Gary L. McDowell


A man meeting his god is another form
of night: surely they will curve back

to the river where one will say, feed my sheep,
feed my lambs. Do the same. You sit in the aisle

nearest the window so you can watch the parking lot
and the road, the trucks filing to the interstate—

you’re careful not to think anything
that you don’t already understand.

The Confessions tempt you to believe
that stolen pears are only stolen pears,

that the preacher’s notes can be thrown,
like so many stolen pears, to the pigs,

but it’s too late to be morning
always.  St. Augustine, while in his garden,

heard a child chanting, take it and read it,
but the difference between a sermon

and are you finished eating is not the difference
between curing the spirit and planting sweet basil,

the downturned mouth and particular quiver:
all that wounds are.  The woman in the pew

in front of you coughs, and the preacher
pauses, coughs himself. Contagious like a yawn,

the cough rolls through the congregation:
your health when you’re sick is the body coming,

the first time.  Out the window, fire engines.
Sirens are red when you hear them

from far away through stained glass.
Praise the Lord, all of you bright stars,

praise the name and the broken. Do the same.
Do the same, photos you take, though

terribly composed: the celestial blurs of light
where your fingers meet the flash. Do the same,

the story you heard about a deer and a bear,
best friends.  The bear would bend down

the bough for the deer to reach the leaves:
we all reach the leaves because someone

bends down the bough.  Do the same,
faith, and pluck five smooth stones

from the stream.  Do the same, I think there is no light
in the world but the world.  Do the same, when small

spiders, during a spring rain, weave themselves
out of the walls, unravel their bodies in a long curve

floorward. And I think there is light. Besides,
a metaphor is a knuckle without a spine.

Gary L. McDowell is the author of two books of poetry, Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2013) and American Amen (Dream Horse Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 Orphic Prize for Poetry. He's also the co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2010). His poems and essays are forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Bluestem, Superstition Review, and Barn Owl Review, among others. He is an assistant professor of English at Belmont University.


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