Dianne Kellogg – Ghost Pipes

Dianne Kellogg
Ghost Pipes

Dianne Kellogg studied watercolours with Florian K. Lawton (1921 – 2011), an American visual artist and a realist painter who painted Amish rural life near her home in Northeastern Ohio. His influence informs her eye for detail and interest in the natural world. This artwork of ghost pipes, or Monotropa uniflora as they are known by their Latin classification, was discovered in the undergrowth near her Pennsylvania cabin. In June 2017, she added it to her collection of fungi photos only to find that it was actually flora similar to mistletoe. Kellogg has manipulated the photo taken with a Galaxy VI mobile telephone by using halo and dry brush effects in Adobe Photoshop to create the digital image.

Dianne Kellogg, Ghost Pipes, digital image, 2018.

Bob Ward – Two Signatures

Bob Ward
Two Signatures

Bob Ward is a contributor of poetry, an essay, and photographs to Amsterdam Quarterly. He discovered this indenture document of Benjamin Gains, a distant but direct relative, folded up and tucked away in the corner of a family Bible. He photographed the document using a Canon 20D SLR fitted with a 50mm macro lens in natural light and no flash to prevent damage. This document is now stored in the West Yorkshire County Archive, which will ensure its preservation.

Bob Ward, Two Signatures, photograph, 2005

Unknown Photographer – The Belding Family Reunion

Unknown Photographer
The Belding Family Reunion

Jennifer Clark writes about the photograph’s origin: ‘The Belding Family Reunion is a family photo that was taken in 1909 in Belding, Michigan by an unknown photographer. A number of people within the photo have been identified by my soon to be 90-year-old father, Joseph Engemann. The photo’s porch setting is the former home of my great-great-grandmother, Theresa Spaeth Martin, who was born in Germany 1835, came to America in 1851, and who died about eight years after this photograph was taken’.

Photographer unknown, The Belding Family Reunion, photograph, circa 1909

Charles Joseph Albert – Endgame

Charles Joseph Albert
Endgame

I still haven’t decided whether the mythical Inuit custom was more barbaric than we are now, or less — leaving their elders on an ice floe with one final day’s supply of food — and the ancients may have gone willingly, given that in such a harsh climate, the burden to their children and grandchildren of maintaining their existence may have been so uncomfortable that the cruelty of freezing to death was in fact a kind of beautiful mercy, whereas here in the US we haven’t even legalized physician-assisted suicide, indeed when I asked my own parents “which do you prefer, adult in continents, or youth in Asia?” they did not laugh in a very convinced manner … not sure, I think, how much of a joke the question really was, because the truth is that their upkeep is a burden in this country of barbarously cold capitalism; Mom and Dad didn’t think to provide for their retirement, so now we children take care of them, which is why I can’t afford to pay for college for my own children – at this rate I won’t even be able to afford my own retirement — as the guilt of ungrateful thoughts washes out some of the pleasure of seeing them again as they hobble in, my father settling into a corner chair to re-read the same three pages of his dime-store Western novel, my mother complaining without irony about shiftless immigrants who expect the government to do everything for them, though I am not deluding myself, I do know they have only a short time left, that once they are gone the door will be forever closed and I will never again be have the only bridge to my genealogy, my childhood, my personal history, and the two largest heroes of my childhood.

Shawn Aveningo-Sanders – From Those Who Came Before

Shawn Aveningo-Sanders
From Those Who Came Before

             I am
                           Nanny’s
                           illegal gator ankle-straps
                           matching handbag
                           parading down Columbia Street
                           in the boot-heel of Missouri.

                           Popo’s
                           straw fedora, clip-on bow tie,
                           puffing on a pipe
                           filled with cherry tobacco,
                           smoke tickling the blackbirds.

             I am
                           Chipped piano keys
                           on Grandma’s upright Wurlitzer,
                           middle-C clicking
                           like her Ball jar of gallstones.

                           The grandfather
                           I never met,
                           standing tall, stoic
                           his secrets kept safe behind
                           an ailing heart that quit too soon.

             I am
                           Aunt Nadine’s
                           shoebox of poems tied with ribbon;
                           Aunt Helen’s
                           full bosom in a starched white blouse;

                           Uncle Denny’s
                           wanderlust, guilt for leaving.
                           Aunt Carol’s
                           doll hidden in a dresser drawer.

             I am
                           Dad’s
                           sarcasm and smarts,
                           his spreadsheet balancing
                           indiscretions and sensibility.

