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The Church On Comiaken Hill Analysis



Author: poem of Richard Hugo Type: poem Views: 25

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for Sydney Pettit



The lines are keen against today's bad sky

about to rain. We're white and understand

why Indians sold butter for the funds

to build this church. Four hens and a rooster

huddle on the porch. We are dark

and know why no one climbed to pray. The priest

who did his best to imitate a bell

watched the river, full of spirits, coil

below the hill, relentless for the bay.



A church abandoned to the wind is portent.

In high wind, ruins make harsh music.

The priest is tending bar. His dreams have paid

outrageous fees for stone and mortar.

His eyes are empty as a chapel

roofless in a storm. Greek temples seem

the same as forty centuries ago.

If we used one corner for a urinal,

he wouldn't swear we hadn't worshipped here.



The chickens cringe. Rain sprays chaos where

the altar and the stained glass would have gone

had Indians not eaten tribal cows

one hungry fall. Despite the chant,

salmon hadn't come. The first mass

and a phone line cursed the river.

If rain had rhythm, it would not be Latin.



Children do not wave as we drive out.

Like these graves ours may go unmarked.

Can we be satisfied when dead

with daffodils for stones? These Indians--

whatever they once loved or used for God--

the hill--the river--the bay burned by the moon--

they knew that when you die you lose your name.






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