Angela Alaimo O'Donnell
Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, PhD is a professor, poet, and writer at Fordham University in New York City and serves as Associate Director of Fordham’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. Her publications include two chapbooks and seven collections of poems, most recently, Andalusian Hours (2020), a collection of 101 poems that channel the voice of Flannery O’Connor, and Love in the Time of Coronavirus: A Pandemic Pilgrimage (2021). In addition, O’Donnell has published a prize-winning memoir, Mortal Blessings (2014) and a book of hours based on the practical theology of Flannery O’Connor, The Province of Joy (2012). Her biography Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith (2015) was awarded first prize for excellence in publishing from The Association of Catholic Publishers. Her new critical book on Flannery O’Connor, Radical Ambivalence: Race in Flannery O’Connor was published by Fordham University Press in 2020. O’Donnell’s most recent manuscript, Holy Land, won the Paraclete Poetry Prize 2021 and will be published in 2022.
Christ Sighting: Advent
The Village of Bronxville, New York
Because Christ walks the earth in late
December, peering into houses lit
from within, lifting the lids off stew pots,
tasting the salt and the light with equal
zeal, arriving just in time for the meal,
bread in his left hand, blessing in his right,
drinking wine, hoping to spend the night
in a place where he is greeted and received
I leave the back door unlocked,
lift the black latch on the garden gate,
wander the lanes of our little town
trying my luck, knowing that just around
the bend walks God, empty and full of need,
hunger only soup and love can feed.
Christ Sighting: The Land of Resurrection
"Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale
3 days and 3 nights
So will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
3 days and 3 nights."
—The Gospel According to St. Matthew
You have to enter darkness in order
to learn light. Immerse yourself in earth
before you can climb out. Inhabit flesh
so that you can be birthed. Endure disorder
before you can know peace. It is worth
the effort, the chance to see afresh
the old world you are sick of looking at.
The sun rising in its daily way,
the tired sky, its shades of blue & gray,
the green hills, the desert hot & flat.
All of it surprise to newly risen
eyes, correction to your whale belly vision.
The world won’t change, but human beings can.
3 days & 3 nights made Christ a new man.
Christ Sighting: Vocation
The Sea of Galilee
Today I find you on the shore calling
your disciples. Here beneath the swaying
palm trees, beside the cypresses that point
the way to heaven, you stand substantial,
wide as the horizon you gesture to,
inviting them to come, to join you
in a crazy scheme to save the human race.
No wonder they pause in their net mending,
count their shekels and their fish, and decide
to leave their little boat and take the ride
of their lives. These fisher men you anoint
as friends, companions, teachers to us all.
They have no clue. The suffering they’ll face.
The cost of being caught in your embrace.
St. Lucy’s Fire
Dark winter morning for the Feast of Light.
St. Lucy standing at the back door,
a wheel of fire upon her head, each flame
flickering in the shriving wind. Her
face the face of hope, unscored
by time or mortal fret, her left hand
extended as if to ignite the day,
remind us what we came here for, to burn.
What can you teach me, what can I learn
from your shining self? My own name
strange to me even as you speak it.
I am not a saint like you. And yet you stay.
A visitation I had not planned.
Your whole head on fire, my small flame fanned.
Fells Point, Baltimore
Easter morning and Christ rises,
walks across the harbor to the sea
blessing the birds, the glistening fishes,
speaks the only beauty that can be
spoken by a dead man who has risen,
hid within the earth, a tattered sail
far beyond mending, yet was given
a mast and a spar, a brisk tail-
wind to ride his way to glory,
to navigate the channels and the lanes,
waving to the boats that set out early,
all the while he sings the same refrain,
the Son God’s unearthly water song
while the birds and the fish sing along.
Christian Yeo recently graduated with a degree in law. His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Mays, Anthropocene, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Bad Betty Press, Ekstasis Magazine, The Tiger Moth Review, and the JFA Human Rights Journal, among others. It won the Arthur Sale Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for the CUPPS Poetry and Prose Prize 2021. His work has been performed at the Lancaster and Singapore Poetry Festivals, and he was a semi-finalist at UniSlam 2021.
every unbroken thing
we come bearing gifts. not
incense or myrrh or even the
apartment named ‘aloe cassia’
only a box of curry puffs.
(who says what grace sees?)
one-two punch drunk lying on
cardboard beneath the bridge
by Singapore’s complex. slashed
waist bag and friends for good chat;
hair curling upwards like cones,
crawling unto each other, almost
a slow becoming. unleavened, I
knead grudging five-minute-hands
into sheets of batter (unchapped,
where I listen hard enough I hear the
songs of solomon. some child and
the breaking of the body for bread.
when the sun sets you will come
for me; tonight I will have a
hundred men, run criminal astray
and sell myself a conversation.
one fell swoop a sultry backhand
and a giving and taking and giving
again—tomorrow I learn how to
sew, hew backbone ridges into
a crown of liver-spotted thorns.
angsana trees battered by rain.
shoulder to shoulder we stand
in bunker raincoats chanting
imprecatory psalms, roiling
griefs asking for something
akin to mercy, almost love.
In the Turning
On the day that I come face to face with
the conductor of life Himself, I should ask
Him only why rivers run further than men.
I would like to pry open the trees that
line the banks, ask them what they think
of the ducks whose feet run along their
shores. Whose love runs from a place of
lack? If only elegies could fill the space
once held by unveiled melodic expanse;
beneath the roots of this shallow grass,
there is only vacuous space from which
the sternest shadows seep. I would like
to press the fault lines of their bark, steal
the petals of flowers once more seen (little
soldiers once again begun to blossom),
feel the contours of my palms line up
perilously close to the ways the earth
shakes in defiant entropy. A telescope
stitches of grass running ahead ever so
slightly, browning at the edges and coming
apart, easily, at the seams. Which spaces
between stories beckon for interpretation?
When rivers begin to recede into themselves,
trailing to an end some place downstream,
I should begin to navigate the concentrism
running rings around inner topography.
That I should have stopped in this journey
is a fact that I barter in exchange with the
seedlings and flower streams of spring,
and yet in love that I have for the Maker
and He for me, I should think it wise that
only He and I should know why
even after so much time has passed,
it can only be so.
"every unbroken thing" first appeared in the JFA Human Rights Journal.
"In the Turning" first appeared in CAP 30th Anniversary Commemorative Publication.