Mennonite Poetry Home | Larry Nightingale



Hymn #51

This is my story. This is my song.

(There was a moment, there was a time.)

Impulsive. In lilac-light. Eating cake, dark and matrimonial.
Pressed into the shadow
under the high arches of summer.
Alone together in the cool of that church-basement kitchen.
Murky bright soul drinking in murky bright soul.

Love's little nothings crumbling like the dark confections.
Words hungrily swallowed into murmur
and a music-like moan. Eyes wide—eyes wide, green clashing
against violet, violet slashing across green. Lightning and thunder.
To the tune of a piano grand's great iron harp crashing.
Oh that herky jerky. They went under.

Love-sickened. Lips, tongues white. Drowning
in the sugary lilac darkness. They floated in twilight.

A third presence there
was a blind man—there was a blind man
in that building.
In an unspoken dialect of the soul he might have heard him
the silence, like the sermon of old blind Brother Cain.
And there was a mirror hung on the wall in that room,
and the three figures reflected, the woman
and the man and the blind ghost,
were broken and rudimentary,
spelling shame and fate and longing.
Like a stick-figure drawing of the grievous expulsion.
Or a boy's rude scripture on the church lavatory stall.

He is another woman's husband.
She is another man's wife.
So it is. Through the length of a paradise summer, measured between
baptisms, weddings, funerals—the seven rehearsals of the choir,
in the yard, out the window, the lilac bush holds full flower.
Under the church yard-light, insects are swarming,
silently singing us to our doom.
For the root is withered. The heart athirst.
And sweet breath is a dry gasp—choking air and lilac perfume.

There was a moment; we are in it,

trailing off across the fields
prayers of the broken righteous
twisting like tornadoes and traces of blessed hope
leaving town.

© Larry Nightingale




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