An oversized pin cushion riddled with needles
he appears in the field on the ninth of March.
Looking no worse for the wear of winter
he inches along, waddling, stopping
sniffing the first green shoots of clover
pushing up. A spiny miracle raised up
himself, he points his snout
through Lent to Easter and eats.
Before beginning the day’s classes
we knelt on our chairs facing backwards
and recited a litany of prayer to the saint of the day.
Then Sister read from Butler’s Lives
the life and death of that day’s saint––
burned at the stake: Joan of Arc;
drawn and quartered: Edmund Campion;
overcome by arrows: Saint Sebastian,
swooning and slumped on a pole.
Captivated by methods of deaths dealt
we recoiled and marveled, recalibrating
the value of being a martyr, of being a saint.
Judith Robbins’ latest collection of poems, To Bury or Burn, sweeps
across the spectrum of life, leaving in its wake moments of joy and
grief, childhood and motherhood, poets and their poems, and the
company and loss of cats, all of it against the backdrop of the
The book is available from Amazon
from the publisher, North Country Press
from Barnes & Noble
and from most bookstores.
Drawing near on the horizon, a host
of those who have gone before. I see
them walking atop the waves as if
on a country road on a fall day.
In a murmur of voices I hear my name
spoken by them who have been
my mother, father, sister, my brother
and friend after friend who hold out
their hands in greeting. As Jesus
did, so now do I walk on the water
to meet them.
Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, Mass.—
a geological anomaly—meant
more than that to you and me
(no scientists we at five and seven)
who had come with parents
to picnic a lifetime ago.
Pictures emerge in my mind
of sharp outcroppings of towering rock
intimidating in their seeming leaning
at a cautionary angle that said, Take care,
and we did, climbing that rocky place
named by Puritans as Purgatory
where the soul is cleansed by fire
before coming into the presence of God
enabled to bear the beatific vision
which otherwise it could not, recalling
Moses, hidden in rock and waiting to see
the glory of God pass by, but only
allowed the hindmost parts, as no one
could look on the face of God and live.
As smoke rose up from our charcoal grill—
hot dogs, chips and tonic ready—
we sat at a picnic table and shared
the family meal before God.
The warmth of sun straightened my back
from the question mark of older age.
In my seventh decade, I found the sun
worshiped in all places and times
of the living earth and understand
why as statement rather than question,
my straightened back all the answer I need.
I interrupted an insect feeding
on the leaves of a young apple tree
new growth evident in spite
of damage, a sign of hope and per-
severance. We have need of such signs
under the crush of events that happen
in every life. No one is spared
difficulties, or blessed depending
if life is viewed as a training ground
or a flash of cruelty some might call their god.