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On the screen door, well past midnight,
a scaly wingspread,
yellow, black stripes -- tiger moth, I call it,
moth of the Tiger Moon --
I tell it to stay, not let kitchen light
which dazzles my glow-eyed cat
frighten the moth into flight
when it follows me into my dreams
where dark oozes through metal mesh.
Beneath the Perseids
shaken from antique velvet
of an August sky,
beneath this millennium’s final solar eclipse,
you who take my measure
are beyond remembering
to come back -- jaguar shaman
tracking stardust
across the Milky Way.
My gold ring is your lighthouse,
as I wait for my hands to catch up
with my mind.
In the Penan rainforest,
tongues shape one word
for he, she, it
but six for we.
I whisper our six names
into the backyard sweetgum
because you might forget five --
wondering if I have
brown eyes or black --
because green is the color of healing,
like fresh grief,
like my hands flowing.

-- Martha M. Vertreace


Jesus in his passion
is shown silent, stoic
and full of dignity.
But when they stripped him naked
and tied his wrists together
and with the rope
raised him off the floor
and laid into him with a whip,
did not this Jesus
who wept, who felt hunger,
thirst and desolation --
did not this Jesus
scream and howl in agony
and beg them to stop?
And when they pounded
nails into his body,
did he not scream
and scream again
so that all on the mount
could hear?
Is he not
our brother?

-- Bob Maxwell

The Lake at our Side

The Lake at our side,
Always was, always will be.
The waters, deep beyond deep; calling me, deep into deep,
The waters call my name, call my people’s names.

People of the water, born of the water.
The waters of birth, the waters of death.
The waves of our past, the waves of our future.
The waters of my hidden soul, the waters of my hopefilled dreams.

The waves of pain, the waves of healing.
The waters quiet and still, the waters roar and throb.
The waves of anguish, the waves of peace.
The waters immovable, the waters ever moving.

The waters stir, the waves hurl.
The waves roll in, the waters jump up.
Will I jump in, the waters jump up.
The waters call, deep into deep.

Deep in my soul, deep in my dreams.
The waters of death, the waters of life.
The waves of today, the waves forever.
The waves yesterday, the waves tomorrow.

The waters call my name, call my people’s names.
The waters, deep beyond deep, deep into deep.
The Lake at our side.
Always was, always will be.

-- Fr. Jozef Timmers, OFM Cap.

The Monastery Winemaker

Yes, ‘tis me, Brother Fidelis,
Faithful to my trade.
No, not the sacred hours
(Libera nos, Domine)
My girth cannot disguise
I’m neither mystic nor ascetic,
I make wine.

Deep in these creviced caverns
Removed from Lauds and Compline
I ply my trade, my art.
And I must needs sample
For my art insists on tippling
From time to time.

Yes, ‘tis my wine which is transformed
To sacred vintage. My work is sanctified
by transubstantiation.
Still, masters of my sanguinary art
Practice first to energize the bonds of charity,
Good fellowship, gemutlickheit,
A smile, a grin, a belly-laugh,
A chuckle, a guffaw.
That’s all the recompense my art demands.
That’s praise of God enough
For this benign Benedictine.

I sip my glass -- magnifico!
Benedicamus Domino!

-- John R. Kidwell
Manitowoc, Wis.

Christ of the Coconut Villa

You are not even a day’s plane ride
away, but a whole universe separates
us now, as I think and dream about
you, your daily struggle to keep your
children alive and fed. You’ve been
behind the desk of this motel for twenty
years, always the graveyard shift, the
hours and the tedium etching your face
with frustration, the best years of your
life never to come.

I can hear death in your voice, it dances
around the edge of our conversation,
what we first-worlders fear the most
expected by you in the same way I’d
expect to wear a coat in the winter.
It is your sister. And now, you across
the ocean, who share my age, stare down
a tunnel toward your life’s end, our
vantage points two notes playing music

The sights, the smells, the stories of
your land waft through my mind, your
voice lilts and resonates, haunting me.
Your memory pries
and breaks me open, asking me to
bite once again from the messy, chaotic
mango fruit that is your life.

I only know that I met Christ when
I looked into
the eyes of a motel desk clerk
and my life is now a puzzle.

-- Jan Pilarski
South Bend, Ind.

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1999 in POETRY

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, May 19, 2000