Monday, September 01, 2014

Words

Poem by Skylar Muse
2014 Met Awards - 1st Place for High School Poetry

Do you hear the whispers all around?
The ones at night that are keeping you awake
Where so little truth is found.

The rumors and lies that surround,
Make you feel pain and heartache
Do you hear the whispers all around?

Day after day of enduring this life that makes you feel drowned,
You wonder if it's worth it to continue to fake,
Where so little truth is found.

The pain piles into mound after mound,
Causing your sanity to tremble and shake.
Do you hear the whispers all around?

You know of no other way to break through the sound,
Maybe the shot of the gun will thoroughly break
Where so little truth is found.

A warning to those who spread these rumors around:
Before you say anything, think about these people, and from them what you will take
Do you hear the whispers all around?
Where so little truth is found?

Contributor's Note: This is a villanelle I wrote in response to the tragedy of bullying and spreading rumors I see in my everyday life. I wanted to show the bullies the negative consequences of their harmful language and what it does to a person emotionally and mentally.

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 Met Awards Ceremony and Reading

Date
Friday, 25 April

Microphone
Time
4-6 p.m.

Location
Student Art Gallery of Cerro Coso IWV, Ridgecrest

Details
Family and friends, come join us for this award celebration and reading in honor of this year's fiction and poetry award recipients.

The ceremony will be held in Cerro Coso's beautiful art gallery. All 1st and 2nd Place writers and poets will be the featured readers of the event. Refreshments will be served.

All award recipients, including honorable mentions, will receive an award certificate at the event. First and second place authors will receive a $50 or $25 gift card.

Watch for 1st and 2nd place pieces in the Fall 2014 edition of Metamorphoses Online.

Monday, April 07, 2014

2014 Met Awards Poetry Winners Announced!

High School
FIRST PLACE
Skylar Muse for "Words"
SECOND PLACE
Emma Heflin for "To the Artist"
HONORABLE MENTION
John Hicks for "Puppy Love"
College
FIRST PLACE
Alas Tarin for "Logic"
SECOND PLACE
Korinza Shlanta for "The 20th Year"
HONORABLE MENTIONS
John Schneider for "Circa 2003"

Katy Harvey for "Snow Walk"

Janace Tashjian for "Montmartre, Paris"
Stay Tuned!

All winners and honorable mentions will be invited to read their work at the awards ceremony Friday, April 25 at the Cerro Coso IWV Campus in Ridgecrest. Friends and family are encouraged to attend this celebratory event.

Awards Ceremony and Reading: Friday, 25 April 2014 in Ridgecrest
Publication: Fall 2014

Winners will receive more information regarding the ceremony soon.

Friday, April 04, 2014

2014 Met Awards Fiction Winners Announced!

High School
FIRST PLACE
Alex Tellez for "On a Final Note"
HONORABLE MENTION
Abigail Clayson for "The Knight and the Dragon"
College
FIRST PLACE
Korinza Shlanta for "Three Lies"
SECOND PLACE
Amanda Taylor for "The Rosary"
HONORABLE MENTIONS
Shari Allison for "Society of Last Hope"

Aubrey Elliott for "An Irrelevant Edge"

Krista Kenny for "Healed"
Stay Tuned!
Poetry winners will be announced in the next few days.

All winners and honorable mentions will be invited to read their work at the awards ceremony Friday, April 25 at the Cerro Coso IWV Campus in Ridgecrest. Friends and family are encouraged to attend this celebratory event.

Awards Ceremony and Reading: Friday, 25 April 2014 in Ridgecrest
Publication: Fall 2014

Winners will receive more information regarding the ceremony soon.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Unsung Hero of Plainsong

Essay by Janace Tashjian

Plainsong is a term that defines music created in worship, by unaccompanied voices, sung in unison and in a free rhythm. Kent Haruf's novel of the same name, Plainsong, presents a chorus of life on the high plains of rural Holt, Colorado. The voices of the chant are sung by varied members of this small town community, all of whom are navigating life, love, abandonment, betrayal, isolation and triumph. As if flowing across a giant loom, their experiences weave together in this unisonous psalm, intoning the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to overcome loss and discover life anew.

One voice rises above all others. A voice of reason and inspiration, of strength and gentle humanity. Though the character-titled chapters of Plainsong specifically focus on Tom Guthrie (educator and father of two young boys), Ike and Bobby (Guthrie's sons), Victoria Roubideaux (17 year-old pregnant student), Ella (Ike and Bobby's mother) and Harold and Raymond McPheron (aged brothers and farmers), it is the timbre and tone of Maggie Jones that invites us to sing along. Is Maggie Jones the unsung hero of Plainsong?

Maggie has only one devoted chapter of her own, yet she permeates the lives of those around her. Always there to lend a helping hand, even when she could use one herself. Consider first Victoria Roubideaux, pregnant at age 17, abandoned by her father, ousted from home by her mother, and left alone by the boyfriend whose child she carries. After being locked out of the house, and left “in a kind of daze of sorrow and disbelief” (Haruf 32), where did Victoria seek sanctuary and comfort? “Unconscious of any thoughts at all” (Haruf 33), Victoria finds herself at Maggie's door. Maggie provides shelter to Victoria without a second thought, despite already caring for her elderly and demented father. She helps Victoria confirm her pregnancy, visit the doctor and begin planning for her future. She never coddles Victoria, but paints a real picture of her situation and the trials ahead. After Victoria's disastrous disappearance to Denver with estranged boyfriend Dwayne, Maggie is the first phone call she makes, in efforts to come home.

