Listen to Poems from Our January IssueBy Nancy Holochwost, Associate Editor • January 17, 2024
The three poems featured in our January issue are filled with rich sensory writing. Each one contains an image that stops me in my tracks: a motionless panther; a dark mine shaft; the turn of a lock. Click the play button below each title to listen to recordings of the poems.
—Nancy Holochwost, Associate Editor
Key Marco Cat
By Robert Cording
Carved by the Calusa circa 500–800 CE Half human, half panther, barely six inches high, and only a replica of the original totem, it’s placed before me on my desk to remind me of the concentration and discipline needed to live in the dark, to pass through the smallest opening in thickets of wildness and enter the grasslands as easily as water following the path always waiting for it to arrive. Legs folded under its body, the figure sits straight up, alert, an incarnation of stillness, of eyes looking everywhere at once. I look at this possibility of me rooted in the dark, invisibly still. What more could I wish to be than a being at rest, my arms and hands lying calmly on my folded knees as I grow less afraid, knowing what it is to become smaller, to disappear, as the panther does in what surrounds it, its view widening as it takes the shadows apart to see.
Lumps of Coal
By Robert P. Cooke
Read by Nancy Holochwost, Associate Editor
Remembering my grandfather He was ten and drove a team of mules through the shadows in mine shafts, pulling a wagonload of coal that glinted in the carbide light anchored to his cotton cap. He tells me how the animals were raised in the dark and he had to punch their sides to keep them moving and how they would stop and blink, shuddering, at the shaft opening, where the brilliant sun streamed in too suddenly. Years later, when the local politician came to the door asking for his vote, he said slowly, almost inaudibly, through lungs of coal dust, that the world was too unjust, and he could bray like a mule, if asked.
By Jared Harél
It hasn’t happened yet: the awkward bloom of my children’s bodies, the bathroom pin-lock pushed in, the steady stream of marathon showers, bolts of thick steam all shadowy blue. They’re still here, together, the two of them like seal pups in a porcelain tub as it brims with bubbles, rubber fish, spongy green letters speckled with mold. How long till toy ships are docked and moored? It hasn’t happened yet, but just yesterday my daughter asked for privacy before brushing her teeth, of all things — that delicate word out there, on her lips, like new fruit. I almost laughed but nodded instead. The white door before me: The knob. The click.
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