Southern Baptist girl hears Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ

A silver circle floats over violinists’ heads,
chandelier dotted with tiny white lights.

Below their feet, tealight votives
arc in a half-circle,
a yellow rainbow, half-repetition of eternity.

As violinists saw bows against curved bodies of violins,
I stare beyond the windowpanes to the grass.

When the day turns dark, the yellow candlelight’s reflected in clear glass.
They play a Haydn concerto, “the seven last words of Christ”,
at the Episcopal Church of Saint Francis of Assisi,
and I keep falling asleep, eyelids heavy.

A wooden cross draped with crimson cloth
stands behind potted palms beneath recessed lighting.
The chandelier floats like an angel above the violinists’ heads
or it hangs over them like a guillotine.

After, I leave the concert program behind on a table in the foyer.
The chandelier spins forever in a circle,
infinity, eternity.

I think back to the stations of the cross, spoken in the concerto, and imagine the narrator moving to a new candle each time he spoke between sonatas,like each candle symbolically stands for a station of the cross.

But he sat
in the same chair during the whole concerto,
and I was sad the planners weren’t more imaginative,
didn’t have him move to a new tealight candle each time he spoke.
I don’t remember all the seven last words of Christ.

Instead, I wanted entertainment, I wanted classical music.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Mother, behold your son.
I thirst.

Eloi, Eloi lamma sabachthani, why have you forsaken me?
Today, you will be with me in paradise.
Into your hands I commit my spirit.

That’s only six phrases. I can’t remember the seventh,
the circle incomplete,
my spiritual maturity left dangling, open-ended like a half-arc.

That seventh phrase is left somewhere in infinity
and my incomplete circle keeps spinning endlessly, dizzying me
like someone spinning the circular chandelier with their hands
to make it go round like a merry-go-round,
my halo of wisdom and enlightenment incomplete.

Lori Lasseter Hamilton is a member of Sister City Connection, a group of women poets, storytellers, and musicians in her hometown. She is a 50-year-old breast cancer survivor writing from the southeastern United States in Birmingham, Alabama. Lori was raised as a Southern Baptist, and has explored different churches as an adult. She is a medical records clerk and holds a bachelor of arts in journalism from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with a minor in English. Lori has been married to her husband Robert for 16 years.

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