Nov/Dec 2021 • Vol. XLIII No. 6 PoetryNovember 8, 2021 |

Test Prayer When You Suspect You’re Actually in a Version of Hell

A paper cut, a skinned knuckle, a toenail peeled back to a pink headstone: what does the episodic unfurling of pain have in common with death? Nothing, let’s say; I’d believed the spectrum ran from fuse-blown axo-axonic ecstasy at one end to eternal, claustrophobic darkness at the other but it turns out oblivion marks its hatch dead-center, as though we from the womb might painlessly emerge into merely another amniotic suspension, afloat like a brain in a skull. Lord, I’ve shaken my head and hurried under green awnings during sun showers, I’ve clung to the gunwale and heaved seasickness into the ocean, guts long since empty of bile. But watch this: first I etch a hard-angled S into the iodine-yellow paint of the bathroom stall, and then another, sideways, and it’s a swastika. Or this: those first two sixes on the picnic table, and the knife poised to curlicue another. If it doesn’t hurt, tell me why I can make it last forever? Tell me what soul, deprived complete

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Cleft

By O-Jeremiah Agbaakin

A paper cut, a skinned knuckle, a toenail peeled back to a pink headstone: what does the episodic unfurling of pain have in common with death? Nothing, let’s say; I’d […]

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