Quothing the Raven by Patricia Karamesines

Photo of common raven courtesy of National Park Service
Photo of common raven courtesy of National Park Service

This post is an excerpt from my unpublished book, Crossfire Canyon and the Landscape of Language. I published a shorter version of the chapter in 2007 on the blog Times and Seasons. I’ve added material and developed my thinking about the intersection  of narrative and truth, posing questions about what our responsibility may be when we tell a story that deeply affects people–especially when the story isn’t strictly true, but people who read or hear it feel that it must be.

Winston Hurst
Archaeologist Winston Hurst

Early in the summer of 2007 I visited Blanding resident Winston Hurst, a longtime friend from my archeological field school days back in the 80s. Winston is an esteemed archeologist in the Southwest and a man of science. We were discussing Craig Childs, who was coming to Blanding’s Edge of the Cedars State Park to promote his book. I had met Craig in the 90s at a writing workshop he’d led in Torrey, Utah. The first time I read Craig’s work—it was The Secret Knowledge of Water—I  thought, Here is a writer I can learn from. I’d taken the risk to travel to the workshop, even though leaving the household whose atmosphere depended on the state of my special needs daughter Teah and on the whims of toddler Val left husband Mark with his hands full.

The experience proved well worth the risks to my household’s teetering domestic balance. Craig told our little group—all women—that it was his first workshop. At one point we met in the wonderful stone house, still a work in progress, of a local resident. To make memorable his point that we should all carry writing journals when we’re out traipsing, Craig set a pile of his own journals in the middle of the floor and told us to each choose one and find a quiet place to read it. I happened to pick the one that contained dialogue that would later appear in his book, The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival.  The dialogue occurred between Childs and his river guide friend, Dirk Vaughn, who used to be a cop. It involved Dirk’s statement that he’d killed a man. Continue reading “Quothing the Raven by Patricia Karamesines”

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Review: Arrival 2016

2017 Arrival Poster*Spoilers Alert*

First off, I’d like any film that nudges viewers toward thinking about language and its effects on events, the environment, and relationships past, present, and future. Arrival’s got “events” and “relationships” covered, and, by extension, “environment”, so I like it. *SOAP BOX ALERT*  Lackadaisical attitudes toward language are common. Many folks don’t think about language much at all, despite how, when threatened, they quickly move to weaponize it when they feel threatened. Moreover, since a meaningful percentage of the population gets its information from movies and other media rather than peer-reviewed scholarly articles on language and linguistics, I’m good with casting language in a leading role in a semi-popular film. *END SOAP BOX BLURB*

We also have funny ideas about language, including that it impedes real communication. Charles Taylor discusses one angle of such thinking in The Language Animal, the theory that, ideally, language should just name things in the world with constraints on usage to enable precise communication—no funny business like metaphor, symbol, etc., which some literalists believe renders discourse into Keystone Kops ineptness.

For a taste of Keystone Kops, go here.

Taylor makes a good case that this idea of language still influences beliefs about human powers of articulation (unduly, he says). Arrival may in fact put the “language as precision tool” concept to work, since very few nods to metaphor’s powers of transport occur in the movie. It would be nice if the black-and-white nature of instrumental language could have been expanded a little, but that’s probably asking too much. Many people know language mainly as a tool for getting done what they want, even as they complain about its exactness.  In blame-the-messenger fashion (including in language Global Mall Facebook), laments abound over how language fails to live up to expectations then betrays us; ergo, it’s faulty.

