Today's poem is by Rennie McQuilkin

The Rector's Wife
for Elizabeth Rinehart McQuilkin, 1870-1938

How dark from the nave to the altar—
so many shades of obsidian, onyx, and deep purple.
How subtly the black of his robe stands out
and how starkly his collar.

He is giving the sermon.
Behind him, her face a pale mask the ecru of old lace,
her hands off-white as weathered bone, his wife,
who once won the conservatory's Chopin competition,

is at the organ, its keys like serried rows of bright
forbidding teeth. She believes in redemption,
visits the sick five days a week, calls altar flowers
a form of temptation.

For the short season of these four lines, let her be
among the cosmos, glads, and roses she was picking,
flush-faced, humming lieder,
when he came up from his other world.

Copyright © 2003 Rennie McQuilkin All rights reserved
from Connecticut Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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