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Dust is the name of the game
in August;
rising from the road
to settle
on the petals of the
Black Eyed Susan
and the dried brown faces of
Queen Anne’s Lace.
Who can keep pace in August
during dog days
dogtrotting toward September.
Foliage is nibbled,
gall blisters plague the oak,
and the tent worm
makes camp.
Behind the hill the tireless whippoorwill
takes over the night.
Stars glow like fire chips
and under the blaze
a million star-crazed locusts
whirr me to sleep.

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

Carrying Around Infinity

If only we could deal with infinity better,
ride along with it,
forget its nubby presence in our sidebag,
resist its vacuum pull, the longings, restlessness

If only we could not feel its crush,
the insistent press of chaos all around,
not hear its lilt,
the steady rumble in the undertone

Then, perhaps --
the race to stillness could be won.

-- Maryanne Hannan
Troy, N.Y.

In the Spanish Class

We are the immigrants here. The border
That we must wade like a Rio Grande
Is this river of words, a swift flow
On the bilingual lips of la maestra,
Our teacher, but for us treacherous
With irregular verbs, potholed with unpronounced
Aspirates. And she is the border patrol;
Defending the purity of her mother-tongue,
She will soap our mouths for mother-offending
Obscenities. She walks on the water of words
With flamenco hips, la maestra, while pursuing
Our illegal entry, we flounder and dare
Whirling eddies of estar, crosscurrents of ser.

-- Nancy G. Westerfield
Kearney, Neb.

Cana, or Not a Perfect Carpenter

“They have no wine.” -- John 2:3;
“Like us in all things, but sin.” -- Hebrews 4:15

It had to come from somewhere.
Expectations have histories.
Out of the blue
one does not say

“They have no wine,”
as though remarking
on the gathering of the clouds,
or how early is the spring this year.

Surely she knew before she came.
Had he bent more than nails,
as he hammered the oak plank,
cut too short for the table top,

and turning, to be sure
the door was closed,
did he, in a stolen moment,
lengthen it an inch or two,

a quick impatient wonder
to cover his mistake?
But through the lattice,
did she see and understand?

Had she asked him to build a porch
with beams from Lebanon,
where she could catch the breeze,
watch the sun go down?

Then as cedar rafters above gave way,
did he twist the law of gravity,
put a kink in the path of falling timbers?
And did she duck -- and marvel?

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


Once, a Sunday morning when I was far from home,
In that slight confusion that one may have
With what is new and strange, I chose a place to pray
And found I had knelt down without much thought …
There in a special place. I did not know at once
Until it seemed too late to move away.

In the front pews, kept just for those who cannot hear,
All through liturgy they signed as one
And with such joy and great devotion for the hour
The words of prayers and hymns, and in between
Whispered signs that passed as pollen, unhearing one
To another, as flower to flower.

The children looked on, with much curiosity
As invader of their space stood to sing,
Paused mid-sign as lip-read song began to show.
I wished them peace in words that they wound never hear,
Then deeply moved by their devotion at the end;
I blessed myself, and made the only sign I know.

-- Jim Cassidy
Elmhurst, Ill.

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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, August 11, 2000