The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Cathryn Hankla

He Was


Neither a bootlicker nor a boot blacker,
not a message sent in a bottle nor bottled up
nor a blocker of messages sent,
in short and in brief and in his fullness,
he was.

Clay pigeons were shot from a gun
and the sound pierced him as though
he were a cushion pummeled with a tapered
candle, cradling as the wax bled

onto the paper guarding his hand.
He took up a sable brush and marked
through a number of misguided letters
in a number of words he was

writing. In the pin cushion universe
he fell on a sword of words, he marched
on city hall of words, he buried his words
at Wounded Knee, he died and he rose

and he ever was...



Cathryn Hankla



Some claim Lady Gaga
used to be a tiny baby,
some claim she used to be a housefly

on the wall of witness.
There’s the link. In the baby
there was a cry that grew into

Rapunzel-like, unbelievably
strong woven locks,
or branches of a fatally flawed tree.

Legends are for this: undying.
All unlawful citizens were at one time
Scared. Their terror turned

into terrifying.
The trinkets of humanity
jingle as they walk. No one is

supposed to guess
they bear resemblance:
the uniformed and the man arrested.



Cathryn Hankla

Under the Mountain


The copper beech replaced the copper beech.
You see only the second tree not the first.
A plethora of replacements awaits your eye.
You never know what you are seeing.

A horseman rides by the tree, he doesn't see
the original or the second. He sees only the branch
of the third. The horse exists on apples in the hand
not the blind fruit that has fallen over time.

Aromatic circumstance of cinnamon and cinquefoil,
you want what you want when you want it
not a moment before or after. Wait for the third
tree, remember the second and the first.




CATHRYN HANKLA's the author of Galaxies, Great Bear, Fortune Teller Miracle Fish, and ten other books of poetry and fiction.  She teaches in the Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins University where she chairs the English & Creative Writing Department and edits the poetry for The Hollins Critic.  Her book of essays, Lost Places will be out next year (2018).



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