(from) the shell of things – poetry by Jacob Stratman

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.

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