The apocalypse comes in many forms. Oh sure, there is acid rain and there is drought, the crops dry up and the world moves on, but what happens when you’re alone with your wife or husband? Nature takes over, as it always does, and always will. And what becomes of the children? In Matt Bell’s haunting portrayal of twenty-six moments in the afterbirth of a world gone wrong, Cataclysm Baby (Mudluscious Press), we get to see how those days and nights roll on, when the waters are poisoned and furtive slick flesh seeks out a moment of passionate respite in many a dark and restless night.

A Poem

By Ewa Chrusciel

Poem

Children swing on a rope down to a river. Water is shocked by this splutter. We stay
on shore, even though we know the water is master of gravitation and will save us
from flight. Unlike Mary’s Yes, a swing into hearts ajar.

I dream of the day when my syllables will hold rough wood, my letters will be sewn in a stove or
fireplace. It’s not the sacrifice we resist, but the beauty. The intensity of the instance burns. For it
has to turn into another instance. There is nobility in asking the same thing over and over.

Children swing on a rope down to a river. Water is shocked by this splutter. The truth burns us
before it falls away. We remain on shore.

When did she start to witness evanescence? The animals saw her suffering in light
and saw that it was good and took her light in suffering. A dog started to bleed.
A cat died after she left. Life was not enough. The occasional splutter of light.
The simplicity of smile. There is nobility in asking.

Children swing on a rope down to a river.

Nico’s Aya speaks of light and evanescence. The blessing of his Grandmother. Woven DNA
patterns. Now it has holes and no warmth, but the child holds onto it and repeats: “AYA’s
church.” Not knowing that Aya, his grandmother, wove him into Being.
There were many blankets. The plants saw and knew it was good. There is nobility
in weaving the same blanket over and over. We are impatient to rid ourselves of time.
It takes centuries for Arctic plants to spread and form a quaking mat, a circumference
of clarities.

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Given a choice between grief and nothing, I choose grief.”
—William Faulkner

I wasn’t prepared for this memoir, this baptism by fire that Lidia Yuknavitch pours out onto the pages of The Chronology of Water (Hawthorne Books). I was aware of the controversy about the exposed breast on the cover, the grey band of paper wrapped around the book to appease those who can’t stand to see such obscenity. I was lured in by the glowing testimonials of authors I know and respect, people like Chuck Palahniuk, Monica Drake, and Chelsea Cain (who writes the introduction), her close-knit group of fellow authors, her workshop, support group, therapy and champions. But no, I wasn’t prepared for her voice—the power, the lyrical passages, and the raw, crippling events that destroyed her youth, but made her the woman she is today: fearless, funny, honest, and kind. By not being prepared, the opening lines hit me hard, and I in fact stopped for a moment, realizing that this was going to be bumpy ride, a dark story, but one that held nothing back. So I took a breath, and I went under:

Two wholly different riverbeds in the United States offer an official rock with a slide.

There are possibly more, and there may soon be less.But we would make sure to dip into these, one in North Carolina and one in Arizona, on our tour around the country.Because we’d been away from American natural spectacles and because an open swimming hole with a rock slide wasn’t actually supposed to exist in this new century, belonging to a rosier, bucolic past since replaced by concrete waterparks and videogame fitness.

I sat down for a brief conversation with a song that has been talking to me for most of my life. The song is “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads, and it comes from the 1980 full-length album Remain in Light. Released as a single on February 2, 1981, “Once in a Lifetime” has arguably become the group’s signature song. A mildly interesting fact: Remain in Light was released on October 8, 1980, and I was in utero, letting the days go by, letting the water hold me down…

There burned a pyre of memory of beloved trees, one sick but healing, others that fell through the air.

Earth sign with water rising, I tended the fire. If I were made of Kevlar, I would have climbed inside the hearth and stoked with toes and fingertips.

* * * * *

The medieval maw consumed the swamp chestnut’s branches. Before we moved to this house, the tree had been neglected for more than a decade. Its sapwood oozed and festered in the summer. Rotted pulp filled the gap of its triangular wound, the illusion of strength, the texture of sponge. I named it Stinky then for the homebrew scent of its fermented sap. In spite of its illness, slime flux mold disease, Stinky was sturdy, resilient. Its shade was nearly as valuable as its beauty, so it was spared, pruned of dead and dying branches. Twigs gathered from its canopy in the fall fueled the fire’s start. A stray leaf, large as a cow’s ear, flared red at the edges and collapsed.

That tree lives, sleeping now, its roots in the rain contained by the clay.