Honorable Mention 2009 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $100
About this Christian Poet:
After many years in both trade and textbook publishing, I have finally begun to review some of the things I've written. I've been writing both prose and poetry as long as I can remember but until recently have made little effort to get anything published—perhaps, ironically enough, because I was too close to books. Born and raised in Massachusetts, I have no doubt the poetic and religious vapors of this region have thoroughly—thankfully—infiltrated the strands of my DNA.
About this Poem:
I wrote this poem years ago, when I was a scholastic studying for the priesthood in Washington, DC. I had been raised a Catholic and had been in a seminary from the age of 13, and at the time of the poem I was 23 or 24 years old and was going through a crisis of faith that would shortly cause me to leave the seminary and, eventually, the Catholic Church. Vagrants used a wooded area next to the scholasticate off and on during the year, and their presence made me wonder about my own ability to treat them like Christ.
The Sorry Christs
Where do the old men sleep in the dead winter
When snow hushes the sound of the buried ground?
I miss their stay in our backyard kiosk,
Where they would burn a faggot fire for warmth
After hunching up the path from the road at dusk.
I used to watch them light a smoke
And talk a maybe word or two, or arm to arm
Gulp down their life in two-buck booze
And rest and wait before again they spoke.
Once one was sick upon the ground. He retched
The drink in him as though his life would ooze
Out of his sick face. His buddy kept munching
On a piece of cheese and watched, like me.
Sometimes they sat in silent council judging
In their monstrous faces those who value
Virtue as a public show of worth. They slept
Upon the wooden benches for the dew
And woke with sullen, stormed, and blistered faces
To smoke. And once I was afraid and wept
A bit to see one lying like a dog among the leaves,
He was so less a man. When I would sometimes pass
They bowed their morning heads and trees bowed too
To listen, but being shy I only smiled
And bowed my head lest they should ask
Me learn a stay of them. I am only
Half a Christ and should they query why
I do not stand upon my rooted love and listen
To their outcast tongues and weep their pity into frozen eyes
My lips would swallow my reply because
I could not lie, nor tell them I was wishing
There were not born such sorry Christs
To bleed a sorry price, that law forbade
The worship of the walking dead and wise who reckon
Purpose but a sound, and life no more than bottle breath,
Rootless as a dandle of sirens in the city night
And loveless as the tired rain that falls,
Drop by solitary drop and wastes itself into a city sewer,
These are such sorry Christs!
Where do the old men go to sleep
When snow hushes the sound of the burial wish
And trees rattle sapless shanks of vacant fright
At the dead winter? Where do the old men go?
Spring now is shouting green for their return one dusk
Where I wait for them near the backyard kiosk.
Perhaps they'll speak to me again.
Perhaps I'll listen . . . .
Copyright ©2009 by Fernand Michaud