Judgement Call

By: James Lineberger

Featured art: Man with a Pipe by Pablo Picasso

I don’t know why you won’t show
your face maybe you
don’t know how maybe there’s some
rule about it
or you might be still sleeping or lost
somewhere in
between but if that’s the case
then why do you send these butterflies
to land on Barbara’s
arm and make her candle lights
switch on all
by themselves at four a.m.
and Robert said just yesterday
that you pop
up now and then in his dreams hands
in your pockets
leaning against a wall
and when he asks you what
it’s like you shrug and say it’s
okay which
is all right with me I don’t care how
much you share
with everybody else but unless
you mean to shut me out altogether
then isn’t it about
time we decided on something for
ourselves because
the way it is now I close my eyes
and I can’t even make
out your features your face is just a blank
like somebody wearing
a fencing mask or else I’ll try
to call you up

and you come on the screen
with my daddy’s eyes
and nose and if that is some
kind of cosmic
joke I’m sorry I don’t get it I mean it’s
a waste of time not
to mention energy and shouldn’t
you be conserving
your energy that is if you’re
still getting adjusted
or lying there in a trance-state
or whatever it
is because I do now-and-then have
this image of
your body stretched out on
a gurney in some
pearly-walled holding room and on
your blank
face they’ve left the mouth wide
open in a scream but
I don’t put too
much stock in things like that
because if you were
still in agony frozen in the moment for
all these years—what is it now
five?—then you couldn’t at one and the same
time be off playing
games with everybody else
like it was some kind of coming-home
party so I’m going
to insist you can’t be suffering
all that much dammit
that you can’t
make a little time for me too
unless of course you
want to dwell on the past and bring
up all
that shit all over again
about me leaving home when you
were three or the other time
when you were
fourteen and if that’s how it is hey
fuck it life
goes on you hear me because
if you think I’m going
to get down on my knees and beg
you can stay blank
far as I’m concerned I don’t
care if you never get your face back
and the other
night when I was mopping
the floor and found this penny that hadn’t
been there five
minutes earlier if you think
for a minute I really
believed it was from you well I didn’t I
didn’t think any such thing
and it isn’t that I have to have a sign
but why not dammit why
the hell not and if you only knew how
far I was prepared
to go if we could really get
together again you would regret
this if you
aren’t already somebody else by
now which
worries me too but I have to trust
in something don’t
I and if you’re there if you hear
me just reach out somehow
please baby any
coded message any fashion you choose
and I’ll change
my ways completely I’ll be a new
person become a believer
again go to church every Sunday and really
listen to people
when they speak to me and if
somebody needs me I’ll do anything
I can to help them just
like you like
you did honey don’t you remember
the day your son
was born and they had to rush him
in the helicopter over
to Charlotte
Memorial for surgery and Christ
how you broke
down in the waiting room and threw
your arms around
me and you were praying out
loud oh God you said just
let him live please God don’t let him die take
me take me.


James Lineberger won the 2017 New Ohio Review Poetry Contest. His work also has appeared in Boulevard, The Cortland ReviewPrairie Schooner, Hang- ing Loose, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Pembroke Magazine, Seneca Review, Texas Review, Verse, The Main Street Rag, and numerous online publications.

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