Ruth Towne


He dies on Thursday
night. Time pins us

here. In leaves, gusts,
and torrents, the gems

of windshield invigorate
smoke, coronate, suspend.

Other drivers travel on,
ignore this passing. Skid

lines mark pendulums across
Elm Street. The station wagon

casts its transmission forty feet
behind, into a graveyard wall,

of all places. To draw back
that moment forty years, to store

its energy back five minutes:
arrows quiver against bows,

await archers. Stationary, a star
occupies a space, a moment.

Light through a prism — now
he is, and now he will be.

The release — now he was,
now he is not.

Parable at the Office

At work after the weekend, I replace office plants.
That they grow is my miracle, my loaves and fish.
On a windowsill three cubicles from mine, shines
the sunlight. My plants grow every five days, only

in the pair of days I am away. Five loaves, two fish.
Strangers in a crowd wish they were not famished,
but Jesus feeds them for a day. I refresh my plants,
slip and spill water on my monitor. I recall an article

about a warehouse where the workers live in shifts,
about workers whose complex convenience store shoe
store drug store is down the compound hall, workers
who share every eight hours a cot. It’s clockwork,

their seamless transition. A timecard to work, to eat,
a timecard to bathe and to sleep. From assembly line
window, a worker flies to a net below, flops and flails
in open air. Security bag, ID, and timecard shine, scales

in second-shift sun. Pothos plant sticks to windowpane,
one green leaf remains on glass. So another parable:
the apostle Peter receives Caesar’s dues in a trout’s mouth.
Jesus grants many a fish, a timecard for you and me.

My Holy Poltergeist

First, at the front door, once, twice,
a third time before I let you in, Jesus,
before you made a home in the attic
of my soul. But that was years ago.

I remember you now on occasion,
though lately most every night
dancing to the rhythm of the water
pipes. Do you dream of leaving?

But the attic for you, you alone.
I keep you up there set apart.
You could say I keep you holy.
Remember, as your parable says,

I heard you knock, I let you in
so I could keep you in the attic
of my soul. I imagine you rest
during the day, next to the chest

where for so long my mother
kept her wedding dress. I’ll save
a strand of Christmas lights next
year so you can read at night.

Again you knock, on the living
room wall this time. Any harder
and you’d have dropped the family
portrait off the clean white wall.

Jesus, don’t you see? This is your attic,
No less than a cathedral in my soul.
Look, the rafters resemble the ribcage
of a sanctuary, and my storage boxes

make two rows of pews. Jesus, only
the finest for you. Yet you tap the walls,
my friendly ghost, my Jesus. I hear you
on the second floor. A door slams.

I hear you whisper. Speak louder,
please. If I search, would you come
down for me? Jesus, I never asked
before—would you find me if I admit

I need you? I need you. I need you
to call me to the attic where you stay,
call me back and lock me up. Dear
Jesus, save yourself some knocking.

Dishes by Hand, Sleight of Hand

Our kitchen sink has two sides,
a natural divide. I rinse dishes
in either half, cast uneven shadows

on the backsplash. Shapes of bowl
and spatulas attach to white tiles.
A black rabbit appears in our sink,

a magician’s bottomless black hat.
Your dishes, my dishes, together
in the basin. Warm water, soap suds

the sponge. Our sink has two sides,
not all do, but I like to think in twos,
dirty and clean, empty and full, question

and answer. You keep roses, scarves,
a deck of cards hidden at your wrist.
Another pair, magician and assistant.

Your trick — I wash your dishes. I hear
that others wash plates by the basin,
baptize knife by knife their cutlery

in pools of water and soap. Saucers,
spoons, immerse, emerge, by the water
cleaned. Do not seek redemption here.

A blade disappears, halves crate and woman.
I fear the knife beneath the surface.
When I wash your dirty dishes, I rinse.

A Question to the Tea Leaves

In the teacup, only a teaspoon
of liquid remains, almost room
temperature now. My left hand
lifts the cup, my eyelids drop
for a moment. I sense but cannot
see the tea as I swirl it once,
twice, a third-time counter
to the face of a clock. Eyes open.
The saucer collects what’s left
as I invert its cup. A magpie outside
my kitchen window pries at my private
moment, then shakes its wings
toward the bright sky. The tea drains.
I wish for a basket of flowers. And it drains,
perhaps a second bird in an open cage, or
the magnolia, yes, I wish the magnolia
as it drains and it drains. It drains
and the leaves that remain
shape themselves into a harp.

Ruth Towne is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program. Her work has recently appeared in WOMEN. LIFE., a special issue of Beyond Words Literary Magazine, and Monsoons: A Collection of Poetry by Poet’s Choice Publishing. Her work has also appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Referential Magazine, and Maine’s Best Emerging Poets 2019. She also has forthcoming publications with Drunk Monkeys.