Maggie Boyd Hare is an MFA candidate at UNCW where she works as a teaching assistant and as poetry editor for Ecotone. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden's Ferry Review, the Shore, and the Arkansas International.
First, color: a hazy line of dusty pink, shades of blue and gray that are nearly black, shades of blue and gray that are nearly white, warm yellow, warm gray. Focusing, you understand it as dim light, sky just cresting pink for the day, not morning and not night. A small house nestled in a suburban cul-du-sac, hedged by replicate houses, same brick, same vinyl siding. Light yellows one window, two warm gray silhouettes are soft through the curtains. One, you take to be a man—tall with short hair. He bends down to help a smaller silhouette into their coat—two little arms stretched back, the coat levitates between them.
The tall, helping silhouette is dad. Awake for a while, quietly moving around the house in the dark. Dressing, making his first cup of coffee in the stainless steel pot, pouring it into his thermos with cream, sliding on his thin cotton dress socks, tying his slick black shoes.
I am the little silhouette because I woke up at five A.M. and caught him before he left for church. So he could help me into my coat. So I could join him on his drive. I could help start the big pots of coffee in the basement kitchen. I could sit and read while he printed his sermon notes, underlined and marked them up with red, green, and blue Precision V5 pens. I could flit around the big sanctuary while it was empty and feel its hollow air. When people trickled in, I could stand with him and greet them. I could shake their clammy hands while they looked over my head at my dad, who spoke warmly to each of them.
Clean lines. A room with a high ceiling and light cast through large windows with blocks of lilac, red, and yellow glass. A stage, rows of wooden pews with lumpy faded-blue velvet pads stapled onto the seats. In the pews, a spread of dozens of forward-facing bodies, some grouped close together. One small child with dark hair and a round face stands on his pew cushion and looks back, a woman you take to be his mother looks ahead, her arm wrapped around him to keep him still. Two little girls with thick brown hair are beside him, one is taller and turned toward him, tries to situate him forward.
On the stage, a solid wood table that takes two strong people to move. Dressed in silky white and draped in a purple and gold runner. On top of the runner: a speckled gray ceramic chalice with a glazed royal blue cross, a loaf of crusty white bread, a massive open book, a gold cross on a gold stand. Behind the table, a man in a light gray robe with loose sleeves. Around his neck, an ornate stole stitched with rich yellow and baby blue. His arms outstretched, bent into a loose w, palms facing upward, his mouth open in the shape of the sound of a short i, lips hardly parted. His face solemn, but not sad.
What he says is Lift up your hearts, to which the people say we lift them up to the Lord. Then he says let us give thanks to the Lord our God and they say it is right to give Him thanks and praise, and he launches into a long portion of his own beginning with it is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere. At regular intervals, he shifts the position of his hands. They are in the w, they hover over the bread, or they lift the bread, they hover over the cup, or they lift the cup, they come to rest neatly interlocked at his middle, they lift up again into the w. He performs a blessing.
There was communion once a month, by intinction. Which meant we all lined up and in turn, tore a hunk of bread from the loaf in my dad’s hands and dipped it into the grape juice waiting in the ceramic chalice. Then we chewed the soggy lump while he said, eat this and live.
Sometimes, communion was called the Eucharist and the bread was not bread, it was a thin dissolving wafer called the host. The host was held on the tongue until the chalice came to lips and juice was sipped down. The host was muscled into darkness and broken down with a wash of acid. A backward parasite. Fed on from inside.
My dad set a table for everyone to dip the blessed Kroger bread into the blessed Welch's grape juice and eat. He guided everyone to take into their mouth the words of the blessing, the joyful and the everywhere and the live.
When the service was over, what remained had to be returned to the earth, the juice could not be poured into municipal pipes, the bread had to keep feeding. In the din of a hundred people exchanging how are you and lunch plans, I took the communion in my ten-year-old hands and left out the back door. Alone, I crouched low and emptied the cup in the dirt. I ate large chunks of bread, ripped the rest into bits, and left them for the birds.
A wash of soft primaries. Everything cast in blue-green light. All the lines blend into one another, so it takes a while to pick out a tiny windowless room, butter-yellow walls and an armchair with red and navy argyle, a matching footstool. No windows. The light is from a TV filled with a sports field. In the chair, the man. He is still, his arms outstretched and resting on the chair arms, a dark bowl in his lap, a dark glass in his hand. The lines blend into one another, so his face is empty, just a round soft space somewhere near the middle.
He has said go forth in peace. Grace be always with you. He has shaken the hands and looked into the eyes of the hundred people leaving their pews. He has driven me home and told me that no we can’t have Wendy’s today, it’s not in the budget and we have tuna at home. Inside the small suburban house, the door from the garage opens into this tiny windowless room. The car engine ticks its way still on the other side of the wall. His robes and stole hang in the closet, and he is in loose shorts, a cotton shirt. A game is on: Reds if it’s baseball season, Steelers if it’s football, Kentucky Wildcats if it’s any season they’re playing. He poured a can of Pepsi into a glass with ice, which he will crunch and swallow once the Pepsi is gone. He has a purple fiestaware bowl full of pretzel rods and he places them one by one into his mouth, catatonic.
Upstairs, in the living room with low-pile carpet and bright midday light, we are four bodies maintaining motion—a slight woman and three children that are more blur than edge. One unit pulsing for peace, for ease, trying to keep each other in order and quiet. Mom pushes a vacuum, I wash out the tuna bowl, my sister’s arms spill laundry, my brother simply jumps up and around. We do this day without him, he will be ours again tomorrow.