In a huge hotel where the concierge told me there had been count them Three weddings the day before, which is why they erected the epic tent. I got there early and watched people file in. The tall guitar player asked Me if I was the minister. The minister turned out to be a lady who once She got started talking never really stopped except for the music. When The songs started everyone except me stood and held hands and swayed. I am a Catholic man and we only hold hands with children and we don’t Sway. I tried for a while to figure out what species of church service this Was but you just could not tell. There was swaying, which seemed to Be Baptist, and discussion of sacrifice and fasts, which seemed Calvinist, And there were tall people with excellent teeth who seemed Mormonish, And there was talk of the Spirit and the One and suchlike, which seemed Unitarian to me, but then I heard the name Christos . . . Greek Orthodox? For a minute there I wondered if there would be snake-handling or maybe A sudden burst from the Koran, or a pause while we discussed the Torah, But the service stayed determinedly undeterminable. In the opening salvo Of this service I was amused, thinking that it might be something offered By the hotel for its guests, an attractant, some expensive consultant’s idea For adding value to your stay at the hotel, and I marveled at the marketing Brilliance of it—welcoming everyone, offending no one, proffering ritual Without trademark, adding bonus usage to the rent of the tent, as well as Excellent community relations. But soon I stopped being amused and was Moved, despite the endless blather of the minister. People had come to be Moved. They had come to hold hands and sing. There were bright ribbons On the folding chairs by the aisle to signal the bride’s or the groom’s side. There was a man’s green tie knotted to a tent stake. There were tiny babies In their mother’s arms. There was a man hunched in a wheelchair. Why do We ever bother to argue about religion? All religions are the same glorious Wine, susceptible to going bad but capable of quiet joyous gentle elevation. They’re all useful and useless, mesmerized and ruined by power, but always Pregnant with the possibility of humility. They are so easy to ignore. You’d Be wise to sneer, with every reason imaginable for the curl of your knowing Lip. Yet here I am, on Sunday morning, in the wedding reception tent, agog; Not so much at the earnest idiot of a minister, but at everyone, sweetly, else.
Looking at photographs of the kids. One of them is going To college tomorrow. I used to wear that kid like a jacket. He fell asleep instantly given the slightest chance. School, The car, even once during a time-out at a basketball game, Although to be fair he was the point guard and had played The whole first half and been double-teamed. He could be Laughing at something and you’d turn away to see a hawk Or his lissome mom and when you turned back he was out. But tomorrow he’s in the top bunk in a room far away. We Will leave the back porch light on for him out of habit and In the morning we will both notice that it’s still on and one Of us will cry right into the coffee beans and the other will Remember that it felt like all the poems we mean when we Say words like dad and son and love when I slung that boy Over one shoulder or another or carried him amidships like A sack of rice or best of all dangling him by his feet so that All the nickels he put in his pockets for just this eventuality Poured down like something else we do not have words for.