Sarah Ann Woodbury

My Blind Brother, Who Went Insane

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“The birds are God,” he said. Laughing. He was Jesus. Somehow, it seems right—a man
who had never seen a bird, describing the incantations that way. Babblings. Like the
bells our mother hung on his door—the ones he’d feel for and shake too hard before
opening.

A smile. Unlike the unblind, he smiled only when actually happy.

Until we returned from backpacking in the Winds and heard the voicemail he left me:
“The birds aren’t God.” We found him; he was Einstein; he was on a cruise; he was
sweating; he was almost dead. Brain lost in bells.

fallen juniper berries
too many moons
for the soil

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Cecilia Woloch

The Poor are Always with Us

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My sister’s good friend Bert,
short for Alberta, died this week —
fifty-four, flat broke,
stroked out in a nursing home.
No funeral, no flowers.
But her friends did what they could:
a cardboard casket and a preacher
who said a few words when they buried her.
They put a jar out on the counter
of the store where Bert had worked
more years than anyone could count,
a collection for the cross
someone’s promised to make
out of two-by-fours.
She was a tiny thing, she smoked;
she had a voice like gravel and rusted wire.
My sister says she still can’t cry.
It’s just too pitiful, she says.
This is America, our poor
lie down in soft Kentucky dirt,
or any dirt, they’re just so tired.

Jonah Winter

The Thing Which Was Like a Thing

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I had a dream.
In this dream,
there was a thing
which was very much like
another thing.

Not much to go on,
I realize.
But I swear to you
that this first thing
was so much like

the thing it was like,
that you could barely
tell them apart.
They could have been
cousins

or co-workers or even twins.
Well, except for the fact
that they did not co-exist
as two things –
but as one thing

that made you think
of some other thing.
Had one of these things
bumped into the other thing
at the grocery store,

it would have said,
“Hey—wait a minute,”
except for the fact
that things can’t talk
or see or think…,

or can they?
Uh oh.
This is what happens
every time I start to think
about things.

Ian Randall Wilson

The Interference of the Women

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We gather against volition
on the town’s single hill.
The waters are rising
everyone smells salt.

The priest did not have time to dress
and is disheveled as are the rest of us.
The sheep dogs
are trapped and vexed.

Some old people believe the day will join
other days in the town mythologies.
The younger ones
not as sure.

Birds gathered in the trees are quiet
against their natural impulse to scold.
Above us something streaks
across the sky.

Savior of the planet
or destroyer of the human race.
The dead are trying
to tell us.

Constant L. Williams

Life Speeds Up, Body Slows Down

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Your body has betrayed you—
you are not the same.

Bulbous. Bereaved. Swollen.
Scarred. The suit of my father.

Thick, your collar weighs upon your neck.
Used, your soft sleeves fade to burlap.

Every night in your exhausted dreams
cashmere stars are spit
from the gums of space, lawyers
burst from briefcases and beat
oxen with silken chains. You stare
into the sun with flat button eyes,
as cotton blossoms from your mouth
at the first sensation of warmth.
*

When once asked his favorite
memory of his own father:

He had just come home from work.
I could not have been older than four

or five. We were laughing as he chased me—
necktie and all—through an endless field,

he recalled, and then, gently,
I’d never seen him run before.

Joan White

Prague Spring, 1968

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I
Looks more like November –
a sky threatening with gray clouds,
moving East to West.
Oppressive air broken by cries
of a counterculture of crows,
thunder of Soviet tanks in the distance.
The Plastic People of the Universe
have laid down their guitars.
Demonstrators stand in front of
the statue of King Wenceslas—
the rider’s face obscured by the horse’s head.
Two others in clergy robes flank it.
The discontented form a line between them,
holding up a banner in a language
I don’t speak. But the message is clear.
They want what all men fear: change.

II
In the crowd, a small young woman stands
between two men, shoulders locked.
Her hands empty save for heart line and lifeline.
Heart line broken in two places,
lifeline skidding around the hand’s heel
escaping the thumb’s grasp.
She’s standing on tiptoes
straining to keep the horse’s head
in the cross hairs of her mind’s eye.
Longing for the rider’s face to come into view.
Longing for the horse to rear up,
tear off like a guitar riff.
As he passes, he’ll lean low,
lifting her to the saddle—
saving her from this history
for another.

Jon Veinberg

Convergence

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When the shades
are snapped shut,
days fold into night,
nights fog the day
and when the curtain is lowered
to a level where
the only light left
is the one leaking
through the unpatched
gaps of the roof
now shadowed by
mist, leaf-hang
and horned bird claw.
When the wind
becomes a hustler
of the slow-lobbed
clouds and the alone
star turns white
as a weasel’s tooth
under a fast
rising August moon
and the lobster
shift cop sits in his car
under the oaks,
considers the webbed
lines of his palm
and sings “ Going Going
Gone “ to a sunrise
that bleeds the good eye
of the crackhead
shivering in his duffeled
coat, each step
a rattle of bones
criss-crossing the
Van Ness Ave. tracks
heading south
to a lineup of clinics
and Army cheese.
When grace has passed
into a knothole of breath
and the sparrows refuse
to surge upward
and the dog napping
on the back porch,
with its burned out bulb
won’t nudge awake,
a water bowl of dead moths
at its nose
and when the last soldier
to leave Cambodia
parachute doesn’t open
and the 2 year old
swallows water in the frigid
waves of the Baltic,
salt gungeing its lungs,
will all ask for more
time and for us, angels
of the everyday,
are to stand stone-cold
by their side
on the doorway steps
on their way out,
prop them up
to stand nose to nose
with the devil as he haggles
their sins. And it never gets
easy, butting heads with
Jesus, not as hard as what
my shadowy cousin Bob,
the angel of explosives,
doled out to the Fat Man
bombers of Nagasaki,
with the same, equal dose
of mercy and severity
as trying to mend
the ripped quilt
of an ocher sky
with loose thread.