Poem by Stephen Glines

Photography © Chad Parenteau

 

First Sunday after the Ascension of Saint Jack

We sit in a pew three empty rows from the front where the
reverend is sure to spot us. I am here to satisfy my wife’s
desire to find a church I will tolerate. I have my spiritual
side. I seek the truth, I seek compassion, I seek justice. I am
my brothers keeper, but I am not religious. I cannot be
religious given what is done in the name of religion.
Nietzsche was right, god is dead or, at best, no longer cares.
He has moved on to populate another place with his
offspring. By Zeus I hope it works out for them.

The protestant priestess of this well appointed church offers
the usual incantations and exhortations and, passing on to
the homily, she fawns and gushes over a prominent member
of the church sitting in the front row like a peacock. She
adores him and asks him to read. His name is Mathew but
he reads from John 6. The irony is lost on all. His suit is
French, his shoes and tie are Italian and, I suspect, his car is
German. He has gone far on pocket change.

It’s been a week since Jack died. Poor and penniless, he
thrived on a pension of crumbs and love from the flock he
tended, those for whom The Word was paramount. No one
was unwelcome at his table and no one lacked shelter from
the storm. His tent could sleep a multitude if required and
while his shoes sank into the mud from the holes in them, he
would have walked barefoot willingly.

I look down to hide the tear rolling down my cheek. Jack
would not be welcome here. The Word is not worshipped
here. Yet I recognize the language rolling effortlessly off the
silver tongue of the Mathew reading from John, he has his
reward. I know this church, they would shut and lock their
doors to the homeless at night. Next week my wife will ask
me to try yet another church. I pray for different results.

 

Photography © Chad Parenteau
Photography © Chad Parenteau

 

Stephen Glines has spent most of his career as a journalist with a reputation as an edgy technical writer. For five years he authored a monthly technical advice column titled “Panic” in Altos World Magazine. The column was written in the voice of a fictionalized, over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, computer engineer working for the mob. He also wrote a column titled “Famous Last Words” for Unix Review about products that never quite materialized or did and shouldn’t have. He is the author or co-author of five “trade textbooks,” a travelogue about teaching in Fiji and a flash fiction chapbook. He also has a bunch of unpublished novels if anyone is interested. For the past ten years he has been the editor/publisher of Wilderness House Literary Review.

Chad Parenteau’s photo was taken in May 20111 at the International Community Church, in Allston, Massachusetts during the fortieth anniversary celebration of Stone Soup, months after the passing of Jack Powers, who founded Stone Soup Poetry in 1971.