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The Failure of Sodom

by Hailey Leithauser

Their sin was not sin.
There was nothing in it about sex
or too many sausages

at breakfast, or too little
time scrubbing floors
before bed.

An elderly woman in
a newly stained dress
was caught leaning

over a churn,
a dog snored,
the blacksmith’s youngest son

was opening the shutters
to let free a moth.
Neither was it about locked doors

or plates not set at the table.
Though careless, in the end
the people were kind.

Their downfall lay in the lesser
transgressions of dotage
and daydream, the tender

glamour of slow dust sifting
through door light, of light
sifting a pail,

so that when the stranger came
to her gate, the elderly woman
was lost in the study of a precise, jewel-

green lizard scuttling the wall,
the dog smelling a shoe,
the boy in his bed listening to rain,

not hearing it stop.


Hailey Leithauser’s work has recently appeared or is upcoming in Green Mountains Review, Pleiades, Meridian, The Greensboro Review, and Seneca Review. She is assistant editor of The National Poetry Review. (10/2006)

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