Crouching Mountain Lion by Elizabeth Ellison
Anna Weaver | Shahé Mankerian | Micheal Ace | Philip Terman | Shebana Coelho | Linda Parsons | Sàlàkó Olúwapèlúmi Francis | David Graham | Jen Karetnick | Kathryn Levy | Athena Kildegaard | Ron Mohring | Sandra Kolankiewicz | Richard Jones | Jack B. Bedell | Melissa Fite Johnson | Doug Van Hooser | Pat Edwards | Peter Munro | Michael T. Young | Mary Elder Jacobsen
a partial explanation for why i almost never talk
about the best part of basic training
you want me to say i was frightened
to darken my voice when i say
the trigger is quiet as an exhale
but the shot will cut a hole
in your ear and if you have silver fillings
you can feel the light ting
of spent casings in your teeth
you want me to say i didn’t like shooting
but you’ll know it for a lie
to hear me talk of tasting the metal
and sulphur with my nose
and again when i admit how simple
everything looks through a gunsight
and how perfect
if i could gift you the moment of knowing
your aim is good you’d know
center mass isn’t political
but it’s more than just math
it’s where you hunger
and also what for
Anna Weaver writes as a former soldier, a lover of flatlands, and a woman “with loyalties scattered over the landscape.” Her poems have appeared in Connotation Press, O-Dark-Thirty, and elsewhere, earning nominations for the Pushcart and other prizes. She lives in North Carolina with her two daughters.
Munir Cannot Forgive His Sister
She deserves to be stoned
against the wall of the Blue
Mosque because she strolls
to the souk and leaves her
seven children in the alley.
The little one eats mud
because her stomach growls.
May the virgins cover
the eyes of her martyred
husband who detonated
the bomb in the schoolyard.
She disappears daily
behind a shed with a baker,
the snake charmer,
the stuttering headmaster—
Only God sees the muted
heart and her painted lips
behind the burka.
Munir says, I will throw
the first stone and purge
all the infidels from Beirut.
Shahé Mankerian’s manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at the Bibby First Book Competition, the Crab Orchard Poetry Open Competition, the Quercus Review Press Poetry Book Award, and the White Pine Press Poetry Prize. Shahé received the 2017 Editors’ Prize from MARY: A Journal of New Writing.
For those times we sing of Africa
Some days, we wake up to swords & daggers, to war, enmity, brutality & bloodshed. We count our loses & they bring us closer to folly. & it’s not our fault; it’s the way the black man is engineered: spending every hour of every day recapitulating lost courses, counting death tolls, writing obituaries, brewing new wars & paying bad debts.
Where I came from, lunacy litter streets, barrenness scars every wall, the radio breaks news in severe fractures until death becomes a symphony of peace. & then you begin to wonder how heaven becomes so impotent. Here, a man lights a stick of cigar, drags, & puffs to the face of God. He believes if indeed God is clothed in fire, he should make do with the smokes.
Tell your neighbor not to wish you death; he didn’t give you life. Tell the rich man not to crumble your cottage to build his mansion. Tell your friends not to pray for rain on your sunny days. Tell your boss you deserve some respect too. Tell me not to lie to you & I’ll tell you to hide the truth if it will break me.
Tell your priests to remind you that God is black, so that when you sing of Africa, you’ll remember how your sister’s skin is the shinny cloth on the surface of black coffee, how her smile is the blueprint behind the mystery of sunlight, how your brother’s body is the microcosm of light, flowers, color and everything beautiful.
Tell me black is the color of life, not death. Tell me black is the language of angels, not demons. Tell me black is the lyrics of hymns, not dirge. Tell me black is the sound of rapture, not war, so that when next I’m writing a poem about Africa, I won’t begin with the symbolisms of evil.
Micheal Ace is a poet, editor and fiction/nonfiction writer from Ibadan, Nigeria. He’s the founding editor and publisher at ACEworld Magazine. His literary works have appeared on Praxis Magazine, African Writer, Agbowo, Wildsound Review, Lunaris Review, Kalahari review and elsewhere.
It’s All Possible: For Riad Saleh Hussein
For Saleh Razzouk
Like a sudden explosion
Or an attack of the heart,
Your translated poems arrive from
Aleppo, that broken country.
