Kerry Trautman: “Context”

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Context
“Different musics respond to knocked-on silences”  –Sarah Gridley

Outside air becomes glass when
Spring’s first red-wing

blackbird shudders its voice
into the chilled void—

the song to be lost
come July with its

humid white-noise
of crickets, honeybees

and cardinals.
My toddler’s

cry of no-no ping-pongs
off midnight bedroom

walls in small eruptions
of panicked confusion,

and just as I wake
enough to step from quilts,

I know already
nothing is there.

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About the Author, Kerry Trautman: I am a poetry editor for Red Fez, and my work has appeared in various anthologies and in journals, including The Fourth River, Gasconade Review, Midwestern Gothic, Paper & Ink, Third Wednesday, and Think Journal. My poetry books are, Things That Come in Boxes (Kingcraft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) and To Be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020.)

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Image Credit: Digital remixing of an illustration from A History of North American Birds. Boston :Little, Brown,1905. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/12887556. Creative Commons License 2.0.

Joe Milazzo: “absolute clearance”

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absolute clearance

one crewman is singing
as he sucks the old cellulose
(basically paper one contractor tells
me as if balancing the enormous sphere
of his expertise on the tip of this detail)
out of the attic so his buddies
(so I assume) can start
doing their remediation for us

later I hear him laughing
the laugh of a thin man
pitched high but languid
the space between each “ha”
a left foot working the sostenuto
almost as if he were laughing
at the reflex itself (maybe all the
involuntary stuff sardined
in the rising and falling of a chest) (maybe
the deus ex machina dancing
behind laughter’s stunts)

their day is done once
they’ve blown in new snow
drifts of fiberglass to hide
our home’s irregularities and
obstructions and penetrations
waiting for the crew chief
(one of those chummy guys
covered in pale orange fur who
we’ve never seen not
wearing shorts) to come
and inspect their work their talk
turns theological at least I hear
them talking about god as if
they know him (or it) or maybe
they’re gossiping about a pastor
who fleeced a woman of her
powerball jackpot but I think
their conversation is less a matter
of bullshitting and more one
of apologetics or anagnorisis (shut
doors sheetrock that needs to be
depopcorned and my own Sisyphean
posturing crossing up any interpretation)
but I think someone is under some
pretty terrible conviction
maybe the thin laugher has strayed
or keeps aligning himself with
error and his friends are endeavoring
to steer him from perdition baptizing
him in the mold and rodent pheromones
(shit and piss) that as briefly
ago as this morning (before
these men showed up on our doorstep)
were hanging above our jitters
our foreplay our role-playing our time
in front of the TV and now
to pad their hours they’re sweeping
out of our garage into the alley
and from there who knows where

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About the Author: Joe Milazzo is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie, two volumes of poetry — The Habiliments and Of All Places In This Place Of All Places — and several chapbooks (most recently, @p_roblem_s). He is an Associate Editor for Southwest Review and the Founder/Editor-In-Chief of Surveyor Books. Joe lives and works in Dallas, TX, and his virtual location is http://www.joe-milazzo.com.

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Image Credit: Mike Whye ” ATTIC, SOUTHEAST POST AND THREE BEAMS IN CENTER AREA OF ATTIC, LOOKING SOUTHEAST. – Fort Leavenworth, Building No. 17, 20-22 Sumner Place, Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, KS”  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Mike James “Generations Apart: Two Poets on One Theme”

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Generations Apart: Two Poets on One Theme

A Review of Once Upon a Twin, by Raymond Luczak

and New York Diary, by Tim Dlugos

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Here are two books (one poetry, one prose) which cover similar material in different ways. The approaches are informed as much by generational shifts in attitude and sense of self as they are by genre.

Tim Dlugos is one of the many poets, artists, and musicians who died from AIDS. (The list is too long for one article, but Jack Smith, Jim Brodey, Karl Tierney, and Klaus Nomi are among the not-often-mentioned-enough.)

Dlugos was in the generation right after Ted Berrigan’s and his work often has a similar chatty, try-anything feel. David Trinidad, who edited New York Diary, also edited A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos. That book is a must-have for anyone who loves poetry or for anyone interested in that era. (Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader is another key and recent text.)

