from the shell of things * Unlike Hansel and Gretel or Shadrach and friends, he willingly crawls into the furnace, the black-boxed tunnel that leads into a large stone cylinder kiln, not sure if he is preparing himself for sacrifice or initiation or both at 176 dry degrees. He sits in sweat on hemp mats surrounded by ajummas and ajossis, the aunties and uncles frozen in prayer, maybe, or in memory, keeping the heat from finding new places on the body to rest, breathing calmly but intentionally, breathing the heat, breathing the darkness, breathing shared air still enough to see the common particles of human debris, breathing in each other. He has his face stuffed inside his shirt breathing in the remaining air he brought with him, most of him still outside, still wondering, still unsure if it’s good to crawl into an oven—if it’s good to follow the others inside a place where most of you is left behind.
Jacob Stratman’s first book of poems, What I Have I Offer With Two Hands, is a part of the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade, 2019). His most recent poems are forthcoming in The Christian Century, Spoon River Poetry Review, Salt Hill, Bearings Online, and Ekstasis. He lives and teaches in Siloam Springs, AR.