Jory Mickelson

Contributor Biography

Jory Mickelson’s book, WILDERNESS//KINGDOM, is the inaugural winner of the Evergreen Award Tour from Floating Bridge Press, and won the 2020 High Plains Book Award in Poetry. Their work has appeared in journals in the US, Canada, and the UK. They are the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and awarded fellowships from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Winter Tangerine, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. Their website is: www.jorymickelson.com 

A Human Mystery

not a heavenly one,

how to die, how to

say, let me return

 

to dust.

To the boat, journeying

over great distances,

water is only metaphor

and darkness too—we say

it cannot be seen beyond,

 

but we do, light

breaks through, though

brokenly. Not so

 

with us, at our end

there is the last

breath and a going out and then

 

the rising stair 

we imagine after, hanging 

there invisibly—something

 

to console,

holding all we have 

yet to know

 

Middle Burntfork, Good Friday

Schools of fingerlings spill from his hands

unspooling in great green rays.

His arms are thrown outward to cast away

or embrace. Christ’s outstretched fish swimming.

To be caught and released. Caught and released.

 

extensis manibus prosequitur

he extends his hands and continues:

North Burntfork, Middle Burntfork, South Burntfork Road.

 

I wriggle and swim away, flashing like a trout.

The noise of water pouring from pitcher 

into glass. The imperceptible sound 

of condensation. Water spills over stones and decades

of grit wear granite smooth. The suspension of 

struggling fish over rock by current and resistance.

 

elevat oculos ad cœlum

he raises his eyes to heaven:

Stratocumulus, altocumulus, cumulonimbus.

 

Learning to tie a nail knot,

the follow and lead to the hook

with awkward movements. A red opening and closing

of filamented gills, fingers spread out from the hand.

A two-chambered heart pumping blood in only 

one direction and the salmonid sense for return.

It took twenty years to revisit these waters.

 

et ab omni perturbatióne secúri

safe from all trouble:

the white farmhouse, the galvanized aluminum gate.

Contemplation

The enormity of silence

crowded with its solitudes, empty

after empty face, as one of Giotto’s frescos

 

as it ages, is set to air, the color crumbling

until not even the shadows of its hue

remain. Grape-clustered heads crowd

 

about the savior’s crib—plaster

particulating into dust, carried into lungs

of the centuries’ worshipers.

 

The scaffolding of noise

remains, even when we step

into quiet’s cordoned room. Silence

 

like a hammer bangs a chord

against the edges of all

we thought we’d left

 

behind—the many coins

worn smooth, within the black

pocket of our minds.

 

Left alone we can’t help

but hear the jangle, count

out revenge or find old regrets.

Each round figure a vignette

against the skull. All that silence—

such noise. All of our lives,

 

the chosen and discarded coming

together in the mind, while we

stand among the crowd.

My Niece Writes a Poem for Her Fourth Grade Class 
(and Since I am the Professional Poet I Ask)

“So, what is it about?” My soul she says 

and because I feel I must say something, 

I say, “That is something” then, “what else?” 

Butterflies, “Oh,” I say, “that’s…

good.” Even though I know I could 

never get away with it. When we write 

about something hard to see, I tell her, 

we need to compare it to something 

that we can: my soul is like a butterfly 

whose body can endure almost any condition—

like monarchs who make a 3,000-mile 

migration even if it takes five 

generations to get there. How all of us

poets have to reach into the dark

within us and attempt to see

what comes next and sometimes

it will be other people telling you 

you can’t write about the soul.

So, you need to keep looking, 

and step forward even when 

you don’t know what comes next, 

it might be another butterfly. 

You might remember something 

someone else who never spoke your 

language or would know you would exist 

said: little soul, you charming wanderer

…where are you off to now?

and no one told him he was wrong

because he was a king, and also dying,

but that’s a different poem, one that 

makes our own skepticism begin to look 

like a sin. So, what is this about? 

Something. The important part

is to keep looking and hoping you can

get there, even if you never will or if

it will take nearly all of us to do it.

Like a butterfly she says, who also,

she tells me, taste with their feet

which is gross and fascinating

and something to write down

to help others to see even if we are

only writing about it for ourselves.

Vigil

Only the stars

of the early hour know this

name for you:

 

ark of loneliness, of those 

woken from sleep, of yet to rest.

 

Covenant with the troubled

dark, what forgetful fish has risen

so late to praise you?

 

Abandoner of comfort, 

even your moths 

have limned themselves to stillness.

 

Yet, I do not trust 

I will hear your voice, so I am speaking 

to you. 

 

What accompanies

those who wait without reason,

to no end?

 

Lengthener of the impossibly long hour, how much 

longer before the light?

Jose Luis Pablo

Contributor Biography

Jose Luis Pablo or "Nico" is a communications manager for a non-profit. Nico's work has been published in Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, Cordite Poetry Review (Australia), Singapore Unbound (USA), 聲韻詩刊 Voice and Verse Poetry Magazine (Hong Kong), My Gay Eye (Germany), Busilak: New LGBTQ+ Poetry from the Philippines (University of the Philippines Press), The Pinch Journal (USA), and elsewhere, as detailed in joseluisbpablo.wordpress.com.

Nico has received prizes from the Normal Awards for Gender-Inclusive Literature and the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. They are based in Rizal, Philippines. 

Prayer of Creation

What Godhand had created

a clod of clay and decided

it be a vessel for a soul,

clumsy and misshapen,

at least for a device of eternity?

 

Or a sculpture so like Adam

that it cannot distinguish reflection

from desire, companionship from

lust?  

 

Forge me from iron, 

with a tinge of acceptance 

ringing across my tongue. 

Clay washes away 

and Eve wonders 

how my gaze can wander. 

 

Blessed be the one

who perseveres in his own design

and touches the edge of Eve’s mouth.

 

Blessed be the child of Nature

who attends to his mother’s wishes.

 

Blessed be the worshipper, 

he will never slip shame under 

his clothes. 

 

Yet,

blessed be the strong,

those who realize desire is not 

the hammer  

rather, 

the sweet-tasting 

water softening the clay container

without washing it 

away.

Magdalene

What dark flashing eyes you must have 

for men to assign guilt to the pools of desire.

How their teeth must have chattered 

to see themselves inverted in your knowing pupils. 

 

Fallen alien unceremoniously dumped 

into an age without #metoo tweets, holy water 

absolution only found in a jar of crushed herbs. 

 

Or, as some know, the stories are all wrong.

Mary, Mary, Mary

The name of righteousness, someone 

had to be the whore. A woman’s life reworded

by the mouth of a man in a tall hat.

Your story, suddenly

nothing

new. 

 

And what about death?

The image of your hair flowing in endless night 

serpents, coiling and wiping those noble 

soles and arches unkissed yet by nails—

it will live on. 

They only want the harlot when she repents. 

 

And what about death?

Alien meets angel. 

Even when you were the only witness 

to the climax, you keep a secret,

you could neither touch nor write it.

Instead, sometimes you were favored

because you were a wife, 

still a scandal then.  

 

What about your life?

Portrait of a Saint with a Chained Dog

You are 

silked in light,

the skin across your face follows.

 

Peace fingers raised. 

The triumphant blare 

soft in simmering gold

behind your head. 

 

Your shrug lifted by unpainted wings

taken to celestial flight,

so is your gaze heavenward.

We know all of this 

when we pray. 

 

I, the beast, darkened dog.

Snout frozen in snarl.

Black electric wrath

fettered at the maw,

spine bristled in wretched arc. 

 

Like unfaithful husband 

or grieving mother, 

I beg for your compassion

but the cry is caught, hidden

in a drenched forest 

of a coat. 

 

Our distance is the chain

you wield around steady fist;

I am turned against

the painter’s brush. 

 

The air burns too bright

for anyone to see 

your calluses.