Does Maggie give up on Victoria when it becomes clear she can no longer stay in Maggie's house, after her father becomes violent? No. Consider next, the McPheron brothers, Harold and Raymond, aged farmers living a life of isolation on their ranch. Maggie reaches out to the brothers to enroll them in Victoria's care. “I want something improbable” (Haruf 109) Maggie states simply. Though she couches it as a favor to Victoria, Maggie clearly identifies the McPherons' need for their isolation and sorrow to be eased. “...You old solitary bastards need somebody too...it's too lonesome out here” (Haruf 112). She continues to inspire them in their efforts, coaching and encouraging them on how to talk to her, how to open up, and how to be good providers. When Victoria goes missing, Maggie is whom they go to for help and advice.

Maggie seems to have an endless supply of compassion and patience. Doesn't she ever lose her cool? Well, yes...once. “Don't do this damn you, you're too old to play dumb” (Haruf 190), Maggie states to Tom Guthrie after his indiscretion with Judy, the school secretary. Consider lastly, Tom Guthrie, educator and father to Ike and Bobby, who has been abandoned by his wife. He too finds unique solace and comfort in her company. At a time of life when Guthrie is struggling to raise his boys alone, and accept his failed marriage, Maggie, “the most generous woman he'd ever known” (Haurf 233), is that glimpse of a silver lining amidst the dark and cloudy trials Tom faces. She is straightforward and honest in her interest toward Tom, “I've been watching you for a long time” (Haruf 230), “I'm just crazy about you” (Haruf 233). Guthrie seems to find his muse in Maggie, revealing himself to her in one simple phrase: “You take the breath out of me” (Haruf 232).

In his essay entitled “Kent Haruf,” Michael R. Molino states, “the novels of Kent Haruf do not tell the story of heroic idealism on the American plains” (8). Heroic idealism, no. Heroic deeds, most certainly. Maggie Jones is the intrepid voice in this ensembles' refrain, indeed the unsung hero of Plainsong. Though Haruf does not tell her story directly, Maggie is revealed as a cornerstone of her community, always ready with a kind gesture, thoughtful expression and practical solution. In these “craziest times ever” (Haruf 124), Maggie's empathy and pragmatism is pitch-perfect. Her selflessness and honesty touch the lives of all those with the good fortune of knowing her.

As Plainsong's chant comes to a conclusion, Maggie finds herself surrounded by the friends and family she helped bring together, their paths inextricably entwined—none of them wholly repaired or made new, but more akin to “the old dishes that had been unused for decades, that were chipped and faded, but still serviceable” (Haruf 299). Those dishes are proudly laid upon the table for their impending fellowship. The lone voice of Maggie's father absently calls out into the emptiness: “Hello. Is anyone there” (Haruf 299). No doubt Maggie Jones was there to answer his call.

Works Cited

Haruf, Kent. Plainsong. New York: Vintage Books, 2000. Print.

Molino, Michael R. “Kent Haruf.” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 292: Twenty-First Century American Novelists. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Ed. Lisa Abney and Suzanne Disheroon. Gale, 2004. 148-154. Web.

Contributor's Note: Janace Tashjian is a Cerro Coso student. She enjoyed writing this literary interpretation for English 111: Introduction to Types of Literature.

Monday, February 03, 2014

A Real Education in "Naming of Parts" and "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"

Essay by Chelsea Foulke

Most people have had a life-changing teacher whose influence cannot be overstated. The best teachers, however, are not always found in school but are instead often found outside of the traditional learning environment. The poems "Naming of Parts" by Henry Reed and "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman give the reader insight into what constitutes true teaching, true learning, and a real education. The speakers in both of these poems find their conventional teachers mundane and derive their real education from nature and personal introspection. Both poems implicitly encourage the reader to find a real education outside of the customary method. Through diction and syntax, tone, and contrast, both poems address the issues of domination by teachers to attempt to force traditional learning and the resistance of students to accept learning in this traditional fashion.

Both Reed and Whitman use diction and syntax to comment on education in their poetry. Reed depicts what true learning is through diction and syntax in "Naming of Parts." Many phrases in this poem have both denotations and connotations. The name of the poem itself denotes the austere nature of the parts of the guns that are described in the poem. The poem begins each stanza with exactly what the military teacher is teaching regarding the parts of a gun, and his words are uncreative and uninteresting. At the end of each stanza, however, the narrator repeats phrases but attributes different meanings to the phrases. In contrast to the teacher's tedious words, the words used by the internal voice of the student are beautiful and utilize various literary techniques. For example, Reed uses the simile that the flower in the garden "glistens like coral" (5). Similarly, Reed begins the second stanza with a mundane description of another part of the gun but ends the stanza with the "silent, eloquent gestures" (11), creating personification of the trees. Reed also uses repetition of phrases. After a dull description of how to ease the spring of a gun, he repeats a similar phrase, but in relation to the bees pollinating the flowers, "They call it easing the Spring" (24). In this way, he uses two definitions of the word "Spring" to connote two different meanings.

