» Poetry

Call and Response

It is a hinge.

It is a flash splintering

the sky,

then a rumble.

Under ripe light,

it is pollen

furring the bees.

It is a wood thrush’s

song rising

from the backyard’s

green pulpit.

Over and over

one calls, insistent.

Then another

parses, flute-like

as the head

bobs. Tail flicks.

It is the link

embedded in us.

Think of

the old gospels

which require

a beating heart,

church hands

to answer.

No matter what

form it takes

it seems impossible

to disentangle.

And still the God-weld

split, despite my bows

and prayers

to save my son.

You were silent.



This poem originally appeared in our 46.2 issue, and was a runner-up for The Florida Review‘s 2022 Humboldt Poetry Prize.

Prize judge David Keplinger’s citation: “In this delicately achieved lyric, like the prayer it references, rife with “pollen/furring the bees,” and the “backyard’s/green pulpit,” the natural world is imbued with sacred qualities, though the speaker’s calls to save the unnamed son are not answered. Nevertheless, the poem honors the tangled music of this realm, offering the song of the wood-thrush, “flute-like,” as embodiment of this grief.”


Madelyn Garner

Recent winner of The Western Humanities Review Mountain West Award, Madelyn Garner’s writing has appeared in Best American Poetry, Alaska Quarterly Review, Tar River Poetry, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and The Pinch, among others.  Her poetry collection, Hum of Our Blood, selected for publication by the Tupelo/3:A Taos Press from the July Open, was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award.