I am the sin-eater

By Mark Phillips

My turn came. I spoke about an old and now abandoned Gaelic and English tradition of hiring a sin-eater to be present at the wake of a loved one who died with an endangered soul. After a chunk of bread and bowl of beer or wine were placed on the corpse, the sin-eater ate sacrificially of the offering, absorbing the sins of the dearly departed and thereby allowing the soul a possibility of heavenly immortality.

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Songs

By Mark Phillips

Since someday a medical test could discover within you the thing long feared, the doctor’s office might be a good setting for the beginning of this story.

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Applause for the Magi

By Mark Phillips

Late in that very rainy autumn the good citizens of the river city of Olean, New York, debated whether to permit a soup kitchen into their downtown business district on North Union Street.

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Hawk and squirrel and God and them

By Mark Phillips

Plush and varicolored in the rebounding light, the hawk grounded me with awe, though to the panicked squirrel leaping and spiraling from branch to branch in a rufous blur, the low-swooping predator must have seemed something like the warplane that Picasso implies in Guernica.

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The Lay of Our Land

By Mark Phillips

In the lumpy region I call home, a study determined to the surprise of few that tooth disease is our most serious health problem.

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Good Luck Lake

By Mark Phillips

It swept me like an October windstorm, my sap plummeting and years rattling and ripping loose. Although I was wearing shorts and standing amidst a seesawing cloud of honeybees, I almost expected to glimpse snowflakes.

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Bigots I Have Loved

By Mark Phillips

Perhaps Faulkner was mistaken and the past really is past — bigotry little more than a rusty whip handle unearthed at the site of a Mississippi plantation.

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