The Violation and the Laughter
But the LORD said, “Have you any right to be angry?” Jonah 4:4
At 21, I chose the wrong alley
in the wrong Southern city.
The barrel of the gun shone like aluminum foil,
reflecting distant street lights
and the pale fear of my temple.
The man with the gun laughed as the other took
what never occurred to me to give.
The violation or the laughter—
which was worse? What is forgiveness but a casket that will never
close? What is shame but a mirror over
a calm lake, reflections exchanged
to an unsteady infinity?
After, they took turns kicking
and then nothing.
I was left to crawl and bleed
out of the alley,
the belly of the whale.
I dream sometimes of a lighthouse guarding a silver sea.
Inside I am protected by tides
and deceptive undertow.
I more often dream that I stand outside,
waves of a thousand naked corpses
smashing face down on the stones.
I search for a blanket to cover them.
The lookout window torchlit
and I can’t find the door.
Worse are the dreams
where I stand on top of the light,
the sky a sheet of foil
and as the light revolves
I see my reflection from every angle,
in my hand a knife and at my feet
a bruised 21 year old.
I am Abraham and I am Isaac with no angel in sight.
On the hardest nights, elements combine,
nightmarish variation on a nightmare theme.
I look down and see the dead.
I look up to see only myself in the mirrored sky
and I must either stare into my own eyes and see the blood-splattered knife
or turn away to face the darkness
Not All Canaries are in Coal Mines
The chicken coop when the dog broke in,
the police siren outside
a neighbor’s house.
The haunted farmhouse that the rain rotted
leaving only skeletons of porches,
abandoned clothes lines.
This is the executioner’s wife.
This is the executed’s son.
The stray who birthed her kittens
in the small town Lowe’s.
The bully after the suicide.
The bridge the bullied jumped from.
The water that received and carried him
upset by passing barges.
This bank, this absence that lets the water in.
The tub for the blood to spill
and the sink for the meat to blanche in.
Joey Connelly is the Assistant Professor of English at Kentucky Wesleyan College. His work has appeared in New Plains Review, PANK, Queer South Anthology, St. Sebastian Review, Southern Humanities Review, and other publications. His chapbook, Velocity of Slugs, was published by Etchings Press in 2015.