Michael Dwayne Smith

The Breakfast Tree

New neighbor’s hanging over my fence, avocado face yammering about his bread and butter, bread and butter, Why don’t my boss understand this how I make my quota? My spring morning quiet, sitting under my orange and lemon trees in my lawn chair, has flown off with the flustered sparrows and towhees.

He’s only had the house a few months, after Pop Bartlett died, 91 years old. No idea where they stole in from. Not Oriental. Not Mexican. Brown skin, black haired, too many kids to count.

The man admires a fat orange on a branch of my tree that’s grown out too near the cinder block wall that divides us.

This whole valley was citrus farmers when I was a kid, I tell him. We sped our Schwinn bikes through dirt rows and around smudge pots, grabbing fruit, old men with rock salt in their shotguns chasing lamely behind. Lemon juice, orange juice, lime, it flowed to us free and fresh, like water from the aqueduct our grandfathers built. This was desert. They made a paradise from barren land. Before it was overrun, bankrupted by freeloaders.

I’m looking him dead in the eye.

There was people here, he says, gawking the near-to-burst fruit. They lived the land before missions come. They knew it. They had, you call, tribes. Indians to your cowboys, no? He laughs a little.

The last standing navel orange tree in the valley sits on my property. A plump, sweet, juice-spraying orange hangs in his sight, a breakfast promised by old California. He’ll pluck it as soon as I turn away. I could just snap it from the tree, white blossoms filling the air, and I could offer it, a prize for my late wife’s sake. She always took pity on these creatures.

But I do not. Will not. This is not humanity, it’s California. And I am not his bread and butter.

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Michael Dwayne Smith proudly owns and operates one of the English-speaking world’s most unusual names.  Not counting a year in Alaska, he’s lived in or near the Inland Empire his entire life.  No one knows why.  He’s a long-ago graduate of U.C. Riverside’s undergrad creative writing program, where he studied with Stephen Minot, Maurya Simon, Susan Straight, and was honored to serve as editor-in-chief of UCR’s literary journal, Mosaic.  Michael’s poetry and fiction materialize at Monkeybicycle, BLIP (formerly Mississippi Review), Pirene’s Fountain, Right Hand Pointing, Northville Review, Red Fez, Quantum Poetry Magazine, Orion headless, Phantom Kangaroo, Four and Twenty, and other mysterious locations.  He lives in the high desert with his wife, son, and rescued animals—all of whom talk in their sleep.  He can be conjured using the spells michael dot blackbear at gmail dot com, michaeldwaynesmith.tumblr.com, or michaelthebear on Twitter.

Amy Floyd

           Amy Floyd has been a member of the Inlandia Creative Writing workshop in Riverside program since its first session began in June, 2008.

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The Weaver of White Park

          There is a girl who greets the gates of White Park in Riverside every morning, as soon as the park opens for the day. With her bag on her arm, she waits for just the right spot. She walks the park on long, young legs. Her footsteps are light and unsure, unwilling to hurt the blades of grass she treads upon.

          Each day, she goes to a different spot. Today, she sits beneath a tree that stoops under its own age, and pats it gently on the trunk as one would pet a great beast. She nods a greeting to the others as they pass her. Some she has seen over the years, while others have come to look her over with keen eyes and curious minds.

          She takes the blanket from her bag and stretches it out upon the grass, still wet with dew. With patient hands, she pulls four wooden needles from her bag and listens for the time to begin. A man passes by, whistling a tune that only his ears can understand, and she snatches the notes with nimble fingers. They are silver with the light of joy and she measures each string from her ear to her heart. There are four strands in all to form the weft of her weave; four directions for the anchor of her creation. She threads the needles, polished smooth by time, and the four strands become eight. She nods her head to the foundation chain. Eight is a strong number, one that can last forever in the right hands.

          As the day passes, the woman lets her eyes wander over the city around her, her ears picking out the right pieces. A baby’s cry is lemon yellow and finds its way to her fingertips. She quickly feeds it onto the loom and snatches the burnt umber of an old man’s cough, adding it to the rose-colored coo of new lovers. The red and white of a paramedic’s siren are shadowed by the gray of deep loss. She works quickly to complement these new colors to her palate with the leafy green of new life carried in the womb of a woman passing by, a woman who knows not yet of the miracle within her. The electric blue of music pulses from the windows of passing cars. Next, the footsteps of a hurried pedestrian form a special shade of heather, soft and thick.

