Noctua Review XII (with a poem by Stephen Page)

Noctua Review issue XIII

Below is the link for the digital issue of Noctua Review. Check it out!!

https://issuu.com/noctuareview/docs/noctua_review_vol._xii_issuu

With a poem on page 37 by Stephen Page, entitled “Parrot Plague,” which by the way, will be included in a book by Stephen Page to be released later this year.

corn cropParrot Eating Corn

(Photo of parrot courtesy of 123RF)

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(Cover and bird super mobile courtesy of Noctua Review)

BLP » Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets (with an Essay by Stephen Page)

BLP » Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets
— Preorder on www.blacklawrence.com/far-villages-welcome-essays-for-new-and-beginner-poets/

With an essay by Stephen Page

Order a copy for yourself (even for brush up), for a novice poet friend, or (for teachers) order a slew for your next poetry writing class.

Contributors:

Abayomi Animashaun, Jose Araguz, Stacey Balkun, Chaun Ballard, Christine Beck, David Bergman, Marina Blitshteyn, Michelle Bonczek, DanielBosch, Zoe Brigley, Aaron Brown, Guillermo Cancio-Bello, Rob Carney, Kelly Cherry, Michael Collins, Tasha Cotter, Rishi Dastidar, Noah Davis, Victoria L. Davis, Todd Fleming Davis, Jaydn DeWald, Melanie Faith, Jenny Ferguson, Kyle Flak, Leonard Franzen, Robbie Gamble, John Guzlowski, David Harris, Duane L. Herrmann, Jon Hoel, Natalie Homer, Kathryn Hummel, Ashton Kamburoff, Laura Kaminski, C. Kubasta, John Langfeld, Joan Leotta, Tanis MacDonald, David Maduli, Katie Manning, Michael Martin, Jason McCall, Nathan McClain, J.G. McClure, Megan Merchant, Amy Miller, Norman Minnick, Jennifer Moore, James B. Nicola, Dike Okoro, Stephen Page, Gillian Parish, Barbara Perry, Kevin Pilkington, Darby Price, Jessamine Price, Michael Rather, Jr., Nancy Reddy, Christine Riddle, John Robinson, Diana Rosen, Helen Ruggieri, Claudia Savage, Nancy Scott, David Shumate, Linda Simone, Tara Skurtu, Carol Smallwood, Emily Stoddard, WhitneySweet, Thom Tammaro, Sophia Terazawa, Kari Treese, J.S. Watts, Kari Wergeland, Ben White.

PRAISE

  • Ooh! I love this book, love hearing others speak about their craft, their muses and monsters. Filled to the brim with all things poetry, this book offers beginners (and experienced writers because there is always something more to learn) a place to start, where to go next—and what might happen there. These essays are enabling and encouraging and useful. They speak not only to process but also to the life of the poet, the business of poetry and the need for literary citizenship and community. This is a book I’ll return to again and again! Readers will, too. And get a fountain pen!!
  • —Karla Huston, Wisconsin Poet Laureate 2017—2018

Editor:

Abayomi Animashaun

Abayomi Animashaun is a Nigerian émigré. He holds an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and
a PhD from the University of Kansas. His poems have appeared in several print and online journals, including 
Diode, TriQuarterly, The Cortland ReviewAfrican American ReviewSouthern Indiana ReviewThe Adirondack Review, Passages North, and Versedaily. A recipient of the Hudson Prize and a grant from the International Center for Writing and Translation, Abayo is the author of three poetry collections, Seahorses, Sailing for Ithaca, and The Giving of Pears, and the editor of three anthologies, Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New & Beginner Poets, Others Will Enter the Gates: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America, and Walking the Tightrope: Poetry and Prose by LGBTQ Writers from Africa (with Spectra, Tatenda Muranda, Irwin Iradunkunda, and Timothy Kimutai). A member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, Abayo teaches writing and literature  at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and lives with his wife and two children in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

#FarVillages

#poetry #poets #essaysOnWritingPoetry

Editor: #AbayomiAnimashaun #BlackLawrencePress

#writingpoetry #benningtonwritingseminars

The Salty River

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STEPHEN PAGE

The Salty River

featured in the poetry forum September 14, 2018  :: 0 comments

I was standing on a grassy hill
overlooking The Salty River
that winds and flows
along Santa Ana’s North-Western border.
The sun was about to set
and the star was turning orange.
The Ponies and The Calves were leaping about
as if celebrating the survival of another day.
The corn was knee high, and the wheat fields
were shorn to short stalks that looked
like the three-day blond stubble of a recently shaped beard.
Birds were chirping and singing
like they too were reveling in the End.
The Cultivators were nowhere to be seen,
their noxious machinery fumes and pesticides
not clouding the air or poisoning the Earth.
The Gauchos were all in their homes
with their families, eating, or drinking mate.

