The Fieldstone Review (2018-2019)
The devil’s rope
By Miles Knecht
couple of years
before your grandfather was born
I suppose that’s when Holly first fell
onto that fence. Ate shit one day
when the snow was up around her legs
and when she went to get up —
well, there it was.
A tangle of barbed wire
been pulled from its post,
curling up thru the snow and
now thru Holly’s poor red leg.
Gosh, I remember my dad
said they could hear her holler from
over on the other side of the ridge,
two properties over at the Wayne’s.
She screamed & pulled & — well,
she was just a little girl then,
not enough sense to stay put or
take a look at how to get the barb outta her.
She thrashed & writhed, Holly arced
like something electric and that bit
of wire got so wrapped up
in & around thru her
and the snow pooled cherry
round the fence and her little face
never did stop scrunching like a lemon taste,
how hard she screamed
got her stuck that way. Well,
they heard her screaming
but it’s a long walk
out there to the edge
of the old Smith property,
especially during a storm like that
and it took them maybe half the day just to
find her once she stopped yelling.
by that point they had to go get the doctor
and really, he was quite busy
with all the folks who’d gone and slipped
on the ice that day
and he’d had enough doctoring
for the week by the time they
pulled up to his house,
so once they’d gotten anyone
out there to see what to do about the wire,
Holly’d been bleeding since last Tuesday.
All the folks been bringing her bits of food,
and I’m sure by then a few fellas
decided she’d been thru enough
to warrant a stiff drink or two
young tho she was,
and by the time doc came
to have a look she wasn’t cold any more
in the dried brown snow what smelled
like a US mint & had men gagging
when they came to offer whiskey.
Well, the doctor came up
to see what could be done
and Holly wasn’t too concerned
didn’t even look at the man
when he touched & turned her knee and
when he had to run off & heave
down by the next post, well
I guess more than a few of the men
had already pulled that maneuver.
Now, the doc said
I’d reckon Holly we gotta
take the leg.
And he said it looking at her face
so she’d look at him not down
and she was little thing & a wild one
but still it struck him cold
when she didn’t look a little scared.
She nodded & said I reckon
you sure do,
and old Ginnie Smith thought well
it was her land so it was her responsibility
what went down on it,
and she agreed to sit with them
hold the little girl still.
Someone brought something a little stronger
and they did their best to heat some water
and all that.
But when doc took that toothy creature and
bit her leg, could barely draw blood—
cut down & scraped through her
and it looked like they were getting
somewhere, and I suppose
that made it all the more nervsome
when the saw screamed harsh
against metal, not half-inch
into the poor girls leg.
They tried all around & all angles —
wire up in girl’s leg
bent saw to smithereens.
Doc grabbed his other saw and
tried further up and the wire
was further up.
All the way at her hip, wasn’t nothing
could be done.
they tried cutting the barb
but wire cutters broke
like they were putty and the wire was,
well, it was hard & fast
as the day Ginnie hammered the staples
into the post.
Doc lay down in snow
and said no more.
Ginnie held that girls hand
hard as she could, white
as clean sky skating by,
but Holly didn’t flinch.
The girl said
guess you tried
well good doc, and I’m sorry
to be imposing Gin,
but what can ya do.
Ginnie figured you couldn’t evict a girl
who could no means get up & go,
and anyway, she was right
by the edge of the property so
Gin guessed she wouldn’t be a bother.
The men left their whiskey
and wished Holly the best,
and old Ginnie Smith
tipped her hat & turned tail —
one has responsibilities
of her own and can’t go
taking every little girl under her wing.
I guess you’ve heard all about
the doctor and how he laid there despairing
in the snow, face in cold wet
until the night fell and the cold got colder.
I suppose we’ve all heard
the sing of saw on barb
when wind picks up,
seen his red face
up against us when
cold stings out in the fields.
I guess he must of pulled his face up
eventually, red from
where Holly had laid
and seeing her thru her
own blood in his eyes they say
he finally screamed & whined
like his saw against metal insides
And well, there are all kinds of stories
about what happened,
but I gotta figure they’re downright old
wives tales or just silly stuff
children tell to get frightened,
as no one saw doc after that
and we got no one to ask
but Holly, and, well.
