Sin Eating




for William

The bread is burned and the spirits are flat.

He is The Body—unidentified—misremembered,

and someone asks, “what happened?” and the locusts descend.


Someone saw him just yesterday.

Someone talked to him a few hours ago.

Someone wants this to be a lie.

Someone needs to know what to tell their children.

Someone claims he was “Joe’s cousin.”

Someone knows where The Body fell.

The bread is misshapen and too salty, and bits fall to nothing before their time.

The spirits are little more than water, and they slosh too heavy over their container.


He is identified—27withnarcotics—misremembered,

and someone says, “I’m not surprised” and the worms away with his tongue.


Amidst the photos used in his lineup, the last place he will be witnessed—

Shot A, middle finger up, smoke slinking around his neck

Shot B, long fingernails and sunburnt fingers, cradling a rounded herb

Shot C, in the middle of a group of men, the beautiful one—

He stands facing the camera, his face brilliant, his soul leaking out.

A spatula is in his hand, his face unmarked by tattoos and his



Of Time.

He is smiling and it is tugged to the top, collapsing under the weight of

misremembrances and


It is a meek offering and it does not go down easy.


The bread is not enough. It tastes of tears.

The spirits are not enough. They taste of blood.

He is Names He Was Not Given—everyone has taken a piece of him, now—misremembered

And someone shouts, “his name was William” and for a moment, they are silent.


Someone counts their own breaths—in and out. in and out.

Someone cannot see through their tear-strained eyes.

Someone began shaking hours ago and cannot seem to stop shaking.

Someone needs to hear him and dials him over and over and over and over and over.

Someone counts every movement as one he will not know.

Someone feels guilty for thinking about him in the past tense.

The bread is burned and the spirits are flat.

His memory is tugged from the clutches of thieves

And he is not The Body and he is not Names He Was Not Given


He was William.

He was beautiful.

He was human.


*I give easement

And rest now

To thee, dear William.

Come not down the lanes

Or in our meadows.

And for thy peace

I pawn my own soul.






*from The Sin-Eaters Prayer


The missive arrives at 1:03 in the afternoon.
It begins by misnaming, but eagerly, I read ahead.
It is not a promise, but it is promising.
Don’t tell him, not yet, I beg myself.
I tell him.
His face cracks into a smile, the first for months.
My heart leaps in my chest, a dull ache.
I ignore it.
It’s not a big deal, I warn myself.
Don’t get worked up.
But by 1:04
I was past this moment and into the after.
I smiled at myself in the mirror, a gracious smile.
This would be the one I would give in interviews.
My smirk would be reserved for the carpet.
The full smile, the one that made my eyes
Glint like dying embers in fading sun
That would be reserved for candid shots.
I did not save a smile for me
I would not be alone again
And I would not need it.


In my greeting I correct my name, graciously.


At 2:04 I send it.
I check my inbox and spam
And I refresh a million times.
At 2:15 I tell him about my plans
And his smile falters. He remembers
The last.
Don’t get your hopes too high, he warns gently.
But he feels so far beyond me now,
His words cannot reach.


The rejection comes swiftly, and like
A guillotine, I almost miss the pain of it.
I read it twice without seeing the words
And then it is remanded to the box labeled
They all go there, but the words that preceded them
Are flawed somewhere, and their killing blow
Reaches into the underworld and plucks
Again and again
At my ragged smile reserved
For when I am alone
Which (when he is not here,
And the words are there, waiting to be sent
To the box labeled
Is always.
The missive arrives at 4:48.
I am (again) misnamed
But the last seems so far away
And this is different, I can feel it.
I go to the mirror and practice the smile again
And I do not see the mirror’s hesitation
Its slow recovery.
The fading, cautious smile, with the pain
Behind the eyes.
That is the one I’ll use in this moment
And all moments hereafter.
Nothing, of course,
For the moments alone.
I will not be alone again
And I will not need it.