Marriage Player

by John Mark Ballenger
Featured Art: Science Instructing Industry – Kenyon Cox

Place into our mouths this day the coolness
of ice cubes from a heavy-bottomed glass, the burn
of bourbon on our barely parted lips,
as if to receive a glowing Kentucky coal
that our grandfathers shoveled
in their youth into stoves 5 o’clock
each new morning before the barn chores.
Grant us strength to willingly undress,
to lie down naked and limp and freckled
and biopsy-scarred along the
shoulder blade
and hernia-scarred at the pubic line
and ashamed for what has been taken
and unashamed of what we have made.
And let her not fear my hand,
the stiffening knuckles or the clumsy
sandpaper ends of my fingers, as it rises
to touch her neck or cheek. And let me not
fear the look on her face
as she turns away.

John Mark Ballenger lives in Mount Vernon, OH, with his wife and two children. He received an MFA in creative writing from Ashland University in 2012.
Ballenger grew up in rural southern Ohio, and the landscapes and lives and
voices of northern Appalachia are the primary forces which have shaped his
imagination and writing.

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