                           Mom’s
                           smudged lipstick on her teeth
                           and the strength to carry on with a smile.

Renzo Besozzi – My Lisanza

Renzo Besozzi (translated by Bryan R. Monte)
My Lisanza. Summer memories of an octogenarian.
A reading by the old ‘doc’ from Lisanza

There are no certain rules to define whether a village, like Lisanza, should have a masculine or feminine name, but I shall decline it in the feminine: Lisanza is small, and beautiful, and my homeland. I’m not the only one: our dear dialect poet Giovanni Bonfini used to say ‘Lisanza mia’. Lisanza preserves my summer memories, memories of a Lisanza that is no more; only in my heart.

The sounds. Not the far roar of the road, but the chirping of the birds, the cockcrow, the mooing of cows waiting to be milked, the crickets, the croaking of frogs, the vociferous calls of the children in the square, the sweet toll of the bells crowning summer evenings, when the sun is engulfed by its own embers.

The cobbled square. The boys, armed with long poles try to intercept the improvised flight of bats. The men sit on the steps to observe complacently and to tell the events of the day. The old women drag their chairs under the hallway of the backyard to watch the spectacle of the rowdy youth. Clouds of midges clustered in columns sway up and down. Myriads of sparrows intertwine the sky, myriads of midges cluster in columns, sway up and down, and then line up later on the strands of light.

The shore of the lake. The fishermen sitting on the ground, armed with shuttles, patch the long nets spread out on the grass, the house of the tencia (for the dyeing of nets), the women kneeling on their ‘stretchers’ while plunging the clothes into the water of the lake, the sheets stretched out on the grass by the shore to bleach, the boats lined up, the cows left to graze the sharp grass on the marshy shoreline banks. The wailing, under your barefoot step, of the grassy ground wet by the slow reflux of light waves.

Fishing. The children, armed with cane and bait boxes, spent the entire morning trying to ‘hunchback’ fish into their ‘tanes’, or to more easily lure a ‘perch-trout’ (the boccalone). Myriads of bleak shamans, from the forest of green algae, bite the bright hooks. The older children organized themselves into groups for bag fishing, much more productive, and they share the spoils. At home, mothers are tired of cleaning small fish every day, but they let them do it, so they have some free time by their children.

The lake. Always calm and smooth, in the sunny and silent noons you can hear the voices of the children fishing on the other shore, you do not see them, but feel them as if you were next to them. Clear and clean water, who does not have the well in the yard, draws from the lake with the bucket (in the corona, or where the water is deeper). The magnificent sunsets paint the waters red and violet. The slow slipping of the boat, the water slapping against the keel, while the oars rub across the surface.

The castle. It was already considered a ruin during the Maria Theresa of Austria census of 1722. The steep, cobblestone road that winds its way up the strange, low, near-lake chine, from the other moraine hills. The square, roofless tower, the oval wall enclosing the plateau where the church was, the enclosure of the old cemetery, with the headstones on the walls, according to the dictates of Napoleon’s edict of Saint Claude.

The icehouse. Beautiful and practical hexagonal construction near the lake, which the cooperative of fishermen fills with ice and snow pressed in winter and that throughout the year serves to store the fish waiting to be delivered to the merchants.

The slingshot. Toy and weapon of all boys, built with a small piece of wood and strips of rubber cut out of old bicycle tyres. Hunting for poor paserotti, poor sparrows or swallows or the few lamps on light poles. Sometimes also used in bloody battles between groups of boys. Fortunately, the shots are not very precise. We were no better than the youth of today.

One day a year, a great party for us children, comes to ‘Crociera’ Street (where today there is a traffic light) a hellish and noisy threshing machine and all those who have cultivated wheat or other cereal bring the bundles to be shelled, and they bring back their sacks with the fruit of their labour and the straw bales, magically spat out and tied with the wire, which will be used for the litter of the animals in the stalls.

The hay. Guys, let’s go to make hay. Yesterday, the great ones mowed the grass of the fields and this morning they have turned it over to dry completely. We bring the cows to the cart, the double yoke to the rudder, tridents and rakes, and we children on the empty wagon. We keep the cows still while the big ones load the hay; now and then we move the cart, and the mound grows … up to two or three metres. And then back on the wagon, we climb over the scented hay and so we return home, hot and happy.

