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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Prose Poetry
5: 122 words
25: 112 words
28: 115 words
32: 114 words
By Jonathan Yungkans

[A Quartet of Prose Poems]*


Answering Neruda (5)
And what is the name of the month
that falls between December and January?

How long since comfort thrived in silence, echoed affection? Black ground, frozen deep and hard. My great-grandfather baptized me into his reserve. White-vinyl light shrink-wraps a porch rail. Protection frozen thick and tough. Shadows of branches thicken, one letter after another, a pretense of spelling out something. A surface smoothed, translucent as ice made from pure water. Air’s too icy for anything feathered in the white space caught inside ink lines. I don’t remember any chill. Yet bird wings pass, resonant between muscle strands. Coffee cools, a cobalt-blue mug on the rail. Passing over, away. A word experienced, not voiced.

—An earlier version of the poem above, in a different format, appeared in Synkroniciti Volume 2, Number 2 (Summer 2020).



Answering Neruda (25)
Did autumn’s hairdressers
uncomb these chrysanthemums?

The scorpion and centaur sat in salon chairs and reminisced. “Poor Yorick, we slew him well.” “Of course, he had that horrible man-bun.” They continued in this mode, trading stings and arrows of outrageous fortune, wondering where the affluence promised by November’s chrysanthemums and peonies had gone, if it had been theirs in the first place. None of the rest of the zodiac had stopped in for a trim or perm. To fill the void, both star-crossed stylists waxed infinite in jest and insult. Used as they were to being planetary lights in the night sky, corporeal exile was ungodly.

Author’s Note:

The scorpion refers to Hades, god of the Underworld. Sagittarius is associated with the centaur Chiron, who was originally Thessalian.



Answering Neruda (28)
Who shouted with glee
when the color blue was born?

It depends how close to the cliff edge I stand when surf breaks toward its sky-toned reflection. A leap conversely calming, jumping the clock. Falling back and sliding away, only to try again. Like a Schubert piano sonata hours before the sun washes ashore, peaks and valleys forming in my ear. Coffee low and cool in a ceramic mug. Clay soul wishes itself under a tree, to feel some communion with roots. Somewhere between sandstone and sand, like white spray between water and air. The music starts dancing, exuberant. Stops. A police car siren down the street grows and fades.



Answering Neruda (32)
Is it true our dreams
must be watered with dew?

Hollywood almost never rains. It’s why so much in the City of Dreams feels artificial. Why they call it Tinseltown. Dreams’ silver sparkle disappeared when safety film stock replaced nitrate. Look at a nitrate print of the chase scene in The Third Man, down the sewers of Vienna. Arched walls flash and sparkle—the magic of subterranean fireworks caught in aqueous shimmer. How long do dreams stay before they slip, dripping, between fingers? Leaving a heart parched, ready to combust spontaneously. Like nitrate. Thick dusky smoke, an anger so quick and intense, neither water nor anything else can quench it.




Epigraphs are from The Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda (copyrighted 1974), translated by William O’Daly (copyrighted 1991), and published by Copper Canyon Press (2001):

1. From Poem XLVI (46).

2. From Poem XLVIII (48).

3. From Poem XIV (14).

4. From Poem IV (4).


* For more “Answering Neruda” poems, see [A Quintet of Prose Poems] in Issue 15 of MacQ, which also includes the poet’s commentary about this series; and [A Quintet of Prose Poems] in Issue 16 of MacQ.

Jonathan Yungkans
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

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.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

It Belongs to Each of Us Like a Blanket by Jonathan Yungkans, Winner of “The Question of Questions” Ekphrastic Writing Challenge (Issue 15, September 2022)

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)


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