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Haiku of Hope

under all this patriarchy
there has to be a pony.

-- Bob Maxwell

Lazarus Gives a Banquet

“They gave a dinner for him, and Lazarus
was one of them at table with him.”
-- John 12:2
Of course, I’m an oddity,
not another one around.
I’ve been there and back,
and what’s more, I stank.

When I give a banquet,
they come; no no-shows,
no compelling them to come.
No one without a wedding garment.

Talk about a conversation piece!
Sidelong glances
as I break a crust of bread
-- “Had he eaten with the angels?” --

I raise my glass of wine,
they nudge their neighbors
-- “Can he be thirsty, who drank
from the ultimate barrel?” --

I speak to the Master about
the price of barley -- “Do they share
memories from the cave that would
stupefy the mountains?” --

OK, I have smudged the clear
edges of reality, broken
the quantum barrier? Only this I say:
truth is a moving target.

-- Fr. Kilian McDonnell, OSB
Collegeville, Minn.


“They ask their mothers
‘Where is the cereal?’ -- in vain,
as they faint away
like the wounded in
the street of the city and
breathe their last in their
mother’s arms.”
-- Lamentations 2:12

The windows of the soul
are clouded
by hunger, and deeper wounds
shrouded from sight
lie buried in the dark night.

Foul birds of greed peck at
the seeds of war
and drop them to be sown
in blood from
Rwanda to Zaire.

-- Sr. Martha Wickham, ASC
Red Bud, Ill.

Unexpected, Sacramental

(In memory of Richard A. McCormick, SJ, 1922-2000)

“Mom cries but we never see you
cry” the girls would tell me,
aware of the mystery
of their father, the otherness of men.

I would always assure them
I have and I do, to which these
doubting Thomasinas would reply:
“We want to see it.”

On the morning of the third day
after he left us, we rose
to a blanket of snow,
unexpected, sacramental, white as
a great nephew’s baptismal gown,
a niece’s wedding dress,
his own funeral shroud.

Our ordinary lives canceled,
I’m halfway through
reading the obituary to my daughters.

I’d forgotten how
the diaphragm spasms, how shallow
staccato breaths alternate with deep
cleansing ones when the spirit lets go
into a sudden, soulful cry.

Between sobs I manage only:
“He was a great man.”

Gathering around, they stroke
me gently on the neck and back.
Now I hear four weeping with me, now
just the soft, oracular voice of the youngest:
“This is how Dad cries.”

-- Kevin E. Anderson
Monclova, Ohio

A Saint in Training

We do what we can and
we pray for what we cannot yet do.
-- St. Augustine

An untidy place, this Catholic church
where babies cry at Mass
and the priest says “us”
when he talks about who isn’t perfect.
I heard the place was for sinners,
so I just showed up.

-- Ruth Pizzat
Erie, Pa.

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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, June 16, 2000