One More Bearer in the Puritan Parade


I. The Mass Bay Colony: a Quarry

Her Puritan hand stiffens
beneath the Biblical spine.
I know that cramp:
the hammy flesh
in which my phone’s congealed.

Her Book gives life
because it’s dead,
each word a pebble uneroded,
as jagged in the new England
as in the one she once called home.

But I scorn her dead paper—
no borrowed truth for me!
I can google for ceramic tiles
and build a path towards superation.
And when that’s insufficient,
when I’m hungover or heartbroken, and
hungry for denser stone, some pixelated volume
from the Borgesian Library of Babel appears,
because God or Gates or the algorithm’s great
and angels understand the divine mandates
of search engine optimization.

It’s absurd and I hate it.
I sit on that porcelain contraption,
the most important invention here,
and let the “device” dissolve between my fingers,
meld to the bathroom floor.

Flush. Wash.

I leave the screen and walk through woods
on a path of blue, sharp stones
lain before me by a stern volunteer
revising a secret smile.

Back home I write. My script’s
softer than her Bible type, but
harder than her molten hand.

II. Puritan-Damp

Living without faith is like
having your arms stuck in Puritan stocks
bolted to the ocean floor.

The heart splinters and
plummets to the toes—like
styrofoam cups they shrivel.

My mind’s more architect than
visionary, more cement-mixer
than primordial stew.

You can make sweet paste
from butterfly wings
and sell it in a tube—

but to call providence
comely is calumny—to complete
a thought’s to square a hole,

and to write—that buzzing
is all and nothing—is
to wet dry paper. Fool.

III. Puritan Poet Erotica

She peers into her house through flaming lips
and envisions penetration with pen.
My world too burns—in Lewiston, Alberta, and
a thousand enflamed entrails.

Both our shelves have Bibles—her’s oft-read,
mine half-imagined. Surely scriptural curls
align to form her tendons—and her poems
contain only Biblical prescriptions?

But no—her house-burning tale
has Bible-like covers, but the actual poem,
the fleshy bit in the middle,
dissolves in intelligized womb.

Ten-timed mother with throbbing heart
imprinted on virginal screed, she passes
the charred vestige of her Puritan hut and
thinks: I lay there. And he lay with me.

Fuck stereotypes. Puritans loved sex—
may the pleasure of the marriage bed produceth
the greatest of joys. Anne wasn’t known in town
as the poet, but as the bedful screamer.

I wonder what sort of breasts she had—
if living before internet porn
and globalization, she knew how many
types of nipples are out there?

I wonder about her kinks. Would I
have been too boring for Puritan-Anne?
Could a guy raised on Hollyweed sex
dance to Solomon’s songs?

I imagine us in that house together—or no,
after, lying entwined on those blackened remains,
my tongue traveling like a futuristic ice cube
from her neck to her breasts with their singular nipples and
down, down, down to the brine of the pearly gates,

and here I bare it—white-inked, half-flaccid, unsure—and
thrust it toward biblical abode,
and as I move I say, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know”
and she assures, “Me neither, me neither—
but just keep going.”


Benjamin Clabault is a writer and teacher from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He lives with his wife in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he’s pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. His work has been published in Literary Traveler, The Bookends Review, and Inlandia: A Literary Journey.

Katherine Madden teaches Photography and Digital Art at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, California. She holds a PhD and MA in Critical Studies from the University of Southern California and a BA in Film and Media Studies from UC Irvine. The best part of her day is spending time with her husband, sons, and dachshund, Rosco.