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Maureen Menosky

Second Prize: 2011 Novice Christian Poetry Contest $300

About this Poet:
I finished a 30 year career in public schools as a special education teacher. Poetry has been a hobby off and on since childhood. I am recently retired and beginning to spend more time in writing. I have found the mixing of New Testament scriptures into poetry to be a wonderful form of devotion. "Blessed and Broken" came about after listening to a sermon about the feeding of five thousand. The speaker talked about the life of Mother Olga as a parallel story. I took the two ideas, added some active imagination this was the result.

Blessed and Broken

I.
“Set sail for the desert’s solitude, brothers,
to seek respite on barren shores.
Let the ocean’s spray sooth our salty pools,
and swill out the residue of sadism.
Our beloved John was beheaded today.” Jesus
teeters with the disciples on the edge of despair.

              Sadness settles low in the gut where suffering skulks.

From afar, the land stirs with a milling brood.
Jesus is moved by these sheep without a shepherd.
His compassion cohabits with despair;
in the entrails, the two wrestle for ascendancy.
He feels the shift of weighty emotions that alter his bearing,

              taking the very nature of a servant,
              being made in human likeness, he is
              weak with the weak; lost with the lost.
              A man emptied. In a dry sea of wanting
              his love is the coolness of morning air,

healing until the day is far spent. Compassion,
indifferent to the hour of a day, tends instead
to its fullness. For anxious disciples, hunger
is just another disruption of plans.

II.
Five loaves materialize out of scarcity.
Jesus takes the bread, dense and full,
warmed by the sun’s relentlessness.
He holds it like certainty . . . like a bird in the hand.
With thankfulness he blesses it, then
              releases it . . . like a promise,

first to doubting disciples, who fret inadequacy,
until the fullness of warm bread in their hands
gives rise to possibility. Against their grain,
they break the bread. Startled hands
fumble with the profusion, as they give it away.
The most ravaged swallow their portion with trembling.
Sparrows and children chirping, catch crumbs by the mouthful.
The frail chew slowly, with purpose and gratitude.
The shrewd over-think the possibilities, and bury bread
in large pockets—with little satisfaction.

III.

An old woman sits resting in the shade of an ancient
shittah tree; the matriarchs silently ruminate.
Her life spirit tends the suffering—a multitude,
one might say. Indelible compassion is often retold,
by the heirs to her grace, as miracles.
Intuitive hands cradle a hunk of bread.
She pulls at the fiber, breaking it
over and over, into an apron brimming
with abundance . . . then she gives it away.

She hands me a piece, pausing to constrain me in her gaze.
I struggle with my sensibilities, embarrassed by my hunger.
Could there really be five thousand here?
Looking down, I cannot see past my own piece of bread.
Looking out to the edge of daunting humanity,
I taste despair. I am no miracle worker.

Out of a quarrelling stomach, compassion ascends.
I embrace the downward pull—the incubating aching joints.
Purposeful movement is the only relief; I break my bread
to hunger with the hungry. All around, bread is breaking;
those becoming more than they are, as they give it away.

Twelve baskets are proof of one kind of miracle.
From under the shittah tree, I am another heir to her grace.

Copyright ©2011 Maureen Menosky