By Riley Kross

Featured art: Untitled by Sue-Yeon Ryu

                                          – for Fr. Daniel Logan

After the chainsaw, the priest

continued carving up

a small portion of the dogwood stump

with a chisel and pocketknife,

but being only a priest

and not a carpenter,

the task was beyond his expertise.

Still, he sweated and labored

and managed “by God’s grace”

(as priests are prone to say)

to fashion his own rough cross.

While sanding to a smooth finish,

the implement of his Lord’s suffering

the priest resolved to wear this labor

as an ornament around his neck;

but then, trying to smooth it just a bit more,

the priest’s thumb snapped the beam

that would have held his Lord’s left arm.

He cursed the cursed tree

and gagged and cursed again upon seeing

a plump larva’s pale segmentation

coiled to a white jelly head

resting comfortably at the center

where the beams were meant to meet

and suspend a body above the earth.

The priest dropped the disgusting sticks,

skipped his evening meal and bath,

skipped his evening prayers and wine,

and crawled—dirty, hot, and sick—

into the clean sheets of his soft bed.

Riley Kross has published short fiction in The Normal SchoolBlackbirdFiction Southeast, and Grist. These are his first published poems. He holds an MFA from North Carolina State University and lives with his wife and three children in Birmingham, Alabama. 

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