Safe Passage

by Brad Crenshaw

I
All said, things are settling down.
It’s that sort of world, definitely
haunted, but those who know report that roads
are open in Los Angeles, where people
try to breathe again, and citizens
in India can see the Himalayas
white as frozen ghosts. It gives me heart
somehow. Hindus wave at neighbors, and
in Tuscany the sheltered businessmen
are singing on their ledges. Early morning
somewhere lately, oilmen wake on ocean
platforms without blasting, no spills
out of the center of the earth. Almost
no one’s getting murdered anymore.
War in fact has been unheard, military
carriers are quarantined. Even
winter’s mostly over in one hemisphere,
where every able hominid is sowing
seeds on urban roofs, in yards beside
an idle truck or two, in fallow fields—
after a week of storms—all but ovulating
for new crops. Everyone I know is living.

II
All this needs to be considered when
we come across the latest news, regarding
which, it may be painful to believe,
I lied. Terrible trials are not behind
us. As in the desert with its dead houses
dazzled open in the sun and shadows,
long and shallow, we unclothe ourselves
before the old habitual beauty of
our enemies: the intimate touch, a breath
of gratitude, or germ of an idea
leading willingly into infected
company. There decays the mother
with her husband. The love-struck children
reach a doddering father with the brutal
hand of mercy. Lumbermen in Maine,
I’ve just been told, entirely sold their stock
for coffins, whereas locally I have
to zoom a funeral that no one can
attend, except the one transgender daughter
endless in her box beside my over-whelmed
and grieving, unbelieving colleague. Winston
Turner at a distance plays trombone,
Tannon Williams trumpet. I agree. We’ll fly away.

Previously published in the Hawaii Pacific Review (September 10, 2020).

* Writing Prompt: We often wish people a ‘safe passage’ before they embark on an excursion because not all journeys are safe. Please reflect on a journey you have taken (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.) and write a poem about who you were before, and who you became afterwards.

In praise of arriving

by Janet Bowdan

Praise the phone call, the delivery truck,
the delays and arrivals.
We’ve sent a cheerful card to Ruth,
photo of Noah, just legs running
under the giant hamster ball
the rest of him’s inside, perky note,
happy smiles photo on the back—
due to arrive Wednesday, says the app
(praise the accuracy of these things,
the predictive ability giving us control
we might have lost sending a card
on its own out into the vast postal system)
(praise the vast postal system carrying
millions of cards, and catalogs, and bills,
even bills, because the people we owe
also have to earn a baguette or two)
(praise bread, btw, praise coffee.) Monday
she’s in hospital again, a better one,
but we’ve sent the card to her flat—
fortunately the family’s visit on Thursday
includes a stop at the flat to pick up her mail
(bills already paid, catalogs, my card)
and leaves it all at her bedside
for her to open when she wakes.

* Writing Prompt: Read Ada Limon’s “Dandelion Insomnia.” Thenm take a difficult situation or something generally unloved and praise whatever you can about it. Maybe tell a story along the way.


Brad Crenshaw

Brad Crenshaw has authored five poetry collections, including My Gargantuan Desire (2010) and Genealogies (2016). His fifth book, Memphis Shoals, is due to be published in Fall 2021. His poems have appeared in magazines (Shenandoah, Chicago Review, Massachusetts Review, Faultline and others), and in anthologies (Bear Flag Republic, California Fire and Water). He has recently published literary essays on Aracelis Girmay and Ross Gay. He can be found at Blue Islands, Blue as Ink.


Janet Bowdan

Janet Bowdan’s poems have appeared in APR, Best American Poetry, Rewilding Anthology, River Heron Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Making Progress, came out in 2019 from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts (USA), with her husband and son, as well as a cat and a chinchilla.