Back to Issue Twenty.




From twelve stories up, it’s clear
this city’s made entirely

of glass. Last night the last leaves—
hanging-on, letting go. Now, strewn

bright as confetti after a parade.
The building’s façade shifts

with the sky. And we take turns
consoling the young hustler, listening

to the litany of injury: one year
in prison, two tours in Iraq, another

failed attempt to end it all that ended
in a ward. And then there is the newborn

he’s never seen. The world outside this room
is a reflection. Seen thus, all that has been

lost recedes as dawn descends in layers
and silence until it reaches the street.

In the soft-core flick, the muted figures
keep shifting positions on the screen.



the brook



The path the men walk, no longer
holding hands, matted with leaves.
Along the edges something vanishes

as they approach. One is troubled
the slitherers can only be heard.
How name what can’t be seen?

But some things are only known by what
they leave behind. One points to a cluster
of narcissus beside a black bag spilling trash

like an animal gutted. The feral cats
must’ve feasted, and the bulbs settled
after a flood. Hard to imagine anyone

kneeling to bury them where abandoned
factories rust between unsown
and unharvested fields.  On the bank

two figures linger in the fading,
staring down to see themselves looking up.
They appear linked in the murky surface.

At the blurred edges of their reflections
tadpoles retreating—waste water stirring
in the wake. Soon they’ll begin to bloom:

skin, teeth, webbed feet pushing from mire,
and a mouth ripping open a voice to cry out
to the others in the darker hours. But for now

they must remain married to both worlds.
And then, since there was nothing in a union
but the dream: We called our own.


Wayne Johns‘ poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2014, New England Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Image, and elsewhere. His first manuscript, Antipsalms received the Audre Lorde and Frank O’Hara Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from Oia Arts Press.

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