Sunday, February 14, 2016

Nathan Leslie

Pen Pals

If only I could be Emily Dickinson’s
pen pal.  I’d tell her how much
I yearn for her, her words.  I would never
ask to read her poetry or demand

we meet at some strip mall in Amherst.
I would never just “be passing through the area.”
I would never pry, text or sext.
Instead, simple sentences about the weather,
a mention the heft of the clouds and manner
in which the bobolinks chirp and huddle
in the slant of the evening light.

I’d express my admiration with a hush,
not a shout, lest I startle her or disrupt
her fever dream.  I’d sign off imaginatively,
dropping an image she could use, if needed,

knowing she wouldn’t regardless.

* * *

My Father the Amateur Beekeeper

I picture him in his white beekeeper’s attire,
lifting a shelf, allowing
the bees to inch over his hand.

When I was seven, yellow jackets.
It was an idiocy to chuck rocks
at their nest, smash

their peanut butter jar in the woods,
startlingly filled with them.
They took out their surprise on my face.

Buddha once immersed himself
so deeply in meditation
ants encased his body

an exercise of forbearance and
reverence for all living beings,
and also steely skin.

The notion of ants tracing
up and down my body
shudders me.

Perhaps beekeeping, also, is an exercise
in patience, or some other
valuable commodity, something

bees possess that we lack,
something the bees form within,
lacking angst, or envy, or desire.
* * *

Nathan Leslie's nine books of fiction include Madre, Believers, and Drivers. His previous book of stories, Sibs, was published by Aqueous Books in 2014 and his novel, The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice, was published by Atticus Books in 2012. He is also the author of Night Sweat, a poetry collection. His short stories, essays and poems have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines including Boulevard, Shenandoah, North American Review, and Cimarron Review. Nathan was series editor for The Best of the Web anthology 2008 and 2009 (Dzanc Books) and he edited fiction for Pedestal Magazine for five years. He is also currently co-editor for a fiction anthology, Shale, also published by Texture Press and is the Interviews Editor for Prick of the Spindle. His website is and check him out on Facebook and Twitter.

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