The Take Archives
Ever wonder how journal editors make decisions about work to feature? The Take gives you a glimpse behind the scenes at Mud Season Review. Here, we feature one single poem or flash fiction piece that caught the attention of the editorial team, apart from the signature poetry portfolio or fiction piece in our bi-monthly issues. We hear from the author about the inspiration for his or her work, and we hear from a co-editor about why the poem or flash fiction story stood out.
Emeka Patrick Nome
In the Killings, We Still Sat by Our Mothers
tonight, like every night
We all rush out to salute the moon halved by the arms of God
children of grief & pure blood. out to the grasses where our
mothers bend to pick the bones of our fathers & far into the distance
gunshots accost the sky behind the hills while we listened –
like prayers waiting to be whispered
our hands folded around the waistlines of our mothers.
it is bloody funny, how the grasses bloom full with green
knowing that our brothers, sisters, lovers, mothers & fathers
are mass of earth mourning beneath their roots
knowing that someday some of us will be buried in those fields.
we imagine the snipers run out of bullets, & say prayers
that start with the names of our mothers
how can we keep dreaming when all the dead folk sing in our pillows?
how heavy is a bed made with the weight of loss?
yesterday, who’d have thunk about living into the next dusk?
we hear the owl cry of bearded men chanting allahu akbar
& we feel our mothers’ sobs walking to us –a tiny
shriveled child bathed in blood & smell of dying
when we open our hands we find flowers afraid to bloom
& our lips shiver as we name them after our mothers
The poem is a subtle attempt to capture the brutality of Boko Haram, a jihadist rebel group in Nigeria. To explore communal loss, love and unshaken solidarity even in the face of terrorism inflicted on the Northern region of my country, Nigeria. I wanted to illustrate the mutual blues and anguish felt by mothers and children in a situation where the fathers are either dead or dying.
From the Poetry Editors
Our best poets are truth-tellers. They bear the weight of their own reality, even as they recast its violence so readers can bear to see it, too. Emeka Patrick Nome’s recounting of suffering and loss floats across continents “like prayers waiting to be whispered.” His poem pushes the edges of imagery, form, dialect, punctuation. The result -– his questions sing the loudest. We ache at these lines “how heavy is a bed made with the weight of loss?” and “yesterday, who’d have thunk about living into the next dusk?” We may not have answers, but we are now among his witnesses.
Parable Emmanuel and the Men in the Rubble
We always want to know the beginning of the story. But the men don’t know what brought the building down. Age, poor construction. They could have blown it up themselves. Maybe it was the airstrikes. What matters is that they were in the rubble, and they could still talk. One man, trapped in his kitchen, the other in his bathroom. Just inches of air. They spoke the same language, though that needn’t have mattered. With grit on the tongue and insulation in the lungs, everything is understood. The conversation moved on to music, food, dancing. Children and the lack of children. They didn’t get around to everything they differently believed. One man listened for the tapping of the other and worried death had overtaken his friend. Perhaps his friend was to blame for the entire thing. I will forgive you, brother. I will forgive you everything. And the answer: silence. We know the end of the story. One man escapes. He will spend the rest of his days free to move about, and every time he asks forgiveness, he must listen to the breathing silence.
“Parable Emmanuel and the Men in the Rubble” is a poem in a series about Terrible Emmanuel, a cranky, fallible figure who believes himself to be the supreme being. Some of the poems are in his voice or about him, but the Parable Emmanuel poems focus on lessons that illustrate the unforgiving world Terrible Emmanuel believes he has created. This poem depicts the human need to ask for forgiveness, even if nothing answers.
From the Poetry Editors
This mastery of a prose poem brings to life a fictional, short yet catastrophic moment that has occurred throughout history. And despite the fact that the poem is presented stylistically as a news clip, it maintains its poetic form.
Chris Haven is tactical in his manipulation of time; turning a situation that takes seconds into one of minutes as he builds the proverbial mountain. Senses heighten as Haven builds images in a loaded scene with such simplicity. Not only do we have the physical wreck of a collapsed building with men trapped inside, but we are faced with the end result of emotional baggage of those trapped in the rubble, family members lacking those trapped, and a single escapee.
Steven J. Rogers
Nocturnal Plant Life
It smokes cheap cigars plucked from the humidor of broken blue-collar dreams. It orders the chicken tenders cooked until golden brown and dry. It dines in the mouths of the innocent and defecates its disease before leaving.
Fat Wallace says he saw it once. Slimy fingers — shards of lizard skin quenched in suburban tanning booths, maroon fish-like scales, dead white eyes, country club khakis. Guts forged on the nineteenth hole — gilded gold intestines.
Fat Wallace says he’ll kill it. Drag it to Braddlebone Hill. Use the rusty knife he found by the sun-bleached cattle carcass. Chip away at the gilded guts until he finds a heart. Bleed it out on the dirt during the sunrise. Force it to see the light.
Leave it there. A spectacle. A final reprieve for anyone who doesn’t have the disease.
Let the coyotes pick at the meat. The bugs suck the bones.
But Fat Wallace can’t kill what he doesn’t understand.
There’s a new brand of nocturnal plant life. Sold in aisle fourteen, sixteen and eighteen of your local mega-outlet-retail-super-store. Fat Wallace says if you see it at the right time of night, it almost looks human.
I’m always searching for the soul hidden in the rotten festering corpse of America. “Nocturnal Plant Life” is very much a part of that search. The poem’s form is a subconscious reflection of the beat poetry I religiously read as a teen in the back of the local coffee shop in an effort to look hip in the eyes of the fairer sex from the nearby liberal arts college.
From the Poetry Editors
You might feel compelled to wash your hands after reading this poem. Yet the images won’t cooperate and disappear down the drain. They linger, as does the imagined violence on “Braddlebone Hill.” Without becoming preachy, Rogers expresses the revulsion many of us experience when encountering the archetypical “ugly American.” The author’s approach is wry and fresh, letting “Fat Wallace” describe his wet dream of unspeakably violent acts. In the voice of “everyman,” Fat Wallace gives readers permission to get our own hands bloody, if only vicariously.