Leslie Bohn


Uncomfortable with his position as prophet,
hoping to neither rename old gods
nor give pyrite to those who expected gold,
he described the smell of the sheep’s wool when wet,
the sound wheat made in the wind,
saying not how the air trembled in the fragile shell arcing
around them or that his voice gathered in its cracks
like water weathering stone. But mystics and ascetics
were once much needed novelties. He was given
food and drink to swallow as he choked
out the riddles some are so fond of.
Feeling he was bound to tell lies—anxiety
of his impending sin would lead him to it eventually;
no amount of dread could save him—he despaired eternally.
When he sat down with those who knew him,
               he plaited woody vines into nests; pinnated a frond;
               gathered air in his hands
               with a magician’s delicate choreography;
kept silent; let them talk; wondered that
the dome of heaven did not come crashing down.
One would lean his head against his shoulder;
another mock him. All laughed.
It was a peculiar vocation, prophet.
He would wish aloud he was with them on workdays
surveying land, tarring brick, eating lunch on a hot roof,
erecting proof of his existence on the landscape.
But as it was, he felt compelled to memorize
dreams and nightmares, catalogue signs and signifiers,
find truth in his own dissembling.
For the agnosics, he drew from his words a bridge
where meaning could enter their world again.
               It was for himself that he released
               palm warblers into the porcelain atmosphere.

Leslie Bohn teaches writing and ESL at Tennessee Technological University. Her work has appeared in Poems & Plays, Boxcar Poetry, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee.