Julie L. Moore
A Best of the Net and six-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Julie L. Moore is the author of four poetry collections, including, most recently, Full Worm Moon, which won a 2018 Woodrow Hall Top Shelf Award and received honorable mention for the Conference on Christianity and Literature's 2018 Book of the Year Award. Her poetry has appeared in African American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Christian Century, Image, New Ohio Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and Verse Daily. Moore is the Writing Center Director at Taylor University, where she likewise serves as the poetry editor for Relief Journal. Learn more about her work at julielmoore.com.
Walking along my front porch, I rub my swollen
belly like I did, years ago, when I was expecting
a miracle. I am empty, gutted
like the old farmhouse across the street,
every room pared down to the frame’s
bare bones. Even the floors have been removed.
All I want is a day when the pain
breaks. I’ve had seven surgeries now—
adhesions excised like splinters,
four rundown organs
pulled out like windows and walls.
Here in mid-life, I’m nothing but pure
ruin. And part of me would like to give up,
dissolve into dust like my neighbor’s brick.
But in the ash trees that line our road,
in flawless iambs, the sparrows chant
preserve, preserve, preserve, preserve.
And I step into our yard where bees,
persistent as repeated pleas,
poise themselves before the roses,
then bury their faces in the velvet
breasts, suckling sugar, tasting
grace as insistent as the tune they hum
My daughter wants me to harness infinity.
Her algebra teacher taught her formulas,
four in all,
for bridling the immeasurable like horses.
I know why she wants me to do it.
She needs me to take her father’s heart
in my hands, heal it like Jesus
moved muscles so tongues could flex,
eyes could lift, and legs could stretch.
But I don’t have the power of God.
And the numbers in the math are
I sense the black mustang,
wild with will, the wind like a whip at its back,
All I can do is gather
alfalfa in the fields, pour countless oats
into the pail. Ease the sting
of thirst in its throat with water
pulled from my well.
A newlywed drives his bride to her death,
sliding on ice, slamming the passenger door
into an oncoming car. By, as they say,
An only child is crushed,
the walls of his school
falling on his head. And hundreds
more like him. Killed,
as insurance records note,
by an act of God.
How we struggle with the particular face
in the young father’s artery.
The undertow of pain, pulling,
not letting go of the wife
and mother. The slow drip
of cancer in the preschooler.
The young girl shackled to the shrine
of man’s need. A girl I do not know.
A daughter who is every daughter in the world.
There are infinite ways
to suffer. I’ve missed one.
Of course I have.
Or a million.
Let me not
count the ways.
Why not disavow God, and say, once
and for all, he does not exist,
or if he does, he is not good?
Think: Tomorrow morning when I rise
with the sun to start another day,
will I notice the particular
drops of dew glistening like stars?
Will I fall to my knees, see
the blades of grass sucking in
light like breath?
Will I hear the mist whispering
to the pines or follow the swallow
to her nest, watch her drop beetles
into the tiny beaks, hear the silence
of satisfaction that follows?
Will I feel the warmth of her wings
as they cover her chicks’ downy heads?
It depends, I suppose,
on what I’ll need that morning.
If my tea is hot, my juice sweet,
the jam on my toast tart,
if the paper is full of the same ruin
that happens every day, if I feel self-
sufficient, smart, even a tad proud,
if I’m in a hurry, maybe even late,
if I’m still half asleep,
if this same wretched headache lingers,
if I just have things to do,
it might slip
past my attention, unnoticed
like a shy idea that stands mute
against the wall of the mind,
finding it difficult to express itself
Oh, the other side
Blame is an easier game.
Hyacinth and huckleberry.
Hopkins’ beloved bluebell.
Like the intelligent
design of a newborn’s lungs.
Isn’t it scandalous, I wonder, to praise
for creating beauty
as particular as these?
"There lives the dearest freshness deep down things..."
—Gerard Manley Hopkins
Balsam floods the woods,
swathing our senses
like moss swaddles roots and earth.
