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Time weaves joy into a poem,
shapes it into a cup,
and offers it up to souls 

hurting. I drink its intentions,
water with leached words
enters the mouth, courses 

veins and eases the machinery
of grief. Distress
quenched. And this sounds 

like alchemy. And this feels
like mysticism. And if I thought
it worked I would never stop 

writing. Joy sails
and smoke-slithers away,
visible but out of grasp, 

which wind (uncontrollable)
launches. Even the fear of
the next gust is (inevitable)

enough to summon a quick breeze
to aloft all. Joy stacks
up, like flat rocks sized atop 

another—not mile marker,
sign, or landmark for other
travelers but a cairn— 

a holdfast, my attempt
to altar what I can’t anchor.



Regular fear turns to dread in a fraction of a second:
Are you the parent of— 

the mortgage of every moment
first fought through plays out
as full-volume static. 

You are unable to hear This number was marked as home—
the sound, the tone, the glint. 

We found this phone down
by— the river, the beach,
behind a bar. How does anyone

actually hear of a loved one’s end, and not drown in words,
voice thready as they explain 

why can’t-be. We are trying
to locate the family of— 
this circle, this cycle, the dance.   

Their can you confirm what
jewelry they were wearing—
Your No. Your no no no no no— Unending, deafening tolling; 

in a fragment of a second,
you navigate back around
to fear—fist-clenched, jaw-

locked. Countless, visible, indelible, the sounds
orbit like icy-blue particles:
as if you were Saturn.



Florida’s sauna-like heat creates
an exhaustive becoming. Invasive
fauna or native, today a wild grape
vine waves
up a water oak,
one tendrilled fist tight closed around
a fallen cabbage palm frond, brown,
moldy & hanging on, but not grounded.
Am I the tree, the vine,
or the frond? The dead
held fast by one thin, green finger?
So invested in where I am going,
I am no longer aware of what I am
clinging to.
Perhaps, sheltering
arms, oblivious
to what lies beneath me because—let’s face it
my lifespan falls shorter than I care to admit.

I am the vine, the tree, the branch. I exist
on the same trunk & I am all—rhythm, movement,
structure, & also an elemental fourth thing:
joy. Where else can I live? 



A rib in the remains of a bulkhead, light streams
into the tanker from the rent side, illuminating
another’s world to me.
Sugar ant sized,
and pink-red,
inhabitants hundreds
full. A happen-stance. A single moment
in a new place.
All at once
in a dance
of creatures, how I imagine stars gambol
when we aren’t looking. Their constellation
pulls breath from me, then replaces it. The lilt
just above the ocean floor echoes fog, early
morning, how it rests on a cushion of unseen,
over a grassy hill. The many atmospheres hold me,
weighted A blanket. That moment
as I was.
Expended air rises,
glass beads on invisible string.



Leaving the hospital with my newborn child = newfound joy.
Leaving the hospital after my child’s self-inflicted trauma = 

joy-cautious. He wades in perceived failure. I dive full in;
I have failed him. Day-bright air sneaks into lungs cold 

constricted with fear. All feels temporary, slippery, slick-
unnamable. Terror chokes on food, shakes down image-

memory, sound-memory; word associations sidle up to
knowledge that one child’s failed departure is their parent’s 

joy-careful. Joy-guarded. Joy-tender who sleeps outside
the bedroom to keep him safe. Soon, echoes of infancy—

first smile, first mom, first time he reaches for my hand,
the first time he initiates conversation just to talk, initiates 

a hug, walks with his head up, makes eye contact, feels glad,
at last, to be here. Joy—that day when the mental to-do list

does not include re-checking all the rooms or the equation:
ikeep everyone + in this house + alive =  joy reverberant. 

Michele Parker Randall is the author of Museum of Everyday Life (Kelsay Books 2015) and A Future Unmappable, chapbook (Finishing Line Press 2021). Her poetry can be found in Nimrod International Journal, Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere.

NOVUS Literary and
Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN