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Jendi Reiter is the author of the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016), the short story collection An Incomplete List of My Wishes (Sunshot Press, 2018), and four poetry books and chapbooks, most recently Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015). Awards include a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship for Poetry, the New Letters Prize for Fiction, the Bayou Magazine Editor's Prize in Fiction, and two awards from the Poetry Society of America.

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Though I no longer believe

in Lancaster County

the bell scrapes out a chime


and the black engine the gouged-out mountain swallowed

loops dinging past tin-sided diner and derrick

bobbing its lullaby head over the town


of men in hats waiting under streetlamps

and the monocles of gas pumps and clipped round trees

that an old man's hand reaches down and straightens


under the hinged glass. Though horses

clop through sun-silent August

boys who'd be reaching


(were they my brothers)

beneath the gamey softness of laying hens

are watching The Polar Express,


uncanny digital faces

caught between child and cartoon.

Inside the National Toy Train Museum


is a replica of the National Toy Train Museum.

Though the bell rings only

the boy can hear it after he confesses


belief in the old man and the sleigh and the story

that everyone grows to learn untrue.

Though I never knew a red and tinsel Christmas


daily our voices lofted holy notes to rafters

we nailed with our tender hands

proud with hammers instead of toys,


laying a different world over this

asphalt maze of cravings.

Push the Button and Look Into the Mine.


Though the bulb inside shows plaster pink

Disney dwarves who never coughed up black

Pennsylvania coal, the land (our fathers said)


promised us gifts for being good

white souls fertile as bulls and plain

cotton obedience. Though I could say


why my plough hit rock, the millstone

was always the bells

striking the universal hours


for dinner and penance

and the rope of God

the blizzard-blinded followed from barn to hearth.


The movie ends and the lucky children

listen to what pleases them

on their mothers' phones and the toy train sings


the new start of its same circuit

with piercing light whistles like a boy

calling his brothers across


a field too far to hear.


Rubin Museum of Buddhist Art, New York City



for Billy Porter and Indya Moore

Truth waits till sundown to come out

of the A train stop on 155th.

He remembers Sabbath-observing

hands stripping the paper name from his forehead.

He remembers his clay sleep in an overseas crate

marked for a Hester Street tailor's shop.


Seventy-one winters measured in chalk and shears,

sons of sons pinning broad, then narrow,

then broad lapels to Truth's nerveless shoulders.

Truth found the scroll that would wake him to labor

almost at once,

but time never seemed right in the new world

to raise his giant head in the workers' hungry crowd.

How dare he compete with the fathers,

budget slave who neither eats nor speaks?


But when the last son rolled up his cloth tape

Truth came to himself on a trash truck uptown,

still in the sharp purple blazer and parachute pants

of his final window display.

Thus he strutted into the televised streets.


In a record shop's plate glass his face reflected

four centuries baked brown.

A sign read SOUL so he entered

perhaps to barter heavy lifting for the one thing he lacked.

She, waiting on him — she

was the first angel to match his height,

black hair glossy as a spinning 45,

bronze legs that went on and on like Friday night prayer.


Tonight — Xtravaganza.

DJ in paisley top hat preaches

"Pose!" though Truth can see

the letter some clergyman erased

to write death on his forehead, too.

While Truth's retail angel vogues

for the honor of the house she mothers,

in a gown he sewed, silvery

chiffon lofting like the smoke of torched Prague.

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