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Chaffin Journal Poetry Excerpts

“ALIEN SPECIES”
by Carol Poster

The magpie flirts with the tamarisk branches,
flashing white stripes as he flips back his wings.
He perches. His black tail twitches nervously,
and his head cocks, watching me pitch my tent.
Our ancestors migrated here,
His earlier, mine more recently, both uninvited.

I rehydrate dinner. Soon, it will be dark.
The bird is alert, perhaps seeking a place
To roost for the night, or perhaps
Disturbed by my presence.

The sun angles through the leaves
in isolated beams, picking out my stove,
a tent stake, and my meal.
The magpie searches for something to steal.

I clean dishes and teeth, crawl into my tent,
adjusting my foam pad and sleeping bag
to avoid tree roots inevitably unavoidable.
Feathery tamarisk brushes against the rainfly
As the stars gradually appear.

Intruders all, magpie, tamarisk, and human
settle into the dusk, as the temperature drops
and the canyon winds pick up.
I shiver. The tamarisk rustles. The magpie has vanished.

We do not belong here.

"The Collector "
by Aaron Fisher

My dad wanders through
the house, collecting moons
of soap: gibbous scraps
milled between his hands,
translucent crescents,
ready for his shaving mug.

He comes home
from McDonald’s, his pockets
freighted with sugar
packets, and those little tubs
of nondairy coffee creamer.

Easy to understand where
such thrift is rooted:
His was the mythic poverty
of the ‘30s: a bowl of beet soup
and a heel of bread,

he and his brothers sleeping
three to a bed. Harder to say
why he thought love
had to be rationed like a week’s
pay packet, so everybody

got something, but none
got enough.

"The Creeps "
by Mark Belair

Sophie, the old
egg woman, lived alone
in the sagging farmhouse across
the road from our modest suburban development.

Once a week, sometimes
more, my mother would send me
over to buy still-warm eggs from Sophie,
because she was too creeped out to do it herself.

Sophie’s fingernails
were always broken short and
packed with dirt. Dirt caulked the creases
in her weathered, widowed farmwife’s face too.

Her dark farmhouse was
a hovel—at least what I could see of it,
peeking in—and she wore heavy clothes even
in summer, so she usually didn’t smell too nice either.

But Sophie’s
brown, speckled eggs—
of all different sizes and shades—
tasted, when scrambled in butter, like nectar of life.

Then one morning,
as our family devoured eggs
bought only a few days earlier, my mother told us
that Sophie, two nights before, had passed away in her sleep.

And that the demolition
of her farmhouse, planned around
this long-awaited occasion, would occur
the following month so that a new housing development could go in.

At first, I confess,
I was privately relieved,
as a balky chore had just
been removed from my life.

Then, later that week, my mother
came home from the grocery store with
a carton of cold eggs, all pure white, all the same
size, all lined up like a tasteless suburban development.

Imagine
my surprise
when I found

that it creeped me out.

"Japanese Maple "
by Michael Shay

I have always wanted to make the trees speak
In a language I could understand
To learn their secret words
That worship the sun
Speak the praises of the rain
Dote on birds
Shake with irritation
At the ruminations of squirrels

Trees who in the north
Whisper the seasons
Maybe the jazz of spring or the pianoforte of winter
Trees who in the south
Sing in plainchant
The praises of unending sun
Deferring death to the imagination of frost
Which seldom calls

Trees whose tone is
An easy color of green
The romantic voices of Goethe and Rilke
Holding the natural rhythms of inflected languages
Each syllable almost rhyming
In the infinite rustle of leaves

With roots that swell in the heat
Like the ankles of pregnant women
Naked fingers reach
From damp ground
Into the protesting clouds.

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