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Audio: Read by the author.


Vocal in the ordinary course of things
——————on the vastly
————superior merits of having lapsed

from a less-for-all-its-flaws-deforming
————of Christian worship my husband

has so far sweetly refrained from using
——————this one
————as a case in point. But what

were we to do? When my mother said
————and looked that look, I could

see it all before me. Linda, she said, we
————insult him.
We’d made alternate plans.

But the pastor—call him Grimly—had for
——————three days
————shown up at her bedside to pray

while we muted “Take the A Train” (her
————and practiced the seven stages of

awkward. I’ll spare you the history
——————of the Ladies
————Aid. But consider my cousin Paul,

good soul, who drives out every Sunday in
——————the predawn
————dark to light the furnace they can’t

afford to run all week. And in summer mows
——————the graveyard.
————Consider the graveyard, its Emmas

and Gregers in modest rows, including
——————the boy
————whose team of horses panicked when

the train came through. Now imagine what
——————it took
————to loosen my mother’s allegiance,

whose one fixed faith was kindness.
——————Even her funeral,
————she’d rather defer. In the end,

though I ought to confess some not-quite-
————my-mother back-and-forthing, Pastor

Grimly found he couldn’t in conscience
————the gathering we had in mind.

So rights-of-first-refusal for his dignity,
——————and thankfully back
————to Alternate Plans, which included

something more like love. Can I count on my
——————husband’s forbearance
————forever? Probably not. But maybe

I’ll lighten up for a while on the
——————hostage-to-hypocrisy rant
————about pardon.



Linda Gregerson is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Prodigal: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She teaches at the University of Michigan.




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