Dec. 30, 2007

An Open Door

by William Reichard

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Poem: "An Open Door" by William Reichard, from This Brightness. © Mid-List Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

An Open Door

Across the sanctuary of a community church
a door stands ajar; stained glass windows
allow only some of the sun to enter; filtered
yellow, red, opalescent green drench the pews.
On the altar converted to stage, a circle of
students contemplates a question of vocation.
Through the open door, only light, daytime
invading the intimate dim familiar in churches,
the hazy quality of the house of god.
When a child, I wanted to be a vampire.
Or a scientist. Or an actor. The world
seemed open to me in a way it does not
seem open now. What is your passion,
the facilitator asks and students giggle.
What drives you? I try to focus
on the question at hand, but lose myself
in the sunlight streaming in through
the open door. In this, a sanctuary,
I don't feel safe. What do you want
to be when you grow up? Not a teacher,
certainly; not a soldier; not a poet.
Who lives in the gray corners of a church
besides mice? What is that face in
the stained glass? When in college,
I wanted to be an archaeologist, wanted
to dig into the storied dirt of time and
come up with some history. In this room
I want to be a priest. It could be comforting,
living in the dark spaces of a church,
just me and the mice. What is your
vocation, the facilitator asks and
at this moment, I'd say, I am
a bringer of light; a man who stands
in a doorway flooded by sun;
I am a bird; someone who learns,
in shadow, the real shape of brightness.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Joseph Rudyard Kipling, (books by this author) born in Bombay, India (1865). Though he'd never fought in battle, his poems about military life became classics among British soldiers around the world. When he finally moved to Vermont after the war, he began to re-imagine the India of his childhood and wrote The Jungle Book (1894), about a boy raised by wolves in the jungle.

It's the birthday of novelist Douglas Coupland, (books by this author) born on a Canadian military base in Baden-Solingen, Germany (1961). He is best known for his controversial novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991), coining the term "Generation X," which was later attached to the children of the '60s and '70s.

It's the birthday of the man who introduced us to Coca-Cola, Asa Griggs Candler, born in Villa Rica, Georgia (1851). He grew up during the Civil War and wanted to be a doctor, but his family was so poor that he could only receive an elementary school education before becoming a pharmacist's apprentice. But Candler proved to be business savvy, slowly building his own drugstore empire, and in 1886 he bought sole rights to John Pemberton's original formula of Coca-Cola and formed the Coca-Cola Company in 1890. Candler understood the importance of advertising. He used calendars, billboards, and posters to keep the Coca-Cola trademark prominent in the public's mind. After selling the patent in 1919, he went on to serve as Atlanta's mayor and funded a teaching hospital for Emory University's Medical School.

It's the birthday of musician and songwriter Bo Diddley, born Ellas Bates in McComb, Mississippi (1928). His big break came in 1955, when he recorded "Uncle John" and "Who Do You Love?" for Chess Records in Chicago, and these two songs became the foundation for early rock 'n' roll. He once said, "I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob."

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