I read the bible for the poetry and for

the love, or at least I did before

I became afraid of churches.

My fear of them stems

from the power they posses

to exclude, to condemn, yes,

but mostly what sends me running is

the fervor of compassion and its power

to consume - that radical inexplicable swelling

of something other than my mind.

in every sanctuary I find

kind faces and then remind myself

of the preoccupation with sin, the

petty biases entrenched within

when a parishioner takes my hand and says

gently, and all too intently, "Peace."

"Peace," I mutter back. Peace. Now let me go.

(abruptly I flash to a sunny afternoon spent

on a couch and another overly easy touch. Stop.

I stiffened then too. Stop it.)

Communion - intimate in its casual giving

of oneself, I cannot accept. Not now - not

again. Already I know I will not win

this inner debate, even as the cynic in me resists -

insists I can't allow myself to be overcome

by this lightning storm labeled

Spirituality - magnetic and just as harrowing

as when that electric bolt struck

the pine in my backyard, white-hot

and charged, appealing and appalling.

Sometimes, though, when I contemplate

in a chapel, basking on a bench, I can sense

vibrations akin to the clench in my

thoracic cavity at the sight of cobalt mountains

spread across a colossal sky, an open

welcome without necessity of invitation -

natural harmony not hazardous at all.

Yet a church is more than a valley, fertile

and lovely; it is a chasm, opaque and

profound - eager to gulp me down - ushering

in an earth-deep voice Come to me. Be in me.

The pragmatist inside me is resisting - insisting

There is no way to survive that step.

Quaking on the ledge, grasping onto

pieces of myself about to overturn, I

envision the charred pine, smell the static

air, and experience the accompanying

soul-shock. Still I am afraid.