This Sunday your dog does too
so long as he is polite to the terrier
that ushers all the old people
with white hair and trousers bearing
the ketchup from Saturday’s potluck
to the pew that once sat my great-grandmother
and the jack russell she could never keep
quiet at communion.
You pass the plate of offering
collected by the chaplain who has
no affiliation with the Presbyterian church
other than that the church that employs dogs as ushers
keeps copies of the Book of Common Prayer
and has a historic landmark sign beside Paris Pike
that calls the building you pray in Presbyterian.
You pet the corgi your grandfather calls: Pete
Peter, Peter Pan, Pan, Panman
so often it’s hard to know
with certainty what your grandmother
named him all those years ago while
the chaplain, not actually ordained,
proceeds on about God’s love,
which you agree, generally, is great.
But you are waiting for something more
than word alone to help you say Amen
as seems custom because the man with stained trousers
by the window that looks onto the dogwood trees in blossom
and his, what you presume to be, wife,
and their well-fed dog who barks,
have a habit of doing so.
It is image you seek.
The road absent its paving. The pasture
opposite the stone fence uncleared
this being western Kentucky then
when they pulled the stone from the earth
rubbed the dew and moss from the rock,
shaped them to be as they needed to be
to become this church. This too,
this making and building up a church
planted in the field you know could have
raised tobacco for profit down river. Instead
to become a place of dwelling.
Hopewell, you imagine—
a place of worship
with a small piano in the back
the space less hollow
than time makes it seem.
Shouldn’t there be a cross?
You wonder and pass on
leading your grandmother’s
fat dog down the road
farther than he has walked
maybe all his life.
—Stephen Batchelder ’15
STEPHEN BATCHELDER was an English/religion double major at Wabash and currently teaches science at the Estrella Vista STEM Academy, where he was the 2019 Teacher of the Year. His first work for WM was “Moon Poem #4”, Spring 2016.