e-mail us


Cleaning Women, Lemoa

Friday in Lemoa, cleaning day.
Three women sweep their way through church,
bending over brooms with centuries of practice.
Five fat-cheeked boys with their mothers’ chins
chase lizards through shadows of saints
and tumble out into the sunny arms of noon.
On the steps, dreaming of wine,
snores the village drunk.
Guatemala’s top ten boom from his radio.
The women catch each other’s eyes.
They smile and laugh and whisper,
strewing the plaza with secrets shared.

Women of sturdy shoulders,
ladies of fragile lace,
you come to meet your labor, your love,
adorned in satin blouses
of deep rose, aqua, gold.
Before the day’s sun fades,
your hands will sweep this crusted church
clean of the dust of ages, clean of its brooding demons.

From my window I see
the steady wisdom of your strokes,
I hear the litany of your brushwork.
I send you prayers like ribbons
to weave into your chain of secret sounds,
into the laughter that circles you like light.

-- Sr. Regina Bechtle, SC
New York

How Easily a Miracle

How easily a miracle happens:
everything falls into place.
No distant thunder,
much less lightning,
walks the sky.
No deus shifts the gears
in machina.
All pain, or fear, or loss
becomes irrelevant.
The hoped for happening at once
seems pre-ordained,
as a pearl cupped in the palm of my hand,
as bloom from bud,
as an unparched lawn,
a pillow on which to rest
and rise again.

How long before Lazarus complained
his porridge was cold?

-- Margaret Doyle

Marrying into the World

for all my brothers and sisters

When I was young,
we hated the Jews.
We hated the Niggers,
the Spics and,
to a lesser extent,
the Guineas next door.

Now grown, two brothers, two sisters,
we have in our loves
branched out,
like the four points of a compass.
I married a Black woman,
Colleen a Jew,
Katie an Italian,
and Pete a lovely Puerto Rican woman
raised on a banana farm.

Eating is interesting.
When my brothers and sisters visit,
with their spouses and children,
Leslie and I cook them
okra, yellow rice and baked beans.
It’s not that we don’t eat other things
when it’s the two of us; it’s just:
That’s what we always cook
when my family comes over.

At Pete and Evita’s
Leslie and I feast on antipasto,
cabbage and roast pork;
their children give us small piñatas
filled with coconut candies.
Katie and Tom prepare us
calamari and coleslaw;
Colleen and Howard like to feed us
brisket and collards.
We are, now, an international family,
none of us longing
for the Jew- and Spic-hating
days of our youth.
Lucky are we who go forth
and marry into the world.

-- Bob Slaymaker
New York

‘How am I?’ Don’t ask

Back and forth
on the rocker
I consider:

Teeth missing
ears buzzing
eyes smogging
heart thumping
voice fogging
veins lumping

Muscles weakening
nerves jumping
bones creaking
mind bungling
skin wrinkling
stomach grumbling

And I’m becoming
a bundle of verbs

-- Tom Brubeck
Silver Spring, Md.

School of the Americas -- Watch

Nov. 21, 1999

We watched and heard the names
unborn, 3 months, 5 months, pregnant,
peasant, worker, farmer, priest
we watched and sang the songs
of Africa, Mexico and Salvador
“freedom,” “never again,” and grace’s amazement

we watched and listened to stories
from Guatemala, Colombia, and Honduras
of torture, massacre, and hope.

We watched and wept stunned tears
for Ignacio and Elba, Ita and Dorothy,
of anger, suffering, pain and death.
We stood ten thousand on that sunny day
we crossed a line a world away.

From Atlanta Sherman marched on to the sea.
Five abreast we marched in a people’s tide
crashed the gates of a mighty fort
rolled across the Georgia green
to wash away the stains of red,
the blood of mothers, children, fathers,
grandfathers, uncles and aunts,
villages and bishops --
all brought down in pools of blood
by bullets and machetes, M-Ks and AKs
weapons schooled by masters schooled
at the School of the Americas.

We watched and wept, listened and led
on a Georgia green at a school of red.
Awake now to new schools of blood and death
we watch and listen, eyes dried of tears
we’ll close a school, then teach for life
we’ll walk in hope in the coming years.

-- Gary L. Chamberlain

Monody in Time of Disaster

The earth takes a deep breath.
The ground coughs,
a terrible thrust.
While in Chicago at 10 degrees
a Polish woman is kneeling
with her knees, toes, and bare feet
frozen to the floor.
Her last mile of sorrow
a broken pipe, a broken dream.
Do we mourn one death
or the thousands unknown?
Thoreau would not understand
the graphics of grieving
on a 27” screen.

-- Kathleen Gunton
Orange, Calif.


now that you mention it,

The orbit
is not a perfect circle
but, rather,
an ellipse.

-- Sr. Pamela Smith, SSCM
Orchard Lake, Mich.

Use the links below to read previous Poetry pages. Use your browser's Back button to return to this page.

Poems should be limited to about 50 lines and preferably typed. Please send poems to NCR POETRY, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111-1203. Or via e-mail to poetry@natcath.org or fax (816) 968-2280. Please include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number. NCR offers a small payment for poems we publish, so please include your Social Security number.

National Catholic Reporter, January 14, 2000