Lunatic, Time

By Rachel Rinehart 

Featured art: Trees on a Rocky Hillside by Asher Brown Durand

Sometimes, seeking desperately the measure
of her weeks, she dresses now for church
on Tuesdays or Saturdays, slides sideways
into the slick interior of the Oldsmobile.

So familiar the route, the car seems to know it,
nosing its gentle way like some peculiar
land-bound fish, and she leans in its belly
as it makes its one wide turn before the church.

But dim, the sanctuary withholds its promise.
She sits in the pew, hymnal poised, waiting
for the organ to thunder out
of its immaculate, peepless slumber.

Churchgoers flit in her periphery,
but she cannot fix them. The long dead
lingering beside her flee when she turns
to greet them. Even the eyes of Christ

flash impenetrable in the soft flush
of stained glass. Lunatic, time loops and tangles,
doubles back on itself. Somewhere in the hours
the pastor appears, or the woman

who fills the candles. They call up her son
to collect her. Behind the scrim at her windows
she baffles in the horrors of her dotage.
Someone has moved her husband’s truck.

It has been only days and decades since he slumped
dead against the dash in a hay-flecked shirt.
The chicken coop, too, is missing, the pasture fence.
Vagrant memory, like livestock loosed over the plain.

Always night obliterates. In the morning
she will gather her pocketbook and go again
to church, searching still for some low-lit beacon
to mark her faltering way toward the long home.

Rachel Rinehart grew up in Chuckery, Ohio, and lives in Grayson, Kentucky. Her poetry collection The Church in the Plains was selected by Peter Everwine as the winner of the 2016 Philip Levine Poetry Prize and was published by Anhinga Press in January 2018.

Originally published in NOR 22.

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