How Witches Die

By Jennie R. Leishman

A long-toothed woman has lain in this field all winter,
Waiting for the earth to take her
Back, waiting to melt like the snow,
To water the spring
Lilies, then rise up in a thousand
Nodding white heads

She has come to this field for years.
As turkeys thaw on kitchen counters
And tine white lights go up all down Main Street, she pulls
On an old brown sweater that used to smell
Of cigarettes and Old Spice, stuffs
Her pockets with old photographs and jewelry,
Shuffles away, full of faith, humming
Some old ditty from when she was a girl.

She always leaves the front door open.
On the sidewalk, brides saunter, holding
Hands with their young grooms
Fresh from the chapel and smelling
Of carnations and cream cheese mints;
They hesitate and train
To catch a glimpse of someone at the stove,
Someone stretching out on a recliner
In from of the television – suddenly they will want
To hurry on, seeing the house
Is really just a senseless head, mouth
Propped open by a swollen tongue.

In March you can go to the field
And find the old woman rising,
Hair matted and fat behind her head, skirt muddy and
Wet.
Thinking of passing again through the gaping,
Mute hole her house, she’ll pause:
Fingers clenched and eyes shut tight, she’ll try
To shoot down roots and clutch
The earth to her in a thousand tiny white fists.

 

Neighbor

By Nathan Furr

When the wind becomes bitter
and the snow stings my eyes
I think of you Hejtman -- 
Salzburg, March 1939, Getriedegasse --
carrying your sacks of books to burn.

I think of the excitement in your face,
more than a child's, and the vision of flames
that crosses in your thick glasses like the clouds
of many sunsets passing at once.

I would laugh at this image of you,
because it seems so typical,
so much like the adventure movies now
where you would be
a black-hearted Nazi, a mad dog.
You would stumble 
over the words on your tongue.

This would be the easy way,
except that you chewed slowly,
you stepped off the sidewalk for people passing,
appreciated pastry and good music. If I could shock
then I might have something to claim,

but you were only a man I knew,
a friend of my neighbor on Hanuschplatz.
Remember the Christmas party? I told the joke
about the three dogs and you laughed the hardest.

Three months later. going to burn books
with the rest of the town,
I bumped into you
knocking your glasses awry on your face.
For a moment the still of your blue eyes
met the silence of mine,
until I recognized you.
Then we ran together 
like brothers to the fire.

These Questions

By James Richards

I have listened as carefully as I can, outside Honeymoon
Chapel, to all the advice: a bluebird's breath, soft as a 
spider's filament; a plastic shovel and red bucket in the
grass cracking raindrops open to release the click trapped 
inside each one.

I knew it had to go on.
Is that what you knew?
Look for it, under the letters
the way you look under a face
card when playing blackjack.
The green-felt table tops, stools
keeping your feet off the ground,
the click of drinks and click
of plastic chips. "Can we get out
of here," can we get out?
The air is smoke, the eyes numb
from seeing. "Excuse us sir,"
will you excuse us?

The whole city 
yawns in my ear and stays there
all the way from Vegas to
Big COttonwood. Driving asleep
and not asleep, we let the day
show us its colors: straw,
old snow, and tired sky.
"Are we there yet?" Winding up
the drain of the canyon's sink
are we there? Each curve
a kink in my side, a question mark
carving its way up my spine.

At the lodge, the smell of money on my breath, my hands
are discovering how to help you come up the stairs -- your
white dress -- help you through the door, the threshold. Is
that what I'm lifting you for? A voyage into another
dimension? Maybe it is. Maybe I can't take a step because
I don't dare disturb the universe. "Oh come on, that's so
stupid." That's stupid, isn't it?

There was a question I asked myself
all night as I slept beside you. Now,
because I woke up before you,
because the room is white and the window
is white and your face is white -- I remember
what it was. I remember my dear,
what the question was. And I can tell 
by the way your eyes move behind their lids
and the way you breathe with your lips
parted, that you are asking yourself the same thing.