Deaf, mute, handsome,
“Expansive,” I’m told, “like
Whitman, with an affection
For alcohol, and women—
A poetry star.” Until you were
Tortured, imprisoned, the psychic
Scars penetrating deeper,
Then dying—one source claims,
Of “negligence,” and another:
“Induced by heartbreak.”
Your friends found you alone
In your apartment curled
On your bed, shivering,
For a sip of water. Riad,
No one in my country
Has heard of you. But
Here you are: beautiful
In this charcoal drawing:
Hair black and thick like Lorca’s,
Sculpted face, eyes dark,
Serious and focused
At some nearby disaster,
Diving into your ocean
Of images: birds, bombs—
Poor Syria like a bone
Between the teeth of a dog;
A knife in the hand of a surgeon.
Riad, in the original, your words
Travel from right to left,
From your Middle East
To my Middle West.
Can this translation
Give you back the voice
you heeded in your soul’s privacy?
You wanted to build a room
For a thousand friends.
No end of your wants—
A pocket full of bells;
An earthquake of wisdom;
Clouds under your bed. Riad,
I try to hallucinate with you,
To know those erupting rhythms.
But what do I—raised in another
Scripture, our people enemies
Cursing each other even
Onto the next generations—
Have to do with you?
That’s what I would inquire,
If we could sit in my small study,
Sipping tea in the light turning
To dark turning to dream
That says it’s all possible. Riad,
You wanted to plough the galaxy;
To live for all the dead; to place
A river in the prison. When, eyes closed,
You were smoking a cigarette,
Did your demons ascend?
Little amounts of surprises.
Which I write down now, after you.
Philip Terman’s most recent books are Our Portion: New and Selected Poems, My Dear Friend Kafka, a selection of poems translated into Arabic, and Like a Bird Entering a Window and Leaving Through Another Window, a collaboration with a painter and a bookbinder.
the parting of widows
there is only a pencil on a lined page and
two fans in opposite corners one
oscillating the air
the other heating and
rabbits running into frame and
into grasses that are smooth
like my hair
after the protein treatment
something fundamental changed
the structure of the follicle itself
it doesn’t curl anymore but falls straight and dark and
I almost forget what an untidy child I was
how the hair twisted at odd angles and
how the flesh bulged
how nothing kept its form except when it was managed
by heat or elastic or best of all
that slapped the shape into lines
straight like the parting
I always imagined that hairline border
made by an aunt or mother
someone who had also
suffered but would never speak it
find the middle of the scalp with the edge of a comb
thin black teeth
and swoop down a line
and grasp the hair on either side
into a plait and push
the woman up to her feet
out of her tears
the hair to learn the lesson
of its own loss
Shebana Coelho is a writer/director, originally from India, now based in New Mexico. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts’ Fiction Fellowship and a Fulbright grant to Mongolia. She is currently developing The Good Manners of Colonized Subjects, a solo play that interweaves dance and poetry.
You have to sit in the very bonfire of distress,
and you sit there until you’re burnt away.
And it’s ashes, and it’s gone.
— Leonard Cohen
The world bends to no one’s weep
and wail, except maybe the rose-tipped
grasses in early fall, the garden that’s mine
to neglect in long drought, which I did,
parched with change, the brick of grief
in my pocket now airy as a whistle.
Except maybe the dreams searching,
searching for the one who left, though
now the house, hearth to counter, hums
along with the whistle. Caring how
the world bends or doesn’t is the opposite
of my gleaning in light’s descent
in the pasture of no grief no self no past,
except that it bends, I know it does, the world
willow not oak, on impermanent winds.
Except that bonfires under my breastbone
bear me across the banks of weep and wail,
the lilt of my soles on hot coals,
my body burnt through, unbent.
Linda Parsons is the reviews editor for Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel and has contributed to many journals and anthologies. Her latest poetry collection is This Shaky Earth. She is also playwright-in-residence for The Hammer Ensemble, the social justice wing of Flying Anvil Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Late night Café in Ilorin
Black birds come to nestle with
tired boys trapped in their bodies.
Their history perforated and their
Shadows growing towards their sins.
This is the truth, I cannot numerate
The volume of cut in the sun’s body
but the physician always finds a way
and we die a different death everyday.
listen, I am no longer afraid of calling
my body a necropolis because death
is an imagination. The truth is that,
tomorrow again, I will wear my dreams
on the sleeves of my blue shirt
and disclaim yesterday as an expedition.