Ferns flutter in the shadow
of the wind moving through,
while we descend into the sanctuary
of the gorge like the sun lowers
its long beams through the green
lattice of leaves above. We hope
to hit bottom as the thrush
throws its deep voice across the ravine
where a woodpecker knocks on a door
of oak and a lip of limestone loosens,
tumbles down, greets us at the stream,
which even now rips through rock,
then pools its energy along the banks
where minnows animate
the ruin, stirring the cup
brimming with revival, their small bodies,
flashes of hallelujah.
Full Thunder Moon
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, for I have taken refuge in you;
in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge until this time of trouble
has gone by..."
Sitting in the gazebo at St. Meinrad Archabbey,
she hears the sky grumbling as one cloud swells,
its lining stretched so thin,
all she can see is the darkness within.
Dusk slinks in beneath it.
The first few fireflies flicker.
Lights go on in each eventual window
as the monks ready for their simple beds.
At compline, their prayers prepared them for the keening
that comes with loss, whether of light or life.
Swatting the occasional mosquito here beneath
the full thunder moon, she inhales air thick with solace,
the only breath possible with rain pending.
As the first drops finally fall, she realizes how indifferent they are
to whether her marriage lasted two years or twenty-seven.
It’s all the same to them as they hurry down
their flights of stairs, every one of them determined
to skip the last two steps, land hard,
it doesn’t matter where. They are not picky.
They have no scruples.
So of course, they alight on the bare arms
of a wife who’s endured seven surgeries,
whose husband left her, then told her,
Your health problems have worn me out.
This storm doesn’t give a rip.
It doesn’t even know it could be used for good,
showering fields overflowing with barley
& wheat & corn, as we all know it does,
or driving a woman to seek refuge
in a place so vulnerable & open,
a bird, say, a sparrow or finch, might glide in
& roost right there, within an inch of her care.
"Recovery" was first published as a Poem of the Week in the Missouri Review Online and received Honorable Mention in the 2010 poetry contest sponsored by Writecorner Press. "Harnessing Infinity" was featured in Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry & Prose as a finalist for its 2009 poetry prize. "Particular Scandals" first appeared in Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry. "Clifton Gorge" was first published in American Poetry Journal, then featured on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. All four poems appear in Particular Scandals, published in 2013 in the Poiema Poetry Series by Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf & Stock Publishers.
"Full Thunder Moon" was first published in Image Journal. It appears in Full Worm Moon (Poiema Poetry Series, Cascade Books, 2018).
Lawin Bulatao is an advertising professional who has written poetry on and off.
An English Creative Writing Major from the University of the Philippines, he grew up in what can be described as a “liberally Catholic” household. While he does respect religion, he does not appreciate how people can use it as a convenient tool to promote and promulgate subjugation, authoritarianism, selfishness and greed.
SOMETIMES THE LORD PRAYS, TOO
Let my people go
Or there will be plagues
And locusts and rivers of blood
Let my people go
Or your crops will wither
Along with your firstborn
Under the scythe of my angel
Let my people go
They have built your tombs for too long
Let them build their lives instead
Let them cross the sea
As I part the waves for them
And etch stones with law
So they never lose their way again
Let them be unyoked from slavery
For they are my chosen
And having been chosen
Let them choose as well
The path away from death
And into life
Let my people go
And let them leave their chains
That they may not be tempted
To inflict these on others
In the days to come
Let my people remember
That no empire lasts
Built and borne on enslaved backs
THE WORD ACCORDING TO
Once upon a time
There was The Word
And The Word was made flesh
And bone and blood and salt
And sea became you and me
The Word was a bridge not a wall
A bridge spanning divides to
Connect us all then there was The Fall
And in the rubble of Babel The Word
Changed from prophet to warden
Turned our songs and poems into
Life sentences, judgments, labels,
Burdens, caveats, loopholes, escape
Clauses, stress, overtime overdrive
With no pauses or space or time to process
The Word drove nails into our wings
And spears into our sides became the
Cross we bore and still bear
On a mountain range of Calvaries
An endless horizon of agonies
But never forget that once upon a time
There was The Word
And as we weave and weld it
In the image of our dearest hopes
And deepest dreams as we cobble
It from the scabs and scraps and shrapnel
Of our days this I promise you:
Once upon a time
Will be upon us once again.