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Tuesday, March 10, 2015


by Joan Colby

Anti-Vaxxer Kristin Cavallari

A darkened room. Venetian blinds
Slatted like a stern mouth.
No reading. No coloring books
Or paper dolls. I shut my eyes
Reddened like the polka dots
Of my fevered body.
The doctor with his satchel
Of uselessness. Two weeks
Or longer. It’s the hard

Two infant boys born before my father
Died of it. They were both named
For their own father, an unlucky
Name as it turned out—he too would die
Young in a gunfight. They called my father
A different name. So names must
Matter. My own means Gift of God
According to my mother who never wanted
Such a daughter, one spotted
With original sin, who must be
Worried over, hot and sulky in the dark
Demanding one more chapter.
My father’s weary voice as Jim
Hides in the apple barrel
Listening for the thump of a peg leg.

Once a third of the tribes crawled
To the cooling waters where they expired.
I get better. A neighbor child
Loses smartness, burnt away in a conflagration
The way conifers on the mountain
Turned into ashy witches.

There’s such a thing as herd
Immunity. The few protected
By the many. How penguins huddle
Against weather, changing places constantly
For the good of all.

Age of enlightenment.
Lords of miracle: Lister, Pasteur,
Jenner, Finlay, Reed, Salk.

Yet in the forest where the children stray
The house of the witch still beckons,
People believe in angels, in green men from mars,
That evolution is a lie, that the moon is a hologram,
That science is a devil’s plot
Against the faith of conjecture.

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 11 books including The Lonely Hearts Killers and How the Sky Begins to Fall (Spoon River Press), The Atrocity Book (Lynx House Press) and Dead Horses and Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press. Selected Poems received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize.  Properties of Matter was published in spring of 2014 by Aldrich Press (Kelsay Books). Two chapbooks are forthcoming in 2014: Bittersweet (Main Street Rag Press) and Ah Clio (Kattywompus Press). Colby is also an associate editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press