"Even after all their instruments agree,
we’re given to wonder, finding joy
in folding another’s clothes for the first time."

More Perihelion:

BobSward's Writer's Friendship Series




Issue 8: The Lily

Issue7: Passages

Issue6: No More Tears

A quick list to poets featured in this issue:

Valarie Duff

Nick Flynn

Jim Behrle

Fred Marchant

Jacob Strautmann

Vera Kroms

Henry Israeli

Daniel Gutstein

Joyelle McSweeney

David Dodd Lee

Daniel Bosch

Michael Perrow

Luljeta Lleshanaku

Miklós Radnóti

Nikolai Baitov

Drago Stambuk

Zafer Senocak

Michael Perrow

Odell, Thinning Oaks

Rooted as deep as they are, their only
action in a dense connecting,
each acted only as it could, not resisting
my uncle’s axe and his saw.
                                     First he’d observe
the mass of upper limbs, how the trunk
to miss a shrub or a line needed placing
not where its natural girth would have it drop.
Then came the kerfs, the deep wedges chopped
to make a good direction for the fall.

And through the pungency of oil and gas
as he adjusted the choke, through the whine
that was like the saw apologizing
for bits of moist bark that sprayed my boots,
my uncle’s farm-boy grin turned
to fierce concentration.
                                     His whole body leaning,
his weight pushing deeper, the saw
holding tenor phrases longer
and longer, the tree itself
leaning and twisting in slow motion,
beginning its sweep of nearby trees,
a gradual drop become a crackling
race of limbs like lightning as the sky
opens white and crushes the ground,
and a final whip of branches holding
twigs of brown leaves.
                                      Odell put down the saw.
A quietness with a strong smell of oak
leaked into the air. We stood on the stump,
having seen it before. That hole
in our yard’s ceiling would fill.
Oaks grow faster than you’d think,
spreading out, eventually connecting.


Reunion Number 3

Vanishing point of deep closets drawn
beyond the thick line of hill-cresting pines:
that filled in our nervous night inklings.

And still missing, the glass eye
of a third-rate cousin from Cleveland
which someday was bound to turn up.

Their logs left burning from you-knows-who’s woods.
We were dried out and ready
as hornet’s nests.

Gun blasts, we skirted the hunt, jumping each beagle’s
rusted roof to roof. We underestimated by a long shot
the power of the lord, the giggle

of TV all year we’d ingested. We knew, by the way,
who that handsome man was, who the girl
placed her hand on, the hot, sweating father.

It was Chase who produced his BB pistol.
It was I who smoked then. You whistled.
We came in like drovers

to the dead rabbit soaking
in a salt water pail, to the pine
board’s drizzled pie fruit.


When It Comes It Will Among Other Things

have an antecedent, fresh prunes still warm
from their boiling, the heat of trash fires

crackling up, and your fast-ball acorn pitches
against the barrel. Trampled by the herds

of a pedigree you lasted, an oasis.
Slow down, you assured me. Once I whispered,

drunk in illusions of the everlasting, that when
it comes it will surely sound like something:

the scent of mimosa forty years ago, violent omens,
tomb-stoned captions, or me half crazy.

I would like you to forgive your enemies
but you have so few, I too loved him.

Even after all their instruments agree,
we’re given to wonder, finding joy

in folding another’s clothes for the first time.
Next evening the highway noise died down

and my father rested, the pink angel peering
fiercely pane by pane I thought, and the word

was coming, far off still and tied to rocks,
capable of clouds and suspended reason.


The Runner in Our Village

Where was he running, to hear the child crying
so clear and full of purpose? Some of us suppose
he was aimless in our neighborhoods, running for

an appetite, sweating off the pounding flesh
that washes upon him in waves. He fancies himself
keeper of the light, eyebeams running out

to sea every night on the concrete walks as how
he came to glimpse and hear the child, and remember
though not to understand as we ourselves

can’t understand. The child still cries
inconsolably in the runner’s mind, its mother
must come down from the ladder against the eaves

where she scrapes, slowly, unguttering the leaves
blocking late fall rain. So hard we’ve tried to comfort him,
the runner in our village, saying the child

is just a child -- if it was a child at all --
or slow down, have a drink, it will help
the child grow up inside your mind. He shakes

us off, certain somewhere in our midst an offspring
feels grave responsibility for its mother on a ladder,
and he must run until he finds the house again.

