POETRY: Disciplinary Treatises—(4) The Communion of the Body, by Scott Cairns

communion of the body

The Christ in his own heart is weaker
than the Christ in the word of his brother.
(Bonhoeffer)

Scattered, petulant, argumentative,
the diverse members generally find
little, nothing of their own, to offer

one another. Like us all, the saved
need saving mostly from themselves, and so
they make progress, if at all, by dying

to what they can, acquiescing to this
new pressure, new wind, new breath that would fill
them with something better than their own

good intentions. Or schemes of community.
Or their few articulate innovations
in dogma. What the Ghost expects of them

is a purer than customary will
to speak together, a mere willingness
to hear expressed in the fragmentary

figures of one another’s speech the mute
and palpable identity they share,
scoured clear of impediment and glare,

the uncanny evidence that here
in the stillest air between them the One
we call the Ghost insinuates his care

for the unexpected word now fondling
the tongue, now falling here, incredible
confession—that they would be believers,

who startle to suspect among the scraps
of Babel’s gritty artifacts one stone,
irreducible fossil, capable

of bearing love’s unprovoked inscription
in the focus of its term.

 

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