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3 poems by Charles Rafferty


Everyone forgets that the devil’s in hell too. He isn’t a warden. He doesn’t go home at the end of his shift. All the great punishments are permanent. Sisyphus has his boulder; Mariah Carey’s lip syncing lives on in the ether of YouTube. It all makes sense. If you didn’t get a scar from taking out the baked ziti with your bare hands, you’d reach in again next Sunday night.

Elmore Leonard Said That All Villains Have Mothers

Was he saying that no one is pure evil, that they stem from some essential goodness? Or was he blaming mothers for the villainy of their offspring — some crucial amount of love withheld or given too freely? Regardless, you can put a couple of girls in bikinis on the bow of a catamaran, and no matter how pretty they are, the fish beneath them will still be killing each other with their faces. It’s that personal. Your leather coat used to be a cow shoulder-deep in wildflowers. At least I like to think so.

The Boundaries Are As Blurred As They’ve Ever Been

Think of the euglena, the hermaphrodite, the foggy horizon above the sea. And then there’s my microbiome, outnumbering my own cells by ten to one. It is no longer possible to say where I end and it begins. Outside the window, a smashed possum becomes a strutting crow, the stink of it surrounding us. Ah, for the days of signatures and proofs, the cancer removed in a single lump. We have had to make do without our glasses, and this is what I’ve seen: A dirt road followed long enough resolves into trackless field, the buttercups lolling with the weight of bees, no matter how often I brush them away.


Charles Rafferty’s most recent collections of poems are The Smoke of Horses (BOA Editions, 2017) and Something an Atheist Might Bring Up at a Cocktail Party (Mayapple Press, 2018). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Oprah Magazine, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College and teaches at the Westport Writers’ Workshop.


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