Altar Call

“If you bring forth what is within you,
what is within you will save you.”
— from The Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas

The first time the man left her he walked down the aisle,
his face blank with hopelessness or with hope.

The preacher had begged for those who wanted Jesus,
and so he was headed towards the altar.

The wife whispered, “Wait, my love,”
but that was not enough up against God calling him come.

That night the man asked her to pray with him.
He recited, as he always did, the Our Father.

She performed the Hail Mary for him
and he lay in her lap like a child.

She claimed him as her bright little boy.
For after the altar, he could not be her man.

For years he believed he would grant her
a mansion, even though he never

managed half their tiny rent.
She learned that truth

was not what he could stand
and so he was never told that the landlord

was her lover. He was never told
that their son, slow, took after him.

The story of their life together
is the same as anyone’s.

From Wife. Reproduced with kind permission of Peepal Tree.