(April 1997)

Copyright (c) 1997 First Things 72 (April 1997):.


Honorarius handed his robe to the catechumen
And picked around the bones of the Creed.

These are rough times, bitter times,
Even the tent makers aren't working.
And Chrysalis, the weaver, and her daughter,
Plunged through the neck
After seven desperate hours on the grill.
Robes are scarce, and Christians share.

The word had come down from Phrygia
Through Rabelae, a good man, and steady.
"It is worse than the days of Decius."
And some say even Nero, but how could that be,
Garroted to young ash trees,
Lighting the way to the feasting halls?

It could be.
The soldier-emperor, son of a slave,
Sharer with his comrades-in-arms.
Now wearing a diadem of pearls.
It could be. Madness? Diocletian?
Or maybe the libellus again.

But now the vestibule was ready,
The candles lit, the necks craned
To watch the brilliant hosts go down in glory
And rise again to a new life of light.
"I will always be faithful . . ."
"I will always be faithful . . ."

The night through the open door
Seemed to Honorarius like a black cocoon.

Daniel Gallio

Matthew 3:7-12

This brood of vipers, fleeing from the coming fall,
are torn between the need they own, and the fee
they charge to get there. They wear their gifts for all
to see, these would-be limbs on Abraham's tree.
The ax still takes its toll, to any pardoner's roots.
The winnowing fork is working His hands, He clears
the threshing floor. No man of words, His shoots
produce or else they burn in the fires they hear.
But see! Their own feet betray them; their coming is praise
enough! Good Mercy who paints in such broad strokes,
whose music moves these icy spheres, these brazen
barristers, have on us, cover our sins with your cloak.
Though Mercy contains it, Justice can walk alone.
We go in twos and survive Him, stone on stone.

David Craig

The Incarnate Creator

Light falls on the door in an oblique plane of cream
like something in Vermeer, and comes into this room,
to be met by red and blue Fisher-Price disarray.
Out in the yard, bare oak branches sway
in the warm April breeze. A red jacket lies thrown
over a cream chair, where Dr. Seuss sits on loan
from the downtown library.
Here are all the books
he carefully thumbs; here is the bedroom mirror he looks
at in the morning; here are the blue stairs he loves to climb
with unsteady but careless steps. Life is here, and time
has little meaning in the abundance he provides.
This home's narrow rooms scarcely contain his wide-ranging strides,
as he considers the territory he finds day by day.
He waves his hand and epiphanies forth what he may.
Just over there, for instance, beyond the lighted door,
is the world he has created, creates, with every Word:
Door, Light, Sun, Tree, Upstairs and Down, the manifold
outsplashing of the thing-ness streaming forth from of old.
Angels shine in the oak, as for Blake, beyond the lighted door
and announce mortal hope, Life Incarnate, once more.
He creates. He proclaims. What he says is, is.
The paradox: Eternity within Time. Always, he lives.

Craig Payne