(January 1998)

Copyright (c) 1998 First Things 79 (January 1998):.

Who Else?
(Psalm 147)

But the Lord rebuilds Jerusalem,
Collects the scattered, castoff, brokenhearted
Seed of Israel and knows how many
Stars there are, and calls them all
By name, and hears the answer.
We can’t describe how music works
Or know the time of clouds, rain, mountain grass.
Cattle graze there, crows pick
Through what horses leave behind.
A rider, strong enough to pass through air
Needs more than skill to master fear.
When earth becomes Jerusalem, praise
Doors that keep the north wind out,
Your children warm inside, with bread, fruit
Of the plain unrolling thunder, tables
Where wool snow blankets ashes’ frost
Nip hail sown buds of cold. A glance.
They melt, soft breezes streaming water.
Only we have heard it, and retell it.

Laurance Wieder

Latent Image

Chosen, all prepared
the vista no one else perceives
in a shuttersbreath of light
is born.

In the dark room, well timed
the image no one else has seen
in a burning bath of light
is born again.

Anne McKinley


red light: stop and wait
huddled at the intersection
the engine struggles and gasps
too cold for the heater
head-bowed pedestrians pass
hunched into hoods faceless
iced breath fogs the windshield
faces form in the mind

where did they come from
these faces of summer
on the rime-bleached streets
the traffic lanes invisible
pale, pale, my girl:
who would have thought
the old memories to have had
so little blood in them

shiver and gun the motor
soon we will leave it all behind us
the light turns green
pedestrians freeze at the curb
exit the ghosts

Phoebe S. Spinrad

Self-Portrait, 1998

He is actually very happy, which goes to explain
why unexpected tears fill his eyes.
His job is good, he’s a teacher. Humanities.
The terms stretch out, but pass swiftly by.
He is not good-looking—his face is quite bland—
but he is very funny, and kind.
He falls in love two or three times a day;
it goes away in an hour.
The poems he used to write aren’t readable anymore;
the ones he writes now are no better.
Thinking about politics, about his President, makes him angry.
So he thinks about politics all the time.
He loves his home town, where he grew up and lives;
he loves his wife, his child, his job:
This reads like a midlife crisis in verse,
he thinks. But I’m too young.
And besides, mortality doesn’t bother him,
any more than anyone else.
The Incarnation of Christ is real to him,
explaining all else, itself unexplained.
"Love Me above all others," Christ said. "If not,
you are not worthy of Me."
I am not worthy, O Lord.
He reads a Protestant Bible every single day,
and Catholic thinkers by night:
Gilson, Maritain, Thomas, Thomas, Thomas—
his child is named Nathan Thomas.
His wife—she loves him, exasperatedly—
barely kept it from being Nathan Aquinas.
The money he makes she handles. He knows
if it were left to him they’d be poor.
To be poor—what about it? To live without
the house, two cars, the insurance and books—
to live like Jesus, Who had none of these things.
He doesn’t think about it, at least not often.
He is actually very happy, which goes to explain
why unexpected tears fill his eyes.

Craig Payne