Memory behind a Wooden Door

Through my earphones I hear them come
finding pews, sliding to settle,
coughing, shuffling, lightly chatting,
waiting for the robes to rustle
and signal the start of showtime.

I imagine all the faces
solemn and staring to the front.
Some would notice the wooden door
in the lower right-hand corner
of the sanctuary tableau
and wonder what was behind it.

But none would know it concealed me,
me in a windowless closet
me sitting with my metal box
my box with its long black cable
running under the door, hidden,
to join the pulpit's microphone
my box with its knob turned just so
to keep the pointer from the red.

At eleven, the organ yelled,
perking up ears and eyes and thoughts.

My pointer came close to the red
but stopped, so I let out a breath.
The broadcast was now flying out
to radios all around town
and I could let my mind wander
down whatever path then revealed.

Something in the preacher's droning
—maybe something about dying—
must have slipped through to a mem'ry
because my inner lid opened
to allow in a loud gunshot
that echoed through my little cell.

That recollected rifle shot
from a summer's day years before
jerked up a scene of a barrel
slipped through a screen door's opening
and my friend's voice: "Bet I'll hit it!"

Then an explosion shook my ears
and a sudden sight shook my eyes:
a rabbit standing, then dropping
quicker than my mind could measure.

My friend's mother ran in screaming
grabbing the gun out of his hands
and chastising me just because.

I was there in that time, that house
when the organ bellowed again,
knocking me off that mem'ry wire.

The service ends, the broadcast stops.
The congregation goes its way.
Then I leave with box and cable.

But the image stayed remembered
and kept that small instant forefront.

Death is just a word if it stands
unattended by the pointed
moment of forever stillness.

Harry W. Yeatts Jr.