Friday, November 21, 2003

In Which I Accept My Challenge

I have taken myself up on the challenge to put my rather banal memories of childhood churchgoing into a poem.

Isn't it wonderful how "benediction" is, literally, "well-saying" and the anglo-saxon equivalent "blessing" has "blood" at its etymological root ? As blesser, in French, means to wound ?


Tall, stainless glass lets Sunday in.
It washes over them, a flood of light.
Their ark fills up. They soak in it,

their weekly bath of God. The organist
noodles an endless introitus,
prelude to boredoms still to come.

They congregate in neat suburban pairs,
hatless, hatted, man and wife,
the children somewhere else, unseen, unheard,

fruit of the gross but sanctioned act
that, if one must wed, though it’s best not to,
it’s to do that to beget them, Amen.

The texts are lectionarily correct,
the sermons spiced with anecdote
to make kerygma somewhat relevant

to CEO and PTA.
And once a month the Welch’s Grape
(glass thimbles rattling in bronze slots)

and widow Martha’s loaf go round.
The bread stays warm to the third pew
but, by the last, gouged of its sweetest part,

it's hollowed crust as empty as a tomb,
bird-food or trash, the sexton’s call.
One final plate goes round, and then

they say Our Father in Protestant
(debts and debtors, kingdom, glory, power.)
before the minister depulpits, glides

through nave to narthex, leaving them
for thirty awful seconds all alone
to face the whitewashed wall on which it hangs,

tastefully clean, Euclidian, severe:
the bodiless rebuke. The preacher looks
out at his stricken flock -- the well-scrubbed necks,

the haircuts, stylish hats. He pauses. Skips
the benediction (may the peace blah blah)
and, furious, he thunders out: God Bless !

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