New York Diary serves as a sort of appendix to A Fast Life. The diary chronicles the summer and fall of 1976 when the twenty-something Dlugos moves to New York City. He’s appearing in magazines. He’s already published one small collection. He’s helping with readings and presses. Most importantly (to the diary and to a lesser extent the poems), he’s living. He’s flirting with the famous and the near famous and having anonymous sex with the unknown.

There are two audiences for New York Diary. The first is Dlugos completest. His fans are not legion, but they are devoted and passionate. This book will not disappoint them because it shows Dlugos working on his poems of “spontaneous goofs, flights, body motions” while also tracking his day-to-day.

It would be wrong to state that New York Diary should be read only by scholars and devoted fans. The book is enjoyable for any fan of poetry gossip because Dlugos is such a wonderful line-by-line writer. His entries can be notational, but he sketches out the ambience of his time in quick, jagged, and jazzy lines. Here are a few entries which can be read without context:

“Reminds me of a nun, without the saving gutsiness.” “In middle of a dance-floor sound bombardment, I discovered S&M component of disco.” “Clean, salt-water taste of his body.” “So much time still taken up w/ indecision.” “Phone booth has been put up outside front door. I haven’t sunbathed in a week.”

As much in his diary as in his so-necessary poetry, Dlugos is joyfully quotable. Within ten lines he can be graceful, funny, sad, and catty. On rare occasions he can be all at once.

Raymond Luczak is from the generation after Dlugos. He is a queer, deaf poet who is very much alive. He is as concerned with recording his life in his poetry as Dlugos was with recording it in his Diary. Maybe more so, since Luczak never seems to draw a line in regards to what he is willing to share with his readers. The only adjustments he makes are the adjustments of craft. Luczak is a skilled craftsman and this collection shows him operating within a variety of syntactical styles. The poems are all autobiographical, but he speaks in many voices.

It’s often dangerous to suppose that a poet’s work is autobiographical. Rimbaud and ten thousand poets since have made it clear that “I is another.” Luczak, however, confirms the autobiographical nature of these poems in a brief and interesting afterward. Instead of muddying the poems with explanations, he provides context for the catalysts behind his writing life.

Luczak’s skill is shown throughout, but he especially excels in small, subtle touches. The longest title in the collection has the fewest words. It’s a list poem called, “the easiest words to lipread in a school yard (even if you’re not deaf.)” Here are the last five words to the poem: “sicko / showoff / stupid / you girlie.” The additional word in the last line surprises the reader and frames the collection. The poet is not only deaf. He is queer. And he is Catholic. And then he is a foster child. His life unfolds and the hits keep coming.

He weaves his themes together throughout in poems where “anything forbidden / becomes even more desired.” The collection shows his growth from being a timid and clumsy child into a “serpent tongue of hiss” with a “catalog of grievances.” All the while, Once Upon a Twin may or may not be a false narrative. The memories are real, but stories and the lens they are viewed through change over time.

One of the many striking things about this collection, as well as Luczak’s poetry in general, is the immediacy and directness. He is not a poet who hints. He is a poet who reports. In Once Upon a Twin he has submerged a diving bell into his memory. He makes his readers grateful for the inventory he brings back.

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Books Reviewed:

Once Upon a Twin, by Raymond Luczak
Gallaudet University Press, 2021
Poetry, $15.95

New York Diary by Tim Dlugos
Edited by David Trinidad
Sibling Rivalry Press, 2021
Prose, $15.95

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About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His 18 poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), He has received multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations.

