It must have been after the sermon wrung us dry—
his lungs an emptying congregation
as I mouthed sins into my fingers then
awaited penance or purity
which is to say I can’t recall what forgetting feels like
like splitting pills into a universe then swallowing its potholes.
They don’t do with stained glass round here
round here the bent knee is its own altar
and I am made walking stick nightly
doing with the recitations
if catatonia ask for another towel
if varicose veined praise the earthworms
if thirsty rehearse Maya’s second memoir
if barren ask for another consequence
to your skin
—that I remember we slept here
the gaslight stuttering above the grease on our heads.
How can I leave without hurting every one
that made me?*
the collision of nape and wood
but I am laughing
children have softer bones, she chided
which can’t be true because, look,
I am tender and unmiraculous but whole still
I say none of this and listen to the class laugh
another jugular anthem teased from the throat
the instinct for hysteria when one can’t understand
what he sees when the bird-boned
choke on flight
a new composition in static
when they left the land tilled
and the Creator slashed his asking price.
Great value for its structural integrity, same rooms
bathed in the hand of trespassers.
The children have found new penance to speak
new corners from which to run
*Note: This poem uses a line from Regina Spektor’s “Small Town Mind”.