Above the furrowed brow of Birmingham
Somewhere south or north of Ardmore
And west, far west of Robin’s Nottingham
Beyond the wrought of Iron Sycamore.
A soft-crisp breeze hints at an Ascent.
A meadow’s spread of Easter ease
Abelia, Alabama’s fragrant scent
Easel springs and season’s tease.
A full year’s sacred vestments blend
In pleated ruffled fields the liturgy of Rome
Within the emerald hem to mend
This green, green grass of home.
In that Ordinary clover weave-verdant
A trillion Trilliums of blood-red bloom
Similar red the poppies of Verdun
A crimson tide flows by the martyrs’ anteroom.
Penitent thistle’s purple stole today;
Absolve in joy Camelia’s sunrise-rose
Vervain the blue of Mother Mary’s month of May
The chicory join periwinkle to pirouette on herbal toes
A patch of Whitsun white explodes the Resurrection
Lined with a hint of jasmine honey-gold
And lily pad by yonder pond seem lotus imitation
Alabama’s spring the breviary ribbons hold.
By the seven cities of Cibola!
This is the Chasuble of Cherokee.
Consider the fields and Gladiola
Solomon’s raiment weft with glory
And now the limping rhyme
Cloak the albs and hidden cinctures
The scapulars of
Discalced from origin to baptize moccasin
Religion rushes across the Appalachian
As the Liberty bell began to peal.
Flatboats floated down the Cumberland
Battered on whitewater juggernaut
Double cross the slate and limestone Gap
With blunderbuss and blunder bust
The Choctaw rend from land
And Chickasaw trick to trap
A veil of fears hides the trail of tears.
Old Hickory from his Hermitage
Flintlock cocked with draping powder flask
Frontier fray-fast fleeing Florida’s friars
And Flannagan and Indian.
Ulster locked Lockery in heritage
The flannel Presbyter loaded gin again
Not cotton’s Whiskey Whitney
From Bourbon brig and Bullitt battle cask.
Christ is turned to the pitch
Of bark-bark-barking dogs.
A constant cholera fever’s itch
Tenor faith and fire.
Speculators survey-venture with indulgence
The Siloam well of Uncle Remus
Without the loam of Romulus
And that made all the difference in the Methodist.
And the briar patch of Brer Rabbit
Cane Ridge indigents
Incident a theology of grace
Like ministers of midnight chased;
Heirs of fallen France knit a huge-knot
A purl of poor price.
Mud daubed robbers of St. Bart
Fracture and erase all sacred art.
Before you baptize clean, the truth to find
You must take native dirt.
And then with water-aspirate
And blend in hyssop drop
Like Chrism spittle balm that heals the blind
Like Christ to wash the sin with blood.
Putting down the pen and clavichord aside, reflect intend but
Not offend but rather offering:
Why is the hem of possibility
Always frayed between the truth and poverty of mind?
Is the buzzard-gizzard grinding of millennia
Like the tumbled stones of Judea and Samaria
Churning rubble of dispute with ill-repute
From Cousins Cain and Abel?
We ought not speak that dialect
That licks the chops like derelict
But speak a constant hidden language
The perennial absconditus…
That’s constant in a common consonant
That isn’t ever spoken but believed
In disbelief at the time of jingling bells,
Eve bears boys in pain and rupture
What gives such sanctity to scripture
Ask Athanasius whose feast today we celebrate
Isn’t that the common curse of Adam?
A curse to struggle and create?
Only after sacrifice and Te Deum
Like oil dripping on beard of
Appalachian Aaron, amend in an Amen
Stand off the pulpit
To understand that In principio erat verbum.
O lament, the arrogant, but not the bold;.
The arrogant lack patience with the pious,
For bold are prophets like Isaiaus
Who speak as they are told.
Taking up the clavichord and pen, project again…
Yes, the well-worn habits of the missionary
Threadbare like the patches of Assisi
America’s brave pre-priests
Preached in the Devil’s Diocese
Like John the Baptist calling sin to cease
Before the crozier came to Knoxville,
Before the humble acolyte of earth did till
For cotton felt
Even before the better part of Bonaparte
With one shoe on and otters’ pelt
They crossed the Mississippi
With fleur-de-lys and Sacred Heart.
But that was then
And that was fun
To stitch a flying carpet with the tongue
Now let us finish with the invocation for
Southern priests to entertain vocation!
Let us call upon the Lord and also St. Bernard
To sew together many chasubles for holy folk
And find the habits to inhabit with regard
The sacred southern fields of James K Polk.
Between the Chattahoochee and the Choctawhatchee
Where all things seem to alliterate and rhyme with Chastity.
Take the Chasuble of Cherokee
To embroider or emboss
A vestment’s made of nature’s glory.
Enthuse, O Lord the youth renew
With choir sing Salve Regina .
Let them offer fragrant sanctity in each parish
That Marian scent of holiness may never perish
And open Uncle Tabernacle’s marvel-mercy
And listen with fastidiousness to Faustina!