One morning a Sunday school teacher
got the notion to fill balloons with sins—
red for anger; yellow, deceit;
green, envy—and so forth.
Sins floated above the children’s heads
dangling curly tails just within reach
of damp, eager hands.
Now drive them out! The teacher ordered.
This is all I know of that lesson.
Yet I imagine a moment’s
hesitation before the children complied,
popping them smartly with their bottoms.
And I wonder if the little ones,
alarmed by sin’s sharp retort—
mirroring the Psalm’s pronouncement,
“God is gone up with a shout”—
were thereby frightened unto Jesus.
After the exorcism,
empty skins must have lain
withered as dried figs in the desert.
And, while no longer a temptation,
the smell of sin may have lingered
in the warm, Sunday air.
The seed packet of Nasturtium promised dazzling
yet here they sit in the catch-all drawer beneath
some car-wash coupons and a full set of wisdom teeth
extracted from my daughter only last month.
The teeth have roots like bloody turnips—you’d wince
to see them. They were growing things, after all,
pulled from the garden of childhood.
I must have purchased the seeds last spring.
“Empress of India” the packet proclaimed,
and I saw furrows filled with dark haired girls swathed in scarlet silk.
From there, it was easy to imagine the murmur of dusky voices
rising like incense on a summer’s eve.
But I was telling you about the teeth,
which rattle like dice in their red plastic case.
Or maybe the seeds I never planted
and others that took root and flourished
or didn’t—like a game of chance.
Or maybe I am telling you about the Empress,
a lover of ordinary soil who blossoms best in poor
circumstance. She does not transplant well.
Published in Chaffin Journal
A CONVERSATION WITH HERACLITUS
You said: Moisture makes the soul succumb to joy,
as though happiness was a giving up or into.
Well, let me assure you, this season has been dry.
We have sent our young into deserts. They die
parched and deceived while, behind the wet of our eyes,
orbital bones crack, like stones.
Even the sunlit crests of the vast oceans
are as flint snapped into flame.
Dry, the soul grows wise and good, you said.
I say, what wisdom we gather comes late, if at all.
As for goodness, that is for others to decide.
We live divided; elementary particles of ourselves.
And we sell, to whosoever will pay, tales of incest,
murder, grief—all of us waiting for the next, great, flood.
Published in Dos Passos Review