Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rosemary Nissen-Wade #28.2: Watching a Religious Parade on TV

Watching a Religious Parade on TV

Robed in white, the Cardinal
is walking in slow processional,
holding a decorative shepherd's crook –
symbol of caring for his flock.

It is a younger priest I see,
staring through years of memory:
smooth-faced, all those decades back,
and suited in serviceable black.

The tilt of his head, his sober expression,
radiated concern, compassion.
The Church would set the matter right.
Later I read his useless report.

That was for an investigation
into conditions at a city prison.
We put in front of him every detail 
that made the place a renowned hell-hole.

An ex-teacher there, I was at that time
part of a group for prison reform.
His purpose, it afterwards seemed to me,
was to absolve the Church of responsibility.

When he says that it was long ago;
he can't recall, he doesn't know
about pedophile priests and child abuse,
or the cover-up of which he's accused –

I remember that young career priest,
schooling his face to appear earnest
as mothers and sisters of prisoners
confided horrors, fighting back tears.

He nodded, spoke softly, listened well,
took notes, asked questions, got it all.
There was also my long, written submission.
Months of waiting. Then his call to inaction.

His back is hunched, his face is red;
his gaze downcast, not heavenward.
There are floppy jowls and wrinkles now.
Facts might be smoothed away; not his brow.

It's very un-Christian of me, I know –
but then I am not a Christian, so –
I confess that seeing him bowed with age,
morose and shuffling, gladdens my rage.

(Been trying to write this a long time.)


  1. I enjoyed this very much Rosemary - not only the content, but the work that goes into the form.

    1. Thank you. It seemed to need that stately beginning, and then I was stuck with it. Thank heaven for half-rhymes!


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