Spring 2021 Featured Poet: Julia Beach

Phantom Pain
- for James Harley
 
 
Leave the body to sleep
in an unnatural position.
Make an incision and watch
the blood painting a picture
on the slope of his thigh.
Remove the radiant
bits of phantom’s limb
 
yet to ache. Left alone
his brain will imagine what
was separated, remember it
to the parietal lobe, scramble
departure points long erased
from the circuits of his body.
The brain alone keeps
memory of the limb
fresh for as long as possible
even as the mind longs
to forget what was lost. Silhouettes
and semi-recumbent postures
as natural as fetal positions.
 
And where the heart builds
a holy house from spalted bone
creatures are born with current
wings to carry messages from
the chamber no one can pulse
into a language understood
outside the body temple.
When the ghost leaves the body
the phantom has nowhere to go.
A firefly burning in an empty box.
 
 
 
 
 

The Garden of Dread Reply ­­­­­
 
 
She wanders into the wild
carrying scissors
 
in her mouth, shrugs
the narrow shoulder of stillness
 
for the pleasure of watching
willow warblers
 
startle from cup-shaped nests
all the while searching
 
for telltale signs
of postcards on hedgerow bottoms.
 
A stamp that planted roots.
A salutation that slipped
 
its boots in the rain
and arrived with one wet sock.
 
Of all seasons, spring is most
cupboard mimic
 
where days arrange like shelves
broad with purpose
 
at the end of winter’s purge.
Freshly the wind
 
carries the Penny Blacks
to the orchard canopy
 
to find perch
between God and the ground
 
to deliver from the void
something more
 
than lost something, some thing
astray with need.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hunger Almanac
 
 
I believe in half of the moon,
the half I can’t see
 
at night when faith flexes
its large muscle group –
 
a strongman
with a sledgehammer
ringing a round bell
at a carnival –
 
the only clear sound
within earshot.
 
I believe Earth
is round. I believe
the world is as flat
as the last note spilling
from a songbird’s mouth.
 
Round. Small.
Like a dove shot.
I believe in gravity
and exaggerated leads. I believe in
 
the god of cracked walnuts
not the god who comes
when I pray at night.
A small muscle group,
this reflex gesture, quiet,
 
thin like a spade
cutting furrows
waiting for the locusts
and a hunger yet to come home.
 
 
 
 
 

 
The Replacement People
 
 
I like people who read Paradise Lost backward
because they think Lucifer should be set free
from his trial subscription in Hell. I like people
who don’t mind tasting a little tree bark
when they eat a peach from their neighbor’s yard.
I like people who let others climb their fence
to play in the orchard on rainy days or when they’re sad.
I like people who sniff their grandmother’s cookbook
and think of all the things they were forced to eat
at Christmas – does anyone ever want more ambrosia?
Cool Whip is the most delicious of all overcorrections.
I like people who confuse dance moves with conversation.
I like people who have the courage to go to a party
where they only know one person. I admire them for hiding
under the table so I don’t have to talk to them
about who we both know, who we’d like to forget,
and who has already forgotten we came in the same car.
I like people who are small enough to fit in a birdhouse
as long as the birdhouse is large enough to fit an elephant.
People who smell like melted crayons are my favorite smell,
but I don’t like it when their smell lingers on my clothes.
I like people who are polite enough to be uncomfortable
inside my house, like the very clumsy ghost
leaned casually against the table knocking my laundry
on the floor while I clean out the closet. I like him.
I like him most of all. He is dead to me with all my heart.
 
 
 

 
 
Diagnosis That Ends
        With A Deflated Balloon Sticking to Its Heart
 
 
You are not the balloon.
You are what was inside
the balloon, the part put in by force
when no one was looking.
The part that leaked out
slowly. Oyster stitches rip
open the tumble down sky
one wet breath at a time.
You are not the string tied
to the balloon. You are the knot
looped around its mouth,
the part that made absurd noises
when we pulled on
the corner of a joke only we found
funny for reasons I don’t
 
remember what I told you
about why I liked Big Valley
more than Gunsmoke: something
about the way Barbara Stanwick
refused to love Lee Majors
as a plot device –
it planted something inflatable
 
in my heart that pushed,
pulled, then floated
when he gained her approval
in the end. Love is won
by circumference. You are not
 
the curve of the balloon. You are
the ceiling that kept it within
reach, the roof slick
with rainwater. My feet are cold
but at last they are dry
and if I stand on my head long
enough maybe, maybe the rest
of me will dry out too.
 
 
 

 
Julia Beach received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa. A southern girl living in New England, she works as a graphic designer, content writer, and more recently, a penturner. Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Occulum, Barren Magazine, and Hobo Camp Review and her book reviews appear at Flypaper Lit. She will always be a loyal friend of the Oxford comma. 


2 comments:

  1. Julia's poems feel good in my mouth...in my soul...like warm peanut butter on crisp hot fresh grainy bread!! It scratches the deep itch of the soul

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a delight each of these poems is! Read them with care and read them aloud, and you will see!

    ReplyDelete

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