Pneuma – a poem by Kathryn Muensterman


Breath and spirit are one. This I know
with my ear pressed to the phone,

smiling at a crackle on the line – your slow
exhale – 

while my parents sleep across the hall.
It’s a song without words,

the heavy unspoken, like
I had another dream where

we just sat and talked and Did you
have the same one? You say

Remind me to tell you something in a long time.
I don’t know what a long time means, but

I want you there when I find out – 
want like the prophet denied

the promised land – to sit by you
in the grass outside your house,

a squirming cat
between us, heads bent together 

laughing in the dark.
Only a picture 

of Zion and a blessing.
Couldn’t even get you to hold my hand

that night from the passenger side,
and trust me, I tried. So for now we talk

in riddles, and when I prod for answers,
you only breathe a laugh

that trickles down my head like cool anointing oil. 
I say your name in a benediction

to my empty room,
grinning when I realize

This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done,
but didn’t God in all his wisdom, in a word

become one of us. We say goodnight
and wander long around the truth,

but I can hear you breathe,
and who could tell the difference.

Kathryn Muensterman is a native of Indiana and is currently pursuing a BA in English Literature at Washington and Lee University. She is the winner of a 2020 Academy of American Poets University Prize for her poem “Eschatology” (, and her poetry also appears in Washington and Lee’s literary magazine, Ampersand.

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