Monday Jun 24

KalshuerJosh Josh Kalscheur’s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Hayden’s Ferry Review, Georgetown Review, Mid-American Review, Cincinnati Review and Linebreak, among many others. He is currently an MFA candidate at University of Wisconsin-Madison where he is the Poetry Editor for Devil’s Lake, a journal of poetry and prose.



I will tell you what happened between the sea
and the reef. It started in the mountains,
bare rock buried in the high grasses
near Japanese guns and the generator house,
the rusted barrels breaking to pieces
in untended fields of taro, where no one
can touch them. My sons have gone to a place
I can’t say. They took the Southern Cross
and the first signs of Venus, the faded sketches
of stars and current pull, the continental push.
They were good in the beginning. My sons.
My sons. Their names are words I can’t say.
I know by my skin, the burn and the void
in my mouth. They will never be men.

The Tide Light

The sleep we have under a tin roof. The silence
we stole from standing birds on a sand bar,
picking the cheeks of a fish. How the hands
return insistently, the limp weight, wind
growing thin in the shy turns of the head,
the dream’s lucid vines dried in thatch-weave
beneath us. What the moon means
in its dimpled trance, wild green light
remade in the tilt  and bend of our bodies,
trapped space tunneled from under us,
the dream reflecting what comes and goes
from gathering clouds over Tol, growing
in the slow slide of sand crabs, the remembered hush
of palm leaves, heat-streaks cutting the sky
in two. Imagine the leaps we take in the Southern Cross,
constellating angles, the navigated current
dipping clean from star to star. Imagine sails
becoming full, showing their threaded, skin-thin
lines of light, and the dream becoming more
than ticking sound the turtle makes on bare rock
of the reef or the rush of the ocean floating a wave
over its hidden head, lifting the webbed feet,
the faded shell, worn water breaking the surface.

Our lord is tall and strong and tends his lambs. He faces west.
He holds a half-shredded staff in a hand held up by a vine.
Here are the girls in the churchyard holding hands, hanging leis
on our lady’s neck, stacking them so her face purples and yellows
with petals and pollen, the twine pressed on her lips.
Here are the boys loitering, half-drunk from Gem Clear, splayed
on the side of the ridge, praying the Creed by heart. In the crèche,
in the copra husk cradle, our lord’s eyes are crossed and bleached,
glazed, specked grey from salt and the rain that drains through
his plastered hair, his skull, the split bridge of his nose.
Here the columns are Roman and ragged. They chip when touched.
If it is true, then when the cisterns crack and clouds part
from where a man once roped the moon from the sky, he will come
with cloaks and nets overflowing, a canoe glistening at the grains.
The sweetest water will fall and flood the ruts from upland homes,
and higher yet to the peaks and plateaus, to the land left
from the last wounds, from holy men. Here the rocks
that build the road recede. They tilt and pull apart. They scatter
to the mangrove swamp where the jagged root-knives divide fish
from their bodies, trapped on the shore with the sand,
with other bones, how they might shine when shaded.
Here the women we love sing to the tradewinds, let their voices flatten
and billow in the blossoms, in the stems picked clean of fruit.
Here the steeple’s bottom beam bends, and where the head should rest
metal is twisted and tangles the dead leaves, making knots.
The women we love wear dresses that puff and press, their shapes
gone real in pillar grooves, the haloed patches of dead grass,
gusts curving through the walkway to where the doubled door was,
altared aisle, the unhinged pews not fit for kneeling, holes in the walls
where windows once cast saints in the churchyard, in the village–
Anthony, Stephen. They could be the third lungs, our lost songs.