by Erika Brumett

Featured art: Summer: Cat on a Balustrade by Théophile-Alexandre Pierre Steinlen

                       “One by one—in convents across medieval Europe—nuns began to believe they were cats.”

                          –Michael Garerda (Shared Hysteria: Group Madness and the Middle Ages)

Happened after mass
last sabbath.  We broke
fast (curdmilk, cabbage),

sat rigid in our hair-
shirts and worship. But heard
then—urgent as prayer

by the dais—a purr-
purring rise from Sister
Mary Iris.  Since then,

no quiet.  We quite like it.
Despite Mistress Prioress,
her cries to, Cease that

scratching! Raise habits, receive
thee three lashes each
from the Abbess!  She hides

this night inside parish
house. Won’t come out. (Best not
mention the Abbess.)

These hours are ours now.
We slink and we prowl
about.  All the flowers

around the cloister grow
tall in our scent: crown
daisies, mint, asters.  Pale-

cowled lilies opening
their mouths.  Listen.  Devil-
yowls down dorter halls,

hisses like whispers
from the kitchen.  We milk-
tread our wimples, our gilt-

wale curtains to shreds.
In darkness, a marble Virgin
arches.  She lifts up her veil.

Erika Brumett’s words appear in numerous publications, including The Los Angeles Review, Pooled Ink Anthology, PageBoy Magazine, and Crab Creek Review. She holds a triple degree from the University of Washington, as well as an MFA from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts: Whidbey Writers Workshop. Erika lives in Seattle, where she and her husband put black on blank, read poetry out loud, and stare at Puget Sound.

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