Bearproof by Bibi Deitz


“Pardonnez-moi,” Molly said, but she said it Par-donny, like what you’d say to Donny if he got par on the golf course. Moi was right, but she said it the way you’d say mwah, like the sound of a kiss, so she couldn’t really be credited for either one. Then again, my sister was fourteen so I couldn’t fault her for it, though I did.
We lived in Kansas. We went to school in the same brick building, our mother drove us from the farmhouse in a Jeep. I carved soapstone and sold my figurines at the swap meets and flea markets in nearby towns: White Cloud, Hiawatha, Highland. I rode horses, read John Steinbeck and thought I could see myself on a ranch. On a camping trip to Texas the summer after high school graduation with my mother and Molly, I started thinking, Hey, I could really make it out here.
The pardonnez business was about cows versus cemeteries. The game fit Texas rancher country: count cows, and whoever has the most at the final destination wins—but if a cemetery passes on your side, you start back at zero. Molly’d wanted to know whether a little graveyard in the side grounds of a church counted and I said, “Of course,” and blew all the air out of my lungs through my nose.
My mother said, “Now, girls,” and turned up the radio. “Ramblin’ Man,” green Texan cement roads, shade from every bald cypress and river birch cast against the car. I was at a hundred and two and Molly at ninety-one. We’d both hit a boneyard and reset.
I think my mother liked to drive that fast. I think she didn’t miss my father. I think she liked thinking of him in an apartment on Hampton Street back in Lawrence while we sped south. Molly just counted cows, but I think all three of us thought, Phew, as though we were relieved to be on the road alone.
Cow piles. The shadows of leaves left constellations of maples and gingkoes in the sun on the road. We took curves close. We blew through Mason, the library sign crooked and the only place we wanted to eat, a diner, dark. The sun on the cleft of the road ahead.
The Llano River followed the land on Molly’s side. It put her at an advantage—less likely to build a cemetery on the banks of a river—but I didn’t say anything. We’d crossed the river in Junction and we’d probably cross it again. The first cross was little more than a paved bridge with red barn-y slabs of wood around the arch like frosting.
“Ninety-two, ninety-three, ninety-four,” I heard Molly count under her breath. My mother fumbled for her cigarettes in the side compartment and opened the ashtray from the dash. She pushed in the lighter; it sprung from its clutch, poker hot, and she plunged the paper tip of her cigarette into the heat. With a sizzle and smoke, the tobacco leapt alive and she rolled down the window. “Ninety-seven,” Molly said. “Ninety-eight.”
I was at one-seventeen, counting in my head and making a list of things I’d want with me in cowboy country. It was late June and it was nice enough to keep all the windows down and let the smoke funnel and whirl out to the treetops. Sleeping bag. Some clothes.
We found the state park between two small towns. It was on the map, a tent stamped on the area like an emblem, and we pulled into the parking lot long after dark. Crickets, cicadas. A porch light, of all things, clicked on from an RV at the trailhead and a balding guy with spectacles came out and took my mother’s five dollars. He pointed us toward an empty tent space and climbed the cinderblock steps back to his trailer. The woods smelled of citronella.
Molly and my mother and I pitched the tent. It gave off a scent of attic must. I pushed the metal stakes into soft ground. I heard bits of grass ripping under the stakes and I liked the way it sounded. Molly unzipped the tent, got in, took off all her clothes and put on a slip. “It’s so hot,” she said.
“Why are you wearing Mom’s slip?”
“She doesn’t care,” Molly said, and our mother said, “I don’t.” She was smoking on the hood of the car.
The sign on the dirt road by our camp said, Bear Country: Store All Food in Bearproof Containers. A small stencil of a fat black bear floated above the text. “See the sign?” I said. Molly was lying on the nylon tarp of the tent floor, head propped on her elbow. She poked her head out the mosquito netting and read it.
“Killer,” she said. “Hope we see a bear.”
“Is bearproof a word?” I said.
I threw a couple of pillows into the tent and Molly and I shook out a blanket. I fell into the woodsy black sleep of the outdoors, my mother’s silhouette willowy and dark in the shade of the jacaranda.
Sometime after midnight it cooled off. I woke and my back wasn’t cold with sweat. My mother had crawled in with us, by our feet. Her hair glistered pale silver in streaks. I heard something close by, crunching around.
Molly opened her eyes and I told her, “Shh.” She looked at me and I said, “Look.” We pushed our faces to the mosquito netting and saw the same as before: dirt road, bear sign, the car. “I heard something,” I said.
Molly curled up and put an open hand over her eyes. On my back I saw hundreds of stars. My mother let go a long breath. I heard a cluster of laughs from a neighbor camp. It was quiet for a long time.
“Two-hundred and eighty-nine cows,” I said. I nudged Molly’s foot with mine.
She didn’t say anything, and then she said, “Three-oh-one.” On her cheeks I could see the moon.

