Mudlark Flash No. 88 (2014)

Four Poems by John Valentine

Treblinka | Bouquet | The Graces of Hell | Last Letter


Nothing but a knot of buildings. 
Diaspora, scattered ashes. Wind

whispering in the weeds. Empty
yards, machinery disassembled, no

one tangled on the wire. Silence. How 
strange it is, like a remnant, a rumor,

the ground deep down still trembling, 
refusing to forget. Traces still of the

storm, how it howled, chaos in the kiln. 
Shadows, forgotten eyes of assassins.

A scatter of stars. The moon dark, 
distant. Nothing stirring, nothing now

but winter, its slow erasure, its cold 
hands covering everything in snow.


Widowed leaves, stems returning 
to dust, fallen, as we

sometimes suddenly stop 
on the keen edge

of eternity to follow a shooting 
star, or eye the full face of

an ancient moon, lingering, if 
only for a moment dreaming of

a different world, the way saints 
dream, and martyrs, the way

we all will pause with death 
in the wind, wondering if charred

roses, ashen and black, a lifetime’s 
bouquet, can be brought back

to beauty, leaf-life, heavenly 
hope, to glisten one last time

in the pure desert of the heart. 

The Graces of Hell

Aglaia, Euphrosyne, Thalia
Dancers by birth, they have come 
not for beauty or mirth. They do

not sing in these shadows. Or blossom.
They gather. A soft hand, a moment’s

recompense of memory. Forgotten eyes 
of sorrow. This gift for smoke and ash:

not hope, not for such lost souls, but 
breath, the bright breath of fire, the

hallowed heart of gods, they who also 
know eternal darkness and night.

Last Letter

Isao Matsuo, 701st Air Group, Kamikaze
Honorable parents: 

Who but children could raise a toast to
death so calmly, silent as Samurai in

ceremonies of steel? Opening incarnadine 
like roses on shimmering oil, all crystalline

and light, think of me in years to come not 
as lost at war, but risen. Imagine the glorious

day, the scatter of flowers and glass on the 
fiery skin of the sea. The wind skittering

like a whispering soul. Clouds will carry 
my shadow and birds will remember

a brother. A eulogy of rain. But think of
today, the still of the sky. The silence.

And now, at this hour, the hour of departure, 
remember: cherry blossoms glisten as they open

and fall.

John Valentine teaches philosophy at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. His poems have appeared in various journals, including The Sewanee Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, The Adirondack Review, and Rock Salt Plum Review. He has had five chapbooks published with Pudding House Publications and one chapbook with Big Table Publishing.

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