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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 3: May 2020
Prose Poem: 217 words
By Lynn Pattison



I never rifle a safe for Deutschmarks or diamonds. Only letters. Notorious Word Burglar, after your secrets, I purloin the past. Scribblings on onion skin, hotel stationery, scraps torn from Big Chief tablets. Tear-stained pleadings on lilac-perfumed rice paper. Sins & lies. I lurk in studies or halls, pilfer any dispatch, raid mailboxes, the blanket chest, thumb through the pages of your favorite books while you dine, then slip off into night, gone before the dessert. Don’t look for ransom notes with pasted letters cut from the Times, I don’t care what they are worth to you. I’m excited by your mail, my conduit of a thousand voices: caustic debts, love pledges, diatribes. I devour suspicion and green, lunatic jealousy. A bride’s plan to escape before her wedding, a brother’s embezzlement confession.

My blood races when I have my finger in every pie. What the pastor wants from the choirmaster, the secret to hiding a crime, tuning a spinet, grinding sausage. Stacked pages, slit envelopes—me the common thread, invisible guest at the private wake, co-conspirator or secret confidant knit through each scene. Secrets on smooth vellum sooth my itch. My brother set fires until they locked him up. Before I’m caught I’ll swallow each scrap. A part of each of you to share my cell.

Lynn Pattison
Issue 3, May 2020

lives in Michigan and is the author of four poetry collections: Matryoshka Houses (forthcoming from Kelsay Press), tesla’s daughter (March St. Press), Walking Back the Cat (Bright Hill Press), and Light That Sounds Like Breaking (Mayapple Press).

Her work has appeared in Brilliant Corners, Harpur Palate, KYSO Flash, New Flash Fiction Review, Pinyon Press, Rattle, Rhino, Slipstream, Smartish Pace, The Atlanta Review, The MacGuffin, Tinderbox, and The Notre Dame Review, among others; and has been anthologized in several venues, including Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press, 2017), in plein air: poems and drawings of the natural world (Poetic Licence Press), The Cento: A Collection of Collage Poems (Red Hen Press, 2011), and The Dire Elegies: 59 Poets on Endangered Species (Foothills Publishing, 2006). Her writing has also been nominated for Pushcart recognition and inclusion in The Best Small Fictions.

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