Duende Poetry Series

The Duende Poetry Series Sunday, September 14, 3 p.m., Anasazi Fields Winery

The featured readers will be James McGrath and Lauren Camp. Following the featured poets, there will be an open reading, as time permits.

James McGrath, poet is known for his narrative poetry in the PBS American Indian Artist Series in the 1970s. He has four collections of poetry from Sunstone: At the Edgelessness of Light; Speaking with Magpies; Dreaming Invisible Voice; and Valentines and Forgeries, Mirrors and Dragons. McGrath was poet-artist-in-residence with the United States Information Service, Arts America in Yemen, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of The Congo in the 1990s. In 2010, he received the Institute of American Indian Arts Visionary Award. He lives in La Cieneguilla, Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he hosts poetry readings in his apple orchard.

Lauren Camp is the author of The Dailiness (Edwin E. Smith, 2013), winner of the National Federation of Press Women 2014 Poetry Book Prize. Her third book, One Hundred Hungers is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. Winner of The Más Tequila Review Margaret Randall Poetry Prize. She hosts “Audio Saucepan,” a global music/poetry program on Santa Fe Public Radio, Sundays at 6PM.

For all Duende Poetry Series readings, free snacks and non-alcoholic drinks are available. Anasazi Fields wines are available for tasting and for sale by the glass and by the bottle. Although Duende Poetry Series readings are free, donations to provide small honorariums to the poets are encouraged. For more information, contact Jim Fish at 867-3062 or The winery is located at 26 Camino de los Pueblitos in the historic village of Placitas, six miles east of I25, Exit 242. WELCOME WE HOPE TO SEE YOU!

Bear poem by Gary Lawless

A note from poet Gary Lawless shares a good poem and also the mysterious life poems can have…

One of my old Bear poems has shown up twice on the internet in the last week, both times as a surprise to me, once from the US and once from Italy. This is a poem that was on a wall in Central Park Zoo, at the polar bear exhibit, until recently when the last polar bear there died, and the exhibit was shut down. Both of the new versions have wonderful photos with them, and here are the connections:
and from Italy:


Multiple Choice Test

Life Is A Multiple Choice Test:

1. true
2. false
3. none of the above
4. all of the above

School starts this week—I’m almost ready!

Call For One Line Haiku from the editor of Brass Bell

I am seeking one-line haiku, on any theme, for the September issue of brass bell: an online haiku journal.

Sunday, August 31 at 5 p.m. (eastern time, U. S.)
Publication date: Monday, September 1

I would like to include more than one haiku per person so I suggest you send me a selection of work to choose from; 10 seems like a good number (or less, or more).

Each poem I publish must fit on one line on the page. It’s hard for me to say how long your poem should be but I’m guessing 10-12 words will fit.

If you’re not already familiar with one-line haiku please do a bit of research; this form can be deceptive! A one-line haiku is not the same as a prose sentence.

Paste your haiku in the body of an email — no attachments — and send to:

Be sure to include your name exactly as you wish it to appear, as well as your country (the countries will be included at the top, not with each poem).

Previously published work is fine with me but I am keeping everything simple this time around so please send poems that do not require a credit line (attribution).

Feel free to share this invitation with others if you think they might be interested. I would love to receive one-liners from people I don’t even know yet. New haiku friends are always welcome!

