Processie by Arnold Jongkind
Renee Emerson | Salim Yakubu Akko | Adam Scheffler | Richard Foerster | Lenore Myers | Kari Gunter-Seymour | Joseph Mills | Pamilerin Jacob | M. Nasorri Pavone | Linda McKenna | Michelle Bitting | Jimmy Pappas | James Croal Jackson | Hollie Dugas | Erin Wilson | Michael T. Young | Catherine Esposito Prescott | Deborah-Zenha Adams | Lenny DellaRocca | George Franklin | Megan Waring
Poem Written After the Stillbirth
If I could invent a car
that runs on depression
I could go anywhere.
Whizz past gas stations
winking their arrogant
price-lights, no pause
on the pedal.
Rev the engine and outpace
any two-bit pickup
or electric skimming
by on borrowed miles.
We could travel without
in Alabama, MeMe in Texas,
roll a quilt of state lines.
We could take the kids clear
across Tennessee to the Smokies,
let them breathe thinner air,
walk roots burrowed deep.
Or down to the ocean yawning out
like endless sorrow, and the gulls
that laugh and laugh and laugh.
Renee Emerson is the author of the poetry collections Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing 2014), Threshing Floor (Jacar Press 2016), and Church Ladies (Fernwood Press, forthcoming 2022). She is also the author of the chapbook The Commonplace Misfortunes of Everyday Plants (Belle Point Press, forthcoming). She lives in the Midwest with her husband and children.
What to Say to the Boy That Asks for the Remnants of Rain
here, we build houses with decayed,
unburied bodies that forgot the other
new ways to breathe in the land
where flowers, too, are names given
to the family of bullets that haunt
the bodies that refuse to fall.
see, maybe, when the sun’s
eyes become weary and darkness
wears the crown, a masked face
might ask if the graveyard
is full, so he would unearth those
that got their halves blessed to be
buried in a grave as a way to shelter
the remnants of his fallen body; an
escape from being wholly flooded
by the flooding water that holds
the melanin of blood. you see, here,
when children grow beards, they
metamorphose into night heroes,
visiting home after home, burying
the mouths of their brothers with
notes only to have the ballots
thumbed on their strange rooms.
today, let me tell you what to say
to the boy that always asks for the
remnants of rain, tell him here is a
land turned to a Kalahari—a new
desert formed by our unploughed
prayers and burning wishes. if you
like, snuff the monster out of your
mouth and tell him about the
remnants of the rain who could
only be seen when we grind the
satanic dots between what our
mouths utter. tell him it could only
wet our withered bodies when we
bury the things hovering the arena
in our craniums; things that are
synonymous to building sandhouses
together after the rain. such things
beyond things like he gave us poetry
when our eyes were searching for
rain, or he taught us how to pray
under the roofs where angels that
carry in their mouth hymns sung
from the heaven, stay. tell him you
mean such things beyond what our
hearts could feel. and the remnants
of the orphaned rain, is lying here
between our ribs, sieving the dust
trying to blur the eyes of what this
night would born.
Salim Yakubu Akko is a Nigerian writer, poet and essayist from Gombe State. He has been published on Applied Worldwide, Brittle Paper, The Pine Cone Review, Black Boy Review, Upwrite Magazine, World Voices Magazine, and elsewhere. He is the 1st Runner-up of the 2022 Bill Ward Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers. Akko is a member of Gombe Jewel Writers Association, Creative Club Gombe State University, and Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation.
(Insects in the Floodlights, Kentucky, Night)
Why do I feel such sweet joy at their
alien frenzy, their aerial orgy,
that burns them up one after
another — how many
thousands? I love this
outpouring, this loosening
of the night’s untucked hair.
Look, there they are,
helter skelter, revealing
how vastly they outnumber
us, crowding out even
our stupendous egos
& roosting in the millions
like unruly sports fans
over de-peopled courts.
