KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Prose Poem: 435 words

The Black Flags of Our Bodies

by Sean Thomas Dougherty

Dear J,

I am writing this to you from the back porch. In the frantic drowse and dive of the late summer bees. J, this world might give you invisible scars but I heard from your sister that about your brother being moved across state, and how it seems to be dragging you to the ditch of purple weeds. I am sorry he doesn’t know your name anymore, and the state closing his home and moving him a hundred miles away. The skin grows all sorts of things. A green winged fly buzzes in our ears. So arbitrarily hurtful, the state of such dispositions is the most difficult to handle I find too, because what can we do? They ship who we love from one hospital to the next, unheld in their own spittle.

And what do we do with the anger we carry? We punch our own bruises. And even the voice of Emmylou Harris on a magnolia wind doesn’t seem to help.

At least your brother Peter will be somewhere, rather than nowhere stumbling, like so many without speech. That is something. Remember that that is something. How many of us refugees with no port, no country we can name. The insults they hurl at us. The damned and the poor are the damned. All we have are the songs and psalms we carry inside us. There is no curfew for love. Out in the fields. The black flags of our bodies

unfurl. We hang laughing long after being lynched. We blow kisses to our children, smell the wind through their hair, and you have to realize that this is life, that is all we get, that most of life is all this suffering. The long stroll to become nothing. We pummel the bag, we punch the wall. This really is it cousin. This thin air. That doesn’t stop and we just keep going, doing what little we can for how few or many we can along the way. That’s all God asks of anyone. He doesn’t ask for more. You and I are stronger than any angel. So that’s why he brings us all this shit, because we’re still here. Even on this dusky afternoon, when my woman is changing her bandages again. To pray and love our sick and our old. So many don’t have nobody. Nobody to share such silence, so that’s why I’m writing you this letter, to send the scent of cut clover and the lilacs blooming and the dying elms and the drowsy shush and fall of late summer bees.



1. On a Magnolia Wind: Emmylou Harris and John Prine duet; song written by Guy Clark and Shawn Camp

2. On a Magnolia Wind: Guy Clark and Shawn Camp duet, with Clark on guitar and Camp on fiddle; Selection #3 on The Dark (Sugar Hill Records, 2002)

Sean Thomas Dougherty
Issue 1, Fall 2014

Author or editor of 13 books, including All I Ask for Is Longing: Poems 1994–2014 (BOA Editions, 2014), Scything Grace (Etruscan Press, 2013), and Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line (BOA Editions, 2010). His awards include two Pennsylvania Arts Council Fellowships in Poetry, a U.S. Fulbright Lectureship to the Balkans, and an appearance in Best American Poetry 2014 (“The Blues is a Verb,” with poet’s commentary).

Dougherty works in a pool hall in Erie, Pennsylvania and tours widely for readings.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Author Spotlight: An Interview with Sean Thomas Dougherty by Justin Bigos in HTML Giant (25 October 2013)

I Am Your Scar, prose poem in Likewise Folio (Issue 2: December 2012)

Anything That Can Be Misread, prose poem in Revolver (10 December 2012)

Featured Poet: Sean Thomas Dougherty in The Bakery (August 2012); includes seven poems of various forms, with audio and poet’s commentary

Weekly Poem: Sean Thomas Dougherty Reads “Arias,” video on PBS Newshour (26 March 2012)

An Interview with Sean Thomas Dougherty by D. Richard Scannell in Bookslut (July 2007)

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