SPOTLIGHT: In Search of the Wonderous Whole by Lara Dolphin

“Rachel Carson in Palmerton”

Once upon a time silence was prized, protected and paid for by
conductors, stationmasters and stockholders of this unassuming
underground railroad stop, which conveyed runaway slaves
through vast acres of dense forest to the safety of more northern cities.

Then came big zinc deforesting the mountain, denuding the landscape
a wasteland of Burtonesque trees, devoid of life petrified and dead.
Whispers passed between hikers along the Appalachian trail,
“Do not drink the water,” they said and kept on walking.

The founder of environmental science shakes her head
as she tours the Superfund site scratching her wig and wondering
why it takes 234 scientists citing 14,000-plus papers
to realize that nature needs some help.

From behind the fettered doors of Saint George,
Palmerton’s Russian Orthodox Church,
hushed prayers take wing rising above the petrified moonscape
floating to the far corners of this moribund planet.

These quiet devotions from this town in the heart of America
arrive at last in the boreal forests of Yakutia
speaking in tongues only the sacred woods would understand
letting them know that nothing exists alone even when it’s all allowed to burn.

“Linus Pauling in Schnecksville”

After a long day of toying with the quantum mechanics
of chemical bonding, nothing hit the spot quite like
fresh-made ice cream, so Linus put on his beret
and set out for Crystal Spring dairy.

Past baseball fields and playgrounds
past the community college and the diner
the elementary school, the fire hall, the post office, and the bank,
past the bison grazing on game preserve lands

He did not call at the parsonage, though he knew
the minister would be at home, nor at the Grange,
the hardware store, or the IGA. He slowed as he passed
the cemetery by the church but kept on going.

When he got to the farm, he ordered a cone, the perfect emulsion–
milk, cream and sugar overrun with air and whipped into a dense, cold foam
that when consumed too quickly constricted then warmed the blood vessels, sending signals of pain along the trigeminal nerve.

As he stood by the fence looking at the wide open acres
where wind would blow snow into wild,
white dunes come winter, he thought,
“The best way to have a lot of ideas . . .
was to give the mind plenty of space.”

Just then a Maltese cat jumped onto his shoulder
snapping him out of his reverie. He was sure that vanilla
was the best flavor but headed back inside to get a second cone
this time a chocolate to account for subjective error.

“In Search Of The Wondrous Whole”

we fools rush in
traversing the sward
trampling the pasture
missing the trees for the forest.
We miss the smalti
gold leaf hand cut
mounted on glass
covered with crystal hand blown
fused into pure reflection of light–
in pursuit of imagery
overlooking the art.
We simply don’t see
or taste as the case may be.
Moving from the luminous
to the ridiculous,
our nine-year-old smelling curry,
scurries through the kitchen
through clouds of coriander,
cumin and mustard
onion, garlic and oil.
Pinched nose,
breathing through her mouth,
she hurries from the house
into the yard
and the wider world
where the numinous is laid bare
in wildflowers and weeds.

“Exit, Pursued By Situational Irony”

The scene–
sound effects and lighting cues
are go for a violent storm
a baby bundled on the Bohemian beach waits
while Jayden, a senior, in the role of Paulina’s husband
anticipates impending doom
and the chance to get off stage and check his texts
when tragedy strikes
the bear mask and furry leotard have gone missing
the wings are aflutter
Evelyn, the stage manager, curses into her headset
the director’s pulse hits 150
Hunter, erstwhile pharaoh in last month’s production
of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,
races for the costume of the passing goat
jumps on stage dressed as a deranged herbivore
head butts Antigonus out of sight of the audience
where he is presumably consumed by hysterical laughter


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