Issue 8

Christian-Martin-Weiss_george redhawk

Photograph by Christian Martin Weiss.
Motion graphic effects by George RedHawk.

Contents

J.I. Kleinberg | Susan Ludvigson | Anindita Sengupta | David Rigsbee |
Luisa A. Igloria | Jeff Newberry | Kierstin Bridger | Cassie Premo Steele |
Philip Belcher | Lisa Higgs | Hedy Habra | Mark DeCarteret | Marjorie Thomsen | Joshua Lavender | Angie Macri | Roy Bentley | Mary Moore | Peter O’ Neill |
Athena Kildegaard | Kevin Cantwell | Matt Prater

Second Look – Crafting the American Ghazal

 

The Familiar

I have come to love the shadow,
the scar in the flesh,
the black lick of flame on stucco,
symbols scratched in tortoise shells.

The shadow comprehends the underside of things,
recalls the face of grief in the oval mirror on the bureau,
wallpaper scorched and peeling above the stove,
the dog’s bowls pushed into the corner, empty.

The shadow sculpts darkness
to fit inside the suitcase, the brown shoe
on its side in the closet. In the stained photograph
it reveals the man who held the camera.

The shadow is not impartial. For the key,
it describes the lock. For the flame,
it impersonates the cinder. For breath,
it depicts the grave.

Raven widow, somnambulist moon,
grain of pepper in the teeth,
I have come to bless the shadow
for the way it knows
the precise dimension of light.

 

A Pushcart nominee, J.I. Kleinberg co-edited Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington (Other Mind Press 2015). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Diagram, After the Pause, Naugatuck River Review, Clover: A Literary Rag, and elsewhere. She lives in Bellingham, Washington.


 

Since You Died

After two years of nights
blank as a starless sky

a woman tells me, out of the blue,
she wants a baby but can’t carry one
in her body. I offer to do it for her,
volunteer my own womb, forgetting the part
about the birthing. It’s the Mississippi
Delta, your territory.

It isn’t all generosity that made me
offer, it’s the sex I guessed
would precede it. The intended
father is pleasant looking,
not really my type. You understand,
I am that hungry.

I am engaged to a handsome
young Indian man, in his country.
His sisters, appalled, tell me
I’m far too old for him, I should
marry their father.

OK, I say,
slipping on a red flowered sari
as the father shyly enters the room.

In Dubrovnik
I find the cranky old man
famous for his delectable breads.
People walk long distances.
The steps to his kitchen are creaky,
some broken. One must order ahead
or he gets cross.

I don’t know how I knew
but this is where I was headed
all along.

 

Susan Ludvigson has published eight collections of poems with LSU Press. Recent publications include poems in Yale Review, Southern Review, Georgia Review and Five Points. She received the James Dickey Prize for 2015. She has held fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller/Bellagio, Fulbright, NEA and others.


 

Monsters

1

We spread like loam, our heads bold
over treetops, sky.
Brown tongues of fern

unfolded. The gyre of mountains
surrounded us.

If there were noises in the distance,
we heard them only
as clouds.

In hell, we’re grouped
by sins, they say,

each territory spelling its claim:
Minos, Medusa, Cerberus.

We were grouped on earth
for less. Arms and legs
in an auto rickshaw, howling

until the wound pounded nights.
We walked, throats growling,
fingers mauled. Our bodies

flailed through reeds.
We opened our mouths
into Hydrangeas,

blue or pink
depending on the soil.

When we leave, teeth will scatter
over the fields
like flowers.

When we leave,
there will be time
to remember.
Florid tongue,
shush now.

2

They said we were disappearing, as if we were simply turning
the act of birth inside out; leaving nothing, not even dark.
It did not happen like that. We were not lost.
They started eviscerating us. Colossal, our limbs rose into sky
like glass towers. Our voices boomed across the horizon. Our heads rolled
across the valleys. Sparrows bled.
Who cares for whores like that, they said. The buildings closed
their eye-like windows, blind against the tap-tap of footsteps
on breathless streets. A mob of hands. When we leave, daughter, I’ll tell you why.

3

I bite hard. My wounds multiply to a thirst.
The rings around my eyes sag; I’ve forgotten sleep.
The plinth of our house sinks. I grow wings, inch by inch,
poking them out of my arms like scales. Mysterious lacerations
like lightening marks on my skin. My breath comes shaky now,
little daughter, do you hear it? My breath blows like a rag
in the wind. I sink into my bed and there is a woman,
next to me, coughing up blood. I hunt my slippers all night,
my purse. What if there is no money where we go next,
no footwear? I bite hard to open and every door gushes.

