Father Father

Striding the college halls, bouncing
on the balls of his feet, his religious habit
wilting from his shoulders, he declined

his nouns with conviction,
cited encyclicals from memory,
and kept all his facts straight,

from church history to the poetry he quoted.
He recited Aquinas verbatim.
When he inhaled a cigarette, it stayed inhaled.

“Father, would you mind not smoking in class?”
“This is my class, I’ll smoke if I goddamned well please.”
Drifting through the room like unfettered ganglia,

he spoke edited prose all week without consulting
a single note, corrected every doctrinal error,
then retired to his office to read Homer in Greek

and annotate the church fathers.
How many of us left his class awed to silence,
or dropped his class, “leaping,” he liked to say,

“like rats from a f…ing sinking ship,”
the smoke roiling from his mouth to veil his head.
He clipped his consonants and opponents.

Evenings, he whistled out beyond the lake,
filling the woods with his tune.
In one homily he said that if it rained all the time,

eventually we wouldn’t notice, and God’s grace
is like the rain, and prayer is realizing
you’re being rained on. Well.