OPENING LETTERS > FROM THE EDITORS
This Saturday, if the rain holds off, you can find me fishing with my dad on Old Abe Lake, just a few feet from the home where I grew up in Jim Falls, Wisconsin. When I was a child, a fire took the vast majority of the house that once stood there, but we continually return to this special place to get away from city streets, rejuvenated by the natural surroundings. I tried explaining the beauty and magic of this land to my wife. In truth, I tried to tell her just enough to establish excitement for her first visit there later this summer; but what if she could never step foot on that land? What if she could never gaze up into the maple tree I climbed so often in my youth? Or peer down into the ravine that ravenously swallowed so many of my basketballs? Or scurry barefoot along the stone steps leading to the dock where my brother and I would launch unfettered into the water? I might have to choose my words a bit more carefully, try harder to get the details and corresponding emotions just right, and bring her there through the narrative itself.
Speaking of narratives, I recently revisited Charles Beaumont’s collection of short stories, Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories, published posthumously and with a forward written by his friend, Ray Bradbury. Before I dove into the stunning tales from Beaumont’s luminary imagination, I was taken by Bradbury’s descriptions of their friendship. He recalled memories from their young adulthood, the exhilaration of Beaumont’s first publication, and illustrated a scene where they sat on a front porch playfully bouncing ideas around for budding stories—some of which would come to fruition for Beaumont on the page and eventually on the screen as iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone. In that forward, for me, they were alive again.
I had a similar experience a few weeks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the home of friends who have become more like family. “Uncle” Bob and “Aunt” Jackie had just treated my wife and I to dinner, and afterwards we sat on the couch. Bob proceeded to tell the story of the final round of golf he ever played with his friend, John. For a bit of context, John was my wife’s father, a good man whose life ended too soon, a man that I will never have the honor of meeting on this earth. But in those cherished moments that Sunday evening, Bob, a childhood friend of John’s, described one of their last afternoons together as adults. He took us back in time several decades and directly into the Augusta National Golf Club. He painted a beautiful picture, from the trees to the sweeping expanse of grass to the look in John’s eyes to the way the ball took flight off of his club to the precise words they shared that day. Now, Bob is not a prolific or professional writer like Ray Bradbury or Charles Beaumont; he is a good man who still loves and misses his best friend, and he brought him back to life for all of us in that room by sharing the powerful gift of his words.
Indeed, our words have the power to transport and transform others. I firmly believe that the writers you are about to encounter here, in Issue 9, will prove this statement to be true time and time again. They are a diverse group of individuals from throughout the United States and all over the globe. What they share in common is the ability to breathe life into people and places—both real and imagined—through their poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction. We feel so fortunate to share the gift of their literary worlds with you. Dive in, fully engage, and enjoy!
Jeff Sommerfeld, Founder and Co-Editor
Although Sky Island Journal’s spiritual home is too remote for power, summer nights in the high desert shimmer with electricity. New Mexico stands on the precipice of monsoon season tonight, but you’d never know it from the crispness of the air and the depth of the starlight at zero dark hundred. Jeff and I have stayed up late enough that, now, our goal is to greet the dawn. In the darkness we turn, face east, and grow silent. The Florida Mountains tower behind us like guardians—their invisible, insatiable gravity, a constant companion. The Tres Hermanas—outlined in the soft glow of Palomas, across the border in Old Mexico—appear to our right. Akela Flats, The Apache Homelands, and a steady stream of microscopic headlights trundling along a rivulet of I-10 between Deming and Las Cruces, all appear to our left. Straight ahead is the ranch: a wilderness, cloaked—a shape shifting void we can only imagine the sun filling.
If we stare long enough, the stars begin to fade, and their wash of blue gives way to silhouettes—phantom shapes and gentle contours of desert. As light begins to seep in around the soft edges of everything, shadows smolder before they melt into a landscape we recognize. When the first rays of sun breech the spine of the mountains, 60 miles due east across the valley floor, we are blinded. The desert before us—warming as fast as a degree per minute—suddenly bursts into motion. Night creatures retreat. Day creatures advance. We are both; so, we sit still and go relatively unnoticed by these commuters. As much as we strive to be remembered by those who love us when we are not here, we have come to understand that being forgotten is often the greatest gift this place has to give. That gift gives us perspective.
For anything to be found, it must first be lost, and summer is a time for both. Whether you're new to Sky Island Journal, or you're already one of our 45,000 readers in 145 countries, Jeff and I hope that the extraordinary contributors of Issue 9 help you both lose and find yourself within its pages.
