How I Learned Prophecy by Tom Barlow

How I Learned Prophecy
          after Oliver de la Paz’s
          “How I Learned Bliss”

Walking home from the shop I pass St. Michael’s and spy
a swastika spray-painted on the bell tower. The bald woman
is back working the High Street stoplight with her cardboard sign.
A Ford Ranger dragging its bumper stops, gives her a dollar.
Once home, I hop on my Harley Electra Glide to meet my buddies
at the clubhouse for a supper ride. Fifty miles of corn fields, the smell
of them like a fog. The bike handles better with no one on the back seat,
but the radio is still shit this far from Columbus. At supper in Xenia
I hold to a two-beer limit, as promised. On the way home the sun
is setting behind us. Rays of light pierce the overcast and set
the winter wheat aglow, as though we are riding through fire, and I want
to say, “Can you believe this?” but there’s no one back there to hear.
How can I express this more clearly? It’s like opening a letter when
you know by the handwriting it should go straight into the burn barrel.


Tom Barlow is an Ohio writer of novels, short stories and poetry whose work has appeared in many journals including Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, New York Quarterly, Modern Poetry Quarterly, and many more. See

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