Bethany Powell

She pulls on her steel-toed boots
as Dad sweeps up the kitchen.
They haven’t said a word since the lantern
leaped off its shelf by its lonesome,
crashed to the floor (a mercy the house didn’t go up).
The deliberate pace of the broom through oil
and the janglish shush of glass in it,
her tightening tugs on each set of laces,
the routine of loading the pistol
are communication.
Finally, he says, “Got your blessed water, too, sis?”
“Just getting it,” she says. And as she stands, reaches in a leather pouch, pulls out a canteen.
A Russian roulette of bullets (one silver, five common)
and this canteen, near-uncapped, accompany her.
Dad has the broom to handle and will put it in the stove
to make a brand, if need be.
There are some things out in the weird nights
that only respect the bluntness of fire.
Her money is on the bullets, though.
His money is on his daughter’s aim, be it with water or metal.
He tenses as she steps out the door.

Bethany loves going for long walks in the Oklahoma countryside where, pleasant or unpleasant, there’s always something to prompt a poem. Such work appears also in magazines like Apex, Asimov’s, Through the Gate — you can find them all at