Once a man joins the whiskey bottles
at your feet
I figure you don’t got much choice
but drink him up,
but that’s just old man’s trying to
make sense of it all.
Well, we kept going up to bring her drink
or two, you know how cold it can get
up there and all,
and she kept thanking us.
Snow melted away slushed into the ground
and Holly’s leg stayed up
in that frayed barbed wire,
grown in and around it and
her other leg stayed by the ground and
well, grass and all that
started grow over it
as it will grow over any thing
that waits long enough.
Holly grew a woman
with I suppose
only the company of cows what
wandered far enough out
& Ginnie every once a moon or two
going round to check make sure
the fence wasn’t broken,
& later Ginnie’s son, you know, Hank,
good boy, & the folks from town
who’d come up the hill with a bottle,
& some of the girls
began to find good luck watering the grass
by leg curled up around
like twisted bark
So they’d trek up with a couple glasses
& a can and look into her
scrunched scream face,
maybe lug up
their folks’ old wire cutters to see
if they could snip Holly free & make a bride
of barb wire beauty.
Now that wire’s mighty dangerous
to handle and it don’t like
getting messed with,
so I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear
that taking blades to fence
never brought nothing but trouble
on those poor young fools,
I mean, even Hank won’t go near the fence
It doesn’t rust, posts stay high upright,
from up on that ridge it seems
to go on forever East & West
over scrubby land.
They say Osage Orange don’t grow too well
out here but I say what else you gonna use?
Gonna mess with the devil’s rope
when we of all people know
how deep that spitting snake can gouge?
Huh, fools all around this town.
You lay at Holly’s feet, ask stone woman
what she knows of land, well,
you’ll be singing one thing tomorrow
that’s for sure, that’s all
I can say. One thing for sure
you’ll be singing.
By DJ Tyrer
By DJ Tyrer
Why do nomads wander?
There may be wanderlust in their soul
But, no, necessity and need
Drive them to journey.
Borders slammed shut
Families halted at the point of a gun
Tribes parted by lines on a map.
But, even as governments said ‘no’
To the rootless, lacking geographic ties
New nomads were born
By their very same actions
New nomads driven by new needs
Constantly on the move
Desperate for water, food
Seeking safety in new homes
Far away from where they were born
In constant motion
Not allowed to settle
Unwelcome, they move on
New nomads driven by new necessities
Replacing those forced to halt
In the madness
Of the modern world
Myself and Her Majesty’s Government
By Nancy Cook
Hunger led my ancestors out of Ireland’s silver mists to the tumbling hills
of Pennsylvania. There Patrick Healy got work on the railroad. Heartbroken
Peg O’Leary gave to her sons the names of Irish patriots and swore
she’d return to Ireland to die, although she did not. A different hunger
leads me back to this place, green-gold island held aloft
by a rainbow handle, where fists of clouds press upon the earth
and God’s own tears fill the hollows to overflowing. Here
I am making friends, many but lately returned to the soft turf
weighted down by heavy stone and remembrance. Some twenty-five,
thirty-five years past, an instinct for survival drove their younger selves
across noose-shaped borders, borders conceived in the razored language
of laws, borders sustained by so many ancient, ungovernable passions.
What do we have in common, these new friends and myself? What
brings us together? Somewhere beneath these fields of grass our roots
are intertwined. Our journeys intersect at White Tailor’s Cross in Cork,
at Galway’s Eyre Square, at a common sheeps’ crossing in Donegal,
at Market Street and Dublin Road in Omagh. What have we in common?
This: Blood memory. Unreliable mercy. Lust for words. Hunger.
And where does Her Majesty’s Government enter in? Never
a minor character. Tight-lipped, dry-witted, her understudies
speaking determined carry-ons!, wreathed in impossibly
unfashionable ties, sated, satisfied, drenched in certainty, though
ankle-deep in bogs beyond the borders of their knowing. What
shall we read between the lines? I don’t know. This is not, after all,
that poem. These are merely lines in a poem. This is not the story,
only scenes from a story whose plot is yet to be uncovered.
Two skeletons in a cave in France
By gillian harding-russell
Her curved skull reaches farther back
than his more compact bone helmet
(but intelligence, we now amend
our theory, is not necessarily
related to brain size, and we – we aver
– are more intelligent than the elephant
or beluga though I’ve never mastered
savannah hoot or undersea call). Certainly
her slouch of back tells us she is Neanderthal.
Note how her humerus and radius reach
towards his forearm that seems to grab her,
something sprightly in his knees as if
doing a jig around her seated there in
bone relief on the dirt. He seems to plead
straighter backed, leaning forward
as if to make a reasonable point.
And having broken into the ritual dark
or firelit pathway of her cave, willfully
or by accident, before or after her kind
were threatened– she lacking protection
and a mate – the hollow gaze of eye socket
locked on eye socket tells a story though
the doors to those houses have been open to
the wind these 40,000 years. The way each
faces each, brachial bones outstretched to take
or embrace (or were they placed by some
other for meaning or its irony?)
Whether or not there was a transgression, suffice
it to say, there was a marriage of blood
– we carry her mitochondrial line on our mother’s
side, from diabetes to pale skin diseases, red hair
and green eyes to sensitivity to the light, dislike
for the bitterer vegetables, the fussier blood
types A and B. She might have danced
to his wishes and acquiesced, impressed by his upright stature
or fought, cursed him for her own he-man Neanderthal
slouched and bleeding into the dirt, but something we cannot
now deny is random quantum influence (mixed, enriched?
or sometime incompatible?) on a battlefield of bullying genes.
Down mines of Dreams
By Nigel Ford
Down mines of dreams, as righteous owls seek flight
Wise in copses, wend and wheel claws won
Seek out their right, eyes glower bright
Floodlit prey, scurried lives now done.
While Cinnamon turns pale Bottom to the sun.
Down vines of dreams where boatmen cull the oars
Of when and want and hurried scum
Hunt for friends and foes among the mores
Of do that and this and never come
Although through want and wait, the day is done.
Stalk the woods of yesteryear
Smudged with effort, tiny ructions
And here flying lopes arrives the trundled heather
Curious at these miniscule debouches
Its time will come again and always bear
Away the feeble bundles of life’s fear.
Above the ruins strive, develop carbide blues
Whistle to the skies of care and woe
When discharge down the medication of the boos
Mooted nature shits her dough
Smothers foreign animals with strife
Doomed to ever struggle for another life.
Time was, such condiments were not
Stocking hips ashine, heels whirl against the sky
Hair cream broils in the moonlit cot
Struggle in the tiny room, endearments fly
Inside the space where questions die.
It is a good master followed
Across torched fields of words and glistening worm
As the dead disciple searching for a life
Such fallen empty corpse, a mind in fallow
Turns around to suck the juice of empty pome
Hunting for a terminal and bloody strife.
Hails the hail bouncing off a head
Chews raw kale that scours the stomach
Stoops and crouched in nettles of the bed
Searches vain for muddy jewels instead
To stud the message flung wild to the monarch
That benign, slams the door on what was said.
As long-eared wise sit about their council
Pouts of corn grain twist shucks of travel
Looked upon by seedy seats and mellowed ill
Of know-not how or when to ravel
Thrashed by ownership hard bound
Cries and churns of makeshift marvel
At the accidental chorus of bright sound
Beaten black by sweat and charred as evil.
Buds, sods, trunks and gushes
The roars of men and women’s flushes
Pour doom over hill down rushes
Crimson filament of dying day
Whittled stems and cracked trunks sway
In the soaring buds of May.
Such burst upon and round the senses
Tickle sneezing lust and disarray
On bracken harvest scooped from fences
While the tenses lost search for Monterey
Beneath the glisten pals of long gone benches
Spitted forth from begin.