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During the Service

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How strange my lack of faith must seem to you.
I see the way your god provides a cradle for your grief;
how lovely to be certain that the ancient story's true.

You sang the hymns as if each word were new—
At last, you sang, at last in Your / Eternal arms I'll find relief
(how strange my lack of faith must seem to you)—

while I kept drifting, lost in the refrains and in the blue
fragility the tinted glass provided us to bow beneath
(how lovely to be certain that the ancient story's true).

Beneath that moderated sky we rose and sang and cried on cue;
familiar words were read to keep our sorrow brief
(how sad my lack of faith must seem to you);

the book upon the altar and the hymnals in each pew
held pages edged in fine gold leaf—
how lovely seeing that the ancient story's true—

and I was wondering just what it cost to see this vaulting through:
the ceilings, windows, ornament; the engineering of belief . . .

But let my lack of faith seem strange to you!
You're lovely certain that the ancient story's true.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

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During the Service

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