As for the outdoor
parties in the distance,
strung up green &
golden lights, I don’t
need them for the wild
my dog shows me the way to.
In a children’s book I once
loved, there’s an hour
each night when
no human is awake,
and only beasts & witches
roam. Just once, a child
awakens, and rides
down the street
on a giant’s back.
How could the world not
be theirs as they are blown
out endlessly into the dark?
How could we not
love their teeming
world without us?
Adam Scheffler’s first book of poems — A Dog’s Life — won the 2016 Jacar Press Book Contest. His second book of poems — Heartworm — won the 2021 Moon City Press Contest and is forthcoming this winter.
On My Way to the Fine Craft Show
Brittle as a child’s balsa toy
abandoned when it fell
to the red brick walk,
this corpse of what? a pigeon,
crow? that weeks of drought
and August sun unfleshed,
here on Free Street, untrodden,
ignored, unswept by wind or lazy
merchants, is perfectly displayed
in the blunt reality of decay,
as if it were Archaeopteryx
before the slurry of time
fixed it to a matrix of stone;
how delicate the neck’s
beaded braid, the skull’s shallow
well where an eye floated
with awareness from its ledge
over the city, the breastbones’
splintery twigs still woven
to a flap of skin like a nest
from which its brood has flown;
the matted wings’ ruined
underfeathers, gilded in this light,
like an emblem of empires gone,
arch downward in a gesture
of ascent; tibia, tarsus,
the leathery orange toes mime
a desperate high-step run
as if the bird had been racing
to get somewhere, to propel
a weighty stillness into flight.
Richard Foerster’s ninth collection, With Little Light and Sometimes None at All, is forthcoming from Littoral Books in Fall 2023. Recent poems appear in Bennington Review, Notre Dame Review, I-70 Review, Tar River Poetry, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.
The Triangular Field (1955)
Beyond the hedgerow, just
a scritch, barely human
form, so close to being
two triangles away from serious
grazing sheep, indistinct
as growing grass. Waving
in the solemn green, a blue
someone hailing from
the larger field—calling
we’ll never know what
or if they heard. The horse
is grazing comfortably within
the reassuring geometries,
these green, orderly lanes
of light and land. Across
the golden field, aglow
in summer’s lengthening, an
apple tree seems to leap
into the light, screaming
beneath her bouffant of leaves—
isn’t it usual to see
something a bit wrong?
But leaping is unfolding
life, its anxious squiggles,
in plain sight—here it is
only seeming, and horses,
undisturbed, lack perspective.
This poem is from a series responding to paintings by Balthus. Other poems by Lenore Myers can be found (or are forthcoming) in The Southern Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. These days she teaches English to recent immigrants in Northern California.
Child of the Large-Beaked Bird
The crows are up to no good,
tapping the tin roof like it’s
Miss Glovers’ School for Awkward Girls,
all juke, jig and ja-ja.
My granddog doesn’t approve,
not the rooftop trapeze or the tomfoolery
in the garden, mischievous pecks
gouged around the scarecrow’s eyes.
They’re toying with me.
I’ve tried to bribe them—
fresh fruit, cat food, sequins,
salted peanuts, propped myself
nearby, full lotus, trilling.
Why subject myself and this prized
pooch to the insufferable?
The indigenous say their ancestors
came to earth in the form of Crow.
I come to them, my sack of sorrows
laid open—perch on soil
my ancestors stole, sing dirt songs.
Kari Gunter-Seymour is the Poet Laureate of Ohio. Her current collection is titled Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio University Swallow Press, 2022). Her work has been featured on Verse Daily, World Literature Today, The New York Times, and Poets.org.
There was not much that was ahead of him,
And there was nothing in the town below—
Where strangers would have shut the many doors
That many friends had opened long ago.
