Tag Archives: Children and nature

Spooky by Sarah Dunster

blue eye art

You watched her pass, the woman you
were with while you learned Poetry.
Black hair—she smiled with such grey eyes—
you watched  her pass without goodbyes,
and these hills blind me, golden; fierce
with bristling grass, smoking in the sun:
a cloud kicked up, an offering
to sanctify our suffering.

She lay down for a minute
to allow that one to come. Only
think, while holding him, a child
once held in warmth and now, exiled:
blue eyes, all. And hair like lightning.
That’s us, our full cheeks swelling,
full eyes dripping with questions still,
bellies and hearts and arms to fill.

That’s us. Black hair—she smiled with such
grey eyes. You watched her pass without
heart-ill goodbyes, at least in words.
And summer passed, and autumn turned
to place her in the pines, in heaps
of needles, sharp with what you felt
but did not say. We found her there:
ponderosas, pitch-dark like her hair.

We sang you out one icy night,
with half-shy notes of grief you would
have quickly silenced. We stood there
by your bed and sang the trio, though
you were joking when you asked; how
truly black she was beside you—
Tongue lolling, and that spooky eye
watching even as we said goodbye.

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Sarah Dunster picSarah Dunster is wife to one, mother to seven, and an author of fiction and poetry. Her
poems have appeared on the online LDS poetry blog Wilderness Interface Zone as well as in
Victorian Violet Press, Segullah Magazine, Dialogue: Journal of Mormon Thought, Psaltery
& Lyre and Sunstone Magazine. She has published two novels with Cedar Fort under their
Bonneville Books imprint: the award winning historical fiction novel Lightning Tree, and Mile
21, which is a contemporary fiction/romance novel. When she is not writing Sarah can often
be found cleaning, cooking vegetarian or international meals, holding small people in her lap,
driving kids to soccer and piano lessons, singing in local musical productions with her family
or taking long walks after dark, especially in thunderstorms.

Visitors to Canyonlands by A. J. Huffman

Red_Cliff_along_US287_between_Lander_and_Dubois_in_Wyoming by Wing Chi Poon

The rocks were caught by child’s eye,
and changed with the sunset
into horns and antennae,
goring and grinding, and going off.
Bumped into the night.

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You can find more of A. J. Huffman’s work here, here and here.

The Tree of Knowledge by Jonathon Penny

393px-Pears Tree of knowledge

What are we but flawed copies of the gods?
The blind-eyed sons and daughters of the Lord
Sown in the fallow field, a motley yield,
A haunted harvest on the eve of war?

What are we but his tender-bellied babes,
Sky-sprung, far-flung, let-fly, but kept in view?
The watching gods record our wounds and weep,
Not for what’s done, but what we daring do.

As a bright boy—a gangle of loose limbs,
All knees, all ears and elbows, and all heart,
A green and guiltless prophecy of sin—
I learned to ride the vagaries of hurt.

I learned to seek the salvages of joys
Best unsought, the soul-blown bold surprise
Of Godlit, growing girls and feckless boys
Before the world and wisdom claim their eyes.

Before the world and wisdom weather them,
A gangle of loose limbs they ride and run,
As if by running they’ll out-stride the stain,
And keep the fresh-field knowledge of the young.

My love, we’ll get it back. We have it still,
Our heritage essential as the veil,
As thick-and-thin; a sacred covenant
As sure as Christ, as revenant, as real.

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Jonathon Penny took his MA in Renaissance literature at  BYU and his PhD in 20th Century British literature from the University of Ottawa. He has taught at universities in the U.S. and Canada, and now lives with his family in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates where he is Assistant Professor of English at UAE University. He has published on Wyndham Lewis and apocalyptic literature and is currently at work on several books of poetry for precocious pipsqueaks under the penname “Professor Percival P. Pennywhistle.” Bits and pieces may be found here. In addition to verse published on WIZ, his poetry has appeared at Victorian Violet Press and in Gangway Magazine and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Several of his poems have also been published in the landmark, recently released poetry anthology, Fire in the Pasture, from Peculiar Pages Press.  Jonathon also is Wilderness Interface Zone’s poetry editor.

End of the Drought by Sandra Skouson

I
Rain comes to the man in the field, steady
rain that soaks his shirt.  He makes himself
alone a few paces from his tractor, takes
off his hat, lifts his face to the clouds.
The woman runs from the house to drag
clothes off the line, but having done it
she stands outside the back door, her arms
full of wilting sheets, and breathes again–full
deep breaths for the first time in ten years.

Children bind sticks together for a raft
to float in the gutter.  Laughing, they follow
it downhill to a small dam of sopping weeds
and silt, catch it and bring it back to sail again.
Their feet brown and wet, they come home,
bringing small rocks shining with new colors
to make a row on the window sill.

