Ashtabula, Ohio: The Biker

IMG_6954
BY ELIZABETH DEVORE

This poem is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

The bike wobbles as he turns his head
to say hello to the girl and her dog
and the handlebars swerve the way they do
the first time the training wheels come off, but
he’s been riding for seventy years now.

Once, he could throw a paper and hit
the front door of every customer on his route,
one hand on the bars, the other swinging up
over his head, fingers following the paper
towards the stoop, but now
he must keep both hands gripped firm
just to stay upright.

Once, he could ride to the lake with a pretty girl
perched on the front, her auburn hair blowing
into his eyes, her giggles filling the air
as they coasted down the hill, but now
he has to concentrate on lifting his own heavy knees
with each rotation of the pedals.

Once, he could ride on the road with cars whizzing
while his children weaved down the walk beside him
on their way to the Squire Shoppe Bakery
for donuts each Saturday, but now
the cars threaten his stability and he must shift
back to the spot his children vacated years ago.

Elizabeth Devore teaches English at Kent State University at Ashtabula. She loves exploring her harbor neighborhood with her dog and meeting the retirees who have spent their lives making this city a place she has come to love.

Marquette, Michigan: Pristine Inland Sea

Courtesy of author

Courtesy of author

BY JENNIFER STANLEY

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. 

As a lifelong resident of Marquette, Michigan, located on the south shore of Lake Superior, I consider myself fortunate. Wherever I have lived in the city, I have been only moments from the lake, able to see it from outside my front door

Throughout my life, the lake and I have harmonized. As a child, I mimicked its spontaneity, dove in to dodge waves, oblivious to its cold temps. As a teen, I became intimate with its passionate pulse, perfect background for young romance. As an adult, I relived the intoxication of its danger, its wonder, watching over my own child’s fear and wild delight at the force of its storms. As I grow older, I find reliable companionship, the comfort of lifelong friendship in its rhythmic accompaniment during contemplative walks.

Recently, I realized how I have taken this relationship for granted as the result of a trip to the Atlantic coast.

When I first viewed the Atlantic Ocean from a New Jersey boardwalk, I said “It looks like Lake Superior.” This seemed to disappoint my host who knew I’d never seen the ocean, and I think felt deprived of the vicarious experience of my amazement. I explained that it appeared to be not so different from something I see nearly every day. However, as I spent more time getting to know the ocean, I realized the difference.

True, there are obvious similarities between the two bodies, which share vast breadth, unending horizons, but each has unique aspects, better appreciated after experience of the other. The fact that the sea is salt water, the lake fresh, is a difference which is a source of many others, for example, scent. Superior, though it has its own fishy ambience, does not overpower with pungent brine. To the panoramic view, colors differ, the sea being more aqua green than Superior’s robin egg or cobalt blue.

The large turbulent waves of the Atlantic make Superior’s seem clear and hard by contrast.  Under similar weather conditions, breaking waves of the ocean are foamier, spread and hiss a greater distance up the sand, while the sharper-edged waves of Superior seem to shatter and scatter. Because the lake is a smaller body of water, it feels more dense, compact. Ocean water has more space to stretch out, travels a greater distance, seems more diffuse. I hear this in the sounds of surf. While the ocean roars and pounds, the lake glugs, dunks, and gulps. Superior has less predictable shifts in water level, and where the regular tides of the sea litter the beach with shellfish, shells, and sharp mosaic fragments of shells, Lake Superior beaches are awash with pebbles, and agates, and driftwood.

Risks to the swimmer also differ.  There is no danger of jellyfish or shark attacks in fresh water, the most threatening creature likely to be found in the lake a transplant lamprey eel.  More remarkable is the difference in shoreline water temperature. Compared to the oceans moderate temps, Superior’s unmatched frigid bite is a nerve-numbing awakening not for the timid heart. This ultimately protects Superior’s purity, and primarily, it is this characteristic I have most taken for granted.

