Jet Contrails

Someone, through carelessness, has scratched the sky.
Brand new sky too, hard won from the night.
Every day the people polish
the sky with their faces, like goddamn
hopeless flowers before the plow.
And every day return again
the warm jets, leaving only
accusing fingers.

On Seeing a Picture of His Mother

Nineteen years of replaying the scene
of your back as you walk away
under parking lot lampposts, 
every leaving since touched with the tone
Here I go and I’m not coming back. 
You taught me to cut quickly
all the ropes and push the zeppelin
from the tower, to land here and there
but never hold long enough
to be left like you left me. 
The rule of your last lesson
I’ve carried with me, and when we meet
in that field beyond right and wrong
I will bury it in the deep earth.

Gary Charles Wilkens, Assistant Professor of English at Norfolk State University, was the winner of the 2006 Texas Review Breakthrough Poetry Prize for his first book, The Red Light Was My Mind. His poems have appeared in more than 60 online and print venues, among them: The Texas Review, The Cortland Review, the Adirondack Review, The Prague Revue, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume II: Mississippi.

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Image credit: Martin Parr