With My Body, I Worship Thee


In my year of always autumn, I stole back the river.

Hoarded its rasp and rush as I fled


through the low, hush light of trees,

where the dawn hung on birch branches.


Light stripping the trees to bandaged bark

while I ran, my heart crushing questions


instead of a pulse—how much farther—

was I strong enough to reach the water


without stopping? Calling pain praise

may not be exactly true, but I once knelt for hours


at the base of a splintered cross

until my knees were scraped raw,


legs snagged in cramps while the visiting pastor

snaked his fingers through my hair


as if he could shake Satan loose.

When I staggered to my knees at the river’s edge,


ribs constricted to cords, was my sweat

really so different from his ragged prayers?


We both wanted to drive out something sinful.

Here, at least, I slapped water across my arms


until I could almost believe

it was a balm, and I was already healed.

Kirk Schlueter received his MFA in poetry at Southern Illinois-University Carbondale. His poetry has been a finalist for the Indiana Review Poetry Prize, the Yemassee contest, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Green Mountains Review, Zone 3, and Gulf Stream among others. He has been awarded a full scholarship to the NYS Summer Writers Institute, and has been part of the Hungry Young Poets Reading Series in St. Louis.