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Arrow Rock Christian Church, Arrow Rock, Missouri


I am the vine, said the vine
& traced an image of itself
across the sun’s matte hook.
It was at this point I noticed
the holes in the glass.
Tiny, round, with circular divots
chipped away around them,
from the impact.
Four in one window, one each
in two others. This glass is old,
thick, it did not shatter.
As if someone had shot
at the church with buckshot
or BBs. More likely BBs.
Someone has shot at this church.
Why would anyone shoot
at an abandoned church,
is a question. In use
1872 to 1951, a decent life
for a woman or a man,
less impressive
for a house of worship.
I am the vine, said the vine,
& you, my vinedressers,
have forsaken me. You have all
gone away. They shot
from the west, the damage
is in the western windows, not
the eastern. Does this mean
anything? I am the vine, & you
are the architects of damage
in your costumes
of corduroy & silk.
You have abandoned me,
my carved image in the detail
of what would,
in some other time
or place, have been the chancel
arch. There is no chancel,
only the nave
in the prevailing Protestant
fashion: a large box
into which we have placed
if not faith, then
the residue of faith.
I am the vine, said the vine,
& you are my abandoners.
In this county alone fifteen men
& women were born
& died exactly when you did,
here. I will name them:
John E. Alpers & Ivan L. Aulgur.
Elizabeth Jane Dye, Marie E.
Fisher, William Rickney Hanks.
Elizabeth Mary Heilman.
Ulysses Solomon Neff. Alonzo
Earl O’Dell, Emelie W. Pragman.
Lena Rehkop, Milton Hume
Smith. Samuel E. VanBuskirk.
Annie S. Wellner, Laurence
Henry Winslow, Thomas Woods.
These were women & men,
they placed their hands
at some time or another
(many times) against wooden
planks, they sampled majesty.
Some handled guns.
Shall we gather by the river
that has moved over a mile
to the east, as if in flight
from us. I walk there in the rain
past the sloughs, the chutes,
the willows & poplars
with their precarious hold
on precarious ground.
I am the vine, I repeat
to the vines, the Virginia creeper
& poison ivy, the wild grape.
You have abandoned me,
I repeat to the river, when
I reach it, where it is for now.



G.C. Waldrep’s most recent books are feast gently (Tupelo), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and The Earliest Witnesses (Tupelo/Carcanet). The Opening Ritual is forthcoming from Tupelo in 2024.  He teaches at Bucknell University.




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