Outside the circle
of sleep, even the destitute
have deserted, carting
their sample prayers away. My apology
is my foreshadow, my hind legs my only
legs, unarmed

I am and gauzed
with wool.

Then the dream shook
me gently, so I had to admit (as they were always trying to get me 
to do) I’d slept
after all. Next I dreamed an oxy
moron, woke
under the door at four
a.m. in a feminist
masterpiece, let myself out
of the cold cabin.

Prescription mist dis
solved the fences, but the sheep were still
there, there was no incentive for them to join any of the guilds.


I’d been watching the shepherdess divide the days
of my vacation by pasture
rotation, by temenos. I’d been
apologizing for my exhaustion
as if it were in poor taste, something I kept failing to self
better or excise, neither

would it yield
to metaphor, to my yearning
for meaning, for sight
beyond the green
hill, even hind
sight. Up close,
the sound of tearing
grasses heavy surf.
They flung their shovel
heads from grazing and fixed me
with a single other
worldly stare. I understood

nothing, except that they didn’t have to enter
any church to sleep so why should I?


In New Zealand, I was reading, the eradication
of invasive mammals was all the rage. Stoats, who kill for show
like we do, rats, weasels. The stakes were nothing
less than national identity. Title

for this poem? Had I gone too far,
missed the ending? Should I turn
around and go back the way

I came till I get to that good

spot or keep going knowing what

I now know about circles?

Kirstin Allio won the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize from FC2 for her new story collection, Double-Check for Sleeping Children, coming out in 2024. Previous books are the novels Garner (Coffee House Press), Buddhism for Western Children (University of Iowa), and the story collection Clothed, Female Figure (Dzanc). Her awards and honors include fellowships from Brown University’s Howard Foundation and MacDowell. She lives in Providence, RI.