Just as the sun disappeared over the horizon,
The Pink Flamingoes in the river hued red.

editors note:To look upon a scene; to be the scene; the scene in you; belonging… – mh clay

Another Week Begins

featured in the poetry forum February 11, 2018  :: 0 comments

When Jonathan turns off the highway the mud
in the road is a foot deep. He clicks his vehicle
into 4-wheel drive and creeps forward in first gear
so not to slide into one of the ditches. The white gates
of his ranch are open, El Misionero standing next
to them. He rolls his window down and sighs. The air
smells green. Green. Green.

He drives to his office and talks with his capataz,
then they climb in the ranch pickup to go see a calf
cadaver. It was born early that morning with a curled-
neck deformity, and unable to reach its mother’s tit
or the water trough, it just stumbled around awhile and fell
on its side. The gauchos had skinned it and the vultures picked
it mostly clean, the eyes plucked out, the tongue sliced in half,
bits of intestine lying next to the spine, the heart and lungs mush
under the gristly ribs.

They drive to the Yellow House casco to see a pony cadaver.
Apparently, last night it leaped the fence around the
swimming pool and fell in the water. It lay on its side
on the grass where the yardkeeper placed it, its legs
stiff in the curled positions of swimming, yellow froth
tubed out of its nostrils. It was only three-weeks old.

Jonathan goes for a long walk, alone — he admires
the greening grass, the knee-high wheat, the sprouting corn,
the blooming chamomile, the calves and ponies leaping about
pastures spotted white with egrets.

He hears bees buzzing, mockingbirds singing —
and he keeps walking, walking; walking
past the pastures, past the Wood,
until he enters a fallow field.

As he approaches a small marsh
a flock of black ibis lift
and cloud away.

editors note:Like any week, we walk through cadavers to stand free. – mh clay

Transformations

featured in the poetry forum October 19, 2016  :: 1 comment

The weight of grass is heavy
Upon my shoulders; lift it,

Scythe is, mow it, let the cattle
Feed that I may walk again.

I sit upon a log in the shade
Of Wood. I sip mate.

I visit Buenos Aires and lie
In bed all day and watch cartoons.

I just want to sleep in
One Saturday, One Monday.

I want the Field Crossers
To stop trampling the grass,

To stop walking across my back
When they think I am napping:

Don’t they know the padlock turns
Are all numbered and recorded?

Editor, Advisor, stop planting corn
When I want my fields clovered.

I want again my daily strolls
In the quiet of Wood,

To watch for hours the bumblebees work
And lock eyes with the mockingbird.

editors note:Clover over corn? Yes! (This poem is a fine one of the mad many included in Stephen’s new collection, A Ranch Bordering the Salty River, published by Finishing Line Press. Get it here.) – mh clay

Satellites

featured in the poetry forum June 29, 2016  :: 0 comments

The tree frogs called the rain last night,
but the rain did not answer.
The intermittent croaking, about
every hour or so, was followed by
a gust of wind and the scent
of water, but no sprinkle, no pour.

The new gaucho, an angelic Moral
who rides our horse to sores,
has dried the soy beans not yet
planted. He horns the sun and peels
paint from his home.

Twenty millemeters of rain is not
forty nine, even with the north
wind. Two plastic gauges announce
the Tattler’s arrival in the park.

The newer gaucho, taller, broader
shouldered than the Angel
shunned away, suffers the sun
of unshaded twenty-one with
a smile and shovel-blistered hands
(but later became the Excuse Maker).

Just one day of the computer-
promised rain should soften the earth
and shoot the canal
full of internet cable, that is,
if the flexible orange pipe is found
on time.

With each truck that passes lot
three, earth crumbles and narrows
the road. We hope that the Three
barricade that which blackened
and thinned the cows.

I will the odometer to quit
increasing exponentially, and the bushes
Teresa planted not to yellow near
our home.

editors note:Atmospheric conditions unaffected angelically. (Congrats to Stephen on the imminent release of his new book, “A Ranch Bordering the Salty River.” Learn more about it and reserve your order here.) – mh clay

In the Local News

featured in the poetry forum September 25, 2015  :: 0 comments

Friday, September 7th, 1 a.m.:

It begins to rain heavily,
the sound like barrels of water
being poured on the corrugated roof.