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More Reviews by Mike James:

Mike James reviews Mingo Town & Memories by Larry Smith

Mike James reviews “Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems” By Marko Pogacar

Mike James reviews Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader and Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney

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Image Credit: Charles Demuth “Zinnias” (1915) Public Domain

Alex Z. Salinas: “Auditorium”

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Auditorium 

I dreamt I was invited to Vladimir Nabokov’s
Auditorium to read some poems & impart
One piece of advice to his advanced English
Students—as in, they all possessed diverse
British accents—& I was jittery, butterflies in
My stomach, my face oleaginous (an adjective
My geology professor friend once used to de-
Scribe that vampiric doofus Ted Cruz) & upon
Conclusion of my reading, Nabokov cleared his
Throat as if to say, Now onto the business about
The 1 piece of advice, Salinas, & all I could
Muster in all my oleaginous splendor was,
“People suckle on doom & gloom’s teat less
Pleasurably than you think”—less so advice &
More so self-help spewed into a mirror,
Refracted as a monochrome rainbow—to
Which Nabokov’s students stood & clapped
Thunderously, whistled, wanted more, begged
“Encore! Encore!” & it was clear I was finally
Accepted by academia, I’d punctured the dubious
Membrane of the ivory tower, & then I glanced at
Nabokov who sipped from a bottle of Diet Coke,
The flesh around his eyes slack & bored, an un-
Tended mausoleum sculpted from an iceberg.

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About the Author: Alex Z. Salinas is the author of two full-length poetry collections from Hekate Publishing: WARBLES and DREAMT, or The Lingering Phantoms of Equinox. He holds an M.A. in English Literature and Language from St. Mary’s University. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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More by Alex Z. Salinas:

Pen Dream

Neruda in Six Haikus

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Image Credit: “AUDITORIUM, LOOKING TO SCREEN – Hamilton Field, War Department Theater, Between Main Entrance Road & North Oakwood Drive, Novato, Marin County, CA ” The Library of Congress

Maryfrances Wagner: “Dreaming Through Covid”

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Dreaming Through Covid

Most nights I dream of the dead,
my mother telling me, my father agreeing,

that we all feel afraid sometimes.
That’s what the counselors tell us.

I rescued a dog but she bit my friend.
Someone is dreaming about her daughter.

I want my mother to come back
to dream about me.

I stand in a crowd and everyone offers me
caviar, wine, and crisp crusts with smoked salmon.

Will someone come to get me when I die?
Today my nephew called to say he dreamed

about his Nonny and Papa, about going
to their house on Sunday, but I wasn’t there.

He said that he didn’t want me to die
until I gave him Nonny’s red sauce recipe.

Today the peace plant unfurled two new
cupped white heads, shiny and perfect.

Only two days ago, I considered, its leaves
tiresome, moving it downstairs.

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About the Author: Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas, Pouf, The Silence of Red Glass, and The Immigrants’ New Camera. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Natural Bridge, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et.al. She co-edits I-70 Review and served as Missouri’s Individual Artist of the Year for 2020.

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Image Credit: Digitally enhanced illustration excerpted from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. South African botany London, Longmans, Green,1922. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/37736321 Creative Commons License 2.0.

Damian Rucci: “For the Parking Lot Kids”

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For the Parking Lot Kids

Don’t listen to what they say;
you know the ones, the beautiful,
the clean faced, the scornful eyed
yuppies whose parent’s blood money
bought them a lease on the good life.

Their path was never meant for you,
their bridges are made with gold,
their teeth are porcelain, their homes are warm,
they have never met the world as a stranger.
But you’re still out there, in that parking lot,

burying your dreams with pitchers of disbelief—
doing the same shit with the same people
like you weren’t meant to cast a shadow,
living a life that you never agreed to
makes you greet death as nothing but a fool.

Even grains of sand are lifted by the wind,
even bad seeds can grow in fertile soil,
even the damned can be forgiven—
but you’ll let another day pass, won’t you?
Tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow?
Tell yourself that you need a plan?
You don’t make your appointment with destiny
you just make sure that you show up.

The only thing worse than fear is regret,
sitting on the fence your whole life just leaves you sore
there’s a world beyond this damn parking lot
hell is already filled with men who have never tried
there’s a fire in your belly, so what’s stopping you?

