His white locks and fiery complexion
belong to a pagan time
when priests went to war
he once told Vera when she was sick
and he came to our house to give her communion
that we were meant to be victorious
“We are meant to be victorious.”
That was years ago

now the bones in his face stand out
and his eyes darting here and there
as he enters the room
are as hot and piercing as only blue eyes can be
on this day of the Exaltation of the Cross

waving aside those
asking after his health
Father Symeon
a convert to the Orthodox Church
made his way
to a table laden with Russian food

we listened
as we ate and he talked with the usual relish
leaning over to spear the champion’s portion
scoffing at the Old Calendar Greeks and the Roman clergy
in politics, more bitter than before
more reactionary

a priest who walked miles to visit the sick
with his holy water and mysterious icons
wearing a grey cassock and a large silver cross
an American from the South
who might have grown up knowing only the Baptist church
or no church and no Russian which he had learned well
a tough, blue-eyed Kentuckian
like Roarin’ Jack Russell and the flatboat men with flowing hair
who came down the river to New Orleans
and walked home

Stuart Dodds

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