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Inside the church, a sparrow flies in & gets stuck, flagellating itself around the sepulcher

I’d walk by each day & not enter. To enter would be to enter into my own loneliness. 

One does not enter one’s loneliness unless one has something to confess. 

The church is built from trees logged around it, this other word for God: a clearing. 

I kept my loneliness like a tree keeps a grub inching beneath bark, tattooing 

indifferent trails like a child’s fingers inside a bible, the suburbs’ loosening spirals. 

Winter came as punishment. We are taught we need punishment. We are taught 

we must hide our money all the way to the stars, that we couldn’t reach for the heavens 

if they weren’t so far away. I remember snow pressing against windows, at night, 

in the drifts a veiny blue the rabbits dug deep into. Now, halfway across America, 

deep in a different year, you say that thing which makes me cry when I can’t say why. 

In the bedroom’s blue light, our bodies close as to break into each other. 

I trace my finger down your spine & it snares around the sound a sparrow makes 

smacking into stained glass, snares like a bramble in a coat collar, thuribled in pine smoke. 

All those days I didn’t go in. All those hours beating against light. It comes 

up my throat, a smote thing, a feathered thing. One enters one’s loneliness like light 

enters a clearing. Palely. How His voice is said to flow through you. How bone changes 

your voice in your ear, so you hear yourself talking in a sound you’d never call your own.


SÉBASTIEN LUC BUTLER holds an MFA from the University of Virginia, where he was a Poe/Faulkner Fellow in poetry. His writing has been featured in The Journal, Yalobusha Review, Southern Indiana Review, and is forthcoming from Narrative. Sébastien is the recipient of the 2021 Hopwood Award for Poetry and a finalist for the 2023 Yellowwood Poetry Prize. He hails from Michigan, and currently resides in Brooklyn.


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