The Shortest of Stories
On summer days long ago I walked
on creosote-impregnated roads that bled
sticky tar like ribbons of black licorice,
ran through a rolling, cool green cemetery,
over distended bellies of dry clay,
past rotting flowers,
under fast, dark clouds
birthing hissing silken shrouds.
I danced on the tense skin of water until
the sun appeared and I looked for a rainbow,
but there was just the humid slowness of summer,
and I welcomed the slowness of it.
Then years through the hourglass vein
in sclerotic years I navigate
a shortened course, dead reckoned
to this seemingly never-ending night,
like the sonnet sequence of immutable
born-died stones, I read the shortest of stories,
tiling infinite layers of earthy reflection
into the awaiting, yawning hole.
From catechism to church
my second grade class was led,
fire drill double file sheep
to the narthex as a small
white casket was wheeled past us.
Slow motion, silence, I see
figures on the side of the box:
kneeling angels, folded hands,
bowed heads, a lamb
in the middle lying down,
low relief cherubs. We were
led into the nave for the service.
I daydream the unchristened child
clutches a rosary with satin
first communion gloves,
anywhere but heaven or hell,
a snap of fingers,
I awake to the rattle of beads.
William R. Stoddart is a poet and short fiction writer who lives in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. His work has appeared in Neologism Poetry Journal, Adirondack Review, Ruminate Magazine, Pedestal Magazine, Every Day Fiction and other publications.