Sàlàkó Olúwapèlúmi Francis writes from North Central, Nigeria. His writings aim to interrogate the place of memory, loss, love, culture & history. His works appears or are forthcoming in The rising phoenix review, Prachya review, Ngiga review, elsewhere. His chapbook manuscript, Kalakuta Republik, is coming to shape.
Her True Face
In her usual author’s photo
she’s been the same age
—around thirty-five it seems—
for four books and twenty years.
I do not call this vanity
but honesty. This is the face
that greets her in morning’s
mirror. It’s not a matter
of wrinkles and sag, hair
long since gray and thinning.
It’s that same sidelong glance
full of mischief and smarts,
eyes that remember and
plan all in the same moment.
It’s not the future she concocted,
now long past, but how every
opening door still issues
its burst of laughter and song.
She cannot unsee any of it.
This is the true face, the one
her lover saw and sees now,
not imagines, even as she
shuffles room to room before
breakfast, searching for her
reading glasses and that book
she fell asleep in last night,
the one she could have written,
so beautiful it seemed true.
David Graham’s most recent books are The Honey of Earth, a collection of poems from Terrapin Books, and Local News, a poetry anthology co-edited with Tom Montag (MWPH Books). Currently retired from teaching, he writes a monthly column, “Poetic License,” for the online journal Verse-Virtual, and lives in Glens Falls NY.
Just when I think there is nothing left to be exhumed
—an entire body of introverted odors forced into sunlight,
handcuffed to bags
of activated charcoal, the fossilized lace of termite wings
glinting in piles,
every last jar of mango salsa, pried open to carousel
the house coughs up a homemade bank, Hills Bros coffee can
of electric perk covered
with a tri-colored clown suit and cap that my great-aunt Ida had knit.
The white parts yellowed.
The yellows—more of time’s jaundice. The eyes still pasted on, one
higher than the other.
Inside, uncirculated coins my grandmother had divided, straight from the teller,
every Hanukkah and Passover
—three for me, three for my sister, four for my brother (more for him,
the oldest and a boy).
We called them silver dollars. They weren’t bullion but commemorative
with bald eagles and Liberty Bells on the obverse (followed by JFK
and Susan B. Anthony
after that president went out of style), substantial and serious, always chilled
like my father’s post-rush
hour coat. We did nothing but save them, playing dreidel instead with the gold
coins that smelted, igneous tin, when you held them too long. A third kind of gelt
my grandmother tended
we weren’t allowed to touch. These were the seedpods of the honesty plant,
the papery moon-parings
veined like taro root chips. The French call them “the Pope’s money;” the Dutch,
“coins of Judas.”
My Polish grandmother grew them on her side of the duplex apartment’s stoop,
dried them to display
under the spider plants and their dangling, intergenerational pups. For luck
or for beauty,
I can’t recall, I longed to pluck and palm those incandescent, forbidden
shavings of silver,
more valuable to me than politicians and candy. I never dared disobey.
Nor did I open
what was one last childhood gift for me alone—a whole roll of Bi-Centennial
like the seeds of honesty, they’re uncorrupted in their wrapper, sturdy as a pledge,
labeled with the singular
remains of my grandmother’s hand. I take a picture and send it to my father,
who emails back,
You’re rich. He’s kidding. It’s ten dollars. Still, I hold the hard currency
of a different age,
her pointed script, tight in my fist. A bare fit. This is enough wealth to grip.
Jen Karetnick’s most recent poetry collections include the award-winning The Crossing Over (Split Rock Review, March 2019) and The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books, August 2020). New work is forthcoming in The Evansville Review, The Indianapolis Review, and Tampa Review.
In memory of Harvey Shapiro
An old man trudges
down the road with the others—
they don’t hold hands,
or speak to each other, or even
peer at the distance.
Nobody mutters: my poem, my novel, the
They trudge—they trudge—
because the old rules are: you
have to keep going. And
the new rules are: you can’t
see what you’re doing,
while all around the latest
bombs are exploding
as a tired nurse tucks a needle in an arm
and the panicked friends plan
the memorial service—the essential
journey to nowhere.—And the old
man? He lifts
his body on a ladder that is
impossible to climb.—I really
can’t believe it whispers
someone from the distance.—Believe
what? The ending
that doesn’t need our belief. If he
still had a mouth,
he would grin.
