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ruse, by Janet Barry

what joy for a dusty brown heart beating among the cornrows? the body knows its own songs, hears the rhythm of its own slapstick comedy, its own way of mumbling about blood pulse and coupons, slices cut from fragments of brain and liver, the dark places upon which it feeds itself,

and it was just the other day that i felt my skin ripple beneath your hand, knew that the low cloud cover reflected in your eyes was only a ruse, blue peering past grey, grey bearing down on iris, optic nerve, that mysterious liquid within which our visions float and find out the truth of things, the words for everything

important, like the presence of a swallow where a horse once stood, or the time it takes to halve an apple and strangle from it its sweet juice running down our throats, or the length of sinew required to stitch a laugh together, the way we did when we stretched naked beneath an autumn sky, felt the waning sun enter our pores, speak our names, and i think now

what needs knowing most is the dance of the sparrows, hopping in and out of each furrow, dark beaks, feet of clay hardened to do the work of finding food among the refuse, and the body stopping to hear its own voice, wings lifted to perch on a still standing stalk, swaying on the wind, safe for a moment from the passing harvester.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 1.

Janet Barry is a musician and poet with works published or forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including Rock + Sling, Ragged-Sky, Off-the-Coast, Tygerburning, and the Christian Science Monitor. She has twice been judge for Poetry Out Loud, and received a Pushcart Nomination for her poem “Winter Barn.” Janet holds a BM in organ performance and an MFA in poetry.

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Asylum, by Athena Kildegaard

Between the highway
and the Minnesota River
herons built a rookery
in cottonwoods,
a slough on either side.

Half a century ago
men from the state hospital—
the mad ones, but gentle—
built their shacks
of corrugated and rusting sheets,
warped boards allocated by the superintendent,
washed up styrofoam, cracked shingles, mud.
They kept their distance
from one another.
No electricity, no running water,
nothing but the solitude
of days on days in murky light,
the tang of wild grapes,
of their private pleasures.

The herons—several dozen pairs—
put their slapdash nests
in only a few trees
so close together the young
eyeball one another
to see who will fly first.

The lunatics sometimes
wandered singly into town
along the shoulder,
their bodies covered in gray and brown,
the draft of trucks
lifting their hems and cuffs.
And then back with matches
and kerosene and jars of jam
and girlie calendars.

Then the rules changed.
The last man from the river
died soon after, an exile.

The heron fledglings dropped
from the nests and flew. That
was that. The last adult
lifted her yellow legs, her yellow feet,
the branch swayed a little,
swayed lithe and green
and then returned
to its state of rest.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 1.

Athena Kildegaard is the author of four books of poems and a fifth is forthcoming from Tinderbox Editions in March 2018. Her poems have been set to song, read by Garrison Keillor, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and stamped into pottery. She lives and teaches in Morris, MN.

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September 29, by Luke Whisnant

Wood ducks down for the night
with their bright beaks tucked into the tuft
of their brown breast feathers:

six gaudy drakes and a hen
hunched in the Food Mart parking lot.
They are so still I think

they must be wooden decoys
placed just so on the cool black asphalt—
someone’s practical joke, or conceptual art—

frozen in the last few moments of dusk
until one lifts his iridescent green head
and blinks. They hardly flutter

when I start my car. They’re parked
legally, seven in a single space.
I wheel the car out and rake them

with my headlights. They never move.
So still, this world, balanced on the cusp
between summer and fall.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 1.

Luke Whisnant’s most recent book is Down in the Flood, a collection of stories. He teaches creative writing at East Carolina University, where he also edits Tar River Poetry.

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