I don’t have much longer
in the playing fields of love.
So when he looks at the tip
of my ring finger and sees
under the bistro lamp a nascent
callous he perceives desire.
All I do is metaphor,
the steel g-string pressed
again, again, again, in B minor’s
third position–thus my hand
remembers what my body
learns of its embodiment.
I am the guitar.
Play me now.
Karla Linn Merrifield
Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 700+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 14 books to her credit. Following her 2018 Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Select) is the newly released full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. Her Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills Publishing) received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is a frequent contributor to The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, and assistant editor and poetry book reviewer emerita for The Centrifugal Eye.
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.
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.
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’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.
We stand in our black catering aprons waiting for the wedding ceremony to end. For the guests to hike up the hill with their demands. There is a lull before the storm.
I watch as a bee lands just inside a half-empty glass perched on the counter behind the bar. It is late in the season, and the bee moves slowly, sluggish in the cool afternoon, as it hurtles toward its fate. It approaches the ledge and hovers over the surface of the lemonade. I wonder how long the drink has been sitting out.
The bee lingers, enticed by the sticky sweet, but hesitant. It gathers a lick—a sip—and suddenly tumbles all the way in, flailing and muttering, unable to buzz under the weight of the mild yellow liquid. It is like watching a young man fall in love with the wrong woman.
There is a gravity that cannot be argued with. The bee submerges and reappears, struggling in fits and starts, foaming up the liquid. It goes still—then, thrashes again, harder than before.
I am a rapt audience. Small-talk swirls. I’m not paying attention, except to the bee. I stand waiting on this ceremony to end. Waiting on this bee to die. Waiting on whatever can grow out of this arid pause.
And, it dawns on me—a dull ache that deepens with every damp wingbeat against the glass—how I am complicit to this suffering. I witness death encroach and pull back and resurrect again and again and again. The natural way of things.
Eventually, it’s me who breaks. I can’t take it any more.
“Will someone kill that fucking bee?” I say unkindly, a hint of upset braided into my voice. I am brimming with fury, an emotion that surprises even me, its bearer. Appalled by my own curiosity at how long it will take for the bee to die, I berate myself, wishing I could muster kindness, a shining compassion for it all. For the bee and those watching it and all the eyes and minds adjusting to the very thought of something so merciful—the intrepid act of living, right up to the edge, to the very, very end.
The soft-spoken-Millennial bartender with a Jesus-beard turns and in one unbroken gesture dumps the contents of the glass down the floor drain. He has the grace not to smile at his own quiet act of saving the world.
Anna Oberg is a professional photographer living and working in Colorado. When she’s not hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park with her camera, she writes from home. She holds a Master’s degree in American Literature from Eastern Kentucky University. This is her first publication.