Lady slipper Lady’s slipper dew dropped orchid girl at dawn… “a fool for her stockings,” someone said I was for hers, & I admit there were times sharp high heeled imprints walked over the backbone of my soul, because I let them & I let them Lady slipper Lady’s slipper dew dropped orchid girl at dawn… long gone
from Black Ice & Fire, Poems 1974-2014 by James Ross Kelly
In March, 1964 the Anchorage Earthquake sent a Tsunami down the Pacific Coast from Alaska to hit Crescent City, California causing major damage and 10 fatalities. Several of the fatalities happened to men sitting in a bar who thought it would be a good idea to get some six packs to go– and watch the Tidal Wave come in down at the Crescent City pier.
Poem for the Beer Drunk Fishermen Who were Lost at Sea Off the Crescent City Pier In the tidal wave of 1964—
fools on a spree six-packs underarms waving at deodorized fumes of unreason before the surf was up lost long before they were found between sausages hamburgers and the necessity of a mortgage to come home to filleted and floundered between fishing boats and the fuel of the barge flipping end over end on what was to be the flotsam and jetsam of what cannot live in the terrible sound of creation and beauty in cataclysmic mandate as water arcing over league upon league roll over roll fathom upon depth naming an unforgiving– “You!” at the beer tipping realization of the mistake about the smallness of what was thought to ought to be
A DOZEN OR MORE three-hundred-year-old black oaks spread over the top of the south side hill of our farm with a two-acre pasture on top and our house sat on the edge and overlooked a small twenty-acre valley bottom with Reese Creek and across it at the far side and then there was a similar hill of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir to complete the farms north edge as a cross section of a small valley running from our house south to north.
“I enjoyed And The Fires We Talked About; it contains many glimpses into worlds and ways of life that are rapidly disappearing. Written in a forthright, unﬂinching style, Mr. Kelly’s characters live and breathe and rise solidly from the pages. And The Fires We Talked About is an impressive anthology from the pen of a talented author — I do not hesitate to recommend it.” Charles Remington for Readers’ Favorite
Kelly’s stories are tough, real, honest, and always true. Unadorned by gimmick or artifice, the pieces in this collection—all framed between the imagined voices of that most primal couple, Adam and Eve—carry us deep into the heart of a wild American world that in many ways (and most definitely for a lot of younger people) sadly no longer exists. The human settings of these stories—bars, strip clubs, dingy apartments, goldmines, ranches, logging crews, homesteads, highways—are rich with details and textures that linger long after the closing sentences. Beyond those, however, there’s always a sense of something even larger and older surrounding the often small, sometimes strange, yet always compelling events his narrators are recounting. Sometimes this larger thing is the natural world—the oceans and forests, the plants and animals—always placing the events into their proper context. At other times, it’s the human interactions themselves that somehow seem to take on this greater, at times even mythic, weight and power. Reading these pieces, we recognize how the hungers and desires, the fears and hopes, the regrets and epiphanies of his people have all somehow entered our cultural DNA, and how—like them–it’s up to each of us to come to terms with all the beauty and terror that comes with being alive.
After 30+ years of teaching in colleges, universities, military bases, and prisons from Alaska to Louisiana, Dave Sims retired to the mountains of central Pennsylvania where he now dwells and creates. His most recent comix appear in The Nashville Review, Talking Writing, and Freeze Ray, and panels from his digital painting sequence “Somewhere Around the Edges,” appear on the cover and in the Winter 2019 issue of The Raw Art Review.
What Oregon authors say about this book:
“This book is good company. And I appreciate the opportunity to associate with intriguing folks out there where I rarely venture.”
Lawson Fusao Inada, emeritus professor of English at Southern Oregon University, Oregon Poet Laureate, and author of Before the War: Poems as They Happened, and Legends from Camp, which won an American Book Award in 1994.
“The remarkable thing about this collection—how often it touched my heart. These stories have a soul.”
Robert Leo Heilman, author Children of Death, and Overstory Zero: Real Life in Timber Country (Winner of the Andres Berger Award for Pacific Northwest Nonfiction 1996).
HE HANDED IT TO ME THEN, I DUNNO, how I did it—knew I shouldn’t, but I just sliced me a slice of fruit with the ol’ barlow knife while I was looking at a coiled up snake, who’d been talking to my woman.
Yes, damnit, I know I should have been suspect of a talking snake. Howsoever, first thing I know, I was making moonshine, skip and go naked foolin’ round til waay after midnight, every-night, everything seemed clear for a while, but trouble was I ended up havin’ to get-a-job, plus plow the farm and then the woman left, and I had to take care of the kids too, and keepin’ the house from fall’n apart.. No more huntn’ and fishin’ just makin’ mortgage payments for a farm I had been given free and clear long ago. Before the bank was even a notion, and it seems like there was a time when there was just plants and animals and clear blue sky, white clouds and the low and high blue flint hills and the woman had really just been a part of me that couldn’t no more leave than I could say anything bad about anything and having kids didn’t involve them growing up and killing each other. Back then I don’t ever remember screaming in the middle of the night either.
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The old man’s house was falling down ten years after his death; twenty-years after, the whole south face of Lyman Mountain and Ernie’s place by the Rogue River, was divided up and there were expensive homes built at various river viewpoints and no notion of Ernest Lyman, who had lived there for almost a century—was in anyone’s mind. However, one year after he’d passed, on a hot August, dusk evening that was beginning to cool, I waited for the red glow down river and Vaux’s swifts darted through warm air and willows along the river. Swifts in the red day glow off in the west and evening light.
At four, my parents’ divorce had moved my father and me from Rock Island, Illinois, south to the small Kansas town where I was born. My father had gained my custody in an era when men were generally not given custody of children. He accomplished this by getting my mother drunk just before court. His justification was that, in his absence, my mother had gone on a binge and left me alone in our apartment for almost two days. I have no memory of this. He had no apologies. My father was taking me to my grandmother’s house with my grandmother in his ’48 Ford. I had been excited about the house, and had a memory of it as glistening white.
Before all this, I had moved from Kansas and my grandmother’s house at two years old with my mother. We…