While social media certainly has a place in our lives, we've elected to leave the "scroll-through experience" and pop-up ads to other literary platforms. Our readers deserve a more mindful approach. Each piece of writing that we publish opens as a protected Word document for an authentic, focused, and immersive experience that encourages a close, intimate, distraction-free reading of the work. We want your experience with each contributor's work to be singular: just as it would be on the printed page, with crisp white paper between your collective fingertips. We understand this is a radical departure from how most literary journals present writing to their readers online, but we think it's a refreshing change for the better. It's okay to slow down. It's okay to take your time, to savor, and to simply be present in a moment; our contributors have created so many beautiful worlds for you to inhabit.
Of the 949 individual pieces that we received from around the world for Issue 9, we found these 33 to be the finest. Welcome to Sky Island. Welcome home.
Jason Splichal, Founder and Co-Editor
B.J. Buckley > Poetry > Montana, USA
B.J. Buckley is a Montana poet and writer who has worked in Arts-in-Schools/Communities programs throughout the west for over 45 years. She is currently Writer-in-Residence at Sanford Cancer Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Her most recent book of poems is Corvidae, poems of Ravens, Crows, and Magpies, with woodcut illustrations by Dawn Senior-Trask, Lummox Press 2014. B.J. lives, writes, gardens, cooks, and messes about with art from a farmhouse on three acres 30 miles west of Great Falls, Montana, with her sweetheart, a machinist/blacksmith, their two new pups, and far too many cats.
Cynthia Belmont > Creative Nonfiction > Wisconsin, USA
Cynthia Belmont is Professor of English at Northland College, an environmental liberal arts school on the South Shore of Lake Superior in Ashland, Wisconsin, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and gender studies. Her writing has appeared in many journals, including Poetry, Oyez Review, Natural Bridge, The Cream City Review, and Terrain.org.
Dan Kaufman > Poetry > Oregon, USA
Dan Kaufman lives in the Rogue Valley of southwestern Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Seasons, Sudden Meteors, Light Rising, Verseweavers, Jefferson Journal, and been recognized by the Jessamyn West Poetry Prize, the Southern Oregon Poetry Award, and the Oregon Poetry Association. Having trekked in the Hindu Kush mountains when 25, Dan, approaching 70, is now climbing Kilimanjaro on his treadmill.
Gene Twaronite > Poetry > Arizona, USA
Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet, essayist, and author of seven books, including two juvenile fantasy novels, two short story collections and the poetry book Trash Picker on Mars, winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry. His latest book of poems The Museum of Unwearable Shoes was published by Kelsay Books in 2018. His current project is a collection of essays entitled My Life as a Sperm: An Absurd Memoir, which he hopes to have out soon. Gene has always been fascinated by poetry’s ability to convey entire worlds of thought and feeling within a few lines of compressed expression. A native New Englander, he is now a confirmed desert rat residing in Tucson.
Jeri Griffith > Creative Nonfiction > Vermont, USA
Writer and artist Jeri Griffith lives and works in Brattleboro, Vermont after stints in Boston and Austin, Texas, but her childhood was spent in Wisconsin. These disparate places each feel like separate countries to her, with landscapes, seasons, and ways of being that influence both her art and her identity. Jeri has published stories and essays in literary quarterlies, most recently in The Antigonish Review, Hunger Mountain, and Quarterly West. She is currently working on a memoir and a collection of short stories, as well as organizing exhibitions of her art.
John M. Gist > Poetry > New Mexico, USA
John M. Gist lives in the enchanted deserts of southwestern New Mexico with his wife Wendy and their trusty blue heeler. His poetry, creative nonfiction, and short fiction have appeared in publications such as the Poetry Pacific, Stoneboat, Wilderness House, Galway Review, Dr. T.J Eckleburg Review, Superstition Review, Gravel, Pithead Chapel, New Oxford Review, New Mexico Magazine, and many others. With an M.F.A from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, he teaches at sunny Western New Mexico University.
José Enrique Medina > Creative Nonfiction > California, USA
José Enrique Medina earned his BA in English from Cornell University. He writes poems, short stories and novels. His work has appeared in Best Microfiction 2019 Anthology, Tahoma Literary Review, The Burnside Review, and other publications. When he is not writing, he enjoys playing with his baby chicks, bunnies, and piglets on his farm in Whittier, California.
Juliet Lauren > Poetry > Florida, USA
Juliet Lauren is a part-time college student, part-time waitress, and emerging writer. Her poetry and manuscript have been awarded in the Scholastic Art and Writing awards. She has received other miscellaneous publications in magazines such as Gold Wake Live and Ghost City Review, and she currently resides on the wrong side of the tracks in Florida.
