Two Poems by Lissa Kiernan

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3rd Annual Contest Finalist



And there was a river streaming from the right hand,
and beautiful trees rose up from it;
and whosoever shall eat of them shall live forever.
                              — Barnabas 11:10


Whereas my father, who was rarely ill in his life,
lay failing in a bed shrouded white and verily
said unto me: knowst thou that my neighbor,
too, has a brain sickness?

Wherefore he made his home a stone’s throw
down shady unpaved roads. Past the Eagle's Nest,
Salmon Ladder, and Hairpin Turn, until at last
a silver shiv glinted beside, more stream than river,
more rill, at summer’s peak, than stream.

It was good, this radiant child of the Deerfield River.
He would sit atop a sturdy rock and watch the water
rise. Mark whence it heaved and whither it sighed.
And true, it became his habit to bathe there—

blind to what simmered upstream in sapphire
pools, heating grassy banks where children
turn cartwheels, dodge balls, play tag. Where
corn is tilled and squash blossoms. Milk-
animals graze on brilliant greens, udders aglow
in the moon. And lo, one day my father’s brain-
films cast shadows. Men in white coats proclaimed:

Rightfully, we do not know from whence it came.
It is possible it is genetic. Furthermore,
it may have been trauma. We suspect, though,
that it is something in the environment.



Eclogue on Decommissioning

But what saith the Lord abolishing the temple? Learn ye.
Who hath measured the heaven with a span,
Or hath measured the earth with his hand?
                                  — Barnabus 16:2


Fog scrims the Deerfield River Valley. Leaves bleed
through, bent south. Gourds bloat, rupture on vines.

Our plant is no exception. It, too, has begun to dismantle
in much the same way a glass dish, hot from the oven

would crack if doused in cold water. Where to begin?
No blueprint—and each pipe, seal and bearing

must be mourned and laid to rest. No wrecking ball,
no countdown to blast. Make no mistake,

for each method, a cost. Whether to store dry or stay
wet addles your brain. Odds for cross-contamination

curdle your spleen. Perhaps we ought not place blame.
Go on. Bury it. As quickly and quietly as you can.

Dump it in dark trenches in towns with jowled porches,
and slow swaying stoplights. Mottling a river—

with no will left to say no.




Lissa Kiernan was born in Massachusetts and lives in Brooklyn, New York. More of her work can be found in Albatross, Canary, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Whale Sound, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Stonecoast and an MA from The New School. More at is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.