Corey Mesler: “Cleanse Me”

Cleanse Me

Everyone’s back is soiled
except the man in the cave
whose back is a wall.
People arrive daily, con-
fused, in need. They
speak with wee voices, like
squeaks in a broken wheel.
They say, I am alone and
no one will cleanse me.
They say, tell me something
hopeful, we’re all dying.
The man in the cave retires
for five years. When he
returns no one seeks his ad-
vice. There are people in
other caves now. There are
still questions without
answers. There are long lines,
like a genealogy, lines of
applicants who want to re-
place the man in the cave,
who now never speaks, never
speaks. There is a silence,
a lingering silence like rainfall.


Corey Mesler has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and New Stories from the South. He has published 9 novels, 4 short story collections, 5 full-length poetry collections, and a dozen chapbooks. His novel Memphis Movie attracted kind words from Ann Beattie, Peter Coyote, and William Hjorstberg, among others. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart many times, and 3 of his poems were chosen for Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. With his wife, he runs a 142-year-old bookstore in Memphis. He can be found at

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