John D. Fry Poems





after Jean Valentine


as if a night-throated        voice, lost in the

wilderness crying out        inside the boy I was


a child awakened      wind-called by name

each inner eyelid        a galaxy of sand


half-blinded by dust & ash

devils whirling        from the book of names


desert-led by Venus in Scorpio        fell conjunction named

for the hole in the heart        as the first word was spoken


in the beginning was

my “too-muchness”        crookedness


black fire        written on

my white        fired skin


vellum primed

for the pit


who taught me        Bibled from a lamb

to know        instead of not to know


Babel’s son        already I was double

visioned        am broken of tongue




right eye

wrong eye


each scribbling

furiously each


evening star

morning star


is there a

where on that


third star

third eye


who sees




blue earth


other earth

will I








daybreak, how do you explain it



birdwings like brushstrokes.


under the shadow of heaven there are still times.


a voice said in the dream.


even if the dead outnumber the stars.


early morning sky I am almost convinced.


some people actually inhabit their bodies.


even when darkness visible & night falls so fast.


& the heart can be blown out.


is night’s wreckage dawn’s always.


why is always light.







torn from a book of what happened


—after Carolyn Forché


—for Mari De Fede




this diary opened

a form of weather



its watermarked ghost

breath, a gust in, wind







we wanted to find out what its taste was like, but below the moon cold

    as a hook of bone, Pine Road’s asphalt told us nothing.




as alchemists will talk to the element they use, we sought earth

    and air and water and fire, afraid the star charts asked December

    questions we could not live








                                    a hole scratched out of light


                                                            as if by an unseen angel’s hand—






(—did we shine in that dark)


(will we ever know if—)


(—in the Carolinas of the heart)








insomnia: a porch scattered with glass, cigarettes, and candles fallen

    asleep when, stolen sacristy wine in hand, at dawn we wandered,

    prodigal pilgrims of the sun.



an early winter barefoot search without hope for



hope: how many years have I tried to nail down what happened on

    paper like a lepidopterist’s wall of butterfly thoraxes pierced by pins?







afternoon light an ache fixed in the breastbone



                                    as God, withdrawing from, opens


                                                            an absence for where He was



where x does not equal y








because any backward look  is fictive, shot through with river-bottom green.



                                                            (we thought we had no hands)







as a child I wondered how the dead can see when—


                                    wherever my great-grandmother’s soul had flown


—so often the living close their eyes.







is the character for heart literally written where light touches the face?







or was it the retreat of light—as that falling-down fence recorded

    what wind had to say—



                                    whatever, lost


                                                            wherever, gone








to know not only what was but the shadow of whom.


mist between trees like sheets hung on a line.


sigils seen (spelled in fire throughout the woods)

    as if through a veil.


our fingernails ashen crescent moons.


in the bain-marie of the night.


if flame did not, would river signify, and if not stone, would spirit.


this is how the past begins.







John D. Fry is the author of the chapbook silt will swirl (NewBorder Publishing). He's currently an M.F.A. candidate at Texas State University, where he is the Book Review Editor for Front Porch. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pebble Lake Review, The Dirty Napkin, The Texas Review, BorderSenses, St. Sebastian Review, and Blood Orange Review. He lives in the Texas Hill Country.





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