Ballast
by Nii Ayikwei Parkes
cover art by Ketzia Schoneberg

Ballast IV: Flung Out Like A Fag-End

The ships that sank never really stood
a chance; the captured in the holds, less.

In water, gravity numbed at the cost of oxygen
made their breaths catch for a taste

of weightlessness; space, centuries before
the Buzz became news. Odd, how we explore

the high and deep, rarely the middle - that belt
of rarefied air which balloons occupy, where

the brutal cargo would have avoided the fury
of waves. Battered, at worst, by hurricanes, there

was still the likelihood of a short period of calm
at the axis - a respite from evil winds - before

the centrifugal drag of the eye wall: a flutter of
freed bodies floating to the ends of the world

to feather new nests, a basket falling, an envelope
drifting, a fire augmenting the speed of migration

from Africa beyond a fast-fingered jazz solo, minus
the 500 years of insult: in the bodies, fire;

in the basket, gifts; in the envelope, odds on whether
the seeds of the scattered would have avoided Katrina

- the dancing wind that exposed the unchanging water
-borne illness of prejudice caught in the holds of

the ships that made it across the sky's reflection two
centuries before the eerie shimmer of a hot air balloon.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a writer of poetry, prose, and articles, and author of the poetry chapbooks eyes of a boy, lips of a man (1999), and M is for Madrigal (2004), a selection of seven jazz poems. A former associate writer-in-residence for BBC Radio 3, and writer-in-residence at California State University, Los Angeles, he is also the Senior Editor at flipped eye publishing, where he has overseen the production of four award-winning titles. Nii is the current International Writing Fellow at the University of Southampton and his debut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird, will be released in June 2009 by Jonathan Cape.

Cover art by Ketzia Schoneberg. Ketzia Schoneberg creates portraits of individuals of other species in order to show the viewer a mirror - an image of the earthy, biological and spiritual origins we share with other creatures. She does not sketch before beginning a painting; when entering the studio she doesn't know beforehand what her subject or palette will be. This approach keeps her work honest both technically and energetically. She uses live models and photographs as starting points for all of her work. Ketzia's educational background includes undergraduate work at the San Francisco Art Institute, art studies at Kibbutz Yavne in Israel, a BFA from San Francisco State University, and graduate work at New Mexico State University. She has been showing her work nationally for over 15 years, and makes her home in Oregon. View more of Ketzia's work online at www.ketzia.com.