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The Woman Who Walks Through Church
As with many whose lives
have been one long drift,
it’s hard to guess Madeline’s age.
Surely beyond sixty:
fist-sized bunions rip through
her sneakers, and she exposes
tooth-bare gums whenever
her mouth jerks wide in a tic.

Far too old for the clothes
she likes to wear: Heavy
Metal t-shirts and Dolly Parton
wigs found at garage sales.
She hovers near the church,
though often only to sit hours
in a pew, rolling shreds of paper
into pointless small periwinkles.

She lives among the long forgotten:
Halves of conversations rattle
through her days, a long tape loop
of old disputes. She will blurt,
What was I supposed to do? or
I can’t help it! as if she’s taking
crank calls from some irrelevant pain
not even she could fully retrieve.

Madeline is crazy, all right.
On Sundays she hobbles into Mass
just before the host is elevated.
At the moment of consecration
she crosses behind the priest’s back
and out the other door -- believing,
perhaps, she can snatch some straw
of sanctity from our camp of the sane.

-- James Silas Rogers
St. Paul, Minn.

September Altar Call
crickets thick in the grass --
a black hopping wherever I step --
a profusion of nervous gaiety --

They and we

all know that winter is coming
and with it the end of grass
and frozen legs unable to make a sound --
mute legs, unmoving mouths.

Hie to the house protected from storm.
Ask to come in. If there’s no response
slip under the door and wait a decent
time before you chirp.

You never can be too careful.
Remember Jack’s giant
and how he disliked company
especially that of small boys and indigent women

preferring his hen who laid golden eggs
for him, the harp that hailed him as Master
and sang and played itself till he fell asleep.

-- Judith Robbins
Whitefield, Maine
Lunch at the Club
We sat ’neath the gable
at our country club table
Vi, Helen and Mabel
and me,
dainty white skirts to the knee.

We had come from the court,
tennis our sport,
decorum our forte,
no ball hit in anger you’d see.

In our regular places
with healthy, bright faces
watching sailboating races
for free
sipping coffee and orange juice and tea.

Our morning meal wishes
are served on Club dishes;
we’re always called “Mrs.”
by Bea.
We visit and gaze out to sea.

There are whitecaps that curve,
blue skies to observe --
“Would you care for preserve?
More tea?
Marmalade, butter or brie?”

“Girls, the game was well played!
Vi, the backhands you made!
And Mabel’s shots ricocheted
by me!
Your score was 6-2 and 6-3!”

“The serves were plain vicious!
Helen’s half volleys delicious!
Oh, Bea, this toast’s most nutritious.”
Ah, me.
Four lovely ladies are we.

We nattered, we chattered
of things that then mattered.
Reputations were shattered
with glee
by Mabel, Vi, Helen and me.

Then talk turned to Texas
Crime was the nexus.
And, they, as they breakfast,
on ending a man such as he.

“I think he should die,”
murmur Helen and Mabel and Vi.
“That Texan should fry.
Yes, he
sounds plenty guilty to me.”

Vi buttered her muffin,
“Yes, Gary’s a tough one.
A killer, a rough one,”
says she.
“Toast ’em and roast ’em, i.e.

“He’s had no raw deal.”
“There’s been an appeal.”
“His guilt is for real.”
No plea.
In Texas he doesn’t go free.

“His son’s in jail too.”
“And what did he do?”
There was something to rue.
You see,
crime runs in the family tree.

“Oh, fie, let him die,”
“I say hang him high.”
“Anyone for more pie?”
Friends three,
Lunch here is served with ennui.

-- Ruth Pizzat
Erie, Pa.

1999 in POETRY

2000 in POETRY

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National Catholic Reporter, November 17, 2000