Marquette may be the most populated area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but even so, its beaches, for the most part, in contrast to those I visited on the Atlantic, are generally open to the public at no cost. No purchased pass is required to spend a day or season of days on Superior’s convenient sands.  Yet, on most of those days, one will not find huge concentrated crowds taking advantage of that. In contrast to the popular East Coast beaches I visited on the Atlantic, the public beaches around Marquette are not massed with people, packed like cliché sardines under miles of striped umbrellas.  There are no troupes of solicitous hot-dog vendors, armed patrol guards, enormous bulldozers at daybreak, turning over yesterday’s garbage strewn surface, no airplanes with flying billboards urging the purchase of dinner reservations, no blocks upon blocks of full parking lots, no rows of expensive clubs playing conflicting raucous music.

On the shores of Lake Superior, one is more likely to find a bike path winding through stretches of sparsely populated beachfront pine forest than commercialized entertainment. Even on the most popular Superior beaches, one can easily wander only a short distance to find solitude, privacy, peace.

Certainly, both the northern “Inland Sea” and the Atlantic Ocean are lovely at sunrise, or under the full moon of a July night. Still I have to admit, my visit to the East Coast of the great Atlantic only deepened my preference for the Great Lake above the Mackinac Bridge. I now more fully understand its unique beauty, and more greatly appreciate the privilege of living with it daily.

Jennifer Stanley is a native of upper Michigan, and has an MA in writing from Northern Michigan University. She has contributed to a variety of publications, including The Marquette Monthly, The Great Lakes Poetry Project Anthology, Above the Bridge Magazine, Country Woman, and The American Poetry Review.

Tagged , ,

Carp at the Gates

879854_97b161d1 
BY RENNY GOLDEN
 
They have been swimming for years
silver and fat, gulping everything
until they can leap beyond themselves,
beyond breath, into a brightness
that pierces them as if for moments
they meet God who kisses them,
but if they linger
in their spinning jump they will
die of God, of blue dangerous air.

If startled, they fly from the river
eight feet into sky. Is it a defiance
or a demonstration of their fate,
these bully swimmers who devour
plankton, eat their way to eminence
—yet destined for pain when they hit
the electric fences that punish them
away from the great lakes.

Thirty-seven miles from Chicago’s watershed,
they are coming, a team of acrobats
with pink mouths as big as fists.

They come from Mississippi, through the Illinois
by way of Chinese rice paddies. One thousand years
and they are still coming wild, fierce
as a locust plague, drunk with their collective swarm.
 

(Corinne) Renny Golden was a Pushcart nominee in 2016. Her book, Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880, won the WILLA Literary Award for poetry 2011, was named a Southwest Notable Book of the Year 2012, and a Finalist for the New Mexico Book Award. The Old Woman and the River is coming in 2019 from University of New Mexico Press. She’s been published and anthologized widely including in the following journals: Water~Stone; International Quarterly; Literary Review; Dogwood; Main Street Rag; Windhover; Able Muse; Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; Split This Rock; Nagatuck River Review; Crosswinds.  

In Spite of Debris, Offal, Trash, Detritus

Goldfish Freshwater Fish Scale Fish Scales 

BY RENNY GOLDEN
 
A miracle of goldfish still flicker like
sunlit coins through dark matter.

This river asks for so little,
sings beneath Bascom bridges.

It’s Prairie Wolf Slough’s Gloria
of marsh marigold, pale geranium,
trout lily, swamp buttercup.

Clothed in its liquid vestment,
raiment where deer and fox
drink and mark the hours.

     A river that remembers
     vast woodlands, meadows
     flaming in the silence marking time.

     This is the otter’s prayer
     a ballet of plunges and dives.
     The mallard’s dark procession

on silk waters, then sudden flight
across dawn’s flare where sky holds
them to perfect blue roads.

     They do not see the presence that enfolds them,
     so intimate their animal trust.

