  To my right, my uncle,


a Vietnam  Vet.  To my left, our cousin, raised in England,

gay and proud. O family navigations! O tender steps!

O black and white children singing happy birthday

to the same Diabetic grandmother! Here’s to taking


none of it for granted, neither u-brown’m rolls

nor turnip greens, not the Lebanese mailman

nor the judge talking hunting dogs with his nephew,

a cannabis farming statistician. We’re all here


at the Ag Center, our way forward lit by the match-tips

of history, safest on smooth, on common ground. 

So no, we don’t talk politics.  Unless it’s one-on-one.

Unless it’s election year. Unless there’s beer involved.


Unless  it’s a bad idea. Unless one leaves a clutch

of campaign signs and bumper stickers in a washtub

by the front door that another, tower of messy

plates in hand, mistakes for a shallow garbage can.

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Featured writers/Featured Prose

Patricia Henley


   Man with a big belly in a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt leans on a newel post at the foot of  stairs leading up to a scruffy foursquare. Winter wind nudges me along Ormond Street. It’s the kind of weather you don’t want to be out working in. He’s delivering phone books. He curses those stairs. Something about Christ on a crutch.

            Once I did that.

            Once I waited tables at a Bible camp.

            Once I clerked in a library.

            Once I assisted at a daycare in a bowling alley, cigarette smoke fog-like over me and all the munchkins.

            Once I was a barista in the steam and squeak of an espresso shop and I laughed falsely — nearly every day — at my boss’s jokes. That’s work, too.

            Once I folded wool sweaters at a stand-alone shop. We could see the mall proper, that oasis, but we were not allowed to go anywhere for lunch. We sweater-folders ate our smashed tuna sandwiches knee-to-knee in the utility room, the fusty odor of a mop bucket overtaking the tuna. Sometimes I was banished to the rickety balcony to sew labels into sweaters on an old black Singer sewing machine. The word sweatshop comes to mind, but I’m not recalling this to align myself with oppressed people. I knew or thought I knew all along that privilege was mine, waiting down the highway.

            Once I sold handguns and Virginia hams at a roadside stand. The men who came in to own the handguns with their eyes made my skin crawl. They were excited by the guns, as if by porn.

            Once I cleaned houses. Big houses at Big Sky. Places where the walk-in-closets were lined with twenty pair of cowboy boots.

            Once I wrote real estate ads and answered the phone for the realtors in their stilettos and false eyelashes.

            Once I cooked the evening meals for paying customers on raft trips.

            Once I sold Christmas trees.

            Once I taught aerobics classes.

            Once I picked potato bugs off potato plants and drowned the bugs in a coffee can of kerosene. I traded that labor for a burlap bag of wheat berries that lasted most of the winter of 1976.

            Once I pruned apple trees in February, my cheeks chapped, my trapezius muscles seized up as if in cartoon shock.

            Once I picked apples.

            Once I picked cherries.

            Once I picked pears, but that only lasted a few hours. I couldn’t stand the sticky pesticide that clung to my  hands and hair.

            A friend from that era used to say, “Enlightenment can be found at the end of a shovel.” He died of an auto-immune disease. I can still hear him playing his flute among the lodgepole pine. I can picture him, in the brassy light of a lantern, reading Lord of the Rings to kids we knew. He taught me how to use a misery whip. How to hoist a bag of grain on my shoulder to save my back. How to ration my breath while hiking up a steep switchback in the Enchantment Range. He taught me attitude I’d call tough, or stubborn.

            Now, a young neighbor tends her roses and says to me, “Don’t you like to be outside? I never see you outside working.” Times like that I zip it. Times like that it comes home to me how little my neighbor, or anyone, knows me. The exhaustion that colonized my body or the euphoria of hard work, the way it fixes in your mind and sinews. I still dream about those apples. Winesaps. Reds and Golds. Braeburns and Cameos. In the dream my bag is always full and my bin is always empty.

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Jun 02, 2023, 7:00 PM
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