Jonathan Townley

Tom Dubine is the best at flipping pancakes
knows when the bubbles don’t close
you get that golden brown glow with the edges
pulled back from the griddle
put a little more butter on there,
usually, it’s the women who do most of the work
in the kitchen but tonight its Jerry
Veldman and Tom Schaberg and Dad
under an olive tree on the edge of some sea
in the middle east and five thousand hungry mouths
with only five loaves and two gallons of
Mrs. Butterworth’s.

I run through the florescent halls
holding a round white dish with an even rounder,
paler pancake which mom takes
looking up from her office laptop smiling
with no syrup, just one bite
worth of pancake
a large wafer
the first time Mom gave me
communion I was too young to eat
so I sucked the blood of Christ
from violet drops on her fingertips and later
when I could intinct my
own cube of wheat bread
in the grape juice she said,
the cup of joy, given for you,
and now her eyes say it again,
the cup of joy washing
down that dry little morsel
with cold tea from a mug on her desk.

Tom Dubine is flipping and reminds me to
always add more butter. Jerry’s son,
Tim starts singing, washing
dishes, Dad dries. Bobbie Dubine has
her camera clicking. we’re smiling,
more at Tim than her. Tom
Schaberg rotates roasting pans
covered in crackling foil in and out of the
oven heated to 200 degrees, now Tom
Dubine is letting my sister flip,
the smell of brown bater brings

me back to breakfasts in my own house
which are quieter and always never quite
this fun.

Now Kent Workman arrives
which means that the whole church
will. and Tom lets me flip again
one last time, and Bobbie turns from the
doorway and takes a
picture of us. we are both smiling.
and in four minutes I will eat
the best pancake of my life,
I will always try to make
them again wondering what
special flick of the wrist Tom
taught me that Tuesday. and in
two months Bobbie will wake up
in the night to an empty
bed and find Tom in the
bathroom, his head busted
through the drywall over the
toilet, blood pooling on the floor,
and he will already be gone

When I take my last communion,
I want to look around at the people beside me
And say, thank you for
the grape juice and thank you for
your fingertips and thank you for
the small ducks a doorman once
led into a hotel lobby
Bobbie couldn’t stop talking about
after Tom died. I want to slow down,
for once. To taste the grape even after it passes
my tongue. I want to taste it all the way
down to my stomach and not
digest it, but remain full even as
it thickens, sick and sweet.
I want to be a cup of
joy. I want to leave myself
on the griddle, covered in butter.

but now, GOD, RIGHT NOW
Tom is loading the fresh
pancakes on to platters,
and oh god right now

we are running
the platters to the fellowship hall
and Kent Workman is striding over
and God,
Right now,
I am about to take communion.

Jonathan Townley is a student at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI. When they aren’t studying or working, you can find them learning how to play guitar and harmonica at the same time. Twitter: @jtownley22