IH (April 30,1989 / Virginia)

I Am Afraid Of Churches

I read the bible for the poetry and for
the love, or at least I did before
I became afraid of churches.
My fear of them stems
from the power they posses
to exclude, to condemn, yes,
but mostly what sends me running is
the fervor of compassion and its power
to consume - that radical inexplicable swelling
of something other than my mind.
in every sanctuary I find
kind faces and then remind myself
of the preoccupation with sin, the
petty biases entrenched within
when a parishioner takes my hand and says
gently, and all too intently, “Peace.”
“Peace, ” I mutter back. 'Peace. Now let me go.'
(abruptly I flash to a sunny afternoon spent
on a couch and another overly easy touch. Stop.
I stiffened then too. *Stop it*.)
Communion - intimate in its casual giving
of oneself, I cannot accept. Not now - not
again. Already I know I will not win
this inner debate, even as the cynic in me resists -
insists I can’t allow myself to be overcome
by this lightning storm labeled
Spirituality - magnetic and just as harrowing
as when that electric bolt struck
the pine in my backyard, white-hot
and charged, appealing and appalling.
Sometimes, though, when I contemplate
in a chapel, basking on a bench, I can sense
vibrations akin to the clench in my
thoracic cavity at the sight of cobalt mountains
spread across a colossal sky, an open
welcome without necessity of invitation -
natural harmony not hazardous at all.
Yet a church is more than a valley, fertile
and lovely; it is a chasm, opaque and
profound - eager to gulp me down - ushering
in an earth-deep voice 'Come to me. Be in me. '
The pragmatist inside me is resisting - insisting
There is no way to survive that step.
Quaking on the ledge, grasping onto
pieces of myself about to overturn, I
envision the charred pine, smell the static
air, and experience the accompanying
soul-shock. Still I am afraid.

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Comments (2)

As clear and sonorous as the bell which tools to call the faithful.........
Thank you, Indigo - deeply thoughtful & well said.