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prayer against famine
maker of the wheel
that turns the stars
place the shadow of your shadow
between us and everything evil

have mercy on the dead
and on the living
and on those who will be born
in your good time

protect us when we are tempted
when we want to make ourselves
the center of your world
when we would deny others
a place in the circle of your love

cleanse our eyes oh god
and pour your light into them
so that we may see your creation
in everyone on this earth

--John Knoepfle
Auburn, Ill.

The Dry Creek Bed
My father lay down on a dry creek bed --
Smooth gray rocks, sharp angles square edged --
Fine work of Cosmic Engineer, arranged
to received his worn, strong frame.

He laid himself down in a cathedral of
towering trees bent over high above
letting a little dappled sky look on --
Far up, a ray of sun on shivering leaves
showed faint colors of stained glass.

My father lay down on a dry creek bed,
His solid, worn body
Under gnarled tree roots hovering from
the high creeksides,
Covering his dying life
Like old friends come to lend their last support.

My father lay down on a dry creek bed
But though the gray rocks were under his head,
The deep, cool water ran underground,
Spring of silent life -- waters of repose.
While his life ebbed, the green frog sang
A song of eternity to him.
The bay tree, with its pungent incense, blessed.

My father lay down in a dry creek bed ...
He did go gentle into that bright light
that waits for us at dark sleeps’s end.
He reached out his hand to craggy Brother Rock
(a two-peaked headstone, mountain shaped)
And blessed his well-loved mountain one last time,
Gave one last heartbeat, one last breath,
And died.

--Holly Halse
San Francisco

A Walk with Romero
“If they kill me,
I shall rise
in the
Salvadoran people.”

Romero, because your feet follow
your friend, Grande, to his village
church and the bus waiting to take
the people to vote for roads & land

reform, because -- after the army “for
the people’s safety” shot up the bus --
your feet leave your car & join those
walking to vote, because your feet

find the log tables at Aguilares
where the bodies of the old man,
the boy, & Grande rest -- bullet-ridden,
because next Sunday is not “Church

as usual” but only one Eucharist in the
cathedral for the three murdered men,
the captain in the town square will strip
you naked. With a woven purple blanket

the people will cover you. Night will
find you walking a burning garbage hill
looking for the body of a man killed
for speaking out. In a white alb and

purple stole, you will lead the people
to the church desecrated by soldiers
where bullets ricocheted over your
head as you tried to save the Blessed

Sacrament. Later, in a graffiti-covered
cell, you hear the screams of a priest
as the electrodes touch his genitals.
Because you walk with the people,

you will be shot standing at a hospital
altar, celebrating the life & death of
that other man whose death they said
was “necessary that the people might live.”

--Fr. Robert Fitzgerald, S.J.
Anchorage, Alaska

Simple Faith
If He be Father
Then I be son or daughter

If She be creator
Then I be Her work of art

If God be love
Then I be-loved

--Joseph W. Mayer
Rochester, Minn.

National Catholic Reporter, February 5, 1999