O Whitman, of all
the words you used, of all
the delicate phrases you expressed,
years later we sing without toil,
under mystery’s right arm,
feelings you spilled
across the width of the table,
collected now, your leaves on leaves,
guiding the start of each sunrise.
We breathe slower
feeling against our foreheads
the beating of our hearts,
the beating of yours.
I write words you might have felt,
words you might have published.
What you knew wasn’t knowledge.
What you felt
equaled the mystery
the world let go
when you were born.
began singing your words
on street corners,
published your leaves
when no one else would.
You prepared us for ourselves.
It was black and shiny and called to him. It smelled comfortable, reminding him of his father, of long evenings spent in front of a fire, deer heads staring down at him from the walls; his father cleaning his guns and his mother knitting in the corner; the smell of gun oil, beer, and wood smoke in the air.
He caressed the faux wooden handle of his largest handgun and thought of his wife. His ex-wife. She who had taken his children and moved away, she who had given up on him and stolen his life.
The weight of the gun felt good in his hand, almost as good as a cold glass of beer. He stroked the smooth barrel, rubbed it along his stubbled cheek like a lover’s caress. Her hair was as smooth and black as the gun, his wife. His ex-wife. Hair that he would never touch again. He tightened his grasp, the pebbled grip of the handle digging into his flesh. He kissed the end of the barrel gently and thought of his children. Children she had thought he would never see again.
He took a deep shuddering breath, smelling the wonderful gun oil, tasting the acrid tang of gunpowder left from the gun’s recent use.
“She’ll be sorry now,” he whispered, savoring the sound.
the child sleeps i say he can skip school if his heart warrants it if it does i don’t see why he can’t be in that room all morning and night curled up in a ball under three different covers and his head squished between the folds in the pillow and dream of the world breathing in slow recapitulation awake the red nose sitting under the grey eyes i watch him through the crack in the door i know i know because i have felt it before at noon the sun falls on my pillow and i can see the light pulling into the window awake a tickling in the nose my hands are big like trucks and suddenly i can’t pick up the covers or my shirt lolling on the chair the fingers pink and huge the tiny microscopic things flying through the holes in my nose with small rapid wings they fly and i cannot breathe the funny smells in the bedroom and in the bathroom and in the kitchen and the whole house one giant smell if i were to eat a piece of food or drink i would not taste cannot taste the child sleeps through the waning hours of the day i say i said he can skip school if his heart warrants it mine did i know mine did
Mid Rivers Review is an annual publication of St. Charles Community College. Writers are welcome to submit original unpublished poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction and artistic photos from October through January.
See a complete list of submission guidelines at www.stchas.edu/midriversreview.