Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

Notes on home, notes on reticence

by a contributor

Steven Ray Miller

I won’t bother with the sky
It is indeed grand as the slogan
maestros claim. 

A New Yorker in the Midwest was horrified when I told her I crave the smell of forest fire.  One day last summer there was a big wild fire in Minnesota.  Its lovely, choking smoke had blown east and Milwaukee’s sky was hazy and hot.  She, having heard the dangers to those with respiratory problems, was rightly taken aback at my comment.  I struggled to explain how the smell evokes the best memories of home, certain concrete things, but mostly wispy images of my favorite qualities in the myths of the West. She had no idea what I was talking about.  I’m not sure I did either.

Don’t be fooled:
the silence of the rancher,
and of the rancher’s son,
is like a butcher’s bleached apron.

Nevermind good fortune.  Nevermind tacit schooling alongside mom, dad, brother, sister, neighbors, friends.  Nevermind their instructive stories, their quilt work of comedy and intrigue, their invitations to stitch yourself to their warmth.  A man only needs himself, for hardship tells its own stories.¹ When the land says No, there is knowledge.  When the land says Yes, there is dialogue.  When the land says Yes or No predictably, there is discourse.  Learning.  A way to make it through the world.

These hard men (and women) will occasionally remark on the vista. For some, when they say pretty things about the valley or the mountain, the gesture is perfunctory, a vexing inheritance from foolish Romantic forebears.  For others, the gesture is sincere, albeit extremely impoverished.  These hard types have a very difficult time with the idea of the lyric.  When a metaphor takes root, it is stunted.  When a musical phrase is a spark in their minds, it dims at once. It seems a lack of social experience limits their capacity for expressing beauty, which they, unlike others among them, at least appreciate.  In company, they might want to talk beyond small talk, to relate with a flourish something of absolutely no consequence.  They just don’t know where to begin.

The former wants to be a hero for enduring self-imposed loneliness, for eschewing all frivolity, for saying not a word—even on beauty.

The latter holds no hero fantasy.  The latter enjoys his solitude, and perceives beauty as solitude itself, but he recognizes an appreciation of beauty depends very much on its expression. When the forest smoke floats his way, it appeals to him, but he can’t give it a name.

                                                                                                                                           
¹ Maybe I learned it wrong but that’s what I learned from so many stillborn utterances that don’t need explaining.  A newcomer, a new idea . . . Pff.

 



Steven Ray Miller is from Colorado. A long time ago, he earned an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He and his super smart wife live in Milwaukee with their two dogs, Otis T. Pooch and Edgar Von HuffNPuff. Steve’s garden is small and sometimes successful.

 

Kisses Over Babylon

by a contributor

Jill Ann Mceldowney

consider your noctem carped.
your camel back to the sandbox leaves at 6 am
but im organizing toothpicks instead of packing. i don’t want you to go so:
im all kisses over babylon
im wearing purple lace underwear whispers
and (Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall) i say the next time you come home
we play with shotguns, or play house, or play spin the bottle like we are thirteen again.
right now-i’m pretty sure my liver is failing right here on this carpet
i look like lights over london & that friend request my mother sent me
i’m pretty sure you tried to sell crushed advil to JFK and pass it off as the real deal
he’s most dangerous gaming you and I right now
when he finds us- i won’t tell him about your baby teeth,
i’ll tell him that my frontal lobe is migraine littered ,
how the kitchen floor is so cold, how though the hole in the sky,
i can almost see God mowing the White House lawn.


Jill Ann Mceldowney is a model & poet who lives and works out of chicago. Her work has been printed or is forthcoming from foothill lit mag, BLOOM, ghosttown, and smokinggluegun among other notable publications.

See Jill’s list of 5 Things tomorrow.

K Names: Kelsey

by a contributor

Jill Ann Mceldowney

Kelsey strays in on the edges of soliloquies
                                                  street lights
                                      highway heartbeats
                                         folded valentines
                   water rings on your nightstand.

Parking Lot Under Your Window- ragged ear tomcats, swoop like owls at the corners of
                                       dumpsters, the color and texture of salt.

   “I want to show you, I want to show you, I want to show you.”

                                       Her voice is bloody and full of resurrection.

Kelsey takes me to a sepulcher in the woods
                               a rock formation arming in the gypsy eyed galaxies of the both of us,
                                                                      overturned boats, red stag bottles, peach pits
                                                                      photographs never taken- now all ash.

“This is where he burned the bodies when he was done. I want to show you what he burned.”

Her hands on my face, I realize I want to have tea with her too.
She’s crystal ball reading me because when you share a person
you share more than bong hits and Facebook friends.

Above us, the clouds are rolling in and the nooses that hang- ready to use- sway from low trees.


Jill Ann Mceldowney is a model & poet who lives and works out of chicago. Her work has been printed or is forthcoming from foothill lit mag, BLOOM, ghosttown, and smokinggluegun among other notable publications.

