Author: Jake Kemman

Out of Time – by Jack D. Harvey

Out of Time – by Jack D. Harvey

This is the final installment of our to-date collection of Jack Harvey’s work. It is a fitting sendoff. Take time to read it–it’s more worth it than you may realize.

___

Out of Time by Jack D. Harvey

The old man rose and

wiggled his toes

in the light of the faltering fire;

the season was Lent

the bent trees starting to bud;

the long procession

of providential days,

like pretty children,

drew a bead on his heart.

 

At the open window

the old man looked

at the season’s last snow,

scrappy birchbark

black-patched,

the spokes of a

wagon wheel

poking out of

a pile of rubbish.

Open fields

ungreen and mute,

their strength to discover

spring’s breath still

puny and remote.

 

The old man spoke,

muttering to himself;

some holy place,

shriving, I shall go,

like Noah, send from

the lost ship a dove,

over the flood, a raven.

 

More and more his

lips move;

whispering, his breath floats,

aimless,

his spirit faltering,

becoming less and less

as day ends,

as the sun, bleeding like a lamb,

redeems itself

for the umpteenth time,

setting in the west.

 

A prisoner of the sunset

the old man peers out at the sky.

Beauty and life and the end of life;

all debts forgiven in this moment,

in the ribbon of red spreading

from the sun’s defection,

in the blood of redemption,

in the coming of the dark.

 

Nearer my God unto thee

and never so near;

never near enough.

 

Lonesome and lost

the old man, like

all of us;

his faith gone

like a runaway balloon, or

is God going away?

Already gone for good?

 

Our good, His goodness,

moon and sun

set in a heaven

that never was;

an illusion, a dream.

We grapple like fools

with a sky

real as the rain

that falls,

forgetting the very rocks

beneath our feet

are shadows

no more, no less

than the face of heaven.

 

Made and remade,

our God, our goodness,

blaze anew in

a Promethean sky

of blessed stars;

Newton’s, Einstein’s

imperfect space

keeps time and tune

with God’s enterprise,

paradise confined

to the garden of Eden.

 

On high,

seraphs, saints, sinners,

the fruit of good and evil,

dancing cheek to cheek,

brushed by some unknown purpose.

 

Yet down below,

simple and solid,

the dark holds,

 

tightfisted.

 

Have we mortified our flesh

for the ten commandments?

Tenderly slaughtered

too many innocents

too many times?

 

Stabbing and saving,

sowing and raping,

our eyes show the compassion

our hands belie.

Jacob and Esau,

Abel and Cain

compelled by breakneck time,

did better than we think

and worse.

 

Knights-errant all,

long gone on the quest,

God only knows

what guides us

to our best;

God only knows

what glimmering

in the gloaming

leads us

through the forests,

the mountains,

the high plains,

riding, riding, like Parsifal,

like Tristram,

eager hunters

riding to war.

 

The romance of life,

the vitality, the blessing,

whatever it is,

against the background of violins

speaks violence;

the plucked string

signals the slaughter to come;

the brave and the meek,

the indifferent, the corrupt,

go about their business;

in the loom of catastrophe,

in the belly of leviathan,

don’t know or care

and that is God’s grace.

 

With no thought for the morrow,

sans passion or sorrow,

those who survive the longest

sit by the fire

and wait for spring

and the least desire,

are subject to love

and love’s reminders

are touched to the quick

by the turns and twists

of unforgotten luck

and disaster…

 

Short of breath and temper

they offer hunters’ wisdom

in broken weather,

present for inspection

trembling heads,

candid and flimsy

as cherry blossoms.

 

Holy and intractable time,

short and sharp

as a knife

cuts the thread;

legions of the living

fall and break

like waves on the shore.

 

The old man rests;

rests and waits

for the last inning,

the last call to arms.

At the ends of

his gnarled feet,

still wiggling,

his toes signal

their steadfast devotion

to movement.

 

And,

at the window,

final plenipotentiary,

the merry rising sun turns

his thin white hair

to straw-

 

alchemist’s final gasp!

 

Discovering gold.

_____

Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.

 

The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, N.Y. He was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.

Saintly Day, Stuck – by Jack D. Harvey

Saintly Day, Stuck – by Jack D. Harvey

We’re continuing today with our wonderful stash of Jack Harvey’s work. Eloquence abounds.

___

Saintly Day by Jack D. Harvey

For my own saintly day,

I shall be martyred

on a great white cross-

shaped bird, borne away

high, fast and bleeding

to the upper regions

where Mark the lion roars,

where the tiger rolls

in lamb’s fleece

and angels serenely sing.

 

In keeping with the primal myth

crucified like Christ,

each of my hands

and feet punched

with a hole.

Why not?

Do it up right.

 

Flying high,

up, up and away,

open-mouthed

in my ecstasy;

for a moment

going aloft

and then falling

like an impaled Titan

fraught with perils

from the failed war

with the new gods;

doomed to dark Tartarus,

doomed forever

under the unspeakable weight

of an earlier younger earth.

 

~~

 

Stuck by Jack D. Harvey

With the muse upon me,

fanciful colloquies with dead

Pindar and his peers,

rhapsodies unimagined,

tuneful momentous metaphysical

speculations, the sound of far-off music

stronger than the wind, Calliope

in her white robe floating

above my head, seeming so close;

 

no use her divine presence

her favoring grace,

I can do nothing.

 

I sit stuck here below,

struck dumb as a post

and look at my fat thumbs.

 

~~

_____

 

Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.

The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, N.Y. He was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.

 

Theme Update – Unity of Lost Souls

Theme Update – Unity of Lost Souls

Hi there,

You’ve either come here of your own volition and intuition–your curiosity–or you’ve seen our flyers scattered about.

