It happens this way …
What a way to start the week! The editors of the Gyroscope Review just emailed to say that they nominated one of my poems from their Fall 2018 edition for a Pushcart Prize.
First of all, what is a Pushcart? According to editor Bill Henderson,
“The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in our annual collections … . The Pushcart Prize has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60’s and 70’s.
Secondly, the poem is called “Twenty-Five Years After Sodom and Gomorrah: Lot’s Older Daughter Makes Her Case” and is written in the form of an interview.
If you remember the Bible story, Lot was a supposedly righteous man who was told to hightail his family out of Sodom and Gomorrah because God was going to destroy this sinful place. The one caveat: No one was to look back. Remember Lot’s wife and the pillar of salt?
Well, stuck in the middle of the story is the fact that two men (actually angels) visit Lot’s house to urge him to leave. The townsmen hear of the visitors and demand Lot hand them over for a little hanky-panky. Being the upstanding man he is, Lot tells them not to go after the men, but they can take his two virgin daughters instead. Great dad, no?
Anyway, I imagined what Lot’s eldest daughter would say twenty-five years after that event, and after she and her sister take revenge on their aging father by bearing him two sons.
Here’s the poem. It will appear in my next collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, coming out early next year.
Twenty-Five Years After Sodom and Gomorrah:
Lot’s Older Daughter Makes Her Case
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Incest? Call it securing legacy.
When your world is pulverized,
what else would you expect?
Our plan? Two nights plus two daughters
equal two sons to carry our bloodline.
How’s that for lineage?
On the ridge in a cave.
Oh, what an ugly thing: a soused old man
with lusty dreams that weren’t dreams.
At first dawn-light, I remember how he glared,
rubbed his grizzled frown, glared again.
Scared? Confused? Aroused?
We hid our laughter in the waking wind.
Guilty? Of what?
What father offers daughters to a mob?
Our rape for his guests’ sodomy?
Call that righteousness? We called it treachery.
Anyway, those strangers in our house?
They weren’t men … Angels, of course.
If you’re up on the literature, they arrive
when their god seems like he cares.
Ask our cousin Isaac. An angel called off
his father’s knife, but what god even asks?
Our mother? Now there’s a tragedy.
Don’t look back. Did she even hear?
When you’re wrenched from home,
senses collapse and there’s no time
for reasoning out a consequence.
A pillar for an over-shoulder glance?
All she did was send a last good-bye
to friends she didn’t criticize.
Where’s the wrong in that?
No. I don’t know if he ever saw himself
in Moab’s eyes or in the way Ammon frowned,
or if he realized what their names meant.
You’re interested? … “from my father”/“son of my kin.”
Want the truth? I don’t think he ever thought to care.
Write this down to set the record straight:
we never walked behind, never looked back.