Sam’s Seven Bowls of Wrath: a Ghazal ~ poetry by Ann Stewart McBee

Semis pass us like angry marked beasts. A zit on my chin festers and throbs. Already I see red.
Pastor Pete mouths along with Revelation on cassette.  I picture Henry Rollins and see red.

With feeling, the solitary refinement of your room spits you back out, I’ll practice saying instead.
This bed and breakfast smells of every fish that died when that second angel made the seas red.

No coffee just lukewarm tea like rancid water. The toast bites back. The owner’s hair is a violent
pink. The rotary dial sounds like a sinus headache, your mechanized voice, the Beatles in C. Red

pine pollen coats the floor that badly needs sweeping. With my toe I draw a heart that is smiling.
We pray elbow to elbow, the sun getting brazen in the ozone layer of my hopes. I am seared.

After. He tells me I can’t see you. Darkness. Rivers of it. Oceans of it. I cry. I gnaw my tongue.
No ice cream on the riverfront. No golf cart ride in the corn fields. My eyes dry, I still see red.

The mid-day wind picks up, dies down, the tent fills up with virgin air like a non-smoker’s lung.
I wash the grime with a rosette-shaped soap ball. Pete sets a timer. If I take too long he sees red.

White shirt with short sleeves. Tucked inside stiff khakis. Brown tie no stripes. Faked crew cut.
You’d laugh like thunder if the lightning was Andy Griffith. The flyers are yellow, but I see red.

Receive the presence of the LORD’s grace! Be saved! Be healed! Be restored! If they knew what
I really believed. That the snakes are not copperheads, the wine is water, would they see red?

Alone at last, in the glass fossil of a payphone outside Pizza Hut. Like a well-dressed dope fiend.
But there’s no answer. I break into three pieces: a) weeping hailstones, b) righteous, c) red.

When the snakes come out, the tent quakes with gasps. I am the shout and the dream undreamed.
Rolling and writhing as practiced. Then I see you in the crowd. My face turns an obscene red

that they think is rapture. The mountains fled and the islands sank, I’m saying to a closed fist.
Real tears. Fake glory. Real snakes. Fake venom. Real flames. Sliver of blue in a sea of red.

The road back is wet. The headlights catch greenish flashes hopping about like fairies in the mist.
The spring peepers have hatched. A time for frogs. Pete rolls over them like he loves to see red.

Ann Stewart McBee was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She graduated with a PhD in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where she taught undergraduate composition, creative writing, and literature and served as an editor for cream city review. She has published fiction and poetry in Ellipsis, Untamed Ink, The Pinch, Citron Review, Blue Earth Review, Palaver and At Length among others. She now teaches English at Des Moines Area Community College and lives outside Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and a smelly terrier. Her novel Veiled Men is looking for a home.

Show Ann some love via PayPal at annleighstewart1975(at)gmail(dot)com.