4

We will walk through like monsters.

5

Songs of defeat
will wind into the throats of meteors

on the eastern bank, singers will sing
of rampancy. There will be shows.

Over the lawns bathed in silver,
we will stand, heads glowing over clouds,

grey and leathery. When the tanks come,
we will lie down, one by one,
and crush them under our weight.

 

Anindita Sengupta is the author of City of Water (Sahitya Akademi, 2010). Her work has appeared in The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry (Harper Collins, 2012), The Yellow Nib Modern English Poetry by Indians (Queen’s University Belfast, 2012), and others. Paperwall Publishing in India will publish her next book, Monsters and Fables, this summer.


 

This Much I Can Tell You

Sometimes it feels as if the mind
will seal itself up and you can go
a great distance without ever seeing
those who ever spoke your name.
You hear everything from cacophony
to a symphony played on instruments,
provenance unknown, stored out of sight
long ago. It is a closed system
but vast, and time unfolds there too,
unrelenting, nothing in abeyance,
like animal eyes suddenly appearing
in the roadside weeds and fields,
through which the highway plunges,
and on it a car traveling, not speeding,
not hanging back either. This much
I can tell you: there is smoke
beyond the mind, to which the mind turns,
as to a burning house, flames raging,
spurting from the second story windows.
Shouldn’t you be running up the lawn?
Shouldn’t there be, in truth, more fires?

 

David Rigsbee is the author of Not Alone in My Dancing, Essays and Reviews (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). His most recent collection of poems is School of the Americas (Black Lawrence Press, 2012). Lapwing Publications in Belfast will publish a chapbook, The Takeaway, this summer.


 

Innervate

Innervate: in·ner·vate / iˈnərˌvāt
verb; anatomy, zoology; to supply
(an organ or other body part) with nerves

Researching tic doloureux, I click
on a related link and learn The International
Headache Society is not the sort of organization
where fellow sufferers of the migraine

and its lesser varieties come together annually
at a convention center in Cancun or the Pyrenees,
to dine and drink while documenting and celebrating
their accomplishments of pain. But it is the IHS

we must thank, for the classification system
now most widely employed for headaches—
a generous umbrella under whose awning
you’ll find everything from tension headaches

with or without aura and light sensitivity,
to cluster headaches accompanied by drooping
eyelids, nausea, runny noses, throbbing temples;
or primary stabbing headaches like ice picks

to the brain; and hemicrania continua,
delivering continuous unilateral pain.
The brain, however— little hilly village crisscrossed
by winding trails and nestled like an egg

in a walled-in fortress— is not itself
sensitive to pain. It has no pain
receptors, as so clearly illustrated in that
famous scene from the movie “Hannibal,”

where Lecter removes the top of Krendler’s skull,
then scoops up some prefrontal cortex to sauté
presumably in butter and garlic with a splash
of white wine before he feeds it to

the unsuspecting one. From a page in an early
edition of Gray’s Anatomy, the pathway
of cranial nerves branching through and around
the brain stem is a complicated multi-lane

highway. Who can even keep up
with varied streams of information traveling
at high speeds, much less police their frenzied
signaling as they cross from one lane

to another? The ancients thought
headaches and convulsive fits to be the work
of evil spirits, and Neolithic fossils provide
evidence of practices for releasing

these demons— including trepanation
which is the drilling of a hole or removal
of a section of the skull. Still, despite intricate
science and the rays of radiation fired

with focused precision at vessels lodged deep
in the body’s recesses, the nature of pain
remains arcane as that of pleasure, as that most
final pair of mysteries, life and death—

Why not just heed these instructions
about the latter, from the Ebers Papyrus (Egypt,
1200 BC): half an onion and the froth of beer
are considered a delightful remedy against death.

 

Luisa A. Igloria is the author of Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow , The Saints of Streets, Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University.


 

A Widow in Early Spring

for Erin Campbell

Spring blazes early, all azalea
& hydrangea, all dogwood

buds on suburban streets.
She knows this much—the fall

passed, buried in metaphor.
But this is spring. Each blossom

screams, meaning-heavy in
this month for verses & jazz,

for late afternoons, chilled white
wine in airy rooms. Pollen yellows

her windows each morning.
She passes a palm over glass,

thinks of a priest’s absolution,
the way a gesture erases the past.

