A Rationale Indefensible But Offered Nonetheless
by Jeff Hardin
Inhale hydrangeas, easy enough,
but what about homecoming, wingstroke?
Someone took the twist-tie off the past, let it go bad.
A single struck piano note
reinterprets how a woman moves her hands.
Kindness intuits where to follow when the children wave their dandelions.
Thinking is a separate self,
a darker bird among the others.
That man waist deep in shrubs—how far down his own roots go.
Especially in a storm, the barn is theoretical.
So is tomorrow, autonomy, certainty, whatever the lute can add.
If we can start war,
then I’ve decided to start stillness.
one child, from his bowl, placing rice inside another’s mouth.
by Charles Wyatt
The silence does glaver on,
spending its empty vowels
and dusty consonants.
I should flatter it
to give me even more
of its pleasure—
I’m half the rusty
(holding open this book
of old words) already.
I found it in my yard
once when I was digging
in the garden. Birds
made glaver over
me I failed to notice.
I reached into the dark earth,
roots and worms listening,
my hands closing
on that lost thing,
meaning to keep it,
to bring it now to you.
Measure—The Witch Takes Stock of the Children
by Liz Kay
I tell the boy to put out his hand
so I may judge
the weight of his flesh by feeling
his finger. Even in the dim light,
I can see
the chicken bone he presses
through the bars. I’d heard the girl
urging as much
as she fed him the bird just hours ago.
Were I as blind as she claimed
I would know
the ruse by my fingertips, touching
as I do the scratches he’s carved
with his teeth,
gnawing and chewing the bone
to strip it clean. Beyond I see
the girl’s tears catch
the fire’s waning light and her quick
breath fills the air with the taste
Tomorrow, I say, you must feed him
twice as much or he’ll never grow thick.
She clutches both
hands to her breast, and her nostrils
flare with excitement. Hansel,
she whispers later,
we have fooled her! In the sweat
of their small bodies, I smell a new
and hopeful scent.
I can almost taste it on my teeth.
Trick of Light
by Lisa Ampleman
for my mother
I drove home through fog, the cloud-lowered, air-saturated
white, an eerie
always-arriving in a clearing. Strange world:
a fir became a small billboard. A pile of hay bales, a tractor.
dark shapes, refused to be distinct. But at the river,
when I expected the thickest mist, the air cleared,
and I could see
downtown’s high-rises glittering
where the clouds had come unseamed for a beam of light.
I know that you cannot
see peripherally, that color has left your left eye’s
vision, the macaroni stirring from orange
to black and white,
and back to orange. The right has lost sight altogether.
Still, you’re not sure the doctor should break your septum,
remove the growth
crowding out sight. Optic nerve, pituitary,
carotid artery, gray matter: how close everything is.
I want to believe
in his micro-instruments, to tell you
that at sunrise, there’s a moment when color comes back,
the grass green again
instead of gray, that tree suddenly “oak,”
each leaf’s lobes forming the image of a tree, too,
the ground a gritty carpet
of acorn shells. That it’s all the same as it was.
Bad Baby Heads
by Allison Tobey
Once I held a baby and popped his head off like a dandelion.
Held his neck in the palm of my hand, and POP with my thumb.
Don’t worry, he was a bad, bad baby, and didn’t go to waste.
I planted that bad baby head with my gardenias and out
came five more babies. Each with only a fifth
of the bad baby’s evil.
I planted all five some-what bad baby heads next to my azaleas:
Twenty-five babies grew. Each with only one-twenty-fifth
of that original bad baby’s bad blood.
The process was simple. Now I have plenty big
beautiful babies. Their soft spots flat and wide as the plains.
Such breathtaking little door stops.
I Descended from Utopians
by Matthew Ivan Bennett
early on I knew this, swinging my knobby legs on a blond pew, eating Cheerios as my mother sang about pioneers. At five years old the details were organ chords bouncing off cinder-block chapel walls. Our ancestors fled barefoot from torches. Bespectacled men didn’t like them. They walked here, to an inland salt sea. They wizened on a diet of biscuits. They sawed granite from the Earth’s spine & built temples. Streets were double wide; bonnets grinned at top hats; each was baptized in beet sugar. And then, an hourglass cracked. Streets ran black as sackcloth & Gentiles came like hail, punching the desert until utopia sank.
Heat Stroke: A Dissent
by Darla Biel
“A cattle farmer lost 600 head
in a matter of days due to the heat.”
“Death is the mother of beauty.”
Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”
The first delirious one to go leaned only against the fence, penned as he was with a thousand other fatted cattle at market weight. He stopped the fight, resigned himself to the intoxicating heat, pressed into the corral rail, refused to move. All around him, others strained to breathe. Necks stretched up and out, they panted open-mouthed like dogs until even their lolling tongues dried. The second to go was at the water trough trying to cool his insides, which slowly cooked—heart, lungs, everything a slow shutting down. He was past panic, no surprise left in his closing eyes. Even after we called the neighbors for water, more water, and the volunteer fire department came to mist the dying herd, cattle kept falling. They died all day long until even the sun grew tired of watching. Over 600 fell in all until there was nothing to do but begin to dig the holes, six-feet deep over a six-acre plot. We will bury them in the morning, while the dew is still on the grass and as the sky opens its slitted eyes so we can see to lift them with skid loaders. We will pierce them first, so they don’t explode, and bury them the way they died, one at a time.