a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Tied down by tubes in my nose, neck, and arms,
I watch the second hand on the wall clock spin
like a slow-motion roulette wheel; when the minute
hand hits my number, I press the pain button.
I want to stand as soon as possible but know I can’t,
that like Gulliver, I’m washed up on a strange island.
I’m Frankenstein’s creature, one hand outstretched,
muttering inarticulate sounds.
But unlike his master, who sparked life, then fled,
my night nurse abides. When I croak like a raven,
she wets my lips and asks if, in the morning, I want
a sponge bath. I do. First the bath and then I’ll stand,
I think again and again, until she comes in, asks
if the water is warm enough, and starts to work her way
down my body.
Yes, I say, and thank you, which is not enough
in this shockingly foreign country where everyone’s pain
is equal and you’re always at the front of the line.
on my street. This year, I’ll hang mine
on Juneteenth—an act as hopeful as rising
each morning and walking to work between
the houses and cars, not because my job’s
a drag, but because I can: I can walk down
the street without fear. I’ve been doing it
my whole life without a thought. Today’s
Sunday and this creek bottom hike does
not offer escape because after I can’t breathe,
from what do I so urgently need release?
Overhead, a thin bar of clouds hushes
the warblers in the spruce, though, really,
they have few predators. They turn back on
when sunlight slips beneath the dark band
and flares like a match just above the
ridgeline. It gives one short glimpse of
Paradise, before burning it all down.
Bill King grew up outside of Roanoke, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His work has appeared in Kestrel, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, 100 Word Story, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Naugatuck River Review, and many other journals and anthologies. He holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Georgia and teaches creative writing and literature at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, WV. His first chapbook of poetry, from Finishing Line Press, is The Letting Go (2018).