Copyright (c) 1995 First Things 55 (August/September 1995):.

Long and Short

Mitch said: "I'm trying hard to live
To seventy."
I think about it constantly:
How half
A century is an abyss not all
Can cross-
"This field, once, was home to brains
And tigers-"
And paint the mystery, how time
(A wheel)
Describes the line (that's history)
On earth
Where people (at the tangent point)
Bear the weight, or run behind.
Or break
Into those dances oceans sing
To dunes,
Or ice.

Leon Schapiro fled
The terror
First to Paris then New York.
A chronicler
Of the Jews, white hair, blue eyes,
Wood cane,
Beret. Right off he said: "We need
A lawyer.
To be old is terrible."
Eighty, in Jamaica, kept
Two wives,
A shop and the beach towel concession.
Jimmy asked his son's wife's friend
To come
Away with him, to fish in warmer seas.
The landlord,
Heller, rhymed behind his desk:
"Money's honey,
How does that help
When you're old
And it's cold
In your soul?
My son is so religious he
Won't eat
At the same table with me."

I didn't hear at all, or hearing
The softly said need not
Be marked,
And turned back to the book,
The board,
The ball beneath the sycamore.
My father
Also thundered like the god
Who's killed
Most, doesn't wonder about might
Have been.
"Have you changed at all
In order
To live longer?" "No, as always
Right food and rest. Also avoid
The doctor."
Also disbelieve in numbers.

Laurance Wieder

The Theodicies of the Rural

We drive nails into the hooves, twist off
the horns with worn vise grips, separate mates,
pluck the tails, shave the wool, amputate
the balls, check carefully every wet cough,
hide the pincers inside the leather gloves
(the same soft leather used for critics' shoes),
and eye the fluctuations in market news;
we pat the beasts that we really do love,
groom them tenderly for 4-H events,
eat spiced beef sandwiches and drink weak beer,
watch the authorities gauge the worth of our steers,
and visit the county fair's gospel tent.

The music rises in the sweet summer air
as the beasts begin to speak, in some kind of Catholic
nativity, as they put on flesh, lick
each others' wounds, and join with us, in prayer.

Craig Payne

What Ceremony Else?

He said simply they'd always be with us,
Astounding one with such nerve, cold foresight
-All generated in jig-time-no fuss,
He had sized our worlds up, had them down pat,
Left no fly in the ointment to discuss;
Those who'd have given him his coat and hat

-And the high road to Ethiopia,
Nicaragua, any other planet-
Were quite pished on, made easy joke of
At that very fantastical banquet;

Now there are those but remembering the feet,
The unguents, recalling tears, silken hair,
The rub of ceremony-not the meet
And proper handling of an old despair.

T. P. MacGloin

The Locker and the Mill

Christ's body:
Earth's first fruit.
Crushed grape, locked;
Winnowed wheat, ground.

Dark, damp cellar
Hot, dry oven
Perfect perfect fare.

Edward L. DeRosa