Sunday, June 12, 2016

Poetry Sunday: Call and Response

I don't have as much time to write this morning--I am preaching this Sunday, which means I need to leave for church in about 30 minutes.

Often when I don't have time, posting a poem is the way to go.  I wanted a poem that talked about Sunday morning in church--but I don't have as many of those as you might think.

I wrote the poem below long ago--my computer records show that I typed it in to the machine in 2004, which means I probably wrote it a year or two earlier.

I don't remember much about writing it, but I do remember the incident.  I've been a member of two small churches in South Florida, and they've both been remarkably tolerant/nonchalant about behavior that's out of the ordinary, whether it's screaming children or the outcries of the sick/elderly or the mumblings of the less sane.  I should clarify that the churches are tolerant/nonchalant while being aware of the risks.  After one former military man showed up to shout verses from Revelation, our pastor confessed that he had 911 on speed dial and he was ready to hit that button, if needed.  Luckily the man agreed to leave when quietly asked.

The incident described in the poem really happened.  I also remember the woman slipping communion wafers into her pocket, a moment which I thought would make a great poem, but I have yet to write it.

Call and Response

Her plea serves as our steady
backbeat. She sits
in the back and beseeches
her nurse, “I want to go home. Please
Take me home.”

We sing hymns and listen to the sacred
texts with her keening as a subtext.
We confess our creed to her mounting insistence:
“After this one, we’ll go home. Promise
me we’ll go home.”

It should annoy me, but I am moved
beyond belief at her naked
plea; that yearning for home
is what brings many of us back to this sanctuary.

Some weeks, the liturgy, memorized
through childhood years of steady attendance,
makes me weep. I quake at the thought that I repeat
words that have sustained more generations
of my hard-boned ancestors than I can count.

Other times, it is the story behind
the liturgy that moves me, the consistent
narrative thread of a creator
who never leaves, who never shares
our disbelief in our worth—a parent
who loves this disoriented woman, even though
she no longer remembers the proper liturgical response,
sees her as valuable long after everyone else lets her slide
alone into senility.

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