Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464), “Christ on the Cross with Mary and St. John”
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

For Fr. Alan

As she stood beside the Crucifix
She received a portion of His power
Her sorrow burning like the candle wick
On the altar of the sacred hour

When His resurrection is regained
By the consecration of His peace
All the wounds of murder are unstained
Even as the suffering has ceased

If she takes the Cross by standing there
We receive the profit of the pain
Which she carries with her everywhere
To all who stand beside her to their gain

For though they take the torment of the woe
It is her loving presence that they know



“Father, Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do”
Bernardo Cavallino (1616–56), “Martyrdom of St. Stephen”
Museo del Prado
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Bless those who curse you
Praise those who condemn?
Lord God Almighty
How can I bless them?

It isn’t accepted
From beasts such as we
They’ll say we’re demented
Perhaps cowardly

When first we emerged
From the hills and the caves
We always were urged
To curse—it was brave!

And now You expect us
To bless when we’re cursed?
A twisting tremendous
Of the best of our worst

And Jesus replied
I have unified
Spirit and soul
And now you are whole

A curse is a curse
That makes all of you worse
Rebounding on all
As My Heart you appall

Then love, I will too,
Create you anew
Creatures of light
Farewell to the night



Vasily Perov (1833–82), “Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane”
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Along with death He shared with us
Our ignorance of what comes after,
That nothingness so dangerous
To our identity’s self-center

Will I be I, the Crucified
With name and place and history
When I am He who has just died—
Will I be justified as Me?

The fear of such annihilation
Is part of our mortality—
He could indeed be called True Man
As part of His identity

And so the courage of the Christ
By which His sacrifice is priced
As we will find the One found out
What death is really all about



A Vigil
Photo by Pavel Chichikov

A whitetail deer that runs across a lawn
That once was full-grown overshading forest
While golden sunlight covers grass at dawn
Beside a cemetery’s frozen forest

Memory is truly buried here
Most others have gone elsewhere long ago
The only life that moves—the whitetail deer—
But this is forest that will never grow

Yet even memory has come to life
Patriotic flags and memories
Live above the husband and the wife
And families beloved where once were trees

Let them name us sentimentalists
As sunlight comes to life beneath the mists



The Cousins’ Parents, after Mass at St. Lawrence Church, c. 1947

She died at 91 and cousin Bud is philosophical
Perhaps because he’s ninety-five, although sounds well
For someone in that category when we hear him speak
By phone to us, not tremulous especially or weak

Given birth to in a country that was not the least
Like this one with its deadly drugs and broken homes—
Though life as then was certainly no constant feast—
They gathered honey from the hive inside its combs

Harvested their vegetables and used their grain
For chickens and their fertile dairy cows to feed,
Sold at roadside, beef and milk they would retain
To make the gravies for the restaurant in town they’d need

Now there is more poverty of different kinds
For then there still were families with children born—
People went to church and kept their better minds,
Were not so drug-besotted or perversion-torn

So many lose their faith in God, morality,
Traditions of the faith and of the family
And find instead another faith in power, money
Instead of bristles on the comb filled in with honey



Carding Machine
Courtesy Textile Learner

By Rich Tassinari

A hulky noisy green machine
With spinning spools and sharpened teeth
That comb and twist above beneath
The bones of bolts and nuts between.

Don’t put your fingers in its side
To fix a wayward broken thread,
You’ll likely find yourself soon dead,
It bites throughout and has no hide.

There is no mercy if you err,
Stay clear of curiosity,
The monster bites won’t let you flee,
Consumes all those who even dare.

But those who sit and watch and wait
For thread no matter how it works
Its temperament and fickle quirks,
Will not be what the monster ate.



Baba Yaga
Russian Lacquer Tray
Courtesy Good Reads

There is a little house
Located in the woods
That once contained a witch
Who cackled as she should

Stirred an iron cauldron
Steeped a leather wing
And hummed infernal canons
A sorceress should sing

But now she has been absent
For many years from here
The cottage is a remnant
And other brooms appear

Which sorcerers can ride
Not at all astride
But now they put inside
What witches never tried

A sort of magic spell—
The secret of its flame
These wizards never tell
And never take the blame

For what the spell will do
To sweep the Earth of you
And some say they prefer
Old witches as they were

Even though their cackles
Might elevate your hackles—
But if they’d had that fire
They’d just have ridden higher



Farm Dog
Courtesy American Kennel Club Pet Insurance

Fall rain in these foothills, fall rain now at last
Into the mists are the high ridges cast
Grateful the farmland that drinks of its fill
Each of the forests drinks rain on its hill

Coyotes and swine and black bear in the wood
Let them remain in the brush as they should
The farmer and hunter will shoot them as they
Trespass on the farmland to sniff at their prey

And also perhaps if some come from the city
Burning and looting or harassment petty
Shoplifting, larceny petty and grand
But out in the farmland for that they won’t stand

They’ll let loose the dogs so they’d better forget
The small country towns—though they haven’t come yet—
And if they attempt to attack the police
There’s more than the hunt hounds the folk will release



Monarch Butterfly
Photo by Pavel Chichikov

Now the third week in September
Cooling temperature, Fall weather
And a Monarch Butterfly
Flutters past from eye to eye

Fragile seeming yet it can
Fly from here to Yucatan
On migration to survive
Another winter, come back live?

But from here can we migrate
To a different human state
Not of land but of the soul
After death a distant pole?

Or is it closer than we know
Not migration but a flow
Like water flowing to a sea
To which we transfer easily?

“Look, a Monarch, and so small—
Will it come here if we call?”



St. Francis at San Damiano
“Francis, Rebuild My Church”
Courtesy Secular Franciscans USA

The house is built on faith, on love
Nothing else will stand for long
Nothing else sufficient, strong
Which holds the roof of God above

I saw it planned and built and raised
By architects who loved its stone
Nor did they speak and work alone
And when they finished it was praised

Now enter in and take your places
Sing the hymns that you have learned
Burn the fuel that must be burned
To show the fire of your faces

Let your faces shine as you
Sing those hymns that builders knew
And sang once more to praise the sky
Above this Temple, as shall I

The music rises from the wall
Much higher than the beams are tall