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"Long-billed Curlew" by Andrea Rich

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Jeff Burt

For a Migrant

Elias, even the air seemed so ripe over the muck
I should have plucked a handful down.
Trucks filled with beets stood at the end
of black fields, and I think of you
walking into the Wisconsin distance dissolving
in heat waves writhing above simmering earth.
Fresh from the old chicken coop where you slept
you came to the center for books to handle
in a language you would never understand.
Your hands spoke stories of the land,
the private continents etched with rivers
of fable and foreboding, your life
and its eventual world, hands which held
your head together when you dreamed
this nation's propositions, when being serious
proved a true delirium, age shown
in creviced palms like a tree's attesting rings.
You had expected the belly full from the toil
of your constant hands, but more, the freedom
from the promise and proclamation, no longer words
becoming flesh, but syllables of soothing,
sentences of relieving, paragraphs
of healing the calloused and scarred
skin of your fingers, the bloated knuckles,
the peroxide platinum of your palms.
must include the genuine broom.

On your last night in Wisconsin
we talked of revolutions failed. 
Innocent, aware of the change of power
without the change of heart, you sang,
danced, innocent, aware a new state
is an old state after all, innocent,
aware a total absence of power
corrupts absolutely. We prayed
that hot night in August
that you would be parceled the earth
and not sold the rain at a price too high
to swallow, you would plow
the fallow fields without biting your tongue
that you might eat the fruits of your labor.
On my polished old car we sat leaning back
against the windshield with our heads
resting on the cool hard roof,
the naked light of day and those who wield it
still stinging like rope burns
on the tender flesh of the wrists.

Elias, when you said the rich owned the ground
but you owned the stars, your beet-cracked hand
resting on my forearm, I understood
both possession and dispossessed,
both the hopelessness and hope of stars,
of the liberty you found in returning night
upon night to their peace, the chains' unleashing,
the pure democracy of living,
and dying, in this meager light.

Scott Creek

I take the bucket
filled with four rocks back up the creek,
pick another set, rub elbows with rock-packed volunteers.

We march, an army. 
We follow a docent’s commands:
wrap the rip, roll the rocks, raise the banks,

pull the pampas,
yank the yellow Scotch broom
by root, jerk the iris, bag the bulbs.

We make breaks
for creek water, take no breaks
for work, no talk, no cells but amoebas,

chain gang solitude,
to set the creek free again
not restored, not pristine, not unpolluted,

not free from our marks,
but free for nature to mark
haphazardly, erosionally, seasonally,

genetically, meanderingly
accidentally, slowly, unplanned.
Pass a bucket.  Take a bucket.  Go home happy.

Walking Zayante Sandhills

It is surprising how good
the stony soil feels on your feet
and the respite the clay, cold
and always wet, gives your soles,
the thin paddles of your toes.
Pebbles slip as your feet
step down, form a surface
more fluid than solid stuff
should be, and I think this is
not the mountain the great ones
have trod, Jesus, Moses,
Muhammad, Zarathustra,
this is not dry and ascetic,
and it is surprising how good
it is to feel, to take in
all the smooth feathered wings
of woodcocks beating water
and coots winnowing pondweed,
the pistil-coupled
bee-dappled plums,
the shale-streaked soil
beaded with a day's sweat
and the sinew of blackberry
vine and ivy, the ivory
cast of cartilage and bone
in the early evening light,
and it should feel like this
for everyone, the rock-rimmed
and roiling sky studded
with fluffy tussocks
snorted and puffed
out of the western rookery,
a plunging bloody red
dropping to cold rock,
and out of the white bones
of oak broken
by hatchet-head and heft
a woodpecker bursting
through spines of sunshine
and ribs of shadow,
loganberry poking
through thorn-choked wires
of a trampled fence like notes
in the margin of a book more fruitful
than the limbs of lines, branches
of text, the furling, unfurling
flight of the woodpecker echoed
by the two-beat booming in my chest.

Jeff Burt won the 2011 SuRaa short fiction award. His work is forthcoming in Spry, Story Shack, phren-z, and the Louisiania Literary Anthology of the Mississippi River. He has read short stories on KZSC, and has published in journals such as Thrice Fiction, Storm Cellar, Star 82 Review, Windfall, Typehouse, Dirty Chai, and The Cortland Review.

Fiction
Vinnie Hansen
Helene Simkin Jara

Poetry
Jeff Burt
Patricia Grube
Peggy Heinrich
Robin WT Lysne
Aimee Mizuno

Morton Marcus Poetry Prize Winner
Marsha de la O

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