She stares at her hand,
now yellowed like her husband’s

eyes & skin those late days before.
He held a hand to her cheek,

once, said, You feel so warm & I’m
so cold.
Sunlight breaks through

morning haze. A robin scratches
the sky like bloodied nail.

 

Jeff Newberry is the Poet in Residence at Abraham Baldwin College in Tifton, Georgia. His most recent book is the novel A Stairway to the Sea (Pulpwood Press, 2016).


 

Nature Of Love

Tell me about the weeds there,
the spotted off-casts under sword leaves,
the stink clouds which mushroom
from toad stools. Tell me about the ecosystem,
the reach of albino mycelium binding the moldy dark,
about grit silt stopped with pyrite,
the disintegrating thorn
hollow-scoured and crag-clung.
Then we can speak about why I fell for him
but could not choose him,
why I swallowed hard the oak instead—
when he was only seed—
why I waited a whole season of snow to wash him down,
to uncap the crosshatch of cupule and begin our life.

 

Kierstin Bridger is a Colorado writer, winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, ACC Writer’s Studio award, short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Competition, editor of Ridgway Alley Poems & Co-Director of Open Bard Poetry Series. She earned her MFA at Pacific University. Her book Demimonde is just out from Lithic Press.


 

The Train at Night

The train at night shakes our house.
Windows rattling like champagne flutes
and I feel your body turn in the dark
away from Germany and the dreams
of old trains. I place my hand on your
hip, and it’s warm like an oven.
One day the trains will stop coming.
First, robins will search for worms.
Then vines will twine through rails.
Even the stories of trains will be silent.
And our house, quiet like after a party,
will wait for our bodies to make the
glasses sing from the cabinets again.

 

Cassie Premo Steele‘s poetry has been nominated 3 times for the Pushcart Prize. The author of 4 books of poetry, she is also a novelist and essayist.


 

Not Quite Sisyphus

Bombings at the Yemen mosque
do not move him,

and the television’s blare
does not distract

him from pushing the parlor’s
oak desk. Leverage

is difficult from the chair.
The unlocked wheels

roll back as he accosts the
obstinate wood.

The tight grip whitens his nails.
The woman who

claims this space, who reigned here months
before he came,

screams for him to stop shoving
the furniture

in what she believes is her
den in Des Moines

but is in fact the room where
orderlies park

residents who only shriek,
digest, and blink.

My father is not deterred.
He keeps to his

striving, not quite Sisyphus,
who understood

the cause of his sentence, but
with some mute sense

that all is not as it should
be, shouldering

the myth that he can reverse
a single wrong.

 

Philip Belcher has published poetry and critical prose widely in literary journals. He is an Advisory and Contributing Editor for Shenandoah and holds degrees from Furman University, Southeastern Seminary, the Duke University School of Law, and Converse College (MFA). He lives in Asheville, NC.


 

What Passes in a Season

After balsam lost its sweet, marigold its bitter.
After mums blurred brown under flurries faint

but staying. After dark’s dogged increase
draped its bold chill around slim ankles

of trees. After thick-handled shovels leaned
near all doors, and all windows flaunted

their frosted prints. After the river slowed.
The pining and lusting, loving and lingering

ended. Too often light enjoys its tricks of heat
and cold, its bright winter glare the deep ache

of metal for a wound. Faded impatiens pressed
in unturned pages carry no weight of flame,

no thread of embered fire. Should we drive
this death into colder corners, bound as we are

to worship the raging sun? What passes
in a season is never reborn, not completely.

 

Lisa Higgs’ second chapbook Unintentional Guide to the Big City was published by Red Bird Chapbooks in April 2015. Currently, Lisa teaches at the University of Illinois Springfield and is Poetry Editor for Quiddity International Literary Journal.


