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Entered in the ruled copybook left
At the hospital’s chapel door for suppliants
Bent to their scribbled penmanship less
Than school-perfect, the pleas ignore spelling
And commas and correct usage for words torn
From tortured hearts: Dear Jesus, done led
My husband die; pray for my sis and her child;
Mother of God, please spare my mom; thank you,
God, for leaving me the one, thank you
For the peaceful death; a Dios sean dadas
Mis gracias por mi Juan. Humbly, they come
To share the page, turn the page, begin
Another written litany of sufferings, strangers
Baring their pain to strangers, no matter
If unknown, who read and intercede for each
Other’s lives that here underline their own.

-- Nancy G. Westerfield
Kearney, Neb.

Tumbleweed In Miniature

in triplet tones
at dawn

quail bob around
the bird feeder
then skitter back and forth

across the street
like thoughts not knowing
what to settle on

Led by parent quail
the covey strays
from the neighborhood

onto pavement seared
by desert sun, stripped
of sagebrush and manzanita

The young tread the asphalt
like tumbleweed in miniature
bewildered by wind

then blocked by curbs
fronting new apartments risen
on flattened soil

-- Joan Irene Edwards
Reno, Nev.

The Donut Church
For Bill C.

Early morning.
Cold and hungry
they come together
to taste the warmth
the sweetness
in this pause
before they scatter
into their day.
Some share a table
and a word.
Some sit alone.
Well dressed or ragtag
finding what they need
in varying degrees --
Some filled
Some plain
Some sugar coated.

-- Pat Janus
Rochester, N.Y.

adam’s apple

this poisoned bite
swallowed whole
will go no farther down

with such a bitter tang
it stuck

now lodged
I strangle

I wait and gag
and wait . . .

and wait
for its seed to sprout
to green
then to wood become
the Friday of my despair

-- Sr. Lou Ella Hickman, IWBS
Corpus Christi, Texas


“Touch my wound,” you say.
Trembling with dread,
I stretch out my hand.
I fall inside you,
and universes open in me.
I see that your wound
is my own, is everyone’s
and it is limitless.
Yet you wrap yourself around it
so tenderly.
You become the shore
of that restless ocean.
I am too small to understand,
but I say, “My Lord, my God.”
I am weeping in relief.
This is all the faith I have,
and all I need.

-- Mary Vineyard
Lubec, Maine

blessed are the peacemakers
Sweet is war to those who do not know it
-- Erasmus

the stench that rises from the bowel
of the beast
fetid odor of the bodies of the children
mixed with the vapors of petroleum
sold as sweet perfume

as the bodies rot and the bones soften
they can be useful
to lubricate the wheels
of Empire

death is said to be life
and the price
is said to be small

the small cry for peace
from this frail woman
in the black dress
in the desert
is to be sand and grit
in the machine

for Kathy Kelly

-- Larry Kerschner
Napavine, Wash.

2001 in Poetry

2000 in Poetry

1999 in Poetry

Poems should be previously unpublished and 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, January 26, 2001