Illness, Grace, Terror —

— or Transformation?  This is just to note that I’ve had two more poems published in an anthology with the impressive title Illness & Grace, Terror & Transformation (Wising Up Press, 2007).  Impressed yet?  Quite the concatenation! Ah well, here are the poems themselves.

Transfiguration Box
Kathleen M. Heideman

— it’s a mean little tin
filled with claws and hairballs
and everything else I ever tried to lose:
blood-stained snippings of a straw broom,

four too-memorable wine corks,
and that dog’s back molar crumbling into death
— a worthless nugget of domesticated calcium, really,
but it resembled the way I held on tight.

Even architectural drawings, those violet plans
for a bridge we never built between us. And the perch-bones
I threw away so many times but found, always, floating
like a warning in the toilet bowl or reclined luxuriously

on the butter; and those roaches I couldn’t kill,
so I sealed them into drops of molten amber,
fossils that hardened as the sap cooled.
Husks of dead sin grown permanent as a gemstone,

and secret potentials: an egg under glass,
framed by yellowed lace and penny nails
and resting in its nest of short hairs. Intimacy.
An avocado pit painted golden; saintly camouflage,

a round flame to warm the heart. And a locked drawer
with three tallow candles given to me by an elderly plumber
who promised as his fingers found mine
“They light up the dark places, honey, and they burn for so long…”

To get at the candles, though,
I’d need a little key. Perhaps that tarnished one
that hangs from its brass string
singing “Remember me — ? Remember me — ?”

Here’s the second poem in the anthology:

A Light Like Fireflies
Kathleen M. Heideman

Forgive her, but she needed a light like fireflies,
those martyred bulbs
burning themselves out in captivity
— she believed in something back then, black-olives for pupils,
reading books by bug-lamp, her skin spark-green
from that jar of heat lightning blinking beside her pillow.

A childhood illuminated by insects:
forgive her, but she believed luminosity would hover
like a winged butler, forever at her shoulder.
She wasn’t ready to lose faith, thumbprints on her forehead:
the holy soot of naivete, loneliness, several
cities that could have used a few fireflies.

In war, she smeared herself black to remain invisible.
Shadows said which prayers to hum and how many times each.
Cassocks absolved her sins. Timeclocks doled out rewards.
In the dark, she nodded, she waited. Dull decades went by,
nothingness & moonlessness. Then a curtain was pulled
and she went blind — ! friends were reading aloud

“Sister, how unearthly!” — see that glow worm
undulating through leaves, how on its forehead
there burned a light like a green star — ?
and she did see it! Yes! The sun was burning
wormholes in the deep white snow outside their window,
the words, the brilliance overwhelmed her, she confused the floor

with heaven and fell back against the wall —
it was pure poetry, pure Spirit, the same jig her father danced
when she was younger, when his screwdriver
touched a wire in the transformer box and six cheap inches
of screwdriver puddled onto his work-boots, mercurial;
Forgive her. It always happens like this.

High-voltage fireflies flash — then everything goes black,
as in Caravaggio’s painting of Paul on his back in the ditch.
In that moment, we are undone, knocked to the ground,
the everyday world suddenly dark and upside down
and only the crushing potential of our faithful horse,
that filly named “Doubt,” fully illuminated.

Caravaggio > St. Paul on the Road to Damascus

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