Through the Balustrade

(Back in the spring I wrote about an early memory I had of being in St. Mary’s’ Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va and having the rector give me communion through the balustrade (“Showing Grace and Coming to Communion”). In the post that follows, I have gone back to that experience and tried to represent it in a different way.)

Through the Ballustrade

If you had told me that

My grandparents had met Christ,

I would have believed you.

(They each seemed to have some inside knowledge).

As our light blue Chevrolet

Station wagon went

Up and then down

The hills out to St. Mary’s

(Where the gravel

Popped and rolled

Under the tires

In the shaded parking lot),

I imagined the bearded apostles

Walking in tan robes

Headed west out River Road.

I was not comfortable in the pew:

Clapping my stiff shoes together until told to stop,

Feeling the static crawl across my scalp and

Pull at my dry almost white hair,

Trying to be so still that my wool

Shorts wouldn’t touch my skin.

Not attending

To the voices around me

(Only the rhythms,

Only the to and fro,

The single sound and the low rumble—

The noises grown-ups miss of people

Standing up and sitting back down

And shifting to kneel

After pulling the cushions out),

I would stare

Into the space that held

Illuminated dust,

Sparks coming into and out of existence,


Quietly swirling,

Above bald heads

And permanent waves,

And blue hair,

And hair bands,

And eyeglass chains,

And dangling earrings,

And pearl necklace silver clasps.

I would try to watch a single speck:

One     two     three     lost

One     two     three     four     lost

One     two     lost

Letting go of my mother’s hand,

I should have stood

When I reached the railing,

But I kneeled

And found myself looking

Through the balustrade

At gray pants legs

Of the gray-haired minister.

I was embarrassed

And confused

To hear the congregation

At the small church


They found this entertaining.

I did not.

He did not laugh,

But instead

He kneeled

And he gave me

The bread and the wine

Through the balustrade.


Copyright 2012