The North of Skyros
“At the northern edge of the bay a fortified prehistoric settlement is found, dated between 2800 and 1700 B.C…. Archaeological surveys have shown that a well-organized skillful society occupied the site, producing and trading goods.”
—Pavlopoulos, K., et al in Quaternary International (2009)
The stones of Palamari call the moon
to give them special light when it is full,
inviting ghosts of children down the dune
into the shallow bay where warm waves pull.
Before the island had the name we know,
before red sandstone curved away from sea,
a people thrived here where metalmi blow
and made a vibrant strong community.
Discovered, walls and doorways show the way
resilient human spirit shaped this earth
with love and work that filled each night and day
and moved through centuries of death and birth.
The children still remember what was praised,
smooth round white pebbles in their palms upraised.
Katharyn Howd Machan
Taking the N° 11
With the trained ease of a traffic marshal
she hails the N° 11 bus,
its hefty weight lumbering down the hill
towards her. Without a flap or a fuss
she finds a seat, her cane tapping around
like the proboscis of a giant insect;
some shuffle in a gesture of goodwill
while others act as if they too were blind.
Her straw hat a lattice of morning light,
she takes out her novel of embossed dots,
runs her fingers lightly over the Braille
like a stylus in a new 45
and seems utterly glad to be alive.
This cannot be said for the rest of us.
the most familiar fungal order
of mushrooms, though difficult
to distinguish the harmless from the lethal
We choose (or does he choose?) to grab the leash
and dog instead of frolicking in bed,
investigate the ravages of rain,
the spongy trails, mycelia twined, the gills
engorged and mushroom volvas formed, of rup-
tured veils where poison may reside. Bewitched,
he wanders off, escaping what he’s got,
sinks into dying boughs and scrapes the duff,
caresses stipes and caps the way an angler
strokes the rainbows of a trout. Gets lost, comes
back, some holy basil crushed. I hear the
sirens in his steps—the fool’s mushroom,
destroying angels, skull caps’ lethal kiss.
What will he choose? And will I stay to watch?
A Gynandromorphic Cardinal Spots a Married Couple
“The anomaly is known as a bilateral gynandromorph. In plain language: Half its body is male and the other half is female…[They] are rare but not altogether uncommon.” National Geographic, 1/31/2019
That man is so agreeable and bald.
His scalp, its natural state, is not so red.
He’s crying softly, like he just recalled
a perfect day, which left him here for dead
in autumn’s half-vermillion dawn. Instead
of stoicism and testosterone,
he’s falling towards the ground, a name in stone.
The woman sets her flowers down to help
him to his feet. He’s twice her size! The power
she had gets thrown off like a gown, to help
brush off his sleeves. In town, the half-taupe hour
and leaves get blown awake; the softest shower
begins. She gives the outraged look of spring
to all but shame’s mistake, until I sing.
To trace the airplanes in your bluesky eyes
the boulevard of your back, your always breasts
your lashes, out upon their little quests
the gardens of your toes, or the sunrise
that unbuttons your shirt; to sketch the mist
of your soft smile, the oceanside resort
of hips and thighs and backside, or the sport
of nose to lip, the secret woodland tryst
your fingers make in air; to outline
the songbirds of your shoulders or the threats
and wayward youth of your gold ringlets;
to capture your legs, those glasses of white wine
and all your body as it does appear—
would take a painter greater than Vermeer.
Joel Van Valin
St. Paul, MN