William Kelley Woolfitt
She Remembers the Wedding of Samson and Her Sister
From my hiding spot, what I saw of him
was as I thought the lion dying and torn,
or the bees—flitting from the carcass’s
dark cave—might see, buzzing with the mad
desire to make honey, replenish the stores
he emptied to bring combs to my older sister,
sweet and glistening, in the bowl of his hands.
What I saw, my sister would grease on the seventh
day of their wedding feast: feet of the destroyer
and judge, her groom, who yielded to the siege
of her tears, parleys, and cajolements,
unlocked for her the secret of his riddle.
Feet she would wash, pamper, and oil; feet pale
and blue-tinged as a ewe’s cloudy milk.
I heard in the clamor of his footsteps
and did not believe the convulsing of pillars
that was to come, the crack of flame.
If I Could Excavate These Streets
I seek vanished tombs, gossip of bones,
secretive mud, the pretorium’s ruins, rubble
choked with clock-flower vines. I blow
grit from the mosaic stones where the prefect
stood the day he proclaimed that he found
in the rabbi no wrong, then dipped his fingers
into the dish, flung spangles of water
far from his spidery hands, and passed the rabbi
to the throngs. I stamp my hand, groove
my skin with the grains of the paving stones.
Psalm with Moths, Tree Bark, Cracking Fingers
1890: Ardèche, France
How good, how restful the shadow
we abide under, name as our refuge
when distractions moss up, unfurl
as raggedy weeds, speck the mind
like the dots that embellish the wings
of engrailed moths quivering
in the snarled ash that branches and fruits
beyond the windows of our cells. We dwell
in the secret where the wind-tangled ash
scatters leafery, thins out its crown,
where the lone beam appears, and is lashed
to an upright stake, that tree ax-bludgeoned,
knocked hard, and dragged at the guards’
command till they plant it in the ground,
and pin the ransom-man to its trunk.
Sap in his blood, bark-shag in his back,
purple flowers bloom, samaras wax―
and then we sneeze, scratch our knees, crack
our knucklebones, forget all over again,
and flit about like moths in the ash.
William Kelley Woolfitt studies American literature at Pennsylvania State University, where he is in the third year of the PhD program. He has worked as a summer camp counselor, bookseller, ballpark peanuts vendor, and teacher of computer literacy to senior citizens. He is the author of The Salvager’s Arts, co-winner of the 2011 Keystone Chapbook Prize, which will be published in June of 2012. His poems and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Cincinnati Review, Ninth Letter, Shenandoah, Los Angeles Review, Sycamore Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Poems from his completed book-length sequence, Words for Flesh: a Spiritual Autobiography of Charles de Foucauld, have been published inSalamander, Rhino, Pilgrimage, and Nimrod. He goes walking on the Appalachian Trail or at his grandparents’ farm on Pea Ridge (near Kasson, West Virginia) whenever he can.
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