Spring 2006 • Vol. XXVIII No. 2 PoetryApril 1, 2006 |

Confessional

I was waiting for the frequency of my attentionto be tuned to an inner station—all mind but trivial matter,wavelengths modulated like topiary swans on a topiary sea—and not quite knowing where the tide would take me. In the darkness where I kneeled, I heard whispering,like dry leaves. It had a smell—beeswax, smoke—,a color—black—, and a shape like a thumb.That's when the door slid open and the light, that years ago spoke to me, spoke again, and through the veil,an arm, like a hand-headed snake, worked through,seven-fingered, each tipped with sin. What the snake could not see,I saw, even as it felt what I felt or heard what I said. Then along my arms boils and welts rose, on my backscourge marks burned. I counted nails, thorns.In my mind, inside my own death's head, I could hear: "Please,forgive me. Do not punish me for what I cannot be."

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Michael Collier’s sixth book, An Individual History, will be published by W.W. Norton, spring 2012. In 2009, he received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Maryland and is director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

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