Praise Song on a Summer Night

Mary Ann Honaker

She stood in front of the congregation
dress as flat and straight as an ironing board
touching the floor. Her arms were wooden
crosses driven into the mound of a grave
and gravely she said
her nephew, a teenager,
was dead

so prayers
please for the family, herself, and her husband.

“But this,” she said, “is a praise song.”
Her voice rung in the rafters where the wasps gathered
around the low hanging lights
and we couldn’t help
but look up, up

although there was nothing up
but the deep-stained crossbeams,
the crisp white ceiling.

Some closed their eyes
and smiled, some clasped their hands
and rocked slightly; some hummed low.

The earth shook that night;
the stars fell like tears.
In the parking lot, the attendant
reached into his pocket, jingled the cool keys,
and, running his thumb over their jagged edges,
sighed and thought of home.

Mary Ann Honaker holds a BA in philosophy from West Virginia University and a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. She has previously published poetry in Harvard’s The Dudley Review and Crawlspace of Cambridge, Massachusetts. In her writings she primarily explores the transformative power of love and the intersection of the spiritual world with mundane reality.