I’d been in that House many times
But it’d been a long time since
and I went to visit
renew old friendships and share in
the Worship of the saints—
but met by many Unexpecteds.
First was the empty lot–no cars.
I must have been very early.
But there was a nip in the air
so I thought I’d try the door.
Odd it was–the bolt had been drawn
but the door was ajar.
Not useful, really, but I was glad to go in.
It seemed inordinately bright inside
Refreshingly so, but strange–
it seemed to be coming from everywhere
at once, and yet not–
I realized it was less than a glow
from the walls;
it was more reflection, gleam, from all sides
sparkling white and silver
Striking, kind of nice.
But then I was distracted–
I saw my breath curling in mists before me
before I felt the chill.
How very early I must have been!
the heat wasn’t on–it was colder inside than out.
But it wasn’t for me to check the heat,
so I hugged myself and kept on my gloves.
Moving from narthex to sanctuary, I saw
I wasn’t so very early after all.
I sat down in a pew and waited.
At two minutes to service time,
a crowd appeared. The lot filled,
the congregation filed in.
Everyone was seated at six minutes past.
Late, but the congregation was smiling.
I saw Sinclair, Dawn, Doug and Sadie–
so many I greeted who’d danced at my wedding…
There hadn’t been enough time to heat the place
perhaps something was broken?
But no–everyone else, most everyone, was taking off
his coat, her scarf, and settling in.
I could feel the cold–or rather,couldn’t–
in the tip of my nose.
Perhaps I’d been away too long.
I kept my shivers to myself as we stood for the first song.
That glittering bright light swelled with the most unusual–
what’s the word? Timbre? Tone? The
quality of sound made me cock my head
while I stifled a grimace and a noise to go with it.
I sang and listened at the same time.
What was that? The silver glow seemed so heavenly
yet the singing was as
from within a tin can.
I drifted in and out during the sermon–
the pastor I didn’t know–
until I felt something at my feet.
I looked down, through the cloud of my breath
Saw something wriggling, dark, glossy–no,
slimy, swirling and swimming at my ankles
swimming and strong like salmon fighting a river.
I let out a little gasp, but no one noticed,
and then they were gone.
And there was something else,
something in the back.
Voices while the pastor was preaching.
I tried to glance ’round furtively
who was speaking?
Surely it was no one present,
but voices there were,
distant, breathy wind-whispers through trees
as if out of the distant past.
And there was no one there.
It seemed only I saw, only I heard
these things in that crystalline hall;
but the contentment of everyone else
could not be spoiled,
so I wrapped myself up tighter
and held the Book closer.
When it was time for refreshments,
eagerly I bounded to the next room
surely it would be normal!
But I held that styrofoam cup in my hand,
brought it to my lips, and looked round in amazement.
Others were blowing gently across their coffee to cool it
while mine–was as cold as ice.
Bewildered again, as someone was bumped,
and the coffee tossed out to the floor.
A splash–there was none,
but a tinkling crash as a mass of dark brown
hit the floor and shattered–
as many fragments
as an expensive wine glass.
I took a few steps back, blinked, and looked again–
I was not mistaken. The coffee had frozen
before it hit the ground.
I knelt to touch it, caught myself as I tottered
and through my glove, felt the carpet.
Who knows but that it was the floor itself
that froze the coffee?
Now that I knew I could feel it through my shoes,
and wiggled my toes fretfully.
Conversation went on, laughing, chewing,
trifles and this-n-that and last week’s and this week’s
news and nothings–not much churchy about it,
but that wasn’t unusual…
I wandered down to the council room,
where I’d had Sunday School
Once Upon a Time.
I sat in a chair in the chill, and know there was something
There was a picture on the wall I didn’t recognize.
There was a small plate in the frame with the name,
something about their finest hour.
It was like one of those cheesy paintings of anthropomorphic dogs
at cards in pubs and pool halls.
There was a dog, though it looked like it was mostly dead,
some sheep, one with horns, and two kangaroos.
It frightened me…
What had happened here?
The coffee. The cold, the dark fish, the tin…
It was then I realized, the crystal, the glow, the silver–
ceiling, walls, floor, much of the furniture…
I approached one of the windows
and tried to look through
the distorted Translucent.
Took off my glove and touched it.
It was true. Every surface of that House–
all of it, inside, was coated in two inches of ice.
It wasn’t a House–not a temple
to the Living God,
It was a palace for the heart.
And no wonder–revenge is cold,
and so is pride, grown old and doddering.
But the Lord is a consuming fire.