No One’s Home

by on Jan 29, 2015

No One's Home

 


Michele S. Cornelius spent years chasing clouds on the back roads of the west, but is now settled in Southeast Alaska where she wanders in old-growth forests, admires the sea, and works to capture ephemeral bits of nature.  Her website is michelecornelius.com.

Burn Job

by on Jan 28, 2015

Some days in the life of a carpenter feel like any other; a thin slice from a continuum of work carried out by a fraternity of craftsmen dating back to the pyramids and stretching out into the space age. All in all, an honorable way to make a living.

And then there are the days I walk into a burn job.

There is something deeply objectionable—obscene even—about a home consumed by fire. Whatever the reason—an overtaxed extension cord, a somnolent smoker, or a forgotten project boiling dry on the stove—fire is an elemental force that teaches us of our impermanence. The amount of time it takes for a guttering teardrop of flame at the end of a match to become a life-consuming pyre can be measured in an eternity of seconds counting down with complete indifference to our existence.

The first time you walk into the remains of a life destroyed by fire is a moment you never forget. It reveals to you that you’ve never truly known what it means to say that something is destroyed, but the appalling, indiscriminate obliteration of a fire will teach you. There’s this visceral, involuntary revulsion that rises up in you from some ancient racial memory passing down through eons of ancestors, all running for their lives through fields of flame and heather.

Even to those that make a life of it, a burn job is a bludgeon to every human sense, no matter how many times your footfalls land in that ashen world. The stench can fill an entire block, and when you step into it, the sooty campfire smell instantly fills up your olfactory pallet to saturation, blotting out everything else. The fire may as well have happened in your mouth.

The whole thing is a frieze of chaos: clothing, carpet, and children’s toys melted into a single, indistinguishable mass, cooled together into frozen magma flows. All the synthetic fibers, the man-made substances—the end-state of unthinkably ancient bones—meld into piles of amalgamated slag, forever one. Overhead light bulbs ooze into grasping tendrils like soot covered icicles. Television screens flow and slump in molten surrender to unthinkable heat. DVD’s, beer bottles, remote controls, couch upholstery, X-Boxes, all fused into surrealist sculptures that must be chiseled apart with pick-axes and pry bars.

Even the things that don’t burn are covered in an ephemeral film of the finest ash, shellacked in oily resins whose chemical makeup is a list of compounds never intended by nature. Everywhere lay heaps of the burnt-edged confetti of photos, junk mail, novels, college degrees; the documentation of an entire life reduced to tattered remnants, unrecognizable even to those that lived it. A testament to the transformative power of fire.

And then there’s us. The strangers that come into the smoking ruins of what you’ve got to show for your life. We gather up a hundred thousand dollars worth of clothing, appliances, knick-knacks, electronics, books, dishes, cutlery, musical instruments, fitness equipment, computers—everything you worked irretrievable hours to amass—and we throw it all into endlessly revolving dumpsters. We find the pot stash, the porn stash, and the dildos; every secret is revealed as we disassemble your life one piece at a time. What took four months to construct will take us a week to dispense with, one bite-sized piece at a time. We’ll take hammers, crow bars, saws, jackhammers, even the occasional chain hooked to the bumper of a truck, and reverse-engineer the process of creation, finishing what the fire started. All the while punching the clock, whistling a work-a-day tune.

“St. Peter don’tcha call me, ‘cause I can’t go…”

This process of deconstruction is unbelievably taxing because it all happens by the brute power of sinew, bone and sledgehammer, and then every scrap of it is transported to the inexhaustible dumpsters manually, by trundling laborers blackened head to toe by soot and ash. As the ringing of tireless blows resounds through the house and the cacophony of collapse goes on and on, a blizzard of ash swirls continuously through the air. Only our respirators stand between us and the black-lung heartache, as even a single step through this wasteland wafts up micro-flurries of carcinogens from a thick sediment of plaster dust, fiberglass and asbestos piled and drifting across the floor. Each blink of our eyes is like a windshield wiper clearing the scrim of soot from the gelled surface continually; the little wrinkles, nooks, and wattles of our faces become etched depositories of the blackness.

All the while you can only pray that nobody died in this one, because it’s creepy enough to live and work in the world of Old Man Fire without dancing with the ghosts of the ones who almost made it, or those that never saw it coming. Nobody ever asks because that workaday tune can seem a lot like whistling your way past the graveyard otherwise. It’s said that the world once ended by water and will one day end again, this time by fire. Some days I find that easy to believe.

What can I say? It’s a living. A weird, disturbing, brutal living. Still, I can’t count how many times I’ve handed a shiny brass set of keys to a homeowner at the completion of their job and actually had them say, “The fire may be the best thing that ever happened to this place. It went from an old wreck to a modern palace overnight!” And really, that’s the payoff. When you take what feels like the single lowest, most irredeemable moment of someone’s life and turn it into something new and hand the keys—that precious metal—back to them.

