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I imagine the most famous hands in all of history. Pontius Pilate ceremoniously washes them. They are ordinary, the hands of middle age. They could be anyone’s hands. There is nothing to distinguish them, only small, darkening liver spots. They look like my hands.

-- John Cantey Knight
Metarie, La.

A Prayer for Anger

Grant me the grace
of anger,

Turn me into
a howling wind
to hasten change
where injustice stagnates;
make of me
a tempest
to conquer grinding sorrow.

Hammer at my
hard heart’s door;
smash the lock
of my indifference.

May the grace of anger
my cowardly spirit.

-- Jane M. Nirella
Middletown, N.J.

The Purple Rosary

When I pray the rosary today, I’ll think of you
praying your own beads found in a thriftshop
somewhere between here and Bangor.

Hidden behind the electric mixers
they glinted in the dust, caught your eye
like the black Persian who asked for a home

by reaching a shining paw between the bars
of the cage at the humane society where
he waited for you. His sweet appeal

spoke to you about how you’d feel
entrapped, dependent on others for liberation.
And the beads too, their flag of INRI

King of the Jews, broken off
spoke to you in their imperfection.
Undesired by others, you wanted them.

How gallant of you to rescue the Lady Fair
the Holy Mother impressed on metal
and languishing on a shelf at the back of a store.

Who was it prayed the beads before you?
Who was it held them up to the light
admiring the rays filtered through purple glass?

That one, the cat, me, you --
God cares for us all through each other
and so we are saved.

-- Judith Robbins
Whitefield, Maine

If you want a drunkard

Six camel-hide puppets, characters from Turkish folklore. Choose one,
I told the third grade poets.
Be a poor man carrying burdens,
a tea seller, a drunkard
with jointed knees
(knife in one hand, bottle in the other),
a drummer, a musician.

Jesse was the first to read.
I am a drunkard,
he announced. I am going to hell.
If you want a drunkard,
that’s where I’ll be.
Now how did he learn so much
about unrepentance in a Catholic school,
the glee of Paradise Lost.
What a grin. We hadn’t even gone around the room
before he waved his hand to ask,
Can I read my poem again?

-- Marjorie Kowalski Cole
Ester, Alaska

A Tumbling, Twinkling, Singing Mind

Sometimes my mind is a tumble
Like river rocks strewn on the shore.

Sometimes it is clear
Singing a mountain stream song.

Other times thoughts twinkle and burn
like stars to be shaped into words.

I best like the times when all cares are gone.
Then words flow out as sparkling stones --
And fall to rest in a poem.

-- Pat Eagan
Mesa, Ariz.

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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 ncrpoetry@aol.com 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, July 14, 2000