I hike the strip between road and ditch
until a church crowns a blunt slope.
Not a church, but its foundation,
a chipped dish for trapping rain.
Each step’s seal has been fractured,
nosing scraped away. Low risers
lessen my stride and compose
a view of remains weathering the sun.
At apex of ascension, lodgepole leaps
from pocked concrete, felled pillars
rust with needles, and fungus stews
in their shallow bowl. Father Zyla’s
baritone swell had mirrored itself
from the whitewashed walls for
the Polish miners who dug up high
into Cascade’s swamp-rock seams.
I lower myself into frame, the same
size as the church of my childhood —
I’m below floorboards, with marcato
nail-rasps as feet file to pine pews.
Muffled sense bleeds into basement,
congregation raked upright for hymns.
Boy fingers the program, tallies span
for prayers, readings, sermon.
Yet now overcome by some unbidden
hymnal mnemonic, souvenir of a first
death that crushed, crushes: plagal chords
drop their burden onto ears desperate
to know how music and fatal silence
ply so close. Tears are ruined in this
abode, undone in the time that worship
has contrived to remind him of dying.
Boy-strides retreat over my head, shame-
arpeggios reddening up the stave and out
the door, to the car, buckled and waiting
for service end. I climb out of cemented
container and descend flaking stairs
that stiffen the gait, satisfied to be
released from under, in a spruce-clutch
that shoots and falls, shoots and falls.