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Mediterranean Evening

“The affectionate air, all whisper and caresses ... ”
-- San Juan de la Cruz, from “Spiritual Canticle”

The air in Leon tonight is the proper degree
For muscles that are strained, for shoulders that carry loads.
We have no word in English for this breath of air,
This bien tiempo. Take the soft breeze of evening
Instead of a drink, set your work aside.
Greet one another, listen to music, think.
Like exotic fish released into water
Of exactly the correct degree, we are returned home,
set free to rejoin our ancestors. Centuries of struggle
against adopted climates are forgotten.
Pick up the load again in the morning. For now
Breathe in this air through which Jesus and Mary,
Suliman and Roxelana, Claudius,
Hippocrates and Homer walked in the evening. The very same.

-- Marjorie Kowalski Cole
Ester, Alaska


In Bethlehem the evening tolling
of the bells is interrupted by
gunfire and bombs and
terror and once again the curtain is split
in two and all there is is
until the stone again is rolled

-- Jennifer Gordon
Kansas City, Kan.

On A Monastery

On the buttress before me
-- A battleground down there --
I see those creatures
Crossing the moat
-- Gnomes, sylphs, elves --
Strange army, strange men.
“Ladders will do you no good,
Strange men,” I say,
“For I have stones to batter you,
Pails of water, too -- piping hot --
Served by monks, black,
Livid with rage
At old Screwtape.
But you are not the enemy
And I tell you what!
Do not come up to me,
I shall come down to you.”

I see men standing here
(Not in black, I hope)
A century or so from now
(It matters little)
I hear them say:
Boniface built this,
Benedict, Gregory, Rembert;
Somebody -- with love no doubt.

I speak out from space --
God knows where --
I say,
“Come down or up
You see
I have no ladder now.”

-- Maynard J. Brennan
Springdale, Pa.


I was telling Philip today
about what Father Gregory said
how we should live our lives
not just as good people
but so that people will see us
as a reflection of God.
Which is pretty strong stuff
that I don’t understand.
And he said to me,
Yes, and what if a crazy person
saw you as a rabbit?

-- Felicity Frisbie
Brooklyn, N.Y.

The First to Know

Judas was the first to know
the others
the ones who ran away
who hid in cellars
or upper rooms
their knowledge came much later
and never with the awful clarity
that Judas knew
when, in that one darkling moment,
he sealed his fate
with a kiss

-- John M. Rankin
Slingerlands, N.Y.

Clearing the Driveway

Working together, two oldsters,
we clear the snow from the drive.
Sharing the task without discussion,
so comfortable with each other’s presence.
Thoughts and understanding
pass without speech.

A comment is like a caress,
but rich for each,
an added sharing in the beauty
of white snow in sunlight
and warmed muscles working,
not young now,
but adequate.

This is wealth indeed,
a time out of time to savor.
Each aspect holds beauty:
the scent of crisp, clean snow,
a shovel handle in my hand,
the pattern of the driveway growing.

-- Barbara Gallagher
Columbia, Md.

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, June 21, 2002