Either way, please read.

 

Unity Among Lost Souls

 

Unity Among Lost Souls ; Hedge Apple Magazine

 

The same wind that caressed the faces of our ancestors crosses our paths and waves like a distant friend. The very atoms that make up our bodies are shared with every object, being, idea and construct ever heaved into existence.

There is a deity in our feet that links us to the earth.

Circumstances differ, but everyone has a shared story—a spirit of their place.

Circumstances change, too. Generations of footprints can be torn and tossed in a geopolitical instant. Upheaval is, unfortunately, also timeless.

In any circumstance, whether rooted beneath trees of foremothers and fathers, or circling the globe for a ray of light to emerge through an opening door, everyone has a story.

 

What’s yours?

 

Send us your history and hardship, joyful discovery and rough reality. If you know a ray of light, tell us about that, too.

 

We’re here to listen.

 

Submissions close April 15.

Mannheim, Musgord – by Jack D. Harvey

Mannheim, Musgord – by Jack D. Harvey

These two poems are the first of the several we received from Jack Harvey.

They have a particularly whimsical, yet serious nature which threatens to bubble out from beneath their seams at any moment. More to come. Enjoy!

___

Mannheim

Mannheim went mad

one morning, before

they brought his coffee

and bun

               staring out

across his desk

his eyes popped wider

than portholes;

the universe

skipped a beat,

Mannheim jumped

like a bug on a leaf.

 

Mannheim’s unknown errand

was done;

the great unseen walls

dissolved in a giggle.

Carefully, he doffed

his coat, unzipped

his fly;

out it popped

like a baby chick

and drooling and leaping,

crowing, creeping,

writhing like a boa,

he made his way down

to the divine

diluvial mother,

more mud than woman.

 

Like the old serpent,

Adam and seaman alike,

he breaches

goddess and mortal,

garden and portal,

ransacks creation

to find

the plain flower of love.

 

An iron irate bee, he

buzzes like blazes

in the dim and smoky air;

blind as a bat,

what he cannot see

he pursues,

relentless and desperate

to possess.

 

But life and death,

God’s passionate eyes,

the Devil’s spiky tongue

all forgot in the old branches

of that olive tree,

sweet and enduring giantess;

bedrock and bed where

Adam and madman,

burgher and sailor alike,

sleep to be awakened

and then sleep again.

 

Sleep Mannheim!

The chariots roll on

without you;

Lethe rolls on

beyond the world

of tilled fields,

forgotten miracles.

 

Waters of the sea of Vigo,

you will see my amigo;

waters of the ocean waste

you will taste his sea-blanched

carcass, outward bound.

 

On the shore of another land

you will be his bride,

O daughter.

