An Open Door
Across the sanctuary of a community church
a door stands ajar; stained glass windows
allow only some of the sun to enter; filtered
yellow, red, opalescent green drench the pews.
On the altar converted to stage, a circle of
students contemplates a question of vocation.
Through the open door, only light, daytime
invading the intimate dim familiar in churches,
the hazy quality of the house of god.
When a child, I wanted to be a vampire.
Or a scientist. Or an actor. The world
seemed open to me in a way it does not
seem open now. What is your passion,
the facilitator asks and students giggle.
What drives you? I try to focus
on the question at hand, but lose myself
in the sunlight streaming in through
the open door. In this, a sanctuary,
I don’t feel safe. What do you want
to be when you grow up? Not a teacher,
certainly; not a soldier; not a poet.
Who lives in the gray corners of a church
besides mice? What is that face in
the stained glass? When in college,
I wanted to be an archaeologist, wanted
to dig into the storied dirt of time and
come up with some history. In this room
I want to be a priest. It could be comforting,
living in the dark spaces of a church,
just me and the mice. What is your
vocation, the facilitator asks and
at this moment, I’d say, I am
a bringer of light; a man who stands
in a doorway flooded by sun;
I am a bird; someone who learns,
in shadow, the real shape of brightness.
The Luminous Body
This is an ode to the belly.
This is a celebration of
all that once was concave;
the way shirts bagged out
from a thin waist,
an embarrassment of skinniness.
This is the belly of a man
at forty. A ponderous thing
that has never seen the inside
of a gym since high school.
A thing driven to expansion
by the betrayal of metabolism
and a sedentary life.
This is the story
of a shrinking and growing waist;
a collection of pants
in three sizes; the should have
gone on a diet; should have
joined the Y while they
were having that sale story.
This is the body in the mirror.
This is the body in the bathrobe.
This is the belly that confronts
when one sits up in bed,
round down there where
once it was flat.
This is not about bodies
on TV or film; not those
muscled sculptural marvels.
This must not be about
the guilt those beauties induce;
the way they entice, tug us
between the world of I want
that and I want to be that.
This is the story of the belly
of a man who looked away,
didn’t see himself expand.
This is about age.
This is the way the body
moves, naked, down the hall
at dusk; the way fading light
plays over his new/old skin;
the way we learn to begin
again, in experienced bodies,
the ones that grow older
and cannot be stopped,
those we must learn to inhabit well,
those we must come to love.