e-mail us


Lenten Hibiscus

The jade bud plumps slowly
like a child in the womb.
Time and a bloom is born

flaring five petals: pale peach,
white veined, tissue thin.

In the flower’s open throat,
a serrated star, rich in
magenta hues. Above the stamen

stalk, five plush pistils circle
in a royal crown of gold.

Full beauty lasts but one day;
spent petals ruffle, wither,
draw inward to wrap a shroud.

Time and a slender cocoon
will fall, closed as a tomb.

-- Mary Willette Hughes
Waite Park, Minn.

The Call of Abraham

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country.’ ”
--Genesis 12:1

Talk about imperious.
Without a by-your-leave,
Or, may I presume?
No previous contact,
no letter of introduction,
no greeting,
just out of the blue
this unknown God
issues edicts.

This is not a conversation.
Am I a nobody
to receive decrees
from one whose name
I do not know?
And at our first encounter!

I have worshipped my own god.
To you I have addressed no prayers,
offered no sacrifices,
asked no favors,
but quick,
like sudden fire in the desert,
without the most elemental ritual,
I hear “Go.”

At seventy-five,
Am I supposed to scuttle my life,
take that ancient wasteland, Sarai,
place my thin arthritic bones
upon the road
to some mumbled nowhere?

Let me get this straight.
I will be brief.
I summarize.
In ten generations since the Flood
you have spoken to no one.

You give commands:
pull up my tent,
desert my home,
the graves of my ancestors,
my friends next door,
leave Haran
for a country you do not name,
there to be a stranger,
a sojourner.

God of the wilderness,
from two desiccated lumps,
from two parched prunes
you promise to make a great nation.
In me all peoples of the earth
will be blessed.

You come late, Lord, very late,
but my camels leave in the morning.

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

Dare to Touch Me

Dare to touch me.
Then speak to me of God.
I enter. I bow to
Tabernacle, to vessels,
To celebrant.
Here ancient Sacrifice of love
Dares to touch me.
Then speaks to me of love.

I reach my hand
To human vessels,
Living tabernacles,
You share in my pain.
You bind up my wounds --
Brother, sister, mother,
Father, child and friend.
You respond to me with love
And take away -- ages of disdain.
And speak to me of love.

-- Mary Shelley
Portland, Ore.

Boots and Wings

The buying of boots is serious business
here where a ramp simulates a mountain
and we feign wise interest in shanks.

The parents, blank as checks,
surrender to the clerk whose
crampons once bit glaciers.

Solemn, we kneel before our offspring
for ritual lacing like precision drill.
We talk casually of the seventy-pound pack

crushing the young shoulder, necessitating
ankle support. To us, a distant rampart.
Their rubber soles crunch slowly to the summit.

For them, the glossy, toppled meringue
peak framed by dark fir, pewter ridge,
the thousand harps of wind in pines.

How often we have launched them; this trail
cupped between spruce another birth canal.
From sea level, we spirit them high, aloft.

-- Kathy Coffey

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, March 9, 2001