The bobcat, so thin and spectral you imagine
the double-rutted sand road has grown
four long legs, torso, and head. You stop
the car—or maybe the cat does, your lives now
so interconnected you wonder why your skin shines
slick and smooth, not the fur coat licked in dreams.
The creature halts its silent, pawed locomotion,
turns sideways, stares in your direction.
Inquisitive, sure, but mostly just indifferent,
cocksure its range, its speed, its more than able
sight justify this pause to offer the kind
of mystery and miracle usually reserved for priests
conferring blessings over the wafer only minutes
ago turned flesh, a wonder of divination, but nothing
more than what this bobcat holds out for you,
a holy communion with this sentient being, there
and not there, as if already risen and turned god.
Channeling Virginia Woolf
Over coffee after dinner, we sit outside beneath umbrella tables
keeping golden pine needles thinner than toothpicks from falling
into logoed cups and thinning hair where June admits she and Sean
have written fourteen books, a record of all the people she’s channeled.
They range, she says, from early saints (Teresa of Avila,
Francis of Assisi), the Buddha and Jesus, to modern authors
like Virginia Woolf (who “doesn’t care for Sean, afraid of him”),
to Mitchell, their son who died at twenty-two from heart disease
suffered from birth. Through his mother, Mitchell told
his father not to mourn, that he was well and feeling fine,
that death held nothing like the evil prophets spoke of
(like they knew). The news relieved his father’s grief.
“I know this all sounds crazy,” June says, her tone dismissive
as if admitting to an overly long grocery list. “It happened,
and I know it was them. They all came through my head
to speak to Sean, who took down every word.”
I say I took a college theology class, Parapsychology
of Religion. One snowy, dark winter night we met at a rundown
farmhouse rented by two students, psychics (they said), who played
the Ouija Board, and after an hour of talking to the past
spelled out the final words, “LIVE LOVE.” None
of the gathered argued with the eighteenth-century spirit
who visited us, then left, leaving her tender
commandment, letters chosen by the women’s fingers
following the planchette wherever the ancient guided it,
finally swooping down to “GOODBYE.” The room, silent
as fear and hope, was startled from stillness
as a shade crashed down, our collective jump releasing
us from being held spellbound by death’s aftermath.
We shook off our fright, and after conceding things happened
out there we couldn’t explain, picked up down jackets looking
like ours and headed back to campus. Tonight, leaving
our table, we walk down grass-lined roads and find among
the forest’s undergrowth wild raspberry bushes, their fruit
ripened as if overnight, their tiny, blood-red beaded
heads melting like snowflakes on tongues of flame.
A Sure Catch
Driving back from Doc’s Pond along the sandy road
dimpled with deer tracks, I met a golf cart carrying
two men, their fly rods jutting out behind like
bamboo swizzle sticks.
“Hope your luck’s better
than mine,” I said, aware that luck had little to do
with my incompetence at throwing flies, tending
to catch more tree limbs than trout.
a Martin’s Blue Goose-tail Feather Catcher?” the driver
asked as if exposing the true secret of the Dead Sea
scrolls. He fished one out and dropped it in my palm,
an understated beauty with black wings, gold ribbing,
orange hackle, and tail the blue of a Wisconsin dawn.
“That’ll catch ’em,” the man grunted, his fishing vest
ironed, his Barbour Flowerdale Trilby hat speckled
with a Royal Coachman, McGinty, Holy Grail,
Elk Wing Caddis, and Hog Caller Hopper.
I couldn’t have asked for or received more, even if
he had handed over a Russian oligarch’s luxury yacht.
To be assured of a catch, that expected unexpected pull
tightening every emotion and examining every muscle!
But when the cabin came in sight, I knew
I’d no more tie this lovely onto my tippet
than I would a hand grenade, both promising
the same result, the death of wonder,
the dearth of surprise. Why cast such certainty
into a pond when you feed solely on yearning?
Richard Holinger’s books include Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences, humorous essays, and North of Crivitz, poetry of the Upper Midwest. His prose and verse have appeared in Southern Review, Witness, ACM, Cimarron Review, Boulevard, and garnered four Pushcart Prize nominations. Not Everybody's Nice won the 2012 Split Oak Press Flash Prose Contest, and his Thread essay was designated a Notable in Best American Essays, 2018. Degrees include a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from UIC. Holinger lives far enough west of Chicago to see woods and foxes out his window.