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Nola Perez

Third Prize 2009 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $350

About this Christian Poet:
Nola Perez grew up on Amelia Island, Florida. She lived away for 40 years, seven of them abroad in France and Belgium, returning home in 1999. Her poetry is widely published. She was awarded grants from The Georgia Council for the Arts and City of Atlanta, Bureau of Cultural Affairs. Honors include 1998 runner up in The Anhinga Press Florida Poetry Series and 1995 finalist in The National Poetry Series. She won the 1997 Robert Penn Warren First Poetry Prize (Vermont).

About this Poem:
I was an Episcopalian since being confirmed at age 15, but I had a love affair with the Roman Catholic church from my childhood on. I think I always wanted to be a Catholic, beginning with kindergarten under the Sisters of St. Joseph, Fernandina, and the close association of my best friend's Catholic family who lived across the street from my maternal grandmother. I was often at their supper table in their big kitchen, and/or spending the night. As a child of divorce, their family unity and religious devotion made a huge impression on me which I carried for the rest of my life. After living abroad for a number of years, returning to my hometown in the States in 1999, I made the decision to enter RCIA and I was received into St. Michael's Catholic Church, Fernandina, on Holy Saturday 2000—one of the happiest days of my life.

The Drowning Moment

is when he of the Mount of Olives
whom you believe keeps the night watch
catches you by surprise with a wash over your spirit
like Baptism, when he suddenly exists de facto
as you are walking, just as you always do, on blood-
red carpet toward a priest who will place in the palm
of your hand bread for which you are the supplicant,
when words you recited by rote only moments

ago become alive in bas-relief as solid as
sentences carved in stone, and the song you were
humming softly to yourself because you have
always loved the melody resurrects the white-
robed schoolgirl you once were in a long ago choir
stall. Those words, the familiar music,
forever tugging at your heart, "O saving Victim,
opening wide the gates of heav'n to man below,"
amaze you with such a sense of otherness
that you are like the angelic child in front

of you who has fallen fast asleep, certain
of the safety of his mother's arms: Body to body,
warmth to warmth—trustful of the lanyard.
Then, at home in Sunday calm, the chameleon sky
is an uncomplicated azure, no cloud in sight
(though marshsmallow cumulus delivers
its own delight). Beyond a lakeside screened-in
porch, three ducklings navigate their outpost,
becoming more and more adventurous,

their every paddle sending a V for Victory,
trailing in their wake toward the Watcher in the Rye,
while a platoon of turtles periscope the surface
with an inquisitive why? And, nothing, but
nothing, interrupts the anhinga, drying his wings,
outspread to the sky like Jesus on anguish
on the cross in these moments so
sublime, you gladly, but gladly would
go under for the third time.

Copyright ©2009 by Nola Perez