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The Truest of Our Offerings

 

Sorry to mention the chorus of cicadas

and the constellations of fireflies

blinking where I’ve just looked or am about to.

Reader, do you say fireflies or lightning bugs?

It’s lightning bugs where I’m from. We also

said locusts not cicadas. Likewise bats, apologies

for the entry of the bats who skim the pool

right now and yaw right back into a sky

always lighter, it seems, than it should be

for bats. Their bellies flash ochre above

the faux-Aegean tiling around the edge.

My daughter saw her first bat yesterday.

She thinks there’s just the one or maybe two

in Indiana, and therefore the world, swinging

as if on wires, toy bats eating toy mosquitoes

then drawn back up somehow like props or puppets.

I have to tell her they’re not bad, mosquitoes,

despite the welts and the maddening itch.

They just drink blood, the way mosquitoes do.

They keep the bats well fed and in the air.

You’d think it would be the other way around,

that she would see the bats like blood avengers,

something indeed to fear. And yet, like gods

or demons, they have limits, and weaknesses,

what with the intercession of mosquitoes,

who sing them from their caves and bring

from us the truest of our offerings.

 

 

 

Gun Cabinet

 

Felt-lined, soft-looking as a pelt inside,

guns lined up with their barrels

rested in the scallops of the brace board

like a docent’s cared-for clutch of iron.

 

He’d built the doors with pointed glass

so you could see them shut up

but the little latch and key were only

decorations like on a girl’s diary.

 

Shotgun, rifle, shotgun, pellet gun,

all down the line like that, and below

in a drawer the shells and cartridges

rolled like grapeshot in the hold.

 

He scribed the layout of the scrollwork

on the molding and skirting

freehand with pencil and coffee can,

then jigsawed out the Fibonacci curves.

 

Just lumberyard pine, soft and buttery,

easy to dent but pliant in its

surrender to the sanding block,

any divots wetted so to rise

 

like welts and be smoothed down,

then the whole thing stained

to look like other wood, walnut,

wiped of its excess and shellacked

 

and rubbed to a matte gloss

with fine steel wool. The felt

was the last thing, the backing,

the something else inside to take

 

the weight of the blued steel

with grace, a reminder

of something we could not quite say

but were a little shamed by.

 

 

 

About the Author
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Paul is the author of two poetry collections, Momentary Vision of the Assistant Meteorologist and Nostalgia for Sacrifice. He teaches writing at the University of Evansville and is Co-Editor of Measure Press and Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry.