A Whiff of Center


[A]s was usual with him, he began with the least important thing and worked around and in toward the center where the meaning was.
        —Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood


First come mastication, micturition, and defecation, the Latinate cleansing of the everyday. And work. And the children. (I’m being honest here.) There’s the loading up and desultory wiping down. Then hypochondria and catastrophizing. The mindless scrolling through ephemera, the clicking, the emoticons. And only once these rites have been enacted is there the center where the meaning is. The portal to otherness, the far off, the dimension in which time stops. The turning over of glass after glass to read the sediment at the bottom. The laying out of cards. Haruspicy. The reaching out of the hand to pull back the curtain on the Holy of Holies. Some days God stands there, naked, some days he doesn’t show his face—either way, the niceties must be obeyed, the working the way in toward the center, deferential but hungry, nostrils flared for the faintest scent.

Copyright © 2017 Devon Balwit. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Fall 2017.