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Ralph Monday

Voyage, August 1935

August 1945

To gaze at the perfect leaves on a Japanese
maple, early August 1945 before a burning
people had blood turned into shadows on a
wall, this fighting no more unusual than a
thousand centuries of previous bleeding.

Put history away, close the book’s hardened
spine, let the blood clots be bookmarks,
Enola Gay a memory faded away like the face
of a lover that one can’t remember, this version
doomed to lie unread on a shelf like all others.

Why is it that we cannot let the seasons
be, apples that thunder the earth in red waves,
welcomed sorrows of an uprooted tree, bare deserts
of Normandy stretched before us like time
wrung out?

Those Odyssean ships, clothed in the colors of the
allies, bobbing up and down in odors of grief,
plowed the sea so that Enola Gay would years
later fly with pregnant death in her belly, her metal
waters breaking in a blinding crescendo.


Those with soft forest eyes
who walk the baffled streets
looking for salvation’s grace
in a country song.

All do whether knowingly or not.
or somewhere in southern church
pews where old women mix earnest
prayers that rise to heaven &

are met by the faded songs of
Voyager I in interstellar space
beeping humanity’s promise from an
incomprehensible dark

between suns gorged on hydrogen
buffets, machine birthed by human
hands, soaring blindly toward the

Those hands, those eyes, that plea
to the skies from church pews,
schools, the cries of lovers in
rusted cars—

Oh the yearning for those places
beyond the apple’s bite, the ancient
hill. The stars are streams like
brooks running through gardens.

We, the stuff of blackberry dreams,
ecclesiastical pronouncements, of
bony moon & past thorns worn like
honored crowns & threadbare shoes—

one foot desert pushed before the other,
journey of flesh & spirit mirrored
by Voyager’s mechanical soul passing
on & away to an unknown dark.

Bio: Ralph Monday is Professor of English at RSCC in Harriman, TN. Hundreds of poems published. Books: All American Girl and Other Poems, 2014. Empty Houses and American Renditions, 2015. Narcissus the Sorcerer, 2015. Bergman’s Island & Other Poems, 2021, and a humanities text, 2018. The Book of Appalachia forthcoming 2023.

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