A Veteran Comes to Mass: 1953

I hear him before I see him moving
from vestibule to sanctuary railing
at God knows what he shakes his finger.

The priest pauses with his back to us.
Arms uplifted like patient wings, he waits
for this railer

bald like Elisha who called the bears
out of woods to tear the teasing boys

to leave. Might this one too call animal powers
from beyond the doors of the sanctuary to rend
the altar boys and children who stare?

Choir quiet, congregation shifting, the railer
turns his burn-scarred face to us.
Does he wonder where he is? What army

this is that faces him down? As he stumbles
down the middle aisle, still shaking
his finger in admonition

the ushers look at the floor as he walks by.
The priest resumes the Kyrie, and the closing
door clamps off a shaft of light.

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