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As If (Psalm 73)

Here’s a picture of the bad ones I once envied:

Everything came easily: they did not need To work to make their living, want A catchy line, an angle to find lovers or companions At the dining table: tan and fit from laps and basking Poolside, they order drinks and gaze at the deep sky, Chuckle at the devil, protest unjust god: Superstitions meant for dimlit losers. They eat the land bare, suck the ocean Dry as though they had it in their goblet, tall And frosted, with their tongues tips swish Strong currents of the deep. If I painted Such a picture for you once, just feeling Without understanding that I envied Not another person but a creature of my dreams, Then my mind would curdle, heart dry up And I’d have been the dream beast I invented. But the real touched me, cool and smooth, Taught me to be able to have everything, Need nothing, like the names of things That are not you and are not those things Either, in a picture story song.

Laurance Wieder

Doubletalk (Psalm 12)

Turn where? Hear Shark hearts, the fast Talking, two-faced, The beasts boast: Truth Trips and Falls on My lips: If I say It is so It is so.

If God’s word be hot Coal (my good thoughts The embers) Lord, Stoke up a bonfire. Those lip-lickers lurk In the shadows And eye me.

Laurance Wieder

What They Gave (for my brother, Larry)

1. I wanted to talk, just you and me your girl Linda, blown away: her eyes, still mirrors. (Stepfather’s impotent rage, falling drunk all over her words, his gun. And then she’s dead. And the old man? He probably fell too. Passed out, wetting himself, under all those fierce stars.)

Next to the garage we sat, talked in high weeds, streetlight. Tears you had rubbed away flattened the blond hair high on the walls of your cheeks. You said what you could-everything around you still tangible: the wood that made up the houses, the buzz in the light overhead. A cricket, next to you, with its black lines, incredible hinges. Wonder and death. Who could make this? Who would?

2. Physical affection did not run in our family. Our parents had to watch from a distance as the dust of all those summer days, the tears, gave us a skin.

This is what they gave.

David Craig

The Victorious Ones

They march in like the infantry- Mrs. Alexander and her women of Circle 9. Blue bib aprons tied in double bows, they take position in the industrial-grey church kitchen. No time for chatter. Carrots must be sliced, cheese cubed; pickle spears placed upon lettuce-laced trays as only they can do. Steely-haired all, they know where to find every paring knife and chopping block . . . . Men out! And to the novices with offerings of help: No, thank you. This is the Lord’s work and theirs- serving others who would be lost, utterly, amid these crowd-feeding pots and percolators. Too busy, too tired, themselves, to eat, they stand behind their food- with hot tongs and slotted spoons, dishing up yams and green beans and Captivating Chicken Casserole. Mrs. Alexander keeps a sharp eye on the rolls. Stomachs full, we applaud these women whose lipstick stays put while their feet swell in navy kid pumps, whose silken sleeves are spattered with grease. We give thanks to those who know who they are.

Ashley Mace Havird

Old Habits

You’d wonder now where all those saints have gone, Those cowling round our calamitous days, Broadest-backed for the narrowing of hope- The widest shoulders to lean worlds upon; All frantic, fretted, our unholy frays That haled them, incensed, off the walls to cope.

Fine, coarse, familiar habits, soutaned, veiled, Surpliced, sandaled, paled, visioned, you know how- Are we undone-now are the champions fled ? O that those soaring Josephs up the nave, Those sudden Gabriels might blaze the now Of need-those Anthonys might find their bread ! Now, how it sounds we’re talking in thin air Or to ourselves-as if they weren’t all there !

Tom P. MacGloin

At Sea

At night Walter shudders without light Puts his grip on life in glass with his teeth And hopes his eyes don’t roll under the bed Laughing in the lonely dust, hiding in his shoes. Walter shivers and pockets his dreams, Thinks maybe the whalers will come pick me up Folds margarine into bread for tomorrow’s Garden lunch in the grass, sings deafly O white waves and brown girls alive alive o Marks the day off one more thank god until Sunday when Mr. Connor with his boat Comes up the porch to make me alive again And on the ocean my legs are thickmuscled Without blue popping veins and The rough hair is golden and the sun is mine Walter dips his bread in grease for dinner white and brittle like an eggshell now but i slept on oily wood, morning steamy with the carcasses of monsters o i lived Walter huddles under his sheet and rocks Seeing the greentops of mountains at the foot Of the bed, off starboard; and forgetting the dark He squints a tan and a smile And watches the sun without blinking . . . here we go boyos the islands of steamy green

Brian Doyle

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