Dear, old Lisanza, which I revive in my heart, the land of my father ‘in whom I trust, a kind and pious mother, who covers both my kinsman’, as Petrarch says! AQ

Peter Neil Carroll – Mr Smith

Peter Neil Carroll
Mr Smith

The blacksmith bellows his flame, iron glowing,
turns the antique railroad spike into a swirled
handle, pounding the blade flat. Something
backward has triumphed before my eyes,
stories of my grandmother’s father, Myron,
notorious for choosing soot over soap.

My uncles spoke of his powerful arms, how
the old man could break fingers with a handshake,
but my mother only described his awful stench
and matted beard. She saw him as a throwback,
misplaced country immigrant in the big city,
a lesson for dirty-faced boys like her son.

Mr Smith mangles the language but knows
the art of horseshoes, scissors, railroad track,
density of carbon molecules in his wrought knife,
the satisfaction of hard and durable and sharp,
accomplishment you can put your finger on
only if you’re careful and know how to touch.

Jennifer Clark – Upon showing a long-lost photograph to my father …

Jennifer Clark
Upon showing a long-lost photograph to my father,
an invertebrate zoologist

We come from the deep and the slow. A colony of bottom dwellers,
we got our start in the abyssal dregs, below the groans of whales,
just above the quaking earth, living long lives in the cold sea,
bearing immense pressure, raising children in the dark.

We lived in the ocean until some of us came out.

Clearly, by the 1900s we’ve made it to land.
Sober and dry, our kin stare into the camera, its eye
too small to take in the mossy woods and Great Lakes.
I point to my grandfather wearing a bowler hat and my father’s face.

Look, I say, you even have the same willowy hands.
My father studies the photo, then says, We have never been alone;
we held hands with flora and fauna as soon as we ventured
out of the primordial soup.

This is your grandmother, Magdelina, right? Her husband
isn’t in this photo because he died long before, left her to raise
eight children on her own, right? I search her eyes that squint into sun
or sadness, feel fragments of old grief lodged in my bones.

My son wanders by on two legs.
‘I’m bored. There’s nothing to do’.
‘Good’, I tell him. ‘You’ll figure something out.
We come from a line that always does’.

I squeeze my father for more information and learn this: We spin
on a world dripping with cousins and cousins many times removed.
Our cousin Sponge, an animal of simple cells, can hold hope and water.
Even the most remote relations leave watermarks on our genetic code.

Over time, we grew guts and mouths.
In Belding, Michigan, children with dusty boots
grow hints of smiles.

Ah, yes, this is your great-grandmother, Magdelina, he says, pointing
to the woman I’ve been wondering about. I almost didn’t recognize
her with that dark hair. I knew her when she was old, her hair white.
She’d keep it coiled on top, held up with pins. She stayed with us kids
when our folks went to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
At night, I’d watch her release the pins and comb her long hair.

It has taken a long time to get to these waters.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise; it’s taken billions of years
to get to this grainy light of day – all the greats gathered on a wooden porch,
great-uncle Frank leaning against a pillar, great aunt Lucy, the pearls
of her eyes glinting, and what looks to be a starfish in her hair.

Photographer unknown, The Belding Family Reunion, photograph, circa 1909

Joe Cottonwood – Redhead

Joe Cottonwood
Redhead

Your great-great grandmother
with posture like steel
steamed to America at age fourteen,
married the coal-haired sailor who asked:
Who set your head on fire?
Who froze the flame?

Her inky-haired daughter, your great grandmother
with steely drive in the Great Depression
worked her way through university
studying ornithology
while raising crow-haired children.

Her youngest son wandered to California,
your grandfather bearded in sable
paired up with a steamy woman of Afro top
back to the land raising crops of illegal vintage,
then to legal vines, stable life.

Their daughter, your brunette mother
of dusky skin and choir voice
home-schooled, then PhD in feminist history
wed to a Jewish song-writing organic farmer
who looks like a smiling porcupine.

But you, dear girl
dear sweet amazing pumpkin
with eyes of steel,
Who set your head on fire?
Who froze the flame?

Jennifer L. Freed – Imposter

Jennifer L. Freed
Imposter

Our parents
don’t seem to notice.
But soon after we unfold ourselves
from the long drive north, we
know: Grandma
must have been taken, may even be
dead.

Her body
is there, in the kitchen, cooking,
cleaning, knowing where
to put the spatula, the sponge, the bread,

but her eyes dart,
and dart away. Her arms,
when we cuddle, are cold.
She does not cup our cheeks with tender hands,
or cover them with kisses.

And when we try to call her back, she spins
with stony eyes,
spits, No, you don’t. You never
did. And I
never loved you,
either.