 

The Green Line

Lebanon (1975-1990)

was drawn in front of my father-in-law’s
four-story building
on Rue de Damas
Tarik El Sham the road to Damascus

We lived on the fourth floor
were the first to leave
then the family on the second floor left

then the Melkite Orthodox Divorce Settlement
Centre bronze plaque
was taken down
from the first floor’s door

Fighters placed heavy artillery on the terrace
shooting aimlessly
across the Green Line

From the balcony my sister-in-law saw
a silhouette
crossing Rue de Damas
from the St Joseph University

a red pool spread over the black asphalt
(of the infamous Green Line)
snipers
snipers
everywhere
My father-in-law took his family and left

In Tucson, he raised canaries
grew curly cucumber mouloukhiyeh
vines for stuffing mint & thyme

An old man with a weak heart
he returned three times
to rebuild what was left

he kept returning with his music
and water pipe,
recalling the days when
he’d just cross Rue de Damas

to play backgammon
at the café terraces

 

Hedy Habra is the author of two poetry collections, Tea in Heliopolis and Under Brushstrokes. A recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award, her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the 2013 Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention. Her poetry appears in Cimarron Review, Blue Fifth Review, Bitter Oleander, Gargoyle, Poet Lore and World Literature Today.


 

Guides

When we’re not weighing in
on our own lives, the world,
we will take notes on nature—
try tagging or getting at it
with arrows, gold embossment,
the somber netting of logbooks

like those two godwits we ogled
then shored up with our dashes,
rush ordered into these holdings—
the scored white, the what-of-it,
as they waded in a lacquer-shine,
what’s recalled of dawn’s yellows

till their bodies, so apt at stillness,
were wet twine, our entryway’s tile,
their bills, sky-turned, stirring
up that same tide-diet, flesh—
little now but a sighting, its afterglow,
words filtered from light, giving way.

 

Mark DeCarteret’s work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon), Place of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry (Story Line), Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader (Black Sparrow) and Under the Legislature of Stars—62 New Hampshire Poets (Oyster River) which he also co-edited. From 2009-2011 he was the Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


 

Hunters

Today four men wearing blinding orange
walk from the field back to their pickups,
faithful shotguns by their sides. One tells me
they’re hunting ruffed grouse. Harder
than you’d think, he says. The birds must be
burrowing under snow or hiding in aspen. Breaded,
pan-fried, you’d never eat chicken again. And
do I know of courtship? Only the ruffed
grouse are nonvocal, drumming like mad
for each other by rapidly beating their wings,
thump-thump-thump, you can hear them
a quarter mile in thick woods. I hike back
to my cabin and reheat soup, rattle silver-
ware looking for the spoon I wish were you.

 

Marjorie Thomsen’s poetry is inspired from the landscapes of New England, where she lives, and from North Carolina and Virginia where she was raised. She’s won awards from the New England Poetry Club and The University of Iowa School of Social Work. Pretty Things Please, a poetry collection, will be published this year (Turning Point).


 

The Caul of Wasps

for my brother

Jacob, listen, you know this story
but not the way it strays in my darkness.
Once, when we lived in the orchard,
I pulled the tarp from a motorcycle frame
and found a nest in the engine’s hollow:
a storm cloud, black and bright
with sway, jut, flap, shudder of wings,
a stirring nearly still in my alarm.
I saw it, then it swallowed me.
And here’s my secret: I came to life
in that dagger-dance, its time a plunge
in deep water. I was electric, quick
as breeze but as heavy as a horse, stung
to a bray, swaddled in a caul of wasps
crawling me like a fever dream
or sheet lightning in a thunderhead.
Stay, my brain stuttered inside
this coming-alive, stay right here.
As if, for the first time, I’d drawn breath.
But rescue came: our father scooped me
into his arms, ran me bawling like murder
for the trailer door. That was the last
of everything but the squalls of pain.
That night, I smarted in the dark
we shared—thin as a splinter—as rain
hurled against the roof and the pecan trees
creaked. We lay wide-eyed for the danger
of twisters, telling each other stories,
whispers swarming like angels above us.
Our goodbyes were being born.

 

Joshua Lavender grew up in south Georgia, the place that inhabits his poems. They have appeared in Free State Review, Town Creek Poetry, Able Muse, Melancholy Hyperbole, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems. Joshua studied poetry in the MFA program at the University of Maryland.


 

Silver Earth

I couldn’t help but dream of silver in the garden.
When moonlight is caught in the earth,
man’s dreams come true, lustrous, mined,
pressed into coins marked with owls

that we trade. A dream begins with shafts
into the earth where there are no rivers,
rain caught in cisterns to wash the ore
at stone tables, furnaces heating the silver

so that the lead is separated, absorbed.
I never meant to hurt you, never thought
about it. The slag was nothing to the owl
on silver money, which gave rise to a city,
birthplace of democracy. Prisoners of war
went deep in the inexhaustible earth.