Kathryn Levy is the author of the poetry collections, Losing the Moon (Canio’s Editions, 2006) and Reports (New Rivers Press, 2013), a finalist for the 2014 Midwest Book Award. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Slate, The Progressive, Cimarron Review, Hanging Loose, and The Seattle Review.
“the tree, having become a coffin”
A swarm of bees curtains from the sky-close
branches of a spruce. Fear is the moon.
Now you see it, now you don’t. Arch
of triumph. Fog slips into neutral,
fog trails the line of black sedans, arc
of humiliation. Such is the art
of living, that dying is contained
within. Crows pick scraps in a gutter
above the lintel, above the body. Crows
are the answer to the bees, fog to the dirt.
Athena Kildegaard‘s most recent book of poems is Course, from Tinderbox Editions. Her poems have recently, or will soon, appear in Ecotone, RHINO, North American Review, Conduit, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of Minnesota Morris, where she also directs the Honors Program.
Something that looks like bindweed, a yellow-green twist
bearing a few scant leaves, breaking from the poisoned mulch
covering the scrawny islanded maples in the parking
lot at Lowe’s. I’ve come to look at apple trees—Braeburn,
Pink Lady—and dream of having space to plant them. Something
that looks like mulberry seedlings, a few inches high, the same
yellow-green, and I think, asthmatic, wondering how anything
could rise through this chemical blanket, why a business that purveys
so many garden plants can’t design living beds instead of spraying
to squelch any green toehold. Some daylily, probably
the ubiquitous Stella, patchy, subsisting, not blooming, planted
too deeply, smothered by this black-dyed mulch. Some sparrow pecking
then vaulting away, brown flower, little brown job, how anyone
distinguishes more than three or four species is a wonder to me,
though I bend to verify purslane pressed flat against the drain-edge,
holding tight, making do. Gala. Johnagold. No Honeycrisp, as if
it mattered. Can’t take them home anyway, though some part of me
likes to know they’re here, they stand a chance. Red pins vectoring into a map.
The coddled, pampered exotics. The wind-flung fuzz the sparrows missed
collecting in the planters’ edges, rising in thin clumps, serrated flags.
Some kind of elm. How green pushes, pushes back.
Ron Mohring‘s poetry collection, Survivable World, won the Washington Prize. He is the heart and soul of Seven Kitchens Press. This poem is part of an ongoing project with the poet Ed Madden.
Smith Island, Maryland
We have direct access to the universe
whether we are alive or dead, don’t need the
blues nor psychedelic rock to hear the sound
of the spheres and you, my little wonderful,
are attracted here and there like some crazed
electron. Out in the swamp, we’ll find the same
bacteria that makes one lose a leg or
cures a throat infection, competing in the
dark while we’re just as liable to run into
the bad as the good, or even both at the
same time, become battlefields till one retreats.
If we can imagine, then we can become,
which is just the same as failing and trying.
We stand at the edge of the marsh in a strong
northern breeze and smell what it’s like to muck through
on a day without wind, how a tiny cut
could instantly turn into an abscess, the
rain collecting under the houses when the
soil is overwhelmed, which means more mosquitos,
more reason to stay inside when the air is
not moving to protect us. I know you can’t
stay in one place any more than a soil can
change its composition, adding fuel to the
interaction between molecules, making
one life become another, surviving the
sowing and harvesting of personal
gardens, fields, and oceans, the borrowing
and lending on which the universe depends.
Sandra Kolankiewicz’s poems have appeared widely, most recently in Adelaide, London Magazine, New World Writing and Appalachian Heritage. Turning Inside Out was published by Black Lawrence. Finishing Line has released The Way You Will Go and Lost in Transition. You can find her novel, When I Fell, with 78 illustrations by artist Kathy Skerritt at Web-e-Books.
Achilles Mourns the Death of Patroclus
In Paris at the Pompidou, I sit on a wooden bench,
looking at what seems to be
nothing more than a few gray scratches,
the merest idea of a painting—
a thin horizon line,
pencil marks and erasures,
the title written in charcoal in cursive in English,
and a blood-red spill of paint in the center—
Twombly’s Achilles Mourns the Death of Patroclus.
The artist practiced painting in the dark
to unlearn the skills he’d been taught.
He said he would have liked to be Poussin.
