The preacher cornered me in the dark
vestibule of the church and whispered,
“Be Godly.” Okay, then. I hurried
right out into nature for the usual
surrogates. Leaves, a vineyard half
in rot. A creek, trying to wax poetic,
kept getting snagged in backwater
ponds only flies would find appetizing.
So there I was, made in God’s own
image, which apparently wasn’t enough.
Walk Godly, dream Godly? Obviously,
marriage and raising children didn’t
much emulate a Supreme Being sufficient
unto Itself. So I tried geography:
Zen gardens, maybe even Zen nations,
big spate of cathedrals across Europe.
Northern Lights for the transcendental.
I thumbed history, but it was too
much like me and everyone else.
I grabbed the preacher by the lapels,
shook him from side to side, shouted:
“What do you mean, be Godly?”
But he had died long ago, which accounted
for the bony smile, the echo, and the ants.
—from Rattle #31, Summer 2009
James Doyle: “I am 72 years old. My careers have included being a paramedic in the Air Force, the administrative assistant to the governor of Wisconsin, and a university professor of literature. Nothing beats retirement.”