The Old Pastor Remembers

He remembers the day when
his daily two mile run
suddenly became more
difficult but he does not

remember how it became
customary to come together
every week to bury so many dead;
shoulder a harsh winter: that is

something he can still do. Though
he can no longer shovel the snow
at the same pace; though his hearing
has begun to fail him, faster than

his memory, thanks be to the one
who gives the gift in the first
place. But there are days, he
declares in the dark to the

silent congregation he sees
before he falls into an unsteady
sleep, when he takes out his
hearing aid and shouts when

he only means to whisper, there
are days when he would rather
lose his memory, or at least
put notice and cognition to bed.

He remembers the day the copy
of The Atlantic Monthly
with “The Negro is Your Brother”
arrived in his mailbox. He had

grown tired of the sleepy work
of his tiny town’s parish but
had felt his heart skip and
a buzz behind his brain when

he read “I am in Birmingham
because injustice is here.”
and it carried him for the
next thirty years as he sipped

tea, baptized, broke bread and
sat beside so many deathbeds.
Surely we will see the day
was the hope that sustained him.

But he feels the buzz ring differently
today when his granddaughter
the one with the purple hair,
the one loud enough for him to

hear always, tells him something
about hashtags and dash cams,
about dead bodies and wounds
self inflicted. Surely, Surely,

She was yelling, and not for
his benefit, there is justice.
Surely, surely, the truth will
set us all free. Surely it will.

In the night, he remembers the day
he first noticed his hearing lose
a step. How he misunderstood names
and repeated them wrong. No one

corrected him. No one wanted to
embarrass him. It was at a funeral
for a stranger, and he named the
wrong dead soul. He remembers aloud

That night, soldiers and sailors
and travelers and young women locked away
on their last nights. Men gunned
down with babies on the way. Men

gunned down lest they kill some more.
He remembers the dead, mourns them as his
own, is sure to say their names, prays that his sobs
might at last be loud enough to wake them.

From the death of Sandra Bland to the attack in Chattanooga, last week was a whiplash of grief and violence. Thinking about it this morning, and this is what came out. A Little bit of Abide With Me came out, too.


One thought on “The Old Pastor Remembers

  1. You say so brilliantly what so many hearts feel but can not articulate. Too much pain, too many deaths. Abide With Me, indeed!


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