Stone Soup Servings Presents: Peter Storey

 

Stone Soup Servings is a regular series for Oddball Magazine that features upcoming performers at Stone Soup Poetry, the long-running spoken word venue in the Boston area that has partnered with Oddball Magazine. Stone Soup Poetry now meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery’s new location at 541 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square Cambridge, Massachusetts. The open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m.

This Monday, we begin December’s Stone Soup lineup with the return of past open mic wonder Peter Storey. See samples of his previously published fiction and poetry before reading below. Then make plans to be in the audience on December 1st.

 

Skinwalkers

Dry lightning had been growling and the smoke
Reports were coming fast. We popped one and
The up-load scrambled to our little ship;
The pilot pulled collective; we were gone.

We found it fifteen minutes later, on
The border of the juniper and hard
Mesquite-land. Quarter acre, patchy black,
Consuming grass and timber litter slow.

We landed hot. Mike played IC and sized
It up for dispatch, asking for the ship
To drop a bucket-cycle. Afterwards,
We lined it then began to mop it up.

The ship flew back to base. Few smokes remained
Interior. We crushed them with dry earth.
The moisture-bloated monsoon clouds from pink
To purple rioted, then faded grey.

We called the day when darkness fell. We’d check
Again next morning. Moisture in the night,
I thought, would handle any heat still left.
We rolled our bags out, then we lit our smokes.

The night air settled. Birds and bats took wing.
The forest murmured. Crickets took to song.
Coyotes yipped an incantation strange.
Then out into the moonlight stepped a man.

“So who the fuck are you?” Mike asked. He said:
“A man, the same as you. And is this how
You treat a stranger in the woods, who’s come
To share a little friendly company?”

The man said that he was Coyote; we
Shook hands around and offered him a seat.
He showed his antler flute and softly played
The same song as the little wolves still sang.

He ended and we thanked him. “Eaten yet?”
He asked. “Not yet,” said Mike. “And all we’ve got
Is MRE’s.” “Take this,” he said. “From deer.
It’s jerky.” Mike accepted. I refused.

Mike chewed, content. I poured some water in
My plastic pouch and waited for my meal
To heat. Coyote said: “Tonight is good.
The rains are coming and the desert wakes.”

He nodded to the full moon beaming on
The cactussed vastness and the hard mesquite.
“The desert is alive tonight,” he said.
“The desert wakes and walks beneath the moon.”

Mike seemed more somber now, and listened close.
He watched the rangy man–we saw now, through
The dark, his thin and wild frame–and said:
“I’ve heard about–the yucca, move at night.”

Coyote laughed. “The tree-men? Do they walk?
The desert night is large and much can move
Unseen. The yucca–do they walk? And does
The widow somewhere by the river cry?”

I said: “It’s easy to believe they do,
Out here alone at night. It goes away
In daylight.” “But it’s not the day,” he said.
“It’s now, when spirits change their shapes and play.”

But Mike had had enough, and told the man
To stop. “We shouldn’t talk about that shit,”
He said. “Skinwalkers. Not out here, not now.”
Coyote shrugged and from his pouch withdrew his flute.

He played his timeless, lilting song–it sank
Into the breeze and the enormity
In harmony complete. We crawled into
Our bags, set out alarms, said “night.” He played.

The dawn with dew came cold. I rose and stretched.
Mike’s bag was empty, and they both were gone.
His rumpled nomex lay beside strange marks
And canine footprints circled in the sand.

“High desert dispatch, Cottonwood IC,”
I called. “Clear channel for emergency.
One male, age 26, gone missing in
The night. Please contact search and rescue. Break.”

They launched three ships and mobilized a team
To comb the hills and plain for Mike and for
Coyote, whom no man had met; they found
No tracks, no marks, not even his remains.

And so I watch the shadows now, and by
The river listen for the widow’s cries–
I keep my knife close by when sleeping out,
And when coyotes sing, my hairs all rise.

End.

 

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