by David Capps

Once upon a time, a monk turned to rock as he knelt.

That was about as far as I could get, in the sense of a Greek fairytale that translates ‘it was and it was not’, in the sense that I would like to believe, perceiving handprints from the soul’s crouching key, stalagmites poured from the soul, downwards, headlamp fixed on rock-prayer lime, to be a lifetime’s solid work.


This is something you’ll notice as you grow older: certain conversations form deposits in your memory, layered over for some reason you strive to discover.

I remember it was just before a poetry reading in Michigan. I was a teenager. A conversation about whether the word ‘soul’ should ever be used in a poem (I had been reading Rimbaud, I had printed my work out, scrawled in the margins). He didn’t budge, my dialogic. And then…

To my surprise, that little word had slipped into my work.


Then you may ask yourself, you may persist in asking why this has been retained, rather than that? At times you’ll doubt whether anything is truly insignificant, though not because you believe that everything is significant.

That further step may come to haunt you.

Morning mists which like the tendrils’ tempest test you, assuage the thigh and cool the blood at dawn as you wade awake, and farther, and farther, nothing so much as a father, your friend he watches warily— as hypothermia is real, excess is real, a feeling of wanting what is real is real.


So vague, I told him, that little word. Not exactly having at the time the earned, conscious realization of what a philosophical training would teach, that you can only purge ‘soul’ along with a battery of related concepts: ‘mind’, ‘self’, ‘will’, ‘consciousness’, ‘being’.

Et cetera.

The soul in question was like a leaf floating in the middle of a lake.


I don’t really know what happened between then and now.

I will say this: beyond the summit another sky opened, bluer than the bluest blue, large enough to house a monk’s meanderings. He would appear as the moon’s ode, geese cutting their way through parting clouds, mists that coax you into the spoils of the flesh, loons dipping their heads into the sobering water

as you cannot, in a place where you are lost for good, alive within the felt rivalries between this world and the next, the sentence and the thought that outpaces it, nudging forward into day.


Ah, little mouse, the petrified monk said, it is kind of you to join me. I don’t know who you are or whom you could have loved.

Maybe him.

You kneel by the fire, half-remembering the day before the night was through: feet hovering over acorns as they fell, scampering, human voices close behind you, how bones fused to centuries-exposed roots of the monastery, cuts and ridges warding sacred ground, upwelling hands spread over your wound-wood whorls.



David Capps is a philosophy professor and poet who lives in New Haven, CT. He is the author of four chapbooks: Poems from the First Voyage (The Nasiona Press, 2019), A Non-Grecian Non-Urn (Yavanika Press, 2019), Colossi (Kelsay Books, 2020), and Wheatfield with a Reaper (Akinoga Press, forthcoming). His latest work, On the Great Duration of Life, a riff on Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life, is available from Schism Neuronics.

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