Monday, December 19, 2011

on helping to serve the eucharist (for the first time)


Standing next to my pastor,
holding the wine,
I have this thought:
“I do not belong here.”

The clay cup is heavy
and cool in my hands.
The wine is dark
and brooding.

Declaring to the gently
stooped woman standing before me:
“The blood of Christ, shed for you,”
I feel a sense of loss.

When she whispers “amen,”
I hear my doubts on her lips.

Handing the cup back,
she smiles, but not at me.
And I realize that she has received
something that was never mine 
to give.

I turn to the next person in line,
and the next and the next,
blinking back tears,

feeling holy
and undeserving;
knowing,
with each “amen,”

that both are true.


                  - richard russeth

Sunday, December 18, 2011

václav havel (at Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center)


I know almost nothing
about you, but I know where I was
in 1968. it seemed the world was ending
that fall.

     did you hear sirens
when they came for you then,
or was it quieter than that -
just a rap at the door
after midnight?

now you are across this grand room from me,
surrounded by television cameras and crystal.

there is a toast in your honor.

at my table, we speculate,
but nobody knows why you are here
     - save that the UN
is also in this town.

my champagne smells sweetly
of fresh cut grass
or an afternoon with a lover.

the city slowly darkens into chiaroscuro.
above you, a chandelier begins to softly glow.

you smile at your companions.

taking your wine,
you pause with the glass
just at your lips,
as if you too
smell the cut grass
or remember a vanished
lover’s touch.

but perhaps it is another vanishing
that makes you pause.

even up here, if you listen carefully,
one hundred floors above New York,
you can still hear sirens
far away.




                             - richard russeth