Moment in a Story


A Japanese aphorism, said to be samurai:

“Live like you are already dead.”

Fair enough, the same thing

my squad sergeant told me

as we shared a foxhole under fire

somewhere near Cu Chi, sometime

in the ’69 rainy season. “You

can’t die if you’re already dead.

Nothing else matters.” I hoped

it was true, because a piece of shrapnel

sliced off the top of his skull

disclosing the brain

in a stunning anatomy lesson.

Snowden’s secret

confirmed once more.

Metal shards cut me, too,

but only a minor tattooing

that healed to invisible. I

didn’t break through to another side

or do the death thing. I just absented

me from myself and suffered it,

as millions before me had, returning

to a continuation of my life

that never quite worked out.



Mother Medusa


He lopped her head off while looking

at her reflection in a shiny shield,

so he couldn’t be petrified

like all the others who came before,

now statues scattered around her.

She didn’t do it on purpose. Poseidon

raped her in Athena’s temple

affronting the goddess who cursed the victim,

having her beautiful face and golden tresses

rendered horrific, her hair becoming

her trademark writhing serpents,

a monster whose terrifying visage

turned all who saw her into stone.

But the sea god had impregnated her,

and when the sword took her head

she foaled Pegasus, the winged horse,

who would wind up outlined in stars.


It’s part of a myth.

Metamorphosis eats mimesis,

then excretes it in other forms.

Happens all the time.

Save your questions for later,

when you find someone who can help.


Lucas Carpenter


Lucas Carpenter’s stories have appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review, Short Story, The Crescent Review, Nassau Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and South Carolina Review. He is also the author of three collections of poetry, one book of literary criticism, a collection of short stories, and many poems, essays, and reviews published in more than twenty-five periodicals, including Prairie Schooner, The Minnesota Review, College Literature, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kansas Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Concerning Poetry, Poetry (Australia), Southern Humanities Review, College English, Art Papers, San Francisco Review of Books, Callaloo, Southern History Journal, Chicago Quarterly Review, and New York Newsday. He is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Emory University.

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