II
The desert drinks herself to returning life. Red
clay darkens, gleams, and softens.  Roads crack
and break away.  Washes widen.  The heart
of the mountain draws water to deep shale where
coolness pools and oozes toward the seeps.

Seeds, the wind has stirred with sand through
circles of time, soften and sprout.  The desert
blooms and rejoices against her own identity.

III
Our prayers are answered, blessings open
the pores of our skin. Our hair looses its
crispness.  Our shoulders loose their tension.
Roses bloom against the eastern wall.

Rain fills our rain gutters, swamps our sewer,
and floods the lower garden.  The house floats
heavily now on an underground river.  We feel
no movement, but we are forced to bale water
or abandon ship.  We live to a new pulse;
the sump pump throbs water out of the basement.
We carry books and boxes upstairs, pull up
the carpet, and set the beds on blocks.  Children
sleep wrapped in blankets on the living room floor.

One day the sun will burn again, the water drain,
the wind fill up with dust.  The desert will come
to her own.  Until that day, our house rides
the jubilee current.  We stay with it.

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To read another of Sandra’s Spring Runoff entries and her bio, go here.

*Competition entry*

Retro Review: Come Next Spring by Patricia

Movie poster Come Next Spring

In spite of how elements of this movie’s storyline deal with the troubling subjects of alcoholism and abandonment of family, Come Next Spring is a generous story with a quiet but strong heart.  Like many of these older films, rather than relying on in-your-face action sequences and special effects, loud soundtracks, and romantic drama that glues a box-office-compatible couple to center stage, Come Next Spring turns on resonant dialogue and actual, honest questions about family and community relations.  No glamor kings and queens in this movie.  Its “just folks” actors provide it with a low-key, slow-moving charm. Continue reading Retro Review: Come Next Spring by Patricia

Since he was weaned by James Goldberg

Since he was weaned, my son’s been hungry for the open sky—
so that now, at eighteen months, he’s a seeker and a maker of signs.

A simple knock at the air
comes first.
It means: open this door
and let me ascend the concrete steps
to that greater bliss and those long lines of sight.
It means: let there be light!
Or, if the light is already waiting, let me rise to it.
Let me bask today.

Then there’s fetching the shoes;
that’s much more forceful.
To bring his own shoes is to say:
I am prepared! And don’t let this journey be withheld from me!
To bring my shoes—yes,
to cradle the massive, worn load of each size fifteen ship
and to dump it abruptly, for emphasis, at my feet—
this means:
the time has come, my father,
and can you deny your own destiny?

If all else fails,
there’s the incantation,
the syllable of power.
The hard ‘g’ means: pay attention!
(in the prophets’ terms: behold!)
And then the long ‘o’ either swells into a
bright sound of hope,
or else drags out long and plaintive:
an aching lament, the age-old burden
(the pain of separation the prophets once spoke).
Armed with this spell, he walks up to me like Moses to Pharaoh.
Go? he says. Go. Go!

When he asks, I am always busy.
When he asks, I have work to do. Feet to rest, and bones.
But when my son struggles for these signs
like a drowning man for air,
who am I to resist?
Who am I not to offer him the sweet relief
of knowing absolutely that he has been understood?

We go outside (I tell myself)
for two minutes. Just two minutes.
But soon spring is thawing my tundra-hard heart,
Soon, we cannot be contained even by the backyard.

Under the concrete of the driveway, garden snakes are stirring.
My son and I see one’s striped body from behind a leaning rock
and I remember my father, who taught me love and reverence
when he pulled our van over all at once and stepped out,
when he carried a snake away from the dangers of the road’s warm asphalt,
when he laid it down safe on the soft ground
one spring. Long ago.

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James Goldberg is a founding editor of Everyday Mormon Writer. He won the 2009 Association for Mormon Letters Drama Award and has had work appear recently in Shofar, Drash, and Irreantum. He has work forthcoming in Sunstone and Dialogue. Click here to read more of James’s writing.

*Competition entry*

WIZ takes on two new marvelous creatures

Vecchio_Bruegel_Landscape_of_Paradise_and_the_Loading_of_the_Animals_in_Noah's Ark2

As Wilderness Interface Zone approaches its third birthday, it’s growing up a little.  Formalist poet Jonathon Penny has consented to join WIZ’s literary ecotone in the role of contributing editor. Jonathon has a keen eye for the belles-lettres.  Beside being a wonderful poet possessing a unique voice, he took his MA in Renaissance literature at BYU and his PhD in 20th Century British literature from the University of Ottawa. He has taught at universities in the U.S. and Canada, and now lives with his family in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates where he is Assistant Professor of English at UAE University. He has published on Wyndham Lewis and apocalyptic literature and is currently at work on several books of poetry for precocious pipsqueaks under the penname “Professor Percival P. Pennywhistle.” Bits and pieces may be found here. In addition to verse published on WIZ, his poetry has appeared at Victorian Violet Press and in Gangway Magazine and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Several of his poems have also been published in the landmark, recently released poetry anthology, Fire in the Pasture, from Peculiar Pages Press.  Welcome, Jonathon!

