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Richard Holinger

The Bobcat

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.

“Ever tried

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.


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