— E.A. Robinson, “Mr. Flood’s Party”
Then came the year the youngest was too old
to go trick or treating. They wanted to go
to a friend’s party instead. And I felt the barb
of time’s arrow tug at me. That night,
not yet wanting to be alone in the house,
I wandered the streets along the familiar route,
one my children and their friends had mapped
over years of Octobers. They knew the houses
that encouraged you to take handfuls from the bag
and the ones that simply put out a bowl with a note
so you had to get there before someone emptied it,
the house where a huge spider descended and
the one where the guy jumped out with a chain saw.
Alone, I placed a different map on top of theirs.
On that corner, my oldest, at six, had gone ahead
into the street, and when I stopped her, she spun
in defiance, yelling You’re not the boss of me.
In that tree, we hung the mask of a costume
they had begged for and quickly began shedding.
That house and that one had friends from whom
we would demand wine or whiskey for our To Go cups.
At that intersection, one year the older kids annoyed
at the slowness of the siblings had asked to run ahead
and within seconds had disappeared into the night.
Surrounded by ghosts on the sidewalks, I realized
walking without a child probably made me scary
and there were no doors that would open with wine
for me anymore. I returned to my dark house.
The youngest came home late, dissatisfied.
The party hadn’t been much fun,
so they had gone trick-or-treating after all,
but that too had been disappointing.
He hadn’t known the neighborhood,
no one had wanted to run from house to house,
and afterwards they didn’t lie on the floor
to sort and swap what they had gathered.
Not that they had much. It turned out
teenagers, making half-assed gestures
at costumes with a hat or orange shirt,
don’t get showered with treats, not like
six-year old monsters, witches, and pirates.
So, unlike other years when he would be
too candy-crazed to sit still, he was thoughtful,
processing the discovery he was no longer young
and cute, no longer fussed over. The holiday
no longer seemed his; he had wanted so badly
to be older, not realizing what he would lose.
Writing this now I remember how much
I complained each fall, how I often said
I hated Halloween because a girl
I thought I loved broke up with me
twice — both times on October 31 —
(once dressed as a nurse, once as a crayon),
how the holiday was weird,
the way it sexualized young girls
and romanticized threats and violence,
how it had been hijacked by adults
gratifying their Peter Pan impulses.
And I remember how I used to mock
the soul song “You Don’t Miss Your Water”
with its explanation “till your well runs dry.”
Couldn’t you see it running dry?
I would sneer. Couldn’t you anticipate
missing it? But I was wrong, as I’ve been
about so many things. I didn’t recognize then
how wonderful it can be to walk in the dark
with people you love, everyone pretending
for one night to be remarkable, each house
a party, your bounty increasing door by door.
Here you go, Daddy, my son said,
handing me a bite-size Almond Joy
I know these are your favorite.
A faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joseph Mills has published seven volumes of poetry, most recently Bodies in Motion, poems about dance. His collection This Miraculous Turning was awarded the North Carolina Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry for its exploration of race and family.
Nocturne for Slumber
—Two Movements after Abdullah Ibrahim’s Once Upon a Midnight
The angel who swept dusk off the sky suffers
from forgetfulness. Did not remember to pin stars,
& licked the moon into a lean arc. Give me the orange
splash of noon against walls, branches of banana trees
interlocked like elbows, swaying to the bumble
of sparrows. Not this. Not this loneliness swelling
like a boil, the shiv of insomnia drilling into the scalp.
The neighbours think they are quiet, but love
exposes everything the way light does. On
the other side of the wall, I am pulling through
the night like a thread through a wound.
On the other side of my life, the sun
has begun its sermon to the leaves,
promising an endless green.
When the dream entered the room, its hands
were red from adventure, from knocking on skulls
street to street to street, the child’s, the woman’s,
the dog’s—knocking, knuckles wet, knocking,
room to room to room. To think the unseen
are lonelier than we are. To think the eye’s soft
is a door that only swings inwards, exacting its own
violence, othering everything, even dreams.
I admit culpability. I,
myself, am sealed all over,
skin taut over skull like a condom.
To the dream:
Your bruise will persist into daylight.