Similar to Reed's use of diction and syntax, Whitman also uses these literary techniques to provide commentary on teaching and learning. "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" contains a total of only eighty-three words, but the words have many denotations and connotations. For example, if Whitman had intended the adjective "learn'd" to be a respected one, he would have used the word "educated" or "knowledgeable" when referring to the astronomer. Instead, the word "learn'd" connotes a tone of skepticism towards the astronomer. Similarly, the student claims that he "heard" the astronomer. But the implication again is that while he may have heard the words of the teacher, he only learned from these words in that they opened the door for more intuitive thinking. The "proofs" provided by the astronomer also give a sarcastic connotation. The word leaves the reader wondering what, if anything, was proven. In contrast to this sarcastic connotation of "proof," when the student walks out, Whitman describes the student as "rising and gliding" (6), giving an uplifting connotation and even implying that he rises above the teacher. When the student goes outside, there is not just silence, but "perfect silence" (8), as if again, nature is the better teacher. The last word of the poem is "stars." The astronomer talks on and on, but never actually mentions the true subject -- the stars. The diction and syntax with Whitman's last word is direct, suggesting that it is nature who is the true teacher.

In addition to the use of diction and syntax, both Reed and Whitman use the tone of the speaker to convey their ideas about what constitutes true teaching and learning. In "Naming of Parts," the tone of the speaker is conveyed through two obvious speakers. The first speaker is the teacher who names of the parts of a gun. The teacher's words, such as "lower sling swivel" and "bolt," are monotonous, long-winded, and even cold. They simply name the actual parts of an inanimate and unfeeling object, a weapon. In one case, the speaker actually refers to the "safety-catch"; perhaps Reed intentionally chose this word based on the fact that the root word of "safety-catch" is "safe." In contrast to the voice of the teacher in "Naming of Parts" is the voice of the student. The voice of the student appears to be an internal voice, as if the student is daydreaming of a more idyllic place. The teacher's words ring in the student's ear, allowing him to think of other locations where the words might apply but in totally different ways. Perhaps there is even a third implied voice in the poem, which is the voice of nature. Nature does speak figuratively in the poem through its gardens and bees. The differences among these three voices provide an overall effect for the reader that implies that the information the teacher is espousing regarding guns is unexciting compared to the beauty and teaching of life and nature.

The tone of the speaker in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" also provides commentary on true teaching and learning. The actual narrator of the poem is the student, but the student describes the astronomer in a sarcastic tone. The implied voice of the astronomer is educated, but not necessarily wise. Similar to the teacher in "Naming of Parts," the astronomer is boring; he presents his information in "charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure" (3). In fact, the astronomer is so mind-numbing that the student actually walks out of the lecture hall. The tone of the speaker insinuates that he finds true learning not from the astronomer, but instead from nature and inward contemplation, as he "looked up in perfect silence at the stars" (8).

While diction, syntax, and tone are important elements in these poems, the most important way that both Reed and Whitman convey the theme of true teaching and learning is with the overall use of contrast. In "Naming of Parts," guns are contrasted with flowers, teachers are contrasted with bees, weapons of death are contrasted with the life of nature, and austere military equipment is contrasted with descriptions of nature as "fragile" (17) and "eloquent" (11). The narrator notes that "the early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers" (23), which would seem like a strange description of a bee's behavior, if it were not in contrast to the military men "fumbling" with how to learn the parts of their "assault" weapon. Overall, the contrast in the poem speaks to the issue of what is being taught by the teacher versus what is being learned by the student. The speaker repeats a particularly odd phrase, that the students "have not got" various parts of a gun (10 and 28); in addition, they "have not got" the "silent eloquent gestures" of the garden (12). The contrast of these deficiencies of what they "have not got" highlights the difference between the information that is being taught by the traditional teacher and the information being taught by the real teacher, nature.

Whitman also highlights the theme of traditional teaching versus real learning through contrast in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer." The audience in the poem responds to the astronomer with "much applause" (4), which is contrasted with the narrator's own feelings of negativity towards the lecturer. Similarly, the word "unaccountable" (5) typically means inexplicable, but can be contrasted with another meaning of not being responsible for one's actions, leaving the narrator free to dismiss the astronomer's words and exit the classroom. When the narrator does leave, he is "tired and sick" (5), but there is an obvious contrast between being physically sick and only mentally sick of this traditional form of teaching. Finally, in contrast to the traditional education from the lecturer, the real education comes when the narrator exits into the "mystical moist night-air" (7).

In each of Reed and Whitman's poems, the narrator is subjected to a teacher that he finds mundane, the narrator is compelled to find another teacher, and the narrator finds that teacher in nature. The narrator in "Naming of Parts" finds his education in "the almond-blossom / Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards" (lines 28-29). The narrator in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" finds his education when he looks "up in perfect silence at the stars" (8). Through these two poems, Reed and Whitman use diction and syntax, tone, and contrast, to address the theme of what constitutes a real education. Both poets urge the reader to look outside the traditional realm of teaching to find his own teacher and his own education.

Works Cited

Reed, Henry. "Naming of Parts." Making Arguments about Literature, A Compact Guide and Anthology. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. 331. Print.

Whitman, Walt. "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer." Making Arguments about Literature, A Compact Guide and Anthology. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. 333. Print.

Contributors Note: Chelsea Foulke is a senior at Mammoth High School and a concurrent Cerro Coso student who would like to transfer to UC Berkeley and major in pre-med/pre-vet. She enjoyed writing about literature in both English 101 and English 102 at Cerro Coso. This was a piece she wrote for English 102.