          The woman works quickly, the sun on the grass before her counting off the time of day. It used to be so much easier to work here, before the illusion of safety wrapped the park in shackles of iron.  There are so many sounds surrounding her, so many colors to choose from, and very little time in which to work. There’s a tangle of tan with office workers gossiping, not so much listening to the conversation, as each waiting for their turn to speak. This becomes framed by the orange of barking dogs and the scolding, red shouts of their owners.

          She strains her ears to find the golden notes, the ones without which no piece can be complete: the mumbled musings of an artist, reading poetry to inspire his or her next piece, some kind of universal truth that many search for their whole lives, only to find it waiting outside their front door. Today, she is presented with the gasp of a youth who has found that old age does not always grant wisdom, and that life is better lived firsthand. While books and songs may give the illusion of life, they pale in comparison to the experience itself.

          She smiles as she caresses the final piece, knowing, without looking, where it belongs. She shakes with the weight of it.  Her hands ache with the work. She slows, and the time draws near. She ties off the final strand to the edge of her piece and slips the thread from her needles. Now completed, the old woman lays the weaving before her to inspect her work. It is time for the park to close for the evening, and many pass before her out the gate. Some turn to look as they leave, nodding in approval. Others look with wonder. The last people walk by, their faces stone. The future will come to them as it always has; each day is a different piece.

          She takes one last glance at her finished work, knowing that it will dissolve with the next morning’s dew. She slips the needles into her bag and uses the tree’s trunk to pull herself up onto old, arthritic legs. Tomorrow is another day, and a new weaving. As the gates swing closed, she bids the park goodnight.
___

Amy Floyd, a resident of Riverside and mother of two young boys, holds a B.A. in Education from the University of Redlands. Her poetry and prose writing has been published in the 2011 Writing from Inlandia creative writing workshops anthology, and also in Slouching Toward Mt. Rubidoux Manor, issues #1-3 from 2008-10. Her writing has also appeared in Phantom Seed issue 4 in 2010. Amy  self published an e-book entitled Do Serial Killers Smile At Their Victims? through Amazon.com last April, and is currently in the process of publishing more electronic works. She is also an artist whose piece “Heading In” was published in 2011 in the anthology A Bird as Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens.

Yelizaveta Renfro

A writer and photographer, Yelizaveta P. Renfro’s work has appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, North American Review, Colorado Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, South Dakota Review, Witness, Reader’s Digest, Blue Mesa Review, and in newspapers. Her short story collection, A Catalogue of Everything in the World, is available from Black Lawrence Press. She lived in Riverside for more than twenty years and has since lived in Virginia, Nebraska, and Connecticut. View her work in this issue here & here.

Suzanne Maguire

Not Yet

spring, scratching at my skin and burning my eyes
the persistent chirping of a mockingbird
the sun too hot too early, on cold dry skin
long shadows on longer evenings

wild mustard and fescue
pushing through what has been carefully planted
exhaling hay fever
gnats, fruit flies, mosquitoes
sagging fruit trees
too full, too fast

cars whisk by leaving flashes of sound: rock music, mariachi, angry voices
there are new neighbors
unfamiliar voices filtering through the fence lined thick with xylosma
there are foxtails poking through my socks
but I am like the iris bulbs in the earth
waiting for their resurrection
not yet, not yet

___

Suzanne Maguire grew up running in the hills behind La Sierra University, playing hide and seek among the orange groves on Irving and Victoria Avenue, and racing her brother and sisters along the Gage canal. She took classes at Riverside Community College and received her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Riverside. The more she writes the more she realizes that this city, or some fictional version of it, is not only the setting of her stories and poems, but a major character as well.

Suzanne Maguire

Suzanne Maguire grew up running in the hills behind La Sierra University, playing hide and seek among the orange groves on Irving and Victoria Avenue, and racing her brother and sisters along the Gage canal. She took classes at Riverside Community College and received ehr bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Riverside. The more she writes the more she realizes that this city, or some fictional version of it, is not only the setting of her stories and poems, but a major character as well. View her work in this issue here, here & here.

Jacqueline Mantz Rodriguez

          Jacqueline Mantz Rodriguez’s commitment to self exploration through writing is an artful devotion. A devotion to clarity, a raw devotion imbued with awakening into one’s bounds & boundlessness.

— Maureen Alsop

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Juarez, 5002

Lee, my sister, now mother of two, was one of those girls. Women
who haunt people in their own faces:  Sisters, Fellow
Writers, Women, all those women.

Cecilia, journalist with a Ph.D.
looks like those women.
Her hair straight and long,
dark skin, walking the streets pausing,
as men both young and old whistle.

