Rachel Custer


A cornfield grew up and ate the world,
each stalk a whispering, neighbor
husking neighbor in the wind.

We were lost to each other, sister
who stands behind me, holding aloft
the lantern to light my way.

A way is a Zippo in a holy pocket.
Men decided the way: we’d burn
the corn. Sister, I smelled fire

and couldn’t find you. Cornstalks
rise around me like a chorus
of stories. I saw you lying

pinned beneath a man.
A way is such a small thing,
and so easy to lose. I grew up hungry

for skin against my skin. Another
prison with a different view. I hold you
like a glass pipe filling with the last

smoke. Sister, I hold you on my breath.


There is nothing worth saving.
You gesture behind you, an ashpile
where your house once stood.

Smoke is a sinuous story, curving
toward an end. Who were you then?
When bread was a fantasy?

Hunger the only fire smoking you out.


There is no news from home.
Only gossip: the President
Is dead. The state breathes
above us like a vast beast,
its belly devouring our sky.
Why cry? Nothing we own
stays ours. Briefly, we held
everything we could touch
our fingertips to & not be
burned. In war & history,
brevity is a gift, the end
of a damned thing heaven
in its own way. Burn it then,
I say. Make s’mores. Play.
We never loved it anyway.


About the writer:
Rachel Custer is the Poetry Editor and a reviewer and editorialist at O:JA&L. Her first full-length poetry collection, The Temple She Became, is available from Five Oaks Press. Other work has previously been published or is forthcoming in RattleOSU: The JournalThe American Journal of PoetryB O D Y[PANK], and The Antigonish Review. On February 13, 2019, Rachel Custer became a recipient of a 2019 Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Rachel Custer is the poetry editor at O:JA&L.

Image: Still Life #12 by Alejandro Rosemberg. Oil on canvas. 33.5 x 47.2 inches. 2009. By permission.

About the artist:
Alejandro Rosemberg is an Argentine fine artist trained by Claudio Bogino in the classical style of the Italian Great Masters. He studied color under Graydon Parrish at the Grand Central Academy of New York. His works are presently being exhibited in the United States and Canada, respectively represented by Principle Gallery in Virginia and White Rock Gallery in Vancouver. Passionate about teaching the techniques he uses, he invests much time and dedication to his drawing and painting classes and workshops held in Brazil, the USA, and Argentina. Rosemberg is the O:JA&L Featured Artist for February 2019.