By Forrest Houlette

Speak to me of dragons, lady,
Spin a tapestry of a tail in which we lock
The bits of our lives as crossings in thread,
The color governed by the card in the loom.
Hang our story on the wall,
Where we might relive it
By touring the room.

And when I am not so old,
Bound to that chair, infirm,
Raging against this disease,
Roll me along that I might relive the tale.

Teach me, lady, not to despair
The loss of strength and stamina,
No more than the loss of hair and color.

Lads come and go, and older grow.
Lament not this loss.
It is, after all, but the manuscript
That guides our weaving now.

Long in the future
We will wake from this dream
To our current state
And marvel that the loss seemed poignant,
Washing away the pain
At the baptismal font of time and space.

By Forrest Houlette

I would write about faith
If I could find mine,
Lost somewhere behind a case
Of bread and butter pickles
Put up in the days when I thought
That being close to the land
And trying for self-sufficiency
Was faith.

But those pickles are in a basement
In a house I once rented
And I've not put up pickles
For twenty years.

I look for it behind
Every mason jar I see,
But realize it was fragmented
Like an obsidian stone
Knapped into tools.
Something strikes the surface
And slivers of the black rock
Fly away.

Each cut is most dangerous
Immediately after the blow,
Because a thin film of water
Exudes from the rock
After the shock,
Lubricating the surface.

A good flint knapper can
Cut a set of tools from one block
And carefully reassemble
The fragments to ship
The stone to you.
As you need them,
You pry a tool from the collection
And carve or scrape or even kill.
The tools take care of your needs.
They are close to the land.

Faith is that state
When you stare into the obsidian
Deep and dark,
Like a gateway
Into a new place
That only lacks the light.

But you use to tools in living,
And one by one the consequences
Dull the tools.
You set one aside,
Sure you will always
Be able to reach it
When you need it,
And soon you are left with
Only the kernel of the block
And the memory of tools
Set to use
But no longer found.

You say to yourself
"Where is my faith?"
And you try to remember
Where the shards are
That once made that perfect block.

I will write about faith
When I can understand
How to see dark and deep
Into what is left
And see the gateway
In that tiny kernel.

"Obsequious fool,"
A voice says.
"Broadcast the kernel
To see what grows."


By Forrest Houlette

Prayer is pretending
That kneeling in a field in Tennessee
Allows you to define a world
Like a Ball mason jar
Set near the White River
In Muncie, Indiana,
Its surface flecked
With small fractures,
The glass purple with age
And exposure to sunlight.

Some young girl,
Too young to know better,
Set that jar there on a summer day
After wading in the low river
In a summer of drought,
Hoping that it would stay there,
Be permanent,
That she might find it a day later
Still there,
Proving that something does last
When you are not looking at it,
And that her agency might have some affect on the world.

She returns in a week,
And then after a month,
And after fall rains cause the river to rise,
Just to see that her jar has stayed
And to see how weather and water
Have affected it.

Prayer is believing that the changes in that jar
Are messages that some other being exists,
Who lets us know by tapping the surface
Gently but certainly,
Shaping the cone of fracture
So that a tiny bit of glass
Chips away, but never enough
To change the nature of the jar.
Just enough that the light reflects differently
Off the surface.
Just enough to say "I am here,
If you have eyes to see."


Forrest Houlette is a cognitive linguist who programs computers for a living. He has written computer books, a bibliography of nineteenth-century rhetoric, and literary criticism, having published on Gulliver's Travels and irony in general. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and is focusing on writing poetry and fiction.


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