Back to Issue Seventeen.




1890: Ardèche, France

Then I practice frozen lips,
tongue of lead. I shed cravings,
peel away the encumbrances

and greeds of the body. The monks eat
without sound, soften the swish
of robes, step with feet that feather

the earth. My spoon clatters. Phlegm
rattles my lungs. I pray that prayer
can tether me, be the cool

gray stone that dulls my rough edges
and burrs. After high mass, I turn
to chores: I pull thistles, rub the brass,

gather kindling, twine wreathes,
thresh and bundle the hay.
Each small interruption, I savor.

The yipping fox. The blue rock-thrush
who pipes the same six notes.
In my free hour, I read the breviary,

nurse my sore feet, dig my thumb
between the long bones and tendons,
and remember that I am foul matter.


William Woolfitt is the author of the poetry collections Beauty Strip (Texas Review Press, 2014) and Charles of the Desert (Paraclete Press, forthcoming). His fiction chapbook The Boy with Fire in His Mouth (2104) won the Epiphany Editions contest. His poems and stories have appeared in Blackbird, Image, Tin House, The Threepenny Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Epoch, and other journals. He is the recipient of the Howard Nemerov Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Denny C. Plattner Award from Appalachian Heritage.

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