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Frank Paino

Apocrypha: The Ram Considers Abraham


And what if my god

demanded of me blood

of my own kin,

a ewe, still unsteady

on spindled legs,

for an offering?

What if I led her

to pasture,

to the old wolf

whose hackled shadow


amidst the long grass?

What if I turned

only when the screaming

wind became the tongue

of an angel calling back

the Lord’s command

like a man who swallows

fire and lives to tell?

What if, in praise

of that late mercy,

I guided the wolf to the tent

where your firstborn slept

unattended, tangled

in dreams sweet as

the psalm buried

in his mother’s breast?



My Mother’s Corpse


She didn’t need the blanket,

couldn’t feel the cold


of the refrigerated room

to which she’d been consigned


until I could make it

for one final argument


with love’s

misguided ministries;


though it wasn’t sorrow

that came over me


as I stroked her face,

the thin lips that had


both blessed and cursed

me; only wonder


at such stillness,

the chill rising


as if from an autumn

lake I could not swim,


and the heaviness

when I lifted her


at the shoulders

to put her scapular


into its proper place—

one square of stitched


brown wool above her

heart, the other


between the blade

of each smooth shoulder.


Before I eased her down

against the stainless


gurney, I kissed the flesh

at the back of her neck



where blood had gathered

like a bewildered


tribe before a sea

that had not yet parted.



John, the Beloved Disciple


Lord, let me rest my head

above the prison

of your temporal heart,

its blood psalm swift

as winnowed flames

that clear a field

for someday’s harvest.

Let my own heart sing

in faultless synchrony

and so be hidden

in the selfsame song.

Let me take

the Magdalene’s place

at your feet,

caress the bones

that will be shattered

like tablets of stone.

Let me place my hands

upon these wrists

that will lift you

to each staggered breath

in the failing

pre-Sabbath light.

Master, let me

press my mouth

to the tender space

between your ribs

which will be opened

like a sepulchre

that cradles nothing

but a hollowed

winding sheet,

as if the man

once laid there

walked out

into the garden,


and unashamed.



Lucifer, Falling


To be suffered


spirit into matter


to be unloosed

from perfection’s tedium

into the wind’s shrill



into gravity’s harsh tug



to be made flesh


suddenly struck


with pain

and with desire


the gift

of your sweet




Frank Paino earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His fourth book, Dark Octaves, won the Longleaf Press Book Prize and is forthcoming (Winter 2024). His chapbook, Pietà, won the Jacar Press Chapbook Prize and was published in 2023. Frank has received a Pushcart Prize, The Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature, and an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. His poems have appeared in a variety of literary publications, including Crab Orchard Review, Catamaran, North American Review, World Literature Today, Briar Cliff Review, Lake Effect, and a number of anthologies. His website is


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