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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 7: March 2021
Prose Poem: 172 words
By Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Trail Crew


This is what’s left of the summer, he thought, as he stared at the newly cut trail. Each rock and boulder he felt he knew. His hands were hard now, not like the college-boy, game-boy hands that began the summer job. He was strong in an authentic way; he didn’t count reps but progress as the trail appeared. He survived a trip to the hospital where they assumed he was homeless, in the most polite way possible, because he was so dirty. His clothes full of sand, rock, sweat, and probably cheese. Everyone fell in love at least once. He did, but he knew it wouldn’t last beyond this canyon. Perhaps it was already ending. He looked back at the curve, which had been so hard to cantilever. The point is, he guessed, that people shouldn’t notice the crew’s work. The vista should look like it just naturally opens up there with a convenient wide spot for photos. He could not imagine how God felt when his work was ignored.


—After a photograph by Cindy L. Sheppard: The Chains That Free Us

—One of four Finalists in The Chains Writing Challenge

Elizabeth Kerlikowske’s
Issue 7, March 2021

first full-length book of poetry, Dominant Hand, is available from Mayapple Press, and she is co-author with artist Mary Hatch of Art Speaks: Paintings and Poetry (Kazoo Books, 2018). Other books by Kerlikowske include The Shape of Dad (a memoir in prose poems), Last Hula (winner of the 2013 Standing Rock Chapbook Competition), and Chain of Lakes.

She has been publishing her poetry and fiction for more than 20 years in such journals and magazines as Encore, Cincinnati Review, Passager, and Poemeleon, among others. Her work is also anthologized in Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence (White Pine Press, 2016); The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women (Shade Mountain Press, 2015); two of the annual KYSO Flash anthologies, Accidents of Light (2018) and Earth Hymn (2019); and in the Michigan writers anthology published by Western Michigan University (WMU).

Kerlikowske completed her doctorate in English at WMU in 2007. She also creates visual art and has recently completed the Hester Prynne Chair, first of a series of literary women chairs. An arts activist, she has served for many years as the president of the Kalamazoo Friends of Poetry, and she is also president of the Poetry Society of Michigan. She’s retired from a teaching career at Kellogg Community College.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Featured Artists Mary Hatch and Elizabeth Kerlikowske in KYSO Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018); includes half a dozen of Kerlikowske’s ekphrastic prose poems and micro-fictions inspired by Hatch’s paintings

Three in Prose by Kerlikowske in DIAGRAM (Issue 5.1): “Forty Winks,” “The Girls’ Room,” and “Midway”

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