Jonathan locks his office door
and settles into his reading chair
to read a bit and sleep.

Just audible above of the sound of water
he hears something else,
like someone rattling
the door handle.

He looks up but the handle is not moving.
Then . . . Bang!
the door caves convexly in,
shakes on its hinges . . .
Bang. Bang. Bang.

Jonathan is on his feet
in the middle of the room,
an antique branding iron
held in his hand
like a club.

(You see, Jonathan has read often
in the local papers
of similar incidents:
“In the middle of the night
a rancher robbed and beaten for cash
in his office.”
Or,
“A rancher and his family
robbed at gunpoint in their home
by three ex-convicts hopped up
on Meth.”

Not that Jonathan couldn’t take care of himself, but)

The door bangs and shakes two more times.
Jonathan thinks that his shotgun
might be a better weapon,
and just as he turns to retrieve it,
lightning flashes through the skylights,
blueing the entire office,
his ridiculous shadow twice
on the floor,
and almost simultaneously,
thunder cracks and rumbles away.

Jonathan drops the branding iron,
unlocks and opens the door,

and in leaps
Dominic,
wet
and muddy and panting,
shaking water everywhere.

Dominic never liked thunder.

editors note:Dog from desperado, transformed in a flash. – mh clay

The Head

featured in the poetry forum July 9, 2014  :: 0 comments

I saw a dead body today.
I did not see the head.

I was on my way back from La Limpieza,
driving the route the Walking Man walks

I was thinking about the Advisor, the Bad
guy, the Tattler. I was coming around
a dangerous curve, a curve where I have
witnessed the aftermath of many an accident,
skid marks, trucks turned over, logs spilled
onto the road, cars with front ends smashed
in, windshields shattered. Coming around
the curve I slowed down then stopped
for a white-gloved policeman with his palm
held out. My white truck reflected
in his sunglasses. There was a dark blue
pickup behind him. I waited while the traffic
passed from the other direction. The police-
man then waved me forward, his lips and chin gravely
set. I tapped my toe on the accelerator, hoping the cop
would not notice that my seatbelt was unfastened, and drove slowly
past the dark blue pickup. The cab was caved
in, the passenger door open. I saw a man, no,
I saw a body wearing a blue plaid
shirt and blue jeans, the right arm
extended, the hand still gripped
to the gear shift. The crushed cab roof
formed a vee that inverted
directly into the middle
of the body’s shoulders,
right where the neck should be.
There was no blood, but
I did not see the head.

I saw a dead body today.
I did not see the head.

I was thinking about the Advisor, the Bad
Guy, the Tattler.

editors note:You won’t take with you head nor toe. When it’s time to go, you go. – mh

The Cattle Rustler

featured in the poetry forum August 18, 2013  :: 0 comments

With your sharp silver facón you shaved
the calf’s hindquarter, looking for the brand
that you knew was not there,
and it was only the notary’s whisper
about the calf’s fat healthy appearance
that jerked your hand
into blae confession, slicing off
your black denial, drawing
sanguine tears.

“Three,” you said, “three calves”
you lost, with fingers upheld,
even though we found eleven
that had to be returned to the neighbor
whose ranch horsed the bearded cohort
who probed me with questions of origin
to discover what substance made
this stoic face and wide-set stance.

Your penned renouncement only papered
when Teresa waved her hand and said
“enough, enough bloodshed; we gave
you our trust which you stabbed then twisted it
deep into my pelvis which will never again birth
confidence in your bull-brown eyes.”

editors note:A short scene; cattle wars and the politics of trust. Someone goes hungry… – mh

Guias

featured in the poetry forum May 9, 2013  :: 0 comments

The green guias are paid for.
The seven thin cows
and seven spine-warped bulls
are about to vanish
from our virid pastures.

The Accomplice skipped work today.
He did no show his olive face.
I guess he became weary
of shoveling hen-house shit.
We set his horse free.

My truck wheel fell off:
after driving sixty kilometers
at one hundred thirty kilometers per hour
I turned off the highway upon a dirt road
and felt the thump.

The two calf-killing stallions
were boxed in crates
and although the Calloused-Hand Curator
displayed coins in his palm
I did not offer the star-marked colts.

The Malingerer extended his sick-leave:
I loom patiently outside his locked window
with a hammer in my hand;
I remove rusty animal traps
from the moonlit afternoon.

