Historic Preservation I by John Moessner

The walls of a 19th century church are cracking
and falling away, and you try to save them,
because you can’t save your father. The stained
glass is brittle, the shallow panes in their thin iron
veins darkened by damp and squatters’ fires,
and the lime mortar used as a stop gap, to fill
the holes of swallows and spider silk, looks
jammed and fudged. Your father bragged through
his raspy gurgle of speech that you were saving
history, the prayers and songs of so many, so long
ago, that seeped into the mortar between the chalky
limestone. His spit was thick as lime, the branches
of his lungs and the passage of his throat smeared
with its weighty pull. You hear the sound of stones
crumbling away, and the gritted pass of the trowel
like the last breaths of a man surrounded by women
singing, sobbing, cracking, then quiet as ash.

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