The Church in Exile – a poem by Patricia Davis-Muffett

The Church in Exile

Here is the truth: when the pandemic forced us
to move church online, join the Diocese
in Cathedral services, I was swayed
by the beautiful windows captured on video,
the professional cantor’s voice
echoing in the empty chamber.

I miss you, fellow travelers--
still saying the peace to each other through texts,
as we meet in the virtual Cathedral.
Maybe this is ok.
Maybe this is the future.

But then, the call comes, 
and I do as I have learned--
from you, from my mother, my grandparents.
Yes, I will pick up food from our repurposed church,
take it to desperate mothers.
I drive to our church, step through the side door,
met again with the dirty steps, the peeling paint,
our strange sanctuary, its unfinished floor.

Here, my first child crawled, knees and hands blackened,
as I found my voice and sang of resurrection.
Here, I prayed for the lost babies (two)--
hidden lives, the grief that much harder.
Here, I welcomed the well-wanted child,
her laugh filling eaves, her steps racing thunder.
Here, I grieved and was held.
Here, I held the grieving.
Here, I cried for my child alone, in pain.
Here, he prayed for lemurs’ survival
while fighting for his own.
There was work.
There was boredom.
Money to be raised, 
the building to keep up, 
exhaustion.

Here, the rose windows 
are the eyes of those fed.
Here, the cantor’s voice
of our rambunctious children.
This, our dingy cathedral,
the one we have built
from the lint in our pockets,
the gum in our mouths,
the spit of our thumbs, polishing faces.
Our foundations buttressed
by the arms of our elders
grasping on tightly, holding us up.

It is not photogenic, 
but I will choose this imperfect cathedral--
our home--when the locks are undone
and all of us, dirty, limping and loud,
stream once again through its doors.

Patricia Davis-Muffett holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota and her work has appeared in several journals including The Slate, Coal City Review, and Gypsy Cab, on public radio, in the di-verse-city anthology of the Austin International Poetry Festival and is forthcoming in Rat’s Ass Review. She lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband, three children, one good dog, one bad puppy and a demon of a cat. She makes her living in technology marketing.

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