Tag Archives: Words

The Undoing by Marcia Aldrich

The Undoing by Marcia Aldrich

The Undoing
(The Great Michigan Ice Storm)
Marcia Aldrich

12/21, 10:42 p.m.: the power goes out—

Comes on, goes out, comes on,

Goes out for good. We wait.

Freezing rain pelts the skylights above us, holes to the night sky, no moon. Trees along the river creak and groan, black branches twisted in ice, hiss and split, undoing themselves all through the night. 500 pounds per quarter inch of ice for this glaze event, this silver thaw. The weight breaks whole trees, snaps them like tinder. Sometimes one bad thing happens after another, everything I touch and everything that touches me is a poison, a toxic thistle no one should brush up against much less eat, an invasive species that can’t be stopped. I want to pull this bad spell out at the root, yank it to kingdom come but there is no at the root; the tendrils of misfortune, spiny and studded and tenacious, have spread underground all the way to the river and neither fire nor flood nor ice can destroy them.


12/22, 7:59 a.m.: with trackers strapped to our boots, we walk the iced-over ground, find post-apocalyptic trees ripped open, gaping, split down the middle the way my mother’s hair turned grey in one streak of lightening after her husband died, caught in a collapsed steel mine.  A million little matchsticks are strewn across the frozen wastes, dogwoods and serviceberries bowed down and sunk into the snow. There’s something about not being able to do a thing that makes me let go, step out of myself, give over and give up the idea that I control anything. I am at the mercy of the storm; I am not entitled to a happy life, to food or warmth or berries at my feet. I can make nothing happen.  I am but an honored guest at the ice buffet.

Begin descent

from the plateau of yard

down the canal of railway ties

cut into the snow-crusted hill;

slide unceremoniously

in an epic push

to stand on the frozen river,

a new birth story;

See the gap between

the river’s ice


exposed tree roots—

a thaw zone.

A rusty drain pipe

2 feet in width

down the side of a yard

hangs over the river’s edge

a frozen waterfall

stillbirth in its mouth;

uprooted trees sprung free

sprawl across ice:

abandoned vessels.

One winter when I was seven, skating on the river below our house with kids from the neighborhood, Mike’s dog Rusty fell into a hole, a thaw zone, near the stone bridge. I fell in after him, the ice splintering all around me as I tried to pull us out. The hole got bigger and bigger until no one could reach us and the kids receded to the banks.

We see no one on the river—it is as if we are the last people alive, the last couple. No one ventures out to survey the damage, to clear the glass trees lit through with sunlight, to see the spun, blown glass arching over the river. The field’s maize-colored grasses, heavy with ice, kneel over—whole fields of them bowed in submission. We walk on the river, not the land. Why do I feel melancholy walking in the middle of the Red Cedar River? Has my mood been created by my memory or has the river created it? I remember what it was like to swim under the ice, to be unable to touch bottom, to wait for rescue.

Too cold, the footing too treacherous.  Not even the squirrels are out and the deer are bedded together deep wherever deer go in a storm front. They aren’t ready to venture out yet. Not more than a week ago, when I was washing dishes, I looked up from the sink and saw a herd of deer across the river in the snow-filled woods.  They were running in wide circles, looping round and round the horizon.  No one was chasing them, but the chase was in their blood.

There, the concrete remains of an abandoned bridge: a face to be written on.

Under the new bridge on Dobie Road, a carcass of a deer. Recently enough killed that the blood still mixes in the snow and ice: mess of fur, bare leg bones, and a fleshless rib cage. No stink in this cold. Was it hit by a car, did it limp to the river to die or did it fall through the ice and drown? The coyotes found it—the coyotes whose existence some people dispute here in mid-Michigan—but I’ve seen at least one coyote running on the edge of the bank by the river, an outlier. Sometimes the deer want to cross from one side of the river to the other. Last winter one stood at the edge of our yard for the longest time looking out at the river. She wanted to cross—I could feel it. I wanted to cross over too. She was wondering if the river was frozen enough to support her. The snow had formed a bed over the ice, making it hard to tell how thick the ice was. If she ventured across she would fall in and then I would fall in too.

