Poetry

Poetry

All Saints communion

—All Saints Episcopal Church,
Virginia Beach, April 1996
Having accepted from one palsied priest the cool,
the lucent wafer, having dipped it duly in the cup,
I pressed that sweet enormity fast against my tongue,
where on its sudden dissolution, I received a taste
of whose I was. I rose again and found my place.

As I knelt and tried to pray, I heard a little differently
the words the priest intoned as he continued offering
what passed for bread among high Protestants. His words:
the body of Christ, repeated as he set that emblem
into each pair of outstretched hands. My eyes were shut,

so each communicant returning down the aisle became
something of a shadow illustration of the words. In that
fraught moment, they became as well absorbed into the vast
array of witnesses, whose cloud invisibly attended
our sacramental blurring of the edge that keeps us separate.



Laying on of hands

Only with dogs and children
and sometimes a woman weeping
on a bus station bench, hands
folded across her face like a veil.

The stranger passing
can only bring himself to stand
beside her, allow his hand
to settle on her shoulder, fingertips
touching, then lifting, then lighting
poised, muscles taut
for flight at the first ripple.

Only in a public place:
soldiers too sober to notice
a plain woman on a bench.
Widows on pensions, touring America,
passes clutched deep in pants’ pockets.
College kids lost in travel diaries.

Only the janitor, himself invisible as khaki,
sees as he kneels beside the bench
to save his back retrieving
the paper coffee cup—its handles
the halves of a valentine,
unfolding wings,

a woman rising
in a man’s overcoat, wiping her eyes
with a wadded hankie and laughing
at nothing . . . nothing at all.

Even now I wing

It stands in the water stilted
head cocked like a hammer; faster
than the eye it hooks a flash of gray and then
a glimpse of silver quickly swallowed.
I wish the canoe to silence,
hold breath with the day a ruffle
of air and feathers an explosion
into grace and it’s gone a hundred
yards away. I begin the painstaking
task of easing oar and self across
the surface towards this totem an avatar
granting pure life, motion, a reason
to be. It wings forth again in perfect
silence and falls perched on the stillness
that stretches its hand out over
the water down deep into the mud the fish
that are blind to the roots into me where
even now I am winging

with the blue heron.