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After the years of tear-drying and tissue-passing,
the closed-door conferences above reproach
and beyond remembrance, he packs files of sermons,
reread books, thank-you notes and complaints,
receipts from now-broken air conditioners
that can’t cool this fear
that swirls up the unexpected
dust of the lives
he thought he saved. They don’t want him here,
near the new.

He boxes up truth, turns to leave
a few prayers, inconspicuous as seeds,
that someone old might read in the folds
of a missal, someone young might turn
over in her still-holy fingerpainting hands,
near that warm corner on the east side of the parish
where children congregate to play “This is the church;
this is the steeple; open the doors and where are the people?”

He leaves the door unlocked,
the icons waiting.

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