Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Three poems by John F. Deane

Words of the Unknown Soldier

He stumped us, this Jesus of yours, with his
walking on water, fandango, entrechat, glissade;
birthing, imagine! in a dark cave, out of all knowing; then
he walked the hard-baked earth of Palestine, but not
as you walk, or as I, for behind him the healing flowers grew,
the rosebay willowherb, chamomile, the John's Wort;
we noted, too, that he could walk through walls,
appearing suddenly in the midst of folk as if
he were always there, waiting that they might notice him;
oh yes, this too, he walked on air
leaving them gawping upwards as he rose
higher and higher, like a skylark, walking
into the invisible. That was later. But humankind
will not be cheated of its prey for we claimed him,
hailing him fast to a tree, that he could not move
on water, earth or air, and we buried him in the underearth.
Where, it is said, he took to walking once again,
singing his larksong to the startled, to the stumped, dead.

As Yet

I have found no language
I am confronted always
with the weight of body
and the spirit’s blank
half-willed ascendancy;

in the dark night I wake,
uncertain if the sounds I’ve heard
are insinuations from the dead
or smallest creatures scurrying
somewhere between slates and ceiling.
I suffer

an irremediable
muscular decline and dry-joint
restiveness; sleep
is not won easily; the night
is long and treacherous
while I hear the stars

go whistling on their way; vision
blurs, perhaps
from too much seeing
and it comes easier to settle
the body’s heaviness
in a fireside chair. My living

has been words
and love, I will leave
islands of love, and archipelagos
of words; will it have been
sufficient? will it have been

Slievemore : Big Mountain

Before the tender God came, quizzical,
back out of the tomb, human still though resurrected,
before our fingers found a way to probe
the ghastly wounds for our forgiveness, giants
strode and fought across the slopes of the island's
big mountain; we have found their graves still kempt
under giant stones, the kestrel's piercing scream
sounding above, the bumble bee gladdened
among the heather bells; beasts, we suppose,
ranged against them, and the battles that they fought -
blood-inundated - were crushing to the flesh
as are ours; they went down, too, as we do, knowing life
a puzzlement, the only miracles they shared
were the colour-patterns shifting on the slopes, the sea's
berceuse-music from beyond the head, the graced
inebriation of their love-making when a goddess-moon
lay low and languid on the shoulder. We have a language
to sunder the apathy of boulders, and we have word
of a victory achieved, to still the blood, to move the mountain.


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