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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Pilgrimage - I

 

 

 

Not knowing

where to look,

I sit in a high seat

and gaze across the city,

a seat so high

that I become dizzy

and have to look

away.

 

Not knowing

            how long things take

or what is expected,

I recline on the couch, purr, inveigh,

set my watch to dreamtime,

and observe my face

reflected in cup after cup of tea.

 

Not knowing

who might come or when,

I wear a white robe

and wait to see

if you or anyone at all

will come for me

and whether this waiting

will ever end.

 

Not knowing

when we might depart

I keep a suitcase close at hand

watching for a boat,

listening for a train,

as the day grows quiet

and dark.

 

Not knowing

how to stand,

I approach the altar

bend and kneel as if to worship

feeling the loss of looking down

and feeling the ache

of looking up.

 

Not yet knowing

what comes next,

not yet knowing

how to prepare for the dead

and having only this not knowing

only this intimacy from the start

I carve your silhouette into the bark

I light a red candle

and as the water trickles

onto my head

I weigh my heart.

 

 

 



Pilgrimage - II

 

 

 

On a morning

with the wind driving

the white rain sideways in sheets,

soaking everything

I am keeping dry,

I gather what I find nearby―

Some old price tags and receipts―

and I build a fire.

 

On YouTube

I watch a white pelican

swallow a pigeon in Saint James Park

whole and alive.

I listen to a choir

sing Saint Thomas’ hymn to Christ,

O Loving Pelican Divine,

I think about how pelicans

resemble men,

I notice that it’s getting dark,

and I close my eyes.

 

In a place of temporary purification

where all souls present are subject to inspection,

where old men keep running, understanding

the race is not always won by the swiftest

because the race is never

won at all,

I find a stone, soft as a pillow,

and a safe place on the earth

and I sit down.

 

In a hospital,

dreaming of a solace

that feels far from certain,

as a nurse hovers over my chart

and a rabbi murmurs prayers

to the rhythm of my heart,

I rouse myself, unfasten the curtain,

and see all our days of judgment

have been cancelled,

and all our covenants

forsaken,

and I awaken.

 

                                             ―Peter Schireson