Code Talkers

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By Peter J. Curry

In the YouTube video, we see members
of Arizona’s Navajo Nation protesting the appearance
of Senator John McCain at a reception
on their land, honoring the Navajo Code Talkers
of World War Two. They are angry about the way
he’s handled water rights issues for decades…
about the way he pushed through a bill that allows
an international company to mine for copper
on their territory…and about his silence in face
of the EPA’s recent gold mine cleanup disaster
in Colorado which unleashed three million gallons
of hazardous sludge into the Animas River
and polluted the water downstream, in parts
of their Arizona homeland. After the photo op,
McCain and his entourage exit hastily
through a back door. When the protesters see him
leaving (they were not allowed in the room
where the ceremony took place),
they give chase on foot. But McCain and company
are already in their SUVs. The protesters
run hard, but they can’t catch up. As the video
ends, all you hear is someone yelling
“Get out of here,” “Get off our land,” and the sound
of the protesters’ feet, pounding the ground,
sending a message to all indigenous creatures.

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Breakers Roar

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By Sturgill Simpson

Oh how the breakers roar
Keep pulling me farther from shore
Thoughts turn to a love so kind
Just to keep me from losing my mind
So enticing the deep dark seems
It’s so easy to drown in our dreams

Oh and everything’s not what it seems
This life is but a dream
Shatter illusions that hold your spirit down
Open up your heart and you’ll find love all around
Breathing and moving
Healing and soothing
Away all the pain in life holding you down

Bone breaks and heals
Oh but heartaches can kill
From the inside or so it seems
Oh I’m telling you it’s all a dream

Boys Among Men

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By Sally Van Doren

We canvassed the neighborhood
looking for a title for the crass
auctioneer who made the crowds
go berserk with his constant

bribes of upward mobility.
We looked up into the magnolias
and several ballots fell
plastering themselves to our

bachelor faces. We were
young, aeronautic, but
sleeping in the basement,
our sweat hiding in our suit coats.

We cast our votes for job
security, hitching a ride
with an idle chauffeur.
He drove us to crazy.

Our parents told us
to buckle up our
sometimes asinine asses
and we did, speeding all

the while, chasing blonds,
downing our prescriptions,
or not, pumped up on pride
and checking our privilege.

Human Knowledge

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By Robert Wrigley

About the only thing I thought I knew
was that nothing I would ever know would do
any good. Sunrise, say, or that the part
of the horse’s hoof that most resembles
a human palm is called the frog;
certain chords on the guitar of no mercantile use;
the abstruse circuitry of an envelope
quatrain; the meaning of horripilation.

Sometimes on a flatland mound the ancients had made,
I took heart in the pointlessness of stars
and lay there until my teeth chattered.
I earned my last Cub Scout merit badge
building a bird house out of license plates
manufactured by felons in the big house.
No more paramilitary organizations for me,
I said, ten years before I was drafted.

I had skills. Sure-footedness and slick
fielding. Eventually I would learn to unhook
a bra one-handed, practicing on my friend,
his sister’s worn over his T-shirt (I took
my turns too). One Easter Sunday I hid
through the church service among the pipes
of the organ and still did not have faith,
although my ears rang until Monday.

I began to know that little worth knowing
was knowable and faith was delusion.
I began to believe I believed in believing
nothing I was supposed to believe in,
except the stars, which, like me,
were not significant, except for their light,
meaning I loved them for their pointlessness.
I believed I owned them somehow.

A C-major-7 chord was beautiful and almost rare.
The horse I loved foundered and had to be
put down. The middle rhyme in an envelope
quatrain was not imprisoned if it was perfect.
In cold air a nipple horripilates
and rises, the sun came up and up and up,
a star that would bake the eggs
in a Cub Scout license plate birdhouse.

God was in music and music was God.
A drill sergeant seized me by my dog tag
chain and threatened to beat me
to a pile of bloody guts for the peace sign
I’d chiseled in the first of my two tags,
the one he said they’d leave in my mouth
before they zipped the body bag closed.
Yet one more thing I’d come to know.

He also said that Uncle Sam owned my ass,
no more true than my ownership
of the stars. I can play a C-major-7 chord
at least eight places on the neck of a guitar.
A stabled horse’s frog degrades, a wild horse’s
becomes a callous, smooth as leather.
Stars are invisible in rainy weather,
something any fool knows, of course.

 

Here With Who Shot John

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By Thomas Rain Crowe

for Jim Wayne Miller

Here where the nary and neverminds
don’t give a shuck or a jive
’bout the bees in the branch or
the billies in the blind that
come clear, come hell or high water
and dabble down at the spring house
where the ducks lay their eggs
and I write.

Here where the burnt-out dog lies
on the porch bull-raggin the bugs
til he is bit and bawls like a lunk-head
and lopes down the yard and
through the garden greens and taters
til he is out of sight.

Here where the beauty of the hills
holds sway over my pricey thoughts and
my puny pen makin’ its way across paper
like it was a goat in the grass
goin’ nigh into the new ground that
we cleared this week for more corn.

Here where this night in my noggin
names notions that no furriner ever knew
and no gabby gal ever let slip from
her sweet tongue that wouldn’t melt butter
or swaller no shine.

Here in this creekbed of moonlight whar
a wetrock won’t even sharpen my words,
woozy and wrangled from Who-Shot-John
and I wrastle with the devil in the winder
like an old windbag
who is pert-nigh petered out
and wild outen his eyes.

Riding the Crest

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By Chumki Sharma

A time of drifting and the last
hotel checks out of me.
I step out in the blinding sun
to the flutter of wings,
the seagull swooping in
to say goodbye as it crashes
against the electric pole.

The sound of ending
is a dry crunch I learn.

Baggage I carry around fall,
scatter open on the pavement.
The dead escape from them to ride
the crest of grief inside me,
friends, lovers and the seagull,,
now swept by the concierge
inside the white plastic, traces
of its little body gone,
the doorway clean to welcome
the new again.

Umbrellas
along the beach
row of empty chairs

The Doubter

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By Lee Upton

While wrapping gifts, folding
a sheet of paper, knotting a ribbon,
I think of those I’ve loved who died,
and I think too of doubting Thomas
who put his hand inside
the wound of a man he believed
should not be alive.

To walk beside a man and slip your hand in his side,
the intimacy of it,
a divine body, a mortal body,
did Thomas’s hand return to him
flayed?

A wound went on a rampage
through a body.
The lit-up places
where the wound traveled—
I once owned a vase like
a wound that wouldn’t heal.
The pattern included open lattice work.
Only good for emptiness or dried flowers.

A wound asks to be cleaned first.
Maybe—I can’t doubt—some misery
has to do with the need
to defend ourselves from the doubting
hands of others—
to keep our doubts, to keep a hand inside
our own wound,
not believing in the wounds of others.