Vievee Francis

The cathedral, two blocks away from my flat in a city

where I used to live, chimes every morning at dawn,

and the sound is vague, whereas the rounds fired off

on a random evening when I went back to visit were clear,

moving through the air with such clarity I stayed down flat

on the bed with an arm thrown over my still-sleeping husband

until it was over, though over is a slim wish, because

it will happen again — though next time a window may shatter, or

the skull of the old man a house or so over should a stray bullet

find him. I found four shells the next morning in the side yard.

Sometimes the early bells toll a song I recall from a childhood

spent in a church-dotted South, though those churches lacked

the delicate ornament of St. Florian’s I’ve come to covet.

When there is a knock on the backdoor, I don’t answer.

Of course there are those who don’t knock but try the knob

or key my car on the curb because I have a car — though

no carport or garage, just the curb  — and that is enough

to inspire hate in someone spilling out from Kelly’s bar next door

who has saved for nothing but a week of drinks downed in a night.

Salvation works that way — a man begins to thirst in the night

for what closed-eyed he saw glinting like mica under a stream

running fast over its bed, and he reached from the bank

of his dreams to cup that coin, to bring it wet to the lips.

I understand. I too can almost taste it: the metal and the rapids

moving through me, entering the way the promise of bells enters.

Yes. I might be saved by such a stream if only temporarily. But

moose or bear or rats would shit in that same stream. Consider,

the way the man that keyed my car felt momentarily assuaged

by bourbon, a drink he felt to be a drink of class to forget

he had been accused of having none, and until he saw the car

daring to sit on its tires like a sign saying “you who have nothing”

he thought he was okay, thought the night had carried him to the Lethe.

I get it. But I don’t blame strangers for possessing what I do not. And

I don’t expect the water to be anything other than the water it is.

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