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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Poem: 318 words
By Susan Tekulve


The summer after her father died, 
my neighbor brought home his picnic table. 
Dry-rotted, termite-drilled, it sank like a shipwreck 
into shade grass in her back yard. I couldn’t see 
a single board of lumber worth saving, but she saw 
a middle brace, horizontal cross pieces. She hired 
a man from her past, a barfly who mitered new 
seasoned wood into top and benches, drilled 
them into all she’d saved. She placed the table 
beside her firepit, surrounding it with couches and love 
seats, end table vases spilling soft Liriope 
beneath the roof of a sturdy oak. 

The man from her past life left, but returned 
in July. His left toes taken 
by diabetes, he’d signed over his own house’s deed 
to a daughter while yet alive, assuring she’d never need 
to fight probate. The daughter made him pray 
and not drink. She repeated the true story of Lot 
at Sodom, living licentiously in his house. She cast him out 
to a church shelter whose welcome sign read, “God 
is the only regulation you need.” The man needed 
morning shade, enough aluminum cans to recycle 
into cash that would last an afternoon 
at the Town Pub down the road. 

The true story, my neighbor said, is that her father 
sat all his children around his table 
like olives hung from a vine. Before he lost his mind 
to dementia, he remembered to teach her God 
loves those who know loss, and how to guard a broken soul 
against those who’d break it again. 
My neighbor gave the man a place 
at the table, brought him pearlescent garbage bags 
filled with empty aluminum cans he crushed 
with his good foot, syncopating with cicadas’ muscular rhythms 
until he’d earned enough 
to limp the road to the pub. 
There he sidled up to the bar with other old men 
who dreamed of daughters 
gifted in prophesy and forgiveness. 

Susan Tekulve’s
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

newest book is Second Shift: Essays (Del Sol Press). She is the author of In the Garden of Stone (Hub City Press), winner of the South Carolina Novel Prize and a Gold IPPY Award. She’s also published two short-story collections: Savage Pilgrims (Serving House Books) and My Mother’s War Stories (Winnow Press), the latter of which received the 2004 Winnow Press fiction prize. Her web chapbook, Wash Day, appears in the Web Del Sol International Chapbook Series.

Her nonfiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in journals such as Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, The Louisville Review, Puerto del Sol, New Letters, and Shenandoah. Selections from her photo essay, “White Blossoms,” appeared in Earth Hymn (Volume 6 of the KYSO Flash Anthology), with the full essay published online in Issue 12 of KYSO Flash.

Ms. Tekulve has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She teaches in the BFA and MFA writing programs at Converse University.

Author’s website: https://susantekulve.com/

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