Joan Colby

Tom Sawyer

A judge now, having read
Law, married Becky, settled in a fine house
Overlooking the Mississippi. Gruff
In a three-piece worsted, a Derby
And a gold watch, fob and chain.
Harrumphs at those gaudy rumors
Of airships and African adventures.
Frowns at rude schoolboys. He knows
Their game. The practiced trickery
Of smart alecs, their whitewashed
Duplicities. Authorizes the padlocks
For that terrifying cave where once he
And Becky wandered with their candles
Guttering as love does over the years.
He never speaks of the bloody fingerprints
Where the Indian scrabbled for light.
Carves his Sunday roast
And presides.


Wonder Woman

Laser-blue of her gaze
Confounds the evil-doers.
Flying the invisible plane
Of her resolve, she lassos truth
From liars. The supermen of
Justice confirm her as secretary.
To serve coffee. To answer phones.
She kicks up her heels
In tight scarlet boots. Leggy and determined
As the girl secretly reading
Forbidden comics in the basement
Of a city bungalow.
 
Years later, when that girl learns
She will lose a breast, she remembers
The Amazons sliced off
One pendulous tit to enable
The tendon of the bow to tighten.
That page where a woman grips with
Silver gauntlets and stands spread-legged.
The scar she’ll bear as testament
To her singular wonder.


Work Is

“All work is art.”
“Work is joy.”
A man picks up a shovel
On the coal docks, loads a barge.
His shoulders ache, his mind hauls
A thought that disappears in the sweep
Of his biceps. He’ll have a shot and beer
Once the whistle blows. His wife at home
Pushes soaking clothes through the wringer,
Hangs them up to freeze on winter’s line.
His children eat and learn.
They fidget at the table.
What would he tell them of art and joy.
Sit down. Say your prayers.


The Wave

The wave that drowns the Afghan boy
Escaping to a new life is the wave
That lifts the barge with its cargo of flowers
From the casket of a reef
And is the wave in the hair of the girl
Who dances in a rave in a slum in Edinburgh
Or the wave for which a boy with a surfboard lurks
And the wave that crashes on a beach
In an old movie to signify
Censored passion. The wave
Of starlings in their murmuration
Erases the horizon, that’s the wave
That takes a village out to sea,
The hand that lifts and falls.

© Joan Colby

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, and Midwestern Gothic. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 17 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which was awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Daily and another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. Her newest book, Carnival, was published by FutureCycle Press in 2016. She has another book coming from Kelsay Press in 2017 titled The Seven Heavenly Virtues. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.

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