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Pa’lante

Elena Adames Camaño

The mechanics are the same.
You can turn a music box into a metronome.
You strip some parts out and
you introduce new pieces in,
but there are the same
gears
clicking together,
pushing and grinding,
making marvels from honed and shaped
metal.

The mechanics are the same,
even if it looks different to the casual observer
who hasn't touched the inside,
who hasn't cracked open the diamond etched façade,
who hasn't gotten intimate with the mainspring and escapement,
who hasn't replaced an oscillator to preserve
functionality, who doesn't know this same gear train once fit together
into a clock,
who hasn't seen the complex
become simpler.

The mechanics are the same
as you shed away
the excess,
the worn,
the pieces that just aren't necessary anymore.

Poetry South 13, 2021, pg. 47

woven in silken sky

Ilma Qureshi

when a koel, or shall we say, a cuckoo,
lets out a song
the day folds, decidedly, 
like a teenager
rolling up sleeves
in the heat of July
then, glistening like a water crystal
a sharp clarity descends on me;
the world will go on
in its infinite, shimmery beauty
after i am gone
can I trust such a world?
what then, shall my gait be?
shall i wear my trousers rolled?
shall i stop
to look at the ant  
that carries a sack thicker than frail legs
or the bird
that goes home with empty-pockets
and yet glides with a certain flair,
shining; like a crescent 
woven in the silken sky

Poetry South 13, 2021, pg. 11

 

song for the unfound

Cassondra Windwalker 

in the upside-down of the up-above,
birdsong condensates in twilight
like the sea under the sun,
melody ascending the midnight stairs
as if the darkness will never come:
for a while it seems the birds are right,
their hopeful trills and drowsy staccatos
keeping stars and other, less noble, nightwalkers
at bay – but the dark will have her way
in the end – she will bundle up 
birdsong into baskets and send it back,
she will sew celestial buttons bright
into the fabric of the night and fasten it
securely against the pale flesh of the sun,
she will call out the eaters and the creepers
and let them have their way.
for now, I hope your bones are content
to believe what the birds believe,
that you rest easy in the twilight of in-between,
that you take the flowers of this brief season
as the due of your out-of-due-season grave.
I hope you rise in shining drops of song
and lend some sign of your departure,
that we the left-behind may make meat 
of your wretched eater yet.

Poetry South 12, 2020, pg. 37

Ophelia’s Soliloquy in Flowers

Audrey Hall

This is the swing my father built,
hanging from the branches of a willow,
as familiar as his arms once were. 
I have busied my hands with the language
of flowers, speaking in the accent
of easily snapped stalks. Here, a hydrangea:
for heartlessness. See how its petals dissipate 
when shaken. Their blue is not the blue 
of the nearby creek, or even the sky,
but something I recognize from inside.
Here in my hands, too, is a wood anemone:
forsaken, mourning with cat’s-eye yellow pollen.
I have crushed a poinsettia to my breast,
December’s flower, Christ’s blood, 
the petals heavy as vellum, 
one of which has caught in my dress 
and hangs like a bib. My cry mutes itself 
in sprouts of cyclamen and white ivy-sprigs:
a formula for my place in the narrative, 
where I must exit. I hold the dried white roses.
In a moment, I will give them life again. 

Issue 12, 2020, pg. 40

Revelation

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

One
Person
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

Aftermath

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