Monday, January 27, 2014

The Colors of Autumn

Short Short by Stephen Davis

“Did you read the paper this morning?” Stephen asked his wife as she walked into the kitchen. She poured coffee into a red mug before she sat down.

“I did,” Diane replied, “another war is exactly what this country doesn’t need. It’s terrifying and it seems like war is everywhere.” She picked up the newspaper and began skimming through the front page article again.

“Well, at least we don't have to worry about seeing any action over here.” He attempted reassurance as he stood up and began walking towards the living room. “I’m going to take Gabrielle to the park to play for a while… Gabrielle it’s time to go.”

Stephen walked across the hard wood floor and grabbed shoes for his daughter. Gabrielle sat down on the couch nearest the door while her father laced up her pink and white Dora shoes. They walked down the brick steps, hand in hand, into a beautiful autumn morning. Elm trees lined the street in colors of red and yellow, piles of leaves littered the sidewalk.

As they both crossed the street and walked onto the grass, Gabrielle took off in a sprint to the jungle gym. Stephen continued to walk, following after, and began laughing. Gabrielle was yelling with excitement, so much that it would have been difficult for anyone else not to share in that joy. She jumped from the sidewalk onto the sand without care. Her feet quickly sunk below ground level, filling the sides of her shoes with sand. She ran up a flight of stairs only to disappear inside the three story plastic contraption, complete with five different slides. Stephen smiled again as Gabrielle was lost in the masses of children, all yelling and screaming with laughter.

“Daddy, Daddy! Will you go down the slide with me?” Gabrielle yelled, peering out a porthole at the top. Stephen hesitated for a moment, considering the implications of squeezing his way into a looping slide meant for someone half his size. Not wanting to disappoint, he began the adventure anyway. Stepping on the sand, he carefully avoided any spillage into his shoes. He dodged children running at full speed, children oblivious and seemingly impervious to damage. Stephen successfully made it to the fort and pulled himself up out of the crossfire of little bodies everywhere. He climbed to the top. Gabrielle laughed as he closed in and took off down the slide ahead of him, her laughter echoing down the tunnel. He dove in after her, tumbling down the tube, and stopped well short of the edge of the slide.

Stephen pulled himself to the edge, feeling scuff marks made by little feet under his palms. He saw Gabrielle crying and sitting on the ground, comforting her knee.

“Oh, Baby, what’s wrong?” He asked in a comforting tone, ignoring the sea of seemingly endless children running by.

“I fell and scraped my knee….there’s blood!” she wailed. Her Daddy knelt beside her and put his arms around her. He held her for a few moments before standing up and giving her his hand.

“Come on, let’s clean you up.” Stephen held her hand and walked her to a water fountain while she slightly whimpered.

“Don’t wash it Daddy, it will sting!” She pleaded, squeezing his hand tighter as he began to drip water over her knee.

“Everything is going to be okay my love,” he reassured her.

Something bright flashed in his peripheral vision. Multiple colors of light shined everywhere in the distance. Beautiful stars of red and yellow, the color of autumn.

Contributor's Note: Stephen Davis is a Cerro Coso student. This short short was written for English 141: Creative Writing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

2014 Met Awards - Call for Flash Fiction and Poetry

Metamorphoses, in cooperation with the English Department and the Student Government of Cerro Coso, is hosting the 2014 Met Awards for Creative Writing. The editors are calling for poetry and flash fiction—very short short stories sometimes called short shorts, of between 500 and 1,000 words—written by Cerro Coso and local high school students. 

Well-Used Pencil - Gary Enns
Well-Used Pencil - Photo by Gary Enns
First and second place writers will receive a $50 or $25 gift card and publication in the Fall edition of Metamorphoses Online. Runners-up may also be considered for publication.

Eligibility

Participants must be current students of Cerro Coso or one of the many high schools in the college's service area (Mammoth, Bishop, Ridgecrest, California City, Edwards Air Force Base, and Kern River Valley areas).

Length

Fiction must be between 500-1,000 words.

Poems must be under 50 lines.

More about Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is an economical form of story-telling: in a small amount of space, the writer of a short short exhibits the essentials of good fiction: character, plot, setting, language that surprises, and a significant ending which points to a meaning beyond any surprise or twist the author offers.

The best flash fiction implies significant meaning beneath the surface of its plot and shimmers with emotional resonance.

For an interesting article on the composition of short shorts, see Flash Fiction Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Vincent’s article, “Managing Story Length.” "Economy," Vincent says, is the most important quality of a successful short short:
An economical writer (the most enjoyable type of writer to read) doesn't waste words, doesn't repeat what's already been said, chooses the "less is more" path to revealing information to the reader. (Vincent)
Following is a list of sample short shorts from the Flash Fiction  and SmokeLong Quarterly online publications. In each, notice the economical use of language, the surprising detail, the characterization through action, dialog, and description, and the enduring sense of significance. As you read each short short, ask yourself, Why is this story worth telling?
"Fork" by Glen Pourciau
"Stalling" by Andrew Roe
"The Runner" by Curtis Smith
"Kolkata Sea" by Indrapramit Das
"Vacation" by Peter DeMarco
"When the Cicadas Come" by Tara Laskowski 
More about Poetry

Bob Dylan said, “a poem is a naked person.” Poetry reveals the layers beneath our everyday experiences. What is a personal experience moves beyond the self to create a shared experience and reveal a common knowledge that unites us.

Poetry uses language in surprising ways and isn’t afraid to be. Poetry shows.

