The Last Christian

A mother to daughter monologue

I’m daily here since your father widowed me.
’Tis pilgrimage, and greater comfort than sullen
graveside vigils or any dour and stony church.
Marie (there, scrubbing the bar) was his favorite.
He regaled his friends here (the few he had,
choosy as he was) to gossip and gawk
like women at her chubby thighs, her half-hidden
crucifix and put money (this was the point)
into her pocket. As a foil (he manipulated shamelessly)
he’d first proclaim her greedy; but only to draw
his sudden contrast with her piety, not to mention
her celestial aspirations.

He’d tell me of their coarsely masculine talk,
or if he’d come alone, his talk with Marie.
She named this place Il Gesu, having conceived it
(so he ever boasted) and brought it to light
without the aid of any man. He laughed
to say it, Il Gesu’s sole saving Baroqueness
being the bright lights and bottles at the bar.

Ah, Marie. Some fine red for me
and for my daughter here, the only begotten
image of your late dear friend, my husband.
Yes dear, late. Late is what I said.
But you’ll not weep since I’m here not
for tears, but comfort; or better, to imbibe his presence
here with his own favorite red. His spirit
surely finds more ease in this your temple,
your own immaculate creation (so he called it),
than in any cold tomb. Whatever he preferred
you’ll bring me.

There. Now don’t be deceived by her looks or the way
she leans, elbows on table, with that brassy crucifix
couched in her cleft. She’s Catholic as the Magdelene,
so he said, or (and this he laughed at)
Gregorius Magnus Pontifex, and more devout.
But nonetheless she bared for him her bosom,
and posed there (he told me so) under
those bright lights and Baroque bottles above
the bar; resplendent she was, and scintillating as Bernini’s
St.Theresa beneath her evocative golden
shafts, only more modestly so
for being less blatantly paroxismic,
closer, he said, to a vulgar plastic Madonna
bartered on a Roman street. Marie laughed
at him (she, too, thought it a jest),
threatening she’d bring a warm lamb’s mother’s
heart dripping from her butcher, and, still dripping,
hold it at her breast (he guessed she’d heard
Bach’s Passions) with affected tears in and on
her eye and cheek; even let him test,
should she be immaculately re-visited,
whether she exuded ewe’s milk or Holy
God’s Own Blood.

He favored this Spanish San Román you say?
Yes, it’s dark red. I can see that.
In this pewter mug it’s black as sin.
Tell me now, would this be the moment?
Did he verily fling his wine in the air?
Then, for final witness, declaim Marlowe’s
final Faustian despair: “See, see
where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!”?
Oh? First he always slapped your derrière?
I’ll forego the pleasure.

Sour, no? The wine, not the woman.
She’s brazen. He admitted it, adding,
(even his laugh was allusive) brazen as a serpent.
For him, nothing was jest. He parsed things,
your father, and easily transfigured a feisty slap
on a wench’s behind into exalted devotion.
I know it, for I, and not Marie, was the first
and essential quarry of his knotty, abstruse coherences
(but that I’ll not discuss). Enlightened cunning,
he called it, claiming for his brash ingenuity,
his hard-to-follow discriminations and contradictions,
a Christian privilege. And when he died,
(thus he prophesied) he died the Last Christian.
But that, too, was convoluted. The Last Christian,
but not the only Last. Others there are
and will be, each severally, mystically, Last.
If that puzzled me he evoked the mystery
of the Holy Eucharist, celebrated (given a priest
on hand) in a thousand places and in every instance
a valid reenactment of God’s Child’s Last
Cup. A half-million gallons (he calculated things)
of the Savior’s Own blood and each drop
severally Real.

Thank you Marie. Did he, you ask, jest?
With me, about you? Only this:
”She poureth out a generous shot, and loveth
a cheerful tipper.” There. His last parsable
words on you; but still they echo brightly
(Baroquely, I’d say) among his Last Words:
Incarnated Words I’ve heard a thousand times,
and every time the Last.

Benedicta tu in mulieribus.

Miamisburg, Ohio, 2011