Excerpt #104, Rocking-Chair Moon

Long-Lost
—Carly

Above the walk St. Patrick’s looms,
shimmering in the rain-swept night,
its ghosts asleep in barren rooms,
its stained-glass windows craving light.

No priest is waiting in the dark
to meet me at the chain-wrapped gate
to offer a hand or warm remark
or encouragement when I hesitate.

But if the word of my return
had reached the black-cloaked cleric’s lair,
candles could already burn,
icons could be bowed in prayer.

He could have killed a fatted calf,
he could have set a splendid spread,
and hired a choir on my behalf
to chant these worries from my head,

because for most of our young lives
Father Gill spread cheer on Ben and me.
Then came the bagpipe and the fife,
and his grins felt more like treachery.

Oh, wandering Ben, chart your course
for a hometown destination.
I’ll dig my ancient church clothes out
and meet you at the railroad station.

Oh, shipwrecked Ben, it’s time to set sail,
and travel on home to us tonight.
I’ll meet you at our favorite trail,
and we’ll run my hill by candlelight.

Oh, foolish Ben, don’t say you’re armed—
those hollow words don’t comfort me.
If you get careless, you’ll get harmed
over someone’s reckless fantasy.

I climb the steps, I try the door,
I rap the weathered, rain-drenched wood,
I peer through cracks for something more,
I’d slip between them if I could,

because Benny needs a churched appeal,
a prayer for which I’d gladly tithe.
My feeble pleas seem less than real,
and no match for the reaper’s scythe.

But lurking serves up no surprises,
no glowing candle, no warming smile,
no reaching out, no compromises,
no feast awaiting in the aisle.

I trudge on, searching for a sign,
I dawdle at the rectory stair,
but no priest heeds this heart of mine,
no one eases the winter there.

But maybe on another day
my hopes will lure me here again.
Maybe the doors will swing away
to welcome back my brother Ben.

So here’s my prayer,
un-churched and unadorned:
He better be walkin’.

Time Ain’t On My Side
—Ben

Carly wasn’t right.
I know she didn’t really believe it herself,
that she was only trying to make both of us
feel better when she said it,
but she was wrong anyway,
and someday I’ll tell her about it.

Time doesn’t go fast over here.
It’s a dead, limbless thing,
lying in the road,
rotting.

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