A Dry Country
Crossing the plains toward Amboseli
the earth was so dry
dust devils spun up into the air
like dirty brown tornadoes, moved
jerkily across the land, harming nothing
in their path.
The ground was barren, gray,
cracked and spread open
waiting, waiting for the rain,
rain that would not come.
Seven years and no rainy season,
rivers empty, trees unleafed,
animals nervous, chattery,
skin taught, ribs showing.
In the dying forests,
trees knocked down by elephants, upturned
and stripped of bark, roots – woods flattened
as if by bulldozer or bombing run.
By the shrinking waterholes,
deadly competition, prey and predator
intermixed in unexpected union, with
the weak and sick pushed aside;
and beyond: the dead, bellies bloated and
splitting open, decomposing,
lifeless eyes staring into the yellow heat
of the blinding, merciless sun.
Circling a Famous Author
He was sitting on a
black waiting room lounge chair
in Heathrow Airport and you could tell
he was a pretty tall man.
His hair was thick and tousled,
going gray at the edges, and
he wore big brown eye-glasses,
utilitarian rather than fashionable.
A guy across the room seemed to recognize him,
at first could only muster an occasional peek
over the edge of an overpriced paperback.
He might have been trying to come up with a
Billy Pilgrim reference or a pithy remark like
“everything is beautiful and nothing hurt” but
he didn’t look like he could muster the courage.
Finally, he did make a move,
started walking around the waiting room
making loops around the famous author,
behind him, off to the right, then in front,
back to the left – repeat, repeat again.
By the second revolution it was all too obvious, but
the guy tried to be discreet, only daring a furtive glance here and there,
maybe pretending he wasn’t acting like a hick on Broadway,
hoping he was being way cool.
On loop three, the writer finally looked up,
took notice of the circler, shook his big head,
smiled a small, tired smile.
The guy hurried back to his seat and immediately
re-immersed himself in the neglected paperback.
Ten minutes passed before he dared
look over his book at the waiting room again.
By then the famous author was safely off to his plane and
the circler was safely formulating his own fiction
of the close encounter he had had with the
famous, unapproachable American writer.
Avenue of the Dead – Teotihuacan
They crossed the dusty Avenue of the Dead,
Pyramids of Sun and Moon on the left
in the distance towering above the dry Mexican land
walking into the less imposing Ciudadela with
its symmetrically aligned series of shorter
platforms on the way to see Quetzalcoatl,
feathered serpent god, with
newer structure covering old;
standing in between on a plywood plank
staring straight into the round eyes of water diety Tlaloc
amid the mystery of long forgotten rituals and processions of
long forgotten Teotihuacanos, priests and warriors replaced
by tourists, guides and trinket hawkers
under a blazing Meshican sun, voices modulating loud or low
nearby and amid dozens of people she said into a hot breeze:
“Can you hear it? Can you hear the sounds of the past;
cries, pleas, people living and breathing, their history
gliding, floating on the winds of time?”
He listened carefully, for voices in the air,
felt wind on his face, listened more intently yet,
not wanting to disappoint:
“Yes,” his uncertain answer, “I can. I can hear
them in the wind, across time.”
She took his hand in hers and they started back
across the Ciudadela, returned to the Avenue of the Dead,
then down towards the great pyramids.
The bright sun shone down harshly,
but they blocked it out with raised hands,
walked on silently, certain in the fidelity
of time and wind.
J. B. Hogan was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize for his story “Kerosene Heat.” His dystopian novel New Columbia was published in Aphelion and his prize-winning e-book Near Love Stories is online at Cervena Barva Press. He has many stories and poems in such journals as: Cynic Online Magazine, Istanbul Literary Review, Every Day Poets, Ranfurly Review, and the Dead Mule. His work has been anthologized in Flash of Aphelion and Best of Tales from the South: Volume 6. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.