 

Angie Macri is the author of Underwater Panther, winner the Cowles Poetry Book Prize (Southeast Missouri State University), and Fear Nothing of the Future or the Past (Finishing Line Press). Her recent work appears in Cincinnati Review and Waccamaw. An Arkansas Arts Council fellow, she lives in Hot Springs.


 

Transcendence

There is the human in the drop-winged angels in El Greco
and the ellipses of youth in a milkmaid’s face in Vermeer.

There are the spaces between notes in certain guitar solos
by Carlos Santana or Django Reinhardt in which existence
is reconstituted as bliss, orchestrations of mercurial joy.

There is the locker-room smile on Mickey Mantle’s face
in the’56-’57 season, the patter of a titan in the ascendant.

There is the talk of afterlife and deities, the sage expression
of caucasian-Christ-in-the-lighted-frame on church walls
and in funeral homes where the newly grieving delight
at heaven showing up on the tongue like a eucharist.

And for the poets there is a blankness before words
to be risen above like Dorothy’s tornadic, sepia Kansas
in The Wizard of Oz, the way a metaphor in some hands
protects and serves like a pair of regulation ruby slippers,
a humbug behind the curtain of the page the best in us.

Maybe the way a lover looked at you after sex,
in the last soulful glow of arousal and climax,
spoke of an escalator to the stars, the escalator
melting like clocks or that one drop of blood
from a cracked-and-hatching egg of a world
in those paintings by Salvador Dali. Maybe

the only rising we do is out of this body.

 

Roy Bentley is the author of four books, including Starlight Taxi (Lynx House, 2013). Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner—and New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the arts councils of Ohio and Florida.


 

Blackbirds

For Raoul Mayagortia

You hummed the San Pedro
blues in Sister Leona’s class, your basso
profondo, an undertow.
The beat was de-fib,
erratic as the solos you scribbled
in Trig on five-bar graph paper
before you were caught and pur-
ified of yourself, hauled
to the principal who pulled
off his belt and let you have it like Paul
his favorite apostle would if he could.
But you came back humming
the Zapata blues, strummed
the graph paper’s little cages till a score
showed up, one winged blackbirds.

 

Mary Moore‘s poetry appeared during 2014-15 in Cider Press Review, Terrain, The Freeeman, The Moth, Blustockings Magazine, Birmingham Poetry Review (BPR), Drunken Boat, Nimrod, Sow’s Ear Review, and One; it’s forthcoming in Abraxas, Unsplendid, BPR, McNeese Review. She has one collection, The Book of Snow, and a study of women’s sonnets.


 

Arcadia

I

the closeness
of touch
a hand to a cheek

a cloud brushing
gently
obscuring the sun

the encroaching park
upon the open field

the dreamt of estate
light years away
slowly lingering and

still

II

crows stutter
along in pairs
across the green
worm bound

their staccato
legs
stilt the ungainly
gait
brushing past
the blade leaf

macabre
mockery
the caw caws
under the sun
lost in the corona
of cloud

III

Rebecca
squats
with a stick
stirring mud pies

tuning
a busy hum
while she tears up
the under growth

mint
rosemary
and lavender

like the triad
in Macbeth
she spells alone
on the heath

 

Peter O’ Neill was born in Cork in 1967. He is the author of five collections of poetry, most notably the Dublin Trilogy: The Dark Pool (mgv2>publishing, France, 2015), Dublin Gothic (Kilmog Press, New Zealand, 2015) and The Enemy, Transversions from Charles Baudelaire (Lapwing Press, Northern Ireland, 2015).


 

Three Scenes in Search of History

i.

Seven snow geese—their voices the muffled
mumbling of sleepers—flew overhead,
banked west, then north, and in that maneuver
flashed white, a tender flaunting, a flush.

ii.

I have never stepped into a rose garden without
hungering for the past. Nor have I worn
my mother’s purple shawl, her cotton night gown,
her turquoise, without feeling some truth.

iii.

Two deer arrived from reeds to the west,
meandered on the snowy path. On through bluestem
and blown milkweed they went, toward
the bur oak grove where last year barred owls nested.

iv.

Nasturtium flowers face the sun unabashed.
Their leaves are yellow. Your letter hasn’t arrived. Or
you haven’t written. I know about waiting, how footsteps
in that emptiness twang, how there’s no history.

v.

