Pris Campbell – “Men of the Cloth Trilogy”

Men of the Cloth Trilogy

Grandfather grabbed her arm
and led her into the shadows,
did things nice folk
didn’t talk about—
especially not preachers.



Blonde hair mussed (like some woman’s fingers
had been busy), with sunrise-blue eyes,
he joined us in our Montreat quest
to break bread and find God—or lose him.
He didn’t resemble an Ivy League chaplain
in his running shoes and shorts, so
prettier co-eds trolled, eyelashes batting,
hips swiveling, in hopes of a bite.

Unaware of my own sensuality, I dragged him
through deep water with Nietzsche, left him
drowning in Soljenitsin before the next speaker.
But he chose me to kiss when we climbed
Mt. Lookout that night, wrote me a poem,
held my heart in his hands for the next 48 hours
before dropping it.

My two cousins’ ashes were scattered
on Lookout last fall. The three of us
climbed to the peak as teens every summer.
Sometimes I imagine those ashes slowly swirling
around a memory imprint of the quaking girl
I still was until Lancelot leaned down to kiss me.



Expensive rug hovering over
his slight paunch; dapper
fiftyish to my twenty.
I viewed this man
of the cloth with caution.
His eyes seemed to rove the group
for vulnerable seekers.
But the sky puffed out with joy
over Georgia that week.
Birds sang. Flowers unfolded,
blossoms plump with possibility.
Teddy Bears, we hugged goodnight,
hugged good morning, hugged
for the hell of it, lay ourselves
into this southern cocoon
woven with trust, embroidered with love.
I tucked defenses into my back pocket.
When he tongued me with his hug
that last night, plump worm
invading my innocent space,
the sky fell inward.
Stars shattered.



White collar ’round his neck,
rebel behind the pulpit,
shocking old ladies with sermons
about underarm deodorants and closeness,
making him my man in the white hat,
James Dean with a cause.
He held me in his lap like a father,
made me feel safe, my college mentor,
saying I should relax, open up,
strut streets in slut shoes,
let spirit flow in between
spread legs but he left before
he could become that pipeline and I
traveled new byways, let spirit flow
where he said but in my time and terms
til that day in New York when his crew
was down past his shoulders,
my own hair the same,
Godiva meeting her wannabe horse.
We talked about how he screwed
Village hippies, had group sex
with his wife, showed his cock to a woman
he counseled, (to liberate her, he said),
and now it was time for spirit
to enter me through him
or he would bind his tongue,
not speak to a woman who wanted
to stay child to his grownup forever,
but I said no, and no again,
but he insisted, was still my superman,
my man on the mountaintop, my double-oh-seven,
so I begged him, a penitent, ashes spread
all around, telling him no, no,
but still he insisted until my wall
broke, my moat was breached.
I knew when he stripped to red jockeys
that he’d come to New York planning this,
rage turning the room red as his shorts
when he pumped me, the rope that had
bound us unraveling til it popped
when he popped then dressed
and walked out the door smiling.