Closing a Country Church

/ 22 March 2013

(a poem by Vic Klimoski)

It is not a bloodless decision
aligning debts and credits
to eyeball the bottom line,
like you might a factory,
a Ben Franklin,
the country school with six kids
(all from the same family).

It is more than timbers and beams,
seating for a hundred,
a life-size crucifix and statues
of Mary, Joseph, the Infant of Prague.
Beyond brick and mortar, it has lungs
and bowels, spleen and kidneys,
a network of veins leading in and out
from a heart beating steadily
for over a hundred years.

It carries in its breast pocket
years of petitions for health,
safety, a new boyfriend,
winning against Morton,
beating back death.
Its wrinkled hanky is ready
to sop up the next flood of tears.

Lean in close and smell smoked ham,
potato salad laced with peas,
coleslaw, baked beans,
freshly baked bread and strong,
black coffee white with cream.
And taste its wedding cakes, pumpkin pies,
lime Jello with little marshmallows,
seven-layer chocolate bars.

It has kept watch at night,
was up at first dawn,
its double oak doors wide open.
It has kept deep secrets,
whispered through the grillwork
into the promise of God’s mercy.

It may no longer pull its weight.
There’s no one left to tend her,
the oldest too feeble,
the young spread too thin.
So when the decision comes,
speak softly and slowly.
Stay long enough to hear each story.
Rest your arm gently
on rounded shoulders
that slump with grief
as she weeps so deeply
you think
        it will never end.</blockquote>