Posted by: Rachel Mallino | March 30, 2009

Dysfunctional Batch #3 – Justin Evans

About the (dys)functional poet:
Justin Evans lives with his wife and three sons in rural Nevada, where he teaches History, Honors Seminar and Creative Writing at the local high school.  His poetry has appeared in Petroglyph, Tryst, RE:AL, and In Posse Review.  He has poetry forthcoming at Limpwrist and The Onion River Review.  His latest chapbook, Working in the Bird House, was released from Foothills Publishing in 2008.


After the Photograph of the Lynching
of Tom Shipp & Abe Smith

Walk past the shock of corpses, two black men
hanging tenuously from the broad reach

of a maple tree’s two thick splayed branches,
bloodied clothes torn and re-wrapped around them
from some grotesque sense of modesty. Look

past Abe’s neck, straining from his body’s weight

about to disconnect, dangling like bait.
Pause next to the young couple holding hands,
the man wrapping his fat little fingers
around the girl’s thumb, making quite certain
she does not get too close. It’s strange to think
small acts of caring and love can wander
into the most horrific occurrence―
how a curt smile can serve to make us blink.

Just This

When I think of night I never think sky
burning black or constellations.

I consider sleep, family, brief
moments I am awake at odd

intervals. I never look for the moon
at night. Sooner or later it always appears

and I am forgiven. Instead, I try
to find the moon when it is still day,

predict where it will meet the horizon, guess
how many days I have walked oblivious

to its pale form
in the pale blue sky.

And This

There was always a river between us.
No, a gulf― an insurmountable pass

for which I have never felt like bridging.

No, that too is a lie.

For years I lay awake nights trying

to imagine myself across that distance,

draft or render a drawing

which could scaffold the years of work

the two of us has undertaken

on opposite shores, in opposite directions:

You running from me, me chasing you

the long way around, searching the earth

always making landfall after your departure.

That was our way. But what of your death?

Does it really matter whether it was literal

or figurative? We never met. There were times

we came close enough to shake hands

or see a smile, but nothing one might call

a true reunion, so let’s keep it simple.



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