River Sound

By Amy Noltensmeyer

What does a river sound like? It's difficult to describe. When one can hear, we simply know the sound of a river. But to actually describe it presents a challenge. To me, it's the voice of God speaking to me. Sometimes a little trickle is a gentle whisper...an I love you on a sunny day. Other times, it's laughter. He's running though the trees playing hide and seek with me. I'm chasing, and he suddenly turns to me and yells, "Boo!", laughing so loudly that every other sound fades into the background. It's children's laughter, too many to count, giggling at the bees lighting on blossoms. When you close your eyes and focus on the river, the sound carries itself out from the banks and wraps around your shoulders like a hug. It calls to you as you leave the banks, begging for you to return...to stay...to play.

Feeling the River

By Michael Wenham

Damp clouds draw breath through forearm hairs,

trees sweat faint salts, dusty quartz, and sway.

Snowmelt sun warmed river foams and ebbs about

my feet, always varied the waves, temperature,

chattering softly, velvet cool whispers remind

the shores and rock they will not remain.

No stone, granite, bentonite, steel rail, crystal shore

shall withstand the endless voice of the water, curling,

falling, chilling, deepening, rounding, flattening,

destroying, and improving best laid plans.

Numbing my toes, nails white from cold, tops blush pale rose,

sore pruned soles, wet rough stone, standing still.

Scents in the Air

By Michael Wenham

Earth damp with decay,

air seasoned with plum tree blossoms,

ash spice, cottonwood blooms,

sickly sweet crab apple tree leaves, pine,

juniper bush, cedar chip graves,

Starched linen, stale plastic tent.

SALIDA (STAY/EXIT)

By Carl Atiya Swanson

The lilacs are already in bloom here
so I couldn't hear then opening.

      But the chatter of children expands –
      soft foot falls, flip flops flapping.

A bird chirp and a chitter, maybe
a dry leaf on the asphalt.

      The wind luxuriating in the leaves,
      in the branches, in my hair.

Somewhere a river, somewhere
a drill, a saw, a hammer.

      Bike spokes
      a buzz
      a bell
      a command.

Cars behind me,
silence ahead.

When Her Mascara Runs

by Bryce Martin

The sunset comes, the sickness has begun.
She's not the only one, a quest, a search that must be won.
The darkness she seeks, no matter how small
the tunnel or pathway seems dreary or bleak.
On she puts her blushes and shades,
with brushes she paints away her true face.
To hide the real emotions at which her expressions betray,
portray shame, sickness, and disgrace.
With a smile in hand and her heart on her sleeve,
she begins her search, mobbing these streets.
With nothing to offer a plank she must walk,
after her fall, she must step some more.

Finally in a spot she settles to earn her keep,
or is it to feed the beast?
She gives her music, tells her-story, and shares her soul,
all for which she has no control.
The beast, it abides with a hunger,
a need to be satisfied.
She takes what she's earned, clenched in her fist,
white knuckles cold and bare, from the frightening thought,
that what was so difficult to earn, can be easily lost.
With need in her eye, relief on her mind,
and pain all around, she holds her anguish at bay.
With a monster to feed, the hour is late,
she hopes, she prays,
she bargains with fate that the sickness will abate
long enough to find the dark,
the blackness on which it feeds,
and for which she bleeds.

How she waits, oh how she waits,
to tingle again, but only for a time.
Does it diminish the pain?
Only to start the search for her sunset again.
When her mascara runs, when her mascara runs,
with only tears and the easy in front,
she longs for the hard way.

Space to Be

by Jill Carstens

We were a brand new shiny family in 1968.
We made Denver our home and began to make some history.
I was 3 and a blank canvas, like the wide-open space presented before me, situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains. 
The town grew and I grew. It’s bruises and blemishes became mine. We survived.
Denver got a bit cooler and so did I. We weren’t fancy like New York City or San Francisco, but we were something. 
And the fact that not everyone lived here was ok with me. We still had space to be, room to grow. 
I had adopted Denver’s history and now we had history together. 
My identity is forever linked to the geography. 
The streets are parts of the map of my mind.
I felt like I knew every nook and cranny of my town. 
I could hold it in the palm of my hand.

