Like a Prayer—

by Tyler Chadwick

How the house sighed, air brim with old wood, paint, and coffee spilling from around the parlor‘s paired doors as I swung them closed, slowing before they smacked the jamb so not to rattle the jaundiced panes or disrupt the furniture we had force-fed the room—

How the four of us had argued the antique hutch beneath two low doorways, settling in the just-enough space between the parlor’s sheet-draped loveseat and the spindle-back dining chairs (one straddling another, times two, seats together, four legs turned up, four down)—

How the hutch foreshadowed your presence, its glass shelving emptied, its varnish mute, its edges anointed with the oil of repeated touch—

How we puzzled the last furnishings to fit into the parlor: the dining table, dismantled, stem supported by four tapered feet, round top draped with a faded and fraying quilt and leaning on the hutch; the bookshelves; the magazine rack; the end tables; the lamps; the high-backed recliners, seats deep from hours the owners had spent reading or sleeping or holding vigil with the night—

How my duct-taped sneakers slapped the foyer’s path-worn and scarred parquet floor, footfalls rebounding off bare walls as I crossed to the sitting room—

How dust brooded in the sitting room after we had emptied the space (the next to be refinished), motes regarding the sunlight as it peered around blinds, particles of the old home’s epoch swirling like galaxies in the universe stirred by our work—

How your silence only announced itself when my urgency to return to laying new floor in the kitchen went mute as I crossed back into the foyer, glanced up, saw you hanging just outside the parlor, your presence revealed when I had closed the doors—

How, nursed on Allelulia!’s over the empty tomb, 19th-century theophanies, and tales of veil-breaching angels, Mormon-me had always cold-shouldered the cross—

How the crucifix had never channeled my God-longing until I encountered you in that stripped-back foyer where you slipped beneath my defenses, sidled up to my breathing, my movements as, on my knees back in the kitchen, I measured, cut, installed the kitchen floor, sliding the groove of one plank around the tongue of another until the snap— And again— And again— And again—

How your intrusion lingers in the present-tense of my restlessness, in my still-persistent first word pointing at the world and asking, “Whazzat? Whazzat? Whazzat? Whazzat?”, my first desire unfolding from that question mark, unfolding like your body draped from the cross, arms wide, head propped on your right shoulder, knees bent left, hips pressed to the gibbet, abdomen sunken and still, muscles taut against the exhibition as if anticipating breath, as if sustaining a scream, as if recoiling from the kiss of a frigid memory—

How your silhouette beatifies the small white wall that frames you, blessed is the space between object and memory: it shall be filled with desire, light from a slim foyer window confessing our hunger in crimson wood and shadow—

TYLER CHADWICK is an award-winning writer, editor, and teacher. He has three books to his name: two anthologies, Fire in the Pasture: 21st Century Mormon Poets (Peculiar Pages, 2011) and Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry (Peculiar Pages, 2018), and a collection of poetry and essays, Field Notes on Language and Kinship (Mormon Artists Group, 2013). He lives in Ogden, Utah, with his wife, Jess, and their four daughters.

Photo: “Crucifixes” by Éamonn Ó Muirí