Her breath had slipped
the space between her rib-cage,
bent down and kissed
his forehead while he slept, then padded across
the coffee stain out into balmy Alabama night.
She left no prints.
Today is Sunday. After church,
Ms. Jenny holds his bony forearms, says Lord it just aint right
that cancer plays both judge
and jury in the court,
says let her know if green-bean casserole would help.
The congregation shakes the reverend’s hand, filing out
to porch-front dinners prepped
by Crisco fingertips.
He waits beside the oak then slips back in
to sit alone, the second pew, as was their wont. The rafters cross
like mercy and justice in
the Genesis tales. There’s much
I do not understand, he thinks, and weeps
the way he hasn’t since Thomas went
from womb to heaven’s gates
in less than ten.
Above the communion table the dust-mites dance.
She loved to dance, and told him that
she thought the secret sauce
to living was singin and movin. She lived that.
He chokes a line of Amazing Grace
that filters through the stain-glassed windowpanes
and colors the silence.
This song too he doesn’t fully understand,
especially the part with blind and seeing,
but still he sings. She’d always said
she loved when Mary Magdalen
went to the empty tomb without
full knowledge of whether it was true.
He gets that now, and standing, spins
between the wooden pews
on penny-loafer’d feet. How sweet the sound,
how sweet the sound.
He gets it now. He sings a little louder,
picturing her in her cotton dress,
the one the color
of lemons with roses on the sleeves.