Russell Rowland

Ex-Husbands, Ex-Wives

Acknowledge the smashed potsherds,

but waste no time scavenging them

from barren ground—some missing,


assemblage impossible.  Fall foliage

and windswept dust will cover them.

Turn it all over to the archaeologists.


Springtime is for washing windows,

except broken frames, absent panes

nobody opened before they leaped.


Embarrassing document?  Rip it up

into confetti, till no sentence stands

complete, no subject connected to


an object.  Tear names from dates.

Dispose in separate bags of trash,

then take each to a different dump.


To stuff a makeshift cushion, fill

any shirt or nightgown left behind

with birthday cards, photographs.


Put this beneath the corpse’s head

at the wake, to look more natural.

Pray, Rest in pieces, pending burial.


Weight of Tradition

We remembered the Sabbath, kept

it holy, at ten o’clock ante meridiem

in the Bethel Congregational Church:

Father and I—twelve years his son.


Fear of God came over me, as again

Father had to dignify a pew up front,

for reasons only to himself evident,

and despite my pimpled diffidence.


I knew, as sure as the resurrection

of the godly, that once Rev. Milnes

began to preach, Father would start

listing to starboard, paternal freight


laid on me in plain sight of Milnes

and worshipers behind.  His snores

cut deeper than Saint Paul’s thorn

in the flesh—I was scarred for life.


His weight felt like the laying-on

of hands upon his Prodigal Son,

by later clergymen.  Rev. Milnes

died in this pulpit.  Here I stand.


© Russell Rowland

Seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee Russell Rowland has two chapbooks with Finishing Line Press.  A full-length collection, “Were All Home Now,” is available from Beech River Books.  He writes from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region


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