the lake’s one grey-headed daily attendee
still brings bread crumbs in a chewing tobacco bag.
his massive spectacles droop and wither on his nose.
and one can often hear him muttering
about the morality of the Eisenhower years
to mallards kneeling, slick and wet, on the bank for crumbs,
genuflecting before this rock of the ages
wearing two different socks.
the stone of the church spire, a street distant,
still rages in the form of heavy shadows
dropping in like unexpected guests at noon
as they fall on the lake’s silent and mud-kept shore.
the lone bell smacks its clapper on the hour -
dust and dirt shimmy off god-old brass,
taking cover from the lack of tuning
that the priest dubs enharmonic with a skewed smile.
he alone is hell.
bushy white eyebrows cover half his face;
one can’t see his eyes;
only feel -
like hot water at 211 degrees.
old testament curses splash off the pulpit.
his collar’s been in the wash for fifteen years -
he’s yet to miss it. kissing the donation plate,
he knows this sunday morning
that jesus was kind to the tax collectors.
one misty-aired night of my youth,
i tread the weedy path to the lake’s mouth.
no mallards; a few bread crumbs stuck beneath the grass,
beneath the moonless monster of the night.
i could have wept there, looking for god at the lake,
beneath the body of the church.
the mist clenched and throbbed in tightening circles
about my frail body and unsteady eyes...
i wandered and kicked at roots
to find my way out.
falling into the lake,
all i could remember
was swimming lessons i never had.