The Heart of the Matter


The Heart of the Matter

He couldn’t look up; he saw only the priest’s skirt
like the skirt of the mediaeval warhorse bearing down
upon him: the flapping of feet: the charge of God.

—Graham Greene

For weeks I deserted my unfinished summer reading
and the main character, Scobie—left him
Tortured and damned by infidelity and lies,
his unworthy consumption of holy wafer and wine.

And for good reason—fall barreled down the road
at me. Each morning I delivered children to school,
Carted garbage to the curb on designated days,
dieted to shed pounds like ballast at middle age,

Fed the dog who waited with irrepressible grace
like a rebuke by the back door—“surely
Today he will pick up the ball and play.” And the suspended
business with Scobie lingered too

Like nameless guilt, till the vagaries and pressures
of some day woke me at three in the morning.
Finally—reading the last thirty pages of The Heart
of the Matter—I pushed money, work, and marriage out

Of mind: Scobie kissed his mistress one last time, tried to feel
the old affectionate pity for his wife,
Recorded in his diary calculated lies about chest pain,
and swallowed twelve Evipan with a glass of gin.

The denouement was brief and decisive for Scobie
and me: the letting go, the calling out
To God, the hope for love, the descent into darkness
and sleep—sleep—the blessed sacrament of sleep.


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