She set her empty bottle down against mine without looking so they would rock together, ringing—whether with a peal or a toll I couldn’t tell. So that even before the words of welcome & the first fumbling for the right place, well in advance of the mingled cries and blessings, I would feel my skin turn to sky & my bones to living water.

Because her eyes held that exact and painful blue one only encounters over country churches—I mean those clapboard firetraps whose belfries offer sanctuary to the long-limbed owls, pale as Puritan angels, that go about their business at odd hours rarely observed in the modern liturgy. Except when some bored child, slipping under the pews, picks up a white wing feather missed by the custodian’s broom.

Let’s watch him as he waves it over his head, running up to the pulpit to show the startled minister. Whose flock shifts uneasily, the old pews creaking, Adam’s apples trembling on scented necks.