Poetry

Good Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tale of nails and wood
is retold on the BBC from Winchester,
with hymns about a balm in Gilead,
a wondrous cross, and the choirboys’ echo
of the Fauré Requiem. Cardinal Newman
sends blessings from the grave,
and the organ grumbles “Amen.”

Oddly enough, the sun has emerged today
after weeks of rain to wrap the world
in its pale shroud. The week
has been hard: a cousin rushed to hospital
with pneumonia, a friend trembling
with Parkinson’s, an old acquaintance
placed “in care,” looking for home
and cursing the staff at the locked front door.

In the pub, Peter and his brothers
joke about Leo’s ashes in the garage.
He was the youngest. Who’s next?
They have finished another Good Friday Walk—
nine miles, seven churches, a pint of bitter.

They talk of their father’s letter, newly resurrected
from a cardboard box, forty-nine crumbling pages
in his own sure hand, a wartime story of troops,
destroyers, German subs. The young man
on the ship knew not where he was going,
just following orders, except for the deception
of the letter smuggled out from the harbor in India
to his wife Mary. He called her his “budgie,”
sent kisses to the children.

Tomorrow will be empty and quiet,
time for a drive to Bakewell
through the ever-winding hills. The road
turns silver, scrolling down the mountain
through meadows dotted with newborn lambs.

Donna Pucciani’s most recent collection of poetry is Hanging Like Hope on the Equinox.

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Dear Francis

When it comes to living small,
you were ahead of your time,
which is why I nominate you
patron saint of tiny homes. So
you haven’t heard of them?
Think: chapel for one on wheels
with cedar floors, a loft to sleep,
and a skylight in the roof—here
is where I’d go to pray, and where
I pray to live (pending a friend
to let me squat, and the zonin
board’s OK). It’s a new way
of being poor. I hope you will
approve.

Humbly,

Abigail Carroll, author of Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, lives in Winooski, Vermont.

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Anna

I.
The wailing and the murmured prayers,
the animal ruckus, and coin against coin,
smoke hanging in the temple spaces—
offerings that bear our love to the seat of heaven.

For sixty years my soul has leaned
so hard toward the Almighty, I’m open
like a flower drenched with light
that blossoms into words.

Yet I wonder, will I rest too soon
will I sleep like Miriam
with no honey from the Promised Land
to sweeten this old life?

II.
But now she enters with new-mother steps,
her strong gaze searching us
for hearts that see. I turn to tell all
who wait, who yearn for consolation,

look, she brings the Word most fully,
this young woman cradling the body
of Emmanuel against her heart
arms trembling with the weight.

Kristina LaCelle-Peterson is an associate professor of religion and part of the Center for Faith, Justice, and Global Engagement at Houghton College in New York.

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51.

Wizards! Caspar! Melchior! Balthasar!
Why fly straight to Fox Herod? Through
Unbounded night—! Bringing only news
Ripe for bloodletting. How black a star
You follow. Herod knows. How bizarre
A kingly claim. Will he oppose? Muse
Like Mary? Ha—! Mothers’ sons lose
Heads to swords & axes. Herod bars
The throne to Jesus. Who kills first?
Herod orders. Dash ’em every one—!
Every male child under two years old.
God’s son Jesus flees to Egypt. Thirst
For blood remains. Later he won’t run.
Soldiers spear his side. So God behold.

Marilyn Seven is an artist living in New York City. This sonnet is number 51 in an unpublished collection of 100.

Image: Three wise men looking towards the star,  / Shutterstock 

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Everything Changes the World

Boys on a beach,
women with cookpots,
men bombing tender patches of mint.

There is no righteous position.
Only a place where brown feet
touch the earth.

Maybe you call it yours.
Maybe someone else runs it.
What do you prefer?

We who are far
stagger under the mind blade.
Words, lies.
My friend in Bethlehem says,
Pious myth-building and criminal behavior,
that’s what.

Every shattered home,
every shattered story worth telling.
Think how much you’d need to say
if that were your kid.

If one of your people
equals hundreds of ours,
what does that say about people?