Art

By Scott Hanson

Arnold yawned and glanced out across the guests in attendance at the annual Greerson Art Show. The room had polarized, pushing the art-makers away from the art buyers and art critics. Against the far wall, the painters and sculptors stood in bunches of three of four or sat around a coffee table littered with paper plates, crumby napkins, and left-over toothpicks. One of the artisans had swept the crumbs off a corner of the coffee table and was building a slender pyramid from plastic champagne glasses. The noise of other conversations overwhelmed their words, but Arnold could see them carving masterpieces in the air with visionary gestures.
The artists were separated from everyone else by an empty space, an invisible moat that outlined their territory. Periodically one would cross this trench to gather hors d’oeuvers, slowly pushing through the crowd of dark blue business suits, loading up a plate, then weaving their way back. There seemed to be no other interaction between the two groups; however, the conservatively dressed mob of agents and reps, critics, and collectors made up for that lack by exchanging business cards with frantic energy. The sounds of introductions and reunions bubbled over the serious talk about commissions. Under this enterprising buzz, the scholarly drone of art critics saturated the room.
At Arnold’s left, a gentleman was explaining the direct connection between Byzantine iconography and the Pop Art movement. After establishing a background for his listeners, he was just beginning to articulate the ethereal conviction manifest in ANdy Warhol’s later productions. Arnold, though, watched rather than listened as the man repeatedly smoothed isolated wisps of brown hair back down on his scalp. Arnold yawned again.
Excusing himself from the treatise, Arnold set out for the hor d’oeuvers table, carrying his paper plate and napkins in front of him like authorization papers. He traced an awkward path through the obstacle course of dark blue suit coats, winding around the thickly packed discussions, sidling between back-to-back conversations until he reached the caterer’s fashionable display.
At the table, he exchanged black stared with the white linen and shiny platters and parsley garnishes. He sighed, then began to pick at the food mechanically, placing selections on his plate without really paying attention to them. He looked up to see a woman step out of the crowd, her loose-fitting orange dress in sharp contrast to the background of navy blue polyester. She began to harvest the strays at the other end of the buffet, piling hors d’oeuvres onto a napkin spread in her hand.
Arnold turned back to the cubed turkey. He hesitated over which piece to stab until the fuzzy bit of green cellophane that topped his toothpick caught his attention. Then he dropped the toothpick on the table, quietly cleared his throat, and shuffled along the table towards the woman.
“I couldn’t help but notice your enthusiasm,” he said. “Are they that good?”
“I’ve tasted better,” she muttered.
Then she laughed a party-guest laugh, flicking the garnish off a Townhouse craker covered with cream cheese, and placed the snack on the top of her pile. Arnold looked at her more closely.
“I hope you won’t mind my asking, but aren’t you Bethany Mills?” he asked.
“Yes…,” she said, without quite letting go of the word.
