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The Sacrament at Ninety-Seven

by Jim Richards

—for Lynn S. Richards (1901-    )

The body? No, the bread is what I fear,
Sweet ruins from a cruel and sacred day
Soured when my curled fingers lift a cluster,
Each piece a soul I’m swindling from the tray.
The blood? No, the water brimming cups
Thimble sized, requiring two heavy hands
To renew the shaky covenant coming
To my lips. The act not the oath demands
My careful prayer. I spill great drops, not tears,
And hope that what remains will clean my tongue.
I swallow my salvation like a knot
Of curses, verses from a hymn I hardly hum.
The sweetest verse is last: “God, give me death.
I’ll keep my eyelids still, you keep my breath.”