The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Robert Claps

Sign of the Cross


A rush of cold air revived us when,
Halfway through the viewing, Wendy Michaud,
The only eighth-grade girl who wore nylons,
Strode through the etched-glass doors,
And leaving heel prints in the carpet
Walked up to kneel at the rail where
Sister Margaret was laid out.

Mourners admiring the floral arrangements
Or studying cracks in the plaster ceiling
Tried not to watch her walk back down the aisle,
Scenting the room with White Shoulders
While she looked for a seat;
But my eyes were on her gold glittering
Lips and black-shaded eyes, the coppery
Wisp of hair that kept falling across her face.

Mother Superior wrapped her rosary
Tight around her fingers, waiting
For a sudden wind to make
The lilies and snapdragons tremble,
For a spirit to levitate briefly
Above Sister’s casket, the trumpet
of God himself to blast a warning
To the sinners among us,

But when Wendy sat next to me
And with her painted fingernail traced
The outlines of a cross on my inner thigh,
The only sound I heard was the jangle
Of her bangled bracelet, and the basement
Furnace switching on, a low rumbling
Even the plush carpet could not contain.




ROBERT CLAPS lives with his wife in eastern Connecticut.  He has spent thirty years in information technology, having worked for the same insurance company Wallace Stevens worked for, though he is pretty sure Stevens' talents did not rub off on him.  Other work of his is forthcoming or has appeared in Crab Creek Review, the Louisville Review, the St. Katherine Review, and Tar River Poetry.



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