Literature 1-12-2009

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Amy McCann

This week's What Light winner, "In the Small Church" by Amy McCann, was selected by poet William Stobb.


In the Small Church

I was watched. His sidelong eyes
and sagged head in perpetual nod
at my front-row pew as my thumb
rumpled pages of the King James, skimming
prophet to prophet like a dealer after aces.
A carved stare; varnished, impenetrable body,
and the narrow cross cold as lips
of ascetics who’ve kissed in visions alone.
Every touched part of me
flushed: hot blood crowding palms,
breasts, hips, my veins illuminated
into perfect maps of trespass.
All I had wanted: some man’s fingers
to sift my skin like handfuls of riverbed
silt and be left holding only gold. All I am
given instead: this heart stripped
of its terrible crown, a red comedy
in his stiff chest, gaping, incomprehensible
as a mouth I want to cover with my own.


Most days, I walk around feeling as if the world that I see, that I experience through my senses, is not the whole of it—as if we’re all a little blind, as if there’s a world behind the world and, if we could just get a little closer, see a little clearer—. Reading and writing poetry feels, for me, like a way to access that veiled place.


Amy McCann lives in Minneapolis and teaches creative writing at Northwestern College. She has an M.F.A. in Poetry from Eastern Washington University and has been an AWP Intro Award Winner and a finalist for the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship and the Loft Mentor Series. Her work has appeared in New Letters, Third Coast, Hotel Amerika, The Laurel Review, Puerto del Sol, Image, and others.