Poetry by Lana Austin

In Search of the Wild Dulcimer

I need something pure
  with both a newborn
and dying woman’s cry,
  each connected to a single
line of light, one
  at its beginning and another
at its end. Or is it more
  of a curving river or a circle
of sound, unadulterated tremolo:
  the dulcimer. I’ve found
Jean Ritchie, her ballad
  matching her wild mountain
instrument, the one she made
  by hand, the one born out of her
Scots-Irish Kentucky roots,
  a simple incandescent strand
I somehow still hear
  without much effort,
despite my rising deafness,
  her voice and dulcimer
a single aural finger that points
  to me. It grows both lonesome
and tremblingly full,
  a rain cloud about to pour out
a host of voices from sky
  to ground and back again.

Sex At the Ryman

Yes, sex at the Ryman,
  but not quite what you think.
No, we didn’t actually do it—
  my husband and me there
for our fifteenth anniversary
  to soak in the almost Patsy Cline
voice of Neko Case– but it made us
  (well, how should I put this politely?)
want to fuck, because even after
  fifteen years there’s passion,
thank you God for this
Song of Solomon seduction
still throbbing and you know it
  had to cross our minds to do the deed
‘cause you know Patsy
  did it with her husband
or lovely Loretta with Doo,
  those salt of the earth sensual singers,
and if not there then maybe
  nearby in the alley
next to Tootsie’s, at least some
  quick groping between sets
and dear heavens, I pray my preacher
  doesn’t denounce me for writing
this, but I think he’ll understand
  since every time he stomps up
in that pulpit there’s as much wild
  physical force as fire and brimstone

and, please Grandma, don’t roll
  in your grave after this, but I know
you won’t since you had to
  have done it, too, and hard,
with my Grandfather, everything
  needing to come undone
in that fierce coupling, forgetting
  the crops that failed, the babies
you buried, clutching each other against
  the seasons turning, but not in that
moment, not in the savage union
  which held on to the here and now.

Blood Harmony 

A single larynx halved,
that’s how I perceived it

when I sang with my half
brother–same mother,

long gone. She is
where it came from,

our ability to blend,
unique notes in a chord,

but still one voice. His tenor
a ginger effervescence,

and my aubergine alto
painting what felt like

caverns-deep undertones
in heavier hues,

our voices fused. Even
in measures when one grew

more dominant on lead
and the other receded,

growing hybrid harmony,
counterpoint shifting,

we were rivulets divined
from a vast river.

Creek, brook or stream–
water from the same source.

Lana Austin’s poems, interviews and fiction pieces have recently been featured in Mid-American Review, The New Guard, The Writer’s Chronicle and Visions International. Her first poetry collection, In Search of the Wild Dulcimer, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Also a journalist, she has written for numerous newspapers and magazines. A finalist for the 2015 James Wright Poetry Award, Austin has an MFA from George Mason University. Born and raised in Kentucky, she has lived in England and Italy but currently resides in Alabama with her husband and three children. She teaches creative writing and joined the English faculty at The University of Alabama Huntsville in Spring 2016.

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