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Claude Wilkinson

What is it you’ve looked at 
            that quickened your next breaths,

left you beholden, stunned 
with its essence in the earth: 

perhaps an ungainly buzzard, 
of all things, unafraid and staying 

high on the wing while buffeted 
about like a plume of soot

against rolling storm clouds; 
that glittering carp swum 

from its cover of amber water, 
flashing now and then 

along the clear shallow, 
so at home even without our air;

symbios is made flesh 
as morning’s white herons

shop a low river 
and fringes of swamp pink;

or, just making their flight into open field 
beneath November’s yellow canopy,

the suite of honey-colored, tined, 
rut-ready bucks 

glimpsed through the lens 
of such golden noon light?

Issue 11, 2019, pg. 10

Four-leaf Clovers in Bibles

Claude Wilkinson

As with teacakes and cloudlike meringues, 
in this too, my mother was expert. 
Under a net of evening shade 
from our two huge walnut trees, 
she would sit on her old wrought-iron chair 
in the hush just after supper swatting sweat bees 
and pointing me in the right direction. 

Among scents of wild allium 
and waves of green deception, 
I groped from cold to closer 
to there at my sweeping palm 
where were clustered three or more 
of the magic charms she had seen 
at least six feet away. 

A whole minute might go by 
as she twirled them between 
her index finger and thumb 
as if checking genuineness 
before sending me for her Bible 
with the white leather cover 
and luminous Sacré-Coeur 
stung with a ring of thorns 
above its table of contents. 

Somewhere after the Fall 
but before the Resurrection, her favor 
ripened from emerald to golden 
in columns like verses themselves 
amid Job’s patience or Solomon’s wisdom. 

The first leaf, they say, bears hope; 
the second, ironically, faith; 
the third leaf is for love, 
and a fourth holds the luck. 

When there’s a fifth, even a sixth, 

they are paths to money and fame. 

And if ever a seventh, the finder 

can count on a long life as well.  

Though our chances at nature’s lottery 
are figured to be only one 
in ten thousand, or half those odds, 
if you believe the optimists. 

Still, they were hunted then harbored 
in Bibles of other women 
in the community too, as they had been 
by their mothers and so on, 
perhaps for happier marriages, 
a bountiful garden, or better children. 

On occasion, when I spot their fortunes now 
while spraying anthills or weeding the lawn, 
I sometimes imagine an endless line 
of all the saintly others, like my mother, 
halt from worn-out knees, 
taken in their dances with cancer, 
going one by one through Heaven’s 
narrow gate, their winning bets below 
perfectly hedged and pressed.

Issue 11, 2019, pp. 8-9

Etheree for Heather Heyer

Lorna Wood

With freckles
And hazel eyes
Helped bankrupt people
Get in their paperwork
And showed us love is simple,
Like falling while crossing the street,
But rising again, reaching toward hate
With arms and heart made infinitely strong.

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 33


Ryan Lally

I stare at this sum of subtraction:
“4084 lynched” catches the throat

with words that won’t come out, clinging
to the dorsum of the tongue, cleaving

like a soft punch
Pushed gradually into the stomach

until it slices
like rope into skin.

I stare at the number
until you become

conversations, until your eyes are no longer burned
out photographs.

I calculate all of you;
I am greedy with vision

and I wonder
if this multiplies your pains.

You are dead and unchained
to this crisis of clarity

and I am a rag spun from unknowing and
like a town of witnesses

I am saturated with the guilt of all this knowing
and I look at your charred bodies made

sacred and sanctified
and your eyes are uncrossed infinities

unmaking me.
I fear truth and I fear

forgetting anything about you,
but your silence tells me

I will die
with all the questions

still half-formed in a tomb
I will die

without answers.
I am incurably prone to hyperbole,

but believe me:
I love you all,

so I will take these clippings of your souls
And remember you.

Issue 10, 2018, pp. 22-23

For the Bakers, Two Lynched in South Carolina

Ryan Lally

Have you seen the marker in Lake City,
the reprinted mourning
dependent on footnotes,
and did you stop to wonder
how long it took Lavinia to stop
setting a place at the table for her husband,
for her daughter,
for each little life she grew
until they collapsed like dreams in the morning light

Have you traced the pathways of the moon,
that swirl of stars pounding relentlessly
over the earth, and gulped all that absence
between two points of life, knowing that the stars die
slower, that someone, anyone, could have snapped
their necks waiting for a God who was more than stone
and the suffusion of mirage and seen nothing
but the same stars that you see

Have you ushered their negligible decay
into the pages of your amygdala,
or have you measured your distance between them
Yes, you say that history is black and white
while you live in color. Now they are fading;
you are indulging in forgetfulness,
and you are happy you are happy you are happy.

