At Heaven’s Gate

by J. S. Absher

When avid divas and tonsured primates, 
evangelical Davids psalming 
before the Lord, gandy dancers straight 
time rain or shine paid weekly, fray-cuffed 
clerks, grads of Princeton and Barbizon 
Beauty, horse-, brew- and web masters, 
     sad copy writers 

open wallet and purse; empty out their 
fanny- and back-packs; divest brief- and 
make-up cases; stave in casks; crack wall-
safes, rifle thumb drives; in dying loose 
the colon, taste the bile in the duct, 
salt tears in the lacrimal gland, 
     the dry mouth’s last spit, 

God will say, No, not enough: as He pulls 
worm segments from hens’ gullets, and from 
rumens the cud, so from us He’ll draw 
compassion from the belly’s inward 
parts, a burning light from our pitch-dark 
performances; from grave and urn 
     remake broken lives

until lies are untold, the murdered re-
born, the stolen restored, regretted 
days made holy as sun-drenched Sabbaths, 
grieving parents comforted, amor 
always fidelis, false gods’ falser
politicos rejected, our 
     weaknesses transformed

praising His name, and even envy weeps 
in joy of it all—the night settling
in, the mallards sleeping on one leg, 
the drone of semis climbing the grade 
out of town hauling repentant prayers,
the freight of our holy commerce 

J. S. Absher is a poet and independent scholar. His first full-length book of poetry, Mouth Work (St. Andrews University Press) won the 2015 Lena Shull Competition of the North Carolina Poetry Society. His second full-length collection, Skating Rough Ground, is scheduled to appear next year. Chapbooks are Night Weather (Cynosura, 2010) and The Burial of Anyce Shepherd (Main Street Rag, 2006). Absher is also preparing three books focusing on North Carolina and Southern US history, two of which (Love Letters of a Mississippi Lawyer and My Own Life, or A Deserted Wife) were published this year. He lives in Raleigh, NC, with his wife, Patti. Website: www.js-absher-poetry.com 

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