In town I errand tools and supplies
and take a coffee-break at El Café Local,
The gossip at the table behind me
is that the Rustler was seen at the stationer—
that his pen had run out of ink.

editors note:When those guidelines indicate the end of famine or the imminency of thieves (which?); when all the usual suspects have fled the scene (where?); it takes a good cup o’ joe to clear the head. – mh

 

Dear Santa Ana

Dear Santa Ana

by Stephen Page

Today I reconnected your telephone-fax one week after I recovered it from the Cattle Thief, and today I spoke with the elderly lady who let her hogs feed free upon your pasture, the eighty-two year old neighbor who begged with palm held out for kindling from your wood. I told her we would speak about the matter later.

A bathroom is bricking up alongside my matera, my plant-enclosed muse room, my idea room, the place where my desk is, the place where gauchos once stopped to take mate in front of the fire and nap-dream meat, the place where I will never again reluctantly leave to piss my daily coffee intake, the place that will soon be my self-enclosed patrón office, the place where I will administer your affairs.

Yesterday I drove to the neighboring town Lobos, to meet and interview a gaucho for potentially filling the role of capataz, but the man who stepped down from the train with his woman had only one eye, losing the other to a horse kick, and his wife a nurse mind you, with five kids. We drank coffee, spoke, and when the woman smiled falsely, I knew. I smiled, shook their hands, paid for their train tickets, and honestly hoped they would not again disembark nor call.

Last week I put new locks on your gates, and all twenty-five hundred acres of you exhaled as if you had been holding your breath for a very long time.

Today I walked the wood near my new home, my new office, my no longer weekend escape from smog and noise of the city, my no longer escape from teaching and students, my no longer muse room. I sat on a log to contemplate the sapid scent of eucalypti. I zipped up my polar-fleece vest, my leather jacket, donned my rancher gloves and noticed a pileated woodpecker scrutinizing me.

Today I chased away rabbit hunters from lot number eight.

*Originally published on Extracts and later included in “A Ranch Bordering the Salty River,” which is published by Finishing Line Press.

#epistolary #poetry #epistolaryPoem #epistolaryPoetry #ranching #StephenPage #Extracts #FinishingLinePress #aRanchBorderingTheSaltyRiver

“Another Week Begins” by Stephen Page

madswirl logo black background

Another Week Begins

By Stephen Page

When Jonathan turns off the highway the mud

in the road is a foot deep.  He clicks his vehicle

into 4-wheel drive and creeps forward in first gear

so not to slide into one of the ditches.  The white gates

of his ranch are open, El Misionero standing next

them.  He rolls his window down and sighs.  The air

smells green.  Green.  Green.

He drives to his office and talks with his capataz,

then they climb in the ranch pickup to go see a calf

cadaver.  It was born early that morning with a curled-

neck deformity, and unable to reach its mother’s tit

or the water trough, it just stumbled around awhile and fell

on its side.  The gauchos had skinned it and the vultures picked

it mostly clean, the eyes plucked out, the tongue sliced in half,

bits of intestine lying next to the spine, the heart and lungs mush

under the gristly ribs.

They drive to the Yellow House casco to see a pony cadaver.

Apparently, last night it leaped the fence around the

swimming pool and fell in the water. It lay on its side

on the grass where the yardkeeper placed it, its legs

stiff in the curled positions of swimming, yellow froth

tubed out of its nostrils.  It was only three-weeks old.

Jonathan goes for a long walk, alone—he admires

the greening grass, the knee-high wheat, the sprouting corn,

the blooming chamomile, the calves and ponies leaping about

pastures spotted white with egrets.

He hears bees buzzing, mockingbirds singing—

and he keeps walking, walking; walking

past the pastures, past the Wood,

until he enters a fallow field.

As he approaches a small marsh

a flock of black ibis lift

and cloud away.

*this poem first published on madswirl

http://madswirl.com/poetry/2018/02/another-week-begins/

Editor’s note:

Like any week, we walk through cadavers to stand free. – mh clay

on Mad Swirl Another Week Begins

I wanted to title this “Monday, Monday,” but that sounded so familiar as to have already been used.

“Bridges Made From Junk”

Bridges Made From Junk

a short story by Stephen Page

brookln bridge under constructionAs the glass and metal doors slide open, Jonathan Burns steps outside into the cool October air. Crisp brown leaves scrape across the sidewalk. He rolls up a sheaf of poems, sticks it in his jacket pocket, takes out a pack of cigarettes, lights on, inhales deeply then lifts his face to the sun and feels the nicotine rush wash over his body. First cigarette he has had in weeks. He takes another drag, exhales, and watches the smoke tunnel out of his mouth. When the doors close behind him, he walks down the drive and out the front gates, finds the nearest bar, and orders a beer.

Jonathan is walking down a cobblestone street. Choral music emanates from one of the many churches that line the street. Bells are calling people to prayer. Holy men, their faces dark in the shadows of hooded robes, stand within pointed window frames. Jonathan looks inside one of the churches and notices the ribbed, Gothic-style vault. The masonry is smooth and gray and smells freshly built. He goes in, steals the sacrificial wine, and runs outside into the blaring sun.

He is sitting cross-legged on a tapestry rug, smoking hashish from a water pipe, listening to Jimi Hendrix play If 6 was 9. Jimi wears a multicolored silk shirt and strangles notes from his white Stratocaster within the confines of a black-light poster that hangs upon a wall. The poster melts, swirls, and transforms into a gilt-framed painting. It is Rembrandt’s Self-portrait c. 1667. The paint is glistening. A bowling trophy sits on a table below the Rembrandt. A woman wearing a minute array of transparent veils glides into the room. Her skin is the color of lightly creamed coffee. She is sable-haired, has sweeping cheekbones, wears small jeweled rings, and has thin gold chains adorning her wrists, waist, and ankles. She is carrying a cardboard shoe box. Jonathan wants to reach out and touch her, to place his cheek against the mouth of her belly. She sits in a chair behind the table, pushes the bowling trophy aside, sets the shoe box upon the table, and slowly lifts the lid. From inside the box, she carefully extracts a note pad, a pencil, and a stack of cards. She methodically positions them equally apart in front of her. She sets the empty box near her nude feet. One at a time, she turns over each card, examines it front to back, then stacks it face down into a new pile. When she has gone through the entire deck, she lifts the pencil and writes something in the note pad. She looks up at him. Her eyes are crystal yellow.

Jonathan is in a red-draped room. An early jazz song sung in French begins to play. All around him are women in various stages of undress, and men wearing Nazi uniforms stand near the women. They are all talking, laughing, drinking champagne and smoking cigarettes. A white-gloves hand offers Jonathan an enormous bottle of Dom Pérignon ‘38 and he pours himself a glass. As he sips, the cool bubbles burst inside his nose, releasing small drops of chilled, fragrant air. He peers over the rim of his glass. The harem girl is still at the table in front of him, as are the Rembrandt above her, the bowling trophy near her, the cards, the note pad, the pencil, the rectangular box at her feet. She gazes into his eyes and begins to shuffle the cards.

The jukebox against the wall of the soda shop blasts American pop tunes. Girls in tight sweaters, poodle skirts, bobbysocks, and saddle shoes dance with boys that have their hair slicked back and packs of cigarettes rolled up in their T-shirt sleeves. One of the boys, an old friend of Jonathan who looks exactly the same as he had in high school, hands him an open pint of bourbon that smells like paint thinner. The harem girl is staring intently at him, and she begins to flip the cards face up and lay them out in neat vertical rows.

Jonathan and the harem girl are sitting together at the back of a dark, smoke-filled bar. Musicians on a low stage in the corner play bluesy jazz music with complicated be-bop riffs. Jonathan is squeezing the girl’s thigh. She is cradling the empty shoe box in one arm and pressing a breast into his ribs. They are sipping scotch. A man wearing a long black leather jacket walks up to their table and deposits a small packet of tinfoil. Jonathan pays the man, opens the packet, and puts the brown clump onto a spoon. It is the same color as the girl’s skin. He adds a few drops of water from a dripping ice cube, lights two matches, puts the flame under the spoon, allows the brown liquid to boil, and extracts it into a syringe. While the girl squeezes his biceps with one hand, he inserts the needle into a vein. She releases her hand. He jerks once and the girl drops the box, opens his shirt and frantically runs her fingers through his chest hair. His eyes flip closed. He floats with the girl to a small room in the back of the bar and drifts onto a bed. She removes his clothes, then, swaying to the music, slowly slips off her veils. She lies next to him and pulls him towards her so that his backbone is embedded in her warm spot and his shoulder blades upon her stomach. She turns his head, sets his cheek upon her breasts, wraps her legs around him, and places the soles of her feet upon his flaccid penis. She begins to hum. Her body smells of jasmine and salt. He falls asleep rocked in her arms.

