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"River Ripe" & "Iconography: Fashion in the Millenial Imagination" by Jessica Willingham


For Linda Hogan, for Ai

I swim in a river ripe, a ringlet wheel though

It is a bad place after hours. Wild, unpredictable, yanked around.

I fell sleepy to traffic sounds, warm pangs for a car, not a river.

Like a barn sparrow after cream, not a bud.

To dream of not a wheel, but a chain

Dragging me out of the river.


What kind of luck dangles from a chain?

Angles and four-leaf clovers, crosses, found coins.

A gold-patina prophet is $3 from SHEIN, and mass is held

at the Met, and who is the martyr now? Me or you?

Isn’t it holy to find yourself divine? To see your likeness

in the heavens, where everything is eternity and so soft —

lit with a camera flash, fluffy filter strobes, and a film that softens me

to you.

Was this chapel saved by donations

dropped in a clear Lucite box? Candles lit for a dollar a piece, long matches.

If mercy is a merchant, then I am not without

fountains, offerings, saints or symbols to purchase

or ancient superstitions, brooms and beads to inherit.

What fortune grows in a garden? Lavender,

red roses, mint, maybe. Where is grace

found there, or is the luck in these long

acrylics, magic in my fingertips? I choose

nude, now and forever. And the only garden

I know now is lucky desktop bamboo,

leaves tickling my screen.

Where is the water in little dishes?

Or golden kittens, waving me hello from a salon’s tiny temple.

We are golden kittens without milk,

orange peels and no monkeys,

chickens without heads,

temple steps and no traffic,

birds with no eaves to build within.

No harvest to burn, without smoke or grace or snakes

crackling, chanting, chirping prayers.

What comes of mass, messages, or missed trains

when I have no ticket to buy.

Jessica Willingham is a Lighthouse Writers Workshop Book Project graduate and editor at Five South. She lives and writes in Oklahoma.

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