458 Slices
Medium 9780253000958

After the Flood

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

A river poured through the landscape I knew as a child. It was the power of the place, gathering rain and snowmelt, surging through the valley under sun, under ice, under the bellies of fish and the curled brown boats of sycamore leaves. You will need a good map of Ohio to find the river I am talking about, the West Branch of the Mahoning. The stretch of it I knew best no longer shows on maps, a stretch that ran between wooded slopes and along the flanks of cornfields and pastures in the township of Charlestown, in Portage County, a rural enclave surrounded by the smokestacks and concrete of Akron, Youngstown, and Cleveland in the northeastern corner of the state.

Along that river bottom I gathered blackberries and hickory nuts, trapped muskrats, rode horses, followed baying hounds on the scent of raccoons. Spring and fall, I walked barefoot over the tilled fields, alert for arrowheads. Along those slopes I helped a family of Swedish farmers collect buckets of maple sap. On the river itself I skated in winter and paddled in summer, I pawed through gravel bars in search of fossils, I watched hawks preen and pounce, I courted and canoed and idled. This remains for me a primal landscape, imprinted on my senses, a place by which I measure every other place.

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Medium 9780253018571

How to Freak Out Your American Roommate

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

THE FIRST TIME you meet your first roommate, you are jetlagged from the nineteen hours of flying to the United States. You barely register the names of his mother and father and siblings as he introduces them to you. But you do register how friendly and chatty they all seem to be. It strikes you, also, how everything he says appears to end with an inflection, so that he always seems to be asking a question. And when his family leaves, he tells you how he thinks it’s awesome? That you are like from Africa? And everything? You do not understand why being from Africa is “awesome,” but you smile and say thank you. He tells you then that he is from Maine, and when you reciprocate by telling him that this is “awesome,” he looks at you with a mildly puzzled smile and asks why. “Exactly,” you do not say.

You are wide awake that night when he begins to unpack his suitcases. And since you have nothing else to do, you ask if there is anything you can do to help. You install his television and his refrigerator, both of you, and he tells you that, although he understands you might want to buy your own fridge, he has brought a relatively big one so that you might share his, since he figured you couldn’t possibly bring one all the way from Africa. You tell him—and you really mean it—that this is very considerate of him, that it’d be nice to share his fridge. You can use his electric kettle as well, he says, and his printer, too. And, oh, his mom had gotten him a lot of snacks—too many, in fact—so you can help yourself to those as well. “Oh, nice!” you respond, laughing.

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Medium 9781771870849

The Bush

Ratzlaff, Lloyd Thistledown Press ePub

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THERE WERE TWO WAYS INTO THE BUSH. One was through the ditch of the correction line, where weeds and reeds grew as tall as I was; and at their densest spot I had to jump over a mud bottom to the other side, where the brush began. But a barbwire fence stood in the way, and I had to pass through it like a woman through a magician’s knives, only I often had a rip in my pants to show for it later.

The other way led through the pasture, with its notorious bull that might charge at any time. Not that he ever did, but he could— and this was another deterrent. So sometimes I skulked along the carragana hedge at the north until the beast looked the other way, and beelined over to the dugout that lay between me and this side of the bush. My older cousins had built a raft from leftover boards and railway ties, and kept it tethered to a post at the water’s edge. They used it sometimes to dive from the middle of the dugout, when they weren’t off shooting gophers or working in the fields.

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Medium 9781927068304

The Bush on the Grave

Lloyd Ratzlaff Thistledown Press ePub

THE BUSH ON THE GRAVE

In the pioneer cemetery beside Diefenbaker Park near my home in Saskatoon, there is a grave on which a chokecherry bush is growing, hanging heavily some autumns with ripe black fruit. Vandals often desecrate other graves in that place, but as far as I know, they’ve never damaged this one. Beside the South Saskatchewan River, in the middle of a patch of prairie, in the centre of a grave, the bush stands over the remains of a little boy named Vernon Leo Kuhn, who lived in this world for six months in 1902 and 1903. It’s the only bush of its kind in the cemetery. I have often thought that, if it were done respectfully, those dangling clusters of cherries could be made into a unique wine. But no one ever seems to pick them; perhaps people are too superstitious to do it, or perhaps some fluke of nature allows them to ripen there until a person such as I comes along, ripe himself for the kind of experience which befell me there one afternoon of the first of September.

I don’t say I would have felt free to pick those chokecherries if I had intended simply to make a drinking wine. For wine and its related spirits have sometimes caused me more trouble than they were worth; but when I set out for the cemetery with a plastic pail in the late afternoon sun, I pondered the untidy leave I had taken of my family’s Christian fundamentalism — affirming the leave-taking, but regretting the pain — and hoped for a sacramental wine to come of my day’s endeavour.

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Medium 9780253018571

The Silences of Bob Kaufman: A Cento

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

the truth is an empty bowl of rice

truth is a burning guitar

it takes so much to be nothing

long green journeys into sounds of death

you get off at Fifty-ninth Street forever

eternity has wet sidewalks

all those well-meaning people

who gave me obscure books

when what I really needed

was a good meal

ordinary people, that is, people whose annihilation

is handled on a corporate scale

they have memorized the pimples

on your soul

whether I am a poet or not, I use

fifty dollars’ worth of air

every day, cool

dear people, let us eat Jazz

so we sat down on our bloodsoaked

garments and listened to Jazz

one thousand saxophones infiltrate the city

my face is covered with maps of dead nations

the poet nailed to the bone of the world

I love him because his eyes leak

in most cases, a sane hermit will beat

a good big man

I think of Chaplin and roll a mental cigarette

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