The Amen Shuttle
Once in Nashville near a canyon of hospitals
where every sort of medical conundrum
gets its fair shake,
visiting a very sick brother
for surgery at Vanderbilt,
we boarded the Homewood Suites free shuttle.
A motley crew we were:
Viet Nam veterans wearing surgical masks,
in treatment for Agent Orange and PSTD,
a little girl awaiting a new heart,
a construction worker with a rare blood disease.
Tony, the Black Pentecostal driver,
seemed gruff and hurried at first
with his “Come on, get in, get in.”
But when Bob said,
“Today is my last treatment,
and I’m going to be OK,”
Tony shouted, “The Lord is good!”
When Amanda got her new heart,
Tony exulted, “Praise Jesus! “
When Al pronounced behind his mask,
“It was a good day,”
Tony’s hands levitated off the wheel.
“Oh, our heavenly Father loves us!”
When we declared our brother’s surgery a success,
Tony beamed, “Amen! Amen!”
By the end of the week, we were a family
who knew each others’ trials
and reveled in each victory,
no matter how transient.
Someone has to say it:
Even a nonbeliever would feel the Spirit
on this free shuttle of healing and hope.
Poetry is the scrapbook of the heart,
the blue print of the soul,
the labyrinth of the mind,
the path of perception,
the inventory of love in all its forms.
Poetry is the antidote for shallowness,
the remedy for stagnation,
the balm of loss,
the clarified moment of memory,
the ruthless recollection transformed.
Poetry is the senses, salted,
the lens, magnified,
the thought, simmered and ignited,
touch translated, taste not tampered,
tapped and untethered feeling.
Poetry is meticulous metaphor,
the reckoning and redemption,
stones of sculpted stanzas
that lead beyond the temple of turmoil
to the sanctuary
where a garden bench waits for you,
perhaps a small chalice of wine,
a communion of meaning gleaned,
shared amidst the likewise spirits.
Once I bought an expensive pair of walking shoes,
white with cushioned soles to uplift my older gait.
They felt perfect in the store.
I loved the little bounce they gave.
But when I wore them grocery shopping
or just for a little walk, I paid for it the next day:
sore feet, low back ache, and all-around misalignment.
When I took them back,
the shoe mistress said,
“These shoes are teaching your body proper posture,”
which is fine and well
if your body is young enough to be taught,
and not seventy and set in its ways.
The good shoes could not be exchanged.
Nor did attempts to sell online produce a single offer.
In the end they went to Carpenter’s Place,
a homeless shelter in my town.
I had a good and generous thought:
“This is where they were meant to be,”
if shoes had destinies,
and briefly wondered about the will of God.
I have never been a cheerful giver, yet
imagining someone in those shoes warmed me.
Whoever wears those shoes today,
I hope your body is young enough to learn new ways.
I hope you walk into a better life.
I hope they fit you perfectly.
Christine Swanberg is celebrating her newest book Wild Fruition (Puddin’head Press), and is the author of The Alleluia Tree (Puddin’head Press); Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity (Wind Publications); The Red Lacquer Room (Chiron Press); The Tenderness of Memory (Plainview Press); Slow Miracle (Lake Shore Publishing); and Invisible String (Erie Street Press). Hundreds of her poems appear in journals such as Spoon River Quarterly, Louisville Review, Chiron, American Aesthetica as well as work the June Cotner collections such as Back to Joy, Gratitude Prayers, and Earth Blessings. She won the YWCA Leader Luncheon Award for Arts, the Lawrence Gloyd Award for Community Impact, and the Womanspirit Award. She is featured in a full- length interview with POETS’ MARKET and Waterline studios. Recent essays appear in Women in Poetry. She has been a writing teacher and mentor in schools, colleges, women’s groups, libraries, conferences, and has been interviewed many times on WNIJ, public radio. Recorded readings can be found on YouTube as well as other internet sites.