Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 12 • Winter 2004 • Featured Writer • Poetry

The Harrowing

Wayne Johns

In this version the damned look like beggars,
their patient hands. Clasping a punctured hand

to pull himself up, the man's still nude
as if he never learned of shame. And the woman

bears the green apple, unbitten after all.
Behind her, emerging from the arch,

a monstrous lizard clamped onto her shoulders.
She touches its talon with what must be love.

Each face is repeated to show they're divided.
Like us, they've grown indifferent from waiting.

The background is a wash of red swirled
with smoke, or are those souls rising?

On the wall encircling the lake
of fire, a pair of stark figures --

one scales a ladder, one waves a banner,
or is that a body hanging from a pole,

and is it being lowered or lifted?
A black dog flees, another waits.

An elaborate winged beast, coiled snakes
for horns, bursts through the gate, raising

a splintered board like a sword
above the survivors. Their sallow faces

like unlit tapers. You'd think, at least,
they'd look happy to be saved. In disbelief

they move through the blaze, unamazed
that their beautiful flesh doesn't burn.

Wayne Johns

Wayne Johns's poems have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The Cortland Review, Image, The James White Review, Meridian, and Ploughshares, among others. His work has appeared in several anthologies, including American Diaspora (University of Iowa Press) and This New Breed: Gents, Bad Boys & Barbarians 2 (Windstorm). He received a Reader's Choice Award from Prairie Schooner, an Editor's Choice Award from Mid-American Review, and the first annual Frank O'Hara Award for his chapbook "An Invisible Veil Between Us" (Thorngate Road).

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