A Catholic Woman Speaks

Paraphrase of Ez 12:1-12

The word of God came to me:
Daughter of woman, you worship and labor in the midst of a rebellious church;
they have eyes to see but do not see,
and ears to hear but do not hear,
for they are a rebellious church.
Now, daughter of woman, in the harsh glare of revelations, while they are looking on,
prepare your spirit as though you were one of the abused,
and again while they are looking on,
migrate from where you worship and labor under them to another place;
perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house.
You shall bring out your spirit like one of the abused, in the harsh glare of revelations
while they are looking on;
in the quiet sanctuary, again while they are looking on,
you shall go out like one of those abused and driven into exile;
while they look on, dig a hole through their walled indifference and pass beyond it;
while they look on, shoulder the burden of the abused and set out in the darkness;
cover your face and weep, refuse their boundaries on your soul,
for I have made you a sign for the Catholic Church.

I did as I was told.
In the harsh glare of revelations I brought out my spirit
as though it were that of an abused one,
and in the quiet sanctuary I dug a hole through their walled indifference with my prayers and actions
and, while they looked on, I set out in the darkness as one abused,
shouldering their burden.

Then, in the morning, the word of the God came to me:
Daughter of woman, did not the Catholic Church, that rebellious house,
ask you what you were doing?
Tell them: Thus says God
This oracle concerns Rome
and the whole hierarchy within it.
I am a sign for you:
as I have done, so shall it be done to them;
as captives they shall go into exile.
The prince who is among them shall shoulder this burden
and set out in darkness,
going through a hole he has dug out in their walled indifference,
and covering his face in shame for all to see.



An Alzheimer’s Sonnet

For her, darkling demons, dementia’s brood
Blacken her mind, smother memory’s flare
Fearful paranoia her only mood
Terrible conjuring her steady fare

Each day her mind flees down steep sickness stairs
Each night’s delusions twist without relief
She wakes to troubled attempted prayers
Jumbles once familiar words of belief

All meaning lost to Alzheimer’s sly thief
Robbed of life, mem’ries comfort no more
When she dies, deep relief buries our grief
We pack her room quickly, one last chore

Why write, griefless, since death has set her free?
Just this, please God, send swifter death to me.

An Appreciation of His Hands

His hands, tree roughened,
Move up and down my barked skin.

I recoil slightly when my own keyboard hands
Encounter a patch of my washboard skin,
Stuttering over ridges,
Withdrawing into planed places

But his hands,
His gentle tree trained hands,
Glide over my body without pause
Accepting the damaged and the pristine
As if there is no sin,
No fall from health,
As if there is only beauty
Created under his hands.

The Woman Caught

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8:2-11

Sometimes I wish he had let them stone me.
Sometimes I wish I could go again to my lover.
Sometimes I pray for death.

Once I was beautiful.
Once I was young.
Once I was wealthy.

I had a husband.
I had children.
I had a lover.

My husband divorced me.
My children won’t speak to me.
My lover, ah my young lover…

Who is he with?
Has he married?
Does he love her, as once he…

No, those memories are forbidden.
That life is dead.
That person, the woman I was then…

I need to remember my terror.
I need to remember my shame.
It is easy to remember their cruelty.

I remember their plot.
How they tried to use me.
How they hated and feared him.

They talked but not to me.
They dragged me.
They despised me.

They shouted but he spoke softly.
They stood proud and straight.
He stooped and fingered the ground.

They argued but he kept writing.
He spoke and they went away.
One by one they went away.

I was so scared.
I groveled, waiting for the first stone.
I don’t remember what he said.

Until he asked me who condemned me.
I looked up and they were all gone.
Even my husband had slunk away.

I said no one who condemned me is here.
He said then he did not condemn me.
He said go and sin no more.

But then they killed him.
He died on a Roman cross.
And his mercy died with him.

Now I do not sin.
Now I beg for crumbs.
Now I wait for death.

Sometimes I think stoning would have been better.
Sometimes I wish for a faster death.
Sometimes I hate him for saving me.

He saved me but could not save himself.
Though Mary says he lives still.
Mary says she talked to him.

Mary reminds me of him.
She has the same gentle strength.
Maybe I will go with her, as she asks.

Go to the people who believe he still lives.
My savior still lives.
Can it be true?

Do Not Judge

Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… Luke 6:37
Contemplating this verse this morning, I wondered if I could remember to apply this to myself…”Do not judge [yourself] and you will not be judged. Do not condemn [yourself], and you will not be condemned. Forgive [yourself], and you will be forgiven…”
That is what I often have the hardest time with.

I Went

[Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:21-28]

My husband said, “Do not go.”
My mother said, “Do not go.”
My friends said, “Do not go.”
Still I went.

“The Jews will spit on you.”
“They will not let you near him.”
“He will not even look at you.”
Still I went.

“Do not humble yourself
Before the accursed Jews.
Do not waste your time.”
Still I went.

I went without hope
But with my great need
Because my daughter suffered.
So I went.

She writhed and twisted
She raved and cursed
She grew thin and dirty.
So I went.

A mother does not need hope.
A mother does not need faith.
A mother only needs love.
So I went.

And they did curse me
They pushed me aside
They called me a dog.
When I went.

I begged for crumbs
I groveled without hope
With only love.
When I went.

He met my love with hope
He named my love faith
And he did as I asked.
When I went.

Now I watch her play
I hear her laugh
I sing songs with her.
Because I went.

Driving from Richmond to Bremo

We drive home through tree tunnels
Gray skyroof barely visible
Through green and brown ceiling struts
Green fingered walls, now close, now further,
Yield downward to brown columns
Gray floor with yellow and white accent lines,
Sided with green grasstiles.
We drive home through tree tunnels
Now bright, now shade, now straight, now curved
The tunnels appear and disappear with no warning signs
Yielding to wide pastures, usually
Occasionally a house, rarely a small town
Just once or twice a bridge over a river.
We drive home through tree tunnels
Quietly enclosing us with the news
That she is, or soon will be, dying.