Dec 18
Thursday

Issue II, Volume VI : November 2014

Dan Masterson - Poetry

DanMasterson Dan Masterson was elected to membership in Pen International in 1986 and is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Bullis, Borestone, and Fels awards, and is the founding editor of the internet’s Enskyment Poetry Anthology.  A third collection, World Without End, as well as his new and selected, That Which Is Seen, are still in the marketplace (U of Arkansas P).  His poems have appeared in an eclectic array of publications including Poetry, Esquire, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, The London Magazine, as well as the Ontario, Sewanee, Paris, Southern, Hudson, Yale, Gettysburg, and Georgia Reviews. The complete texts of his first two books, On Earth as It Is and Those Who Trespass, are in the permanent online collection of The Contemporary American Poetry Archives . His work has also been anthologized in The Random House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry; Holt Language Arts; Poets Against the War; Houghton-Mifflin’s Elements of Literature; The Poetry CalendarPerfect in Their Art, and elsewhere.  In 2006, Syracuse University's Bird Library assumed stewardship of The Dan Masterson Papers for its Special Collections Research Center. Last year, he was appointed the first Poet Laureate for New York State’s Rockland County.
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Watch Even Until Night


She's seen that look before, coming
From older men: professors, clerks,
The leathery faces of cops pulling her
Over at night on the outskirts of town.
But never here, in church, coming
From the visiting priest laying
The host on her tongue, intoning

The Body of Christ. She closes her eyes
And lowers her head, but he remains,
Allowing his thumb to slide inside
Her upper lip. She pulls back and opens
Her eyes to find him gone. She returns
To her pew and tries to pray him away,
But he is there on the inside of her

Closed lids, a bulbous man, what is
Known as a floater, a priest without
A parish, sent to fill in for regulars
During summer vacations. Her teeth
Stick to the flesh where his thumb had
Been. She opens her eyes and licks
Her lips, trying to wash him away,

But he is there, behind the altar, facing
The congregation, hands raised
In prayer, his eyes finding hers as she
Flicks them away to the safety
Of the wooden crucifix dangling far
Overhead. She will say nothing
At home. They would only accuse her

Of sacrilege, insist that her year away
At the university turned her against all
That is good. And she will play CYO
Alum basketball tonight, as she promised
Her friends she would, and hopes he
Isn't there. But he'll be there waiting,
Watching her every move, his throat

Drying out, his palms growing wet,
The thumb that found her throbbing
As though he'd slammed it in
The gym locker she will choose
To use, he touching them all this
Afternoon, knowing one will be hers
When she comes after supper to take

A uniform hanging fresh from the wash
Beside the shower stalls. He knows
Which one it will be, he is sure, and he
Moves the others away from it, talking
To it, smiling, smoothing the pleats,
Turning it inside out and then back.
When the game is finished, he will ask

Her to stay with some others to tidy up,
And he will send her with the rectory
Key on an errand moments before he
Dismisses the others with smiles
And blessings. He will find her alone
In the study, frantic to find the book
He said was on the side of the desk

Next to the phone. She will hear his
Voice broken by the locking
Of the door, and she will look up
To see the sickening smile she saw
At Mass, and she will beg him to let
Her go home, that she will say nothing.
He will smile again and explain that

The house is empty; she is wasting time.
He will ask if she knows The Lives
Of the Saints, Saint Rosalie who entered
A cave in her teens and dwelt there
For the rest of her life. Is that you? he
will ask. I think not, he will say.
And Aquinas, whose parents sent

A prostitute to his room in hopes
Of dissuading him from
The priesthood. You are my night
Visitor, he will tell her, sent as reward
For faithful service. God is good, he
Will say, and understanding, making
The sign of the cross over her. She

makes a run for it, as he grabs a fistful
Of hair and removes a penknife from
His cassock, rubbing it unopened back
And forth under her breasts. I will cut
Them if you don't behave; I will, he
Will say in the voice that says The body
Of Christ. And then it will begin. She

Will say nothing, but will keep her eyes
Closed no matter what he does. She
Will make it through. And she will
Go home and say goodnight to her
Family and go to her room where she
Will kneel at her bedside to say prayers
She learned as a child from nuns who

Chose to live lives hidden away together
Far from the reaches of men.