Of course some things are irreplaceable; I can’t give back a wedding dress, kids’ finger paintings on the fridge, or family heirlooms. But that’s life. It isn’t a boutique, or a wish granting factory. It gives and it takes away. The best you can hope for is decent insurance.

 


Lawrence Elliott is a journeyman carpenter of seventeen years. He enjoys playing the guitar and creative writing. He blogs about autobiographical oddities at Scratched in the Sand.

Day’s End

by on Jan 27, 2015

Life stagnates as people start trickling back to their houses. Some look forward to the expectant faces of their children, while some others dread their churlish wives. As they saunter along doggedly, the day’s events play like a broken record in their heads – a mimicry of sanity. A crow caws somewhere as though lovesick. Streetlights come on and fireflies hover in a daze. Bicycles, cricket bats, and skipping ropes are lugged back home by children who are repeatedly beckoned by overbearing mothers. Almost in a trance, the buzz of the day fades away as a feigned tranquility descends.

molten skyline…
an earthworm buries
itself deeper

 


Shloka Shankar is a freelance writer residing in India. Her work appears in over two dozen international anthologies including publications by Paragram, Silver Birch Press, Minor Arcana Press, Harbinger Asylum, Kind of a Hurricane Press and Writing Knights Press among others. Her poems, erasures, haiku & tanka have appeared in numerous print and online journals. She is also the editor of the literary and arts journal, Sonic Boom.

she’s here

by on Jan 26, 2015

 

she’s here
a whirlwind light and fabulous then
she’s gone
how quiet the sound
of her dog’s wondering sigh

 


Angie Werren lives (and writes) in a tiny house in Ohio. Sometimes she takes pictures of things in the yard.

Leave-taking

by on Jan 23, 2015

(watch Leave-taking & read Dave’s process notes on Vimeo)

Leave-taking

the trees react to colder nights by stripping naked
the meadow too

it’s as if they’re about to set off somewhere
all excess baggage is left at the gate

the sun too is a budget traveler
abandoning most of the sky
the days are so quiet now

take me with you
even if there’s nowhere to go
even if it means leaving myself behind

 


Dave Bonta edits Moving Poems, a site devoted to videopoetry and poetry film, and is in his third year of making daily erasure poems from the 17th-century diary of Samuel Pepys.

A Walk on the Tame Side

by on Jan 22, 2015

I set out this morning
to take a pot of jelly to a neighbour,
caught a flash of white on the door next door.
A louer, it says: for rent.
Where have they gone, my little friends
who played on the slide and the swing?
You can’t rely on anything
to stay the same
except the mallow growing wild
and a small brown butterfly.

 


Vivienne Blake, a late developer, started writing poetry during an Open University Creative Writing Course in 2007. Since then her work has been published in various magazines and anthologies, in English and French. She lives in rural Normandy. Her poetry, fiction, memoir and quilts appear regularly at Vivinfrance’s Blog.

Bend Back and Sigh

by on Jan 21, 2015

Flickers outline this courtyard,
where they carry their young
to turn to ash.

This is where death–pigeon eyes
burn biblical.

Then the phone rings;
and everything seems too clean.

 


Pamela Sayers is an English teacher living in Mexico. She traded in her city high heels for Doc Martens and a different, spicier life thirteen years ago. She writes mostly about what she sees going on around her. She now lives a stress-free life with her happy animals (a dog and two cats).

hibiscus and jasmine

by on Jan 20, 2015

 

hibiscus and jasmine
the whiff of other places
in my tea

 


Marianne Paul is a Canadian poet and novelist. Recently, she has been focusing on minimalist poetry – primarily haiku and tanka. You can learn more about her work at mariannepaul.com or on Twitter @mariannpaul.

my shadow

by on Jan 19, 2015

 

my shadow
accidentally
walking across
the white neighbor’s driveway …
he yells, Go back where you’re from

 


Chen-ou Liu is the author of five books, including Following the Moon to the Maple Land (First Prize Winner, 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest) and A Life in Transition and Translation (Honorable Mention, 2014 Turtle Light Press Biennial Haiku Chapbook competition). His tanka and haiku have been honored with many awards. Read more of his poems at Poetry in the Moment.

The Convert

by on Jan 16, 2015

(Watch Marie Craven’s video of “The Convert” on Vimeo)

Editor’s note: the text of the Eric Burke poem “The Convert” and his bio can be read at The Poetry Storehouse or qarrtsiluni where the poem first appeared.


Marie Craven is a media maker and musician from the Gold Coast, Australia. She has been engaged in online collaboration since 2007 and has contributed to works with artists in many different parts of the world. Website: pixieguts.com