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Volume 12 • Number 2 • Fall - Winter 2020

Mark Simpson

"In troubled times you've heard it said"

Something about a river and the saving
shore; how dark gives way to light,
how things upside down come right.

I believed it once: an exorcism that chased
bad to good and finally let me sleep at night.
Or maybe it didn’t; maybe it was just that sleek
capsule of Seconal and its ceaseless dream.

In these troubled times, I’m not hearing much
except traffic on the highway, a raven call.
I see a black bird flying. The sound of wings
in troubled air and then the troubled air.

The title is from Daniel Edward Moore, “Jordan, Not the River,” Eastern Iowa Review (forthcoming), 2020.


Fragments of Minneapolis Fall as Ash

Murder. And then in the city tonight
demonstrations and the please of the dead
man then the clear-cracking, figuring up
into riots, the dead man saying please please
and the naked meat of looting: shop,
stores, “their very backyard” and the dead man:
please, please, please.

Which apparently were his last words.
Plainly. The A-roll from someone’s phone,
the organizing and reorganizing of field
into new imbalance, loose, “out of mind,”
the variations and subtleties of flames,
night-refracted light, pain-caught, all

improvidence one burning bush
answering another.

Shit, man.

And what did it say
to the ravished air,
this tidal variation of
the all-along, itself refracted
like the empty bird’s nest
in the one tree that did not

I’ve never touched a flame of it,
wet matches, spare tinder;
the meandering I, angling for
another view—no problem

some said, playing the film again,


the digital,
the only salient thing left
in America.


A chill spring.
I light a fire in the cast iron stove
in solidarity with the looters
of America like me,
comfortable in my easy chair,
having taken my share of the available.

Today, the large stone in my hand,
the ecstasy of throwing it
at everything I’ve not done.

I like what I’ve taken.
You have to break a few windows
to get what you want, raise
a little hell on the hometown streets.
That warming fire soon conflagration,
retina on fire, skin one long burn.

Mark Simpson is the author of Fat Chance (Finishing Line Press). Recent work appears in Columbia Journal (Online), Third Wednesday, and Apeiron Review. He lives on Whidbey Island, Washington.