Keith Polette > Poetry > Texas, USA
Keith Polette has returned to writing poetry after many years. He is grateful to have had his poems accepted by and published in the following journals: The Offbeath, Otoliths, The Esthetic Apostle, Peeking Cat Anthology, Typishly, Sonic Boom, Shot Glass Journal, Orphic Lute, Rendezvous, The Limberlost Review, and Sky Island Journal. His book of haiku and senryu, The New World, was published in 2017 by Red Moon Press. Keith currently lives and writes in El Paso, Texas.
Ken Olson > creative nonFiction > Washington, USA
Ken Olson was born in 1947 looking for a book to read. When he was ten, he found Mark Twain. After Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, he had a book with him at all times. Without rhyme or reason, writer or genre, he would read the next book that came along. And of course, he dreamed of being a writer. He wrote continuously. He filled notebooks with handwritten stories, mysteries, sci-fi episodes, and epic poems. Personal computers were decades away, but he found a manual Underwood typewriter at a garage sale when the crowd was moving to electric. For the record, he hated electric typewriters. In college (1967/8), his creative writing instructors encouraged him to keep writing. But global politics intervened. He was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1969. Ken was exposed to the dioxin in Agent Orange and suffered neurological damage as a result. His inability to concentrate affected his reading and writing. The last story he wrote prior to 2013 was completed in 1968. In 2013, he discovered the magic of Haiku poetry and started to write again, one word at a time. He wrote only Haiku for six years. Slowly, he reconnected to the power of words. In 2019, he started writing flash fiction and has published two stories.
Lorrie Ness > Poetry > Virginia, USA
Originally from Indiana, Lorrie Ness now lives in Virginia, a stone’s throw from Shenandoah National Park where she spends time hiking and drawing inspiration from nature. She works as a psychologist and writes poetry to share what’s in her heart and mind. She has forthcoming work at SOFTBLOW, The American Journal of Poetry, Rosebud, and The Big Windows Review.
Mandy Goddard > Creative Nonfiction > United Kingdom
Mandy Goddard is a market gardener turned writer from south west England. Writing from her own life experience, she is fascinated and inspired by the human interaction with the natural world. She is currently completing an MA in creative writing at Exeter University and lives by the sea near Exeter with her family.
Meg Ounsworth Steere > Creative Nonfiction > Massachusetts, USA
Meg Ounsworth Steere is a writer, mother, reader, and all around jack of all trades. She earned a BA in French Language and Literature from the University of Virginia and holds a Masters in Regional Planning with a focus on Community and Economic Development from the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. The two places that have most influenced her thinking and her life are Baxter State Park in Northern Maine, where she was a Park Ranger for several years, and Madagascar, where she lived and studied during college. Currently she spends her days juggling many different balls including honing her writing skills, managing historic preservation projects, planning her next travel adventure, shuttling her kids to their activities, and volunteering for a variety of non-profits. She lives with her family outside of Boston and writes about what inspires her.
Milla van der Have > Poetry > The Netherlands
Milla van der Have (1975) is a Gemini. She writes poems and short stories and is currently knee-deep in a novel. Her poetry has appeared in Whale Road Review, After the Pause, and Cherry Tree among others. She is the author of Ghosts of Old Virginny (2015, Aldrich Press), a chapbook about Virginia City, Nevada. Milla lives in The Netherlands with her wife and 2 rabbits.
Mistee St. Clair > Poetry > Alaska, USA
Mistee St. Clair was born and raised in Alaska, with a few years here and there in other parts of the Pacific Northwest. She’s been published by the Fairbanks Arts Association, the Anchorage Daily News, Tidal Echoes, Cirque and more. She loves to get out of town, or out into the woods, and somehow spends an absurd amount of time in the kitchen. Currently she lives, writes, mothers and hikes in beautiful, foggy Juneau.
Nancy Beauregard > Flash Fiction > New Mexico, USA
Nancy Beauregard is a writer and poet who lives in New Mexico with her daughter and two feisty Maine Coon cats. She holds a degree in Surgical Technology and is perusing a BFA in Creative Writing. She is a poetry editor for the Santa Fe Literary Review, a recipient of the Richard Bradford Scholarship, and her poetry chapbook, I Heard A Train, is being published this summer by Finishing Line Press. Currently, she is working on her first murder mystery manuscript.