Be sure to visit the brass bell site and read the issues dedicated to rain, food, flowers, birds, colors:


Venus and Jupiter Haibun

Mid-August. Venus and Jupiter so close in the eastern sky, 5:45 am, a little early for me just as the neighborhood starts to wake.
Viewing it with you as if a celestial show put on for our delight, like Stravinsky’s “Nightingale” a few evenings ago at the opera—all chinoiserie, a boatman in a boat on a river of blue ribbon beneath stage moon.

two kids
in one sleeping bag—
Perseid shower



And take a look at Saturn and Mars just after sunset–great view above the neighbor’s truck!

Annexation of Crimea Divides an Artist Colony Founded on Tolerance

Note from Miriam Sagan: I don’t usually blog overtly political work, but this is so fascinating I couldn’t resist. It is a window into an amazing Russian literary world, and I’m grateful to the author for reporting it.


Annexation of Crimea Divides an Artist Colony Founded on Tolerance
by Neil Macfarquhar   Aug. 20, 2014
KOKTEBEL, Crimea — In Soviet times, when favored artists received a government stipend to summer here on Crimea’s southern coast, a metal billboard by the beach read in bold letters: “Be quiet! Writers are working!”
This season, it is the artists making most of the noise.
Drawn here for generations by Koktebel’s particular light and kinetic landscapes, the artistic community has recently split into two feuding factions. Neighbor has turned on neighbor, old rituals have been abandoned, and some regulars have avoided the place entirely.
“It’s tense,” said Sergey Tsigal, 64, sporting a white beard and a gold earring, shushing his naked 3-year-old grandson as the boy gamboled around their lush garden with a gray Irish wolfhound named Dunya.

The problem started with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March. President Vladimir V. Putin unleashed the Russian military to end Ukrainian sovereignty and organized a hasty referendum in which the overwhelming majority of Crimean residents chose to join Russia.

Igor Sheptovetsky, a former nuclear physicist who now owns a hotel in Koktebel, Crimea, called the Russian annexation of the peninsula “a miracle.”
The artists have been arguing ever since whether the moral thing to do this summer was to stay away, since coming was interpreted by many as tacit acceptance of a forced annexation.
Although reflective of current events, the clash is rooted in the history of Koktebel. Max Voloshin, a merry, skinny-dipping poet and painter who espoused tolerance, founded the creative oasis about 100 years ago. If not exactly free of Soviet strictures, Koktebel provided an escape to someplace more open, out of time.
It was seen as less wealthy but more spirited than Yalta down the coast, where the czar and Soviet rulers once played.
But this summer, the world did not retreat.
“People split into two camps, pro-Russian Crimea and anti-Russian Crimea,” said Natasha Arendt, 55, whose family members are bickering. “Some people were very excited, and some were disappointed, and they became enemies where once they were friends.”
The skirmishing began long before summer, spilling across the pages of Facebook, where many seasonal residents stay connected.
The Kremlin-inspired slogan for taking Crimea was “Krim nash!” or “Crimea is ours.” When some artists advocating a boycott discovered that others were planning to come anyway, they began hurling sharp comments like “Krim vash!” or “Crimea is yours” and “Just go to your Crimea!”
A former friend of Marietta Tsigal, 30, an actress, told her on Facebook, “If you go there, you support Putin.”
She tried not to engage. Her father, Sergey, had no such qualms.
“I say the referendum was illegal,” said Mr. Tsigal, who advertises his sympathy in subtle ways. He runs errands around town in a yellow T-shirt and sky blue shorts, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. “I share the opinion of the whole world that does not support it. I want to be part of the civilized world.”
One ally, Elena Fokina, a painter brought here as an infant in 1962, became a permanent resident six years ago.
After proffering a bowl of plump apricots plucked from her garden, Ms. Fokina and her husband, a gallerist, extolled the interplay between the coast, steppe and mountains surrounding Koktebel. “When you look out the window to paint the landscape, you think the painting is never quite finished,” Ms. Fokina said. “Every time you look, the landscape seems different.”
She, too, regrets the annexation. “I feel shame,” she said.
But Ms. Fokina does not bring it up when she drops by places like Turkiya, the small local gallery owned by Natalya Turkiya, 70, who holds court out front.
“Russia saved Crimea!” Ms. Turkiya said bluntly, noting that she holds the majority opinion in Koktebel, not least because most annexation opponents stayed away.
Down the road, Igor Sheptovetsky, 51, a nuclear physicist who retired here early and opened a small hotel, concurred. “What happened in Crimea is a miracle,” he said. “Without Russia, the same violence happening in eastern Ukraine might have happened here.”
One regular guest, an American professor who has vacationed in Koktebel every summer for 24 years, looked sheepish as he disagreed. “It’s a little bit embarrassing being here,” he said, declining to use his name. “What happened is an international outrage, and it is like participating.”

