In the sanctuary of the church where his memorial was held

the pews moaned as they filled, the weight of each witness

to his life increased by the heaviness of their hearts

and when they scooched across the ancient wood polished

smooth by generations of believer’s behinds,

the joins between seat and back popped like God’s knuckles

and the kneelers found the floor in a Greek chorus of sighs.


The air retreated to the rafters where portraits of the disciples looked

down with satisfaction, pleased that they were above it all now,

so that what was left to breathe was a swamp of candle wax

and perfume, and as the orders of worship became

fans and stirred it all together, St. Peter shifted the Kingdom’s keys

to the other hand and pinched his nostrils closed

while the choir threw back their heads and swaying, sang.


The priest began the homily with a gesture to the portrait

perched on a small table on the chancel beside a vase of lilies

all white and blooming, and there he was, beautiful,

his smile a flower opening beneath eyes that should have

winked to let his broken parents know it wasn’t so,

that the force of him, the height and depth and joy of him

could not be held within the tiny cedar box beside the frame.


And then the sound came, low at first, as Host and Cup were

raised with the words “this is my body, this my blood”;

a grinding, like a blade on turning stone but sharper

growing louder until all could hear as first one and then another

cracked, shattered and tumbled forth in shards from her mouth

where they had been the gate of grief, now sundered.

Teeth and tears fell together into her upturned hands.


© Dana Hughes 8.26.14