Following is a list of poems; as you read each one, notice the use of metaphor and imagery; what is revealed as each poem progresses?
“The Gift” by Li-Young Lee
“Her Kind” by Anne Sexton
“The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” by Randall Jarell
Prizes

Thank you to the Student Government of Cerro Coso for providing funding for the following prizes:
High School Fiction
First prize 50$ and online publication in Met
Second prize 25$ and online publication in Met

High School Poetry
First Prize 50$ and online publication in Met
Second prize 25$ and online publication in Met
College Fiction
First prize 50$ and online publication in Met
Second prize 25$ and online publication in Met

College Poetry
First Prize 50$ and online publication in Met
Second prize 25$ and online publication in Met
Timeline
Submission Deadline: 28 March 2014
Awards Announced: 4 April 2014
Awards Ceremony and Reading: Friday, 25 April 2014 in Ridgecrest
Publication: Fall 2014
How to Submit

Us the submission page to submission page to enter your work. At the beginning of your contributor's note, mention the word "Awards." If you are a high school student, also be sure to include the name and location of your school.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Dog

By Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev
Trans. Constance Garnett

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Us two in the room; my dog and me.... Outside a fearful storm is howling.

The dog sits in front of me, and looks me straight in the face.

And I, too, look into his face.

He wants, it seems, to tell me something. He is dumb, he is without words, he does not understand himself - but I understand him.

I understand that at this instant there is living in him and in me the same feeling, that there is no difference between us. We are the same; in each of us there burns and shines the same trembling spark.

Death sweeps down, with a wave of its chill broad wing....

And the end!

Who then can discern what was the spark that glowed in each of us?

No! We are not beast and man that glance at one another....

They are the eyes of equals, those eyes riveted on one another.

And in each of these, in the beast and in the man, the same life huddles up in fear close to the other.

February 1878

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dreamland

By Lewis Carroll

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

When midnight mists are creeping,
And all the land is sleeping,
Around me tread the mighty dead,
And slowly pass away.
Lo, warriors, saints, and sages,
From out the vanished ages,
With solemn pace and reverend face
Appear and pass away.
The blaze of noonday splendour,
The twilight soft and tender,
May charm the eye: yet they shall die,
Shall die and pass away.
But here, in Dreamland's centre,
No spoiler's hand may enter,
These visions fair, this radiance rare,
Shall never pass away.
I see the shadows falling,
The forms of old recalling;
Around me tread the mighty dead,
And slowly pass away.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Backward Spring

By Thomas Hardy

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

The trees are afraid to put forth buds,
And there is timidity in the grass;
The plots lie gray where gouged by spuds,
And whether next week will pass
Free of sly sour winds is the fret of each bush
Of barberry waiting to bloom.

Yet the snowdrop's face betrays no gloom,
And the primrose pants in its heedless push,
Though the myrtle asks if it's worth the fight
This year with frost and rime
To venture one more time
On delicate leaves and buttons of white
From the selfsame bough as at last year's prime,
And never to ruminate on or remember
What happened to it in mid-December.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sailing To Byzantium

By William Butler Yeats

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

          I
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

          II
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

          III
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

          IV
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Dream

By Christina Georgina Rossetti

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Once in a dream (for once I dreamed of you)
     We stood together in an open field;
     Above our heads two swift-winged pigeons wheeled,
Sporting at ease and courting full in view.
When loftier still a broadening darkness flew,
     Down-swooping, and a ravenous hawk revealed;
     Too weak to fight, too fond to fly, they yield;
So farewell life and love and pleasures new.
Then as their plumes fell fluttering to the ground,
     Their snow-white plumage flecked with crimson drops,
     I wept, and thought I turned towards you to weep:
     But you were gone; while rustling hedgerow tops
Bent in a wind which bore to me a sound
     Of far-off piteous bleat of lambs and sheep.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dulce et Decorum Est

By Wilfred Owen

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun

By William Shakespeare

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To Fausta

By Matthew Arnold

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Joy comes and goes: hope ebbs and flows,
Like the wave.
Change doth unknit the tranquil strength of men.
Love lends life a little grace,
A few sad smiles: and then.
Both are laid in one cold place,
In the grave.

Dreams dawn and fly: friends smile and die,
Like spring flowers.
Our vaunted life is one long funeral.
Men dig graves, with bitter tears,
For their dead hopes; and all,
Maz’d with doubts, and sick with fears,
Count the hours.

We count the hours: these dreams of ours,
False and hollow,
Shall we go hence and find they are not dead?
Joys we dimly apprehend,
Faces that smil’d and fled,
Hopes born here, and born to end,
Shall we follow?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Raven

By Edgar Allan Poe

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door,
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;, vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow, sorrow for the lost Lenore,
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me, filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door,
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you", here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!",
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore,
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;,
'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door,
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore,
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered, not a feather then he fluttered,
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before,
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore,
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never, nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore,
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore

Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee, by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite, respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!, prophet still, if bird or devil!,
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted,
On this home by horror haunted, tell me truly, I implore,
Is there, is there balm in Gilead?, tell me, tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil, prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us, by that God we both adore,
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore,
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting,
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!, quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my
door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted, nevermore!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Poetry Project in the Cerro Coso LRC

Picture of the poetry project in the IWV Campus library. Poetry lines by Cerro Coso students.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it's queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be

By John Keats

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love; then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

A Maiden

By Sara Teasdale

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Oh if I were the velvet rose
Upon the red rose vine,
I’d climb to touch his window
And make his casement fine.

