81/L18 – Altar


Christ the man spreads
an old blanket and lays out
a million hurts, a curiosity cabinet
of woe. No entry fee to see
what he’s carried just this day.
He wanders the oddly attired rows,
caressing each item in turn: a lamp
battered in, a broken bell, shattered pieces
of someone’s wedding china. Section 8 vouchers
banded together. Losing lotto tickets,
bounced checks, report cards, pink slips.
A hundred thousand notes that find their way
into his pocket, cribbed on takeout menus
and medical bills, faded receipts and obits.
Crumpled prayers. No one stops to buy
or even look. No one ever does. Night drops.
The items blur, become indistinct. Piled,
he douses the day’s take in lighter fluid
and touches off a match. The acrid smoke
stains him, blots out stars. He adds
sandalwood and myrrh, frankincense
for a sweet char. His incense rises
and spreads on the four winds. Soon
the others will come to offer their own
fuel, broken bits suited to the maw.
Each leaves lighter and just as smudged
as he.

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