Keening nuns turn to boreal fiends
on their tidal island, filing through blind arcades
fighting nor’easters. Heading chapel wise
their habits keep their foreheads cozy.

But the altar has gone green. The girls drop
their coarse cut cloth and get low, to prostrate.
Lithe moss virgins, their green bodies light up
the damp stone. A ring of thorns has sprung

up suddenly outside—proper protection
for the sacred enclosure. They start singing
soft—fingertips touching, teasing the larger body
of moss. Their song is the wind and starts

inside. When their hearts beat in sync
they shout. The air pressure drops. The church
smells of earth and the briny holler of the sea.
They can see—somewhere out there—the water

is rising. Funerals are being held on playgrounds—
kids keep time to their mourning songs by bouncing
their rubber balls.

Listen to them now—
Put up your dukes! Rough up your words!

The skin curls back from the mouth of a second-term
savior—when the dead smile like that
there’s no longer such a thing as direction.



“Night Paintings” by Xueer Yu is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0