Through the glass of a cracked-paint window frame is a view of the Brooklyn Bridge under construction. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D plays on a gramophone on the floor. Jonathan sits comfortably in an old brown chair, the only item of furniture in the flat, and stares at a wet spot on the hardwood floor. he has not changed his clothes nor shaven for a week. Roaches crawl on the walls. He is at peace.

Punk rock music is blaring. Jonathan is screaming. The ground is shaking and the ceiling of a dank basement is falling in chunks upon him. In front of him, the Rembrandt is hanging upside-down, the bowling trophy is smashed, the cards are scattered on the floor, and the girl is gone. Someone is lying in the box.

Brightness knifes into Jonathan’s eyes. The walls are white. Blaringly white. He is lying inert, face-down with his cheek on the cool white fabric of the floor. He pukes and lies there with his nose and cheek in the putrid, lumpy vomit. His throat is burning, his mouth feels sticky, he can feel bile clogged in his nasal passages. His intestines feel wrapped around his stomach and are moving up toward a point at the back of his throat. He pukes again. Attempting to rise, he finds it impossible to move his arms. The room begins to spin. He screams and a blonde, blue-eyed, beautifully pale woman wearing a white gown is standing over him.

this story first published on amphibi.us:

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Riding the Wind by Stephen Page

The story you are about to read is a work of fiction.

Riding the Wind

by Stephen Page

Quarto cover w Riding the Wind original copyJuan was driving his pick-up, I was on the passenger side, and Isabel was in the back seat. The stick shift rattled between Juan and me. Juan had met us at the international airport in Montevideo and was taking us to his farm near the sea, a vacation that Isabel had pestered me into taking after three months of rattling on about how nice it would be for me to finally visit her home country and meet her oldest and dearest friend. The first thing I had noticed about Juan’s truck, besides the winch on the back, was its dull, dark green color. The first thing Juan noticed about me, by the way he looked me up‑and‑down at the airport, was my clothes‑‑an Army jacket, Hawaiian shirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes‑‑the same easy‑going style that Isabel always said a man in his late thirties was too old to wear.

The back seat was a small pad bolted to the front seats, and it was barely big enough for one adult, maybe two children, yet the way Isabel was sitting closer to Juan’s side of the cab, she made it look larger. She was leaning so that her left elbow was resting on the back of Juan’s seat, her forearm pressing against his shoulder. They spoke English at first, but when I tried to jump into the conversation, they fell into their native language, Spanish. I was just learning to speak Spanish, and had only memorized a few nouns and phrases. Isabel’s vocal tones rose and fell. Juan occasionally regarded me out of the corner of his eye and laughed.   I glared at Isabel. Blood rushed to my face. I turned and looked out the passenger side window and watched some cows as they looked dumbly at our passing vehicle. The long lines of trees used as windbreaks between the plots of farm land were losing the last of their brown, curling leaves. I felt the onset of a headache and squeezed my thighs with my hands, imagining I was holding onto someone’s throat.

When we arrived at Juan’s farm, I was still staring out the window. I had been thinking about the conversation that Isabel and I had a few months back, when she first told me about Juan. “He moved away from the city and settled on the land he inherited from his father,” she said. “Built his own house, with his own two hands. Bought a few cows and now he’s got a whole herd. Plowed up half of the land and planted beans, right before the bean market skyrocketed. Wait ‘til you see his house,” she said. “It’s beautiful. He works wonderfully with his hands.”

Juan’s house was finished on the outside with oak‑wood slats, and on the north side there was a spacious sun room faced in large rectangular glass panels. Inside, the sun room blended smoothly into the living room.   The furniture was rustic but rich‑‑large hand‑carved wooden furniture that reeked of Spanish colonialism. Above the fireplace, there was a painting of an elderly man who had a J.P. Morgan stare. At the bottom of the picture was a gold engraved plaque that read, Soltero Juan Ladrón de Guerra. “My Grandfather,” said Juan. On the mantel in front of and next to the painting was a bronze statue of a conquistador. Above a desk on the far side of the room was a coat of arms. Hanging on all the walls were horse whips and riding crops.

Juan said we could have his room upstairs, since it had a larger bed, and he would take the guest room at the end of the hallway under the stairs. While I set our suitcases in the bedroom, next to an antique four poster bed, I noticed Isabel casually take a candy from a jar on the nightstand.

Juan started to grill us lunch. “From one of my steers,” he said. “Cured by a neighbor of mine.”   He seared the slab of beef on a grill he had placed over the fireplace. Isabel went into the kitchen to get something, and Juan followed her, giving me instructions to “Keep an eye on the meat.” Instead, I followed them, trying to pick up a few words of their conversation. They glanced at me then back at each other.

