At the hilltop church, my grandmother’s alto
lilted through the propped windows, her smoky praise
mixing with campfires and lake water.
My family’s open-air sanctuary had no doors
to keep anyone inside, not even
the God they were summoning
with grape juice and tambourines.
They cried “Holy.”
I whispered “where,”
and left between tithes and offerings.
I walked until their song melted, until the stones
praised Him and water trickled down crags.
I listened to misty beach air,
to driftwood and rocks. God was silent
as my bare toes skirted Lake Erie water—
a teenager who knew He was somewhere
between the shore and the altar.
But I knew nothing—didn’t know
that in five years, I would
mouth soundless words, hymns,
at my father’s graveside.
My feet sank in cemetery ground
softer than sand, flecked with
the little embers that make fire last
longer than waterfront evenings.
Smoky music still glides through lake-breeze,
flits through the billowing flags of sailboats.
gray and silent,
pepper the sand, keeping earth warm
long after it should have turned cold.