30 November 2006


from Ain't Milton: A Chapbook

Across the street from the church,
The neon sign is bleeding red—harsh and raw.
Inside the chapel the flash is turned to art as bits of red melt
With stained glass blue of Christ the Shepherd.
Shades of lavender and purple,
Imprints of a kingly garment.

The chapel is silent as the teacher sits among the shards of light.
Red like the pen of judgment dances with the blue
As cool as peace, or the lines of college-ruled paper.
He reflects the light as he reflects on his work.

And the lights throw the question,
“Do you love them?” across the pews into his lap.
The papers are graded.

Do you love them?
Curriculum is complete.

Do you love them?
The professional boundaries are upheld.

Do you love them?

“Tell us you love us.”

A thousand students past, current, and yet to come
Line the beams of light, dancing among them,
Posing their final exam.

One simple question: 0 or 100.

Answer correctly and every mistake is forgiven,
Wrongly, and every lesson is futile.

“Do you love us?”

The defining colors cut deeply.
The red pulses across his hands, down his arms.
That’s not the question I studied for.
Never in an education class was that objective covered.

Sometimes between the task and the reward lies the mission forgotten.
Sometimes the colors are blinding.
Sometimes the prism of our tears diffuses the colors like stained glass.

I am much unlike the Shepherd.
Forgive me, for I am weak…
Forgive me, for I have fallen many times under your gaze…
And it hurts to let you go.

But, even though if graded on my perfection I would need to repeat the class,
If graded on the final question,
My valedictory answer would echo through this chapel into the Shepherd’s ears,
And my resounding “yes” would be my only commencement gift.

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