Kelley White: “Why have you made the church so cold?”




Why have you made the church so cold?

The brilliant jewels from your stained glass
clock past my pew. They glow
distant. I try to remember color and light.

You make me remember Stephanie.
Who tried so earnestly to balance on her one foot.
To reach and follow my finger.
Whose eyes stayed crossed.
Cerebellum, tumor.

This could be her grandfather’s church.
The cold steel of the organ.
Her frilled petticoats.
Her too new shoes

Here is my seeking pride at making that diagnosis.
That I spoke the tumor that stole
her balance and sight.

And here is Michael.
Red, blue and yellow falling on my cold arms, crossing my face.
Michael, the brother born to her mother three years after
she slipped into birdsong, held and bathed.

Michael, who leaps, tosses his ball, hops, and counts by sevens.
Who says MaMa told me you knew my sister
You have her picture
Will you show me?

Is this my gift?



About the Author: Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner-city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books). She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.


Image Credit: Jack E. Boucher ” Sept 1966 DETAIL OF PEW – Trinity Church (P. E.), 651 Pequot Road, Southport, Fairfield County, CT”. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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