An Old Millenium

[Inspired by the second Advent prompt from the Two Sylvia’s Press]

Most of my time was a millennium ago

Starting school
Row upon row of old wooden desks
Dozens upon dozens of us
Unformed, uninformed, uniformed
Precisely perfectly seated
Soft unmarked hands folded
On hard scarred desktops

Sister Somebody fingers through the beads
Hung in the fifteen decade rope from her waist
Fifteen? Maybe more
Whatever the length, Sister Somebody’s rosary
Is longer, presumably holier, than ours

Our Father, who art so mysterious
Yet so very teachable, memorizable
In Baltimore’s catechismal certainties

We learn who made us, why we were made
The how of the making understood
Without teaching: The Who answers the how
But the how of the why: that is critical
Why were we made?
To know, to love, to serve
How do we know, love, serve

Still, in this new millennium, the old anger surges
The answer to God is…
All answers are…
The Church!
To say the Roman Catholic Church –
There is only
One true Church)

In our time, this is how we save our souls
With the Apostles’ Creed
And every other belief, rule, regulation
Of THE Church,
The one and only
True and holy
Catholic and apostolic

(Not for our time the later teaching
Of small c catholic universal
No, in our time it was always and only
Capital C Catholic)

The long decades slip
Through Sister Somebody’s fingers
Our Father, Glory be, Hail Mary
I believe in one and only one
God, Church, Pope, Virgin Mother
Way to save my soul

The long lines slip
Through Father Faithful’s confessional
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned
(Ah, the seemingly blessed naivety
Of believing Father and Sister sinless
We the only in need of forgiveness)
I confess my forbidden urges
Desires, imaginings
To hide the worst:
My questionings

The long dreams slip
Shod in soulful supplications
Robed in tattered efforts
Bare of unearned grace
Through my life
My faith, my prayers
My secret garden of questions

And then,
Into my time
Bursts puberty
One war
Three Johns
Four Beatles
And one colored preacher

Sister Somebody’s beaded rope ruptures
Father Faithful’s confessional closet collapses
Hell no, we won’t go
Church windows creak open to new breezes
A white American male scribes a circle above the earth and returns
A Catholic is President of Camelot
Lucy is in the sky with diamonds
And we imagine a world without religion too
As a black man proclaims his dream at Lincoln’s feet

Our time (though still a tired old millennium)
booms with new revelations
holy revolutions
unholy anarchy
no longer secret questions
and two new-old answers
two great commandments

Because all you need is love

Until the time of the new millennium

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