Copyright (c) 1996 First Things 59 (January 1996): xx.

The Grudge

When he died he weighed sixty pounds,
the paper says, and I go out of my way
to drive by the address where his brother
locked him in the closet, wondering at
the blue door, the flower boxes,
wondering where the fury started ,
how early and how hidden the first bruise
awaking like a bat, dark wings beating like mad
beneath his skin, the grudge pretending
to fold itself and go to sleep. Years later,
some old random gesture startles it awake.
For instance, when Esau finally staggers home,
hypoglycemic, clothes torn, hungry,
Jacob sees his chance. He buys
the old farm from his brother for a crockpot
of lamb stew. Jacob would tell you
how, from the beginning he was the oldest
anyway. We were twins, he'd say reasonably,
stirring the soup, Esau poked his finger out
first so they tied a red thread to it
But I was the first one out! Me! There are records
to prove it.
It's hideous, when
you think about it, how everything followed
from that. You would like Jacob. Quick,
witty. He would flick his coat open
to show you the grudge, nursing like a bat.

Jeanne Murray Walker


It is stuffed full with thick, shapeless coats,
this narrow closet
you've been banished to.

Feel your way through the royal
blue mothball-soaked car coat,
the scratchy tasselled poncho,
the soft, frayed jean jacket.

Push back the elegant
camel-hair overcoat,
the black leather jacket,
the yellow down parka,
as if they were window curtains.

Stubbornly hook
a few inches of territory
on the dull metal pole.

Hang there.

Fence in your homestead.
Look straight ahead.
Stonewall the homesick wrench
you've learned to ignore,
the trapped unsung longing for God
that has become your despair.

Turn to face the glass.

Stare critically at the dismal reflections.

Must your miss everything?
The memories of displaced princes.
The secrets of princesses deposed.
Hearts dripping with the juice of apples.
Clouds of gold.

Bridget Ellen Mulle

Bishop Colenso on the Pentateuch

Sometimes I wake at night to listen
To Father Walter's coughing in the
Next room; tomorrow he will complain
All day his feet and toes are cold. Sister
Gloria offers him warm tea, honey.
Together they talk about some monstrous
Polish poverty or the Capuchine
Shrine at Poznan where the Little Sisters
Of the Poor wear white cotton armlets, weave
Vestments, the God of our Fathers having
Endowed them with skill in gold, violet,
Purple, green and scarlet yarn, fine linen.

Last night I lightly slept and dreamt again
The final words of Moses. I saw a twirl
Of smoke, Zelophedad's daughters bringing
Biscuits, kinsmen coming up the footpaths,
Walking unguarded, one child holding its
Mother's legs. With the Levitical priests,
Moses enjoins the statutes, offering
Holocausts on undressed stones, peace offerings,
Eating and making merry before God.
Then the Levites proclaim the twelve curses,
Indistinguishable from our own time,
After which the people answer amen.

With one hand he piles the undressed stones;
With the other he brings the ax stroke down.
The goat's legs collapse, a rainbow coils
Under the surface of a distant cloud;
The children twist to see the hands dip down
Washed in blood. Light snow has been falling
Off and on this afternoon; Father coughs.
Sister rubs his feet with intimacy.
Someone she loves walked on water, leaving
No prints, no wake. Snow piles the corners
Of the rectory. Days after nights I
Dream, I sleepwalk, breathing, answering amen.

Daniel James Sundahl

After a Dream of Clare and Francis of Assisi

Alone at the edge of the sea

he sets the stone in place. Always

the last stone
the stone that has fallen

the broken stone for which there is no use.

His shoulders and the hills are a community now,
when he walks

his shadow loses itself in the grass.

Comes to a crossroads and spins till his bones
fall down in a heap.

From wind and sparrow

he gets his bearings;
the horizons pass over him like clouds.

A stranger gives him his cloak, from its holes
he patches together a family.

A neighbor brings him his bowl, he knows
the ways of clay.

The sun sends down its light, so much seed
on good field and bad.

The moon floats in his eyes,
he is learning to see in the night.

The earth has taken him in like a rain,

and when he puts out his hands to the fire,
it runs under his skin like water.

This was her gift, she knew the touch of his hands.

Which is the lighter, the heavier,
the earth that gives, the earth that receives?

He has asked to be planted in the poorest of soil,

like a crop
she watches his days flower and season and fall.

This is her betrothed;

hard the bed that will have no roof
whose blankets are leaves that fall like coins

whose nights stretch like a moon

that grows full only to empty its pockets for nothing.
Who is the richer,

the poorer, the bride, the bridegroom?

Steven Lautermilch