“Altar Boy in Tennis Shoes” by Tim Sproul

Tim Sproul


Just because it’s Waldport, Oregon and not St. Peters,
just because the church bulletin is a bad Xerox—
although I see Tuesday is Ellen Bunt’s fudge and sea foam sale
to repair St. Francis damaged in the wind storm,
just because the crucifix is carved with all the grace
of chainsaw art and the girl in front wears
a Nelly It’s Gettin’ Hot in Herre shirt,
just because the congregation’s chant of the responsorial psalm
traps me in the hull of a Spanish galley rowing toward oblivion
and because the thermostat is stuck on 77
does not mean I can’t find some sort of epiphany
in the families seated together,
the air fragrant with discount shampoo,
the crusty priest’s prayer for a busload
of mission workers killed in Zaire,
the feathery pile of ones in the collection plate.
As the priest rises, I find an ocean breeze of hope
after I’ve prayed for Dad’s post-op tumor to clear,
for peace in the Middle East and for a new girlfriend.
I’m admiring the boy with his big, brown eyes and swift glide
around the altar, down the thick, carpeted steps to the aisle.
And his bowing at the right time, and his time
when instead he could be playing Nintendo.
So I can only ask as he carries the cross and leads us
out the double pine doors into the blessed fresh air,
as I’m drawn to the white and purple Allen Iverson Reeboks,
what the hell was his mother thinking?

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006

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