The stubborn rose fights
today’s unexpected wind
until its head bleeds— 

frantically circles
the indistinct opponent,
grapples with a ghost.

Dressed for the season,
my guest taps at the window,
sings a Christmas dirge. 

These changing seasons
don’t fall into place like gears;
their chains surprise me. 

The stems and vines bare
a weight I can’t imagine
bind me to heartaches—

petals shaken free,
the buds lost to the first frost,
digging six feet down

is never enough
when all these hearty regrets
taste perennial.

My inheritance—
subsisting on tainted roots,
swallowing the jig—

I could spend all night
counting the ways to measure
untapped potential,

constructing cages
from the damning pronouncements
I lend my critics.

Your lessons are chains
slowly poisoning the blood
shed in the garden

where a thorn-pricked thumb
loses its grip on things sons
should never carry.  

Golden Silence

From this angle, a day’s last rays make embers of cattails
bent in supplication to an unrepentant wind trying to force
the Colorado into retrograde. A fleet of satellites sail

across a dimming sky eager to unzip the last sheets of shine
and stretch the crepe-paper clouds until each atom crumbles
then falls into its place among these desert sands. I am fine

with the speed at which the light dissolves after it affirmed
all the life one can handle in a day, begged of me this single
question: Will our cities or forests be the first things burned

in another summer of our discontent? Thanks be to currents
that know how fast to wash old things away, though birds
carve bee lines in the twilight masonry as an act of defiance.

A swimmer cuts a single stitch in burnished water, contemplates
their species and motivation here an empire east of Capistrano,
a conspiracy west of Baltimore. On shifting sands he hesitates

here at the edge of the sickening conquest and considers the idea
there are vultures circling in advance of a reaping. There are so
many fences to pull down and bones to repatriate yet no panacea

for the wounds made manifest by American sins. The horizon
burnished in umber and violet wars with a vanishing sky flush
with the beacons of passing planes, the nervous conversation

between the frogs, the waterfowl, and ancient high-tension lines.
It wraps like an eddy around the bather who holds his tongue
with considerable valor as the engine of a passing angler whines.

Photo by Silvestri Matteo on Unsplash.

D. E. Kern

D. E. Kern is a writer and teacher from Bethlehem, Pa. His work appears in theAppalachian Review,Owen Wister Review,Rio Grande Review, andSierra Nevada Reviewamong others. He teaches English and directs the Honors Program at Arizona Western College. He lives in Parker, AZ, with his gorgeous and inspiring wife Neesha and enjoys fishing and spending time on his in-laws' farm in Minnesota, where he basically does more fishing and plays with the dog.