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My Father's Hats

All of the saints starved themselves.
Not a single fat one.
The words “deity” and “diet” must have come from the same
Latin root.

Those saints must have been thin as knucklebones
or shards of stained
glass or Christ carved
on his cross.

Hard
as pew seats. Brittle
as hair shirts. Women
made from bone, like the ribs that protrude from his wasted
wooden chest. Women consumed
by fervor.

They must have been able to walk three or four abreast
down that straight and oh-so-narrow path.
They must have slipped with ease through the eye
of the needle, leaving the weighty
camels stranded at the city gate.

Within that spare city’s walls,
I do not think I would find anyone like me.

I imagine I will find my kind outside
lolling in the garden
munching on the apples. 

—Mark Irwin

from New Letters, Volume 66, Number 3, 2000
New Letters

Copyright 2000 by The Curators of the University of Missouri.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Cleveland State University Press from New Letters. Copyright 2000 by The Curators of the University of Missouri. For further permissions information, contact The Curators of the University of Missouri, Kansas City, MO.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Mark Irwin is the author of six poetry collections, including American Urn: Selected Poems (Ashland Poetry Press, 2015).

Learn more about Mark Irwin at The Poetry Foundation.