See more poetry from Jill tomorrow.

Five Things on Letters

by a contributor

from Jeff Burt, author of Tilting, Faces, and Fires That Burn, Fires That Do Not Burn:

  1. Postal home delivery began during the Civil War when a postmaster decided that mothers and fathers of Union soldiers should know when their sons had died and not have to wait to pick up the notice at the post office, to secure the intimate loss in the privacy of their own homes.  What can electrons convey compared to the height and breadth and length and weight of human sympathy in the dark ink in the ounces of a letter?

  2. I treasure hand-written lines from my grandmother, shaking penmanship in spare words in straight rows down the page, or my wife’s exultant whispers overflowing rows that lose their way much as a dreaming young farmer forgets the line of furrows and wanders off course across the field.

  3. I treasure the smudges of ballpoint ink left when a thought stalled, or the ink of the ribbon faded on the white-white paper my father used.

  4. I treasure the scented notes that my mother used, sympathies, questions, mirth and myth passing one to another with a touch of lilac or lavender.  Joy jumped and skipped across the page.  Sadness looped.

  5. When I slit open the top of the letter, the earnest desire to see what is inside, the thrill of an amateur biologist opening a first carcass or a botanist opening an unknown pod I express in that cut.  I take out the letter and give it air, let it breathe, give it back its life.


Fires That Burn, Fires That Do Not Burn

by a contributor

Jeff Burt

 

I was thinking of love and she and I were lying in a hollow on a hill listening to a man with a face worn like rock who lit a fire near a cliff, and squatted in khaki with a pipe out of pocket,
whose face was lit by fire, who retold the story of the Gemini twins as ashes rose to the heavens.
I was thinking of heavens, of her and her hand in mine, was thinking of ash in the air when the man said the tales are old but not forgotten and I was thinking of men who kept beasts away by fire.
I was thinking of fire, of men who looked for fire to keep an inner beast at bay, who sought gods and kept lights in the night, who told tales as this man told tales of a crippled god, of Helen and of Paris, of Dido and Aeneid, of man as woman’s immolation, woman as man’s Pyrrhic death, of the dangers of a single kiss.
I was thinking of a single kiss and saw the wood reduced to ash and ember and thought of going back by stepping forward for I had grown tired of old tongues and the telling of old tales
as he the dark-faced man, man only, fell silent, man only, as big as body and tongue.
I was thinking of tongue as I turned to see her eyes in the dark, and in the dark they were not foreign and I was thinking that we must live in our own light, that we must be our own Prometheus, that what we see and that we see must set our world on fire.
I was thinking of fire, of love, and thought this must be love: I can reach in her fire and not get burned.


Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California. He has published works in Thrice Fiction, Storm Cellar, Star 82 Review, and soon in The Cortland Review. He won the SuRaa short fiction award in 2011.

See Jeff’s list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributor series tomorrow.

Faces

by a contributor

Jeff Burt

She beats the driftwood against her thigh during a break in the squall, with branches and burls culled from debris and dark conversation of wind, water and wood about her feet.
She shakes out sand and rubs the wood on her jeans to shine up the wet pores looking for a face, and finds it, fumbling with a worn-out burl, her snowy cheeks turned scarlet like twin fires on the beach of the morning.
She has discovered a fable to create for her children.
I look, see nothing, and I shall not forget that when she left me that morning the ducks and gulls and the sea turned from tone and sonority to rattle and racket, the caesura and pause of the sand transformed to an endless taut drum by the pounding of the surf.
I shall not forget how I could taste the cold metal my tongue had become without her melting syllables, how wet and warm from the rain at the river’s mouth I stood shoes hung about my shoulders, impoverished of myth, looking at the torment of the sky, the storm in my mouth gone quiet and dry.


Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California. He has published works in Thrice Fiction, Storm Cellar, Star 82 Review, and soon in The Cortland Review. He won the SuRaa short fiction award in 2011.

See more poetry from Jeff tomorrow.

Tilting

by a contributor

Jeff Burt

He begins plumb, a site sat straight for decades until the clay of his creation shifts, rung out like sponge by drought, cracked like fine china dropped on a hard floor, his edge no longer leveraged against a permanent ground, a Tower of Pisa leaning.
Now the man walks the park who only sees his feet, spinal curvature bending his head forward like an immense fruit too heavy for his shoulders to carry, the world of hummingbirds and fuchsia and cedar waxwings and berries, full moons and blue skies lost to his grounded vision, up ahead a plain of water over the rising road, above it a wealth of clouds drinking, herds of old gods grazing in the pastures of sky.


Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California. He has published works in Thrice Fiction, Storm Cellar, Star 82 Review, and soon in The Cortland Review. He won the SuRaa short fiction award in 2011.

See more poetry from Jeff tomorrow.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 251 other followers