James E. Cherry
James E. Cherry is the author of three volumes of poetry, two novels and a collection of short fiction. His latest collection of poetry, Loose Change, was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press and his novel, Edge of the Wind, will be re-released by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in 2022.
Cherry has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso and
is an adjunct professor of English at the University of Memphis-Lambuth.
He resides in Tennessee, USA. Visit jamesEcherry.com.
Late afternoon divides Parkway Memorial
Cemetery between sun and shadow, my family
and the bones of others. A south wind gathers April
at my feet, plants Spring in my eye. I stand
over gravesites, my nephew on the left, my mother
on the right and my father between. My hands bear
no flowers nor my tongue weighed with words. Instead
I have come to listen to the dash that separates dates
they were born from transitions to dust.
This burial ground sways, falls toward the horizon.
I lean upon the earth, strain to hear an echo of my name,
allow silence to remind me who I am.
THE NEWS FROM WUHAN
The professor from Central China
Normal University informs me about life
in Wuhan, that for the past two months
it consists of walls built by hands of quarantine,
dreams that dance beyond bedroom windows.
Luo Lianggong has known heartbreak,
lost much when the Sichuan earth moved
in 2008 and chooses to document suffering
and how it shapes the human condition.
Today, his email wishes my family health
and peace and asks for a poem, maybe two. I think
about Lianggong long after I respond yes
and hit send, our lives languages apart, yet
the air we breathe a wafer upon our tongues
and to raise a few lines of verse
is another way of saying I love you.
Africans in America have always known
the meaning of social distancing long before
the lungs of the world struggled for air.
They learned definition in holes of ships,
at the end of master’s lash, at the feet of Jim Crow,
in neighborhoods redlined with poverty,
at houses of worship (that’s what Malcolm said),
by a Governor’s decree, under a judge’s gavel,
the end of a rope. Now, days are measured
by six feet of separation, regardless of skin or gender
red state or blue state, this virus
come to do what amendments to a Constitution
could only dream of—remind us of a common future.
Hours are spatial and disorienting: Filet mignon
from Chandelier is delivered in paper bags, curbside.
The marque at the Empire Theatre blindfolded. Planet
Fitness’ parking lot distended and slovenly. The clippers
at Pearl’s Barber Shop refuse to sing. This Sunday
my neighbor, Shane, a white man, stands
on his front porch and stretches in the cool, crisp air.
I raise my window, shout his name
across the morning and applaud
that he is alive.
Genevieve Wong is a teacher, writer, editor, and museum docent. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the City University of Hong Kong and an M(Ed) (Curriculum, Teaching and Learning) from the National Institute of Education, Singapore. She co-edited 50 Years, 50 Voices: 50 Years of English in Singapore Schools (MOE) and poetry anthologies Sound of Mind (Ethos Books), Love at the Gallery, and Love and Life at the Gallery. Her works have appeared in various journals and anthologies.
Anno Domini MMXXI
Can a soul prosper when
the church service is
a high definition amalgamation
of pixels displaying
two-inch people singing praises,
when sermons can be
muted, or simply
exchanged for something
Can a soul ponder upon
unfathomable divine mysteries,
the wisdom of the ages,
parchment scrolls found preserved
in ancient clay jars,
when a consolidation of
unending knowledge appears
before wonder can begin to unfurl?
Can a heart rejoice in waiting,
when processed images blur
desperate realities, raw longings,
when cyclostyled lifestyles
paper over contemplation,
quiet denial, joyful discipline?
Can a heart race with
strange Aldersgate warmth,
the hope of life eternal,
when news cycles tell of
wars and rumours of wars,
When this is all over,
when the birth pangs cease,
when every man did
what he deemed fit.