And if I were the little bird
That twitters on the tree,
All day I’d sing my love for him
Till he should harken me.

But since I am a maiden
I go with downcast eyes,
And he will never hear the songs
That he has turned to sighs.

And since I am a maiden
My love will never know
That I could kiss him with a mouth
More red than roses blow.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Come Into the Garden, Maud

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, Night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the roses blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.

All night have the roses heard
The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr'd
To the dancers dancing in tune:
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
And a hush with the setting moon.

I said to the lily, "There is but one
With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
She is weary of dance and play."
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
The last wheel echoes away.

I said to the rose, "The brief night goes
In babble and revel and wine.
O young lordlover, what sighs are those
For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine," so I sware to the rose,
"For ever and ever, mine."

And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
As the music clash'd in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
Our wood, that is dearer than all;

From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewelprint of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise.

The slender acacia would not shake
One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake,
As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake,
They sigh'd for the dawn and thee.

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
To the flowers, and be their sun.

There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;"
And the white rose weeps, "She is late;"
The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear;"
And the lily whispers, "I wait."

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

By William Wordsworth

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -

By Emily Dickinson

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—
In Corners—till a Day
The Owner passed—identified—
And carried Me away—

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods—
And now We hunt the Doe—
And every time I speak for Him—
The Mountains straight reply—

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow—
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through—

And when at Night—Our good Day done—
I guard My Master's Head—
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow—to have shared—

To foe of His—I'm deadly foe—
None stir the second time—
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye—
Or an emphatic Thumb—

Though I than He—may longer live
He longer must—than I—
For I have but the power to kill,
Without—the power to die—

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Memories of West Street and Lepke

By Robert Lowell

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,
I hog a whole house on Boston's
"hardly passionate Marlborough Street,"
where even the man
scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,
has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,
and is "a young Republican."
I have a nine months' daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants' wear.

These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,
and made my manic statement,
telling off the state and president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the bull pen
beside a negro boy with curlicues
of marijuana in his hair.

Given a year,
I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short
enclosure like my school soccer court,
and saw the Hudson River once a day
through sooty clothesline entanglements
and bleaching khaki tenements.
Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,
a jaundice-yellow ("it's really tan")
and fly-weight pacifist,
so vegetarian,
he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.
He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,
the Hollywood pimps, to his diet.
Hairy, muscular, suburban,
wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,
they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.

I was so out of things, I'd never heard
of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Are you a C.O.?" I asked a fellow jailbird.
"No," he answered, "I'm a J.W."
He taught me the "hospital tuck,"
and pointed out the T-shirted back
of Murder Incorporated's Czar Lepke,
there piling towels on a rack,
or dawdling off to his little segregated cell full
of things forbidden to the common man:
a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American
flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm.
Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
he drifted in a sheepish calm,
where no agonizing reappraisal
jarred his concentration on the electric chair
hanging like an oasis in his air
of lost connections....

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Clod and the Pebble

By William Blake

Reprinted by Met in celebration of National Poetry Month 2013. This poem is in the public domain.

"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives it ease,
And builds a heaven in hell's despair."

So sang a little clod of clay,
Trodden with the cattle's feet,
But a pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Memory

A Poem by Tim Holloway

Memory – by Tim Holloway
Our memory is like a burning scrap of paper,
we use it to light up the past.

*

Once upon a time there were people
that weren’t very good at thinking.
To them, everything old was sacred.
Priests made sure that no son did anything
that his father had not done before him.

**

They lived in cities and towns,
buried from time to time by the desert sands.
The land turned year by year like a potter’s wheel.
They would eventually become the greatest inventors of all time.

***

Have you ever stood between two mirrors?
Even when you can’t see the mirrors in their reflections anymore,
they are still there, and you know it.
Like the past, they continue on, becoming the future.

**

And behind every ‘Once upon a time…’ there is another.
For some reason the ego needs a past to spring from,
or it would suffer and crumble into dust.

*

Our memory is like a burning scrap of paper,
we use it to light up the past.

Contributor's Note: This is my sixth foray into online education at Cerro Coso - the first being a pair of computer classes - followed by Philosophy, Ethics, Music, Film Studies, Anthropology, Archeology, Theater, E-Commerce, and Creative Writing courses. It has been an experience that I highly recommend. I’m slowly whittling away at completing the required courses towards acquiring an AA degree - of one form or another - and having these classes available online is priceless.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nine in Time

A Poem by Tim Holloway

She lay in repose
on the frost nipped lawn,
Jagged, sharp teeth bared in the grimace
of her last thoughts.
Her silver hair reflects the iciness
of the scene.
Her fur coat stiff; breathlessness
claims what once ran wild.
Carefully, awkwardly, I collect her
and then place her to rest rigidly with my discards.
Many mice will dance tonite.

Contributor's Note: This is my sixth foray into online education at Cerro Coso - the first being a pair of computer classes - followed by Philosophy, Ethics, Music, Film Studies, Anthropology, Archeology, Theater, E-Commerce, and Creative Writing courses. It has been an experience that I highly recommend. I’m slowly whittling away at completing the required courses towards acquiring an AA degree - of one form or another - and having these classes available online is priceless.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Memory

A Poem by Tim Holloway

Memory is like
a burning scrap of paper
lighting up the past.

