We circle the man-made lake,
voices barely audible over a chorus
of peep toads and cicadas.
Our hands almost touch—but not now.
The water’s reflection changes
from rippled sunset hues
to saffron orbs of streetlamps,
then the moon’s pale face floats
where ill-fated insects drawn to its light
are swallowed into the gaping mouths of fish
I tell him about the guilt
of moving my ailing mother to a home
because I could no longer care for her alone,
of my own piling medical bills,
the fear of losing my house, confess
to shooting vodka from an empty
Vicodin bottle to curb the pain,
but stop. Stop because
I’ve never seen
the streets of my home shattered,
watched as family blood
drenched the thirsty ground,
never worried speaking the wrong
language would get me killed, or feared
my children would come home from school
to an empty house
or not come home at all.
He says none of this tonight. He tells me,
last week a man blocked his path
at a gas station,
pointed a gun.
He says, I don’t understand.
My kids were in the car.
We take photos of the blood-
red Cardinal flowers,
distract ourselves with talk of god
particles, about what god is: a being,
a concept, energy personified—
we giggle at silver fishes
that come to nibble our toes, bruise-
blue from the chilled water, talk again
about if two people
can really fill each other’s cracks
in a world that says we don’t belong
together. When the park is closed,
when everyone else
is gone, we stay—
cling to each other
as if it’s the only thing keeping us
from being swallowed
into the gaping fish mouth
of the dark.
A dervish essay
I walked away from man-made edifice, from brick and mortar cell disguised with riches and bright glass and found the Divine in the soft rumbling of sky and glittering slivers of lightning, splotchy darkening of stone, fat, warm drops before the sky splits into a torrent, the scent of ozone and petrichor in damp air, bacteria spawning in the soil, the Divine in the way the sky blooms in that magic hour between day and dusk and god’s eye in the wink of stars and stars bursting across the sky with fire-feathered tails and stars huddled into milky galaxies and spiraled galaxies and stars exploding and stars devoured without a trace into the deep mystery of black holes. The Divine is in the way the light steals color back into the world—slowly, at first only outlines and soft shapes, like the curve of a woman shadow-dancing behind a red screen, then all at once color everywhere, color in the reflection of sunrise on ponds and in rain puddles and upside-down portraits captured in water droplets, in the oil-slick iridescence of black grackles foraging in the shimmering green of dew-wet grass, in trees on fire with sunset leaves clinging to them as if it is all they have left. The Divine is a chartreuse spiderling ballooning to through the air, fearless journeyer on glistening silver strand, in pollen-grain leg-warmers stuck to fuzzy bees, physics-defying in flight as they bumble drunkenly from flower to weed and back to take up offerings of saccharine nectar, in the lonely sphynx moth on his nightly visit to his pale flower lover who opens quietly to him but secretly loves the moon. And Love! Glorious treacherous Love, the Divine is in you, in silhouettes of lovers shifting behind sheer curtains, lovers’ interlaced fingertips on sidewalks and park benches in subway cars and hospital rooms, lovers whispering with coy smiles and secret jokes and lovers quarreling then coming together ravenous and slick with need and lovers talking to screens instead of faces and left-behind lovers and lovers kneeling, tending graves, murmuring softly to lovers gone. The Divine is in the raucous of cheers, the first triumphant squall of a dust-covered baby pulled from the beneath the rubble of a building in a war zone. Stop. A baby pulled from rubble. And where is God in this, as we say to each other your god and my god and no god and louder MY god and argue the word for “god” and not listening now but screaming until the screaming we hear is the screaming of missiles, and not thunder now but the rumble of building collapsing and no longer lightning but flashes of bombs planted and bombs dropped and hail of bullets as streets are splotched and darkened with torrents of blood instead of rain. We are rebuilding the tower of Babel only this time we are building it with bodies. And after each body we sit proudly as a dog at its Master’s feet saying, look, I have slain this lamb for you, and the Divine’s face is awash with tears for each of its dead saying this is not what I meant. But we don’t hear, so here are pictures: a man and his son float face-down in a river; children packed in pens like livestock; unearthed bodies of lovers still embraced; bodies of mothers curled around bodies of their children; a toddler’s lone red shoe washed ashore.
Kitty Carpenter studied Creative Writing and Professional Writing at Missouri State University and is a regular participant at the River Pretty Writer’s Retreat in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks. She is currently a caregiver for neurodivergent and disabled individuals and lives in rural Missouri with her cranky, senior dog and four rambunctious cats.
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