In Him Were Hid­den All Our Tongues

The Iowa Review - - G.C. WALDREP -

Cliff­side, NC, 2015

Abide with me. Zion is wasted and th­ese mow­ers move each like an aban­doned church across this grass-scape, re­plete in their gen­i­tals. Mag­no­lia-sire, your faith is in my mouth be­low the ru­ined Bap­tist church. I am buy­ing, I am sell­ing, I can­not think for all the roses that have died for me, for me, tak­ing this block wall. This rail. This cracked as­phalt. A lit­tle higher, a lit­tle lower, my friend The­olo­gian, borne up on your mem­o­rized flood. In­side the frame

chapel, a sin­gle shadow (white) and an­other shadow (black) and all along a sin­gle bell, canted and ring­ing. This is not about re­spon­si­bil­ity. This is not about the post of­fice, the Ma­sonic lodge so ex­tant they re­pel the sun. There is al­ways a point of en­try into the church of the body, which is some­times fur­nished, some­times not. Imag­ine the arms of the men and women car­ry­ing the last flow­ers from this build­ing mas­querad­ing as my funeral. My drama­tis

per­sonae. You see, when a body car­ries some­thing be­fore it the hands, the tips of the hands move into the fu­ture first. And there is a cer­tain loose­ness, a cer­tain bend to the knee. So you can still send a let­ter there, suit­ably franked. Tres­pass is pos­si­ble. Re­place the houses with trail­ers and feel if not good about it, then at least strong. Able to wield any tool, to mow in sea­son. Male and fe­male the mow­ers, scat­tered now across the apron of the hill. Soon

I will al­most re­mem­ber where I am, the great bruise called Art dredged up from the deep tis­sues of his­tory, that rav­ished mir­ror. My par­ents said they worked for hours and hours, as if they were guests. “Worked like guests” is what I heard. I could have watched their chil­dren play­ing in the sand­pit by the school, but that would have been wrong. Be­hind the next hill crouches a low build­ing now la­beled THE CHURCH OF THE EX­CEP­TIONAL

(“For the Phys­i­cally & Men­tally Hand­i­capped”), which I am quite sure used to be some­thing else. Pen­te­costal? Wheels within wheels, sing the mow­ers, chanty-style, but there’s no one to an­swer, the chil­dren hav­ing been led blind­folded back into the school. I’m not mak­ing this up, and I’m not griev­ing. I have just bro­ken off a blade of pal­metto and rolled it be­tween my fin­gers, which are the fu­ture we share, the dif­fer­ence be­tween what is pri­estly

and what is merely priest. Flow­er­ing and un­flow­er­ing in the heat of the day, its fat, per­cus­sive knot. Paint an an­gry moon on the door if you think it would help. There is not enough mar­riage im­agery in the world of this poem, my lame ac­coun­tant told me, af­ter the fact. I’d ask the mow­ers, but they have fled from me now, into the shade of their noon­day meal. Set the first gate be­neath the night’s jute skin. I have drawn you a map of what

is most fal­low within me, where the al­tars once stood. The time I vaulted the rail­ing to save the boy whose polyester robe had leapt up in flame—and the time I did not. The time I merely watched to see what would hap­pen next. Th­ese grasses are what hap­pens next, and the high places from which our lives run down like def­i­ni­tions, parable and blas­to­cyst and felon. There are no hunters here be­cause it is not the sea­son for hunt­ing. My knowl­edge takes me this far,

as far as the cal­luses be­tween fore­fin­ger and thumb. Des­o­late and void the mas­ter sang, but so beau­ti­fully I wanted to fol­low him. I fol­lowed him. And through me passed men and women, their arms all held out, not in sup­pli­ca­tion or wel­come but in the bear­ing of bur­dens. Abide with me, O you pretty adop­tion. I will be your map. I will lift your body. I am gath­er­ing the grass of you into my arms right now. Don’t lis­ten to the mow­ers or to the songs their chil­dren sing.

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