ELAINE FLETCHER CHAPMAN
BEFORE THE LENTEN SERVICE AT NOON
And this morning the word Selah.
Hebrew for liturgical direction,
to pause, rest. An interlude. It appears
three times in Psalm Thirty-two.
The one I’m to read today.
Something about forgiveness.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven.
Made me think of my father saying
he was sorry, a month before he died.
I cannot remember the exact date.
I know it was a Wednesday.
But on Saturday morning, the ninth of June
as I was leaving his house after a visit, he said,
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Called me by my family name. Selah
His blue eyes glazed tears. My eyes, like his.
Our last conversation, our first in years.
I said,” It’s okay, Dad. I know.” Selah
For once, he meant what he said.
The cure, instantaneous.
Conversion. Love at the bottom of the river,
at the end of the tunnel, on the other side.
You are a hiding place for me.
This morning, another Wednesday, we woke early.
Frost overnight made the ground hard.
Seven months since my father’s death.
And shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
Forgiven. Forgiven. And forgiven. Selah
AFTER THE HURRICANE, LATE FALL
With the storm came a settling
in, resignation even. Last
week refuge written in the text
twice. I don’t come to stillness easily.
Ease, not a word in my ordinary vernacular.
Still wind driven rain, now cold,
precursor to winter, weeks away.
In Ohio, the first snow. On the Eastern Shore,
high water. The full moon
making matters worse. Finally,
Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Contemplatio.
No crossing over the bay,
no sounds other than wind,
no voices other than the Divine,
Only recovery, removing debris
from tide stained shores.
Early morning, late afternoon, evening.
Sea grass, mud, uprooted tree stumps.
Thousands of waterfowl.
Crabs, clams, oyster beds.
Wetlands. Following the road
around Wallops, the straight away
to Chincoteague. We make our pilgrimage
with little other than towels and water,
pleased like we escaped, without notice.
like it’s a secret we’ re leaving the mainland.
Like Li Po, like Basho. The very act a prayer.
Like we’re racing to save our lives.
Like we can’t breathe until we arrive.
Begging for respite, restoration.
Like our souls won’t survive,
Like our skin might peel off.
Windows open to the wind.
Already sea salt gathers on our upper lips,
in our hair. I tie mine back with a cotton scarf
to keep loose strands from further whipping my face.
Simple flagellations. Our reward for sacrifice.
Sanctified. Like Saint Francis we left at the front door.
Like Saint Teresa, like Rumi’s Birdsongs.
Like blood, sacramental ocean spray.
Today, the sky is mostly grey,
some stratified blue just above
the tree line. A single robin,
sings his morning call.
Is perpetual wandering necessary?
First, the neighbor’s pond,
then our unweeded flower garden,
next the long lawn, not quite a field.
I read rule of thirds, turning away
from things as they are.
The unmade bed. Dirty laundry piled
in a the basket by the closet. Bills unpaid.
Suitcase still packed from last night’s commute.
No groceries other than fresh berries,
bought the day before I crossed the bay.
A season of surprise, a Thursday.
And I’m home. Clearly, a way of seeing.
Church bells across the street ring
the noon hour. That white steeple, that spire.
MORNING, INFLUENCED BY FULL MOON
After the light brightened,
I woke desperate for a particular living:
shade among pines, creek lapping,
the shadow of an osprey overhead,
my loved ones nearby. Time enough.
Daily embraces, kisses even. Yesterday
I read: It is not enough to have moments of praise
Every gesture must become a hymn of adoration.
How does one become prayer?
I’m learning to lean in. Then waiting
becomes unnecessary. Immediate
like the row of sunflowers I pass
returning home, merciful welcoming.
Elaine Fletcher Chapman (formerly Elaine Walters McFerron) lives on The Eastern Shore of Virginia. She holds an MFA from The Bennington Writing Seminars where she works as Alumni Liaison. She is also the founder of The Writer’s Studio where she teaches and presents poetry readings in the Historic Cokesbury Church in Onancock, Virginia. Her poems have been published in The Sun, Calyx, Poet Lore, 5AM, Salamander, and others. Green River Press published her letterpress chapbook, Double Solitude.