Contributor's Note: This is my sixth foray into online education at Cerro Coso - the first being a pair of computer classes - followed by Philosophy, Ethics, Music, Film Studies, Anthropology, Archeology, Theater, E-Commerce, and Creative Writing courses. It has been an experience that I highly recommend. I’m slowly whittling away at completing the required courses towards acquiring an AA degree - of one form or another - and having these classes available online is priceless.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sunset Boulevard Villanelle

A Poem by Angie Wilson

A bag lady leans against a palm tree
At the corner of Sunset and Gower,
Smashing cans with a broken chunk of concrete.

Her face has aged twenty years past the dreams
That brought her here. At the heart of rush hour,
A bag lady leans against a palm tree.

At Van Ness sits a double amputee
In his chair by the KTLA tower,
Smashing cans with a broken chunk of concrete.

An impeccably dressed studio flunky
Looks in a rush but pauses to glower.
A bag lady leans against a palm tree,

Singing, strumming, and stinking of Chablis.
Dream big but don’t wind up on a corner
Smashing cans with a broken chunk of concrete.

It’s a short walk from the Grove to gritty
And they keep the doors locked at Sunset Gower.
A bag lady leans against a palm tree
Smashing cans with a broken chunk of concrete.

Contributor's Note: After fifteen years of sporadic study at four community colleges, I accidentally earned an A.A. in Social Sciences from Cerro Coso and now I occasionally take a class for fun. I'm a city girl living in a small town, a beach bum marooned in the desert, a pacifist working on a Navy base.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Mountaineer

Short Story by William Barclay

When they checked into the hotel, Carolyn remembered something strange. A year ago, probably to the day, they had been in France. There were no problems then with the lavatories or with airport security. They had each brought a single bag. It was a group vacation, one of those organized tours, and they had been surrounded by strangers who talked over everything and laughed raucously at secret jokes. Steven hated the tour guides, hated walking around in a herd and being told where to look. He wanted to see great art and had no interest in street performers or the clever boutiques at the Palais Royal. They separated from the group; they spent hours looking at Caravaggios; they made love the day before they came home. It was pleasing in a comfortable and entirely familiar way, the way their friends’ vacations were pleasing. And now, a year later, this.

There was no accounting for life. She had learned that much, and yet Carolyn was still prepared. While they waited for the elevator, trailed by a bellman hauling their collection of trunks, she inspected the list of names and phone numbers, the precisely choreographed itinerary, the new dosing schedule. She managed her existence this way, writing everything down on checklists and color-coded index cards held together by rubber bands. She was no longer herself; she was the thing on those papers; she was the next thing.

In their room, plain but decent and overlooking a narrow, tree-lined courtyard, she helped Steven into the bathroom and onto the toilet. She took a dampened washcloth to his face, being careful not to rile the sore that had appeared on his chin. She brushed his teeth. While Carolyn brewed his coffee—decaf, not that it mattered, not that he would actually drink it—she inspected the brochures fanned out along the table in the kitchenette. They were provided by companies that sold hiking equipment and offered rafting trips for outdoorsmen and their families. Sun River, she was reminded, offered you the time of your life.

Armed with his coffee, Steven worked some more on his letter to the family. It was his opus, composed over the course of months using a device that translated his speaking voice into large blocks of text on a laptop computer. It was a stupid machine. It put contractions where whole words should have been; it didn’t know the difference between “am” and “an”. His words were punctuated by long pauses, by neck spasms and short, sudden gasps for air. A couple of times, when the machine went haywire or he forgot where he left off, he glanced over at Carolyn and widened his eyes comically. This was his wink, his shrug. They could still laugh, couldn’t they?

Soon he drifted off. He was sleeping more and more lately. Whether it was the drugs or the stress or the gradual diminution of his body no one knew. He could sit there for hours, twelve or fourteen at a time, waking only to chew on muscle relaxants or sip water through a straw. Carolyn usually read a book. This time she decided to go for a walk, although she wasn’t entirely sure why. Air seemed like a good idea, fresh air, and even though it was dark she thought that she might recognize a thing or two.

She headed out along the main road and tried to remember which of the side streets would take her down to the gorge. It had been more than twenty years since she and Steven had stumbled upon the lonesome sandstone gorge and that dusty knoll where they shared a picnic lunch and watched tiny pinpoint men scale far-off mountains. They were like that then, not brave enough to summit a mountain, not exactly, but young enough to sit and look at one. Now she dreaded the thought of Steven in his chair, wincing as they crossed over unpaved roads and cursing her in his mind for taking the long way.

The town was larger than she remembered it, but prettier, too. Rows of tiny shops and mock cottages had sprung up along the thoroughfares. The streets themselves were mostly empty, illuminated by old fashioned street lamps, by the glimmer of a half-obscured crescent moon, and the steady clapping of her feet against the pavement reminded Carolyn how wonderfully far she was from home. What a little silence could do; how easily it could swallow up time and place. Yes, even people. Especially people.
Wandering down side roads and winding in and out of cul-de-sacs, she realized after a little while that she was lost. In the distance, some tiny glass-fronted place—a restaurant or maybe a bar—lit the sidewalk in spheres of green and gold. She decided to go in, just to ask for directions, really, but when she did, the bartender set down a menu. Carolyn wondered if it was fate. She believed in fate sometimes.