 

~~~

 

Musgord by Jack D. Harvey

 

Musgord the Meretricious,

sometime king of

a faraway country,

sailed skating

down dawn seas.

Broken in defeat

he plugged west

across splendid

red suns setting,

green and blue

seascapes;

he pushed west.

 

The stars pinked

out, one by one,

before dawn and

Musgord turned his

lovely wishful face

back east,

back home;

 

all lost,

yet ahead the bell of

a strange new sea,

beautiful with beckoning;

 

new countries,

new lions in his palace,

new gold

in his treasury!

 

Onward! Onward!

The past’s but

a shard,

lying on abandoned ground.

Musgord the Meretricious

goes west;

 

abandoned by no one.

 

___

 

Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.

The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, N.Y. He was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.

The Food Upon Which Others Feast – by Thomas Elson

The Food Upon Which Others Feast – by Thomas Elson

This story carries a chilling note of the thought-provoking.

Please, enjoy the read. We certainly did.

___________

THE FOOD UPON WHICH OTHERS FEAST by Thomas Elson

We mapped this route generations earlier, and irrespective of origin, the path is the same for everyone. We also dictated a hierarchy: We, the vanguards, would watch the votaries whom the witnesses were told monitored them.

Two of our votaries perched thirty feet above the driveway in front of a limestone building constructed in 1868. Obadiah, the senior votary, impeccably attired in a dark blue suit, silk tie – the color of which befitted our calendar, and sunglasses, rested his hands on the polished railing. Ariel, young and eager to impress, hovered with his clipboard pressed into his gray sweater.

“Who are the two new witnesses?” Ariel looked at the older votary, bit off a piece of beef jerky, and waited for an answer.

“Take notes at the briefings the way I taught you and you’d know.” Obadiah smiled and looked down.

Ariel, by now used to such sarcasm, tapped his pen on the report form attached to his clipboard. “Humor me.”

Obadiah shrugged and continued. “That first guy, the red-headed one, is Herb Peavy. He used to sneak into second-floor bedrooms and stomp women to death with his climbing spikes. It’s his second time here. He’d be at the North Center if the vanguards didn’t still have some use for him.” He waited for a moment. “Just watch him. All he wants to do is get close to that thin kid. If he were anywhere but here, he’d get detained for-“ Obadiah waited a second. “Following too close.” Laughed at his own joke.

“That thin guy looks like an eleven-year-old girl.” Ariel pulled his sweater over his belt buckle. “Hell, he looks like a-”

“Don’t say it. Do not say it. That’s Kenny Dumars. Just two months ago, he was a part-time wheat farmer and full-time high school Spanish teacher livin’ the dream. Even set-up housekeeping with his girlfriend. But the sheriff caught a Cessna unloading marijuana on his property. Ol’ Kenny boy had himself a third job – being paid for the use of his farm land.” Obadiah grinned, added, “Poor guy’ll be eaten alive in here,” then shook his head and unbuttoned his suit jacket.

“He ought’a have a good time in this place with Herb tailgating him.” Ariel watched the red-head smooth his hands over the thin kid’s shoulders. “What’d they want us to do with ‘em?”

“Well, Herb’s bound to do what he did the last time.”  Obadiah adjusted his tie, nodded toward the driveway. “His only value to the vanguards is to see how Kenny reacts around him at the South Center. So, we are required to keep ‘em together after processing and watch what happens.”

When new witnesses arrived we required they remain alone for a short period of time. Alone and unattended, but not unobserved, and certainly not unrecorded. Their movements to be transcribed by votaries onto a checklist. Posture erect? Hunched over? Gesticulations made? People touched? Pockets reached into? Items extracted? Stepped out of line? Anything picked up? Rocks? Cigarette butts?

The witnesses stood as if transfixed. Blank stares. Clenched teeth and tight jaws. Minds working overtime. They stiffened as a scattershot wind hit their faces. Herb looked east toward the wide expanse of farmland and inhaled the scent of the harvest. Kenny stared at contrails swirling twenty-six thousand feet above. Both shuffled around on the gravel driveway. Their sounds alternated between crunching and hammering. Neither looked toward the North or South Centers.

Inside the South Center Processing and Orientation section a votary with a sore-knee limp walked toward the two witnesses, handed each a towel and small cup half-filled with delousing shampoo. “Well, Herb. I figured I’d see you again. What happened? You hear we got a new line of clothing?”  He pointed at the open shower. “You know the drill. And keep it in your hair for a few minutes.”

Amid echoes of “Fresh meat,” and  “Come over here and visit me,” Herb walked with his middle finger aloft. He abruptly shouted, “Looks like you’re working old three-pack pretty hard,” nodded toward the man laboring to stand – his left hand clasped three unopened packs of cigarettes, then hurriedly walked to his chair, lifted his pad and charcoal, resumed drawing.

Kenny held back until Herb returned, then clutched his towel where he thought it might do the most good, and, despite wet floors, rushed into the shower. He finished without drying, quickly headed back, and hurriedly dressed.

The votary handed each a paper bag and directed them to carry it in their right hand. “What you’ve got there is a toothbrush, toothpaste, and two hotel-sized bars of Ivory soap. Commissary takes ninety days to kick-in but most of you will be gone by then. So, other than your meals, that’s pretty much it.”

The votary raised his palm. “Ya’ll gonna be buried under the mass of senior witnesses. Just know that you have no rights here. Only privileges. The rest you gotta figure out on your own.” He looked at Kenny in his practiced manner. “Consider that your orientation.”

The votary knew Kenny was too frightened to remember what was said, but his perspective would change after the doors slammed. When it became apparent that he could never again open or close a door, walk from one room to another, chose when to eat, what to eat, where or when to sleep without first asking permission. When Kenny had the look of an animal that decided to stop running, we would know he had learned our Rules: Eyes down but stay alert – Don’t look but see everything –When you walk hug the wall but do not touch it – There are no gifts; accept anything and you are in debt. – Ask for permission before you do anything.

The votary led them into an area the size of a basketball court with a walkway surrounding a chain-link enclosure. He assigned both witnesses separate bunks within fifteen feet of two exposed toilets and one rust-stained sink. Then he repeated what he said each time, “Good luck. And don’t come back.” He locked the gate and walked away.

As Kenny waited in line that evening, his eyes moved from witness to witness. He watched how each held two utensils under a stainless-steel tray, and silently moved toward a wall opening, then placed the tray on a small ledge, and remained motionless as meat and green beans were plopped on it. After a half-pint carton of milk hit a tray, a voice barked, “Next!” and the line moved forward.

