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Thoughts, Prayers, Tears

by J. Harper West

Lover, Haskell County

She greeted me, smiling, in the church pews,
laughed till we were breathless, keeping watch of
the girls, glancing past me to the windows.
I sighed, already wanting her, to love.

She took me out for drinks, conversation,
talked of church, work, religion, boys, and school.
I marveled at her, whimsical distraction,
wondering if she’d let me play her fool.

They married a year after I met her;
no invitation came by phone or mail.
She gave him a daughter that November.
I switched from drinking gin to ginger ale.

With this remembrance, put her out of mind —
I’d still be without her if she’d declined.

Polyphonic Discord

everybody should be thinking
about what they can do

if someone decides to open fire

saints sing the joy of the lord
and enjoin everyone to rejoice

anyone at any time
can be the victim

some lives are more equal than others

mankind will be glad in the day
given graciously by their father god

the female body has a way
of shutting that whole thing down

if she is modest and chaste

angels implore the heavens
carry prayers past where they fall

SWF Teacher Inquires about Student Otter’s Poetry

The divorcing female poet wants to know
why don’t I write more love poems
but doesn’t ask whether my love
is state-sanctioned or welcome
in my father’s house

or know that I used to write poems every day
on the sides of my Cons for the boy
in back of the room who looked
like D’Angelo back in the day

until my boy ate a handful of Percodan
washed down with cherry brandy
from his Granny’s kitchen
crawled to sleep
in the tub

and didn’t wake up.

The single lady poet doesn’t know
that his daddy would have rather
have a dead son than a gay son
or that I changed my name
after they told me

he was gone.


J. Harper West is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the Arkansas Writers Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas, a reluctant memoirist, and poet of unfinished parts. West serves as the nonfiction editor of Arkana, a journal of mysteries and marginalized voices.