Jim Ross jumped into creative pursuits in 2015 after a rewarding career in public health research. With a graduate degree from Howard University, in six years he’s published nonfiction, poetry, and photography in over 150 journals and anthologies on four continents. Publications include 580 Split, Bombay Gin, Burningword, Columbia Journal, Hippocampus, Ilanot Review, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Lunch Ticket, The Atlantic, The Manchester Review, and Typehouse. Recent photo essays include Barren, Kestrel, Litro, New World Writing, So It Goes, and Wordpeace. A nonfiction piece led to a role in the documentary limited series, “I, Sniper.” Jim and his wife—parents of two health professionals and grandparents of five preschoolers—split their time between city and mountains.
The Autumn leaves of the maple tree
died. Standing at the tired roots, the basement pottery wheel still spinning,
I vulnerably vowed that the red finger with a long nail growing out of your eardrum
sliced the “I” in half and stuck the pieces back together sideways
into an “H,” that you heard something about hell
when I said something about us.
What always changes
doesn’t. Faithful, I parted my lips to release
the substance of things, “You (mis)heard me.”
and you heard everything
but one wor(l)d.
Words are creative fingers that slither
in throats, striving for vomit
or to make all things new,
They are in skulls, nyctinastic,
ready to flick a new Gaia
back into the light, out of three tunnels,
where the power of life and death can rest in peace
You didn’t hear (“It’s not over”)
again. Angry, you were not obligated to listen,
and it was Christian for me to apologize
for your deafness, for lacking a miracle—
out of love.
You thought the fingers were mine, for they were made
in my image. I should have spoken
outside the house we shaped children in
as a stranger, for everyone hears correctly
what matters not. Central,
I should have said that I hated you.
After promises of affection, wondrously,
you would have finally heard
what wasn’t hard to believe
and been free to live
with a sliced extremity floating within.
Now, far apart, I hope that bits don’t grow like maple seeds
or letters that could float in dark, deep, and cerebrospinal waters
and bump-merge in(to) inner speech,
but rather that fragments miraculously become
that which never existed—nothing—
metaphoric parentheses which do not suggest “fill in,”
a hope which can only be desired if
the hope is lost. At the very least,
is it wrong to think (and think and think)
wor(l)ds could be noise?
A finalist for the 2020 UNO Press Lab Prize and 46th Pushcart Nominee, Rose’s creative works appear at The Write Launch, Allegory Ridge, Streetlight Magazine, Ponder Review, Iowa Review online, The William and Mary Review, Assure Press, Toho Journal online, West Trade Review, ellipsis, Poydras Review, O:JA&L, and Broken Pencil.
Plug Nickel and Red Cent
met on museum steps and, inside,
mysticked with blue innocent Della Robbia,
rhythmed the light-shine white
of beyond, above, bright,
orisoned warm-milk fired clay, like flesh,
god-child in supple mother embrace.
Sigh of centuries.
Out straight west, they drove
their wood-paneled station wagon,
out past the 30-hundreds, the 40-hundreds,
nearly to the 52-hundreds
on the table-top Chicago grid,
out to Leamington to meet the gray-pants boy,
sitting on front porch steps, in full view — a
white-red-striped t-shirt buzz-cut good-boy,
out from inside, away, at large,
watching ant-gang heft cornbread crumbles
except this one alone, down sidewalk square
to an insect Promised Land.
He looked up at the two men,
vaguely priestly, vaguely outlawed,
said: “I’m looking to flee captivity
for the sin I don’t recall committing.”
“We’re guilty, too,” they said, and
the three walked to afternoon church,
for Stations of the Cross,
flaming altar candles, up, reaching always up,
echoes, shuffling, Latin abracadabras,
plainsong up, incense up from censor,
from burning coal, straining up,
cloud of unknowing, cloud of Mount Sinai,
cloud of breathing and not breathing.
After Amen, the three split up
and went home by a different path.
Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of ten books, including the poetry collections Darkness on the Face of the Deep (Kelsay) and Requiem for David (Silver Birch Press) as well as Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence. His poetry has appeared in America, Rhino, Main Street Rag, The Write Launch, Meat for Tea, Under a Warm Green Linden and many others. His book Puddin: The Autobiography of a Baby, a Memoir in Prose-poems is forthcoming from Third World Press.