J. C. Scharl
At midday I go to pray at the mission church
downtown, the one where a few years back
the priest was shot and died.
It’s been redecorated: ceiling vaults of birch,
some rugged saints, the Stations pale and framed in black
as if the scarlet in the side
of the crucifix, like the desert sun, erodes
the strength of everything else, even the colors.
The overhead lights are off,
but as usual I find Eve Marcos
is there to clean the church, just as on all other
Saturdays. I cough
to let her know I’m there. She smiles and sweeps
down every empty row. Then she genuflects
in front of the altar before she goes to mop
at the base of the Our Lady shrine. As the mop seeps
out her shining offering of water, the wet tiles reflect
another Mary, smiling, even softer
and more full of light. And as Eve passes
down the center aisle, gold-leaf stars shimmer
at her feet around the prismed faces
of the stained-glass saints. Masses
of color bloom underfoot till the ceiling itself is dimmer
than that humble floor. In the dark spaces
along the outer walls she moves now through the depths
of a mirrored Paradise. One by one
the Stations—five, six, seven—
appear in her train, and behind her footsteps
Christ falls again and again, only now
He falls upwards into the radiant heart of Heaven.
J. C. Scharl’s poems have been published in Measure Review, Euphony Journal, The Scores, and Fare Forward, among others, and are forthcoming from St. Katherine Review, Convivium, and Presence Journal. Her prose has been published in Plough Magazine, The American Conservative, and the Intercollegiate Review, among others.