The Minister of the Cabinet of Talismans and Amulets

counts her lucky stars—
sets them on cerulean velvet,
arranges them by brightness, cut, and hue,
and takes the star most brilliant in her tweezers,
fits it in a setting
from the curved bill of an ibis,
floats it on a strand from a dark arpeggione,
and when she strings it ’round her neck,
she becomes percussive as a heart.
From this, a measure of defense.
She bears her horns and becomes
like a bright object, made by art.
And the jewel says: To make
and: A reminder to keep the law,
and she performed a rite
and the jewel said:
Do, make, do, make,
And she: Make do, amuletum,
voices of unknown origin.
She listens intently to the voices,
and wonders which (if any)
might be God’s, and how should she distinguish
from among them, and then the jewel contained her
and she became all angles,
and questioned the voices freely,
and the jewel said: Completion.
(All questions to God begin with Why.)
And the jewel scribed itself as text on vellum,
and she became a totem (telos): result, end.


The Cabinet of Lesser Offenses
(PDF file)


stephanie-schlaifer-photoStephanie Ellis Schlaifer lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she co-curates the Observable Readings series. She has a BFA & BA from Washington University in St. Louis and an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from AGNI, LIT, Denver Quarterly, 1913, OmniVerse, Colorado Review, Fence, and elsewhere. Her manuscript, Clarkston Street Polaroids, has been a finalist at Omnidawn, Tupelo Press, and Alice James, among others. Stephanie is a compulsive baker and also very handy with a pitchfork.