A Scene In The Death of Liturgy

The cedars are a green near black: the green
of weathered wreaths, the black of twilit tea.
The storm is black. Though usually unseen
from here , tonight it’s all we see: each tree

just seems a thunderhead, engorged. The black
of water on the monuments makes marble-grays
seem light, seem day, seem kind behind the track
of drizzle down the stone. What pitiless ways

the elements go home. We hate the rain,
it steeps all things; it grays the gray of old,
it stains the unremembered seasons’ stain
and wets the tears. It colds the evening cold.

New marble stains a little slower, though,
than stones stooped over, leaning, lean
as bones and porous from the steady blow
of highground wind which cuts to liver and to spleen.

There is no dust to dust or ash to ash
because the service rendered by the rain, graveside,
is turning new-turned earth to mud. We splash
and muck the mud, we wince the wind, we chide

the choice of nights, the time. Our gardener must
have hurried home, behind the songbirds and the sun,
to where the rain does not consume, nor rust
corrupt. He does not care; his works are done.

The steps become unsure. We halt, we’re lame;
so, Father, scan the rubric for the rite
in case of rain. Of course, the rite’s the same:
Recite, recite; recite: recite — recite.

The actors are the same: the next of kin,
the clergy, trees and stones (everything that’s old),
the wind. The wind? In spite of scripts or skin
it enters where it will, we’re told.

We wince the wind, it won’t respect the eaves
of our umbrellas.
Just drop the rite. Once dry
as fire, the onion-skin and gilded leaves
of prayer books are whipped and wet. We cry.

Without exception all things melt in rain.
It always rains our rites away, I think.
“Without exception” is the phrase I strain.
“Always” is the word I choke, and blink.

The steps are more unsure — my thoughts? Adept.
(I think about my bladder. I think about the toe
I broke; when phones screamed as I slept,
I jerked, and kicked the bed.) It’s time to go

away, the nights do not agree; this night
on my umbrella isn’t in the book.
So I will write a rubric for the Rite
In Case Of Rain, in case you think to look:

Gather close, chide not.
Let prayers not chide the rain, who is your friend
and not a stranger. And you may stay dry, but then,
in summer, if you all decide, you may get wet.
(Just warn them they must all decide.) And let
some fitting phrases be composed — but, mind,
this is a rubric. If the friendship didn’t find
the rite, don’t come — just let the dead inter the dead.
But should the wind attend, then silence may be kept.
If silence will be kept let all know why
and what they do; let all agree and all decide
so none are damned to bitter pains of private thought.

Gather close, lose not.
The celebrant may add, but must take care
to never lose a creature who is there
no matter why. Let not the night, the wind
(since He is brusque, He is your friend
and not a stranger) or the jaded, zombie stones
go down. Oh, let them not go down where bones
laconically recline among the lost.
Lord Jesus, let them not go down to private thought.

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