by Al Ortolani

Father Ray slid a three legged stool
closer to my fire. He hunkered over
as if he were about to inhale
the flames. I recognize this fire
he said after a bit, drawing his words out
as if they were tree gum, long and
stringy with sap. His eyes glittered
as if I was expected to catch flame,
to burst with understanding.
I was a blank shadow.
He returned to the fire, flexed his fingers.
You have a wedding ring, I said aloud,
noticing for the first time the thin
silver band, reflecting the orange flames.
Yes, he answered. I have been in love
all my life, and I am very old.
She has always been my companion.
Ah, I nodded, the Holy Mother.
He smiled. Well, yes, her too.

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