The place itself was darker than it had seemed and Carolyn found herself surrounded by sights and sounds which seemed familiar, but only vaguely so, like memories from childhood or perhaps from some past life, memories, she was sure, which were better left forgotten. There were the bleary-eyed older men, the vapid, giggling young girls, the deafening clang of too many people and things. But there was music as well and the music, although she couldn’t place it, the sound of music still made her smile. When the bartender returned, Carolyn ordered a white wine, whatever they had, the drier the better. She couldn’t remember the last time she had taken a drink and when it came the wine scorched her tongue. It was rotten; it was just like too-ripe pears and she suspected the bottle had been corked, but it went to her head in a way that helped her forget about the taste.

“Climber?”

The man glancing over at her was young and broadbacked, sitting two stools down, with a beard that looked as though it might have grown in by accident. Carolyn had seen him earlier, staring off at persons or places unknown, but his sudden attention still left her confused. “Excuse me?” she asked, trying her best to smile.

“The climbing, is that it? Are you here for the climbing?” Carolyn thought for a moment that he was being deliberately stupid, that he was mocking her age and her situation, and then, looking down at her plain khaki pants and practical shoes, it dawned on her that she was perhaps dressed for the part. Were there really female climbers? Of her age?

“Yes,” she said in a tone meant to be deadpan. “I can hardly get enough of climbing. Mountains, rocks, anything really.”

He nodded his agreement and then began to tell her his story in the way that people do to strangers in bars, with great attention to detail, with sweeping movements of his hands, with a voice so loud and booming that it made her blush. He had, Carolyn learned, read a magazine article about someone kayaking the Kali River and decided to circle the globe in search of the world’s fiercest rapids. He travelled with a friend, a rich friend who funded their expeditions, and the two of them had already visited four continents and more than a dozen states. He hated Tambor and loved Phuket. Once, while passing through Cyprus, he had broken his wrist and had it set by a local shaman. It healed in a matter of days. She marveled at the very idea of people like him, of just picking up and going somewhere. He seemed every bit as reckless and brave, every bit as childlike, as the men in her books.

“You know,” she said, straightening up a little, “I don’t think that there’s anything more glorious than standing on a mountaintop at daybreak. Just at daybreak, I mean. When the sun is coming up and the sky is light.” Carolyn wondered where she had heard that, probably in a movie. For a second, she was quite proud of herself and then, suddenly, an image: her sagging neck and sunken cheeks, the lines around her eyes, that time of night, a woman alone, some strange bar. What must he be thinking?

“Actually, my husband and I did a pre-dawn climb not far from here,” she said, emphasizing it—emphasizing her husband—as best she could. “Just a few days after we were married.”

“That’s cute,” he said in a way that left Carolyn embarrassed. “So this is part two then? Sort of a second honeymoon?”

“Well, no,” she told him, tracing the outline of her glass with one finger. It occurred to her that the man was waiting, that she would need to tell him something more, and then, as quickly as she realized it, the something appeared, as if it had willed itself into being, as if it had perhaps been waiting all this time for a chance to emerge. “My husband is dead.”

It was a horrible thing to say. Carolyn did not understand where the words had come from or why, having said them, she did not feel guilty or ashamed. Just this: she had said them. She wanted to take another drink, something stronger, maybe a whiskey sour. Yes, whiskey sounded good. It occurred to her that she could probably stay there and drink until the bar closed, until she could barely stand and had forgotten where she was. No one knew her there. What difference would it make?

Things became quiet for her.

She ordered another glass of wine and then, because she remembered that she hated the wine, a cognac. The man with the beard said something brief and meaningless about rivers and rainfall, but was otherwise silent. Carolyn understood. The alcohol made her breath feel heavy and allowed her to lose track of the space between herself and the man, between the man and the street, between the street here and the street she knew as a girl. She had been meaning to go back and visit. Her poor mother.

Finally, when she found herself gripped by a strange and uncomfortable ringing in her ears, Carolyn excused herself and exited to the restroom. She paid her tab, leaving the bartender an especially large tip. What a nice man to stand there and draw her a map on the back of a napkin. What a nice place. The world was smaller than it sometimes seemed. On her way out, she put a hand on the shoulder of the bearded man.

“I need to go now,” she told him. “But good luck with the river.”

He stared back at her blankly. Carolyn realized that she had interrupted, that he was already having a conversation with another man, this one clean-shaven but equally large. She thought it might be the friend he had told her about. Soon after she left, a brief chorus of laughter poured out of the bar, echoing off of the abandoned storefront across the street and Carolyn wondered if it was them, the two adventurers, laughing at the foolish old lady and her talk of mountaintops.

She looked at the map only briefly. The hotel, it turned out, was closer than she had realized, and on the way there she was able to locate the road that led down to the gorge. She followed it halfway down, until she could see what she thought was moonlight reflecting off of the water, and decided not to go any further. It was dreadful, just a haphazard slit carved into the earth. It was worse than dreadful; it was nothing; it was the absence of space. Carolyn hated this town now, how it was crowded and desolate all at once, how far away it seemed from every familiar signpost, every hint of civilization. She should have never left the hotel, she knew that now. She ought to have stayed with Steven, to have finished her book and taken her pill and fallen asleep to the sound of the television. It was, after all, her job, her only job, to be there and attend to him. And besides, he needed her so much.

Contributor's Note: William Barclay lives in Santa Monica and sometimes in Ridgecrest.