I went up the hill to visit the old man who lives there.
“It’s been a long time,” he said, “Since I’ve seen you.”
“Yes,” I said, “I know. But I’d not forgot you.”
Then, in welcome, he sang to me.
But what I had remembered as a youthful voice,
full of vigor and fit for forever, was turned now into a croak,
a rasp, a sad affair of the heart.
When he dies, I thought, a little of me will die with him.
“These bones go deep,” he said with an effort
as he stood there proud yet, “How can you forgive yourself?”
I thought about that as I kissed him goodnight
and laid him down to rest, up there on that hill.
“In nomine Patris,” I said gently, “In nomine Patris.”
“In nomine Patris” (in nom-e-nay pah-tray) is the opening verse of “In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” the Latin used by Catholics to say the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Although raised a Catholic (I was even once head altar boy), when I was 17 I became a Bahá’í. I had few occasions to visit a church after that, but one such occasion was the funeral of a friend’s brother. That church was up on a hill, but the hill of the poem is not a physical one.
My understanding of this poem has changed over time. My father, who is now 80-something-wonderful visited us some time back. I adore my father for the incredible man he is: the finest example of a Christian I know. But he is also very Catholic and while he has never challenged my conversion, I know it hurts him and he worries over me. In re-reading this poem I realized that what I had also written about was our relationship: loving, strong, but with some hurt and some regret.
Thank you for reading The church on the hill. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.
© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.