We sat down at the kitchen table while Isabel and Juan kept yakking away in Spanish. Isabel sat between Juan and me, her body twisted in his direction as she spoke. My headache was turning into a full‑fledged migraine. Juan got up to check on the meat and Isabel got up to get the plates. I reached for the large wooden pepper shaker that sat in the middle of the table and felt the heft of its weight as Isabel laid out the plates.   She laid my plate last. “Why don’t you ever help?” she whispered at me.

Juan brought in the meat. “This is the cut we call ‘tapa,’” he said. “Do you want a cut from the large end, where it is tender and juicy, or do you want a cut from the small end where it is tough and hard, the part the real men eat.” Isabel watched for my reaction. Juan smiled at me. I narrowed my eyes and ordered a piece that the real men eat.   Even though they were still speaking Spanish, I could tell that the conversation had turned to the subject of Laura, Isabel’s daughter by a former marriage. Laura was an beautiful, agitated bundle of post‑adolescent hormones that deftly managed, at least once a day, to get either Isabel angry at me, or me angry at Isabel. She had elected to stay home with the housekeeper, cook, gardener, and private tutor to study for her college entrance exams while we went on vacation. I can’t say I was disappointed.

“Juan was there when Laura was born,” Isabel said in English.

“Yes. I called her the little princess,” Juan said.

“That’s exactly what I always say,” I exclaimed. “She’s like a princess. And Isabel is like a queen.”

“Where does that leave you?” Juan said. “Are you the servant?”

This time I looked at Isabel for her reaction. She was staring down at her plate, watching her knife cut through a fat piece of meat. Juan laughed. I glared at him and abruptly pushed myself from the table. I went outside and had a smoke on the back porch. This was going to be the last time, I thought to myself.

I noticed Juan had a barn a hundred feet or so from the house. Funny I hadn’t seen it when we came in, it being so obvious, mansion sized and faced flat cement gray with two immense bright green front doors. The doors were shut and high above them was an open hay‑loft window. I crushed my cigarette out with the sole of my shoe. Next to the front doors and leaning against the wall of the barn was a pitchfork. Just as I was going to walk over to it, Isabel came outside. She took my hand. “Let’s go take a nap,” she said.

“I’m not tired.”

“The bed is very big and comfortable,” she said, pressing her breasts into my arm, “And Juan has some errands to run. We have the entire afternoon to ourselves.”

I followed her back into the house. Juan was cleaning the fireplace as we went up the stairs. He watched Isabel’s backside as she walked in front of me.

When I woke up, I was alone. I opened the bedroom window and saw them walking toward the truck. They had their backs to me and Juan had his arm around her neck while Isabel rested her head upon his shoulder. They were walking slowly and Juan seemed to be speaking rather softly. I flew down the stairs and stepped out the back door just as they were arriving at the truck. I let the screen door slam shut.

“My love,” Isabel said as she skipped towards me. Her blouse was open to the fourth button. I stared intently at Juan. He was mocking me with his eyes.

“You are awake,” he said.

“Yes, I am. And it seems to be just in time.”

“Oh, you mean to come with us,” Isabel said. “We were just going to pick up Juan’s kids. They live only ten minutes away.”

“That’s okay,” Juan said. “I can go alone. There’s coffee on the fireplace if you want some.”   He got in his truck and drove off, the winch on the back rattling and bobbing back and forth.

“Love, are you okay? You have a terrible look on your face.”

I lit a cigarette. “Where were you going?”

“To pick up his kids, I told you.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?”

“You were sleeping so well. Besides, Juan needed to speak. He feels comfortable speaking to me. We’re old friends, you know that. He wanted to talk about his divorce. Hey, wait a minute, what are you insinuating?”   She put her hands on her hips. I could see her bra and cleavage.

“Why didn’t he invite both of us to go with him?”

“Because there are three kids and the cab would be full. You’re being ridiculous.” She slipped inside the back door. I stayed on the porch and finished my smoke. Then I went for a walk.

After a walk around the barn, where I noticed the front doors were padlocked, I went back inside the house. Isabel was lying on a hammock in the sun room. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat on the sofa. She leaned over and looked at me. The back door opened and three kids piled in, howling and yelling. They ranged in ages from three to eight.

“Lets go to the beach,” Juan said.

“It’s almost winter,” I said. “Don’t you think it’s a bit nippy for a swim?”

