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ANTIPHON FOR THE OFFICE OF THE DEAD by William Kelley Woolfitt

a powder box and swans-down puff
her limp stocking, a green satin fan
spangled with dragonflies, curling-tongs
small muslin bags, a pumice stone

bits of skin, cut-glass bottles, cuticle
knife, a darner, nail powder, sealing wax

a powder box and swans-down puff
her limp stocking, a green satin fan
spangled with dragonflies, curling-tongs
small muslin bags, a pumice stone

bits of skin, cut-glass bottles, cuticle
knife, a darner, nail powder, sealing wax
spirals of her hair, glove buttoner
orangewood stick, gauze balls, shoe lift

velvet brush, rabbit’s foot, pots of rouge
lip salve, cold cream plumbed by her
tired fingers, silver trays of hatpins
hairpins, safety pins, to hold, to prick

foxtail scarf with chain, scrimshaw
manicure box with sweet pea vines
carved in the whale-bone lid, hand-mirror
holding her breath, a smudged cloud

 

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Aaron Blum, “Bittersweet.”  (Photograph)

William Kelley Woolfitt chose this original photograph by Aaron Blum to accompany his poem.  The poet explains: “I gave this poem its current title after reading Traci Brimhall’s wonderful ‘Dirge for the Idol.’ I had imagined an altar-like dressing-table laden with the dead parts of humans and other animals; naming the poem ‘Antiphon for the Office of the Dead’ was my way of naming that table a place of commemoration and lament. I see another kind of altar in Aaron Blum’s photograph ‘Bittersweet,’ a suggestion of mourning and mending, with a lamp that may burn for the lost and the quilt-like table runner that may gather pieces of the old and put them together again.”


 

 


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About William Kelley Woolfitt

William Kelley Woolfitt
William Kelley Woolfitt teaches creative writing and literature at Lee University. He has worked as a summer camp counselor, bookseller, ballpark peanuts vendor, and teacher of computer literacy to senior citizens. He is the author of The Salvager's Arts, co-winner of the 2011 Keystone Chapbook Prize. His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Threepenny Review, Cincinnati Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, Shenandoah, Los Angeles Review, Sycamore Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review.