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 21

Remembering the Bodies Taken by Lynching

Ryan Lally

We who take the beaten track,
Trying to appease
Hearts near breaking with their lack,
We need elegies.
–– Countee Cullen, “Threnody for a Brown Girl”

Because I want to see your faces as more
Than a genre of pain and smoldering dreams,
I’ll hold my hand to your pulses and speak
Your resonances to the stars
That shined on all of us.
History calls us to slow burning embers
And the placid riots against the body,
The absolute zero of fact, so here it is:
We have darkened the native pathways
Of broken bodies and human life
And we have soaked our feet in dead gray coals
And become old and forgetful
With memory like a two lane road––repaved into disbelief.
You crave a fact:
Well, beneath my feet lay the unknown
Ashes of those who breathed smoke to protect white air.
We bottled our histories with silence
And bounced them in the boughs of young poplar trees
To whisper for the dead disposed.
Yes, it’s true, we need elegies
For us bodies still walking the masquerade,
The ones with bones collecting dust
On our mantles. Yes, it’s true too,
I cannot forget you.

 Issue 10, 2018, pg. 20

Mason Freeman Cut Jenkins Down

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II

He hung from an old hickory tree along the Mississippi
A uppity Nigguh seared in a Red Summer flame
His Oh Lawd! forsaken for a swig of moonshine
A sun god wrung for eyeballin’ the sun

A uppity Nigguh seared in a Red Summer flame
His innard ate earth under a disemboweled sky
A sun god wrung for eyeballin’ the sun
Charred loins stick-poked by children cloaked in Christianity

His innard ate earth under a disemboweled sky
Mothers cast quilts riverside to keep close eye
Charred loins stick-poked by children cloaked in Christianity
Minions mimicking their ghost-hooded inheritance

Mothers cast quilts riverside to keep close eye
A crow psalmed the blues to a metronome of cracked bone
Minions mimicking their ghost-hooded inheritance
While I gripped my shiv in the shallows of a stream

A crow psalmed the blues to a metronome of cracked bone
He hung from an old hickory tree along the Mississippi
While I gripped my shiv in the shallows of a stream
His Oh Lawd! forsaken for a swig of moonshine

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 19

His Last Name Mine

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II

I enter Cedar Grove’s office
and extend the slit of sunlight
peering through a cracked door
lock eyes with an old sexton
inscribing names of fallen souls.
I stammer hello. Utter the silent
K” in my last name. He flips
through an index of ancient files
brushes a layer of cumulus dust
from 1974, and engraves 56 R7 HK
onto the yellow surface of a Post-It.

I thank him for his time, slowly
exit his office and descend down
the hillside studying each pillar
in search of my father’s marker.
I pause in front of a pallid row
of ancient stone, flap the Post-It
over a cluster of ants, to unveil
the worn plaque of a Negroid
sailor. His last name mine.

Clouded tears recall the legacy
of an Airman recruit rigging chutes
for the USS Wright. A Native Son
swaying to Coltrane in Korean cafes
with cinnamon women, who never
choked on the plume of black smoke
sewn into his skin. Debating Truman’s
liberation of Yongsan that would churn
5 million Seouls into Korean dust.

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 18

In a Loss of Power

Jeffrey Hannah

Late July in Central Arkansas, the Delta
commanding her presence. Clouds rolling in dark and darker,
and the wind and sound of rumbles took over what we knew…
or whatever we thought we knew. The Blackjack Oaks in the
backyard littered their leaves not unnaturally, but unseasonal.
The power out for four to five hours… and no place to go.

The rain, with rhythmic change, felt as if a metronome led its fall.
Our doors open to let in the summer evening’s fading light.
You on the couch, reading… taking what was felt the
best use of time. Me sipping my drink, feeling a new
darkness coming on. Both feeling the turn of a world.
You and Me Alone. Together.

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 71

Estate Sale

Jeffrey Hannah

Four houses down from me an Estate Sale begins.
I watch through my window the pickups line up curbside, and
strangers entering what was once a home. A lamp, a couch, appliances…
Truck beds being filled and harnessed down with bungie.
The closing sound of rusted tailgates.

Only days ago was that house haunted with the living.
I didn’t know him. I didn’t know his loves or displeasures.
But I do know there were days I passed, walking the dog,
and saw him perhaps working in the yard or maybe even
carrying in some of the things that have now been auctioned.

So for the experience, I go and pose as if I was in the market.
A blonde woman, professionally dressed, answers a collector’s
question on the age of a grandfather clock. Strangers, uninvited,
moving methodically throughout a house not their own
telling themselves things they want to hear.

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 70