“Rough Translation” by Lance Larsen

I slip outside into a corridor of clarity and breeze €”
that pinking time when owls home to barns, when bats

fold their hunger into gloves of sleep and cranes
whoop in the morning like freckled boys on stilts.

One body: some days, I swear, one is almost enough.
But today?   I want to climb free of this narcotic dark,

squeeze into that broken parable we call first light.
Sadness and wind, meadow and awe.   Who will teach

me to listen with leaves, make sky my skin?   I lean,
wondering which of my faces morning will erase first.

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Lance Larsen’s most recent poetry collection is Backyard Alchemy (Tampa 2009).   His work appears in such venues as New York Review of Books, Orion, Slate, Poetry Daily, Raritan, LIT, Southern Review, and Best American Poetry 2009.   He has received a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.   He teaches at Brigham Young University, where he serves as associate chair.   In spring 2010, he will direct a theater study abroad program in London.   “Rough Translation” was previously published in Field.

*Non-contest guest post*

Guest Post: “Field Notes from Pittsburgh,” by Lora

I live in the Pittsburgh area, in the suburbs. Several mornings ago I was up a little earlier than usual, and the sun seemed to be coming up later than usual. I had the opportunity to watch out my kitchen window as dawn came to my neighborhood. Looking one direction out my window gives me a westerly view of the neighborhood below the little hill where my house is situated. There are rows of 1950s houses surrounded by layers of tall bare trees. The trees wind into the distance over gently sloping Appalachian hills as far as the eye can see, probably three miles at most. The yards were covered with snow, which was pale grey in the beginning half-light. The sky was every shade of grey, from white grey to blue grey, wispy layers that would soon blend together. The sun began to rise behind my house. Before me a soft pink shade spread across the browns and greys. I could easily recognize the tree line behind my house superimposed across the trees and houses down the street in front of me. I watched as the sheen of pink flowed down the hills and the shadow of the eastern tree line receded. The neighborhood was waking up to the soft light of winter.   Continue reading “Guest Post: “Field Notes from Pittsburgh,” by Lora”

Guest Post: “Hymn of Autumn,” by Karen Kelsay

When the moon becomes a mellow pear
on twilight’s bough, and stars swirl up like maple leaves
before they’re swept into the dawn, I’ve often
walked this garden where the voice of whippoorwills

would carry remnant melodies across long, dusky
hours. At times I feel this eastern breeze has lifted
me, somehow, beyond the soft-lit sloping fields
and conifer lined hills. To lands where only goldenrod

has known me by my smile, and dampness soothes
the head of every yellow aster bloom. Tonight, before
the morning’s crest of ruby will extend through broken
clouds, I whisper prayers again to autumn:
take me there once more.

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“Hymn to Autumn” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.   It was published in Joyful!, an online Christian magazine, in October.

For Karen’s bio, go here.   (Scroll down to end.)

Guest Post: Excerpt from “The Faith of the Ocean,” by Arwen Taylor

As we join the story, Jonah has earned free passage onto a ship to Tarshish by means of winning a camel race; instead of taking his winnings and purchasing a ticket to Nineveh, he instead takes the free trip, upon which the voice of God leaves him.

The first three days on the way to Tarshish were beautiful. The sun played in a sky ornamented with the most delicate of cirrus clouds, and the water was a fortune in blues, purples, and greens, shot with gold where the light tumbled into it. Zabah lounged on the starboard deck, in a chair which he had specially constructed to recline and fold back up, sipped olive wine, and composed chiastic poetry to his favorite harlot back in Midian. The Amalekite who had come in third sat in his cabin sulking because he had lost to a crazy Israelite. Jonah paced the deck, distracted, usually in the way of the ship’s crew. Fortunately Zabah, with the very best of intentions, had inquired about a bit as to whether the Israelite camel champion might not be a bit insane, and so word was had around the ship that he was crazy.

When Jonah had said to get off, it appeared that the voice had taken him at his word, and stayed behind in Joppa. €œI’m sorry, € he growled into the silence. €œLook, as soon as I get to Tarshish, I swear, I won’t even race, I’ll turn right back around, I’ll swim to Nineveh if I have to. € His head stayed quiet.

€œI don’t know, € Zabah told the sailors. €œI’ve heard some strange things about the interior of Judaea. But still, he’s a phenomenal camel racer. €

€œI know, I didn’t even win that race, you won that race, I’m sorry! €

€œYou’re no better than Abiezer, € a voice in his head told him, but it was only his own mind. He didn’t know how he knew the difference. His own thoughts were oranger, somehow. The other thoughts came in darker, and blue.                    

€œThere may be something in the water there, € Zabah had said. €œBut he’s a good-looking kid. €

€œDamn nutty Israelites, € the Amalekite said.

€œI’ll go to Nineveh right now, just give me a way! € Jonah shouted to the ceiling of his cabin on the night of the third day, and promptly fell asleep.

The storm came up from nowhere. Zabah was nearly thrown off his chair by the wind and the Amalekite spilled ink on the angry epistle he was writing to the camel-racing commission. The ship rose high on a sudden swell of water. The rain came slamming down on deck like wheat dumped from a sack. Sailors swarmed and bounded from all corners to tie down the sails and bail water off the side. Zabah, in a hurried retreat below deck, chair in hand, heard them crying every man to his god, and went to find Jonah.

€œHey Jonah, € he said. €œSleepy boy. Jonah! €

Jonah woke with a start. €œWhat? I won’t go to Tarshish! €

Zabah took his shoulder and shook him a little. €œIs it your god you’re always talking to? €

€œWhat? €

€œYou talk all the time, to no one. Are you talking to your god? €

Jonah shook his head. €œGod doesn’t talk back, € he said sadly. €œI didn’t go to Nineveh. €

Zabah took a step back. €œYour god is angry with you? €

€œMy God has left me, € Jonah said. €œOr I left him. €

€œWell, I think he’s back, € Zabah said.

Jonah took in the violent tossing of the room for the first time. €œThere’s a storm? €

€œYou might say that. €

A sailor burst into the room. €œYou! € He launched an accusing finger at Jonah. €œWho are you? €

€œJonah son of Amittai, € Jonah said. €œI am a camel racer. € He shook his head. €œNo, I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Hebrew God, who made the earth and the sea. €

€œYou’re fleeing the god that made the earth and sea, € Zabah pointed out.

€œYou’re fleeing your God? You’re bringing us to destruction! € the sailor shouted. €œWe cast lots, and it fell on you! Come on deck, both of you. € He wrapped a burly hand around Jonah’s wrist, lest he try to resist.

€œHow could the lot fall on me if I wasn’t there to draw one? €

The sailor shrugged. €œThat Amalekite camel racer stood in for you. €

€œConvenient, € Jonah muttered.

€œMy will may be done even through an unreliable man of Amalek, € the voice said.

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Arwen Taylor’s €œThe Faith of the Ocean € appears in its entirely as part of Plain and Precious Parts of the Fob Bible (http://b10mediaworx.com/peculiarpages/fobbible/pppfobbible.htm#faith) or as part of   the complete Fob Bible (http://b10mediaworx.com/b10mwx/peculiar-pages/the-fob-bible/).