“In the Fourth Grade”

Listen to Charles Grosel read this poem.

He wears his hood pulled down around his face
like a slouching monk on his daily round, his hands
joined in the pouch at his waist, a skull at his neck

instead of a rosary, though its beaded
mysteries still prevail—joyful, sorrowful,
and glorious. He’s content at ten to practice

the easy monasticism of boys at play,
their rites and rituals, the laying on of hands,
the catechism of adventure cards,

hard equations of loss and redemption,
ceremonies of judgment and exile,
a liturgy interrupted only when she

and her sisters draw near, a more recent rite
for which even he emerges from his cowl
face aglow with the light of the convert.