by Gailmarie Pahmeier
But first you must indulge in the requisite
ride in the Arch, 631 feet of pentecostal
promise, sunstruck mandorla reflecting
the urgent churn of the Mississippi below.
Stroll a ways to the Old Cathedral, light
a candle for your mother, your son, the dog
left to die on the tracks, all of the poor.
Eat toasted ravioli on The Hill, wander through
a church parking lot for fried chicken, or better,
pork steaks long cloaked in multiple bottles
of viscous sauce, served alongside baked onion,
sweet pickle and melon, ice-cold cans of Busch beer.
When in St. Louis, walk, eat, drink, and pray, but do
consider the saint himself, a mama’s boy
at heart, no soldier that one. Consider
his long marriage to his teen sweetie,
their eleven alive children, his adored
possessions–the true Crown, a piece of the Cross.
And don’t forget to consider his glorious
head of hair, powdery curls, masterful
layering, near-perfect texture. So when
in St. Louis enter a wig shop, try on
as many new selves as you can, try to believe
in each one, the mussed blonde, the sculpted redhead,
the coy brunette. Pay attention to the man
in the back booth, his tender touch as he adjusts
a woman’s turban, tells her it’ll all be OK, honey,
your new wig’s got real attitude. Do all these
things while you can still speak, before the lump’s
irreverent insistence, while you can still see
more than smoke and shadow, before the cane,
the chair, the bed, the gate. Witness and testify.