“At the Communion Rail” by Mark Jarman

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Mark Jarman


When, about to receive the Host for the first time,
I cup my hands as I was never taught
and listen to the priest describe the meaning
of the translucent disc of holy starch,
as I am lifting it, pinched, towards my mouth,
ready too for the goblet of red liquor—
a spirit speaks inside me, fiercer, stricter
than an angry parent’s rote, an old man’s voice,
outraged but with the weakness of the deathbed,
gasping and rasping in a chamber of my heart,
“What do you think you are doing? What are you doing?”
And into that same chamber, I shout back—
only I can hear this—I shout back
a response never considered for this rite:
“I’m doing this! To hell with you! I’m doing it!”

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

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Mark Jarman: “I hope that my faith is best described in my poems, but for a description of my belief apart from my poems, I would refer to the Nicene Creed. I grew up in a tradition without a creed, so now to be practicing in a church that has one, especially this one, I find particularly meaningful. The language of the Nicene Creed is moving to me simply in itself.” (website)