The yam-slice of dawn will tumble into your mouth.
I am sorry for increasing your loneliness, I said.
But I was dreaming
my stubbornness. Asleep the way palm oil does
at the bottom of a keg.
Pamilerin Jacob is a poet & editor whose poems have appeared in Barren Magazine, Agbowó, IceFloe Press, Palette, The Rumpus, & elsewhere. He is the curator of PoetryColumn-NND, a poetry column in Nigerian NewsDirect, a national newspaper.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
for Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, 13
A Toyota pickup with a loudspeaker begins
an early morning ride through Kismayo,
a port in southern Somalia.
By four in the afternoon a crowd of a thousand
gather at the football stadium.
A hole has been dug in the ground.
The militia who controls the city appears,
firing warning shots into the air to disperse
a crush of people trying to reach the stones.
The law even specifies the size: not so big
that the victim dies too quickly in one or two blows,
and so the rocks being unloaded and piled
have been thoughtfully selected, systematically
transported. The collectors know what to look for:
the shape and weight, where to go, who will help.
Are protective gloves worn as they scout
and heft, conducting mock-throws as tests,
considering the strength of an elder or youth?
Yes, this one will do, and these. Who dreams
of being the first to disfigure her round, tender face?
Four men drag her into the stadium,
force her into the hole, bury her up to the neck.
Fifty men approach to pitch. Undoubtedly
the skull will split, God’s will, but the obliteration
of the face will be the fought over prize, to win
with carnival zeal: rock toss, break-a-plate,
ring the bell, dunk tank. Step right up.
M. Nasorri Pavone’s poetry has appeared in River Styx, Sycamore Review, New Letters, The Cortland Review, Innisfree, b o d y, Rhino, DMQ Review, The Citron Review, Pirene’s Fountain, I-70 Review, and others. She’s been anthologized in Beyond the Lyric Moment (Tebot Bach, 2014), and has been nominated for Best of the Net and twice for a Pushcart Prize.
In law an adult woman acting on her own regarding her estate.
Your homeland now a folk tale landscape,
where women trudge roads of frozen mud,
bent under the weight of brittle kindling.
Your cargo a box of cast-offs, two glazed
and useless bowls, a scratched cooking pot,
three vases chipped in the same place,
and a tally stick of hazelwood, notched
with the double debt of loss and solitude;
your stock the accountancy of shame.
Somewhere underground they’ve lodged
the foil, waiting for the assay of silver,
the trial of purity by combustion,
leaving the minute grains of your soul
at rest in an envelope, a mother-of-pearl
inlaid box, or eggcup of palest blue.
Linda McKenna’s collection, In the Museum of Misremembered Things, was published by Doire Press in 2020. The title poem won the An Post/Irish Book Awards, Poem of the Year. She has had poems published in a variety of publications including Poetry Ireland Review, Banshee, The North, The Honest Ulsterman, Crannóg, Acumen, Atrium, the Poetry Bus, Skylight 47.
Talking Ophelia with My Students I Think About My First Boy
left to unchain the body’s boundaries, weaving a crown around two blooming
heads drawing shades down to test their naked billowing—a blasted ecstasy. It’s
only natural in the hushed shade of an evening when parents step out to maybe
linger with friends over wine and roasted poultry at Buffalo Wild Wings, say,
relishing animal spirits alongside televised sports that sometimes bloody like
tender flesh on public display. I never thought anything more would come from
my first raw encounter one coastal afternoon in a room that smelled and sounded
like the sea rushing through us. The only shame after was mandated by the state
of they who made me and judging hands at play today, posing as the glass of
fashion and the mould of form. Convinced H meant to stay close 2 O forever, she
let him take her in: water that meant a river of currents called fear flooding them
after. When my parents found my diaphragm on the windowsill they called me
into a darkened room of wood and distressed leather to say we know how boys
talk. The cup in my hand was an earthquake stamped with vintage pink roses I’ve
worked decades to quell, conjuring it like a curse, learning how. The father is a
ghost of the mother’s silence wandering a dead court. My students get depressed,
driven mad by a ruling stupidity, the stone skirts and branches dragging them
under as they keep waving, refusing to drown.
