No longer priest, he saves it as that one necessary cry to bless or curse in some wide-eyed moment of nightmare or victory, kept among words needed for the short breaths, last lines, those door-slamming, throat-closing, consonantal end-words cried in rage, pain, or love’s ecstasy . . . down, down to this one word left in heart’s chamber kept secret like a last saved bullet: God!
“How oft when men are at the point of death have they been merry! which their keepers call a lightning before death.” Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, Scene 3
Where will you be, God, when life-time warranties are running out, familiar faces muddling and fading, lovers’ own language sliding into recitation; and when I am wanting to rally to welcome one last poem, I keep colliding with that ancient passion for sacred sleep? Where will you be, God, during kisses I can’t return but only savor forever, when precious hands as though my own are touching for the last time my body’s prayer places? Where, God, will you be as my odyssey ends— this one that keeps folding back upon itself as though to start anew, this odyssey now running out of road? Will you be so much me that I could miss you, so present that I am at last fully realized, or so far away that I am left with the nevertheless of mere surrender and my own bright laughter?
Oh, that’s a Pignut Hickory, she says, showing off, and pointing to a great splash of yellow and green. One lonely cedar stands tall in its own climate of ripe fall fragrance you want to keep on your fingers as you break its seed with your nail. An oak still green with one small spray of tan, as though to say impatiently, I know, I know. Just wait.
If God is that small space left at the table, then go ahead and sit there if you like. Even if you weren’t invited, that doesn’t mean you aren’t welcome. Perhaps you were just overlooked, missed, as in they would have missed you and wished you were here if you hadn’t come . . . not forgotten only misplaced when places were set. Yes, there, wedge into that spot where John leans away to rest his head on Jesus . . . right next to Judas, where perhaps you’ll have time to whisper in his ear, or even chat a moment, just small talk you understand until supper starts.