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 School, Blackbird, Fiction 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.