The Assumption

1.

The man with the bread is Slovenian.

He puts it down, a stout dark loaf, in the very centre of the table –

angled north-south like a compass needle.

 

2.

He once went to Lake Bled – in the autumn when swans idled

on the shingly shore. His grandmother was born there, a twin –

she and her sister weighed a pound of butter each.

They fitted in a shoe box, two baby rabbits, milk-fed with a dropper

and snug as a pair of felted copati.

 

3.

He dislikes this Easter, does not trust the warped, unseasonal logic of it.

When his mother was baptised in the Church of the Assumption –

in the middle of the lake – her parents rowed out there at dawn, after coffee and kremšnita, with their baby jostling in the prow.

She had not yet learnt to smile.

He, the Slovenian, has yet to learn not to smile.

 

4.

The church is named for Mary and for the story

of how she was taken up, body and soul, to heaven.

There is a painting of it – she appears startled by her sudden elevation.

The man with the bread fell in the lake as a child. He was fearless in a rowboat and he believes his courage drove him to be reckless.

 

5.

He has dreamed of walking the pilgrims’ trail

His bare brown feet will harden and crust and he will be many

thousands of miles from this aching southern light.

 

6.

There is only one island in Slovenia and, at the top of the hill, one church.

He will take a boat, skin the surface of the lake, watch the wingspan of white alps in the distance.

 

Then he will ascend the stone steps, shaking crumbs loose from his pockets

and letting his mouth play on its own language, the way of light on water,

falling open and forming an expression of quiet astonishment.