Look at These Mountains
“Would I still love the creek if I lasted forever?” – Jim Harrison
I think of a slow creek I loved
meandering through the red oak, sycamore,
and loblolly pine of my childhood, how my grandpa
shot at squirrels that danced on high branches
as I cupped cool water, seeking tadpoles. For an
instant tiny lives would flash through my fingers
and then wriggle back into the brown water, home
again in that slow-flowing world of possibility, where
the little bit of light whispering through the canopy
of old forest danced in gauzy beads on the surface
of something that would last forever, carving new meanings
into the soft Virginia soil, always moving south.
Was it following the curvature of the earth? Or was
it just the hills of the Piedmont yielding to the flatter lands
near the sea, where wading birds thickened estuaries
and fattened themselves on the little wriggling fish
that had thrived until that moment they were
snatched by beak and slowly swallowed? The creek
flowed vividly with life, and as a child
I believed that I, too, was immortal, that those
days I took off my sneakers and walked in the shallows,
that this would be forever, those moments of current
rippling past lichen-covered rocks, the splashes my feet
made as I crossed from one bank to the other, the delicious
cool tug of water as it tried to stop me, but I was stronger
then, though I did not know that I would not always be,
that a quick thunderstorm could deepen that creek,
turn it into a torrent that might sweep me south
and east along with the water’s memories of the mountains
where all this momentum had begun. And surely death
is like drowning, being submerged in a flood
of images: the first girl we loved in that school
in California where the gods said look at these mountains
and we did, realizing this new world was powerful
with altitude, and the creeks and rivers flowed west
toward the Pacific, which we reveled in on weekends
as big waves knocked us over and our ears rang
with tumultuous joy that came from feeling the power
of that which was greater than us, and for a moment
we were spitting salt water and disoriented, and for
a moment we were alive.
Jesse Millner’s most recent book of poetry, Memory’s Blue Sedan, was released by Hysterical Books of Tallahassee, Florida in April 2020. His story, “Last Night I Dreamed,” was featured in Best Small Fictions 2020.
drawn with the
thickest chalk- that
does not wear down with
the weight of water, the weight of
bodies, heavy with gravity – flesh. The
bended elastic of swimming costume drawn
around the curve of an armpit – thigh. The marriage
of solid to liquid – untrappable motion, energy invisible
like electricity pylons speaking to each other across a field.
The powerful cycling of limbs digging through the jelly-air- the
wires talking to each other along the peaceful arms-length of dusk.
Jan Juc beach
She is standing against the wide backdrop of sand and scrub, screaming violence into the wind. My sister – egg-round belly, sun-blotched arms poke through her green swimming costume. Pink shells painted on it that, from out here in the surf, catch the light but do not dim the rage on her face as she calls me back to shore. She won’t follow me into the sea. The waves are bone-breakers and the salt in the water slaps your eyes raw. A sandcastle falls over near her feet, blue plastic bucket and yellow spade on its side, jangled around by flapping bellows of air on the waterline. My body – is soft, but almost three whole years older and stronger, it can swim out further into the wild ocean of Jan Juc beach. Still, I am already half-murdered by the swell. I get sucked down by the undertow, crashing barrels of angry foam steamrolling over me again and again out here until gently kissing her small toes standing in the shallows.
Stephanie Powell is a poet based in London; she grew up in Melbourne, Australia. Her work has been featured in print and online publications as well as anthologies published by Enthusiastic Press. When not writing poetry, she works in documentary television. Find her on Instagram @theatticpoet.
i kind of see it: the earth,
tethered; my hands, greying–
when i was two, i touched the sun with
a fingertip & it wasn’t hot, but i know that
in the dark, i am made of pauses, and i think in
absolutes, celebrate with silences, and so
whenever i stray too far off course i
am reminded of her
mouth drawn in an errant line by unsteady hands,
sublime like water, palms
staining cheeks and lipstick stretching a
canal across my face
and this feeling, i store it inside my stomach until it
punts itself across my
body and i
know nothing; except for my
my lungs (charcoaled).
when she asks, i tell her that
i had dust for dinner and my stomach feels
full of the corners where its
& that my skin (rubbed red)
feels different each day &
just so, shoving facts (my body, circular;
my lips, chafed) into the mug on
the kitchen counter feels cathartic
in the moment.
we do not speak of those nights
in the glass,
the fan clicking its teeth in our ears &
blue blood forming a sheen on the floor but
those are the only ones that i
& even now, melting onto the railings and
dissolving upon touching the
floor, i think of the paintings in that palace
and how they spoke
a language only she could understand.
(she said that they invited her to come
sit with her, and her voice forms a vice
on my throat) so i believe her.
in return, i lead her to the sea, and tell her
that my feet seeded skeletons on
that very shore. i tell her that i felt
scared at the time, but she laughs, says,
what about now? don’t you feel scared now?
& isn’t it the same? always?
& if i close my eyes hard enough, she will
morph to nothing, but i
slip my hand in hers and show her around, say
that this is home. can you feel its
synapses raising goosebumps on the skin
of your arm? when she nods,
i take her to the classroom and say, what about
she’s ten miles ahead of me, & if i shift
just right i might be able
to reach her. iwanttoiwanttoiwantto but
then she’s right beside me
smiling. i take her to the glass. she pushes
me in & we sit with our perfect
doll features, still and slack-faced.
Dhwanee Goyal is a fifteen-year-old from Maharashtra, India. Pretty buildings make her heart beat fast, and she likes puns, double-sided blankets, sentences that trail off and… She is published in Blackbox Manifold and Eunoia Review, amongst others. Her twitter handle is @pparallell.