But to the movie. Arrival is a cryptic thing on several levels, including its

Continue reading “Review: Arrival 2016”

The year of the fox by Patricia Karamesines

Red Fox public domain

From July 2010 to December 2013, the two years following Mark’s stroke and brain surgery, he struggled to regain lost cognitive and physical ground. The hemorrhage occurred in the back of the right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex in an area of the brain that supports eyesight. During the stroke he lost more than half of his field of vision. On the day we figured out that something momentous had occurred and I rushed him to the hospital, he cocked his head to his left side, like a bird, to see the doctor and nurses. We caught the stroke too late so some of the vision loss became permanent. The change in his vision disturbed him most at night when the house turned foreign. Every little object on the floor or crease in a rug transformed into a confusing and dangerous obstacle. Continue reading “The year of the fox by Patricia Karamesines”

Surprise Possession by Karen Kelsay

mixy lizard

She spends her afternoons beside the tree,
where Mr. Lizard’s made his home. Last week
she caught him in her mouth, and forcefully,
my husband pried him out. She doesn’t seek
this reptile, or a patterned, scaly prize—
just itches for a thrilling chase. For days
she’s turned into a sphinx. Unblinking eyes,
and breath held in her breast. Her mind’s ablaze
with thoughts of how he was in her possession.
He watches from the wall where he’s protected.
They play their waiting game. No intercession
at dusk is needed. She comes inside dejected,
and marches to the house to scheme and plot.
Tomorrow she will have another shot.

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karen Bio Picture
Karen Kelsay, native of Southern California, is the founder and editor of Kelsay Books. Her poetry has been widely published in magazines and journals. Nominated five times for the Pushcart Prize, she is also an award winning poet. Her latest full length book, Amytis Leaves Her Garden, was published in 2012, and received the AML award. Karen lives in Hemet, California, with her British husband.

Photo of the poet’s cat, used with permission.

The day you came out to me by Dayna Patterson

 

Photo by JRLibby, 2012 via Wikimedia Commons.

The day you came out to me

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Dayna Patterson is Poetry Editor at Psaltery & Lyre. For more, and information about where else to find her work, go here.

Photo by JRLibby, 2012 via Wikimedia Commons.

The happen stance by Patricia Karamesines

800px-Japanese_-_Fuchi_with_Hunting_Hawk border added
Fuchi bowl (Japanese)

This is a rewrite of an earlier post published here on WIZ.

One dark night in January of 2010 Mark and I made a last minute run to the only grocery store within 22 miles. On our return trip home, I drove with the SUV’s highbeams on, because we live on a rural road where, even in winter, we’re likely to come across a wide variety of animals on the pavement, anything from cats, rabbits, deer, mice, coyotes, and foxes to neighbors’ loose horses and cattle. In spring and summer, the variety of animal-on-road is even wider.

As we arced along a curve, the vehicle’s lights splashed against something moving on the road. A small cottontail had emerged from cover, probably looking for something to eat at the road’s edges where the unusually heavy and long-lingering snow had melted back from the asphalt’s edges.

€œA bunny, € I said. The rabbit hopped straight for us and I slowed down. As the vehicle edged to a stop, we saw another flash in the headlights, high up in the air to our right. A great horned owl dropped out of the darkness into the swath of our headlights, swinging its talons out toward the rabbit, working its wings to correct its aim.

€œWhoa! € we both said, surprised by the sudden drama. The cottontail feinted right, seemingly away from the owl but still heading toward the car. The owl hesitated midair, quite possibly blinded by our headlights, then tumbled to the ground a good two feet off its away-running target. For a moment, the bird sat on the roadside, staring after the rabbit. It looked like it was considering giving chase but, glancing at us, seemed to decide the risk wasn’t worth it. The opportunity had passed. With another flash of wings, the big bird lifted away into the darkness above the highbeams. Continue reading “The happen stance by Patricia Karamesines”

The Sky’s an Ocean, As All Eagles Know by Mark Penny

Birds_in_flight

The sky’s an ocean, as all eagles know
Who plumb the splendour nest to keel,
A craze of very ships in fleets that flow
On voyages forbidden whale and seal.
Its currents race, chained to the planet’s turn,
Churned by the jilted passion of the sun,
Exacting fervor from the veil-eyed fern
Mured in a pillared abbey like a nun.
Fleet immigrants, protesting falling leaves
And roofless perches, clog the trackless ways,
Pursuing passion while the bosom heaves
Of all creation in its fit of days.
The sky’s an ocean, leaping shore to shore.
So says the urchin on the ocean floor.

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For recent work by Mark and additional links, go here.

Photo “Birds in Flight” via Wikimedia Commons.