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Sunday Afternoon

by Lionel E. Deimel


I leave church at 12:30 Sunday,

Having come three hours before

To practice with the choir and sample adult ed,

Greet parish friends, and transact some church business.

I took communion and listened to a sermon on the godhead,

Received a blessing, but wanted more,

And realize, with sudden dread, the nearness of Monday.


Sunday afternoon needs some rite

To mark impending weekend’s end,

The return to weekday commonplace.

Caught twixt liberty and duty—

Loving one, yet resigned the other to embrace—

I seek a ceremony that concludes vacation and lets me comprehend

Some good in coming Monday’s daylight.


I had such rituals in the past.

The end of Sunday dinner signaled that schoolwork could no longer be delayed:

Rarely did reading and study not consume my time thereafter.

Likewise in college, I frequented the “fancy” restaurant after church.

Amid fake palms and parrots, I engaged in repartee and laughter

Before returning to my room to renew the quest to make the grade

And graduate at last.


I have no Sunday habit now,

Life’s structure having faded

Like the pattern of a garden untended,

Merely hinting of a now-lost order.

But the want of balance, plan, and ceremony, once apprehended,

Into action demands to be translated

To restore to life some golden mean. But how?





This poem was born at the intersection of poetry and computer science. An important computer science construct is the pushdown stack or LIFO (last-in-first-out) list. It is the mechanism that allows us to determine mechanically, and with great ease, that “()[(()())()]” is a set of properly nested brackets, but that “()[(()()(([))” is not. This mechanism suggested to me that I might construct a poem that required the reader to use an internal pushdown stack (or its equivalent) to recognize rhyme. Possible rhyme schemes might be AA, ABBA, ABCCBA, or the ABCDCBA used here. Notice that the rhyming lines may be quite far apart. I investigated this idea using lines one step removed from pure nonsense and was intrigued by the effect. I began searching for an appropriate subject—the one used here was my second try—and eventually constructed “Sunday Afternoon.” The poem was written 4/24/2001.

One can, I think, read this poem oblivious to its rhyme. Because many of the rhyming pairs are so far removed from one another, the rhyme may actually be perceived only subliminally. If it registers consciously, one tends to recognize it only after a slight processing delay. This makes it seem less like rhyme than barely perceptible echo.

On 3/1/2011, a poem arrived in my inbox from Poets.org. The poem is by Richard Wilbur and is named “The House.” The poem has three stanzas, each with rhyme scheme ABBA. (You can read the poem here.) Even in this poem in which rhymes are separated by only two intervening lines, the effect is subtle.

— LED, 3/1/2011

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