Poetry by Robert Gross: “Poor Souls”

Poet and dancer Robert Gross, whom I met last year at the Ollom Movement Art summer program, has kindly given me permission to reprint this prose-poem. It was first published in the current issue of the St. Sebastian Review, an LGBTQ Christian literary webzine. As I read it, “Poor Souls” suggests that every sin and regret that seems to separate us from God is trivial compared to the magnitude of God’s love, if we could only see it properly.

Poor Souls

Little by little, they unfold out of purgatory; origami figures undone in silence, each a metaphysical yawn, a backbend out of time. Everything slow-motions to the beat of rosaries and suffusions of incense, the unclocked passage of steady repentance. Atom by atom, the gilt wears off; innocence emerges. Back then, I would’ve given anything . . .

They stagger out of the dead-letter office, each one exhausted by the dusty bins of misaddressed intentions, insufficient postage, the vast shabbiness of venial offenses. They squint, contemplate the deserted plaza, sigh. No such thing as an original sin, they chuckle, just the steady dissipation of extenuating circumstances, endlessly recycled . . . the gun misfired. . . I couldn’t get it up . . . I thought desirously of his lips, then sneezed . . . sins of omission and implication, of reverie and miscalculation, inertia and cliché. Nothing and everything mortal.

I was determined to offend big-time but my mother came to visit . . . Imperceptibly, each infraction becomes unfascinating, silly, dwindles before the massiveness of love. I even considered . . . I know this sounds ridiculous . . .I can’t remember how . . .

One by one, the penitents come unmoored and are carried out to sea. A delicate flotilla awash in perpetual indulgence and plainchant; crystalline buoys impelled toward a luminous horizon. 


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