I learned that this collection of poems continues to make the rounds and has been selected by at least one college professor as an introduction to poetry. It’s a great collection, including poems by Pattiann Rogers, Jane Hirshfield, Peter Cooley, Denise Duhamel, Lyn Lifshin and me! Page 111. I’ve had many poems published, but this is a bit different. It is available on Amazon.com.
My thanks to Madelyn Garner and Andrea L. Watson for working so hard to get this published! I think I sent the poem to them at least two years before the book found a publisher.
This is the poem that was selected. It’s loosely based on Father O’Reilly, for those who remember him.
Offering Up the Collection
The Irish priest had pure white hair,
a black cocker spaniel named Rasputin
and a glass jar of children’s teeth.
An odd collection amassed from years
of tiny gap-smiled visitors bold enough
to cross the street to his brick-faced rectory.
They offered up wadded handkerchiefs,
cradles for bloodied milk-white kernels
that Father praised and plinked into the maw.
In return, he doled out holy trinkets:
small plastic statues of empty-handed Mary
or Jesus pointing to a painted ruby heart.
A cursory sign of the cross over an open mouth,
and the child raced back to the playground
to prove how brave she’d been to go alone.
When confessional boxes murmured dark secrets
and tongues burned down the priest’s creed,
his collection hummed like a choir of cherubim.
Rasputin died first, then the priest, far away.
His jar was flung into the alley, its bits scattered.
All night the wind sang across drifting snow.