Rest in Peace  
    Harvey Shepard

This Episcopal priest on call, covering for a friend,
explains the husky voice is due to a cold, and recalls
his recent retirement and his even earlier sabbatical
when he studied ecology at the university, how he
has learned all living things are connected, how
he finds new joy in nature, in digging
his own hands into the earth. He tells us that
he has been experimenting with an unstructured
form of prayer not tied to usual religious texts,
and he invites us now to begin the funeral service
with a thirty-second silent meditation
about anything we choose -- the steady
beating of our heart, our life,
even the deceased is a possible subject -- and
as we begin, he assures us -- and reassures us --
we need not worry because he will keep track
of the time with his watch, and sure enough,
before we can sink too far into deep reverie he has
began to read to us: For everything
there is a season, and a time for every matter...
The Lord is my shepherd...
Our father who art in heaven...

The mysteries quicken
as he reads from Wendell Berry:
And yet as we know the dead
we grow familiar with the world...
we have the sweetness of ripening...

and thereby this occasional minister concludes
the twelve minute ceremony during which
he has mentioned the dead man once:
"I myself am not a hunter, like Robert -- or Bob."

Harvey Shepard is a Professor of Physics at University of New Hampshire who has published poems in Poet Lore, Connecticut River Review, Roanoke Review, Psychotherapy Review and elsewhere. His book reviews appear regularly in The Philadelphia Inquirer.


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