Richard Holinger


In Iowa this week, one hundred sixty-five mile-per-hour
tornadic winds withered barns, stables, windmills, cattle pens,
and farmhouses while blades of grass continued their way to green.

Our miniature poodle Summer on a walk around the block
faced down a German Shepherd loosed from his leash.
As the Brobdingnagian barker approached,
Summer planted her two front paws, and when the missile flew
within range, leaped up and bit into a pointed, unprotected ear,
then watched her nemesis slink back home.

My wife’s sister’s daughter’s husband—I’ve heard—
even though he says he wants even more children
and happily, maybe even more than happily,
keeps up with his family’s Catholic quota of kids,
after a week away from home at work, leaves every
weekend for golf, tennis, racquetball, bowling, any
excuse he can find to assault his wife with absence.

The Capitol Building saw it coming, knew she was in
for it. Last time she’d been taken, fucked without pleasure,
was 1814, which burns her still. Now these little pissants
playing at Stalin and Steven Segal want to enter her
without her consent while her husband looks on,
TV remote and dick in hand.

A Ukrainian opera violinist, asking for one
of the eighteen thousand guns his government handed out,
waits to hear where his trigger finger is needed—
standing guard at an isolated outpost
or lying prone on a city street awaiting tanks—
instead of drawing a bow over friendly lines.

Once March’s snowdrop blossoms disappear,
an April snow sweeps in, covers growth working
its way into profusion: bushy lilac, spreading
pleniflora, exploding rhododendron, drooping
bleeding heart, delicate white bloodroot. All
hold to their stems, stick together, cold
and dark, but not untested beneath gray clouds.



Richard Holinger’s books include Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences, humorous essays, and North of Crivitz, poetry of the Upper Midwest. His prose and verse have appeared in Southern Review, Witness, ACM, Cimarron Review, Boulevard, and garnered four Pushcart Prize nominations. Not Everybody’s Nice won the 2012 Split Oak Press Flash Prose Contest, and his Thread essay was designated a Notable in Best American Essays, 2018. Degrees include a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from UIC. Holinger lives west of Chicago far enough to see woods and foxes out his window.