“Arnold Baumgartner,” he supplied quickly. “I wanted to compliment you on your work. Your showing last season was tremendous.”
“Oh, really? You liked my sculpture that much?”
“I thought it was fabulous. Out of all the…”
“Why?”
He blinked, then stared for a moment. A memory of Bethany’s contribution to last year’s show squirmed its way into his mind: the sculpture dangled several inches above the floor — a mannequin held upright by the thick wire armature twisted around his throat. The arms and hands stretched out into the air and dozens of washers, spray-painted gold, and silver, dangled down from fishing line tied to the fingers. The back half of its head had been sawed away and the eye sockets were drilled out. A length of neon tubing had been implanted to replace the missing cranium; in sickly, yellow light, it spelled out “a-r-t.” Its arms and torso and legs were layered with patched and stips of dark blue cloth.
Something about the memory gave Arnold a nasty, prickling sensation in the back of his throat, like he had swallowed a fishbone.
“It … choked me,” he muttered, still gazing at the sculpture.
“What?”
“Well, when I saw it, I… that is to say, it captivated me. The juxtaposition of such diverse elements was bold and daring. It simple demanded consideration. The manner in which you employed twentieth-century-America miscellany was a keen translation of your vision of the culture. Your mannequins reached out to the audience and forced a reconsideration of life; or rather, they revealed life. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that the mannequins are us — they are America. And … there is an ethereal conviction manifest in your productions.”
“Hmm,” she said, smiling. “Thank you…”
“Arnold. Arnold Baum…”
Coughing suddenly at the prickle down his throat, he turned his head to the side and covered his mouth, worried that he might have swallowed a toothpick splinter or something. At his apology, Bethany just smiled. Another fit of coughing distracted him, and while he struggled to keep his composure, she collected several glasses of champagne in her free hand. Then she turned and walked back towards her companions. Arnold stared after her until a set of dark blue, double-breasted jackets cut across her trail.
“You’re welcome,” he mumbled.
Looking down at the plate still in his hands, he wondered why he’d bothered to collect such an assortment of appetizers. He set them down on the table and picked up a glass of champagne instead. After making sure nothing had accidentally fallen into the glass, he took a drink, trying to tilt his head so that the liquid would wash down whatever was stick there in his throat.
Loud laughter suddenly burst from the artists’ division. Arnold shuffled to the side of a tall, blue-clad corporate representative so he could see what had happened. Conversations hushed as other curious guests also turned, hoping to be included in the entertainment. Through the crowd, Arnold could see Bethany sitting amid the laughter. Then she turned and smiled at him and he suddenly felt the splinter in his throat again. He wished he could reach down through his ear and scrape the irritation away, but instead he gulped the rest of his champagne.
The artists didn’t bother to explain their humor, so the other guests returned to their discussions. Arnold retreated back along the serpentine path to the critics’ gathering place, letting the drone of their commentaries soothe his ears and throat.

