[Poetry] — John Moessner

Applause

Why is it that clapping sounds like rain? Gentle applause
fills the muted forest, the loamy ground sopping up
the water and its echo. An open palm of earth, asphalt,
empty pools—each give their timbre and intensity.
Stand and watch a fountain celebrate itself, listen 
to its enchanted chain of singular events bleed together 
in an unbroken cycle of performance and appreciation. 
Listen as it is drowned out by a midday shower. 

Maybe clapping is the remnant of a desperate act 
of early humans, drought-worn and itching 
for a salve—a storm—inviting it by calling its name, 
attempting to turn the sound of rain into rain.

One Moment Please

I am settled somewhere between the sun 
             and the slow throb of afternoon’s swell.
                              The boxelder bugs have stopped crawling 

through the crack in the brick wall.
              On the other side, the day cascades 
                             like loose linen. I keep slipping through chutes in time,
two minutes or an hour gazing out the window, 
                   the room humming with leisure and lax. 
                                A bee waltzes in the curling air above

a sunflower heavy with the soot of summer.
                The petals whip like fire in the warm breeze. I nod along, 
                              my thoughts dropping to the floor like a book
from slack hands. Like a stone in a stream,
               I am settled, smoothed by the current slipping
                                 around me. I try to hold onto these moments,
stall them long enough to watch them drift 
             into the past, try to grip their lengthening seconds 
                              as they run along my palms. If I am given a chance 
in death to view one last scene, I hope 
               it is of you, suspended like this: 
                           slow as honey, weightless as sunlight.




Vespertine

We were at home in a thing that passes.

Jim Harrison

Not the morning they left the ark, 
but the evening before, brimmed
with nocturnal calls and hot breath, 
the hold bursting with captivity.

Not the first foot planted on un-rockable 
ground, or the body shaking off the last 
six months, but the sea’s weightless cradling, 
a dim, watchful sleep as feathers drop. 

Tomorrow’s inevitability pours like rain. 
One more night to confirm a settled hold 
on the mountain’s crest, waiting for first light
to reveal its shadows again. The humid cabin

stoked with a thousand cries, the bedding soaked 
and soiled, how hard it must have been, still is. 
Not the sun’s silhouette setting behind a shroud 
of gray, not the lighting of diminished candles 

and the checking of locks, but this: how hard
it is to gather the fading curtain of darkness 
in your hands like a prayer, to say, not yet, 
to hold the world back for one more night.

*

John Moessner works as a legal writer for an immigration law firm in Kansas City. He received
his MFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His poems have appeared or will appear
in Arts & Letters, Commonweal, New Ohio Review, North American Review, and Poet Lore.