The Flat Circle (ii), (iii), and (iv)

Beth Gordon


The Flat Circle (ii)

In this version bread is bread. No prayer required. My father doesn’t remember what happened that night because nothing happened that night. My mother marks the map for a 600-mile journey. She counts the rivers, the streams. The lakes where believers fall into salvation. Or drowning. In this version water is water. No one lays hands on the dead or walks across the sea. My mother sleeps in the passenger seat. She dreams of vineyards in Italy. Olives & tomatoes. The trains are running on time. In this version the baby is walking by the time they return. My father repairs the leak in my kitchen sink because he knows how to turn a wrench. He builds a house and leaves a trail of nails to guide us from room to room. In this version he does not forget. He winds the grandfather clock, measures the windows; he is not confused by moonlight.

The Flat Circle (iii)

Barges on the Mississippi, pelicans trapped in ice. Always your face. Your voice in the head-lights’ humming glow. Once, we learned that the color blue was not discussed in ancient texts.  The firmaments were green. Once, I told you I don’t believe in ghosts while my dead cat jumped from the roof of the car. Today the future, your foot heavy on the gas. Wiper blades scraping insects from view, tiny wings crunching like frost.  Alchemist or arsonist, the end is the same. Something becomes something else. Blue flame, mud gold, empty churches just around the bend.

The Flat Circle (iv)

The signal is lost. A displaced screw in my spine. I know there are things I ought to know. Red-light gutters, red-light bungalows. Red sky at morning. Tides lifting the undrowned towards God’s root cellar. Hidden and dry. Tornadoes like doe-eyed lullabies. On city streets I know what not to touch: rusted cars & broken trees. I know what is beartrap corner with bloody ruin. Escape burrow disguised as hollow alleyway. Television noise. Ruby-red shoes. My father, as wiry as a scarecrow, adjusting the rooftop antennae. Tin-foiled miracles are like all miracles. Extinguished by foam. Earmarked for hymnals. Easy to define in the hallelujahed moment. 


Beth Gordon is a poet, mother, and grandmother currently living in Asheville, NC. She is the author of two chapbooks: Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe (Animal Heart Press) and Particularly Dangerous Situation (Clare Songbird Publishing). Her full-length poetry collection, This Small Machine of Prayer, will be released in July 2021 from Kelsay Books and her chapbook, The Water Cycle, is forthcoming from Variant Literature in November, 2021.  She is Managing Editor of Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Co-Managing Editor of Animal Heart Press, and Grandma of Femme Salve Books.