In the Church of the Cactus Forest
by Richard Kempa

I too raise my hands above my head outspread
in the morning. Only I do not congregate,
vocalize a faith, resolve to carry the grim word
of salvation denied to the bleary-eyed.

Their sleep is beautiful. Arising at first light,
I tuck their blankets, touch their skin,
and go to the church of the cactus forest
for a communion best kept alone.

Maybe, later, I will relate something exotic:
how the boulders in a dark hollow
shifted at my approach, raised their snouts,
became the pungent javelina,

or how, when I entered an arroyo, the odors
of the dew-drenched desert conjured
that morning ten years ago of the great storm
and who I was that day.

But when the sun sheers the cloud bank
and bejewels each spindle, thorn, blade,
and the liturgy of the birds crescendos
and wings shimmer and the air thrills,

I stop, unlayer myself, take
the sacrament of the pen in hand, become
a vehicle, an organ of the near and far,
until I raise my arms and the pen falls…

Richard Kempa lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where he teaches writing and philosophy at Western Wyoming College. He has authored two books of poems, Ten Thousand Voices, which was published by Littoral Press in Oakland in 2013, and Keeping the Quiet, published in 2008 by Bellowing Ark Press in Seattle.