Hunger is not sin.
Exhaustion is not immoral.
Food was comfort, sleep sometimes the safest place.
But there was never waking without fear.
That if Abraham had not traded Hagar
for Sarah, Ishmael for Isaac
or even before if Adam had not favored
one son’s offering above another
they could have spared the world
this much war. Or, if we quit
believing those ancient even fictional
rejections still matter—now
there’s something to consider.
Unlike romance languages
English has no reflexive verbs, per se; so
to betray can be transitive and intransitive.
Only the trusted can lead us astray or let
our secrets slip; but we are most complicit
in delivering ourselves to foes
as only those we love can truly wound us.
Jesus knew this; you taught me this.
Winters in Wyoming are long, but the rain
in Missouri is more disheartening than snow.
Every single convoluted metaphor
is a pathetic disguise for need. There was
sometimes beauty but never grace.
Longing and desire and passion
are all faces of that same trail boss
who rides herd over our motives.
At times, rejection delivered vile threats.
We are sorry about that.
That not all the actors drank whiskey
or smoked Marlboros like the cowboy
they portrayed. One didn’t even care
for horses but rode them anyway.
Not everyone is in love
with the masculine or the equine.
That it’s perfectly reasonable
to be ambivalent that way.
Shelly Norris currently resides in the woods of central Missouri with her husband John, two dogs, and seven cats. A Wyoming native, Norris began writing poetry around the age of 12. As a single mother of three sons, Norris had to concentrate on achieving an education and beginning a career to sufficiently support the family. Early in this journey it became clear that pennies from publishing poetry would not feed and shod hungry barefoot boys, so she necessarily dedicated her time and energy to building a teaching career. Meanwhile, working in the shadows grading sub-par essays, and editing for other writers, she has been slow to send forth her own writings into the cold world of rejection and possible publication in obscure volumes. One who struggled furiously with the art-life balance, Norris knew her destiny to be—like Burroughs, Bukowski, Stevens, and Wilder—a more dedicated and widely published writer later in life. While pecking away at various essays, short stories, and a couple of novels, Norris is wrestling a pile of about 100 poems into cohesive chapbooks and manuscripts embodying the vicissitudes of unrequited love and loss, dysfunctional wounds, healing quests, and the role of cats in the universal scheme.