A neighbor passing by the widow’s house
Stopped dead on seeing him in the garage
Behind the wheel of his new Lincoln, slouched
Half toward the dashboard, as if tuning in
A Cardinals game. The shape was no mirage,
He said, but Clarence, or a living twin,
Though just how that might be, he couldn’t judge,

Being a Christian minister, whose faith
Allowed for no one but the Son of Man
To rise above the grave, and like a wraith
Pass through locked doors, or with his friends, break bread.
And yet, if Christ could in the book of John
Soon after he’d arisen from the dead
Dine on fresh fish, why might not anyone

Who loves a thing return in his own flesh
To savor it like sea bass laced with spice
When the spirit moves? Until Christ comes to thresh
The dead like wheat and blast the thorns and weeds
To plant us in a second paradise,
Why might not some arise, like dormant seeds
In winter, to revisit once or twice

The things they loved . . . as at the funeral
Our dead friend lay surrounded by his toys-
Old typewriter, bronze trophies, white baseball
Clutched in a fielder’s mitt; the Cardinals cap
He wore in pictures playing with his boys;
The scratch and tip sheets used to handicap
The ponies at Oaklawn? Given the choice

Of breathless heaven or a dusty track
Where nags without a hope to win or place
Break hard at the last turn to lead the pack,
Who wouldn’t pick long odds and a hot day
To sip cold beer and thank God for His grace
In wedding souls to flesh that we might play
The sport of kings; then having run our race

Like ancient champions, be put to field
Still hankering for glory and high hay.
Though what we’ll be then has not been revealed,
Faith promises fresh fields beyond the seen
Bedecked with lights that turn the dark to day,
And diamonds carved from dust, and grass so green
It stuns the eye-where, when called up to play,

The spirit swells to fit skin’s softened mitt
And put on body like a uniform
To run and slide, to leap, to scratch and spit
And sing loud anthems. Though the Gnostics say
We’re spitless phantoms or Platonic forms
Once we’ve escaped the cold confining clay
Of our spent flesh and left it to the worms,

I’m glad our friend now sleeps in oaken shade
Above the rolling thunder at Oaklawn,
Sharing the shocks and tremors of the crowd
Until a trumpet beckons, and he wakes
From oaken slumber to the starting gun
In sweat-sheathed flesh that dazzles like a sun
And hurtles home to glory and high stakes.

Articles by Paul Lake

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