Unification of Church and State


His wooden rosary, a broken abacus,
hangs on the bedroom wall, draped around

a framed, colourized picture of a little boy
kneeling bedside. Palms pressed, fingers steepled,

whispering the saints’ names while the city
squeezes out another jaded night. His threadbare

temper and deaf hollers: feck this,
feck that; his “walking the dog” way past

last call at the bar—his fondness for spirits,
all of ’em. Scraping home in a misbuttoned coat,

billiarding elbows on door jambs, he nudges
the door shut with his sole, folds the light in

on itself. His fingers scrape the wooden beads
off their nail—a trowel’s soft scuff—

and he halves himself against a twin mattress.
He enumerates the mysteries: joyful, sorrowful,

glorious—even though his fate was lost jobs, stair-fall
broken ribs, a car wrapped around a tree,

a fugue, and feral cat-eye glares from family
served with Friday’s steamed peas and fish.

He goes missing mid-winter. And dies after days
beneath a canopy of trembling poplar,

camouflaged in snowdrifts and leaves. Gaelic
blackout mutterings. White tuft. His wellspring

lungs aspirate the ghost who will lift him
from his knees—to ensure he never asks outright,
and kept counting.

This appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Stevie Howell is an Irish-Canadian writer, & works in a hospital. A second collection of poetry is forthcoming from McClelland and Stewart. steviehowell.ca

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