In church as a child, where the Pledged pews
force spines into unpleasant uprightness,
(by sermon’s end I’d be drooping carpetward,)
he’d sing: round little man, lumpy as a dog’s bed,
crooning coffeehouse acoustic, eyes closed
or unfocused off to the left somewhere, gone,
then he’d return, stooping a bit under applause,
plump cheeks tucked upward in embarrassment,
while the pastor thanked him for his message in song.
He’d remember my name and always greet me.
He’d stand at service’s end to deliver the news: men’s
brunch on Saturday, and remember the family
of long-on-the-prayer-list-name. I don’t know
what mad dog grabbed his washed-whiter-than-snow
in its teeth and shook and shook.
It looked real, didn’t it, under the definite,
decorated lamps, in such direct light,
Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night?
It was real. Every cup of Welch’s grape juice,
solemnly swallowed. Head bowed, sweat
glistening at the edge of receding hair line.
This too is real: the singer’s mug shot
in the Sunday news, the story of his secret sin.
Smudged from dew, left
under my parents’ mailbox. Real:
the empty pew, the backlit blue baptism-tank.
He molested a child. There it is, in type:
how the Band-Aid of grace did nothing
for him, even less for his victim; it’s peeled off
and the wound won’t scab, just bleeds.
The Orthodox Presbyterians believe
that while some of us are predestined
to be saved, others are predestined
to be damned.
So I too bleed from my wound: the dream
wherein you, mid-sentence, lean in
to kiss me, and I lean too, and I fall
headfirst into bewilderment and awe.
What mad dog is this, opening
Tiamat’s maw to savage our fences,
allowing such a collision? a god
to be worshiped? a devil to be choked?
The singing man said:
I have always been attracted
to young children.
He is not twisted, to be untwisted;
he is not dirty, to be cleaned;
he is an arrow shot from birth
that cannot, by a million tiny cups
tipped in reverence, in belief,
be knocked astray. So are we all
shot into our unfathomable distances:
he to wound a child; I to wound you;
you to wound me.