e-mail us


Lamb of God

It was the leg of lamb
hanging in an Arab shop
on the Via Dolorosa
that brought me back to Jesus.
Then the walls of stone
ahead and behind
gave way and he walked
next to me, sniffing
the spices, rubbing shoulders
with shawled mothers,
catching shoppers’ calls,
accepting the mockery
of dark quick boys.
“It was for these too,” he said,
“the ones here now.”

-- Justine Buisson
The Great Blue Heron at Tabor Retreat House

At the edge of the cypress swamp, I spot
a large shape too big to be a turtle
but large enough to be the head of an
alligator, resting, waiting to spring.

I wait with it. Perhaps it’s a dead tree.
It does not move, yet I know that it lives.
Then at last I see a flicker. A snake?
But no. The entire oval shape stands up,
an enormous bird stretching its long neck.
On long legs, it stands, fixed in the water.
A pelican I guess, until I see
the long, slender, delicate golden beak.

The great bird stretches and begins to move.
It hunches its back up like a camel.
Then it casts the thin, brontosaural neck
like a living branch among the tree trunks.

The gray trees are stained black at water’s edge,
evidence of the heavy rains this week.
Tiny seed pearl capsules wait on a bush
which next week will break into sunlit fire.
A squirrel quivers some branches. A bird coos.
Everything else is still except the wind.

From time to time, the heron makes a move.
It seems infinitely patient, a monk
in contemplation of what lies beneath
the motionless surface of the water.
It is in reality stalking prey,
yet it moves with such slow grace it seems stone.
I yearn to see it take flight overhead,
but it stands still, waiting, perfectly still.

-- Leo Luke Marcello
Lake Charles, La.

Song for April

If you listen, if you listen, to the song that April sings,
You can hear the muted murmur of a million growing things:
Hear an angel’s lilting laughter float through
sun-drenched April skies,
Or the low splash of a teardrop from an angel’s
tear-bright eyes --
If you listen.
Like a drumming in the darkness of the earth’s
long winter night,
You can hear the grasses push on their way to meet
the light.
If you listen, in the treetops, you can hear a whir of wings,
As a robin builds his castle; to the topmost branch it clings.

Oh, April is an orchestra -- a symphony of sound,
The herald of life’s burgeoning, above and underground.
There is music for the hearing the sound of growing things;

There is melody aplenty in the song that April sings --
If you listen.

-- Sr. Rose Lea Wirth
Latham, N.Y.

A Prayer

Give me a heart of flesh.
Every day I pray thus,
recalling the biblical phrase.

Stone is biblical, too:
Build an altar of stone.
A father does not give stone for bread.

So much of what I love is stone:
naked mountain, boulders angled
on a ledge, ancient ruins, cairns.

Flesh on flesh I love, as well;
embraces, fingertips on lips,
and certain verses from the Song of Songs,

soft biblical talk of eyes and neck,
of breasts and parted lips.
But this is not a heart of flesh.

Can a heart be neither stone
nor flesh? Can it be some soft
cold thing, distantly in love?

I saw a stone, once, not large,
not a boulder, but not a pebble, either,
split open just a crack

by a small woodland plant,
its tiny azure clusters breaking out
to sun, its unstoppable roots

crumbling, millimeter by millimeter,
the heart of stone.

-- Sr. Patricia Chaffee, OP
Newburgh, N.Y.


A hand on my back reaching into my blouse
As I squeeze onto the Metro in Moscow.
A young Russkaya tucks my facing in.

Lost in Oaxaca, the telephone useless without pesos.
La policia drive by, automatic weapons propped on their hips.
Oaxaquenas motion me to take their turn at the telephone.

Nose rings and tattoos in the bathroom
At a Bela Fleck concert in Dayton, Ohio.
Would you maybe have a tampon I could borrow please?

A river of blood flowing,
Cleansing, weeping, releasing, binding us
To all that matters
To all that threatens to swallow us whole
To all that makes us stretch out our arms and
Hold each other up.

-- Susan M. Johnston
Dayton, Ohio

Holy Thursday

His hour had come.
The dinner with friends restless in his stomach he heads to the hills, terrified.
A construction in his brain arrests him in the garden.
The air squeezed from his lungs by fear, droplets of blood on his forehead,
driven to his knees by a crushing distress.
On his right the way to Bethany, a safe haven, and beyond, the desert.
On his left the way into Jerusalem, where all the prophets died.
He prays, “Take this away.”
A memory comes of what the old rabbis say,
“The entire world is a narrow bridge, but the essential of life is not to fear.”
His before-the-ages-faith ratchets his spine.
Awakening he rouses the sleeping disciples, “Get up, let’s go. The hour has come.”

-- Frank R. Desiderio
Los Angeles

National Catholic Reporter, April 16, 1999