Kenny set his tray on a table near the stage. Herb pulled a chair out, turned it slightly, dropping his tray next to Kenny. Herb looked at Kenny, “What’cha need from the commissary?” Then skimmed his tongue across his upper lip and moved his hand under Kenny’s. After a moment Herb raised his fingers slightly, pulled his hand back, and left a list of commissary items under Kenny’s palm. “I can get you ramen noodles, pens, paper, stamps, cigarettes, peanut butter, pretty much anything. What’cha want?”

“They told us we can’t use it for ninety-days.” Kenny moved his hand away.

Herb pushed a package of gum between their trays. “But I can. I’ve been here before.”

Silence.

“Why me?”

Herb stroked Kenny’s hand. “You’re my friend.”

Kenny leaned forward, gently raised his hand, gracefully rested it on the back of Herb’s head, and whispered.

Herb’s eyes flared. “We’ll see smart guy.” Then, contemplating his next move, said, “We’ll see how you’re taken care of from now on.” He grabbed Kenny’s half-pint of milk, shoved it into his coat sleeve, stood, left the package of gum on the table, and walked toward the stage and the line of witnesses waiting to be frisked.

A votary bent to frisk him – calves first, then thighs and hips. Herb, with a one-arm motion, slid the milk carton from coat sleeve to palm and onto the stage. When the votary found nothing, he turned to frisk another witness. Herb picked-up the milk carton, raised his arm, allowed the carton to drift inside his coat sleeve, cupped his hand, lowered his arm, and walked away.

An hour and a half later sounds and smells reverberated inside the enclosure. Toilets flushing or not flushing. Bodies unwashed for days. Scattered loud voices. Small groups talking, shuffling. Bunks creaking.

A votary wheeled in a console television. “This will remain on the channel it’s set to.” He paused. “That safety razor on top the t.v. has one blade.” He pointed to the razor. “You have one-half hour to shave,” he said to everyone. “When I return at eight o’clock, that razor will be right there.” He struck the top of the console with his knuckles. “With the razor blade next to it. If I see anything other than that, I will respond.” Tapped the console and left the enclosure.

Herb rose from his bunk with three other witnesses, walked up to Kenny, blinked slowly.      “You busy?”

No reply.

“You too busy to spend some time with us?” Gestured toward his bunk, then pulled Kenny’s head closer, “You owe me.”

“The hell I-”

“Shut up. Shut the hell up. You owe me. I gave you something. And now you owe me. Don’t renege or I’ll make sure they yank your privileges. Send your ass down behind them damn white doors.” Within moments he laughed, raised his voice a decibel below a yell.   “You want that? You wanna be b’hind them doors downstairs?”

The three witnesses from Herb’s bunk surrounded Kenny, then tightened their circle. Kenny’s head jerked back. Pain descended from eyes to mouth, then came guttural sounds, and he was on the floor in a fetal curl. He knew he was leaking – red or brown – but did not know which. One of the witnesses set a blade on top the television.

The next afternoon Kenny waited in yet another line of witnesses to be told what to do, where to go, yelled at about something, lined up to go somewhere or lined up to come back. It didn’t really matter. His knees ached, everything ached, and he was ashamed of the stains between the hip pockets of his jeans. Herb cut in. Within seconds Kenny was again encircled.

“You.” Herb spit on the floor. “You do not say ‘no’ to me.” When he signaled, the circle blended away, and Kenny was on the floor with blood on his shirt darkening yesterday’s stains.

A votary meandered over. “Get off the floor.” He raised his voice. “Get over to the infirmary.”

We now knew Kenny had learned the Rules.

Late the next day, when he awoke, Kenny’s eyes followed the white infirmary wall toward a metal desk at the opening of the ward. He blew at the detritus descending from the ceiling, watched it float away, then concentrated on the liquid dripping through a tube attached to an elevated bag. When he pulled down his sheet, he saw stitches below his rib cage and several blood stains.

A nurse from Honduras walked up. “¿Como estás?” Kenny asked.

She eagerly responded. “¿Pero, como estas?” Then smiled and touched his shoulder.

A witness two beds over pounded his mattress. “Hey, lady, get the hell over here and take care of my bedpan.”

She rolled her eyes, stooped slightly, walked toward the demand. When she returned, Kenny continued with questions about Honduras, her hometown, his difficulties. In an environment where she was held in less esteem than children’s pets, she lingered. On his third day, she handed him a gift – a Hershey’s candy bar.

“No te puedo pagar,” said Kenny.

“No need to repay,” she said. Then added, “You don’t look like you belong here.”

Kenny laughed, then winced. “Gracias.”

On his final morning, the nurse placed the Spanish edition of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” on Kenny’s bed. “When you go back, read it,” and tucked it under his pillow, then patted the pillow as if fluffing it. “Wait. Open then.” She knew when he left the infirmary he would not be searched.

A week later Kenny was strong enough to walk the circumference of the enclosure. He moved carefully. His head down just enough to seem disinterested – as if passing through on an assignment.

#

Kenny had waited almost six years since his transfer to the North Center’s third floor when he heard a votary’s clipped accent call his name for the first time, “Du mars.” The sound seemed to extend. “Kaaaa-neee Duuuu-maws. Somebo’y lu’ ya.” He pitched a nine-by-twelve manila envelope on the concrete floor. Kenny hustled down iron steps to retrieve the package.

Back on the third floor, he flipped to the last page, saw the final word: DENIED. But when he read the preceding three words his body constricted. “… the same fate.”

He reached for the book the nurse had given him. Opened it to the section with the indentation. He did not understand why they allowed him to keep the book. Kenny closed his eyes. His contours hardened as if chiseled. DENIED, that last word on the final page told him whether sunny or dark, summer or winter, held no relevance for him. He knew what came next.

He would soon be inside a metal building, past racks of the North Center’s food items – cans of peaches and lard, bags of rice and beans, five-gallon bottles of ketchup and mustard – walking toward unmarked doors, then into a building connected to a small concrete warehouse, and through an opening the width of a garage door. When he stopped, the door would descend.

Lights would illuminate five unsmiling votaries in dark suits and one senior witness. At this point, Kenny would need assistance. We knew it required an element of irrationality to voluntarily continue. “Let’s go,” a votary would say. “Lean on me.”

Kenny’s shallow breathing would be familiar to these votaries, as would the next sequence – exam table. White sheets. Straps. No needles. No tubes. Eyes never averted. No request for last words. No more time.

Our Rules dictated that Kenny remain awake while the senior witness held the toothbrush the nurse had secreted inside the book. The same sharpened toothbrush Kenny shoved__ into Herb Peavy’s carotid artery.

The senior witness would press that toothbrush into Kenny’s neck until there was no longer a pulse.

– THE END –

 

______________

Thomas Elson’s short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in numerous venues such as Calliope, Pinyon,Lunaris Journal, The New Ulster, The Lampeter, Blood & Bourbon, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Adelaide Literary Magazine. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.

Leaning Into It – by Doug Canter

Leaning Into It – by Doug Canter

We’re kicking off the Spring 2019 online issue with something that is really worth the read.

We hope you find Doug’s story as stirring as we did.

Here it comes:

_________________

Leaning Into It

Days after I decided to travel to the Blue Ridge Mountains on a motorcycle, I bought a new bike after years of thinking about and preparing for it. Surrounded by flashy motorcycles on a commercial strip in the Washington D.C. suburbs, I lifted my left leg over the fuselage of a shiny white one. Pasted prominently on the tank’s top, a disclosure warned that “Improper weight on the rear of the bike could cause serious injury or death.” Why in the world would anyone put themselves at such risk? Having ridden two-wheel motorized machines off and on for about fourteen of the last forty years or so of my adult life, I thought I knew the answer. But at sixty, I felt unsure of my decision to buy the 500 cc machine that waited silently and patiently beneath me for my test ride. I swallowed hard, straightened the handlebars and looked over the motorcycle’s windscreen through the large doors of the dealership onto a parking lot and a busy suburban road.

 

Reaching for Passion

“You did pretty good,” Scott said to me after the test drive. “You stayed with me the whole time.” I mumbled something about jerky starts and being a little rusty and thanked him, but I didn’t reveal the discomfort I had felt in both hands as I manipulated the clutch with my left and the front brake with my right. The opening and closing of my fingers caused soreness after only ten minutes. I wasn’t sure how I’d manage riding two and a half hours. This whole idea for a motorcycle trip to the Shenandoah National Park, where I would spend a week at a conference, seemed like a way to develop a story. But if I had been honest with myself, the trip two weeks before my daughter’s wedding had more to do with my recent change of law firm jobs and dissatisfaction with the direction my life had taken.

The next morning, after buying the Honda CB 500X, I woke dreaming about crashing it on the highway. As a college student I had ridden a Yamaha 350 cc motorcycle all around and through central Pennsylvania. I seldom felt frightened while riding back then. Maybe I had felt spurts of fear during moments on Route 15, the major secondary road that wound through central Pennsylvania and passed Bucknell, where I attended college. The whole bike would vibrate while traveling 65 miles an hour. I understood the consequences of hitting the pavement at highway speed. But mostly I had ridden with complete confidence back then, ironically, before I had a motorcycle license, before I even had taken a motorcycle safety course.

Now, the anxiety occurred sporadically. Mostly, it sprouted to the surface when I thought about riding, not while actually riding. The doubt had started in earnest a year earlier after an SUV almost ran directly into me as I rode my Vespa, travelling on two-lane Route 355 north of Rockville. At the time, I was riding to the Triumph motorcycle dealership in Fredericksburg. The driver of the SUV apparently hadn’t seen me until the last several seconds before impact. Fortunately several seconds was all he and I needed to avoid the crash but it got me thinking.

Crashes and accidents killed 4,957 motorcyclists during 2012, two years before I bought the motorcycle, a seven percent increase from the prior year, according to the then most recent recorded data of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. During the several weeks preceding my motorcycle purchase, I had heard a multitude of stories about the dangers of motorcycle riding from people responding spontaneously at the sight of my Shoei helmet.

During the days I waited for the installation of a top rack and crash bar on my new Honda. I suffered the abrupt realization that I might not have enough storage capacity for the week-long trip. I started to perform internet searches for packing Honda CB500X’s, packing motorcycles, and motorcycle luggage. One site warned about distorting the center of gravity. Low hanging and centrally located luggage seemed to create less potential for handling problems. This information dashed my vision of simply wearing a large hiking backpack on my back during the trip. The logistics were daunting. I absolutely had to travel with a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea. That alone weighed 20 pounds and occupied a large bag. I needed to bring a laptop, power cord, camera, telephone and chargers. Together they probably weighed ten to fifteen pounds. I also needed medicine, toiletries and some clothes. I had no idea how I would load everything up for the trip, I thought in a panic.

The deliberation, calibration, and risk-weighing I performed during this packing and planning phase of my journey resembled familiar characteristics that had marked my adult life. For over two decades, I had considered a job change, from law firm back to the public sector, from law firm to a corporate setting, a lateral switch to another practice area, and even to a non-legal job. This latter option always seemed inaccessible. In truth, I was afraid, and, in a way, this trip to the Shenandoah National Park felt like I was doing more than riding to a conference on a motorcycle. It felt like I was breaking a self-imposed barrier of fear.

Taking the Risk

After waiting two weeks for the dealership to install crash bars, which protect the turn signals and other exterior accessories from damage caused by a parking lot fall, and a top box, which provide a locked storage container to keep my helmet or other light baggage when not riding, I picked up the bike. It looked bigger than the day I bought it. Scott, my twenty-something year old salesman, provided a superficial overview of key features. He then checked about ten small square boxes on a delivery invoice before handing it to me to sign. I started asking him for explanations about a number of items on the checklist and jotted notes of key service and maintenance requirements that seemed important to monitor. I had to check the oil once a month, lubricate the chain twice a month, change the brake fluid every two years, and change the coolant every two years. I began to wonder why I purchased the motorcycle to begin with.

Handling the hand clutch and foot gears, working the hand and foot brakes, and adjusting to the greater engine acceleration came relatively quickly after a few days, although I was a little rusty. However, the psychological aspect of riding a two wheel machine at high speeds did not feel the same as it had when I was twenty. On occasion, I found myself rubbing my knees and legs, feeling acutely aware of the comfort, no pains or aches, and I suddenly felt simultaneously both grateful for my health and well being, and anxious about sacrificing all that I had. At the same time, I started checking MapQuest directions, researching one and two piece rain gear, and thinking about packing, committed to follow through on this long-held dream.

At Battley Motorcycle in Rockville, a Harley and Ducati dealership, scores of leather clad people, mostly men with gray beards like me, milled around the parking lot against the backdrop of parked Harleys and other large cruisers. A band played at the far end as two people danced alone near them. Vendors sold motorcycle memorabilia under a white tent at the other end of the lot. I parked my adventure bike, which was built for on and off road use. Adventure bikes sit higher than cruisers and have a more slanted frame towards the back of the bike that gives them a racier look than the cruiser, which is reminiscent of the motorcycles we used to see in photos of biker gangs like the Hell’s Angel’s when I was a boy in the 1960s.

Craig, a thin short guy, helped me find equipment. As it turned out my red Shoei helmet was seven years old, about two years older than desirable. He explained that after about five years the interior starts to decompose and lose its effectiveness. I bought a new similar Shoei, this one black. Craig showed me an Asai that fit well, but it was not Snell approved. I remembered from my motorcycle safety course that helmets should be DOT and Snell approved. The Snell Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1957 after the motorcycle death of Pete “William” Snell, certifies motorcycle helmets based on independently developed standards supported by scientific and medical research. After buying the helmet, waterproof rain gear, which included a jacket, pants and pull over rubber boots, and a black motorcycle jacket, which had padding in strategic places, I paid the almost $1,000 bill and left for the Honda dealership. I rode out of Battley’s parking lot wearing my motorcycle jacket and helmet, trying to smoothly shift gears and quickly accelerate as I rounded the turn onto the road from the lot under the watchful eyes of two couples standing behind their Harleys on the other side of the two-lane road across from the dealership.

The Shenandoah National Park, established in 1935, covers 200,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a corner of Appalachia and Virginia, rich with history and folklore. My trip to the Park started the day before I departed. I rode to Bethesda on a partly sunny summer day to check tire pressure. The breeze blew gently in my face, and I glided on the two wheel machine through a natural world of air and clouds and sun and earth. As I waited for my tires to cool before filling them with air, I sipped a decaffeinated coffee, savored a chocolate croissant, and listened to chirping birds.

When I initially saw my first motorcycle at twenty, the red 350 cc Yamaha sitting idly on an old brick patio of the owner’s small two-story house in Lewisburg, a dot of a Pennsylvania town with a couple of bars and a pizzeria on its single main street that extended from a two-lane bridge over the Susquehanna River on the northern edge of town to an interconnection with Route 15, near the high school, at a point about half way between a federal prison and the pockmarked barren hilltops of empty, strip coal mines further south, on the way to Harrisburg. My closest college buddy, Bob Wentz, who coincidentally owned the identical make and model motorcycle, came with me. The owner wheeled the bike onto the narrow street in front of his house. After several failed attempts, the Yamaha coughed its way to life. It was a carburetor problem that plagued the bike for the entire time I owned it. It was the spring of 1975.

I struggled to test drive the 350 cc Yamaha in the nearby high school parking lot. After judging my capability, the owner offered to show me how to stop and turn the bike. He didn’t appear too concerned with the fact that I had never ridden a motorcycle before and had neither a learner’s permit or motorcycle license. I bought the motorcycle the next day, after a failed attempt to borrow money from the local bank, with most of my semester’s food money.

For those of you who have never ridden a motorcycle, the operating mechanics, especially the handlebar clutch, may seem strange. Certainly, at the time, the front wheel handbrake and rear wheel left foot brake felt unnatural to me. I learned how to shift the gears with the left foot pedal fairly quickly, although, the coughing carburetor punctuated each attempt to shift from neutral to first, a slight downward notch on the left foot pedal together with a squeeze of the left handbrake, which serves as the clutch. But the rapid coordination of both my right hand and left foot on both brakes simultaneously proved more difficult. It took several weeks for me to feel comfortable riding on the roads around Lewisburg.

It might be important to express the feeling of loneliness and desperation that lurked beneath the surface of my consciousness back then which I’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand. I tell you this not for sympathy or concern, but for appreciation of what I feel is a celebration when I think of motorcycle riding. For me, it represents the independence of adolescence, the confidence of youth, the joy of first love, the hope of young adulthood, the dreams of middle age and, increasingly, the reality of growing old.  Looking back as an adult, the yearning for the thrill of those turns, the rush of air on my face, the roar of the engine was always there. But I didn’t act on it for fifteen or twenty years. In the beginning, I was too busy enjoying fatherhood. However, as my three children started getting older, I felt the yearn for that motorcycle grow intensely. My trip to the Shenandoah National Park felt like a leap of faith, a return to myself. As I searched for direction I began to trust my feelings – that I needed to make a change even as the fear of falling continued to hold me back.

As my departure approached, the most daunting task was packing the long list of necessary school, hiking, and motorcycle supplies. At the time, I had been practicing law for over thirty five years. Yet, even I had trouble harmonizing the gross weight limit specified in the owner’s manual with the packing and weight information posted on the bike’s fuselage, which cautioned about complying with the net limit. Another thing was figuring out just how much 6.5 pounds allowed in the top box where I wanted to store my laptop. I guess I could have looked it up on the internet, but I was too involved deciding how to cram everything into the saddlebags and tank top.

Finally, after practicing the day before my departure, I felt I could fit everything into one of the several bags or storage areas. During that practice session, I loaded the saddlebags, including the CPAP machine and other gear, onto the bike, which involved removing the seat, laying the connecting strips of the saddle bag across the bike, and strapping the bags onto the bike with bungee cords. This was my first time performing this task with the saddlebags fully loaded and I had made a rookie mistake. I left the key in the bike under the seat where it opens the lock and allows the seat to come out. The saddlebag on that side was so heavy that it bent the key. At least it happened at home where I had a spare key, I thought. I now knew not to leave that key in the receptacle while loading the packed side saddlebags.

I rode a mile to the local high school parking lot and practiced figure eights using the parking space lines to mark loosely a forty by forty foot area in which to ride. The bike felt sluggish with the heavy bags, which I guessed weighed at least sixty pounds. The objective of doing the figure eights was to control the bike well enough to ride inside the outer parameter of the small rectangle, and to perform the maneuver without placing my feet on the pavement or falling. My first few attempts were moderately, but not completely successful, because I either drove outside the square or, on occasion, needed to put my foot on the ground to keep from falling. My marked areas kept migrating and after a few minutes, I barely missed riding over broken glass. All my effort to prepare would not help if I punctured my tire, I thought, so I drove home without further practice, wondering if I really was ready for this journey.

After a fitful night sleep, I woke early and somewhat systematically packed all my gear and supplies on the bike. With all my practice, I had not spent any time trying to balance the weight in the two side saddle bags. This required some slight repacking. After loading the bike and strapping all the bags and packs tightly to it, I slipped on my knee supports and football pads under my jeans. Craig from Battley Cycle had suggested this possible substitute for motorcycle pants. The knee pads slipped on easily even though they produced a tightness around my knees. The high school football pads were stitched into a nylon girdle that hung to me tightly and created bulk under my jeans on my thighs, back, and pelvis. But I felt it useful to wear them in light of the highway portion of my journey. I kissed my wife goodbye, placed my arms inside my black leather motorcycle jacket, tapped my pocket to confirm I had my clip on sunglasses and keys, and one last time felt the anguish of making this trip so close to my daughter’s wedding. At the time, I thought my wife had given her approval, but I eventually learned that I had not read her response properly.

With all the risk I assumed with this trip, I would never forgive myself if I were to die or were injured two weeks before Libbie’s wedding. What possessed me to take this risk? I thought briefly, but put it out of my mind as something else, a sense of desperation for a dream, selfishly outweighed my concerns. Within minutes, I turned onto Route 495 (the eight lane beltway that surrounds D.C.) and began the first part of the hour and a half drive. This was the portion of the route on major highway roads that required me to drive the fully loaded motorcycle at over sixty-five miles per hour. Straddling an engine travelling that fast on an asphalt road balanced on two wheels in the midst of merging and lane-changing cars and trucks scared the hell out me. I didn’t remember feeling this way before, although highway driving never had been my favorite, but my memories and the feeling of riding a motorcycle had always been strong and positive.

Making a Leap of Faith

Back in 1975, I would ride my Yamaha on winding, two-lane roads around Bucknell near Lewisburg with Wentz. We traveled under canopies of reds and oranges with the air splashing into our faces, the sun striking our chrome handlebars, and the high pitched rrrrrmmmm of the engine drowning out the small quiet country sounds that surrounded us. We passed apple stands, Amish farms, former strip mine towns, state parks, and miles of the Susquehanna River. Sometimes, we’d stop in the small Union County localities to drink Genesee Cream Ale. These were mostly worn towns with a solitary bar and single gas station, empty tracks on rusted bridges and fewer jobs than motorcycles. When I rode, I leaned into turns on empty country roads with the breeze in my face and pulled back the throttle on the open blacktop under the sun with nothing on my mind.

With some of that same feeling reemerging, I approached Sperryville, Virginia, a one-street town with a bakery that does not serve decaffeinated coffee, which lies in the lowlands of a corner of Appalachia below Old Ragg Mountain, and only a short drive on curvy mountain roads to the Shenandoah National Park’s Thornton Gap entrance. These roads to the park were high motorcycle accident areas, according to the road signs, yet here in the forest on these turns near the park I saw more motorcycles than cars. The wind in my face and the beauty of densely packed trees evoked a sense of self: a kind of oneness with the world around me and completeness with the person within.

Back when I was a pudgy, black haired, brown eyed twelve-year old, I felt free when I rode my bicycle away from the stony silence of my step-father’s inattention and the suffocating anxiety of my mother’s glare. Let me pause and say here that before my stepfather died several years ago, he and I had exchanged unspoken apologies to one another, and I began to view my mother’s tireless efforts to raise me with the respect it deserved. But before all that, in 1966, I was playing street football with my schoolmates, throwing dirt bombs in pretend army raids with friends, fantasizing about unbuttoning the blouse of the girl next door – and riding my bicycle.

I rode my bicycle miles away to visit friends, to reconnoiter downtown Richfield, a quaint Connecticut town, which back then was a four-block community with a dime store, old Italian barbershop, and Fourth of July parades. Richfield was nestled along Route 7 between the larger Danbury and the cluster of similar small commuter towns further south on the way to New York City. It was a time of simplicity and complexity as my adolescence unleashed a long search for meaning and identity – and, I think, also peace.

There I stood almost fifty years later straddling the new white Honda CB 500X at the Thornton Gap entrance to the Park, nine miles from Skyland Resort where I would be staying at a week-long writing residency, hiking the trails in the national park land that once belonged to others, reading about Appalachia by women writers from the region, and trying to contemplate changes to my life. During the week stay, we hiked Stony Man trail, which leads up to a rocky overlook that exceeds 4,000 feet, one of the highest in the Park. We walked segments of the Appalachian Trail and saw deer, snakes, and black bears. The Skyland Resort accommodations nested on the ridge of the mountains along Skyline Drive. Although we were not completely removed from automobiles, plastic bottles, noise, and the excessive waste of human consumption, they were limited and contrasted with the dense forests, picturesque views, and numerous hiking trails.

Dreams

Handling a fully loaded motorcycle on a highway in crowded traffic can be a drain. I rode through stop-and-go traffic on a six lane road packed with cars and trucks on my return trip. Machines on asphalt surrounded me in the humid June heat. My black motorcycle helmet and black leather padded jacket retained, and seemed to amplify, the heat. The birds, deer, and bear of the forest all had disappeared. As I accessed the highway back towards Washington, D.C., I felt the contrast between development and the National Park, between suburbia and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I rode across the Virginia-Maryland line feeling relieved that I was almost home and began looking for my exit. As I travelled under the strong sun, I turned to check my left lane for traffic, and the wind ripped my clip-on sunglasses off my lens and onto the highway behind me. It was an ominous sign, but I had neither the patience nor energy to dwell on it. Hot air pressed through the open visor against my face as I leaned into the turn off River Road several miles from home.

The blossomed flowers and green shrubs cast a freshness to the frames that passed, and I struggled to concentrate, all the while thinking of my family as I rested my left shoe on the ground in front of a stop sign near home. It was the weight of the saddlebags, I think. Maybe I had been in third gear instead of first. It is possible I didn’t accelerate enough. Whether lack of motion or excessive weight or some combination, the 500 plus pound motorcycle struggled to keep its feet as I attempted to round the turn onto Bradley Boulevard two blocks from my destination. The engine sputtered and stalled with suddenness. I felt the heavy frame tilt, weighted down by packed saddle bags, a loaded top tank bag, and a backpack strapped to the rear of the seat full of books and other items.

Some things happen in milliseconds. I knew I did not have sufficient time to restart the bike. Instinctively, I tried to pull the right handle bar up to stabilize the frame. It was a futile attempt to fight gravity. My new motorcycle fell to the pavement like a wounded animal, and gasoline leaked over the pavement under it like blood. Unable to lift the new Honda off the road, I started to unload the packs and bags. But within seconds, a young woman driving a pick-up truck offered to help. Then, two boys pulled their car to the side, and the four of us lifted the Honda on to her feet.

The balance, the motion, the feel of the air, the lean into a turn on a motorcycle and the acceleration out of it constitutes one of those interminable good feelings, yet taking those turns too fast can be dangerous. I learned that years earlier in a near wipe out on my used Yamaha. The sound of gravel as one’s two-wheeled machine slides towards the edge of a highway is not easily forgotten. The trip to the Shenandoah National Park had inspired my confidence in dreams. Mindful of the dangerous portions of road ahead, I decided to pursue my long-held desire to teach English. Less than two years after my trip I retired from my law practice, giving up my hard-earned partnership and I began a two-year teaching residency in Baltimore. Now, in my second year teaching World Literature at Western High School, I feel the wind in my face every day at school, even as my motorcycle awaits my return home.

The hour commute to Baltimore and day-to-day responsibilities of teaching in an urban school can deplete. But like the glide in a turn on a motorcycle under a canopy of fall trees with cool air caressing your cheeks, there is a fragile beauty and vulnerable satisfaction that comes from achieving a dream. I woke this morning on my sixty-fourth birthday at the end of a vivid dream in which I saw my oldest son, Ted, and his wife walking arm in arm with an old college friend on the streets of what looked like New York City. As consciousness crystallized, I realized how little time I have left, how much I may not accomplish, and what little I actually have accomplished; and I thanked God for my dreams, the dreams of youth, the passion of a lifetime, and, hopefully, the wisdom to choose wisely which dreams to pursue for tomorrow.

_____________________________

 

Doug Canter’s writing has previously appeared in the Evansville Review, Talking Writing, 20-Something Magazine, and Public Utilities Fortnightly, among others, as well as on the websites of the American Bar Association, Discovery Channel Tech, and Danya Institute. Doug currently teaches English in Baltimore City. When he is not preparing lesson plans or writing, Doug is walking the C&O Canal in suburban Washington, D.C., or hiking the trails in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2011, Doug received a Master of Arts in Nonfiction Writing from Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.

New Editors & Themed Issues for Spring 2019

New Editors & Themed Issues for Spring 2019

Hey there, everyone.

Spring has yet to come (in the northern hemisphere at least,) but winter’s breadth has done little to stop the slew of exciting ideas pouring from our elated hearts. Because the Hedge Apple is continuously spun with the preferences of student-interns, editors change with the seasons. That cycle of change results in an unebbing tide of fresh ideas each and every magazine. Mr. Garlock and Ms. Hogue have ascended into the hall of records to join hands with all editors preceding. The great unity that is locally known as “finishing the English program” is before them.

Meet this Spring’s editors: Elijah Rokos, Ryan Jordan, and Jake Kemman.

Now that we’ve introduced ourselves, we’re going to pick up where the last issue ended. To continue the glasnost begun by our esteemed predecessors, we are still accepting submissions from the wide, wide world and all the people in it–so keep ’em comin’, world.

With that said, we can also formally introduce the first of this Spring’s themes, so keep reading. It’s a goodie.

Spill Your Guts

Hedge Apple Magazine Spil Your Guts Theme

Society doesn’t want you to believe that your secrets matter. Hiding away your true selves and making it through the day with ingenuine smiles gets exhausting, but that was yesterday. Today, allow this digest to dive into your gutsy stories–sans reflux. Remove the protective layers of secrets and give in to the seduction of nakedness: loss, grief, love, need, poverty, addiction, obsession, social depravity, depression, mental health, oppression, sickness, heartache, detachment, dissociation, mind-numbing stress, and that which evades description. Regurgitate the ugly monsters from within, exfoliate the things that make you itch, strip your skin, and send those skeletons lurching into the light of day. We want the things that scare you, hold you, lift you up and drag you down. This February, air out your intestines between the pages of the Hedge Apple.

Submissions can be anonymous or not–that part is up to you. Quit your itchin’, start bitchin’.

Submission period ends March 16.

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Before you go, set a reminder to keep checking back. We’ll update this page as the rest of our themes roll in. If you plan to submit for a theme, make sure to let us know in your cover letter. For more information, refer to our Submission Guidelines.

Thanks for reading,

The (Spring ’19) Editors.