Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
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Issue 47, January-March 2014
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
3 Poems
by Peg Robarchek
Followed by Q&A

Local Woman in the Check-Out Line at the Second-Hand Store

You might decide,
looking at my outsides, that I am none too bright.
You would be wrong. 

Once, the county
had a lending library. Before I was sixteen, I read everything
Jane Austen ever wrote,

plus a healthy dose
of Dickens, Faulkner, George Eliot and the Walden Pond 
fellow. But books 

don’t make you rich, 
which my daddy, to his credit, used to tell me whenever he caught me
with my nose 

stuck between
the covers of a book instead of my fingers wrapped around the handle
of a hoe.

Of course, hoeing
never made him rich, either. It’s possible rich is as random 
as pretty,

a product
of being the only one in the cornfield struck by lightning.
I did not attract

rich or pretty.
So here I stand with two under the age of four, one in my belly
and hands rough

from the hoe-handle.
Today’s second-hand booty: two like-new T-shirts that my boy
will grow into

by summer, a pair
of barely scuffed Mary Janes for the girl, a stuffed panda and a sack 
full of paperbacks,

three for a dollar.
Last week, I found a Charlotte Bronte and the weeds almost
got away from me.

Clearing Out

The back door 
is unlocked.
A person can walk right in.
Step around the kennel where
Gracie the beagle stayed 
during banker’s hours.

Food in the freezer has gone bad.
How long the smell will linger
is anybody’s guess. 
On the upstairs landing,
jeans – inseam 34 inches – drape
over the scarred lid of an open cedar chest.
A TV cabinet of weathered wood hovers
at the top of the stairwell.
Easy to imagine a person running
out of strength or time
or both.

Two years ago in the fenced yard she
planted gold thread cypress, crape myrtle, roses.
Dead now. Come spring, grass will grow 
unchecked until the bank where she worked
walks in, finds the keys on the kitchen counter,
clears out all that was 
left behind. 

Listening for Birdsong in the Distance

No birds sing
the first two years I live
in this empty-handed house.
Earth has been scraped bare
down to hard red clay,
all that was green and rooted

into the soil
hauled away. Vinyl-wrapped
starter homes, bland
in gray and cream, work
equally well for endings. 
Lumpy sod fakes its way

into the lawn business; 
juniper shrinks back 
from front sidewalks, puny,
ashamed. Twigs 
of pin oaks sprout
up and down 
the blocks. Amid

this embarrassment 
of nature’s riches,
not a single place 
for a bird to land,
nest, open its throat
and sing.

Peg Robarchek is a published novelist, editor, writing coach, poet and a former journalist who currently lives in Charlotte, NC. Her poetry has appeared in or is scheduled for publication in Iodine Poetry Journal, Kakalak, Naugatuck River Review, Blast Furnace Literary Journal and Main Street Rag’s Final Friday and Bearers of Distance anthologies. Her blog is and her most recent novel is In the Territory of Lies, co-authored with Lois Stickell. In 2013, she also published her first children’s book, Bean Is Born.


Q: Your submission was titled “Post Middle Class Poetry,” a title too evocative to ignore. Would you like to expand a bit?

A: Each of these poems came out of my experiences with people who are dealing with a new financial reality since the economy tanked in 2008. People who have lost their homes. People whose lives have collapsed into the dreariness of barely making ends meet. People whose gift or calling must be set aside just to keep the children fed. I don’t write about these experiences to make a political or social statement, but the statement is there and it is this: Poverty is soul-killing. 

Q: Would you consider yourself a poet of the spring, summer, winter or fall? What season is most apt to be reflected in your work, and why do you think that’s the case?

A: Definitely an autumn poet—and not because of age or stage of life. Despite the somber nature of these poems, my nature is to see the fullness of life everywhere I look. Autumn is the season of harvest, when life has grown ripe and juicy, bursting with color and flavor. It is the time when we are fed, when life is abundant, when we have reached the peak that spring and summer have prepared us for. I once submitted a poem about autumn that referred to “glory on the way,” which is how autumn feels to me. The editor who rejected it said she was tired of poems about the approach of death, which made me laugh—and made me sad for her, if the only glory she could imagine was beyond this life.