Anahola

By Ed Whitley

We had been trying to hitch a ride for half an hour without any luck, our sandals flapping on the hot road, our backpacks growing heavier. A flipper from the snorkeling gear on my back scraped against my left leg and left a faint chalky line on my tanned skin. I stopped for a moment to lick my finger and rub it out. A car approached and we quickly assumed the posture of the weekend hitchhiker: straightened arms forming a square without bodies, rigid thumbs forming a square to our hands – the geometry of naivete. We had yet to develop the slack-necked dirge of the career hitchhiker: the slow, deliberate steps of some-one never in a hurry but always headed somewhere. The car passed us by. I looked back at Jen’s sunburned face and she gave me a fat-toothed smile. I lifted my eyebrows. This was the soundless dialogue that kept us walking. He too-big necklace dangled across her chest. “I got it when I was in Egypt,” she had told me earlier that week.
“What’s it supposed to be?” I had asked.
“A beetle. It was a gift from the family I was staying with.” It hung from a simple leather cord, was a big as a golf ball, and indignantly dared any article of clothing to go with it. Only Jen had the confidence to wear that necklace, I thought. But she didn’t wear it with the overt confidence that inspires self-deprecation in others; Jen had a self-contained assurance that could feel comfortable walking in silence with another person on an empty road. She could do that. She could dress a room in silence and leave you wrapped in your own sound.
“All this walking makes me feel like I’m back on my mission,” I said, trying to make conversation. Jen obliged.
“How long have you been home?”
“About a year. No wait -” I did the math. “A week from tomorrow it’ll be exactly a year.”
“Wow, I’ll bet it’s great to be back.”
“Yeah, it is. It’s good to be back.” I looked down at my feet.
“I’m thinking about serving a mission.”
I looked back at Jen. “Really?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s great. How soon?”
“Probably in December.”
“That’s great. That’s really great.”
Pause. Feet scuffled on the road, heads turned to check for a possible ride.
“So why did you go on a mission?”
“Oh, I dunno. That’s a hard question to answer. I guess I knew it was the right thing to do and that it was the right time of my life for it.”
“Are you glad you went?”
“Well yeah, I mean, who wouldn’t be? I mean, it was a great experience, you know. A once-in-a-lifetime kinda thing that you sort of have to do. You know?”
“Hm.”
“I mean, I’m totally glad I went and all, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, it’s just… I dunno. I’m just glad to be home and I’m glad that it’s over.”
I wished that Jen hadn’t brought up my mission. I’d only been home for such a short time that I was still trying to make sense of the experience, and sometimes I didn’t know what to think. Part of me remembered the aching beauty of seeing a family give themselves to God and another part of me remembered that I’d baptized families just to get my mission president off my back. Grace, in my mission, was not a gift from a loving God, but an economic contract between a priesthood-bearing CEO and his multi-level marketing team. If you came up in the black at the end of the month, you were saved; if you came up red, forget it. My mission president’s loud, former-drill-sergeant voice found its way into my head to fill the silence of the road: “‘ I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but if ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.’ Clearly, then, elders and sisters, whoever does not complete his baptismal goal with the Lord will have no promise. No promise of baptisms, no promise of a happy and successful life after the mission, no promise of a spouse and a family. Now get out there my little army and make me proud. I think that everyone who serves a mission should first do a tour of duty with the military because that teaches you obedience and discipline. In the Army they’d tell us to go find one or tell them that no it was too hard and we couldn’t do it? No! We’d just go do it and we knew that we could do it because they had asked us to and we did whatever they told us come hell or high water no matter what and it came to the point where we’d find a green frog and we’d paint it pink, elders and sisters we would paint that frog pink because that’s what they’d asked us for and we were going to deliver it to them no questions asked, so elders and sisters I don’t ever want to hear a word out of any of you that this is too hard and that you can’t do it, because the Lord needs you to do it no matter what happens or how tough an area is or whatever excuse you come up with it’s not good enough for the Lord…”
“Ben?”
“huh?”
Jen tugged at my sleeve and guided me toward a VW van that had just pulled off the side of the road. The VW drowsily urinated some fluid from its engine black and jostled back and forth under the stress of its tenuous existence. A kid about my age in the passenger seat opened up the side door while the driver grooved to the Bob Marley playing on the worn-out car stereo. It sounded like a bootleg from a live show. As we climbed in, I started to look for a place to sit down. Jen managed to find a seat among the mass of sleeping bags, foam pads, and backpacks, but it took me a while longer and I felt like a chicken circling around her nest before she finds the right way to sit on her eggs.
