Jill Crainshaw is a professor at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. Her poetry has been published by Star 82 Review, Mused: The Bella Online Literary Review, Five Poetry, Panoply and New Verse News.

Free Listening

We can keep our distance
perhaps even be moved.
But if we want to be changed
stop violating proclamations
of “shots fired” one more time?

You can’t know what story
the shell longs to tell of the sea
without holding it your ear.
And what of pulses that slow
as life flows out into uncaring streets
or hearts bruised and broken
that still flutter for justice?
Some truths whisper,
quiet as breath.
To hear them,
we must lean in close
and listen.
For free.

Letting Dragons Fly

Do “darning needle dragonflies”
really stitch together the lips of
humans while they sleep?
What do they worry we might tell
of what haunts us in our dreams?
Or do they think they are repairing a breach
in a wall of prescribed silence
about witnessed horrors?
Aerial predators camouflaged as
fairies in iridescent pixie wings,
they prickle the earth with their plumes
then spin and speed away.
These effervescent flying damsels,
do they really keep the facts all stitched in?
Unfounded fiction, scientists say.
But truth hemmed up and tucked away
by unsuspected marauders
masquerading as misunderstood innocents?
Unadulterated fact.
Don’t let veracity be fooled or fictionalized.
Rip open the sutures.
Set loose dammed up stories
from silenced mouths.
Refuse to demonize dragonflies
while the sewing machinations
of actual evildoers just whir and whir.

now i lay me down to sleep

mrs beasley whispered to me at night when i was five
i could see her blue eyes soften behind bookish
black glasses as I drifted off to sleep
tiny cowboys and Indians and gi joes stood guard through
the wee hours back then the moonrise relaxed their plasticized
poses so they could patrol the perimeter under the bed
joining forces across enemy lines to keep nightmares
far away from a young girl’s sleep
i shut my eyes hard against the midnight hours then and
dreamed in magical colors i did not see during the day not
even in my crayola set of 64 with the built in sharpener
i guess that’s why i lined them all up on my bed
barbie and gumby and mr potato head and mrs beasley
and preached sermons to them like pastor yount
did at our church on Sunday mornings when he pointed a
crooked finger toward the ceiling and pleaded in his
willowy voice for us to love God and live for Jesus
i wanted mrs beasley to go to heaven i prayed
the lord her soul to take so she could whisper
to me at night when one day i died and was
whisked away by an angel to sleep in a strange bed
in a strange place but then when i was six my best friend
in first grade cried one morning on the playground and said
i couldnt tell anyone about the things her daddy did
when he came into her room to listen to her bedtime prayers
she had a mrs beasley too and miniature army men and
that night when I laid me down to sleep
mrs beasley was silent and her eyes painted in place and i
didnt pray anything at all as i waited for sleep to
come to a strange bed in a strange place