Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 14, 2018.
About this Poem 

“My mind tends to wander during Mass. For the most part, things snap back into the present moment when I hear a passage with which I disagree, but I still go to church because I am drawn to ritual, tradition, and ceremony. ‘This Sunday in Ordinary Time’ is about how I sometimes shy away from matters of actual consequence when asking myself, am I a good person? Of course, one need not be in church or subscribe to religion to be a good person, but it seems to be the place where I spend the most time drifting off and thinking, thinking, thinking.”
—Peter Twal

This Sunday in Ordinary Time

The swollen season gives birth to another
police procedural, but who doesn’t love
a good detective? A dead fall. A heater, angry to be
awoken, burps up the summer’s
burnt dust in my face. Before her cremation, the family swore
they’d removed Nana’s wedding band, but all pockets
turned up empty afterwards. It’s a miracle
the ring hadn’t been lost sooner, dancing
from finger to finger as her body’s bones
made themselves known like a barn caving
in a beam at a time. Infection spreads
like fire across a small town. I’m passing through
Logansport today, this Sunday in Ordinary
Time. Barreling forward, forty-eight
in a thirty to make Mass, when Mama
says, why all this hurried
death in your poetry? Bells
at noon. I daydream of picking
open a tabernacle with a wiry
hair from my beard & a hairline
sliver of silver to gorge on
my crisp God, half-hoping Christ
tries to intercede. The Bible tells
me: “anyone who does evil
hates the light,” & no matter how brightly
I bite back, the Bible
never changes its mind. Lord, help me to discern
the difference between
persistence & insistence, indulgence
& rigor in every laugh, & the two
chords my clavicles ring when plucked. Help me
grin through their high pitch twangs, the way a good father
listens to his child learn to play the violin. I’m still learning
to pick up my feet when I walk, stumbling less
through names of famous
philosophers at smart parties & it’s Spring before
anyone’s ready & I’m wondering how to build
a case against the bees plotting to ball 
their queen to death without becoming
a fanatic of my own. A death at the legs of
so many lovers seems a difficult death
to explain to children & this: if a button breaks 
your fall, it doesn’t make it luckier than other buttons. 
Listen: squint & it sings
of simple addition. A kernel 
cooked in its own slick. & you,
dear dear, forgive me when I take you for steak
& say nothing after a second Sazerac, after you 
unwittingly spread
horseradish on your bread 
instead of butter.

Copyright © 2018 by Peter Twal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Peter Twal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Peter Twal

Peter Twal

Peter Twal is the author of Our Earliest Tattoos (University of Arkansas Press, 2018), which won the 2018 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize.