Postcard: to Eva, from Ar

by Ar Foster
We liven then in Chatsworth, the end of Devil's Canyon. It was the sixties--our radios sang out free love all night long. This of course is history. It was before the murders, before the Los Angeles river flowed helter skelter. We were fifty-six. Our leader, his disciples, Shorty, and me. Shorty turned thirty-six the year I turned fourteen. We are not an important or friendly clan. Our family name is Manson. Our leader was a mastermind who could charm the pants off a passed-out skunk. We lived on a ranch called Spahn--jumbled wood and tarpaper shacks painted with crusty graffiti about eviscerating women. The ranch bordered the Santa Susana Hills. Behind our back fence was a gully choked with brush, and beyond that, a field of dirt-covered graves. I camped out in the dirt field and didn't mind it. It could be beautiful. A single stone pentagram, black and apocalyptic, rose amid the more inconspicuous boulders close to our barn. Farther away, rusted car parts and beer bottles spoke silently to Chatsworth of Revelations 9, Armageddon. Shorty and I hiked in the field as friends and, with little more familiarity, smoked dope and drank cheap wine there. I was, thanks to Shorty, the most sexually advanced fourteen-year-old in my eighth-grade class. I was going places. I tried now new drugs without his supervision. Shorty; a few months before his death, in an hour so alive with deception that trees and people are identically black lit leaped among the boulders, and I run after, stung by June bugs, following the flicker of his silver belt buckle. Shorty's hair is pulled into a ponytail, careless and stringy, a perfect horsetail of hair. He is reckless, in his way. We have taken hits of acid with our herb tea. Or, rather, Shorty has taken a hit, and I, in consideration of my adolescence, have been allowed half. This acid is called "Sunshine." It is for celestial awakening, as confession is good for the soul. The disciples are at work, soliciting the daily break. We have come into the field, so that the shack, when we reenter it, will lull us with its aroma and carnal energy. Shorty believes in stillness. I'll tell you more next time . . . Ar

Postcard: Barnap Mountain, Alaska

by Idaho James

This trail I have chosen remains daunting for my much-less-than-Olympian-limbs. Sea level to 4000 feet in 2.8 miles, temperate rainforest density, mosquito occupation, protuberant roots and crumbling rocks, possible deep wood moose rendezvous. Ravenous, steaming bears as well. So up I go, seeing four seconds into my footstepping future, mindful of plots of earth willing to support my weight. Remember-must be careful. Powerful land. Keep watch. I, the Jedi. I the manna-collecting magician. I the Almost-Druid communing with the knowledge of Nature's charms deeply embedded in my muttish American genetic code, somehow freshly cracked this moment. Perhaps this explains my compulsion to bagpipes...Pause to examine an intriguing knooby on a tree, a tree with a cold, somehow, glowing pink with flaking bark pocked with termite holes. Perfect place to unroll a stream. Go go go. Up up up. There goes Lower Lake, now comes the real meat. I jog up the beginning rises, yet lungs falter and I soon slow to walking, yet not walking, more like lifting knees to hips and pushing my body uphill, climbing steps intended for Giants. Density of forest life here like nothing else but imagined Amazon. Experience irrational fear of wandering off-trail and being swallowed whole by feet-thick humus and wet moss carpets, or devoured by aged, vindictive trees or vibrant communities of Alice in Wonderland mushrooms with white polka-dots. Here lie uncataloged species. Pine, of course, and of the Boy Scouts, strawberry jam, moth balls, marijuana, pencil shavings in the first grade, cinnamon, wet leather, and every single Christmas there has ever been. There's my own sweat-stink, pistachio ice cream, my mother's cedar chest where she hides away her wedding gown, and fireplaces in autumn in Colorado. At times there is only one odor overpowering, sometimes they come in small combinations, sometimes in an all-at-once-I-wish-I-could-bottle-and-sell-this Grand Alaskan Scent. Other times there is nothing, blank, clean. Finally, I must be nearing the top. The land relaxes its' posture and dense tall foliage gives way to dense, squat groupings of devil's club and passionate wild raspberry bushes, aspen saplings and erratic moss-enshrouded boulders. Twin cragged peaks, unpolished by ancient glaciers, raw and unassailable, soar a thousand feet higher than my swooning head and pierce the supple clouds like prayer conduits. The sunlit white, fluid sky reclines above months-old dusty snow-white atop solid granite gray. Gray as spent emotion. Cracked and flaky gray like desiccated Ganesha. Sensual inviting gray like Garbo films. Blue as summer skies trapped in reflection-there must be cobalt in the rocks, flaking permanent tint to the water. Or perhaps this is the color unpolluted water should be. Blue fades into emerald-hued shores which rise into reddish-brown reeds and exposed soil which rolls into perfect yawning meadows of buttercups and bees, rainbow-lichen rocks and wild, wind-kissed grasses. . . I am home.

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