 

(Corinne) Renny Golden was a Pushcart nominee in 2016. Her book, Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880, won the WILLA Literary Award for poetry 2011, was named a Southwest Notable Book of the Year 2012, and a Finalist for the New Mexico Book Award. The Old Woman and the River is coming in 2019 from University of New Mexico Press. She’s been published and anthologized widely including in the following journals: Water~Stone; International Quarterly; Literary Review; Dogwood; Main Street Rag; Windhover; Able Muse; Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; Split This Rock; Nagatuck River Review; Crosswinds.  

An Elegy for the Lost Athens Sixty-two

9435275397_e9de713599_b
BY DOM FONCE

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 2.39.44 PM

 

 

 

Dom Fonce is an undergraduate English major at Youngstown State University. His work has either been published in or is forthcoming in issues of 3Elements Review, Obra/Artifact, West Texas Literary Review, the Magnolia Review, UnLost Journal, and others. He enjoys highlighting the lore of Ohio with his writing.

Settings

abstract-painting-sheep-1496505549AES
BY LARRY NARRON

 

1. TURN

Someone insists there’s a setting
for making the pages sound
as if my fingers were turning them.

2. VOICE CONTROL

A grandfather clock strikes low
under my tongue, dissolves
crushed syllables poured
into capsules.

3. SLEEP MODE

Once, I dreamed I was
a connoisseur of misfortune,
an avid collector of lies.


Larry Narron’s poems appear or are forthcoming in
HOBART, The Brooklyn Review, Whiskey Island, Berkeley Poetry Review, Phoebe, The MacGuffin, The Boiler, and other journals. They’ve been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. Originally from Southern California, Larry currently lives in Northern Michigan, where he serves as a literacy coach for elementary school students in the Village of Pellston via AmeriCorps. He is the nonfiction editor of Dunes Review.

Scentless Smoke

forest-314347_1280
BY JOHN BRADLEY 

 

On the railroad bed
            now paved nature trail
the coyote stops, peers not at

            but through me
into some past or future
            where, behind a bush

I crouch, panting.
            When it slinks off
into the too silent

            woods, a slip
of scentless smoke, no coyote
            was ever here.

           
           

John Bradley once lived two blocks from Lake Superior in Duluth. Now he lives an hour and a half west of Lake Michigan in DeKalb, Illinois. His poems been published in the American Poetry Review, Caliban, the Diagram, Hotel Amerika, the Kerf, Shadowgraph, and other journals. He is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, the most recent is Erotica Atomica, just released by WordTech. 

Squelch

Photo by David Anstiss, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Photo by David Anstiss, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

BY ATHENA DIXON

Last night, I remembered playing pitch dark hide and seek in a muddy field, a ruined pair of Air Max 95s, and the joy of black college freshmen running fearless through the night.

I am certain I will never again find that exact pair of sneakers. I’ve seen the blue, orange, and white colorway in stores, but something about them is never quite right. Maybe I’m holding onto a twenty-year-old memory that’s fuzzy at the edges. Or maybe they are the shoes, but now they aren’t as magical.

What is magical was that night, a crisp fall midnight after a day of heavy rain. In one of the many open fields dotting the campus of Kent State University, we ran with reckless abandon, shoes squelching and sticking in the thick mud. We’d congregated in the courtyard of the freshman dorms, dressed in black, our key cards and IDs slung beneath our shirts on lanyards.

Trekking from the lighted pathways of Stewart Hall, we’d unplugged ourselves from the lure of Yahoo! chat rooms and the newness of an Internet we had never experienced at home. What wonder and joy was a 24/7 computer lab? The lot of us would line the far wall four at a time and slip on the masks of usernames and ask A/S/L?

But that night, when the tentative cross country flirting had died down, we chose to retreat to our individual rooms to change into black t-shirts, sweatpants, and beanies. What a sight we must have been, a bevy of black kids marching across the field to a set of low bleachers. There is no recollection of how we chose teams or what exactly the rules were, but I do remember the sound of our laughter pealing out across the night and the chill that pressed down from above.

