The Last of the Sin-Eaters
This is how I fed myself, infidelity
washed with wine passed across
a cooling chest, wrath burning each
crust before it touched my tongue.
It was always a risk, taking in
the decades of my father and of
his, everything they wanted and
could not touch, every lazy day
in a village of slumberers. I ate without
filling the arrogance of my throat.
I was the only one left—I had no choice
but to be the best. I was paid
in bread and wine. It could never
be enough. And when I close
my eyes, I'll take them all with me,
every movement I watched that was
not mine. I own them all. I have paid
and been paid and will pay. I am
pawned, unwanted. Unredeemed.
I am swallowing my days like water.
Beatitudes and Other Abandoned Prayers
Lord, take pity on the interior
of mice, the scent that calls
the crows to the murder
on the lawn where the cat
once lay, unblinking, while
the grass grew up around it,
while it waited out its ritual.
Have mercy on the cobwebs
behind the cabinet. Bless
the husks of ruined spiders,
the unclaimed sacrifice
of flies bundled in the weave.
So much is worthy and lies
beneath us. The blameless
scuttle beneath our boots,
shift in the trembling, outwait
the vacuum and the rag.
They seek only a respite and
a hollow. Pity the criminal,
holed in the corner, building.
Blessed are the last to die
for they will be satisfied
with the final gasps of
yesterday's incense and
held-over altar flowers.
Blessed are the liars
for they bring comfort
to the fitful hopeless
in the ever-day of
Blessed are the worthless
for they have patience
when it comes time
to cry or throw glasses.
They know alone is better.
Blessed are the deserters
for they understand
the floating and the falling,
the endless go-letting
of enviable abandonment.
Blessed are the sleepwalkers.
Blessed are the quiet singers.
Blessed are the cowards.
When the teacup fails in your hand
as you are pouring the water,
hold it close. Listen—in its protest
is the promise of a new pattern.
Bless the battle and the service,
bathe your fingers under the faucet
if you must. But—I beg you—
listen. Each pore is calling a psalm.
It passes. Even boiling water
cools in time. And you are losing
only skin and a moment of focus.
By morning, you will have a new
hand, and in it a new prayer.
RUTH FOLEY lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Adroit, Sou’wester, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. She is the author of the chapbooks Dear Turquoise and Creature Feature, the forthcoming chapbook Sink and Drift, and the full-length collection Dead Man’s Float (forthcoming from ELJ). She serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review.