That will send a night of general joy throughout our village,
to get our old runner back, telling tales of flagstone walks
and alleys long ago, of cargo and strange charity,

small stories that end in the smallest of our village’s
dark details, a storm door held ajar by a gloved hand.
He knows us as we know ourselves, his eyebeams running

long and far off, saying, for example, what hill
it was on and what century someone erected false lights
to cause several wooden ships to run aground.


The Last Time I Gave My Life to Jesus

I was trying to write some hokey dialogue between
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche for a philosophy assignment
I ended up dropping the course because of, and got

desperate for things people really talk about and
thought about Ricky Coleman who once poured kerosene
on his hand and lit it just to see what I’d do,

which right off was to say God, Ricky, but then
to try it myself, see it was no big deal, and walk out
into the Coleman backyard wondering how in the world

I could light my hand in front of Jenny Litchford.
That night was when Ricky got baptized and I had to
go with his family to church where it was so hot

getting dunked didn’t look all that bad, even if
most people do get water up their nose. I must have
been thinking about Jenny and sweating with everybody

praying and getting excited because when the preacher
at the top of his lungs asked if there’s anybody
else out there who wants to give his life to Jesus

just raise your hand, I did. Not that I knew what
to expect. But I sure expected more than the “bless
you son,” which I got, like he knew I was a Methodist

and what he really wanted was a steady sheep out of
his own pasture where, with my hand in the air, I
felt like I could have been seen for about a mile off.

So I sat there hoping everybody had their heads down
and thinking about all the things I’d like to get
into with the preacher if I ever got the chance

which, after doing some more thinking and seeing how
late it was getting, I took to be the philosophy paper
I ended up getting a D on and dropping the course

because of. It all comes down to things like sitting here
on the porch, being pretty comfortable with a beer and
the rain pounding the awnings, and suddenly having

to decide whether or not to go over and help this woman
I’ve been wanting to get to know, who’s just dropped what
looks like about $30.00 worth of groceries all

over the pavement. If I do, it’s not because I
haven’t figured that I’ll probably ask her if she
needs a hand, she’ll say no thank you I can manage,

that will be that, and I’ll end up not doing a thing
except getting wet.

for Mark Craver


Gloria's Skirt

By fourth grade Gloria Gaddis
wore the shortest skirts in school,
and by fifth grade she used lipstick
and makeup and started getting
teased about it. Then a couple of boys
suggested she take more baths.
I’ve never been able to smell much,
but Tim Burnette assured me this
was no ordinary scent, most likely
a blend of perfume, sweat, and hair
spray. “Does Gloria still stink?” Dad
asked me. “I don’t know,” I said,
“they say she does.” “Somebody
should sit down and talk to her.”
I wondered how that would be,
telling Gloria to wash herself better
just when she’d started thinking
she was pretty, watching the tears
wash makeup from under her eyes.
We’d all seen her cry, the worst
time playing Pollyanna when she picked
Tim’s name and the boys hooted loud,
describing Gloria’s and his impending
marriage, someone pinching Tim’s nose
shut. Mrs. Garlick slammed the paddle
down hard on her desk, and when
the room got quiet we could hear
Gloria crying to herself, makeup
streaming, so all she could do was
leave the room. Which actually made
things a lot worse. From where I sat,
I could see Gloria in the hall, sipping
at the water fountain then listening
to Mrs. Garlick lecture us about
being kind, how some people aren’t
as fortunate as others, how this is
Christmas time and aren’t we ashamed
of ourselves and going on for so long
about it all Gloria could do was wait
out there in the hall, leaning with her
rear end against the wet fountain, until
Mrs. Garlick finished by threatening
every one of us with the worst paddling,
Christmas or no Christmas, ever a boy
of hers got. When Gloria walked back in,
still sniffling a little, it was absolutely
incredible that Calvin Flowers pointed
and laughed at the wet streak across
the tight butt of her skirt. Although
he quickly covered his mouth and tried
to explain, it didn’t do any good.
The teacher was just itching to paddle
somebody. Gloria sat back down on
the carved-up wooden seat of her desk,
and I thought about the water creeping in
on her butt, wondering at what point,
if at all during those terrible moments,
it would make it all the way
through to her skin.