We shuffle into the churchyard,
noticing the light of near sunset
shedding orange on the trees,
not counting on that sunken sun
to warm up our devotions.
I drag out chairs from the parish hall.
Their legs sink into the soaked soil.
Last leaves fall on the butterfly bush
where I saw a Great Spangled Fritillary
not so long ago, feeding on purple.
Ten people come in swollen coats.
They keep their hands in their pockets.
It is hard to let go on the eve of winter,
but we start the prayers anyway,
praise and entreaty, thanks and creed.
Our words fall, then rise:
hope lost and found,
lives sunken and risen
minute to minute in the settling light.
An owl drops from a great oak branch,
flies over our heads toward the north,
making a benediction in the air,
or at least that’s what I thought it was
as I sat, mid-prayer, under the cross of its body
announcing the weight of the night.
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LeAnn Farley says
Wow, wonderful poem. Accessible imagery makes me feel as if I were there.
Patrick Henry says
Exquisite! The line “or at least that’s what I thought it was” instantly called to mind the haunting conclusion of Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”: “Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?”