A Sacred Quarantine

photo (6)

I sat in the room with the four white walls
and the pristine painted pews
and the cushion on the bench

worn through, but still
padded enough for comfort.
And I watched the people

moving up the aisle,
one after another
to stand in line before the rector.

“Remember that you are dust,”
he told them, reaching down to stir
the ashen and oily mix.

“And to dust you will return,”
he said, crossing
each forehead with a sign.

Yes, there goes another one, I thought,
as the woman in the brown sweater and pale
cotton khakis turned around

and began walking back to her seat.
“Oh, no! He has it too,”
I realized,

as a handsome young man
brushed aside shiny black hair,
revealing a charcoal smudge.

It seemed that every person in the building,
every heart left beating in that bright sanctuary,
was dying of this sickness

called humanity. “Indeed,
every last one of us
will die someday,”

I told myself
examining the patients
surrounding me.

Even I will go
into the ground one day, I tried to remember.
But I didn’t believe it.

No, not really that is.
Not until
I looked into

those priestly eyes myself,
and felt the slow earthen movement
of his warm dirty thumb.

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