You are reading an archived issue of Sleet Magazine. To return to the current issue, click here.

Volume 10 • Number 1 • Summer 2018

Til Turner

The Girl at the End of the Pew

The Sunday was hot and humid, and I was young. I sat in the back of an old church with friends listening to the distant sermon. I was enthralled by the girl at the end of the pew who rocked back and forth like a silent metronome as she twirled a piece of soiled paper between two fingers. The rays of sun pouring through the pale stained-glass window illuminated only her. She sat alone. I searched for any pair of eyes that might be observing, but heads were bowed in prayer. Someone coughed, and I bowed my head. As I looked down I imagined our lives exchanged. What would I be thinking? Is the boy next to me staring? Will my parents remember to take me home? Will they want to? Are they praying because of me? As my friends and I emerged from the church, the summer air washed over my face. It smelled of honeysuckle — how carefully one has to extract its sweet nectar without harming the blossom, I thought. I looked around for the girl, but she was gone.

As I write this I twirl a piece of paper in one hand, an homage to an unwitting teacher whose quiet sermon extolled the beauty of every silent moment. For so many years I wish I had learned her name.

Til is a professor of English and ESL with the mission of saving students from the perils of English grammar. He lives in Virginia with his wife and curiously intelligent cockapoo. His poetry has appeared in Calliope Nerve and Blackcat Poetry.