191 Readings

Holy Week, Acadiana

One whole holy week no air moved in town.

The ladies brought their boys to kneel
& fan them. We lit votives for the four men
lost out on the deep sea rig
& watched the flames inside the airless chapel,
still as stained-glass saints. They wavered only

when the congregation stood or kneeled,
when we sang in unison
the gospel’s final hallelujah. Hard to know,

that long hot week of noon mass, the hours
at the stations & the passion, how to pray
the right words.

The oilmen brought back three bodies
& the lost man’s wife swore
he was out there somewhere breathing, still.

But if we wished the lost man risen,
where was he? And what would he have seen?

One rule was
you couldn’t wish away the sorrow
the Lord saw fit to grant you
because even sorrow was His hand.

I folded my head against my folded knuckles
and whispered the only sure safe words I knew.

All at once the air became
a fist. Then it was a palm.
It slapped me down.

And when I rose I was wailing
& speaking. The Lord a light
inside my ribcage. My tongue
a tongue of fire. At the wrong season.

The women called
for cool damp cloths. The priest was wearing
the wrong shade robe for prophecy.
The men quieted & carried me

out the wide church doors. They lifted
by the ankles & the shoulders,
they laid me out. The Lord’s words
now a rustle of grass beneath my palm.
Posted 07/10/14
previously published in Crab Orchard Review, Vol. 16, No. 2
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