We sprinted and dove and rolled in a field torn up by intramural leagues, oblivious to the mud and the wetness seeping into our skin. Sometimes, we tackled each other into the juicier plots of grass and lay there backs flush against the earth, staring up into the Ohio sky. And soon, the group of us were side by side in the night, chests rising and breath clouding above our heads.

We rested there until oxygen pushed back into our lungs and then it was time for another sprint across the field, another squelch of shoes in the mud. We tore through the darkness until there was no more energy to pick up the heaviness of our feet or our bodies from the ground. So we found ourselves on the low bleachers again, the steam rising from our shoulders like spirits to heaven. The laughter still pealing out across the distance bounced back to us from the brick dormitories.

Save the bobbing beam of an officer’s flashlight, we would have stayed there throughout the night, a collection of newly minted clay statues set out to dry. In the morning there were Sunday breakfast buffets at one of the food halls. Monday would bring class and campus jobs. That Saturday night, however, was an endless stream of thighs pressed together, shoulders bumping, the splitting of groups until two figures walked towards the dorms alone.  What was left of that magic was a muddy pair of Air Max 95s, coated to the ankles, left drying next a door and a memory twenty years later whispering Ready. Set. Go. 

Athena Dixon is a poet and essayist. Her work has appeared in various journals both online and in print. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and is a Callaloo fellow. Her chapbook, Way Station, is forthcoming from Winged City Press. Athena is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Linden Avenue Literary Journal. Originally from Northeast Ohio, she now writes, edits, and resides in Philadelphia. 

Tagged ,

What the Lake Said

2240992031_05d58f2974_b
BY JOHN BRADLEY 

 

I once lived in a house made of frozen blocks of Lake Superior.
You trained a muskrat to walk on a leash and recite poetry.

Each time I gave our address it came out with a frozen fish.
When the landlord knocked on the door, we hid in the bathtub giggling.

We hung a poster over the bed of a rhino made from armadillos.
There was a hole cut in the bedroom floor to let the lake breathe.

All the food tasted like salted fish, even the ice cream, you said.
We tore pages from the dictionary and made vocabulary birds.

I dreamed Bob Dylan was a Trappist monk who ravaged our rutabagas.
You wore a coat made from many an Albanian flag until you didn’t.

For your birthday, I built a tiny piano out of nails and dog fur.
One morning, we found sheep eating the carpet in the pantry.

Afternoons, we could see an eye chart on a downtown office wall.
Late at night, the lake spoke in creak and chirr, rasp and crow.

           
           

John Bradley once lived two blocks from Lake Superior in Duluth. Now he lives an hour and a half west of Lake Michigan in DeKalb, Illinois. His poems been published in the American Poetry Review, Caliban, the Diagram, Hotel Amerika, the Kerf, Shadowgraph, and other journals. He is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, the most recent is Erotica Atomica, just released by WordTech. 

Excuses Minnesota Child Uses to Get Out of Swim Lessons While Going Through Her Fear-of-Water-and-Obsessed-with-Dying-Before-She’s-Ready Phase

Elbow_Lake_Minnesota_2_(1)

BY ASH GOEDKER 

Last time you said there’s cabins north
nowhere near water or
heaven, or me –

Ever hear of the Boundary Waters
Lake of the Woods
Lake Winnibigoshish
Child Lake Lake Watch Me Do a Flip
You Can’t Make Me Lake
Lake Looks Like a Lady
Grave Lake Holy Name Lake
Ice Cracking Lake Big
Too Much Lake
Lake of Fire
Like My Back Door?

I’m still training
in the Lord’s Army,
and if I drown
out,

You won’t
get a postcard –

not from me.

Ash Goedker hails from Northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She received her MFA in poetry at the University of Idaho where she was also the Editor-in-Chief at Fugue. She currently teaches at Nicholls State University. She was the winner of the University of Idaho’s Academy of American Poets Prize, and was a finalist in the 2016 Indiana Review ½ K Prize. Her poems have been published in Indiana Review, Midwest Review, Third Point Press, velvet-tail, and others.