I am called to bless a bathroom. A young poet
has committed suicide there. Her boyfriend found her
and tried to revive her. He was soaked with blood
when the EMTs arrived, and then the police, and though
he’s moved out now, and the biological hazard team
has scrubbed the blood away, the landlord and the boyfriend
and the boyfriend’s father want some kind of further
cleansing, maybe a kind of magic. But who am I to say?
So I drive to the complex, a warren of condominiums,
chalky and cheap, and I wander around until I find theirs,
and I knock on the door and introduce myself to the parents,
fifties, disheveled, in dirty sweatshirts and jeans, and
they take me down the hall, past boxes and piles of clothes.
The apartment is new, the bathroom small and bright.
I squeeze in by the toilet, stand against the wall, facing
the mirror, and say the prayers for the dead and the blessing
for a house, my voice echoing, and with a small, plastic
bottle begin to sprinkle the room with holy water. The vanity.
The mirror. The clean, fiberglass tub.
shine upon her, oh Lord. Amen. The boyfriend couldn’t bear
to come. His mother and father stand in the doorway, bowing
their heads. And as I wave the bottle and say the words,
the cap flies off, it pops, bouncing into the bottom of the tub,
and I have to lean over to get it, picking it up off the slick,
shiny surface of the fiberglass.
May she rest in peace,
I say, embarrassed now, but alert, too. Aware. The words
as they echo sound so good to me in that hollow place,
and proper, and true.
May the souls of all the faithful departed
through the mercy of God rest in peace. Then I turn, trace
the cross in the air, and give the final blessing—in my left hand
the cap, about the size of a dime, with a hole in the middle.
Like the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks. A whistle, or a top.
from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith
[ download audio]
Chris Anderson: “My poetry only makes sense for me in the context of my faith. That’s the only way I have the courage or the optimism or the naiveté to do it; it’s the only thing that buoys me up. And poetry is what grounds me in my faith, too. If I approach my faith, at least for me, given the way I think and the way I operate, from the standpoint of dogma or from the standpoint of ritual—and I approve of ritual and dogma—but if I approach it from that point it becomes dead. So the only way for me to be a deacon is for me to be a poet and the only way for me to be a poet is for me to be a deacon.” ( website)