Here is the church, and here is the steeple.
Crouching Father’s hands sealed together; bright white palms pressed away their blood. Young fellow gazed, anticipating a revelation of teeming finger saints within a stake center. Still, he thought his dad’s pointers a poor mockup of the real steeple. Of girders made and painted white—hollow until it got to the point—a steeple so tall, young Fellow wondered why Heavenly Father didn’t call it Babel and knock it down.
Open the doors, and… where’s all the people?!
Father’s fingers shot up straight, so young Fellow thought up the stake center’s empty foyer. His mind’s eye sketched it clearly on his father’s palms. Night painted the storm doors’ glass dark blue, enriched the carpet’s burgundy. Fellow turned inward to face the sacrament room’s double doors. In their blackened panes, he saw no invitation for a boy. Yet fingers curling, tucking, pulling said, “Here am I, send me…”
Open the doors and dream up the people.
“I will be thy man child,” his or someone’s voice said. Not a soul stood beside him. Carpet dulled his hard-sole steps. Never had he witnessed murk in this room. Narrowing rows of oaken pew backs drew his eyes toward the pulpit—silhouette rising from an ashen plain. From the wall behind the choir stalls, dimly glimmering pipes caught his gaze and carried it higher.
Here is our Fellow climbing the stairs…
Fellow knew the organ pipes from seven years of Sunday staring. From pulpit to ceiling, lofty! From clerk’s desk to sacrament table, vast! But now darkness tightly defined them—embossed them like Tabernacle pipes on the blue hymnal covers peering out at him from pew backs. Shimmering slow and gold-red by the light of emergency signs, the pipes towered over the boy. Their lips dented inward, like punched faces trying to smile.
And now sounds the organ, drowning his prayers.
His mind’s ear conjured a minor Toccata, shaking the room he’d only known in reverence. Whitewashed bricks behind the darkness crumbled. Ceiling fixtures fell and shattered. Young Fellow’s bones quaked like failing girders. He longed to run for the splintering double doors but stood as still as the organ’s copper legion. So it was the boy first met Lucifer’s glimmer. Knew it by the feeling. Watched it bleeding off the lips of a hundred mouths. Okay, we’ll do it Mom’s way.
Open the doors and see all the people!
Father’s mingling fingers set to fluttering before young Fellow’s eyes. The natural boy grinned. Turning his right hand slant, the man staggered digits. His child made a figure with his own—set them walking upward towards the patriarchal smile.
Here is the bishop climbing the stairs,
And here is the bishop saying his prayers.
Father and son softly pressed flat hands together. Young Fellow resolved to keep his vision private, for now he knew evil could hide behind sacred walls, which thing he never had supposed.
In the poem A Revelation in New England, see Fellow as a green missionary.
My approach to this poem was informed in part by reading Ron Padgett’s excellent piece Prose Poem (“The morning coffee.”).
Image credits: Organ pipes from Pixabay, Pexels.com; 1948 LDS Hymnal image from Ricardo630, Wikimedia Commons.