Funny how winding sheets wrap around a brain—
quodlibet of the quotidian shroud, no
matter how brief a face appears, an almond
peeled in its pale complexion and oval shape,
quod erat demonstrandum.2 Sunglasses,
outsized, suggest Dios de los Muertos—
is it Quarma3 or Queen Death who’s wearing them?
Louboutin heels clack as if by quartz movement,
matching a little black Holly Golightly
shift. Lady’s sure as Jesus on His cross to
burn a Turin Shroud quandary into mind.
It’s Death’s quirk to quadrate all attention,
strut mortality like a runway model,
garment white as cumulous clouds, billowing
modishly. She turns to promenade away,
watching us as quarry.4 After this, the quench
of linen’s touch is quieting as the earth.
Like a face at rest, eyes closed, ghosting the cloth.
The Shroud, whether fashion statement for a quick-
change Savior or an Owen Warland device
to flutter mechanically past disbelief,5
reposes butterfly-fragile under glass.
Available to see by appointment only.
Like the Scripture on life and death in the
power of the schedule.6 The Shroud is the card
from doctor or mortician, date of reckoning
penciled in. Don’t quibble with the receptionist—
she’ll make a quo vadis7 face, lower glasses,
show moon craters in place of eyes. Quel dommage!8
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?9 Aren’t
the watchers sufficiently entertained? Shroud’s
quo warranto10—writ for mankind, complete
with flash-watermark, Christ as Polaroid.
That image—closed eyes, flowing hair, nose, beard.
Answer as question. Forget how it was made.
Quem quaeritis?11 Who am I really
seeking, past quiescent glass—in a mirror?
—to quantify eyes, ears, hairs on a head,
or to qualify whose? How deep do I mourn—
pun that is also a time of day? Pursue
the Savior or weave myself into flax,
my warp and weft? Quo jure?12 Quem quaeritis?
Peel-back negatives of Instamatic film
reflect, glittery, in the current of a
mental stream like flotsam, querling to quell quick-
timing thoughts along hallways hospital-white
with antiseptic lies. Can a psyche be
washed in the Blood of the Lamb to rebirth it
from a curse come quasi-fresh from the womb?13 “That’s
a miracle, brother. You’d need Lazarus
to kick that field goal, and even then the ref—
complete with angel wings, striped shirt, and whistle—
might call that one a foul. Faith isn’t football. You
can’t play it with baseball rules.” But the Holy Land’s
holiest between the third and fourth rib. Quis
separabit?14 where nails pierced. Quo animo?15
an illusion of distance. Shroud’s a test page.
A bolt of cloth. A bolt which qualifies beams
as a keel while Jesus does the Galilee
Moonwalk in a quickening storm. A bolt to hold
faith together in a starless, roaring sky.
Maybe He was smiling when Peter said, “If it’s
You, Lord, bid me come,” and bolted his way
onto a walk on the wet side, a wonder,
as if doing so was no quirk, quod erat
faciendum.16 Would Jesus say, “It’s not Me”?
Fashioning a scarf joint. Tapering the ends
of wood so they hold like two hands, interlocking.
Questioning wood-shop wisdom on attaching
lumber end-to-end and have it hold as one
unbreakable beam or plank, no more than trees
are one while remaining separate trunks. Yet
oaks do that. Roots interweave, like quantum phone
switchboard wires in old detective films, plugged in
and out of the board and seemingly tangled
past any casual grasp. Quo animo
belying the lie of distance underground
through their cores’ interlaced quiddity. The Shroud
is a scarf, good as beams with ends rabbited,
cut precise, pattern to pattern, to hammer
until the seam doesn’t show, to lock in place.
I sit in a tomb quarried into a mountainside,17
quiet as a cement slab. Death clacks stiletto steps.
Dawn and mockingbirds. When deep blue light shreds black—
time that’s a quiet lung, collapsed, necrotic
even with bird songs quivering, plenty poised
between leaf and branch to twitter about, air
in chests to do so. Daylight’s a quale, quashing
worse than muscles and skin wasting away, bones
falling loose at joints. Every morning. I picture
a winding sheet, a body outlined under it
like dents in a discarded soda can.
A questionable outline? And is it true
blood, oxidized past brick-red to ebony?
Questioning makes a quadrature from what curves
at sunrise back to me in the cubature
of a sepulcher—mornings of hard stone walls—
for which someone else died and was wrapped in flax
simply out of care for me. This is enough.
[Links below were accessed on 3 September 2022.]
Title is a line from the poem “Quartet” by John Ashbery, in his collection Hotel Lautréamont (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992).
Latin: “Which was to be shown or demonstrated” (Dictionary.com):
Ostensibly an alternate spelling for “karma,” the Urban Dictionary qualifies it as a combination of the words “quick” and “karma” and gives this example of its usage: “If you think karma bites, quarma bites quicker.”
1 Peter 5:8 and Psalm 22:13.
[1 Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (The Holy Bible, New International Version [NIV]; Zondervan, 2011).]
[Psalm 22:13: “Roaring lions that tear their prey/ open their mouths wide against me” (NIV, same as above).]
In the Nathanial Hawthorne short-story “The Artist of the Beautiful,” Owen Warland is a watchmaker and inventor who creates a mechanical but extremely lifelike, flying butterfly for his unrequited love, Annie Danforth.
A conflation of Proverbs 18:21 and Hebrews 9:27, used with sarcastic intent in the poem but the two verses are essentially complementary.
[Proverbs 18:21: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (The Holy Bible, New International Version [NIV]; Zondervan, 2011).]
[Hebrews 9:27: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (NIV, same as above).]
Latin: “Where are you going?” (Dictionary.com):
French, translated variously as “What a pity,” “What a shame,” or even “What a disaster.”
Latin: “Who watches the guardians?” (Dictionary.com):
Latin: “By what warrant?”
Also, “A writ calling upon a person to show by what authority he or she claims an office, franchise, or liberty” (Dictionary.com):
Latin: “Whom do you seek?” This refers to the section in the Medieval Easter liturgy known as “Visitatio sepulchri” (“Visit to the Tomb”):
Latin: “By what right?” (Dictionary.com):
A reference to the hymn “Are You Washed in the Blood” (1878) by E. A. Hoffman.
Latin: “Who shall separate us?” (Dictionary.com):
Latin: “With what spirit or intention?” (Dictionary.com):
Latin: “Which was to be done.” (Dictionary.com):
2 Timothy 2:11.
[“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him” (The Holy Bible, New International Version [NIV]; Zondervan, 2011).]
—Winner of “The Question of Questions” Ekphrastic Writing Challenge
is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, Gleam: Journal of the Cadralor, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach.
⚡ Le Grand Matin by Jonathan Yungkans, a Finalist in MacQ’s Triple-Q Writing Challenge (Issue 11, January 2022)
⚡ La Porte by Yungkans in MacQ’s special Christmas Eve issue (10X, December 2021)
⚡ Two Duplex Poems, plus author’s notes on the poems and on the form, by Yungkans in Issue 10 of MacQ (October 2021)
⚡ Lawful and Proper, poem in Rise Up Review (Fall 2020)
⚡ Cadralor in the Key of F-Sharp as It Cuts into My Spine, in the inaugural issue of Gleam (Fall 2020)
⚡ I’d Love to Cook Like Hannibal Lecter [video], read by the poet at an event sponsored by Moon Tide Press (10 October 2019) celebrating the anthology Dark Ink: A Poetry Anthology Inspired by Horror
⚡ Saving the Patient, poem in The Voices Project (18 January 2018)