“Thanks a lot for picking us up,” I heard Jen say.
“No problem,” the guy in the passenger seat said. He was looking at us over his shoulder. He told us his name, but all I remembered was that he was the guy with the grin. He had short hair with the start of some dirty dreadlocks. The driver had on a large woven hat that covered what might have been dreads in a more advanced state, but I couldn’t tell from where I was sitting. He hunched over the steering wheel, obviously entranced by the curves of the road. The guy with the grin kept talking. He and his friend were from Oregon and had only been here a few weeks, alternately working and camping on the beach. We compared notes.
“Have you been to Kapa’s beach?” Jen asked.
“Yeah,” said Grin, “We were just there last week. Beautiful. Are you guys coming from there now?”
“No,” I answered, “we were just snorkeling at the tunnels.”
“So how’d you guys end up in Hawaii?” Jen this time.
“Jah brought us here.” He grinned even bigger and turned to face the road. I looked at Jen quizzically. He means God, I thought. Jah. It fit, but we didn’t ask them more about it. My MTC training started to kick in and I thought about building on common beliefs – Ammon, King Lamoni, and the Great Spirit; the whole schtick. I kept my mouth shut, though.
Jen got him talking again. “So have you picked up many other people today?”
Grin: “Yeah. Whenever we get the chance we try to pick people up. It’s good karma.”
Jen: “I’ll bet you’ve met a lot of cool people.”
The driver spoke for the first time. “Tell them about the lady from this morning.”
Grin smiled even bigger at the memory. “We picked up this lady who’s into the whole Indian-Native American scene. When we told her we followed Jah she told us this story, said we reminded her of it. You wanna hear it?”
He started the story: “She told us this story about this mouse who lived in some mouse village and one day he hears a roaring sound that none of the other mice in the village heard. They said he was crazy for hearing it but he knew that he heard it so he went to go look for where it came from. Se he went to go find this roaring sound and came to a cliff and from the edge, he could hear the sound really loud, but he couldn’t look over to see what it was so he jumped. He jumps off the cliff and while he’s in the air he sees that it’s a river that’s been making the roaring sound, but he’s never seen a river before so it’s something totally new to him. Anyway, he falls into the river, but he totally jived, right, from what he’s seen so he goes back to tell all the other mice but they don’t believe him and tell him he’s crazy. And since his hair is all messed up from being wet he looks different than they do so they kick him out.”
He paused for a second to swallow and wipe his mouth. “He goes to see the river again except for this time he heads for the mountain so that he can see the whole thing and won’t have to jump again. He’s heading up the mountain, right, and he comes across a fox or a wolf or something and it’s wounded and it asks the mouse to give him his eye. The fox or wolf or whatever says that if he can eat the mouse’s eye he’ll be all better.”
Jen: “Weird.”
Grin: “Trippy, huh? But he does it, right. The mouse gives him one of his eyes and he gets all better. So then the mouse keeps going and he runs into a bird…”
The driver: “An eagle.”
Grin: “Yeah, right, it’s an eagle and it’s hurt too and it asks the mouse for his other eye.”
Me: “Why his eye?”
Grin: “I dunno, he just does. Only the mouse knows that without his eyes he can’t ever see the river again, which is a problem.”
Jen: “what does he do?”
Grin: “This is the cool part: He gives the eagle his last eye and starts waiting to go blind and die there on the mountain when all of a sudden he feels himself flying.”
The driver: “He turned into the eagle.”
Grin: “Yeah, he turns into the eagle and he looks around and he sees the river and his old village and the mountain.”
Jen: “That’s cool. I like that.”
Me (quieter): “Yeah, that’s neat.”
“So that’s what the lady told us.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “Pretty there, huh?”
Jen: “Yeah.”
“Anyway,” he ran his fingers through his stubby hair, “that’s what it is like to follow Jah.”
Grin turned back around and I started paying attention to the Bob Marley on the stereo. The wah-wah on the guitar was great. I remember that especially.
We didn’t talk much about that. We listened to the music, swayed with the pull of the winding road, and felt the warm Pacific air in our lungs, in our mouths, and across our skin. I rested my head on my knee and got into the rhythm of the road – the bumps, the humming of tires on pavement. I watched the ocean breathe and tried to pronounce the lyrical, over-voweled Hawaiian names of the road signs. “Anahola.” I mouthed to myself. “Anahola, Anahola, Anahola.” I looked over at Jen. She was flying with her eyes closed.
When they dropped us off, the one with the grin shook our hands – not firmly like a missionary, but a friendly tug on fingers.
“Positive vibes,” he said.
We thanked him.

