Stone chapel at Gilchrist Retreat Center, Three Rivers, MI
The Little Stone Chapel
Door to the little stone chapel opens.
I fall into unknown worlds
shouting “There’s gold here somewhere!”
Balboa hacks through jungle primitives
to reach this monument to emptiness
erected from head-sized stones
after Medusa seduced an army
leaving their decapitated skulls strewn about.
She probably beached their hearts –
red speckled hearts, black and white hearts,
all grays in between,
hearts eaten through by fossilized worms,
heavy hearts, light hearts,
round and good-for-skipping flat hearts,
shiny hearts, dull hearts, coarse and smooth hearts –
to be collected by small barefoot children
and their mothers on warm summer afternoons.
Medusa gazes into my heart
when I step over the threshold.
I’ve got soup starter.
What will you bring?
Children’s sand castles erode
under gentle lapping waves
but their small stone hearts,
even if carried away, lost forever,
will never be crushed by pounding surf.
I walk a labyrinth laid in stone floor
of stone chapel. No false paths in a labyrinth:
maze with dead-fall traps, spiked pits
would be more fitting.
Swooping fire-breathing dragons
reduce victims to ash, give one
in a million odds on resurrection.
Hungry she-bears around one corner,
minotaurs at next wrong turn.
Tern? Back to sea already?
French fry stealing gulls swarm
outside Lud’s Hamburgers as I try to eat
my childhood memory in peace.
But bears and man-bulls have long since
devoured innocence. It’s just as well I’m lost,
wandering corridors until scent
of burning candles liberates.
“You again?” the nun asks, “Why
are you always here,
acting as if it were the first time?”
Do prostitutes ever pretend they are virgins,
transport themselves to a time before?
Maybe they get extra for little white lies
so we can fantasize we are still young and naive.
Why am I here?
She invites me to none myself,
to be rid of this stone chapel.
We walk outside, find a bench in garden
cemetery with headstones, not stone heads.
If I don’t read names, did they really live?
No one actually dies, of course,
we just wait to be needed again.
No bushes have burst into flames,
apparently dragons don’t come here,
but I take my shoes off anyway
for ancestral ground is holy ground.
Those who wait have made me.
I am who I am, but can I be what I will be?
I greet man leading horse-drawn cart
down paved garden path.
He pauses, stares, shuffles behind horse,
hauls himself a’cart and urges horse to trot.
This is the sound of silence.
I yearn for cheers of a grateful crowd
but Kareem blocks the game-winning shot
and I lose yet again, choking on the clop
clop of what-a-bum jeers. I can’t breathe.
But breathing is good, I’m told.
Here in this earthy parlor
all the dead waiting to die
are smothering me.
I wander farther,
encounter a young boy gold fishing.
Upset I abandoned him some forty years ago,
he pans me with a “hey, asshole.”
Jesus entered Jerusalem on an ass,
is that why he’s always on my back?
At least the boy talks. We’ll meet again
but for now I’m wore out, have to go.
Returning home, “See ya, asshole” echoes.
©2017 Kenneth W. Arthur