Searching for a key or clue to Esmeralda’s desmise,
who was saving for her Quinceanera.
“I want to pitch in mom.”.

Cecilia looks like those girls,
no station or education
may recreate color-
Everywhere Juarez

Where would Reina and Patricia, Lee’s little ones be if,
on such a drunken night in Tijuana,
TJ to all who go to play,
Lee and her older sister had never awoke?
Death instead of a shameful story?

Nude arms grasping dirt and air,
cuddled together.
Instead of
Tiptoed steps out the door past snores of drunken boys met two days ago at
Mr. Js Nighclub  El Monte, CA

Everywhere Juarez brims
while women and girls
sit with heads bowed.
“I am not those women.”

__

Write about five moments you would like to do over…

Moment 1 flashes by in a space saucer shaped cloud.
I want to time travel back, back to that point when you said, “the dog is walking you.”
I should of laughed, smiled at the very least or just, at the very least stayed dormant.  I did not, cannot it seemed pause when agitated, with you.

This is how it goes, we all know these are the moments, that define the worry
lines on our face,

That force pens to fall from a clutched hand on a signature line.

Moment 2
Another moment, another cloud this one God.  I screamed, “I hate you, I’ll never forgive you…
once it seems so long ago you said you read, “A happy marriage is made up
of two good forgivers.”
I did forgive you but I’ll spend eternity trying to forgive myself.

Moment three
Moment three
Moment three
Three clouds pass by and I think, hope
If I say it three times fast a chant of desperation maybe I’ll get a do over, a rewind.

I looked at you, frowned and put you down rather than listening.  I snatched my hand away and dove into the arms of another, even if it was my dog.  I let pride push,
no hurl me away.

Moment four
I don’t want to see the clouds anymore, or remember.  Do not
Make me remember, God.

I left, left you to cry alone out of sheer stubbornness even as I saw your tears well up; I still left and now I am gone now far away, and I cannot, cannot get back to you no matter
how hard I try.

Forever Moment Five

I swallow, eyes still shut as I float on a cloud.  I never did get back to you that day.  Accidents just happen, how was I to know?  I should have known, so I could Still be there with you watching as you rub your eyes.  I would then get to reach out and hold your hand to comfort you one more time.

__

Jacqueline Mantz Rodriguez was born in Great Falls, Montana but immigrated to the Inland Empire as a young child growing up in Ontario, California. She resides in Palm Springs and works as a special education teacher at Palm Springs High.  Jackie is currently working on her novella “Coo Coo La La Love and Other Tales I Tell While Doodling” while preparing a documentary on her special education students. Jacqueline received her B.A. in literature and creative writing from Cal State San Bernardino and her Masters degree and teaching credentials from National University. Jacqueline’s loves are her husband Joe and her Boston Terrier Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  Please visit Jackie’s blog on Word Press to read her collection of poetry, movie and restaurant reviews, and memoirs about the joy of teaching, marriage and dog rearing at: Love2writeandrelatetoworld.wordpress.com Any other questions or comments please email Jackie at jmantz (at) psusd (dot) us.

Kathryn Wilkens

           Kathryn Wilkens has been participating in the Inlandia Creative Writing Workshop in Ontario since September 2011, and in that time it has become apparent that Kathryn’s work is that of a seasoned writer and not a novice. In this piece, “Crossroads”, her rich descriptions of rural life embody both the joy and heartache of childhood, and are representative of her skill in her favored form — the personal essay.
          — Cati Porter

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Crossroads

          Barefoot, I slammed through the screen door, bounded down the gravel driveway past the abandoned chicken coop and ran toward the golden fields of midsummer grain. When I passed the equipment shed, my eyes swept to the left, then widened as I stopped short. My heart pounded as I took in a row of stunted cornstalks rustling listlessly in the breeze.

          Of course corn was a common sight in the Midwest—driving down the road you’d see rows of lush green corn stretching off to the horizon. But these plants had emerged in an odd place: on an earthen ramp, directly in front of the double doors which Dr. Martin would soon slide open to roll out the huge harvester. He would wonder how in the heck cornstalks had sprouted there. I was pretty sure I knew.

          The farmhouse my family rented from Dr. Martin was at a crossroads on U.S. 27, two miles south of Lynn, Indiana. A gravel road ran along one side of the property, then skirted soybean fields and crossed railroad tracks before disappearing into the woods. We moved there the summer I was five. My first memories are indistinct, like an Impressionist painting by Monet: flashing fireflies in glass jars, a green sofa where I lay recovering from measles and mumps, newborn kittens mewling their helplessness.

