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Questions For Further Study

Story by Tom C. Hunley (Read author interview) October 26, 2020

Art by Maureen Mcdonagh

1) How are these poems like dark dad jokes with Gillette® razors in them and wild slept-on hair and a receding hairline all the punchlines lost like a wedding ring swallowed by a toddler sitting on a potty chair learning that this is going to hurt us more than it hurts you is just one of life’s pretty lies like the one about birdsong and poetry both being peaceful and chime-like when really both are elaborate ways of saying let’s get it on or stay out of my tree?

2) Is it possible to write something original about turning fifty what would Keats have written about turning fifty had he turned fifty will my name be written on ice with spray paint or carved into a tree next to my wife’s name or whispered into our grandkids’ ears soft as snow falling on the wings of a dead bird?

3) What is the symbolism of the light in the puddle the Buffalo-shaped ache the soap bubble the skipping stone and if the author were truly a good father would he for real compare his kids to Bigfoot and Napoleon or write poems like flashlights shining in their eyes?

4) Have you or anyone you know made it through Remembrances Of Things Past have you felt the loss of someone you never really knew have you seen through the color blue into its constituents magenta and cyan have you felt like there’s something wrong with you but you never knew what until you read about it in a book and if so did you hate the book and its author or did you feel grateful like the time you were about to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” before a baseball game with a big piece of toilet paper clinging to your shoe when a bat boy jogged up to you, pointed out the toilet paper, pulled it off you, and disposed of it in the dugout?

5) Do these poems move across your heart a) like tumbleweeds across a desert b) like wind gusts blown in from the sea or c) like the beautiful new person at work who gets promoted before learning your name?

6) Where children are concerned is it fair to say that the heart is Santa’s sleigh weighed down by an impossible load the heart a small thing dragged across the night by large animals?

7) Is adopting a scared teenager more like trying to garden on a scarred battlefield or like insisting on the day-olds at Dunkin’ Donuts is it like rescuing meat from a grinder in some kind of PETA-inspired intervention and then trying with all you have not to become the meat not to become the grinder?

8) Is autism the beginning of a new stage of consciousness what would you say to the loneliest whale in the world if he could hear or understand you if you could hear his lonely 52-Hertz cry just lower than the lowest note on a tuba inaudible even to other whales?

9) Is it possible to die from a broken heart to dream yourself into a better self to have an allergic reaction to water what is the probability of being born one in 400 trillion according to some guy on the Internet wow here we are somehow here IRL and on the WWW how does anyone ever yawn and why can’t we all live every moment in awe like Adam at the moment when he first saw Eve or like the first Cro-Magnon to gaze at a constellation and paint it on the cave wall?


(A shorter version of this story won SmokeLong’s micro competition at AWP in San Antonio.)

About the Author

Tom C. Hunley is a professor in the MFA/BA Creative Writing programs at Western Kentucky University. His poetry manuscript Adjusting To The Lights won the 2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize. He has work forthcoming in Gargoyle, The Penn Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, and The Finger.

About the Artist

Maureen Mcdonagh is a self-taught painter; living in the UK, she works mainly on canvas and paper, working exclusively with gouache and water color these days. She mainly allows the creative process to happen without any deliberation, not focusing on the outcome or end product just the physical experience and movement of painting. Change is important in her work so she shifts when she sees a particular style or technique taking hold, the art of painting does not then become premeditated, as a consequence, it seems to have a silent, powerful quality of its own.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Nine

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