Spirit and Flesh (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 their eyes wide with fright.

The cathedral crumbled and stained-glass shattered;

squatters lived there and lit fires in trash cans:

orange light glowed onto the streets at night;

we knew they shot dope and we’d see them emerge

into the dark 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.

Police came and cleared the cathedral and we saw

broken needles scattered, and cameramen recorded the scene

and someone at the newspaper won an award;

we saw the pictures of inside the church

and we thought about decades ago:

how it was sacred space, but it was still sacred now,

but instead of Spirit conquering flesh,

flesh conquered dying Spirit, and we kept staring

at the fading light of the late afternoon as the city

spun so fast and swallowed us whole.

Where do We go from Here?

The unraveling starts slowly, but surely. From my earliest memories, I’ve been trying to find meaning amid the chaos. I still get the “pictures,” as a recovery friend likes to say. As I continue my research, I discover that psychologists today call those “intrusive memories.”

At times I wonder if the whole world is wrapped up in this web of dysfunction. If we’ve been marching toward this boiling point for some time now, and if we’re about to face a reckoning.

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Soul Snatcher

The soul-snatcher glared at me from the dusty street corner with fiery orange eyes, his hands cupped over his mouth because of the early morning cold.

I had been out late that night, and I was returning home a little tipsy.

“Hello there,” he said. “Looking for your fix?”

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Junky Priests (a poem)

We wallow in the cathedral, sell wisdom by the ounce.

Sleeping on a bed of soda cans and condoms,

next shot could be the last;

eyes closed, mouth foams, we melt into the hardwood floor.

Father, forgive me.

We came from the county;

grew up on farms, riding horses.

Sitting in the derelict pew; this used to be a spiritual haven.

Maybe it still is?

Father, forgive me.

We’re in the here and now, and now, we want a shot,

filling us like cheap unleaded,

let us lie here in our twisted peace.

Father, forgive us.