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Good Friday

Your death beat out slim pulses into dreaming
this nightmare I had, deep into winter:

You lay before us, soundless
in a starless hollow,
the night a dark oppress, as dark as birth,
your wings blinking faint effusions, twinges
soft auras giving off,
the final utter throbs of your heart shuddering light.
We slipped quietly over the broken translucence,
and I feared there was no heaven, that you could die
like this,
a white butterfly flitting in the darkness between

Fallen, my Lord.
Your love once bewildered me, you feared no one,
walked among the dying, consoling them and
carrying them,
you shone still, excelling death.
You lived all this world will ever know of truth --
(truth, who sits by the door empty-handed and
wailing because she cannot save you).

And the things we would do in your memory,
(as though we belonged with you, because you made
us seem worthy of heaven),
in your memory, vowing ritual, vowing blood and
trading insults for our birthright.
We lie.
In praise of, in creed, indifferent, we lie.
We were baptized clean of your pain.

The rains sing coldly now, my King.
Life is nothing in description, now that you are gone.

-- Faye A. Parenteau
Woonsocket, R.I.

September 11, 2001

At the altar, it is easy
to accept the Body given up
for us, all linen and flowers,
the Host small and flat, bread
that dissolves simply in saliva.
But there in the rubble
bodies were given up
for each other, strong hands
hauling others through
the first debris,
not falling
until the towers fell
and bodies became ash and air,
the creamcolored dust still
drifting to windowsills,
filling our lungs
as we walk slowly past,
watching the rescuers
giving their bodies
to the smoldering heaps,
the long silent liturgy of hope
in the dark ruins.

Here Christ comes
to life among us
risen in these dead
and these living,
their bodies given
in labor and exhaustion.

Here the Spirit draws us
beyond this destruction
to love stripped to bone,
given over and over
to open this tomb
to learn the hard
giving and forgiving
that will become
our resurrection

-- Sr. Doretta Cornell, RDC
Bronx, N.Y.

The following three poems are part of a series titled “Holy Week.”

Morning Prayer: Tuesday
In the tender compassion of our God,
the dawn from on high shall
break upon us.

This Dawn comes brightly
full of promise
as golden air spills over ripening buds
about to spring into greenery.

Glory to you Lord God of our Fathers
Holy Wednesday: Tenebrae

Clouds gather, cast a shadow
of impending doom.
This is the week of trial and dread,
no thought of joyous Easter now.
Sobriety reigns
Thunder and
the temple veil is rent
Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper
bashful, we
smile at bare toes
wondering at the meaning of this symbolic act

a priest washes then
gently sweetly towels them dry
servant ministry

stripping of the altar
the altar of repose
sweet and fragrant garden
quiet before storm

stay with me
abide with me
watch and pray

-- Mary R. Hockersmith
Overland Park, Kan.

One Nail at a Time

He had more brokenness
than grace. Yet he could
talk nervous cherubs

down from the trees,
coax them into singing
songs that soothed

his contentious places.
He was a man who claimed
squatter’s rights

in the peaceable kingdom.
He had sins that required
industrial-strength prayers.

Not even angles would
wrestle with him. His was a faith
gained one nail at a time.

-- Fredrick Zydek
Omaha, Neb.

Easter Vacation

We celebrated the mystery
of resurrection by tilling
our garden this weekend.

We began with the ritual
of burning off the stubble
of last year’s bounty.

The smoke rolled like incense
across the lawn and deep
into the woods. A few crows

scolded the pungent odors
though I noticed it did not
stop them from building nests.

Later when we planted onions,
those old maids of the field,
the crows watched from nests

that seemed more like choir
lofts than nooks for the darkest
birds of the rurals. Even their

squawks were rich with polyphony
once the garden filled with rows
of tiny tombs from which the magic

of green will emerge to remind
us that what we look for in the
empty tomb is always with us.

-- Fredrick Zydek
Omaha, Neb.

2002 in Poetry

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 29, 2002