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Copyright (c) 1999 First Things 92 (April 1999): 9, 11, 29, 35, 41, .

The Sacrament of Penance

I. Absolution

a second plank given to us by the mercy of God after shipwreck

Edward Pusey

Forgiven once“

and“for“all at our birthing baptism we still

circle high seas, forget to breathe

the airy Spirit, go under

and under.

Our collared step“father

sights us as stranded, locates sorrow

in those lost cells circling

each drowning mouth. He too

is wet from shipwreck,

a servant“sailor soaked to his mortal skin,

but sanctified.

It is the Other who holds us,

first holding out

the long plank of his cross

to pull us in, let us drink again

his unsalty, preserving self.

II. Repentance

the necessary preparation


in the dark night of the soul,

no soul left. the blackness of barren bellies,

all that is shriveled, starved. in the dark night

of our sin, hell hovering, heaven’s distance tipping into

east from west widening. in the dark

sight of our infested selves,

our soot“filled souls. in



A lazarus, dead and still dying,

I stink with the rotting

of sin wrapped tight about limbs

limp with what man is and isn’t.

by my fault,

my own fault,

my own most grievous fault,

I confess that I have committed . . . .

A jonah, slipping in the vomit

of what ingests us when we swallow

the direction away from God

For these and all my other sins

which I cannot now remember,

I am heartily sorry . . . .

A caesar’s wife haunted by the hell

of what we are: gardens exiled, heels crushed,

crucifixions tattooed across our supplications.

Wherefore, I pray God to have mercy upon me,

and you, my father, to pray for me

to the Lord our God. Amen.


Not the pillar“of“salt“looking“back“at“the“lack“of“limits scenario;

not the saccharine“soft“shoe“song“and“dance list of yes

and yes and maybe, possibly yes, I’ll try, perhaps;

not even the pound of flesh sautéed on the scale with Hail Mary’s.

Instead, geometry’s half“halo of inscription:

prick of the compass steel, the line from then to now

steady and bright and eerily even for one“hundred“eighty

contrite converted degrees.

”Marjorie Maddox

Hopper’s Vaudevillians

Hopper’s Vaudevillians

just two souls left on the stage

one took the other by the hand

and they lean forward to take one last embrace

of the audience’s air

in the bow, a red hat

on his head, her hair bowed

at the back, white limbs taut in the glare

of the cold spotlight

only laughter as their steps eke out

a pause, and they cling

at the edge of the stage

waiting for the light to come

and take them away.

”Atar Hadari

The Branch

(from the beginning Alpha

unto the all“consuming Omega)

shall be

beautiful and glorious,

the Branch

shall be

excellent and comely

from a rod out of the stem

of Jesse, and

righteousness grown up

unto David,

and Its leave“

ing the garden

of Gethsemane

wherefrom transplanted upon

the Golgotha Hill,

shall make

of Its and its limbs

a trancept

to silhouette the twilight Friday sky

for all the world to Know

thus saith the Lord

: “I am the Vine”

and I ponder, ever in my heart

why my Son must

still be so

tied to the Tree . . .

”Carl Winderl

If His Were the Only Tree

in the Garden

if they must forthwith still

taste of some tree

in search

of knowledge of


and evil, then let

them eat of my Son

the Fruit of the tree of Jesse

from whom He depends, ever

for their desire


He let Himself be hung there

as if out to dry

so that they

might later partake

of His dehydrated body


His unleavened blood

so as to have

the Knowledge

of Whom

it thenceforth hath been said

He is

the Apple of His Father’s eye

Carl Winderl

Arc of the Lily

The movements of the Madonna”

moment of maternity,

passion of the Pieta

are the same stance.

See first her skyward gaze

open“handed, empty, bloom to full arms.

Follow the arc of her head downward,

beholding the babe.

She wraps the cloth tighter

around hot baby flesh, gathering Him

to her face, her breast.

She wraps another cloth

around his still warm body

broken, gathering Him

to her face, her breast.

His head in her lap has the heft

of her newborn boy. Her hand drapes

over the man. Her white face turns upward,

a lily seeking rain.

Loretta Watts