Copyright (c) 1997 First Things 71 (March 1997).
Daily dust over the jagged
stair steps of toes, between the cracked
skin; heels bruised by heat,
small toes stoned by cobblestone.
The wrong one is kneeling,
sprinkling water over the wounded,
a stream of fingers cleaning disciples' feet
as boils and blisters burst with new
covenant balm of blood and bread.
Holes as oval as this
lopsided earth, the black skin
of space filling in with red
against the spike that fastens
tendon to tree, bone to board,
skin and sin to sacrifice and servant.
In the human/divine pores: pain,
prophecy, the prodigal and unrepentant.
Their sounds pound the galaxies;
nowhere to walk or run
but Thy will be done.
calluses washed clean
with the converted Centurion's crying,
arch and ankle wrapped
for the new tomb hewn
from a rich man's cave,
the Savior-slave rots,
descends to the depths
of paradox, cleanses
each brimstone foot
of the dead and damned.
he has abandoned the sepulchre.
Clover between his toes,
he hoes the graveyard garden
waits for the women
to come with scents and spices.
The unrecognized one,
afterwards he watches them run,
hysterically hollering hallelujah!
The beauty school on Brighton Lane
spills pink-smocked girls at twelve o'clock.
They blossom cigarettes and talk,
pluck lilacs from the parish green
and plant them in their hair for spring.
But the bells of St. Columbkille's clang
and Brighton mourners dim the street,
with roses on the hearse's seat
to take them to the grave.
And all the novice scissors stop,
and all the young beauticians hold
to see the rosewood in the cold
be taken to the grave.
Lady, in the flower I hear the bell
the green tongue tolls, and in the swell
of young girls' breasts I hear the sound
that stills the city to the ground
and makes the shurring scissors shut
and stops the lover as he woos.
It's death undying is our muse.
If God is my usable past,
the part worth saving,
the minutes, episodes,
when I measure the moment
by soul standard,
an inward counting
of worth and meaning-
or given as an outright gift
to which I first said no
then later yes
with a bless-me-now
petition of recognition
instead of my normal
that usable past
as even bruised fruit preserves
and shriveling grapes store sweet wine;
out of the past, O God,
let the useless become usable,
the broken repaired,
the lost found
as when the prodigal's nowhere
with a change of compass
becomes now here
Warren L. Molton