Russell Shorto

Preacher to Flock (=Self)

I neglected to ask

if you minded Sunday's restitution parade.

So much wisdom frothing out of me

Come! bring your cups and scoop its hoar.

Who trespasses anymore?

As in...forgive us our.

(It is my understanding

that in our modern day

we all keep pretty

much to ourselves.)

No one told me

as a child

that the sky had my back,

that the thunder scuffing distant moountainside villages

was inside me.

That every closed heart

was mine

for the asking.

That we were already at peace even in war,

even with sneers - and oh aren't children cruel?

The worst is of course silence: to be

ignored I find the same as death.

Second worst is the ridicule-and-venom thing.

Third-worst and last (=best): love, love.

These thoughts bird droppings

the page the dirty earth

catching them

...the car windows, the slabs of rock: splat! splat!...

the yawning ocean with dignity receiving them

spreading them in its titanic swirly way

so that they grow, don't they, out

and out in greasy paisleys, onto and into

the very globe and its sky, swelling with terrible majesty

and with the fierceness of time, daring

to be all they would mimic, become the thing itself

become the laughter at its dumb being.

Become the laughter at my dumb being

and I will forgive you your trespasses.

There is such a thing as honesty and if it can be found

in word-splats then consider that to be your answered prayer

your dayful of Sundays

your eggy breakfast your loving cup your afternoon's sunspray

the reason I have gathered you here today.

I forgot that being inside someone

was the same as saying hello.


About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar