House of Straw

by Roberta Feins

Her dad's the Preacher
of New Jordan Baptist Church,
a straw bale building
along State Highway 9.

Dust spirals up from the roadside
into the playground,
where six-year-old Amy runs
a makeshift barber shop before Bible class

shearing sinful curls
from a flock of young Christians.
But Cynthia is shorn already–
bald, weak,
not coming to church anymore.

Bad blood, Dad explains.

In the Healing Room,
after Cyn’s funeral,
Amy plays with a velcro Noah’s ark,

while Dad comforts the bereaved parents
by telling them
they didn’t believe strongly enough
to save her.

The parents weep; Amy
tears horses, peacocks, off the ark,
throws them overboard
to drown in the sea of blue carpet.

Later, with the same rasp – whoosh,
she rips a match in the silent sanctuary.

Flame snaps across wadded tissues;
in a fissure of the unfinished sill,
loose straw crackles
like voices raised in jubilation.

Musical composition by Victor David Sandiego

Roberta P. Feins received her MFA in poetry from New England College, where she studied with Judith Hall, DA Powell, Carol Frost and Alicia Ostriker. Her poems have been published in Five AM, Antioch Review, The Cortland Review and The Gettysburg Review, among others. She has published two chapbooks: Something Like a River (Moon Path Press); Herald (Autumn House Press, 2017) won the 2016 Coal Hill Review Chapbook Contest. Her first full-length collection, A Morsel of Bread, A Knife, was published in 2018 by the Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle. Roberta edits the e-zine Switched On Gutenberg.