Walker County Rites

By Cheyenne Taylor

One average night you catch yourself 
combing summer’s stour through your hair,

cutting the moon like fruit with a pocketknife.
The night undoes the hooks behind her back

for you, white freckles tossed across her skin.
Before the massless hoots of barred owls hail

you back to camp—your wet, unbaptized body
bruised by testing instinct—you’re convinced

that something’s watching. Fatwood fatigues. 
You loom up to the fire, trusting heat. You say

I sort-of think, and I would like to pray,
and marvel at the coal barge hauling

light between banks. When someone thanks
the Lord for camp potatoes, aluminum foil,

rootstalks spread for tortoises, a mammal howls,
and you want all the earthly knowledges.

You steel yourself with whiskey for the river.
You plant yourself ashore and eat the dirt.

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Self-Portrait as Minor Prophet

By Craig Van Rooyen

Not the one who foretells 
our city become a jackals’ haunt 
or our silver turned to dross.

Rather, the one who needs a grocery list
from his wife with the precise level of yogurt fat 
underlined and the aisle number

for the hypo-allergenic soap
so he will not wander, masked, into 
the floral section to be with orchids,

their double stems of moth wings 
looking nothing like fields stripped by foreigners 
or hands hinged in prayer.

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The Universe is Just One of Those Things That Happens from Time to Time

By Jacob Griffin Hall

Featured Art: Stacked Animals by Jonathan Salzman

I deposit my tired universe of bones
beside the farmhouse. Discrete, the butterfly weed
with its leaves tapered to a soft point
leans against the lower stem of a coneflower.
I eat sweet bread and strawberries
and stare into the pocket of oaks dawdling
at the far edge of the field. I draw rings in the clouds
with my outstretched finger, the posture
not unlike accusation, the hair erect at the brush
of a spider against an exposed ankle. The only choice
is how far to carry a burden. I’ve known
the most ordinary people, autumn, untamed piles
of burning leaves. I’ve watched from a safe distance
and disregarded the intensity with which I scratched
my wrist, the skin slick and glinting
beneath a series of similar suns. I’ve negotiated
my right to fathom the bodies of insects.
It’s going well so far. I’ve given up
chocolate bars and late nights and thoughts
of making my life a metaphor. Still the coneflower
is nimble atop its spread of fibrous root.
I wait for the sun to stain the clouds
that shade of rattled yellow that announces evening,
the low light, a thing I know but still need to parse.

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A Pocket Introduction to Our Universe

By Claire Bateman

Featured Image: The Throne of Saturn by Elihu Vedder 1883-1884

What does our universe most like to do?

To contort without any warning into nothing but corners,
an awkward though not unbeautiful configuration.

Of what elements is our universe composed?

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