Appalachian Sunday

By Justin Wymer

The church’s rose bush is chewed by blight
but yellow still,

speaking of the dead dissolving
under waxlight—

pockfleshed petals making of absence
ornament—windows to look through—

hundreds—A boy with syrupy fingers
dribbled onto the leaves

and the beads grew molten from
sun that filled them—

In the boy’s dream his mother lies in bed,
haloed by unkempt red

fitful fire, in sleep, her lung-rattle
a cog thrown in a thresher,

her face vaguely beautiful—he knows
beautiful by now—

face a porcelain figurine tossed into a stream,
seen from above its surface,

when a wind thins the water, green
semi-clear window, appearing—

Then the earth slips away, the daylight’s
constant static

flickering like a prayer in which he asks
for exactly what he wants:

pills in the hand of one who’ll
swallow him, regardless

of the punishment taught him,
a pulsing heat

he can handle when it’s
in him, paring

knife in roe—that his body perhaps was
made for this love—but

he’s learned to clutch a thorned stem
to cut a safer route into him-

self. What left is there then

to love? Account for pews sat in. How long, and
whom. Account for the

dead flaring the chandeliers, dusting
lobbyferns, clotting

the hasp in the locket of this mauve woman
who listens to the deadening

drone of hardcandies snapping along to a
sermon entitled THE PAIN MACHINE.

Her gloves off, listening. Cluck of chewing.
The colors of the child in her locket

listing, the younger boy in the locket
clogging the roots of a yellow rose

supple another place, where off his fingers
he licks clumps of dust and honey.

A native of West Virginia, Justin Wymer holds degrees from Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poems have appeared in Beecher’s, Boston Review, Conjunctions, Lana Turner, Nat. Brut, Souvenir, THRUSH, and elsewhere.

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