What became of the nice pagan girl
I married? you complained
one morning after I’d found my way
to the church down the street
and kept walking back every Sabbath.
Over dinner you’d quiz me
on the sermon, argue with the absent preacher,
and me if I defended his BS.
Maybe you resented any other guy—
him or Christ—having any say in my life.
Still, each Christmas you’d present me with a cross—
one Celtic, one amethyst and gold, one silver filigree—
to kiss the hollow at the base of my throat,
even as you reiterated your position:
You were good with God, no question.
It was the Jesus piece you couldn’t swallow.
When I left that church, you seemed sad,
as though our spirited debates had been
a welcome catechism, as though I’d worn
and carried with me the facet of you
that craved a faith that could be sung
in hymns of childhood without choking.
When cancer rose up the chain
of your spine, you shocked me,
suggesting we find a spiritual structure
for the time ahead—time we believed
might yet be months or years.
How about a visit, I suggested, from the local priest
who’d had dinners delivered to our door?
When you agreed, I should have figured
you were up to something—something
I wasn’t onto until long after
her visits and your passing,
when I was kneeling in her congregation,
adorned by your last cross—the one
studded in amber—leaning into
the sly warmth of your intention.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.