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Robert Grunst


Three Drums

     Aplodinotus grunniens

Three women wearing Bay Fish Company yellow oilskin aprons
made clean work, gutting the fish for Passover and Lent.
We headed back to our car from the cutting

floor with a good pound-and-a-half of whitefish livers
in a clear plastic bag.  We'd gotten a good deal.
There's no sweeter sauteed liver.

But something stopped us.  An old, cracked leather voice.
Who knows what shape the voice of God might choose.

Next to a stripped down pound net boat-- gray end-nailed
fender strakes no longer meeting end-to-end--, we stood
with our sack of bloody livers.  The vibrations rose one octave

higher: drier still, more plaintive.  In rut where someone
had thrown them we found three dust-caked drums-- trash fish--
paying themselves out as drums will, gyrating their fins,

getting no place, and croaking such love notes as connect kingdoms
underwater-- amplified by water and sweetened by water,

We were without memory once.  We were pure memory.

We'd come too far to put them back,

where they could swim away their filthy wrappings,
re-tune their earstones,

                                            consummate their callings.
In cold bay water, clear of nets and hooks and words
we choke them with, they conjugate no one's

                                                    Hebrew, Greek, or
Latin, but roll and spawn with drums.

Mysteries Of Faith

Wouldn’t you know it’s a Dutch Masters cigar, this being Holland,
Michigan, St. Francis de Sales parish, you a fifth grader

and a connoisseur of cigars.  And wouldn’t you know it’s a Corona,
big around as a nickel, which is what one costs

across the street at Ward’s Drug and you count up again all your
collection basket nickels, all the sacrificed chances

to get your favorite battery, Yogi Berra and Bobby Shantz,
or Charlie “Paw Paw” Maxwell, or Rocky Colavito,

the true ecstatic long ball saint of Cleveland, to get hard pink
slabs of gum that sail through seven sanctuaries of light

after your sidearm throws, and God in heaven, why not one cigar,
but a White Owl, like your grandfather’s White Owls, wrapped indecently

in cellophane so you can see everything, the leering know-nothing owl
on the ring, the glowing-brown leaves, lovely as your unrequited

love for Constanza Morales.  Lord, you’re so mixed up you don’t know
what to do, but wouldn’t you know  Father Thome’s cigar

is still smoking even as you see where Father’s teeth have chewed
and tongue has laved the believer’s end into a pulp,

a half-digested sign of  appetite and see where Father’s heal
too tenderly has crushed it.

                                               Then, the devil tells you,
Pick up Father’s Thome’s  cigar.  Suddenly you know every last thing

in the world, what you must do, and how you must do it.  Why else
have you been blessed with the school’s best arm,

the best-schooled sense of distance?  Why else would Father Thome’s
cigar lie smoldering at your feet?  All your after recess pals

come to attention at your cry of pleasure. You feel their fervor
as you pick up the cigar, blow sparks into a full-crowned

cunning orange and yellow glow-- the Holy Paraclete!   The open classroom
window is only half the distance to the plate, thirty feet away,

above the walk, above the lovely beds of variegated tulips the sisters tend,
and the forsythias, all blooming wildly,  (It is after Easter.

Christ is risen!) and you wind, and kick, and throw a perfect pitch.
And wouldn’t you know, Father Thome appears in the window.

The apostles all slip backward.  They fall asleep on cue.  Father Thome elevates
the butt.  His hand is smoking .You see the black hair

on his four fingers.  You see he sees you’ve wasted all his hours of drilling
in the faith.  You know you’re on his calendar:

One of  four servers for tomorrow morning’s High Mass. And worst of all
(because you always mess up the notes), you’ll be on his right hand:

Black and white, you’ll be his acolyte, the one assigned to ring the bells.

-from The Smallest Bird in North America