Two Poems by Lissa Kiernan
3rd Annual Contest Finalist
And there was a river streaming from the right hand,
and beautiful trees rose up from it;
and whosoever shall eat of them shall live forever.
— Barnabas 11:10
Whereas my father, who was rarely ill in his life, lay failing in a bed shrouded white and verily said unto me: knowst thou that my neighbor, too, has a brain sickness? Wherefore he made his home a stone’s throw down shady unpaved roads. Past the Eagle's Nest, Salmon Ladder, and Hairpin Turn, until at last a silver shiv glinted beside, more stream than river, more rill, at summer’s peak, than stream. It was good, this radiant child of the Deerfield River. He would sit atop a sturdy rock and watch the water rise. Mark whence it heaved and whither it sighed. And true, it became his habit to bathe there— blind to what simmered upstream in sapphire pools, heating grassy banks where children turn cartwheels, dodge balls, play tag. Where corn is tilled and squash blossoms. Milk- animals graze on brilliant greens, udders aglow in the moon. And lo, one day my father’s brain- films cast shadows. Men in white coats proclaimed: Rightfully, we do not know from whence it came. It is possible it is genetic. Furthermore, it may have been trauma. We suspect, though, that it is something in the environment.
Eclogue on Decommissioning
But what saith the Lord abolishing the temple? Learn ye.
Who hath measured the heaven with a span,
Or hath measured the earth with his hand?
— Barnabus 16:2
Fog scrims the Deerfield River Valley. Leaves bleed through, bent south. Gourds bloat, rupture on vines. Our plant is no exception. It, too, has begun to dismantle in much the same way a glass dish, hot from the oven would crack if doused in cold water. Where to begin? No blueprint—and each pipe, seal and bearing must be mourned and laid to rest. No wrecking ball, no countdown to blast. Make no mistake, for each method, a cost. Whether to store dry or stay wet addles your brain. Odds for cross-contamination curdle your spleen. Perhaps we ought not place blame. Go on. Bury it. As quickly and quietly as you can. Dump it in dark trenches in towns with jowled porches, and slow swaying stoplights. Mottling a river— with no will left to say no.
Lissa Kiernan was born in Massachusetts and lives in Brooklyn, New York. More of her work can be found in Albatross, Canary, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Whale Sound, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Stonecoast and an MA from The New School. More at LissaKiernan.com.