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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 12: March 2022
Poem: 190 words
By Charles D. Tarlton

Virulence (False Reprieve)

Bugs in the air were deadly.
—Michael Crichton
 

You could walk right through death like a cloud of gnats, 
brushing them out of your eyes, and not realize 
how sunshine, the trees, the gentle roll of the surf, 
		made it all seem so benign. 

So, people put out their flags, raised them up from half-mast, 
and promenaded on the sea-wall, nonchalant. 
“They’ve made too much of it,” one man said, “just like 
		flying saucers or Loch Ness monsters.” 

You don’t just happen to catch it and die, it’s the old guys 
are first to go. Everyone’s wagering: “What are my chances?” 
Then lines start forming up at every restaurant 
		“The guys in masks should stay home!” 

Death, clever and so ironic, seeks out such insouciance 
(those who think themselves invulnerable), and then waits 
for the moment of greatest irony to strike. 
		Oh, my, you dawdled far too long. 

Then: “We’ve given up enough,” I heard a woman grouse, 
as though nothing but whimsy had compelled her prudence, 
and that she meant now to be so put upon no longer. 
		One can only take so much! 

Charles D. Tarlton
Issue 12, March 2022

is a retired university professor of political theory who lives in Old Saybrook, Connecticut with his wife, Ann Knickerbocker (an abstract painter), and a Standard Poodle named Nikki. He is the author of three books of prosimetra published by KYSO Flash Press: Touching Fire: New and Selected Ekphrastic Prosimetra (2018), Get Up and Dance (2019), and Carmody & Blight: The Dialogues (2019).

His most recent book, Peaches and Roses: Episodes in the Navajo Degradation, was released in January 2021 by Silver Bow Publishing (New Westminster, British Columbia). He also has a poetry e-chapbook published in the 2River series, La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra: Improvisations on Pablo Neruda’s Macchu Picchu; an experimental prosimetrum in Lacuna entitled Five Episodes in the Navajo Degradation; “The Rock in a Jar,” an extended prose poem in several parts in Gone Law 32; and “The Turn of Art,” a short prosimetrical drama pitting Picasso against Matisse, in Fiction International.

Tarlton has been writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006, and his work is published in numerous literary journals and magazines: Abramelin, Atlas Poetica, Barnwood, Blackbox Manifold (UK), Blue and Yellow Dog, Book Ends Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Contemporary Haibun Online, Cricket Online Review, Dark Matter, Fiction International, Haibun Today, Ilanot Review, Inner Art Journal, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Jack Magazine, KYSO Flash, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, London Grip, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Muse India, Palette Poetry, Peacock Journal, Prune Juice, Randomly Accessed Poetics, Rattle, Red Booth Review, Red Lights, Review Americana, Ribbons, Shampoo, Shot Glass, Simply Haiku, Six Minute Magazine, Sketchbook, Skylark, Spirit Wind Gallery, Tallow Eider Quarterly, The American Aesthetic, The Ekphrastic Review, The Houston Literary Review, tinywords, Tipton, Unbroken Journal, Undertow Tanka Review, and Ink, Sweat, and Tears.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Artifact With Steam (2019) by Ann Knickerbocker, ekphrastic tanka prose in the e-collection Get Up and Dance featured in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)

Featured Author Charles D. Tarlton, with six of his ekphrastic tanka prose and an interview with Jack Cooper, in KYSO Flash (Issue 6, Fall 2016)

Notes for a Theory of Tanka Prose: Ekphrasis and Abstract Art, a scholarly paper by Tarlton residing in PDF at Ray’s Web; originally published in Atlas Poetica (Number 23, pages 87-95)

Three American Civil War Photographs: Ekphrasis by Tarlton in Review Americana (Spring 2016)

Simple Tanka Prose for the Seasons, a quartet by Tarlton in Rattle (Issue 47: Tribute to Japanese Forms, Spring 2015)

 
 
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