"[stylite: the pillar saint’s confession]"

Read jil hanifan's poetry here


stylite: the pillar saint’s confession
i’m not afraid
of storms needle sleet
the keening wind
not afraid of sleepwalking
off my perch
in a dream
of orchards ripe
apples that blush
like temptation
only to fall.
i watch sparrows.
fields green. trees leaf.
cat pauses to stare.
the neighbors ignore me.
by july the sun
is hot enough to cook
meat hot enough to wring
a painful glare from the haze
around the pillar.
but one afternoon
a wandering swarm
of wild bees enrobed me
as i stood praying
fanning their wings
delicate tracing
the steps of their country dance
on my skin
then lifting off. i confess
dusted in scents of rose
and clover i bowed
my head my nose buried
in my folded hands
and fell and fell again
into temptation
remembering the soft
prickling of their barbed legs
their tongues tasting
my lips my eyelids
the hollow of my throat.
the edge of the city
collector picker
junkman hoarder
takes whatever
castoff sad toy
torn shoe
shopping cart
from a candy bar
lands there
fenceposts bow
burdened with wild
grape knots
and ivy
small birds roosting
in the chainlink
a plastic cup holds rain
the city’s edge mutters
to itself its gardening
haphazard misplaced
tangled with old leaves
spring bulbs green
snouts poke up
daffodil crocus
the early curls
of heirloom tulips
escaped a half century
ago abandoned
pruning shears
but then the tulips
three august hymns
up the pear tree squirrels chase
fling themselves
through space. having eaten it all
they scold each other.
a small grasshopper springs to my hand
and clings
armor plated and daring as a hero.
last summer there were none
the spent lilies have withered
into tangles and dessicated
claws. two monarchs
hang around the butterfly bush
they are silent
and like distance or mountains
are moving
tropical depressions crawl
toward me the day is pearls
and sweat sweat and pearls
there is grass needs cutting
what song to hum
before the rainstorm
at the corner of a cornfield
listening for the schoolbus
beneath stark timeless blue
pleated skirt scabbed knees
i carried the smell of the old orchard
in a lunchbox with a sandwich
raw new lots with fresh houses
cut from old farms i knew
all i had to do was wait
while dried cornstalks
whispered in a language so strange
the sound made me uneasy
sled dogs reach nome with diphtheria serum
near delirious ourselves
driving the snowfields
an inky dash over brittle ice
under glitter stars
that never fade
that shine
through noon
where the wind
flesh like a knife
licked to the bone
even to marrow
snow so thick
you can’t see
the dog ahead
(a twenty pound can
strapped in the sled)
passing over mountain ranges
look in any direction
the village will be easy to miss
dreaming in fever
the scent
a thin thread
of wood smoke
torn and lost
against the soundless torrents
of auroral light





jil hanifan was born and raised in Central New York. She holds a D.A. (Doctor of Arts) in Poetics from the University at Albany, where she directs the Writing Center and teaches writing. She’s most recently published poems in Earth’s Daughters, 2River View, and Comstock Review, and she is active in the literary community, having served twice as Poet In Residence for the New York State Council on the Arts.

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