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Chapter Two:

2 poems by Carter McKenzie, prose poem by Jeff Bernstein,

poem by Ashley Mares, poem by Gary Lark




2 poems by Carter McKenzie





Volatilization in Cedar Valley 



Chemicals of war

drift over this green 


nook of farms and schools,

2, 4-D, chloride, among 


others, imprecise

blends in their vats


hovering overhead, 

the grease and fumes 


exacting profit

from a simple register


protected by law

in the name of marketable trees—


but no one can make the deer

value the fruit,





what seeps in


to the gut of a dog

roused from his kennel


or a boy running to look 

for TV adventure,


the bright stream passing

beneath dying branches, soaking 


soil and root, ready for rising

in the indefinite




the bright stream

singing as never before,


carrying everything.









Pregnant and dark

black bear

in the cold 




slow moving

through rain, 

beneath the backs

of mountains



and eating

invisible pears


to the ground—


right instinct

filling itself

in time


shadow upon shadow

without an individual name,

hiding places—

she, these


in the distance


clear my mind

when I cannot





Born in Colorado, Carter McKenzie earned her masters degree in English Literature from the University of Virginia. A founding member of the Northwest poetry collective Airlie Press, she is the author of the chapbook Naming Departure and a full-length book of poetry Out of Refusal. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including What the River Brings: Oregon River Poems, Canary, The Berkeley Poets Cooperative: A History of the Times, and the collection of poetry Of Course, I’m a Feminist!  Her work has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. For over ten years, she has taught creative writing workshops for after-school programs, residencies, and summer literature camp sessions through Young Writers Association, Writers in Lane County Schools, and most recently Wordcrafters in Eugene. She currently offers poetry sessions for adults as well as children in Eugene and surrounding rural areas, and serves as co-coordinator of the Springfield Library Poetry Series, as well as on the boards of environmental and racial justice groups. She lives in the Cascade Foothills near Lost Creek.







Prose poem by Jeff Bernstein





The Temporary Bus Stop


Last winter seared an image into your brain: two neighborhood kids (who waited each day across from my driveway for the bus) peering out a tiny window their dads had dug in the tower of snow at the corner where two streets intersected, only their eyes visible, deep weather garb in the dark of a midwinter morning, snow falling for the I have lost track of how many times that record-breaking season.


Never in our thirty years did our little street host a school bus stop, unless you count those tired Bluebird buses that ferried kids to summer camp in a bygone era. Not yellow, not school. But all that changed when our neighborhood school was demolished and kids were shifted to a makeshift substitute across town during construction of a replacement. Seems some bus route planner at City Hall stuck a digital pin on the map and this is what happened.


I wondered what kind of bond those two kids would have by spring. After all, those ten subzero minutes in the morning were straight out of some disaster movie where the world has changed forever and they are the only ones left. Though the oldest students in their elementary school they looked so, so small with the walls of white looming over them. Back when my son was in fifth grade he had a girlfriend, I thought he was on the cusp of adulthood and had grown so big. What would he have looked like standing next to that wall at eleven?


My dogs ceased to bark at them on our slogs through the previous night’s storm, deciding the waiters were simply as much a permanent part of the landscape as the street sign for Wilde Road, by then barely visible, a green and white buoy bobbing above the white drifts.


A few weeks after the new school year began when you discovered that the pick-up place had been slated directly across from where you parked the car, your daughter was still living in Chicago. You told her on the last hour of the two day drive back east rolling through those ancient Pennsylvania mountains, leafy and luminous in the morning sunlight at the end of true summer, that there was a surprise waiting next morning out her window if she got up early enough. You didn’t want to set up false expectations, after all it was just a quiet destination for two students, a blue egg or two in the nest you thought was empty. Did you know that it is against the law to move Eastern songbird eggs from their nest?





A lifelong New Englander, Jeff Bernstein divides his time between Boston and Central Vermont. Poetry is his favorite and earliest art form (he can’t draw a whit or hold a tune). Recent poems appeared in Best Indie Lit New England, The Centrifugal Eye, The Midwest Quarterly, Muddy River Poetry Review, Paper Nautilus, Pinyon, Reckless Writing Poetry Anthology, Rockhurst Review, Silkworm and Third Wednesday. His second chapbook, Nowhere Near Morning, was published in 2013 by Liquid Light Press. His manuscript “Nightfall, Full of Light” was a Finalist in the 2015 Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award for a full-length collection of poetry. 








poem by Ashley Mares





Don't Touch Hot Things



In darkness,

the blackbirds that rest

atop my clavicles.


lead me to corners of

the night I hope to forget by

the time the sunlight fills

the crevices of my bones

that were picked

clean by sharp beaks.


When the night flies away

upon their wings,

I wake up

to the air dripping

moisture into my bones


and spilling over into

the dirt. In sleep


the birds' song is soft as they

ask me to follow them

deep into the woods.


They whisper that


sometimes it's better to let a fire

die than put on more wood.


They say playing with

light is dangerous.


The smoke from the burnt

out flames fill

me just as well.


I flirt with their words

at dusk


and light a candle in the grass

to watch the wax

melt into a puddle –

the wick slowly bending down

like it's waiting to swirl its finger

in the hot wax just to test if

what other people said about it was true. 



Ashley Mares has a bachelor's in English Writing from Azusa Pacific University. She is in the process of completing her J.D in Monterey, CA, where she lives with her Husband. Her poetry has appeared in a few local publications. She uses poetry to get through the stress of law school. Her poems have appeared  in The Cedar Street Times, The Monterey Herald, and The West Wind. Ashley has received a Carl Cherry Center for the Arts award in 2011.








poem by Gary Lark





Young Buck



The young buck is back this year,

alone. The doe, his mother,

the one with a game hind leg,

is absent. I imagine the skin

pulling free of her ribcage

where she lay among the oak and thistle

across Meyer Road and him visiting her

less and less as summer turns.

His horns are forked this year

and he leaps the fence with ease





Gary Lark’s work includes: “Without a Map,” Wellstone Press, 2013, “Getting By,” winner of the Holland Prize from Logan House Press, 2009 and three chapbooks. His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Hubbub, Poet Lore, and The Sun. Three poems were featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. His “In the House of Memory” is forthcoming for BatCat Press






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