BESTOWAL
by Kerry James Evans

Take my hands,
and their fat-veined disposition,
their failure to hold a bowl of chowder
with grace.  I hammer
with the confidence
of a meerkat.  I give you
the meerkat and the hammer,
my squeaky wrist, my forehead.
Besides, what is a forehead,
but a continent
waiting to be carved?
Please, take my expensive,
cavity-ridden teeth.
Here is my old watch.
Be sure to check the date
at the first of the month.
Change the battery once a year.
Categorically speaking,
I cannot part with my desk,
but I can bequeath the chair.
It is a good chair.
It swivels and leans.  When you
leave, I often glide down the hallway,
whirling about like a galaxy
in exile, but even runaway stars
need a home.  Therefore,
I give you our home
and the painting of birches
we bought at a yard sale for $10,
then hung in the living room
later that day.  I give it all
because—like the green swirl
of magnetic light hovering above
Norway, everything I am
could have ever only belonged to you.













by Kerry James Evans

          1
The sun never entered her room.
Father hung one tablecloth
and two wool blankets
as curtains for insulation.

The basement, damp
from a leaking water heater,
calcium zigzagging a trail
of white to the drain,

the basement of one window,
one heater, one child,
was left cold and unfinished.

                      •

Exposed wires wrapped around studs;
a table saw stood unplugged
and covered by cobwebs.

She reordered shelves
of car parts, stacked
carburetor against gearshift,

and convinced
herself ordering those surroundings
brought Father closer.

                      •

She kept an empty Mason jar at all times.


         
 2
Father bought a dehumidifier
for her birthday.

She was disappointed
and proud.  She showed it

to Mother, to Friend
who would visit Sundays

after church—the building
she was never to see,

the oak and cherry pews,
the painting draped

behind the pastor
and his altar, the close

to one hundred in attendance
passing collection plates

from left to right
and the four deacons

walking the plates to the altar,
organ directing a hymn.


          
3
She matched car parts to a congregation.
Scripture clattered from the table saw
working as Pastor.  Friend

could not comfort her.  When he left,
she wandered the wilderness
of her basement, kicking a brass

doorknob across the floor,
where it wobbled beneath a pallet
of unused crown molding,

the ends sawed at forty-five
degree angles, splinters
stuck to the floor.

She crawled into the cabinetry
and found a spilled bottle of oil.

                      •

She remembered staining her dress.


          
4
She also remembered eyes
jumping at the bottom of her jar.
         

          
5
Occasionally, she climbed the stairs
and knocked on the door
to Family.  At breakfast Mother
would take her hand, ask:

And will you be eating with us?
But she retreated
to the basement.  She ate standing,
looking at her covered

window, and the dehumidifier
never actually worked,
was a better altar, the drain
a better organ,

the hymns falling from cedar
boards that were ceiling
and floor,
that hung above her.


          
6
When she wasn’t listening to hymns,
she collected spiders,

and when she found three,
she pulled the Mason jar from the congregation,

removed the lid,
rusted around the spiraled rim,

and with a screwdriver, she corralled
the spiders into the jar.

                      •

Always the spider with the longest legs won,
two fighting at a time,

one spider waiting its turn,
and she thought it strange how the spiders

were so accepting of death,
plunging into the jowls

of one another, as if they might be reborn.
They weren’t.
                        No spider lived.


          
7
She killed the one who killed the other,
then set the jar back on its pew,
next to the mower.  Friend
never saw her kill spiders.

This was private, reserved
for the backroom of the church,
the congregation
listening to the sermon,

their eyes forward,

each dust bunny floating
between members, Acts 28
the topic of discussion,
because she remembered

Friend explaining the sermon
of shipwrecked Paul
escaping to Melita.  
And the barbarous
people shewed us no little kindness:

for they kindled a fire and received us

every one, because of the present rain,
and because of the cold.
The congregation sat silent,
Melita as distant as Friend.

She plugged the drain with rags,
but the leak was slow.
The church did not flood.
Her ship did not wreck.
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Literature
 

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 13, Number 2
(Fall 2018)

Copyright © 2018
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Apple
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.

www.applevalleyreview.com
ESCAPE TO MELITA
LITTLE MORE THAN
PNEUMONIA
by Kerry James Evans

Lungs lined with green lead,
each cough an alveoli
handhold, and at 35

I’ve landed in a drafty apartment,
where the neighbor’s cigarette smoke
seeks me like a feral cat

bounding through soybeans
for the world’s cutest mouse.
Sure, it’s more than a hole

in the wall or a boot
standing free among the crows.
It’s a constant struggle

for the right to claim the fencepost,
and I’m three quilts deep,
thinking I can sweat it out,

when Dr. Oz appears from behind
the electric curtain
proselytizing the iron skillet

as a new way to Christ.
It’s more about the return
than the leaving, but

even this is difficult to believe
after a pulled tooth.
A root canal gone bad.

I never enjoyed that tooth, dead
in my mouth, but my lack
of breath—these

misanthropic windups feeding an end.
Where does it end?
Am I not more
            of a line than a point?

_____________________________________________________


Kerry James Evans is the author of Bangalore, a collection
of poems published in 2013 by Copper Canyon Press.  His
poems have appeared in
New England Review, Ploughshares,
Agni, The Missouri Review, Passages North, Prairie
Schooner
, and elsewhere.  Evans has a Ph.D. in English from
Florida State University and an MFA in creative writing from
Southern Illinois University and was the recipient of a 2015
NEA Fellowship and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from
Sewanee Writers’ Conference.  He is an Assistant Professor
of English at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.  


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