Naomi Shihab Nye, born to a Palestinian father and American mother, is a poet, novelist, and anthologist of more than 30 volumes. Her newest book is The Turtle of Oman.

Image: A Palestinian women sells grape leaves,  / Shutterstock 

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mitzvah

the young rabbi, earnest and intense,
forgot to read your requested scripture passage
then, a shovel had to be asked for,
so each of us could cover you
with three mounds of warm earth
your daughter fussed a little but later went for shiva at the house
the sermon was almost too simple:
the greatest good deed is to bury the dead
for they cannot thank you
with these words, like grace before a meal
I was taught what I thought I knew—
invite those who are blind, the lame ...
and, in so doing,
you will discover worship at your table
when you welcome as a guest the throwaways of this world

Sister Lou Ella Hickman, IWBS, is a spiritual director in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Image: bread on the ground, murengstockphoto / Shutterstock

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A Million Prayers

The first time we visited my sister in her monastery
Was just after one of our sons had survived massive
Surgeries, before and during which all the monks &
Nuns in the monastery, not to mention thousands of
Other generous souls, had prayed constantly for him
And it turned out that they had gone over the million
Prayer mark for our son, which, according to the law
Of the monastery, gave him lifetime privileges. He’s
No dolt, this kid, and he took off running, to hammer
On drums, and eat the cookies on an altar, and pursue
The grim local peacocks, who were deeply aggrieved.
By the time we retrieved him he was worn and happy
And the peacocks were huddled bitterly in the maples.
Even now I sometimes wonder if he will end up there
In his golden years, maybe retiring there at age ninety
And serving as the soul who calls everyone to prayer;
He did exactly that when he was a small boy, after all.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland (Oregon) and the author most recently of The Thorny Grace of It, a collection of spiritual essays.

Image: peacock feather, Roxana Gonzalez / Shutterstock

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Hora Tertia

On the monastery walk,
in the clear daylight after
the night of heavy rain,

I consider the moonflower:
how the big spent blooms look like
three linen tea towels rinsed and wrung out,
three yellowed towels someone meant to
pin to the line to dry.

And I consider the very air:
how yesterday’s weather seems back there
in memory, but is still out there,
a heft of warmth east of here by now,
off the continent, rolling in enormous
clouds above the Atlantic.

And I consider this waning moon:
how thin it seems this morning against
the washed blue sky, like an old pearl button,
chipped, worn smooth, but still securely fixed
behind those sheer clouds blown by weather—
though I know that it, too, is moved
and beloved.

Madeleine Mysko, a novelist and poet, is an ordained elder at Towson Presbyterian Church in Maryland.

Image: moonflower bush, Ricardo Reitmeyer / Shutterstock

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Chiaroscuro

"Elevation of the Cross," by Peter Paul Rubens

The back-lit morning wave
Clarified emerald suddenly in olive,
Then gone; forever the cry of the Christ's torso
In Rubens' "Elevation of the Cross";
A glass pepper shaker filled to overflowing
By a finger of fallen sun at the close
Of a most mundane afternoon.
Obsessed is perhaps too strong a wod

But I seek the image of emergent light
In everything, as if a life's a collection
Of a thousand thousand such events
Becomes, finally, and somehow,
Through the slippery spirit's incomprehensible means,
A perfect surrender. The desert hermit Antony
Is said to have needed no lamp
To read scripture in his cell at night, so bright
Was the manifest glow of his abandon.

Samuel Harrison, a novelist and poet, coordinates an arts ministry at St. James Episcopal Church in Ormond Beach, Fla.

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Easter with Czeslaw Milosz: Cento

From white villages Easter bells resound.
Rejoice! Give thanks! I raise my voice
Evil disappears from the world.
And that means somewhere God must be.
So that for a short moment there is no death.
If only everything kept happening in such a way
And a garden of forgiveness gathered all of us
Who doubted the goodness of Creation.

Kathleen Gunton is a poet, fiction writer, and photographer in Orange, Calif. This cento is composed of lines from Czeslaw Milosz’ New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001.

Image: Church bells, Alan Bailey / Shutterstock.com 

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