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09-19-2023

Lindsey Royce

IS ANYONE’S GOD A THUMBSUCK AWAY?

 

In the echo of every bell, there is a prayer,

those intimate syllables of peace

that perhaps hasten monastic blood.

 

Pulling my gauzy wrap of sadness

around my shoulders, I struggle to pray

to the indifferent, distant god I learned.

 

If I could, I’d ask for my love’s resurrection,

my dead sweetheart gone to who knows where.

But I’ve no casino chips to buy off anyone

 

or cash to deliver my grief elsewhere,

like a mixed bouquet of blue flowers.

If I thought comfort sprung from anyone’s

 

deity, I’d pray that my John is well cared for,  

and that he knows he’s welcome

in this house—anywhere—to his altar,

 

his well-stocked kitchen, into my embrace,

my arm tattooed in his memory: black

with white, inked beads, fevered and blood wet.

 

If I could open time like a pistachio

and pry him out of extinction, I would.

If I could lasso space, I’d pull him in.

 

If I could pray to the right recipient,

strike the right clapper, find the portal to where John is,

I would, even if it meant my life. I would do so

 

before recall corrodes to rust and arthritis,

before his death snuffs my heart, before my tongue 

raw from prayer ceases to taste his name.

 

HE NEVER HAD A ZOOM HAPPY HOUR

 

Who could have calculated this monster

          hangover after cold beers in this online

 

bacchanal? Alone during Covid, I woke

          into windy rain, mountain fog, a meditation,

 

the blanket of wildflowers a fiery tie-dye

          dizzying me as did the spin art

 

of my youth. Lake song is good,

          but the cerulean sea lapping against

 

a battered bulkhead offers peace so pleasurable

          it could be hedonism, debauchery

 

enough to make my drowned head jackhammer.

          I look through the lightning strikes’

 

crooked cha-cha over this field of color—

          Fireweed, Blue Bell, Indian Paint-

 

brush, Larkspur—all open to receive

          whatever comes. I trust nature’s cathedral.

 

If I’m to be choked by dogma

          let it be music, trumpeted by this storm,  

 

this wind strong enough to overturn

          our porch furniture, not by some

 

God who let my husband die with torture, with slow,

          deliberate pain. My head and heart smart

 

for John, though he lets me know that on a good day

            I can sever my ache into a vase and bloom.

-from The Book of John (Press 53), selected by Assistant Editor, Karen Carr


Lindsey Royce’s poems have been published in many journals, including Aeolian Harp #8, #7 and #5; Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts; The Hampden-Sydney Review; The New York Quarterly; Poet Lore; and Washington Square Review. Her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Royce’s first poetry collection, Bare Hands (WordTech), was published in September of 2016, and her second collection, Play Me a Revolution (Press 53), published in September of 2019, won second place for poetry in the 2020 Independent Publishers Book Awards. The Book of John (Press 53) is her third collection and is dedicated to her husband, John Kevin Bouldin, who died young from stomach cancer. It is Royce’s tribute to him and to those we all love.

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