See if it makes sense or form,
sobriety of folding chairs—
a guess of thirteen in each row—
anonymous as decent drunks
but shaky, waiting for the storm.
A bumptious storm of legs and butts
that scuttle into these set lines
with scritch of chair legs’ rubber ends
as congregants lean back or nudge
their neighbors’ arms or ample guts.
The choir in robes with wine-red stains
meander in their threes and twos
in from the platform’s bland side doors
to stand between the potted plants
and whisper of arthritic pains.
Then there’ll be the briefest clangs
of keys jarred by the pianist
as anxiously he lifts the lid
to make another go at hymns
as doleful as a sinner’s pangs.
As if raised up through adverse air,
the preacher launches from his seat
and shouts out to the draggled flock,
“Good mornin’, saints and publicans!
Grab holt the Spirit!” That’s his dare.
The tenors quickly lose their place.
Sopranos start to sway offbeat
and squint-eyed children pinch their friends
while stodgy parents strain to clip
the pinions of “Amazing Grace.”
The common hymn left there to heal,
the clever preacher traps his dull
parishioners in webs of guilt
to prep them for a copper tank
for plucking and a first-rate meal.
What of the chairs still out, still warm,
left in their unpropitious rows?
They marvel at the sights they’ve seen
but are agnostic as to cause.
They hold that here’s no sense or form.