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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Joanne Rosenthal

Joanne Rosenthal
The Flypaper

Hung not four hours ago by the farmer’s
hired boy, it is already coated with
a thick, delicious layer of icy
bodies: black shells in messy clusters

that dot the smooth tape along its entire
length. Daffodil-yellow and glossy
as a teardrop, it dangles, lazy and careless,
from the barn rooftop, translucent as an infant

who has not taken his first breath. The barn
air, steamy with manure, sheathes the farm
creatures like a massive woolen blanket that seems
to descend from the ceiling, the crocheted

stitches smooth and continuous from the north
barn end to the south, except where
the flypaper penetrates the gentle weave, rips
a hole in the needlework that radiates strength.

As it reflects the fluorescent gleam that sets
the barn aglow, the flypaper hangs
motionless, frozen as the lives it has captured:
it moves only when another itinerant victim

stops for a respite on its gluey surface.
A flicker of surprise washes over the yellow
tape when it happens again: a tiny dumb black shell,
a brother of the departed, glides through

the barn door, drawn to the buttery light that emanates
from the paper. A jolt of panic, a few fleeting moments
of frantic wing-thrashing. Then: perfect stillness.
The sequence continues until the sun rises again,

and the farmhand first wipes sweat from his
forehead, then hauls out his step stool, begins
his slow climb up the stairs, reaches high
toward the sky, and replaces the old with the new.
Joanne Rosenthal is a poet from New City, New York. She is a recent graduate of Binghamton University and has been previously published in Ellipsis, Binghamton University’s undergraduate literary magazine.


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