Summer regulars say they have learned to avoid the topic.
“People have lost their minds!” Ms. Tsigal exclaimed. “Everyone says: ‘Thank God Putin saved us from those fascists. They would have killed us all.’ ”
But she does not want to justify coming to the place she most considers home, nor does she want to lose friends over the issue. When dinner party conversations veer toward politics, she said, she steers them away.
Ms. Turkiya now talks about anything but politics with Mr. Tsigal. “He is such a great cook, I don’t care what he thinks,” she said.
Mr. Tsigal has not found it easy. He likes to speak his mind.
One neighbor, Dmitry Kiselev, is a Kremlin ideologue and television host who regularly pillories Ukraine and noted recently on the air that Russia possessed the nuclear means to annihilate the United States. The European Union decided that his aggression warranted putting him under sanctions.
Mr. Tsigal used to sample his neighbor’s homemade wine every summer. No longer. “I know we would start arguing from the first glass,” he said. “It’s just not the same pleasure.”
Another summer ritual, the Koktebel Jazz Festival, used to draw a raft of international musicians every September. This year, the organizers decided to move it to Odessa, in Ukraine.
Mr. Kiselev then started a competing event called the Koktebel Jazz Party, noting that he had helped start the original. “Life goes on,” he wrote on the website for the festival, which has yet to announce many acts.
A core of summer regulars decided to put aside their differences to preserve at least one tradition — a four-hour art exhibition held every May and September on the expansive white outer walls of Mr. Sheptovetsky’s hotel. Given this year’s acrimony, he feared a boycott, but many regulars contributed.
Longtime residents find the local civil war particularly distressful because it clashes with the open-minded spirit of Mr. Voloshin, who transformed Koktebel from a deserted hamlet populated mostly by asthmatics and Bulgarian refugees into a thriving artist’s colony.
“He did not divide people into groups, and believed anything created by human endeavor was worthy of respect,” said Svetlana Kleps, a guide at the beachfront Voloshin Museum, once the founder’s home and studio. It is filled with photographs and artifacts, like paintings of Mr. Voloshin by Diego Rivera.
Mr. Voloshin settled here in 1917, hiding people from both sides during the revolution and civil war. Afterward, his mother started a summer tradition of inviting artists, reaching a record 600 visitors in 1927.
Mr. Voloshin died in 1932, but his widow kept the place alive for decades by donating the expansive beachfront property to the state-run Writers Union. It eventually grew to 20 buildings that could accommodate 350 artists.
The stipends did not always go to the best artists but to those admired by the Soviet state, Mr. Tsigal said. He remembers as a boy seeing a woman on the beach with an Order of Lenin medal pinned to her bathrobe.
The generations descended from Mr. Voloshin’s friends were horrified by the changes wrought after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. During 23 years of Ukrainian rule, an expansive park, a vineyard and a public tennis court disappeared under new construction. The once-serene beach is now a honky-tonk strip of bars and souvenir shops.
There is one positive aspect of the annexation that just about all the old-timers seem to agree on. With the tourist industry in collapse, this summer reminds them of how quiet the town used to be, the spirit of a mythical place partly restored amid the rancor.
“In the 1950s, there were few people here,” Mr. Tsigal said, “which is why I like this summer so much.”

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