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About the Author: Damian Rucci is the unofficial poet laureate of every 711 in New Jersey. His work has recently appeared on gas station bathroom stalls throughout the Midwest. He is probably banned from your local bar but you can find him on Twitter @damianrucci or at damian.rucci@gmail.com

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More By Damian Rucci:

One For Cory

Hound Speak

Melancholy and the Afterglow

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Image Credit: John Margolies “The Barrel, 6th Avenue, Devils Lake, North Dakota” (1980) The Library of Congress (public domain)

Diana Rosen: “Hands”

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Hands

Small, graceful, carefully manicured every Monday evening while she sits in her Queen Anne chair next to the good floor lamp, my mother’s hands always hold the winning gin rummy cards or they’re curved against staccato knitting needles fashioning the woolen sweater she would never finish. (It hangs still in my closet, a nubby remnant one arm missing, a bodice half done.)

Aided by an antique silver and gold thimble, her fingers deftly work the needle, creating embroidery stitches of vivid names her clear-polished forefinger points to on the overturned sampler showing how perfection is not just on the surface.

Hands, purposeful and strong, guide the huge mangle over brilliant white muslin sheets cascading into the willow basket below. End-of-day hands hold paperback westerns read in deep of night, her gentle husband snoring in his easy slumber. Hands stroke the maternity dress over a baby soon stillborn; adjust the gas flame under the chunky beef stew she cooks hours for exquisite flavor. Hands, held behind her, pull her mouth into a line of unexplained fear, or severe shyness?

At the gleaming mahogany secretary, she sits in constant anxiety, scribbling notes in her mammoth black leather notebook of recipes; or writes to one sister in long-term care, to another sister of her heart’s pain engraved as teeth marks on her navy Shaeffer fountain pen.

She lies on the vacuumed carpet beside the freshly-made bed unnoticed too long in that awful quiet of seeping blood vessels, hands in push-up position trying to right herself. Hands cold. Rigid. Ready for the last task.

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About the Author: Diana Rosen is a journalist and avid tea enthusiast, with six books on the topic, who writes poetry, essays, and flash fiction and creative nonfiction. Her work appears in RATTLE, Tiferet Journal, Mad Swirl, PIF Magazine, and Potato Soup Journal, among others. She loves exploring Los Angeles’s Griffith Park, the country’s largest public green space, which is her 4,000-acre “backyard.” To read more of her work, please visit www.authory.com/dianarosen

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More by Diana Rosen:

Dinner at Six

Hollywood Freeway

Mrs. Reagan, Who Lived Next Door

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Image Credit: Elihu Vedder “Study of a hand resting on a circular object” (1885) Public Domain

John Dorsey: “Scott Wannberg Prays for Rain”

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Scott Wannberg Prays for Rain

because he has to be doing
something up there
besides playing shuffleboard
& singing duets with john prine

he says harry crews
sucked all of the air
out of the room
reading one of his poems
croaking like a frog
who had gainesville
by the throat

saying something about how
he ate all the good flies
in a dancehall

that was never
meant
to last.

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About the Author: John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Rainbow and complex clouds form after many inches of rain over several days near Stockton, California ” (2012) The Library of Congress

Padma Thornlyre Reviews Desert Threnody by John Macker

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Padma Thornlyre Reviews

Desert Threnody

By John Macker

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John Macker has long been among my favorite living American poets and several of his titles—Woman of the Disturbed Earth, Underground Sky, and Disassembled Badlands—have confirmed that high regard. Desert Threnody is unique in his oeuvre in that it collects, not his poetry, but his literary essays, a short play, and short stories. It is a worthy read, displaying as it does a measure and range of the writer we have not seen before. My assignment of 4 stars instead of 5 reflects no real criticism of this fine work, but simply a perceived unevenness in the opening section, his Essays.

Macker does not concern himself with establishment writers; like other wordslingers I admire, he’s drawn more to the fringes than the commonplace. Indeed, his literary essays, which examine poets he has considered mentors and friends, do not address the “academy” but in a grand tradition more often associated with the visual arts, illuminate instead the outlaws and outsiders: Ed Dorn, Michael Ondaatje, Stuart Z. Perkoff, Kell Robertson, Tony Moffeit and Tony Scibella. Every essay is interesting, and his essays on Dorn and Moffeit are especially intriguing. Considering his acknowledged debt to Perkoff and his decades-long friendship with Scibella, I had expected more passion, but those expectations may have been projections of mine. Still, it is the weakest section in the book, but only because the essays are not as stylistically cohesive as the remainder of the book.

