Hue and Cry
by Diane K. Martin
The day seemed deceitful and wicked.
We hated breaking our promise to the masters.
We couldn’t enter or exit.
We craved a way to be decent.
Elsewhere the others went about their work, unaware of anything.
We had done such a good job of distracting them.
As if the righteous were evil.
As if the heathen were angels.
At night no pattern was discernible in the heavens.
Imagine the first night of creation.
Haven’t you ever wanted to feel that innocent?
The day seemed unrelated to tomorrow or yesterday.
We hated the sound of our own names.
We couldn’t imagine another ending.
We craved the safety of kingdoms.
Elsewhere people had mothers, their mothers had children.
We had no hard feelings or soft sentiments.
As if the center of the galaxy were chimera.
As if all life on earth happened in one second.
At night you feel drawn to the infinite.
Imagine finding a remedy.
Haven’t you ever taken the path of least resistance?
The day seemed taut, curled in at the edges.
We hated being mistaken for tourists in our own country.
We couldn’t go backwards or forward.
We craved immunity from our reflections.
Elsewhere there were pools and reservoirs.
We had no memory of how we got here.
As if we were ants in an anthill.
As if there really were gods on Olympus.
At night we woke up and remembered.
The thaw. The genesis.
Imagine green shoots on black earth.
Haven’t you ever wanted a second chance?
The day seemed a thin slice between two hard heels of night.
We hated to admit our pleasure.
We couldn’t have stilled its birth.
We craved salt, but salt made us thirsty.
Elsewhere birds were migrating.
We had no wings or feathers.
As if tomorrow would be winter.
As if winter were a reckoning.
At night we were ready for anything.
Imagine knowing only what you learn from your fingers.
Haven’t you ever escaped your body’s prison?
The day seemed part of a vast string of days, unharnessed and unchanging.
We hated to think of the big picture.
We couldn’t do anything but crawl on our bellies.
We craved landmarks, punctuation, percussive instruments.
Elsewhere, there were blizzards, tornadoes.
We had to make do with what was given.
As if this were the penultimate chapter.
As if we were doing the queen’s bidding.
At night our dreams were untranslatable.
Imagine green lawns as far as the eye sees.
Haven’t you ever been condemned to heaven?
by Bethany Schultz Hurst
The first rain washed the marker epitaph from the two by two
and the cross itself vanished after a winter under snowdrifts
like the time you dropped an oar from the rowboat
in the flooded dell. You came back when the water dried
but the oar was gone. You thought it had been resurrected;
in another world something rowed in circles,
tracing your name. You didn’t realize layers of mud
and muck become a resting place, your dog Sam
was still in the pasture even if his marker was not.
Years later, you left behind the new dog for college
where that summer Spring Creek, too full
and fast, devastated itself and then the city;
your then boyfriend called you to describe the man
who clung to the telephone pole and then slipped away
into the water before a choice could be made, how to save him.
Afterward, the university library’s card catalog
still named the ruined books, call number: FLOOD,
like a fixed point in the stacks, a place to retrieve
what’s not admitted lost. The basement interred books
warped with fat pages, as if they held something so true
they couldn’t bear to close. You called then-boyfriend
less. It’s after disaster, not creation, that things should be named,
each animal pair descending the ark. The library stacks
punctuated with gaps. The lights turned automatically off
when your time was deemed enough. You were in the dark
before you could find the title. It became your excuse.
Now your fiancé says keep your name when you marry,
but that’s just something snagged in the net
and not what you’re really after. You return
to a dog-eared page and can’t remember why.
The underlined passages don’t speak to you now.
The wedding party proceeds in hushed pairs.
Your veil trolls the air faithfully behind you and again
in the recessional, though something should be different now.
You’re a boat, listing to one side. You’re waiting
for replacements. You’re carried across the threshold
of the new house. Water climbs the porch stairs.
It has poured over the foothills into the pasture,
erasing every landmark, and creeps up
your dress’s train. This is your job, to remember
where you buried them, and to give each dog
the same reliable name: Sam, Sam, Sam.
Picking up My Brother From Rehab
by William Varner
He needs control over the radio
ignores my request not to smoke
gives me directions on how
to navigate the Jersey turnpike
crowded even though it’s late
afternoon Christmas Eve day
the discussion of gifts pointless,
so close to tomorrow he tells me
how it’s his job to scrub the toilets
how everyone in the men’s dorm
keeps the seat up so it isn’t
that bad, how he could give
a shit that famous musician
is in group with him. In the welcomed
heat one New Hampshire summer
in the steak house lobby his daughter
turned to hug the wooden and badly
painted Canadian Mountie statue,
cried for him, when my own daughter
wrapped around my leg.
Everywhere taillights speak red
accusations. He smokes one last
Marlboro as we hit the driveway
his smoke rings rising
above his children’s heads,
wispy blue halos devoured by air.