by Tony Hackett

Runestone, volume 4

when i was young,

every Sunday my mother

would walk with me

to church

disguised as a Chinese bakery.


we would tear into the

pink box & find God

in pork buns & egg tarts

& we took turns

tearing from loaves

stories with neither

beginnings nor ends.


walking back i was

tugged past a thin man

in one of grandma’s nighties                

who I called the Priest

& his watcher who

choked cigars in a lawn chair

on the porch.


threadbare gown & scarved head

the Priest would look up from

watering petunias

whose petals wrapped


& smile

a jagged skyline.

face cleft by canyons,

his bones sang of

discord &



mother didn’t have answers

to what i would ask,

but each time reminded me

that “men who lay with men

were certain to receive



i would continue on

& walk between

tree branches hanging


like arms

off the sides of the


palms up;

seeking forgiveness.


later i am brave

& i walk to church

with only a bulb on

my tongue

& find a silhouette aching

in windows bandaged

with plea-deal prayers

with Jesus

& the Devil

& hear the whisper-weep of

the petunias’

leather skin. 

i get my pink box

of God

& hurry. 


Stanford University

Tony Hackett is an undergraduate at Stanford University studying anthropology and political science. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Cold Creek Review and STATIC. He is a poet, zine-curator, frisbee-thrower, succulent-enthusiast, and proud owner of a Tamagotchi. When he is not found beside a dog-eared stack of magical realism novels, he might be found tending to his vegetable garden, absorbing the world and all of its beautiful imbrications, or (rarely) sleeping.

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