Nicholas Trandahl > Poetry > Wyoming, USA
Nicholas Trandahl is an Army veteran, poet, outdoorsman, journalist, and traveler. A member of WyoPoets and the Bearlodge Writers, he finds inspiration in new adventures, nature, good books, and the understated beauty of everyday life. Trandahl lives in Wyoming with his wife and daughters. Additionally, Trandahl manages the Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest and serves as a contest judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Inc. Trandahl has three poetry collections published by Winter Goose Publishing (Pulling Words, Think of Me, and Bravery), and his poems have also appeared in various journals, anthologies, and compilations.
Prue Rains > Creative Nonfiction > Quebec, Canada
Prue Rains is a retired sociology professor living in Montreal. After years of academic writing, she now paints and writes creative nonfiction. Her personal essays have appeared in Canadian newspapers. Sky Island Journal is Prue’s first literary publication. She is at work on a memoir about her 10,000-mile trip across America in the summer of 2001. “A Planet Called Montana” is an excerpt.
Richard Jones > Poetry > Illinois, USA
Richard Jones’s seven books from Copper Canyon Press include Stranger on Earth and The Blessing. Editor of Poetry East since 1980, he curates the journal’s many anthologies such as London, Cosmos, and Bliss. He also edits the worldwide poetry app, "The Poet's Almanac." A new book, Paris, is forthcoming.
Robert Petrillo > Poetry > Maine, USA
Robert Petrillo is a recently retired English teacher who has taught and written poetry for many years. He has been taking OLLI (senior college) courses at USM lately, where he participates in a poetry workshop, as well as volunteering, traveling, brushing up on his Spanish, biking and playing as much tennis as possible. Most of his inspiration comes from simple observations of mundane events and the occasional flight of fancy. His poems and essays have been published in several literary journals and local newspapers over the years, including The Abyss, Frost Meadow Review, The Presumpscot Review, The Lewiston Sun Journal, and Reflections. He lives in the present in Westbrook, Maine, with his partner Debra and their cat Ryah.
Sara Costello > Creative Nonfiction > New York, USA
Sara Costello is a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego with a B.A. in Psychology. Her work has been published in The Great Lake Review. She was also an editor and the Public Relations Coordinator for the magazine.
Skylar Wampler > Poetry > Virginia, USA
Skylar Wampler a poet from the small town of Broadway, Virginia. She grew up in the woods and has been writing poetry for most of her life. At present, she is an Undergraduate at the University of Virginia studying in the Area Program of Poetry Writing with a minor in Environmental Sustainability. She will graduate with the class of 2021 and aims to pursue an MFA in Poetry Writing. She freelance writes for independent blogs and websites and accepts commissions on her Instagram profile. She is an avid nature and animal lover and enjoys playing piano and singing in her free time. Her favorite flower is the delphinium, and she hopes to educate others how to properly care for the beautiful earth we all live on.
Tina Morganella > Flash Fiction > Australia
Tina Morganella is a freelance writer and copy editor with an MPhil in creative writing from the University of Adelaide, Australia. Tina is most interested in short fiction, memoir and travel literature and has most recently been published in Rush (US), STORGY Magazine (UK), and Tulpa Magazine (Australia). She also has nonfiction articles published in the Australian press (The Big Issue, The Australian, and The Adelaide Advertiser).
Travis Stephens > Poetry > California, USA
Travis Stephens, a grad of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is a sea captain who resides with his family in California. Recent credits include: Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Consumnes River Journal, Apeiron Review, The Finger, Gravitas, Cirque, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal. Online, his was a Poem of the Week for Silver Needle Press, and his poems have appeared in Ink & Voices, Rue Scribe, Sheila-Na-Gig, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, The Scriblerus Arts Journal, HCE Review, and Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.
Victoria-Melita Zammit > Poetry > Malta
Victoria-Melita Zammit is a twenty-five-year-old queer poet from the often-too-hot, too crowded Mediterranean diamond, Malta. She has three self-published works with a fourth on the way, and a few other pieces available in magazines, journals and anthologies. She mostly writes incredibly personal poetry that focuses on her struggles with mental illness and LGBT issues, but she also enjoys a good spoken word poem, read out to a crowd of people who are ready to listen to the baring of her soul. When she isn't teaching English to middle school children or training to be a librarian, she enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons, and reading a good book until the late hours of the night.
Vivian Tran > Poetry > California, USA
Vivian Tran is a former nuclear physicist with undergraduate degrees from MIT. She currently writes for engineers and lives in San Francisco with roommates who operate a shiitake mushroom farm in their basement. She is an aspiring poet, and Sky Island Journal is the first literary journal her poetry has appeared in.