Poetry - April, 2012


Patrick born too early

In my first family, the children were referred to not only
By their given names and often their religious names also,
But often by an identifying characterization as well: John
Kevin the Math Genius, for example. Our sister, a nun, is
Betsy God Bless Her, and our youngest brother is Thomas
More Patrick the School Principal; Peter Joseph in Denver
Is in the middle with your humble scribe Brian the Writer.
It doesn’t matter if the child is current or past tense, either;
Our oldest brother is Seamus Who Went On Ahead, whom
None of his brothers or sister has yet met, and there is tiny
Christopher Who Died in His First Hour, whom we expect
To meet also at some undetermined hour. And there is our
Brother Patrick Born Too Early, born just halfway through
His wet voyage, and so he could not breathe, but that child
Would have been a giant, says our mother quietly—he was
Tremendous in size even half born, my blessed boy Patrick.
So it is that sometimes there are five children at dinner and
Sometimes more. I suppose this happens to lots of families.
We don’t talk about it. Time seethes like the sea. But there,
This morning, at the end of the table, is my brother Seamus,
His mouth filled with stars. If I close my eyes I can see him


Man is without excuse

   —Romans 1:20

Perhaps you could say that in Rome, Paul,
where the olive trees of the Seven Hills

strung their pearls of rain against the sky.
And yes, as I hike Glacier Park

with a well-stocked pack, I can welcome
God's ambassadors of fireweed and paintbrush,

the psalmic rhythm of lake hitting shore.
But as the refugee trudges

from Mogadishu to Dabaab, is she to catch
a glimpse of antelope bone in the thicket

and intuit the sufferings of the Son of Man?
She wears her own nails and crown.

An Eden of lizards surges at her heels,
but she wonders at nothing

but the sore-studded daughter she left to die
on the road, and now, the baby

strapped to her back: six pounds
at one year old. He no longer cries

but flutters small breaths on her neck
like the golden wings of moths

she counts with worshipful attention.