old hundredth

a sparrow flit through
    the Great White Sanctuary
with august men in suit jackets
and thinning hair
and their wives appropriately uncomfortable
in mauve Manolos and hose. she made laps back and forth,
l an Olympic swimmer
swimming a breaststroke
of pure panic—
“why am I here?” (echoing the thoughts
of us below), and
“how do I get out?” (ditto) thirty feet above,
pacing the giant ovals of glass
cruelly streaming light
on a bright Sunday morning. she alit
on an organ pipe, only briefly
before the explosion of sound
saw her shit
on the organist’s cotta
(a true martyr—he played on)

I have forgotten how to long

I love that word, as though
the warp & weft of me were stretched
over miles, or continents
or half the globe,
and cut
in tiny, agonized
fragmented pieces, never
to be whole again) for whom
the day is poetry enough, time
refracted into words, revealing
the funny sound of the duck on placid lake
the sour bite of white wine, or
the tilt of the sun’s glasses
perched on her nose
as she squints through the clouds. you seem
to stride through the worded universe
like a bug on pond water, trusting
in surface tension. well, then
I am the pliant weed
who serves the quotidian watch
craving the feel
of velvet water through my gills, the joy
of a school race, the nip
at gloss toes—
it is the special hell of humankind
that what is is not so poetic by half
as what is not, and will never be

cherry Icees at the K-mart

is it cold enough for rain
my sister asks seaside,
fragmented engine voice refusing to turn over
it is too cold in fact, as
slivers of ice beat the shoreline. I do not say this.
it is unseemly
should dip away gently
into the liquid surface, and create silence
in lieu of sound, and she
has protested her lifelong
against the effortless discard
of tiny symmetrical perfection.
the neighbors have a guest apartment
above the garage, the neighbors
whom our father pays well
to ignore the hours-long tap-tap-tap
in odd moods, or the /siren song/
evil fourth, augmented
by her shrill narrow call
to warn the other dimensions,
a young conductor of symphonies
of one instrument: the percussive plodding
of day in, day out
(always, always too slow)

the girl

you are as lovely as lovely knows
slow and kind
save the quick of your pulse
(in God-given time,
like an old metronome
that should long have died)
that fills me warm
like a whisk in wedding-registry china
in pancake mix
on a lazy Sunday afternoon: you are gentle as gentle is,
the soprano bottle rocket
in thick smoky Compline, that carries sharp
and falls, one note,
the length of a finger, some momentary brilliance
on the exhale, for God (to whose excellence
your smile attests; I sing for you);
you are quiet as quiet is;
in the silence of your eyes
the congregation stands, and sings
the doxology

God told me

God told me to eat you aliveGod
told me to weed the yard God told me I would marry you
God told me to call my mom after 30 years God told me
that you wouldn’t be madGod told me to pick up the mail
God told me that my country’s going to hellGod told me to quit my jobGod told me not to be
Sarah’s friend   God told me I was fat God told me you needed a thousand dollarsGod told me to
kill you
God told me to quit drinking Pepsi God told me to use incognito mode God told me to use
scented bleach, the biggest jug they hadGod told me to let my grandchildren swim in the
poolGod told me you’d find a parking spotGod told me I would live another year i’m not sure if
God was right

D.C. Wiltshire is a sometime poet, preacher, and chaplain living in Durham, NC.