Spirit and Flesh (a poem)

This gothic cathedral was once a spiritual home.

Priests dabbed foreheads with holy water and

incense wafted to high ceilings and

parishioners chewed on wafers and said:

“Peace be with you.”

That was before tent cities spread under the bridge

and people wandered the streets at night,

sleeping in dirty blankets: when you saw them

in daylight, you saw sores ooze on arms and legs,

vacant eyes, gaunt faces, looking sad, like they

were between this world and the next:

We found them frozen on winter mornings,

their lips a chalky blue and eyes wide with fright.

The cathedral crumbled and stained-glass shattered;

squatters moved in and lit fires in trash cans:

orange light glowed onto the dark street.

We knew they shot dope – we’d see them emerge

like skeletons on Hollow’s Eve with shirts dangling

over bony shoulders. They’d walk to the bodega

and buy cigarettes with dimes and nickels,

count them slowly as cashiers glared behind glass.

We remembered the cathedral from decades ago

and we thought of light and darkness, saints and sinners:

we thought of Jesus watching the weathered faces,

huddled in the cold and hastening their demise,

some dying in the pews, and we thought God surely

forgave them and, if Jesus walked, maybe they would’ve

become his apostles.

Cops came and cleared the cathedral and we saw

broken needles scattered on grimy floors.

We saw pictures of inside the church and we thought

about decades ago: how it was sacred space,

but was still sacred now, but instead of Spirit

conquering flesh, flesh conquered dying Spirit,

and we kept staring at the fading afternoon light

as the city spun so fast that it swallowed us whole.

(Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash)

5 thoughts on “Spirit and Flesh (a poem)

    • Nick Pipitone July 4, 2020 / 4:44 pm

      Thank you! It’s based on a place in Kensington in Philly. It was a big news story.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mother wintermoon July 4, 2020 / 4:55 pm

        I just read your About Us. I have c-ptsd and I’m Jewish from birth. My grandparents were Orthodox, but I followed my own (progressive) path. Pre-covid I was teaching adult Jewish learning and now have a blog where I post my shiurim (classes/drashot/divrei Torah). You two might dig it and find it interesting. https://thewildpomegranate.net/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nick Pipitone July 4, 2020 / 4:59 pm

        Awesome!! We’ll check it out. We are religious but progressive too. Rachel is jewish and more so follow the 12 step path. Thanks for reading my blog! I can identify with the poems on yours as well!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.