I

We mad fly; we
Dream dry; we
Scribble drunk; we
Fake the funk; we
Keeps it real; we
Sly conceal; we
Royal hall; we
Southern drawl; we
Bleed tears; we
Clink cheers; we
Fling curves; we
Gnaw nerves; we
Break it down; we
Class clown; we
Write raw; we
Down by law.

Dear Montana,

It’s been one year.

One year that I’ve lived in your valley along the Clark Fork river, one year that I’ve lived in the West, one year that I’ve hiked up my skirt for your hillsides.

That’s a long courtship by my standards. Usually the caveats, bad habits and dirty laundry cut into the open by now.

Instead, you continue to woo me.

You arch your back of rock, pull me into your canyon veins, and peel me naked.

Most Cherished TNB Readers, From the Farthest Reaches of Outer Mongolia to Some Starbucks Wi-Fi Setup in Downtown Peoria:

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to whole-heartedly welcome you to the finely tuned, hopped-up, fuel-injected, engine humming, all pistons popping Poetry section of The Nervous Breakdown, in glorious 3.0.

My relationship with TNB started back in the original 1.0 days. When Brad Listi first asked me to write for the site, I wasn’t quite sure how to begin. Around that time, however, a dear friend passed away. So I decided to honor his passing by taking a stroll from Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, down to the ocean. Armed with only my camera, a notebook, and my dear friend’s favorite food—a corndog—in tow, I marked his passing in photos and various remembrances. That became my very first posting.

Since then, I’ve seen the site go through various incarnations. I’ve seen my own life go through various changes, as well. I’ve become a better writer, a better person; a lot of that having to do with all the wonderful folks I’ve met through TNB. As you’ll witness in either the Poetry section, Fiction section, Arts & Culture, or wherever the site takes you, we have a lot of heart, humor, and intellect to offer.

And we the forever faithful and fearless Poetry team; Associate Editors Uche Ogbuji, Jennifer Duffield White, and Milo Martin and I, as Editors, will do our best to hold the Poetry section to those high standards of quality. Each week, we’ll bring you the most thought-provoking, soul touching, mind melting poetry we can find from those farthest reaches of Outer Mongolia to that Starbucks wi-fi setup in downtown Peoria.

This week we offer you poetry from such varied talents as Iris Berry, Jackie Sheeler, Lisa Johns, Kenneth Shiffrin, Jerome Dunn, Doug Knott, and this week’s Featured Poet, Michael O’Keefe.

So wherever you are in this big old world of ours, most cherished TNB readers, strap on your seatbelts, rev your engines, shift into overdrive, and get ready to take a ride on the TNB Poetry section in grand and glorious 3.0.

 

Onward and upward,

Rich Ferguson

It’s the cliché metaphor of the last century: The light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe the guy who hammered and dynamited the railway path through the mountain knew just what it meant.

The barefoot summer is nearly over.

My soles are dirty, maybe permanently so; they are also thick and somewhat wiser than they were when this summer began 2,714 miles east of here.

There are certain things one learns (or doesn’t learn) when driving the highway between New York and Montana.

It might be because this is my last summer in the Adirondack mountains of New York, for a while at least.

Or because my friend Amy is obsessed with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their barefoot running.

Or because I just quit my job of nearly 10 years.

In any case, I’m conducting another experiment,

When the snow melts, things turn up with stories hidden in their decomposition.

A cigarette carton.

An abandoned navy blue sweatshirt.

A stray mitten.

And bones.

I shave my legs more often, dice green vegetables back into my diet, and find myself looking into the mirror in search of a favorable impression more often.

I let the v-lines of my shirt drop seductively low, unhindered by scarf or sweater.

I probably shouldn’t be writing this right now. It’s only January 15.

But I did make it through the darkest month of the year, so I’m going to risk it.

I’m feeling bold.

I have a theory; I have a plan.

Dear TNB Readers,

I took a walk and some photos for you the other day.

It’s Indian Summer in the mountains. The lake still holds the heat of a summer now passed, and I swim at sunset, knowing this may be one of the last moments where everything is deliriously in sync: the body floats, the horizon blooms, and I am nearly naked.

Snow is coming, even though I cannot smell it yet.

You dive in, worrying each time: You might not know this kind of happiness, this kind of wholeness, for another nine months.

After the sun falls behind the western mountains …

I write a letter to Nikki, in my diary, each time the doctor takes a scalpel and carves out another mole.

He takes nipping strokes through my epidermis, dermis, and down to the fat, and drops the tissue—suspect for malignant melanoma—into a vile that’ll go to some lab in New Hampshire.

I should have known this might happen.

I should have known those blissful days might end and nameless evenings of camp fires and star gazing would give way to a time with harsher edges.

I should have known that a love like this changes, and at some point, you’re forced to ask yourself what it is you love and why you stay.

You buy a house. Alone.

You paint your living room. Alone.

One Saturday in October, you force yourself to drive to the hardware store, buy a sander, a pry bar, a carpet knife, a nail set, three kinds of sandpaper, and a can of finish.

One morning in Maine, two 30-something women and a hound-dog of a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix made their way along the circumference of Mackworth Island.

Carol is playing tour guide.