Issue 1.8

The Story of an Indian Oak by Rizwan Akhtar

‘the decisive actors… are the adventurer and the pirate’
Aimé Césaire

Hookworms and weevils browsed you
like an oriental manuscript
birds preened you into details
out came stories of hangings
dockyards, galleys
and dream-merchants
who sold your barks
and wrote deeds of trade.

From Thames to sun-lit shores
your roots had life under sea bed—
they spread
as if a tin-food company
had its franchise
on every little island
that came
in Columbus’ route
who threw your cones
on each soil.

The branched chronicles
Indian women worshipped
they did black magic
under your shade
but you did not die
and left behind
fruits for generations
to fight over gourd and husk.

Zombie Candy at the Civil War by Lee Patton

Past the tended lawns of miles of monuments,
the angel-spangled pillars for the 54th Virginia Infantry
and the First Ohio, past the rusted artillery blinds
and the humping green remnants of trenches,
past the sole remaining farm cabin and slave shack,
past the pocked field lined by tanglewood next to a creek
that blasted blood all day, mixed with storm-strewn mud,
then up the solitary hillock here where Georgia
meets Tennessee, a sentinel spot overlooking
the acres of cemeteries and memorial marble,
where undead old cars from Chattanooga line the lane,
Mustangs and Camaros and Firebirds and Corvettes,
posing for a photo shoot with the salon Zombie Candy,
whose employees pose atop the top-down cars,
the girls’ tops barely up, their hair fluorescent,
peppermint-red striped, yellow swirl, cotton-candy pink,
all laughing fake hauteur, soaking in the autumn sun
where the only unspoiled public place for miles
is this site of two-day anarchy, fist-to-fist
brother-to-brother rural rampage, deadliest
in the South, preserved as backdrop
for all these pretty human lollipops.

Birds of Oklahoma by Lee Patton

Another April 19 Commemoration

We don’t know what the hell they are,
sparrows, we guess, swallows?
Anyway, they cantor and spree
over the oaks and native pines.
They keen overhead, melodies
made up on the spot, unraveling
ribbons of song.

Kids take to the podium above
the memorial’s reflecting pools–
ponds to heal a wound, to respond
to the wind, the sun, the rain,
to whatever comes next. The wound
is Fifth Street, cratered to oblivion
two decades ago. Certain grandparents
were killed. Anti-government bomber.
The words are grandparents’ names.
The sound is a tender tongue
each trying out one name:

Christi Yolanda Jenkins, say.
They say she worked in the credit union.
Or Michelle Reeder, worked in federal highways.
Maybe one of the water resource guys,
Robert N. Chipman, or agriculture,
Olen Burl Bloomer. The Enemy,
you know, Gov’mint. The Enemy,
you know, bureaucrats. Which bureau,
we ask. Social Security?
Child Development?

We want to know about Peachlyn Bradley,
learn the story of her fruitful name, and why
no one’s placed a wreath on her memorial
chair. But us, you and me? Wreathless,
don’t know our hearts from a hole
in the ground–Jesus, we can’t tell
a sparrow from a swallow.

About the Contributors

Rizwan Akhtar works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. He completed his PhD in postcolonial literature from the University of Essex, UK in 2013. He has published poems in well-established poetry magazines of the UK, US, India, Canada, Australia & New Zealand. He has also done a 5 weeks workshop on poetry with Derek Walcott at the University of Essex in 2010.

Lee Patton, a Denverite, writes fiction, poetry, drama and commentary. Quarterlies that have published his work include Best New Writing 2012, The Threepenny Review, The Massachusetts Review, The California Quarterly, Poetry Quarterly, Ellipsis, Hawaii-Pacific Review, Adirondack Review and Memoir Journal. His third novel, My Aim Is True, was launched in 2015 from Dreamspinner Press.