Table of Contents:
Adam Scheffler, “Checkout”
Megan Pinto, “Faith”
A poem can’t tell you what it’s like
to be 83 and seven hours deep
into a Christmas Eve shift
at Walmart, cajoling
beeps from objects like the secret
name each of us will never
be sweetly called, can’t show
you her face and eyes like the
night sky, or the white-haired
man wearing reindeer horns,
mumbling into his collar’s
static-y radio-gadget; a poem
can only mention her eyes,
shocking blue, like desert
pools, the red & white of her
Santa hat, or take note of the
little carts carrying each beached
customer to the doom of their
product; but a poem can place
this curse upon the Waltons:
that they be given her job
manning the conveyer as it
rattles its barren Torah through
miles of product, or be given a list
of every item they sell, and be
made to wander like Israelites
back and forth through their
endless stores until they find them,
until their heads and toes grow
lighter, and Christmas music
lifts and carries them & lifts
and carries them, like each
one is a burst suitcase of
money blizzarding open.
Abraham held his son’s bound hands
as he led him up the mountain’s narrow path. He could not look
below, at the city’s streets of stone, or how small fires in the square
still blazed. He had a date
with a dagger, and fate. O perilous
night, O darkening sky.
You smell coffee stains, and the skin below your blouse burns.
You know you’ve hit rock bottom when
it’s Friday night, again
and here you are, in a church basement, holding tight a stranger’s hand.
In your new life, you say things like Hi, my name is and
thank you for your and
what I’m trying to say is and,
—you’ve always been a good student. You recite the 12 steps, under your breath.
Outside, it is night: lights flood the sky, the stars
tonight are just thumbtacks. You pinned
small notes to your wall, reminding you
to do this,
searching out the eyes of strange men in the street. You like
the women’s groups best. In the women’s groups
you think about sex, less. It was an angel
who struck the dagger from Abraham’s hand, and
you imagine her awash
with the kind of light that stars cast
in the jungle, like how once you slept in a hammock
your backpack a pillow
your hammock a blanket
and it was enough:
a kind of light like that.
you were stuck on the train between an ad
for cancer care and Klimt, peering out
at the darkening sky. Even the tortured body
was beautiful in that light, tonight
there was only the quiet, falling
snow, and a man
reaching for his bagged beer can.
Kierkegaard says to love God without faith is to see
only the self, and you think of the hospital across the street.
All night, Mt. Sinai will sit quietly, its fluorescent hallways marked
by every human grief—someone
crying in a lobby chair, someone
reciting childhood prayers. Will God
draw close if you call?
Last night, another party. You hid in the bathroom stall. You were
thirsty, so you brought
water to your lips,
you were careful
and still, water
kept falling through your hands.
Adam Scheffler grew up in Berkeley, received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his PhD in English from Harvard. His first book of poems – A Dog’s Life – was the winner of the 2016 Jacar Press Book Contest. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Yale Review, The American Poetry Review, The Cincinnati Review, Verse Daily, Poem-a-Day, and many other venues. He teaches in the Harvard College Writing Program.
Megan Pinto‘s poems can be found or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Meridian, The Cortland Review, and Indiana Review among others. She has received scholarships from Bread Loaf and the Port Townsend Writer’s Conference, and an Amy Award from Poets & Writers. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson.