poems

TAKING FLIGHT

Twice from the window seat – first outbound,

then on the way back – I happened to look up

from the magazine and out and down and there

was Memphis, the tidy crinkled circuitry

of a city six miles below, held there by

the big river’s russet thread. Also down there,

buried off the big boulevard somewhere, was Elvis.

 

For years he filled a sky inside our heads,

a colossus bearing our sorrows, the research said.

His afterlife was going to be the future of faith –

a new Pentecost, a sluice to catch

the molten core of the American night.

The sociology was exciting.

I attended conferences, took notes.

 

How nice to discuss and summarize

coherent big ideas and get paid for it.

But the claim died as soon as written.

It was hollow theater, malpractice,

a flimsy denial of the stink and weight

of what’s left over every day.

People’s griefs can’t be borne.

 

Up here in the sky now, his name is

a frail out-the-window incantation of nothing

in particular. What a thing, this retail machinery

of dreams, divine thoughts even, pressing us

to get on board and make them true.

Presently approaching 550 mph, flight 7177

leaves behind that particular illusion anyway.

© copyright 2018 Ray Waddle

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GOOD FRIDAY, 3 P.M.

It’s a full-time job, this acting as if nothing special

happened back then. Cars push by, lawn sprinklers

wave back and forth, birds and jets ascend and bank,

global markets fizz, people rise and break. Each day says this.

 

At the time, it was 8 a.m. over here in the new world,

if news had moved at the speed of light (which it did).

It was the start of a work day. Maybe the light bent

and a breeze stirred. Maybe groups of people looked up.

 

I visited over there once. Inside the famous church,

under the roof, among sprawling corridors,

was the hill itself, Calvary’s very stones,

and the empty tomb – all indoors now.

 

A sign in many languages explained how

the skull of Adam had been there resting

underneath it all, waiting all this time

to be filled with the blood of crucifixion.

 

At that, I turned away. I wasn’t having it,

some calm description of an unhindered trickle

of blood that terminates deep underground

inside the very skull of Adam.

 

I’ll take bewilderment, 2000 years later and

5000 miles away, out here with everybody busy

with work – this very moment, that inescapable day,

wind and clouds east and west holding it together.

© copyright 2018 Ray Waddle

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THE BEJESUS

Church was a sluggish thing today,

a death march to the pews and back.

It’s ungrateful to say that, I believe, and

complain about this uncomplaining miracle,

this sanctuary of renewal hewn into this life.

But the week had done a number on us,

the way numbers are crunched in the 21stcentury.

 

Then, at communion, the minister fumbled

the wafer he was handing me. My solemnity

came in handy: It hid my shock and panic.

Then came fascination. Then relief, really:

a bit of Jesus crashing to earth. Not even

crashing – cascading tenderly on the air, breezing

past all theological objection, landing without a fuss.

 

I crouched mildly over it,

there on dusty floor.

For once I could see it:

sturdy, unbleeding,

unbent coin of a realm,

2,000-year circle completed again,

spinning at the center of existence.

 

The minister grabbed it up and gave it to me.

My grasp of the etiquette was fragile.

I just hoped liturgical momentum would blast

all rug germs and doubts away. Then I saw

the world wasn’t going to stop for

hygienic second thoughts, and marvelously

it was time to eat it and that’s what I did.

© copyright 2018 Ray Waddle