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Poetry


“Overtime,” by Mischa Willett

Let it crack. Let its sound go
sour, and if, when it tolls the hour, we
hear an A minor rather than a B flat,
well, that’s that.

It’s breaking, but doesn’t need
replacing any more than liberty
for greening, the tower for leaning.

Cast in Limerick and floated round
the Cape to hang here and peel
for each assassination, graduation,
it grew, over time, ours. When is a bell

broken? A tongue stammers out
the time still, mimes the orbital
click, movement tick into noon
and now, cries flatly—ironic—from

its diaphragmatic round: Be it known
hereby! It is! Amen! This!

Each tock rhapsodic atop the tower clock.


From The Elegy Beta: And Other Poems by Mischa Willett. You can purchase this collection from the Mockingbird storeAmazon, and elsewhere.

“Dream at Bethel,” by Mischa Willett

Quiet now, but for camels’ tongues,
lopping fat and sticky in the young

desert night, big wind in the black backdrop
of sky, crickets and their ancient legs, log-pops

from my small fire. Cool on my feet,
this breeze after two days walking since the trees

of my village waved their shaggy good-byes. My wool socks
stuffed in boots, I relax; put a smooth rock

under my head, start to dream the dreams of my life:
I can fly like hawks, have green-eyed wives

from the east, am a sailor with a swift ship,
fish, kingdoms under me, then this:

a ladder leaning into clouds reaching high as noon,
quick as raindrops, up and down, angels, bright as moon.

Then a whisper comes sliding too, down the ricket of the bars,
promising peace and plenty, descendants like the stars.

The fire is dim as voices when the drop
of my leg wakes me. Blinking, I prop

on an elbow and look around for stairs, an unnatural
hint of spirits, but see only my bearded camels,

some lights on a hill from town, my boots, provisions.
I think better of my strange vision.

At breakfast I splash oil on my pillow rock—
it seems holy still—and get ready to walk, pack

everything, give the camels some straw,
call the place Church, to remember what I saw.


From The Elegy Beta: And Other Poems by Mischa Willett. You can purchase this collection from the Mockingbird store, Amazon, and elsewhere.

“This World Is Not Conclusion” (Song of COVID-19)

By Emily Dickinson:

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond —
Invisible, as Music —
But positive, as Sound —
It beckons, and it baffles —
Philosophy — don’t know —
And through a Riddle, at the last —
Sagacity, must go —
To guess it, puzzles scholars —
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown —
Faith slips — and laughs, and rallies —
Blushes, if any see —
Plucks at a twig of Evidence —
And asks a Vane, the way —
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit —
Strong Hallelujahs roll —
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul —

– 1862

As part of the Emily Days series on Saved by Design.

Long Distance Churching

“For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit…” (Colossians 2:5, RSV)

You are still my Dearly Beloved.
Gone are the proximate days we took for granted,
the friction of shoulders
mingling of voices
intimate meals of bread and wine.

Now we lay our hands
upon our screens
and pass the peace
by pressing Send.

We fear the rumors of loves
sundered by separation
and renew our vows
by keeping our distance:

Where you go I will not go
Where you lodge I will not lodge.
Your pixelated people are still my people
And your God my God.

“Escape from Circumstances”: Dickinson in Quarantine

Take It from the Woman Who Self-Sequestered for Over Fifty Years

“Come Crack the Frozen Branch-Ends / That’ve Had You So Long”: Foreword to The Elegy Beta

Mark S. Burrows Introduces Mischa Willett’s Poetry and Reminds Us What Poems Are for

The Mindset of Paradise Is Grace

What I Learned from Milton’s Satan

Departed to the Judgment

A Life Between Two Worlds

Human Being > Human Doing : A Favorite Piece of Spiritual Advice and Mary Oliver

In my first year of college, a few simple but profound words poured light into the deep, dark depths of my depression-riddled world. The words came to me thanks to an old friend of my dad’s who also happens to be a leader in a ministry I was beginning to dip my toes in. His […]

Just Getting By, but Decadently: Christian Wiman’s Survival Is a Style

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” – Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest Camp is not the obvious center in Christian Wiman’s new book of poems. But given his title’s invocation of affectation — Survival Is a Style — and given that camp is the supreme aesthetic (obviously), it […]

On the shortness and uncertainty of life

“O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we pray, deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life…” (Book of Common Prayer, pg. 504)

There are no good words for
our collective destination. Apart
from tragic, untimely, too soon.
The wound at the heart of the world.
Another angel added; a road well walked.

Words won’t do now, not for this.

The living bear all the grief of those who
were and are and will one day die.
Our plans, kingdoms, minds fall flat
before the period at the end of each line.
We don’t hold the pen, our days will end.
Where then is mercy? Whither hope?

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word wept

for the world, for you, for untimely,
and too soon. The Word weeps still
with sea-born tears that wash over
again, again with each new sentence end.

The mercy is presence not relief.
Hope is a face, two hands, scarred feet.
A quiet stand at the doorway and entry in
to a place where to end is only to begin.

Are We the Romans?

I remember purchasing Botch’s We Are the Romans at Earwax on State Street in Madison in October of 2003, and I remember buying along with it Dying Fetus’ latest record, Stop At Nothing. This was a time in which I not only listened to bands with names like Dying Fetus but also took perverse delight […]