John Leonard is a professor of composition, substitute teacher, and assistant editor of Twyckenham Notes, a poetry journal based out of South Bend, Indiana. He holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University. His previous works have appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Tributaries, Fearsome Critters: A Millennial Arts Journal, Up the Staircase Quarterly and Burningword Literary Journal. He lives in Elkhart, Indiana with his wife, three cats, and two dogs. His forthcoming series of Sci-Fi stories, “Homeworld”, can be subscribed to on Channillo here:
As Seen on TV
Robotic fish, wearing a plastic halo and angel wings;
mounted on a wooden plaque and probably Made in China.
Something for a dad to hang on his office wall. A button
on the side that, if you press it, the fish starts singing
“Earth Angel” by Marvin Berry & The Starlighters.
But the button only gets pressed maybe once or twice—
Once on Christmas morning when the dad unwraps it
and seems so amused and grateful because it’s Christmas
and also because he is on his third cranberry mimosa.
And a second time, years later, when he pulls his wife
into his office on the very first evening that none of the kids
are home; everyone off to college, living their own lives.
He presses the button almost as a joke, and the Duracell’s
awaken the fish who suddenly fills the room with music.
So they dance for 30 seconds, pressed together, as the air becomes
heavy with novelty, laughter, and slow tears; mouthing the words
to a song heard one other time, when heaven seemed further away.
Only for a Moment
Before your house collapsed under the weight
of a needle…before my standard of God was replaced
by memories of locked doors and open windows,
I was the shy boy on the playground and you were the
girl dredging wood chips out of her skinned knee.
Swallowed whole—like how the churchyard
finally eclipsed your daydream of salvation.
You opened your mouth to apologize, but a pill
slipped from between your teeth and fell on
the bathroom floor. Looking down, all I could see
were the fresh prayers trailing down your arms.
I could only forgive you years later, when your
mother showed me your baby shoes cast in bronze.
And only for a moment, when I thought I heard
the laughter of a small child, bustling down the hall.