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COUGHING THROUGH THE BRAMBLES / Gary Fincke Some days the asthma wakes me early, Makes me walk through the underwater dark And trust my footing to prescriptions While I find the shallow end of wheezing. So quiet, this iUness, so unlike The bark of the common cold, the great whoops Of the cough more serious which kiUed One classmate the whiter the whooping crane Stood extinct, almost, on the front page Of our Weekly Readers. We watched slides Of condors and grizzUes and pale fish We were supposed to care for, and even now I watch for Harvey Walker, the sun An hour away, because his spirit Might choose to retrace itself, search for An arrangement of houses and yards And debris which caUs up our chUdhood, The dwarf shape of fear whose messages Stay simple as those folded inside mittens. For asthma, once, you swaUowed spider webs; For whooping cough, some parents would push Their chUdren through blackberry brambles, Those stems which arced to thrust themselves Back into the ground like Uving hoops, Listening to the terrible thrusts Of air through the constricted hoops of throats. It was like the laying on of hands For tumors and tuberculosis; It was the faith and prayer of my parents Who passed me through the brambles of eternal Damnation, expecting answers the way Some men Usten for responses to Radio waves they transmit to outer space. The year Harvey Walker died, I read A story about the first broadcasts Reflecting off the edge of the universe 40 · The Missouri Review And returning for rebroadcasting. "O, Holy Night," the radios played, By Professor Fessenden, 1906, And then Bible verses from St. Luke, Stutters of stations working toward The cacophony of perpetual Retransmission of a biUion broadcasts. And I might pass aU of the past's coughing Through the brambles which run the border Of the lot I Uve on, three times each, One thrust exactly Uke the others In distance and direction until The heavenly white magic takes hold. And I might lay my healer's hands On the vulnerable spots of those I love, trusting the medicinal Power of faith, but I've weaned myself From the vanity of prayer, beUeving Enough voices are rocketing toward The imagined edge of the universe, So many supplications seeking The thin, improbable antenna, The unlikely decoding, and then, So far to return, so many requests, The everlasting shower of granted Wishes soaking the astonished Descendants of the faithful and The faithless, flooding both with bitterness And joy, and drowning the need to believe. Gary T-incke The Missouri Review · 41 THE NEAR-DEATH FERVOR / Gary Fincke In Egypt, thousands of years before Christ, Some pharaohs settled into wax-sealed casks, Buried aüve and watched over by priests Who kept time and the hypoxia score, Counting and guessing and welcoming back New god-kings to the living. Those pharaohs Who hved saw the bright Ughts where souls travel, GUmpsed the spirit world and returned with news We hear, these days, from the resuscitated Who emerge from the cask of the quiet heart. Near Pittsburgh are miners who, when rescued, TeU stories of descending shafts of light; AU summer I foUow the forklifts which Enter the tunnels of boxed beans, tinned soup In crates; Usten to their beeped monotones Of reverse seep toward the light whUe I work With a partner who knows how deep we are In canned goods by giddiness, by darkness, The air close as judgment where we restack Shifted paUets while he repeats near-death Stories, the luminous peace as the brain Breaks down. The angels are those who love you, He murmurs, laying one hand, suddenly Ungloved, on my shadowed shoulder. Those crates, Reloaded, separate us from the world. So Uttle air, he says, we wouldn't burn, And I back into the Ught where trucks come And go in silhouettes and the silence Of drivers with deadUnes who smoke and back Into the brilUance of River Street, Its choice of bridges which sweep them into Or away from the sun, redescending To the freeways of the chattering world. 42 · The Missouri Review THE ONE BIRDS / Gary Fincke Within the worst winter...


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