Station Yourself on the Rock

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 Bookbinder’s Wife

North Country Press in Unity, Maine, will publish my second collection of poems entitled The Bookbinder’s Wife in late fall 2017.

My first collection, The North End, is still available from the publisher, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered from any bookstore. Included in the new collection will be new poems from the North End, the neighborhood in Worcester, Mass., where I grew up. Below is one of those poems …

Prescott Street

A post card came today––
a black horse with snow on its muzzle.
In the bottom left corner

Black Ice, Publishers
One Hundred Prescott Street
Worcester, Mass.

I am carried back by the black horse
to a canyon of brick echoing the click
of my child shoes as I walked home

alone from Saturday Mass, when
dread hung from factory windows,
where nobody worked on weekends.

It was a tomb, a gauntlet from Grove
to North. I walked with my heart
in my throat and tried to whistle.

The envelope company’s tractorless
trailers hunched against the brick
buildings, watching me as I walked past

over the tracks where sometimes a train
car stood solemnly waiting for Monday
to couple with one of its kind.

Faster past the electric transformer
fenced in by Danger. High Voltage.
Keep Out. Johnny Tripoldi didn’t

and he was killed. His house was across
from the cemetery with its order and
beauty of grass and stone and avenues

named for trees: elm, spruce maple.
I turned left onto North Street:
Noise, dogs, dirt, kids––home.

A Veteran Comes to Mass: 1953

I hear him before I see him moving
from vestibule to sanctuary railing
at God knows what he shakes his finger.

The priest pauses with his back to us.
Arms uplifted like patient wings, he waits
for this railer

bald like Elisha who called the bears
out of woods to tear the teasing boys

to leave. Might this one too call animal powers
from beyond the doors of the sanctuary to rend
the altar boys and children who stare?

Choir quiet, congregation shifting, the railer
turns his burn-scarred face to us.
Does he wonder where he is? What army

this is that faces him down? As he stumbles
down the middle aisle, still shaking
his finger in admonition

the ushers look at the floor as he walks by.
The priest resumes the Kyrie, and the closing
door clamps off a shaft of light.