Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

Psalm at the End of Cicada Season


Four months the swarm fattened the air
        with noise   with the wax membrane
of their wings    Now they’ve buried
        their young    silence opens its forceps

in the hollow of afternoon    Underfoot
        amber husks chime once more    Is it
wrong    god    to want a body
        emptied of memory    Here    rain

bloats an exposed beehive    A collarbone
        sinks    with the heft of its disappeared
necklace    & I’ve spent seventeen years
        translating the tymbals humming beneath

my tendon    muffled & promising
        as cricketsong heard underwater    My next
lover will call me her girl    watching
        as I molt dresses over doorknobs & bedposts

How do I explain the before—
        The prophets at the family barbecue
plucking tonguepink coals
        from the pit    How I swallowed

each one    searing    ready to dissolve
        into its answer    Or the plainer history
stippled down my flank    Its pockmarks
        & half-filled ditches—

I’ve been a student of ecstasy so long    I’ve
        neglected what comes after    Those words
we bury into mattresses    trusting they will
        return as butter congealing on dinner plates



Fugue with a Procession of Visitors


First comes the memory of the pastor,
the family friend who once traced a goat’s head
in the constellation of my freckles. Son, he warns,

you have the gift of visions. I leave hot water
running, let steam occlude every mirror. But come evening,
the serpent my father feared would seduce me

cinches a harness around my breasts,
biting my neck till I sigh my darling,
my provider, my Nyquil. By the third endearment,

the door splinters & a robber presses
his knife beneath my chin. He demands diamonds
but there are none left. As the blade enters,

I wake floating in the bathtub, a moth-winged angel
overhead. Outlined in her fur, the faces of friends
lost to madness. She extends

a palmful of percocet but I deny it three times.
The fourth, I relent, weeping as each pill pupates,
turns into living, silver hairs. After flushing them down

the drain, I wipe a patch of the mirror clean, forgetting
my reflection. Stamen stalks erupt from her mouth
as the face, paper-like, peels back

into a corona of petals. My lily-headed double
raises her hand, scrawling a message in the filth-dusted glass:
We have rolled back the partition so you might

pass through. Fearful & sincere, I paint the mirror
white, a frost no bulb could sprout from. The body,
a bag of manna, gone stale & stolen from heaven.

R. Cassandra Bruner earned her MFA in poetry from Eastern Washington University. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives in Washington State. Their poems and essays have appeared in, or are forthcoming from, The Adroit JournalBlack Warrior ReviewFugueHunger MountainIndiana ReviewPleiades, and elsewhere.


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