Carl Wycoff CC
Lysander Reads The Book of Job
Lysander trudges the quiet streets alone, too early for another man to meet. The heat already promises to own the day. Lysander prays his slow, old way through town. Behind these doors, even the tweakers sleep, kept, if they can be kept, as are we all, by mothers who remember us as small. As searching mouths, as hunger. As despair. Like babies, they still root against the day. One might say they hope, more even than a praying man can hope. Lysander mumbles peace toward their doors. His right hip is starting in to throb. Every day he does this, walks and prays, leaves his quiet house to quietude. He’s begun to think it rude, if indeed a house can be. Wasn’t it happy with noise not long ago? Lysander thinks, what might you call a widower by himself? A loneliness? I’m not alone, Lysander thinks. Even a praying man can hope for ears. For years, he’s had the houses and their eyes. I’m not alone. Despite himself, he cries.
Naomi Reads The Lottery
I moved here because Ruth was of this place. This side-eye place, this subtle frown of a town. She doesn’t see the truth beneath the smiles. Lips pressed into smile facsimiles. I don’t think we’ve met, women said again and again, like that was a shortcoming. Ruth remembers every road, every face. People still wonder to each other what we are. Head shake of a place, finger wag of a town. Ruth would say God brought us here. At first, I couldn’t sleep in the quiet nights. It’s not the silence, but what lies underneath the silence, you know? The things unsaid. Things said only when we aren’t there. I began to memorize the big roads first, the highways that led away from town. It wasn’t even that I felt disliked, you know? More, I could see the gaze beneath the gaze. We were one kiss, one public honey away. From what, I couldn’t quite tell, but Ruth never saw what I could see. Ruth couldn’t see the stones in neighbors’ hands.
Rachel Custer is the author of Flatback Sally Country (Terrapin Books) and The Temple She Became (Five Oaks Press, 2017). She is Editor-At-Large for OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters and was a 2019 NEA fellow. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals, including Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, OSU: The Journal, B O D Y, One Art, and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. She currently resides online at rachelcuster.wordpress.com.
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