Also joining WIZ as a contributing writer is Val K., a soon-to-be fifteen-year-old aspiring naturalist and fantasy writer.  She has participated in NaNoWriMo since she was twelve years old and has successfully completed three novels.  She also writes short stories, articles, and story serials.  She lives in a corner of southeastern Utah with her family, her carnivorous plants and her two cats. She has previously published in Moab Poets and Writers’ Desert Voices and also on WIZ.  Besides writing, her hobbies include drawing, biking, weaving, hiking, catching snakes, rescuing helpless creatures from her cats, and beadwork.  She is a voracious reader.  Welcome, Val K.!

Heather McWeather by Percival P. Pennywhistle

Heather McWeather Screenshot

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To satisfy any curiosity you might have about the Professor and enjoy more of his artful aperçus sprinkled about on WIZ, go here, here, here, and here.

M is for mollusk by Professor Percival P. Pennywhistle

Animal-Curiosity-Nudibranchia-red-spots

I am the very model of a mollusk* made of minerals.
At least my calcareous** shell is, and that shell is typical—
You’ll find me in the finials
And jewelry made by criminals—
I am the very model of a mollusk made of minerals!

Our bodies aren’t segmented so no one can tell a part from us
(Excepting snail antennae, octopodal arm***—they’re obvious):
We’ve all a mantle, nephrostome,****
We metamorph in monochrome
And if you mean to murder us, just be aware, we’ll make a muss!

It’s true that though we’re spineless,***** this is merely anatomical,
For we’ve defensive strategies both multiple and plentiful:
Our bites and stings aren’t minimal,
We’re poisonous, in general,
Our reputation’s well-deserved: when threatened, we’re maniacal!******

So if you meet a mollusk at the mall, though we look marvelous
Do not make contact (hand or eye), don’t moon about or munch on us
For gastropod or octopus,
With venom or tongue chitinous,*******
We’ll make you wish you’d minded us and leave you feeling bilious!
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*With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, those alphabetical augurers in matters ‘most poetical.

**This particular word should be pronounced “kal-kuh-rhee-us,” but never in polite company.

***“Octopodal” here means “of the octopus.” It may mean something entirely different somewhere else, like in Finland, for instance. The professor notes that many people think octopi (more than one octopus, not eight different kinds of pie, though pie is delicious) have legs, but this is ridiculous: the Professor has never seen an octopus in pants or leggings, never mind shoes or socks.

****According to Random House, a nephrostome (neff-row-stohm) in zoology is “the ciliated opening of a nephridium into the ceolum.” In embryology, it is “a similar opening into a tubule of the embryonic kidney.” The professor trusts that you now understand perfectly.

*****The scientific term is “invertebrate,” which hardly seems applicable to a mollusk that is right side up, but may well describe one that is up side down.

******Of course, it’s silly to ascribe (that is, ‘assign to,’ usually in hushed, gossipy tones when the mollusk isn’t looking or has just left the room) human characteristics like “mania” to animals. Except to sharks. Well, sharks and tigers. Well, sharks and tigers and snakes. And housecats.

*******This word, “kitten-us,” does not have anything to do with kittens. Really. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the ill-tempered, scratchy kind of kitten. Then it is appropriate to call the kitten chitinous.

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NOTE: In the accompanying image of a common nudibranch–pronounced “noo-duh-branck” (the ‘c’ is silent)–found in that great German study of the subject of nudibranchia by the famed nubranchist Rudolph Berg (1824-1909), entitled, naturally, Neue Nacktschnecken der Südsee : malacologische Untersuchungen (1873), we see clearly the sinister and duplicitous nature of all mollusks on clear display. This sea slug, rather coquettishly presenting itself as a fuzzy little puppy with short legs waiting for its belly to be scratched, is, in fact, poised to swallow the unsuspecting urchin–the sea or land variety (for mollusks are indifferent eaters)–whole.

For Professor Percival P. Pennywhistle’s bio and more of his work published on WIZ, go here, here, and here.

(Post edited to add illustration and Note on August 18 at 6:01 p.m.)

Mercredi by Professor Percival P. Pennywhistle

This mudstick, midway, turnabout Wednesday
(Stalled out, curbstruck, high-centered, roughluck,
Dimeandnickel, halfdone, deadbeat, nofun),
Punch a ticket, skip a class, take a hike, and make it last.

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To peruse more of the esteemed Professor’s erudite work published on WIZ and view his bio, go here and here.