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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 29, January 31, 2017
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DOUBT


after Jane Kenyon’s “Happiness”

 

Doubt is the true immortal of emotions.

Anger can be felled with arrows of kindness.

Joy can die quietly in bed like an old man.

Doubt never quite dies—

it may fall under the blows of praise and accomplishment

but like B-movie mass murderers,

it always comes back, ready to strike again.

 

Like the peddler on the street, always

wanting more from you.

Like the younger brother who

follows you around, no matter how

cruel you are to him or try to fend him off.

He’s always there when you least expect,

like that time you tried to impress

the woman you’d been crushing on

for months. Somehow he showed up

and wouldn’t stop talking about the stuffed animal

collection that you kept

well into your teenage years.

Or after the storm, when the power went out.

He showed up with candles and a transistor radio,

listening for reports of the end of the world,

which you constantly had to assure him

wasn’t imminent.

 

Doubt comes to the farmer reaping his harvest—

will it be enough?

It comes to the CEO, who wonders why

he doesn’t sell his suits

and backpack through South America.

It comes to the old saint

wondering if she will go to Heaven.

It comes to the newborn

afraid it won’t survive the open air.

It comes to the trees when winter draws near.

It comes to snow when the sun shows its face.

It comes to stars when they fizzle and fade—

that’s how black holes are formed.

 

—Andrew Sydlik



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ELEGY FOR MY COUSIN

 

A cousin like a brother, his sister

with too many lovers, playing

video games in the dark,

staying with us at home,

at camp, alone in the woods—

his clothes so thick with skunk

we had to burn them, Christmases

in bars, in basements, the gifts

of Vicodin and Percocet washed

down with whiskey and Iron City,

the sound of a train dying at night,

stories that taught me about sex,

stories in scars, being invited in,

kicked out, cars broken down, fallen

in a ditch, pulled out with rope, strung

up, bees in his hair, flying

through a field, strung out,

six months at chef’s school,

flour on his hands, talking

to him through a screen

door at grandmother’s, drinking our first

beers at a riverbank fire, chasing

girls by the train tracks, chased

by dogs up the hills, smell

of batteries exploding, no money,

too much money, too many enemies,

his name in the newspaper, a skunk

in the dark, alone in the burning,

Christmas lights strung up, stories

kicked out, the inevitable rope,

bees in his hair, flour on his hands,

alone in the dark.


—Andrew Sydlik


 

KING OF THE SEA

 

Dead eyes stare up at the newlyweds.

Smirking mouth. Limb-like fins.

Rajah laut, says the old fisherman.

King of the Sea! I give half off

for American friends.

                             

A fish caught in time,

its stink rising in the heat,

mixing with shouted prices,

men with browned skin,

mosques and mountains.

Can’t be, he thinks,

not the one thought extinct

for sixty-five million years,

not the coelacanth.

 

Her scientist’s fingers dare

scales that glitter like armor.

Like bullets set in its skin,

she says, but it feels so soft.

Click of the camera-eye

captures it—they move on.

 

Accidental exposure

darkens into regret:

You left it behind? shouts

the man from the museum.

They offer a modest reward,

and another is brought to them,

barely alive, irises milky.

 

They wade beyond shallow water.

Blood trails past the reefs,

red ribbon of history.

They sink with it

into the deep.

Green luminescence

stirs in its eyes,

graceful fanned fins

calling to their minds

the flouncing skirts

of Spanish dancers.

It spirals toward bottom,

head against sand.

Their hearts break.


—Andrew Sydlik