The Smell of Rain
From the assumed safety of our front porch,
my sister, brothers, and I watch a storm
blacken the Ohio River Valley,
rubbing out even steel mill smokestacks.
Lightning crackles the sky
like scratch art, God’s nails black with India ink.
Thunder rumbles. My bones rattle,
reassembling as they will.
When the wind ruffles the leaves
of Ciocia Olga’s pear tree, I taste
the smell of rain, pure as holy water.
With each breath, I fuse with the cycle of continuity.
And as we wait for the tempest
to reach us, I study my sibling’s faces,
never so filled with amazement and fear,
and I wonder if this is what it is like to be an adult.
Silence as a Second Language
I don’t know what to say,
so I watch Mom and Dad
weave without effort
through the crowd of people,
some smelling of whiskey
shots from the tavern next door,
some making talk smaller than ants.
From the rear I see the head
of the body, hair combed for church,
ear pale as a goldfish kept in the dark.
The image fades in and out
like jittery 8mm film
as mourners zigzag
the small viewing room.
I gasp for air.
Dad gives me the high sign.
I join my parents in front
of the coffin. Beside Mom
on the kneeler, I bow my head
and sneak a peek at the neck,
look for rope marks, wonder why
the branch didn’t break.
To leave we must address the grieving,
the inconsolable. Inaudible
condolence. I extend my hand
to the father of that boy who hanged himself,
and he yanks me toward him,
my teeth grinding against vest buttons,
cutting my lip as he squeezes.
In the quivering of his belly
I feel the dammed tears of a grown man.
I don’t say a thing.
When he lets go, I feel the escape
momentary as a kiss.
Before leaving, an attendant points
at the registry. I sign,
a drop of blood spotting the page,
recorded proof that I am here.
The Nature of Kites
Before daily Mass, Monsignor
expects altar boys to make Confession.
One by one, like a firing squad,
six wait in the servers’ sacristy
as each boy takes his turn kneeling
in the priest’s sacristy
in front of the seated Monsignor.
The nuns taught us
that we confess our sins
to Christ himself,
the Monsignor, God’s Vichy.
Through the trapdoor behind my head,
he cleans out the transgressions
of a nine-year-old, cobwebs
cleared by Manus Christi,
the hands of Christ,
fingers sticky with cotton candy sins.
As I kneel in surplus and cassock,
I repeat the same secrets,
but in the end I am absolved
like a spoonful of Tang in water.
When I rise, I feel no shame,
like Adam and Eve before the fig leaves,
like a kite soaring toward God
until moments later I see Roxanne
in the front pew,
the girl who sits across from me,
her dark hair, her Lip Licker’s gloss,
her voice when she asks for a piece of paper,
and I feel the string pull,
the kite tailspinning back to earth,
too late for do-overs,
Monsignor placing the wafer on my tongue,
my hands already dirty.
donnarkevic lives in Weston, West Virginia. Recent poetry has appeared in Bijou Poetry Review, Naugatuck River Review, Prime Number, and Off the Coast. Poetry chapbooks include Laundry (2005), published by Main Street Rag. Plays have received readings in Chicago, New York, and Virginia. FutureCycle Press published Admissions, a collection of poems, in 2013.