Priest Without a God
Sticks of pallid wax and virgin wick
still await the sacred touch of fire,
standing like blind phantoms on vigil
in tarnished hands of temple gold.
Neglected hinges find a rusty voice
that echoes on the marble-dry air,
marking the entrance of the priest
with its pained, hoarse prayer call.
The hem of unmended vestments
trails along the sandstone floor,
frayed like threadbare patience
and snared on barbs of ritual pace.
Between the flanks of vacant pews,
sandal steps recite their stale litany
of scuffled inflection and tired rote,
learned like a plea before the judge.
Amid the darkness of absent deity,
faithful eyes look into the chancel
where sanctuary shadows gather,
a choir lacking substances or sound.
Before the hollow rail of altar brass,
he kneels again on tattered knees
and lifts his head to beg a blessing,
waiting for a god who never comes.
He waits for hardened sacrament,
for saltbread of sweat and sinew,
his brittle eyes never closing,
afraid to miss the wafer in a blink.
About the Poem
This poem looks at the conditions that can arise when anyone makes a god in their lives from something or someone who does not care about the attention.
The god could be an unreachable goal or unrequited love. People can pursue such devotions to their own detriment, making a religion of something with no spirit or divinity.
This poem was first published in the chapbook When the Black Lotus Blooms (1988, Black Lotus Press).