Warren Slesinger, “Evening Light”

THE EVENING LIGHT

The horizon holds no lofty notion,
no mansion in the moving clouds,
no gate that opens for her to float

on her bosom through the air.
She does not live there and then
in her naked skin, but here and now

when she steps out of the shower
warm and wet, I kiss her slender neck,
and smell the perfume from the soap

in the hollow of her collar bone;
the tiles gleam, the sir swirls around her,
and the mirror fogs with steam.

Wholly mortal is my wife
who does not foresee an afterlife
and who is not indifferent to her own demise,

and yet, she does not flinch
when I touch a bone instead of breast
underneath the skin graft on her chest

as smooth and plain as parchment
and larger than my hand
that could not protect her from the knife,

but she is not embarrassed
by her nakedness, and presses against me
her other breast while she leans

to wipe away the steam,
and when I turn, our eyes meet in the mirror
and I do not relish the reflection

in that instant
of misgiving in which she waits
and wants to go on living.

Others see a brightness in the sky
And find a higher purpose
in the evening light, but she does not.

Her eyes merely redden with regret
at the thought of time passing,
and yet, she seldom cries

as though she chose
the uncertainty of life
as opposed to the uncertainty of heaven.

Title Poem

The winner of the 2012 South Carolina Poetry Archives Book Prize:
The Evening Light
by Warren Slesinger

http://library.furman.edu/specialcollections/poetry_archives/index.htm

Cover art by Betty Ann Slesinger

Cover art by
Betty Ann Slesinger

Warren Slesinger, “Down”

DOWN

where a tree
sheds its red

and the breeze
scuffs a leaf

across the road,
and it flutters

on a stone
nicked by the blade

of the mower,
and the chopped growth

slowly turns to brown,
the sun is late and level

with the fence
when an engine hums,

a dog lopes
across the road,

and a bumper hits
with a thump and yelp

that leaves a jet of blood
on the paws and pelt

sprawled in the weeds
while a cloud passes

like a puff of breath,
and beyond the fence

the sun flares and sets
at the level of your eyes.

C. Steven Johnson

“The Night Librarian”

Three soldiers stood by the lake.

A raging fire had burned there for three days.

Now there was nothing left of her but bones.

The bones danced slowly, remembering.

Each soldier took his turn dancing with the bones of the girl.

“There is nothing wrong with her your love can’t fix, ” said the youngest soldier.

“But she can’t speak, she is only bones now,” said the middle soldier
deeply in love with her still.

It was true she could not speak, but she could dance.

The old soldier watched and said nothing.

He took a photograph from his pocket, now tattered and wrinkled
as the man holding it.

Seven sticks stuck in the mud marked the days they had been there.
All three had loved her.

But the middle soldier had given everything he had.

He sat. As she danced alone, he daydreamed of
the mosaic tiles in a mosque built
by the Moors in Andalusia.

The patterns were carefully cut, interlocking rhythms,
that formed a sacred geometric balance.

The union of shapes had lasted centuries.

The embers of the fire glowed.

The middle soldier said, “How will we ever get home?”

Jacquelyn Markham, “We Dead Awakened”

We Dead Awakened

 …you begin to write in your diaries more honestly than ever.

Adrienne Rich

Adrienne’s words named

what we did each day

in tiny somnambulist steps

in our flimsy nightgowns.

Adrienne’s words exploded.

In epiphanies, we leapt

from rocky cliffs. Unbelievably,

we did not fall to our deaths.

Below us a circus net for the

trapeze artists we were,

Adrienne’s words saved us.

Catapulted out of the gorge,

up from the dark bedrock,

into the skies of our lives,

eyes wide open.

Jacquelyn Markham

Quitman Marshall, “Vespucci”

Vespucci

One deep-rutted, mean road,

its shaggy, root-knotted crown

clawing at the low bottom of my car—

aerodynamically sound for sure

on roads flat as this world once was

and fast between the known places,

but here a lot like me behind the wheel,

hurting with certain kinds of motions—

it leads past well-meant mounds,

signs of what made the money of the place

that are simply earth now, where trees volunteer.

A reversion, this turn might be called,

and I should drive an SUV, they’d say,

those who, like Vespucci, need to believe

they’re going elsewhere than they’ll go.

I know my trip today is a search back

in time. That’s okay, since space, for all

useful purposes, is known and maybe done for.

I read a ruin’s down this disused road, so try.

It used to host fancy balls in the mansion it was,

made of oyster shells, lime, and slaves

for a signer of a certain claim to independence.

And I keep going, sure it’s there, without a map.

His oaks, I think between bumps, want to welcome me.

Though something in a book describes what might

have been, I’ve taken it to really be. Vespucci

might have thought our continent was Asia,

but, at the time, it wasn’t. Then it got named

for him, his first name, what his mother

might have called him until she had another.

But no, with the light far west becoming east,

I have to stop the motion of this family car,

turn back from the scraping uncertainty

of my little life, bounded by what

I think I know or, by a book, was told.

Amerigo saw things as they were,

he thought, though the edge of the world

was folding on itself.  So, because I can’t

go on, I’ll use his last name, not his first,

for my small, late, and unfinished journey.

(first published in Big City Lit)