The snow geese righted and were gone.
I went on leaving the house. I am grateful
for old roses, how they stay past first frost. How
they smell of propriety, of the chances we take.

vi.

A raccoon left its sharp-toed prints
on the deers’ cloven moons. A pheasant crossed.
Woman, rodent, ungulate, snow, earth, all
the way down. The echoes are small insights.

 

Athena Kildegaard is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Ventriloquy, published by Tinderbox Editions. She teaches at the University of Minnesota, Morris.


 

The Black Stone

After the white limo touched its red brakes in fog
then climbed the iron span of a bridge, one side of the molten river
in dusk, the other, night;
after the swifts returned to a crease of shadow;
after the dream of rain,

I began talking to myself as if to another stranger.

And sometimes, late into an evening class, and long after
my students had huddled on break,
pressing the last streams of cigarette smoke high into the cold night,

the palm of my hand would rise and fall across the desk.

This is how they would come to know that black stone dipping upon the surface.

This is how I would demonstrate the accent,
how the poet would hit the syllables—

how a stone skipped hard across a pond glanced upward, and how it fell.

The quicker the line, I would say, the fewer the accents,
the slower the line, more.

How many had come through my class
startled to hear the thump of my hand the first of five times?

I was no one either to be remembered,
but over the years, if it were raining on a dark afternoon,
I would call Richard in New York,

who was summoned, he liked to say, when he was young to Auden’s walk-up—
and Wystan himself had visited the old maid’s flat

Housman kept, his jots of Lucan set out and flies at a windowsill of apples.

This—as far back as that thief
who would take from Christopher Smart’s hand,
if he raved in the yard of the asylum,
that folded and unfolded page of lines from the Hebrew of David,
which he had learned would quiet him

if he read them out loud, as though he were merely speaking.

 

Kevin Cantwell is the author of two books of poetry, Something Black in the Green Part of Your Eye and One of Those Russian Novels. His poems have appeared in Paris Review, The New Republic, Poetry, Irish Pages, and Five Points, from which he received the James Dickey Poetry Prize. He currently serves as Interim Provost at Middle Georgia State University.


 

Appalachian: Resolution

Whereas nothing has changed in this podunk town for thirty some odd years,
as the talented tenth are said to say when they leave for suburban offices;
and whereas we acknowledge the lack of sports bars or the bar associationed,
and that no doctor who lives in this town works in this town, or vise versa;
and that all are paid from Medicaid and Medicare; and that the grocery store
does not sell oxtail or tomatillos or vegan cheese or grassfed butter;
and whereas we know there have always been people of color in this town,
and women who liked women and men who cared for men,
who have so often moved away (though we rarely ever really mention why);
and whereas while Carver was given the universe of the peanut,
and told us with it how the world could be not eaten up in its own commerce,
that yet we leapt from agriculture to industry, from corn and sorghum
to plaster and tobacco, and then from those to objectless Keynesian digging;
and whereas Lydia and Gladys of twenty county families crafted the quilts
and laced the uniforms of several war-wounded boys therein,
though they have been too little acknowledged for their work
in the great museums, as no one can sleep under a Pollack,
and no other Guernica so reconciled the Lincolnite and Rebel;
and whereas thousands continue to live in this place
(although they think perhaps too silently, and unacknowledged)
teaching middle school algebra in the wake of Kafkaesque bureaucracy,
or fixing bathroom fixtures at the local college with no insurance,
or surviving melanoma to run, and win, 5Ks, or driving trucks cross-country
to pay kids’ college, or any other range of daily unsung dignities;
be it therefore resolved that you have been seen and loved; and that while that sight
has no say in/of itself, that the world behind the world, when we see or glimpse it,
will be rendered back to the world with you as our parabling symbols,
and that as the God we see play out in you has resolved to be faithful to us,
and in us, until what we see so rarely, the kingdom of His mystery, has fulfilled the reflection
of itself we see in you, the Daniels, Esthers, & Josephs of our mind, etching out
small kingdoms in the earth, God-reminiscent—until then, be it therefore resolved that we resolve
to remind you who you are, our muse and milieu unchosen, set upon us, guiding us,
if intermittently, through all the detailed darkness of the world.

 

Matt Prater is a poet and writer from Saltville, VA. Winner of both the George Scarbrough Prize for Poetry and James Still Prize for Short Story, his work has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, The Moth, and Still, among other publications. He is currently an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech.


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