Skip to content →

Lord, Have Mercy: Don’t Go to Hell Cramped Up

Father, 1959

Daddy loads, cocks, & aims his gun.

Four young girls & their baby brother

trace the woods

by mercy of the moon.

Briar-torn legs bleed a simpler truth:

no enjoying June today.

Ever smiled an alcoholic into

burying his flask & bully?

Probably easier to patty-cake with the sun.

Son, 1999

He tongues the last cubes

of Johnny Walker’s twist & trick.

Sleep rinses his eyes yellow-pain clear.

Own pail to pull,

bobby pin headed toward the eardrum,

the clack of dominoes,

bones on the table.

The twenty-year deal:

sober hell & jail at fifty—

alphabets to learn, son uttered strangely,

swallowed whole.


to shotgun


from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Poems Rodney Terich Leonard

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.