Travelling the Santa Fe Trail

By George Koukeas

(painting that inspired the poem: “Pack Train on the Rio Grande, 1879”)

Along the dusty trail

with a mule train,

atop our horses,

riding by covered wagons.

How beautiful the deep, blue sky

with trees strongly green,

surrounding the Santa Fe we tread,

fighting hunger and thirst,

drought and famine

Yet, how beautiful if we can resourceful be.

Then murderous Kiowa attack non-combatants.

Yet, the vision moves us along

Onwards to trade,

Onwards to running my business--

all in New Mexico,

where profits help me live decently on a harsh frontier

Onwards! for a mecca of ideas, commerce and a way of life await us!

The freedom of the plains is the Liberty of the man,

we pioneers, so brave, strong and true

out here and there, where we merchants can control our own destiny:

Laissez-faire! Keep governments away from here—

for the freedom of the plains is the Liberty of the man,

we pioneers, so brave, strong and true.

Why I Stopped going to Rodeos

By Erin Trampler Bell

The dust makes me sneeze.
I am less comfortable in jeans than I used to be.
I’m embarrassed by my allergy to horses.
The concept of conquest unsettles me.
My silver is too shiny.
My bandanas are all fake.
I began to feel scared for the clowns.
Sometimes I feel I am a clown in my daily life and why would I want to relive that?
I empathize with animals too much and it hurts.
Once a wild cow chased my car through a secret canyon and I see the same eyes in the corral.
I am too closely bound to the fates of horses.
I want to revere the sources of sustenance.
When the rope tightens I can’t breathe.
Would you want someone to tie a rope there to make you kick?
The next step is bullfights and I’ve been broken by the picadors.
My silver isn’t shiny enough.
Greasing the pig isn’t fair.
I would rather go to a powwow.
Every horse is a unicorn I can’t touch anymore.
I am torn by the ruthlessness of tradition.

worlds apart

As the world spins time moves in a cycle
all its own
as if places and people don't have a purpose.
Yet, we search and seek to find the scene
most suited for us.

Engines

By Ruth Burnham

Dad loved engines. From the two-hundred-ton diesel locomotives that he fixed for a living to the fist-sized glow plugs that flew his model airplanes on rare days off, Dad loved building, fixing, fine-tuning, and, especially, driving anything that ran on fuel. Early in my parents’ marriage he had been an invincible stock car racer in our small Montana town, maintaining an unbeatable 1951 Plymouth by means of his mechanical talent, until a collision on the dirt track totaled said Plymouth. Dad emerged unscathed, but Mom’s hysterics were enough to make him give up racing. He kept his helmet, however, a large, unwieldy bowl that resembled a football helmet with a bill and floppy leather straps that covered the ears and fastened under the chin. This 10-pound head protector, with Dad’s number 57 emblazoned in black electrician’s tape, hung on a peg in the garage, a garage as lovingly curated as any museum.

Years later, I found myself back in Dad’s garage, this one next to the home where he and Mom retired after having moved several times, through several garages. Dad, too, had passed away. His final garage was as spotless, orderly, and museum-like as all the others.  And there, among the vast assortment of equipment and vehicles, enshrined on blocks and secured between two sawhorses, a cracked, faded helmet on its well-worn seat, stood Dad’s Honda 50, a tribute to youth, to age, and to the freedom inherent in both.

I Am A Hunter

By Devorah Uriel                                                      

I am always vigilant. When I sit down in a room I make sure I can see the door and if possible know of at least one other way to exit. I scan faces, read bodies. I have radar for anger, for need, for fear.

I am a child but no longer childish. I have no time for such things.

I am a hunter of invisible weapons. Weapons held on the insides of grown-ups where they cannot be easily seen. Held in their thoughts and desires and perversions. Yes—I know what a perversion is. Weapons hidden away in polite circles. I can see them, poking out of a breast pocket or a pocket book. Shiny and sharp and eager to cut.

I hunt these weapons not to steal them but to survive them. The world is a battlefield and the landmines are in people’s hearts.  Evil intentions lurk everywhere like eager snipers. I cannot hope to disarm them all. I am not strong enough to take captives. I must be alert, cunning but not obvious, charming, at ease—and child-like.