I've been ten years late—and a ring short—dozens of times, but in the case of Bethany Schultz Hurst I was twenty-five years early. My first and last spell in Idaho to work with Quarter Horse racers and write about Boise jockeys came long before Bethany circled her wagons in Pocatello. This Shoshoni territory was an important junction on the Oregon Trail. Bethany—a true pioneer woman who drinks her tears when she's thirsty—has nibbled its willows since 2003 when she began teaching at Idaho State University. We discovered her through a long winding path of rejections. Frequently spurned by such journals as Gettysburg Review, Gargoyle, Cimarron Review, and River Styx, I'd begun buying sample copies to impress those hungry editors. If I couldn't do it with my poetry I could at least offer a few bucks to buy a nice sandwich. "I recommend the avocado," I'd say, taking out another subscription. That's how I began finding Bethany every place I looked. If I was rejected, there was a good chance I'd find her in the contributor pile. Her little bit sass, little bit rock and roll poetry holds its own in this tough old town.

Barrett Warner

Etiquette for the Soft Skinned

Nine out of ten lepers don't say thank you
when Jesus cures them. I've given at least
that many toasters for wedding gifts
with the same result. Jesus thinks
the nine former lepers are too busy
rubbing their newly smooth skin
with silk, bathing in pools of perfume,
admiring themselves in every mirror
to pen a simple note. But leprosy
is lack of feeling and its cure is
pain. Awakened nerves announcing
sharp edges and hot plates. Who decided
that was a fair trade for a once-numb life?
All the toasters in the world can't teach you
how not to bump into unfamiliar coffee tables,
doorjambs, or fragile conversations
where you replace love with words like
husband and regardless. Maybe that one
polite thank you is a bandage, and who knows
what wounds are seeping underneath. Still,
Jesus and I wait for the rest to show us
how grateful they are, too.

Bethany Schultz Hurst

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