“We’re not going to swim, just have a picnic. The waves are beautiful to see crashing on the shore this time of year. They’re about five or six feet tall.”

The kids were running around the house and jumping up and down on the sofa. “Isn’t it going to be crowded in the cab?” I asked.

“Well, I have a suggestion. Isabel says you like to ride motorcycles.” My mind escaped to thoughts of my Harley‑‑that red and white Knucklehead that occasionally freed me from the stagnation of my marriage. He continued, “Well, I have a motocross bike. You can follow us. If you wear a sweater under your coat you’ll be fine.”

The road was overgrown with grass, but if I stayed in the wheel ruts, it was easy to ride on. I actually started to feel good after a mile or two. The sun was out, the wind was in my face, the briskness of the air incredibly invigorating. I started singing a song by Steppenwolf. “Get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure, in what ever comes our way. . . Born to be wi‑ii‑ii‑ii‑ld.   Born to be . . .”

After a meal of chicken sandwiches and red wine, and an afternoon of watching the kids build sand castles, then watching the sand castles get destroyed by the crashing waves, we headed back. Since I knew the way, I ventured out in front of the truck. I lost sight of them over some rolling hills, but I didn’t care, I had my freedom again‑‑the open road, the scenery passing by, the wind combing my hair and caressing my body through my clothes. When I saw the house loom up ahead of me, I slowed down.   I looked over my shoulder. I slowed down some more. I stopped. I rode to the top of a knoll and scanned the road to the beach. The truck was nowhere to be seen. I rode all the way back to the beach. Nothing. I returned to the house at full throttle. When I arrived, the sun was setting.

Around midnight, I heard the truck pull up and the doors slam shut. I went to the back porch with my hand around the neck of a bottle of bourbon I had found in the kitchen.

“Mi amor, how are you?” Isabel asked me. “Sorry, we had a flat tire.” Her hair was mussed.

“I went back to find you.”

Juan interrupted, “Sorry Jim, we took a different route. To drop off the kids.”

I lit a cigarette.

“Let’s go to bed, love,” Isabel said to me. “It’s late.” She put her hand over mine, the one that gripped the whiskey bottle.

In the bedroom I confronted her. “Did the flat tire happen before or after you dropped off the kids?”

She looked at me condescendingly. “Your petty jealousies belittle you. You have no right to speak to me like that. Juan is my friend. Whatever fantasy you’ve concocted in your mind is purely fictional. Besides, you know how I feel about infidelity.”

“Yeah, I know how you feel about infidelity. The same way you always feel about it.   The way you feel about it every time we go on a vacation together. The way you feel about it every time we meet someone new. Even the way you feel about it with all of our friends back home.” She stormed out of the room. I picked up the jar of candy and smashed it on the floor.

I sat on the bed and looked at the grass stains on my tennis shoes. After a few moments, I got up, went down the stairs, through the living room, and into the kitchen. I couldn’t find Isabel or Juan, so I walked, quite quickly, under the stairs and into the hallway that led to the guest room. I found the door closed. I pressed my ear to the door. Silence. Too much silence. A light shone from under the door and onto my feet. A double shadow passed by the light. I grabbed the door knob and drove my shoulder into the door, bursting into the room.

No one was there. A window a few feet from the unmade bed was open a couple of inches and its curtain fluttered in the breeze. The lamp between the bed and the window was on and the curtain periodically passed in front of it.

I paused for a moment, then went through the kitchen and out the back door. The moon was full and the sky was clear, giving the outdoors the appearance of a silvery low‑lit day. I could see the hills I had ridden upon earlier that day. A cold wind was blowing. The wild grass in the field next to the house rippled in the breeze. The main doors to the barn stood slightly ajar, and I watched as a white owl circled the barn twice then entered through the hay‑loft window. I glanced at the pitchfork where now it leaned within arm’s reach against the side of the house. The truck, its exterior looking black and shiny, its chrome bumpers reflecting the moon, sat pointed in the direction of the road that led to the airport. The skin on the back of my neck burned and my scalp tingled as I stepped off the porch and walked up to the driver’s side. Its keys dangled brightly in the ignition. I looked again at the dark slit made by the opening of the barn doors, over at the pitchfork, around at the hills, the wild grass, the road. The wind picked up and whistled in my ears.

The Suspense of Loneliness cover

Riding the Wind, as published in Quarto

Riding the Wind, as anthologized in The Suspense of Loneliness

This is a work of fiction. All people, places, and events in the story are fictitious.

You can also find this story on a Quarto website on page 27

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