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The End of the Sermon

I came to in the middle of the pasture.
Rain ticked against the tractor's hood and steam
coiled above the chassis. Thunder plowed
into the distance where the clouds obscured
the day's remaining light.
                                         It was a Sunday.
I'd preached on perseverance—on Paul's thorn—
and, afterward, had hoped to mow the thistle
before the storm. I don't recall much more
than that: only the distant scent of rain,
the way the thistle sloughed its seed beneath
the blade, the hackles rising on my neck
before the strike I also don't recall.

Before that afternoon, I'd often answer—
when asked about my calling, how I'd known—
Some men are drawn to heaven. Others heaven
won't leave alone.

                              And so, I stay indoors.
I count in Mississippis the slow seconds
between retreating thunders, skim the last
chapters of Revelation to forget
the trying absence of that pasture—time
I lost—until I finally nod off ...

But even in my sleep I see the pasture.
In the persistent dream, I'm looking out
the attic dormer, where, beyond the fence-line,
a narrow stand of longleaf pines sways
under the gathering clouds—when, only just
before I turn away, a bright shank strikes
the tallest of the farthest trees.
                                                 It leans
and since I am removed, behind the glass,
since all is still, it falls in utter silence.

Who knows the awful mind of our creator?
I've seen that pine fall every night since then,
and every night I fail to hear the voice
inside that quiet.
                            But what is there to hear?
I'm through with prayer. Please don't misunderstand.
I only mean to say that had you woke
like me, nameless and shivering in the rain,
you might consider what you're asking for—
the steep price of briefly becoming light.

I came to in the middle of the pasture.
The tractor idled in the slackening rain.
I didn't dream—or else, I don't remember.
I spoke a single word. There was no answer.

Michael Shewmaker

Ohio University Press

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