12/22, 5:03 p.m.: darkness falls. House lit with candles. Standing at the sink in the faintly-lit dark, I feel something outside my windows in the backyard.  Sometimes before seeing I feel a change in vibrations, a rearrangement of the atoms in the air. I walk outside to the balcony and below me a large herd of deer, come out of hiding at the end of the day, gather and look up at me in a strange kind of healing on this winter night.  A motley crew, scruffy and winter-dark—the edges of their separate bodies disintegrate, undone by the night.  Waiting for a sign that the storm is over, that the creaking and groaning and splitting will cease, they look to me as if I am their patron saint.

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Apostate by John Keene

Apostate by John KeeneFeatured in Issue 1 of Madcap Review

Miles Dewey Davis, Jr.

Unbroken, yet the pain of lifting
your right arm remains unbearable,
some terrible shit going down in your blood,
these young dudes, trying to be helpful,
can’t understand what you mumbling,
so they nodding, painting traces
of tired melodies that sicken you
to your soul—where the fuck am I?
following whatever it is
they think they hearing
cause you a legend, and you recall
how astonishing and cruel you once were
towards your elders and peers, still are, tearing
out thirds from Bird and Diz’s circle,
cutting lesser trumpeters, scolding Trane,
strafing tracks by Haden and Evans,
disassembling modal systems,
driving that sweet group with Herbie
and Wayne in the early 1960s,
then fusion, dropping out, funkalating, walking in
late, blowing whether you cared or not,
turning your back to the audience
when you felt it, chords
so cold they would send brothers
and Swedish gals into paroxysms
cause they could never get enough
of what you withheld.  Now
you struggle to cop a breath
to shape a clean note.
Death, keep on stepping.

Truth is, they don’t know a goddamn thing
about Alton, Illinois.  They don’t
know what really went down
with the wives and children,
the other women, all those sidemen
whose shadows you carry around
like passkeys inside your harmonies,
how like the tonic in sonata form
what comes around
goes around and payback surely
is a bitch you’re paying
premium right now.
They don’t know what it means
to be a Black dentist’s son,
a scion, trained at Juilliard
and in the dream logic of Harlem,
returning to your daddy’s farm
long past grown, him leaving
you to live or die
in the sweat of your nightmares
in your room above the barn
as you battle the past,
your ghosts and junk,
wrestling like Jacob
the relentless angel that yearns
to slay you, lay you out
so you keep swinging,
burning in those hazy blues
of backrooms and burning spoons,
turning back to every word
and tune that ever sustained you—

Don’t fail—
finding the breath
to wield a grace note:
Death, not yet.

Tonight: amped to decibels to blow
the eardrums clear of hearing,
bassists and keyboardists
whose names you never learned
or cannot remember,
ancestors and mojos and Ju-Ju
protecting you
even though your heart
keeps popping like a snare drum
and your ears register
only a red buzzing,
you mount the stage—
or was that yesterday,
when you prepared to state
with your horn what your lips
refuse to bear away,
how it’s not about being a genius
or merely surviving, how nobody ever
sees what goes down in the head
of a brother striving so hard
to make something beautiful
and impregnable and lasting
out of the margins of this blue life,
how the dues you pay never suffice,
and you play and play and play
thinking that moment will come
but it never does, or it came so often
you realized it only too late,
like now, so you’ll always blame
yourself, assume responsibility.
Passion is a song you sing
on your own terms: the set opens,
and you hold your breath
to map the evening’s destiny: sound.
Death, get ready.

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There Is a Song by Shebana Coelho

There is a Song Shebana CoelhoFeatured in Issue 1 of Madcap Review

A bone of some
thing not human
an animal bone
small dull white
an arc rounding to edges
braised brown
cut with canyons
and rivers
that once ran

There are tiny holes at the edges
pin pricks that lead to a
hidden hollow land
where creatures who see
dark as light live and love
their bony lives

The curve in the middle
like a dancer
bending to song
lifting to spirit

The rough brown edges
blood dried blood lost
dark flesh darkened by

Someone killed
the flesh that
housed the bone

It has scars like me
its naked shape unafraid
to show where it hurts
where fissures cleave in two
separate the flesh once connected

What god once joined
man put asunder

There is a song in the bone
There is a song in the hollow
There is a song in the scar
I sing it

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