Issue 2.5

May 2024

In This Issue:
Fishing Cousins
Zachary Daniel
Culling Season
C.W. Bryan
If I Be a Man
Jonathan Ukah

Zachary Daniel
Fishing Cousins
Fishing Cousins The skin of the water shone like quartz and when the sun sat low under the hills, like jasper. When the tide dipped out pockets of tadpoles could be found circling rock hollows like captives. We fished bluegill, walleye, knew the best spots to crook our poles, how to wedge them in cracks of limestone and let them sit 'til a line dipped long. You taught me to flick the rod up to set the hook and how to sit patient as a prospector panning gold, how to nonchalantly pluck a sprig of wild wheat and hold it in the mouth, humming old tunes your daddy taught you before he chased some blonde to Dallas. I think you hated that old shotgun house and that’s why we spent no time in it, were too ashamed of your mom’s Southern Baptist supplications to look her in the face, hated the way washed things never quite came out clean. We found plates of shale or slate and ate last night’s bologna sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, waded in creek water up to our hips, lifted cigarettes from your brother’s dresser and under lips tucked dip from his unlocked Ranger’s broken glove box. Our self-enforced curfew was sundown, when light enough remained to slip back through boxelder and sugar maple, army crawl under rust red barbed wire and shuffle thin through gaps in briar only we had mapped, that would be lopped back each summer; each summer the trail we walked, it seemed, denser than ever.
C.W. Bryan
Culling Season
Culling Season My short apple tree moves in the garden, coming or going draped in a white smock. Its blossoms swan- like swim in the current of air. I have brought the axe. No fruit or friction throws their pithy judgment my way. I myself am the reaper of my grandfather’s sowing. He once prayed at church every Sunday, twice on Easter. I have his hooked nose that presses on the glass of every window where the sun rises, the transparency only visible by the stolen oil of my face. It glistens as if anointed. I myself am culled, cursed not by generations yet, but by the breeze as it slowly persists like a shaded snowbank. Two years the moonstruck eye of an oil lantern roared in the window, its flame heckled by a stiff breeze that moved with all the urgency of Iphigenia, all the innocence. Under the lily-shadow of the moon-blackened lake, the silver-breasted cob floats, the cold wind sliding off his smooth lapels, his thick chest a dam for his copper children as they thrash wildly behind, seeking the lighthouse safety of a windbreak. It comes in the form of a hundred-year promise. The apples hang loosely far above them. From my porch, we breathe the same air. A sound like a whetstone at my approach. The fowl huddle into themselves, nestled like clover at the base of the tree. I have never swung this axe, seen its iron half-moon pare the wind as easily as an orange. It glistens with expectations, rings with jubilation as it tears the gray bark away with its incisors. The first apple falls, but the birds will not scare.
C.W. Bryan
While Hiking Kennesaw Mountain
While Hiking Kennesaw Mountain The mountain fox takes the lead, his wiry frame monolith-thin, breaking the brush muzzle first with the same sharp momentum as a bayonet. He pares back April to pad across the pinestraw, prayer-quiet and practiced, like so many Hail Marys before sunset.
Jonathan Ukah
If I Be a Man
If I Be a Man I could create victory out of every defeat, or honour at the back of dishonour, recessed, you who are invisible, in whom everything is visible; one part of my back to celebrate your success, the other, the shadow, is to mourn your failures; something to die for and another thing to live for, when life is a split image, a valley, or a phantom with the depth of a mountain dancing on water, and the shallowness of a river revving in the sky, a desert like a dessert, dryness is wetness, where the body wilts for the soul to flourish, where the vanity of the substance is unsorted, wriggles forward like the substance of the shadow; and the surface assuming the light, the mirror of the glitter through the underside. Whatever lies beneath the ground is the place where there is movement, where the hills rise; it is what illuminates my life to the core, though we live a life of dust and ashes and of light shining through the pits of darkness. There is no saving except through death, no brokenness without being complete, and the man who errs is the same who forgives. If I am a man who runs and walks at the same time, sleeps and wakes up in the thicket of the night, if I kill an animal without a name, should I eat it or save it? Let me not to the marriage of complexities, where regret, doubt, sadness and hazard of my body will find the air to blossom and multiply into despair. Here, all impossibilities merge into possibilities, and I’m rising like a phoenix when I’m falling. Since my mother said that the power of life and death was implanted on the tongue like teeth and gum, I have decided to pluck out my tongue to spite my mouth; there will be no dying through my tongue while I live. If I were a man of few words, I would dive into the sea, and emerge without a trace of water as a ghost.
Jim Stewart
October Morning After Rain
October Morning After Rain You learn to see the light this way, before dawn shatters the mirror puddles, the air  wrung out enough to blow dry the skunk  stripe you’d get crossing the bridge.  But the street glistens tintype silver with headlights. The new garbage trucks blink like Christmas lights, green, yellow, red and green. The East River splashes  crazy, trying to jump the sea wall.  The RGB signs on the food truck  curve and spin sandwiches and drinks.  The city pouts in the mist like Vaseline on the lens, looking so much younger, more innocent, so like a sucker, you give it another chance. 

The Pierian Springs Logo