He read and was inspired by the great poets—
Homer, Rumi, Rilke.
He said the pencil is more his medium
than paint and paintbrush.
Looking, I try to make sense of things in my notebook.
Twombly, like me, is a Virginian, a Southerner.
He’s nostalgic for the beauty of Southern landscapes.
He thinks about the past and is interested in ancient things,
ancient places. All this I understand.
His move to Italy in the fifties—“when Rome was like paradise”—
I can only imagine. He sought freedom, a kind of anonymity,
and was perfectly happy to live outside the confines
of fame and the demands of New York galleries.
He cared little for the movements of his time
and did not particularly value what he’d learned in art school.
His rough white canvases with their scrawls and scratches
remind me of my artless notebooks, also filled
with scrawls and scratches, pencil marks, erasures,
sketches, check marks,
rows of words and lines crossed out.
The blank pages of a notebook—
the sort of nothingness from which beauty springs,
the struggle to grieve a fabled hero.
Richard Jones’s seven books from Copper Canyon Press include Stranger on Earth and The Blessing. Editor of Poetry East since 1980, he curates anthologies such as London, Cosmos, and Bliss. He also edits the free worldwide poetry app, “The Poet’s Almanac.” A new book, Paris, is forthcoming.
…like oysters observing the sun through the water,
and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.
Sometimes the truth hides in the wide open
of a shorn cane field, and no matter how you stare,
its lines will refuse to define themselves. They’ll pulse
in the dull breeze, and spread like ribbon snakes
across furrows in the dirt until the whole ground
blends and furls in waves. Squint all you want,
or close the distance on foot. What’s there to see
won’t shine any brighter. Open yourself
to the field’s expanse like a shell in salt water.
Purge your questions before they pearl.
Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He is currently serving as Louisiana Poet Laureate, 2017-2019.
Trying to Pray
I sit quiet in a pew, bow my head,
try to pray, an act that didn’t mystify
when I was a child kneeling before bed.
A friend I haven’t seen in years is dead.
His wife reaches in the casket to fix his tie.
I sit quiet in a pew, bow my head.
He used to be a boy. He shared my sled,
sky black, wind on our faces. Last night
his mother knelt beside his childhood bed.
I don’t read tea leaves. Psychics never said
anything true on purpose. It feels like
another lie, sitting quiet, bowing my head.
My father didn’t go to church. Instead,
Mom and I sat in the pew, closed our eyes,
moved our lips, knelt together before bed.
I wish I believed in heaven for my friend,
some solace for his thirty-year-old wife.
I sit quiet in a pew, bow my head,
but I know tonight I won’t kneel before bed.
Melissa Fite Johnson is the author of A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems appear in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa lives with her husband in Kansas, where she teaches English.
One thing is for certain
Ignorance is such a good friend.
It pats me on the back, I move ahead.
Confounded by the many trails to take,
I look back, drag the past to plow the future.
There were seeds I dropped without sowing,
never nurtured to grow.
A pile of plywood and two by fours, no nails,
and just a rough sketch. Building takes planning.
Knowledge it takes walls to hold up a roof.
Load bearing a mechanical and emotional explanation.
Not knowing is an umbrella collapsed in the wind,
the truth a relentless rain.
Like the ground, there is only so much I absorb.
The runoff floods the rivers
and makes navigation susceptible
to what lurks below the murk.
Search in the dark leads to trip and fall.
My friend picks me up, slaps dirt from my clothes.
Gives me a tissue to blow dust from my nose.
I stumble forward.
The needle missing on the compass.
Doug Van Hooser‘s poetry has appeared in Chariton Review, Split Rock Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Poetry Quarterly among other publications. His fiction can be found in Red Earth Review, Crack the Spine, and Light and Dark. Doug is a playwright active at Three Cat Productions and Chicago Dramatists Theatre.
Nothing wrong with wanting to stand in the rain,
to feel its fingers trace the backs of your legs
and pool at your heels. Your clothes cling
like frightened children; you shiver for them.
But most storms are a menace, mean you harm.
They plan your downfall, so you’d better bring
your best game, rid your strategy of imperfection.
And now it comes, this flawless show of temper
manifest in torrent, in hail, in howling gale.
Stand firm and meet it well; return perfection
with your own bruised and weathered finery.
