St. Francis Disrobes

Paige Lewis

When Saint Francis materializedin the corner of my studio apartment,I figured I was in for a quickmessage from the Almighty—Thoushalt lose weight, or Thou shalt not liewith thine physics professor. I thoughtthat would take an hour—two hourstops. On the first day, he didn't speak,but held a steady rhythm of five sighsper minute. On the second day, he moved,began undoing his robe, and Iimagined red squirrels perched uponhigh snag ribs, and swallows—mouthylittle things—skimming the fieldsof fabric around his ankles. In him,I expected to find where the riverquirks, to learn how many feeta millipede can live without. Iwanted to see my prayers tangledin his chest hairs. Or maybe Iwanted no hair—for his body to bebare as tonsured scalp, but now it's daythirty and his hands are still unfoldinglayers upon layers of brown wool.Sometimes, I look past him to watchinfomercials, where hollow-cheekedwomen shove apples into self-cleaning juicers. I invite men over,but they spend the night askingquestions he won't answer, like whyleaves in shadow appear light blue,why bees prefer beer cans to daisies,or why their wives don't forgive themwhen they come home smelling of me?I often dream of him speaking, of hisfinal unravel revealing a silk dress.A present from my father, he says,and as he raises his thumb to touchmy forehead I ask, Which father?

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Paige Lewis is the author of Space Struck (Sarabande Books, 2019). Their poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. Lewis is the curator of the YouTube series Ours Poetica. They currently teach at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA program at Randolph College.

Louisville, Kentucky

"'Give me more time// and I’m sure I could make this funny,' Lewis states in this vibrant debut collection, an exquisite feast of the brutal and the irreverent presented by a modern voice."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The playfulness and creative flourishes showcase the poet having the time of their life in crafting this debut."
Foreword Reviews

"[W]ise and witty."
Poetry Foundation

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