Michelle Bitting is the author of five poetry collections and the winner of the inaugural De Novo First Book Award, the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award, the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize, and the Two Sylvias Press 2022 Wilder Prize. Bitting is a lecturer in poetry and creative writing at Loyola Marymount University and in film studies at University of Arizona Global.
Auditory Hallucinations in Solitary Confinement
A wild turkey pecked at the eyes of its image
on the side of a newly polished car door.
His favorite cooking utensil was a pancake shaper.
The bard Phemius plucked on his lyre
and sang about the return of the Achaeans.
I made heart-shaped pancakes for him on an iron pan.
In a Palestinian zoo, the donkey painted
with black and white stripes brayed like a zebra.
I told him if I kept it up, we could see a heart on fire.
The red fox’s ear turned before the poisoned
arrow of Philoctetes struck the animal’s heart.
I told him sometimes we need to express love in symbols.
A prothonotary warbler sang on the broken branch
of a cypress tree in a northern Louisiana bayou.
Everyone laughed when I called a mangled pancake "Rhode Island."
When the Bulgarian army entered the city of Komotini,
the Muslim women banged tin and copper pots and pans.
But he never laughed and cried, "No, no, no! Don't mess it up!"
The woman tied to her chair in the nursing home called
me over and asked if I had come to take her away.
Jimmy Pappas‘s poem “Bobby’s Story” won the 2018 Rattle Readers Choice Award. He also won the 2019 Rattle chapbook contest for Falling off the Empire State Building. He moderates Zoom events for the Poetry Society of New Hampshire.
gonna be a good dive
pink windmills spin forever
I thanked you already
I am always thanking you
consider this next apology all ready
I’ll file in the hi Sara folder
maybe I will choose to drop
down to blue under-surface
where everyone’s at I miss that
you mean I’m supposed to grab a tail
with these conveyor belts & keep it
I don’t know my role
but the walls
have googly eyes & I don’t mean
the stampede at the checkered line
these same damn races every time
I’ve never watched the procession after me
don’t worry you haven’t done anything wrong
the situation’s complicated
James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has two chapbooks (Our Past Leaves, Kelsay Books, 2021 and The Frayed Edge of Memory, Writing Knights, 2017) with one forthcoming: Count Seeds With Me (Ethel, 2022). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, PA.
Anatomy of Dust
Say I am of life and death,
of comet and animal,
of plant and sand. Say I am
eternal hourglass, I swirl,
noiseless, in waves of earth,
clinging to the transient
inventions of man.
Say I have a traveling center.
If you want to know me,
lick me from your fingers—
I am a controlled explosion.
my body is a thing of beauty,
millions of tiny effortless
specks floating in sunlight.
I carry the skin of you
on my back, scuttle
through wind searching
for an opening
cloud—this is where I land
revolutionize, start over,
descend within drops of rain,
a small celebration of bone,
plunging again and again
into the palms of some god.
Hollie Dugas lives in New Mexico. Hollie has been a finalist twice for the Peseroff Prize at Breakwater Review, Greg Grummer Poetry Prize at Phoebe, Fugue’s Annual Contest, and has received Honorable Mention in Broad River Review. Additionally, “A Woman’s Confession #5,162” was selected as the winner of Western Humanities Review Mountain West Writers’ Contest (2017).
The Arrival of a Train (at La Ciotat Station), A Documentary, 1896, The Lumière Brothers
There was a heat wave.
Then the heat broke.
So there was a storm when the hot and the cold air fronts met.
There was much crashing of thunder, mixed in with lightning strikes.
Then the storm was gone.
We did not die in the wind.
My son did not get electrocuted in his bathtub.