Hot Night with Aunt Coy

By Krista Halverson

Aunt Coy says if she got the job
there'd have been four to six minutes between
the tour bus and the back-stage door.
She timed it, judging his stride as just wider than hers,
which was the way she figured it.
Niel Diamond, she says. Just his name,

then a sigh because I still don't understand the rules
or Pinochle. She deals an arc
of cards and shuffles them back into her hands
like a gift to herself. This game is all hers,

she says, all hers. It hadn't worked out
for Coy -- something about her not being able to lift
one hunderd pounds. Doesn't take that much
to match two shoes, she says,
or powder a nose -- even Neil's nose, which is
no amll thing. What a jewel
of a summer job. Off-stage Manager's
Assistant. All of a sudden
she drops her cards
and throws up her arms, like she's looking
for a tattoo. She's held a lot
with them, she says. A thousand pounds of babies, for

one thing. I do think they look weak next
to her broad hips -- like sprouts from a bulb.
But they're stong as screwdrivers.

This night Coy dreams it
all over. Neil's teeth cleam in one welded
white arc, like an oracle. And her dead husband sings 
back-up. In her mind Scott is altogether
how he looked at the Diamond concert
when they went together in '81. Coy could see him
perfectly,
down to the way his lips spread around a grin
that showed his own bridge of teeth
like a contoloupe rind.

She is up at two this morning. I hear 
her turn over Neil's record several times. Long enough
to hear every scratch on every ballad
through the wall.

Fidalgo Island

By Christl Call-Cook

The rain at the window is a woman.
She is mute, jealous of the foghorn.
Her fingers dissolve and bead down the glass.
She coats us in grey like wet, bat-wing skin
The town and its one long street.

Out there
through sodden leaves
walks a boy in short sleeves.
He curves his long body, stuffing
himself bit by bit into his pockets.

One sailboat, sails bound
like cautious mouths, churns
past the bouy's warning lights,
slipping out of the harbor's rusting cul de sac.

House Call

By Krista Halverson

My parents covered the stairs
with carpet, plush green
for Grandpa, who takes them in the morning
before his cocoa. Grandpa takes each stair
with respect, shifting languidly
as it to stroke
the backbone of our home.

He invited a woman over
yesterday, who he thought might be 
his wife. She was selling cosmetics and doing
quite well with my grandfather
until he forgot and hung up
She came anyway

and embarrassed us all, though only my father
showed it, bending her business card
until he was holding two halves: Donna Makeup
and Lind Specialist. I shook her hand
like I was palming a pancake,
and she gathered her things 
to leave. Her lips looked hards. The rest
of her face pulled in tight wrinkles

like the skin around a scab. She could
have been his wife. I believed,
standing in her receding air, what I say
sometimes, that the old
take care of themselves. Back in the house
I watch Grandpa
starting down the stairs.

How Many Witches Did Salem Hang?

By Caren Schofield

I remember Bruno only when he was big as a horse
to me and we tried to ride him but he'd sit every time
we mounted. He had no imagination for Silver with

baling twine reins. But he could "shake" and sometimes
I'd lift both paws and make him dance with me.
One morning he brought to our driveway a black

cow tail, the bulbous joint still bloody. One end
a frayed arrow of hair, the other a smooth white
ball streaked with red and black and smelling of sweet

relish. My father wouldn't touch it. When the severed
goat hoof showed up he took Bruno to the pound.

This summer Ron Parkins down the road was 
wakened with three of his horses crowding the pasture
gate. The fourth lay in a corner, legs straight and cold,

its head hacked off, ripped more than sliced.
Headlines named a satanic cult of scarred teenagers
who meet under a concrete bridge at midnight.

But there were no arrests. The head never showed.
I wondered whose yard the bloody head would greet 
some morning stuck on a stake. Its eyes still wide

against its murderer, shredded skin hanging
in daylight, drooling rust down wood.

Before I came to My Body I Entered Elizabeth Bishop

By James Richards

Like a timid word through the ear,
I became an image behind her eyes.

She was ambrosial -- the way her hair
curled out of her head, the way her lips

parted. I wanted to swirl in her poems,
warm as the spin of her breath.

I spilled myself desperately down
the slant of her neck and shoulder,

leaving footprints like a chill
shuddering across her dimpled arm.

I ached in the chords of her dewy palm
and spread heavy through the curl of fingers

but couldn't enter the cold clink
of her pen. She looked so worried.

From the whites of her fingernails
I watched every word grow. Her one art.

A cruel mastery, and I enslaved, always
enduring the rise of sweat on our skin,

always knowing that I was one more thing
she was losing.