The Man Steps into Nettles on the Way to Mass

by Tobi Cogswell

Dressed in his “church pants”, he cuts through a field
like a rabbit on skates. Late as he often is, he’ll get “the eye”

from some chuntering old usher—get nothing but grief
from postman to pub to his mother and wife,

who left ahead of him–early–gently walking the road,
the sway of her contentment like a velvet metronome.

Sometimes they walk together—he pestering the edges
of her hair with bawdy words that pink her cheeks,

that she’ll remember later, after family obligations
and a quick snippet of cake allow for their own time,

curtains pulled to shadows, a vase of yellow on the table
and the two of them, a rippled alchemy of lust and love.

But not today. And now the nettles, thick around his legs
like fire ants, pay him back for being slothful,

one of his sins. He will sit toward the back and pray
for the sting to dissolve in the distance, his whispered psalm.


Tobi Cogswell is a four-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Her sixth and latest chapbook is Lapses & Absences, (Blue Horse Press). Her seventh chapbook, The Coincidence of Castles, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review.

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