Section 2 is devoted to Macker’s marvelous short play, Coyote Acid, concerning an elderly woman in mental decline and her troubled son, recently released from the hoosegow and desperate for a hidden treasure he believes is buried somewhere on his mother’s land. Meticulously wrought, with Macker’s keen sense of the American language, every word rings true, and the ending does not disappoint—especially as I had anticipated a conclusion that I am delighted to say did not materialize.

The eight short stories composed in Section 3 made me wonder why John has not been writing fiction all along, for these are in no way tentative or pretentious, and in no instance does he bite off more than he can chew. Of course, as a poet who’s been published for the last 40 years, with well-established chops, he’s cut his teeth on a hard-edged duende that merges mysticism and injustice and exposes the grotesqueness that underlies American civilization. And don’t get me wrong, his poems are not polemics, but meditations—one could never accuse Macker of being a propagandist; in this regard, he reminds me most of the novelist Cormac McCarthy. Race, class, privilege are realities, but the real spotlight remains fixed on the human soul. The stories collected here are well-marinated in the lyrical integrity one expects of John Macker. His prose is flecked by his poetic sensibilities, like virga rain that evaporates mere feet from the parched soil, meaning that his stories, while not saturated by the incantatory power so vibrant and so defining in his poems, are yet driven by the same thirst, walking as they do through the harsh landscape of elemental forces that gather not only in the clouds but in the hearts of men. Of the eight stories gathered here, I am especially fond of “Diablo Canyon” and I open at random to this passage:

“The mankiller wind lashes itself to the landform smells of debauchery, extinction, his desert sizzles like a fuse; this is where the clouds break off from the distant humpbacked hills and float unambiguously towards Mexico. Each shape is an obscure species of shadow animal that drifts in rigorous silence high over the border; each cloud is shape-shifted with meticulous abandon by the volcanic breeze. Loco knows each of their Spanish names.”

John was raised on jazz and the blues, which explains somewhat the musical force propelling his prose. His vocabulary is vast and flawless. Enough said.

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Desert Threnody
Essays, Stories, One-Act Play
By John Macker
Carthage, MO.: Auxarczen Press, 2020
135 pages. ISBN #9798675661893

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About the Author: Padma Thornlyre, having spent most of his 61 years in Colorado, now lives in NE New Mexico with three feline females, surrounded by 5000 books, the art of his friends and, beyond his windows, mesas to the east, extinct volcanoes to the south, and the Rocky Mountains to the west and north. A confirmed Fire Giggler, he designs books for Turkey Buzzard Press and publishes the underground magazine, Mad Blood. His own titles include Eating Totem, Mavka: a poem in 50 parts, and The Anxiety Quartet (all poetry), and the unpublished novel, Baubo’s Beach, a braiding of dreams and other manifestations of the unconscious (no wonder he can’t find an agent!). He believes the writer, Linda Hogan, is right about most things; he tries to read Homer every other year and has exhausted the complete works of Nikos Kazantzakis, H.D., Amos Tutuola and Rikki Ducornet, but is still working on his collection of Ursula K. LeGuin.

Aarik Danielsen: “Prefilled Communion Cup”

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Prefilled Communion Cup

I break the seal
constraining the body of Christ,
finger the wafer like a gambler
handles his last chip.
This one’s gonna payout
or bust me for good.

“Do this in remembrance of me …”
I let it ride.

“In the same way Jesus took the cup …”
I finish the juice in a single swallow,
and feel the blood of Christ
pass greedy lips,
skate across stale breath,
settle in my purgatory gut.
Shot, meet chaser.

Liquid courage
to walk out into the world and bet it all,
believing in something
—anything—
for another day.

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About the Author: Aarik Danielsen is the arts editor at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Missouri and teaches at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He writes a weekly column, The (Dis)content, for Fathom Magazine, and has been published at Image Journal, Plough, Entropy, EcoTheo Review, and more.

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Image Credit: William Butterfield “Qu’Appelle Church: communion plates and chalices” [Canada], 1892. Digital images courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.