(My daughter only knew the storm in theory, living in another district.)
And our sunflowers escaped being beaten to death by hail.
Only my mother’s lawn furniture was shredded,
not she and my stepfather hiding in their basement.
Now it is the next night.
We open a window.
Three long pulls on the train whistle as it winds through town
and leaves us standing.
Erin Wilson’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in december magazine, Tar River Poetry, and Verse Daily. Her first collection is At Home with Disquiet; her second, Blue, is forthcoming, as is a chapbook, The Belly of the Pig. She lives in a small town in Northern Ontario, Canada.
Mother cast her gaze from the stoop,
fishing the sidewalks and streets for. . .
something. I didn’t really know.
I knew the flower boxes at the windows
were always flowerless. Full of dirt
and, in summer, mixed with rain,
came to smell like the scent
of a promise that never took root.
Near the house, firemen
would open the hydrant on
the hottest days. Mother would
sit and watch the children,
take a drag on her cigarette,
letting the smoke lines coil through
the arcs of water and rainbow,
the eel-like arms and legs
of my friends, before muscles
and breasts bloomed
and baited the current
of our lives together, full of
the dangers of desire and allure.
Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and honorable mention for the NJ Poets Prize for 2022. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Pinyon, Talking River Review, and Vox Populi.
My Sweet Atlantis: A Tale
About as far south as we can live in this country,
rain is theater. It falls warm. Strong
thunder clouds tumble, piling
pale stones from ocean to sky.
When it pours, puddles form in seconds,
sidewalks melt into streets, and
intersections turn into impromptu homes
for mosquito larvae, egrets, and cranes.
On the other side of our island, the bay
can’t absorb this much water, so it rushes
out of the drains and onto the streets,
surging, sinking pavement inches deep.
The ocean is insatiable. Like the first
explorers, it wants and it wants and it wants.
Each year, the city digs up the streets
and widens the drains to appease it,
to buy us time, but even the egrets know
that the ocean wants to reclaim
this barrier island, this land of limestone
and magic, this slip, this shallow sand-edged city,
a comma in time. Over a century ago,
when mangroves held the sand in place,
one dreamer docked and wagered
a fortune on his vision for a place
where people would come to forget. Here,
we are all exiles, escapees from the coldest
regimes, the unbearable winters, huddled
like flocks of exotic birds, charmed
by the ocean’s hypnotic gaze, the palm
trees, and the sun, a giant sequin
in a trembling sky. Here, we are fabulous,
a displaced ship of fools dancing
as in the final moments
of an epic night. Our DJ spins his last song,
and we’re entranced, we’re writhing, we’re
beyond language, worshipping the ecstatic moment,
the now and now and now. Addicted
to the sensual life, we love the soft
scratch of sand on skin, we move
to the music of palms divining
the wind’s song, and we taste the sun’s
feral heat as the water draws us closer,
draws us deeper, draws us into frothing,
charging waves, and into puddles
knee-deep on this wisp in the ocean,
in this fore-after-thought, this not-forever dream.
We wonder how long we’ll stand
on this sliver, this swimming
rock, this borderless barrier, American
Riviera, dream maker, shadow eraser,
this playground for the rich and richer, this reckless
mooring where we’ve made our home.
Catherine Esposito Prescott’s poetry collection, Accidental Garden, was selected by Danusha Laméris as the winner of Gunpowder Press’s 2022 Barry Spacks Poetry Prize. Recent poems appear in EcoTheo Review, Northwest Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and West Trestle Review. Prescott is the co-founder and editor in chief of SWWIM Every Day.
My name is Elizabeth
and there’s a crack
in the ceiling.
How long has it been there? I ask.
The mutant cells that eat
your words are cruel, so cruel
they leave your mind
I imagine you mean
Don’t call me Liz
I’ve seen into
the void, beyond
the dark, beyond…
Or maybe you mean
All I can see
from this hospital bed
is a thin and crooked slice
of eternity wide open
and waiting to prove me
right or wrong.
