Morning Sacrifice

Making such a racket

that I can’t hear my world-weary head pounding

outside the screen-figured window well before eight on a cool spring morning

(the faulty modification reflecting my mental displacement)

the procession enters

with jackhammer crosses, power drills, circular saws,

and a diesel-powered digger

tank-clanking forward and beeping incessantly back

(Number 412 in your hymnals, “Engines and steel,

loud pounding hammers, sing to the Lord a new song!*),

the acolytes of the waterline priest

shouting their “also with yous”

in some kind of Spanish

as I commune with my chalice of decaf

and biscotto on a saucer,

trying in vain to practice my catechism of Italian,

to read a page of the German liturgy of plurals and pronouns;

my matins bells are the ringing of metals colliding,

and in their pauses a blue-feathered solo chorister

aloft in the branches of a crepe-myrtle

stubbornly reasserts his hymn to nature,

and I think of Mahalia Jackson belting out

“I sing because I’m happy” on scratchy old vinyl**

and wonder if the jay sings in joy, lamentation, or dogged stoicism,

or maybe he is merely announcing the late arrival

of the cat, now waiting impatiently at the door

to be ushered inside to her soft pew,

seeking quiet comfort

but in no wise repentant for her cold-hearted slaughter

of the young bunny earlier in the week,

whereas I, feeling a twinge of guilt for resting here

while the builders toil with their hands,

toy with the beads on my bracelet

and mentally rehearse an “Our Father,”

having forgotten all but the opening line of “Hail, Mary,”

but, like a monkish medieval scribe,

I belabour my manuscript, bleeding ink,

sent out into the world in a different way,

but sent out no less;

and then comes that moment of sweet silence

after the post-eucharistic blessing,

before the bird takes flight

and the builders recess.

Alleluia.

Notes:

*“Earth and All Stars,” words by Herbert Brokering, music by David Johnson, in The Hymnal 1982, “according to the use of The Episcopal Church,” Church Publishing, New York.

**The line is from “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” words by Mrs. C. D. Martin, music by Charles H. Gabriel, as performed by Mahalia Jackon on historical recordings 1946-1954 and reissued on CD in 2004 by Disky Communications.

Link: Jackson singing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” via YouTube.

 

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

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