Volume 40 ~ 2017

 

                  

Sara Lundeen

Tumbleweed

 

A tumbleweed rolls

with the arid breeze.

The blood sun sets

over the barren desert.

The dead plant drifts over sand.

From horizon to horizon,

the wind blows

the unspectacular tumbleweed.

It will tumble until it is seized

by the earth or the wind ceases

in the place where it will sow its seeds

and take root once more.

 

 

He Should Have Let It Be

 

     Manhattan boiled in a blistering cesspool of garbage and cigarette smoke. The skyscrapers all around blocked not only the sun, but any breeze as well. Bernard perched on the littered sidewalk with a cup that jingles every now and then and a cardboard sign in his hand. Even in the shade of a building, the cement beneath the elderly man threatened to sear the pattern of the concrete into his palm.

     A slim figure pulled him from the drowning depths of his hazed mind. The alluring woman walked by Bernard everyday for the last two weeks and put a dollar in his cup. He’d tried to thank her, but the stroke had rendered him incapable of intelligible speech. She’d give him an understanding smile. However, this day, she rushed by him in a violet dress with silver pumps and a matching purse, glancing behind her worriedly. Her black curly hair bounced as she ran to the subway entrance. Bernie rose from his spot on the bustling sidewalk of New York City, dropping his dilapidated piece of cardboard and knocking his cup of change, not noticing the coins rattling on the pavement.

     Bernard limped after her, ignorant to the annoyances of the city. He shoved his way through hoards of meaningless people. Only reaching her mattered to him. Her curls leapt as she dashed down the stairs to an abandoned subway. He had to know if she was being chased, if she was in any danger. As he reached the bottom of the steps, his eyes flicked around. There was no one in the dark and dismal tunnel. He noticed the purple handbag she had been carrying was upright on the ground as if she had set it down gently. Bernard rushed to it, hoping to find some evidence of where she had gone.

     Frantically, he ripped open the clasps holding the purse closed. Inside of the handbag laid a decapitated head, spinal cord and strips of flesh hanging from the neck in a river basin of blood. Empty eye sockets stared at him with the head’s mouth agape in terror. Systematic lines left by the tip of a blade mark the face in perfectly symmetrical strokes. His scalp began to prickle like the moment before lightning strikes from the heavens. His mind raced with questions and fear, but he had little time to indulge these thoughts. Horrified, Bernie slowly lifted his head. The woman he once thought was beautiful and generous kneeled before him, face turned to the side and a malicious grin on her painted lips, utterly hideous. The guise was gone; she was completely bare of illusion. She was a huntress and he had fallen prey.  

 

 

Reaching for Freedom

 

At twilight, we walk around the base

of the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Some teenagers, my seatmate included,

take pictures with their iPhones.

Spotlights shine up on the cupreous sculpture

of six men raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi.

 

February 23, 1945.

Marine Sergeant Michael Strank,

Corporal Harlon Block,

Private First Class Rene Gagnon,

Private First Class Harold Schultz,

Private First Class Franklin Sousley,

and Private First Class Ira Hayes.

 

Ira Hayes was a Pima Native American.

Furthest from the base of the pole,

he reaches for the flag, but doesn’t quite touch.

I know it’s not supposed to be symbolic;

it was a picture taken in the moment.

The metal mast may have just left his hands.

No one had control over their pose,

and I can’t control what I see.

 

The American Indian reaches for the flag,

the flag of the United States of America.

Hayes stretches for the rights promised to white American citizens

that were robbed from and denied to his people.

 

Through all of the discrimination,

Ira Hayes fought for his country,

the country that didn’t accept his people,

the country that still doesn’t.

Still, he went to war

to defend liberty,

offered his life for

new and continued freedom

 

I walk away.

I get on the bus with forty-some other kids.

They’re playing on their phones,

joking around with each other,

and singing country songs.

I look behind me, out the window,

towards Ira Hayes.

 

 

Smells and Nostalgia

 

     The average human being has roughly five million olfactory receptors in their nose. This is little compared to the 300 million of a dog, but still allows us to distinguish up to one trillion distinct scents. We know dogs can connect smells to important things, but they don’t connect aromas to specific moments. Humans associate scents to emotional states, to how we felt when we smelled them. Scents make us nostalgic. We connect the smells to memories, good or bad.

     Perhaps the stench of a sweltering dumpster reminds you of when your mother made you take out the trash of spoiled milk and rotten orange juice. Maybe when you catch a whiff of lemon, you think of your grandmother cleaning her bathroom with Lemon Fresh Clorox Wipes. The smell of lake water might make you recall your first kiss on the beach when you were fifteen.

     My school has a specific smell. The smell is a mix of hospital hand sanitizer, dry erase markers, and misery. The scent roundhouse kicks me when I arrive after a summer away from the prison that is standardized education. Once, I went to my cousin’s house, expecting the smell of laundry soap and Tabasco sauce, the signature scent of their house. Instead, I was greeted by confusing and conflicting scents, strange food mixed with the normal smell, which caused my outrage, for I distinctly awaited their smell. Later, I found they had been cooking barbeque pork, and that was why the house smelled differently.

     When I smell potato salad, I think of Yellowstone National Park. I was five years old and on vacation with my family. We were on a wooden bridge over a geothermal pool and my family will never let me forget what I said. “It smells like ‘tato salad.” I assume it’s because the stench of sulfur made me think of the eggs in potato salad. Every time we eat the dish, whether it be one of my brothers, my mother, or my father, someone has to bring up what my preschool-self said. The smell of egg and potato salad remind me of an innocent time in my past filled with family vacations, not the stress of high school.

     Last January, the smell of morning air after a gentle snow elicited a smile from me. The sapphire sky was clear with the sunlight scattering across the white cloak of frozen crystals. I saw a scarlet cardinal resting on the blank canvas, a stark contrast to the snow’s white purity. My mother and I watched the bird glide to evergreen giants and rest in emerald leaves. The aroma of the earthy trees remind me of home and family. Perhaps the crimson caroler feels the same.

 

 

Toast, Slice, Butter

 

Toast, slice, butter

get out of the gutter

Toast, slice, butter

I told you not to mutter

Toast, slice, butter

hit the ball with your putter

Toast, slice, butter

send your heart in a flutter

Toast, slice, butter

your room was left in a clutter

Toast, slice, butter

the man has a stutter

Toast, slice, butter

the camera has a shutter

Toast, slice, butter

they choke and splutter

Toast, slice, butter

your motor started to sputter

Toast, slice, butter

shape it with a cookie cutter

Toast, slice, butter

these words you dare not utter

Toast, slice, butter

I may sound like a nutter

but toast, slice, butter