THE CHILD IS MUTE

Autistic Girl
Courtesy Cultura/Emma Kim Collection/Riser/Getty Images; Very Well Health   

A five-year-old autistic child
She only says one word: “good-bye”—
In one sense she is not defiled
Because she will not ever lie

Bear the stain of those who speak,
Who bully, slander, mock and curse,
Oppress with words the small and weak,
Change with age to even worse

A blessing and a curse received
This abstract gift of human speech—
A good and evil many-leaved
Tree whose fruit was out of reach

Until a serpent plucked and gave
The fruit whose taste unlocked our tongue,
The muteness of the girl may save
Her from despair—but she is young


 

WILL IT BE A CRIME?

First Communion
Courtesy St. Agnes Parish

So fresh and happy at their First Communion
Their photos printed on a banner
That hangs beside the sanctuary

Old this spring enough to eat
The Precious Body. drink His gift of Blood
Not food for infants

Foresee their features sixty years from now
After war perhaps and desolation
Have contended with temptation

What banner then will show their faces?
Who will they be and in what places?
How many altars will remain?

Will there be faith beyond themselves
And will their children have been taught
To give—or to be bought?

Will people then be fully human?
Will they pray themselves to sleep
And will it be a crime to weep?


 

WHICH IS YOURS?

Andres Ramos (contemporary), “Crucifixion”
Courtesy Fine Art America  

As with the raising of the dead
The demon-driving and reviving
Multiplying of the bread

The Crucifixion is a sign
That we must follow, one and all,
Our lives are forfeit, yours and mine

As we have lived and died before
But in a while not one by one
But in a universal war

Unless we learn to live in peace
The tension between life and death
Inside the soul will be released

On this high hill, the planet Earth,
The human race will mount a cross
That from the clay has given birth

To crucify itself unless
It kneels to touch the Father’s feet
To beg He will forgive and bless

Forgive and bless and give to us
A sign of new absolving love
Or else return us to the dust

Which is yours? the Lord will say,
Thy will be done, now speak and choose—
Life for life you must repay


 

LITTLE BLUE HERON

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
Photo by Virginia State Parks
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Taken by a freak spring storm
It landed in a vernal pond
Where nothing it could eat would swim

A little heron blown off course
By weather of colossal power—
How could the creature know the source?

Just so Rabbi Nicodemus
Taught by Jesus secretly
As he listened fathomed less

Listen, look and learn from all
You see around you in the world
It is a lesson to the small

The world’s creation is His temple
Where He dwells to manifest
Boundless secrets to the simple


 

BUT ANGELS FED

Moretto da Brescia (c. 1498–1554), “Christ in the Wilderness”
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1911
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Time the desert black and bleak
The demon’s track, the vulture’s beak—
But sometimes blooming toughened vines
Of underwater springs the signs

This is where the Christ began
To live in full the fate of man,
The endless trekking of the dead
Who live on stone but have no bread

But when He had been tempted well
By power, wealth, the bribes of Hell
And when He had rejected them
As wraiths of wrath and phantasms

The Devil left Him to return
To where tormented spirits burn
In wilderness that never ends
Where grief and anger never mend

But angels fed the Christ our Lord
Who conquered death without a sword


 

ALL THE WIZARDS

“What Happened to the Birdbath?”
Courtesy Little Backyard World

The birdbath has iced on the twentieth, April,
A smooth sullen dove has perched on the rim,
What news can the spirit of prophecy tell?
The songbirds of April are silent and numb

Earth will be frozen in June and July
In August a blizzard of smothering snow,
Although all the wizards of science may lie
The beasts who don’t understand them will know

Harvests will fail and the sun will withdraw
To a distance behind a great overhead veil,
That which has never grown well will be straw,
The gardens of fertilized Edens will fail

The sword of expulsion will turn into ice
The exile of Eden will come to us twice


 

HOW STRANGE

How strange that on the moving train
The conductor and the engineer
Haul the crippled man between them
Heave and throw him from a window

While we the passengers unmoving
Make our conversation, jaw
Though the engineer defies us
Dares us to object

Who are we? Where are we going?
Toward the outskirts, toward the center?
No one seems to care or leave
The train at any stop or station

Are we safe—dare we speak?
Are we the peaceful and the meek?


 

I WAS SO PLEASED

Duccio di Buoninsegna (1260–1318), “Appearance of Jesus While the Apostles Were at Table”
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo di Siena
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

I was so pleased when she prepared baked fish
We had on Sunday heard that Christ requested
Fish to eat to show He was true flesh

Had she remembered then that morning’s text
Or is it true that life is not a randomness
But that two universes intersect?

Intersect and interlock
That in some worlds there are true wildernesses
Where if He wished God might make bread from rocks?

Alongside ours is there another place
With echoes of our voices and our shapes
That move beside our own, that interlace?

So that for supper she prepared our meal
Baked fish the main course and the solid sign
That showed the Christ was not a ghost but real?

Christ who leaves real footsteps in the dew
That falls upon Gethsemane at dawn
When Christ has risen and the worlds are two

(Inspired in part by a concept in N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God)