What’s here is here, almost none of the time—

no matter what clever slogan your coffee cup says,

 

no matter which way

the plastic flamingos are facing,

 

and even if there was a happy ending.

 

I’m nervous,

to the point of blurred vision.  My breathing feels

like a broken train of thought,

 

the actuality of my fears, derailed and spreading

 

small fires

all across town.

 

This realization that somewhere, far enough away,

those cataclysmic flames are just a distant light;

 

that even a mass extinction

is just a distant light.

 

Which is to say, somewhere else, half buried in the snow,

 

a dying coyote is hallucinating warmth

and maybe the Harvest moon,

hung by yellow rope

in a December sky.

 

Which is also to say,

despite our awareness of absent mercy,

every star is someone’s final illusion,

 

not a redeal,

but one last ember

of comfort.

 

by John Leonard

John Leonard is a substitute teacher and professor of composition. He holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University South Bend. His previous works have appeared in Twyckenham Notes, Poetry Quarterly, The Jawline Review, Fearsome Critters: A Millennial Arts Journal, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. He was the 2016 inaugural recipient of the Wolfson Poetry Award and 2018 recipient of the Josephine K. Piercy Memorial Award. John was recently appointed assistant editor of Twyckenham Notes. He lives in Elkhart, Indiana with his wife, three cats, and two dogs.

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