          It was a four-season home. On autumn Saturdays we visited apple farms and burned piles of leaves that fell from elms and maples. In winter, storms coated branches with gleaming ice, and I learned how to skate on the frozen creek.  The whole house vibrated when a truck backed in the driveway and let loose a load of coal which tumbled down a chute into the basement.

          In spring I inhaled organic smells the sun coaxed from the ground on windy days. Along the railroad tracks grew wild strawberries which my older sisters, brother and I picked and ate. We lined up pennies on the rail and waited for the next train to flatten them to the size of fifty-cent pieces.

          In summer we set off fireworks in the driveway, ran through wheat fields after a rain and walked on stilts. At night we spread blankets in the front yard to count cars whizzing past and trace the Big Dipper in the sky.

          Some things lasted year-round—fighting between Dad and my brother, my sisters’ bickering, silent strife between Mom and Grandma. As the youngest in the family, I was powerless to intervene, so I spent time alone—wandering along the creek or reading Bambi in a tree.

          Or I’d play with the litter of kittens in the hay barn. My favorite one, the calico, died and I cried for days. Not long after, a group of men came to shear the sheep, and must have forgotten to close the gate when they left. After dark the flock escaped and several sheep ran onto the busy highway and were killed.

          That summer my mother planted a vegetable garden which yielded tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. Just for fun I filched a dried-up ear of field corn from the barn, broke off a few kernels and pretended to plant them on the ramp behind the equipment shed.

          Weeks later, as I ran by barefoot, I saw the row of puny cornstalks. Didn’t the corn know I was only playing? Apparently not—the stalks were undeniable proof that it had taken me seriously. My heart pounded—not in fear, but in the dawning awareness that something I did had actually brought about a change in the world.

          By the time I turned seven my Monet memories were sharpening into focus. We would soon move away from the house at the crossroads, a place that marked for me another kind of crossroads, the intersection of childhood and—not adulthood, certainly, but call it personhood. While living there I had learned to count, read, ride a bike and ice skate. I confronted sadness and loneliness. I began to see that a world existed beyond my family, a world of specificity.

          I lived in a particular place. Other places could be reached by going north, south, east or west. The things around me could be counted: two sisters, seven kittens, one brother. Dr. Martin’s farm covered sixty acres, with forty trees around the house. There were 26 letters in the alphabet and 48 stars on the flag. I fit into a logical, quantifiable scheme where nothing was random or vague. My actions had consequences and those consequences were predictable. A penny left on the railroad track would be flattened by the next freight train. And seeds, poked into the earth in jest, would grow into serious cornstalks

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Kathryn Wilkens began writing for publication in 2000. Several of her travel articles have appeared in The Los Angeles Times. She has written essays and articles for Writers’ Journal, Personal Journaling, Verbatim and The Christian Science Monitor. Four of her essays have appeared in anthologies, most recently Writers and Their Notebooks (South Carolina Press, 2009). She lives a short drive from the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario where she has enjoyed Cati Porter’s Inlandia workshop.

Roger Camp

Roger Camp’s images have been published in over 100 magazines, most recently on the covers the The New England Review, Redivider, Kestrel, Lumina as well as in the NYQ, Antioch Review, Southwest Review, Chicago Review and the Harvard Review. He is the author of three books of photography, Butterflies in Flight, Thames & Hudson, 2002, 500 Flowers, Dewi Lewis Media, 2005, and Heat, Charta/DAP, 2009. His documentary photography has been awarded a Leica Medal of Excellence and a Graphis photographer of the year award. He has taught photography at The University of Iowa, Columbus College of Art & Design, and the Cite Internationale Universitaire de Paris. Additional examples of his work may be found at rogercampohoto.com. His work in this issue can be viewed here.

Karen Greenbaum-Maya

Karen Greenbaum-Maya is a clinical psychologist in Claremont, California. She has been writing since she was nine. In another life, she was a German Lit major and read poetry for credit. She has placed poems and photographs in many publications, including Off the Coast, Umbrella, Abyss & Apex, qarrtsiluni, Poemeleon, Lilliput Review, In Posse Review, and Sow’s Ear Poetry Review. She was nominated for the 2010 Pushcart Prize. Her first chapbook, Eggs Satori, received an Honorable Mention in Pudding House Publications’ 2010 competition, and will be published in 2011. Her work can be viewed in this issue here.