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Manoa 13.2 (2001) 114-115
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The Church of Omnivorous Light
On a long walk over the mountain you'd hear
them first, the pang and chorus
of their jubilations, as though you'd strayed
out of Hawthorne into Cotton Mather--
such joyous remorse, such cranky raptures.
And you'd love their fundamental squawking,
little Pentecostal magpies, diminutive
raven priests. You'd walk into their circle
like a drag queen into a Texas truck stop--
silence first, then the caterwauls, the righteous gacks.
Someone's gutted out a deer is all.
In the late autumn snow you'd see the deacons'
tracks--ursine, feline, canine--sweet eucharist of luck
and opportunity for them all. Take and eat,
clank the birds, but not too much. It might be a while.
You'd wonder, yes you would,
and maybe nudge with the toe of your boot
the seeming rigidity of the severed esophagus.
It's gently belled, like a deaf man's antique horn.
Breathless, the lungs subside to carnate blood.
You'd want to go, but you'd want to stay;
you'd want a way to say your part in the service
going on: through high windows
the nothing light, the fourteen stations
of the clouds, the offertory of the snow. [End Page 114]
Imagine the brethren returned, comical,
hopping in surplice and cassock, muttering,
made dyspeptic by your presence there, but hopeful too,
that something might yet come and open
your coarse, inexplicable soul to their sight.
In an Abandoned Orchard
Name them apples, these shoe-stiff sags
dangling, freckled by doors, the ports
of pomace-drunk fruit wasps six weeks ago dead.
Furtive at first, a doe arrives, examining the air,
nosing the lumpen ground for infirm
fly-blown halves, ecstatically mouthing.
She leaps and rises, lightly, so lightly
it cannot be believed she does not fly
but turns and turns beneath a bland, inconsequential sky.
The last fruit dangles and she hangs by desire beneath it.
In the crosshairs turning--her slender knees,
from the ground where she walks in a broth of muddy hearts.
Robert Wrigley most recently published Reign of Snakes (Viking Penguin, 1999), which won the Kingsley Tufts Award.