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Confiteor Deo

I will go to the altar of my God
wearing only the vestment of my skin.
I shall lift the loaf towards heaven one crumb
at a time -- until the mysterious skirmish
between God and asparagus rests deep
in the last few drops of blood red wine.

Lift me, Jesus! Tell me you have great books
and grandmas in heaven, flood me with hymns,
give me celestial pillows to rest on,
and tell me poems bloom into existence
each time angels come among us. Dare I
pray the secrets waiting in the saint’s stone?

I want to be a seed spun to perfection
instead of just a lump. Let my ego
go limp as death into a single word.
Let my soiled voice embrace the very wind
that began as the breath of life and let
me sing until I run out of confessions.

-- Fredrick Zydek
Omaha, Neb.


“It is not hand nor foot nor face...”
-- Romeo and Juliet, II:1

El Salvador.
Named for redemption.
Little did they know
how right such naming would fit.
But name is hand and foot
and tongue and skin
and heart.
Oh yes, lungs, kidneys ...
everything this weakness called flesh
redeeming flesh
pulled so thin as to cover this world of ours flesh.
But flesh remains
and with it
for those
who starve in their plenty.

-- Sr. Lou Ella Hickman, IWBS
Corpus Christi, Texas


The psalmist sings us
the just shall flourish
like the cedars of Lebanon
even in old age
bear fruit

Those cedars survived millennia
grew so great and straight
they stood the mast
that creaked above an ancient ship
so odoriferous the craftsmen
squared chests for a king
even the walls of old Solomon’s temple

Is the fruit of cedar
its boney cone for seed
or its use
when felled and cut
shaped to serve

Now I
functions faltering
wonder my justness
ask where bear
my fruit

-- Al Rose
Towson, Md.


I’m white whiskered and worn,
Don’t think I was born,
‘cuz I always looked this way.
My legs is bowed, back is bent,
What hair I got is gray.

I ain’t got no name,
And that’s a shame,
They all holler, “Hey Bo.”
Not long to live,
Not much to give,
Don’t have a bit of dough.

If I had, I’d give it all,
To hear someone call,
“Hey Jim, how’s you today?”
I’d say, “I’m fine young man,
I do what I can,
And take what little they pay.”

But Jim’s not my name,
From where I came,
I didn’t get one as I know,
So when someone I meet
Takes time to greet,
He’ll say, “Nice weather we’re havin,’
Hey Bo.”

Many years have gone behind,
I sit and rock with features lined,
And reach into my wrinkled mind,
For things I should have done.

I count them out and wonder why
I shelved them all to fade and die,
And dust away and now they lie,
Like prizes sought but never won.

-- John N. Pfeffer
Sequim, Wash.

Pfeffer writes that the subject of his poem was a man he met in his work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society: “I gave him lodging, a meal and food for his travels to somewhere.”

Prayers of Beige

Prayers of beige
were muted
like sky without cloud
like cool without wind;

the limits of beige
dulled all tones.
All utterance rose tired
and fell under its sandy weight,
without giving up a cloud
leaving no puff of smoke
as signal.

But it was heard,
still small tracing to
center of black
and red was born.
And purple was exulted
and orange was alleluia.

Every soul hears the color of its prayer.

-- Jeannie Bench
Anchorage, Alaska


“Gentlemen take your marks.”
More carefully even than the start
I mark you my son
see the line of my bones in your bones,
but you are longer, leaner:
you are young and I am becoming old.
So I mark you well
and with you hold my breath
as you explode over and into the water
master of an element foreign to me.
With power and grace you swim your race
in the lane that is yours alone
and with gratitude I watch you
take me with you and leave me behind.

-- Lou Masson
Portland, Ore.

Early April Easter

We are saved, we just don’t feel it yet.
Anxiously we study lawn and garden
rejoicing in the sparse occasional blooms
while dead leaves linger to be raked.
The mighty oaks condescend not
to early leaf, unbending in their patience.
But forsythias of blinding gold
bend and beckon their hosannas,
generous, profligate their blessed sprays.
Wait no longer, proclaim it now!
The earth awakens, the empty tomb
makes believers of us all.

-- Helen Fitzgerald
East Hampton, N.Y.

Mothers at the pool

How beautiful, the new mothers
with their babies,
sunning themselves around the pool
of the apartment complex,
absorbed in their infants,
comparing notes.

Too soon they will put them
in day care and return to work
to help with car payments
and grocery bills.

But now they are deep in enjoyment
of their motherhood,
of their offspring.
Pass them softly.
Disturb not their communion.

-- Mary C. Ferris
Chapala, Mexico

Great Impostor

I put off what I have to do
with just another cup,
and all those postponed duties,
my how they add up.

Easy to say, “Get behind me,”
if he came in horns and tail.
Disguised as just another cup,
his tactics seldom fail.

-- Mary C. Ferris
Chapala, Mexico

National Catholic Reporter, August 13, 1999