Pat Edwards is a writer, reviewer, workshop leader and performer from Mid Wales. Her work has appeared in Magma, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, and Atrium amongst others. Pat hosts Verbatim poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival. Her debut pamphlet will be published by Yaffle Press in 2019.
A Fisheries Scientist On A Flooding Tide
Low combers fold over cobble and outcrop.
Unspooling through sluice-fields, the sea
makes tide pools whole.
The whole, sliding chronicle of salt
troubles anemones, their tentacles flowered
to receive. Sheeted white
across a lesser tract of barnacles,
foam recedes, frays thin, and seethes
among mussels as if hissing through sieve.
The tide pools I have tasted all my life
reside beneath, though high water
still stands halfway off.
Glass hulls of diatoms
have slipped through my fingers, a catch
that has always drained from my gathered hands.
But the rain I have harvested
for the whole of my history
remains beside me. Drawling passages
in the same language it had taught
when I was a child, this drizzle shimmers,
tapping the boulder that enthrones me,
the seat of my kingdom bejeweled with limpets,
decked with periwinkles holding their breaths
until the coming again of water.
Peter Munro is a fisheries scientist who works in the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and Seattle. Munro’s poems have been published in such journals as Poetry, the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Iowa Review, and the Birmingham Poetry Review.
Taking Stock as I Turn 50
A glance back is more than an African daisy
shedding petals onto the bookshelf stacks. Rather
it’s a staircase descending into Picasso’s
Les Saltimbanques, pages of Rilke’s “5th Duino Elegy”
open on my knees, its words snapping
across each lithe figure like scarves in wind,
sliding over polished tiles, lapping museum silences
like thirsty dogs. A memory is more than a mile marker,
rather it’s a gliding alloy of spangles in waves
shedding a scent of mushrooms over Lake Michigan,
the unthreading fabric of clouds, friends swallowed
by a loom of melting mountains, spilled into another day,
bioluminescence hyphenating a green breaker
like a toppled pillar in a midnight temple where owls
freight the dark Atlantic, knitting it to the sky and all its stars
fused into a bridge arcing down to a cool bench in Venice,
a spot folded into the curtains under a Tintoretto. There,
hesitations lengthened to lingerings longer than life,
my wife sick in bed, fireworks pluming St. Mark’s
and Venetians singing through the streets below our window.
Beyond the glass, we stood on a bridge under a moon
like a pearl set in a black oyster shell, and we became rich
with time, and rain in Père Lachaise drove us into a sepulcher
where we grew wise in the undulant moments of our history
because their reflections were overlapping wings,
the furious flight of a bird some have called mythical,
but whose song calls us on from the poplars ahead
and whose fire has started to color my beard with ashes.
Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was published by Terrapin Books. His other collections are The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award.
At a loss, my father unlatches the old farmhouse door,
not really there, believes he glimpses his hen house, hears
its cockeyed hinges, knows that humus air, and more.
But his childhood home lies miles, years from here.
When my mother sees him staring off, she wonders
where he’s gone, and soon he returns to find her—
scratching her nib on paper, counting out pips she pours
from orange bottles. Roaming further, he remembers paper
ribbons, candy buttons, how they could take his frown away,
yet now, how his favorite foods have no taste, how old songs
keep coming back to stay, and stay, how his body betrays
him, his mind fails him, how it’s all become so tiring.
When my mother sees him fading, she calls for her chicks
to come. Cluck, cluck, cluck, she sings. Trembling,
her wings swoop out, then in. How she aches and aches
to cradle more than air, already half-embracing
us not yet there, until her small brood flies in again
from all directions…. Our shadows flit about her feet
as her fingers meet, hands clutch, her arms arcing around
the space we’re in, a circling path rejoined, complete,
as in some playground game of aggies—an outline drawn
by a child’s hand, a giant O on clean-swept ground,
where jewel-like marbles, all together and all alone,
swirl within the bleary ring, then whirl beyond
its bounds. When none remain, the game is done.
The children playing on their knees have lost their sun—
Evening’s come. The porch light glows with day grown dim
and beckons to the boy inside the man, Come home, come home.
Mary Elder Jacobsen lives in rural Vermont where she works in writing, editing, and the creative arts. Widely published, she has held a Vermont Studio Center residency, received The Lyric Memorial Prize, and has new work in deLuge, Four Way Review, and Healing the Divide: Poems of Poetry & Connection.
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