I walk over train ties
searching for drops of water,
like the rains I’ve loved, negotiating
tumbleweeds where the train runs
regardless of how many rocks lie on the ties.
Farms, silos, industry with steam rising
from the table of land, I watch passively
as workers drain a swamp, plant rice,
and fill it again.
Scale of the wounds
call it forgiveness
call it dread
Call it jasmine.
Call it an address.
Open space, even dry trees
at the mountain’s base–
they too suffer their own mirror.
Call it eyelashes, moist
with their own nick names.
Plumes of smoke make their own
weather in the shape of
a cross or is it a figure
with head and arms
or a rocket
raising itself above the cloud shelf.
Laurel Benjamin is a San Francisco Bay Area native, where she invented a secret language with her brother. She has work forthcoming or published in Lily Poetry Review, Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s Poetry, South Florida Poetry Journal, Trouvaille Review, One Art, Ekphrastic Review, Wordpeace, The Thieving Magpie, Black Fox, Hare’s Paw, California Quarterly, Mac Queens Quinterly, among others. Affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers, she holds an MFA from Mills College. She is a reader for Common Ground Review. Find her blog at https://thebadgerpress.blogspot.com. Find her at Twitter at @lbencleo. Find her on Instragram at cleobenjami.
I was in line at the Delta counter behind two white men of military bearing. They each had man sized hard cases with latches and locks, big enough for long barrel shotguns or automatic rifles. It was Mother’s Day in Texas, and I had missed my flight home to true blue LA. Delta had a flight out around noon and I was trying to find out if there were seats to be had for anything less than the cost of a Trumpian lie.
Five lines. Three agents. Worse still, the agents kept calling up those waiting in other lines. The world’s babble tangoed on the noisy air: Italian, Arabic, Tex Mex, Chinese. 20 minutes later, I sighed with exasperation, sure that whatever seats were left were gone at any price. The man in front of me confided:
“You’d think they would want to get the guns out of sight first….”
That won a chuckle from me.
Another long wait. The first guy with a gun case was finally summoned. The case was opened. A big rifle. The crowd was unimpressed. Much chatter among the uniforms, then a strategic huddle and another long wait. My neighbor laughed:
“That guy’s a pilot for them—Delta. What am I gonna have to do?”
The pilot signed a contracty looking document and was handed a red tag which he carefully placed inside the case before securing all the locks and an extra case-hardened steel padlock. The uniforms witnessed his every move until all those keys disappeared into the man’s carry on and he had stepped back from the gun case.
We were invisible again. A Chinese traveler from another line needed a translator. The man in front of me turned and made small talk:
“Where are you going?”
“To California,” more assertively, from inside my covid mask. A translator was found. The Italian family were called next.
“Where are you travelling with rifles?” I asked.
“Nevada. We got the contract on feral pigs outside Vegas,” he drawled.
“Yes,” I answered. “I read recently that they are becoming a problem in Southern California, too. Do you ever eat what you kill?
“Once. I brought a young pig home to cook for my sons. One, two years old—they only eat nuts and roots. The older ones eat dead things and stink. I had a bite. The meat was really sweet, but I am a vegetarian, almost a vegan, really.”
I had been visiting my sister in Austin for the first time since Covid began, since her husband had died, since my cancer fight. Alito’s draft opinion on Roe leaked that week. We hung on each other again, trying to ease our shared despair. Uvalde was yet to come.
I called her when I got home and told her about my travel travails, ending with the vegan pig hunter. She laughed and sung the Lyle Lovett line:
“Texas wants you anyway….”
Ellen T. Birrell
Ellen Birrell is an artist and lemon farmer in Ventura County, CA. Her writings have appeared in X-TRA, Cabinet, Adelaide, Adelaide Literary Award Anthology 2018, Mac-ro-mic, Condiment, Material, and Parabol. Her 2019 essay “Gloves” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is Faculty Emerita at California Institute of the Arts.
Acadia National Park: The Angel
Sometimes realistic, sometimes fantastic, the images of The Nature and Psyche Project try to broach the vast and broad topic of interbeing with nature, and our inherent resonance with the Earth’s imagination and our own. The images are of the Earth’s Elements, an ancient mystery school, playing in a modern context of anti-war, issues of climate, ending poverty, the lives of millennials, human rights, and Pachamama law efforts. Emily Candler Davis, A Goddard College graduate, fell in love with social justice and engagement in the arts from an early age. She lives off of the Coast of Maine, on an island like an upside-down heart.
Emily Candler Davis