A story will be told
at your service,
a classic Liz,
the punch line
I speak one language
and I speak it perfectly.
More words disappear,
in your head, on your tongue.
I imagine you mean
shoot me save me spare me.
Deborah-Zenha Adams is an award-winning author of novels, short fiction, CNF, and poetry.
The Invention of Flight
A poet says Icarus was a girl, and I believe her. It’s easy to see
that it was a girl
who crafted wings
from what she found
under her feet,
the world she knew,
but it was
who told her stories
about girls who
under the sun
without their father’s
help. Fathers on
islands who did not
intend to leave.
Mothers, the poet says,
have always told secrets to daughters with wild ideas.
And all of them
as dangerous as they
were in danger,
hiding their wings
stones they dodged
then crushed underfoot.
The world not ready
for anything but what
the gods put in the sky.
Even now, the poet says,
a girl’s words must
by a wink. So it’s not
the sun that
melts her wings. It’s the gods, the old and frightened gods.
Lenny DellaRocca is founding editor and co-publisher of South Florida Poetry Journal. He’s the author of two full-length poetry collections and two chaps. His work has appeared in Nimrod, Seattle Review, POEM, Laurel Review, Fairy Tale Review, The Meadow, and Hawaii Pacific Review. He has poems forthcoming in Cimarron Review and Slipstream.
Sir Bedivere in Iowa
He should never have asked me to do it. What the gods have given,
You don’t give back. We hid in the marshes, last men crawling after
That battle. Then, in a low voice he told me to throw it
Into the night-stained waters of the lake. Twice I lied to him and
Said I’d done it, but I had no talent for deception. He coughed
And sent me back again. It was not the beauty or the sword’s value
Made me hesitate or the memory of having fought beside him, having seen it
Wet with blood and those parts of a man that are better not seen. It was
The ending presaged, abandonment of what had made our life worthwhile.
And the white hand that caught the hilt and dragged it back to hell
Or heaven or to whatever place it had been forged, that hand left nothing behind
When it vanished beneath the unblinking surface of the mere. I told the story later
In other lands how a ship had skimmed the water’s calm and carried Arthur
Off to sleep and heal. It was a lie. I’ve gotten better at deception. I had no
Shovel for a grave and rolled his armored frame into the lake to ripen into
Something fish could chew and watched that body sink until the mud-soft
Bottom claimed it—his gauntlet was the last of him I saw. Now, I
Sell insurance in Des Moines, drink beer with friends at an Irish sports bar
On Sunday afternoons. Sometimes I order a second plate of wings, fill
My mouth with foam and lager, and I’m almost tempted to tell them how
Arthur killed the giant on Mont Saint Michel, hacking his bald and massive
Head away from the shoulders—but I stop myself. They’d rather talk about
Football or whatever they heard last on Fox News. If nothing else, the
Price of real estate is a perennial favorite.
George Franklin’s most recent book is Noise of the World from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. He teaches poetry in Florida state prisons and works as an attorney in Miami.
The Dolly on Our Shoulder
The Dolly of our dreams says hun, says y’all,
says softly you can do this. Dolly says buck
up, says man up, says grab life by the balls
but she is talking to us women. Says some
may not like you but it innit your business?
Says do whatever you want to your nails
hair boobs but do it with intention. Says
have a sense of humor, says have some
sense. Says God is your own voice echoing
in a place where you can really hear it. Says
I ain’t never said none of that not really.
Says quiet, sometimes the lonesomeness
of the heart is the thing that is the most
alike in all of us.
Megan Waring is a poet, playwright, and fiber artist. She is the recipient of the St. Bolotoph’s Emerging Artists award for 2020. Her work is forthcoming or published in Rattle, Salamander, and entropy, among others. Her third co-written play, The Coalition of Monsters, was produced by Greene Room Productions in October 2021.