Kirk Schlueter

Ribbon Map of the Father of Waters

When the floods come, we must save all the songs: old men wading through waist-high water with Gene Autry records; young girls frantically downloading their libraries from a motorboat prow. I myself will cradle my grandfather’s saxophone under one elbow so that, sliced by wind, it can mockingbird one last time. Even the crow calls are valuable. Down in the graveyards, the false psychics lay their wrists across tombstones until quarter notes appear. Rattlesnakes swim from drowned dens to add their own bony hymns while rescue crafts spread their wakes like handkerchiefs in dead men’s suits. Door to door they call out for Jim Croce, a Missy Elliott deep cut, the bad lullaby your father warbled through after his second old-fashioned on Saturdays. Where the thin road pools into grunge at the school, volunteers scrawl everything that comes in onto children in ponchos, send them into classrooms to sing—carry both the earth and her ghosts inside their throats.

Rain scratches the floor,
drawing the guide to a world
breathing, breathing back.



Apocalyptic Lullaby

& the city—glowing like the moon
trapped in the sky. A steel wind
for prayer is its own small sorrow
the way a man remembers dew
woven through grass. It rises
now: the end, dark as smoke.
Crowns of light call out
as if the witch-stars came down in
glory, fleeing that other world
where the sky is hammered into metal.
Ripple, earth—ripple, crypts—
even the peacocks lose their black teeth.
Sewn into my rib, I keep your image
& everything it used to mean.
Everything it used to mean
sewn into my rib, I keep your image—
even the peacocks. Lose your black teeth,
ripple, earth, ripple: crypts
where the sky is hammered into metal
glory. Fleeing that other world
as if the witch-stars came down in
crowns of light, calling out
now the end. Dark as smoke
woven through grass, it rises
the way a man remembers dew.
For prayer is its own small sorrow
trapped in the sky: a steel wind,
& the city—glowing like the moon.



Fractured Pastoral



Kirk Schlueter received his MFA in poetry at Southern Illinois-University Carbondale, where he received the Outstanding Graduate Thesis award for a manuscript that has twice been a finalist for the Jake Adam York Prize. His poetry was awarded the 2018 Frontier Prize for New Poets, judged by Victoria Chang, and has been a finalist for the Indiana Review Poetry Prize and the Yemassee Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bat City Review, RHINO, River Styx, Nimrod, Passages North, Grist, Frontier Poetry, Ninth Letter, Natural Bridge, Greensboro Review, Green Mountains Review, Zone 3, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Connotation Press, and Texas Review among others. He has been awarded a full scholarship to the NYS Summer Writers Institute and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop for Teachers, and an Illinois Arts Council Agency fellowship.