Can you lean into experience without always needing meaning, Slushies? The psalm is a Christian form similar to a song or poem where meaning is often elusive unless the reader is prepared to put in the work. Sometimes, though, things just are, and we certainly encounter that here in some very satisfying ways. We talk about the importance of the pause or caesura in poetry, proofreading, and powerful image systems. We also just enjoy the experience of reading two gorgeously rendered poems full of both the specific and the mysterious.
Links to things we discuss that you may dig:
Poetry Foundation: Caesura definition
Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away
Robert Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays
This episode is brought to you by our sponsor Wilbur Records, who kindly introduced us to the artist is A.M.Millswhose song “Spaghetti with Loretta” now opens our show.
At the table: Marion Wrenn, Kathleen Volk Miller, Samantha Neugebauer, and Dagne Forrest
John T. Leonard is a writer, educator, and poetry editor for Twyckenham Notes and The Glacier. He holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University. His previous works have appeared in Chiron Review, December Magazine, North Dakota Review, Ethel Zine, Louisiana Literature, Jelly Bucket, Mud Season Review, Nimrod International Journal, The Indianapolis Review, Genre: Urban Arts, and Trailer Park Quarterly among others. He lives in Elkhart, Indiana with his wife, three cats, and two dogs.
Socials: Twitter @jotyleon and @TwyckenhamNotes
Prone to wonder. Lord, I feel it.
Nomad, no man, no son, father, sun.
I am bright, rusted, and wretched.
You turned the doorknob right,
hot shower and cold bathroom tile.
I was wrapped in that small, soaked rug.
A place that filled the garden of our souls,
superior and sewn, stones dancing across a lake.
Look how Christian a puddle of vomit can be.
You held me, let me breathe into your arm.
You forked my tongue and sewed a map to
North Dakota with that black medical lace.
For Hell’s sake, I am holy, holy, calm, and true.
Be escaped. Be fallen, black, and blue.
My call to evaporate, pulled upwards to
the real adventure. Wide awake now,
bruised vanity, summer of head colds
and bodies washed up on the pebbled shore.
If I took it back, my sunglassed future glance,
my walk of muses, my pacing lonely apartments,
spitting on each and every brick. If I took it back,
but not what I’ve suddenly become: a contrail
of promises, sci-fi crimes, Saturn in the traffic.
I’m chasing altars to the daylight of you.
Feels like I feel it, prone to rip the husk of your lips.
Still, the rusted son of red starlight, gospel music
touching lovers in the limo behind the hearse.
I am lime, let moonlight citrus me further.
Then Sunday will come and sweep it all away,
back into the rose quartz river of a psalm.
Waking up to the white bone of dawn;
memory of light, half-life of darkness,
a daily prophecy of frozen floorboards.
This cold, fading silence of Sunday morning,
falling like the ash of a thirty-year volcanic winter.
The way all of our merit would vanish, if we gave up
a moment of the day to plunge back into our dreams.
Light, now imagined as radiant cloud or burning crown.
The slow trudge outside, curse and prayer of woodpile.
Eastern red cedar still asleep: erasure of termites,
black snake of phone line limp with snow, sick fledgling
whose eyes didn’t close, not even once throughout the night;
who waited out the insectile buzz of street lamps, waited
for one final glimpse of flame. Moments now, moments,
and the flick of my lighter will catch its eye. The soft glow
of cherry, the ritual of my ignorance, the weeks of feeling
watched—so full of myself that I thought it must be God.
By dusk, one of us dead and the other, none the wiser.
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