Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Tickets are available for Graywolf Literary Gala in Minneapolis on September 19. For more details about the event or to make a gift in honor of our 50th anniversary, click here

Book Title

The King's Touch

Author 1
Tom Sleigh
Poem Excerpt
No drip line to uncrimp, no one needing
to intubate the moon or hold the little plastic basin
to the sky’s lips. “The sun is an insult,” wrote one.

Millions on millions of stacked-up rooms
where screens become a hive mind
thinking it, seeing it, saying it over and over again.

—from “Little Testament”
Tom Sleigh’s poems are skeptical of the inevitability of our fate, but in this brilliant new collection, they are charged with a powerful sense of premonition, as if the future is unfolding before us, demanding something greater than the self. Justice is a prevailing force, even while the poems are fully cognizant of the refugee crisis, war, famine, and the brutal reality of a crowded hospital morgue.
The King’s Touch collides the world of fact and the world of mystery with a resolutely secular register. The title poem refers to the once-held belief that the king, as a divine representative, is imbued with the power of healing touch. Sleigh turns this encounter between illness and human contact toward his own chronic blood disease and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its mounting death tolls. One poem asks, “isn’t it true that no matter how long you / wear them, masks don’t grieve, only faces do?”
In this essential new work, Sleigh shows how the language of poetry itself can revive and recuperate a sense of a future under the conditions of violence, social unrest, and global anxiety about the fate of the planet.

Share Title

List Price
Publication Date
Publication Date
Trim Size
Trim Size
6.5 x 9
A profound encounter with the hyperreality of our time of global upheaval, violence, and pandemic.

About the Author

Tom  Sleigh
Credit: Annette Hornischer
Tom Sleigh is the author of ten books of poetry, most recently House of Fact, House of Ruin; Station Zed; Army Cats; and Space Walk, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He is also the author of two essay collections, The Land between Two Rivers: Writing in an Age of Refugees and Interview with a Ghost. Sleigh teaches at Hunter College and lives in New York.
More by author


  • “Generous, meticulous, haunted and grounded, The King’s Touch handles contemporary life with alertness and compassion. . . . Reading The King’s Touch is an extraordinary pleasure not to be missed.”—Joyce Peseroff, Arrowsmith 
  • “A book of urgent consciousness. . . . In the end, the life of reading, which Sleigh associates with his English teacher mother, is the life of consciousness itself, a privacy, the voice in our heads, the something more basic than heroism to which Sleigh pays his ultimate homage.”—David Blair, Consequence Forum 
Back to Table of Contents