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(at the funeral mass of a friend’s mother)

First of all, I am protestant.
I protest everything: sanctuaries that echo,
robes that billow, mothers who die.
Especially mothers who die.

Second, I am Scottish. That bagpiping
of Amazing Grace in my left ear
conjures in my soul a heath-buried
ancestor who grins, using my lips.

Third, I once shared an office with her firstborn,
making headlines and junk mail. We listened to the loud
of Violent Femmes and Jethro Tull: “You
can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday School.”

Because of this or in spite of this, I almost walk
the ten yards to the man in the dress. And I almost
register a protest with the painted Jesus hunched
in the concavity that joins wall and ceiling.

Hunched as I hunch in he varnished pew,
trying to mumble any one of ninty-five theses.

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