Rina L. Terry: 2 poems

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

My Brother Called To Say

He called to say the house
is gone, the house burned
down 			to the ground
he was panting 
like when he needed quieting
from nightmares
			in that house
where we survived what
is not in the ashes,	the house

wall-papered, linoleumed,
set back off the highway,
just three of us moved in,
 then he came sickly 
grew up fearful,	into the house

where things got worse,
couldn’t keep out
black snakes that slithered
into the basement, hung there
off the plumbing pipes,
shed their skins, left them behind
in the potato cellar	shriveled
staple we found in the barn,
the hayloft.  The lush fields 

changlings—		left the house for

plowing, discing, planting,
hoeing, weeding, picking,
sorting, selling,
cover crop sprouted, stood tall,
bales for market,
then the snow fell

inside the house	 
nothing changed

a bathtub where we soaked
in our own dirt.  Hunched 
under the spigot to wash 
in the same water
both of us 
dark-haired, olive-skinned
children		of the house

of the two who seethed 
in the house
shadowed by oak and pine
where they learned to despise 
us instead of themselves

			house now ashes
to ashes
dust to—

over the field
over him
over me


The same dream lies 
under my pillow 
waiting for the final sigh
just before sleep.  Psyche
strains against slumberous
reprieve, dreads the collapsing
into endless catatonic
drifting hell.  You are there,

repentant, pleading, 	
in the bed we soiled
with mutual disgust
long before we called it
off.  Which hate was stronger,
which the final offense?

Surrounded by life
on this prickly planet,
the so-muchness of it
begging for slumber’s 
soliloquy.  All pathways hiss
Travail or River of Madness.

Insults oozed up 
until we waded in
hatred’s marled tar pit,
blistered in the flames
that flew from our tongues.

What exactly is alone
not lonely or
an individual 
apart from
and if 
there is a soul,
unless our mistakes are
portals of discovery,
unless regret offers
an unguent of redemption.

Rina Terry has both an academic and a clergy background and spent years as Supervisor of Religious Services in a men’s state prison.  Her first book, Cardboard Piano, is themed on her years in the prison work.  She has published book reviews, short fiction, poems and essays in Christian Century, Press 1, qarttsiluni, Palette Poetry, McQueen’s quinterly, and Drexel Online Journal.  In addition, with Dr. David Lester, she has published academic articles related to poets and suicide.  She has completed a two-month residency at Vermont Studio Center and looks forward to a month-long fellowship at Hawthornden Castle Writers Program in Scotland.  Terry, a Southern New Jersey native, currently lives and writes in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

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