Meryl Stratford – On the Southern Border

Meryl Stratford
On the Southern Border

          Who in a nightmare can help himself? — Anne Carson

what it means
to be a stranger.

A stranger is someone
who comes to Manitoba
in the dead of winter.

No one
comes to Manitoba
in the dead of winter.

A stranger walks many miles,
tramps through frozen farms
hoping for refuge.

A stranger gets lost
in waist-deep snow,
loses fingers, loses toes.

A stranger is one of many.
They keep coming.
The winter is harsh.

Some say the strangers are evil —
if they weren’t evil
they wouldn’t be strangers.

A stranger is poor,
desperate, afraid of
being turned away.

A stranger arrives
without documents,
fleeing chaos and war.

Open a door for the strangers
who have no door of their own.

Meryl Stratford – In Berlin

Meryl Stratford
In Berlin

What begins like war,
like warden and warning,
like weapons, wolves, and woe?
It cost one hundred million marks,
lasted twenty-eight years, two months
and twenty-eight days, wandered
one hundred fifty-six kilometres
through Berlin and its outskirts,
with one hundred eighty-six watch towers
and a death strip, with mine fields and
border police and orders — shoot to kill.

A church was demolished to ensure a clear view.

Janice S. Fuller – a town became a granary

Janice S. Fuller
a town became a granary

We pass Harrold, South Dakota,
a prairie town that’s now a granary.
Hardly any houses.
It faded, nearly disappeared —
a fragment floating
in a farmer’s eye.

The grain
has seized this town,
rules in silos and fat granaries
that point at the prosperity
of feeding the world
and fuelling its movement
with ethanol.

Harrold disappears
as we drive from Minnesota
through dust that coats our car
on the way to celebrate a birthday,
mother’s 95th.

Pat Seman – The wind

Pat Seman
The wind

The wind comes knocking. It comes from the sea. I remember the taste of it, salt on my lips, as together we walked the cliff path, I and Dimitris. How it would tear its fingers through my hair. I won’t let it in. It catches hold of the shutters, slams them against the wall, they bang and bang until my head aches. I close the shutters tight. My room is cool and dark and silent like a cave under the sea. But the wind is sly, it comes back at night. Skittering across the roof, fretting and pulling at the tiles, it finds cracks. First the dust seeps through, falling like fine rain. Then the mouths come, stuffed with scorpions, swarming whispers that sting. And I can’t sleep for the pain of it.

My mother is there every morning sweeping up the carcasses. They are hollow and light and when the breeze lifts them they rustle across the courtyard. With her stiff broom she flails the flagstones, harrowing leaves, fallen petals, the tiny shells of insects, driving them into a corner with the dust, where the wind cannot find them.

I watch;

as my mother carries the broom across the churchyard. Keeper of the church. She has the keys. She cleans the churchyard every morning. Begins by the sea wall, sweeps up the ice cream wrappers, the empty crisp and cigarette packets, stoops to pick up tins, drops them into a plastic bag. Sometimes she’ll pause to greet someone. Tiny, determined to hold their gaze, she looks up into the deceitful faces. Old Nikos slowly taking the steps up from the harbour, leaning on his stick; Michaelis on his way to the taverna, hair slicked back, just married, impatient, keys jangling in his pocket; the children running, bags bumping against their shoulders, late for school. They never look up, they don’t even sneak a glance at the shutters. They’ll be thinking their thoughts no matter how closed their faces, they’ll know I’m watching them, feel my eyes on their backs burning.

When I walk through the village the bodies part like a wave. I wear black; a silk blouse I bought in Athens, the kind you can see through, with an open back, straps crossing. My shoulders are bare. I try to hold them straight, to walk in a straight line, not to falter, as I turn into the full sun, into the square. I don’t look to either side of me, but I know what they’ll be doing. The men in the shade of the mulberry tree outside the cafenion, grouped around two tables, sticks propped against the chairs. A lull in the conversation as I appear, their heads turning to follow my passing, and then, folding their newspapers, they’ll be clustered over their coffee, intent now, the talk charged with drugs, black arts and couplings and each one offering exact and salacious knowledge of when and where, as if I were one of their goats being mounted, over and over. The women, cardigans draped over their shoulders, clustered on the steps of the post office, faces hardening as I approach, they turn their backs. I pass my father’s grocery shop, the windows plastered with old newspaper, the paint peeling and cracked. This morning my mother screamed, ‘Your father’s better off where he is now, safe in his grave. The shame would have destroyed him’ Now the butcher’s shop. He’s hauling a lamb’s carcass off its hook, head drooping, the eyes glazed. His sharp cleaver descends fracturing the bone, slices through flesh.

Flesh and blood of Dimitris. Neither by birth, nor by way of consecration in the village church. Our bond greater than anything this tight community could contain. The moment his head hit the rock, blood oozing through his thick, black hair – our flight arrested, dreams shattered – I became all they’d imagined, ever wanted me to be: seductress, whore, murderer. I am no longer one of them, Every tie severed. They are butchers all of them.

They have taken his body, imprisoned it in the family tomb; with their sanctimonious scrawl on the marble headstone have claimed him back as their own ‘for eternity’. But for the dead of this village, there is no sleep. The wind is on the prowl always. It sweeps in from the sea, ticks upon the windows that shelter the fading photographs, the flickering flames. Fingers probing, it loosens the glass panes. A continuous tick, tick, like the click of bones.

I feel its breath through the slats of the shutters, gentle now, whispering of that wild, open space within sight and sound of the sea, its vast horizon, where I stood so often with Dimitris.

I close my eyes and am back there on the high cliff, close to the cry of seagulls. Only now I’m alone. At the very edge. A dizzying drop to the black huddle of rocks, the restless sea below. I look down, sway, lose my balance. The wind comes, rushing over the bare highland, scoops me up, thrusts me forward.

I’m flying. Free.

Louis Girón – San Antonio

Louis Girón
San Antonio

Every Texan has two homes and, in the Spring, one or both must be San Antonio;
home as well to cottonwoods, mesquite, riverbanks, uniforms, and canciónes;
refuge also to Los Tres Colores, scorpions, and the scents of pepper, barbacoa y canela.
Before conquistadores and missions, before Nueva España, there was the river and the heat.
The river, un borracho, weaves then staggers to the flourishes of the guitarras.
Follow the peoples of the guitarras, from past to present, listen to palmas and Spanish.

Sometimes rapid/riveting — or languid/sing-song, ever dramatic in cadence, Spanish
washes the streets, el mercado, cantinas; as water to rain, as necessary to San Antonio
and as inescapable as honey-suckle, magnolias, marijuana promises, and guitarras.
At night La Llorana glides through the streets, returns in shadows, dreams, and canciónes;
at noon, flies take siestas, eyeballs sizzle in sockets, while none —or all, talk of the heat.
After ‘pickles’, unsuspecting turistas gulp Dos Equis, then sopapillas with miel y canela.

On river floats, señoritas, roses in hair, flash white teeth and skin the color of canela.
Fiesta, like a quinceñera, celebrates life. During Fiesta, all else stops. Parades and Spanish
rhythms celebrate Spring returning to the land; all beseech la fortuna to temper the heat.
Along the streets of La Villita, a river of trilled rr’s flows in the heart of San Antonio.
Selena is gone, Tú Sólo Tú remains. Texan wannabes from New York nod to canciónes:
todos sombreros, no vaqueros; but they eat rattlesnake steak; dance in time to guitarras.

Gringos join colonos, sing tejano, relish jalapeños and salsa verde; they believe guitarras
and corridos make the good life as do blue bonnets and the polka. Chocolate with canela,
enchiladas, and margaritas vanish quickly; bands wheeze out pasodobles y canciónes;
bougainvillea cascade over fences; contrails lace the clouds. English and Spanish
mingle as sons and daughters of the Union, Confederacy, and Mexico join in San Antonio,
the descendants of the besiegers and of the defenders of the Alamo together in the heat.

Laura Grace Weldon – Walking to the Barn at Dawn

Laura Grace Weldon
Walking to the Barn at Dawn

Tiny dots bubble on the pond,
so much like gentle rain I expect to feel drops.
But they are fish feeding at the surface.
I can’t see their bodies
any more than they see mine.
Much I’m not aware of goes on
around me, within me,
well beyond me.
Only hints, faint as hungry mouths
from a different world,
strange as my father
speaking to me
on a phone that no longer rings.

Jon Thompson – The Dream

Jon Thompson
The Dream

Then the country withdrew from
its borders & took refuge in a central

time zone. The time zone was without weather,
without change.

It’s always summer there.
It’s always winter there.

It doesn’t matter.
No one can tell

because the memory
of seasons has been lost.

When you look up
at the sky, it’s no longer

running free; the clouds no longer
hurry home in the evening.

Their stasis, their stillness
is deathly.

Only in dreams
can you feel the gusts of

seasons, a shiver
of happiness, or a shiver

of sadness that comes
to mind slowly, like

from another life.

But no one says, ‘I
wanted something else.’

Or even, ‘I want
something else.’

Round the borders, among the weeds,
red poppies everywhere.

AQ26 – Borderlands

Bryan R. Monte – Rijksmusem Tower Watchmen

Bryan R. Monte
Rijksmuseum Tower Watchmen

Bryan R. Monte always tries to take a camera with him when he goes into Amsterdam. Over the last decade, he has amassed a collection of over 1,000 photographs of the city, and especially its art and culture, including artwork in some of its museums’ permanent and special collections. The photo below of the north and west sides of the Rijksmuseum clock tower was taken in June 2013 with a hand-held, Canon Powershot SX130 IS with a focal length of 25,715, F stop 5 and an 1/160 exposure.

Bryan R. Monte Rijksmuseum Tower Watchmen, photograph, 2013

Nina Ascoly and bart plantenga – Amsterdam Photos

Nina Ascoly and bart plantenga
Amsterdam Photos

Nina Ascoly takes photos of plants, nature, and daughter Paloma to relax and to escape the stress of working for an international environmental organization.

bart plantenga is the author of novels Beer Mystic, Radioactivity Kills, and Ocean GroOve, short story collection Wiggling Wishbone, novella Spermatogonia: The Isle of Man, and wander memoirs Paris Scratch and New York Sin Phoney in Face Flat Minor. His books, YODEL-AY-EE-OOOO: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World, Yodel in Hi-Fi, plus the CD Rough Guide to Yodel, have created the misunderstanding that he’s the world’s foremost yodel expert. He’s also a DJ and has produced Wreck This Mess since 1986. He lives in Amsterdam. He is currently working on a photo exhibition called ‘The Cone Brothers: Respecting the Unspoken Authority of the Traffic Cone’, featuring a selection of his and daughter Paloma’s 400 cone photos.

Photos left and right, bart plantenga, centre photo, Nina Ascoly, IJ Triptych, photographs, 1996

Ascoly and plantenga used a 1984 Canon XA2 compact camera with a 35 mm 1:3.5-4-element lens. The triptych above was taken from the windows of a squat located between the Silo and Stenenhoofd public space to the northwest and the Centraal Station to the southeast. The building was razed 15 years ago. It was just north of the present-day IJdok peninsula, which now includes hotels and a courthouse. The photograph below was taken with the same camera along the Prins Hendrikkade in Amsterdam.

bart plantenga, Floating Amsterdam, photograph, 2010